“In the service of God, there is true liberty to do whatever tends most for our pleasure. A great and chief argument of Satan to dissuade men from the service of God is that it abridges of all manner of pleasure; it ties one up from seeking our own pleasure, but [we] must be obliged to be mopish and melancholy, and must never more pleasure and divert ourselves.
To this I answer that in the service of God there is full and free liberty to seek as much pleasure as we please, to enjoy the best kind of pleasure in the world, and as much of it as we possibly can obtain with all our might and main. There are no restraints.
Here, perhaps you may object and say how can this be: don’t the law of God command us to mortify ourselves and to deny ourselves of sensual pleasures, to take up our cross, to take Christ’s yoke upon us; will not allow us the full enjoyment of any worldly pleasure, [and] is not this a restraining of our liberty to do so?
This I answer. How can that be called an abridging our liberty which only restrains us from those pleasures that in a little time would turn into torments? Only from those that are honey in the mouth but a tormenting poison in the belly. Doth a father or mother abridge the child of liberty because he is not suffered to drink sweet poison? Is the child abridged of liberty because the mother will not suffer it to play with the flame of a candle?
Doth the law of God abridge us of liberty because it will not suffer us to run into hell, because he forbids those lusts that have a seed of hell in them? . . . Is it such an unreasonable thing in the law of God that it will not suffer us to be miserable when we desire it? All the liberty that we are denied by God’s law is this: he will never grant us liberty by his law to be eternally miserable.
God don’t restrain from true pleasure and satisfaction; yea, he obliges us to do that which will bring us to the highest pleasure and the greatest delights. He don’t restrain from pleasure in this world; indeed, he restrains us from the beastly pleasure of drunkenness and of fornication: that is, God will not give men liberty to be beasts. But the noblest, the most excellent, the sweetest and most exalted pleasures, we may exercise ourselves in them as we please. We may recreate and delight ourselves in those sweet angelical pleasures without any restraint or prohibition. We may refresh ourselves with those delights and none will hinder us: our consciences will not restrain us; God will not hinder us; we may roll ourselves in these pleasure as much as we will.”
– “Christian Liberty,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards vol. 10: Sermons and Discourses 1720-1723 (New Haven: Yale, 1992), 627-628.