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.