William Nicholson, 1862
"Offer unto God thanksgiving!" Psalm 50:14
In the beginning of the Psalm, the Divine majesty and glory are exhibited. So glorious a Being is worthy of the highest homage, and the most ardent praise. But he will not be mocked with mere formal services. Sacrifices the most costly and splendid; offerings the most munificent and pompous, presented to him without the heart — are an abomination in his sight. A charge of formality is brought against the Jews, "I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens — for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it!" Psalm 50:9-12
In all praise, in all worship, the heart is demanded.
I. The Mercies of God Demand Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is a part of Divine worship, which consists of acknowledging him as the Source of all good, and rendering grateful homage to the power, wisdom, and goodness of God on that account.
1. Offer unto God, thanksgiving for TEMPORAL blessings.
(1.) Thank him for your existence. You are fearfully and wonderfully made! You are made for a noble purpose — for your own personal happiness and dignity here and in eternity, to the glory of God the Father.
(2.) Thank him for your preservation. God has preserved you . . .
from evil courses,
from damning crimes, degradation, and ruin.
(3.) Thank him for the blessing of reason. What a calamity is the suspension of the soul's faculties! The man sinks below the level of the beasts — and becomes more helpless and miserable than those who are guided by the instincts of their nature!
See that man, once the learned philosopher, or the honorable statesman, or the eloquent advocate, or the brave general, or the clever theologian! O see him bereft of his reason, his faculties spoiled of their beauty, and the intellectual machinery of the soul in ruins! Hear the clanking of his chains, the hysteric laugh, the frantic cry, or the heavy groan — and then offer to God thanks for the blessing of reason!
(4.) Thank God for deliverances. You may have been sick and near unto death — but He has raised you up. You have been exposed to the deadly temptations and snares of the wicked one — yet God has delivered you. Had the temptation succeeded, what would you have been now? What would you have suffered? Then offer to God thanksgiving.
(5.) Thank God for Civil and Religious privileges. What blessings are here. "He has not dealt so with every nation." Compare our civil government with the despotic governments of the earth, forbidding the liberty of the press, and, in some cases, even the liberty of speech! Here, in our sea-girt island, we can worship God according to the dictates of our consciences, safe in our own homes. Go, while your tongue is free, and offer unto God thanksgiving.
(6.) Be thankful, too, for peace. Contemplate a field of battle and of bloody war. Listen to the noise of drums and trumpets, the clashing of swords, and the rattle of armor — listen to the groans of the wounded and the dying. See the garments rolled in blood! Mark those widows — those orphans — those desolated fields and homes! See the expenditure of so much treasure — vast national financial burdens — and learn from hence to value peace, and offer thanksgiving to the God of peace.
2. Offer unto God, thanksgiving for the GOSPEL dispensation and all its privileges.
(1.) Thank God for the mission of Christ to this world. The gospel is . . .
the source of all true happiness,
the grand remedy for man's woes,
the life of the world,
the salvation from perdition, and
the mighty lever that exalts to Heaven.
(2.) Thank God that you are born in a land of Gospel light. Millions in benighted lands are worshiping idols, sticks and stones, reptiles, and devils! Think of . . .
their loathsome impurities,
their dreadful sufferings and painful rites,
their tragic destiny, perishing without vision.
Offer to the God of light, thanksgiving.
(3.) Offer praise to God for Gospel ordinances and privileges. The Sabbath-day is appointed for sublime and merciful purposes; it is a day on which the richest blessings are received — a day of delicious enjoyment — a day which is the epitome of Heaven.
Then you have the preaching of the Gospel, and the ordinance of the Lord's Supper. By the first, God immediately addresses sinful men, graciously offering terms of reconciliation. In the second, he allows his people to have intimate fellowship with himself, and cheers their hearts by the whispers of his unchanging love.
3. Offer unto God, thanksgiving for your personal interest in spiritual blessings.
Thank God for your conversion. What were you more than others, that he should have chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth?
Thank God for enlightening and quickening you. When you sat in the region and shadow of death — the dayspring from on high visited you. When you had no more thought for God than a dead man, then he "made you alive in Christ!" Ephesians 2:1.
Thank God for pardoning and justifying you.
Thank God for adopting love. "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty!" 2 Corinthians 6:18
Thank God for sanctification; for "though you lay among the pots, you are like a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold."
Thank him for growth in grace. "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree, and grow like the cedar in Lebanon."
Thank him for the hope of perfection; knowing that "he who has begun the good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."
Thank him for supporting grace in the prospect of death, for the promise of his presence then to enable you to conquer — for the hope of a glorious resurrection, and admission to immortal bliss!
II. The Manner of Offering Thanks to God.
1. Thanksgiving may be mental — as when we indulge admiring, adoring, and affectionate thoughts of God, or meditate upon his graciousness with pleasure and delight.
2. Thanksgiving may be vocal. "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth may be compelled to speak." In private — in the family — in the house of God.
3. Thanksgiving must be with reverence. It is praise to the Great I Am — to God, who is a Spirit, pure, infinite, Nehemiah 9:5; Psalm 91:1, 2; 95:1-3.
4. Thanksgiving must be with humility — as unworthy recipients, acknowledging the salvation of God. As prodigals, returned outcasts, miserable sinners — confessing salvation to be all of grace.
5. Thanksgiving must be practical. This is called a "showing forth the praises of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light." Tell others what he has done for you. Go, spread his truth — advance his cause. The people upon whom Christ wrought miracles did this. Paul, the persecutor, after his conversion, did this.
6. Thanksgiving must be ardent. The greatness of the blessings, demands fervent thanks. Life from the dead — translation from Satan's kingdom into the kingdom of God's dear Son — deliverance from perdition to the hope of Heaven, etc. Psalm 71:8; 138:1, 2.
III. Enforce the Duty of Thanks to God.
1. Thanksgiving is the command of God. It was so under the Levitical economy, Leviticus 7:12; much more so under the Gospel dispensation; 1 Corinthians 9:11; Philippians 4:6:Colossians 2:7.
2. Thanksgiving is a striking evidence of spiritual vitality. It indicates sensibility — experience — love to God.
3. Thanksgiving is delightful. Psalm 33:1; 147:1. Delightful to feel — beautiful to behold.
Sweet is the work, my God, my King,
To praise Your name, give thanks and sing,
To show your love by morning light,
And talk of all your truth at night.
4. Thanksgiving is acceptable to God, and honors him. Psalm 50:23; 2 Corinthians 4:15. God neither needs our services nor our songs — as he is all perfection, and an everlasting harmony to himself, without the feeble notes that we can raise. Yet through Christ, he is well pleased with our imperfect praises. Where he has given his grace, the grateful heart is an instrument of music to him; and he loves it to be kept in tune, and to sound forth his praises.
5. Thanksgiving is the precursor of praise to be offered in the celestial temple! Thanksgiving is the practice-time, the rehearsal for the grand chorus of all the redeemed in Heaven! We are tuning our hearts here for perfect praise there!
"After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: 'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.' All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!" Revelation 7:9-12
When the Church militant shall be joined to the Church triumphant — O what voices, what songs of melody, what rapturous joys, will then be heard in Heaven to all eternity, when Christ shall lead the worship, and the praises that have been growing for thousands of years, shall burst forth, and be diffused abroad, and all creation echo to the song, "Glory to God in the highest!" This is what the saints are waiting for; that which they ardently believe and hope they shall realize!