Sep 072012
By Tryon Edwards, (1809-1894)

When good old Matthew Henry was on the bed of death, he said, “You have heard the dying words of many. These are mine: ‘I have found a life of communion with Christ the happiest life in the world!’”

And so every true and faithful Christian has found it. For the truths which Christianity teaches, the duties to which it leads, the spirit which it inspires, the hopes which it warrants and imparts—in a word, the entire character it forms, as well as the eternal and blessed end which its promises make sure—all unite in warranting the declaration that “Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come.”

John Randolph once said: “I have seen men everywhere, and the only men I have ever known who seemed to me to be truly happy were those who were Christians;” and Coleridge says: “That the Bible, and only the Bible, shows clearly and certainly what happiness is, and the way to its attainment.” And a higher than either Randolph or Coleridge, and one who had a far wider experience of the world, says of Divine wisdom or religion: “Happy is the man that findeth her. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her, and happy is everyone that retaineth her.” And so everyone who has tried the experiment has found it. “In Cicero and Plato, and other such writers,” says Augustine, “I find many things acutely and beautifully said, and that excite a certain warmth of emotion; but in none of them do I find these words, ‘Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!’”

There is an old legend that the devil once tempted a devoted man of the Dark Ages, telling him there was no hereafter, and urging him to seek for happiness by plunging headlong into the follies and vices and sinful pleasures of the world. “Well,” said the recluse, “if what you say is so, and if there is no other world beyond this, then I will seek the highest and purest happiness that can be found, by loving and serving Christ while I am here on earth.”

I know it is sometimes said, and has been said even from the pulpit, that what the world offers can give us no happiness. The world, however, does offer us happiness in a thousand forms. But the difference between it and religion is this: I am hungry, and the world offers me bread; but it is poisoned bread. I am thirsty, and it offers me drink; but it is drink from polluted and deadly fountains. It may satisfy my hunger and quench my thirst for the moment, but ah! there is death in it at the end! It is only the bread and water of life which Christ offers, in which there is no danger, and which will and do satisfy the soul, so that we shall hunger no more, and thirst no more forever!

Coleridge somewhere compares mere worldly pleasures to the “centres” or wooden frames that are put under the arches of the bridge, to remain no longer than till the latter are consolidated, and then are thrown away or cast into the fire. So it is, he says, with mere worldly and sinful pleasures; “they are the devil’s scaffolding to build a habit on, and when it is once formed and fixed, the pleasures are sent for firewood, and hell begins sometimes even in this life.” Such sinful and unhallowed pleasures are like the mocking mirage of the desert, luring on to disappointment, if not to death in the end. Only the pleasures of religion are satisfying in the enjoyment, and also both safe and enduring—the seed of an endless harvest of joy at God’s right hand in heaven.

That religion is the source of the highest and purest happiness, even for this world, every faithful Christian knows from his own experience. And if any who are not Christians would ask for clear assurance on this point—for higher evidence than the testimony of the thousands and tens of thousands who have tried it, and who can speak from their own blessed experience, to such we may reply—as Coleridge did to one who asked him, “How shall I find the highest and surest evidence of the truth of Christianity, of the reality of religion?” — “Try it yourself.” This is a test that everyone may try, and on which we may safely rest the question, for time as well as for eternity!