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PUBLIC THANKSGIVING FOR THE WONDERFUL
MITIGATION OF THE LATE MORTALITY.
PREACHED BEFORE HIS MAJESTY, UPON HIS GRACIOUS COMMAND, AT
HIS COURT OF WHITEHALL, JANUARY 29, 1625, AND UPON THE SAME COMMAND PUBLISHED.
PSALM lxvi. 19, 20. Blessed be the Lord, who loadeth us daily with benefits, even the God
of our Salvation. Selah. He that is our God is the God of Salm vation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues from death.
Y FA, blessed be the Lord, who hath added this unto the load of his other mercies to his unworthy servant, that the same tongue, which was called, not long since, to chatter out our Public Mournings, in the Solemn Fast of this place, is now employed in a Song of Praise; and the same hand, which was here lifted up for Supplication, is now lift up in Thanksgiving. Ye, that then accompanied me with your tears and sighs, accompany me now, I beseech you, in this happy change of note and time, with your joyful smiles, and acclamations to the God that hath wrought it.
It is not more natural for the sun, when it looks upon a moist and well-fermented earth, to cause vapours to ascend thence, than it is for greatness and goodness, when they both meet together upon an honest heart, to draw up holy desires of gratulation. The worth of the agent doth it not alone, without a fit disposition in the subject. Let the sun cast his strongest beams upon a flint, a pumice; he fetches out no stream: even so the greatness and good ness of the Almighty, beating upon a dry and hard heart, prevails nothing. Here all three are happily met: in God, infinite greatness, infinite goodness; such greatness, that he is attended with thousand thousands of angels, a guard fit for the King of Heaven; such goodness, that he receives gifts even for the rebellious: in David, a gracious heart, that, in a sweet sense of the great goodness of his God, breathes out this Divine Epiphonema, Blessed be the Lord, who loadeth us daily with benefits, even the God of our Salvation, &c.
Wherein, methinks, the sweet Singer of Israel seems to raise his note to the emulation of the Choir of Heaven, in the melody of their Hallelujahs: yea, let me say, now that he sings above in that
nessce; he feteet the
Blessed Concert of glorious spirits, his ditty cannot be better than this, that he sung here upon earth; and wherein we are about to bear our parts at this time. Prepare, I beseech you, both your ears for David's song, and your hearts and tongues for your own.
And first, in this angelical strain your thoughts cannot but observe, without me, the Descant, and the Ground. The DESCANT OF GRATULATION; Blessed be the Lord: wherein is both Applause, and Excitation; an Applause given to God's goodness, and an Excitation of others to give that applause. T'he GROUND is a threefold respect: of what God is in himself, God and Lord; of what God is and doth to us, which loadeth us daily with benefits : of what he is both in himself and to us, The God of our Salvation; which last, like to some rich stone, is set off with a dark foil; To God the Lord belong the issues from death. So, in the first, for his own sake; in the second, for our sakes; in the third, for his own and ours; as God, as Lord, as a Benefactor, as a Saviour and Deliverer, Blessed be the Lord.
I. THE DESCANT OF GRATULATION. It is not hard to observe that David's Hallelujahs are more than his Hosannas; his thanks, more than his suits. Ofttimes doth he praise God, when he begs nothing: seldom ever doth he beg that favour, for which he doth not raise up his soul to an anticipation of thanks. Neither is this any other than the universal under-song of all his heavenly ditties, Blessed be the Lord. Praised, as our former Translation hath it, is too low. Honour is more than praise: blessing is more than honour. Neither is it for nothing, that from this word 772, “ to bless," is derived 773 “ the knee," which is bowed in blessing; and the cryer before Joseph proclaimed than, calling for the honour of the knee from all beholders; Gen. xli. 43. Every slight, trivial acknowledgment of worth is a praise: blessing is in a higher strain of gratitude, that carries the whole sway of the heart with it, in a kind of divine rapture. Praise is in matter of compliment; blessing, of devotion.
The Apostle's rule is, that, the less is blessed of the greater; Abraham, of the King of Salem: the Prophet's charge is, that the greater should be blessed of the less; yea, the greatest of the least, God of man. This agrees well. Blessing is an act, that will bear reciprocation: God blesseth man, and man blesseth God: God blesseth man imperatively; man blesseth God optatively: God blesseth man in the acts of mercy; man blesseth God in the notions, in the expressions of thanks: God blesseth man, when he makes him good and happy; man blesseth God, when he confesseth how good, how gracious, how glorious he is; so as the blessing is wholly taken up in agnition, in celebration : in the one, we acknowledge the bounty of (od to us; in the other, we magnify him vocally, really, for that bounty.
Oh, see then what high account God makes of the affections and actions of his poor, silly, earth-creeping creatures; that he gives. us in them power to bless himself, and takes it as an honour 10
be blessed of us. David wonders, that God should so vouchsafe to bless man: how much more must we needs wonder at the mercy of God, that will vouchsafe to be blessed by man, a worm, an atom, a nothing. Yet, both St. James tells us, that with the tongue we bless God; and the Psalmist calls for it here, as a service of dear acceptation, Blessed be the Lord. Even we men live not, cameleonlike, with the air of thanks; nor feed e'er the fatter with praises : how much less our Maker? O God, we know well, that whatsoever men or angels do or do not, thou canst not but be infinitely Blessed in Thyself. Before ever any creature was, thou didst equally enjoy thy Blessed Self from all eternity: what can this worthless, loose film of flesh either add to or detract from thine Infiniteness? Yet, thou, that humblest thyself to behold the things that are done in heaven and earth, humblest thyself also to accept the weak breath of our praises, that are sent up to thee from earth to heaven. How should this encourage the vows, the endeavours of our hearty thankfulness, to see them graciously taken! Would men take up with good words, with good desires, and quit our bonds for thanks, who would be a debtor? With the God of Mercy this cheap payment is current. If he then will honour us so far as to be blessed of us; oh let us honour him so far as to bless him.
Quare verbis parcam? gratuita sunt: “ Why do we spare thanks, that cost us nothing ?” as that wise Heathen. Ogive unto the Lord, ye mighty, give unto the Lord the praises due to his Name: offer to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving : and still let the foot of our song be, Blessed be the Lord.
II. This for the Descant of Gratulation: the GROUND follows.
1. His Own Sake hath reason to be first. God will be blessed both as Jah, and Adonai: the one, the style of his Essence; the other, of his Sovereignty. .
(1.) Even the most accursed Deist would confess, that, as a pure, simple, infinite, absolute being, GOD is to be blessed: for, if Being be Good, and these two be convertible, nature must needs teach, him, that an Absolute and Infinite Being must needs be Absolutely and Infinitely Good.
But what do I blur the glory of this day with mention of those monsters, whose idol is nature, whose religion is secondary atheism, . whose true region is the lowest hell? Those damned Ethnicks cannot, will not conceive of God as he is; because they impiously sever his Essence from his inward Relations.
We Christians can never be so heavenly affected to God as we · ought, till we can rise to this pitch of piety, to bless God for what he is in himself, without the external beneficial relations to the creature: else our respects reflect too much homeward, and we do but look through God at ourselves.
(2.) Neither is it for us, only to bless him as an Absolute God, but as a SOVEREIGN LORD too, whose Power hath no more limit than his Essence: the great Moderator of Heaven and Earth; giving laws to his creature; overruling all things; marshalling all
events; crushing his enemies; maintaining his Church; adored by angels; trembled at by devils.,
Behold here a Lord worthy to be blessed. We honour, as we ought, your conspicuous greatness, () ye eminent Potentates of the Earth: but, alas! what is this to the great Lord of Heaven? when we look up thither, we must crave leave to pity the breath of your nostrils, the rust of your coronets, the dust of your graves, the sting of your felicities, and, if ye take not good heed, the blots of your memories.
As ye hold all in fee from this Great Lord, so let it be no disparagement to you, to do your lowliest homage to his footstool; homage, I mean, in Action: give me the real benediction: I am sure that is the best. They bless God, that praise him: they bless him more, and praise him best, that obey him. There are, that crouch to you Great Ones, who yet hate you: oh, let us take heed of offering these hollow observations to the Searcher of Hearts, if we love not our own confusion. They, that proclaimed Christ at Jerusalem, had not only Hosanna in their mouths, but palms in their hands too: so must we have. Let me say then, If the hand bless not the Lord, the tongue is a hypocrite. Away with the waste compliments of our vain formalities: let our loud actions drown the language of our words, in blessing the Name of the Lord.
2. Neither must we bless God as a Sovereign Lord only, but, which is yet a more feeling relation, as a MUNIFICENT BENEFACTOR, who loadeth us daily with benefits. Such is man's self-love, that no inward worth can so attract his praises, as outward beneficence. While thou makest much of thyself, every one shall speak well of thee: how much more, while thou makest much of them! Here God hath met with us also.
Not to perplex you with scanning the variety of senses wherewith I have observed this Psalm, above all other of David's, to abound; : see here, I beseech you, a fourfold gradation of Divine Bounty.
First, here are Benefits. The word is not expressed in the Original, but necessarily implied in the sense: for there are but three loads whereof man is capable from God; Favours, Precepts, Punishments: the other two are out of the road of Gratulation. - When we might therefore have expected Judgments, behold Benefits.
And those, secondly, not sparingly handfulled out to us, but dealt to us by the whole load; loadeth with benefits.
Whom, thirdly, doth he load, but us? Noi worthy and welldeserving subjects, but us 017710 Rebels.
And, lastly, this he doth, not at one dole and no more, as even churls' rare feasts use to be plentiful; but o 09', successively, unweariedly, perpetually.
One favour were too much; here are Benefits: a sprinkling were too much; here is a load: once were too oft, here is daily largition, Cast your eyes therefore a little upon this threefold exaggeration of Beneficence: the measure, a load of benefits; the subject, unworthy us; the time, daily. Who daily loadeth us with benefits.
Where shall we begin to survey this vast load of Mercies? Were it no more, but that he hath given us a world to live in, a life to enjoy, air to breathe in, earth to tread on, fire to warm us, water to cool and cleanse us, clothes to cover us, food to nourish us, sleep to refresh us, houses to shelter us, variety of creatures to serve and delight us; here were a just load. But now, if we yet add to these civility of breeding, dearness of friends, competency of estate, degrees of honour, honesty or dignity of vocation, favour of princes, success in employments, domestic comforts, outward peace, good reputation, preservåtion from dangers, rescue from evils; the load is well mended. If yet ye shall come closer, and add due proportion of body, integrity of parts, perfection of senses, strength of nature, mediocrity of health, sufficiency of appetite, vigour of digestion, wholesome temper of seasons, freedom from cares; this course must needs heighten it yet more. If still ye shall add to these the order and power and exercise of our inward faculties; enriched with wisdom, art, learning, experience; ex. pressed by a not-unhandsome elocution: and shall now lay all these together, that concern Estate, Body, Mind; how can the axle-tree of the soul but crack under the load of these favours? But, if, from what God hath done for us as Men, we look to what he hath done for us as Christians; that he hath embraced us with an ever. lasting love, that he hath moulded us anew, enlivened us by his Spirit, fed us by his Word and Sacraments, clothed us with his merits, bought us with his blood, becoming vile to make us glorious, a curse to invest us with blessedness, in a word, that he hath given Himself to us, his Son for us; Oh, the height, and depth, and breadth of the rich mercies of our God! Oh, the boundless, topless, bottomless load of divine benefits, whose immensity reaches from the centre of this earth to the unlimited extent of the very empyreal heaven! Oh, that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and declare the wonders that he doth for the children of men.
These mercies are great in themselves: our Unworthiness doth greaten them morė. To do good to the well-deserving were but retribution. He loadeth us, who are no less rebellious to him, than he is beneficial to us. Our strait and shallow bounty picks out the worthiest and most capable subject: the greatest gift, that ever God gave, he gives us while we are enemies. It was our Saviour's charge to his disciples, Interrogate quis dignus; Ask who is worthy: that is, as Jerome interprets it, of the honour to receive such guests, Should God stand upon those terms with us, what should become of us ? See, and wonder, and be ashamed, O) ye Christian Hearers. God loads us; and we load him: God loads us with benefits; we load him with our sins. Behold, I am pressed under you, saith God, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves; Amos ii. 13. He should go away laden with our thanks, with the presents of our duty; and we shamefully clog him with our continual provocations. Can there be here any danger of self-sacrificing with Sejanus, and not rather the just danger of our shame and confusion in ourselves ? How can we but hate this unkind and unjust unanswerableness?