A FEAST OF THANKSGIVING

November 26, 2009

This morning I’ve been reading a sermon preached before Parliament in 1645 during a Day of Thanksgiving called to praise God for a military victory of Parliament’s armies over those of the King.  The preacher was Thomas Case.  His sermon was entitled, A Model of True Spiritual Thankfulness and is based on Psalm 107:30-31.*  Enjoy this spiritual feast on this Thanksgiving Day, 2009.

After putting these verses in the context of the rest of the psalm, Case talks about the ground of the sailor’s gladness – “Then are they glad because they be quiet:  so he brings them into the desired haven.  O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men!”  He points out that life is full of good and evil.  Change is all around us.  “O, the various changes that have been upon us!  Sometimes up and sometimes down; sometimes raised up as high as heaven by wonderful deliverances and glorious victories; anon cast down even as low as hell, by sad breakings of our armies and the loss of our strongholds.”  “Surely our souls have been melted because of trouble.  Our hopes have been melted and our hearts have been melted.”

Yet Case chooses not to focus on the specific deliverance of the sailors in the Psalm but on their response to it:  (1) ‘Then are they glad,” (2) “O that men would praise the Lord.”

DOCTRINE: “There is a great difference between gladness and thankfulness.  They differ in these three things, namely, their natures, their ground, and their duration.

(I.) Gladness & thankfulness differ in their natures: Gladness is a natural affection where the heart is lifted up with the coming in of any suitable and desirable good.  Even animals, after a manner, experience gladness.  But thankfulness “is a divine grace wrought in the soul by the Spirit of God, whereby the heart is drawn out towards God in gracious and holy desires and endeavors to praise and exalt the Lord, who is the author and donor of the mercy.”  This is only found in the saints (Ps. 33:1; 149:5-6)  “And indeed grace is nothing else but the natural affection baptized (as I may so say) and regenerated by the Holy Ghost and the blood of Christ, directed and pointed toward God as its proper and highest object.”  Colossians 3:2 “’Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.’  Note the two exhortations, to set and not to set:  the affection is not changed in the matter of it, but in the object.”

Case follows this observation by showing examples of other natural affections and what they become when directed towards God.  “So natural sorrow and grief, spiritualized and set upon the right object, upon an offended God is the grace of repentance.  Anger sanctified and faced upon God’s dishonor is zeal.  Love fired with a flame from Christ and carried up in that flame to Christ is no longer the affection (of) but the grace of love.  Thus natural joy and gladness ‘heavenly-ized’ and set upon God is the grace of thankfulness.”

(II.) Gladness and thankfulness differ in their ground: In the text, the ground of their gladness is their state of quietness, having been delivered out of those fears and dangers which made their hearts work as tempestuously as the sea itself.”  “Gladness rises not higher than the good itself.  So the rich fool in the Gospel looked upon his wealth and was glad.”  Psalm 111:5 – “He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.”  But the ground of thankfulness in the saints is much higher and nobler than for persons of this world.  Case finds four grounds of thankfulness; four reasons for thankfulness to arise in our hearts.

(1.)       The First ground of thankfulness is the saints’ spiritual and divine right to His mercies and these in two privileges.

First, the saints have “a right of sonship…. Whatever mercy or deliverance they have, it is part of their child’s portion (Romans 8:17).  Although they are not joint-purchasers, they are joint heirs with Jesus Christ.  They have all by inheritance.  As Christ is the heir of all things (Heb. 1:2); so they in him.  (I Cor. 3:22-23)

Second is that the saints have a right of promise or covenant to all their mercies.  Saints are called ‘children of promise’ because they were begotten, as well as maintained, by promise.  “So that if his portion is but bread and water, yet it is served to a child of God on the silver and golden vessels of the promises.  This affects them more than all the heap of mercies and comforts which worldly persons possess.  Psalm 4:7 – “You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.”  This is because they have their portion served to them along with God’s favor.  “This is the rise of a gracious joy and thankfulness, namely, that what he has, he has not only by God’s leave, but with God’s love; not by creatureship only, but by Sonship; not by providence only, but by promise.”

(2.)      “A second ground of thankfulness is in seeing ‘the return of prayer.’  “The children of God, when they have prayed, do not forget their prayers as carnal people do, but when they have prayed, they look after their prayers (Ps.5:3).”  When he sees an answer to his prayers, “this affects his heart and this raises up his soul in love and praises of God.  Psalm 116:1 – “I love the Lord because He has heard my voice and my supplication.”  “A speedy return of prayer; I kept a day of prayer, wherein I sought Him for such and such mercies and deliverances, and in due time, He gave me occasion to keep a day of Thanksgiving.  This endears his heart to God more than the mercy itself.”

(3.)      The third ground of thankfulness is that it affords saints, inward delight in the God who delivers them and affords them the opportunity “to show forth God’s praises.”  Psalm 9:13-14 – “O LORD, see how my enemies persecute me!  Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death, that I may declare your praises in the gates of the Daughter of Zion and there rejoice in your salvation.”  David was waiting for a deliverance from the persecutions of blood Saul.  He forgets himself and is caught up in the spiritual side of his deliverance, namely that “it would be fuel for the grace of love and thankfulness.  That so takes up all his thoughts, that he can speak of nothing else, but ‘praise,’ ‘praise;’ not, ‘I shall yet be delivered,’ but I shall yet praise Him.  Happy is he who ‘loses’ the mercy of God in the God of mercy!”

(4.)      The fourth and highest ground of thankfulness for mercies and deliverances is that God is exalted by them.  So, in Exodus 15, the thing that most moves Moses in the drowning of the Egyptians “was not so much their being freed from the fear of the Egyptians pursuit, as that thereby God was exalted:  Verse 1:  “I will sing unto the Lord; for He has triumphed gloriously.”  So in verses 6-7:  “Your right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power… and in the greatness of your excellency you have overthrown them that rose up against you.”  Verse 18: “Who is like unto You, O Lord, among the gods… The Lord shall reign forever and ever.”  “Thus, they lift up God because He has lifted up himself.”  Psalm 21:13 – “Be exalted O Lord, in your own strength, so will we sing and praise your power.”

(III.) Gladness & thankfulness differ in their duration.

Gladness, for the most part, is but a present movement of the spirit, a sudden impression upon the first arrival of unexpected or long-expected desires.  But it stays no longer than the sense of the good received is fresh upon the spirit.  “All natural men are fools and their gladness is like the crackling of thorns, it makes a great noise, but is quickly out (Ecclesiastes 7:6).”

Spiritual thankfulness is to last much longer.  God calls us to remember His deliverances.  Deuteronomy 8:2 – “And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness…”  Likewise, David charges himself with remembering God’s mercies:  “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits (Ps. 103:2).”  “One ingredient in thankfulness is a good memory.”  We must remember to be thankful all the days of our lives (Psalm 52:9).

Indeed, we will be thankful after this life.  “I will bless your Name forever and ever (Psalm 145:1).”  “Nothing short of eternity shall terminate a saint’s thankfulness.  The reason is that thankfulness takes its rise from durable and unchangeable grounds, namely God’s covenant and His glory.”  Since these grounds cannot change, so our thankfulness will never end.

* This is actually a summary of half the sermon.  The second half discusses seven ways in which men are to express thankfulness to God.

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