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The duty of thanksgiving to God for favors received, explained and urged.
DELIVERED NOV. 23, 1758,
THE DAY APPOINTED BY AUTHORITY
TO BE OBSERVED AS A DAY OF
FOR THE SMILES OF PROVIDENCE IN THE YEAR PAST.
BY JASON HAVEN, A. M.
PASTOR OF THE FIRST CHURCH IN DEDHAM.
PUBLISHED AT THE GENERAL DESIRE OF THE HEARERS.
PRINTED BY S. KNEELAND, IN QUEEN STREET.
PSALM ciii. 2.
"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits."
WE are invited into the house of God, to-day, my brethren, to offer thanksgiving and praise to the Giver of all our favors. Not only civil authority calls hereto, but reason and religion make the same demand upon us. Natural religion shows it our duty gratefully to acknowledge the favors conferred upon us by our supreme Benefactor. It is our reasonable service: and the word of revelation teaches us, "in every thing to give thanks."
The setting apart particular days for this service, when we have received any signal tokens of divine favor, or one day annually to record the smiles of Providence in the past year, if not expressly enjoined us in the Scriptures, yet no doubt is consistent with them, and a laudable practice.
The design of a discourse upon such a solemnity, is to assist and regulate our praises; to enforce the duty, and show with what temper of mind it ought to be performed; that God in all things may be glorified.
And since we are now brought near the close of another year, wherein the blessings of Heaven have been, in many instances, liberally dispensed to us, thoughts like those suggested in the words of my text, may be a suitable entertainment for us, at this time. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits." In this verse and several others in the Psalm, the devout singer seems endeavoring to rouse his soul to the delightful exercises of praise and thanksgiving; seems endeavoring to blow up the coals of love, into a flame of gratitude and in order to do this, he entertains thoughts calculated for that purpose. He contemplates the object of praise-the Lord. Bless the Lord, who
is merciful and gracious-who is worthy to receive blessing and honor, and glory and power; worthy because of his glorious and incomprehensible perfections: He is mercy, he is goodness, he is love, &c. therefore ought to "inherit the praises of Israel." But these perfections are not only so resident in God as to constitute his essence, but there is the exercise and manifestation of them, in acts of beneficence to his creatures. "He is good, and doth good." All our mercies flow from divine goodness. "Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights." Therefore the devout penman of the Psalm turns his mind upon the benefits conferred on him, by a bounteous God: "Forget not all his benefits." Forget not, i. e. remember. Let a sense of divine goodness abide on my heart and memory, let his favors be frequently meditated upon, that they may set all the faculties of my inward man in exercise, that the ardors of praise and thanksgiving may arise, like incense, from my heart, deeply affected with a sense of God's goodness.
In conformity to my text, and the present occasion, I shall by divine assistance, briefly consider, who is the supreme object of our praises, for favors received-The nature and properties of true praise and thanksgiving-The propriety of recollecting and contemplating the favors which God bestows upon us, to excite us to, and animate us in, the duty of thanksgiving-And then, apply it to the occasion of the present day, by mentioning some of the smiles of Providence in the course of the year past, which call for our thankful acknowledgment at this time; and pressing upon you all the duty of praise and gratitude.
I. First, I am briefly to consider who is the object of praise for the favors we receive, viz. the Lord: "the only living and true God."-This is suggested in those words of my text, "Bless the Lord."
That God is the proper and ultimate object of our praise, is evident from Scripture testimony-and the consideration of his being the original source of every favor we enjoy.
1. The Scriptures abundantly evidence God to be the proper and supreme object of praise.-We find the saints of God, both in the Old and New Testament, when they received any special kindness in the course of divine providence, or turned their thoughts upon the good things they enjoyed, soon uniting their hearts and tongues in giving praises to God-"I will praise thy name for thy loving kindness-I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall be continually in my mouth ""O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!"" It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord "-" Blessing and glory, and wisdom and
thanksgiving, and honor and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever, Amen."-Such expressions as these, are as the very breath of the pious, when meditating upon the mercies of the Lord; and they seem to dwell with a pleasing accent upon the name of the Lord, sensible that none may share with him in their supreme adorations.
I might go on to repeat a great many passages of Scripture, in which God is evidently represented as the supreme object of praise and thanksgiving; but it would be but telling you, what I trust, you very well know; and look too much like such a suspicion of your knowledge in the Scriptures, as I am unwilling to entertain.
I therefore add,
2. That the consideration of God's being the original source and dispenser of all favors, speaks him the only proper object of our supreme praise and thanksgiving.
Reason and common sense teach us nothing more plain than that the Author and Bestower of favors is to be thanked therefor. Gratitude to a benefactor appears vastly reasonable in every view: And it is very evident that God is to be considered as our Great Benefactor; that every blessing we enjoy, of what nature or kind soever, in what way, or by what instrument soever conveyed to us, ought to be esteemed as the favor of God.-Is the favor preventive? It is his hand that screens us from the evils to which we are exposed. "It is of the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed." Is the favor providential bounty? He is the God of providence: The heavens, the earth, and the sea are his; and when we receive a supply from their treasures, we should look upon ourselves as fed by the liberal hand of God. Or if the liberality of our fellow-creatures ministers to our necessities, we may not terminate our gratitude upon those who were immediate instruments of our supply, though we may acknowledge our obligations to them; but should raise it to that God, who "hath the hearts of all men in his hand, and turns them as the rivers are turned;" and can dispose them to acts of kindness and generosity, when he pleases.-Yes, every favor is primarily from God, the great first cause of all things; and therefore he is the ultimate object of our praises for the good things we enjoy.
II. Secondly, I am to consider the nature and properties of true praise and thanksgiving.
And the following things may be justly considered as implied in, and connected with this duty :
A strong sense and thorough conviction of our unworthiness of any favors, and therefore that they flow from the mere grace and bounty of God.