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Text Sermons : J.C. Ryle : Happiness

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"Blessed [Happy] are the people whose God is the LORD."
Psalm 144:15

An atheist was once addressing a crowd of people in the open air.
He was trying to persuade them that there was no God and no
devil, no heaven, and no hell, no resurrection, no judgment, and
no life to come. He advised them to throw away their Bibles, and
not to pay attention to what preachers said. He recommended them
to think as he did, and to be like him. He talked boldly. The
crowd listened eagerly. It was "the blind leading the blind."
Both were falling into the pit (Matthew 15:14).

In the middle of his address a poor old woman suddenly pushed her
way through the crowd, to the place where he was standing. She
stood before him. She looked him full in the face. "Sir," she
said, in a loud voice, "Are you happy?" The atheist looked
scornfully at her, and gave her no answer. "Sir," she said
again, "I ask you to answer my question. Are you happy? You
want us to throw away our Bibles. You tell us not to believe
what preachers say about Christ. You advise us to think as you
do, and be like you. Now before we take your advice we have a
right to know what good we will gain by it. Do your fine new
ideas give you a lot of comfort? Do you yourself really feel

The atheist stopped, and attempted to answer the old woman's
question. He stammered, and shuffled, and fidgeted, and
endeavored to explain his meaning. He tried hard to return to
the subject. He said, he "had not come to preach about
happiness." But it was of no use. The old woman stuck to her
point. She insisted on her question being answered, and the
crowd took her side. She pressed him hard with her inquiry, and
would take no excuse. And at last the atheist was obliged to
leave, and sneak off in the confusion. His conscience would not
let him stay: he dared not say that he was happy.

The old woman showed great wisdom in asking the question that she
did. The argument she used may seem very simple, but in reality
it is one of the most powerful that can be employed. It is a
weapon that has more effect on some minds than the most elaborate
reasoning by some of our great apologists. Whenever a man begins
to speak against and despise old Bible Christianity, thrust home
at his conscience the old woman's question. Ask him whether his
new views make him feel comfortable within himself. Ask Him
whether he can say, with honesty and sincerity, that he is happy.
The grand test of a man's faith and religion is, "Does it make
him happy?"

Let me now warmly invite every reader to consider the subject of
this paper. Let me warn you to remember that the salvation of
your soul, and nothing less, is closely bound up with the
subject. The heart cannot be right in the sight of God which
knows nothing of happiness. That man or woman cannot be in a
safe state of soul who feels nothing of peace within.

There are three things which I purpose to do, in order to clear
up the subject of happiness. I ask special attention to each one
of them. And I pray the Spirit of God will apply it to all the
souls of those who read this paper.

I. Let me point out some things which are absolutely essential
to happiness.

II. Let me expose some common mistakes about the way to be

III. Let me show the way to be truly happy.

I. First of all I have to "point out some things which are
absolutely essential to true happiness."

Happiness is what all mankind wants to obtain: the desire of it
is deeply planted in the human heart. All men naturally dislike
pain, sorrow, and discomfort. All men naturally like ease,
comfort, and bliss. All men naturally hunger and thirst after
happiness. Just as the sick man longs for health, and the
prisoner of war for liberty--just as the parched traveler in hot
countries longs to see the cooling fountain, or the ice-bound
polar voyager the sun rising above the horizon--just in the same
way does poor mortal man long to be happy. But how few consider
what they really mean when they talk of happiness! How vague and
indistinct and undefined the ideas of most men are on the
subject! They think some are happy who in reality are miserable:
they think some are gloomy and sad who in reality are truly
happy. They dream of a happiness which in reality would never
satisfy their nature's wants. Let me try this day to throw a
little light on the subject.

True happiness "is not perfect freedom from sorrow and
discomfort." Let that never be forgotten. If it were so there
would be no such thing as happiness in the world. Such happiness
is for angels who have never fallen, and not for man. The
happiness I am inquiring about is the kind that a poor, dying,
sinful creature may hope to attain. Our whole nature is defiled
by sin. Evil abounds in the world. Sickness, and death, and
change are daily doing their sad work on every side. In such a
state of things the highest happiness man can attain to on earth
must necessarily be a mixed thing. If we expect to find any
literally perfect happiness on this side of the grave, we expect
what we will not find.

True happiness "does not consist in laughter and smiles." The
face is very often a poor index of the inward man. There are
thousands who laugh loud and are merry in the company of others,
but are wretched and miserable in private, and almost afraid to
be alone. There are hundreds who are solemn and serious in their
demeanor, whose hearts are full of solid peace. A poet once
wrote that our smiles are not worth very much, he said, "A man
may smile and smile and be a villain."

And the eternal Word of God teaches us that "Even in laughter the
heart may ache" (Proverbs 14:13). Don't tell me of smiling and
laughing faces: I want to hear of something more than that when I
ask whether a man is happy. A truly happy man no doubt will
often show his happiness in his face; but a man may have a very
merry face and yet not be happy at all.

Of all deceptive things on earth nothing is so deceptive as mere
fun and cheerfulness. It is a hollow empty show, utterly devoid
of substance and reality. Listen to the brilliant talker in
society, and mark the applause which he receives from an company:
follow him to his own private room, and you will very likely find
him plunged in sad despondency. I know a man who confessed that
even when he was thought to be most happy he often wished that he
were dead. Look at the smiling beauty at the party, and you
might suppose she never knew what it was like to be unhappy; see
her the next day at her own home, and you may probably find her
angry at herself and everybody else besides. No, worldly fun is
not real happiness! There is a certain pleasure about it, I do
not deny. There is an animal excitement about it, I make no
question. There is a temporary elevation of spirits about it, I
freely concede. But don't call it by the sacred name of
happiness. The most beautiful cut flowers stuck in the ground do
not make a garden. When ordinary glass is called diamond, and
tinsel is called gold, then, and not till then can people who can
laugh and smile be called happy men. Once there was a man who
consulted a physician about his depression. The physician
advised him to keep up his spirits by going to hear the great
comic actor of the day. "You should go and hear Matthews. He
will make you good." "Sorry to say, sir," was the reply, "I am
Matthews himself!"

To be truly happy "the highest wants of a man's nature must be
met and satisfied." The requirements of his curiously wrought
constitution must be all met. There must be nothing about him
that cries, "Give, give," but cries in vain and gets no answer.
Animals are happy as long as they are warm and fed. The little
infant looks happy when it is clothed, and fed, and well, and in
its mother's arms. And why? Because it is satisfied. And just
so it is with man. His highest wants must be met and satisfied
before he can be truly happy. All needs must be met. There must
be no void, no empty places, no unsupplied cravings. Till then
he is never truly happy.

And what are "man's principal wants?" Does he only have a body?
No: he has something more! He has a soul. Does he only have the
five senses? Can he do nothing but hear, and see, and smell, and
taste, and feel? No: he has a thinking mind and a conscience!
Does he have any consciousness of any world but that in which he
lives and moves? He has. There is still a small voice within
him which often makes itself heard: "That this is not all there
is to life! There is world unseen: there is a life beyond the
grave." Yes! it is true. We are fearfully and wonderfully made.
All men know it: all men feel it, if they would only speak the
truth. It is utter nonsense to pretend that food and clothing
and earthly material wealth alone can make men happy. The soul
has needs. There are needs of the conscience. There can be no
true happiness until these wants are satisfied.

To be truly happy "a man must have sources of happiness which are
not dependent on anything in this world." There is nothing on
earth which is not stamped with the mark of instability and
uncertainty. All the good things that money can buy are but for
a moment: they either leave us or we are obliged to leave them.
All the sweetest relationships in life are liable to come to an
end: death may come any day and cut them off. The man whose
happiness depends entirely on things here below is like him who
builds his house on sand.

Don't tell me of your happiness if it daily depends on the
uncertainties of the earth. Your home may be rich in comforts;
your wife and children may be all you could desire; your incomes
may be amply sufficient to meet all your wants. But oh,
remember, if you have nothing more than this to look to, that you
are standing on the edge of a cliff! You joy may be deep and
earnest, but it is fearfully short-lived. It has no root. It is
not true happiness.

To be really happy "a man must be able to look at every part of
his life without uncomfortable feelings." He must be able to
look at the past without guilty fears; he must be able to look
around him without discontent; he must be able to look forward
without anxious dread. He must be able to sit down and think
calmly about things past, present, and to come, and feel
prepared. The man who has a weak side in his condition--a side
that he does not like looking at or considering--that man is not
really happy.

Do not talk to me of your happiness, if you are unable to look
steadily either before or behind you. Your present position may
be easy and pleasant. You may find many sources of joy and
gladness in your profession, your dwelling-place, your family,
and your friends. Your health may be good, your spirits may be
cheerful. But stop and think quietly over your past life. Can
you reflect calmly on all the omissions and commissions of by-
gone years? How will they bear God's inspection? How will you
answer for them at the last judgment? And then look forward and
think on the years yet to come. Think of the certain end towards
which you are heading; think of death; think of judgment; think
of the hour when you will meet God face to face. Are you ready
for it? Are you prepared? Can you look forward to these things
without alarm? Oh, be very sure if you cannot look comfortably
at any time in your life but the present, then your boasted
happiness is a poor unreal thing! It is but a fancy and
decorated coffin--fair and beautiful on the outside, but nothing
but bones and decay within. It is a mere thing of a day, like
Jonah's gourd. It is not real happiness.

I ask my readers to fix in their minds the account of things
essential to happiness, which I have attempted to give. Dismiss
from your thoughts the many mistaken notions on this subject,
they are like counterfeit money. To be truly happy, the wants of
your soul and conscience must be satisfied; to be truly happy,
your joy must be founded on something more than this world can
give you; to be truly happy, you must be able to look on every
side--above, below, behind, before--and feel that all is right.
This is real, genuine happiness: this is the happiness I have in
view when I urge your attention to the subject of this paper.

II. In the next place, "let me expose some common mistakes about
the way to be happy."

There are several roads which are thought by many to lead to
happiness. In each of these roads thousands and tens of
thousands of men and women are continually traveling. Each
fancies that if he could only attain all he wants he would be
happy. Each fancies, if he does not succeed, that the fault is
not in his road, but in his own lack of luck and good fortune.
And everyone seems ignorant of the fact that they are chasing
after shadows. They have started in a wrong direction: they are
seeking that which can never be found in the place where they
seek it.

I will mention by name some of the principal delusions about
happiness. I do it in love, and kindness, and compassion to
men's souls. I believe it to be a public duty to warn people
against cheats, quacks, and impostors. Oh how much trouble and
sorrow it might save my readers, if they would only believe what
I am going to say!

It is an utter mistake to suppose the "position and fame alone"
can give happiness. The kings, presidents, and rulers of this
world are not necessarily happy men. They have troubles and
crosses, which none know but themselves; they see a thousand
evils, which they are unable to remedy; they are slaves working
in golden chains, and have less real liberty than any in the
world; they have burdens and responsibilities laid upon them,
which are a daily weight on their hearts. The Roman Emperor
Antonine often said, that "the imperial power was an ocean of
miseries." Queen Elizabeth, when she heard a milk-maid singing,
wished that she had been born to a lot like her's. Never did the
poet write a truer word than when he said, "Uneasy lies the head
that wears a crown."

It is an utter mistake to suppose that "riches alone" can give
happiness. They can enable a man to command and possess
everything but inward peace. They cannot buy a cheerful spirit
and a light heart. There is anxiety in the getting of them, and
anxiety in the keeping of them, anxiety in the using of them, and
anxiety in the disposing of them, anxiety in the gathering, and
anxiety in the scattering of them. He is a wise man who said
that "money" was only another name for "trouble."

It is an utter mistake to suppose that "learning and science
alone" can give happiness. They may occupy a man's time and
attention, but they cannot really make him happy. They that
increase knowledge often "increase sorrow:" the more they learn,
the more they discover their own ignorance (Ecclesiastes 1:18).
The heart wants something as well as the head: the conscience
needs food as well as the intellect. All the secular knowledge
in the world will not give a man joy and gladness, when he thinks
about sickness, and death, and the grave. They that have climbed
the highest, have often found themselves solitary, dissatisfied,
and empty of peace. The learned Selden, at the close of his
life, confessed that all his learning did not give him such
comfort as four verses of Titus (2:11-14):

For the grace of God that brings salvation
has appeared to all men. It teaches us to
say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions,
and to live self-controlled, upright and
godly lives in this present age, while we
wait for the blessed hope - the glorious
appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus
Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us
from all wickedness and to purify for Himself
a people that are his very own, eager to do
what is good.

It is an utter mistake to suppose that "idleness alone" can give
happiness. The laborer who gets up at five in the morning, and
goes out to work all day in a cold clay ditch, often thinks, as
he walks past the rich man's house, "What a fine thing it must be
to have no work to do." Poor fellow! He doesn't know what he is
saying. The most miserable creature on earth is the man who has
nothing to do. Work for the hands or work for the mind is
absolutely essential to human happiness. Without it the mind
feeds upon itself, and the whole inward man becomes diseased.
The machinery within "will" work, and without something to work
upon, will often wear itself to pieces. There was no idleness in
the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve had to "work it and take care
of it." There will be no idleness in heaven: God's "servants
will serve Him." Oh, be very sure the idlest man is the man most
truly unhappy! (Genesis 2:15; Revelation 22:3)

It is an utter mistake to suppose that "pleasure-seeking and
amusement alone" can give happiness. Of all roads that men can
take in order to be happy, this is the one that is most
completely wrong. Of all weary, flat, dull, and unprofitable
ways of spending life, this exceeds them all. To think of a
dying creature, with an immortal soul, expecting happiness in
feasting and reveling--in dancing and singing--in dressing and
visiting--in party-going and gambling--in races and fairs--in
hunting and shooting--in crowds, in laughter, in noise, in music,
in wine! Surely it is a sight that is enough to make the devil
laugh and the angels weep. Even a child will not play with its
toys all day long. It must have food. But when grown up men and
women think to find happiness in a constant round of amusement
they sink far below a child.

I place before every reader of this paper these common mistakes
about the way to be happy. I ask you to mark them well. I warn
you plainly against these pretended short cuts to happiness,
however popular they may be. I tell you that if you believe that
any one of them can lead you to true peace you are entirely
deceived. Your conscience will never feel satisfied; your
immortal soul will never feel easy: your whole inward man will
feel uncomfortable and unhealthy. Take any one of these roads,
or take all of them, and if you have nothing besides to look to,
you will never find happiness. You may travel on and on and on,
and the wished for object will seem far away at the end of each
stage of life as when you started. You are like one pouring
water into a sieve, or putting money into a bag with holes. You
might as well try to make an elephant happy by feeding him with a
grain of sand a day, as try to satisfy that heart of yours with
position, riches, learning, idleness, or pleasures.

Do you doubt the truth of all that I am saying to you? I dare
say you do. Then let us turn to the great Book of human
experience, and read over a few lines out of its solemn pages.
You will have the testimony of a few competent witnesses on the
great subject I am calling to your attention.

A king will be our first witness: I mean Solomon, King of Israel.
We know that he had power, and wisdom, and wealth, far exceeding
that of any ruler of his time. We know from his own confession,
that he tried the great experiment of seeing how far the good
things of this world can make men happy. We know from the record
of his own hand, the result of this curious experiment. He
writes it by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the benefit
of the whole world, in the book of Ecclesiastes. Never, surely,
was the experiment tried under such favorable circumstances:
never was any one so likely to succeed as the Jewish King. Yet
what is Solomon's testimony? You have it in his melancholy
words: "I have seen all the things that are done under the sun;
all of them are meaningless, a chasing after wind" (Ecclesiastes

A famous French lady will be our next witness: I mean Madam De
Pompadour. She was the friend and favorite of Louis the
Fifteenth. She had unbounded influence at the Court of France.
She had everything that money could buy. Yet what does she have
to say?

What a situation is that of those who are great! They
only live in the future, and are only happy in hope.
There is no peace in ambition. I am always gloomy, and
so often very unreasonable. The kindness of the King,
the respect of the court officials, the devotion of my
servants, and the faithfulness of a large number of
friends--motives like these, which ought to make me
happy, no longer affect me. I no longer have feelings
for those things and persons which once pleased me. I
have magnificently furnished my house in Paris: well;
it pleased me for two days!

My residence in the French countryside is charming; and
yet I cannot endure being there alone. Kindhearted
people relate to me all the news and adventures of
Paris: they think I listen, but when they are done I
ask them what they said. In a word, I do not live: I
am dead before my time. I have no interest in the
world. Everything conspires to make my life bitter.
My life is a continual death.

To such testimony I do not need to add a single word. (Sinclair's
Anecdotes and Aphorisms, p. 33)

A famous German writer will be our next witness: I mean Goethe.
It is well known that he was almost idolized by many during his
life. His works were read and admired by thousands. His name
was known and honored, wherever German was read, all over the
world. And yet the praise of man, of which he reaped such an
abundant harvest, was utterly unable to make Goethe happy. "He
confessed, when about eighty years old, that he could not
remember being in a really happy state of mind even for a few
weeks together; and that when he wished to feel happy, he had to
veil his self-consciousness." (Sinclair's Anecdotes and
Aphorisms, p. 280)

An English poet will be our next witness: I mean Lord Byron, if
ever there was one who ought to have been happy according to the
standard of the world, Lord Byron was the man. He began life
with all the advantages of English rank and position. He had
splendid abilities and powers of mind, which the world soon
discovered and was ready to honor. He had a sufficiency of means
to gratify every lawful wish. Humanly speaking, there seemed
nothing to prevent him from enjoying life and being happy. Yet
it is a notorious fact that Byron was a miserable man. Misery
stands out in his poems: misery creeps out in his letters.
Weariness, boredom, disgust, and discontent appear in all of his
ways. He is an awful warning that rank, and title, and literary
fame, alone, are not sufficient to make a man happy.

A man of science will be our next witness: I mean Sir Humphrey
Davy. He was a man eminently successful in the line of life
which he chose, and deservedly so. A distinguished philosopher--
the inventor of the famous safety-lamp which bears his name, and
has preserved many a poor miner from death by fiery explosion. A
member of the ruling class in England and President of the Royal
Society--his whole life seemed a continual career of prosperity.
If education alone were the road to happiness, this man at least
ought to have been happy. Yet what was the true record of Davy's
feelings? We have it in his own sad journal at the latter part
of his life. He describes himself in two painful words: "Very

A man of humor and pleasure will be our next witness: I mean Lord
Chesterfield. He will speak for himself: his own words in a
letter will be his testimony.

I have seen the silly cycle of business and pleasure,
and have no use for any of it. I have enjoyed all the
pleasures of the world, and consequently know their
futility, and do not regret their loss. I appraise
them at their real value, which in truth is very low;
whereas those who lack experience always overrate them.
They only see their gay outside, and are dazzled with
their glare; but I have been behind the scenes. I have
seen all the coarse pulleys and dirty ropes which
exhibit and move the gaudy machine, and I have seen and
smelt the burning lard candles which illuminate the
whole decoration, to the astonishment and admiration of
the ignorant audience. When I reflect on what I have
seen, what I have heard, and what I have done, I cannot
persuade myself that all that frivolous hurried
movement and pleasure of the world had any reality. I
look on all that is past as one of those romantic
dreams which the drug opium can bring about, and I do
by no means wish to repeat the nauseous dose for the
sake of the evading dream.

These sentences speak for themselves. I need not add to them one
single word.

The Statesmen and Politicians who have swayed the destinies of
the world, ought by good right to be our last witnesses. But I
refrain, in Christian love, to bring them forward. It makes my
heart ache when I run my eye over the list of names famous in
history, and think how many have worn out their lives in a
breathless struggle after office and distinction. How many of
our greatest men have died of broken hearts--disappointed,
disgusted, and tried with constant failure! How many have left
on record some humbling confession that in the plenitude of their
power they were grieving for rest, as the caged eagle for
liberty! How many whom the world is applauding as "masters of
the situation," are in reality little better than galley-slaves,
chained to the oar and unable to get free! Yes, there are many
sad proofs, both among the living and the dead, that to be great
and powerful is not necessarily to be happy.

I think it very likely that men do not believe what I am saying.
I know something of the deceitfulness of the heart on the subject
of happiness. There are few things which man is slow to believe
as the truths I am now putting forth about the way to be happy.
Bear with me then while I say something more.

Come and stand with me some afternoon in the heart of the city of
London. Let us watch the faces of most of the wealthy men whom
we will see leaving their places of business at the close of the
day. Some of them are worth hundred of thousands: some of them
are worth millions. But what is written in the faces of these
grave men whom we see swarming out from the Bank of England and
the Stock Exchange? What is the meaning of those deep lines
which wrinkle so many a cheek and so many a brow? What is the
meaning of that air of anxious thoughtfulness which is worn by
five out of every six we meet? Yes, these things tell a serious
tale. They tell us that it needs something more than gold and
bank notes to make men happy.

Come next and stand with me near the Houses of Parliament, in the
middle of a busy session. Let us scan the faces of the
politicians, whose names are familiar and well-known all over the
civilized world. There you may see on some fine evening the
mightiest Statesmen in England hurrying to a debate, like eagles
to the carcass. Each has the power of good or evil in his tongue
which it is fearful to contemplate. Each may say things before
tomorrow's sun dawns, which may affect the peace and prosperity
of nations, and convulse the world. There you may see the men
who hold the reins of power and government already; there you may
see the men who are daily watching for an opportunity of
snatching those reins out of their hands, and governing in their
stead. But what do their faces tell us as they rush to their
posts? What may be read in many of their wrinkled foreheads--so
absent-looking and sunk in thought? They teach us a solemn
lesson. They teach us that it needs something more than
political greatness to make men happy.

Come next and stand with me in the most fashionable part of
London, in the height of the season. Let us visit Regent Street
or Pall Mall, Hyde Park or May Fair. How many beautiful faces
and splendid clothes we will see! How many we will count in an
hour's time who seem to possess the choicest gifts of this world-
-beauty, wealth, position, fashion, and a throng of friends. But
how few we will see who appear happy! In how many faces we will
read weariness, dissatisfaction, discontent, sorrow, or
unhappiness, as clearly as if it was written with a pen! Yes: it
is a humbling lesson to learn, but a very wholesome one. It
needs something more than position, and fashion, and beauty, to
make people happy.

Come next and walk with me through some quiet country village in
merry England. Let us visit some secluded corner, far away from
the great cities, and fashionable indulgence and political
strife. There are many such villages to be found in the land.
There are even rural places where there is neither street, nor
shop, nor bar--where there is work for all the laborers, and a
church for all the population, and a school for all the children,
and a minister of the gospel to look after the people. Surely,
you will say, we will find happiness here! Surely such places
must be the very abodes of peace and joy! Go into these quiet-
looking cottages, one by one, and you will soon be shocked.
Learn the inner history of each family, and you will soon alter
your mind. You will soon discover that backbiting, and lying,
and slandering, and envy, and jealousy, and pride, and laziness,
and drinking, and extravagance, and lust, and petty quarrels, can
murder happiness in the country quite as much as in the town. No
doubt a rural village sounds pretty in poetry, and looks
beautiful in pictures; but in sober reality human nature is the
same evil thing everywhere. Yes, it needs something more than a
residence in a quiet country village to make any child of Adam a
happy man!

I know these are ancient things. They have been said a thousand
times before without effect, and I suppose they will be said
without effect again. I want no greater proof of the corruption
of human nature than the determination with which we seek
happiness where happiness cannot be found. Century after century
wise men have left on record their experience about the way to be
happy. Century after century the children of men will declare
that they know the way to happiness perfectly well, and need no
teaching. They cast to the winds our warnings; they rush, every
one, on his own favorite path; they walk in a worthless shadow,
and trouble themselves in vain, and wake up when it is too late
to find that their whole life has been a great mistake. Their
eyes are blinded: they will not see that their visions are as
baseless and disappointing as the mirage of the African desert.
Like the tired traveler in those deserts, they think they are
approaching a lake of cooling waters; like the same traveler,
they find to their dismay that this imaginary lake was a splendid
optical delusion, and that they are still helpless in the midst
of burning sands.

Are you a young person? I implore you to accept the tender
warning of a minister of the Gospel, and not to seek happiness
where happiness cannot be found. Don't seek it in riches; don't
seek it in power and position; don't seek it in pleasure; don't
seek it in learning. All these are bright and splendid
fountains: their waters taste sweet. A crowd is standing around
them, which will not leave the, but oh, remember that God has
written over each of these fountains, "Everyone who drinks this
water will be thirsty again" (John 4:13). Remember this and you
will be wise.

Are you poor? Are you tempted to daydream that if you had the
rich man's place you would be quite happy? Resist the
temptation, and cast it behind you. Do not envy your wealthy
neighbors: be content with such things as you have. Happiness
does not depend on houses or land; silk and fine clothes cannot
shut out sorrow from the heart; mansions and villas cannot
prevent anxiety and care coming in through their doors. There is
as much misery riding and driving about in cars as there is
walking about on foot: there is as much unhappiness in elegant
houses as in humble cottages. Oh, remember the mistakes which
are common about happiness and be wise!

III. Let me now, in the last place, "point out the way to be
really happy."

There is a sure path which leads to happiness, if men will only
take it. There never lived a person who traveled in that path,
and missed the object that he sought to attain.

It is a path open to all. It needs neither wealth, nor position,
nor learning in order to walk in it. It is for the servant as
well as for the master: it is for the poor as well as for the
rich. None are excluded but those who exclude themselves.

Where is this path? Where is this road? Listen, and you will

The way to be happy is "to be a real, thorough-going true-hearted
Christian." Scripture declares it; experience proves it. The
converted man, the believer in Christ, the child of God--he, and
he alone, is the happy man.

It sounds too simple to be true: it seems at first sight so
simple a statement that it is not believed. But the greatest
truths are often the simplest. The secret which many of the
wisest on earth have utterly failed to discover, is revealed to
the humblest believer in Christ. I repeat it deliberately, and
defy the world to disprove it: the true Christian is the only
happy man.

What do I mean when I speak of a true Christian? Do I mean
everybody who goes to a church? Do I mean everybody who
professes an orthodox creed, and bows his head at the belief? Do
I mean everybody who professes to love the Gospel? No: indeed!
I mean something very different. All are not Christians who are
called Christians. The man I have in view is "the Christian in
heart and life." He who has been taught by the Spirit really to
feel his sins--he who really rests all his hopes on the Lord
Jesus Christ, and His payment for man's sins on the Cross--he who
has been born again and really lives a spiritual, holy life--he
whose religion is not merely a Sunday show, but a mighty
constraining principle governing every day of his life--he is the
man I mean, when I speak of a true Christian.

What do I mean when I say the true Christian is happy? Has he no
doubts and no fears? Has he no anxieties and no troubles? Has
he no sorrows and no cares? Does he never feel pain, and shed no
tears? Far be it from me to say anything of the kind. He has a
body weak and frail like other men; he has affections and
passions like every one born of a woman: he lives in a changing
world. But deep down in his heart he has a mine of solid peace
and substantial joy which is never exhausted. This is true

Do I say that all true Christians are equally happy at all times?
No: not for a moment! All have their ebbs and flows of peace,
like the sea. Their bodily health is not always the same; their
earthly circumstances are not always the same; the souls of those
they love fill them at times with special anxiety: they
themselves are sometimes overtaken by a fault, and walk in
darkness. They sometimes give way to inconsistencies and
besetting sins, and lose their sense of forgiveness. But, as a
general rule the true Christian has a deep pool of peace within
him, which even at the lowest is never entirely dry.

I use the words, "as a general rule," advisedly. When a believer
falls into such a horrible sin as that of David [adultery and
murder], it would be monstrous to talk of his feeling inward
peace. If a man professing to be a true Christian talked to me
of being happy in such a case--before giving any evidence of the
deepest, most heart-abasing repentance--I should feel great
doubts whether he ever had any grace at all.

The true Christian is the only happy man, because "his conscience
is at peace." That mysterious witness for God, which is so
mercifully placed within us, is fully satisfied and at rest. It
sees in the blood of Christ a complete cleansing away of all its
guilt. It sees in the priesthood and mediation of Christ a
complete answer to all its fears. It sees that through the
sacrifice and death of Christ, God can now be just, and yet be
the justifier of the ungodly. It no longer bites and stings, and
makes its possessor afraid of himself. The Lord Jesus Christ has
amply met all its requirements. Conscience is no longer the
enemy of the true Christian, but his friend and adviser.
Therefore he is happy.

The true Christian is the only happy man, because he can "sit
down quietly and think about his soul." He can look behind him
and ahead of him, he can look within him and around him, and
feel, "All is well." He can think calmly on his past life, and
however many and great his sins, take comfort in the thought that
they are all forgiven. The righteousness of Christ covers all,
as Noah's flood covered the highest mountain. He can think
calmly about things to come, and yet not be afraid. Sickness is
painful; death is solemn; the judgment day is an awful thing: but
having Christ for him, he has nothing to fear. He can think
calmly about the Holy God, whose eyes are on all his ways, and
feel, "He is my Father, my reconciled Father in Christ Jesus. I
am weak; I am unprofitable: yet in Christ He regards me as His
dear child, and is well-pleased." Oh, what a blessed privilege
it is to be able to "think," and not be afraid! I can well
understand the mournful complaint of the prisoner in solitary
confinement. He had warmth, and food, and clothing, and work,
but he was not happy. And why? He said, "He was obliged to

The true Christian is the only happy man, because "he has sources
of happiness entirely independent of this world." He has
something which cannot be affected by sickness and by deaths, by
private losses and public calamities--he has the "peace of God,
which transcends all understanding." He has a hope laid up for
him in Heaven; he has a treasure which moth and rust cannot
corrupt; he has a house which can never be torn down. His loving
wife may die, and his heart feel torn in two; his darling
children may be taken from him, and he may be left alone in this
cold world; his earthly plans may be crossed; his health may
fail; but all this time he has a part of him which can never be
hurt. He has a Friend who never dies; he has possessions beyond
the grave, of which nothing can deprive him: his springs of water
on this earth may dry up, but his springs of living water never
run dry. This is real happiness.

The true Christian is happy, because he is "in his right
position." All the powers of his being are directed to right
ends. His affections are not set on things here on earth, but on
things in heaven; his will is not bent on self-indulgence, but is
submissive to the will of God; his mind is not absorbed in
wretched perishable insignificant things. He desires useful
employment: he enjoys the luxury of doing good. Who does not
know the misery of disorder? The heart of an unconverted man is
like a house that is a mess. Grace puts everything in that heart
in its right position. The things of the soul come first, and
the things of the world come second. Anarchy and confusion
cease: unruly passions no longer do what seems right in their own
eyes. Christ reigns over the whole man, and each part of him
does his proper work. The new heart is the only real happy
heart, for it is the only heart that is in order. The true
Christian has found out his place. He has laid aside his pride
and self-will; he sits at the feet of Jesus, and is in his right
mind: he loves God and loves man, and so he is happy. In heaven
all are happy because all do God's will perfectly. The nearer a
man gets to this standard the happier he will be.

The plain truth is that without Christ there is no happiness in
the world. He alone can give the Comforter who abides forever.
He is the sun; without Him men never feel warm. He is the
light; without Him men are always in the dark. He is the bread;
without Him men are always starving. He is the living water;
without Him men are always thirsty. Give them what you like--
place them where you please--surround them with all the comforts
you can imagine--it makes no difference. Separate from Christ,
the Prince of Peace, a man cannot be happy.

Give a man a sensible interest in Christ, and he will be happy
"in spite of poverty." He will tell you that he wants nothing
that is really good. He is provided for: he has riches in
possession, and riches in restoration; he has meat to eat that
the world does not know of; he has friends who never leave him or
forsake him. The Father and the Son come to him, and make their
home with him: the Lord Jesus Christ has supper with him, and he
with Christ (Revelation 3:20).

Give a man a sensible interest in Christ, and he will be happy
"in spite of sickness." His flesh may groan, and his body be
worn out with pain, but his heart will rest and be at peace. One
of the happiest people I ever saw was a young woman who had been
hopelessly ill for many years with disease of the spine. She lay
in a attic without the warmth of a fire; the roof was less than
two feet above her face. She did not have the slightest hope of
recovery. But she was always rejoicing in the Lord Jesus. The
spirit triumphed mightily over the flesh. She was happy, because
Christ was with her.

Give a man a sensible interest in Christ, and he will be happy
"in spite of abounding public calamities." The government of his
country may be thrown into confusion, rebellion and disorder may
turn everything upside down, laws may be trampled underfoot;
justice and equity may be outraged; liberty may be cast down to
the ground; might may prevail over right: but still his heart
will not fail. He will remember that the kingdom of Christ will
one day be set up. He will say, like the old minister who lived
throughout the turmoil of the French revolution: "It is all
right: it will be well with the righteous."

I know well that Satan hates the doctrine which I am endeavoring
to press upon you. I have no doubt he is filling your mind with
objections and reasonings, and persuading you that I am wrong. I
am not afraid to meet these objections face to face. Let us
bring them forward and see what they are.

You may tell me that "you know many very religious people who are
not happy at all." You see them diligent in attending public
worship. You know that they are never missing at the Lord's
Supper. But you see in them no marks of the peace which I have
been describing.

But are you sure that these people you speak of are true
believers in Christ? Are you sure that, with all their
appearance of religion, they are born again and converted to God?
Isn't very likely that they have nothing but the name of
Christianity, without the reality; and a form of godliness,
without the power? Yes! you have yet to learn that people may do
many religious acts, and yet possess no saving religion! It is
not a mere formal, ceremonial Christianity that will ever make
people happy. We want something more than going to Church, and
going to the Lord's Table, to give us peace. There must be a
real, vital union with Christ. It is not the formal Christian,
but the true Christian, that is the happy man.

You may tell me that "you know really spiritually-minded and
converted people who do not seem happy." You have heard them
frequently complaining of their own hearts, and groaning over
their own weaknesses. They seem to you all doubts, and
anxieties, and fears; and you want to know where is the happiness
in these people of which I have been saying so much.

I do not deny that there are many saints of God such as these
whom you describe, and I am sorry for it. I allow that there are
many believers who live far below their privileges, and seem to
know nothing of the joy and peace in believing. But did you ever
ask any of these people whether they would give up their
Christianity, and go back to the world? Did you ever ask them,
after all their groanings, and doubtings, and fearings, whether
they think they would be happier if they ceased to follow after
Christ? "Did you ever ask those questions?" I am certain if you
did, that the weakest and lowest believers would all give you one
answer. I am certain they would tell you that they would rather
cling to their little scrap of Hope in Christ, than possess the
world. I am sure they would all answer, "Our faith is weak, if
we have any; our grace is small, if we have any; our joy in
Christ is next to nothing at all: but we cannot give up what we
have got. Though the Lord slay us, we must cling to Him." The
root of happiness lies deep in many a poor weak believer's heart,
when neither leaves nor blossoms are to be seen!

But you will tell me, in the last place, that "you cannot believe
most believers are happy, because they are so solemn and
serious." You think that they do not really possess this
happiness I have been describing, because their faces do not show
it. You doubt the reality of their joy, because it is so little

I might easily repeat what I told you at the beginning of this
paper--that a merry face is no sure proof of a happy heart. But
I will not do so. I will rather ask you whether you yourself
may not be the cause why believers look grave and serious when
you meet them? If you are not converted yourself, you surely
cannot expect them to look at you without sorrow. They see you
on the broad road to Hell, and that alone is enough to give them
pain: they see thousands like you, hurrying on to weeping and
wailing and endless torment. Now, is it possible that such a
daily sight should not give them grief? Your company, very
likely, is one cause why they are solemn. Wait till you are a
converted man yourself, before you pass judgment on the
seriousness of converted people. See them in companies where all
are of one heart, and all love Christ, and so far as my own
experience goes, you will find no people so truly happy as true

I repeat my assertion in this part of my subject. I repeat it
boldly, confidently, deliberately. I say that there is no
happiness among men that will at all compare with that of the
true Christian. All other happiness compared to this is
moonlight compared to sunshine, and brass by the side of gold.
Boast, if you will, of the laughter and merriment of irreligious
men; sneer, if you will, at the concern and seriousness, which
appear in the demeanor of many Christians. I have looked the
whole subject in the face, and am not moved. I say that the true
Christian alone is the truly happy man, and the way to be happy
is to be a true Christian.

And now I am going to close this paper by a few words of plain
application. I have endeavored to expose the fallacy of many
views which prevail upon the subject. I have endeavored to point
out, in plain and unmistakable words, where true happiness alone
can be found. Permit me to close by an affectionate appeal to
the consciences of all who may read this paper.

(1) In the first place, "let me entreat every reader of this
paper to apply to his own heart the solemn question--Are you

High position or low position, rich or poor, master or servant,
farmer or laborer, young or old, here is a question that deserves
an answer--"Are you really happy?"

Man of this world, who cares about nothing but the things of this
world, neglecting the Bible, making a god of business or money,
providing for everything but the day of judgment, scheming and
planning about everything but eternity: are you happy? "You know
that you are not."

Foolish woman, who is throwing life away in flippancy and
fickleness, spending hours after hours on that poor frail body
which must soon be fed to the worms, making an idol of dress and
fashion, and excitement, and human praise, as if this world was
all there was: are you happy? "You know that you are not."

Young man, who is bent on pleasure and self-indulgence,
fluttering from one idle pastime to another, like the moth about
the candle--fancying yourself clever and knowing, and too wise to
be led by preachers, and ignorant that the devil is leading you
captive, like the animal that is led to the slaughter: are you
happy? "You know that you are not."

Yes: each and all of you, you are not happy! And in your own
consciences you know it well. You may not admit it, but it is
sadly true. There is a great empty place in each of your hearts,
and nothing will fill it. Pour into it money, learning,
position, and pleasure, and it will still be empty. There is a
sore place in each of your consciences, and nothing will heal it.
Immorality can't; freethinking can't; Roman Catholicism can't;
they are all quack medicines. Nothing can heal it, but that
which at present you have not used--the simple Gospel of Christ.
Yes: you are indeed a miserable people!

Take warning this day, that you will never be happy till you are
converted. You might as well expect to feel the sun shine on
your face when you turn your back to it, as to feel happy when
you turn your back on God and on Christ.

(2) In the second place, "let me warn all who are not true
Christians of the folly of living a life which cannot make them

I pity you from the bottom of my heart, and eagerly persuade you
to open your eyes and be wise. I stand as a watchman on the
tower of the everlasting Gospel. I see you sowing misery for
yourselves, and I call upon you to stop and think, before it is
too late. Oh, that God may show you your folly!

You are hewing out for yourselves cisterns, broken cisterns,
which can hold no water. You are spending your time, and
strength, and affections on that which will give you no return
for your labor--"spending your money on that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy" (Isaiah 55:2).
You are building up Babels of your own contriving, and ignorant
that God will pour contempt on your schemes for procuring
happiness, because you attempt to be happy without Him.

Awake from your dreams, I beg you, and show yourselves men.
Think of the uselessness of living a life which you will be
ashamed of when you die, and of having a religion, in name only,
which will just fail you when it is most wanted.

Open your eyes and look around the world. Tell me who was ever
really happy without God and Christ and the Holy Spirit. Look at
the road in which you are traveling. Mark the footsteps of those
who have gone before you: see how many have turned away from it,
and confessed that they were wrong. I warn you plainly, that if
you are not a true Christian you will miss happiness in the world
that now is, as well as in the world to come. Oh, believe me,
the way of happiness, and the way of salvation are one and the
same! He that will have his own way, and refuses to serve
Christ, will never be really happy. But he that serves Christ
has the promise of both lives. He is happy on earth, and will be
happier still in heaven.

If you are neither happy in this world nor the next, it will be
all your own fault. Oh, think of this! Do not be guilty of such
enormous folly. Who does not mourn over the folly of the
drunkard, the drug addict, and the person who commits suicide?
But there is no folly like that of the unrepentant child of the

(3) In the next place, "let me entreat all readers of this book,
who are not yet happy, to seek happiness where alone it can be

The keys of the way to happiness are in the hands of the Lord
Jesus Christ. He is sealed and appointed by God the Father, to
give the bread of life to them that hunger, and to give the water
of life to them that thirst. The door which riches and position
and learning have so often tried to open, and tried in vain, is
now ready to open to every humble, praying believer. Oh, if you
want to be happy, come to Christ!

Come to Him, confessing that you are weary of your own ways, and
want rest--that you find you have no power and might to make
yourself holy or happy or fit for heaven, and have no hope but in
Him. [Believe and Trust in Christ, Repent of your sins, and
Submit to His Lordship] Tell Him this unreservedly. This is
coming to Christ.

Come to Him, imploring Him to show you His mercy, and grant you
His salvation--to wash you in His own blood, and take your sins
away--to speak peace to your conscience, and heal your troubled
soul. Tell Him all this unreservedly. This is coming to Christ.

You have everything to encourage you. The Lord Jesus Himself
invites you. He proclaims to you as well as to others, "Come to
Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and
humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my
yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). Wait
for nothing. You may feel unworthy. You may feel as if you did
not repent enough. But wait no longer. Come to Christ.

You have everything to encourage you. Thousands have walked in
the way you are invited to enter, and have found it good. Once,
like yourself, they served the world, and plunged deeply into
folly and sin. Once, like yourself, they became weary of their
wickedness, and longed for deliverance and rest. They heard of
Christ, and His willingness to help and save: they came to Him by
faith and prayer, after many a doubt and hesitation; they found
Him a thousand times more gracious than they had expected. They
rested on Him and were happy: they carried His cross and tasted
peace. Oh, walk in their steps!

I implore you, by the mercies of God, to come to Christ. If you
ever hope to be happy, I entreat you to come to Christ. Do not
delay. Awake from your sleep: arise and be free! This day come
to Christ.

(4) In the last place, "let me offer a few hints to all true
Christians for the increase and promotion of their happiness."

I offer these hints with reluctance. I desire to apply them to
my own conscience as well as to yours. You have found Christ's
service happy. I have no doubt that you feel such sweetness in
Christ's peace that you would desire to know more of it. I am
sure that these hints deserve attention.

Believers, if you would have an increase of happiness in Christ's
service, "labor every year to grow in grace." Beware of standing
still. The holiest men are always the happiest. Let your aim be
every year to be more holy--to know more, to feel more, to see
more of the fullness of Christ. Do not rest on old grace: do not
be content with the degree of Christianity which you have
attained. Search the Scriptures more earnestly; pray more
fervently; hate sin more; mortify self-will more; become more
humble the nearer you draw to your end; seek more direct personal
communion with the Lord Jesus; strive to be more like Enoch--
daily walking with God; keep your conscience clear of little
sins; grieve not the Spirit; avoid arguments and disputes about
the lesser matters of religion: lay more firm hold upon those
great truths, without which no man can be saved. Remember and
practice these things, and you will be more happy.

Believers, if you would have an increase of happiness in Christ's
service, "labor every year to be more thankful." Pray that you
may know more and more what it is to "rejoice in the Lord"
(Philippians 3:1). Learn to have a deeper sense of your own
wretched sinfulness and corruption, and to be more deeply
grateful, that by the grace of God you are what you are. Yes,
there is too much complaining and too little thanksgiving among
the people of God! There is too much murmuring and poring over
the things that we don't have. There is too little praising and
blessing for the many undeserved mercies that we have. Oh that
God would pour out upon us a great spirit of thankfulness and

Believers, if you would have an increase of happiness in Christ's
service, "labor every year to do more good." Look around the
circle in which you live your life, and determine to be useful.
Strive to be of the same character with God: He is not only good,
but "does good" (Psalm 119:68). Alas there is far too much
selfishness among believers in the present day! There is far to
much lazy sitting by the fire nursing our own spiritual diseases,
and growling over the state of our own hearts. Get up; and be
useful in your day and generation! Is there no one in all the
world that you can read the Bible to? Is there no one that you
can speak to about Christ? Is there no one that you can write to
about Christ? Is there literally nothing that you can do for the
glory of God, and the benefit of your fellow-men? Oh I cannot
think it! I cannot think it. There is much that you might do,
if you had only the will. For your own happiness' sake, arise
and do it, without delay. The bold, outspoken, working
Christians are always the happiest. The more you do for God, the
more God will do for you.

The compromising lingering Christian must never expect to taste

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