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Excellent Pleasure Among Youth

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.

—Jonathan Edwards
Adapted from Works, “Sermons and Discourses,” 1734-1738, (Yale University Press, 2001), 85-86.

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Empty Pleasures Never Satisfy

Go and take your fill of earthly pleasures if you will—you will never find your heart satisfied with them. There will always be a voice within, crying, like the leech in Proverbs 30:15, ‘Give! Give!’ There is an empty place there, which nothing but God can fill. You will find, as Solomon did by experience, that earthly pleasures are but a meaningless show—promising contentment but bringing a dissatisfaction of spirit—gold plated caskets, exquisite to look at on the outside, but full of ashes and corruption within.

—J. C. Ryle
Thoughts for Young Men, 34.

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Pleasure in God’s Pleasure

The love of God is a delightful and affectionate sense of the divine perfections, which makes the soul resign and sacrifice itself wholly unto him, desiring above all things to please him, and delighting in nothing so much as in fellowship and communion with him, and being ready to do or suffer any thing for his sake, or at his pleasure.

—Henry Scougal
The Works of the Rev. H. Scougal (London: Ogle, Duncan, and Co., 1822), 11.

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We Are Far Too Easily Pleased!

The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased!

—C. S. Lewis
The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, 25–26.