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me, so that I cannot look up. They are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart faileth
For God's innumerable and unmerited benefits, our gratitude and obedience is a proper return; and the more so, because this is the only return we can make. "What shall I render to the Lord," says David, "for all his benefits? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord; I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving. I will pay my vows to the Lord."
Our obligation to praise God is as plain and undeniable, as our obligation to love, trust, or fear him. It arises from his character, and our relation to him. If we ought to love him, because he is perfect-to fear him because he is almighty-to trust in him because he is allsufficient; then we ought to be thankful to him and bless his name, because he is the God of salvation, who daily loads us with benefits.
"It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord; it is pleasant, and praise is comely." Praise employs our noblest powers, sweetens the temper, expels anxious cares, stills the murmurs of discontent, smooths the rude passions, and composes the soul, in the day of adversity, to cheerful hope and resignation.
What can disturb and ruffle a mind filled with a delightful sense of God's righteous government, and daily employed in the grateful contemplation of his wonderful goodness and love? This exercise is adapted to raise us above the world, and fit us for heaven. It is the employment of saints and angels there; and will be ours, when we arrive there.
Charity is greater than faith and hope, because these will cease with life; but that will never fail. Praise is better than prayer and humiliation, because these are exercises which belong only to the pres
ent state; that will be the everlasting business of happy spirits above.
A pious man needs no arguments to evince his obligation to this duty. He feels it just as he feels his obligation to love and fear God. It is his very temper. A view of God's character excites his admiration and praise. A recollection of divine benefits awakens his gratitude and joy.
Our subject will easily suggest to us some useful reflections.
1. How vast are our obligations to our heavenly Benefactor!
If obligations are proportionable to benefits received, ours must be immense; for we are daily loaded with benefits. If a friend should relieve us in a time of helpless distress, or rescue us from death in the moment of despairing anguish, his kindness would leave on our hearts an impression of gratitude, which time could not obliterate. We should delight to see his face. We should often seek his company. With pleasure we should repeat to him, and relate to others, the story of our calamity and deliverance. And shall we forget the God of our salvation, who has not only rescued us from danger and distress, but prevented us with the blessings of his goodness? The blessings which he bestows are of infinite valuc, continued from day to day, and numerous as the moments of our lives. How our obligations increase! How should our gratitude swell and overflow! Who can utter the mighty acts of our God?-Who can shew forth all his praise! The grateful heart feels more than the mouth can express.-The Psalmist says, "Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Zion." The margin renders it more emphatically. "Praise is silent before thee." When praise attempts to speak God's goodness, it falters-it sinks into silence under the weight of the subject—it waits in solemn suspense VOL. II.
to know what to say; and, after all, rather admires than utters the memory of God's great goodness.
2. Our subject strongly urges us to daily devotion. The Psalmist says, "Every day will I praise thee, and bless thy name forever." "It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord, to praise thy name, O most high; to shew forth thy loving kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness, every night."
The daily worship of God by prayer and thanksgiving, is a duty so plainly resulting from our continual dependence on him, and his unceasing bounty to us, that a thinking mind cannot but discern it, and a pious heart cannot but feel it. And if, in private devotion, we ought to recollect and acknow. ledge personal favours; for the same reason, families are bound to recognize their common blessings, and with united voices to express their common gratitude and joy.
3. How unreasonable is envy and discontent! When we look round on our fellow mortals, we see those whom we imagine to be in a more eligible condition than ourselves. But perhaps we misjudge. We see only the brighter side of their condition, and we attend to the dark side of our own. In our state, there are agreeable circumstances, which we overlook; in theirs, some circumstances of bitterness may lie concealed from our notice.
But whatever may be their condition, Can we not find, in our own, sufficient matter of praise? Who can say, he is not daily a subject of divine favours? Yea, daily loaded with them?-Shall we be dissatisfied with a ecndition, in which we daily experience more mercies than we can express ?-Shall we envy the blessings of our neighbours, when our own amount to such a load, as all our gratitude cannot equal?
When we feel ungodly passions working within us, let us commune with our own hearts, and be still. Let us review the benefits which we have received, and meditate on those which we enjoy, and thus learn, in every state, to be content.
4. We see, that there is no occasion for anxiety about future events.
We have daily been loaded with God's mercies, and stil! we may trust ourselves in his hands.
Changes often take place in nations, in families, and in the condition of particular persons; but these changes are under the direction of a Being who never errs. Religion allows us, and prudence directs us, to guard against the evils which threaten our persons, our property, or our friends: But neither religion nor prudence permit us to indulge anxious fears. Has God ever forsaken us?-Has he not fed and clothed us by his bounty, guided us by his counsel, and protected us by his power?-Has he not smiled on our labours, and blessed the works of our hands ?-And why may we not still rely on his care? Has he not opened to the view of faith and hope a glorious world, in which dwell righteousness, peace and joy ?-And shall we be solicitous about particular events, which may await us here? -What have we to do, we transient, itinerant beings, but to secure a title to that better world, to pursue the line of our duty here, to leave all events with God, and lay up for ourselves a treasure in the heavens? The good man is not afraid of evil tidings; His heart is fixed trusting in the Lord.
5. We have abundant reason for submission under the adversities of life.
As this is a state of probation, afflictions are necessary: But while we suffer them, we are loaded with benefits. Who can say, he has not received from the hand of God more good than evil-more blessings than calamities? We meet with disappointments;
but these are often the fruits of our own unreasonable expectations. Our prudent labours are oftener succeeded than blasted. We have days of pain and sickness: But more numerous are our days of health and quietness. We suffer the loss of friends: But we are not left solitary; other friends survive. Our substance may be providentially diminished: But still we have bread to eat, and raiment to put on. If we should experience the spoiling of our earthly goods; yet we have the means of providing for ourselves in heaven a better and an enduring substance.
After all this, Can we say, that we have cause to complain? The world may fall short of our wishes; but heaven will far exceed them.
6. Our subject calls upon us to abound in works of goodness.
If we are loaded with benefits, some of them we should communicate to those who need.
Though all around us share in the divine bounty, all share not alike. Some may want particular blessings which we enjoy ; and we may want those which they enjoy. There ought then to be a reciprocation of benefits-an interchange of good offices. We are required to bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. The apostle instructs us, that mutual benevolence ought to introduce among christians a kind of equality; that our abundance ought to afford a supply for the want of our brethren; and their abundance, at another time, or in another respect, ought to yield a supply for our want; according as it is written concerning the manna; He who gathered much, had nothing over, having communicated the overplus to him who had gathered less; and he who gathered little, had no lack, having received a supply from him who had gathered more.