A Godly Man is a Thankful Man

Jul 05, 2017
Thomas Watson

Praise and thanksgiving is the work of heaven and he begins that work here which he will always be doing in heaven. The Hebrew word for ‘praise’ comes from a root that signifies ‘to shoot up.’ The godly man sends up his praises like a volley of shots towards heaven. David was modeled after God’s heart and how melodiously he warbled out God’s praises! Therefore he was called ‘the sweet psalmist of Israel’ (2 Sam. 23:1) . Take a Christian at his worst, yet he is thankful. To illustrate this more clearly, I shall lay down these four particulars: 1. Praise and thanksgiving is a saint-like work. We find in Scripture that the godly are still called upon to praise God: ‘ye that fear the Lord, bless the Lord’ (Psalm 135:20). ‘Let the saints be joyful in glory: let the high praises of God be in their mouth’ (Psalm 149:5, 6). Praise is a work proper to a saint: (i) None but the godly can praise God aright. As all do not have the skill to play the lute, so not everyone can sound forth the harmonious praises of God. Wicked men are required to praise God, but they are not fit to praise him. None but a living Christian can tune God’s praise. Wicked men are dead in sin; how can they who are dead lift up God’s praises? ‘The grave cannot praise thee’ (Isa. 38:18). A wicked man stains and eclipses God’s praise. God will say to the sinner, ‘What hast thou to do, to take my covenant in thy mouth?’ (Psalm 50:16). (ii)Praise is not comely for any but the godly: ‘praise is comely for the upright’ (Psalm 33:1). A profane man stuck with God’s praises is like a dunghill stuck with flowers. Praise in the mouth of a sinner is like an oracle in the mouth of a fool. How uncomely it is for anyone to praise God if his whole life dishonors God! It is as indecent for a wicked man to praise God as it is for the devil to quote Scripture. The godly alone are fit to be choristers in God’s praises. It is called ‘the garment of praise’ (Isa. 61:3). This garment fits hand¬somely only on a saint’s back. 2. Thanksgiving is a more noble part of God’s worship. Our wants may send us to prayer but it takes a truly honest heart to bless God. The raven cries; the lark sings. In petition we act like men; in thanksgiving we act like angels. 3. Thanksgiving is a God-exalting work. ‘Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me’ (Psalm 50:23). Though nothing can add the least mite to God’s essential glory, yet praise exalts him in the eyes of others. Praise is a setting forth of God’s honor, a lifting up of his name, a displaying of the trophy of his goodness, a proclaiming of his excellence, a spreading of his renown, a breaking open of the box of ointment, whereby the sweet savor and perfume of God’s name is sent abroad into the world. 4. Praise is a more distinguishing work. by this a Christian excels all the infernal spirits. Do you talk of God? So can the devil; he brought Scripture to Christ. Do you profess religion? So can the devil; he transforms himself into an angel of light. Do you fast? He never eats. Do you believe? The devils have a faith of assent; they believe, and tremble (Jas. 2:19). But as Moses worked such a miracle as none of the magicians could reproduce, so here is a work Christians may be doing, which none of the devils can do, and that is the work of thanksgiving. The devils blaspheme, but do not bless. Satan has his fiery darts but not his harp and viol. Use 1: See here the true genius and complexion of a godly man. He is much in doxologies and praises. A godly man is a God-exalter. The saints are temples of the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. 3:16). Where should God’s praises be sounded, but in his temples? A good heart is never weary of praising God: ‘his praise shall continually be in my mouth’ (Psalm 34:1). Some will be thankful while the memory of the mercy is fresh, but afterwards leave off. David, as long as he drew his breath, would chirp forth God’s praise: ‘I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being’ (Psalm 146:2). David would not now and then give God a snatch of music, and then hang up the instrument, but he would continually be celebrating God’s praise. A godly man will express his thankfulness in every duty. He mingles thanksgiving with prayer: ‘in every thing by prayer with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God’ (Phil. 4:6). Thanksgiving is the more divine part of prayer. In our petitions we express our own necessities; in our thanksgivings we declare God’s excellences. Prayer goes up as incense, when it is perfumed with thanksgiving. And as a godly man expresses thankfulness in every duty, he does so in every condition. He will be thankful in adversity as well as prosperity: ‘In every thing give thanks’ (1 Thess. 5:18). A gracious soul is thankful and rejoices that he is drawn nearer to God, though it be by the cords of affliction. When it goes well with him, he praises God’s mercy; when it goes badly with him, he magnifies God’s justice. When God has a rod in his hand, a godly man will have a psalm in his mouth. The devil’s smiting of Job was like striking a musical instrument; he sounded forth praise: ‘The Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’ (Job. 1:21). When God’s spiritual plants are cut and bleed, they drop thankfulness; the saints’ tears cannot drown their praises. If this is the sign of a godly man, then the number of the godly appears to be very small. Few are in the work of praise. Sinners cut God short of his thank offering: ‘Where are the nine?’ (Luke 17:17). Of ten lepers healed, there was but one who returned to give praise. Most of the world are sepulchers to bury God’s praise. You will hear some swearing and cursing but few who bless God. Praise is the yearly rent that men owe, but most are behind with their rent. God gave King Hezekiah a marvelous deliver¬ance, ‘but Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him’ (2 Chron. 32:25). That ‘but’ was a blot on his escutcheon. Some, instead of being thankful to God, ‘render evil for good.’ They are the worse for mercy: ‘Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise?’ (Deut. 32:6). Where shall we find a grateful Christian? We read of the saints ‘having harps in their hands’ (Rev 5:8) — the emblem of praise. Many have tears in their eyes and complaints in their mouths, but few have harps in their hand and are blessing and praising the name of God. Use 2: Let us scrutinize ourselves and examine by this characteristic whether we are godly: Are we thankful for mercy? It is a hard thing to be thankful. Question: How may we know whether we are rightly thankful? Answer 1: When we are careful to register God’s mercy: ‘David appointed certain of the Levites to record, and to thank and praise the Lord God of Israel’ (1 Chron. 16:4). Physicians say that the memory is the first thing that decays. It is true in spiritual matters: ‘They soon forgot his works’ (Psalm 106:13). A godly man enters his mercies, as a physician does his remedies, in a book, so that they may not be lost. Mercies are jewels that should be locked up. A child of God keeps two books always by him: one to write his sins in, so that he may be humble; the other to write his mercies in, so that he may be thankful. Answer 2: We are rightly thankful when our hearts are the chief instrument in the music of praise: ‘I will praise the Lord with my whole heart’ (Psalm 111:1). David would tune not only his viol, but also his heart. If the heart does not join with the tongue, there can be no comfort. Where the heart is not engaged, the parrot is as good a chorister as the Christian. Answer 3: We are rightly thankful when the favors which we receive endear our love to God the more. David’s miraculous preservation from death drew forth his love to God: ‘I love the Lord’ (Psalm 116:1). It is one thing to love our mercies; it is another thing to love the Lord. Many love their deliverance but not their deliverer. God is to be loved more than his mercies. Answer 4: We are rightly thankful when, in giving our praise to God, we take all worthiness from ourselves: ‘I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies thou hast showed unto thy servant’ (Gen. 32:10). As if Jacob had said, ‘Lord, the worst bit thou carvest me is better than I deserve.’ Mephibosheth bowed himself and said, ‘What is thy servant, that thou should look upon such a dead dog as I am?’ (2 Sam. 9:8). So when a thankful Christian makes a survey of his blessings and sees how much he enjoys that others better than he lack, he says, ‘Lord, what am I, a dead dog, that free grace should look upon me, and that thou shouldest crown me with such loving kindness?’ Answer 5: We are rightly thankful when we put God’s mercy to good use. We repay God’s blessings with service. The Lord gives us health, and we spend and are spent for Christ (2 Cor. 12:15). He gives us an estate, and we honor the Lord with our substance (Proverbs 3:9). He gives us children, and we educate them for God. We do not bury our talents but trade them. This is to put our mercies to good use. A gracious heart is like a piece of good ground that, having received the seed of mercy, produces a crop of obedience. Answer 6: We are rightly thankful when we can have our hearts more enlarged for spiritual than for temporal mercies: ‘Blessed be God, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings’ (Eph. 1:3). A godly man blesses God more for a fruitful heart than a full crop. He is more thankful for Christ than for a kingdom. A pious heart is more thankful for a smile of God’s face than he would be for the gold of the Indies. Answer 7: We are rightly thankful when mercy is a spur to duty. It causes a spirit of activity for God. Mercy is not like the sun to the fire, to dull it, but like oil to the wheel, to make it run faster. David wisely argues from mercy to duty: ‘Thou hast delivered my soul from death. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living’ (Psalm. 116:8, 9). Answer 8: We are rightly thankful when we motivate others to this angelic work of praise. David does not only wish to bless God himself, but calls upon others to do so: ‘Praise ye the Lord’ (Psalm 111:1). The sweetest music is that which is in unison. When many saints join together in unison, then they make heaven ring with their praises. Answer 9: We are rightly thankful when we not only speak God’s praise but live his praise. It is called an expression of gratitude. We give thanks when we live thanks. Such as are mirrors of mercy should be patterns of piety. ‘Upon Mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness’ (Obad. 17). To give God oral praise and dishonor him in our lives is to commit a barbarism in religion. Answer 10: We are rightly thankful when we propagate God’s praises to posterity. We tell our children what God has done for us: in such a want he supplied us; from such a sickness he raised us up; in such a temptation he helped us. ‘O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old’ (Psalm 44:1). by transmitting our experiences to our children, God’s name is eternalized, and his mercies will bring forth a plentiful crop of praise when we have gone. We praise God because, having left the chronicle of God’s mercies with our children, we start them on thankfulness and so make God’s praises live when we are dead. Use 3: Let us prove our godliness by gratefulness: ‘Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name’ (Psalm 29:2). 1. ‘It is a good thing to be thankful: ‘It is good to sing praises unto our God’ (Psalm 147:1). It is bad when the tongue (that organ of praise) is out of tune and jars by murmuring and discontent. But it is a good thing to be thankful. It is good, because this is all the creature can do to lift up God’s name; and it is good because it tends to make us good. The more thankful we are, the more holy. While we pay this tribute of praise, our stock of grace increases. In other debts, the more we pay, the less we have; but the more we pay this debt of thankfulness, the more grace we have. 2. Thankfulness is the rent we owe to God. ‘Kings of the earth and all people; let them praise the name of the Lord’ (Psalm 148:11, 13). Praise is the tribute or custom to be paid into the King of heaven’s exchequer. Surely while God renews our lease, we must renew our rent. 3. The great cause we have to be thankful. It is a principle grafted in nature, to be thankful for benefits. What full clusters of mercies hang on us when we go to enumerate God’s mercies! We must, with David, confess ourselves to be nonplussed: ‘Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, they cannot be reckoned up in order’ (Psalm. 40:5). And as God’s mercies are past numbering, so they are past measuring. David takes the longest measuring line he could get. He measures from earth to the clouds, no, above the clouds, yet this measure would not reach the heights of God’s mercies: ‘Thy mercy is great above the heavens’ (Psalm 108:4). (i) What temporal favors we have received! Every day we see a new tide of mercy coming in. The wings of mercy have covered us, the breast of mercy has fed us: ‘the God which fed me all my life long unto this day’ (Gen. 48:15). What snares laid for us have been broken! What fears have blown over! The Lord has made our bed, while he has made others’ graves. He has taken such care of us, as if he had no-one else to take care of. Never was the cloud of providence so black, but we might see a rainbow of love in the cloud. We have been made to swim in a sea of mercy, and does not all this call for thankfulness? (ii) That which may put another string into the instru¬ment of our praise and make it sound louder is to consider what spiritual blessings God has conferred on us. He has given us water from the upper springs; he has opened the wardrobe of heaven and fetched us out a better garment than any of the angels wear. He has given us the best robe and put on us the ring, by which we are married to him. These are mercies of the first magnitude, which deserve to have an asterisk put on them. And God keeps the best wine till last. Here he gives us mercies only in small quantities; the greatest things are laid up. Here there are some honey drops and foretastes of God’s love; the rivers of pleasure are reserved for paradise. Well may we take the harp and viol and triumph in God’s praise! Who can tread on these hot coals of God’s love and his heart not burn in thankfulness? 4. Thankfulness is the best policy. There is nothing lost by it. To be thankful for one mercy is the way to have more. It is like pouring water into a pump which fetches out more. Musicians love to sound their trumpets where there is the best echo, and God loves to bestow his mercies where there is the best echo of thankfulness. 5. Thankfulness is a frame of heart that God delights in. If repentance is the joy of heaven, praise is the music. Praise and thanksgiving is the most excel¬lent part of God’s worship, for this shall continue in the heavenly choir when all other exercises of religion have ceased. 6. What a horrid thing ingratitude is! It gives a dye and tincture to every other sin and makes it crimson. In¬gratitude is the spirit of baseness: ‘They that eat thy bread have laid a wound under thee’ (Obad. 7). Ingratitude is worse than brutish (Isa. 1:3). Though God is a sin-pardoning God, he scarcely knows how to pardon for this. ‘How shall I pardon thee for this? Thy children have forsaken me, when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery’ (Jer. 5:7). An unthankful person is a monster in nature, a paradox in Christianity. He is the scorn of heaven and the plague of earth. An ungrateful man never does well. 7. Not being thankful is the cause of all the judgments which have lain on us. Who will spend money on a piece of ground that produces nothing but briars? Unthankfulness stops the golden phial of God’s bounty, so that it will not drop. Question: What shall we do to be thankful? Answer 1: If you wish to be thankful, get a heart deeply humbled with the sense of your own vileness. A broken heart is the best pipe to sound forth God’s praise. He who studies his sins wonders that he has anything and that God should shine on such a dunghill: ‘Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, but I obtained mercy’ (1 Tim. 1:13). How thankful Paul was! How he trumpeted forth free grace! A proud man will never be thankful. He looks on all his mercies as either of his own procuring or deserving. If he has an estate, this he has got by his wits and industry, not considering that scripture, ‘Thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that gives thee power to get wealth’ (Deut. 8:18). Pride stops the current of gratitude. O Christian, think of your unworthiness; see yourself the least of saints and the chief of sinners, and then you will be thankful. Answer 2: Strive for sound evidences of God’s love to you. Read God’s love in the impress of holiness upon your hearts. God’s love poured in will make the vessels of mercy run over with thankfulness: ‘Unto him that loved us, be glory and dominion forever’ (Rev. 1:5, 6). The deepest springs yield the sweetest water. Hearts deeply aware of God’s love yield the sweetest praises.

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