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At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee, because of thy righteous judgments.—Ver. 62.
IN these words observe three things:—
1. David’s holy employment, or the duty promised, giving thanks to God.
2. His earnestness and fervency, implied in the time mentioned, at midnight I will rise; rather interrupt his sleep and rest than God should want his praise.
3. The cause or matter of his thanksgiving, because of thy righteous judgments, whereby he meaneth the dispensations of his providence in delivering the godly and punishing the wicked according to his word. Where observe—
1. The term by which these dispensations are expressed, judgments.
2. The adjunct, righteous judgments.
1. For the term, ‘judgments,’ they are so called partly because they are God’s judicial acts belonging to his government of the world; partly because they are dispensed according to his word, the sentences of which are also called judgments. There are the judgments of his mouth and of his hand: Ps. cxix. 13, ‘With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth.’
2. The adjunct, ‘righteous,’ or the judgments of thy righteousness; so called because they are holy, just, and full of equity.
Doct. 1. One special duty wherein the people of God should be much exercised is thanksgiving.
Doct. 2. That, God’s providence rightly considered, we shall in the worst times find much more cause to give thanks than to complain.
Doct. 3. That a heart deeply affected with God’s providence will take all occasions to praise God and give thanks to his name, both in season and out of season.
Doct. 1. One special duty wherein the people of God should be much exercised is thanksgiving. This duty is often pressed upon us: Heb. xiii. 15, ‘Let us offer the sacrifice of praise continually, which is the fruit of our lips;’ giving thanks unto his name. There are two words there used, praise and thanksgiving: generally taken, they are the same; strictly taken, thanksgiving differeth from praise. They agree that we use our voice in thanksgiving, as we do also in praise, for they are both said to be the fruit of our lips. What is in the prophet Hosea, 161 chap. xiv. 2, ‘calves of our lips,’ is in the Septuagint, ‘the fruit of our lips:’ and they both agree that they are a sacrifice offered to our supreme benefactor, or that they belong to the thank-offerings of the gospel. But they differ in that thanksgiving belongeth to benefits bestowed on ourselves or others; but in relation to us, praise to any excellency whatsoever. Thanksgiving may be in word or deed; praise in words only. Well, then, thanksgiving is a sensible acknowledgment of favours received, or an expression of our sense of them, by word and work, to the praise of the bestower. The object of it is the works of God as beneficial unto us, or to those who are related to us, or in whose good or ill we are concerned. As public persons, as magistrates: 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2, ‘I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplication, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority.’ Pastors of the church: 2 Cor. i. 11, ‘You also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons, thanks may be given by many on our behalf.’ Or our kindred according to the flesh, or some bond of Christian duty: Rom. xii. 15, ‘Rejoice with them that do rejoice.’ Another place where this duty is enforced is Eph. v. 20, where we are bidden to ‘give thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;’ where you see it is a duty of a universal and perpetual use, and one wherein the honour of God and Christ is much concerned. A third place is 1 Thes. v. 18, ‘In everything give thanks, for this is the will of, God in Christ Jesus concerning you.’ See what reason he urgeth; the express will of God requiring this worship at our hands. We are to obey intuitu voluntatis. God’s will is the fundamental reason of our obedience in every commandment; but here is a direct charge, now God hath made known the wonders of his love in Christ.
I shall prove to you that this is a necessary duty, a profitable duty, a pleasant and delightful duty.
1. The necessity of being much and often in thanksgiving will appear by these two considerations:—
[1.] Because God is continually beneficial to us, blessing and delivering his people every day, and by new mercies giveth us new matter of praise and thanksgiving: Ps. lxviii. 19, ‘Blessed be the God of our salvation, who loadeth us daily with his benefits, Selah.’ He hath continually favoured us and preserved us, and poured his benefits upon us. The mercies of every day make way for songs which may sweeten our rest in the night; and his giving us rest by night, and preserving us in our sleep, when we could not help ourselves, giveth us songs in the morning. And all the day long we find new matter of praise: our whole work is divided between receiving and acknowledging.
[2.] Some mercies are so general and beneficial that they should never be forgotten, but remembered before God every day. Such as redemption by Christ: Ps. cxi. 4, ‘He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered.’ We must daily be blessing God for Jesus Christ: 2 Cor. ix. 15, ‘Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.’ I understand it of his grace by Christ. We should ever be thus blessing and praising him; for the keeping of his great works in memory is the foundation of all love and service to God.162
2. It is a profitable duty. The usefulness of thanksgiving appeareth with respect to faith, love, and obedience.
[1.] With respect to faith. Faith and praise live and die together; if there be faith, there will be praise; and if there be praise, there will be faith. If faith, there will be praise, for faith is a bird that can sing in winter: Ps. lvi. 4, ‘In God will I praise his word, in God have I put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me:’ and ver. 10, ‘In God I will praise his word, in the Lord I will praise his word.” Hi’s word is satisfaction enough to a gracious heart; if they have his word, they can praise him beforehand, for the grounds of hope before they have enjoyment. As Abraham, when he had not a foot in the land of Canaan, yet built an altar and offered sacrifices of thanks giving, because of God’s grant and the future possession in his posterity, Gen. xiii. 18. Then, whether he punisheth or pitieth, we will praise him and glory in him. Faith entertaineth the promise before performance cometh, not only with confidence, but with delight and praise. The other part is, if praise, there will be faith; that is, supposing the praise real, for it raiseth our faith to expect the like again, having received so much grace already. All God’s praises are the believer’s advantage, the mercy is many times given as a pledge of more mercy. In many cases Deus donando debet. If life, he will give food and bodily raiment. It holdeth good in spiritual things. If Christ, other things with Christ. One concession draweth another; if he spares me, he will feed me, clothe me. The attributes from whence the mercy cometh is the pillar of the believer’s confidence and hope. If such a good, then a fit object of trust. If I have found him a God hearing prayer, ‘I will call upon him as long as I live,’ Ps. cxvi. 2. Praise doth but provide matter of trust, and represent God to us as a storehouse of all good things, and a sure foundation for dependence.
[2.] The great respect it hath to love. Praise and thanksgiving is an act of love, and then it cherisheth and feedeth love. It is an act of love to God, for if we love God we will praise him. Prayer is a work of necessity, but praise a mere work of duty and respect to God. We would exalt him more in our own hearts and in the hearts of others: Ps. lxxi. 14, ‘I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more.’ We pray because we need God, and we praise him because we love him. Self-love will put us upon prayer, but the love of God upon praise and thanksgiving; then we return to give him the glory. Those that seek themselves will cry to him in their distress; but those that love God cannot endure that he should be without his due honour. In heaven, when other graces and duties cease, which belong to this imperfect state, as faith and repentance cease, yet love remaineth; and because love remaineth, praise remaineth, which is our great employment in the other world. So it feedeth and cherisheth love, for every benefit acknowledged is a new fuel to keep in the fire: Ps. xviii. 1, ‘I will love thee, O Lord, my strength;’ Ps. cxvi. 1, ‘I will love the Lord, who hath heard the voice of my supplications:’ Deut. xx-x. 20, ‘That thou mayest love the Lord, who is thy life, and the length of thy days.’ The soul by praise is filled with a sense of the mercy and goodness of God, so that hereby he is made more amiable to us.163
[3.] With respect to submission and obedience to his laws and providence.
(1.) His laws. The greatest bond of duty upon the fallen creature is gratitude. Now grateful we cannot be without a sensible and explicit acknowledgment of his goodness to us: the more frequent and serious in that, the more doth our love constrain us to devote ourselves to God: Rom. xii. 1, ‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present yourselves a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.’ To live to him: 2 Cor. v. 14, 15, ‘For the love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead, and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.’ And therefore praise and thanksgiving is a greater help to the spiritual life than we are usually aware of; for, working in us a sense of God’s love, and an actual remembrance of his benefits (as it will do if rightly performed), it doth make us shy of sin, more careful and solicitous to do his will. Shall we offend so good a God? God’s love to us is a love of bounty; our love to God is a love of duty, when we grudge not to live in subjection to him: 1 John v. 3, ‘His commandments are not grievous.’
(2.) Submission to his providence. There is a querulous and sour spirit which is natural to us, always repining and murmuring at God’s dealing, and wasting and vexing our spirits in heartless complaints. Now, this fretting, quarrelling, impatient humour, which often showeth itself against God even in our prayers and supplications, is quelled by nothing so much as by being frequent in praises and thanksgivings: Job i. 21, ‘The Lord hath given, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ It is an act of holy prudence in the saints, when they are under any trouble, to strain themselves to the quite contrary duty of what temptations and corruptions would drive them unto. When the temptation is laid to make us murmur and swell at God’s dealings, we should on the contrary bless and give thanks. And therefore the Psalmist doth so frequently sing praises in the saddest condition. There is no perfect defeating the temptation but by studying matter of praise, and to set seriously about the duty. So Job ii. 10, ‘Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?’ Shall we receive so many proofs of the love of God, and quarrel at a few afflictions that come from the same hand, and rebel against his providence when he bringeth on some needful trouble for our trial and exercise? and having tasted so much of his bounty and love, repine and fret at every change of dealing, though it be useful to purge out our corruptions, and promote our communion with God? Surely nothing can be extremely evil that cometh from this good hand. As we receive good things cheerfully and contentedly, so must we receive evil things submissively and patiently.
3. It is a most delightful work to remember the many thousand mercies God hath bestowed on the church, ourselves, and friends. To remember his gracious word and all the passages of his providence; is this burdensome to us? Ps. cxlvii. 1, ‘Praise ye the Lord, for it is pleasant:’ and Ps. cxxxv. 3, ‘Sing praises unto his name, for it is pleasant’ Next to necessity, profit; next to profit, pleasure. No 164necessity so great as spiritual necessity, because our eternal well-being or ill-being dependeth on it; and beggary is nothing to being found naked in the great day. No profit so great as spiritual; that is not to be measured by the good things of this world, or a little pelf, or the great mammon, which so many worship; but some spiritual and divine benefit, which tendeth to make us spiritually better, more like God, more capable of communion with him; that is true profit, it is an increase of faith, love, and obedience. So for pleasure and delight; that which truly exhilarateth the soul, begets upon us a solid impression of God’s love, that is the true pleasure. Carnal pleasures are unwholesome for you, like luscious fruits, which make you sick. Nothing is so hard of digestion as carnal pleasures. This feedeth the flesh, warreth against the soul; but this holy delight that resulteth from the serious remembrance of God, and setting forth his excellences and benefits, is safe and healthful, and doth cheer us but not hurt us.
Use. Oh, then, let us be oftener in praising and giving thanks to God! Can you receive so much, and beg so much, and never think of a return or any expression of gratitude? Is there such a being as God, have you all your supplies from him, and will you not take some time to acknowledge what he hath done for your souls? Either you must deny his being, and then you are atheists; or you must deny his providence, and then you are epicureans, next door to atheism; or you must deny such a duty as praise and thanksgiving, and then you are anti-scripturists, for the scripture everywhere calleth for it at our hands; or else, if you neglect this duty, you live in flat contradiction to what you profess to believe, and then you are practical atheists, and practical epicureans, and practical anti-scripturists; and so your condemnation will be the greater, because you own the truth but deny the practice. I beseech you, therefore, to be often alone with God, and that in a way of thanksgiving, to increase your love, faith, and obedience, and delight in God. Shall I use arguments to you?
1. Have you received nothing from God? I put this question to you, because great is our unthankfulness, not only for common benefits, but also for special deliverances—the one not noted and observed, the other not improved. Humble persons will find matter of praise in very common benefits, but we forget even signal mercies. Therefore, I say, have you received nothing? Now, consider, is there no return due? You know the story, Luke xvii. 15-19, Christ healed ten lepers, and but one of them ‘returned and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down at his feet giving thanks, and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed, but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole.’ All had received a like benefit, but one only returned, and he a Gentile and no Jew, to acknowledge the mercy. They were made whole by a miraculous providence, he was made whole by a more gracious dispensation: ‘Thy faith hath made thee whole;’ he was dismissed with a special blessing. God scattereth his benefits upon all mankind, but how few own the supreme benefactor! Surely a sensible heart seeth always new occasions of praising God, and some old occasions that must always be remembered, 165always for life, and peace, and safety, and daily provision; and always for Christ, and the hopes of eternal life. Surely if we have the comfort, God should have the glory: Ps. xcvi. 8, ‘Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name, bring an offering, and come into his courts.’ He that hath scattered his seed expecteth a crop from you.
2. How disingenuous is it to be always craving, and never giving thanks! It is contrary to his directions in the word; for he showeth us there that all our prayers should be mingled with a thankful sense and acknowledgment of his mercies: Phil. iv. 6, ‘In everything let your requests and supplications be made known with thanksgiving.’ Do not come only in a complaining way: Col. iv. 2, ‘Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.’ They are not holy requests unless we acknowledge what he hath done for us, as well as desire him to do more. Nothing more usual than to come in our necessities to seek help; but we do not return, when we have received help and relief, to give thanks. When our turn is served, we neglect God Wants urge us more than blessings, our interest swayeth us more than duty. As a dog swalloweth every bit that is cast to him, and still looketh for more, we swallow whatever the bounty of God casteth out to us without thanks, and when we need again, we would have more, and though warm in petitions, yet cold, rare, infrequent in gratulations. It is not only against scripture, but against nature. Ethnics abhor the ungrateful, that were still receiving, but forgetting to give thanks. It is against justice to seek help of God, and when we have it to make no more mention of God than if we had it from ourselves. It is against truth; we make many promises in our affliction, but forget all when well at ease.
3. God either takes away or blasts the mercies which we are not thankful for. Sometimes he taketh them from us: Hosea ii. 8, 9, ‘I will take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and I will recover my wool and flax.’ Why? ‘She doth not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and gave her silver and gold.’ Where his kindness is not taken notice of, nor his hand seen and acknowledged, he will take his benefits to himself again. We know not the value of mercies so much by their worth as by their want; ὥσπερ ὄφθαλμοι τὸ ἄγαν λαμπρὸν οὐκ ὁρῶσι—a thing too near the eye cannot be seen. God must set things at a distance to make us value them. If he take them not away, yet many times he blasts them as to their natural use: Mal. ii. 2, ‘And if you will not hear, and if you will not lay it to heart to give glory to my name, saith the Lord of hosts, 1 will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings; yea, I have cursed them already, because you do not lay it to heart.’ The creature is a deaf-nut; when we come to crack it, we have not the natural blessing as to health, strength, and cheerfulness, Acts xiv. 17; or if food, yet not gladness of heart with it; or we have not the sanctified use, it is not a mercy that leadeth us to God. A thing is sanctified when it is a bono in bonum, if it cometh from God and leadeth us to God: 1 Cor. iii. 21-23, ‘All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours, for you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.’ You have a covenant right, a holy use.166
4. Bless him for favours received, and you shall have more. Thanks giving is the kindly way of petitioning, and the more thankful for mercies, the more they are increased upon us. Vapours drawn up from the earth return in showers to the earth again. The sea poureth out its fulness into the rivers, and all rivers return to the sea from whence they came: Ps. lxvii. 5, 6, ‘Let the people praise thee, O God; yea, let all the people praise thee: then shall the earth yield her increase, and God, even our own God, shall bless us.’ When springs lie low, we pour a little water into the pump, not to enrich the fountain, but to bring up more for ourselves. It is not only true of outward increase, but of spiritual also: Col. ii. 7, ‘Be ye rooted in the faith, and abound therein with thanksgiving.’ If we give thanks for so much grace as we have already received, it is the way to increase our store. We thrive no more, get no more victory over our corruptions, because we do no more give thanks.
5. When God’s common mercies are well observed or well improved, it fits us for acts of more special kindness. In the story of the lepers—Luke xvii. 19, ‘Thy faith hath made thee whole,’—he met not only with a bodily cure, but a soul cure: Luke xvi. 11, ‘If, therefore, ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?’ When we suspect a vessel leaketh, we try it with water before we fill it with wine. You are upon your trial; be thankful for less, God will give you more. Means or directions:—
[1.] Heighten all the mercies you have by all the circumstances necessary to be considered. By the nature and kind of them: spiritual eternal blessings first; the greatest mercies deserve greatest acknowledgment: Eph. i. 3, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ’—Christ’s spirit, pardon of sins, heaven, the way of salvation known, accepted, and the things of the world as subordinate helps. Luke x. 20, ‘Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.’ Then consider your sense in the want of mercies; what high thoughts had you then of them? The mercies are the same when you have them and when you want them, only your apprehensions are greater. If affectionately begged they must be affectionately acknowledged, else you are a hypocrite either in the supplication or gratulation. Consider the person giving, God, so high and glorious. A small remembrance from a great prince, no way obliged, no way needing me, to whom I can be no way profitable, a small kindness melts us, a gift of a few pounds, a little parcel of land. Do I court him and observe him? There is less reason why God should abase himself to look upon us or concern himself in us: Ps. cxiii. 6, ‘He humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth.’ We have all things from him. Consider the person receiving; so unworthy: Gen. xxxii 10, ‘I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which thou hast showed unto thy servant;’ 2 Sam. vii. 18, ‘Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?’ Consider the season; our greatest extremity is God’s opportunity: Gen. xxii. 14, ‘In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen,’ when the knife was at the throat of his son; 1672 Cor. i. 9, 10, ‘We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God, which raiseth the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver; in whom we trust, that he will yet deliver us.’ Consider the end and fruit of his mercy; it is to manifest his special love to us, and engage our hearts to himself: Isa. xxxviii. 17, ‘Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption,’ or ‘thou hast loved me from the grave;’ otherwise God may give things in anger. Consider the means by which he brought them about, when unlikely, unexpected in themselves, weak, insufficient. The greatest matters of providence hang many times upon small wires: a lie brought Joseph into prison, and a dream fetched him out, and he was advanced, and Jacob’s family fed. Consider the number of his mercies: Ps. cxxxix. 17, ‘How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!’ The many failings pardoned, comforts received, dangers prevented, deliverances vouchsafed. How he began with us before all time, conducted us in time, and hath been preparing for us a happiness which we shall enjoy when time shall be no more.
[2.] Satisfy yourselves with no praise and thanksgiving but what leaveth the impression of real effects upon the soul; for God is not flattered with empty praises and a little verbal commendation. There is a twofold praising of God—by expressive declaration or by objective impression. Now, neither expression nor impression must be excluded. Some platonical divines explode and scoff at the verbal praise more than becometh their reverence to the word of God: Ps. l. 23, ‘He that offereth praise glorifieth me.’ But then the impression must be looked after too, that we be like that God whom we commend and extol, that we depend on him more, love him more fervently, serve him more cheerfully.
Doct. 2. That God’s providence rightly considered, we shall find in the worst times much more cause to give thanks than to complain. I observe this because David was now under affliction. He had in the former verse complained that ‘the bands of the wicked had robbed him,’ yet even then would he give thanks to God.
1. Observe here, the matter of his thanksgiving was God’s providence according to his word, seen in executing threatenings on the wicked, and performing his promises to the godly. God’s word is one of the chiefest benefits bestowed on man, and therefore should be a subject of our praises. Now, when this is verified in his providence, and we see a faithful performance of those things in mercy to his servants, and in justice to his enemies, and the benefits and advantages of his law to them that are obedient, and the just punishment of the disobedient, and can discern not only a vein of righteousness but of truth in all God’s dealings, this is a double benefit, which must be taken notice of, and acknowledged to God’s praise. O Christians! how sweet is it to read his works by the light of the sanctuary, and to learn the interpretation of his providence from his Spirit by his word: Ps. lxxiii. 17, ‘I went into the sanctuary of God, then understood I their end;’ by consulting the scriptures he see the end and close of them that walk not according to God’s direction: his word and works do mutually explain one another. The sanctuary is the place where 168God’s people meet, where his word is taught, where we may have satisfaction concerning all his dealings.
2. That when any divine dispensation goeth cross to our affections, yea, our prayers and expectations, yet even then can faith bring meat out of the eater, and find many occasions of praise and thanksgiving to God; for nothing falleth out so cross but we may see the hand of God in it working for good.
[1.] Though we have not the blessing we seek and pray for, yet we give thanks because God hath been sometimes entreated, he hath showed himself a God hearing prayer, and is only delaying now until a more fit time wherein he may give us that which is sought: Ps. xliii. 5, ‘Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.’ Now we are mourning, but he is our God, and we are not left without hope of a blessed issue. God, that hath been gracious, will be gracious again. He is our gracious father when we are under his sharpest corrections, a father when he striketh or frowneth; therefore we are not without hope that he will give us opportunities again of glorifying his name.
[2.] We bless God for continuing so long the mercies which he hath taken from us. Former experiences must not be forgotten: ‘Ebenezer, hitherto the Lord hath helped us.’ If he shall afflict us afterward, yet ‘hitherto he hath helped us,’ 1 Sam. vii. 12. If he take away life, it is a mercy that he spared it so long for his own service and glory; if liberty, that we had such a time of rest and intermission.
[3.] God is yet worthy of praise and thanksgiving for choicer mercies yet continued, notwithstanding all the afflictions laid upon us. That we have his Spirit supporting us under our trials, and enabling us to bear them: 1 Peter iv. 13, 14, ‘Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. For if ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth on you.’ And that we have any peace of conscience: Rom. v. 1, ‘Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ That the hope of eternal life is not diminished but increased by our afflictions: Rom. v. 4, 5, ‘We glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed: because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us.’ That many of our natural comforts are yet left, and God will supply us by ways best known to himself.
[4.] That evils and afflictions which light upon us for the gospel’s sake, or righteousness’ sake, and Christ’s name’s sake, are to be reckoned among our privileges, and deserve praise rather than complaint: Phil. i. 29, ‘To you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.’ If it be a gift, it is matter of praise.
[5.] Take these evils in the worst notion, they are less than we have deserved: Ezra ix. 13, ‘And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve.’ Babylon is not hell, and still that should be acknowledged.169
[6.] That no evil hath befallen us but such as God can bring good out of them: Rom. viii. 28, ‘All things shall work together for good to them that love God.’ All things that befall a Christian are either good, or shall turn to good; either to good natural: Gen. l. 20, ‘Ye thought evil, but God meant it for good;’ or good spiritual: Ps. cxix. 75, ‘I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me;’ or good eternal: 2 Cor. iv. 17, ‘For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’
Use 1. For information, that God’s righteous judgments are matter of praise and thanksgiving. An angel is brought in speaking, Rev. xvi. 5, ‘Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shaft be, because thou hast judged thus.’ Indeed, the formal object of thanksgiving and praise is some benefit: Ps. cxxxv. 3, ‘Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good.’ We praise God for his judgments, because they are just and right; we praise God for his mercies, not only because they are just and equal, but comfortable and beneficial to us, and so a double ground of thanksgiving.
Use 2. For reproof, that we make more noise of a little trouble than we do of a thousand benefits that remain with us. We fret and complain and manifest the impatiency of the flesh; like a great machine or carriage, if one pin be out of order, all stoppeth, or one member hurt, though all the rest of the body be sound; or as Haman, the favours of a great king, pleasures of a luxurious court, all this availeth him nothing as long as Mordecai was in the gate, Esther v. 13; not withstanding his riches, honours, multitude of children, great offices, this damped all his joy: Mal. i. 2, ‘I have loved you, saith the Lord; yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us?’ Non quod habet numerat, &c. Oh! let us check this complaining spirit; let us consider what is left, not what God hath taken away; what we may or shall have, not what we now want; what God is, and will be to his people, though we see little or nothing in the creature.
Doct. 3. That a heart deeply affected with God’s providence will take all occasions to praise and give thanks.
1. It is certain that our whole life should be a real expression of thankfulness to God. The life of a Christian is a life of love and praise, a hymn to God: 1 Peter ii. 9, ‘But ye are a chosen gene ration, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you but of darkness into his marvellous light.’ Christianity is a confession; the visible acting of godliness is a part of this confession; we are all saved as confessors or martyrs. Now the confession is made both in word and deed.
2. There are special occasions of thanksgiving and praise to God, as the apostle bids Timothy preach: 2 Tim. iv. 2, εὐκαίρως ἀκαίρως, ‘in season, out of season,’ meaning thereby that he should not only take ordinary occasions, but extraordinary; he should make an opportunity where he found none. So we should press Christians to praise God not only in solemn duties, when the saints meet together to praise, but extraordinarily redeem time for this blessed work; yea, interrupt our lawful sleep and repose, to find frequent vacancies for so necessary a duty as the lauding and magnifying of God’s mercy.170
3. As for rising up at midnight, we can neither enforce it as a duty upon you, nor yet can we condemn it. It was an act of heroical zeal in David, who employed his time waking to the honour of God, which others spent in sleeping; and we read that Paul and Silas ‘sang praises at midnight,’ Acts xvi. 25, though then in the stocks, and they had been scourged the day before. And it is said, Job xxxv. 10, ‘None saith, Where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night?’ that is, giveth matter of praise if we wake in the night. And David saith elsewhere, Ps. xlii. 8, ‘The Lord will command his lovingkindness in the day-time, and in the night his song shall be with me:’ day and night he would be filled with a sense of God’s love, and with songs of praise. Therefore we cannot condemn this, but must highly commend it. Let men praise God at any time, and the more they deny themselves to do it, the more commendable is the action; yet we cannot enforce it upon you as a necessary duty, as the Papists build their nocturnal devotions upon it. That which we disapprove in them is, that those hours instituted by men they make necessary; that they direct their prayers to saints and angels which should only be to God, that they might mingle them with superstitious ceremonies and, observances; that they pray and sing in an unknown tongue without devotion, appropriating it to a certain sort of men, to clerks for their gain, with an opinion of merit. The primitive Christians had their hymnos antelucanos, but in persecution, their ἀλεκτροφωνίας, saith Clem. Alexandrinus; but what is this to superstitious night-services?
4. Though we cannot enforce the particular observance upon you, yet there are many notable lessons to be drawn from David’s practice.
[1.] The ardency of his devotion, or his earnest desire to praise God, ‘at midnight:’ then, when sleep doth most invade us, then he would rise up. His heart was so set upon the praising of God, and the sense of his righteous providence did so affect him, and urge him, or excite him to this duty, that he would not only employ himself in this work in the day-time, and so show his love to God, but he would rise out of his bed to worship God and celebrate his praise. That which hindereth the sleep of ordinary men is either the cares of this world, the impatient resentment of injuries, or the sting of an evil conscience: these keep others waking, but David was awaked by a desire to praise God; no hour is unseasonable to a gracious heart; he is expressing his affection to God when others take their rest. Thus we read of our Lord Christ, that he spent whole nights in prayer, Luke vi. 12. It is said of the glorified saints in heaven, that they praise God continually: Rev. vii. 17, ‘They are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple, and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.’ Now, holy men, though much hindered by their bodily necessities, yet they will come as near as present frailty will permit; we oftentimes begin the day with some fervency of prayer and praise, but we faint ere even.
[2.] His sincerity, seen in his secrecy. David would profess his faith in God when he had no witness by him, at midnight, then no hazard of ostentation. It was a secret cheerfulness and delighting in God when alone; he could have no respect to the applause of men, but only to approve himself to God who seeth in secret. See Christ’s 171direction, Mat. vi. 6, ‘But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly:’ his own practice: Mark i. 35, ‘Rising early in the morning, he went into a desert to pray.’ Both time and place implied secrecy.
[3.] We learn hence the preciousness of time. It was so to David. See how he spendeth the time of his life. We read of David, when he lay down at night, he ‘watered his couch with his tears,’ after the examination of his heart; Ps. cxix. 62; at midnight he rose to give thanks; in the morning he prevented the morning-watches, seven times a-day praising God, morning, noon, night. These are all acts of eminent piety. We should not content ourselves with so much grace as will merely serve to save us. Alas! we have much idle time hanging upon our hands; if we would give that to God it were well.
[4.] The value of godly exercises above our natural refreshings; the word is sweeter than appointed food: Job xxiii. 12, ‘I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.’ David preferreth his praises of God before his sleep and rest in the night. Surely this should shame us for our sensuality. We can dispense with other things for our vain pleasures; we have done as much for sin, for vain sports, broken our rest for sin. Some monsters of mankind turn night into day, and day into night for their drunkenness, gaming, vain sports, &c., and shall we not deny ourselves for God?
[5.] The reverence to be used in secret adoration. David did not only raise up his spirits to praise God, but rise up out of his bed to bow the knee to him. Secret duties should be performed with some solemnity, not slubbered over. Praise, a special act of adoration, requireth the worship of body and soul
Use. Let David’s example condemn our backwardness and sluggishness, who will not take those occasions which offer themselves. Mark, lie gave thanks when we fret; at midnight he rose to do it with the more secrecy and fervency; this not to pray only, but to give thanks.
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