J.C. Ryle on Happiness

~ John Charles Ryle (1816-1900) was a bishop in the Anglican Church. He lived a pretty secular life until shortly after graduating from Oxford University, when he came to a knowledge of Christ Jesus. You can read a short biography of him here by John Piper

What lies below is an excerpt from a sermon by Ryle, titled Happiness that he preached back in 1878. I put the clip in because there is a streak of humor in it. It is on what I would call Faux Happiness – something that is everywhere. (It is exhibited by what I describe as existential incontinence. That is to say that human beings leak – existentially. With their mouths they say “Happy. Happy,” and yet with their lives they say unhappy, unhappy.)

 “Oh, no! Worldly merriment is not real happiness! There is a certain pleasure about it, I do not deny. There is an animal excitement about it, I make no question. There is a temporary elevation of spirits about it, I freely concede. But do not call it by the sacred name of ‘happiness’. The most beautiful cut flowers stuck into the ground, do not make a garden. When glass is called diamond, and tinsel is called gold — then, and not until then, those people who can laugh and revel will deserve to be called happy people.

Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, at a time when all Spain was laughing at his humorous work, was overwhelmed with a deep cloud of melancholy.

Don Quixote ~ Sketch by Pablo Picasso
Don Quixote ~ Sketch by Pablo Picasso

Moliere, the first of French comic writers, carried into his domestic circle a sadness which the greatest worldly prosperity could never dispel.

Samuel Foote, the noted wit of the last century, died of a broken heart.

Theodore Hooke, the facetious novel writer, who could set everybody laughing, says of himself in his diary, “I am suffering under a constant depression of spirits, which no one who sees me in society dreams of.”

A woebegone stranger consulted a physician about his health. The physician advised him to keep up his spirits by going to hear the great comic actor of the day: ‘You should go and hear Matthews. He would make you well.’ ‘Alas, sir,’ was the reply, ‘I am Matthews himself!’

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