Happiness is purely and wholly a personal condition - a state of the
mind, the heart and the conscience. It is not dependent upon
surroundings; no matter how the wand of prosperity's wizard may have
touched them into comfort and beauty, or the pencil of nature may have
sketched into the landscape and the sky their glory and light. Happiness
is in nothing objective, but in everything subjective; it is within us,
not without us.
While walking through a splendid avenue in a beautiful city, I
once heard a silly, empty-faced chattering girl say to another, as they
approached a magnificent house of granite, where dwelt a millionaire, "O
ain't that just perfectly lovely! If I only had a rich husband, and
lived in a house like that, you just bet I'd be happy. O dear, O dear!"
The girl was mistaken. The dissatisfied, complaining sigh at the
end of her remark proved that she was wrong. Her empty, cheerless
countenance indicated the possession of but little capacity for
happiness under any circumstances, unless it might be a sort of animal
content such as a kitten manifests, when in the quiet twilight of the
evening it croons a droning vesper when curled up on a rug before the
I know the history of that granite house. Its lord and master, in
the city, is the king of business. He holds in the hollow of his hand
the financial standing and the welfare of a thousand souls. Should he
turn his hand over, there would be dire dismay, ruin and death. He is a
coarse, selfish, grasping, grinding "Scrooge" of a man - a deist, whose
one god is money - a fellow with a faith - twenty per cent. and good
security. An observer of human nature, skilled in the reading of faces,
may see in his eyes the reflected shining of the tears of widows; may
trace upon his thin hard lips the record of his oft-repeated "No!" when
poverty hath cried, and unwise investment begged for just a little time.
He loves nobody. He is in sympathy with nothing noble. With his wife, he
has not spoken for years. His son, a vagabond, he long since kicked into
the street. His daughter eloped with the proverbial coachman - she
preferred Heaven with the coachman, to the other place with her father.
He mutters "dollars and per cent." as he slouches along the streets. His
hair is white. His step is slow. His days are in the shadow. His nights
are filled with spectres. He is miserable. The wrinkled face of a
certain old sexton puckers into a grin of glee whenever he meets him,
and he chuckles to himself, "Just a little longer, and I'll get you!"
The girl was mistaken. There is no happiness in that granite
house. Ah! but things might be different were she installed as its
mistress. I doubt it. I find it to be a fixed law of character, that the
covetous are always discontented. If today is not sufficient, tomorrow
will not be. Complaining lips are the slaves of a complaining nature.
The organization is bad, and unless by the exercise of the will the mind
be developed into fixed habits of patience and cheerfulness, a thousand
palaces of granite cannot eliminate the soul's wretchedness and
complaining. Covetousness is not content with any acquirement; it cannot
be happy in any circumstance.
Happiness is not in the world - it is in the heart - for the human
heart, just like a garden, if it be properly cultured, will bring forth
blossoms in abundance. Sow the seeds of cheerfulness and the flowers of
joy will spring into life; neglect it, and the nettles of fretfulness
and the weeds of misery will be the harvest. That spirit which
constantly wants something else, and continually cries out against what
it has, is like a bottomless pit - it cannot be filled. Happiness would
be far more common if men and women were only possessed of sufficient
common sense to know when they are satisfied.
An old-fashioned practical farmer put up a sign on his premises
which read, "This farm of mine will be given to any man who can
conscientiously say he is perfectly satisfied."
One day a man called and claimed the farm.
"You are perfectly satisfied?" inquired the farmer.
"I am," replied the man.
"Then what in the name of common sense do you want of my farm?"
Had he been given the farm he would have been no more satisfied
than he was without it.
Too many of us are apt to imagine that he is the happier man who
is in possession of the things which we lack and desire. We leave out of
our calculations all the drawbacks and the counterbalancings, and forget
that he whom we envy may be lacking in much which we possess, or may
have some ghastly skeleton in his closet, or ghostly phantom flitting
about his fireside.
Little natures, selfish hearts, empty souls all wear the stamp of
envy, while great natures, generous hearts, full souls, envy nothing.
Envy is not far removed from malice, and malice is often the parent of
murder. It is related of an Arabian King that when his architect had
finished for him a structure of magnificence and beauty, he ordered him
to be dashed to pieces from the top of its tallest tower, for fear he
might build palace of superior splendor for some rival King!
Splendid architecture, great wealth, physical beauty, and all the
pastimes and entertainments of the most expensive art can do nothing but
create envy's craving and the bitterest dissatisfaction, unless the
halls of the heart echo with contentment's minstrelsy, and the floors
ring with the tuneful steps of the soul's glad dancers.
There is a belief in the minds of many that possibly under some
other sky, or in the midst of other scenes, or with some other people,
happiness may be found. Like the old lady who sought her spectacles,
while all the time they rested just above her brow, they go about
seeking for that which is very near at hand. Far away, somewhere, beyond
the shadowed hills of the life that now is, the gleam of the sunshine
must be brighter! Somewhere there is a Utopian land, a Brook Farm, on a
new Atlantis where all things are carried out on some lofty perfect
plan, - some high-plane transcendental system - where we poor mortals
can eat more, and sleep longer, and be dressed up all the time, and ride
in golden chariots, and have less stingy husbands and more beautiful
wives; some wonderful land where babies never cry, where meals need no
cooking, and where dishes wash themselves; some wonderful Land where
people always tell the truth, where debts need no paying, and where the
milkmen do not skim the milk on the top, and then turn it over and skim
if on the bottom! There must be some such wonderful Land where the weary
soul can be satisfied and find rest!
Bless your good hearts, if the nature is such that present
conditions and surroundings afford no gladness, happiness cannot be
gathered from any circumstance of time, place or condition. We should
not forget that the world is full of balancing and compensations, and
that all the joys of life at best are only relative, comparative.
Saadi, the tender Persian poet, whose words breathe a wisdom and a
kindly comfort as sweet and almost as true as a bit of Divine
inspiration itself, tells us that but once in his life did he complain
of his condition when his feet were naked, and he had not the money with
which to buy shoes - but that meeting a man without feet, he was ashamed
of his discontent and determined never again to complain.
Thousands every year rush across the sea to Europe. What for? In
search of happiness, they tell us, pleasure and the beautiful - heedless
of the fact that if there be but joy within, then is there joy at home,
and that in this marvellous America, the sky, painted by the brush of
God, is just as blue; the fields, daisy-starred, are just as green,
while the glad canticle sung by the choir of Niagara's voices, and the
rhythmic tinkle Of Minnehaha's laughter are nowhere equaled across the
The measure and limit of gladness is in one's own nature, and not
in one's opportunities or means, but wholly and only in one's nature. A
travelling Irishman who had gone the whole round of the Continent was
returning home satiated with having seen nothing, when in a field by the
roadside he saw a fight. He promptly stopped his carriage, hastened at
once to the scene of action, and without one question as to the cause at
issue took sides, received his due amount t blood and bruises, and
hobbled back to the carriage, exclaiming, "Be jabers, that's the first
bit of race downright happiness I have had since I wint away from home!"
Everything depends upon one's nature.
The needed helps toward happiness are very few. The rich man
possesses no great advantage over the poor man, for after all, wealth is
not happiness. Kings live not so much in the sunshine as do the common
people. History affords no instance of a crown or a scepter that were
not golden fetters and glaring miseries. If the elements, the
attributes, the principles of happiness be not within a man, earthly
grandeur and royal station can no more let the sunshine into his soul
than they can add one cubit to his stature.
At the outset of life, we all may give this problem of joy a
perfect solution by accepting and acting upon the words of the poet
"None are unhappy, all have cause to smile,
But such as to themselves that cause deny."
There is a silver lining to every cloud, but only for those who
will look for it. The truest happiness is that of sweet Christian
philosophy which wants but little and having little, can thank God for
it, and get along with less. The power and majesty of human character
consist not so much in the ability, for then we deserve no credit, but
in the willingness to try and look on the sunny side of things. The
great Dr. Johnson once said: "The habit of looking at the bright side of
every event is better than a thousand pounds a year." Bishop Hall
beautifully, truthfully and quaintly remarked, "For every bad there
might be a worse; if a man breaks his leg he ought to thank God it was
not his neck!" When Fenelon's library was on fire, he exclaimed, "I
enjoy the splendor of the conflagration, and I thank the Good Father it
is not the cottage of some poor man!" If there is shadow on the left
hand, turn from it - on the right hand lies the sunshine. It was a
German store-keeper who said: "The first night vot I open my shtore I
count my money, and find him not right; the next night I - count him
again, and tere be tree tollars gone; vot you tink I do then, hey? You
bet I fix him - I do not count him any more, and he vos just come out
right ever since!" I like the spirit of that chap who, when hungry, sold
his coat for a loaf of bread, and when a dog snatched the bread and ran
away with it, exclaimed: "Thank Heaven, I still have my appetite left!"
Misfortune is brimful of pleasure; it simply wants fishing out. One of
the most delightful examples of a man's determination to look on the
bright side of an unfortunate affair was in the instance of a German
soldier, who laughed tremendously all the time he was being flogged, and
when at the end of the flogging the officer inquired the cause of his
mirth, broke out into a fresh fit of laughter. "Ha! ha! ha! Goodness
gracious! You've been lickin the wrong man!"
How grandly Beethoven, the world's master spirit - of music, rose
above the trials and afflictions of his life into the realms of joy and
melody! When we think of the sad privations of Beethoven's physical and
affectional nature, it becomes a matter for which, with him, we too
should rejoice, while we marvel at the genius and the joy of his soul
whose creations have lifted and still lift enraptured thousands to
Heaven. The most beautiful, the most wonderful, the most original of his
creations were produced when his physical ear had been almost wholly
paralyzed; still, through the sounding aisles of his soul, swept in
tuneful grandeur the waves of melody's ocean! On the occasion of his
last public appearance at a festival in his honor during the performance
of his more than matchless Ninth Symphony, he sat with his back to the
great audience, unconscious of the applause that, like a tropic
whirlwind, swept through the theater. As deaf and unmoved as a stone, he
sat in the midst of shouts of thunder! A friend, who loved him, touched
him, and signalled that he should turn and witness the, enthusiasm of
the multitude his music had thrilled. He turned - his face, hitherto
white and expressionless, as a marble image in the blackness of night,
lighted with a beauty that only joy can illuminate - the floodgates of
joy were opened wide, and the soul of the Master rose to the summit of
ecstacy's Mount of Transfiguration!
See where he sits, the lordly man,
The giant in his singing;
Who sang of love, although for him,
No lover's bells were ringin'
The man who struck such golden chords,
As made the world in wonder,
Acknowledge him, though poor and dim,
The mouth-piece of the thunder!
He heard the music of the skies,
What time his heart was breaking;
He sang the songs of Paradise
Where love has no forsaking -
And though so deaf, he could not hear
The tempest's thunder-token,
He made the music of his soul
The grandest ever spoken!
Duty demands that we direct our steps down the paths where the
sunshine falls. The best good of society depends upon the individual's
personal efforts toward righteous pleasure, for righteous pleasure is
the only good. "Rejoice and be exceeding glad" is a Divine Command, and
they who shun the sweet smiles of life, and turn a deaf ear to the music
of honest laughter, are not only disobedient children of the Infinite
One, but are guilty, sometimes, of the crimes of disturbing sanity's
balance, and of spiritual and affectional suicide and murder. Laughter
is often God's guarantee against insanity; it is the balance-wheel in
our metaphysical, our psychological structures. Men who do not laugh are
not only sad men, but often bad men, and they have been mad men.
Long-continued mental depression must produce something of brutality and
You remember doubtless that Frederick, the father of Frederick the
Great of Prussia, was a willing slave to the most depressing fits of
melancholy, insomuch so that his entire nature, once joyous, hopeful and
kindly, became brutally morose and cruel. He treated his children with
the grossest cruelty, compelled them to eat the most disgusting food and
crowned this brutality by spitting into it.
It matters not as to crowns and kingships and all the gems and
baubles time may give, unless inside the halls of the heart there be the
music of sweet contentment's song, and up and down the corridors of the
conscience the joy-bells of honor, of righteousness and love ring out a
glad jubilee, life can have no sunny side.
Wealth, art, song, eloquence, music, beauty and even the brightest
wit itself - none of these things can give to us aught of true gladness,
unless the mind, the heart and the conscience be kindly and unselfish,
pure and fair.
Nowhere in literature may we find a more brilliant example of wit
than Jonathan Swift, and yet what a wretched life was his; how miserable
his whole existence. The nature of a wit is seldom happy. We are too apt
to confound wit with humor. They are very different qualities. Wit comes
out of the head; humor is of the heart. Wit may be smooth and beautiful,
but its beauty is like that of the lightning - its edge is like to that
of a sword of Damascus. It cuts and maims, it bruises and severs. It
leaves a wound behind, it. The wit never makes a friend. He makes sport
at somebody's expense, and his mission seems to be to hurt somebody's
One, Mike, an Irishman, said to another:
"Pat, how long can a gander stand on one leg?"
"Oh! git out wid ye - get up yersilf and find out!" replied Pat.
That was a witty answer, but Mike did not like Pat quite so well
after that. He had hurt his feelings and lost something of his
A certain young lady who had enjoyed about forty magnificent
summers and as many beautiful winters, was entertaining one night at her
father's home a young man friend. Incidentally while chatting with the
young man, she mentioned the fact of its being her birthday, and added:
"I have here a beautiful book of poems which my papa gave me this
morning as a birthday remembrance. I have such a dear good papa, he
always gives me a book on my birthday." The young man replied: "What a
splendid library you must have by this time!" That, too, was wit, but
the young lady did not love the young man quite so much after that
If a young man would keep the heart of his best girl as his own
heart, he must not be witty at his best girl's expense. Wit cannot keep
Humor is not like that. It is kindly and considerate. It never
makes an enemy. The humorist would rather suffer himself than have any
suffer because of him.
Of the humorists of our time, there is in my heart a warm corner
for that merry and sweetly tender soul, Robert J. Burdette. Sides have
ached with laughter with him, but never a heart at any word of his. Eyes
brighten at his coming, and white cheeks blossom into roses of red when
Tom Hood, of England, was a humorist; you may read his every line,
prose or poetic, and you shall not find a sting in one of them. The
heart which could conceive his immortal "Song of the Shirt," the poem
which opened wide the dismal windows of a hundred thousand garrets, that
the eyes of truth, of pity and of love might look in, must have been one
of unspeakable tenderness. His was the heart of a humorist because it
was a heart of love.
The humorist is never a pessimist, never a complainer; he will
suffer uncomplainingly, and smile in the face of death itself.
It is related of the colonel of a certain New York regiment that
while passing over the battlefield of Gettysburg, finding here and there
some broken boy, now and then binding up a gaping, bleeding wound, he
came upon a lad from his own command. He had been shot, and a great
ragged hole was torn in the side of his face. Bending low above him, the
colonel said: "My God, Jack, how you must suffer! I heard you was hurt,
lad; I've been trying for an hour to find you, and have passed this way
a dozen times. You must have seen me. Why didn't you call out to your
old colonel, who loves you, Jack? I have a bandage and a canteen of
water for you, my boy. Why didn't you speak to me, Jack?" Jack was the
humorist of the regiment. He never hurt a heart by any word of his
however merry it may have been. Everybody loved him. Looking up into the
eyes of his colonel, he said: "That's all right, old fellow. God bless
you. I wanted the bandage and the water bad enough, but I couldn't ask
you for them - why, you dear old fellow, I couldn't - look at me - I
couldn't - I didn't have the cheek!"
Even with the hand of death upon him, he would not hurt the heart
of the old colonel who loved him, with one word of complaint. Jack was a
Was Jonathan Swift, the prince of the wits of the world, like unto
that in spirit? Someone said to him, "How shall we stop this terrible
Irish famine?" "Easy enough," he replied; "kill the babies of the poor,
boil them, and when they are well done, feed them to the rich!"
That was a witty answer, but a brutal answer, and no remedy for
Ireland's hunger and heartache and tears.
I like to lay down just here a little maxim after my simple
fashion: "We may not be happy within from without, unless we are first
happy without from within." It is all a within condition, and only from
pure contented and loving within conditions of mind and heart and
conscience may happiness come, or laughter to your lips or mine -
laughter that shall be worth anything - helpful, honest, uplifting
laughter. Such is the only laughter to encourage, to permit. Did you
ever stop to think that very much of your character is revealed in your
laughter? At what sort of things do you laugh with pleasure? Are you
willing to tell all your stories of mirth at night at your mother's
knee? Are you willing that your chaste wife or your sweetheart should
join with you while you tell or listen to stories told - told for the
sake of laughter! "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth
speaketh." Out of the measure of the heart the lips and tongue ripple
forth a tribute to that which is healthful and clean and holy, or that
which shall disease and smirch and profane.
Forget not that the ear of God is listening to your laughter and
mine, and that only the laughter which bubbles from a clean heart's
fountain is fit for the hearing of Him who is all purity. I believe in
clean and honest laughter. Let it sound. Let it ring till the hills of
Heaven sing back an answering echo.
Mothers, in your homes, stay not the children's laughter. When the
soft shadows of evening fall like curtains about the house, and
blue-eyed Bessie with eyes like Southern violets and hair in which the
sunlight smiles, sits on this side the firelight, and black-eyed Tom,
the wee Gypsey rascal, sits on that side, while they build the fairy
castles of the fabric of their fancies and shout with laughter till the
little room rings with music sweeter than the airs of Bellini, do you
love them - let it sound! Stay not that music. In after years, when the
battle of life has grown fast and furious, and Tom and Bessie, man and
woman grown, pause on the hill-tops weary and almost hopeless, the
memory of that evening time, of that laughter and your smiles will give
them hope and courage to cheerily and bravely fight again and again the
conflict of living till the coming of that Morning whose victory is all
glory and whose dawning is peace.
I am not in sympathy with the doleful side of things. I cannot
learn to love the croaker - the man who hates beauty, sneers at
cheerfulness, mocks at bright colors, glad surroundings and handsome
garments, and gives this dear old world to understand that he is not of
it; and so in word and look and dress is a veritable epitome of
melancholy, who sits apart like some Sir John Dismal, Knight of the
Rueful Countenance. In all the realms of healthful, beautiful nature,
you may not find one example upon which to base joyless asceticism[.]
The square-cut coat, straight vest and coal - scuttle bonnet of the
sneerer at the beautiful were never made from any pattern in sweet
nature's book of fashion plates. To my mind Nature is the true founder
and model of fashion - the fashion of loveliness - and the mightiest and
tiniest of her creations bear the stamp of her beautiful fashion. We may
curl and crimp forever, and why should we not? I would not give a cent
for my wife's hair if she did not crimp it - it is crimpable hair - and
yet the dainty crimping on the edges of a fern-leaf done in Nature's
fashion defies all our imitation. We wear pretty stars in our hair, and
why should we not? Yet each day in the summer we may trample down a
million stars infinitely prettier when we tread on the daisies of yonder
field. We coil beautiful tendrils with consummate skill about our
bonnets, and there is no wise reason why we should not; but look you,
down the face of yonder granite rock trails a floss-like moss with fairy
leaves of purple and green and gold, whose exquisite grace and dainty
loveliness put all our imitative arts to shame. I like fashion. I
believe in the mission of the beautiful. It breeds excellent conduct and
compels good behavior. As a rule better manners walk beneath a decent
hat, however modest the material, than under a dirty, greasy old
"slouch" with a hole in it.
When we go out to spend a pleasant well-conducted evening, we
dress fittingly for the occasion, and we behave with accompanying
consistent decorum, because we have done so. There is a close connection
between clothes and conduct, between dress and deportment. There is in
my neighborhood a woman who, when she has on her slatternly garments is
a gossipy, slanderous, scandalous, mischief-brewing creature, but when
she puts on her fair and well-to-look-on clothing, behaves herself with
admirable care and grace - she does not want to disgrace her clothes.
Cleanliness, not only of the skin, but of the garments, is next to
godliness as a rule. It is hard for a man to be godly while he is dirty.
No man can be a decent or desirable church-member who wears a dirty
shirt four consecutive Sundays. The best work done by the Young Men's
Christian Association is done in the bath-tub. Without frequent washing
there will be no abiding worship. Christianity in a large measure
depends for its continuance upon water and soap. Helps toward
righteousness are to be had in the drug stores - perfumed helps - in the
form of scented soaps at five cents a bar. May I commend the mission of
the beautiful, the gospel of the cleanly, and the inspiration toward
seemly behavior to be found in right fashion? Happiness is the frequent
outcome of these things. My dear girl friend, if you look well with a
rose in your hair, wear it. If you like the flashing of a gem upon your
finger, and you can afford it, put it on. If you believe you would be
happy in a red dress, trimmed with yellow and blue and green, get into
it. You have a right to these things, providing the mind be not
neglected and the morals soiled to get them. Let the natural connection
between the outward garniture and the inward ,grace be maintained. The
being within should hold hard the band of the seeming without, so shall
the two walk in the way of the Ever-Beautiful, where the sweep of the
soul's sunlight falls. It should not be forgotten that the "red
fisherman" still angles for the daughters of Eve, and many a soul does
he catch with his bait of finery. If ever there cometh an hour when a
trinket, or a dress may be obtained at the cost of character, and you
wish to keep as your portion the sunny side of life, let the dress and
the trinket go keep your character. Holiness is better than a hat. The
fashion of the beautiful is a good thing, but we may make it a vile
thing - we may make anything a vile thing. Men have served the devil
before now, and have justified the service with a Bible text. Women have
gone the way of the wayward, with the pew of a church as the starting
point. The influence of Christ's presence on earth was good, but it did
nothing for Judas. The trouble was not with Christ, however, but with
Be not tempted - tempt not your friend. Be your brother's guide,
your sister's keeper.
A certain young woman said, "I found my laces and jewels were
dragging me down to hell, so I gave them all to my sister!" She had
forgotten something. She had lost sight of the fact that they are the
happiest souls who, while determined to walk in the ways of
righteousness, are willing to lead others with them. Let us be fair and
gracious one toward another. Let us help one another. There is not a man
in all the world, however humble and lowly he may be, but may do some
good, if he is only willing to try. He may make some pathway smoother,
some sky brighter; he may bring the roses back to white cheeks again,
and attune the broken voices of the sorrowing to laughter's key - he may
do this if be is willing to try. It is again a within condition. He may
fail in the trying, he may blunder; it matters not - the one thing
needed is the right spirit, the willingness from within to try. He may
blunder a thousand times, and we shall laugh not at him, but with him,
and happiness shall come because of the blunder and the laughter.
A good-hearted, red-headed, rosy-cheeked, bay-windowed Irishman,
innocent of the world, its fashions and its fads, was walking upon one
occasion down Holborn street, London. Just in front of him marched with
stately grace an elegantly attired lady. She had on a gorgeous cloak.
Hanging below her cloak, he noticed two broad bands of ribbon. He did
not know what they were for. He had never perused the "Delineator," or
the "Mode" and therein ascertained that such "contraptions" were called
"sashes" and were for ornament and not for use. To him, they were
unattached straps, out of place and service and threatening imminent
disorder and disaster. Stepping tip to the lady, he lifted his ragged
cap with the grace of a true gentleman, and said: "I beg your pardon,
ma'am, but your galluses is untied!" He thought he saw danger, and it
must not come if he could help it. He had blundered, but his heart was
in the right place.
There is not a woman in all the world, however humble and lowly
she may be, but may do some good, be it no more than to hush to sleep
some tired mother's crying baby. Some years since, while on my way to a
Florida Chautauqua, there chanced to be in the car with me a tired,
sad-looking woman. She had a babe in her lap, a fragile blossom of a
thing. She was going to the sunny Southern country, hoping that the
balmy breath of that sweet Southland might bring back the suffering
little one's health and strength again. In pain, the baby moaned and
fretted well nigh the whole journey through. It's cries annoyed a
certain masculine passenger at one end of the car. He was a
thick-necked, big-jawed, slouchy-lipped, pug-nosed, little-eyed,
low-browed, flat-top-headed man. Such men seldom love babies. They love
bull dogs better, - and generally own two or three. Several times this
man blurted out what you might have expected of him: "Why don't somebody
shut up that infernal young one?"
There was another woman in the car - another tired, troubled
woman. She was in mourning. Lines of care were on her brow. You would
have known whether you read hearts in faces or not, that many a time and
oft she had drunk salt tears from the rusted rim of the chalice of
sorrow. These are the women who can appreciate and understand
"heartbreak and crying" everywhere. This woman went to the first woman,
and said, "I beg your pardon; I do not know you - that is, I am a
stranger to you, but you took so tired. Will you let me take your baby?"
She tenderly took the tiny sufferer. She walked the car with it. She
crooned lullaby songs to it - songs she had heard in her childhood, at
the twilight hour. The baby began to look at her. Soon it smiled. Now it
cooed soft murmurings sweeter than the music in the heart of a seashell.
At last it slept, and by its smiling, we knew it dreamed beautiful
dreams. The car was filled with sunshine.
56"This is the secret of happiness."
This is the secret of happiness. It is the last "goodnight" of the
Master to men put into action, into service. "A new commandment I give
unto you that ye love one another!"
Happiness never comes to the man who liveth to, himself alone.
Montaigne, the cynic, revealed his ignorance of the best of human kind
when he said: "Man is like an ass going to market after a bundle of hay;
all the ass sees is the hay." And again that "The best of life comes
only to those who live to themselves alone." All of the best and
brightest of nature and, of life is an undying refutation of such
cynicism. Every summer night - wind that with the gentlest touch rocks
the nodding flowers to sleep; every dewdrop kissing back to conscious
life the panting mosses fainting in the roadside dust; every rain-drop
that falls to swell the river's triumphant march to the sea; every
sunbeam that tints the earth and sky with green and crimson and gold,
and every carrier of a cross, whether in the trenches of toil, or upon
Calvary, speak the universal, eternal words "No man liveth to himself
Sometimes Sir John Dismal goes to church. He ought to go. He ought
to go anywhere if there be a chance to find a little honest gladness. He
goes to church on God's glad day, groaning to worship (?) a cheerful
Creator, a Creator who smiled when the work of making the world was
done, who smiled and called it good. He sneaks down the aisle and slinks
into his pew as if ashamed to be seen at the transaction. His face is so
long you might wind it round a barrel and have an end left long enough
with which to go a fishing in the Slough of Despond.
If he be a member of the church, he is a half-cent, skin-flint
member. He believes in that gospel which the poor have preached to them,
because it costs nothing. He is the fellow who gets up at the close of a
revival and shouts, "Thank God, I've been a member of this dear old
church forty years, and it never cost me a cent!" How the minister must
feel - the tired, unappreciated, badly-paid minister. How much the
average little minister has to bear!
It makes me happy to champion the little minister. I have no axe
to grind, because I have no congregation to find fault with my words,
and no board of trustees to call a meeting next Thursday night to
consider my dismissal because something I said about temperance last
Sunday morning did not suit one of them, who happens to be the man who
pays the biggest pew rent and whose money came out of a "rum-shop" under
the hill. No class of professional men do as much hard and commendable
work as the little minister. He must prepare and deliver acceptably two
original addresses each week. How many of us can do that? I cannot do
it. I like a month to get ready. Give me a year and you shall have
better service. Some people have strange notions about the amount of
time required to get ready for a creditable address. It was my pleasure
years ago to travel forty miles to hear Wendell Phillips deliver his
lecture, entitled, "The Lost Arts," that dose of medicine for our common
American disease, egotism, egotism with braggadocia complications. At
the close of that wonderful effort in which he moved the people as the
wind of Kansas sweeps the grass, it was my fortune to be presented to
him. Speaking for a company of young men with more or less ambition in
the oratorical line, I said: "Pardon me, sir, but how long did it take
you to prepare the lecture to which we have listened tonight?" "Up to
tonight, young gentlemen," he replied, "it has taken me twenty-six
After hearing George Whitefield preach the same sermon for the
fortieth time, Benjamin Franklin said: "I never heard that sermon
before, for he delivered it as might an inspired Arch-angel!" The little
minister does well twice a week. He must be in very close sympathy with
the Divine teacher to do that. He must be a harp, the strings of which
are touched by angel hands. The dear little minister. And yet he is
human. He has a back to cover, a stomach to fill, a mind to feed, a wife
and children to care for, and a hundred things to do which cost money,
and in return for his work, his wonderful work, what of financial
compensation gets he? A thousand dollars a year and a donation. You know
what a donation is, because you have attended them. A donation is an
occasion upon which the numerous members and friends of the church
gather at the parsonage with gifts of slippers and doilies and remain
long enough to eat up all the little minister has in the house.
I remember a certain Presbyterian brother, and he might have been
Methodist - there are some awfully mean men in the Methodist church - I
know, because for the most part of my life I have been a Methodist - but
he happened to be a Presbyterian. I have no desire to discriminate in
the matter of creeds. One creed to me is as good as another, if Christ
be in the heart of it. There are a great many different Christian
railroads, and they all run to the same Celestial Union Depot. We cannot
all have the same creed, any more than we can all love and marry the
same sweetheart. Our tastes and needs and views differ. Some of us in
our religious choosing are what we are because of temperament; some
because of education or example or precedent; some would not if they
could, depart from the faith of childhood, when at mother's knee infant
lips learned to lisp "Our Father." Today, because of my love of and
desire to please a good woman I am riding on the Congregational railroad
train, and yet because of my childhood and my mother's knee I love best
the Methodist route to God's Union Depot. The Methodist train is an
accommodation train. It is the only train I know of that will back up
and let a man get on again when he falls off. That is why I like it. But
I started cut with the story of a Presbyterian little minister. He
labored faithfully for a certain congregation for seven years for a
beggarly financial compensation. At the end of the seven years the
trustees called on him and told him they decided to give him fifty
dollars more each year. They were astonished when the good brother
declined to accept it.
"You don't mean to say you won't accept another fifty dollars."
"Brethren," replied the little minister, on conscientious grounds I must
decline it; it takes, all the time I can spare to go round and collect
the money you say you pay me now, and if I have got to go about hunting
an additional fifty dollars, I shall not have time to prepare for
preaching, or anything else!"
The Sir John Dismals of the church forget the promise, "The
liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth shall himself be
watered," and that too with divine dews from the sky of Paradise.
May we all not do something more toward leading the little
ministers in the ways of the sunny side of life.
The Sir John Dismals of the world as a rule are unloving and
loveless. John Dismal seldom or ever falls, in love. He never falls in
any way. He would not be so undignified and ungraceful, so precipitous,
so exuberant and spontaneous as to fall in. That may do for youth, but
he knows nothing of youth, however few his years may be. If by any
chance of fate there comes to him an opportunity for love, he does not
fall in, he deliberately and gravely walks in. With him, it is a matter
of cautious conservatism and calculation. He surveys and sums up the
points of his prospective bride as a jockey sums up the points of a colt
he is about to purchase: "Good points, first-rate points, great width of
shoulders and depth of chest - nothing evidently in the way of a
consumptive tendency; head well-poised - seems to possess considerable
dignity; face fairly intelligent - not much danger of my being made
ashamed because of her ignorance; arms round and muscular - she can
easily do a three weeks' washing; on the whole, quite a worthy creature
- I will propose to her." He does.
"My dear young woman, I have very carefully and thoroughly taken
into consideration all your several graces and advantages, and I find
that I may safely say to you, will you unite your destiny with mine?"
What a magnificent way to "pop!" Does love do things in that fashion?
Love surely has something of warmth about it somewhere. How its eyes
light! How its pulses thrill! How its words ring with eloquent fervor!
Monarch, my own, my king, how noble! Is there a sunny-eyed, glad-hearted
girl in all the world who could render a tribute like that to a
calculating, frozen John Dismal who goes a-wooing after such a fashion?
What sort of a woman could live her life out with that kind of a man?
None, unless she be like him - hard, cold, wooden and frozen, with no
colors in the rainbow of her hope to fade out to the blackness of the
darkness of despair, and no roses in the garden of her heart to wither
away to dust and ashes. If she be like him she may go on - she may
endure - until some day the thread of her life snaps, and like a puppet
in a pantomime, or a marionette in a mum-show, she stops.
The brightest, gladdest home experiences, the most delightfully
beautiful fireside hours the heart can know, logically and naturally are
the outcome, the sequence of sunny courtships, winsome smiles, tender
words, unselfish offerings - of hands that give and take not. There are
silences, sweet silences that speak volumes of the language of the
heart, and are as the singing of the choristers of Heaven, compared with
which John. Dismal's stilted, metallic words are all a discord and a
jangle. Words are not always essential to the bliss of the happiest
Across the sea, in the land of the Shamrock and the four-leaved
clover, a lover bad passed some happy, swiftly-flying hours with his
colleen. It had been a night of rapture. As he walked home to the little
cot of his mother at the edge of the bog, the measure of his happiness
was as the measure of the ocean. In the stars, he saw his colleen's
eyes; in the moonlight, her smile, and in the red anemone of the fields,
the ruby of her lips. In his hard bed of straw he dreamed of her, and
his couch was soft, and his slumber sweet. In the morning, his face was
radiant as he sat at his porridge and milk with his mother. Observing
his smile, his mother said: "Ye must have seen Norah last night. What
did she say to ye?"
"Nothing, acushla! Did she have no words for ye - no welcome?"
"Words is it?" Niver a word - but welcome - indade an' she had
that mother. She looked into me eyes; she held me by the hand; she laid
her head upon me heart, and she kissed me and kissed me and kissed me.
For four hours I was in Heaven - words would have spoiled it!"
In matters of the heart, honesty and frankness are essential to
happiness. Honesty is the open door to the sunny experiences of life,
especially along the matrimonial pathway.
Young man, be honest with your sweetheart; be frank and open,
transparent as the day. Let her know just what you are. If there are
mean things about you, tell her so. Let her know your faults. Do not
pretend to what you have not. Do not deceive her. Do not lie to her. Do
not let her wait till by sad experience she discovers how contemptibly
little you are, and break her heart in the discovery. Be honest at the
outset. It will be better so. When the great Dr. Johnson courted Mrs.
Porter, then a beautiful widow of England, he was honest with her.
"Madam," he said, "I am nobody much. I have a 'little literary
smattering, but really I am not much of a man. I have a villainous
temper to begin with. I mean to try with your love and help to control
it. I have no money; the Duke, I understand, told you that I was rich -
he is mistaken; I am poor. My dear madam, I suppose you want to marry
into a good family - have some good relatives, but all are not good, and
have not been good by a long shot - I remember one scalawag who was
The good widow responded: "Like yourself, Doctor, I have but
little or no money, and while I have had no relations hanged, I have
fifty who deserve hanging!"
If in the time of courtship all were as honest as that, after
experiences would show less of disappointment and sorrow.
In our liking and our loving, our friendships and courtships let
us be earnest and honest, unselfish and simple and natural.
The love of the heart should be as the love of flowers for the
light - as the love of the morning-glory for the sunshine of the dawn.
The simple, old-fashioned morning-glory! Cornet of the morning, trumpet
of the dawn! Hark to the tiny notes that welcome the glad burst of the
sunlight! Watch it playing peek-a-boo up yonder through the lattice, one
moment as bold as the morning, the next as bashful as the twilight, but
always yearning to nestle in the heart of the sunshine that twineth
round its tendrils of green like gleaming skeins of the gold of a
maiden's hair! What an honest, earnest blossom! Who does not love the
simple, unassuming, back-yard flower of the kitchen porch, the sweet,
Let hearts be like that blossom - anywhere, everywhere, in high or
low estate, in castle or cot, simple and honest and earnest - sometimes
rude and crude, but genuine and natural, and worth more as an example to
you and me than any of the fashionable, incincere courtships beneath the
blaze of chandeliers in the drawing-rooms of so-called society.
Away down in Texas, a big-shouldered, double-fisted, red-headed
lump of a fellow sat courting a blue-eyed, yellow-haired lass. He sat on
one side of the room in a big oak rocking-chair, playing with a
deerhound that lay on the floor beside him. She sat on the other side of
the room in a little oak rocking chair, stitching on a quilt - quite a
gorgeous affair, which, because of the splendor of its pattern, she
called the "Rose of Sharon." He tried to catch a fly that would light on
the tip of "Cooney's" nose, but he said nothing. She stitched away on
the stem of a "Rose of Sharon" and said nothing. Finally, she hitched
her chair over two or three feet and said: "What's your dog's name?"
"Cooney." "What's he good for?" "Ketchin' possums." Then she stitched
and stitched and stitched, and still the "Rose of Sharon" grew, but she
Presently he hitched his chair over two or three feet and said: "I
think I'd like to - to - is your ma raisin' many chickens?" "About
Then she stitched and stitched, and still the "Rose of Sharon"
grew, but she said nothing. At last he hitched his chair over two or
three feet more, and she hitched hers again until the rockers got so
mixed up that rocking became impossible.
After a long pause, during which he tried again and again to rid
Cooney's nose of the fly, he said: "Do you love, do you love - love
"I'm awfully fond of cabbage."
Again she stitched and stitched, and still the "Rose of Sharon"
grew, but she said nothing. He still struggled with the fly. Finally, he
almost shouted, "I've a good notion to pinch you!"
"What you a good notion to pinch me for?"
"'Cause you won't have me, that's why."
"'Cause you ain't axed me, that's why."
"Then I axes you."
"Then you has me!"
Cooney, the dog, stirred in his sleep, dreaming someone had
whistled for him, but he was mistaken, the sound he heard was something
Seriously, life without honest, earnest, simple natural loving has
no sunny side. It may hang like a solitary leaf upon poverty's tree, but
neither time nor storm shall fade it. Friends may vanish like snowflakes
on the bosom of a river, still love shall remain, sweet to the last.
The roses may fade from your bonny old sweetheart's cheeks, still
to love's eye her wrinkled brow and whitened hair are always beautiful.
His hair is white with frosts of years,
Her feeble steps are slow,
His eyes no longer brightly shine,
Her cheeks no longer glow;
Her hair has lost its sheen of gold,
His voice its joyous thrill,
And yet though faded, gray and old
They're loving sweethearts still.
Can you find aught of the sunny side of life among the
affectations, dissipations and shams of fashionable society? There are
so many thorns mixed with its roses that but few can hope to escape the
laceration of its sorrow and pain. Under the flare of gilded chandeliers
in many a parlor, if you do but listen close, you may hear the snapping
of heart-strings mingling with the light step of the dancer's feet and
the voluptuous swell of the music. Affectation, dissipation and sham can
provide nothing of the sunny side of life I recall quite a fashionable
gathering. The elite were out in full force. The scene was one of
fascinating splendor. A hundred lights blazed with the sheen of the sun.
A hundred beautiful women - beautiful as the world of fashion goes -
moved here and there with exquisite grace. Eyes flashed brilliant
lights, out-vieing with their splendid brightness the scintillant
diamonds gleaming upon snowy arms. Beautiful hair, brown and black and
golden; soft white hands; sensuous music; flowers of rarest loveliness;
it was a carnival night and the goddess of pleasure was queen. In a
corner sat a plain pale-faced woman clad in some sort of simple brown
material; about her neck, a bit of lace; in her hair a real rose from a
garden; beyond these nothing of ornamentation about her, but her face
was noble in its thoughtful power. Her broad forehead betokened a mind
of strength. In her great, full black eyes shone the fire of passionate
ambition. Her Roman nose told of the determination of a conqueror. Her
warm, red lips spoke of the tenderness of her heart. Her square, massive
chin was a revelation of a will invincible. She had climbed the heights
of life oft with torn hands and bleeding feet, and had reached the
sun-kissed summit, and was one of the first instructors in the schools
of the nation. Her name was known to all that tinseled throng, bad it
been spoken, her face to but few - she did not train in that set. She
bad asked of the hostess of the gathering the privilege of an entrance
with the reason reserved. She wished to gather knowledge of fashion's
men and women in an hour of sham. The time was favorable, The gilded
butterflies and tinseled drones began to fly and buzz about her. Miss
Lillian Chatlove Tattlewit, whose gown was a symphony in green, the
skirt a dream or a nightmare, and the waist a poem, an unfinished poem
(but an emerald necklace filled up the break in the measure), said to
Charles Addlepate Littlekin: "Charlie, do look there! Did you ever see
such an old frump in your life? I wonder who her dressmaker is! I wonder
where Mrs. Blowser ever picked up such an ancient fossil as that! Take
me away, or I shall faint."
During the course of the evening Miss Chatlove Tattlewit
condescended to entertain the company with one of her finest vocal
selections. For more than three years she had been a pupil of the great
Madame Peepysqueak and was altogether the too utterly splendid soprano
star of the season. Of course she did not sing without very much
importuning. "Lillian, dear, will you not be kind enough to sing
something?" "No, certainly not. I am out of practice. My notes are not
here. And you know, Charlie, these people have no appreciation. I could
never get into sympathy with this listless and vulgar crowd." "Do sing
something for my sake," murmured Charlie, "just for me alone darling."
"For your sake, Charlie? Could I refuse anything for your sake,
Miss Lillian Chatlove Tattlewit gracefully gathered her skirts,
and coquettishly wiggle-waggled toward the Steinway-Grand; bestowed her
drapery in classic folds about the stool; gazed into Charlie's eyes, who
fondly bent above her, with an expression like to that of a dying duck
in a thunderstorm; plunged into the keys until they had an epileptic
fit; then she sang:
"Darling, kiss my eyelids down,
Underneath the limpid moon;
With thy lips so soft and warm,
In this dreamy, holy calm;
Come, my love, ere night has flown,
Darling kiss my eyelids down!"
I should think Mozart would turn over in his grave and groan.
You shall find more honest happiness in many a cot, writ in the
"simple annals" of the toiling poor than in such a palace of sham.
Old Sir John Sinclair, of England, once alighted from his coach at
the door of a thatched cottage, and remained an hour talking with a
lame, half-blind laborer who lived there alone. "Well, old man," said
Sir John at parting, "is there anything I can do for you?"
"Nay, Sir John, nought can ye do for me. There is not a thing in
all the langth and bradth o' the world that I want."
"Kate," called Sir John to his daughter, who was sketching a clump
of buttercups near by. "Come here with your brushes and your canvas; it
cost me much to make you an artist at London, and I have never asked you
for a picture; sit down here and paint for me this old man and his
cottage of thatch - it is the happiest spot in England!"
And why? Because a toiling old man had carried in and kept with
him that pearl of great price, the jewel of contentment. The secret of
the sunny side of life was long since given to men by Paul, the
half-sick, half-deformed apostle when he said: "I have learned in
whatsoever state I am therewith to be content."
No matter how these thoughts turn and turn, they cannot escape the
first proposition of this theme. Happiness is within us, not without us.
It is a condition of the mind, the heart and the conscience. Contentment
and love and honesty are its fairies of good and of gladness. Happiness,
too, depends upon trust, upon faith - faith in each other, faith in
tomorrow, faith in God. We need the faith of the old black mammy of
Georgia, who said: "Lawd bless yer honey, my suff'rins ain't nuffin'!
Sometimes de Lawd whips us and sometimes he leaves us, jess ter see ef
we won't work and try again - but Lawd bress yer, honey, when we gits
tired all out an' cries like a little baby, He takes us up in His arms
an' comforts us."
We need that attitude of the soul called faith. It is not possible
to have happiness without faith. The man who doubts, distrusts,
suspects, disbelieves, is never a happy man. The cynic, the pessimist,
the iconoclast are the owls and bats of the night - their eyes never see
the sun. It will not do to say that faith is but fit food for children
and women; it is diet for strong men.
It makes a happy home possible, since we must have faith, we
husbands and wives, we fathers and mothers in a hundred things we see
not and never can prove. Faith is the foundation of most of the
business, the commercial business of the world.
Some call it credit. I call it faith. What is credit in a man's
business? "The substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not
seen." That is what faith is. Columbus had faith, and America was found.
Stephenson had faith, and he put steam upon wheels. Morse had faith,
though a Congress had not, and he bound up the whisper of the lightning
in a bit of wire and sent it round the world in an intelligible
language. Faith sent the first telegram - "See what God hath wrought!"
To look with the eye of faith upon the bright side of things is a
proof of greatness. Doubt and complaint are characteristic of
littleness. John Dismal, a word with you: Wipe the gathered dust from
the lenses of your spectacles of joy and faith, and look with unblurred
vision upon the face of Nature, and you will see that every line and
dimple, every glance and smile condemn in unmistakable terms all whining
and sniveling, all cynicism and doubt. What sermons of faith are not
preached in wood-cathedral and hill-top temple! How the winter trusts
the spring, and the spring the summer! Today, the snow lies drifted;
tomorrow, apple-blossoms, pink and white, shall tint the trees, perfume
the air and deck the grass. Today, there may be wailing of wind and
sobbing of storm; tomorrow, the robins will fill the orchard with music
just as they have for a thousand years. Today, wrapped in a gray shroud
of dead leaves, the grasses and the mosses lie hidden from sight;
tomorrow, in shining green, in buds of pink and purple, they will smile
again, just as they did when first they dropped from the gardens of
Eternity into the fields of Time.
Should we not have the faith of bird and bud and blossom? The
winter may come to the soul, so shall the summer also. The certainty of
the summer of the soul is as sure as the certainty of the summer of the
seasons. There is no chance - no accident. Certainty is the law of life
everywhere. Let us have faith. We may not always know just how faith
shall be given its full fruition, but somehow in God's way it comes. We
need the faith of little children.
Two Irish lads, Patsy and Mike, used to peddle buttons and pins in
the streets of London.
One day while trying to cross a crowded thoroughfare, Patsy's foot
slipped. A great wagon passed over him, shattering his legs and breaking
his arms. Mike called a policeman. Together they picked up Patsy,
carried him to an ambulance and conveyed him to a hospital, where, in
spite of all that skill and nursing could do for him, it was evident the
broken lad was in a dying condition. The Sunday before the accident
Patsy and Mike had been to Sunday school. They had drawn near the open
door to listen to the sublime music of the organ as it crept out upon
the air like the blessing of a benediction after prayer. A sweet girl
near the door had beckoned them to go in. She talked lovingly with them.
She told them the sweet old story of the passing of the Master - of the
lame He made to walk, of the blind man who, with lifted hand, had
pleaded for his sight; of the Master's words, "According to your faith,
be it unto you," and of the darkness which gave way to the miracle of
"Children," she said, "we are all like that blind man. We stumble
and grope in the dark of life, but Jesus is always passing by, and if we
do but beckon to Him, if we hold up our hands and ask Him, He will hear
us and heed us, and give us light and joy again, but we must have faith
and hold up our hands."
Patsy lies in the hospital broken and dying. Mike kneels on the
floor at his bedside.
"Does your legs hurt you very hard, Patsy?"
"Oh, yis, Mike - I can't stand it."
"Wouldn't you like to go to some place where they wouldn't hurt
you so hard?"
"O yis, Mike - I can't stand the pain much longer."
"Patsy, you know what the good girl said to us on the Sunday, that
somebody by the name of Jesus was all the time a passin' by, and if we
would beckon to him, and hould up our bands to him, and ax him, He would
hear us - He will hear you, Patsy, and take you some place where your
legs wouldn't hurt you so hard - try that Patsy."
"I'm afraid a grand, fine gentleman like Him wouldn't care
anything for a boy like me that's rags and tears and Irish." "Yis he
would, Patsy; yis he would; that's the best part of it; it's the rags
and the tears that houlds the gates o' Heaven wide open for the poorest
of us, Irish and all!"
"I'll try, Mike."
"Dear Patsy! do Patsy - try; hould up your hand." Patsy lifted his
thin white band, but weak and nerveless, it would not stay lifted - it
fell down again.
"What'll I do, Mike? I can't hould the hand up; prop it up with
the pillows and make it stay - Jesus must see the hand whin he passes by
I've got the faith in Him. Prop it up with the pillows."
Firmly propped with the pillows, the little lad's wasted hand
gleamed through the night shadows of the hospital ward with the
beautiful whiteness of a star.
In the morning, when the gray old doctor of the hospital went his
rounds, he found Mike sobbing at the cot-side, and be found Patsy white
and dead! There was a smile of ineffable sweetness upon his face, and
the little white hand, whiter grown, was still lifted aloft - eloquent
testimony of the faith of a little Irish lad. His spirit had gone with
the Master, for in the heart of the night He had passed by!
God never fails. His presence and blessing come with human
contentment, human honesty, human love, human hope and human faith, and
the joy of His goodness and the glory of His majesty are written upon
the face of Nature everywhere.
On the wall of my study at home, I have a picture, the gift of a
dear old Quaker friend, who, twenty years agone said: "Thee lovest
Nature's beautiful, thee hast said to me. Hang this picture on thy wall
in remembrance of me. It shall cheer thee when I am in the dust."
A beautiful picture, a magnificent picture of the Falls of the Yo
Sem-i-te. Yo Sem-i-te, the wonderful, the mighty. Yo Sem-i-te, where the
water born of the sky and the mountain-peak leaps down as with wings of
light for two thousand six hundred feet over the shining rocks! What
music! How the notes crash and boom with the voice of a tropic thunder.
Marvelous Yo Sem-i-te. Mightiest of the Creator's temples, where in a
matchless quartette of song-thundering bass in the crashing cataract,
thrilling tenor in the leaping cascade, plaintive alto in the murmuring
spray, and sweet soprano in the tinkling drops - voices shout from that
lifted choir, "Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory," and
the fingers of the wind sweep the harpstrings of the pine-trees with a
Joy is the anthem sung by these voices. Let us find the key note,
and join in the singing.
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