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all the variety of circumstances they experienced under the light of God's countenance, and the hidings of his face; under prosperity and adversity, under distress of body, and anguish of mind; in the exercise of hope and fear, joy and grief, confidence and despondency. But of all the exercises becoming a creature and child of God, there is none which has a greater share in these writings, ás indeed there is none we have greater occasion to be employed in, than that of praise and thanksgiving. This is, indeed, “our rea« sonable service;" and if we reflect that this duty, above all others, is the employment of angels in heaven, and of “ the spirits of just men “made perfect," and will be our own to all eternity, if ever we are inade “ partakers of the in“ heritance of the saints in light," it will appear most natural and most reasonable that we should be much engaged in it while on earth; for though it were not our bounden duty, the joy and delight which results from it is a motive sufficient to engage us to a practice so agreeable-let me add, that in the exercise of this duty above all others, our natural inclinations are most gratified. We all wish to appear before God with something of our own. There is nothing which he expects of us, nothing he will accept from us, but humble gratitude, but a heart that receives ON THE DUTY OF PRAISE. 221 his gifts with thankfulness. Let us proceed, then, to illustrate this great and necessary duty, by considering the obligations we are under to it, taking the psalmist for our guide. “ Bless the “ Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me " bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my $soul, and forget not all his benefits."
This duty is by no means a piece of external form, does by no means consist in the expression of certain words, or in the agitation and posture of certain parts of the body--no, any person, and at any time, may perform all the outward acts of devotion without a single spark of the real fervor of it: accordingly we find a heavy charge to this purpose against the people of the Jews: “ This people draw near me with their s mouth, and with their lips do honour me; “ but have removed their heart far from me." But thanksgiving is an act of the soul, it is the overflowing of a heart pierced with a deep and grateful sense of benefits received, diffusing itself over all the powers and faculties both of body and mind, communicating itself to the voice and features by means of that wonderful sympathy which subsists between the corporeal and spiritual parts of man, whereby they are mutually affested with each others feelings, enjoying and suffering in concert. Not but that this divine exercise is frequently performed, and no less agreeably to him who is the object of it, in the still raptures of silent gratitude. The soul is not always able to express what it feels, nor indeed is there occasion for words to him “ who seeth “ the heart, who knoweth the thoughts afar off;” who is not to be imposed upon by false appearances, but can easily distinguish between the empty noisy shew of hypocrisy, and the unaffected simplicity of true religion. There has been an objection raised against the reasonableness both of this duty and that of prayer, from the consideration of God's immutability, and the infinite distance there is between us and him. For what purpose,
it has been said, should we pray to God, as if he would alter what he has absolutely decreed, for any thing we can say? and to what purpose praise him; as if a few words pronounced by us, by creatures so infinitely below him, could add any thing to his glory? but this is the most frivolous way of arguing that can be imagined. We pray to God, not that we expect our prayers should prevail upon him to alter the word that he hath spoken; but in the first place, because he has expressly commanded us so to do, then, as it is a testimony of our submission to him; and dependance upon him; and lastly, as this duty
has a direct tendency to promote our increase in all the graces and virtues of the christian life. For while we pray unto God—“ lead us not into “ temptation,” we will certainly endeavour to avoid temptation, or else we act a very inconsistent part; while we pray for strength to overcome such and such a corruption, we will naturally set ourselves to mortify and subdue it; while we pray for the conferring of such and such a grace, we will certainly make it our business to acquire it; while we pray for our brethren of mankind, we will thereby learn that universal charity and benevolence which are so ornamental to a christian, In the same manner we may vindicate the duty of praising God; not because our doing so makes any addition to his glory; by no means; but because he requires it from us, and because it is a real benefit to ourselves. One who is strongly under the influence of any passion, we see by daily experience, is much eased and relieved by giving vent to it, to instance, in the passion of grief: a heart oppressed with a load of this kind, finds immediate relief by venting itself in words or tears; in like manner, a soul overcharged with a sense of what God has done for it, naturally has recourse to humble praise and adoration to disburthen itself. Surely, then, we have the highest reason to call, with the psalmist, upon our soul, and all that is within us, to bless the Lord; nay, we have infinitely greater reason, by how much our mercies and privileges exceed his. The psalmist, in the most beautiful language, in another psalm recommends this duty from the agreeableness of it; and at the same time, points out the seasons that are peculiarly proper for it: “ It is a good thing to give thanks unto the
Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O “ Most High: to shew forth thy loving kindness “ in the morning, and thy faithfulness every
night.” What so natural when we awake from sleep in the morning, and recover the use of our reason, which had lain for a while suspended, when we behold the returning light of another day, and the face of nature renewed by the cheering rays of the sun, what so natural, what so de lightful, as then to offer up the pure incense of a thankful heart, to him who “causeth the outgoings “ of the evening and the morning to rejoice," and who will, at last, raise these our bodies from the sleep of death in the morning of the resurrection to immortal glory and honour, that so we may be ever with “ God and with the Lamb, who " loved us, and washed us from our sins in his
own blood?" Again, when we are going to lay ourselves down to rest at night, when we recollect the various mercies of the past day, the pro