Look at the smiling beauty in the ball-room!
(J.C. Ryle, "HAPPINESS" 1878)
True happiness does not consist in laughter and smiles. The face is very often a poor index of the heart. There are thousands who laugh loud and are merry in company — but are wretched and miserable in private! On the other hand, there are hundreds who are grave and serious in their demeanor — whose hearts are full of solid peace. Smiles are worth but little: "A man may smile and smile — and be a villain!"
The eternal Word of God teaches us that "even in laughter, the heart may be sorrowful." (Proverbs 14:13.) Tell me not merely of smiling and laughing faces! I want to hear of something more than that, when I ask whether a man is happy. A truly happy man no doubt will often show his happiness in his countenance; but a man may have a very merry face — and yet not be happy at all!
Of all deceptive things on earth — nothing is so deceptive as mere worldly gaiety and merriment! It is a hollow empty show, utterly devoid of substance and reality! Listen to the brilliant talker in society — follow him to his own private room, and you will very likely find him plunged in melancholy despondency. Colonel Gardiner confessed that even when he was thought most happy — he often wished he was a dog! Look at the smiling beauty in the ball-room, and you might suppose that she knew not what it was to be unhappy; see her next day at her own home, and you may probably find her out of temper with herself and everybody else besides!
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'. 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.