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MANKIND in general look at the dark side of their circumstances, and the supposed bright side of their character; whence arise pride, discontent, and murmurs, dishonourable to God, and tormenting to them. selves. But true religion teaches us to consider the dark side of our character, and the bright side of our circumstances; and, reflecting how many undeserved comforts we enjoy, to exercise humble gratitude and cheerful praise.
But few, however, comparatively, are truly religious; and those few are only in part influenced by their principles: so that they are often repining, when they might be praising: and discontent almost every where prevails, instead of gratitude. Well then might the Psalmist repeatedly say, “Oh, that men would praise “the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonders to the “ children of men!”
Many during the late war, joined with seeming earnestness in prayers for deliverance and peace; who, I fear, have not rendered unto the Lord thanks equally cordial now he hath answered their prayers. They forget our deservings, and our dangers; and because we are not that flourishing nation we were; because the peace is not so honourable as they wished; they indulge e spirit of discontent, quarrel with men and measures, VOL. II.
and have no heart to bless God for the sèeurity, liberty, and privileges which we still enjoy..
I was sure, before I had purposely considered the particulars, that the Lord had been very kind to us, and had an undoubted claim upon us for cordial thanksgiving. Under this persuasion, I rejoiced that at length a day of thanksgiving was appointed. Improving the occasion, I meditated on the following subject for the edification of my own congregation, respecting the duty of the day. In preaching, the case appeared to me so plain and uncontrovertible, and I afterwards found it was so convincing to many or most present, that I concluded it might answer some good end, if made publick: It indeed contains nothing to recommend it but plain truths in plain language, originally preached to plain people, and now published for the benefit of such. I have endeavoured not to offend the political principles of any man; and I hope no moderate man of any party will be offended. I would give as little offence as possible on such an occasion to any religious party: but if any expression has escaped me, which may have had that tendency, I hope it will not prejudice a real Christian against the other part. If the Lord be pleased to bless the publication, and to employ it as an instrument of his glory, in exciting true Christians of every denomination to abound more in praise and prayer, I shall have then an ample recompence.
PSALM coi. 43, 44.
Many times did he deliver them, but they provoked
him with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity. Nevertheless, he regarded their afflic. tion, when he heard their cry.
THE knowledge of God and of ourselves, is beyond all comparison, the most important kind of knowledge: and this is especially communicated to us in the word of God; which is indeed a history of God and of man, discovering to us the nature and perfections of GOD, and the real character of man. This is done in the plainest and simplest manner by historical relations of the LORD's conduct towards man in numerous instances, and under a vast variety of circumstances; and on the other hand, of man's conduct towards God, under a like variety of circumstances. The result of the whole is this; it appears that God is ever disposed, by his own essential excellency, to act with consumm ate wisdom, justice, holiness, patience, mercy, and ruth; and is therefore worthy of all that love and honour which he demands: that on the other hand, man is ever disposed to rebellion, ingratitude, obsti. nacy, and enmity; is therefore a very base and odious character, and justly deserving of the abomination and indignation of a holy Gon.
This trial of mankind was especially made in his dealings with Israel, who being descended from pious ancestors,“ planted wholly a right seed,” were an unexceptionable specimen of human nature. We have the abstract of it in this psalm, which begins and ends with, “ Praise ye the LORD,” and contains a history of his persevering kindness to Israel, and Israel's per. severing ingratitude to him. The same scene, in some measure, is acted over again in every age of the world, in every nation under heaven,, in every man's own experience. Had we a history, equal. ly impartial and faithful of any other people, or any single person, in proportion as that people, or individual, was favoured of God with the favour he shewed to Israel, the base ingratitude of human nature would equally appear; and in proportion would the loveliness of God, and the odiousness of man be illustrated. And he who has best learned to love and admire God, to loathe and abhor himself, and can most sincerely adopt the words of holy Job, “ I have heard " of thee with the hearing of the ear, but now mine “eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent “ in dust and ashes;"' is the greatest proficient in true religion.
The substance of this instructive psalm is compres. sed in the words that I have read to you; “ Many 6 times did he deliver them, but they provoked him