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But if we pass from the Old Testament to the New, there shall we find not only this thankfulness under all troubles, but the reasons for it given more clearly and fully than ever they were before; for it was never known, until declared by Jesus CHRIST, how it was that trouble and sorrow are proofs of God's love, and that great should be their reward in Heaven, who are "persecuted for righteousness' sake," and so far are made like unto JESUS CHRIST.
It was in prison and at midnight that Paul and Silas were heard by the prisoners singing praises unto God.
And through all his letters, how does this great Apostle set before us as an example of what he teaches; the greater his afflictions are, the more does his heart seem to overrun with thankfulness to God; and this is not only the case in sufferings from without, in which he seemed, as it were, all over the world to be bearing about the Cross of his LORD; but in that unknown trial and affliction, that “thorn in the flesh,” which so much troubled him, that he prayed oft-times to the Lord that it might depart from him,-even in this he learned afterwards a source of thanksgiving : and when it was told him of God, that His strength would be best perfected in such weakness, he was thankful, and said, “ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. When he found that this affliction was working in him the power of Christ, he was grateful to have received even that also, and gave God the glory in the true spirit of thankfulness.
But if we pass from the inspired Apostles and Saints of Holy Scripture to men more like ourselves, we shall find instances of this thankful spirit in good men even in our own Church. Thus in the prayer of a good Bishop of our own (Bishop Wilson), we find he says, "They that have a convenient place to sleep in, and they that have the comfort to sleep, have both great reason to be thankful; and even they that want these mercies, ought to bless God, if in the midst of their afflictions He is pleased to refresh them with the comforts of grace.”
Another holy person of our Church (Mr. George Herbert), at the time of his last sickness and death, felt thankful for every day that passed, because it brought him nearer to his end, when he hoped to be with God.
Since, therefore, Christianity is so full of this command, and there is no time, or place, or circumstance, but when we may practise it; and since there is so great a cloud of witnesses who have acted up to this law, let us also “go, and do likewise;"giving thanks to God for the daily comforts and blessings which Hɛ showers down upon us; but, above all, giving Him thanks for His fatherly chastisements ;-showing such a due sense of all His mercies, that “our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, and that we may show forth ” His “praise, not only with our lips, but also in our lives.”
It may seem, on hearing of this duty, that there is none more delightful and pleasant, but be assured there is none more important, and none more difficult to practise.
It is, indeed, walking in Heavenly places while we are upon earth; and this we cannot do while cumbered with earthly
No one can be truly thankful, but he who is humble ; and we cannot be humble unless we mourn constantly for our sins.
“ Blessed are they that mourn, says a voice from Heaven, " for they shall be comforted.” They only who are thus comforted of God can be truly thankful. They who mourn blessed, and they who are blessed are thankful.
THE DUTY OF THANKFULNESS IN ALL THINGS.
EFHESIANS V. 20.
Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father, in the Name
of our LORD JESUS Christ."
In considering these words of St. Paul this morning, I endeavoured to show how great and important is this duty of thankfulness ; and that even under the greatest evils and calamities of life: and I mentioned that, as all true religion consists in faith and love, and that as there could not exist any faith in God, or love of Him, without thankfulness, so there could be no true religion without thankfulness. I showed you how all the Saints of God were remarkable for thankfulness under the greatest troubles : this I pointed out in the case of Job in his afflictions, of Jonah in the whale's belly, of Daniel in the lions' den, of the Three Children in the fiery furnace, of David throughout the Psalms,almost all of which, when they begin in distress end with thanksgiving, --of the Apostle St. Paul, and of good men in our own Church : thus I endeavoured to show you with what moving expressions and examples this duty was set before us by the Holy Spirit. And now let us, by God's grace, endeavour to apply all that has been said to our conduct and practice.
All Christians, therefore, will be ready to allow that we are bound to be thankful under the evils of life as well as for its apparent blessings; for, in fact, what we call evils, are but greater blessings in disguise ; and all faith in God and love of Him will consider them as such.
But although we are ready to allow this, and even to apply it to many cases, and to feel thankful to God for what He takes away as well as for what He gives, especially when under some great calamity we call in religion to our support, yet it generally happens that each person has some one particular trial under which he is not disposed to be thankful, but secretly to complain. He is inclined to think that this trouble or trial is of all others that which is the most difficult for him to bear, that
other than this which oppresses him, he could bear with patience. Now this is because persons are always apt to think thus under the pressure of that which distresses them for the time being; and besides, it is very likely the case, that the trial which they labour under is indeed of all others the severest to them. And that for this cause. Let us consider what is the most obvious reason why our Heavenly FATHER sends any trial or affliction upon us; we know He does not willingly afflict the children of men. The reason, doubtless, is often this,—to draw our hearts off from the world, and to fix them more upon HIMSELF. In what point, therefore, is He most likely to disappoint, and therefore to distress, each one of us ?-surely in that on which our worldly hearts are most set; for there our particular danger most lies. And therefore, of course, each person is most likely to be tried and afflicted in that point in which he feels it most of all : if he has a wound or sore place in his soul, there is he the most likely to feel the trying, but healing, Hand of his Heavenly Physician and Friend.
For instance, the Almig#TY may perceive that the heart of one person is very much bent on a favourite child : He may know that, in other respects, his temptation and danger is not so great; but in this one respect, that his thoughts and affections are so bound down to the earth, that he is likely to forget his eternal interests and his FATHER in Heaven. The Almighty, therefore, with respect to other matters in which such a person is careless or indifferent, may leave him to enjoy them, and afford him wealth, and honour, and friends; but in this one thing, -in this child, -He may disappoint him, may take the child away, or in other ways bring distress upon him. And yet it is evident,
that this is the disappointment, this is the distress, which he will most feel,—for here his love is most fixed, --so as to hold all other blessings of little value in comparison : and for that very
it may be, that on this subject alone he is tried. In another case, our Heavenly FATHER may see that the world and its concerns are much in a person's heart; that therefore he is too full of carefulness, too much pleased with worldly advantages, and too much cast down by its losses, so that the good seed of eternal life is likely to be choked, and to bring forth no fruit. If this, therefore, should be our temptation, if in this point lies our chief danger of failing of eternal life, then it may be necessary that in this point, more especially, we should be thwarted, and vexed, and disappointed continually,--that we should suffer much worldly loss and inconvenience : and yet, of course, for these very reasons, on no subject, perhaps, should we feel them so much as on this.
Another person may be particularly inclined to pride and vanity, his ruling passion may be a desire to exalt himself in the opinion of others, and for this reason he may be especially vexed and distressed by disgrace in the eyes of men; and with regard to all other matters he may care little about them comparatively. And yet, in the eyes of his Heavenly Father, it may be the very rock on which he is likely to split, that on which his eternal salvation is in great hazard : the mode, therefore, in which he is afflicted, may be that point in which he is most tender,-here the arrows of the Almighty may find him out, rather than in any other. And in all the troubles and trials that may come upon him, he may think that any other inflictions he would bear with patience and thankfulness besides these.
Many are the cases of this kind in which we may see, that the trial which is put upon us may indeed be the very hardest for us to bear with thankfulness; but instead of repining on this account, all true love and faith will be teady to acknowledge the Hand of God in it,—the kind and protecting Hand of our best Friend, and therefore will be thankful. If we cannot, at first, make such trials a subject of praise and thanksgiving to the Author of all good, yet we must make them a subject of prayer; and if we continue to do this,-praying that God's will may be done in us, and not our own,-it will at length become a subject