November 22: A Thankful Spirit

Remember to praise God quite as much as to pray.

And now for something completely different (as Monty Python used to say):

[excerpted from The English Presbyterian Messenger, New Series, No. 156 (December 1860): 375-376. Emphasis added.]

Some of our readers will peruse the following letter with interest and profit. It was not written for publication, but the Lord may make it useful for the edification of his own people. The friend who kindly sent it to us says :—

“ The enclosed letter, from a deeply tried and experienced Christian in Scotland, was sent to me the other day, along with two others, for my perusal. If you think with me that it is valuable, and can find space for it in “The Messenger,” it may, perhaps, prove a blessing to some souls. I have copied it, and I forward it to you almost entirely as I received it. You can do with it as you think proper.”

I——–, October 19th, 1800.

My Dear. Brother, — I was very glad to receive your kind and interesting letter. I value exceedingly the Christian friendship and brotherhood which the Lord permits me to enjoy. I value exceedingly your own ; but I desire grace ever to refer it all to the fountain, and to be flung back more than ever on the inestimable friendship of the Blessed One.

Dear brother, if it be sweet to have a friend—another poor, trembling heart like our own, to whom we can unbosom sorrow, assured that all will be looked at through the medium of a loving eye, and where no help can be given, sympathy, at least, will be felt; if this be precious, who can tell the preciousness of the sympathizing love of Jesus, who can feel as well as help, who can deal with us so gently and so wisely. No eye scans us with such gentle love as Jesus. Oh to have faith always as well in the love of his heart as in the power of his hand.

There is a little matter I would like to bring before you, dear brother, as having been used of the Lord to be exceedingly helpful to me; and although, perhaps, not needing it so much as I was, it may possibly be useful to you. Its benefit to me is incalculable. It is simply this. Remember to praise God quite as much as to pray. Now this is clearly scriptural. You will find in Scripture far more exhortations to praise than to prayer. The Psalms abound with them, line upon line, line upon line. God is served by praise, Psalm 50. 23. It is specially the Christian’s great service. Heb. xiii. 15 ; 1 Peter ii. 5—9. Now in looking at my own conduct in reference to this, I found it sadly neglected. My heart was little attuned to the blessed service of thanksgiving. I had infinite cause for thankfulness, but, alas! a thankless heart. I have sought to have this altered, and with happy results. I seek the spirit of praise quite as much as of prayer, and desire to cherish the feeling of happy thankfulness for mercies enjoyed, as well as believing prayer for mercies needed. Ofttimes when my cold heart cannot get into communion through the gates of prayer, I turn to the gate of praise, and in a minute or two am in the glorious presence. In certain states of soul, when the enemy rushes on me like Behemoth, and threatens to swallow me up, I fall down on my knees, and drawing near to God, through Jesus, begin to thank God for his mercies. And as the heart goes over the boundless and glorious list, it begins to glow, and the enemy is driven off. Ofttimes five minutes’ praise is blessed with a success that an hour’s praying fails to receive. Now, we have always matter for thankfulness ; and however low we are, let us begin there and come to God in our reality, and praise Him heartily for whatever blessing we feel laid on our hearts, I mean blessing in Christ Jesus. And oh, as faith gazes on that face, brighter than the sun in his strength, and listens to that voice, soft as the murmur of many waters, telling out the tenderness of His grace, the soul becomes as the chariots of Amminadib, and is caught up into heaven and brought very near. There is never between us and the joy of God’s presence any wall but the wall of unbelief. Alas, that we ever cherish and fondle it, and do our blessed Saviour, and the brethren, and ourselves this great wrong. For God is glorified, and others are helped, and our souls are blessed, precisely as we live in happy fellowship with our heavenly Father.

Dear brother, you may know all about this far better than I do, yet I would like to suggest your trying what benefit you might find in seeking to abound in faith with thanksgiving. Say that for a week you give up your heart to praise God for Jesus in all the relations in which you feel you can lay hold on him. In business, let your heart glance up every spare half-minute, just in a gleam of thankfulness, and one word of praise. By the way, to and from home, give up your heart to praise alone. At table let your wife and yourself provoke each other to gratitude and praise, by conversing on the excellencies of Jesus, and of Jesus as all your own. This does not interfere with your seasons of prayer. And, after the week, I am sure you will see occasion to seek God’s gift of the spirit of praise, as well as of prayer. When I blow out my candle in the evening, and sit gazing into the red coals for an hour, and letting the heart wander amid all the revelations of Divine love, back into a past eternity, forward into a coming eternity, to Calvary, to heaven ; taking everything only in connection with Jesus, and with Jesus as God’s gift to me, my heart begins to burn within me, selfish and temporal griefs disappear, Jesus himself fills my heart; and if any one were to offer me a kingdom for every sorrow I have, I could at such times scarcely manage honestly to muster a single one.

Dear brother, try it. When Satan casts us into prison, and puts our feet fast in the stocks, let us sing praises to God at midnight, and very soon God will send his angel, and there shall be an earthquake, and our chains shall fall off, and our souls be restored to liberty. “ O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness! ” Yes, that is our crying want, the want of a heart ever attuned to this blessed work of heaven.

With heartiest love, … I am, my dear brother,

Yours, humbly and affectionately,
J. D.

[excerpted from The English Presbyterian Messenger, New Series, No. 156 (December 1860): 375-376.]


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