« PreviousContinue »
I HAVE always preferred Cheerfulness to Mirth. The latter I consider as an act, the former as a habit of the mind. Mirth is short and transient, cheerfulness fixed and permanent. Those are often raised into the greatest transports of mirth, who are subject to the greatest depressions of melancholy : on the contrary, cheerfulness, though it does not give the mind such an exquisite gladness, prevents us from falling into any depths of sor
Mirth is like a flash of lightning, that breaks through a gloom of clouds, and glitters for a moment ; cheerfulness keeps up a kind of daylight in the mind, and fills it with a steady and perpetual serenity.
Men of austere principles look upon mirth as too wanton and dissolute for a state of probation, and as filled with a certain triumph and insolence of heart that is inconsistent with a life which is every moment obnoxious to the greatest dangers. Writers of this complexion have observed, that the sacred person who was the great pattern of perfection, was never seen to laugh.
Cheerfulness of mind is not liable to any of these exceptions ; it is of a serious and composed nature ; it does not throw the mind into a condition improper for the present state of humanity, and is very conspicuous in the characters of those who are looked upon as the greatest philosophers among the Heathens, as well as among those who have been deservedly esteemed as saints and holy men among Christians.
If we consider cheerfulness in three lights, with regard to ourselves, to those we converse with, and to the great Author of our being, it will not a little recommend
itself on each of these accounts. The man who is pos sessed of this excellent frame of mind, is not only easy in bis thoughts, but a perfect master of all the powers and faculties of his soul ; his imagination is always clear, and his judgment undisturbed : his temper is even and unruffled, whether in action or in solitude. He comes with a relish to all those goods which nature has provided for bim, tastes all the pleasures of the creation which are poured upon him, and does not feel the full weight of those accidental evils which may befal him.
If we consider him in relation to the persons whom he converses with, it naturally produces love and goodwill towards him, A cheerful mind is not only disposed to be affable and obliging, but raises the same good-humour in those who come within its influence. A man finds himself pleased, he does not know why, with the cheerfulness of his companion : it is like a sudden, sunshine that awakens a sacred delight in the mind, without her attending to it. The heart rejoices of its own accord, and naturally flows out into friendship and benevolence towards the person who has so kindly an effect
When I consider this cheerful state of mind in its third relation, I cannot but look upon it as a constant habitual gratitude to the Author of nature. An inward cheerfulness is an implicit praise and thanksgiving to Providence under all its dispensations. It is a kind of acquiescence in the state wherein we are placed, and a secret approbation of the Divine will in his conduct to
A man, who uses his best endeavours to live according to the dictates of virtue and right reason, has two perpetual sources of cheerfulness in the consideration of his own nature, and of that Being on whom he has a dependence. If he looks into himself, he cannot but rejoice in that existence, which is so lately bestowed upon him, and which, after millions of ages, will be still new, and
and still in its beginning. How many self-congratulations naturally rise in the mind, when it reflects on this its entrance into eternity ; when it takes a view of those improveable faculties, which in a few years, and even at its first setting out have made so considerable a progress, and which will be still receiving an increase of perfection, and consequently an increase of happiness ! The consciousness of such a Being spreads a perpetual diffusion of joy through the soul of a virtuous man, and makes him look upon himself every moment as more happy than he knows how to conceive.
The second source of cheerfulness to a good mind, is its consideration of that Being on whom we have our dependence, and in whom, though we behold him as yet but in the first faint discoveries of his perfections, we see every thing that we can imagine as great, glorious, or amiable. We find ourselves every where upheld by his goodness, and surrounded with an immensity of love and mercy. In short, we depend upon a Being, whose power qualifies him to make us happy by an infinity of means, whose goodness and truth engage him to make those happy who desire it of him, and whose unchangeableness will secure us in this happiness to all eternity.
Such considerations, which every one should perpetually cherish in his thoughts, will banish from us all that secret heaviness of heart which unthinking men are subject to when they live under no real affiiction ; all that anguish which we may feel from any evil that actually oppresses as ; to which I may likewise add those little cracklings of mirth and folly that are apter to betray virtue than support it ; and establish in us such an even and cheerful temper, as makes us pleasing to ourselves, to those whom we converse, and to him whom we were made to please.
TRUTH and sincerity have all the advantages of appearance and many more. If the shew of any thing be good for any thing, I am sure the reality is better; for why does any man dissemble, or seem to be that which he is not, but because he thinks it good to have the qualities he pretends to ? For to counterfeit and dissemble, is to put on the appearance of sonve real excellency. Now the best way for a man to seem to be any thing is really to be what he would seem to be. Besides, it is often as troublesome to support the pretence of a good quality as to have it ; and if a man have it not, it is most likely he will be discovered to want it, and then all his labour to seem to have it is lost. There is something upnatural in painting, which a skilful eye will easily discern from native beauty and complexion.
It is hard to personate and act a part long ; for where truth is not at the bottom, nature will always be endeavouring to return, and will betray herself at one time or other. Therefore if any man think it convenient to seem good, let him be so indeed, and then his goodness will appear to every one's satisfaction ; for truth is convincing, and carries its own light and evidence along with it, and will not only commend us to every man's conscience; but which is much more, to God, who searcheth our hearts. So that upon all accounts sincerity is true wisdom. Particularly as to the affairs of this world, integrity hath many advantages over all the artificial modes of dissimulation and deceit. It is much the plainer and easier, much the safer and more secure way of dealing in the world : it has less of trouble and diificulty, of entanglement and perplexity, of danger and hazard in it ; it is the shortest and nearest way to our end, carry.
ing us thither in a straight line, and will hold out and last longest. The arts of deceit and cunning continually grow weaker and less effectual and serviceable to those that practise them ; whereas integrity gains strength by use, and the more and longer any man practiseth it, the greater service it does him, hy confirming his reputation and encouraging those with whom he hath to do, to repose the greatest confidence in him, which is an unspeakable advantage in business and the affairs of life.
A Dissembler must always be upon his guard, and watch himself carefully, that he do not contradict his own pretensions ; for he acts an unnatural part, and therefore must put a continual force and restraint upon himself. Whereas he that acts sincerely hath the easiest task in the world ; because he follows nature and so is put to no trouble and care about his words and actions ; he needs not invent any pretences before-hand, nor make excuses afterwards, for any thing he hath said or done.
But insincerity is very troublesome to manage ; a hypocrite has so many things to attend to, as make his life a very perplexed and intricate thing. A liar hath need of a good memory, lest he contradict at one time what he said at another ; but truth is always consistent with itself, and needs nothing to help it out ; it is always near at hand, and sits upon our lips ; whereas a lie is troublesome, and needs a great many more to make it good.
Add to all this, that sincerity is the most compendious wisdom and an excellent instrument for the speedy dispatch of business. It creates confidence in those we have to deal with, saves the labour of many inquiries, and brings things to an issue in a few words. It is like travelling in a plain beaten road, which commonly brings a man sooner to his journey's end, than bye-ways, in which men often lose themselves. In a word whatsoever convenience may be thought to be in falsehood and dissimulation, it is soon over ; but the inconvenience of it is perpetual, because it brings a man under an everlast