« PreviousContinue »
if he makes my sickness and my poverty turn to the good of my soul, this I may very rationally thank him for. I cannot thank God for depriving me of the society of a dear and useful friend : the most that I can do, is to forbear, murmuring and repining at it ; and to bear it with courage and decency : but if such a providence as this is the means of making me more heavenly and spiritual ; if it weans my affections from the world, and fixes them upon God; if it makes me more thoughtful about death and judgment, and more diligent in making preparation for them; then, tho I cannot thank God for the death of my friend, fimply and in itself confidered, yet I may, and I ought to thank him for those happy effects and consequences of it. This shall suffice for the explication of the precept, in every thing give thanks.
The next thing to be explained, is the reason assigned for the practice of it ; viz. because it is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us.
Now here are two things which deserve to be consider'd.
1. How it can be said, that thankfgiving is the will of God in Christ Jesus?
which infinuates as if our obligation to it was founded on the christian religion, when it is manifest that is a part of natural religion, and what we fhould have been obliged to, tho there had never been any positive revelation of the will of God, either by Christ or by any other.
2. How it can be said to be the will of God in Chrift Jesus, when it doth not appear from the history of his life, that he delivered any precept, or made any declaration of the will of God about it?
As to the first, it may be acknowledged, that thanksgiving is a natural duty, to which mankind was obliged before the coming of Christ, and would have been so tho he had never appeared in the world to reveal the will of God
Our obligation to it arises from the relation we stand in towards God
He hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the meep of his pasture; therefore we should enter into his gates with thansgiving, and into his courts with praise ; Psalm C. 3; 4. But it doth not follow, that because a duty may be discerned by the light of nature, therefore it may not be enjoined by a positive precept : for
God may make known his will to us by as many ways as he pleases; and the more methods he takes for the discovering his mind to us, the more thankful ought we to be unto him. The law of nature teaches men to honour their parents, to abstain from murder, adultery, theft, and all injurious treatment of our neighbour ; and yet God thought fit to oblige the Jews unto the practice of these duties by positive precepts: and so there are many duties that are founded in the nature and reason of things, which are adopted by our Saviour into the christian scheme, and made a part of his religion. And this is so far from derogating from christianity, that it adds to the glory of it ; for there is more beauty and excellency in precepts of a moral nature, which visibly result from principles of reafon, than in positive institutions. Our Saviour came to strengthen and enforce all moral obligations. Undoubtedly, from the beginning of the world, it was the will of God that men should give thanks : but it more eminently appeared to be so after the coming of Christ than it did before ; because God, by sending him into the world upon
so kind a design as that of their redemption, bestowed on them a greater favour than ever he did before, and indeed the greatest that he possibly could.
But how can it be said that thankfgiving is the will of God in Christ Jesus; when it doth not appear from the history of his life, that he delivered any precept, or made any declaration of the will of God about it? It is plain, that he thought thanksgiving was a duty, because he practised it himself ; Matt. XI. 25. I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou haft bid these things from the wife and prudent, and has revealed them unto babes. And just before he raised Lazarus from the dead, he lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou bast heard me ; John XI. 41. And we find that he always blessed, or gave thanks before meat.
And as he practised thanksgiving himself, so he commended it in others. We read in the XVIIth chapter of Luke, that ten leprous men met our Saviour as he was entring into a village, and cried unto him to have mercy upon them. He commanded them to go and shew themselves to the priests ; and as they went they were cleansed.' One of them, who was a Samaritan, when he saw that he was healed, turned back with a great voice glorifying God, and he fell down on his face at the feet of Jesus, giving him thanks; and Jesus said, Were there not ten cleansed ? but where are the nine ? there have not been found, who have returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. By this our Lord insinuates, that the Samaritan had done what was proper and becoming, and that the rest had been guilty of a great fault. So that it appears he thought thanksgiving to be a duty, and the neglect of it a sin. Yet neither here, nor any where else, that I know of, doth he give any precept for it, or make any declaration of the will of God about it. His apostles indeed deliver precept upon precept, but he himself is very silent in the matter. How then can it be said, that thanksgiving is the will of God in Christ Jesus?