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will and institution, as sacrificing was, which therefore could no longer oblige than during the continuance of that positive will; but upon eternal and immutable reasons, which no positive will can ever cancel or repeal: and this, I doubt not, will appear upon the following considerations:
First, The justice and equality of it.
Secondly, The pleasure and delightfulness of it. Thirdly, The obligations it lays upon God to continue and repeat his favours.
Fourthly, The great aid and furtherance it gives us in all our other duties.
Fifthly, The mighty relish it gives to all God's favours and benefits.
Sixthly, The great support and confirmation it affords our faith and dependence upon God for the future.
I. Thankfulness to God is due to him in strict justice and equity: for the benefits God bestows upon us are rather loans than gifts; because, as he is supreme Lord of the world, he retains an unalienable propriety in every good he bestows; and upon that account he may justly demand of us whatsoever homage or quitrent he pleaseth: and certainly the least he can claim is our gratitude; from which we are so far from being released by the freeness of his gifts, that we are the more strictly obliged by it. For he who receives a benefit, whether it be from God or man, owes more or less for it, proportionably as the benefit is greater or less. Seeing therefore that a benefit freely given is, cæteris paribus, much greater than a benefit lent; it is certain that the freer we have it, the more we owe for it. Now as for the benefits of God, they are not only in them
selves of greater value than what any other can give or lend us; but they are also given us upon the most free, and noble, and generous terms. For though when he bestows them upon us, he doth not, like other donors, give them away from himself, but reserves his inherent right in them, as lord paramount of all his creation; yet this reservation of his is no damage to us, seeing we enjoy his gifts as amply and freely as if he had alienated to us his right in them. Though he still continues sovereign lord of the fee, and every thing we hold, we hold as his tenants by his grant and in his right; yet the quitrent he requires of us (which is only our gratitude, and which in justice would have been due to him, though he should never have required it) is not only so very small and easy in itself, but also so highly advantageous to us, that instead of being impoverished, we are enriched by the payment of it: so that our tenure under him is far better for us than if we were freeholders, without any condition at all; the condition of this benefit being such as is so far from sinking the value of them, as that it very much raises and enhances them. So that as we stand in justice obliged to be grateful to all our benefactors, (seeing every benefit deserves of us as much as it is worth; and the smallest is worth our gratitude,) so more especially to God, who not only gives us all the good things we enjoy, but takes care also to give them to us upon the most beneficial considerations, viz. that we thankfully receive them; which if we duly perform, will prove far more beneficial to us, than all his other benefits.
II. Consider the pleasure and delightfulness of this duty. It is true, in other parts of devotion there is something that is painful and laborious to human
nature for so prayer awakens in us a sorrowful sense of wants and imperfections; confession excites in us sharp and dolorous reflections upon our guilts and miscarriages; but thanksgiving has nothing in it but a warm sense of the mightiest love and most endearing goodness. For it is only the overflow of a heart full of love, the free sally and emission of a soul that is captivated and endeared by kindness; and there is no passion in human nature so sweet and ravishing as love; especially while being heated with the warm sense of the kindness of its beloved, it boils over upon it in praise and gratitude. And seeing our thanksgiving lives upon love and beneficence, and is all along nourished and maintained by it, the greater the love is upon which it feeds, and the more the beneficence, the richer its fare is, and the nobler its entertainment. But where can our gratitude find out a love comparably so great, or productive of such ample beneficence, as that of God's? Upon this inexhaustible subject it may live for ever without any other supplies; and fare deliciously every moment to eternal ages. For what more delicious or comfortable thought can ever present itself to the mind of man than this, that the great Lord of the world, the good, the wise, and mighty King of heaven and earth, is our faithful, kind, and munificent friend; that his heart is always pregnant with designs of love to us, and that the great subject of all his contrivances is to do us good here, and to render us glorious hereafter? O, were such thoughts as these but set home upon our hearts with their full and due emphasis, how would they even ravish and transport our souls! how would they convert all our faculties into consent and har
mony, and even evaporate our spirits in songs of praise and thanksgiving to him! And whilst, from a lively sense of all these wonders of his love, we are offering up to him our sacrifice of thanksgiving, O with what triumph and exultation of soul should we ascend in the flames of it! But, alas! we are, even the best of us, in a great measure unacquainted with the pleasure and sweetness of this heavenly performance; and the reason is, because we have not a quick sense and lively relish of the divine goodness upon which it terminates. Had we this always present with us, we should feel so much joy and pleasure in thanksgiving, that it would be our heaven upon earth, our meat and drink, our business and recreation, to breathe up our souls to God in hymns of praise. But this we do all know, who know any thing of religion, that to laud and magnify the Lord is the end for which we were born, and the heaven for which we are designed; and that when we are arrived to that vigorous sense of the divine love that the blessed people of heaven have attained, we shall need no other, either employment or pleasure, to render us for ever happy, but only to sing eternal praises and hallelujahs to our God and to the Lamb that sitteth upon the throne; the vigorous relish of whose unspeakable goodness to us will so inflame our love and animate our gratitude, that to eternal ages we shall be never able to contain ourselves from breaking out into new songs of praise; and then every new song will create a new pleasure, and every new pleasure dictate a new song, and so round again for ever. But these are things too sublime for our short reach and cognizance: only at present let us but consult the experience of devout and grateful
souls about them; and this will assure us, that there is nothing under heaven so pleasant and delightsome as, from a warm and vigorous sense of the love of God, to breathe up our souls to him in praise and thanksgiving; that this gives such a jubilee to the mind, such a sprightful recreation to the heart, as far exceeds the most studied artificial pleasures of epicurism. But for satisfaction in this point we need go no farther than to our praiseful Psalmist, who, though he were a king, and had all the pleasures of a fruitful kingdom at his beck and command, yet doth upon his own experience advise, Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing praises to his name, for it is pleasant: and elsewhere, Praise the Lord, for it is good; to sing praises to our God it is pleasant, and praise is comely. Seeing therefore that gratitude to God is so high a pleasure, and such a grateful entertainment to the rational soul, when it is duly disposed; this is such a motive to the practice of it, as carries with it an eternal force and obligation.
III. Gratitude to God mightily obliges him to continue and repeat his favours to us. For though God doth not covet our thanksgivings for himself, or out of any prospect of advantage they can bring him; he being so entirely happy in his own perfections, that neither the praises of angels can add any thing to him, nor the blasphemies of devils subtract any thing from him yet when he so freely bestows his benefits upon us, he expects the return of our gratitude, both as it is highly just and reasonable in itself, and vastly beneficial and advantageous to us. For he being infinitely reasonable himself, and loving himself infinitely for being so, he cannot for his own