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righteousness of the Redeemer? Descend in imagination to the pit of despair, behold thousands who, a year since, like you were in the season of visitation; now their everlasting destiny is decided, while the offers of mercy yet sound in your ears; while Jesus yet offers you pardon and salvation. And shall not this consideration affect you? View their anguish! listen to their cries! and if you will not listen to the word of God, at least let the agony of the damned preach gratitude to you!
Are you renewed and quickened by divine grace? And can your hearts be cold when you remember the vast debt which you owe to God? Brands plucked from the eternal burnings! will you not praise and magnify Him who delivered you from thraldom to Satan, and introduced you “into the glorious liberty of the sons of God;" who stretched forth from heaven the arm of his power, and plucked you from the suburbs of hell; who sanctified your unholy hearts; who gave you the influences of his blessed Spirit; who adopted you into his heavenly family, and bestowed himself upon you as your portion, your protector, your father, your friend? Believer! look Jaround thee upon the earth! consider the millions that are going carelessly to hell! remember the numerous descendants of Adam that lie there in agonies ! and whilst thou, a child of God, beholdest these victims of eternal vengeance; whilst thou canst confidently look up to heaven as thy country; whilst thou rememberest that it was free and sovereign grace that prepared thee for this peaceful home; whilst thou rememberest the spiritual comforts which have been given thee on thy way to it, will not thy heart even burn within thee, and thy mouth overflow with thanksgivings?
But I forbear: thy mercies, Lord, are innumerable; and to reckon them up in order before thee, is as difficult as toʻcount the stars in the heavens, or the sand which is on the sea-shore.
II. Shall our hearts be unaffected by this kindness of our God? Our blessings will then be converted into a curse, and at the judgment-day, we must answer for our misimprovement of them : the remembrance that they were given and despised, will aggravate our misery throughout eternity. Ingratitude, with respect to men, is ever considered by you as the evidence of a most abandoned character, as the unfailing mark of a total dereliction of every noble emotion; and yet how many of us, occupied by the cares of the world, engaged in the pursuit of a thousand frivolous objects, never feelingly remember the goodness of the Lord, and our infinite obligations thence resulting to love, to serve, and to glorify our benefactor? Were it a fellow-worm that we treated with such unthankfulness, we should blush and be confounded, and be regarded with scorn by others; but we are cool and unaffected; our conduct excites no surprise in the world, because it is not a mortal man, but only thou, great God, whom we outrage; because it is only the gift of every temporal blessing, every spiritual privilege, and every eternal hope ; because it is only the gift of thy well-beloved Son, only the offer of his merit, his grace, his spirit, his heaven, and his Father, that leaves our hearts unaffected! What blindness! what guilt !
The exercise of gratitude for the divine mercies is certainly the most elevated of all the occupations of the believer; for it leads us, thus to speak, even to heaven, and attaches us immediately to God : it places in our heart the greatest object that can en
gage it, in our mouth the greatest name which can fill it ; it unites us to God in a manner the most tender and disinterested, by emotions of love, by emotions which have for their end the glory even of God. Many of our other graces spring from our indigence and need : our faith receives blessings; our hope looks for those that are to come; our prayers supplicate for them; these draw from the treasures of God to enrich ourselves: gratitude alone, asks nothing, but renders to the Lord its vows and praises ; it does not always lie with empty hands at the throne of the Most Merciful, imploring succour. It is, thus to speak, the effect of our abundance: by it, we, in some manner, give to him who gives us all; it is the production, not of an empty heart, but of a heart overflowing with the blessings which he has conferred upon it. How noble! how elevated an employment! how deserving the ambition of the Christian and the man!
But how shall this gratitude be expressed ? Is it sufficient for us coldly to bless God with our lips; unconcernedly to enter into his holy temple, and unite with his people in declaring our thankfulness? No, my brethren: this alone will not satisfy him who searcheth the heart; who trifles not with us, and will not permit us to trifle with him. We must “ fear the Lord, and serve him in truth, with all our heart." Fear him; not with that servile dread which is the characteristic of those who are in bondage to sin, and are heirs of perdition; but with those emotions suited to the situation and hopes of the believer: with that filial fear, which, influencing the whole course of the life, will lead the Christian reverently to regard the divine goodness; will inspire him with a holy dread of offending so tender a Father, with a sacred apprehension, lest he should displease so beneficent a God: with that fear which, unlike that terror of the ungodly, which is the consequence of their guilt, the terrible presage of their approaching perdition, the importunate troubler of their festivities, fills the believer with peace and joy, while he views with affectionate reverence the tenderest of Fathers : that fear which is attended by trust in the mercy of God, which, while it encourages circumspection, does not destroy peace; which, while it opposes security, establishes the assurance of faith; and which keeps the soul in close communion with God. This filial fear must necessarily impel us to 6 serve the Lord in truth, with all our heart.” It will not rest satisfied with the most splendid outward performances : since “ God is a Spirit,” the believer will pay his thanks “ in spirit and in truth.” If these be the sentiments of his soul, if this be the conduct of his life, his tongue cannot be silent. “ If, with the angels, he flies to perform the will of the Lord, with them he will delight to declare the praises of his Benefactor. Gratitude, which loosed the tongue of Zechariah at the birth of John the Baptist, will loose his also, and cause him to glorify God with a loud voice.
III. Such a mode of expressing our gratitude by devoting our lives to the service of God, is right and good. It is the right way enjoined upon us by the nature of things, as well as by the authority of God. Your own consciences attest that the multiplied and constantly reiterated mercies of the Lord demand these returns: render them to him, or expect hereafter the recompense of your ingratitude. It is a way which is profitable, and will secure for us
a new favours. God wastes not his blessings: the
streams of his goodness will not always flow upon a barren and unfertile soil: he will at last turn them to those places that will be rendered by them luxuriant and productive. While - from him that bath not” improved what was originally conferred upon him, and been induced by divine mercy to serve God, “ shall be taken away even that which he hath," to the thankful and obedient “ there shall be given still richer mercies," and they shall have abundance." Let no one then, by his ingratitude, arrest the mercies of God, and convert them into judgments. As many ungrateful persons as we have, so many obstacles are thrown in the way of our felicity, so many are injurers of their country. Unhappy men, do you envy us our prosperity ?
This way is pleasant and good. How delightful to serve God from the impulse of gratitude; to approach him with an overflowing heart; remembering our blessings, and doubling them by recollection, and only lamenting that we can do so little for one who possesses our souls, and who has done so much
Oh! how sweet is this labour of love! Yes, Christians! act thus, and every situation in life will be to you full of blessedness. Prosperity will not be to you as to the ungrateful, a snare for your virtue; it will never for you be turned into a curse; you will preserve in the midst of your enjoyments a heart humble, docile, detached from the vanities of the world. Adversity will not destroy your tranquillity: it will only try your fidelity, and display your patience and resignation. The divine light which surrounds you, the gospel which is announced to you, the succours of grace which are offered to you, will not rise up in judgment against you. The good use that you shall have made of them, will