Praises Bespoke for the God in Heaven, in a Thanksgiving Sermon, 1689
Insofar as Protestants can have one, Cotton Mather (1663-1728) is the patron saint of American Reformer. Our annual fellowship program is named after him. As I’ve explained before, Mather exemplifies, in our minds, the ideal American Protestant both in his learning, industriousness, and Protestant ecumenism. He (or his father) can be called the last Puritan. By extension, Samuel Adams, who was known to his contemporaries as the “Last Puritan,” employed “Cotton Mather” as one of his dozens of pseudonyms in the late 1760s. For this and many other reasons, Adams the maltster, is the leading candidate for patron founder of American Reformer.
It is appropriate then to publish, as our last resource of 2023, a thanksgiving sermon from Mather. Indeed, we are grateful for how God has richly blessed our own meager endeavors this year; we will let our patron saint speak for us.
The sermon was delivered on December 19, 1689 and published early the following year. The full subtitle read,
“Containing just reflections upon the excellent things done by the great God, more generally in creation and redemption, and in the government of the world; but more particularly in the remarkable revolutions of providence which are everywhere the matter of present observation. With a postscript giving an account of some very stupendous accidents, which have lately happened in France… To which is added a sermon preached unto the convention of the Massachusetts-Colony in New-England, with a short narrative of several prodigies, which New-England hath of late had the alarms of heaven in.”
Appended to the published version were additional documents: a brief portion of John Flavel’s (1627-1691)1688 thanksgiving sermon, and “the Divine [George] Herbert’s Church-Militant.” Herbert (1593-1633) was a famous poet, priest in the Church of England, and, briefly, a member of parliament who died young at 39 as a rector of a remote parish. Stange as it may be, Mather, or the publisher, saw fit to include some of his verse with the sermon which already runs about 12,000 words. As published, the sermon below was often bound with Mather’s election sermon from the same year, The Way to Prosperity. Mather’s text, Isaiah 12:5: Sing unto the Lord, for He hath done Excellent Things; This is Known [in] all the Earth.
A brief editor’s note: It has proven difficult to access a non-digitized facsimile of Mather’s address. Accordingly, there are many issues with the available text, viz., incomplete words and missing Latin or Hebrew script. Such errors are marked below with bracketed ellipses. Honestly, the available text is a bit of a disaster on this front. This should not hinder the reader too much. Per usual, spelling and punctuation has been somewhat modernized where judged necessary for readability. Incomplete words have been mended; and where italics have been maintained they are original, usually in scripture references. Native capitalization is also maintained except on words that were completely capitalized, then only the first letter has remained capitalized. Paragraph breaks have been somewhat altered for readability.
Our Blessed Savior, being to Preach upon a Text, out of that very Book from whence we have now taken ours, began His Holy Sermon, with sayings Day is this Scripture fulfilled in your Ears. It is by an unhappy Encounter of Gods Mercies and your Desires, that upon the Reading of the Text now before us, I may in like manner, close the Book, and say, This day is this Text fulfilled amongst us. Truly tis known abroad, that our God has done excellent things; and for this cause we are with no less Grounded than Solemn Thanksgivings endeavoring to Sing unto the Lord. Behold a Word of the day in its day here provided for you! May our further considering and understanding of the Text, but promote our fuller Conformity thereunto, and more exactly imprint the shapes of this Heavenly Mold, upon us.
As the Noble Prophet Isaiah, is in the Books of the New-Testament quoted perhaps no less than threescore times; thus the Dayes of the New-Testament are those which his Prophecies have their frequent and special References to.
Among other Employments of this Angelical, and Evangelical Pen, one was the pre[saging] of Sacred Songs, for the use of the […], in the circumstances which there [have] been predictions of; and so, besides the […] which common conjecture, have unto this Prophet the composing of; forty sixth particularly, which in imitation, of the great Luther, we may at this day make the Anodyne of our cares: we have two inspired Songs in this Chapter laid before us in the first of the Songs, the Confessors of God endeavor themselves to celebrate the Praises of that Eternal one; in the next they endeavor to excite and engage others unto a consort with them in this glorious Exercise. And here we have the Text which we are now to descant upon.
[In that day ye shall say] But What day is That day? we must be beholden unto the foregoing Chapter, for an Answer thereunto. We there find, that there will a Day come, when the Lord will set His Hand again the second time, to recover the remnant of his People: which will be when the Tribes of lost Israel are converted unto the Faith of the Lord Jesus; when according to the Language of the New-Testament, All Israel shall be saved. There will a Day come, when the Root of Jesse shall stand for an Ensign for the People: which will be at the second coming of our Lord; when according to the phrase taken by our Savior from this very place, the sign of the Son of man shall appear. There will a Day come, when the Lord shall with the Breath of His Lips, slay the wicked; which will be when Antichrist shall perish by the fiery approach of the Lord Jesus, to take vengeance on His wickedest Enemy: when according to the phrase taken by the Apostle also from this very place The Lord shall consume that wicked one with the breath of his mouth, and shall destroy, him with the brightness of his coming.
Tis that day which the Song now before us, is peculiarly calculated for. But certainly, we that are only getting into the Dawnings [sic] of that day, are not excluded from all meddling with it; no, it is written for our Admonition.
In the Words to be now Handled, we have two Things.
First, The Doings of God are here mentioned. It is said, He hath done Excellent Things: or as the Original imports, Great Things, and High Things: or as it may likewise be rendered Magnificent, and Illustrious Things. The Hebrew Word [גֵא֖וּת] is indeed a Substantive; and it intimates, that the Works of God are even Excellency in the Abstract, and Majesty itself. And the Chaldee Paraphrase here fitly puts upon them the term […] of Magnalia, noting in them something eminent and powerful. Such things are done by Him, who is Wonderful in Working!
Secondly, The Duties of men are then specified hereupon. Since excellent Things are done by God, there are two things to be done by us.
First, we are to sing the Praises of God. It is here said, Sing unto the Lord. And such is the expression in the Holy style, as to signify, not only an exactness, but also an instrument used in the Song. We are with a Sacred Musick to magnify the God, who is worthy to be Praised.
Secondly, We are to spread the Praises of God. It is here said, This is known in all the Earth; but the version which is by some chosen for it rather is, Let this be known is all the Earth: We should not only our selves do it, but likewise provoke and excite all the Earth to take notice of what Wonders have been done by Him who is fearful in Praises.
Wherefore the Truth to be now entertained with us, is, [That] it should be our study to Sing and Spread the Praises due to the Eternal God, for the Excellent Things which are done by him in the World.
It is by the Propounding of two or three, Conclusions that this Doctrine, will have its due Advantages.
There are multitudes of Praises due to the God the Heaven from us. To praise God, is to Acknowledge the perfections that are in Him; ’tis to Acknowledge the infinite Power, Wisdom, Goodness, Justice and Holiness, which are His Attributes; and this we are to do, In all our ways. We have received our Being for this End; and our Grand, our Chief Errand into the World, is, That our God may have a Number of Rational Beholders to be sensible of His Excellencies. When Mankind came first out of His Glorious Hand, He then said, as in Isaiah 43:21. This people have I formed for myself, they shall shew forth my praise. In our Lower Little World, no Creatures can be found capable of Conceiving and Expressing those Acknowledgments of God, which are, The Glory due unto his Name, besides Man; who is therefore not unfitly called, The High priest of the Creation. The devout psalmist once called upon all Creatures, with a Repeated Invitation, Praise ye the Lord; but they all reply that Man is to do it for them, and they all therefore conspire to offer the Notices of the Almighty God, unto Mans affectionate Contemplation.
To praise God, is to Acknowledge in Him something Excellent, as ’tis said in Psalm 148:13. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His Name alone is Excellent; thus, when we Acknowledge an Excellency in all those Manifestations which God maketh of Himself; then ’tis that we praise Him. Now the Praises owing to the God of Heaven from us are obliged not only by what He Is, but also by what He Does: indeed, by what He Does it is that we come to Learn what He is. We ought to Acknowledge an Excellency in the Nature of God; which is to Ascribe Glory to Him. The Language of our praises is to be that in Psalm 89:6. Who can be compared, who can be Likened, unto the Lord? God should be truly Transcendent with us. We should apprehend, that as the Name of our God is, I Am, so all other Beings are as mere non-entities in comparison of Him; subscribing to that is Isaiah 40:17. All are before Him as Nothing.
We should apprehend the Being of God, so Independent, so Unchangeable, so Mysterious, as no other Being is; and with Dazzled Souls fall into such praises as to say, I cannot find out the Almighty to perfection. The perfections that are in the mighty God should even Astonish our […] standings […] Moses from us, in Exodus 15:11. Unto thee, O Lord, who is like unto thee? One while our praises are like Hannah’s, to say, There is none Holy as the Lord! Another while our praises are like Ethan’s to say, Who is a Strong God like unto thee? Sometimes our Praises, like Paul’s, are to say, God is only Wise; and sometimes again, God is True, but every man a Liar; and then with David, we are to praise and say, O how great is thy Goodness! But the Excellency which is in the Works of God; is that which renders the Glory of His Essence, most apparent unto us; and the praises which we are to bring unto Him, are in a great measure to spring from thence. We are told in Isaiah 28:29. The lord of Hosts is Excellent in Working. Our praises of God, are in This to find the Reasons of them, He has done Excellent Things.
First, We ought with many praises to observe the Excellent Things which God has done for ourselves. As the Psalmist called upon himself, in Psalm 103:1. Bless the Lord, O my soul; and forget not all his Benefits; thus ought we to Reflect upon the many Benefits and Kindnesses of the most High towards our selves, with praises too many to be Numbered, too Hearty to be ended. We ought to see something of God, in all our Circumstances, and upon all that happens to us, we are to say, The Lord be magnified! But there are some Excellent Things done for us, by our God; Things which no Friend, no Hand, none else could have done for our Good; and These Things we should with suitable praises be particularly grateful for. It is the manner of the Jews, to receive the Comforts of their Lives, with a Baruk Adonai, or Blessed be the Lord. We that are Christians may not suffer ourselves to be exceeded by any people, in Thankfulness unto God.
It is related concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, in John 6. 11. that he would not Eat a Meals Meat, without a Thanksgiving over it. Much more ought the more Excellent Things that are done for us, to be so Acknowledged. When God had heard a Prayer, there was that praise returned for it, in John 11:41. Father, I thank thee for it. We ought seriously to think, What Answers of our Prayers, what Reliefs of our Wants and Woes, the great God has in an excellent manner favored us withal; and the Result of all should be, Lord, I thank thee for these Excellent Things. A good Hezekiah himself may smart by failing here. Those persons are worse than Pharisees, in whose mouths, God be Thanked, is not a frequent but yet solemn Interjection.
Secondly, We ought with many praises to observe the Excellent Things which God has done for Others as well as for ourselves. Our praises must not be confined unto those mercies of God, which we our selves have been the Subjects of. But all His Dispensations abroad in the world, are to be the Occasion of our Hallelujahs to Him. A Soul that is Filled with all the Fullness of God, will be Filled with praises to Him for all his Workmanship. We should be like him that said, in Psalm 139:14. I will praise thee, for marvelous are thy Works. Whatever our God is Doing, we should upon the sight thereof be praising; and we should Acknowledge Him, in all those Excellent Things, which we see done in any part of the Universe. It was said in Psalm 40:5. Many, O Lord, my God, are the Wonderful Works which thou hast done.
God has done many Wonderful Works, and many Excellent Things, in which we ourselves have not an Immediate, or at least not a peculiar share; but we should all render praises unto Him on the account thereof. It is mentioned as the privilege of a Righteous man, in Psalm 112:9. His Horn shall be exalted. What if one thing intended in it should be This? That as the praises of God were sounded by His People, in Cornets of old, so there were Exalted Horns, or Exalted Notes, which He would have their praises to be Raised with. Thus, we read in 1 Chronicles 25:5. of, Words to Life up the Horn. To accommodate the Allusion; The Praises of God are to Sound High, in our Devotions. When we praise God for being Excellently Good unto ourselves, we do well; but we are to Raise our praises unto an Higher pitch than so; they are to Expatiate upon all those things, wherein our God has exhibited Himself as Excellently Great, throughout the world Such Abstracted Praises are agreeable to the Inclinations of every Godly man; he argues at that Rate, Great is the Lord, and therefore Greatly to be praised.
We ought both to Sing, and to Spread, the praises which we owe unto the God of Heaven. Behold, a double Office incumbent on us, with respect unto those Acknowledgments which we are to pay unto our God; beside and beyond the first Motions of them, in our own Souls. Indeed, the Spring of all the Acknowledgments which we make unto God, must be in our Hearts, and the gracious Opinions and Resentments which are first formed there. We must first look to this, that God be praised by the Thoughts in our minds, and, as the Psalmist speaks, by, all that is within us Blessing his Holy Name. They never will praise God sufficiently or acceptably, who cannot say, as in Luke 1:46. My Soul does, Magnify the Lord. As all worship of God, so particularly, all praising of God, must be performed in Spirit; otherwise, it will not be in Truth. But the praises of God, being shaped in the Honorable Thoughts of our Souls, what are we then to do?
First, We are to Sing the praises due to God for the Excellent Things that He hath done. And if we keep close to the Text, we shall see two things here demanded of us.
First, There should be an Exactness used; in our praising of God. There should be in our Praises, as on one side an Amputation of all that is improper, so on the other side no Omission of any Article that calls for out meditations. The charge given to us it That in Psalm 103:2. Forget not all His Benefits. We should not Forget so much as One of the Excellent Things, which we can Remember to be done by God. The skipping of One stroke in a Lesson, often spoils the grace of the Musick. So does the missing of One Thing, in a Commemoration of what God has done. We should be careful with an often, yea with a daily Examination, to inform our selves, about the Things for which God is to be praised. It is hardly convenient for a man to sleep at Night, until he have pondered, What New Excellent Things has been done by God this Day, that I should particularly praise Him for? And we should be careful that our Sorrows do not swallow up our praises. ‘Tis often so, that as that worthy woman of old could not eat of the Peace Offering, which was a Thank-Offering, because She Wept; thus we can’t praise God, because He Smiles us. We cannot see Excellent Things done by God, because we feel Terrible Things done to our selves. But this is our Folly.
Where we have One Trouble, we have a Thousand mercies of our own to be praising for. And if we were a million times more afflicted, than we are, yet the Lord might challenge our Praises. It was a great Speech of the Renowned Gerson [Mather may mean Jean Gerson (1363-1429), but it is unclear], Quiequid de me ordinaverit Deus, said He, However God may dispose of me forever, whether to Eternal Weal or Wo; yet This I know, that He is worthy of my praises, and He shall have them all. Indeed, Praises are a Debt owing to Him, even from those woeful Spirits that are broken in the place of Dragons, and covered with the shadow of Death.
Secondly, There should also be an Instrument used in our Praising of God. But of what kind? Far be it from us to plead for that which is properly instrumental Music in the Church of the Lord Jesus. Indeed before the coming of our Lord, there was in the Church a Divine appointment for such a thing; and between the Neginoth and the Nehiloth [i.e., Psalm 5], I find, if I miscount not, sixteen or more kinds of Instruments for the maintaining of it. But upon the Abolition of the Mosaic Pedagogy, we have uo order-for the continuance of this Temple Worship, by introducing of it into our Synagogues. The Primitive Church had it not, as even a Bellarmine tells you; the Ancients often and loudly declaim against it, and Aquinas himself about four hundred years ago, notwithstanding all his Popery and Bigotry, yet bestows none of the kindest Remarks upon it. The Schoolmen themselves own, that Aliquid Figurabat, it was a Typical thing; and we having in the Tydings of the Gospel that grace and joy which this was a figure of, ought not to Judaize by upholding the shadow in the presence of the Substance; nor ought we to bring into the House of God, a Troop of Officers which the Lord Jesus never instituted. What Instruments are we then to praise God withal? we are all furnished with two at least.
First, Our Lips are to be employed in the praises of God. The Psalmist called his Tongue my glory. Our Tongues are then our glory, when we glorify God therewith all. ‘Tis a proper service for them; Hence the Apostle says, Therewith we bless God. It is Desired for the Saints in Psalm 149:6. let the High Praises of God be in their mouths. And it is Resolved by one of them, in Psalm 145:21. My mouth shall speak the praises of the Lord. Hence the Apostle urges it, in Hebrews 13:15. let us offer the Sacrifice of praises to God continually, that is the fruit of our lips. There were Offerings of many sorts, which God was praised withal of old; but our Lips are to be instead of the Calves and Lambs, and other Euch[a]r[is]tical Offerings that then were customary.
With our Lips we are to rehearse and recite the Excellent Things that have been done by God, especially when we are with bended Knees and lifted Eyes, presenting ourselves before him. With mentioning what God has done, we are to do as he said, in Psalm 145:2. Every Day will I bless thee my God.
But there is one Exercise of our Lips, which God is more peculiarly to be praised with; and that is the Singing of Psalms. In those Commands of God which require the praises of God, even in our Dayes, we have such clauses as those, in Psalm 95:1. O come, let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our Salvation. The New-Testament sufficiently inculcates this way of praising the most High; and if you will believe Tertullian, the Primitive Christians hardly ever had a Feast without it. There are savory Hymns, of an Humane Composure, which no doubt we may praise God by singing of. But Scriptural and inspired Hymns are those which we should principally thus put Regards upon. The Psalms of David are those which God is to be Praised by a Reverent, and Attentive Singing of. These were those, no doubt which our Savior. Himself Sang, at the Passover, more than a score of Times, And the very Angels whose Melodies the Shepherds overheard of old, seem to sing out of the Eighty fifth Psalm. Hence when the Apostle says, in Ephesians 5:19. Speak to yourselves in Psalms and Hymns, and Spiritual Songs; he alludes to the well-known Division of the Psalter. q. d. Go sing all the Psalms of David over. Till we can mend them, never let us, leave them. He that shall sing those Blessed Psalms, and ordinarily spend at least one Observation, and one Ejaculation, upon every verse, as he goes along, will therein praise the great God, at no common rate.
Secondly, Our Lives are likewise to be Employed in the Praises of God. We have Hands as well as Tongues for it; and something there is that our Hand finds to do. The best Thanksgiving is Thanks living.
We should sometimes put that Question to ourselves, in Psalm 116:12. What shall render to the Lord for all His benefits? As a return to God for the Excellent things that are done by Him, we are to order our lives in such a manner as may be pleasing to him. Hence in Psalm 50:23. He that offers praise, and he that orders his conversation aright, are equivalent.
There is a general Return of Obedience, which we are to praise God by yielding of. It is said in Philippians 1:11. the fruits of Righteousness are unto the glory and praise of God. When God had carried Israel over Jordan, there were Stones erected for His praise; but what was inscribed on them? was it any History of what had been done by God? No, it was a Copy of the Law. Our keeping the Law is our praising of him that gave it. We praise God when we fear and blush to do any thing that he may be displeased at.
There is also a special Return of well-doing which we should now and then praise God withal. As when David had seen many mighty things done by God, he became inquisitive, in 2 Samuel 7:2. What shall I now do for the House of God? so some signal act of Piety, or of Charity should be done by us, that God may not be without his. We praise God when we are labor to do some singular thing, for the advancement of His Truths and Ways.
Secondly, We are to Spread the Praises due to God for the excellent things that He has done. Yea, our outmost is to be done that they may be known in all the Earth.
A good man desires that he may not be Alone in the praising of God, he would have all men to join with him in it. It is therefore said by such a man, Come, I will declare what God has done for my Soul. We are to praise God as publicly and as openly as we can; and to say like him in Psalm 22:25. My praise shall be of thee, in the great Congregation. And we are to do what we fairly can, that the excellent things done by God, may not be concealed things, but that all men may be acquainted with them: so are we advised in Psalm 105:1-2. Give thanks to the Lords, make known His Deeds among the people: sing unto Him, talk ye of all His wondrous Works. We should render them as Notorious as they are Notable; and publish them among all our Neighbors, as the happy partakers did the healing Miracles of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence it was the wish of the Psalmist, in Psalm 26:7. That I may publish with the voice of Thanks giving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.
Yea, when God has done Excellent things, we are not only to speak of them, but (If we can) to write of them too. Every good man should leave to his Children, a Diary for a Legacy. Some written Memorials and Experiences of Excellent things which a good, man in the time of his Pilgrimage hath seen done by the most High; these would be will worth bequeathing to them that should come after him, that they may set their hope in Gods.
And the more considerable Appearances of God in every Generation, ought with a fuller Publication to be transmitted unto Posterity, by the Pens of good Historians. That we have no more Books of Remarkable Providences, is an Omission that has wronged and robbed the Almighty God of more than a Million […] There should be compiled sufficient [narratives] of the excellent things, occurring in every Age and every place; like the Books of Jasher, and Nathan, and Iddo, and other Seers; or like the Pillars among many Monuments of Antiquity. What shall I say, more? when God has done a more conspicuously excellent thing, He is to be Praised after that manner, in Psalm 102. 18. This shall be written for the Generation to come, and the people that shall be Created shall praise the Lord.
But it remains, that these things be made useful to us.
And O that we might all stir up our selves this Day to sing and Spread the praises due to the Eternal God for the excellent things which He has done.
It is an excellent thing indeed, that we may have a Day of Thanksgiving, while the World is in so much Confusion and Combustion, and everywhere Men’s hearts are failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are doing upon the Earth. Let us be at some pains, that this Day be not lost, or that it may not evaporate in a few sensual satisfactions. The Excellent things done by God, are now to be the Repast of our Souls.
Days of Thanksgiving as they are among the most Heavenly, so they will be among the most prosperous, of all our Devotions. There are Pious Men that will now and then in secret places, keep their Dayes of Thanksgiving before the Lord; laying our whole Dayes in praising of the Great God for what He is, and what He does, and in pondering on What they shall do for God. And I’ll assure you, such persons ripen for Heaven a pace; yea they live in Heaven upon Earth.
But as for Dayes of Thanksgiving observed in the Assemblies of good men; all men have seen the wonderful successes of them. New-England’s Prosperity has more visibly followed upon its Thanksgivings than upon its Humiliations, as in times both of War and of Sickness, has been more than once perceived. We have seen the fulfilment of that Word in 2 Chronicles 20.22. When they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments [sic] against their Enemies. Praises, thousands of high praises be to our God, that we may have a Day to celebrate His praises. But that our praises may be awakened, and that no man may make a Jar in our Harmony.
Consider how Reasonable these praises are for us all.
O consider with our selves, Who is God? it is He that Humbles Himself to behold the things that are in Heaven. Consider, Who is, Man? a poor Worm, yea, a cursed Viper. Now that this GOD should look upon this man Lord, What is man that thou shouldest be mindful of him? Yet the Eternal God has been doing of Excellent things, which we not only behold, but also enjoy? There is not one of us all, who has not excellent things to be this Day praising the Almighty for. They whose case is never so bad, yet have cause to carry on this Day of Thanksgiving with us, in that it is no worse. The most miserable person in all this Congregation, may with an eye to his own condition, say like him in Psalm 119:156. Many are thy mercies O Lord. If I could find out the most unhappy, and the most complaining person among you all, even to that person would I say, God has done Excellent things for thee, and some that never finned so much, yet suffer more than you.
Consider Likewise, how Profitable these Praises will be to us all. Behold an Expedient for the obtaining of all the Blessings that can be wished for. It was said in Psalm 67:5-6. Let the people praise thee; then our God shall bless us.
If the Earth send Vapors up to Heaven, Heaven will make Showers to descend on the Earth. Let our praises be continually ascending from us, and they will soon issue in those things that are called, The Showers of Blessing. When we have a Jealousy of a Leaky Vessel, we try it by first putting of Water, before we trust Better Liquors in it; if we that have little; more than Water to comfort us, will yet not permit it to Leak without Praises from us, then God has more Excellent Things to do for us. To be always Begging and Craving, as a Dog for his Morsels, ad Spem futuri semper hians, without multiplied praises unto God; this is a most vile Disingenuity. ‘Tis no less than a Loss of, yea, no less than a Curse on, all our Blessings, which we incur by not praising the giver of them. But the praising Soul may fill himself with such a Joyful Hope, as that in Psalm 71:14. I will Hope continually, and will [praise] thee more and more. Those that are [felicitous] least God should Lose any of His Praises, are the persons, for whom God will be concerned that they don’t Lose any of His Blessings; these are they that shall experimentally understand the Loving-kindness of the Lord. Man, wouldest thou have any Excellent Things done for thy self? Then bring thy praises for what Excellent Things have been done in the world.
I suppose by this time, we have generally got our Hallelujahs ready; but you call for a Catalogue of those Excellent Things, which they are to be fixed on. ‘Tis a Feast that you are this Day to be treated at; and before you go out of these Doors, a Feast you shall have. I shall set before you a short Account of some Excellent Things, which I [intend] as a Feast for your praises; and believe me, though your praises had [and O that they may have!] no less than an Eternity to be Feeding on those matters in, they never would be glutted, never cloyed.
First, The Excellent Things done by God, in the Works of Creation, call for our Praises. It was once the out-cry of the Psalmist, in a Rapture, Praise the Lord from the Heavens, Praise the Lord from the Earth, praise the Lord all ye His Armies. Truly, ‘Tis our Business to praise Him, for the Heaven and for the Earth, and for all those Armies which He has replenished the World withal. We have a good pattern for us, in Psalm 104. 24-33. says the Psalmist, O Lord, how manifold are thy Works! in wisdom hast thou made them all. Well, and what is now incumbent upon us, that have the view thereof? It follows, I will sing praise unto my God, while I have any Being. Methinks the Children of Men too much imitate the Spider, when they Look after nothing but building a little House for themselves, and concern themselves with nothing but the petty Affairs thereof. We should remember that we are Citizens of the World, and as far as we can, we should visit every Corner of it, with our Praises to Him, of whom and for whom is all! I make no question, but that we do in a blessed manner [Attain] Heaven, by doing so. The Praises of God are Exhibited in every part of the World, and we forfeit the privilege of Reasons, if we do not put as many of them as we can, into our Acknowledgments. There are above six Thousand Plants growing on that little Spot of the World, which we Tread upon; and yet a Learned Man, has more than once, found One Vegetable enough to make a Subject for a Treatise on it. What might then be said […] the Hundred and fifty Quadrupeds, the Hundred and fifty Volatiles, the five and Twenty Reptiles, besides the vast multitudes of Aquatils, added unto the rich variety of Gems and Minerals, in our World? Our own Bodies are, to use the Phrase of the Psalmist, So Fearfully and Wonderfully made, that one of the Ancient Heathen at the sight thereof, could not forbear breaking forth into an Hymn unto the praise of the great Creator; ‘Tis impossible that anything should be better shaped! Indeed, All the Things that we have every Day before our eyes, have a most charming prospect in them; and the very Deformities which the Flood has brought upon this Terraqueous Globe, are made Beauties, by the Disposals of the Lord that sat upon the Flood. There is not a Fly, but what may confute an Atheist. And the Little things which our Naked Eyes cannot penetrate into, have in them a Greatness not to be seen without Astonishment. By the Assistance of Microscopes have I seen Animals of which many Hundreds would not Equal a Grain of Sand. How Exquisite, How stupendous must the Structure of them be! The Whales that are sometimes found more than an Hundred Foot in Length, methinks those moving Islands, are not such Wonders, as these minute Fishes are.
But alas, All this Globe Is but as a [Pass point], if compared with the mighty Universe. Never did any man yet make a tolerable Guese at its Dimensions: but were we among the Stars, we should utterly lose the sight of our Earth, although it be above twenty-six thousand Italian Miles in the compass of it. Look upon the Wandering Stars, and you shall see so many Worlds, that swallow up all our Conjectures at the circumstances of them, and of their Satellites. Look upon the Fixed Stars, and what shall we say about the Bigness of them? Doubtless they many scores of times exceed the Bulk of this poor Lump of Clay, about a few Foot whereof the Inhabitants are so Quarrelsome. Or, what shall we say about the Number of them? For though they are but a few above a Thousand, That we ever see, without a Telescope, yet that will tell us, that the Six, which we commonly call, The Seven Stars, have above Sixty among them, and the rest are like the Sand of the Sea, innumerable.
But above all, the Sun, that principal Engine, which the whole Visible Creation hath such a manifest Dependence on; This declares the Glory of God, at such a Rate, that the Philosopher once thought himself Born on purpose, to Behold the Splendors of it. This at last hath glared out my Eyes, that at this Time, I can look no further upon the Marvels of the Creation. But, my Brethren, Let us take our Time to Travel over the World; (I hope, we shall one Day have Bodies more able to do it, than our Spirits at present are!) and then let us give many Thousands of Praises to Him, whose Omnipotent and Omniscient Hand hath Created all. O Sing unto the Lord, because He hath done Excellent Things, in making and managing the vast Fabrick of the World.
Secondly, The Excellent Things done by God, in the works of Redemption call for our Praises. It was the Exordium of a Psalm, in Psalm 107:1-2. O give Thanks unto the Lord, for He is Good; Let the Redeemed of the Lord say so. Behold, a Constellation of Excellent Things here which the very Angels at this Day are with a million Praises adoring of. Could we steal a Look this Day into the Third Heaven, we should see the multitude of the Heavenly Host there clapping of their Golden Wings, and hear them reiterating that Heavenly Shout, in Luke 2:14. Glory to God in the Highest, because there is on Earth Peace, and good will towards men! When the blessed Angles beheld the horrible Pit which Man by Sin was fallen down into, doubtless they were even at their Wits ends about a way for his Recovery; doubtless with pity and much Despair, they cried out, Alas, for miserable man; He is helpless and hopeless now forever! But they have now seen a Remedy provided for undone wretched man, and therein they see, what they Stoop and Bend themselves to pry into; they see The manifold Wisdom of God; and they have ever since, even for more than five Thousand years, been Praising of the God, that has Remembered us in our Low Estate, because his Mercy Endures forever. That there should be a Man, who was Born perhaps in September, not seventeen Hundred years ago, and who yet is the Father of Eternity; a Man who lay in a Cradle, and who yet cannot be contained by the Heaven of Heavens; a man, who is his own Mother’s Father, in a word, a man, in whom dwells the Fulness of the Godhead, and from whose Fulness, all we [receive all] behold an Excellent thing which the very Angels cover their faces at.
No man Living is able to comprehend the Triumphant Praises that were among the Angels of God, when our Savior was first Born into the world. When the Sun of Righteousness first shone in our Horizon, doubtless these Morning Stars were presently making their Acclamations at it. The Tidings of it were quickly carried through all the quarters of the Heavens, and the whole City of God was moved at the Report. When it was told, The Redeemer of Lost Man is Born! it set them all on Praising the most High God, and saying, Glory, Glory to the Highest, in the Highest forever! Well, they call us, Their Brethren, and from the Lofty Battlements of the Third Heaven, they call unto us, that we would not Leave them to Praise Alone. A famous Minister Lying at the point of Death, after he had been for some Time senseless, fell to Singing in a manner very extraordinary, and gave this Reason for it, I heard the Angels, and shall not I join with them! Surely our Interest in Redemptions is not inferior to Theirs; but then strike up, Ye Redeemed of the Lord; where, O where are the Praises due to Him that hath Delivered you from all the fiery plagues, which you have madly exposed yourselves unto.
What could we Children of wrath have imagined, but that a just and a terrible God would have said concerning us, I will avenge me on those Adversaries! But instead thereof, behold, He has ready for us, a Jesus, who saves His People from their Sins; and that calls aloud unto us, O Look unto me, and be saved. This is an Excellent Thing! ‘Tis an Excellent Thing which God has done, in so Loving the World as to give His only begotten Son, that whosoever Believes, may not perish, but have Everlasting Life. ‘Tis an Excellent Thing which God has done, in ordering that He who thought it no Robbery to be Equal with God, should take on him the Form of a Servant, for us thereby to gain the Dignity of Children. ‘Tis an Excellent Thing, That He who knew no Sin, should be made Sin for us, and we be made the Righteousness of God in Him; and that we who have lain in the Belly of Hell, should be Renewed by the holy Spirit, and be made to sit together in Heavenly Places in Christ Jesus. I am to tell you, That the Blackest of all the Devils are Saints, in comparison of that Man, whom these Excellent Things do not Effectually bespeak all possible praises from. But you that by Regeneration, are arrived unto a more Plenary, Actual, sensible Interest in this Redemption, are to be more abundant in your Praises. O strain the utmost of your Capacities, to shew forth the praises of Him, who has called you out of
Darkness into his Marvelous Light; Come, Sing unto the Lord, because He has done Excellent Things in the Recovering of Lost Man to an Intimates, and Eternal Fellowship with Himself.
Thirdly, The Excellent things done by God in the Government of the World, call upon us to praise His blessed Name forever. The continual providence of God, is disposing of all things in an Excellent subordination to His own praise; the Wheels of providence are not carried on coeco impetu, but are full of eyes, and if we praise Him not for Things that every day occur unto us, tis because we are worse than blind; These two things are conjoined in Psalm 103:19-20. The Lords Kingdom ruleth over all, Bless ye the Lord. We may see our eternal King after an excellent manner keeping all the World in a real Order, notwithstanding all the seeming Distractions of it. We may see him fulfilling of His promises and His Threatnings [sic], and giving Recompences among the children of men. We may see him frustrating and confounding of His Enemies, and preserving his Church, As a burning Bush not consumed.
We should pursue a distinct sight of these things, and Bless the Lord. When we see, that His is the Kingdom, we should add, And thine is the Glory too.
My arrival to this part of our Discourse, puts me into a capacity to give you some Recapitulations of the Excellent things which this Day of Thanksgiving is more particularly designed for.
My Brethren, there are Excellent things which our God has of late been doing in the English World. He that moves the four wheels of Providence through all the four parts of the Earth, has given the English Nation lately to see those Revolutions which the Histories of all Ages can hardly parallel. And now let us this Day sing unto the Lord, for He hath done excellent things.
The Late Revolutions in the Land of our Fore-Fathers Graves, afford unto us a sight of Excellent Things which ought to be had in Everlasting Remembrance.
And here, The first and great and most comprehensive matter of our Praises is, The happy accession of their Majesties, King William, and Queen Mary, To the Throne of the Three Kingdoms.
This was a Thing in all the parts of it so Circumstanced, as to make all men say, This is the Lords Doing, and it is Marvelous in our Eyes!
It made a Second Eighty-Eight out-shining that in the former Century. For, Consider, the Season of it. It was when the Protestant Religion was Lying at the Stake; and foreign Popish Writers did not stick to tell the World in Print, That there was a Private League made between two of the most Potent. Monarchs in Christendom, (which one of their own Ambassadors also, did in a manner own) for the Extirpation of Heresy; and that not only the subduing of Holland, but also the Enslaving of England were steps to be taken in order there unto. It was when the Indefatigable Drudges of the Papacy, who had more than Ten years before declared, We have here a Mighty Work upon our Hands, no less than the Conversion of three Kingdoms, and by that perhaps the utter subduing a Pestilent Heresy, which has domineered a long time over a great part of this Northern World; whereof never such Hopes as now; had now got all the Advantageous Posts of the Nation into their Hands, and had so modeled all their Business that they counted themselves cut of the Reach of chance for ever; and were even steady! like Human to cast Lots for a Lucky Day to throw all their Vizards off. It was when the Fundamental Laws of the Kingdom were overturned, and the Frogs of the Romish Egypt were swarming in a main, to take possession of the Glorious Holy Mountain between the Seas. When things were thought hastening to that pass, that every vacancy in the public Employments would have made several Proselytes unto Popery; when a great Creation would suddenly have given the Papists a majority in the House of Lords, and New Charters with Bold Returns might quickly have given them a Majority in the House of Commons too; a Condition of Affairs that was formidable to all that penetrate into the Tendencies of Popery.
Then it was that the (then) Prince of Orange entered upon his Glorious Enterprise of Rescuing the Church of God from the Bloody Altar, which it was now bound upon; and the Protestant Princes Combining with him, offered up their Vows to God, for the prosperity of this Important Undertaking, as counting that in the miscarriage of it, All was Lost. There had been one or two Attempts made before, but a wrong step taken in them, only brought a Ruin upon the unhappy people Engaged therein. The Popish Party were then flashed with their Successes, and forgot or slighted the Dying Words of one whom they Burnt (tis said) for only Relieving a Distressed Sufferer; Though you are seemingly fixed, and using your Violence against those whom you have got under you, yet unless you can secure the Lord Jesus Christ, and all His Holy Angels, you shall never do your Business; but Vengeance will be upon you, before you are aware.
Consider also the Manner of it. It was the Expectation which the Late Earl of Argyle Expired withal, That God would accomplish His work, Not by Might, nor by Power, but by His own most Holy Spirit. And so it has been done! The Spirit of God inclined the Dutch to give their Great Prince in the Assistance that could be given. When the Navy, with such Wonderful Turns of the Wind, as argued a particular Care of God about it, was come into its Harbor, the Spirit of God strangely inclined persons of all Degrees to an Agreement with the Princes Declaration: it was a Touch of God upon their Souls! Whence, though the Nation were Debauched on purpose to make Popery acceptable to them, yet many thousands that were of no Religion at all, could not now fight for that Religion. The same Spirit sent a Terror into the Great Oppressors of the Nation, so that though there was a vast Army to oppose the Prince, the very sound, of his Approach, put them to Rout, equal to one given by the clearest Victory; and as they had endeavored by Shams to establish themselves, One piece of Paper, which (’tis said) was a Sham, had no little Hand in the Defeat of those Daring Criminals; nor was any blood shed […] these Transactions, but of a Little and a desperate Party that seemed weary of their Lives, or they might have kept them. Hence ensued, by the unexampled and scarce accountable Desertion of the Late King, such a Dissolution of the Government as never had been known; and the Throne becoming Vacant, the Crown is unassailably placed upon those Illustrious Head, which, God grant Long to Reign!
And then, Consider the Prospect of it. For what may be now hoped for, but a Protestant King, Just and Ruling in the Fear of God, as a morning without Clouds unto the Protestant World! We now see upon the British Throne, A King, whose unparalleled zeal for the Church of the Lord Jesus at the Lowest Ebb, hath made Him the Phoenix of this Age; A King in whom Courage and Prudence make a Temper which is to be no where seen but in the Greatest Heroes; A KING that scornfully rejected a Sovereignty over his own Country, when he might have have had it, by betraying of it; A King, that uses to say, That be can cannot have so unworthy a Conception of God, or so base Thoughts of Mankind, as to believe that any one person should be designed by the Almighty King, to trample and oppress a Society placed under him; A KING, that so abhors all Persecution, that when he accepted the Crown of Scotland, he Explained a clause in the Coronation Oath, with this Proviso, I will not be obliged to be a Persecutor: A KING, that has twice had a Crown of Light, appearing in the Heavens over his Principality to signalize him unto the World: With him we see A Queen, whose Virtues had long since Enthroned her in the Hearts of the whole English Nation: We do not now see a Rom••Dalilah for the Philistines to Plough withal; no less our Solomon under the Temptations which the greatest Monarchs have sometimes fell before. What can be hoped for, but that the Chains with which the Tyrannous and Treacherous Grand Seignior of France had Petter’d [sic] Europe, will now be broken? and that the most monstrous Tygre in the world, having the Forces of Three Kingdoms let loose upon him, while he is Attacked with such a General Storm on every side as was never seen before, must quickly either perish, or proclaim Liberty for that Religion which he has out done all that ever Lived, for the Persecution of? ‘Tis an unaccountable Coincidence with this, That some hundreds of People in France are lately fallen into Prodigious Ecstasies, wherein being Dead asleep, they both speak of Things and speak with Tongues, which before they had nothing of; and they agree to tell us, The Late Revolutions in England were to begin the Deliverance of the Church of God. These are some of the Excellent Things done by our God! Thus are all the Affairs of Europe overturned.
But there is a further matter for our Praises which has followed hereupon; and we that are a Country of Nonconformist, may not pass it by unmentioned.
It is, The Repeal of those Laws, which the Protestant Dissenters were long Harassed with.
It is well-known, That those whose Consciences did not allow them, to worship God, in some Ways and Modes then by Law Established, were not many years ago, Persecuted with a violence, to be abhorred by all sober Men. It is well known that Five and Twenty Hundred Faithful Ministers of the Gospel, were Silenced in one Black Day, because they could not comply with some things, by themselves justly counted, Sinful, but by the Imposers confessed Indifferent. And it is affirmed, That by a modest Calculation, this Persecution procured the untimely Death of Three Thousand Nonconformist, by Imprisonment in Noisome Goals, and the Ruin of Threescore Thousand Families, within five and twenty years. As the Dissenters are far from charging their Sufferings upon all that the Church of England in its National Constitution acknowledges for her Sons; for we have seen the most Learned and Worthy Members of that Church make their public Pleas for the Nonconformists, and Boldly beg for Moderation to them; and advance this Assertion, That for every man to worship God according to his Conviction, is an Essential Right of Humane Nature; and we have Learnt, That the late persecutors were mostly a Knot of Ill men who professed, that they had rather be Papists than Presbyterians, and that they would as soon be Turks as Papists; and who surrendered themselves as mere Tools to a Popish Party, that thought to grow great upon the Ruins, of both the Parties whom they so set together by the Ears: So, I hope, the Dissenters will now forgive and forget the most inhumane Injuries that they have ever yet sustained. The Severity of that Persecution, which at last had broke up the Congregations of them that had perfected their Testimony to the Kingly Office of the Lord Jesus, than Celebrating a Thanksgiving for it, indeed caused the Dissenters to Accept of Liberty, though upon some Terms which they approved not. You are not ignorant that we then told you, There would quickly come an Earthquake that should carry on that Liberty to more perfection; and behold it is now done in a Parliamentary Way! Blessed be God, that Protestants are come to a better understanding of their true Interest! May the Apples of Strife among them now be removed! May all Good men concur in pursuance of that Reformation, which God now calls His Church unto! and may the Reformers have Peace among themselves, and (as one speaks) War with none but Hell and Rome. But for the Church of God, in Scotland, as their Calamities exceeded what their Neighbors felt, which I suppose, the Martyrology they promise us will demonstrate; so they have not come behind them in Deliverances. O what has God wrought? my Brethren, It looks as if God had begun the Resurrection of His Dead People. O Lord God, Thou hast begun to shew they Servants they Greatness, and thy mighty Hand, for what God is there in Heaven, or in Earth, that can do according to thy works? And if so, ’tis time for us to Lift up our Heads, with at least some Examination, whether we shall not shortly see the Vintage of the Papal Empire? Whether Italy be not near a greater Earthquake, than that which made hideous Desolations in above Thirty Cities, Towns, and Villages there, a little while ago? Whether the Blast of the Second Wo Trumpet, be not just expiring, and the Turkish Power be not within two or three years (at least) of that End, which will make him incapable to Disturb Europe any more. Yea, Whether the Gospel of the Lord Jesus will not quickly have Liberty with an Efficacy, not only in Popish Countries, where it is Restrained: but also in Pagan Countries, in One of which, we hear of near two Hundred Thousand Heathen, Converted unto true Christianity, within these few years?
In a word, Whether the Day is not at Hand, when the Kingdoms of the World, shall be the Kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ!
Whether we shall not very quickly see those, glorious Things which are spoken of thee, O thou City of God!
The late Revolutions among our selves, have also been attended with some Excellent Things, where of we may say, The finger of God is here! Indeed nothing in the World could more exactly imitate and resemble the late circumstances of our Mother England than the Revolutions here, in all the steps thereof, and this, though we understood not one another. This was from the Excellent operations of that God who turns a Wheel in a wheel! And what shall we now say? The Judgment of God have been upon us heretofore; but this poor Land has cried unto the Lord, and the Lord has heard and saved. And the Enemies of New-England have still perished be fore the Rebukes of that God who is our King, our Lord, our Lawgiver. It has been as dangerous to seek the Hart of this poor Country, as ever it was to annoy the Piccardines [i.e., Picardy, France], of old; and they that have stretched out their long Arms to make us miserable, have brought upon their own Heads the vengeance of the Temple. But we were grown a worldly, Sensual, Factious People; and then our God fulfilled unto us that Word of His, I will punish you yet seven times for your Iniquity.
Our Charters were taken from us, and our Land, Strangers devoured in our presence. You have seen cause to Declare, That there were denied unto us the Common Rights, which all English-men justly reckon themselves born unto; and that all that was dear unto us, was entirely given up to the Arbitrary disposals of four or five Men, that beyond all measure hated us, and made no stick to tell us, We were. but Slaves.
You have seen cause to Declare, that we were now given to understand, Our Lands were none of our own; and that a Storm of unjust Violence was every day falling upon the more Honest, and sober part of the Country, while the wicked walked on every side, and the vilest Men were exalted.
Our Churches also began to feel the kindness of those, who had Sworn by the Living God, to ruin them; and all Debauchery was coming in among us like a mighty Flood. All this while we were in a Sea of fire, miserably scorched and scalded; and yet it was mingled with Ice; there were great cakes of Ice over our Heads; there was no getting out. That one person, who new hazarded his All to obtain us Relief, by […] our Addresses for us, was made […] of this.
Remember, O New-England,••w often that cry then went up from thee […] Lord, Return we bes[ee]ch thee, O God of […]! look down from Heaven and visit […]; And now, behold, He is Returned. Our Adversaries are what and where they are; and we see so far Our Judges as first, and our Councilors at the Beginning.
And there are several Excellent Things that have been done for us by our God, while He has been effecting of our Deliverance.
We have cause to Praise the God of Heaven, That in the Tumult of our Action, there was not the loss of a Drop of Blood, nor such Plunder and Outrage as would have been a Disgrace to our Profession.
We have cause to Praise Him, that our Sovereign has Declared, He took very well what we had done for Him, and for ourselves in the Revolution.
We have cause to Praise Him, that we have been so comfortably carried through the Difficulties of a whole Summer, while we could not say That any Law was of any Force with us. Every Week erected a new Ebenezer for us.
We have cause to praise Him, for putting it into the Heart of a Person, well known unto you all, to take a Voyage into England, just before the late Overturning there: on purpose to be in the way of those Opportunities, which his Faith was that he should have, to serve the Churches of the Lord Jesus here; by which means, (as our Friends there assure us) it is that we have been preserved from being totally undone.
We have cause to praise Him, for giving a check to those Indian Blood-Hounds, which have been worrying of us in the East; who having destroyed several Plantations, met with no full stop, till they assaulted the first Place where a Gospel Ministry was maintained; but there they found such a Ba• in their Carrier, that we now hear no more of them.
And may I not say it? We have cause to Praise the Glorious God, for some Excellent Things, which as yet we know not of. We gave Imperfect, but (with many) probable Accounts, of a Deliverance from a French Force, that the possession of this Territory, would have been a valuable Thing unto.
But this is indubitable. If it had not been the Lord, who was on our side, may New-England now say, they had swallowed up quick: Blessed be the Lord, who hath given us as a prey to their Teeth.
New-England, Be humbly Thankful to thy God, and exalt the God of thy Fathers. God forbid there should be any Murmurers among us all. A year or two ago, we would have been Thankful for a small moiety of what we now enjoy: But if our Praises are not yet enough animated, I pray then, let us make a comparison of our Condition.
Compare our Condition with that of them in Hungary. The Protestant Churches there, have been made a Desolation, and it would break an heart of Stone to Hear, what both Pastors and People have endured. Should you see one of the poor Confessors come out of an hideous Dudgeon full of Toads, and Snakes, and Excrements; with their very Throats putrefied, their Teeth fallen out, and their Eyes gone into their Heads, and their Flash mangled in a thousand places, you could not forbear preaching a Sermon on, Thankfulness to God Imagine your selves under the continual Executions of the most witty Devils, and all that shall but relieve you with a bit of Bread, torn to pieces by the hand of an Hangman, and you will see what has befallen the most venerable Ministers of that Kingdome, until the Protestant Religion has been almost extirpated there, and this after the Oaths of their Monarch to support it.
Compare our Condition with that of them in Germany. The French King has there made even the Popish Provinces themselves a Stage of Blood, and laid all in Ashes for many Leagues together. He has given the Sun for his Device upon many of his Coines; and by the Fiery Destructions which his Bombs have made, he has given us cause to suspect whether he be not the
Sun in the fourth Vial, that has power to Scorch men with Fire. Imagine that you were put under the French Contributions, and not only Robbed of all you have in the World, but also driven like so many Cattle before their Slaughterers. Imagine your Towns laid all in H[a]rp[yes], and your Persons obnoxious to all manner of Rapine and Murders from the worst of H[a]rpyes: this is what thousands are now feeling of.
Compare our Condition with that of them in [F]rance. Except in the matter of our Sabbaths, what are we better than the People of God in that rueful Country? But all the Bloody Butcheries and Cruelties committed in the By-past Ages, are mere Trifles in comparison of what that People have of late endured, and this after Faith given often enough unto the contrary. After they had gone thorough intolerable vexations in all those things that they had any kindness for, they have been at last given up into the claws of the merciless Dragoons: and were all the Devils of Hell Incarnate, they could not invent more or worse Tortures, than these Dragons inflict upon persons of all sorts, till they have compelled them to abjure the Truth of God; and thus all the Flocks of the Lord Jesus have been worried and Ruined there. Imagine a Swarm of Lewd Soldiers, like Locusts quartered in your Houses, and there binding of you, that they might abuse your nearest Relations before your eyes; imagine them Hanging of you by the Hair of your Heads and then half Choaking of you with Smoke, or half Roasting of you with Fire; imagine them pricking of you with Knives […] and with ten thousand lingering Tortures, making you Desire, while you may not enjoy, such a privilege as Death; until at last you have been worried into an Abjuration, which makes the wounds on your Consciences no less than those on your Bodies were before.
To have done, Compare our Condition; with that of our English Brethren, in woeful Ireland, especially the more Southern Counties of it. Behold, their Estates Confiscate; the value of Four Millions was long since the Account of the Losses felt by only them who had Fled into. England. Behold their person Confined; having sharp Skeins ready for their Throats, with just Fears day and night of a new Massacre. What would you think, if you were driven like Dogs into the Goals of Galloway: if you were Enjoined to carry your own Fathers• Heads upon Poles in the Head of a Regiment, or if you lay at the mercy of a Wild Irish Rabble?
Behold these things, Behold them with Sympathy O New-England; and be not scanty in thy Praises to Him, that has known thee above all the Families of the Earth.
Come, and Sing unto the Lord, for the Excellent Things which He has done. But yet let us not put Him off with a Song. ‘Tis a thing very pleasing to God, that we have a Day of Thanksgiving to Praise Him in; and if this Day, he duly kept, I doubt not but Good News will quickly put us upon the keeping of Another. He that Inhabits the Praises of Israel will keep House among us, if by Leaving off our Praises we turn Him not out of Doors. It was a Remarkable thing that befell One of our Neighbors, a while ago, By a Ship wrack, he was cast upon a desolate Island, where he was left many months Alone. After many a Day of Prayer, for succor, he at last kept a Day of Praise, for the support which he had so long Enjoyed; and within a few Hours upon this, there came a Vessel by that saved him. New England has been, and yet is, in so many Troubles, that some have questioned whether a Day of Thanksgiving would be Seasonable! O Yes! most highly Seasonable! Keep it well, and it shall yet be said, Also in New-England, things went well.
But the principal Thing in our Thanksgiving, yet remains, and that is, a Thanks-Doing.
Let us all Repent, and Reform, and set up on the Lively Doing of the Good Thing which the Lord our God Requires. The Apostle speaks pathetically, I beseech you, Brethren, by the Mercies of God. It is This, I conclude withal; I beseech you Brethren, by the Mercies of God, that New England may be as a Noble Person sometimes called us, The best people in the world; and that no scandalous Things may be done here, to offend the God that has done Excellent Things for us. I beseech you by the Mercies of God, that as we profess the Protestant Religion with the most exalted Purity, so we may practice it, in such an Exemplary manner, that, A New-England man, may be a Term of Honor in the world. I beseech you by the Mercies of God, that we may all sincerely intend the same Ends, which brought our Predecessors here, even to propagate the Spiritual Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. May all due pains be taken, that not only the English may every where have the knowledge of God, but that the Indians too, may share with us in it; for an Engagement whereunto God has given us to see, as that a very visible Blast has attended the Estates of them who have grown Rich by Trading of Drink with them, so a visible Blessing has accompanied them who have Labored in Preaching of Truth to those poor Pagans; and since at this day, the most powerful Nation of them, namely, the Mohawks, ask for the Gospel, it cannot but be a piece of Policy as well as Religion, in us to carry the Gospel unto them, while they cannot be reconciled unto the Superstitions of our French Neighbors, that have been Tampering with them. O that we might not forget the Errand of our Fore-fathers hither! We shall then Flourish, in spite of all that wish ill unto us; Thus will Salvation be nigh unto us, and Glory shall dwell in our Land. May our God sanctify all His Dispensations to us; particularly those of the Summer past, as well the Terrible as the Merciful. ‘Tis a Metaphorical Earthquake which has lately been among us, and there was a Literal one in some parts of the Country preceding of it. May these Earthquakes produce better effects on us than those at Lima in this our New-World America, did upon the people there a little while ago. We are informed, That an horrible Earthquake, after some Warnings of it, shook that Great and Lewd City; till with incredible Noise and Fury, it sunk a large Part of it into the Earth, and the Sea came hideously Rolling in upon it. While the miserable Spaniards were under Apprehensions of perishing in speedy Ruins, they that had been Enemies one to another immediately made Reconciliations; they professed a Deep Repentance of their former Vices; their fine Ornaments and other Vanities, they buried under ground; and with consternation cried out, Our Oppression, our Injustice, the Extravagancies of our Clothing and our Houses, have brought all this upon us! We have newly been passing thro’ a Figurative Earth-quake, which is not set quite over with us. God forbid, we should be Impotent after all; and, since I would End, where I began, God forbid, that we should be Unthankful for our preservation. New-England is not used unto such Follies as Bonfires, nor do we think Ringing of Bells; but Singing of Psalms, to be a Thanksgiving Exercise. Come then, Sing unto the Lord; Sing the Praises which He may lay claim unto. It was a no less wonderful than undoubted Thing which happened in France a few months ago, when, upon the Dissolution of the French Congregations, and a particular Interdict upon the Singing of Psalms thro’ the Kingdom, there were thousands of persons, in hundreds of places, at scores of Times, that plainly heard the Singing of Psalms after the manner of the French Assemblies with a most Ravishing Melody, by Invisible Singers in the Air; a thing so notorious that the very Psalms were often Distinctly as well as Audibly enough Sting, to let the Hearers know what Psalms they were; such as the Fifth, the Forty Second, the Hundred and Thirty Eighth particularly; and even the Parliament of Pau made a Decree that men should not go abroad to hear this unaccountable Singing under a forfeiture of Two Thousand Crowns, upon which the Reflection of the incomparable [Pierre] Jurieu [1637-1713] is, This is a Reproach that the Providence of God makes unto us: because you have not dared, nor been willing any more to Sing His Praises and Songs of Thanksgiving. God has made mouths in the midst of the Air! But behold an Happy Presage, that God will not suffer your Voices and your Songs to Dy, the Angels have seized on them.
Thus, give me Leave to say, that if we will not Sing unto the Lord, there are others that will; and we that will not, never shall Yea, our Silence may provoke the very Rocks and Stones to loud Shouts; in praising the Eternal God.
O come and Sing unto the Lord; and though we do not certainly know what Changes yet may come upon us; nor how far the Clouds may Return after the Rain; le[t] us nevertheless be found, Singing to the Lord.
They that Remember how many Princes and Interests were concerned for the Protestant Religion threescore years ago, and how almost all of them afterwards Disappeared, cannot yet be without Apprehensions in the midst of their Thanksgivings. But, though we may not Sing Requiems to ourselves, yet we may Sing Praises to our God: and whatever Fears may be upon us, I am now to Repeat that Call; Awake, Awake, O Congregation, Awake, Awake, and utter a Song. It was a memorable Accident which happened near one of the Lee-ward Islands some years ago. A Ship with some pious people in it, was by a violent Storm driven between two hideous Rocks; where she lay on one side so that every moment they expected she would overset; In this Distress, in this Despair, they agree to Dy Singing, and there they sat Singing the Hundred and Forty sixth Psalm. But behold, a Dutch Ship that had newly taken a Spanish Vessel, at that Instant came by, and not only delivered them from the perils of their own Ship, which immediately perished, but also bestowed an other Vessel on them. Methinks, this poor Country has been, and yet it, much in the condition in which That serious people were: Well, but suppose we should Sink after all the Excellent Things which have been done for us, (and yet we can’t forbear saving, If the Lord were pleased to kill us, would He have shewed us all these things!) Let us however Sink and Sing both at once, and keep Singing to Him that has done Excellent Things, while we have any Breath; (and when we have None, we shall do it Better!) such a Course it is, which gives the greatest Likelihood, that He will with a perfection of Deliverance, Arise and Save us.
Image Credit: “The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914), Jennie A. Brownscombe.