"a Merry Heart"
To Cultivate the Spirit of Cheerfulness is to Bless and Brighten Other Lives.
THE LESSON—That in no way can we serve those about us better than by the kind of service which reveals the true gladness of the Christian life.
The Christian religion is based upon principles which lift us from sin and its attendant evils of discouragement, unrest, despondency and suffering, to the higher plane of confidence, hope, praise and love. It is a religion of good cheer, which God's children must reflect to a darkened world if they are to fulfill their earthly mission.
"I wonder how many of us are getting too busy or too lazy to smile. I see some, who were looking pretty solemn before I made the remark whose faces look a little brighter now—and some have already broken into a most gladsome smile. I'm glad of it. Smiles, they say are the least expensive things we can give to other people, and sometimes they value them more than silver or gold. But how can we smile unless we feel like it? That's the question. Well, we will feel like it if we think right things and do right things, living close to the Master, even if things do go very, very much awry sometimes. The Bible has a good many things to say about smiles, and it isn't at all guarded in declaring that smiles are worth a good deal more than words, unless those words are very carefully spoken. Here is what we find in the book of Proverbs: 'A merry heart maketh a cheery countenance.' So, we find, it is necessary to feel happy within before we can show it on the outside. And then it says: 'He that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast,' which shows that if we are truly happy, everything about us will appear brighter and more delightful. Again, it says: 'A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.' How true this is; you never saw a sour, gloomy pessimistic person who was in real good health, while the one who shows the most gladsome face is either in splendid physical condition or else has risen above his pains and distress in his appreciation of God's blessings. They are always believing that 'it might be worse."
"But is this cheerfulness for the sole benefit of the one who smiles? Not a bit of it. We cannot do evil without harming someone; neither can we cultivate cheerfulness without proving a blessing to others. Here, I want to draw for you the picture of a boy who doesn't seem to have this happy disposition of which we have been speaking. [Draw the lines to complete Fig. 86.] Perhaps he looks this way most of the time—it is a bad beginning. We see him here, coming down the street; perhaps he will meet one of the other boys. Ah, yes, here comes another boy; and this boy has a merry heart, if we are to judge from his facial expression. [Draw the second boy.]
"We have no way of knowing what this second boy said to the first boy, but we can tell from his face that he has a merry heart. And what about the first boy? Ah, he, too, has caught it, for his face reflects the smile of the second boy. [Add line to change the facial expression of the first boy, completing Fig. 87.]
"We refer again to the book of Proverbs, and there we find that 'a word spoken in due season, how good it is!' It must have been such a word that the first boy spoke to the second. 'A word fitly spoken,' we read again, 'is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.' But we must choose the right words to go along with the smile, and the greatest danger seems to be that we will say too much, for the same book of Proverbs says that 'he that hath knowledge spareth his words.' He knows how to choose and when to stop. Let us remember that the smile counts for more than mere words. The smile is a universal language understood everywhere on earth. It is the badge of friendship, and that is the thing which the world craves.
"A friend of Haydn, the great composer, once asked him how it happened that his church music was so full of gladness, and Haydn replied, 'I cannot make it otherwise. I write according to the thoughts I feel; when I think upon my God, my heart is so full of joy that the notes dance from my pen.'
"To the one who needs your smile there is nothing else in all the world, perhaps, that will prove so life-giving. Many a despondent one has been thrilled with vital power, lifted, and ennobled by the knowledge that another heart beats with it in tenderness and sympathy."
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