Christ, the great teacher, did not shut Himself up with monks, away from temptation of the great world outside. He taught no long-faced, gloomy theology. He taught the gospel of gladness and good cheer. His doctrines are touched with the sunlight, and flavored with the flowers of the fields. The birds of the air, the beasts of the field, and happy, romping children are in them. True piety is cheerful as the day.
Cranmer cheers his brother martyrs, and Latimer walks with a face shining with cheerfulness to the stake, upholds his fellow’s spirits, and seasons all his sermons with pleasant anecdotes.
“Nothing will supply the want of sunshine to peaches,” said Emerson, “and to make knowledge valuable, you must have the cheerfulness of wisdom.”
In answer to the question, “How shall we overcome temptation,” a noted writer said, “Cheerfulness is the first thing, cheerfulness is the second, and cheerfulness is the third.” A habit of cheerfulness, enabling one to transmute apparent misfortunes into real blessings, is a fortune to a young man or young woman just crossing the threshold of active life. He who has formed a habit of looking at the bright, happy side of things, who sees the glory in the grass, the sunshine in the flowers, sermons in stones, and good in everything, has a great advantage over the chronic dyspeptic, who sees no good in anything. His habitual thought sculptures his face into beauty and touches his manner with grace.
We often forget that the priceless charm which will secure to us all these desirable gifts is within our reach. It is the charm of a sunny temper, a talisman more potent than station, more precious than gold, more to be desired than fine rubies. It is an aroma, whose fragrance fills the air with the odors of Paradise.
“It is from these enthusiastic fellows,” says an admirer, “that you hear–what they fully believe, bless them!–that all countries are beautiful, all dinners grand, all pictures superb, all mountains high, all women beautiful. When such a one has come back from his country trip, after a hard year’s work, he has always found the cosiest of nooks, the cheapest houses, the best of landladies, the finest views, and the best dinners. But with the other the case is indeed altered. He has always been robbed; he has positively seen nothing; his landlady was a harpy, his bedroom was unhealthy, and the mutton was so tough that he could not get his teeth through it.”
“He goes on to talk of the sun in his glory,” says Izaak Walton, “the fields, the meadows, the streams which they have seen, the birds which they have heard; he asks what would the blind and deaf give to see and hear what they have seen.”
Of Lord Holland’s sunshiny face, Rogers said: “He always comes to breakfast like a man upon whom some sudden good fortune has fallen.”
But oh, for the glorious spectacles worn by the good-natured man!–oh, for those wondrous glasses, finer than the Claude Lorraine glass, which throw a sunlit view over everything, and make the heart glad with little things, and thankful for small mercies! Such glasses had honest Izaak Walton, who, coming in from a fishing expedition on the river Lea, burst out into such grateful little talks as this: “Let us, as we walk home under the cool shade of this honeysuckle hedge, mention some of the thoughts and joys that have possessed my soul since we two met. And that our present happiness may appear the greater, and we more thankful for it, I beg you to consider with me, how many do at this very time lie under the torment of the gout or the toothache, and this we have been free from; and let me tell you, that every misery I miss is a new blessing.”
The hypochondriac who nurses his spleen never looks forward cheerfully, but lounges in his invalid chair, and croaks like a raven, foreboding woe. “Ah,” says he, “you will never succeed; these things always fail.”
The Thug of India, whose prayer is a homicide, and whose offering is the body of a victim, is melancholy.
The Fijiian, waiting to smash the skull of a victim, and to prepare a bakola for his gods, is gloomy as fear and death.
The melancholy of the Eastern Jews after their black fast, and the ill-temper of monks and nuns after their Fridays and Wednesdays, is very observable; it is the recompense which a proud nature takes out of the world for its selfish sacrifice. Melancholia is the black bile which the Greeks presumed overran and pervaded the bodies of such persons; and fasting does undoubtedly produce this.
“I once talked with a Rosicrucian about the Great Secret,” said Addison. “He talked of it as a spirit that lived in an emerald, and converted everything that was near it to the highest perfection. ‘It gives lustre to the sun,’ said he, ‘and water to the diamond. It irradiates every metal, and enriches lead with the property of gold. It brightens smoke into flame, flame into light, and light into glory. A single ray dissipates pain and care from the person on whom it falls.’ Then I found his great secret was Content.”
My crown is in my heart, not on my head:
Not decked with diamonds and Indian stones,
Nor to be seen: my crown is called content:
A crown it is, that seldom kings enjoy.
Yet, with a heart that’s ever kind,
A gentle spirit gay,
You’ve spring perennial in your mind,
And round you make a May.