It should be the Christian’s chief care to obtain from God the choicest mercies. The worldly are indeed easily put off with the meanest, because their inquiry is only who will show them any good. But O Christian! Let nothing please or satisfy you, but the light of God’s countenance and do so receive from God here, as that you may be received to God hereafter. Desire not gifts, but mercies from God; not pebbles but pearls, and always labor for that which God never bestows but in love. Luther, when he had a rich present sent to him, professed with a holy boldness to God that such things should not serve his turn. Always desire the favor of God rather than outward felicity. O desire from God that your portion may not be in this life, but that what you enjoy here may be a pledge of better things hereafter.
William Jenkyn, Dying Thoughts, 1.
The soul, viewing the infallible truth and faithfulness of God, refuses to rely upon human promises. They neither can cause him to rejoice nor can human threatenings terrify him, for he is aware of human mutability. However, he knows the Lord to be a God of truth who keepeth truth forever. He knows the promises and believes them, being so convinced of their certainty as if they were already fulfilled. He therefore rests in them and has a joyful hope in them.Wilhelmus À Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service
Young people, by walking in the ways of Christ and Christian virtue, obtain pleasure of the most excellent kind. Walking in the ways of Christ and Christian virtue, doesn’t hinder young people’s enjoying pleasure in outward enjoyments, but promotes it. It not only gives them a far more excellent kind of pleasure, a more sweet and satisfying delight than the world can afford, but neither doth it rob young people of the enjoyment of pleasure in outward things, but helps it.
1. Christianity doesn’t forbid the use of outward enjoyments but only the abuse of them. It doesn’t forbid the enjoyment of outward good things, for they were made to be received with thanksgiving, but only forbids the vicious and irregular manner of enjoying them. The senses and physical appetites may be gratified in a manner religion allows of.
2. Outward enjoyments are much sweeter, and really afford more pleasure, when rightly used than when abused. Temporal good things are never so sweet, they are never taken with so good a relish, as when they are taken with innocency, and in the way of virtue. Vice destroys the sweetness of outward enjoyments; it mixes bitterness with them: as they go beyond the bonds of temperance and moderation in the enjoyment of them, so much is abated from the relish of them. Vice mixes a bitterness in enjoyments, and causes a sting to be with the honey. When we enjoy outward good things with innocence, and agreeably to the rules of God’s Word, we then enjoy them with peace in our minds; but when they are viciously used, the pleasure is attended with inward remorse. Such an one has not the approbation of his own conscience in what he enjoys: in order to his having any quietness, he must stupefy himself, and suppress the exercises of reason, and keep himself from reflecting; otherwise he can enjoy his pleasures with no peace. Besides, when a person that walks in the ways of holiness hath the pleasure of outward enjoyments, he hath this to give a sweetness and relish, that he hath it as the fruit of the love of God.
Adapted from Works, “Sermons and Discourses,” 1734-1738, (Yale University Press, 2001), 85-86.
The exercise of Christian virtue makes youth the pleasanter in all the circumstances and concerns of it. Herein it has greatly the advantage of a course of youthful vanity, for the pleasure of that is exceeding unsteady and inconstant: it serves them only for a moment.
1. Young people’s exercise of Christian virtue, would sweeten both their company and their solitude.
(a) Their company would be abundantly sweeter, if they were virtuous in company. It would be more rational, more becoming reasonable creatures: their own reason would approve of it. They would be glad when they reflected and thought of it: everyone’s mind would approve of it.
It is a strange notion that many young people have, that company will be the worse for being virtuous. Vice is the most useless thing in the world in company: it does no good in any way: they may have free conversation without it, they may please and divert one another without it. And virtue would sweeten all that is said and done: it would make everyone the more pleasant company, one to another: it would supply ’em with the most pleasant and entertaining subjects of conversation.
(b) The exercise of Christian virtue would also sweeten solitude. Oftentimes those that live viciously and appear very merry in company, are afraid of solitude. They don’t love to be much in retirement; for they have nothing to entertain them alone. And when they are alone, reason and conscience is more apt to be in exercise, which greatly disturbs their peace. But those young people that walk in Christ and Christian virtue have wherein to rejoice, and to entertain their mind, both alone and in company. ‘Tis pleasant to them oftentimes to be alone; for then they have the better opportunity to fix their minds on divine objects, to withdraw their thoughts from worldly things, and the more uninterruptedly to delight themselves in divine contemplations, and holy exercise and converse with God. Christ calls forth such young persons from the company and noise of the world in such language as that.
2. It sweetens both business and diversion. To walk in Christ and Christian virtue, is the way to have the sensible presence of God, and the light of his countenance, and testimony of his favor, which is enough to sweeten everything to them.
If a person has good evidence of that, that his sins are forgiven, and that he is at peace with God, and is the object of God’s love, and has within him the testimony of a good conscience; this is enough to give quietness and cheerfulness, wherever he is, and whatever he is about. ‘Tis enough to make hard labor easy, and he may well do whatsoever he doth cheerfully that does to the Lord, and not to men (Ephesians 6:7). The exercise of religion would even sweeten young people’s diversions, as it would regulate them according to the rules of wisdom and virtue, and would direct ’em to suitable and worthy ends, and make them subservient to excellent purposes.
As has been already said of earthly enjoyments and company, so it is true diversions, that they are abundantly sweetest, when virtue moderates and guides them.
3. It sweetens what is present, and also the thoughts of what is to come. When young people spend their youth in sin and vanity, it gives them no pleasure but in what is present. It has a tendency to make the prospect of that which is future terrible. And therefore such young people are not wont to think much of what is future; hate such thoughts [as] are uncomfortable to them, and therefore shut them out what they can.
But when young people walk in the ways of Christ and Christian virtue, it not only gives them abundantly the most pleasant enjoyment of the present time, but renders the prospect of what is to come comfortable and joyful. They that spend their youth in the exercise of Christian virtue, they may think of old age with comfort, if they should live to it: and they may think of death with comfort, and may think of eternity with unspeakable joy. We are born for an eternal duration. Those that are now young, and have had their beings but a little, which they are to have their beings to all eternity, and Christ will give young people rational comfort and joy, let them look as far forward as they will, in this endless duration.
Adapted from Works, “Sermons and Discourses,” 1734-1738, (Yale University Press, 2001), 86-88.