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Our Enquiry into what is meant here, will be very fhort: For who is there, that understands any thing of Religion, but knows, that the offering Praise and Thanks to God implies, our having a lively and devout Senfe of his Excellencies, and of his Benefits; our recollecting them with Humility and Thankfulness of heart; and our expreffing these Inward Affections by fuitable Outward Signs; by reverent and lowly Poftures of Body, by Songs, and Hymns, and Spiritual Ejaculations; either Privately, or Publickly; either in the Customary and Daily Service of the Church, or in its more Solemn Affemblies, conven'd upon Extraordinary Occafions? This is the Account, which every Chirstian eafily gives himself of it; and which, therefore, it would be needless to enlarge upon. I fhall only take notice on this Head, That Praise and Thanksgiving do, in Strictnefs of Speech, fignify things fomewhat different. Our Praise properly terminates in God, on the account of his natural Excellencies and Perfections; and is that Act of DevoB4
SERM. tion by which we confess and admire his feveral Attributes: But Thanksgiving is a narrower Duty, and Imports only a grateful Sense and Acknowledgment of paft Mercies. We Praise God for all his glorious Acts, of every kind, that regard either Us, or Other Men; for his very Vengeance, and thofe Judgment's which he sometimes fends abroad in the Earth: But we thank him (properly fpeaking) for the Inftances of his Goodness alone; and for fuch only of thefe, as We our felves are fome way concern'd in. This, I fay, is what the two Words ftrictly imply But fince the Language of Scripture is generally lefs exact, and ufeth Either of them often to express the Other by, I fhall not think my felf oblig'd, in what follows, thus nicely always to distinguish them.
Now the great Reasonableness of this Duty of Praife, or Thanksgiving, and our feveral Obligations to it, will appear; if we either confider it abfolutely in it self, as the Debt of our Natures; or compare it with other Duties, and fhew the Rank
it bears among them; or fet out, in the SER M. laft place, fome of its peculiar Properties and Advantages, with regard to the devout Performer of it.
I. The Duty of Praise and Thankfgiving, confider'd abfolutely in it felf, is, I fay, the Debt, and Law of our Nature. We had fuch Faculties bestowed on us by our Creator, as made us capable of fatisfying this Debt, and obeying this Law; and they never, therefore, work more naturally and freely, than when they are thus employ'd.
'Tis one of the earliest Inftructions given us by Philosophy, and which hath ever fince been approved and inculcated by the wifeft Men of all Ages. That the Original Design of making Man was, that he might Praise and Honour Him who made him. When God had finish'd this goodly Frame of things, we call the World, and put together the several Parts of it, according to his infinite Wifdom, in exact Number, Weight, and Measure; there was still wanting a Crea
SER M. ture in these lower Regions, that could I. apprehend the Beauty, Order, and exquifite Contrivance of it; that from contemplating the Gift, might be able to raise it self up to the great Giver, and do Honour to all his Attributes. Every thing indeed that God made, did, in fome Senfe, glorify its Author, inafmuch as it carried upon it the plain Mark and Imprefs of the Deity, and was an Effect worthy of that firft Cause from whence it flowed; and Thus might the Heavens be faid, at the firft Moment in which Pf. xix. 1. they stood forth, to declare bis Glory, and the Firmament to fhew his Handywork: But this was an imperfect, and defective Glory; the Sign was of no signification here below, whilft there was no one here as yet to take Notice of it. Man, therefore, was form'd to supply this Want; endued with Powers fit to find out, and to acknowledge these unlimited Perfections; and then put into this Temple of God, this lower World, as the Prieft of Nature, to offer up the Incense of Thanks and Praise for the mute and the infenfible Part of the Creation.
This, I fay, hath been the Opinion all along of the most thoughtful Men, down from the most ancient Times: And tho' it be not Demonftrative, yet is it what we cannot but judge highly reasonable, if we do but allow, that Man was made for fome End, or other; and that he is capable of perceiving that End. For then, let us search and enquire never fo much, we shall find no Other Account of him that we can reft upon fo well. If we fay, That he was made purely for the good Pleasure of God; this is, in effect, to fay, that he was made for no Determinate End; or for none, at least, that We çan difcern. If we fay, That he was defign'd as an Inftance of the Wisdom, and Power, and Goodness of God; This indeed may be the Reafon of his Being in general; for 'tis the common Reason of the Being of every Thing befides. But it gives no account, why he was made fuch a Being as he is, a reflecting, thoughtful, inquifitive Being: The particular Reafon of this feems moft aptly to be drawn