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Chapter XLII.

The Reasons For Which We Ought Daily To Offer Praises To God.

Praise ye the Lord, O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever.Ps. 106:1; 107:1; 118:1.

Thus saith the devout David, “Seven times a day do I praise thee, because of thy righteous judgments” (Ps. 119:164); that is, many times in a day do I sing praises in honor of thy holy name. By this he teaches us, that a man cannot spend his time better than by retiring at least once a day into his closet, and praising God in secret. Yea, though 310 his hands be employed in labor and business, yet may he, in the quiet stillness of his heart, offer up his praises unto God wheresoever he is. For the prayer of a true Christian is not confined to any certain time or place, since he worships “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23); and the Spirit is not circumscribed by any limits of time or place. To which also relates the admonition of St. Paul, when he commands us “to sing with grace in our hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16); that being, indeed, the fittest place wherein God may be praised.

2. But as we are by nature dull and inactive in the discharge of this duty, therefore God has given us, in his Word, certain helps to quicken us.

3. The first of these is his own command. He made us, his servants and creatures, for his own glory, as we ourselves appoint servants to manage business for us. He, therefore, who does not daily praise God, was created by him in vain, and cannot be his servant. Hence we are commanded, over and over again, in Holy Scripture, above all things, to praise God. Thus, “Praise ye the Lord. Praise him, O ye servants of the Lord.” Ps. 113:1. “O give thanks unto the Lord.” Ps. 118:1. “Thou shalt glorify me.” Ps. 50:15. This is an argument to us, that the chief part of our religious worship, our chief service in this world, and our happiness in the next, consist in the exercise of praise and thanksgiving; upon which account we ought to esteem it our greatest happiness and most honorable employment. So the holy Psalmist says, “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips.” Ps. 63:4. And again, “Delight thyself in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Ps. 37:4. O how truly happy, then, and blessed is he who is come to such perfection of divine worship as to delight in the Lord, and to be continually offering praises and thanks! “He shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.” Ps. 65:5. If we think it an honorable thing to be employed in the service of any earthly prince, how much more ought a man to rejoice when he considers that he may be admitted to the service of the Lord of lords, and King of kings, being, in his own nature, no better than dust and ashes, and a poor sinner! This single consideration ought to be of sufficient weight to encourage him to praise God daily.

4. Secondly, the advantages that a man derives from this exercise, is another argument. For since God has no need of our praises, and is neither the better nor the worse for our obedience or neglect; and since the most acceptable praise which we can offer him is, at best, but the fruit of “unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5), as the prophet Isaiah speaks, it follows that the advantage redounds only to ourselves, as being the means of drawing down upon us the favor and blessings of heaven: a thankful heart being the proper receptacle of divine grace. This, in short, is that which brings God down into our souls, and makes us truly the living temples of the Holy Ghost; and where God is, there is the fulness of divine blessing. Moreover, by the daily exercise of thanksgiving, we keep up communion with the blessed choirs of triumphant saints and angels in heaven. They are incessantly singing the praises of God above; whilst we below, by the same exercise, are conquering, by degrees, 311 the enemies of our salvation (Ps. 18:29), till at length, by a constant practice of this divine duty, we are filled with an immovable assurance that we are united to God, and that we shall be for ever happy with him in heaven, according to the promise of our blessed Lord, “Where I am, there shall also my servant be.” John 12:26. And now, would to God that wretched man would so lay these considerations to heart, and so sincerely endeavor to practise them, that every soul might become, in truth, a house of prayer!

5. Thirdly, we are encouraged to the daily practice of thanksgiving, from the consideration of the compassion, the lovingkindness, and everlasting goodness of God. This is an argument continually inculcated in the Book of Psalms, to teach us that the chief and fundamental reason why we ought continually to bless and praise God, is, because he is good and gracious, and “his mercy endureth for ever.” No heart of man can conceive, nor tongue express, the height and depth of that love which disposes the great and mighty God to show himself thus loving and merciful to wretched mankind, who are dust and ashes, laden with iniquities, and ungrateful to God; and that he not only continues his wonted mercies to them, notwithstanding their repeated provocations; but is also perpetually dispensing fresh showers of blessings upon the whole rebellious race. And this is what every man must needs experience in himself. Look into thine own soul, whosoever thou art; what canst thou find there but misery and sin? Yet God continues merciful and long-suffering, is slow to anger, and not willing to punish thee as thy sins have deserved. This is a degree of mercy which, as thy own heart must confess, no man living does or can exercise towards his brethren. We cannot so long forbear to punish those that have offended us; and when we punish, mercy seldom pleads for the criminal, till we are satiated with vengeance; whereas the rod of God is often lifted up, but his mercy averts the impending stroke, and rescues the sinner from punishment. So that every man must confess that the punishments of heaven are not only less than we deserve, but are always qualified with a double portion of mercy. Whence it follows, that God is essentially and truly love, which every man daily experiences in himself.

6. Read the Holy Scriptures and see how tenderly, yea, how affectionately God vouchsafes to deal with mankind, so that no father or mother upon earth can be more indulgent to their darling child. Thus, “Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore, my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord.” Jer. 31:20.

7. God not only bestows his favors plentifully both on our souls and bodies, but also does it with so much tenderness and good will, that, as he himself says, “He rejoices over us to do us good” (Jer. 32:41); as if he were glad to find men willing to be happy in the blessed manifestations of his love; which is, indeed, the truest demonstration that it is sincere. Were not God thus merciful, our very being would soon be at an end, which nothing but his infinite mercy can sustain; yea, “His lovingkindness is better than life itself” (Ps. 63:3), which “compasseth us about” (Ps. 32:10), 312 as tender mothers embrace their helpless infants.

8. The same goodness of God discovers itself in all his creatures; in which, as in a glass, we may contemplate the wonderful riches of divine mercy: “The earth is full of the riches of God.” Ps. 104:24. For whose sake was all that is good, both in heaven and earth, created? Not for Him certainly, who is Himself all-sufficient, and stands not in need of any creature. The sun, moon, and stars serve not to enlighten him; the fire, the air, the earth, and water do him no service, but us. And when he “fills our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17), it is his goodness that we taste, it is his bounty that feeds and nourishes us. He it is that gives us healthy and sound bodies, which are more valuable to us than an empire. If it should please God to turn the water into blood, as he did in Egypt (Exod. 7:20), we could not, with all our boasted treasure, purchase one single drop to relieve our greatest necessities. Or should he, as he did once (Exod. 10:22), cover the earth with thick darkness, no prince upon earth could, with all his riches, purchase one single gleam of light. Or what would all the world signify to him that should but for one moment be deprived of the benefit of the air? All these are very great blessings of God, but because they are common, few are so sensible of them as to be thankful for them. Reflect, moreover, on the mercies of redemption and sanctification, in which the goodness and grace of God so transcendently appear, that eternity itself would be too short to praise and magnify these blessings as we ought. To redeem a lost world is much more glorious than to create it at first; and to regenerate a man by a spiritual new birth, more wondrous than at first to produce him by a natural birth. Lastly, whosoever will carefully consider the works and providence of God, may read the plain characters of his mercy and love in every part of the creation.

9. Dull, ungrateful creatures that we are, how apt are we to forget our benefactor, and despise the hand that blesses us! God is thus led in mere mercy to use the rod of discipline, and to take away our worldly comforts from us, in order thereby to reduce us to a sober sense of ourselves, and of our dependence on him, to whom all our thanks are due. Thus God speaks by the prophet Hosea, “She did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and her gold: therefore will I return, and take them from her.” Hosea 2:8. So that the cross is, as it were, the light by which we see and discover the true value of divine blessings, and who it is that bestows them. For ingratitude is the greatest degree of blindness, and the highest affront against God. And since the whole world is full of the glory of God, much more ought the heart of man to be full of it.

10. Indeed the excellency of the divine love discovers itself chiefly in this, that he bestows his favors even upon rebels and enemies. “For he maketh his sun to rise, and sendeth his rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matt. 5:45.

11. The goodness and mercy of God herein appear still more illustrious, that though we continue ungrateful, and our hearts “cast forth wickedness as a fountain casteth forth her waters” (Jer. 6:7), yet he still strives to conquer our ingratitude by his goodness, and does not take his mercy from us; 313 as the Psalmist says, “His mercy endureth forever.” Ps. 136:1. So that as the heart of man is, as it were, an abyss of iniquity (Jer. 17:9), so God is an abyss of mercy, an ever-flowing fountain of goodness, so much superior in kind, as well as in degree, to that of any created being, that he doeth nothing but good, and receives nothing in return but evil; which the uncreated and infinite Good alone could do or suffer. And when, provoked by our wickedness, he seems sometimes to lay aside his mercy, and “in anger to shut up his tender mercies” (Ps. 77:10), yet even that is nothing but paternal resentment, not tending to destruction, but so tempered with compassion, that mercy triumphs over judgment. So, “If his children forsake my law, I will visit their transgressions with the rod: nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him.” Ps. 89:30-33. And, “In wrath remember mercy.” Hab. 3:2. So, too, we read, “He doth not afflict willingly the children of men.” Lam. 3:33. For punishment is, as it were, contrary to his nature and essential goodness. For though the Scriptures often speak of God's being angry, yet such expressions are used, after the manner of men, only in compliance with the weakness of human capacities. Yea, God is never angry with his faithful servants; but only with wicked and obstinate sinners; and when he corrects the former in mercy, he punishes the latter in his wrath; for “the wrath of God abideth on them.” John 3:36. Hence David prays, “O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger.” Ps. 6:1. As if he had said, “Lord, chasten me with mercy, as a tender father corrects his beloved child.” Wherefore, it is as impossible that the mercy and goodness of God should fail or cease towards mankind (though he sometimes afflicts us), as that the sun should actually be extinguished by a cloud, or the vast ocean be absorbed by a sponge. “For his mercy endureth forever.” Ps. 136:1. And this is the reason of God's reconciliation and forgiveness, not once or twice, but as often as the sinner begins to repent and sue for mercy. This mercy does not last for a few hours, or a few days only, but forever; so that the entire nature and essence of God, infinite as it is, is nothing else but love. No sooner does the sinner sincerely pray for pardon, but the merciful God freely bestows it, yea, he is more willing and ready to pardon, than we to ask it.

12. Now if God pours his blessings upon us so plentifully in this life, that we taste and enjoy them by all our senses; how much more fully shall we be convinced, in the other world, by most blessed experience, that his mercy endureth forever? If we receive so many mercies from him now in this vale of sin and misery, as that “in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28), how much more glorious will his mercy appear hereafter, when we shall be cleansed from all sin, and rendered capable of the purest enjoyments?

13. Fourthly, the praises of God have been the special employment of all holy men. Most of the prophets of the Old Testament composed holy hymns, to the praise and honor of God. Thus did Moses (Exod. 15; Deut. 32), Hannah (1 Sam. 2), Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 20), Hezekiah (Isa. 38), and Jeremiah (Lam. 3). David was, however, the most eminent, who is so fervent in the praise of God, as to say, that “His praise shall continually be in his mouth.” Ps. 34:1. In the New Testament, the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:46-55), and Zacharias (Luke 1:68-79); 314 also St. Paul and St. Peter, in many places of their Epistles. These examples sufficiently show that they believed acts of thanksgiving and praise to be the most noble services which we can possibly perform in this valley of misery. And, therefore, if we are desirous to be partakers with the saints in glory, it is necessary that we should imitate their examples in praising and magnifying God.

14. Fifthly, all creatures invite us to praise God. Thus David speaks to them all, “Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion.” Ps. 103:22. And, indeed, every creature, in its way, gives glory to its Creator; for he has stamped such illustrious characters of his glory and goodness on them all, that they cannot conceal them. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Ps. 19:1. And Job says, “Where wast thou, when the morning stars sang together?” Chap. 38:4, 7. For even the sun, the moon, and all the host of heaven, when they give their light, bear witness at the same time to the majesty and goodness of Him that made them. The earth praises God when it is fruitful and flourishing. The herbs and flowers, by their fragrance, beauty, and variety of colors, show forth the might and wisdom of their Maker. The birds with their songs; the trees with their fruits; the sea with its inhabitants (Ps. 104:25); in short, all the creatures in their several places, praise the God that made them, whilst they fulfil his will, and answer the end for which they were created. Ps. 148:1, etc. And not only so, but they call upon mankind, by the virtues and powers which God has implanted in them, as witnesses of his wisdom and goodness, to praise and glorify God. Whatever way we turn our eyes, we see so many marks of divine goodness, that one would think that nature was nothing but one great history of the glory of its Maker. But forasmuch as God has been more gracious and bountiful unto man than to any other of his creatures, mankind are certainly obliged to furnish larger and more frequent returns of gratitude than they.

15. Sixthly, we must know, that when we have done all that we can to set forth the greatness and majesty of God, the best and most devout of men must fall short of the dignity of a subject, which no tongue, either of men or angels, can worthily express. For “Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? who can show forth all his praise?” Ps. 106:2. The most exalted praises of holy men are more properly acts of admiration and wonder, than attempts to express to the full the infinite love and majesty of God. They have the will, but not the ability, to praise God in adequate terms. Thus holy David in many Psalms stirs up his soul, and all the powers thereof, to praise his God with thanksgiving. So Moses, “The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation. He is my God, and I will prepare him a habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him.” Exod. 15:2. Observe, he calls God his strength; and were not that strength with us, in us, and above us, we should quickly be turned into dust, and vanish like a shadow. Therefore it is said: “Every man at his best state is altogether vanity.” Ps. 39:5. Moses also calls God his salvation; for he is our righteousness against sin; our strength against infirmities; our refuge in persecution; our joy in sadness; and lastly our life in death.

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16. And now, what is there in heaven or in earth that may be compared unto our God, with whom is such abundant salvation; who, by his power, sustains the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein (Isa. 40:12); who is so holy that all the angels adore him (Isa. 6:3), so “fearful in praises” (Exod. 15:11) that the heaven, the earth, and all that is under the earth, bow and tremble? He is so praiseworthy that all his works ought to be had in honor, and every creature ought to praise his Maker: so wise, so powerful, as to create all things out of nothing; to bring light out of darkness; righteousness out of sin; and life out of death. Should we now pass to the great work of our redemption, who can express it? He suffers his only Son to become man, that we might become the children of God. He suffers all pain as man, that we might enjoy everlasting felicity; he took upon him the form of a servant, that we might be partakers of his heavenly kingdom; lastly, he underwent death for us, that we, through him, might have life eternal. Such works, such love, who can worthily celebrate? Where is he that can explain how the infinite God, “whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain” (1 Kings 8:27), can yet dwell in us, and we in him? Or how he made our immortal souls, and will receive them to himself after their separation from the body? Or how he shall raise our dead bodies from the dust of the earth unto eternal life? It is, indeed, wonderful and strange, that that which is “mortal should put on immortality.” 1 Cor. 15:53. Wherefore, praise the Lord, O my soul.

17. If any man, then, desires to answer the end of his creation, and not to be thought the only ingrate among all the works of God; if he desires to walk worthy of his Christian calling, and after death to be partaker with the saints of light and everlasting glory, let his soul praise the Lord, and let him beseech God that He would never suffer his soul to be unmindful or negligent of this duty. And those things which we cannot sufficiently praise in this world shall be worthily celebrated in the next, when “that which is in part shall be done away. For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.” 1 Cor. 13:10, 12. Which may God grant, for Jesus Christ's sake.

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