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diffusing itself in a full and flowing stream of beneficence upon every surrounding object.
If such then, are the motives of spiritual thankfulness, and such the blessings which attend it, can we be too earnest to cultivate a grace so highly becoming our condition, and so eminently distinguished by the favour of our Maker? Let us not however forget, that how powerful soever are the considerations which excite us to gratitude, how efficacious soever an habitual contemplation of the mercies and bounty of God, there is one alone, who, in this as in every other branch of the Divine life, “worketh in us to will and to do of his good pleasure.” He is the great agent; nor are his operations the less certain or direct, because they are generally concurrent with the constitution of nature, and move in perfect harmony with the laws of his own creation. To him, then, let us “ bow our knees" with the Apostle, in fervent and continual prayer, he would give us according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith; that we, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth and length, and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fulness of God!"
Let us also constantly recollect, that if we are really filled with thankfulness to our Heavenly Father, it will be expressed in the manner which he has prescribed as the proper evidence of our feelings: “We shall shew forth his praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives; by giving up ourselves to his service, and by walking before him in holiness and righteousness all our days.” “He that hath
my commandments, and keepeth them," said our Rea deemer, “he it is that loveth me.” This is the only sure pledge of gratitude; every other is equivocal, and may
deceive us. For gratitude, like affection, does not chiefly consist in strong emotions, which may be the effect only of a lively sensibility; but in that settled temper of mind which disposes us with our whole hearts to do and to be whatever is most acceptable to our Benefactor. The faithfulness of our service proves the reality of our feelings; the delight with which it is rendered is the measure of their depth and ardour. And it is only an evil heart that can find no pleasure in receiving obligations. To a mind renewed by the Spirit of God, and touched with a true sense of his bounty, it is the highest gratification to behold in every blessing the expression of his parental kindness, and to cherish them as the pledges of his unfailing and everlasting mercy. In such a temper the service of our Maker is felt to be what it is undoubtedly—“perfect freedom.” Obedience is no longer a condition; it is a privilege; not the means of happiness, but happiness itself. And thus the proof of our thankfulness becomes also its reward: God, in his great wisdom and goodness, having so provided that -the very acknowledgment of his mercies should be the occasion of increasing them, and the circle of his goodness and of our enjoyment be for ever enlarging.
Among the circumstances which are peculiarly characteristic of the followers of Jesus Christ, none is more frequently mentioned, or insisted upon more steadily by the apostolic writers, than this--that they “ walk by faith and not by sight.” The various graces whose harmonious union constitutes the perfection to which we aspire, may be possessed by Christians in different degrees according to their advances in holiness. But of the whole body of believers it is uniformly assumed in the New Testament, that in accepting the Redeemer they have renounced the world; that they are dead to present things, and maintain, in their sentiments and actions, an habitual regard to those invisible relations and that higher inheritance to which they are introduced under the Christian economy. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Yet it must be acknowledged, to a being such as man,
the life of faith is not of easy attainment. We are endowed with senses admirably constructed to perceive and enjoy the objects which surround us; and the pleasures of which we are thus capable are easy and natural, endeared to us by early familiarity, always present, and generally attainable without much painful exertion of our strength or faculties. Invisible things strike but faintly upon
the mind, and the impression is easily effaced by the intrusion of other images: they are distant; they appear to be uncertain; and though manifestly of a noble and superior nature, they are better fitted at first to awaken our admiration than excite our desires. To a person accustomed to taste largely of the gratifications of life, the simple truths of Christianity are seldom therefore a welcome message. Like the young man in the Gospel, he goes away very sorrowful, because he has great possessions.
But God, who knows and pities our weakness, in appointing the end to be attained has not forgotten to supply the means of attaining it. Our own strength is plainly insufficient for the undertaking: it could not support us in innocence, how should it recover us from depravity! God alone is able to deliver us from our natural bondage; to awaken our souls from the slumber of sin and death; to disenchant the world which has so long deceived us. The ransom which was necessary He supplied; and He has established settled methods for the communication of Divine strength to those who sincerely desire to obtain it. For this end, the higher faculties of the soul are called into his service: dispensations are supplied to awaken and instruct us; the word of truth is published; ordinances are instituted; and the means of grace appointed. But above all, the privilege and duty of Prayer are revealed to every repenting sinner; and the faithfulness of God is pledged, that He will “ give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him!”
Easier terms surely never were proposed for the attainment of any blessing. Should an illustrious prince, or an affectionate father, or a generous and faithful friend, invite us to come to him that he might impart some special bounty, should we churlishly refuse? Should we not anticipate with joy the approaching hour, and count the moments till it arrived? And shall we turn away from the Father of all mercies when he calls us into his presence; and refuse, by the highest of all privileges, to purchase the greatest of all blessings?
Prayer is undoubtedly the first of all the means of grace; and it has this peculiar dignity and blessing, that it brings us before the Throne of God himself; into the presence of Him, whom to see and love is the highest happiness of the highest created beings. It was once the happiness of man. But sin too soon separated him from his Maker, and, spreading like a noxious vapour, blotted out the very sun from heaven. From that fatal hour the whole human race wandered about in blindness and error, “ fettered with the bonds of a long night and exiled from the eternal providence.” The right or the duty of Prayer, though it may be probably inferred from the visible dispensations of God, is by no means a certain truth of natural religion. To the children of Israel it was communicated by revelation; to us it has been proclaimed and enjoined by the Son of God himself. And blessed for ever and ever be his holy Name, who brought down the message of reconciliation and peace;
For though we fled him angry, yet recalled
Of glory, and far off his steps adore *.
* Par, Lost.