Uninterrupted Cheerfulness

Joseph Addison was a British essayist, journalist, politician, and reformer who lived during the days of Wesley and Watts. He’s most remembered today for his essays, what we would call today newspaper columns. One of his best is on the subject of Christian Piety—the need for Christians to be cheerful. Here is what he wrote:

About an age ago it was the fashion in England, for everyone that would be thought religious to throw as much sanctity as possible into his face, and in particular to abstain from all appearances of mirth and pleasantry, which were looked up as the marks of a carnal mind. The saint was of a sorrowful countenance, and generally eaten up with spleen and melancholy…

These people, said Addison, are like the ten spies in the book of Numbers who spread gloom and discouragement. But…

Those who show us the joy, the cheerfulness, the good humor, that naturally spring up in this happy state (of Christian faith) are like the (two good spies in Numbers), bringing along with them the clusters of grapes and delicious fruits that might invite their companions into the pleasant country which produced them.

He continued: The contemplation of the divine Being and the exercise of virtue are, in their own nature, so far from excluding all gladness of heart that they are perpetual sources of it. In a word, the true spirit of religion cheers as well as composes the soul; it banishes indeed all levity of behavior, all vicious and dissolute mirth, but in exchange fills the mind with a perpetual serenity, uninterrupted cheerfulness, and a habitual inclination to please others, as well as to be pleased in itself.[1]

[1] Joseph Addison, Baron Thomas Babington, Select Essays of Addison, Edited by Samuel Thurber (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1892),197-200