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OF THE REGULATION OF JOY.
Of the nature and usefulness of this passion. As for the nature of this most delightful passion of joy, it is that highly grateful and pleasing sensation with which the soul is affected, when in possession and actual fruition of some good it has earnestly desired; which soothes and cheers and opens wide the heart to receive and embrace the whole bliss, and raises the spirits, invigorates the blood, and quickens its motion, and sweetly overflows the soul with an inundation of delight not to be expressed, and causes a perfect acquiescence in the mind, as in the centre of its rest.
The lower or more remiss degrees of it are complacency, gladness, exhilaration; and the higher and more intense, are exultation, triumph, transport, ecstacy ; too strong to be suppressed and confined, and sometimes too great for men to bear: all which are more or less, as the good is which we enjoy, or as the enjoyment of it is more or less complete, unexpected, or long looked for and desired, durable or transient, solid or empty and vain.
The nature of joy is according to the nature of the good that is enjoyed : and as every thing is not
really good that we esteem and call so, so every thing that we call joy or enjoyment does not deserve that name.
Thus for instance, the noisy vanities of profuse mirth and laughter are not properly joy, but rather the sudden flashes and breakings out of madness and folly &. As the crackling of thorns under a pot, says Solomon, so is the laughter of a foolb; a little blaze soon over, that evaporates into smoke, and sinks into ashes, quickly kindled, and as quickly out. And
And very often in the midst of such laughter the heart is sorrowful, as he elsewhere observes, and the end of that mirth is heaviness C; and therefore is not joy. For as Seneca rightly observes d, true joy is a grave and solid thing; it is the satisfaction that arises from wisdom and virtue, and our being conscious to ourselves of living according to reason and the dignity of our nature; in contempt of the fortuitous things of the world, in patience and fortitude, justice and honesty and temperance. None can truly rejoice but those that live at this excellent rate; and such joy as this can never be long interrupted, much less cease: it is not at the will and pleasure of others, but is born and bred within our own breasts; we may properly call it our own, and it will hold in all the various turns and vicissitudes of life ; for what fortune never gave us, it can never deprive us of. This is the sense of what Seneca says here and there of the nature of this passion of joy; and it is so like that of St. Paul, 2 Cor. i. 12. Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity
a Eccles. ii. 2.
b Eccles. vii. 6. c Prov. xiv. 13. d Mihi crede, res severa est verum gaudium. Vid. Senec. Epist. XXIII. et LIX.
we have had our conversation in the world. And that of our Lord to his disciples, John xvi. 22. Your joy no man taketh from you ; as if it were borrowed from them.
Indeed joy is properly a rational delight; not the pleasure that is common to us with the brutes, but such as the blessed saints and angels experience, which results from goodness and virtue and heavenly love. All that gross kind of pleasure therefore, which arises from the gratification of our senses, and terminates in the body, is not joy but sensuality ; voluptas, non vero gaudium, as the philosopher but now mentioned distinguishes.
It is a superficial, vanishing sort of delight, like that of a pleasant dream; which entertains your fancy for a while, but leaves you empty and unsatisfied : whereas true joy is a solid, filling thing, that at once enlarges and replenishes the soul, and causes it to rest in full satisfaction and content.
In like manner the delight that proceeds from any
evil actions, of what kind soever, are not joy, but a spurious sort of pleasure in what is unworthy of a man to do, and will bring quite contrary sensations upon him in the conclusion.
When these kind of joys proceed from luxury and riot and debauchery, they are oblectamenta fallacia, as Seneca calls them d, cheating, delusive pleasures, with a sting at the end of them; and when from cruelty, oppression, and revenge, they are savage and inhuman, like the joy of a lion when he has seized his prey. And therefore he finds fault with Virgil, for the impropriety of that expression of his,
Non magis gaudent quam prædam nacti leones. Sen.
mala gaudia e, evil joys; for true joy cannot be evil, nor can any thing that is evil produce true joy. But then he brings him off, by saying that his meaning was, men pleased themselves with their own evils; significavit enim homines malo suo latos: and then he gives an excellent description of such false, hurtful joy, and calls it "an inordinate, immo“ derate pleasure, excited by a mistaken opinion of a “ counterfeit good f.” And these vain and false and evil joys are generally owing to bad education, ill habits contracted in our youth, a coldness to religion, a want of the love of God, and a stupid inapprehensiveness of the nature of the joys of eternity.
But though this grateful passion is so often thus abused, yet in the design of our gracious and good Creator it is not more delightful than it is useful to us: and if well regulated, and its object right, it is the great restorative of nature, that cheers and recruits our flagging, drooping spirits, encourages us more and more in the pursuit and acquisition of what is our real good, and will improve and perfect our nature. For the satisfaction we find in any degree of possession of a desirable good excites in us fresh desires of a still further enjoyment, and that engages us in a new pursuit, and so still onwards, till our enjoyment is complete and full. And it is likewise the reward of good and virtuous actions, both at present and hereafter; the natural, happy consequence of acting wisely, and according to our best interest, as men and Christians.
e Diserte quidem dicit, sed parum proprie, nullum enim malum gaudium est. Epist. LIX.
f Voluptatem opinione falsi boni motam, immoderatam, et immodicam.
Whereas, without joy, we should sink into a stupid numbness and hebetude, both of soul and body, and scarcely be said to live: no spirit or activity should we have, but a listless dulness, and all the functions of life and the operations of our minds, and the duties of religion too, would move on very heavily, if not quickened and enlivened with those delectable perceptions that attend the due performance of each which we call joy.
Without it life would be no blessing, but a most tedious round of tasteless actions, which then would soon grow nauseous and loathsome to us ; religion too would be the same insipid, tiresome thing, and happiness be a stranger even in heaven itself: which is therefore heaven, because there is the fulness of joy. It is the great counterpoise to trouble and pain, and the misfortunes of human life; which would soon irrecoverably deject us, were we not refreshed and inspirited anew by the welcome returns and interchanges of pleasure and delight.
In short, without the cheering, sweet relishes of this noble passion, the world would really be a kind of hell, and full of weeping and wailing and misery without allay; and the only comfort then would be this, that it was not to be, like that sad state, without end.
Blessed be God, therefore for this most delightful passion of joy! I say, blessed be God for it, for it is his gift: That a man should enjoy the good of all his labour, says that royal preacher, it is the gift of God. For to a man that is good in his sight, he giveth wisdom and knowledge and joy 8, as the crown of all the rest; and when he is pro
& Eccles. ii. 26. iii. 13. v. 19.