Thomas Manton on Thanksgiving
Puritan Thomas Manton gave a sermon entitled “The Christian’s Special Duty of Giving Thanks,” in which he reflects upon Psalm 119:62: ““At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee, because of thy righteous judgments.” His main point of emphasis in the sermon is that Christians ought to often be busy in the business of thanksgiving, and, since it is Thanksgiving, I thought it would be profitable to reflect upon some of Manton’s reasons why we Christians ought to be busy in the business of thanking God with hearts full of gratitude.
1. God both gives daily mercies, and has given the mercy of Christ.
Manton writes: “The necessity of being much and often in thanksgiving will appear by these two considerations: Because God is continually beneficial to us, blessing and delivering His people every day and by new mercies giveth us new matter of praise and thanksgiving: ‘Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation’ (Ps 68:19). He hath continually favored us and preserved us and poured His benefits upon us. The mercies of every day make way for songs which may sweeten our rest in the night; and His giving us rest by night and preserving us in our sleep, when we could not help ourselves, giveth us songs in the morning. And all the day long we find new matter of praise: our whole work is divided between receiving and acknowledging.
Some mercies are so general and beneficial that they should never be forgotten but remembered before God every day, such as redemption by Christ: ‘He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered’ (Ps 111:4). We must daily be blessing God for Jesus Christ: ‘Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift’ (2 Cor 9:15), [which] I understand [to be] of His grace by Christ. We should ever be thus blessing and praising Him; for the keeping of His great works in memory is the foundation of all love and service to God.”
2. Thanksgiving is a profitable duty.
“The usefulness of thanksgiving appeareth with respect to faith, love, and obedience. With respect to faith. Faith and praise live and die together: if there be faith, there will be praise; and if there be praise, there will be faith. If faith, there will be praise, for faith is a bird that can sing in winter: ‘In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me’ (Ps 56:4); and verse 10, ‘In God I will praise his word, in the Lord I will praise his word.’ His word is satisfaction enough to gracious hearts; if they have His word, they can praise Him beforehand for the grounds of hope before they have enjoyment.”
Regarding thanksgiving’s relationship to love, Manton continues by explaining that thanksgiving helps to fuel our prayers: “The great respect it hath to love. Praise and thanksgiving are acts of love, [which] cherish and feed love. They are acts of love to God; for if we love God, we will praise Him. Prayer is a work of necessity, but praise a mere work of duty and respect to God. We would exalt Him more in our own hearts and in the hearts of others: ‘I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more’ (Ps 71:14).”
3. Thanksgiving is a delightful duty.
“It is a most delightful work to remember the many thousand mercies God hath bestowed on the church, ourselves, and friends. To remember His gracious word and all the passages of His providence; is this burdensome to us? ‘Praise ye the LORD: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely’ (Ps 147:1); and ‘Praise the LORD; for the LORD is good: sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant’ (Ps 135:3). No profit so great as spiritual; is not to be measured by the good things of this world or a little pelf or the great mammon, which so many worship. But spiritual and divine benefit, which tendeth to make us spiritually better, more like God, more capable of communion with Him, that is true profit. It is an increase of faith, love, and obedience. So for pleasure and delight—that which truly exhilarateth the soul [and] begets upon us a solid impression of God’s love—that is the true pleasure.”
On this Thanksgiving Day, may we hear the call from our brother Thomas Manton and be faithful to give thanks to God for our daily mercies and for the grace of Christ, may we let our thanksgiving fuel our love and prayer, and may we be delighted by thankfulness in response to our delightful God.