Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume VI

Contents:
Author: John Wesley

III.

I have now only to add a few inferences from the preceding observations.

1. And we may learn from hence, First, that as there is but one God in heaven above and in the earth beneath; so there is only one happiness for created spirits, either in heaven or earth. This one God made our heart for himself; and it cannot rest till it resteth in him. It is true, that while we are in the vigor of youth and health; while our blood dances in our veins; while the world smiles upon us, and we have all the conveniences, yea, and superfluities of life, we frequently have pleasing dreams, and enjoy a kind of happiness. But it cannot continue; it flies away like a shadow; and even while it does, it is not solid or substantial; it does not satisfy the soul. We still pant after something else, something which we have not. Give a man everything that this world can give, still, as Horace observed near two thousand years ago, —

Curtae nescio quid semper abest rei.

Still, —

Amidst our plenty something still,

To me, to thee, to him is wanting!

That something is neither more nor less than the knowledge and love of God; without which no spirit can be happy either in heaven or earth.

2. Permit me to recite my own experience, in confirmation of this: — I distinctly remember, that, even in my childhood, even when I was at school, I have often said, "They say the life of a school boy is the happiest in the world; but I am sure I am not happy; for I am not content, and so cannot be happy." When I had lived a few years longer, being in the vigor of youth, a stranger to pain and sickness, and particularly to lowness of spirits; (which I do not remember to have felt one quarter of an hour ever since I was born;) having plenty of all things, in the midst of sensible and amiable friends, who loved me, and I loved them; and being in the way of life which, of all others, suited my inclinations; still I was not happy. I wondered why I was not, and could not imagine what the reason was. The reason certainly was, I did not know God; the Source of present as well as eternal happiness. What is a clear proof that I was not then happy, is, that, upon the coolest reflection, I knew not one week which I would have thought it worth while to have lived over again; taking it with every inward and outward sensation, without any variation at all.

3. But a pious man affirms, "When I was young, I was happy; though I was utterly without God in the world." I do not believe you: Though I doubt not but you believe yourself. But you are deceived, as I have been over and over. Such is the condition of human life!

Flowers and myrtles fragrant seem to rise:

All is at distance fair; but, near at hand,

The gay deceit mocks the desiring eyes

With thorns, and desert heath, and barren sand.

Look forward on any distant prospect: How beautiful does it appear! Come up to it; and the beauty vanishes away, and it is rough and disagreeable. Just so is life. But when the scene is past, it resumes its former appearance; and we seriously believe, that we were then very happy, though, in reality, we were far otherwise. For as none is now, so none ever was, happy, without the loving knowledge of the true God.

4. We may learn hence, Secondly, that this happy knowledge of the true God is only another name for religion; I mean Christian religion; which, indeed, is the only one that deserves the name religion, as to the nature or essence of it, does not lie in this or that set of notions, vulgarly called faith; nor in a round of duties, however carefully reformed from error and superstition. It does not consist in any number of outward actions. No: It properly and directly consists in the knowledge and love of God, as manifested in the Son of his love, through the eternal Spirit. And this naturally leads to every heavenly temper, and to every good word and work.

5. We learn hence, Thirdly, that none but a Christian is happy; none but a real inward Christian. A glutton, a drunkard, a gamester, may be merry; but he cannot be happy. The beau, the belle, may eat and drink, and rise up to play; but still they feel they are not happy. Men or women may adorn their own dear persons with all the colors of the rainbow. They may dance, and sing, and hurry to and fro, and flutter hither and thither. They may roll up and down in their splendid carriages, and talk insipidly to each other. They may hasten from one diversion to another: But happiness is not there. They are still "walking in a vain shadow, and disquieting themselves in vain." One of their own poets has truly pronounced, concerning the whole life of these sons of pleasure,

’Tis a dull farce, an empty show:

Powder, and pocket-glass, and beau.

I cannot but observe of that fine writer, that he came near the mark, and yet fell short of it. In his "Solomon," (one of the noblest in the English tongue) he clearly shows where happiness is not; that is not to be found in natural knowledge, in power, or in the pleasures of sense or imagination. But he does not show where it is to be found. He could not; for he did not know it himself. Yet he came near it when he said,

Restore, Great Father, thy instructed son;

And in my act may thy great will be done!

6. We learn, hence, Fourthly, that every Christian is happy; and that he who is not happy is not a Christian. If, as was observed above, religion is happiness, everyone that has it must be happy. This appears from the very nature of the thing: For if religion and happiness are in fact the same, it is impossible that any man can possess the former, without possessing the latter also. He cannot have religion without having happiness; seeing they are utterly inseparable.

And it is equally certain, on the other hand, that he who is not happy is not a Christian: Seeing if he was a real Christian, he could not but be happy. But I allow an exception here in favor of those who are under violent temptation; yea, and of those who are under deep nervous disorders, which are, indeed, a species of insanity. The clouds and darkness which then overwhelm the soul suspend its happiness; especially if Satan is permitted to second those disorders, by pouring in his fiery darts. But, excepting these cases, the observation will hold, and it should be well attended to, — Whoever is not happy, yea, happy in God, is not a Christian.

7. Are not you a living proof of this? Do not you still wander to and fro, seeking rests but finding none? — pursuing happiness, but never overtaking it? And who can blame you for pursuing it? It is the very end of your being. The great Creator made nothing to be miserable, but every creature to be happy in its kind. And upon a general review of the works of his hands he pronounced them all very good; which they would not have been, had not every intelligent creature, yea, everyone capable of pleasure and pain, been happy in answering the end of its creation. If you are now unhappy, it is because you are in an unnatural state: And shall you not sigh for deliverance from it? "The whole creation," being now "subject to vanity," "groaneth and travaileth in pain together." I blame you only, or pity you rather, for taking a wrong way to a right end; for seeking happiness where it never was, and never can be, found. You seek happiness in your fellow-creatures, instead of your Creator. But these can no more make you happy than they can make you immortal. If you have ears to hear, every creature cries aloud, "Happiness is not in me." All these are, in truth, "broken cisterns, that can hold no water." O turn unto your rest! Turn to him in whom are hid all the treasures of happiness! Turn unto Him "who giveth liberally unto all men;" and he will give you "to drink of the water of life freely."

8. You cannot find your long-sought happiness in all the pleasures of the world. Are they not "deceitful upon the weights?" Are they not lighter than vanity itself? How long will ye "feed upon that which is not bread?" — which may amuse, but cannot satisfy? You cannot find it in the religion of the world; either in opinions, or a mere round of outward duties. Vain labor! Is not God a Spirit, and therefore to be "worshipped in spirit and in truth?" In this alone can you find the happiness you seek; in the union of your spirit with the Father of spirits; in the knowledge and love of him who is the fountain of happiness, sufficient for all the souls he has made.

9. But where is He to be found? Shall we go up into heaven, or down into hell, to seek him? Shall we "take the wings of the morning," and search for him "in the uttermost parts of the sea?" Nay, quod petis, hic est! What a strange word to fall from the pen of a Heathen! "What you seek is here!" He is "about your bed." He is "about your path." He "besets you behind and before." He "lays his hand upon you." Lo! God is here! not afar off. Now believe and feel him near! May he now reveal himself in your heart! Know him, love him, and you are happy!

10. Are you already happy in him? Then see that you "hold fast whereunto ye have attained!" "Watch and pray," that you may never be "moved from your steadfastness" "Look unto yourselves, that ye lose not what ye have gained, but that ye receive a full reward." In so doing, expect a continual growth in grace, in the loving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Expect that the power of the Highest shall suddenly overshadow you, that all sin may be destroyed, and nothing may remain in your heart, but holiness unto the Lord. And this moment, and every moment, "present yourselves a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God," and "glorify him with your body and with your spirit which are God’s!"

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Chicago: John Wesley, "III.," Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume VI, ed. Thomas Jackson in Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume VI (London: Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, 1872), Original Sources, accessed February 26, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4A6I3XY99RFT3GZ.

MLA: Wesley, John. "III." Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume VI, edited by Thomas Jackson, in Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume VI, London, Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, 1872, Original Sources. 26 Feb. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4A6I3XY99RFT3GZ.

Harvard: Wesley, J, 'III.' in Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume VI, ed. . cited in 1872, Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume VI, Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, London. Original Sources, retrieved 26 February 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4A6I3XY99RFT3GZ.