Sorrow [is] better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.
IV. That gravity and seriousness better become us, and are better for us, than mirth and jollity, v. 3. The common proverb says, "An ounce of mirth is worth a pound of sorrow;’’ but the preacher teaches us a contrary lesson: Sorrow is better than laughter, more agreeable to our present state, where we are daily sinning and suffering ourselves, more or less, and daily seeing the sins and sufferings of others. While we are in a vale of tears, we should conform to the temper of the climate. It is also more for our advantage; for, by the sadness that appears in the countenance, the heart is often made better. Note, 1. That is best for us which is best for our souls, by which the heart is made better, though it be unpleasing to sense. 2. Sadness is often a happy means of seriousness, and that affliction which is impairing to the health, estate, and family, may be improving to the mind, and make such impressions upon that as may alter its temper very much for the better, may make it humble and meek, loose from the world, penitent for sin, and careful of duty. Vexatio dat intellectum—Vexation sharpens the intellect. Periissem nisi periissem—I should have perished if I had not been made wretched. It will follow, on the contrary, that by the mirth and frolicsomeness of the countenance the heart is made worse, more vain, carnal, sensual, and secure, more in love with the world and more estranged from God and spiritual things (Job 21:12, 14), till it become utterly unconcerned in the afflictions of Joseph, as those Amos 6:5, 6, and the king and Haman, Esth. 3:15.