Denying the Sinful, Abounding in the Spiritual

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jw

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Proverbs 3.17 - [Wisdom's] ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.

Charles Bridges (An Exposition of the Book of Proverbs, pp. 29-30):

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 abide the ceaseless changes of this mortal life. The ways may be thorny, painful, dark and lonely. Yet how does the sunshine of reconciliation beam upon their entrance! Every step is lighted from above; 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 for hire; but from an ingenuous principle of love and gratitude to their Benefactor; filial delight in their Father. Pleasant therefore must be the labor—yea—the sacrifices, of love; short the path, cheerful the way, when the heart goes freely in it.

It is saying far too little, that the trials of these ways are not inconsistent with their pleasantness. They are the very principles of the most elevated pleasure. ‘The verdict of Christ,’ says Dr. South, ‘makes the discipline of self-denial and the cross—those terrible blows to flesh and blood—the indispensable requisite to the being his disciples.’ And yet, paradoxical as it may appear, in this deep gloom is the sunshine of joy. For if our natural will be “enmity to God,” it must be the enemy to our own happiness. Our pleasure, therefore, must be to deny, not to indulge, it. Never are we more happy, than in the mortification of sinful appetites, that only “bring forth fruit unto death.” Even what may be called the austerities of godliness are more joyous than “the pleasures of sin.” Far better to cross the will, than to wound the conscience. The very chains of Christ are glorious. Moses endured not “his reproach” as a trial. He “esteemed it as a treasure—greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.” Never do we so enjoy the comfort of our principles as when we are making a sacrifice for them. Hannah yielded up her dearest earthly joy. But did she sink under the trial? Did she grudge the sacrifice? She took up her song, and prayed, and said—“My heart rejoiceth in the Lord;” while—to shew that none serve him for naught—for one child that was resigned, five were added. In fact, the world see only half the prospect. They see what religion takes away. But they see not what it gives. They cannot discern that, while it denies sinful, it abounds in spiritual, pleasure. We drudge in the ways of sin. But we “shall sing in the ways of the Lord.”​
 
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