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EPHESIANS v. 20.
GIVING thanks always, for all things to God the Father, in the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
THE Heathens, in their Bacchanalia, held drunkenness to be commendable, as an expression of gratitude to the god who gave them wine. This Pa. gan custom the Apostle has in view, when he says to his Ephesian converts, verse 18. "“ Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms.”—Instead of those abominable excesses, by which you once expressed your joy, seek now those sober and rational pleasures, which are communicated by the Holy Spirit ; and instead of those drunken songs by which you formerly celebrated the feasts of the god of wine, speak ye now to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, making melody in your hearts to the Lord-giving thanks always for all things to God the Father through Jesus Christ."
I. The duty here enjoined is to give thanks.
Thankfulness is such a sense of favors received from, and of obligations due to a benefactor, as disposes us to make suitable acknowledgments and returns.
Gratitude to God is attended, not with wild and frantic mirth, but a sober and collected mind. They who understand the loving kindness of the Lord, have wise. ly considered his doings. God complains of unthankful Israel, “ I have nourished and brought up children, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.”
There are some unusual interpositions of Providence which arrest the attention, while common favors, though in their nature more important, are overlooked, or little regarded. At a comet we gaze with astonishment; but scarcely lift our eyes to the superior wonders which the fair evening presents tò our view. The rising and the setting sun, the descent of the enriching showers, the vicissitudes of summer and winter, the continuance of life, the enjoyment of health, supplies of food and raiment, success in our daily employments, the means of knowledge and virtue, and the hopes of glory and immortality, are by multitudes little noticed, and rarely thought of. But where is the man who would not thank God for a short suspension of his torture in a fit of the gout, or for a providential discovery and extinction of a flame which threatened his dwelling? If we regard not the daily operations and blessings of God, we live in habitual unthankfulness. These though most easily overlooked, are most worthy of our notice.
A grateful heart retains the impressions of past mer. cies.“ It remembers God's wonders of old, meditates on all his works and forgets not any of his benefits.
Gratitude sees a real value in God's blessings. This is its language ; “O how great is thy goodness which thou hast laid up for them who fear thee, and hast wrought for them who trust in thee! O love the Lord, all ye his saints.”_" O Lord, how great are thy works! Thy thoughts are very deep. A brutish man knoweth not, neither doth a fool understand this. How excellent is thy loving kindness! Therefore the
sons of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.
A sense of our unworthiness enters into the essence of thankfulness. Why should we bless God for that, which we call the fruit of our own merit, and which, we think, he could not justly deny us? “ I am not worthy,” says the patriarch,“ of the least of all the mer- . cies which thou hast shewed unto thy servant.” “ What is man,” says David, “that thou art mindful of him ? And the son of man, that thou visitest him? How excellent is thy name in all the earth!
In the exercise of gratitude, we shall improve God's favors to the ends for which he bestows them. He be. stows his benefits upon us, that we may be happy in the enjoyment, and useful in the distribution of them. Solomon says, “ I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice and do good in his life.” The Apostle directs us, “ to offer the sacrifice of praise continually ;” and he especially cautions us, that “ to do good and to communicate we forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”
Gratitude delights to express its feelings and sentiments. “Offer the sacrifice of praise,” says the Apostle, “even the fruit of the lips.” We must be thank. ful to God, and bless his name; praise him with a song, and magnify him with thanksgiving; shew forth his praise and talk of his wonderous works.
Thankfulness studies a suitable return.
The glorious selfsufficient Jehovah can receive no real benefit from us. If we are righteous, what do we to him ? He is exalted far above all blessing and praise. But yet, as his creatures and dependants, we are under indispensable obligations to love and serve him. These obligations are mightily increased and strengthened by his favors. His goodness should lead us to repentance. When favor is shewed us, we should learn righteousness. His mercies should persuade us to present ourselves to him, as living sacri.
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fices. This is our reasonable service. His disinterested love should awaken in us sentiments of benevolence to our fellow men. “Love your enemies," says our Saviour,“ do good and lend—and ye shall be the children of the Highest; for he is kind to the unthankful and the evil. Be ye merciful, as your Father is merciful.” Let us proceed,
II. To consider the character of that being, to whom our thanks must be supremely_directed. thanks to GOD, even the FATHER."
God is the Father of the universe, and the giver of all the blessings which we receive, and which we behold around us. Every good gift comes down from him.
To him we must give thanks; for all things are his. We walk on his earth, and breathe his air ; we are sustained by his food, and clothed with his garments ; our frame is his work, our reason is his inspiration, and our spirits are preserved by his influence.
To him we must give thanks, for he has given us all things richly to enjoy. He has formed a spacious world for us to inhabit, and subjected a variety of crea. tures to our dominion. He commands his sun to warm us, his winds to fan us, his rains to refresh us, his fields to support us, and his brutal herds to serve us. He has furnished us with senses and appetites, by which we are capable of delight in the use of material objects; and given us an intelligent mind, which can contemplate him in his works, and enjoy him in his gifts.
This world is a temporary abode, in which we are to prepare for glory and immortality. And God has given us all things which pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Jesus Christ, who has called us to glory and virtue.
To open a way for, and give us a hope of admission to his favor, he has sent his divine Son into our world, who, having assumed our nature, has borne our sins in
his body, expiated our guilt by his death, confirmed the truth of his doctrines by his resurrection, and ever lives in heaven to make intercession for us.
To God we must give thanks, for his goodness is free and disinterested. He gives liberally and upbraids not-he neither faints nor is wearyhe is the Father of mercies—his tender mercies are over all his works, and they endure forever.
III. We are required to give thanks always to God.
This and other universal terms must be understood with such limitations as the nature of the subject sug. ġests. Various are the duties which religion enjoins ; each one claims its place, and none has a right to claim more.
This expression imports, in general, that we ought to be always in a habit of thankfulness, and in a readi. ness for actual thanksgiving, whenever Providence calls us to it. We must set the Lord always before us, contemplate his continual providence, and our absolute dependence, maintain a serene, cheerful, contented mind, and banish from our hearts all those malignant passions and worldly tempers, which are contrary to a spirit of gratitude ; such as envy, malice, pride, am. bition and avarice. If we would live in a thankful temper, we must walk by faith in unseen things, have our conversation in heaven, be at peace among ourselves, and put on charity toward all men. The neces. sity of a friendly, social and charitable Spirit, in order to the exercise of real thankfulness, the Apostle clearly expresses in his exhortation to the Colossians. “ Put on bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering and above all these things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness ; and let the peace of God rule in your hearts, and be ye thankful.
Thanksgiving should find a place in all our stated addresses to God. We are commanded to "pray without ceasing.” The expression alludes to the daily