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of inexpressible love and grace therein declared : this subject enlarged on.
Concluding considerations persuasive to the practice of this duty.
I. First we may consider that there is no disposition more deeply radicated in the original constitution of all souls endued with any kind of perception or passion, than that of being sensible of benefits received, being ready with suitable expressions to acknowlege them, and endeavoring competently to recompense them : even the worst of men retain something of this natural inclination, and the very brute creation gives evidence of it: how monstrous a thing therefore in us is ingratitude towards God, from whom alone we receive whatever we enjoy, whatever we can expect of good!
II. The second obligation to this duty is most just and equal ; since we are in all reason indebted for what is freely given, as well as for what is lent to us : for the freeness of the giver, his not exacting security, nor expressing conditions of return, doth not diminish, but rather increase the debt: this enlarged on.
III. Thirdly, this is a most sweet and delightful duty: as the performance of it proceeds from good humor and a cheerful disposition of mind, so it feeds and foments them both. Prayer reminds us of our imperfections and wants; confession of our misdeeds and bad deserts; but thanksgiving includes nothing uneasy or unpleasant, nothing but the memory and sense of exceeding goodness.
Other considerations briefly added : viz. that this duty is of all others most acceptable to God and profitable to us, inducing him to bestow more, and qualifying us to receive it : that it promotes and facilitates the practice of all other duties : that the memory of past benefits, and sense of those present, confirms our faith and nourishes our hopes: that the circumstances of
the divine beneficence mightily strengthen the obligation to this duty: that giving thanks hath de facto always been the principal part of religion, whether instituted by divine command, prompted by natural reason, or propagated by general tradition. Concluding prayer.
OF THE DUTY OF THANKSGIVING.
EPHESIANS, CHAP. V.-VERSE 20.
Giving thanks always for all things unto God.
HAVING formerly discoursed on these words, I observed in them four particulars considerable : 1. The substance of a duty, to which we are exhorted, to give thanks ; 2. The term unto which it is directed, to God; 3. The circumstance of time determined in that word always; 4. The extent of the matter about which the duty is employed, for all things.' Concerning the two former particulars, wherein the duty consisted, and wherefore especially related unto God, I then represented what did occur to my
meditation. JII. I proceed now to the third, the circumstance of time allotted to the performance of this duty, expressed by that universal and unlimited term, always.
Which yet is not so to be understood, as if thereby we were obliged in every instant (or singular point of time) actually to remember, to consider, to be affected with, and to acknowlege the divine benefits: for the deliberate operations of our minds being sometimes wholly interrupted by sleep, otherwhile preoccupied by the indispensable care of serving our natural necessities, and with attendance on other reasonable employments, it were impossible to comply with an obligation to the performance of this duty so interpreted. And those maxims of law, impossibilium nulla est obligatio, and quæ rerum natura prohibentur, nulla lege confirmata sunt, (that is, ‘no law or BAR. VOL. I.
precept can oblige to impossibilities,') being evidently grounded on natural equity, seem yet more valid in relation to his laws, who is the Judge of all the world, and in his dispensations most transcendently just and equal.
We may therefore observe that the Hebrews are wont (in way of synecdoche, or grammatical hyperbole) so to use words of this kind, that their universal importance ought to be restrained by the quality or circumstances of the matter about which they converse. As when our Saviour saith, 'Ye shall be hated of all men for my sake;' all is not to be taken for every singular person, (since there were some that loved our Saviour, and embraced the evangelical doctrine) but for many, or the most. And when David saith, .There is none that doeth good ;' he seemeth only to mean that in the general corruption of his times there were few righteous persons to be found. And so for ever is often used, not for a perpetual and endless, but for a long and lasting duration ; and always, not for a continual, unintermitted state of being, or action, but for such a perseverance as agrees to the condition of the thing to which it is applied.
'Tis, for instance, prescribed in Exodus, that Aaron should bear the judgment of the children of Israel (the Urim and Thummim) on his heart before the Lord continually;' that is, (not in absolute and rigorous acceptation continually, but) constantly ever when he went into the holy place to discharge the pontifical function, as the context declares. And our Saviour in the gospel saith of himself, 'Εγώ πάντοτε εδίδαξα, “I always taught in the temple ;' that is, very often, and ever when fit occasion was presented. And the Apostles, immediately after Christ's ascension, noav diatavròs év rõ iepy,' were,'as St. Luke tells us, continually in the temple, praising and blessing God;' that is, they resorted thither constantly at the usual times or canonical hours of prayer. In like manner those injunctions (of nearest affinity) of rejoicing,' of giving thanks always,' and particularly of praying without ceasing,' (as I have shown more largely in another discourse,) are to be taken in a sense so qualified, that the observance of them may be at least morally possible.
Thus far warrantably we may limit the extension and mollify
the rigor of this seemingly boundless term ; but we can hardly allow any farther restriction, without destroying the natural signification, or diminishing the due emphasis thereof. As far therefore as it is possible for us, we must endeavor always to perform this duty of gratitude to Almighty God: and consequently,
1. Hereby is required a frequent performance thereof; that we do often actually meditate on, be sensible of, confess and celebrate the divine beneficence. For what is done but seldom or never, (as we commonly say,) cannot be understood done always, without a catachresis, or abuse of words too enormous. As therefore no moment of our life wants sufficient matter, and every considerable portion of time ministers notable occasion of blessing God; as he allows himself no spacious intervals or discontinuances of doing us good; so ought we not to suffer any of those many days (vouchsafed by his goodness) to flow beside us, void of the signal expressions of our dutiful thankfulness to him; nor to admit in our course of life any long vacations from his duty. If God incessantly, and through every minute, demonstrates himself gracious unto us; we in all reason are obliged frequently and daily to declare ourselves grateful unto him.
So at least did David, (that most eminent example in this kind, and therefore most apposite to illustrate our doctrine, and to enforce the practice thereof;) for, “every day,' saith he, · I will bless thee; I will praise thy name for ever and ever.' Every day. The heavenly bodies did not more constantly observe their course, than he his diurnal revolutions of praise : every day in his calendar was as it were festival, and consecrated to thanksgiving. Neither did he adjudge it sufficient to devote some small parcels of each day to this service ; for
my tongue,' saith he, 'shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long;' and again, ‘My mouth shall show forth thy righteousness and thy salvation all the day, for I know not the numbers thereof.' The benefits of God he
apprehended so great and numerous, that no definite space
of time would serve to consider and commemorate them. He resolves therefore otherwhere to bestow his whole life on that employment: While I live I will praise the Lord : I will sing