Thomas Watson on the Danger of Pleasure

The following is the seventh of Watson’s nine points on how not to miss God’s kingdom. It comes from his treatment of the second petition of the Lord’s Prayerthy kingdom come. At nearly 100 pages, the entire chapter reads like a lengthy booklet, but I easily count it as one of the most impactful texts that I have read this year.

With “fair pictures” (often now moving) upon screens before us at any moment, with “the most delicious music” ever at our fingertips, and with “all the candies” that we could want available at any hour, perhaps it is necessary to ask if we are today living as gods by default. May we give ear to Watson’s warning.

If you would not miss the heavenly kingdom, take heed of the delights and pleasures of the flesh. Soft pleasures harden the heart; many people cannot endure a serious thought, but are for comedies and romances; they play away their salvation. Homines capiuntur voluptate, ut pisces hamo [Men are caught by pleasure, as fish by the hook]. Cicero. Pleasure is the sugared bait men bite at, but there is a hook under it. ‘They take the timbrel and harp; and rejoice at the sound of the organ.’ Job xxi 12. ‘That lie upon beds of ivory, that chant to the sound of the viol, that drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief oinments.’ Amos vi 4, 5, 6. The pleasures of the world keep many from the pleasures of paradise. What a shame is it, that the soul, that princely thing, which sways the sceptre of reason, and is akin to angels, should be enslaved by sinful pleasure! Beard, in his Theatre, speaks of one who had a room richly hung with fair pictures, he had the most delicious music, he had the rarest beauties, he had all the candies, and curious preserves of the confectioner, to gratify his senses with pleasure, and swore he would live one week as a god, though he were sure to be damned in hell the next day. Diodorus Siculus observed, that the dogs of Sicily while hunting among the sweet flowers, lose the scent of the hare; so, many while hunting after the sweet pleasures of the world, lose the kingdom of heaven. It is, says Theophylact, one of the worst sights to see a sinner go laughing to hell.

 

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