There be many that say, Who will show us any good? LORD, lift you up the light of your countenance on us.
1. There is necessarily implanted in the very nature of man a desire of promoting his own happiness. This is a self-evident truth, and needs no proof. The only difference in men lies in determining wherein their true happiness consists, and by what methods it may best be attained. True religion is so far from discouraging men in their search after happiness that it forbids not the enjoyment of any one temporal blessing which God has created for the use of man, but only disorderly instances and unreasonable excesses.
2. Wicked and corrupt men seek this happiness in the sinful enjoyments of the present life; and their choosing to do so is their great error and folly. The enjoyments of this world are ranked by St. John under three heads, "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life": that is, pier, sure, riches, and honour. Every one of these has a great mixture of evil attending it, has at best much emptiness and imperfection in it, and has much unsatisfactoriness and disappointment going along with it. They are not at best complete enough to satisfy the mind of man; and if they were, they cannot continue long enough to maintain and preserve its happiness. Whatever will make the mind of man happy, must be able to satisfy it both in its whole capacity and in its whole duration. Whatever is not sufficient to effect this, cannot be man's chief and final happiness.
3. Virtuous and good men place their chief happiness in the knowledge and favour of God, in the practice of virtue and true religion; and their acting according to this principle is the greatest and indeed the only true wisdom.
(1) Wherein does this true happiness consist? Partly in their contemplating with delight, and meditating with pleasure, on the perfections of God the supreme good. Partly in the sense of God's present favour to them, arising from the consciousness of their agreeableness and conformity to His holy and Divine will. They know that God's favour and protection always accompanies righteous and just men. The favour God bears to virtuous and good men, they find belongs to themselves; and this affords them at all times and in all cases, a solid and rational satisfaction. Partly in the expectation of eternal rewards, with which hope they are supported here, and the actual possession of them, which they shall enjoy hereafter.
(2) In what respect it excels the happiness of sensual and corrupt minds. I shall only observe that this happiness, which is the reward of virtue, exceeds all other pleasures infinitely in the two forementioned qualifications of happiness, namely, perfection in degree, and continuance of duration (Psalm 16:11).
(S. Clarke, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.