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temple to the Lord at Jerusalem, and had dedicated his own munificent offerings for the same pious purpose, renounces all merit on account of, or deducible from, the work they had performed, and ascribes the glory to God alone. The sacred historian informs us, that “ David “ blessed the Lord before all the congregation, • and said, Blessed be Thou, Lord God of os Israel our father, for ever and ever. Thine, 5. O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and “ the glory, and the victory, and the majesty; . «s for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is 66 Thine, Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and - Thou art exalted as head above all. Both - riches and honour come of Thee, and Thou “ reignest over all, and in Thine hand is power 6 and might, and in Thine hand it is to make “ great and to give strength unto all. Now " therefore, our God, we thank Thee and praise “ Thy glorious Name. But what am I, and - what is my people, that we should be able to « offer so willingly after this sort ? For all things - come of Thee, and of Thine own have we “ given Thee.” * :
Humility is an essential concomitant of all acceptable thanksgiving. Is there not reason to fear that many who join in our devotional forms, are offering incense to their own vanity, while they pretend to give unto God “most humble “ and hearty thanks?" It is evident that the pharisee, whose duplicity our Lord has delineated in a parable as a warning to others, sacrificed to his own supposed goodness, when he stood in the temple and said, “ God, I thank - Thee that I am not as other men are, extor,
* 1 Chron. xxix. 10–14.
“ tioners, unjust, adulterers, nor even as this “publican. I fast twice in the week, I give
tythes of all that I possess :”* Our church supposes her worshippers to be possessed of the temper of the humble publican, who “ stood “ afar off, not daring to lift up his eyes to hea“ ven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God * be merciful to me a sinner!" +
Sincerity is equally necessary with humility. And indeed each of these qualifications supposes the other, for it is impossible to separate them. The sincere language of every unhumbled heart is similar to that which the church of Laodicea used, “I am rich and increased in goods, and “ have need of nothing.” While every genuine member of our church, who offers unto God “humble and hearty thanks," approaches His throne under a deep conviction of being in himself
poor, and miserable, and wretched, and “ blind, and naked.” I
The subject of our thanksgiving is generally defined to be God's “goodness and loving-kind" ness to ourselves and to all men.” Though we cannot but feel in the most sensible manner those proofs of His goodness which respect ourselves, and therefore properly begin with the mention of these, yet, as it becomes us to remember the wants of our brethren in our daily supplications, so also to celebrate God's mercy towards them in our acts of praise. And this is indeed expressly required of us by the Apostle, who enjoins that “giving of thanks," as well as
prayers and intercessions be made for all men.” It is one of the lovely offices of Christian charity to “ rejoice with them that do rejoice.” They
* Luke xviii. 11.
+ Luke xviii. 13.
Rev. iii. 17, 18.
whose hearts are truly sensible of the amazing kindness of God to the human race, will grieve that there are so many of their fellow-creatures, who, whilst they participate in His goodness, rob Him of His glory; and they will labour, by their zeal in the service, to supply the deficiency, lamenting at the same time the coldness of their own love, the languor of their own praises, and the enfeebled accents of their own tongues.
A portion of the form is appropriated to the case of those persons who, in the time of their distress, have desired the prayers of the church; and having obtained a gracious answer, are now solicitous that the congregation of the faithful should join with them in giving thanks to the Lord. The propriety of such an open avowal of our dependence on Him, cannot, on Christian principles, be denied; and the growing neglect of the laudable custom of desiring the prayers of the church in a season of trouble, and its concurrence in grateful acknowledgments for an answer to such prayers, is an awful proof of the decay of piety in the present day. The conduct even of heathens, in this particular, is enough to put us to the blush. For in the temple of Æsculapius at Tetrapolis, it is said, multitudes of sick and miserable petitioners were continually assembled, and the walls thereof were every where covered with painted tablets, recording the disease and the name of the party who had been restored to health. * In like manner those who had suffered shipwreck used to give thanks to Neptune for preserving them alive; and, in testimony of their gratitude,
* Strabo, quoted by Dr. Comber; to whose valuable work the author takes this opportunity of acknowledging his obligations for many useful hints throughout these Essays.
they hung up the clothes they had worn at the time of their escape, with a detailed narrative of their preservation inscribed on a consecrated stone, that others might be excited to join with them in the oblation of praise. * When Hezekiah received from the prophet a promise of recovery from his dangerous malady, his first inquiry was, “ What is the sign that I shall go
up into the house of the Lord?”+ A variety of other scriptural instances might be adduced of persons who returned public thanks for signal mercies. Can it be asserted that among ourselves the number of those who thus acknowledge the goodness of God for similar instances of deliverance, bears such a proportion to our congregations as is equal to the single individual of the ten lepers who were cleansed by our Lord? Might not an officiating minister ask, on occasion of every note he receives, “ Were « there not ten cleansed, but where are the “ nine?” I
From a general acknowledgment of God's
goodness and loving-kindness,” we descend to a more particular survey of the favours which we have received at His hands. Yet in our most diffusive strains of gratitude, when we wish to be most minute in our ascriptions of praise for the benefits we enjoy, we are obliged to express ourselves in general terms; for the ocean of His goodness is too vast to be fathomed by our powers of mensuration, and the accumulated drops of the dew of His blessing confound all our arithmetical calculations.
* Me tabula sacer Votiva paries indicat uvida Suspendisse potenti
Vestimenta maris Deo.-HOR. of Isa, xxxviii. 22.
* Luke xvii. 12, &c.
“ We bless Him for our Creation.” - He “ made us, and not we ourselves.” To all those who enjoy the “ lively hope of an inheritance « incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not “ away,” existence is a subject for unceasing thankfulness. The Atheist, who attributes the production of all being to a fortuitous concourse of atoms; the Deist, who, after having rejected the gracious revelation which the gospel contains through a love of darkness in preference to light because his deeds are evil, is judicially left to wander in the wide field of endless conjecture respecting a future state of rewards and punishments; and the sceptic, who, under the influence of the same antipathy to holiness, is tossed to and fro on the waves of uncertainty, like a ship in a storm without a rudder or pilot; these may well adopt, when under the insupportable pressure of the evils of the present life, the disgraceful language used in an unguarded moment by the patriarch Job, “ Let the day “ perish wherein I was born, and the night in “s which it was said there is a man child con“ ceived."* But the believer, who finds in the promises of God support under the calamities of the present life, and to whom faith opens a laminous vista through the gloomy vale of death into the regions of glory and inmortality, has reason to “ bless God for his creation.” My existence I owe to His boundless goodness. Why was the dust, of which my body is com
* Job. iij. 3, &c. Is it any wonder that men who are destitute of faith in Jesus, and the consolations of His gospel, so often commit acts of suicide? If the Bible were a fable, the man who is his own executioner could not be blamed. But, according to the word of truth, * no mur“ derer hath eternal life abiding in him.”