Page images

Divine nature? The Christian must feel them, and feeling he must rejoice with grateful adoration. But his gratitude will be rooted in the deepest humility; and he will ever delight to abase himself, that he may glorify his Heavenly Benefactor,

And yet, after all, something must be allowed to human infirmity. For the present, we are unavoidably conversant with earthly things; and these, by, their frequent recurrence, as well as from the imperfection of our nature, will, especially in early life, very considerably affect our happiness. It is a matter therefore, both of wisdom and duty, to accustom ourselves habitually to consider not only our chief spiritual privileges and mercies, but also our ordinary temporal enjoyments, as flowing from the bounty of God; that the idea of his beneficence may be associated with the whole system of life, and a perpetual spring of thankfulness be cherished in our bosoms. More especially if there are any blessings peculiarly dear to us, to which our thoughts are often involuntarily directed, and which have acquired, by their excellence, a just preeminence in our affections, it is highly necessary that we connect them, by pious reflections and frequent aspirations of gratitude, with the great Author of all things. Whatever they are, from him undoubtedly they proceed, and by his mercy only are they preserved to us. In them„selves they are but vanity; short in their duration, uncertain in their continuance, and even dangerous in proportion to the ascendancy, they acquire over us. Contemplated as his gifts, they assume in some measure a sacred character; they render the exercise of a thankful piety, familiar and delightful; and connecting themselves with hopes and prospects beyond the grave, instead of drawing


[ocr errors]


down the soul to this world, the scene of their infancy, they raise it by an easy flight to those better regions where happiness shall know neither interruption nor anxiety, is without alloy and without end. The image of our Maker, which, seen in its own glory, appears almost too bright for our weakness, when reflected from the blessings which he has given us, assumes a gracious, benign, and endearing aspect: we acquire the power and the habit of committing whatever is most dear to us with a cheerful faith to his parental providence; and see, in his perfect wisdom and goodness, the source, the security, and the consummation of all our happiness.

Enough has been said of the motives to thankfulness: let us now consider the blessedness which attends it.

It is certainly the highest excellence of this grace, and that which ought to constitute its greatest value in our eyes, that we know it to be peculiarly acceptable to God. Other privileges belong to it, and well deserve our admiration; but this is its real glory. For God is the only true fountain of honour, and his approbation the only unquestionable test of perfection. Deep, constant, fervent thankfulness, has been in every age the service which he has asked, and which his saints have delighted to render. It is a free-will offering, the homage of the heart, better than the most costly sacrifices and oblations. It is a spi

a ritual exercise, the proper worship of a spiritual religion. It is the language of the Church on earth; “Bless the Lord, O house of Israel; bless the Lord, O house of Aa. ron.” It is the language of the holy and elect spirits in heaven; “And all the angels stood round about the throne, saying, Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiying, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen."

Among the incidental advantages which belong to a holy gratitude, one of the most valuable is, that it chem rishes a religion full of cheerfulness and hope. It is impossible that we should be habitually exercised in thankfulness to our heavenly Father for his innumerable blessings, without acquiring a certain joyfulness and elasticity of spirit. It is impossible that we should frequently exercise ourselves in contemplating the past mercies of God, without seeing in them the pledges of his future bounty. Both these blessed dispositions are directly opposed to that despondency which in seasons of temptation or distress will sometimes come over us like a thick cloud, filling the mind with fearful and boding visions; and this surely is a temper very unfavourable to advancement in holiness. We cannot, it is true, be too earnest to "flee from the wrath to come;" we cannot too deeply feel the dangers of unrepented sin; we cannot be too distrustful of our own most infirm and evil nature: but we may easily be, and generally we are, far too diffident of the power and faithfulness of God; far too insensible of his unspeakable mercy, and pity, and loving-kindness, and of the exceeding great salvation which he has wrought for us. There is something in a low, melancholy, querulous religion, that seems peculiarly unworthy of our great and bounteous Benefactor, peculiarly unsuitable to the freedom of the Gospel grace, and frustrating one of the blessed ends for which the glad tidings of salvation were published abroad. It is certainly not inconsistent with a genuine piety; but it must be confessed to be the very contrast of that

generous, animated, and faithful spirit which breathes

[ocr errors]


through the writings of St. Paul, and which appears to bë
characteristic of Christianity. For “we have not received
the spirit of bondage again to fear, but we have received
the spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father:"
The Almighty Creator and Governor of all things, is no
longer, as he once was, “a God that hideth himself.”
We see him not like the heathen world through the mists
of a guilty darkness “full of sights and sounds of woe;"
not even as the Jew, behind the veil of a condemning Law
and a severe ritual, “the ministration of death.” Blessed
be his holy Name and the riches of his mercy in Christ
Jesus; we know him such as he essentially is; the God of
love; "the God of hope;" "the God of peace;” “the God
of patience and consolation;" “the Father of mercies and
God of all comfort." "He hath not given us the spirit of
fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
“Old things are passed away, all things are become new.”
“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to
himself by Christ Jesus.” “Who shall separate us from
the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or per-
secution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that
neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor
powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height,
nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate
us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Nearly allied to the blessing which was last mentioned, and in some measure growing out of it, is another not less Valuable. An habitual thankfulness to God is naturally, I believe inseparably, connected with a spirit of kindness and affection towards men. Indeed, it is not easy to un

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

derstand how it should be otherwise. A frequent consideration of the unmerited mercies of God towards us cannot but 'exceedingly humble and soften the spirit. At the same time the contemplation of the Divine goodness, 60 free, so unwearied, so constantly tending to the advancement of the general happiness, accustoms the mind to noble and generous thoughts, to images of order, beauty, and beneficence, which gradually take possession of the soul. It is finely imagined by our great epic poet, that when Satan, in the midst of his evil designs, beheld the lovely bowers of Paradise, and Eve in " graceful innocence” moving among them, he forgot his wicked purposes, for a moment transported and subdued:


space the evil one abstracted stood From his own evil, and for the time remain'd Stupidly good, of enmity disarm’d,

Of guile, of hate, of envy, of revenge. Milton well knew the tendency of the human heart to assimilate itself to surrounding objects, to catch the spirit, and partake the temper, of the scenes which are most familiar to us. In the cultivation and exercise of thankfulness, the soul is habitually directed to God: we live as it were in his presence, surveying the visible expressions of his goodness, and enjoying an increasing sense of his adorable perfections. Is it possible that in the midst of the images thus presented to us, our hearts awakened to gratitude and astonishment at the comprehensive love of our great Benefactor, a sour, selfish, suspicious temper should prevail in our bosoms? It cannot be: the ideas have no affinity; they are incapable of being united. Never yet did a churlish spirit really love God. Never was a spring of holy and grateful affection opened in the soul, without


« PreviousContinue »