Last Thursday I had the opportunity to hang out with a close friend of mine. He’s currently studying Philosophy in Colorado, so it was a nice coincidence that the same few days he came to Kent were the same days I was in Kent to teach VBS.
He picked me up and we immediately started talking about Modest Mouse, a band from Issaquah, which was playing on his I-pod/car stereo. He commented about how cynical many of their songs are.
“Cynicism is the thing right now,” I replied, referring to its prevalence not only in music, but contemporary attitudes about the world.
“Cynicism is the thing, alright,” he replied.
Fortunately for the Christian, cynicism doesn’t have to be the thing. Were our hope to reside in earthly things, naïveté would be our only alternative to cynicism, since this world is lost in rebellion against God. But He calls us to be those who rejoice always. How can we maintain a joyful spirit? I believe one of the avenues by which we can constantly rejoice is found in this excerpt from Scougal’s sermon.
The Duty and Pleasure of Praise and Thanksgiving
“O that men would praise the LORD for his goodness,
and for his wonderful works to the children of men.”
There is scarce any duty of religion more commonly neglected, or slightly performed, than that of praise and thanksgiving. The sense of our wants puts us upon begging favors from God; and the consciousness of our sins constrains us to deprecate his wrath; thus interest and self-love send us to our prayers.
But alas! how small a part has an ingenuous gratitude in our devotion? How seldom are we serious and hearty in our acknowledgments of the divine bounty? The slender returns of this nature which we make, are many times a formal ceremony, a preface to usher in our petitions for what we want, rather than any sincere expression of our thankful presentment for what we have received.
Far different was the temper of the holy Psalmist, whose affectionate acknowledgments of the goodness and bounty of God, in the cheerful celebration of his praise, make up a considerable part of his divine and ravishing songs. How often do we find him exciting and disposing himself to join voice, hand, and heart together, in this holy and delightful employment!
Bless the Lord, O my soul;
and all that is within me, bless his name. (Psalm 103:1)
My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed I will sing and give praise.
Awake up, my glory, awake, psaltery and harp:
I myself will awake right early. (Psalm 57:7-8)
And being conscious of his own insufficiency for the work, he inviteth others unto it; calling in the whole creation to assist him,
“Sing unto the LORD a new song:
Sing unto the LORD, all the earth.” (Psalm 96:1)
“Give unto the LORD, O ye kindreds of the people,
Give unto the LORD glory and strength.” (96:7)
“Praise ye the LORD from the heavens:
Praise him in the heights.” (148:1)
“Praise him, ye sun and moon:
Praise him, all ye stars of light.” (148:3)
“Mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and cedars.
Beasts and all cattle, creeping things and flying fowls.” (148:9-10)
“Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion.” (103:22)
Many such figurative expressions occur, and allowance must be made for the poetical strain, but in the text we have a proper and passionate wish: “that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!”
“O that men would praise the LORD for his goodness…”
All the attributes of God deserve our highest praise; power, wisdom, and goodness, are all one in him: but, as we have different conceptions of these, goodness is that lovely attribute which doth peculiarly attract our affection, and excite our praise. Our love to God doth not so much flow from the consideration of his greatness, whereby he can do whatever he will, as from the consideration of his goodness; that he always willeth what is best, that his almighty power has infinite wisdom to regulate it, and unspeakable bounty to actuate and exert it.
“…and for his wonderful works to the children of men.”
The divine goodness doth spread and extend itself over all the parts of the universe, and embraceth the whole creation in its arms: it not only displayeth itself most illustriously to the blessed inhabitants of the regions above, but reacheth also to the meanest worm that crawleth on the ground. The beasts of the field, and the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea, and the innumerable swarms of little insects which we can hardly discern with our eyes, are all subjects to that Almighty care: by him they are brought forth into the world, by him they are furnished with provision suitable for them:
“These all await upon thee”, says the Psalmist, “that thou mayest give them their meat in due season; that thou givest them, they gather: thou openest thine hand; they are filled with good.” (Psalm 104:27-28)
But here, to excite us to thankfulness, he makes choice of an instance wherein we ourselves are more nearly concerned, and exhorteth, “to praise the Lord for his wonderful works to the children of men.” If the goodness of God to the holy angels be above our reach, and his bounty to the inferior creatures be below our notice, surely we must be infinitely dull if we do not observe his dealings with ourselves, and with those of our kind. As our interest makes us more sensible of this, so gratitude doth oblige us to a more particular acknowledgment of it.