"Who can show us any good?"
(J. A. James, "The Young MAN'S Friend
and Guide through Life to Immortality")
Many are asking, "Who can show us any good?"
Man is made for happiness, and is capable of it. But
what is happiness—and how is it to be obtained?
To possess and enjoy it, man must be furnished with
some good—suited to his nature, adapted to his
condition, and adequate to his capacity and desires.
The nature of the chief good has been, in every age,
the interesting subject of most earnest philosophic
inquiry. But how various and opposed, have been the
conclusions at which the inquirers have arrived on this
important subject. Varro, a learned Latin writer, who
lived before Christ, reckoned up more than two hundred
different opinions on this subject—thus plainly evincing
man's ignorance of his own nature, circumstances, and
Not perceiving what it is that has made him miserable—man
cannot know what will make him happy! Unacquainted with,
or rather overlooking, the disease—he cannot know the remedy!
He feels an aching void within, an unsatisfied craving after
something—but knows neither the nature, nor the source, of
the food adapted to meet and satisfy his hungry appetite.
The vagrant spirit of man is seen wandering from God—the
fountain of bliss—roaming through this "dry and thirsty land,
where there is no water;" anxiously looking for happiness,
but never finding it; coming often to springs that are dry,
and to cisterns that are broken; until weary of the pursuit
and disappointed in its hopes, it is ready to give up all in
despair, and reconcile itself to misery, under the notion
that happiness is but a fiction!
In this sad and hopeless mood, the victim of grief
and despondency is met by the Bible, which takes
him by the hand, and leads him to the fountain of
living waters. Such is the design of Scripture—to
show first of all what will not make man happy,
and then what will.
Upon all the most coveted possessions of this world,
it pronounces the solemn and impressive sentence,
"Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!" It interrogates singly
every coveted object of human desire, and asks, "What
are you?" only to receive the melancholy answer, "Vanity!"
Nothing 'on earth' can satisfy the soul of man, as its
supreme good. Science has multiplied its discoveries, art
its inventions, and literature its productions. Civilization
has opened new sources of luxury, and ingenuity has
added innumerable gratifications of appetite and of taste.
Every domain of nature has been explored; every conceivable
experiment been made, to find new means of enjoyment,
and new secrets of happiness. But still the heart of man
confirms, and the experience of the human race prolongs
the echo—"Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!"
What is the nature and the source of happiness?
What is . . .
to terminate the weary pursuits,
to revive the languid hopes,
to gratify the anxious desires,
of destitute and sorrowing people,
hungering and thirsting after bliss?
What human reason is thus proved to be too ignorant
and too weak to decide, the Bible undertakes to settle;
and explicitly, imperatively, and infallibly, determines
for all and forever. Only Biblical Christianity . . .
suits the nature,
meets the needs,
alleviates the sorrows,
satisfies the desires,
of the human soul—and is its portion forever.
Only Christianity . . .
finds man depraved—and makes him holy;
finds him little—and makes him great;
finds him earthly—and raises him to heaven!
"You are my portion, O my God. Your favor is
life, and your love is better than life. You are
the center, the rest, the home of my heart!"
"Everyone who drinks this water will thirst again;
but whoever drinks the water I give him will never
thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in
him a spring of water welling up to eternal life!"