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King of all, so faithful a confessor, so ready a martyr, if need be, in his cause, will obtain from him the strongest consolation here, and the amplest recompence hereafter.
Therefore, let us pray earnestly for this blessed disposition, and improve ourselves in it by continual exercises of rational devotion : stir up our faith and our love, when they languish: recover our steps, whenever they had well-nigh slipped * : put our trust in the Lord, and be doing good; de. light in him, and he shall give us our heart's desire: commit our way unto him, and he shall bring it to pass: bring forth our righteousness as the light, and our judgment as the noon-dayt. * Psalm lxxiii. 2.
+ Psalm xxxvii. 3-6.
EPH. V. 20.
Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the
Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I have endeavoured, in three discourses, to instruct you in the duties of patience, contentment, and resignation : each rising higher than the other in the scale of right disposition, and advancing further from mere virtue into the superior region of piety. Happy, in comparison of others, are such as possess these attainments in any good degree: but even they have another step to take; for yet shew I unto you a more excellent way*. It is not sufficient, that we bear sufferings of every kind with all the composure, which our nature admits : that we reflect on the various disadvantages of our respective conditions without repining; that we yield ourselves up to the just and wise disposal of the sovereign Lord of the universe: we are bound also to feel gratitude and express thankfulness to our heavenly Father continually for whatever in the course of his providence befalls us; and this we are to perform, as disciples of his blessed Son and Saviour. Let us consider distinctly the several parts of this most sublime precept: for certainly higher we cannot go.
I. We are to give thanks always to God.
* 1 Cor. xii. 31.
III. We are to do it in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I. We are to give thanks always to God and the Father.
The different orders of sensible beings were created every one for such a degree of happiness, as God saw to be most for the good of the whole : and rational beings were created to confess and celebrate his bounty to themselves and the rest of the world. Giving glory is the due return for having experienced goodness. It is therefore necessarily expected from us by him, who hath made all things for himself *; and must require them to answer the end, for which they were formed. We are sensible it is extremely wrong and unworthy, when we fail of owning the favours, which we receive from each other. And what shocking baseness is it then to forget his liberality, who hath given us life and breath and all things, richly to enjoy t! For how inconsiderable is whatever any one of us can do for the person whom he loves best, compared to what God hath done for us all ! Our very capacity of receiving pleasure from our fellow-creatures proceeds from our Creator, as well as every other source of joy, which we feel to spring up within ourselves. And we feel much less ' of both, than we might and ought. We are so taken up and disquieted, with imaginary or small misfortunes, with uneasiness and pains for the most part very supportable, with groundless or excessive discontents and resentments, with needless pursuits, and immoderate hopes and fears, that we suffer multitudes of satisfactions, which Providence brings perpetually in our way, to pass by us unperceived or unnoticed. Yet many of them we should find to be * Prov, xvi. 4.
+ Acts xyii. 25.
1 Tim. vi. 17.
great blessings; for we frequently overlook the very
; greatest that we have: the means granted us by reason and Scripture, situated as we are in a land of light and liberty, of improving in religious knowledge, in rightness of heart and goodness of life; the delights of social, and in particular of domestic friendliness; the continual feasts, which mere health and strength afford, if they are enjoyed with cautious innocence, prudent activity, and a cheerful equality of temper. Inconsiderately throwing away, or supinely disregarding, such bountiful provisions for our well-being, is surely the most dreadful waste, of which we can be guilty. But even the lower benefits, entertainments, and amusements of life, even those of them in which all persons may share, such as the very opening of our eyes, and looking around, such as the use of every one of our senses, may give us, though singly but little matters, yet being incessantly within our reach, arise on the whole to a vast amount. We do receive a great deal of pleasure from them: and we might receive much more, if we would frame our minds to observe and be pleased with the several objects and occurrences, that present themselves to us almost every moment.
But unhappily even they, who imagine they are the most judiciously attentive to enjoy from what they like, or from every thing about them, all that they can, are very apt to consider but few things, if any, as matter of thankfulness to God. Yet evidently nothing which we have cause to think in any degree good, ought to escape being considered in this view. For he is the sole original fountain of good, of every sort of good : not only the Father of mercies, and God of all comfort*, with respect to our higher expectations;
2 Cor. i. 3,
but the Giver of rain and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness*; who openeth his hand, and satisfieth the desire, the very lowest desire of every living thing f. Now would we but reflect on our various enjoyments in this light; as marks and instances of the good-will and kindness of the great Lord of all; as presents, which he graciously condescends to make us; it would raise the worth and dignity of them inexpressibly; it would impress us with the strongest conviction of their guilt, who when they know God, glorify him not as God, neither are thankfulf; it would inspire us with a most pleasing love and reverence to him, preserve us very powerfully from sinning against him by the abuse of his own gifts; and support us under whatever we might suffer in this world, by the assurance that he, of whose bounty we have so large experience here, hath blessings infinitely superior in store for us hereafter.
Let us therefore stir up and cherish in our breasts, à habit of constant thankfulness to Heaven : bear always in our thoughts the value of those faculties and powers of body and mind with which we are endowed, of the health and ease which we enjoy or have enjoyed, and remember that He it is who made us, and not we ourselves §. Let us reckon over the manifold comforts, and accommodations of life, the relations and friends, the agreeable acquaintance, the fair esteem, of which we are possessed, and consider that all these are the donations of a kind Providence. Let us raise our views higher : contemplate the inestimable benefits of our redemption; of the precepts, the examples, the promises of holy writ; the instructions given us by God's ministers in public, Acts xiv. 17.
+ Psalm cxlv. 16. | Rom. i. 21.
$ Psalm c. 2.