George Everard, 1866
Among matters of every day life, nothing claims more of our attention than the remembrance of our daily mercies. They are apt to be forgotten; they frequently estrange the heart from the Giver; they are often used amiss; because laid out for some idol. "She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold — which they used for Baal. Therefore I will take away my grain when it ripens, and my new wine when it is ready. I will take back my wool and my linen, intended to cover her nakedness." Hosea 2:8-9
But where shall we begin? Where shall we close? Who can tell out their number? Who can speak of them as they justly demand?
In the Great Exhibition a catalogue was prepared of the various products of different countries. They were numbered by thousands and tens-of-thousands, but what were they compared to the daily mercies experienced by every one of us? "Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand!" Psalm 139:18
Two thoughts may assist us in duly considering them. None can rightly estimate even temporal blessings, except those in covenant with God.
It is often true that a large proportion of those who live upon the goodness of God, have no sense whatever of His bounty. Is there not many a one who has lived as a pensioner upon His mercy for thirty, forty, fifty years, or even more — and yet has never lifted up his eye beyond the ground he treads — has never yet once heartily thanked the gracious Being who has thus nourished and preserved and blessed him?
Search the depth of their hearts, and will you find one single grain of real, genuine gratitude to God? Why is this? A dark cloud hides from their sight the Father of mercies; guilt upon the conscience and wrong views of God, darken the mind. But let this be removed, let faith in Christ be grafted within, let them realize "God is now my most loving Father — He has pardoned me, He has received me" — then what a change will there be! From a joyful heart, praise will arise like a springing well — and even the most ordinary mercies will draw forth songs of thankfulness. It was the case when David was restored to the favor of God. "Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's!" Psalm 103:1-5
Consider also that our numberless mercies can only rightly be estimated, when placed side by side with our numberless sins. There are two loads we have to consider. One load we lay upon God; the other load He lays upon us. The first load is the multitude of our sins by which we weary Him. The second is the load of His mercies, which He is never weary of bestowing upon us.
Look at the iniquities of a single city.
The cries of the oppressed;
the determined opposition to His law;
the profligacy and profanity that are so rife;
the hidden iniquities that are before His eye —
these must indeed weary Him, who is nevertheless so patient and forbearing to the sinner.
Look again at the life of a single individual. Who can sum up the transgressions even of the most watchful Christian? They are as the sparks from the anvil, which cannot be counted.
On the other hand we place the load of God's tender mercies. "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits — even the God of our salvation." In this way Jacob estimated that which God had done for him: "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and the truth which You have showed unto Your servant." In this way Daniel measured God's mercies to the Israelites: "To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses — though we have rebelled against Him." Let the Christian also weigh his mercies in the balance of his deserts.
What would be our lot if God were to deal with us after our sins, and reward us according to our iniquities? What single gift could we claim at His hand? Instead of countless benefits, he who judges of sin aright, will not shrink from owning that he justly merits the eternal displeasure of the most High God.
A passage already referred to, reminds us that God "loads men with His benefits." These words suggest very striking ideas of the fullness of God's mercy. The bee returns to her hive laden with her precious freight, gathered from many a flower. The tree bends beneath the weight of the fruit which hangs upon its branches. The ship enters the harbor, sinking almost to the water's edge because of the rich merchandise with which she is stored. The wagon comes home in harvest, so pressed down with sheaves that the weary team can scarcely draw it along. May not these illustrations serve to fix in our hearts the truth here brought before us?
Take the last of them especially, and examine a few of those sheaves of rich mercies which we receive from above.
Consider the mercies which are common to the wide world in which we dwell. Wherever we look, around, above, beneath — we mark the wonderful fullness of God's bounty in creation. We have the glorious lights of the skies — the sun, moon, and stars, all give forth their light for our benefit. It is named as a proof of our Father's compassion for the unworthy that, "He makes His sun to shine upon the evil and the good."
Has the reader ever heartily thanked God, that he has been permitted to enjoy the bright beams of that great luminary which brings light to the whole world?
Within a solitary cell a man once in high position, but found guilty of fraudulent practices, was passing the gloomy years of his imprisonment. There was but one thing that came to him from time to time, as some little relief. When the sun sank low in the west, for a few moments its beams would shine into his lonely chamber. How he longed for that evening hour; how he rejoiced in it when it came — few of us can understand.
Perhaps the remembrance of this incident may quicken our gratitude. It may lead us to value more this among our other mercies — that for years we may have been enjoying as much as we would of the warmth and brightness of the sun's beams.
Again, look around. What rich provision is everywhere made for the needs of man. We have ever returning again and again, fruitful seasons — precious harvests gathered in, sufficing for earth's teeming myriads — fresh supplies of grass and herb for the use of cattle.
We have the earth enriched with hidden wealth — coal fields, yet unexplored, which may supply fuel for centuries — mines of gold and silver, and other metals constantly being opened up — all these mercifully laid up in store for the successive generations of men.
We have the depths of the sea likewise replenished for our use. Vast shoals of fish are yearly being taken, affording a means of livelihood to tens of thousands, and increasing the comforts of a large proportion of mankind. Here, in mercies common to the world, have we reason for abounding praise.
Add another sheaf. Consider the mercies peculiar to our Island Home. In days gone by, Judea was the land which the Lord was said especially to care for, and upon which His eye was fixed from the beginning of the year to the close of it. But what is the case now? Where is the land toward which God has seemed, in our day, to show special favor? Is it not our own? What kingdom has been of late so richly blessed, and so graciously protected, as England?
What long freedom have we enjoyed from the bitter curse of the sword! Within this present century, there is scarcely a country in Europe but has suffered beneath it. Across the Atlantic, during the past few years, what a sacrifice has there been of human life! But we have been in peace. From time to time our soldiers have been fighting elsewhere, but our own shores have been unmolested.
What even-handed justice is administered among us! Of course there must ever be imperfection in all human things; but, as far as it is possible, every man may expect to be fairly dealt with — no man may be condemned without a trial. Our judges can be charged with no taking of gifts or unfair partiality. Before a man can suffer the penalty of any great offence, twelve men must agree that he is guilty.
Life and property are also sacred among us; such protection is granted as but rarely is to be met with. In some lands wholesale robberies and murders are of every day occurrence. With us, but seldom does the murderer escape. Never was there a greater proof of the value in which life is held among us, than the speedy capture of one who had already left our shores. The special steamer, so quickly dispatched, and the culprit, shortly after brought back, show that no man may dare, without the prospect of swift punishment, to stain his hands with innocent blood.
Every man has liberty to worship God according to his conscience. Various opinions are freely held, and none may be molested because of them. Religious liberty is our birthright in this Protestant land. Think of Spain. There, for no other crime than reading together the Scriptures, or meeting together for prayer and exhortation — men may be cast into prison and sentenced for years to the galleys. In England we may worship God as we will, and none may make us afraid.
Oh that the Protestants of our country would be alive to the bold encroachments of the Church of Rome! Let the reader be assured that wherever her power is fully established, religious liberty will perish beneath her shadow! She herself openly avows this. The Pope has not hesitated to proclaim, before all Europe, that the right of private judgment is a monstrous heresy. Wherever her power is limited — she is ever demanding, as a right, perfect equality. Wherever she reigns supreme — she will trample beneath her feet the rights of Protestants. Unless men despise, like Esau, their birthright, let them resist to the death the efforts of Romanism.
Add another sheaf. Our family and domestic mercies. Many who read these pages may possess the blessing of a peaceful, quiet home. Wherever it is, in a retired village, or in the street of a large town or city — it is a most precious gift.
Think of the numbers of homeless wanderers who rest at night in some crowded lodging house, or can scarcely find a shelter to lay their head. Think of the many homes from which sin, and strife, and angry tempers, have driven all comfort away. Think of the comfortless abodes of a large proportion in our overgrown towns and cities, where a single room contains a whole family. Think of the huts and cabins in the sister isle, where such squalid poverty and wretchedness exist.
Then think of your own happy home. Think how, day by day, the hand of a Father bestows upon you needful bread. As much is it from Him, as if each morning He brought to your door a basket with the provision you required for the day! Think how the Wing of the Almighty is continually over your dwelling. What dangers might otherwise overtake you! How easily, by night, when all are asleep, might fire break out — or timbers or tiles give way — or floods of water burst forth — or evil men disturb and injure you. Yet often, weeks, and months, and years pass, and no harm comes near us.
When in the morning we arise, and all is well with us — we ought not to forget Him who has safely guarded us. Our hearts and our lips should echo some sweet note of praise. We should be ready to acknowledge to whom it is due. "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning — great is Your faithfulness!"
New every morning is the love,
Our wakening and uprising prove;
From sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to power, and life, and thought.
New mercies, each returning day
Hover around us, while we pray;
New perils past — new sins forgiven —
New thoughts of God — new hopes of Heaven.
Nor less thankful should we be for the cheering companionship of kindred and friends. To most dispositions, long solitude is painfully depressing. Shut out from the society of those dear to us, deprived of all sweet converse — more than half the joy of life is gone. If there are those around us who can rejoice in our gladness, and sympathize in our sorrows — let us not fail to number this among the tokens of our Father's care.
While in the flesh indeed, we may not look for a paradise even in the happiest home. Crosses and cares will come — unruly tempers will arise — harsh words will sometimes be heedlessly spoken — but let not this damp our gratitude. It is but a part of needful discipline, through which we must pass before we are fit for the Father's house.
Add another sheaf. Our personal individual mercies. There is nothing which affects us so nearly as that which happens specially to ourselves. It is wise therefore, to mark well the peculiar proofs of a Father's regard for our welfare, which we may, each one of us, have received.
Has the reader still preserved to him unimpaired the gift of sight? Remember then the lifelong trial of those deprived of it. Remember the 40,000 people in England who can no longer behold the fair beauties of creation, or the countenances of those they love.
Have you the gift of hearing and of speech? These two are continual inlets of enjoyment. Imagine the case of that afflicted one who awoke, after a severe illness, to the terrible consciousness that sight, and hearing, and speech were all gone — and that, during the remainder of her pilgrimage, she must therefore be almost excluded from the outer world.
Inquire again, as you look back over your past history, whether you cannot put your finger on other special causes for thankfulness. You may have traveled many hundreds or thousands of miles by rail or by road, by sea or by land — and yet no dangerous accident has ever laid you low.
Or else, it may be, that you can recall some hair-breadth escape, when there was but a step between you and death. You may have long been kept in health — while in the wards of our hospitals, and in many a home, men and women have been worn with disease, or racked with pain. Or, instead of this, you may have been brought back from the very gates of the grave, and, as with Hezekiah, years have been added to your life.
Perhaps you have been brought out of some impending fear or trouble. You saw the cloud coming, you know how dark it looked, you said in your heart, "Anything but this, Lord!" And He has spared you — the threatening trial has been taken away. Or, it may be, a long desire of your heart has been granted — month after month, unseen by any human eye, there filled your heart the wish for some one of earth's joys. Now you have it. The longing has been satisfied. The gift has been bestowed.
Your special mercy, however, may have come in another shape. You would gladly have chosen rest, and ease, and comfort — but instead, you have been chastened and sore tried. Yet ought you not equally to recognize here the loving-kindness of the Lord? "Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O Lord, and teach him out of Your law." Not the brightest days of our pilgrimage ought to call forth more praise, than those sorrowful ones which tend to bring us nearer to God. The gardener has no less cause to bless God for the frost and snow, which pulverize and water the earth — than for the congenial sunshine in summer and harvest.
A father brings a beautiful flower to his child. At another time, he brings delicious fruit. At another time, he brings a cup of bitter medicine. Is it not the same love which prompts him to give the one as the other? "Shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord — and shall we not receive evil?" Shall we not believe that both the bitter and the sweet, the painful and the pleasant, are alike the fruit of His Fatherly compassion? For all that He bestows — for all that He withholds — let us still praise Him. "The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away — blessed be the Name of the Lord."
Add yet another sheaf. It is beyond all the most precious. Our spiritual mercies. It is these which sweeten and sanctify all the rest. What were all the temporal benefits we possess — if they but smoothed the way down to a hopeless Hell? How could the heart of a wise man rejoice in any earthly gift, if there were no Savior — no promise of life — no assurance of an eternal inheritance above? But here is discovered the abounding goodness of our God. "We bless You for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for Your inestimable love in our redemption." "Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!"
A Bible, with almost every page studded over with promises.
A Father, who has sent His well-beloved into the world for our salvation.
A Savior, who once gave life for us, and now pleads our cause at the right hand of the Majesty on High.
A Comforter, who makes His dwelling-place within the heart of the contrite.
An open Heaven, for all who will enter by the door.
A throne of grace, where the weakest and the vilest may find mercy and help.
Sermons and ministers, Christian friends and books, to instruct us.
All these are given, because our Father would have us to be joyful in His salvation.
Let everlasting thanks be Thine,
For such a bright display,
As makes a world of darkness shine
With beams of heavenly day.
Reader, let not the mercies of God ever be forgotten by you. I have endeavored to recall a few of them. Search out those that have not been named. Then let them be the magnet to draw you near to God. If you have hitherto been a stranger to Him, let the goodness of God lead you to repentance. Say to yourself, "Such a merciful God shall be my Refuge and my Portion forever!"
If, unsought, He has hitherto given you so many benefits — then what will He deny you if you truly seek Him? Will He refuse you a share in His everlasting love? Will He not put you among His dear children, and at length make you a partaker of His glory? But if the mercies of God are not as the magnet — if they do not exercise an attractive power — be assured they will hereafter be as the millstone, involving you in a deeper condemnation. Not a gift, not a mercy, but will have a voice to reprove the ingratitude of him who received it, and yet loved not the bountiful Giver. "Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him!" Isaiah 1:2-4
There may be other readers, however, who love the hand that feeds them, and which has been so constantly stretched out to bestow benefits upon them. Forget not, then, to pay the rent of praise. The tenant reaping bountiful crops from land belonging to another — will not grudge the return which, from year to year, he makes to the owner. Nor should the Christian forget cheerfully to offer praise — the praise of the lips — the praise of a holy, benevolent life — the praise of a large-hearted liberality on behalf of the temporal and spiritual necessities of a world full of sin and sorrow — to the great Landlord, from whom all his mercies come. When special mercies are granted, mark them also by a special gift, as a thank-offering to some benevolent or Christian object. "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?" "I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the Name of the Lord." (Psalm 116:12-17.)
What thanks we owe You, and what love!
A boundless, endless store,
Shall echo through the realms above,
Until time shall be no more!