The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.
That virtue is its own reward, and alone sufficient to a happy life, was an opinion in great esteem among ancient philosophers. Scripture confirms the position that a virtuous life is the best course we can take to secure our happiness. But the philosophers went much farther in their commendations of virtue. They made their virtuous man, not only regardless, but even insensible of everything that concerned the body and this life. This was talking beyond the reach of human nature. Religion, which is our reasonable service, and treats us like men, does not require unreasonable things of us. It does not pretend to make us insensible of evils, nor prohibit the use of all lawful means to prevent or remove them. Religion lays the best foundation for our happiness in this world by prescribing such rules as, if we observe them, will enable us either to avoid these temporal evils, or will support us under them. The good man will have more pleasure in the good things of this life and less of the evils than the wicked. Besides which, he has enjoyments peculiar to himself which the sinner is a perfect stranger to.
1. A good man is most likely to escape the evils and calamities of life and to pass through this world the freest from troubles and vexations. His virtues will be a natural defence and security to him against many evils and miseries which would otherwise befall him. Most of the things which embitter human life arise from their faults and follies, their unreasonable lusts, and unruly passions. The good man places his happiness in the favour of God and the sense of his own integrity. He desires no more than he wants; and he wants no more than he can use and enjoy; and this reduces his necessities to a narrow compass. He bears an universal good-will to all mankind and is always ready to do all the good he can to others. He is sober and temperate in all his pleasures and enjoyments; and this upon a principle of religion and virtue.
2. Whatever calamities or afflictions befall a good man he will bear them much better than other people. Disappointments are not so great to him who takes an estimate of things, not from fancy or opinion, but from truth and reality, and the just weight and moment of them. Though his virtues are not full proof against the strokes of fortune, and cannot ward off every blow, yet they will blunt the edge of afflictions and greatly abate their smart. It is well to consider the uncertainty of all external enjoyments, not to overvalue them, or set our hearts upon them, or place our happiness in them.
3. The good man has pleasures and enjoyments peculiar to himself which will, in a great measure, supply the want of external blessings. Every good and virtuous action we do affords us a double pleasure. It first strikes our minds with a direct pleasure by its suitableness to our nature; and then our minds entertain themselves with pleasant reflections upon it. Learn —
(1) It is an unjust reproach to cast upon religion and virtue that they deprive us of joy and comfort and satisfaction.
(2) What is the true cause of the trouble and uneasiness which are to be found under the sun.
Parallel VersesKJV: The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.