A Note for Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving Eve, I thought I’d take a break from the study of Jeremiah Burroughs’ work on the Causes, Evils, and Cures of Divisions in the Church, and offer, instead, a brief word from John Calvin on Gratitude.  This comes from the “Golden Book of the True Christian Life,” which was originally part of Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion, and is a wonderfully practical devotion on  basic Christianity.  I share today just a couple of his concluding points as a guide to gratitude in the coming celebrations.

Earthly things are gifts of God.

  • The first principle we should consider is that the use of gifts of God cannot be wrong if they are directed to the same purpose for which the Creator himself has created and destined them. For He has made the earthly blessings for our benefit, and not for our harm.
  • If we study why he has created the various kinds of food, we shall find that it was His intention not only to provide for our needs, but likewise for our pleasure and for our delight. If this were not true, the psalmist would not enumerate among the divine blessings “the wine that makes glad the heart of man, and the oil that makes his face to shine.”
  • Even the natural properties of things sufficiently point out to what purpose and to what extent we are allowed to use them. Should the Lord have attracted our eyes to the beauty of the flowers and our sense of small to pleasant odors, and should it then be sin to drink them in? Has he not made the colors so that one is more wonderful than the other? Has he not made many things worthy of our attention that go far beyond our needs (Ps. 104:15)?

True gratitude will restrain us from abuse.

  • Let us discard, therefore, that inhuman philosophy which would allow us no use of creation unless it is absolutely necessary.  Such a malignant notion deprives us of the lawful enjoyment of God’s kindness. And, it is impossible actually to accept it, until we are robbed of all our senses and reduced to a senseless block. On the other hand, we must with equal zeal fight the lusts of the flesh, for if they are not firmly restrained, they will transgress every bound.
  • If we want to curb our passions we must remember that all things were made focus, with the purpose that we may know and acknowledge their Author. We should praise his kindness toward us in earthly matters by giving Him thanks. But what will become of our thanksgiving if we indulge in dainties or wine in such a way that we are too dull to carry out those duties of devotion or of our business? Where is our acknowledgement of God, if the excesses of our body drive us to the vilest passions and infect our mind with impurity, so that we can no longer distinguish between right and wrong?
  • For many so madly pursue pleasure that their minds become enslaved to it. Many are so delighted with marble, gold, and painting, that they become like statues. The flavor of meats and the sweetness of odors make some people so stupid that they have no longer any appetite for spiritual things. And his holds for the abuse of all other natural matters.  Therefore, it is clear, that the principle of gratitude should curb our desire to abuse the divine blessings.

In short, enjoy the bounty of creation, this is God’s good gift to you. But always keep in mind it is His gift, meant to direct our devotion and gratitude, not to the gift, but to the giver.  Let gratitude keep you from taking God’s gifts for granted, and from overindulging in His gifts.

Have a very blessed Thanksgiving!

SDG

A Thanksgiving Proclamation

Last year, in honor of our celebration of Thanksgiving, I posted George Washington’s “Thanksgiving Proclamation.”  From the earliest years of our nation, each year a day was set aside to give thanks to God for the blessings He has graciously provided to our land and our people.  But it wasn’t until President Lincoln, in 1863, during the height of the Civil War, established a national day of Thanksgiving. I thought I’d share His letter of proclamation, which was actually written by William Seward, serving as Secretary of State. Enjoy, and may we give thanks to God for all His many blessings, not just tomorrow, but every day.

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.

Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln