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Sermons for the New Life 12 - HAPPINESS AND JOY

By Horace Bushnell

      John xv. 11.-"These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."

      CHRIST enters the world, bringing joy;-Good tidings of great joy, cry the angels, which shall be to all people. So now he leaves it, bestowing his gospel as a gift of joy,-These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you and that your joy might be full. This testament of his joy he also renews in his parting prayer. And now come I to thee, and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. "Man of sorrows" though we call him, still he counts himself the man of joy.

      Would that I could bring you into his meaning, when he thus speaks, and assist you to realize the unspeakable import which it has to him. It is an impression deeply rooted in the minds of men that the Christian life is a life of constraint, hardship, loss, penance, and comparative suffering; Christ, you perceive, has no such conception of it, and no such conception is true. Contrary, to this, I shall undertake to show that it is a life of true joy, the profoundest and only real joy attainable,-not a merely future joy, to be received hereafter, as the reward of a painful and sad life here, but a present, living, and completely full joy, unfolded in the soul of every man whose fidelity and constancy permit him to receive it.

      To clear this truth and show it forth, in the proper light of evidence, it is necessary, first of all, to exhibit a mistake which clouds the judgments, almost or quite universally, of those who are not in the secret of the christian joy, as revealed to a religious experience. It is the mistake of not distinguishing between happiness and joy, or of sup. posing them to be really one and the same thing. It is the mistake, indeed, not merely of their judgment, but of their practice; for they all go after happiness without so much as a thought, more commonly, of any thing higher or better. Happiness, they assume, and in their practice say, is the real joy of existence, beyond which and different from which there is, in kind, no other.

      Now there is even a distinction of kind between the two, a distinction beautifully represented in the words them selves. Thus happiness, according to the original use of the term, is that which happens, or comes to one by a hap, that is, by an outward befalling, or favorable condition. Some good is conceived, out of the soul, which comes to it as a happy visitation, stirring in the receiver a pleasant excitement. It is what money yields, or will buy; dress, equipage, fashion, luxuries of the table; or it is settlement in life, independence, love, applause, admiration, honor, glory, or the more conventional and public benefits of rank, political standing, victory, power. All these stir a delight in the soul, which is not of the soul, or its quality, but from without. Hence they are looked upon as happening to the soul and, in that sense, create happiness. We have another word from the Latins, which very nearly corresponds with this from the Saxons; viz., fortune. For, whatever befell the soul, or came to it bringing it pleasure, was considered to be its good chance, and was called fortunate. I suppose, indeed, that there is no language in the world that does not contain this idea, just because all mankind are after benefits that will stir pleasure in the soul, without regard to its quality; after happiness, after fortune.

      But joy differs from this, as being of the soul itself, originating in its quality. And this appears in the original form of the word; which, instead of suggesting a hap, literally denotes a leap, or spring. Here again also the Latins had exult, which literally means a leaping forth. The radical idea then of joy is this; that the soul is in such order and beautiful harmony, has such springs of life opened in its own blessed virtues, that it pours forth a sovereign joy from within. The motion is outward and not toward, as we conceive it to be in happiness. It is not the bliss of condition, but of character. There is, in this, a well-spring of triumphant, sovereign good, and the soul is able thus to pour out rivers of joy into the deserts of outward experience. It has a light in its own luminous center, where God is, that gilds the darkest nights of external adversity, a music charming all the stormy discords of outward injury and pain into beats of rhythm, and melodies of peace.

      I ought, perhaps, to say that the original distinction between these two words, thus sharply defined, is not always regarded; I have traced the distinction only for the convenience of my present subject, and not because the words are always used, or must be, in this manner. In their secondary uses, words are often applied more loosely, and so it has fallen out with these, which are used, by the common class of writers indiscriminately, one for the other. Still it will be seen that one of our English poets, Mr. Coleridge, distinguished always for the exactness of his language, uses them both in immediate connection, so as to preserve their exact distinction, without any apparent design to do so, or consciousness of the fact. Addressing a noble christian lady, he gives his conception of joy, as an all transforming, all victorious power, in virtuous souls, in terms like these:-

      "O, pure of heart, thou needest not ask of me,
      What this strong music of the soul may be,-
      What and wherein it doth exist,
      This light, this glory, this fair, luminous mist,
      This beautiful and beauty-making power.

      Joy, virtuous lady, joy that ne'er was given,
      Save to the pure and in their purest hour,
      Life and life's effluence, cloud at once and shower,

      Joy, lady, is the spirit and the power
      That wedding nature to us gives in dower
      A new earth and new heaven,-
      We in ourselves rejoice."

      Immediately after, without any thought of drawing the contrast, he speaks of his own folly, with regret, because he was caught by the temptations of fortune and now endures the bitter penalty.

      "Fancy made me dreams of happiness;
      For hope grew round me like the twining vine,
      And fruits and foliage, not my own, seemed mine."

      The picture he draws for himself is the picture, alas! of the general folly of mankind. Their "fancy makes them dreams of happiness;" promising to bless them in what may be gathered "round" them in "fruits and foliage not their own;" that is, not of themselves but external. All good, they fancy, is in condition, not in character. They think of happiness, go after happiness, and have, also how generally, no thought of joy.

      And yet we have many and various symbols of joy about us, from which we might well enough take the hint, as it would seem, of some possible felicity that is freer and higher in quality than the mere pleasures of fortune, or condition. The sportive children, too full of physical life to be able even to restrain their activity; the birds of the morning pouring out their music simply because it is in them, ought to suggest the possibility of some free, manly joy that is nobler than happiness. Precisely this too we have been permitted, thank God, to look upon, in the examples of goodness, and to hear in the report of history; for history is holding up her holy examples ever before us, showing us the saints of God singing out their joy together in caves and dens of the earth at dead of night, showing too the souls of her martyrs issuing, with a shout, from the fires that crisp their bodies.

      Again, it is necessary, in order to a right conception of the meaning of christian joy, as now defined, that we discover how to dispose of certain facts, or incidents, which commonly produce a contrary impression.

      Thus, when the Saviour bequeathes his joy to us, and prays to have it fulfilled in us, it will naturally be remembered that he lives a persecuted and abused life, that he passes through an agony to his death, and dies in a manner most of all ignominious and afflictive. Where then is the joy of which he speaks, or which he prays to have bestowed upon us? Are burdens, toils, sorrows, persecutions, crucifixions, joys?

      To this I answer that they may, in one view, be such, and in his case actually were. He was a truly afflicted being, a man of sorrows in the matter of happiness; that is, in the outward condition, or befalling of his earthly state; still he had ever within a joy, a center of rest, a consciousness of purity and harmony, a spring of good, an internal fullness which was perfectly sufficient. And, indeed, we may call it one of the highest points of sublimity in his life,' that he reveals the essentially victorious power of joy in the divine nature itself; for God, in the contradiction of sinners, in the wrongs, disorders, ungrateful re turns, and disgusting miseries of his sinful subjects, suffers a degree of abhorrence and pain that may properly be called so much of unhappiness; and he would even be an unhappy being were it not that the love, and patience, and redeeming tenderness he pours into their bosom, are to him a welling up eternally of conscious joy;-joy the more sublime, because of its inherent and victorious excellence. And exactly so he represents himself, in the incarnate person of Christ. In his parable of the shepherd, calling in his neighbors to rejoice with him over the sheep he has found, he opens the secret consciousness of joy he feels himself, as being that shepherd. His manner too was sometimes that of exultation even, as when the evangelist, noticing his deep inward joy of heart, says,-In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit. And then, how much does it signify, when coming to the close of his career, and just about to finish it by a suffering death, he says, glancing backward in thought over all he has experienced,-"My joy"-bequeathing it to his disciples, as the dearest legacy he can give, the best, last wish he is able to express! What then does it signify of real privation, or loss, to become his follower!

      But it requires, you will say, the admission of serious and indeed of painful thought in us to begin such a life, the solemn review of our character, the discovery of our sin, the sense of our shame and bondage, and our miserably lost condition under it; sorrow, repentance, self-renunciation, the loss of all things. The whole prospect, in short, which is opened, in coming to Christ, is painfully forbidding. The gospel even requires of us, in so many words, to cut off right hands, and pluck out right eyes, and deny and crucify ourselves, and be poor in spirit, and pass through life under a cross. Where then is the place for joy? how can the christian life be called a life of joy?

      It is not, I answer, in these things, taken simply by themselves. But receive an illustration: consider, a moment, what labors, cares, self-denials, restrictions of freedom, limitations of present pleasure, all men have to suffer in the way of what is called success; what application the scholar must undergo to win the distinctions of genius, what dangers and privations the hero must encounter to command the honors of victory. Are all these made unhappy because of the losses they are obliged to make? Are they not rather raised in feeling on this very account? If they all gained their precise point, or standing of success, by mere fortune, as by a ticket in some lottery, would the sacrifices and labors, thus avoided, be a clear saving, or addition to their happiness? Contrary to this, it would render their successes almost or quite barren of satisfaction.

      But how is this? There are so many hard burdens and painful losses, or sacrifices, and yet they subtract nothing, we say, but rather add to the real amount of enjoyment, in the successes gained by endurance and industry! There appears to be something bordering on contradiction here how shall we solve it?

      The solution is easy, viz., that the, sacrifice made is s sacrifice of happiness, a sacrifice of ease pleasure, comfort of condition; and the gain made is a gain of something more ennobling and more consciously akin to greatness, a gain that partakes, as far as any outward success can, the nature of joy. The man of industry and enterprise, the scholar, the statesman, the hero, says within himself these are not gifts of fortune to me, they are my conquests; tokens of my patience, economy, application, fortitude, integrity. In them his soul is elevated from within. He has a higher consciousness, and a felicity, of course, that partakes, in some remote degree, of the sublime nature of joy. It is not condition, or things about him, making him happy, but it is the fire kindling within, the soul awaking to joy as a creative and victorious energy; and, in this view, it is a faint realization, on the footing of a mere worldly life, of the immense superiority of joy to happiness. And it will be found, accordingly, as a matter of fact, that men, even worldly men, despise and nauseate mere happiness, if we hold the word to its strictest and most proper meaning. Using it more loosely, they fancy, and will say, that they are after happiness. Still the instinct of a higher life is in them and they really despise what they do not conquer. None but the tamest and most abject will sit down to be nursed by fortune. All that have any real manhood we see cutting their way through severities and toils, that promise achievement, or a sense of victory. In such a truth, meeting your eyes on every hand, you may see how it is possible for the repentances, sacrifices, self-denials, and labors of the christian life, to issue in joy. If Christ requires you literally to renounce all happiness, all good of condition, nothing is more clear than the possibility that even this may issue in a most complete and sovereign joy.

      Or take an illustration, somewhat different, of the nature of these christian struggles and sacrifices. A great and noble spirit, some archangel or prince of the sky, who is highest in his mold of all the forms of created being, has somehow come under a conscious respect, we will suppose, to condition; fallen out of joy and become a lover of fortune or happiness. He finds that he is looking for good only in objects round him, and in things that imply no dignity of soul, or merit of quality in him; shows and equipages, liveries, social rank, things that please His appetite, or his lusts. He finds that he is living for these, and really makes nothing of any higher good; living as if there were no fountains of good to be opened within; or as if, being only a vegetable, there could be nothing for him better than just to feel what the rain, and sun, and soil of outward condition give him to feel. He blushes at the discovery, and drops his head. And, as he begins to weep, a thought of fire strikes out from his immortality, and he says,-No, it shall not be. God made me, not to be under and subject to things about me, or to ask my happiness at their hands. Rather was it for me to be above all creatures, as I was before them in order; having my joy in the greatness of my spirit, and the victorious freedom and fullness of my life. O, I hear the call of my God! I will arise and be what he commands me to be. These felicities of fortune shall tempt me and humble me no more. I cast them off, I renounce them forever!

      In the execution, then, of such a purpose, you see him go to his work. That he may clear himself of the dominion of things, he gives up all his outward splendors of state and show, makes a loss of all his resources and even comforts, and, finding his soul still looking covertly after the goods she has lost, he goes to frequent voluntary fasting, that he may clear himself yet more effectually from his bondage. He is not yet free. He finds the pampered spirit of self-indulgence still asking for ease, and indisposing him to victory. Then he asks for labor, seeks out something to be done, asks it of his God to give him some hard service, nay a warfare, if he will, that his soul may fight herself clear.

      Now, the question I have to ask is this,-when you look upon the sacrifices and struggles of this great being, his losses, repentances, self-mortifications, works and warfares, does it seem to you that he is growing miserable under them? Do you not see how his consciousness rises in elevation, as he clears himself of his humiliating bondage; how his soul finds springs of joy opening in herself, as the good of condition falls off and perishes; how every loss disencumbers him; how every toil, and fasting, and fight, as it clears him more of the notion or thought of happiness, lifts him into a joy as much more ennobled as it is more sovereign? Nay, you can hardly look on, as you see him fight his holy purpose through, without being kindled and exalted in feeling yourself by the sublimity of his warfare.

      But, exactly this is the true conception of the sacrifices required in the christian life. They are all required to emancipate the soul and raise it above its servile dependence on condition. They are losses of mere happiness, and for just that reason they are preparations of joy.

      Having disposed, in this manner, of what may seem to be facts opposed, or adverse to the supposition that christian sacrifice and piety support a victorious joy, I will now undertake to show the positive reality itself.

      And here we notice, first of all, the fact that, in a life of selfishness and sin, there is a well-spring of misery, which is now taken away. No matter what, or however fortunate, the external condition of an unbelieving, evil mind, there is yet a disturbance, a bitterness, a sorrow within, too strong to be mastered by any outward felicity. The whole internal nature is in a state of discord. The understanding, conscience, will, affections, appetites, imaginations, make a battle-field of the breast, and the unhappy subject is rasped, irritated, bittered, filled with fear, shamed by self-reproaches, stung by guilty convictions, gnawed by remorse, jealous, envious, hateful, lustful, discontented, fretful, living always under a sky in which some kind of storm is raging. And this discord is the misery, the hell of sin. O, if men had only some contrary experience of the heavenly peace, how great this misery would seem. And yet they know it not, they even dare to imagine, sometimes, that they are happy; just because their experience has brought no contrasts, to reveal the torment they suffer. Still they break out notwithstanding, now and then, with impatience, and vent their uneasiness in complaints that show how poorly they get on. They even testify, in words, that life is a burden. It is a burden, a much heavier and more galling burden than they know, and will be, even though they have all gifts of fortune, all honors and applauses crowded upon them, to make them happy. How much then does it signify, that Christ takes away this burden, restores this discord. For Christ is the embodied harmony of God, and he that receives him settles into harmony with him. My peace I give unto you, is the Saviour's word, and this peace of Christ is the equanimity, dignity, firmness, serenity, which made his outwardly afflicted life appear to flow in a calmness so nearly sublime. Bring any most fortunate of worldly minds into this peace, and the mere negative power of it, in quelling the soul's discords, would even seem to be a kind of translation. Just to exterminate the evil of the mind, and clear the sovereign hell which sin creates in it, would suffice to make a seeming paradise.

      Besides there is a fact more positive,-the soul is such a nature that, no sooner is it set in peace with itself than it becomes an instrument in tune, a living instrument, discoursing heavenly music in its thoughts, and chanting melodies of bliss, even in its dreams. We may even say, apart from all declamation, for such is its nature, that when a soul is in this harmony, no fires of calamity, no pains of outward torment can, for one moment, break the sovereign spell of its joy. It will turn the fires to freshening gales, and the pains to sweet instigations of love and blessing.

      Thus much we say, looking only at the soul's nature, its necessary distraction under the power of evil, its necessary blessedness in the harmony of rectitude. But we must ascend to a plane that is higher, and consider, more directly, what pertains to its religious nature. Little conception have we of its joy, or capacities of joy, till we see it established in God. The christian soul is one that has come unto God, and rested in the peace of God. It dares to call him Father, without any sense of daring. It is in such confidence toward him, that it even partakes His confidence in Himself. It is strong with his strength, having all its faculties in a glorious play of energy. It endures hardness with facility. It turns adversity into peace, for it sees a friendly hand ministering only good in What it suffers. In dark times it is never anxious; for God is its trust and God will suffer no harm to befall it. Having the testimony within that it pleases God, it approves itself in the holy smile of God, that consciously rests upon it. Divinely guided, walking in the Spirit, it is raised by a kind of inspiration. It sees God and knows him by an immediate and ever-present knowledge; according even to the promise,-Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. It is consciously ennobled, in this manner, by the proximity of God, expanded in volume, raised in greatness, thrilled by the eternal sublimities of God's deep nature and counsel. To a mind thus tempered, fortune can add little, and as little take away. Nothing can reach or, at least, break down a soul established in this lofty consciousness. It partakes a divine nature, it is become a kind of divine creature, and the clouds that overcast the sky of other men, sail under it. The hail that beats other men to the ground, the reproaches, execrations, conspiracies, and lies, under which other men are cowed, can not hail upward, and therefore can not reach the hight of this divine confidence. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad. Such is the joy Christ bequeathed to his followers; such the good tidings of great joy that he brought into the world.

      There is also, in the christian type of character, as related to God, a peculiarity which needs, in this connection, to be mentioned by itself. It is a character, rooted in the divine love, and in that view is a sovereign bliss welling up from within; able thus to triumph and sing, independent of all circumstance and condition. A human soul can love every body, in despite of every hindrance, -and by that love, can bring every body into its enjoyment. No power is strong enough to forbid this act of love, none therefore strong enough to conquer the joy of love; for whoever is loved, even though it be an enemy, is and must be enjoyed. Besides it is a peculiarity of love that it takes possession of its neighbor's riches and successes, and makes them its own. Loving him, it loves all that he has for his sake, whether he be friend or enemy; enjoys his corn forts, looks on his prospects and all the beauties of his gardens and fields, with a pleasure as real as if they were legally its own. Love, in fact, overleaps all titles of law, and becomes a kind of universal owner; appropriates all wealth, and beauty, and blessing to itself, and enters into the full enjoyment. It understands the declaration well,-for all things are yours. Having such resources of joy in its own nature, the word that signifies love, in the original of the New Testament, is radically one with that which signifies joy. According to the family registers of that language, they are twins of the same birth. Love is joy, and all true joy is love,-they can not be separated. And Christ is an exhibition to us of this fact in his own person, a revelation of God's eternal joy as being a revelation of God's eternal love; coming down thus to utter in our ears this glorious call, as a voice sounding out from God's eternity,-Enter ye into the joy of your Lord. He finds us hunting after condition; the low and questionable felicity of happiness. He says, behold my poverty, look on my burden of contempt, take the gauge of my labors, note the insults and wrongs of my enemies, watch with me in my agony, follow me to my cross. This, O, mortal! this, worshipper of happiness! is my joy. I give it to remain in you, that your joy, as mine, might be full. Enter into this love as God made you to love, love with me your enemies, labor and pray with me for their recovery to God, make my cause your cause, take up my cross and follow me, and then, in the loss of all things, you shall know that love is the sovereignty of good, the highest throne of sufficiency to which any being, created or uncreated, can ascend. Coming up into love, you clear all dependence of condition, you ascend into the very joy of God, and this is my joy. This I have taught you, this I now bequeath to your race.

      Now it is precisely in this love, and nowhere else, that the followers of Christ have actually found so great joy. This is their light, the day-star dawning in their hearts, the renewing of their inward man, their joy of faith, the believing that makes them rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. By this they become exceeding joyful in all their tribulations. They are raised above the world and conquer it, in the loss they make of it;-dying, and still able to live; chastened, but not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, yet possessing all things. Their heart is enlarged in the divine love, and is become, in that manner, a fountain of essential, eternal, indestructible, and sovereign joy They realize, in a word, the very testament of Christ,-His joy is in them, and their joy is full.

      Mark now some of the inspiring and quickening thoughts that crowd upon us in the subject reviewed. And-

      1. Joy is for ail men. It does not depend on circumstance, or condition; if it did, it could only be for the few It is not the fruit of good luck, or of fortune, or even of outward success, which all men can not have. It is of the soul, or the soul's character; it is the wealth of the soul's own being, when it is filled with the spirit of Jesus, which is the spirit of eternal love. If you want, therefore, to know who of mankind can have the gift of joy, you have only to ask who of them have souls; for every soul is made to be a well-spring of eternal blessedness, and will be, if only it permits the waters of the eternal love to rise within. It can have right thoughts and true, and be set in everlasting harmony with itself. It can love, and so; without going about to find what shall bless it, it has all the material of blessing in itself; resources in its own immortal nature, as a creature dwelling in the light of God, which can not fail, or be exhausted;-all men are for joy, and joy for all.

      2. It is equally evident that the reason why they do not nave it, is that they do not seek it where it is,-in the receiving of Christ and the spirit of his life. They go after it in things without, not in character within; they have all faith in fortune, none in character. So they build palaces, and accumulate splendors about them, and keep s desert within. And then, since the desert within can not be made to rejoice in the gewgaws and vanities without, they sigh, they are very melancholy, the world is a hard world, vanity of vanities, all is vanity. Let them cease this whimpering about the vanities and come to Christ; let them receive his joy, and there is an end to the hunger. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, and ye shall find rest to your souls. There is nothing hard in what I require. When I call you to renounce all and take up your cross and follow me, I only seek to withdraw you from the chase after happiness, that I may fill you with joy. My yoke is easy, therefore, and my burden is light. Ah I how many have found it to be exactly so! What surprise have they felt in the dawning of this Christian joy. They seemed about to lose every thing, and found themselves, instead, possessing all things.

      3. It is here seen to be important that we hold some rational and worthy conception of the heavenly felicity. How easy it is for the christian, who has tasted the true joy of Christ, to let go the idea of joy and slide into the pursuit only of happiness, or the good of condition. Worldly minds are in this vein always; they more generally do not even conceive any thing different, and the whole gravitation therefore of the world, both in its pursuits and opinions, is in this direction. Heaven itself is thought of as a place, a condition, a kind of paradise external, which has power to make every body happy. The question of universal salvation turns on just this point, inquiring whether all souls will be got into the happy place, not whether they will all break into eternity as carrying the eternal joy with them. Stated in that manner, the question is even too absurd for debate. I very much fear too that those teachers who propose religion to us as a problem only of happiness, calling us to Christ that we may get the rewards of happiness, the highest happiness. degrade our conceptions, and let us down below the truth. When we speak of joy, we do not speak of something we are after, but of something that will come to us, when we are after God and duty. It 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, the welling up, out of the central depths, of eternal springs that hide their waters there. It is the rest of confidence, the blessedness of internal light and outflowing benevolence,-the highest form of life and spiritual majesty. Being the birth of character, it has eternity in it. Rising from within, it is sovereign over all circumstance and hindrance. It is the joy of the Lord in the soul of man, because it is joy like his, and because it is from Him, participated by the secret life of goodness.

      And this, my friends, is the glory of the heavenly state. If you have been thinking of heaven only, as a happy place, looking for it as the reward of some dull, lifeless service, arguing it for all men, as the place where God will show his goodness, by making blessed, loathsome and base souls, cheat yourselves no more by this folly. Consider only whether heaven be in you now. For heaven, as we have seen, is nothing but the joy of a perfectly harmonized being, filled with God and his love. The charter of it is,-He that overcometh shall inherit. It is the victorious energy of righteousness forever established in the soul, And this in us, pure and supreme, fulfills the glorious be quest of Christ our Lord,-that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy may be full. It remains,-it in full.

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