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call upon him as long as I live (Psalm cxvi. 2). Praise doth but provide matter of trust, and represent God to us as a storehouse of all good things, and a sure foundation for dependence.
2ndly, The great respect it hath to love. Praise and thanksgiving is an act of love, and then it cherisheth and feedeth love: it is an act of love to God; for, if we love God, we will praise him. Prayer is a work of necessity; but praise a mere work of duty and respect to God. We would exalt him more in our own hearts, and in the hearts of others: “I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more" (Psalm lxxi. 14). We pray because we need God, and we praise him because we love him. Self-love will put us upon prayerr: but the love of God, upon praise and thanksgiving : then we return to give him the glory. Those that seek themselves, will cry to him in their distress; but those that love God, cannot endure that he should be without his due honour. In Heaven, when other graces and duties which belong to this imperfect state, as faith and repentance, cease, yet love remaineth; and, because love remaineth, praise remaineth, which is our great employment in the other world. So it feedeth and cherisheth love; for every benefit acknowledged, is a new fuel to keep in the fire: “I will love thee, O Lord my strength” (Psalm xviii. 1); “I love the Lord because he hath heard my voice and my supplications (Psalm cxvi. 1); “ That thou mayest love the Lord,” who is “thy life, and the length of thy days” (Deut. xxx. 20). The soul by praise is filled with a sense of the mercy and goodness of God, so that hereby he is made more amiable to us.
3rdly, With respect to submission and obedience to his laws and pro. vidence.
1. His laws. The greatest bond of duty upon the fallen creature, is gratitude. Now, grateful we cannot be without a sensible and explicit acknowledgment of his goodness to us: the more frequent and serious in that, the more doth our love constrain us to devote ourselves to God : “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. xii. l); to live to him: “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that, if one died for all, then were all dead ; and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again" (2 Cor. v. 14, 15). And therefore praise and thanksgiving is a greater help to the spiritual life than we are usually aware of; for, working in us a sense of God's love and an actual remembrance of his benefits (as it will do, if rightly performed), it doth make us shy of sin, more careful and solicitous to do his will; for shall we offend so good a God? God's love to us is a love of bounty ; our love to God is a love of duty, when we grudge not to live in subjection to him : “ His commandrents are not grievous" (1 John v. 3).
2. Submission to his providence. There is a querulous and sour spirit which is natural to us, always repining and murmuring at God's dealing, and wasting and vexing our spirits in heartless complaints. Now, this fretting, quarreling, impatient humour, which often showeth itself against God even in our prayers and supplications, is quelled by nothing so much as by being frequent in praises and thanksgivings: “ The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job i. 21). It is an act of holy prudence in the saints, when they are under any trouble, to strain themselves to the quite contrary duty of what temptations and corruptions would drive them unto. When the temptation is laid to make us murmur and swell at God's dealings, we should, on the contrary, bless and give thanks; and therefore the Psalmist doth so frequently sing praises in the saddest condition. There is no perfect defeating the temptation, but by studying matter of praise, and to set seriously about the duty: so, “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil ?" (Job ii. 10.) Shall we receive so many proofs of the love of God, and quarrel at a few afflictions that come from the same hand; and rebel against his providence, when he bringeth on some needful trouble for our trial and exercises and, having tasted so much of his bounty and love, repine and fret at every change of dealing, though it be useful to purge out our corruptions and promote our communion with God? Surely, nothing can be extremely evil that cometh from this good hand : as we receive good things cheerfully and contentedly, so must we receive evil things submissively and patiently.
3. It is a most delightful work to remember the many thousand mercies God hath bestowed on the church, ourselves and friends. To remember his gracious word, and all the passages of his providence; is this burdensome to us? “ Praise ye the Lord, for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant” (Psalm cxlvii. 1); and, “ Sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant” (Psalm cxxxv. 3). Next to necessity, profit; next to profit, pleasure. No necessity so great as spiritual necessity, because our eternal well-being or ill-being dependeth on it ; and beggary is nothing to being found naked in the great day. No profit so great as spiritual; that is not to be measured by the good things of this world, or a little pelf, or the great Mammon which so many worship, but some spiritual and divine benefit which tendeth to make us spiritually better, more like God, more capable of communion with him : that is true profit, it is an increase of faith, love, and obedience. So for pleasure and delight: that which truly exhilarateth the soul, begets upon us a solid impression of God's love, that is the true pleasure. Carnal pleasures are unwholesome for you; like luscious fruits, which make you sick. Nothing is so hard of digestion as carnal pleasures. This feedeth the flesh, warreth against the soul; but this holy delight that resulteth from the serious remembrance of God, and setting forth his excellences and benefits, is safe and healthful, and doth cheer us, but not hurt us.
USE.—Oh! then, let us be oftener in praising and giving thanks to God. Can you receive so much, and beg so much, and never think of a return or any expression of gratitude ? Is there such a being as God, hare you all your supplies from him, and will you not take some time to acknow. ledge what he hath done for your souls ? Either you must deny his being, and then you are atheists; or you must deny his providence, and then you are Epicureans, next door to atheism; or you must deny such a duty as praise and thanksgiving, and then you are anti-scripturists ; for the Scripture everywhere calleth for it at our hands : or else, if you neglect this duty, you live in flat contradiction to what you profess to believe, and then you are practical atheists, and practical Epicureans, and practical antiscripturists ; and so your condemnation will be the greater, because you own the truth, but deny the practice. I beseech you, therefore, to be often alone with God, and that in a way of thanksgiving, to increase your love, faith, and obedience, and delight in God. Shall I use arguments to you?
1. Have you receired nothing from God? I put this question to you, because great is our unthankfulness; not only for common benefits, but also for special deliverances: the one are not noted and observed, the other not improved. Humble persons will find matter of praise in very common benefits; but we forget even signal mercies. Therefore I say, have you received nothing? Now, consider; is there no return due ? You know the story: Christ healed ten lepers ; and but “one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet giving him thanks; and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleased, but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole" (Luke xvii. 15-19). All had received a like benefit; but one only returned, and he a Gentile and no Jew, to acknowledge the mercy. They were made wbole by his most miraculous providence, he was made whole by a more gracious dispensation : “thy faith hath made thee whole:" he was dismissed with a special blessing. God scattereth his benefits upon all mankind; but how few own the supreme benefactor ! Surely, a sensible heart seeth always new occasions of praising God, and some old occasions that must always be remembered; always, for life, and peace, and safety, and daily provision; and always, for Christ and the hopes of eternal life. Surely, if we have the comfort, God should have the glory : “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name ; bring an offering, and come into his courts” (Psalm xcvi. 8). He that hath scattered his seed, expecteth a crop from you.
2. How disingenuous is it to be always craving and never giving thanks! It is contrary to his directions in the word; for he showeth us there, that all our prayers should be mingled with a thankful sense and acknowledgment of his mercies : “ In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Psalm iv. 6). Do not come only in a complaining way : “ Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (Col. iv. 2). They are not holy requests, unless we acknowledge what he hath done for us, as well as desire him to do more. Nothing more usual than to come in our necessities, to seek help; but we do not return, when we have received help and relief, to give thanks. When our turn is served, we neglect God. Wants urge us more than blessings; our interest swayeth us more than duty. As a dog swalloweth every bit that is cast to him, and still looketh for more, we swallow whatever the bounty of God casteth out to us without thanks; and, when we need again, we would have more, and, though warm in petitions, yet cold, rare, unfrequent in gratulations. It is not only against Scripture, but against nature. Ethnics abhor the ungrateful, that were still receiving, but forgetting to give thanks. It is against justice to seek help of God; and, when we have it, to make no more mention of God, than if we had it from ourselves. It is against truth; we make many promises in our affliction, but forget all when well at ease.
3. God either takes away, or blasts, the mercies which we are not thankful for. Sometimes he taketh them from us: “ Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof; and will recover my wool and my flax." Why? " She did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold" (Hos. ii. 8, 9). Where his kindness is not taken notice of,
nor his hand seen and acknowledged, he will take his benefits to himself again. We know not the value of mercies so much by their worth as by their want: "Qohep 09.3alpot tò äyav laun pòv øk opvoi, a thing too near the eye cannot be seen; God must set things at a distance to make us value them. If he take them not away, yet many times he blasts them as to their natural use : “ If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings; yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart” (Mal. ï. 2). The creature is a deafnut: when we come to crack it, we have not the natural blessings, as to health, strength, and cheerfulness (Acts xiv. 17); or, if food, yet not gladness of heart with it. Or we have not the sanctified use; it is not a mercy that leadeth us to God. A thing is sanctified when it is a bono in bonum ; if it cometh from God, and leadeth us to God: “ All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come ; all are yours ; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's” (1 Cor. iii. 21-23). You have a covenant right, a holy use.
4. Bless him for favours received, and you shall have more. Thanksgiving is the kindly way of petitioning; and the more thankful for mercies, the more they are increased upon us. Vapours drawn up from the earth, return in showers to the earth again. The sea poureth out its fulness into the rivers; and all rivers return into the sea from whence they came : “Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. Then shall the earth yield her increase ; and God, even our own God, shall bless us" (Psalm lxvii. 5, 6). When springs lie low, we pour a little water into the pump, not to enrich the fountain, but to bring up more for ourselves: It is not only true of outward increase, but of spiritual also : 6. Stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, and abounding therein with thanksgiving" (Col. ii. 7). If we give thanks for so much grace as we have already received, it is the way to increase our store. We thrive no more, get no more victory over our corruptions, because we do no more give thanks.
5. When God's common mercies are well observed or well improved, it fits us for acts of more special kindness. In the story of the lepers : " Thy faith had made thee whole" (Luke xvii. 19), he met not only with a bodily cure, but a soul cure: “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?" (Luke xvi. 11.) When we suspect a vessel leaketh, we try it with water before we fill it with wine. You are upon your trial; be thankful for less, God will give you more.
Means or directions.
1. Heighten all the mercies you have by all the circumstances neces. sary to be considered: by the nature and kind of them, spiritual, eternal blessings first; the greatest mercies deserve greatest acknowledgment : “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. i. 3). Christ's Spirit, pardon of sins, Heaven, the way of salvation known, accepted; and the things of the world, as subordinate helps : “ Notwithstanding, in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in Heaven” (Luke x. 20). Then consider your sense in the want of mercies; what high thoughts had
you then of them. The mercies are the same when you have them and when you want them, only your apprehensions are greater. If affectionately begged, they must be affectionately acknowledged; else you are a hypocrite, either in the supplication or gratulation. Consider the person giving, God, so high and glorious. A small remembrance from a great prince, no way obliged, no way needing me, to whom I can be no way profitable, a small kindness melts us, a gist of a few pounds, a little parcel of land. Do I court him and observe him? There is less reason why God should abase himself to look upon us, or concern himself in us: he "humbleth himself to behold the things that are in Heaven and in the earth” (Psalm cxiü. 6). We have all things from him. Consider the person receiving, so unworthy: “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant" (Gen. xxxii. 10). “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?” (2 Sam. vii. 18.) Consider the season; in our greatest extremity is God's opportunity : “In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen" (Gen. xxii. 14), when the knife was at the throat of his son: “We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead; who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver; in whom we trust, that he will yet deliver us” (2 Cor. i. 9, 10). Consider the end and fruit of his mercy; it is to manifest bis special love to us, and engage our hearts to himself: " Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption" (Isa. xxxviii. 17), or thou hast loved me from the grave: otherwise, God may give things in anger. Consider the means by which he broughi them about; when unlikely, unexpected in themselves, weak, insufficient. The greatest matters of providence hang many times upon small wires: a lie brought Joseph into prison, and a dream fetched him out; and he was advanced, and Jacob's family fed. Consider the number of his mercies: “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!" (Psalm cxxxix. 17;) the many failings pardoned, comforts received, dangers prevented, deliverances vouchsafed. How he began with us before all time, conducted us in time, and hath been preparing for us a happiness which we shall enjoy when time shall be no more.
2. Satisfy yourselves with no praise and thanksgiving but what leaveth the impression of real effects upon the soul. For God is not flattered with empty praises and a little verbal commendation. There is a twofold praising of God, by expressive declaration or by objective impression: now neither expression nor impression must be excluded. Some Platonical divines explode and scoff at the verbal praise more than becometh their reverence to the word of God: “Whoso offereth praise, glorifieth me” (Psalm 1. 23). But then, the impression must be looked after too, that we be like that God whom we commend and extol; that we depend on him more, love him more fervently, serve him more cheerfully
DOCTRINE II.—That, God's providence rightly considered, we shall find in the worst times much more cause to give thanks than to complain. I observe this, because David was now under affliction : he had in the forner verse complained that the bands of the wicked had robbed him; yet, even then, would he give thanks unto God.
1 Observe here, the matter of his thanksgiving was God's providence according to his word, seen in executing threatenings on the wicked and