Following Jesus isn’t always easy. Self-denial and cross-bearing take effort, stamina, and mental strength. Struggling with personal sin is a daily fight. Bearing reproach for the name of Jesus is a hard trial. But over and above these things, the Christian life is full of peace, joy, happiness, comfort, meaning, purpose, and love. Speaking of the incredible blessings that come with following Jesus, Matthew Henry’s 1714 publication, The Pleasantness of a Religious Life is a wonderful summary of this topic. I’ve been following Jesus as long as I can remember and and from my own experience I can confidently say that the blessings of following Jesus far outweigh the hardships. Of course, much more important than my feelings are the facts of Scripture. The Bible also clearly teaches that, as Henry put it, there is “pleasantness” in a “religious life.”
I very much recommend this book if you’re interested in this topic. It’s edifying for sure! But I also think there’s an apologetic value to this book. The Christian religion is not a dull, boring, unhappy and dreary religion. Henry’s book helps the reader see the joy, happiness, and comfort there is in the Christian religion. Although the older English in the book might make it a slow read for some, it is worth it!
For one example of the “pleasantness” in the Christian religion, here’s what Henry wrote about prayer:
They [Christians] have “access with boldness to the throne of grace,” and that is pleasant. Prayer not only fetches in peace and pleasure, but it is itself a great privilege, and not only an honor, but a comfort. It is one of the greatest comforts of our lives, that we have a God to go to at all times, so that we need not fear coming unseasonably (at a bad time) or coming too often; and in all places we may go to him, though we are as Jonah in the fish’s belly or as David in the “depths,” or ” in the ends of the earth.”
It is a pleasure to a person who is full of worry and grief, to unbosom himself (share his heart); and to one who wants (lacks) or fears wanting, to petition One who is able and willing to supply his wants. And we have great encouragement to “make our requests known to God;” we have “access with confidence,” not access with difficulty, as we have to great men, nor access with uncertainty of acceptance, as the Ninevites, “who can tell if God will return to us?” but we have access with assurance. “Whatsoever we ask in faith, according to his will, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”
It is a pleasure to talk to one whom we love, and who, we know, loves us, and though far above us, yet takes notice of what we say, and is tenderly concerned for us. What a pleasure it is then to speak to God – to have not only a liberty of access, but a liberty of speech, freedom to utter all our mind, humbly, and in faith; boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus; and boldness to pour out our hearts before God, as one, who, though he knows our case better than we ourselves, yet will give us the satisfaction of knowing it from us, according to our own showing.
Beggars who have good benefactors live as pleasantly as any other people; this is the case of God’s people, they are beggars, but they are beggars to a bountiful Benefactor, that is ”rich in mercy to all that call upon him.” Blessed are they that wait daily at the posts of wisdom’s doors. If the prayer of the upright be God’s delight, it cannot but be theirs.
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015