TRUE CHRISTIAN HEDONISTS
Song 1:2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
For your love is better than wine.
I love the Puritan fathers. Of all the people in history, they have been maligned as evil doers and religious bigots but nothing could be further from the truth. You mention Puritan and you drag up images of witch trials and stiff, mean old men. In actuality, these men were lovers of God and were typically Christian “hedonists”. They were pleasure seekers who had found their pleasure in God. Jonathan Edwards spoke most often about delighting in God alone. What is the only think he is remembered for, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. You can read Bunyan, Henry, Trappe, Edwards, and Owen; the common thread in all their writings is delighting in Christ alone. Here is an example from Matthew Henry.
“She gives several reasons for this desire. Because of the great esteem she has for his love: Thy love is better than wine. Wine makes glad the heart, revives the drooping spirits, and exhilarates them, but gracious souls take more pleasure in loving Christ and being beloved of him, in the fruits and gifts of his love and in the pledges and assurances of it, than any man ever took in the most exquisite delights of sense, and it is more reviving to them than ever the richest cordial was to one ready to faint. Note, Christ’s love is in itself, and in the account of all the saints, more valuable and desirable than the best entertainments this world can give. Those only may expect the kisses of Christ’s mouth, and the comfortable tokens of his favor, who prefer his love before all delights of the children of men, who would rather forego those delights than forfeit his favor, and take more pleasure in spiritual joys than in any bodily refreshments whatsoever.”
Our generation is in great need of the theology of our Puritan fathers. Today’s generation has little knowledge of delighting in God. Religion is our side interest or escape clause, few people find the source of their pleasure in spiritual things. The average person delights in football, parades, parties, vacations, and holidays. Most find more pleasure in their hamburger or fried chicken than they ever find in church. It’s not that any of these things are bad in themselves, they are just clearly second best.
Most Christians see church and spiritual activities as their duty not their delight. We have replaced experiential religion with a technical version.
Years ago,I came into contact with the puritans in a very unexpected way. I had recently experienced a spiritual awakening, because of that strange visitation I began to explore history. I found myself becoming attracted to the teaching of Jonathan Edwards. I was surprised by his emphasis on spiritual joy. It became obvious to me that his religion was way more than technical. He had discovered joy in God and taught that joy in The Lord was the fountain from which all true, spiritual actions would spring. What a liberating truth, I had discovered the Puritan secret, they were Christian hedonists through and through.