May 11, 2006

Those crazy pleasure-seeking Puritans!

Thomas Watson (a Puritan) once wrote:

"God is the chief good. In the chief good there must be delectability; it must have something that is delicious and sweet: and where can we suck those pure essential comforts, which ravish us with delight, but in God? In God's character there is a certain sweetness which fascinates or rather enraptures the soul."

I usually think of the Puritans in a different light. When I think of them, the words like: delectability, delight, comforts, and enraptures; aren't the first words that usually come to mind. I would probably think of words like, stuffy and sad. So this quote goes against my perception of the Puritan. The Puritans weren't against joy and happiness. That is a false perception based on these pictures we have in our heads.

Regardless of perceptions, the Puritans had honed in on some deep truths. They had understood that true happiness and true joy come, not from the pleasures of this world, but from a true fellowship with God.

In the book of Hebrews, we hear of how Moses knew of this truth. Read Hebrews 11:24-25:
"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time."

The pleasures of sin are not satisfying. Moses knew this, and made his choices by faith in this truth. The Puritans must have seen this as well. They were not weak in their desire for pleasure, but they were not going to be fooled into a false satisfaction. One of them even said, the pleasures of this world "only satisfy the deluded."

Even then, no matter how deluded you are, I do not believe that the pleasures of this world will even satisfy the greatest of fools. There are some who might think in their hearts that they have been satisfied, but it is, without a doubt, a false satisfaction.

We can see this truth demonstrated on a daily basis. Just consider the efforts put into pursuing money or fame or pleasure. It doesn't matter how much one gets, there is always a lust for more.

In the Chronicles of Narnia, the White Witch gives Edmund some Turkish Delight. Edmund loves this and immediately asks for more. In the book, C.S. Lewis makes a notation that the Turkish Delight had the power to cause the one eating it to be consumed with desire for more Turkish Delight. He even said that this desire would become so intense that if anyone had been given access to enough of the stuff, they would immediately eat themselves to death.

As humans, we do have a desire for happiness and joy. There is no doubt about that, it is the way we were created. We seek after it in so many ways, but all of the pleasures of this world will never bring the satisfaction that we crave. When we try to fulfill our desires with these worldly pleasures, we are selling ourselves far short of what has been offered us. C.S. Lewis put it this way:
"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."

You see, God is not out to make our lives miserable. He is not making up commands to depress us and quench us. No! He is merely offering us the greatest good, the lasting good, the ultimate joy. He wants us to be happy, but He knows that the only way for us to be truly happy is through Him. He is the only one who can satisfy.

Let me leave you with two other quotes from Thomas Watson... The stuffy pleasure-seeking Puritan:

"[God] has no design upon us, but to make us happy."

~ and ~

"Who should be cheerful, if not the people of God?"

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