Happiness – Part 1

Oct 05, 2016
John Angell James (1785—1859)

Many are saying, “Who can show us any good?” Look on us with favor, Lord. You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and new wine abound. (Psalm 4:6-7) Reader, this little tract comes to you with the high pretension, (and a higher one it cannot make,) of pointing out to you what true happiness is, where it is to be found, and how it is to be obtained. To such a subject you cannot be, ought not to be, and are not, indifferent. As one among the countless millions whose dwelling-place is in a valley of tears, and as a part of the “whole creation, which groans and travails in pain together until now,” you are interested in a treatise which addresses you in the character of a comforter, to perform the charitable office of lightening your weeping eyes, and hushing the sighs of your troubled bosom. Or if, perhaps, you have not been the subject of actual, or oppressive sorrow, but only of those restless and insatiable cravings after some suitable and adequate good, which all men feel, you may still profitably employ a few minutes, in reading these simple pages, the desire of which is to put you in possession of what you so ardently covet, and which you have hitherto, perhaps, so fruitlessly sought. It may be you have commenced the desperate effort to reconcile yourself to dissatisfaction and sorrow. You have tried one experiment after another to extract happiness by various processes and have been unsuccessful in them all. The elixir could not be obtained. The ethereal spirit could not be caught; and in despondency you have abandoned exertion and hope, saying of happiness, as Brutus, just before he stabbed himself, said of virtue—that he had sought it wherever it was to be found, and had at length discovered that it was but a name. Revoke such a conclusion, at least until you have perused this tract. There may be one source yet unexplored—one method untried—and that one may contain the object of your search. The writer of this work is not a speculative theorist; he gives the result of extended observation, he embodies the testimony of thousands with whom he has conversed, and of multitudes besides. And, what is more, he offers the result of his own experience. He has tried the subject, and “has tasted, and handled, and felt,” that which he presents to you. He has drunk at the fountain of living waters, and now offers his friendly hand to guide you to the crystal stream, of which, if you drink, you will thirst for no other, but in glad and grateful content say “It is enough!” Many are saying, “Who can show us any good?” Look on us with favor, Lord. You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and new wine abound. (Psalms 4:6-7) Man is formed with a capacity for happiness, and with an innate, urgent, and irrepressible desire after it. This desire for happiness is a universal propensity, and appertains to him as man, irrespective of external and adventitious distinctions. His bountiful Creator has placed him in a situation where it may be obtained—and has not implanted in him an appetite for which he has made no suitable or adequate provision. If anyone therefore, is actually miserable—it is his own fault; and he has only himself’ to blame. Yet how few comparatively are happy, even in that lower degree which is obtainable by us in this present world! How small is the number whose aspect and conversation lead us to infer that they are contented, or even moderately satisfied! There is a hurry in their step; an anxiety, not to say a sorrow, in their look; a tone of complaint in their language; a restlessness in their habits; a perpetual change in their pleasures, which indicate, plainly enough—that they are not happy, and know not what bliss means, or how it is to be sought. I may at once assign and explain the reason, why this is so; or, rather, I will quote the language of God himself, who, in addressing the Jews, has disclosed the secret. “My people,” said he, “have committed two evils, they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and have hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, which can hold no water.” Yes, there it is. Man was created for the enjoyment of God! His soul wanted, and still wants, an infinite object to love, serve, and delight in—and nothing less will satisfy him. God offered, and still offers Himself for the enjoyment of man; but instead of serving his Creator, man serves himself, and instead of seeking his felicity in the favor of God, he seeks it from other sources. Thus he forsakes the fountain ever full and flowing; hews out a cistern which breaks under his hand; lives the discontented victim of his folly and sin in turning away from God to the creature; and dies with the sorrowful lament of Solomon, “Vanity of vanity, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” It will be allowed by all, that Adam was perfectly happy in Paradise before his fall. No tear suffused his eye; no care wrinkled his brow; no fears disturbed his peace; no groan escaped his bosom. He was at rest. He rose in the morning without dread; passed through the day without a sense of need; and lay down at night without a sigh. Perpetual sunshine gilded his countenance, and untroubled serenity reigned in his soul. What made him happy? Not company, for one sole partner of his bliss shared with him the new-made world—not the pleasures of the table, for he ate only of the fruits that grew around him, and drank of the springs that watered the garden; not public amusements, for they had no existence—not music, for, with the exception of the feathered choir of the grove, there was but one voice besides his own, and no instrument, on earth—not the arts, for they were not invented—not science, for it had not begun its discoveries—nor literature, for it had not commenced its studies. Yet, notwithstanding the absence of all these sources of gratification which fallen man depends upon for the little happiness he has, the perfect and unfallen man was happy. And what made him so? The enjoyment of God! He looked up with filial eye to heaven, and said, “O God, you are my God. Your favor is life, and Your loving kindness is better than life itself!” Think also of “the spirits of just men made perfect” in heaven. Are not they happy? What makes them so? None of the amusements of earth are there—no mirthful parties, no festive scenes, none of the delights which now please the votaries of pleasure, are there. No, it is replied, for it is impossible they should be—they suit not that state. Just so. Yet those holy beings are happy. What are the springs of their felicity? The favor of God! Surely that must be happiness which was enjoyed by unsinning man in Paradise; and will be enjoyed by restored man in heaven. But perhaps it will be thought and said, that what suited the sinless man in Eden, and the sinless spirit in heaven, will not suit the sinful man on earth. Why not? For no other reason, that can be imagined, but because he is sinful. It cannot be because the favor of God is not suited to his nature as a rational creature; or because he has not faculties for such a kind of delight. What can be more adapted to the nature of a finite mind than the enjoyment of the favor of the infinite mind? If, therefore, the soul of man cannot enjoy God, this must be, not from any natural cause which is excusable, but from some sinful cause; and how sinful must it be? What a degradation and debasement of nature is it to have no taste, no disposition for the enjoyment of God; to turn away from our God for happiness; to have no inclination to seek it in him! To prefer many things, anything, everything—to God’s favor, as a source of happiness! How startling! But let us now look back to the passage from the Psalms which stands at the introduction of this tract. It presents to us two obviously distinct classes of people, which I will describe by designations very generally used, and as generally understood. “The people of the world,” and “The people of God.” Each class is marked by their peculiar views on the subject of happiness. In the “many are saying—Who can show us any good?” we recognize at once the people of the world. Observe what it is they want, and are inquiring after—good. by this we are to understand, something that will please, gratify, satisfy—something that is adapted to give contentment and enjoyment. There is nothing wrong in such a desire. It is the instinctive and natural inquiry of a dependent, rational creature. It belongs to God alone to be the fountain of His own blessedness, and to contain all the springs of happiness in Himself. God, and He only, is self-sufficient. All created beings are dependent, not only for existence, but for bliss. Man, especially as a fallen creature, must look outside of himself. He must travel, so to speak, from home for good. This desire and inquiry after “good,” is neither virtuous nor wicked, it has no moral character, but is simply an instinct. It is right or wrong according to the choice we make to gratify the desire. It is a positive, absolute, and uncontrollable necessity of our nature to wish to be happy; for it is an impossibility to wish otherwise. In common therefore with the people of God, the people of the world desire good. But notice also the indefiniteness of the inquiry—any good. Now what should have been the inquiry? What should now be the inquiry of every rational creature? I answer, it should have been this, “Who will show us the good? Tell us what is the chief good? Instruct us what is that good which our souls need, which God has provided for us, and which, when possessed, will satisfy us?” Is it not evident that such should be the nature and object of our inquiries? Ought we to be satisfied with anything, whether suitable or unsuitable, satisfying or unsatisfying? Is it worthy of a thinking being, in reference to so important a matter as his own happiness, to set out with so vague a guide as that word “any,” in quest of bliss? Ought we not to institute a most rigid and anxious investigation into the constitution, condition, wants, woes, and capacities of our souls; and also into the provisions which God has made for our contentment and enjoyment? If there were no means of ascertaining these matters; or if all things were equally adapted to satisfy us, then it were rational to follow our own fancies—but when there is danger that shadows may be pursued instead of substances, and poison may be taken instead of food—we should be more intelligent, discriminating, definite, and settled in our choice. Yet is not this the way of the multitude? Have they any precise notions of true happiness, either as to its nature, its sources, or the method of obtaining it? The great question “What is good?” is to them unsettled. The whole subject is to them enrapt in impenetrable darkness. And hence they are running up and down in the world, and amidst the confusion of many voices we hear but one distinct and prevailing sound, and that is “any good.” What they want beyond the vague notion of happiness, they cannot tell you. One supposes it is wealth; another, rank; another, fame; another, pleasure; another, friendship; another, knowledge; another, love; and others, perpetually changing their opinion, conclude that it is all these by their turns. About nothing have the minds of men been more divided and unsettled—than the nature of the supreme felicity. Varro, a learned heathen, reckoned up more than two hundred opinions on this subject which existed in his time—a striking illustration of, and comment upon, the expression, “many are saying—Who can show us any good?” and no less convincing a proof of the necessity of an infallible oracle to decide the question; of a heavenly revelation to resolve the mystery. The oracle has been uttered; the revelation has been given, and yet “the many” with the answer in their possession, are still inquiring for “any” good. You cannot fail to be struck with the sensuality of the question “Who will show us any good?” I use the term “sensuality,” not in its grosser sense, as importing the indulgence of the lower appetites of our animal nature, but in a somewhat more refined meaning, as signifying the exercise of the mind on objects of sense, distinct from objects of faith. To such objects the inquiry is directed; it is a desire after something to be seen or heard, or handled, or tasted, or felt—something that can be known and apprehended apart from any special revelation from God; and which is adapted to our senses, appetites, and propensities as physical beings, and as placed in this present earthly state. Is not this also most accurately descriptive of the disposition, ideas, tastes, and pursuits of the great bulk of mankind? They have not a notion of happiness but what stands associated with something seen and temporal. They live in a world of sense, not only as to their natural position, and their bodily habitation, but equally so as to all the exercises of their minds. They have no conception of any happiness, which does not come from objects of an earthly nature. “They mind earthly things.” Their joys and their sorrows; their hopes and their fears; their aspirations and aversions; are all wakened and sustained by what can be shown them—as objects of sense. Now let me ask, is this rational? Only on the supposition, certainly, that this visible world is the whole comprising of being—the sum total of existence of the universe. But is it so? You know it is not. You know there are “unseen and eternal things,” whether you look at them or not. The visible world as compared with the invisible, is but as the leaf on which the insect spends its short-lived existence, and which is all the region he sees or knows—compared to the great globe which we inhabit; or as the single drop of water, in which a community of microscopic organisms find the only world they know—compared to the boundless ocean. What a simplicity of language, and what a sublimity of subject is there in the expression, “The things that are unseen and eternal!” But how, it may be asked, do we know anything about that invisible world? by Scriptural revelation. And to make it known is the grand design of the inspired volume. The Scripture reveals an unseen God, an unseen Savior, an unseen heaven, an unseen hell, an unseen eternity, unseen angels and spirits—and all these are apprehended not by sense, but by the “faith which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Do consider that we are as sure of the existence of an invisible world and its objects, as we can be of a visible one. Invisible excellence is infinitely greater than that which is visible, for the objects themselves are infinite. We are in reality a great deal more concerned with what is invisible, than with what is visible. Yes, the invisible things of another world are capable, from their and our own very natures, of being better known to us, and we may be more conversant with them in some respects, than we can be with such as appeal to our senses. Think upon the great and blessed God, our Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor; inhabiting his own eternity, filling immensity, possessing in infinite fullness all the sources of being, life, wisdom, power, goodness, holiness, and whatever else of perfection and glory we can conceive of. Contemplate the Lord Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God; the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person; the Savior of men; the Head of the Church; the Ruler of the universe. Behold the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. Look up into Heaven, the region of immortality, the world of unclouded light, the holy habitation of the eternal God, where Christ sits at the right hand of the Father; with the innumerable company of angels and the spirits of just men made perfect, inheriting a fullness of joy in his presence. Are these realities—and have we no concern with them? What, is there a God who, though invisible, is so near to us, that he can be conversant with us wherever we go, and as soon as we are minded to be with him we find him with us? “As soon as we close our eyes on things seen and temporal, and retire into ourselves, with a design to converse with him, he is immediately present with us, and it is as easy to converse with him, as it is with our own thoughts. As soon as we think we are with God, and He with us, in the twinkling of an eye we find Him. We look unto Him and are lightened; with the cast of an eye the soul may be filled with happiness, and replenished with a divine, heavenly, and vital light.” Is all this fact, and shall we not see and admit the folly and sin of turning our back upon such a world; of wandering away from such fountains of delight, with the inquiry, “Who will show us any good?” Is all this nothing, because it cannot be seen except by the eye of faith? Shall that which constitutes the glory of these objects, I mean their invisibility, be the ground and reason for despising them? Shall they be forsaken and forgotten because they are not visible to the eye, or audible to the ear, or palpable to the touch? Oh, is it come to this, that they who, to suit their twofold nature of body and spirit, are placed on the confines of both worlds, the border country of the visible and invisible states, that such creatures, so fearfully and wonderfully made, and so fearfully and wonderfully placed, should look for their happiness only to the visible and material, the mortal and corruptible, instead of the invisible and immaterial, the immortal and incorruptible? That all their excursions and researches after bliss, should be made, not into the unseen and eternal world, by means of faith, but in the world that is seen and temporal, by the aid of sense? Made with rational and immortal minds; made to be creatures of reason, rather than of sense, and of faith even more than of reason—shall we abjure our high distinction, shall we put aside our prerogative, and by a voluntary degradation, and willing descent, come down and place ourselves on a level with the Atheist, who says, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die?” Is it necessary to point out the result of such a course as this? Solomon proclaims it; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity! All things are full of labor; man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.” Oh, with what a bitter emphasis of utterance would those who lived and died strangers to the blessings of true religion, and the love of God; who sought all their enjoyments from the visible world; who were contented with what could be shown them; who hewed out their broken cisterns which could hold no water; with what a bitter emphasis of utterance, I say, would they, could their voice be heard from beyond the impassable gulf, certify to us the truth of the verdict—all is vanity! Though warned by solemn voices from without, and gentle yet intelligible whispers from within; though admonished by impressive events in the history of others, and the painful experience of their own, they trifled away life in seeking the gratification of sense, instead of the joys of faith. Each period of existence, and each change of situation, found them urging the inquiry, “Who will show us any good?” No disappointment cured their folly, no experience corrected their mistake. The visible, and that only, engaged their attention; they determined to have happiness from that or not at all; and they died with the sullen conviction, if not with the candid confession, that they had lived unblessed—strangers to happiness. Not that I mean to affirm that none suppose themselves happy, and have in reality a considerable portion of enjoyment, from visible things exclusively. Many doubtless have. There is certainly some pleasure in the gratification of the appetites; in the enjoyment of health, friends, property, fame. Even sinful objects have their pleasures. There could be no power in temptation if sin yielded no enjoyment. But what is designed in all I have said is that man, as a rational, moral, and immortal creature; as a sinner subject to the stings of a reproachful conscience, and under the displeasure of the God he has offended; as liable to all the vicissitudes of a tearful existence, and ever exposed to the fear and stroke of death, needs something more for his happiness than can be found in the objects of sense. He has needs which they cannot supply; cravings which they cannot satisfy; woes which they cannot alleviate; and anxieties which they cannot dispel. For each one that is even tolerably successful in gaining felicity from visible objects, there are many who utterly fail. Their schemes are frustrated; their hopes perish; their air-built castles vanish as they journey on in life; and each ends a course of worldly-mindedness, by adding another to the millions of examples which had proved it to be vanity. In some cases abundance and unobstructed enjoyment produce satiety. Tired of old pleasures they look about for new ones, and plead the oft-repeated inquiry, “Who will show us anything good?” Novelty perhaps comes to the relief of their discontented, restless, and dissatisfied minds; but novelty itself soon grows old, and still something new is wanted. There remains an aching void within, a craving, hungry appetite for bliss, unsatisfied, unfed. They hunt for enjoyment in endless parties of pleasure, in every place of amusement, in every scene of diversion; in the dance, and in the game; in the theater, and in the concert; amidst the scenes of nature, and in the changes of foreign travel—but happiness, like a shadow ever flitting before them, and ever eluding their grasp, tantalizes them with its form, without yielding them its substance, and excites their hopes only to disappoint them. Such is the consequence of seeking happiness only from the objects of sense. This train of reasoning will be resumed in a subsequent part of the tract. I now turn to the other class of people presented to us in the text we are considering, and whom I have called the people of God, because they are thus acknowledged in the Holy Scriptures. I mean those who live by faith; are born again of the Spirit; and love God supremely, habitually, and practically. They too have a desire after good, or happiness; and what is more, they know what it is, where it is to be found, and how it is to be obtained, and they also possess and enjoy it, at least in its beginning. You have heard the prayer of the other class, now listen to theirs. “Lord, lift up the light of your countenance upon us!” Such is their desire, and such the sublimity of its object. Upon the supposition that their petition has been heard and granted, and indeed, in the consciousness that they possess the blessing they have sought, they declare that they experience a joy far superior to the joy with which the men of the world rejoice in harvest or is vintage, the times and sources of their wealth; a joy, bright, and pure, and serene as the region from which it descends—”You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and new wine abound!” Is it necessary to say, that by the light of God’s countenance is meant his favor? The light of the countenance, the shining of the face, is a smile, and a smile is the symbol of delight. It is therefore as if the Psalmist had said, “Let the multitude, in their ignorant concern after felicity, seek their happiness from earthly sources, and from objects of sense—as for me, O God, I see, and thank you for having by your grace enabled me to see, that true blessedness can only be found in the enjoyment of your favor. With you is the fountain of life, and in your light alone can I see light. Your favor is the life of my soul, the bliss of my existence!” Observe then, that the people of God consider his favor to be the very element of bliss for a rational and immortal creature. It is! for, as I have already shown, it was the bliss of Adam in Paradise, and is the happiness of angels and saints in heaven. It is a question worth asking, and ought to be asked—since man as a sinner is under the displeasure of God, how he can become an object of the Divine regard—and in what way those who were by nature children of his wrath can become the sons and daughters of his love. The New Testament explains the mystery. “For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us! Much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life!” (Romans 5:6-10) Wonderful scheme! Glorious plan of infinite mercy! This is love, its brightest manifestation, its richest commendation! God is love, and here He shows to the universe what His love can do—all it can do. No wonder the Apostle prayed for the believing Ephesians that they “might be able to comprehend what is the breadth and length and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge.” The people of God (and it is thus they have become such,) have believed the love that God has to them. They have given credence to the Gospel which declares the wondrous truth, and have, through faith alone, been reconciled to God. The enmity of the carnal mind in them, has been slain by faith in the cross of Christ; and now they love God, because God has first loved them. A new world has opened to them in their views of a God of love, and in their apprehensions of the love of God. That new world they enter by faith, and as its objects of contemplation, sources of interest, and springs of consolation present themselves to their minds, they take up the exulting strain of the apostle, even as they taste something of his delight, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” This is now their happiness, the favor of God; and this is the way in which they have gained it, by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. In this you see something DEFINITE. The child of God is decided in his choice; fixed in his object; resolved in purpose; and settled in his plans. The mists of ignorance have rolled away and presented to him the object of his heart’s desire—a fountain of bliss, near at hand, certain and satisfactory. Suspense is at an end. Incertitude is over. Vagrancy terminates. “Here it is!” he exclaims; “This is it! the very thing I need—all my soul can desire—provided by God—satisfying, infinite, eternal—the love of God in Christ!” And as it is something definite, so it is something SUITABLE—just what man needs—something for the mind, for the heart, for the whole soul; the restoration to him, of that which he possessed and enjoyed when he came fresh and pure from the hand of his Maker in Paradise; and for which he was in fact created, but which he lost by the fall—the leading him back to the tree of life in the midst of the garden, to feast again upon its precious fruits. What is so suitable for man’s spirit as the love of God; indeed, where is there anything that suits it but this? What are all the pleasures of time and sense, all the objects of this visible world—for man’s heart—but as the dropping of pebbles into a deep chasm, which, instead of filling it up, only tell him how deep it is, by awakening the dismal echoes of emptiness and desolation? No, nothing but reconciliation to God, and the going back of the filial spirit through faith in Jesus Christ to enjoy the smile, and be assured of the love of the Father of spirits, can be ever deemed a suitable bliss for any of the children of Adam. This the Christian has. He feels the arms of everlasting love around him, and is sustained by the enfolding of these—he looks up to meet the light of God’s countenance beaming upon him, and hears at the same moments the gracious words that fall from the lips of infinite benignity. “I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you.” This is indeed “the chief good!” The supreme felicity, good in the full meaning, and deepest emphasis of the word. What being can we find greater than God, to make us happy; and what can we find even in God that is greater than His love? The smile of God is the daylight, yes, the noon-tide glory of heaven, in which redeemed spirits bask, and angels spread their wings and soar with ecstasies unknown to us. The highest and the lowest intellect meet here as in their common center. Reason and revelation alike proclaim that the supreme good of every rational and moral being must be the enjoyment of God. How consonant is all this with what reason teaches us of the nature of the chief good; which demonstrates that, whatever it is—it must include the following characteristics; it must be something which all men may possess; it must be one and the same to all mankind; it must be something, which, while in itself fitted to make the possessor happy, is not prevented in its operation by some other thing which keeps him from relishing it; it must be something which is not referred to or dependent on any other, but all other things must be embraced for the sake of it; it must be immutable, and not vary with the changing seasons and circumstances through which man is called to pass; and it must be sufficient to furnish a happiness adequate to the capacities of human nature, and of equal duration; it must not only be perfect while it lasts, but everlasting. None, surely, will contend that anything can be man’s supreme good, in which these criteria cannot be found; or deny that to be it in which they all unite. According to these characters we may infer, that neither pleasure, wealth, health, nor even virtue itself, constitutes the chief good. That high distinction belongs to the favor of God, obtained through faith in Christ. To this all the criteria apply, all men to whom the Gospel comes are invited to possess it; it is one and the same to all, to the savage and the sage, to the rich, and the poor, to the young and the old—it is independent of external circumstances, and may be enjoyed in sickness as in health, in poverty as in wealth, in solitude as in society, in the prison as in the palace, in death as in life. Nothing but itself being necessary to enjoy it exists by itself, and for itself, subordinating all other sources of enjoyment to its own supremacy, and imparting even to them, from its own infinite fullness, a limited capacity to make us happy. Being infinite, it is more than adequate to our nature, and being eternal, it is equal to our duration. How exactly does the good provided for man by Scriptural revelation, agree then with that which reason demonstrates to be necessary for him! Let any man give to the human soul, with all its faculties of intellect, will, heart, conscience, memory, and limited knowledge, his profoundest attention and deepest study; let him fathom the depth of its capacity, and measure the height of its aspirations; let him attend to its yearnings after the infinite, and eternal, and immutable—let him read the record of its disappointments, as well as the journal of its experiments, and its discoveries; above all, let him do all this in reference to that one soul which is part of his own nature, and with which he may be supposed to be more intimately acquainted than with any other souls—and let him say, if it be not insult and a mockery offered to such a being as this, to invite it to any other source of happiness, than the favor of God? Let him, when he has studied himself, and when he has found out that he has really a capacity for enjoying the infinite, eternal, and immutable—and can in fact be satisfied with nothing less; let him then study the nature of God, as he is revealed, not simply in the scenes of nature, which are his least glorious manifestations, but in the pages of the New Testament, where his whole name appears complete; let him think of the infinite collection of infinite moral excellences which make up the character of that Great Being we call God; let him recollect that it is the design of the whole scheme of redeeming mercy to open a way honorable to God himself, to bring back apostate man to the favor of God, and that every page of the inspired record is inscribed with an invitation to the naked, hungry, and degraded prodigal soul of man, to return to the arms, and house, and heart of his Divine Parent; and then let him say, if it be not as truly a dictate of sound reason, as it is a lesson of true religion, that man’s happiness must consist of the favor of God, obtained through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. You have seen, then, the two classes, and their respective sources of enjoyment; now institute a COMPARISON between them. Look at the worldling. Does he succeed in his quest for happiness? Is he satisfied? Let him possess all he seeks, all he wishes, all that earth can furnish; let rank be added to wealth, and fame to both; let a constant round of fashionable amusements, festive scenes, and elegant parties, follow in endless succession, until his cup is full to overflowing; and what does it all amount to? Solomon shall again give evidence, and answer the question. “I said to myself, “Go ahead, I will test you with pleasure and enjoy what is good.” But it turned out to be futile. I said about laughter, “It is madness,” and about pleasure, “What does this accomplish?” I explored with my mind how to let my body enjoy life with wine and how to grasp folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom—until I could see what is good for people to do under heaven during the few days of their lives. I increased my achievements. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made gardens and parks for myself and planted every kind of fruit tree in them. I constructed reservoirs of water for myself from which to irrigate a grove of flourishing trees. I acquired male and female servants and had slaves who were born in my house. I also owned many herds of cattle and flocks, more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. I also amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I gathered male and female singers for myself, and many concubines, the delights of men. Thus, I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem; my wisdom also remained with me. All that my eyes desired, I did not deny them. I did not refuse myself any pleasure, for I took pleasure in all my struggles. This was my reward for all my struggles. When I considered all that I had accomplished and what I had labored to achieve, I found everything to be futile and a pursuit of the wind! There was nothing to be gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11) Have not multitudes since Solomon’s time made the same melancholy confession? Is it not a general admission, that the pleasure of worldly objects arises more from hope and anticipation, rather than possession? They are like beautiful bubbles, which, as they float, reflect the colors of the rainbow–but dissolve and vanish when grasped! Tell me, votaries of earthly good, have you realized what you expected? Are not the scenes of festivity and amusement resorted to, by many with aching hearts? Does not the smiling countenance often conceal a troubled spirit, and is not the laugh resorted to in order to suppress the sigh? The history of Colonel Gardiner, that once mirthful, afterwards pious, and always brave officer, is an affecting illustration as well as proof of this. “His fine constitution,” says his biographer, “gave him great opportunity to indulge in sinful excesses, and his good spirits enabled him to pursue his pleasures of every kind in so alert and sprightly a manner, that multitudes envied him, and called him by a dreadful kind of compliment—the happy profligate.” But no! such an association cannot be formed. Vice and happiness cannot be united. There may be gratification, amusement, pleasure, mirth, in sin—but not happiness. It is a profanation to call sensual pleasure by the sacred name of happiness—and it is an impossibility to derive contentment, satisfaction, blessedness—from vice. So Colonel Gardiner found, for his biographer continues the account thus—”Yet still, notwithstanding his mirthful appearance, the checks of conscience, and some remaining principles of a good education, would break in upon his most licentious hours; and I particularly remember he told me, that when some of his companions were once congratulating him on his distinguished felicity, a dog happening at that time to come into the room, he could not forbear groaning inwardly, and saying to himself, ‘Oh, that I were that dog!'” Such was his happiness, and such is the happiness of multitudes who have nothing but objects of time and sense to gratify them. While there appear to be sunbeams on the countenance, there is a dense black cloud overshadowing their spirit. While a mirthful flower may seem to bloom upon the brow—there is a thorn all the while piercing it—or a worm be gnawing at their heart. They are gaily wretched, sumptuously unhappy, splendidly miserable. And even where the heart is not thus wretched, it is restless and dissatisfied. If it has not the pain of a diseased stomach, it has the craving of an empty one. It is subject to a morbid hunger for happiness, which nothing satisfies.

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