( Originally Published 1879 )
JoY is a prize unbought, and is freest, purest in its flow when it comes unsought. No getting into heaven as a place will compass it. You must carry it with you, else it is not there. You must have it in you as the music of a well-ordered soul, the fire of a holy purpose. An unchanging state of joy is not possible on earth as it now is, because evil and error are here. The soul must have its midnight hour as well as its sunlight seasons of joy and gladness. Still the mercy of the Lord is shown as much in the night as in the day. It is only in the night that we can see the stars. The noblest spirits, however, are those which turn to heaven, not in the hour of sorrow, but in that of joy; like the lark, they wait for the clouds to disperse, that they may soar up into their native element.
He who selfishly hoards his joys, thinking thus to increase them, is like a man who looks at his granary, and says, " Not only will I protect my grain from mice and birds, but neither the ground nor the mill shall have it." And so, in the spring, he walks around his little pit of corn, and exclaims, "How wasteful are my neighbors, throwing away whole handfuls of grain!" But autumn comes; and, while he has only his few poor bushels, their fields are yellow with an abundant harvest. " There is that scattereth and yet increaseth."
Worldly joy is like the songs which peasants sing, full of melodies and sweet airs. Christian joy has its sweet airs too; but they are augmented to harmonies, so that he who has it goes to heaven, not to the voice of a single flute, but to that of a whole band of instruments, discoursing wondrous music. Those who joy in wealth grow avaricious; those who joy in their friends too often lose nobility of spirit; those who joy in sensuousness lose dignity of character; those who joy in literature ofttimes become pedantic; but those who joy in liberty-i. e., that all should do as they would be done by—possess the happiest of joys. It is a solid joy no one can barter away. Exceedingly few possess it.
He that to the best of his power has secured the final stake, has a perennial fountain of joy within him. He is satisfied from himself. They, his reverse, borrow all from without. Joy wholly from without is false, precarious, and short. From without it may be gathered; but, like gathered flowers, though fair and sweet for a season, it must soon wither and become offensive. Joy from within is like smelling the rose on the tree. It is more sweet and fair—it is lasting; and, I must add, immortal. Happy are the moments when sorrow forgets its cares, and misery its misfortunes; when peace and gladness spring up upon the radiant wings of hope, and the light of contentment dawns once more upon the disconsolate, unfortunate, and unhappy heart.
"The past unsighed for, and the future sure."
There is in this world continual interchange of pleasing and greeting accidents, still keeping their succession of times, and overtaking each other in their several courses; no picture can be all drawn of the brightest colors, nor a harmony consorted only of trebles; shadows are needful in expressing of pro-portions, and the bass is a principal part in perfect music; the condition here alloweth no unmeddled joy; our whole life is temperate between sweet and sour, and we must all look for a mixture of both: the wise so wish: better that they still think of worse, accepting the one if it come with liking, and bearing the other without impatience, being so much masters of each other's fortunes, that neither shall work them to excess. The dwarf groweth not on the highest hill, nor the tall man loseth not his height in the lowest valley; and as a base mind, though most at ease, will be dejected, so a resolute virtue in the deepest distress is most impregnable.
There are joys which long to be ours. God sends ten thousand truths, which come about us like birds seeking inlet; but we are shut up to them, and so they bring us nothing, but sit and sing a while upon the roof and then fly away.