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principles of our nature: her energy penetrates even to the deepest springs of human action: yet the affections which Religion claims, and the active exercise of which constitutes her perfection and triumph, are all natural affections. Hope and fear, joy and sorrow, love and hatred, are passions so intimately allied to our constitution that they may be said to form a part of our existence; and even from our earliest years they have been so continually in exercise, that the dullest and most ignorant are as well acquainted with them as the profoundest inquirer into human nature. These however, are the affections which engaged in the service of Religion, become the elements of true holiness. Whatever therefore, be the mystery implied in those powerful images in which man is described as regenerated and created anew by the agency of the Spirit of God, it is evident that they do not involve any practical difficulty. The change is certainly radical and complete, perhaps not perfectly to be understood by us in its deepest and essential energy; but the effects and evidences of that change are of a nature so intelligible, that the weakest faculties are sufficient to apprehend them. All know what their affections are; and all are capable of discovering to what objects they are principally directed.
It is worthy of observation, (though it may appear di- . gressive), that although some of the affections upon which Religion operates, are, in their lively exercise, exceedingly distressing, they are not those to which Religion has any natural or permanent alliance. Fear and grief are doubtless painful; when powerfully excited, they are the sources of the deepest affliction; but fear and grief, speaking correctly, constitute no part of Religion. She is acquainted with them only as grief for sin, and fear of condemnation. They are but as visitants in her kingdom. In Heaven they have no place. Their residence is chiefly fixed in that land of mourning which separates the realms of light from the dominions of guilt and misery. Religion, in her perfect state, nay, even in that maturity which sometimes has been attained in this life, knows only affections and feelings which are essentially delightful. Love, joy, hope, gratitude, are always sources of gratification. In their best and highest exercise they are the springs of happiness, refined, exalted, and ineffable.
Among the religious affections, I know not how any can better deserve an attentive consideration than THANK
Yet it is most strange, if in a world so full of wonders, any thing can justly be called strange, that a creature should ever need to be reminded of the duty of gratitude to his Creator. Our very instincts. tell us, that to be unthankful even to an earthly benefactor is the mark of a low and unworthy spirit. What must be the guilt then, of unthankfulness to Him, who, from the first hour of our existence, has been engaged in an unceasing course of mercy
and kindness towards us; whose bounty began before we could even conceive from whom it flowed; and has been continued to us through many years of indifference, disobedience, and ingratitude on our parts? There is scarcely any point of viēw in which the universal corruption of human nature is so visible as this. The very best are cold; willing to enjoy their blessings, yet in danger lest that very enjoyment should make them forget the Giver. And a large part of mankind have in every age consumed the bounties of Providence in the most stupid selfishness, utterly careless of any thing but how to renew
and increase their own gratifications. The wrath of Heaven was poured forth upon the heathen world, because "when they knew God they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful:" and it is evident from the numerous and pathetic passages in the Prophetic Writings, wherein the Almighty condescends to plead with his people, reminding them of his early covenant and long-continued mercies, that, of all their varied offences, an hardened and heartless ingratitude was the most condemning.
The truth is (and there are few truths more important), that the foundation of all thankfulness is laid in humility. A proud man never thinks himself obliged; and men being by nature proud, or at least exceedingly disposed to become so, are then only affected with a grateful sense of the goodness of their Creator, when his Spirit has touched their hearts, and taught them something of their real unworthiness. A hearty thankfulness to God is, perhaps, one of the most decisive evidences of a soul truly regenerate; and the most vigorous state of this grace will, I believe, always be found allied to the highest advances in holiness.
It is indeed very curious, and highly instructive, to observe, how different are the effects produced upon the minds of men by the dispensations of Providence; and to watch the secret principles of the heart, manifesting themselves in the sentiments which they express. We know of men, who, in later years, have rejected Christianity as a forgery too flagrant to deceive any enlightened understanding. Several of these, as Hume, Frederick, Voltaire, D'Alembert, Diderot, and others, have passed their lives, upon the whole, in much comfort and satisfaction, sharing largely of the blessings bestowed upon us, and exempted from most of the severer calamities to which we are exposed. Do their writings breathe a spirit of affectionate gratitude to the Giver of all their enjoyments? They are almost uniformly destitute of any thankful acknowledgments, and not unfrequently polluted with profane and audacious impeachments of the wisdom and goodness of their Creator: in the midst of happiness they arraigned his Providence. And now contemplate a very different spectacle, not less real, but to every well constituted mind far less melancholy. Look at the humble and suffering Christian, stretched upon the bed of sickness, and about to be separated, by an unexpected and mysterious dispensation, from the objects of his tenderest affections. Disease of body and anguish of heart are united to overwhelm him. He sees before him nothing in this world but agony and death. · Around him are assembled those in whose happiness his own was involved; whose welfare has been the subject of his daily prayer and nightly meditation; whom he hoped to have trained up to everlasting glory by his instructions and example. He must shortly be torn from them in the midst of his years, and leave them in a rude and ensnaring world, exposed to sufferings and temptations from which his parental watchfulness can no longer protect them. Yet, in all his affliction, his faith is still unshaken; his countenance is still animated with a smile of holy confidence; and his heart still glows with gratitude and love to his Almighty Benefactor. Such, in every age, according to the measure of their grace, have been the faithful servants of a crucified Saviour. Such more eminently was one* whose untimely loss many of us have lately deplored; the memory of whose wisdom and piety this writer delights to cherish; and to whose honoured name he consecrates, with a mournful satisfaction, this humble tribute of veneration and affection.
The motives to Christian thankfulness are as numerous as the mercies we enjoy, the dangers from which we have been rescued, and the blessed hopes which are presented to us. But, as in an extensive prospect, we select some commanding features in connection with which the lesser objects may be surveyed more advantageously, let us confine our attention at present to three topics, in each of which the great bounty and goodness of God are more remarkably visible.
And first and chiefest, as the most high and ineffable manifestation of the Divine love, the foundation and the seal of all our blessings, let us consider for a moment that stupendous dispensation, the gift of the only begotten Son of God; who died for our sins, and rose again for our justification. In the contemplation of this astonishing transaction, the mind will sometimes stagger as under a weight too vast for its weakness; and in a mingled transport of joy, and fear, and wonder, we are ready to exclaim, “Are these things so?" But shall we doubt the possibility of an event, only because it proves the love of God to transçend the height of our conceptions? Shall we imagine, that he who is incomprehensible in his wisdom, can be less infinite and immeasurable in the most excellent of all his attributes? Let us rather yield to the full tide of feeling, in the grateful reception of this inestimable blessing. To a sinner deeply humbled under the sense of his offences, the knowledge of a Redeemer is unspeakably precious; it is as the sounds of the seraphic choirs that first break upon the