Proverbs 3:17
Her ways are pleasant, and all her paths are peaceful.
Sermons
A Pleasant Road to TravelJ. W. Bray.Proverbs 3:17
Godliness is Pleasant and DelightfulT. Horton, D.D.Proverbs 3:17
Life Within LifeJoseph Parker, D.D.Proverbs 3:17
On the Happiness of a Virtuous CareerR. Price, D. D.Proverbs 3:17
Pleasant Ways and Peaceful PathsJ. Vaughan, M.A.Proverbs 3:17
Pleasantness and PeaceProverbs 3:17
Pleasantness of ReligionJ. Jortin, D. D.Proverbs 3:17
Pleasure a Relative ThingR. SouthProverbs 3:17
Pleasure and Peace the Certain Consequences of VirtueT. Newlin, M. A.Proverbs 3:17
Present Advantages of PietyR. Hall.Proverbs 3:17
Religion a Comfortable Way of LifeFrancis Taylor, B. D.Proverbs 3:17
Religion and its ValueC. Voysey, M.A.Proverbs 3:17
Superiority of Pious JoyJ. Halsey.Proverbs 3:17
The Advantages of Virtue and PietyLaurence Sterne.Proverbs 3:17
The Beauty of HolinessBp. E. Hopkins.Proverbs 3:17
The Enjoyments of ReligionD. Malcolm, LL.D.Proverbs 3:17
The Gifts of WisdomJoseph Parker, D.D.Proverbs 3:17
The Happiness Attendant on the Paths of ReligionThomas Gisborne, M.A.Proverbs 3:17
The Happiness of ReligionR. Wardlaw, D.D.Proverbs 3:17
The Happiness of True ReligionA. Stirling, LL.D.Proverbs 3:17
The Joy of PeaceJohn Thomas, M.A.Proverbs 3:17
The Peace and Pleasantness of True ReligionCharles Davy.Proverbs 3:17
The Peasantness of ReligionIsaac Barrow, D.D.Proverbs 3:17
The Pleasantness of ReligionS. Stennett, D.D.Proverbs 3:17
The Pleasantness of ReligionJ. Entwisle.Proverbs 3:17
The Pleasantness of Wisdom's WaysF. F. Trench, M.A.Proverbs 3:17
The Pleasure of Christ's WaysJohn Guyse.Proverbs 3:17
The Pleasures of a Religious LifeJames Foster.Proverbs 3:17
The Pleasures of Real ReligionT. Boston, D.D.Proverbs 3:17
The Pleasures of ReligionG. Burder.Proverbs 3:17
The Pleasures of ReligionSidney Smith.Proverbs 3:17
The Service of God PleasantA. B. Grosart.Proverbs 3:17
The Temporal Advantages of a Religious LifeC. Symmons, B.D.Proverbs 3:17
The Walk of Faith a Way of Pleasantness and PeaceJ. H. Evans, M. A.Proverbs 3:17
The Ways of True Religious Wisdom are Ways of PleasantnessJ. Love, D.D.Proverbs 3:17
The Ways of WisdomJ. Abernethy, M. A.Proverbs 3:17
Ways of PleasantnessC. Bridges, M.A.Proverbs 3:17
GodlinessH. Thorne.Proverbs 3:1-35
Religious Impressions to be RetainedProverbs 3:1-35
The Earthly Rewards of WisdomR. F. Horton, D. D.Proverbs 3:1-35
Useful Precepts and Inspiring MotivesG. Lawson.Proverbs 3:1-35
Wisdom the Best InvestmentE. Johnson Proverbs 3:13-18
The Happiness of the PiousT. W. Chambers.Proverbs 3:13-26
The Religious and Moral Ends of KnowledgeArchibald Alison, D. D.Proverbs 3:13-26
The ValueE. S. Tead.Proverbs 3:13-26
The Value of WisdomD. J. Burrell, D. D.Proverbs 3:13-26
WisdomH. Thorne.Proverbs 3:13-26
Wisdom's Inestimable WorthW. Clarkson Proverbs 3:13-26

I. WISDOM COMPARABLE WITH THE MOST PRECIOUS THINGS. Silver, gold, precious stones, everything eagerly coveted and warmly prized by the senses and the fancy, may illustrate the worth of the pious intelligence. Every object in the world of sense has its analogy in the world of spirit. The worth of the ruby is due to the aesthetic light in the mind of the observer. But wisdom is the light in the mind itself.

II. WISDOM INCOMPARABLE WITH ALL PRECIOUS THINGS. For by analogy only can we put wisdom and precious minerals side by side, on the principle that mind is reflected in matter. But on the opposite principle, that mind is diverse from matter, rests the incomparableness of wisdom. Mere matter can breed nothing; spiritual force only is generative. When we talk of "money breeding money," we use a figure of speech. It is the mind which is the active power.

III. WISDOM MAY BE VIEWED AS THE BEST LIFE INVESTMENT. All the objects which stimulate human activity to their pursuit are derivable from this capital. Life in health and ample and various enjoyment, riches and honour, pleasure and inward peace; blessings that neither money nor jewels can purchase, are the fruit, direct or indirect, of the cultivation of the spiritual field of enterprise, the whole-hearted venture on this Divine speculation, so to say. For religion's a speculation; faith is a speculation in the sense that everything cannot be made certain; some elements in the calculation must ever remain undefined. (For further, see the early part of the chapter; and on ver. 17, South's 'Sermons,' vol. 1, ser. 1) The summary expression, "a tree of life," seems to symbolize all that is beautiful, all that is desirable, all that gives joy and intensity to living (comp. Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 15:4). - J.







Her ways are ways of pleasantness.
I. WHY IS IT THAT ALL THE WAYS OF WISDOM ARE WAYS OF PLEASANTNESS, AND ALL HER PATHS ARE PEACE? Because they are the appointment of an infinitely tender Father for His covenant children to walk in. The way towards Mount Zion might have been full of bitterness, but even then it would have been best to walk in the way of safety. Heaven has its openings here. The peaceful mind, the heart that rests in the love of God, the conscience sprinkled with the precious blood of atonement, the will that lies passive in the hands of the Father, or would desire to do so: these form some little openings of what shall be — foretastes of what shall be; these are the little beams of the future day of glory, where night shall never come. Moreover it is pleasant to walk in the ways which others have found pleasant. See the testimony of God's saints. And those paths must be pleasant and peaceful in which the Lord Jesus Christ has gone before us.

II. THE PATH OR WALK OF FAITH IS IN ITSELF A MOST HAPPY WALK. Faith looketh to Jesus, and as it looks upon Jesus, it walks in a pleasant path, rests upon Him for wisdom; He is our wisdom. It is not only wisdom which we look to, but it is the wisdom of tender sympathy; and this path is, therefore, a most happy, peaceful, blessed path. Faith looks to Christ for a complete, perfect, and glorious righteousness. Faith looks to Christ for sanctification. Faith looks upon Christ in the way of glorification. It requires wisdom to discern the paths of wisdom.

(J. H. Evans, M. A.)

I. ENUMERATE SOME LEADING INSTANCES OF THIS GENERAL TRUTH.

1. It is pleasant to exchange a constant stream of worldly and vain thoughts, for the contemplation of God and heavenly things.

2. It is pleasant to exchange an obstinate stupidity or self-confidence for a penitential sense of sin, accompanied with a hope of forgiveness, founded on the sacrifice of Christ.

3. It is pleasant to exchange self-indulgence for self-denial.

4. It is pleasant to exchange a course of negligence, hypocrisy, and sensuality for a life of activity in the ways of God.

5. It is pleasant to exchange selfishness, injustice, cruelty, pride, and malevolence for an active benevolence towards mankind.

6. It is pleasant to live as a citizen of heaven, as one interested in the affairs of God's eternal kingdom.

II. OBVIATE SOME CONTRARY OBJECTIONS.

1. There will be a secret demur about this pleasantness, on the ground of feeling no strong propensity towards it.

2. Of opposing the requirements of religion, conviction, humiliation, repentance, etc.

3. Of the influence of carnal relations and acquaintances.

4. Of the conduct of some professors. Let us try ourselves, whether the ways of wisdom are indeed pleasant to us. Have we felt the bitterness of sin, and of a sinful state? Have we felt our distance from this pleasure, and impossibility of getting near it? Have we seen the glory of God, universally? Have we seen the transcendent glory, and tasted the sweetness of the person and love of Jesus Christ? Have we an insatiable thirst after this sweetness?

(J. Love, D.D.)

Two opinions the inconsiderate are apt to take upon trust.

1. A vicious life is a life of liberty, pleasure, and happy advantages.

2. A religious life is a servile and most uncomfortable state.The truth is, that besides the principal work which religion does for us in securing our future well-being in the other world, it is likewise the most effectual means to promote our present, and that not only morally,but by a natural tendency in themselves, which the duties of religion have to procure us riches, health, reputation, credit, and all those things wherein our temporal happiness is thought to consist.

1. Justice and honesty contribute very much towards all the faculties of the mind.

2. In the continuance and course of a virtuous man's affairs there is little probability of his falling into considerable disappointments or calamities — not only because guarded by the providence of God, but because honesty is in its own nature the freest from danger.

3. The religious and moral man is disposed to procure help, which never enters into the thoughts of a wicked one. Being conscious of upright intentions, he can look towards heaven, and with some assurance recommend his affairs to God's blessing and direction.

4. In all good governments the upright and honest man stands much fairer for preferment, and is much more likely to be employed in all things where fidelity is wanted.

5. The more and longer a virtuous man is known, so much the better is he loved and trusted.

6. Virtue brings peace and content of mind. Virtue befriends us in the life to come.

(Laurence Sterne.)

I. PLEASURE IS THE IDOL OF MAN. All men desire happiness, and all strive, some way or other, to secure it. But fallen man is liable to many and fatal mistakes in the pursuit of it. Is the man of the world really happy? Such men have their pleasures; but they have no true happiness, because their pleasures are neither certain, solid, nor lasting.

II. THE WAYS OF TRUE RELIGION ARE WAYS OF PLEASANTNESS. It is God's will that man should be happy. The knowledge of God in Christ is the first step towards happiness. It is not only "life eternal," it is present peace and pleasure to "know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent."

(Charles Davy.)

The man of pleasure utterly mistakes both his object and his pursuit. The only happiness worth seeking is found here; that which will live in all circumstances, and abides the ceaseless changes of this mortal life. "The ways" may be dark and lonely, yet how does the sunshine of reconciliation beam upon their entrance! Every step is lighted from above, and strewed with promises; a step in happiness, a step to heaven. Wisdom's work is its own reward — strictness without bondage. God rules children, not slaves. They work neither from compulsion, nor from hire, but from an ingenious principle of gratitude to their Benefactor, filial delight in their Father. Pleasant, therefore, must be the labour, yea, the sacrifices of love; short the path, cheerful the way, when the heart goes freely with it.

(C. Bridges, M.A.)

I. PREMISE A FEW THINGS FOR EXPLAINING THE TEXT.

1. What is said of the pleasures of religion supposes that persons are inured to the practice of it, and have a virtuous disposition and turn of mind. Every pleasure must have its faculty of perceiving, suited and adapted to it.

2. In interpreting the text we must except extraordinary cases, such as that of violent persecution.

3. The text does not speak of what is always the fact, but of the direct and natural tendency of the thing. The pleasures of religion may be destroyed by dark and gloomy notions of it, or by the influence of a melancholy habit.

II. THE PECULIAR EXCELLENCY OF THE PLEASURES OF RELIGION AND VIRTUE. They are the highest mankind are capable of; have everything in them that can recommend any pleasures to the pursuit of rational beings, and infinitely the advantage, in many respects, over all other enjoyments whatsoever. Let us show the difference between the several pleasures to which mankind are addicted, and prove that their particular sentiments, prejudices, affections, and habits do not destroy, or in reality at all lessen, this necessary difference; and that the superiority on all accounts, whether it be in respect of purity, solidity, duration, and every other circumstance that can help to furnish out the most complete satisfaction, is on the side of the pleasures of the virtuous man.

1. The pleasures of virtue suppose all those unruly passions to be subdued, or at least controlled and moderated, which are the cause of the greatest disorders and miseries in human life.

2. The pleasures of virtue will bear the strictest review, and improve upon reflection.

3. The pleasures of religion depend entirely on ourselves, and not on those numberless accidents which may either prevent, or blast, or entirely destroy all outward pleasures.

4. The pleasures of religion can never be pursued to an excess: never beyond the most deliberate dictates of reason; to bring a just reproach on ourselves, or to the injury of others.

5. Religious pleasures are our best, our only support, under the disappointments and calamities of life.

6. The pleasures of religion are of all others the most durable.

(James Foster.)

True piety has in it the greatest true pleasure. The ways in which she has directed us to walk are such as we shall find abundance of delight and satisfaction in. All the enjoyments and entertainments of sense are not comparable to the pleasure which gracious souls have in communion with God and doing good. That which is the only right way to bring us to our journey's end we must walk in, fair or foul, pleasant or unpleasant; but the way of religion, as it is the right way, so it is a pleasant way: it is smooth and clean, and strewed with roses. There is not only peace in the end, but peace in the way; not only in the way of religion in general, but in the particular paths of that way, in all her paths, all the several acts, instances, and duties of it. One does not embitter what the other sweetens, as it is with the allays of this world.

( Matthew Henry.)

I.THIS IS JOY ENDURING.

II.IT INTRODUCES TO GOOD SOCIETY.

III.ITS CHEERFUL PROSPECT.

IV.ITS JOYFUL TERMINATION.

(J. W. Bray.)

I. A JUST CONCEPTION OF THE NATURE AND SITUATION OF MAN. With a body compounded from the earth, man became a living soul. Between those very different substances, matter and spirit, the union is most perfect. The situation of man agrees with his nature. By his intellectual powers he asserts his relation to the world of mind and spirit; but his material part connects him with a world which, abounding with evils, manifestly appears to be the place of preparation for riper and ascending existence. With this nature, and in this situation, from whence can man derive the strongest promise of successful toil? A man may follow happiness by the path of power; by the pursuit of wealth; by becoming a votary of pleasure. But the ways of unrighteousness never can be the ways of pleasantness, nor its paths peace.

II. OF RELIGION, AS SHE STANDS OPPOSED TO HER RIVALS, THE MOST OBVIOUS AND DISCRIMINATING ADVANTAGES ARE THESE.

1. Her impartiality and easiness of access.

2. The comfort and certainty which attend her in possession.

3. The beneficial consequences of the pursuit which she directs.

4. The supreme beauty and importance of the objects to which she looks.

(C. Symmons, B.D.)

What is the generally accepted sense in which the word "religion" is used in our own times? The same persons are found to use the term in somewhat different senses. It may denote the creed or technical beliefs of different people — or the rites and ceremonies of each religious section of humanity. But religious doctrines and rites both derive their origin from the sentiment of religion which is common to all the religions of the world. Both belief and practice are dependent on what we may call a sentiment of God, a consciousness that there is a God, a desire to believe correctly about Him, and to please Him by certain actions. The sentiment is the same under whatever forms the religious doctrine and practice may show themselves. Religion is independent of the forms it may assume. Religion is radically a consciousness of God, involving various thoughts and feelings concerning Him, but always more or less coupled with a sense of personal obligation to Him. Religions are the various modes in which that consciousness is expressed, both as to the intellectual notions concerning God held as doctrines, and the rites, ceremonies, and practices regarded as obligatory, or as deemed pleasing to God.

I. RELIGION DOES NOT CONSIST IN MERE BELIEFS ABOUT GOD, OR IN THE OBSERVANCE OF RELIGIOUS RITES. Not that these are of no importance, only that they must not be put as substitutes for true religion. Since Comte's day there has been a tendency to confound religion with morality. The two things are distinct, though inseparable.

II. RELIGION IS NOT ALWAYS ASSOCIATED WITH TRUE BELIEFS. The intellectual beliefs of a man's religion can only be approximations to the truth more or less remote; rites and ceremonies are obligatory so far as we find them serviceable to our own spiritual culture, and beneficial to the community as acts of social worship. The value of religion consists in its affording satisfaction to the most imperative demands of our nature; in its power to soothe and console the mind under bitterest griefs; and in the bright hopes which it inspires for the life to come. The refinement and elevation of character among the vast majority of our race have been mainly owing to the sanctions created or intensified by religious emotion. Not one of human sorrows can be so adequately, so bounteously compensated for as by religion. Stoicism, the privilege only of the few, can only be enjoyed by turning the heart to stone. Epicurism, the resource of spiritual dipsomaniacs, is a remedy more degrading than suicide. Philanthropic enthusiasm, noble in itself, and demanded from us by religion, will only act as an anodyne, leaving the heart, in the intervals of its influence, face to face with its inconsolable misery. But religion reconciles us to all forms and degrees of sorrow. It turns every event that seems hostile into the act of a Faithful Friend. Religion reigns over the entire man — not content with the outward polish of the manners, but purifying at their source the principles and motives of all right conduct.

(C. Voysey, M.A.)

As man is endowed with reason and a sense of moral obligation, he is capable of being affected by rational motives, and therefore religion is congenial to his nature. That true religion produces perfect happiness may be proved —

1. From the eternal distinction which subsists between virtue and vice. In man there is a moral sense which approves or disapproves antecedently to the operation of reason.

2. From the internal and exquisite satisfaction which obedience to religious precepts affords, and the excruciating misery which a violation of them always produces in the human breast.

3. The observation in the text is displayed with the greatest force at the hour of death. Religion, immortal, is the never-failing friend of man.

4. The paths of wisdom lead to happiness, while a vicious course of life terminates in infamy and ruin.

(A. Stirling, LL.D.)

Both the hands of Wisdom are filled with blessings for those who come to serve her. Like the God of Wisdom she can never give enough to her devotees and worshippers. She has nothing but reward for those who love her counsels and obey her behests. As for her ways, they are like the streets of the New Jerusalem, paved with gold; and as for her paths, they are full of peace without disturbance, sacredly calm as the very security of heaven. Not only does Wisdom give with the hand — she grows, she abounds in fruitfulness, she surprises all her children with new products.

(Joseph Parker, D.D.)

Virtue is the image of God in the soul, and the noblest thing in the creation; and therefore it must be the principal ground of true happiness.

1. By practising virtue we gratify the highest powers of our natures.

2. Virtue, in the very idea of it implies health and order of mind.

3. By practising virtue we gain more of the united pleasures, arising from the gratification of all our powers, than we can in any other way. The course most conducive to happiness must be that which is most agreeable to our whole nature.

4. Much of the pleasure of vice itself depends on some species or other of virtue combined with it.

5. Virtue leaves us in possession of all the common enjoyments of life, and it even improves and refines them. This effect it produces by restraining us to regularity and moderation in the gratification of our desires.

6. Virtue has peculiar joys such as nothing else can give — such as the love of the Deity, peace of conscience, a sense of God's favour, the hope of future reward. Now consider some peculiar qualities of this happiness.

(1)It is more permanent than any other happiness;

(2)more independent;

(3)more pure and refined;

(4)it continues with a man even in affliction.Inferences:

1. How wrong is it to conceive of religious virtue as an enemy to pleasure.

2. What strong evidence we have for the moral government of the Deity.

3. What reasons we have for seeking virtue above all things.

(R. Price, D. D.)

I. THE PLEASURES OF RELIGION ARE MORE NOBLE, DELIGHTFUL, AND LASTING THAN THE PLEASURES OF SIN. More noble, as the soul, that is chiefly conversant with them, far excels the body; and as the objects from whence they are derived are superior to those that gratify our senses. The pleasures of virtue are more delightful than the pleasures of sin, as they are pure and without alloy. And the remembrance of having done our duty is a continual feast.

II. THE PRACTICE OF RELIGION KEEPS US IN PERPETUAL PEACE AND SAFETY. Religion preserves a settled tranquillity in the mind, and prevents disquieting fears and the tumults of unruly passions. It engages the kindness of Providence, and gains the good-will of men. It heightens every enjoyment, and effectually comforts in every trial.

(T. Newlin, M. A.)

True religion yields its joys only to the heart that is unreservedly surrendered to its sway. While the heart continues to be parted between God and the world, it cannot be to the disparagement of religion that the happiness promised by it to its votaries is not enjoyed. In true religion itself, in the ways and paths, the more open and the more private walks of heavenly wisdom, there is true blessedness. What is there in true religion to engender gloom? It is light; and it is the property and office of light, not to gather mists, but to dispel them. It turns the shades of night into the morning.

(R. Wardlaw, D.D.)

Most proverbial expressions will admit of some particular exceptions, and the plain meaning of this one is, that it is the natural tendency of religion to make men peaceful and happy.

I. THE KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE OF RELIGION HATH A MIGHTY EFFECT TO REMOVE THE PRINCIPAL CAUSES OF DISQUIETUDE. If the mind be easy and cheerful, it is not of essential consequence what our outward circumstances may be.

1. Religion removes doubt and uncertainty. The knowledge and experience of religion sets a man in a good measure free from anxieties, allays the ferment in his breast, and restores an agreeable composure to the mind. How pleasant is the assent which the mind gives to the truth, when it has the ready concurrence of the will, and the firm support of personal experience!

2. Religion removes the sense of guilt. Men attempt by various ways to relieve themselves of uneasy thoughts, but religion alone frees from guilt and its fears.

3. Religion removes the restlessness and turbulency of unsanctified passions. It strikes at the root of our corruptions, and forbids them rule and tyrannise in the heart.

II. THE KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE OF RELIGION ARE ATTENDED WITH POSITIVE JOYS AND PLEASURES.

1. The discoveries of religion afford the highest entertainment to the understanding.

2. Its hopes and comforts possess the heart. What a blessing is peace of conscience! And the sense of God's favour; and a firm faith in Divine Providence; and communion with God; and the hope of eternal life! There is a solid satisfaction in the temper and conduct religion recommends; in the duties of devotion and worship.

(S. Stennett, D.D.)

That pleasure is man's chiefest good (because it is the perception of good that is properly pleasure) is an assertion most certainly true, though under the common acceptance of it, not only false, but odious; for, according to this, pleasure and sensuality pass for terms equivalent. Pleasure in general is the apprehension of a suitable object, suitably applied to a rightly disposed faculty, and so must be conversant both with the faculties of the body and of the soul respectively, as being the result of the fruitions belonging to both. It is too often assumed that religion is an enemy to all pleasures — it bereaves them of all the sweets of converse, dooms them to an absurd and perpetual melancholy, designing to make the world nothing else but a great monastery; with which notion of religion, nature and reason seem to have great cause to be dissatisfied. He who would persuade men to religion, both with art and efficacy, must found the persuasion of it upon this, that it interferes not with any rational pleasure, that it bids nobody quit the enjoyment of any one thing that his reason can prove to him ought to be enjoyed. An argument from experience may be taken to urge that it must be the greatest trouble in the world for a man to shake off himself and to defy his nature, by a perpetual thwarting of his innate appetites and desires. But this religion requires.

I. PLEASURE IS, IN THE NATURE OF IT, A RELATIVE THING. So it imports a peculiar relation and correspondence to the state and condition of the person to whom it is a pleasure.

II. THE ESTATE OF ALL MEN BY NATURE BECOMES CHANGED. It is more or less different from that estate into which the same persons do, or may, pass by the exercise of that which the philosophers call virtue, and into which men are much more effectually and sublimely translated by that which we call grace; that is, by the supernatural overpowering operation of God's Spirit. A man, while he resigns himself up to the brutish guidance of sense and appetite, has no relish at all for the spiritual, refined delights of a soul clarified by grace and virtue. The Athenians laughed the physiognomist to scorn who, pretending to read men's minds in their foreheads, described Socrates as a crabbed, lustful, proud, ill-natured person; they knowing how directly contrary he was to that dirty character. But Socrates bade them forbear laughing at the man; for that he had given them a most exact account of his nature; but what they saw in him so contrary at the present was from the conquest that he had got over his natural disposition by philosophy. True pleasure is that of the mind, which is an image, not only of God's spirituality, but also of His infinity. Religion belongs to it in reference —

1. To speculation, as it sustains the name of understanding.

2. To practice, as it sustains the name of conscience. Religious pleasure never satiates or wearies; it is in nobody's power, but only in his that hath it. So that he who hath the propriety may be also sure of the perpetuity. The man never outlives it, because he cannot outlive himself. Then it follows that to exhort men to be religious is only in other words to exhort them to take their pleasure — a pleasure made for the soul, and the soul for it — suitable to its spirituality, and equal to all its capacities.

(R. South, D.D.)

The excellency of godliness and religion seen —

I. FROM ITS PLEASURE AND DELIGHT.

1. In the work of grace and regeneration wrought in the heart.

2. Even grace, the more it is improved, carries a delight and pleasurableness in it.

3. There is a great pleasingness in all the duties and exercises of religion.In prayer, reading the Scriptures, communion of the saints, sacraments, Sabbaths, etc. Religion does indeed cause some kinds of grief and sorrow, such as godly sorrow for sin. And when we say that the ways of spiritual wisdom and grace are ways of pleasantness we do not mean it of the mad mirth of the world, which consists in nothing but vanity and folly, and luxuriancy of spirit.

II. FROM ITS TRANQUILLITY AND QUIET. Religion is the business of peace, and carries peace along with it.

1. With God, the peace of reconciliation.

2. With ourselves, the peace of assurance.

3. With one another, the peace of communion. The more godliness, then, the more pleasure in godliness.

(T. Horton, D.D.)

These words are designed to counteract a prejudice which prevails, that religion is connected with melancholy, and calls upon us to bid adieu to all the innocent and natural enjoyments of life. The case of those who suffer persecution for the sake of religion should be excluded from the present view, which relates to the ordinary state and circumstances of piety in this world. And in order to contemplate the tendency of any principle we must view it as operating in its mature, and vigorous, and perfect state.

I. THE INFLUENCE OF RELIGION ON THOSE OBJECTS WHICH ARE SUPPOSED TO BE MOST CONTRIBUTORY TO THE PRESENT HAPPINESS OF MANKIND.

1. The prolongation of life. Piety inspires that moderation in all things which is equally favourable to the faculties of the body and the mind. It exerts a tranquillising influence on all our emotions. Involved in the prolongation of life is the preservation of health. The good man regards health as a talent entrusted to him.

2. The possession of reputation. Piety promotes esteem: a good man commonly lives down at last the enmity which his virtues had at first excited.

3. The acquisition of property. To the attainment of moderate wealth piety is favourable.

II. THE PRESENT EFFECTS OF RELIGION WHICH BELONG TO THE STATE OF THE MIND.

1. Belief in the good Governor of all things.

2. Harmony with this Best of Beings.

3. Free access to this Almighty Friend.

4. The most essential elements of piety are all favourable to happiness. These may be stated as adoration and benevolence.

(R. Hall.)

I. RELIGION PROMOTES HAPPINESS BY REMOVING THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE THE PRINCIPAL CAUSES OF MAN'S UNHAPPINESS. Many people account for the unhappiness of their mind by the peculiar circumstances in which they are placed. Differences in circumstances may, to a certain extent, influence our minds as well as our bodies; but still not so much depends on such circumstances as is generally imagined.

1. One cause of unhappiness is guilt.

2. Another is fear.

3. The influence of unholy tempers.

4. Insatiable thirst after creature enjoyments.

II. RELIGION PRODUCES HAPPINESS BY OPENING UP NEW SOURCES OF COMFORT AND ENJOYMENT IN THE MIND OF MAN. The world, and the good things of the world, are enjoyed in a new way. There is the testimony of a good conscience; an assurance of Divine favour; the Spirit of adoption; the enjoyment of communion with God in His ordinances; a persuasion of the truth of God's promises; and a solid, well-grounded hope. It is true that some professors of religion are not happy under the influence of their opinions and views. Some profess religion who do not enjoy the life and power of it. Some are double-minded, and try to serve two masters. Some live, as it were, under the law. Some are constitutionally inclined to discouragement and despondency, labouring under the disadvantages of a debilitated and nervous state of body. In conclusion, religion comes well recommended to you. There are two heavens offered you, one here and one in glory.

(J. Entwisle.)

It is a maxim admitted by all the world, that "Every one is drawn by pleasure." It is the misery of our fallen nature that we are not drawn so much by the best pleasures as by the worst; the pleasures we generally prefer end in pain; the pleasures we commonly neglect are such as would make us happy for ever. These are the pleasures of religion, the "ways of wisdom." What are the pleasures of religion?

I. THE POSSESSION OF CHRISTIAN GRACES. The great thing which distinguishes a Christian is "having the Spirit" (Romans 8:9). The Spirit is the author of a new and Divine life in the soul of the believer. Every grace is implanted in his soul, the exercise of which is as natural and pleasant to the new nature as the due exercise of our senses is to the natural man. These graces are knowledge, faith, repentance, hope, love.

II. THE ENJOYMENT OF CHRISTIAN PRIVILEGES. Such are —

1. Peace with God through faith in the blood of Christ.

2. Sacred joy in the redemption wrought for him.

3. Adoption into the family of God.

III. THE PERFORMANCE OF CHRISTIAN DUTIES. Such as prayer, praise, reading and hearing the Word, the Lord's day. As all these are good and pleasant in themselves, so they appear to greater advantage if compared with the pleasures of the world. They are certainly far more solid and satisfying, far more rational and noble, and, above all, far more durable. There is far more pleasure in religion now than there is in sin, and we are sure that it will end better.

(G. Burder.)

This passage breathes the voice of the most cheering encouragement.

I. EVINCE THE TRUTH OF THIS DECLARATION. The religious man is delivered by religion from those causes of solicitude, terror, and affliction which are the principal sources of the miseries of mankind; the experiences, helps, and consolalions to which, in proportion as men are not religious, they are strangers.

1. The most grievous of all distresses is the sense of unpardoned guilt. From this the religious man is set free. He looks up to God, through Christ, as to a reconciled Father. The burden is removed from his soul, and he goeth on his way rejoicing. Every token of grateful obedience which he is enabled to render overspreads his heart with gladness. As he advances in religion he advances in happiness.

2. Another distress arises from the immoderate fear of falling away from God under future temptations. The religious man fears for himself. But his fear is not an overwhelming terror. It is a fear which excludes all dependence on his own strength. It is a fear which produces humility, caution, vigilance, meditation, and prayer. But it is not a fear which brings anguish; it is not a fear which urges to despondence.

3. The religious man is delivered from corroding anxieties as to the events which may befall him during the residue of his life.

4. He is also delivered from the fear of the last enemy, Death.

5. There yet remain various circumstances which attend the religious man in the ordinary course of his life, and contribute no small accessions to the daily amount of his happiness. By the integrity and kindness of his conduct he is often placed beyond the reach of those who may be desirous of injuring him. His domestic life is a source of happiness. His friends will be found tender and faithful. The general temper of his mind is cheerful serenity. From the common bounties of providence he derives higher satisfaction than other men.

II. APPLY THE INSTRUCTION WHICH MAY BE DRAWN FROM THE TEXT.

1. Address those who are decidedly wicked.

2. Those who are wavering between the paths of religion and the paths of guilt.

3. Those who are religious.

(Thomas Gisborne, M.A.)

Here is another motive to get wisdom. Wouldst thou go in pleasant ways, and live in peace and quietness? All wisdom's ways are such. The man who gets wisdom gets true happiness and delight. When merchants go by sea, or passengers by land, they are glad when they find fair way and a quiet passage. The words of this text are fitly knit to the former, for long life, riches, and honour are not sufficient to make a man happy. He may meet with many occasions of sorrow, and of war, and trouble, which may make his life very uncomfortable. Here, therefore, Solomon adds to the former blessings pleasure and peace, to show that nothing is wanting to the wise man. He had commended wisdom before ex parte termini, from happiness to the end: now he commends it ex parte medii, from the comfort of the way.

(Francis Taylor, B. D.)

I. THE WAY OF RELIGION IS THE WAY OF WISDOM. They that are truly religious are wise, and the following of religion is the wisest course in the world.

1. The way of religion is the way of truth.

2. The way of God's commandments.

3. The way of faith, not of sense.

4. The way of holiness.

5. The way of irreconcilable opposition to the devil, the world, and the flesh.

6. The way of spiritual worship.

7. The straight and narrow way.

8. The way of universal obedience.

9. The good old way.This way is the way of wisdom, because —

1. God has directed the children of men into this way.

2. The Lord Jesus leads His people in this way.

3. The Spirit determines men to enter and walk in this way.

4. Jesus Himself took this way.

5. It is the way most agreeable to right reason.

6. It is the only way to happiness, here or hereafter.

II. THE WAYS OF RELIGION ARE THE MOST PLEASANT AND PEACEFUL WAYS. To whom are the ways of religion pleasant?

1. To those who have the art of walking in them.

2. To those who habituate themselves to close walking with God. Consider —

3. The testimony of the saints who, in all ages, have given this for their verdict of the ways of God.

4. That pleasure, innocency and holiness arrive always together at their height.

5. That religion, so far as it does prevail, frees us from the cause of our woe.

6. That God directs and assists His servants by His Spirit.

7. That the Lord binds upon His saints the walking in His ways with the softest and sweetest ties imaginable, the answering of which must needs create a pleasure in the doing thereof.

8. There is a sweetness interwoven with the Christian walk.

9. There is a transcendent pleasure at the end of the way.Religion, then, brings a calm into the soul which no other thing can do. It gives a rest and satisfaction that can nowhere else be found. It breaks the reigning power of lusts and corruptions, which cause the soul much uneasiness. It brings the soul to the accomplishment of its desires. It brings into a state of resignation to the will of God. The pleasures of religion are of such an elevated nature that all others seem but low and grovelling in comparison of them; such as the victory over lusts and corruptions; the approbation of one's own conscience;the assurance of God's acceptance; the joy of doing good to others; communion with God; assurance of the Lord's love and eternal salvation. Such pleasures are refined and pure; they satisfy without loathing or disgust; they are ready, and near at hand; and lasting. Religion helps a man to draw the greatest possible pleasure from created things,

III. PEACE ALSO IS TO BE ENJOYED IN THE WAY OF RELIGION. A sevenfold peace.

1. With God.

2. Of conscience.

3. Of heart by the soul's rest in God.

4. Of mind.

5. With the creatures of God.

6. As prosperity.

7. Peace eternal.What peace can any one have in the way of sin? What peace is there to a man who is a stranger to the Mediator of peace? What peace so long as stinging guilt remains in the conscience, unsatisfied desires in the heart, and lusts reigning within?

(T. Boston, D.D.)

He who would effectually plead the cause of piety and religion must not only recommend the principles of it to the understanding, as most true and certain, but the practice of it to the will and affections, as desirable and delightful. Nothing would tend more to the advancement of true godliness than if we could clearly demonstrate that it hath not only the advantage above sin and vice in respect of future and eternal joys, but in respect of present pleasure and satisfaction. What is this wisdom which is thus profitable, thus pleasant? Is it a subtle management of our own concerns? Nay, it is nothing else but true religion, solid piety and holiness.

I. ALL PLEASURE ARISETH FROM AN ATTEMPERED SUITABLENESS AND HARMONY THERE IS BETWEEN THE FACULTY AND THE OBJECT. Where there is any disagreement, either in contrariety or in excess, the result is not pleasure but torment.

1. The pleasures which religion brings are not such as do immediately affect the body, the drossy and earthy part of man.

2. Religion, as it doth allow, so it adds a sweetness and relish to the lawful comforts of this present life. Experience proves that sobriety and temperance bring more true pleasure than excess and riot. A constant fear of God, and a conscientious obedience to Him, give a seasoning to all our earthly enjoyments. A good conscience is a continual feast.

3. The chief joys which religion gives are internal and mental. And these are incomparably beyond the delights of sense.

II. THIS PURE AND SPIRITUAL PLEASURE ARISETH IN THE MIND FROM THREE THINGS.

1. A congruity and suitableness in holy and religious actions to the rules and principles of right reason. There are three general principles of natural religion.(1) That God is loved and feared above all, and the revelations of His will to be credited and obeyed.(2) That we ought to govern ourselves with all temperance and sobriety, in the use of the comforts of this life.(3) That we ought to demean ourselves towards others with the exactest justice and equity. Where our actions do correspond with these principles of reason, there must arise an intellectual joy and complacency.

2. The comfortable reflections of our own consciences upon holy and religious actions. Self-reflection is sweet and comfortable to a true Christian.

3. The hope and expectation of the eternal reward of our obedience.

4. That must be most pleasant which calms all our perturbations and disturbances, and fits us to enjoy both God and ourselves in a sedate composure.

III. COMMON OBSERVATION AND EXPERIENCE WILL BE CITED TO DISPROVE ALL THESE SPECULATIONS CONCERNING THE PLEASURE OF RELIGION. It is pleaded that, in actual fact, many of the votaries of religion are miserable and melancholy. In answer we say —

1. The joys of religion are not loud and tumultuous, but grave, solid, and serious. "True joy is a severe thing." It lies deep and recondite, in the centre of the soul, and fills it with calm thoughts, sedate affections, and uniform peace and tranquillity.

2. If, at any time, the religious man be really sad and dejected, this is not to be imputed to religion, but to the want of it, either in himself or others.

3. Even the tears and sorrows of a true, pious Christian have a more solid joy in them than all the noise and extravagant jollity of wicked men. There is a sweetness even in mourning, when it is filial and ingenuous. Tears are a solace, and grief itself an entertainment.

IV. WHAT THEN IS TO BE SAID OF THE MORTIFICATIONS AND SELF-DENIALS WHICH RELIGION REQUIRES? — ARE NOT THESE UNPLEASANT? Is there nothing in these things that is difficult to be done, and grievous to be borne?

1. It is true that there are many things in religion which are difficult and laborious, but this does not argue them to be unpleasant and grievous. The whole Christian life is warfare; in it there must be strain and discipline.

2. We must keep in mind that there is a twofold nature in every Christian — his corrupt and his Divine nature. Two contrary parties are struggling within him. The rigorous duties of religion are only so to the corrupt and sinful inclinations; they are a joy and pleasure to the renewed and sanctified nature.

3. The severities of religion are far more difficult and distasteful at our first entrance upon a holy life than they will be when we are confirmed and habituated in it.

4. The severities of religion are no more nor greater than what we are content to undergo in things of another nature. The sinner meets with far more trouble in the ways of sin than the most strict and holy Christian can do in the ways of obedience. The complaints against the rigours of religion proceed only from mistakes and prejudices.

(Bp. E. Hopkins.)

If we consider wisdom only as an object of speculation, the mind hath satisfaction in meditating upon it. The greatest delight ariseth from serious devout meditation on God. Pleasure springeth from different occasions. We ought to use our reason in order to choose those pleasures which, all things considered, are the best and fittest for us. In order to choose we should consider —

1. The testimony of those who have made trial of wisdom's ways, and agree in assuring us that they are. ways of pleasantness and peace.

2. The experience of those who have but the lowest measure of this wisdom; these can show the painfulness of the ways of sin and folly.

3. The fact that wisdom's ways lead to the enjoyment of the Divine favour, and our walking in them is the only foundation upon which we can have confidence toward God.

4. The pleasures which accompany sincere religion; that is, which arise from the testimony of an approving conscience. Compare the pleasures of religion with the pleasures of sense.(1) The gratifications of sense are common with us to the brutal kinds.(2) The pleasures of this world are but precarious; we can have no sure hold on them.(3) Those only can be accounted the greatest, the noblest, and in all respects the most valuable comforts, which support and relieve the mind in its greatest need.

(J. Abernethy, M. A.)

By "wisdom" is understood an habitual skill or faculty of judging aright about matters of practice. "Ways" and "paths" in Scripture dialect are the courses and manners of action. By "pleasantness" may be meant the joy and delight accompanying a course of such actions, and by "peace" the content and satisfaction which ensue from it. A course of life directed by wisdom and good judgment is delightful in the practice, and brings content after it.

1. Wisdom is of itself delectable and satisfactory, as it implies a revelation of truth and a detection of error to us; as it satisfies our best desires, by enriching our minds with excellent and useful knowledge, directed to the noblest objects, and serviceable to the highest ends.

2. Wisdom disposes us to acquire and to enjoy all the good and happiness we are capable of.

3. Wisdom frees us from the company of anxious doubt in our actions, and the consequence of bitter repentance.

4. Wisdom begets in us a hope of success in our actions.

5. Wisdom prevents discouragement from the possibility of ill-success, and makes disappointment tolerable.

6. Wisdom makes all the troubles, griefs, and pains incident to life easy and supportable, by rightly valuing the importance and moderating the influence of them.

7. Wisdom always has a good conscience attending it.

8. Wisdom confers on its possessor a facility, expert readiness, and dexterity in action which is a very pleasant and commodious quality.

9. Wisdom disposes us with judgment to distinguish, and with pleasure to relish, wholesome things.

10. Wisdom acquaints us with ourselves, our own temper and constitution, our propensities and passions, our habitudes and capacities.

11. Wisdom procures and preserves a constant favour and fair respect of men, purchases a good name, and upholds reputation.

12. Wisdom instructs us to examine, compare, and rightly to value the objects that court our affections and challenge our care, merely regulating our passions and moderating our endeavours.

13. Wisdom preserves order, the parent of peace; and prevents confusion, the mother of iniquity, strife, and disquiet.

14. Wisdom discovers our relations, duties, and concernments with respect to men, as well as the natural grounds of them.

15. It acquaints us with the nature and reason of true religion, affording the most convincing arguments to persuade us to the practice of it.

16. Wisdom attracts the favour of God, purchases for us a glorious reward, and secures to us a perpetual felicity. All these things are sources of satisfaction and delight.

(Isaac Barrow, D.D.)

This is not only the excellence, but the peculiar excellence, of religion. The ways of folly and vice, all things considered, are not ways of pleasantness. Goodness is proposed as the duty, and pleasure as the reward — a reward which the world and Satan are not able to give.

I. THE WAYS OF RELIGION ARE WAYS OF PLEASANTNESS.

1. There is a pleasure in the duties immediately relating to God; such as love, faith, reliance, resignation, hope, prayer, and thanksgiving. These are all apparently cheerful duties, and when duly performed, must be attended with the highest satisfaction.

2. There is a pleasure in those occupations in which a virtuous and religious man will be frequently employed.

3. There is a pleasure in that behaviour towards others, and that manner of prosecuting our worldly affairs, which ever accompany a religious disposition.

4. There is a pleasure in performing our duty to ourselves, as it relates to the body and to the passions.

II. THE WAYS OF SIN ARE NOT WAYS OF PLEASANTNESS.

1. No man can be happy who acts against his conscience.

2. Those who feel no remorse of conscience may have shaken off some fears, but then they have lost the greatest comfort of life, which is hope.

3. Every action contrary to reason and religion is, if not always, yet certainly for the most part, hurtful even in this life.

III. THE OBJECTIONS WHICH WICKED MEN MAKE TO THESE PROPOSITIONS.

1. They say they do find pleasantness in their self-gratifications.

2. Sinners object that good men, who affirm from their own experience that there is pleasure in righteousness, are grave dissemblers, who conceal the real state of their minds: that really they sacrifice their present ease and satisfaction.

3. Sinners say that the pleasures of a pious mind, if there be such, arise from a strong fancy, from fanaticism and enthusiasm.

4. Sinners say experience shows these boasted pleasures of religion not to be very common amongst Christians.

5. Sinners may object that some duties of Christianity are harsh and disagreeable, as repentance, self-denial, and mortifications, and that therefore the ways of religion cannot be ways of pleasantness.

(J. Jortin, D. D.)

Are we to understand, then, that those who are wise and of an understanding heart are saved from all the disappointment and trouble of earthly pilgrimage? The facts of life instantly contradict such a view. But there is life within life. The true life throbs beneath all the appearances which are possible to the observer, and even below the experiences which often trouble the believer himself. The most illustrious instance of all completely disproves the suggestion that true wisdom exempts from earthly trial, for the Son of God Himself was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as for His poverty, it is enough to know that as the Son of Man He had not where to lay His head.

(Joseph Parker, D.D.)

Here the motive presented is that of the present and immediate happiness in this world which is uniformly to be found in God's service.

I. EXPLAIN THE STATEMENT OF THE TEXT. Wisdom is the fear of the Lord, doing the commandments of God, or in other words, religion. It is not merely said that religious ways lead to pleasantness; they are the ways of pleasantness in the abstract. Religion does not merely make people happy, religion is happiness. There is no way in which true wisdom requires us to walk which is not a way of peace; not only is there peace in the end, there is peace by the way.

II. CONFIRM THE STATEMENT OF THE TEXT. Remember the character of God. He wills the happiness of His servants now, and not merely by and by (1 Timothy 4:8). Godliness has the "promise of the life that now is."

III. ACCOUNT FOR THE STATEMENT OF THE TEXT. Religion in every one of its exercises is happiness.

1. Take it in its most general character — as consisting in the love of God and our neighbour. The atmosphere of love is the atmosphere of heaven. There is more happiness in loving than in being loved.

2. Every one of the "fruits of the Spirit" is an ingredient of happiness — love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.

3. Consider the happiness naturally attendant on the Christian's occupation, the pursuit of everlasting glory.

4. The happiness of a good conscience, and so the consciousness of peace with God.

(F. F. Trench, M.A.)

Matthew Henry's deathbed was tranquil as a little child's. Speaking to Mr. Illidge, he said, "You have been used to take notice of the sayings of dying men; this is mine: that a life spent in the service of God, and communion with Him, is the most pleasant life that any one can live in this world."

(A. B. Grosart.)

I know that sometimes the worldling may seem to have the best of it. He laughs a louder laugh, and is more boisterous in his mirth. He has need to be. He must laugh aloud to convince himself that he is happy. He is obliged to be demonstrative in his merriment, or he could not give himself credit for it. What is the value of it all? Listen to one who had laughed more than most men, or, at any rate, had tried to laugh more: "I said of laughter, It is mad; and of mirth, What doeth it?" The worldling's joy, such as it is, is fitful and short-lived. It is a fine-weather joy, like that of some of the songsters of the wood; like that of the nightingale, which, though she sings in the night, cannot sing in the wild; like the notes of the blackbird, which die away as the season advances and when her nestlings are all hatched, as though parental anxieties had been too much for her; like the light-heartedness of the cuckoo, which is a summer bird, but has no song to enliven our winter's gloom. The worldly heart has its songs, but they do not last. They are only songs of sunshine, songs of summer. But the robin sings all the year round. In the spring, upon the orchard spray, canopied with apple blossoms; in the summer, in the still depths of the forest shade; and in the winter, too, on the naked blackthorn, exposing his little red bosom to the wintry blast, he twitters cheerily amid the snows. Such is the Christian's joy, stable and lasting. The other is but a counterfeit, and the tinsel soon wears off. Yonder clown, who by his antics end grimaces upon the stage sets the spectators in a roar, is not a merry man. He has left a sick child at home, and the last look he had at her pale face, as she lay upon her poor pallet in their mean lodging, smote him to the heart, for it told him she was like to die. And from that dying couch he has come to grin and caper at the pantomime to make English holiday. And haunted by that wasted face and those sunken eyes, every jest to him is agony, and every burst of laughter a cruel pang. Such is the pleasure of the sinner, a mere surface mirth, a forced hilarity, with a poisoned barb rankling at the heart. But now religion, the fear of the Lord, is joy, all joy, and always joy. "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, end all her paths are peace." "Rejoice... and again I say rejoice," is not only a permission, but a command to the Christian. When he is not happy, it is not because of his religion, but because for some reason in himself he has missed its consolations.

(J. Halsey.)

All her paths are peace
The "wisdom" in this passage is distinctly and profoundly ethical. The second clause is not a repetition of the first. Peace and pleasantness are not synonymous terms. The truth of the first clause is dependent upon that of the second. "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, for all her paths are peace."

I. THE LIFE OF TRUE WISDOM LAYS ITS FOUNDATIONS IN PEACE.

1. Its beginning is the "fear of the Lord."

2. When in harmonious relations with God, men finds the elements and forces of his inner life take their due posts of subordination and supremacy. Though there is conflict, yet the higher principles govern, the Diviner forces sit upon the throne.

3. The life being thus charged with Divine force cannot be governed by external circumstances.

4. It can know no anxieties touching the issues of the future.

5. Such a life enters into peace as far as possible with all men. Through the universalising of this wisdom the kingdom of peace shall come.

II. ON THIS FOUNDATION OF PEACE, AND ON THIS ONLY, CAN TRUE HAPPINESS BE REARED.

1. There can be no true happiness except that which springs from e harmonious life.

2. There can be no full happiness except for such. That which comes from some by-play of the life must be meagre and partial.

(John Thomas, M.A.)

Wisdom denotes e life of piety.

I. THE NATURE AND DESIGN OF RELIGION. It was revealed to show us the way of salvation; to guide our feet into the paths of peace; to exalt us to happiness here and to glory hereafter.

1. Consider the doctrines she reveals. Their direct tendency is to banish the fears of guilt, to console, and to animate with joy the fearful heart.

2. Consider the precepts which religion enjoins. Are they not perfective in our nature, and directly conducive to felicity?

3. Consider the promised aid she imparts. A gracious Comforter continually surrounds the godly man, who imparts every needful grace.

4. Consider the glorious rewards she reveals. To every desire of the heart she opens the most unbounded delights — delights commensurate to the widest wishes of the soul, and endless as eternity.

II. THE NATURE OF THAT PLEASURE ENJOYED BY THOSE WHO WALK IN THE WAYS OF RELIGION. The subduing of our desires and appetites is necessary to e course of piety; but even self-denial and the Cross become sources of pleasure.

II. THE DUTIES WHICH RELIGION ENJOINS HER VOTARIES TO OBSERVE.

1. The joys of prayer and praise.

2. The joys resulting from the sacred services of religion.

3. From meditation on the Scriptures.

4. From observance of the Divine commandments. Such are the pleasures, the delightful feelings, and peaceful satisfactions which result from walking in the ways of religion; and what enjoyments are comparable to these?

(D. Malcolm, LL.D.)

An inclination to pleasure is usually the favourite passion of young people. Here religion is recommended under a view of the delights that attend it. Wisdom here may be taken as a perfection in God, as Christ, or as the grace in us whereby we are made wise unto salvation; for the ways of spiritual wisdom, or of true religion, may be said to be the ways of all these. They are ways originally laid out, adjusted, and directed to by the unerring wisdom of the Eternal Mind; they are the ways that Christ has made known to us, recommended and enjoined by His Word and Spirit, and in part by His own example; and they are the ways that an enlightened and renewed soul understands, approves of, and chooses to walk in. These are ways of pleasantness, including the utmost satisfaction and delight. They are "paths of peace," including all prosperity and safety. Prosperity and peace are found not only when the end is reached, but also while we are walking in the way; and not merely in some of the ways, but in all of them.

I. THE ABSOLUTE VIEW THAT MAY BE TAKEN OF THE PLEASURES TO BE FOUND IN CHRIST'S WAYS.

1. The excellence of Christ's ways themselves. As wisdom's ways, there must be a fulness in them of all that is desirable. We are, in them, conversant with God and Christ, heaven and glory, things spiritual and sublime, holy and good. We are called to have exalted thoughts and estimations of the Lord Jesus, and to delight in Him. It may be said this is only showing the fairest face of religion. There is something to be suffered as well as to be enjoyed in Christ's ways. But nothing we have to suffer can compare with what is to be enjoyed; and the very sufferings bring to us their own joys.

2. The suitableness of these ways to a renewed mind. However good in themselves, if not suitable to our taste and relish, they cannot afford us any pleasures. An unregenerate, carnal temper has no relish for Christ's ways. When regenerate, spiritual, and holy objects, acts, and exercises become agreeable. A renewed mind has a new relish. It delights "in the law of God after the inward man."

3. A sense of the Divine favour and acceptance in Christ's ways, and of our own interest in the great and blessed things we meet with there.

4. A lively hope of the happy and eternal issues of Christ's ways. Who can rate the joy that results from strong and assuring expectations of a blessed and glorious immortality.

II. THE COMPARATIVE VIEW THAT MAY BE TAKEN OF THE PLEASURES TO BE FOUND IN CHRIST'S WAYS. They are to be preferred to all others. The pleasures of the mind are more excellent than all the pleasures of sense; and the pleasures of religion are superior to the pleasures of mind. When the gracious soul has most to do with God through Christ, in a way of holy communion with Him, of contemplation and adoration of Him, obedience to Him, delight in Him, and hope of His glory, it is inexpressibly more pleased and better entertained than it possibly can be with the finest speculations and most evident demonstrations of reasons and philosophy. 1 There is more worth and dignity in the pleasure of Christ's ways than in all sensitive enjoyments. There is a true greatness of soul in the contempt of sensual pleasures any farther than they are necessary to the support of this present frail life, and a contentment without them, even when what is necessary for their support is providentially withheld from us.

2. There is more solid satisfaction in this pleasure than in all sensitive enjoyments. The pleasures of the sense rather cloy than satisfy.

3. There is more continuance in this pleasure than in all sensitive enjoyments. The pleasures of sense are all precarious, uncertain, and perishing things. The pleasures of Christ's ways are of an abiding nature: "durable riches" (Proverbs 8:18). The good man is satisfied from himself. Believers carry their happiness about them, they carry it within themselves; no bitternesses of the present life can destroy this pleasure. It is true that real Christians are not always rejoicing; but this is not due to any defect in the objects of their pleasures, or in their state and principles, but to their not living and acting up to them. Improvements:(1) Let there be self-reflection, as to what you have found in Christ's way.(2) Let all your taste for pleasure put you upon seeking that which is to be found in Christ's ways.

(John Guyse.)

I. THE CONTROL WHICH A RIGHTEOUS MAN EXERCISES OVER HIS PASSIONS AND DESIRES. A righteous man is a happy man, because he is a free man, and the servant to no inward lust; he can act up to his own decisions, and when he sees what is right, he can do it. If there is wretchedness upon earth, it is to live by a rule which we perpetually violate. The most miserable of human beings are professed sinners, men who despise rule, who look upon their passions as mere instruments of pleasure. Putting aside all religious considerations, there is not a greater mistake than to suppose that a profligate man can be happy. He may seem to be happy because his enjoyments are more visible and ostentatious, but is in truth a very sorry and shallow impostor, who may deceive the young, but is laughed at by the wise, and by all who know in what true happiness consists. The truly happy man is he, who has early discovered that he carries within his own bosom his worst enemies, and that the contest must be manfully entered into. A religious man is happy because he is secure; because it is not in the power of accident or circumstance to disclose any secret guilt; as he is, he has long been; he can refer to the blameless tenor of years, to a mind long exercised in avoiding offence towards God and towards man.

II. THE FEELINGS OF CHARITY AND BROTHERLY LOVE WHICH RELIGION ALWAYS INSPIRES. As God has given to one object beautiful colours, and to another grateful odours, He has annexed exquisite feelings of happiness to the performance of every benevolent action. It is impossible to do good to others without feeling happy from it. The conviction which religion inspires, that a man is not born for himself alone, and the habit which it inculcates, of attention to the interests and feelings of mankind, induces at last that state of calm and permanent satisfaction which the words of Solomon describe. Nothing is more grateful than general love, produced by a long tenor of courtesy, of justice, of active kindness, and of modest respect.

III. THE COMFORTS DERIVED FROM THE FUTURE RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE OF RELIGION. A man of proper feeling always suffers from observing the striking disproportion that exists in this world between happiness and merit. It is the severest trial of human patience to witness the respect, honour, and prosperity of bad men. These sad scenes are tolerable to the religious man alone, from that final order and regularity with which he knows they will hereafter be concluded. Wherever he looks, justice in its most perfect shape terminates his view; all guilt is detected, all innocence is brought to light; at the conclusion of all things a never-failing Judge gives to every thinking soul the good and the evil which is its due. Pleasure, then, is gained by being the lord and master of our own hearts, by binding our passions in links of iron; by adapting worldly hopes and fears to the nature of worldly things; by obeying God, by trusting to His providence, by expecting His judgments.

(Sidney Smith.)

The "way" is always longer and broader than the "path." And the meaning may be this. The more general and public things in religion — things which all see and know — these are "pleasant." But the things which retire back, and are most unfrequented, and which very few either see or guess, all these are "peace." The same discrimination is traceable in the verse, "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths." Acknowledge God in the great things of life, and He will be sure to guide you in the small ones. Let us take this difference of the "ways" and the "paths" to lead us on in our further consideration of the text.

1. Wisdom's "way" is, first, a high way. It is always reaching up out of littleness, it ranges at loftier levels, it is above party views, it is a large-minded thing, it is always nearer heaven than earth. And this is very "pleasant," to be so free and independent of man's estimates and human judgments, to move in a pure, calm elevation of soul, beyond the common distractions, where the strife, and the noise, and the din, and the confusion does not come.

2. And wisdom's "way" always has one fixed mark. It throws lesser things aside as it goes, and it goes straight to a goal, and that goal is the glory of God. And this singleness of aim gives a strength to a character; it gives unity to the whole man, and that unity is "pleasantness."

3. And wisdom's "way" is a way of usefulness. It always puts usefulness first — before pleasure, before profit. It is a "way" of work. They who work there are always serving, always ministering. Each one has his mission — either he comforts, or he advises, or he teaches. But now let us leave the wider track, and go down to one or two of the more secluded "paths." For to all it is not always given to walk in "ways of pleasantness," but none who really look for it shall ever miss the "path of peace." There is a going out in a man's heart from its deepest places to Christ. He tells Jesus something which has been long a hidden burden in his mind. And Christ listens to him, and he feels it. And in the little "path" of that secret confession there is a "peace" which no words can tell. And now there is an avenue open between that soul and God. It was an avenue long closed; but now it is open. And an act of faith travels along to the Cross, and brings back a message of pure love, "Your sins are forgiven." I am quite sure that there is no "peace" worth the name — no "peace" for a moment to be put side by side with the "peace" of the simple feeling — "I am forgiven."

(J. Vaughan, M.A.)

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