The forest’s trees have lost their summer green and stand arrayed in gorgeous hues of the varied autumn colors. Hill and plain and dell alike, have changed from summer dress to that of harvest hues. The once tall, green corn now decks the fields in shocks of brown and yellow, while through the fields lay strewn the yellow-golden pumpkin.
Somehow, all these are emblems of abundance. They seem as letters, set into a book, leading men to see God’s everlasting power and divinity. So many voices are they, blending together in a living testimony of God’s care and providential keeping.
To me these fields seem as a kind reminder on my book of memorandums that Thanksgiving Day will soon be here. The harvest moon, the fields and wood, the heavy laden barns and bins, the store of fruit and grain, the cattle on a thousand hills call me to my task, my only task. . . . the praise, the adoration of my God and King!
A Life-Long Praise of God:
No other task than this is laid on mortal man. He may be a genius in one or more of the varied sciences, he may be prince or pauper, he may be king or subject, he has but one task—the praise and adoration of the most high and only living God. To this very task Scripture continually exhorts us all: “Kings of the earth and all people: princes, and all judges of the earth: both young men and maidens, old men and children: let them praise the name of the Lord”. What other task could be theirs since God has made all things for Himself?
From this we may conclude that all the fruitful plains and harvest’s golden grains may, however, never be more than merely voices calling us to praise. All multi-colored fruits, with which the horn of plenty has been filled, may incite us to praise, but never may, neither can they be, the cause of true thanksgiving.
Thankfulness is not the conclusion of the satisfying inventory of earthly gifts and gains. The prelude to any thanksgiving is never an enumeration of personal profits. Neither is true gratitude obtained by the assurance that our losses and griefs were less than those of our neighbors, as is so often done, especially in times of stress and grief. Thankfulness is not the result of studying the business and economic principles of profit and loss, but of theology. Gratitude is theocentric. The heart, the life, the pulse-beat and the cause, as well as the purpose of thanksgiving is God.
When, therefore, we must first enumerate personal gifts and gains and thus be enabled to conclude whether or not we have reasons for praise and thanksgiving, then God is gone and so is gratitude. He that is incited to praise because his gains were sufficient to warrant such action does not bend his knee before God on the day of thanksgiving, but is a pagan worshipper of material things. Such a man is egoistic, a worshipper of self. God is entirely out of the picture and. man is deified. Such praise is abominable in the eyes of Him that judgeth righteously.
Not material gifts and gains, nor man himself, but God is the focal point in true gratitude. In the Christian’s thanksgiving, it is God, and God alone who has any recognition. In God he rejoices. His name he lauds, His praise he sings, His glories and wondrous doings he proclaims. God is all and man and all material vanish into nothingness.
This thankfulness is the task of every man, woman and child. For it we were created, to it we are divinely called. Therefore, a task not for one single day. Neither is it a task for special occasions. But a task all day and every day, in life and in death, amid pleasures and palaces, in tears and in grief.
How foolish, then, and utterly impossible is it to speak of a Thanksgiving Day. Taken in its literal sense it would mean that we store up all our praise and thanksgiving for that one certain day. It, too, would mean that we try to crowd the performance of a whole year’s task into a single day. Logically it is absolutely impossible; no full year’s work can be crowded into a single day. Spiritually it is unwanted, for the truly thankful heart must sing the praises of his God and Maker in undying strains, now and forever.
“O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise.
The glories of my God and. King,
The triumphs of His grace.”
Since thanksgiving is a life-long task and must be performed regardless of circumstances or conditions, it stands to reason that its cause can never be found in material things.
If thanksgiving is caused by the abundance of wealth and at the sight of possessions of corn and wheat and an overflowing horn of plenty, it could only be a task for the rich and for them that rejoice in health and strength. How could the thousands upon thousands that suffer affliction and poverty, who groan in pain and agony or are overwhelmed with deep sorrow of heart, join in with songs of praise and thanksgiving? If rejoicing in things were thanksgiving, how will the thousands of Christians in war-torn Europe ever be able to praise God from day to day in the midst of death, destruction and starvation? It would be an absolute impossibility!
The truth of the matter is, however, that even from Europe’s battle fields, and from homes in direst need, there must arise thanksgiving and praise of God. It cannot and may not be otherwise.
It stands to reason then, that the cause and source of true thanksgiving can be found in God only. On the other hand, it can only be found in God when the positive assurance is present that God is our God and that He is for us. For this reason, thankfulness can only be found with the Christian. He only has the assurance that God is for him. For this reason, too, thanksgiving can never be national, but always personal.
This thankfulness of the Christian proceeds first of all from the consciousness of his own insignificance. It arises from the knowledge that he is totally unworthy of the least of God’s benefits, that he is a child of wrath and corruption by nature, who has defiled his ways a thousand times; and is conscious of the fact that he cannot stand before the Lord of heaven and earth if He should mark transgressions. And yet. in spite of all this, through grace he may glory that God has become for him the Source, the Fount of all good. Who forgives his sins, heals his diseases, Who delivers his life from destruction, Who crowns his years with goodness, Who establishes His covenant with him in order that he might know Him, love Him, walk with Him and be led by His hand.
Not in things, but in the possession of the Lord Himself is the source, the cause of Christian gratitude. This being the case in the life of every Christian, he can rejoice and be thankful in all circumstances of life. By faith he then believes and knows that God is Cod, that He alone has all things in His hand: that prosperity and adversity, joy and sorrow, life and death come from Him. Then, too, he knows that God, Who is the God of love, works all things together for the salvation of His children. Then nothing can harm us, then all things are for our sakes and we have joy and peace for evermore.
Then, when the year is crowned with God’s goodness, and His paths drop fatness, and the little hills rejoice on every side, and pastures are clothed with flocks, the valleys also covered with corn, and we hear their voices shouting and singing, we, too, will rejoice and sing. But our rejoicing will not be in them, but with them — in God! Voices they will be, calling us to task—the task of praising God.
“Thy bountiful care what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light:
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.”
Its Only Possibility:
It is evident that thanksgiving cannot be legislated and thus become a national grace. Thanksgiving is purely an act of divine grace. Natural man is unthankful! So unthankful is he that even the greatest abundance of riches will never attune his heart to true gratitude. At best the joy and praise of natural man, on his day of thanksgiving, is nothing but pagan worship of material things and self. He does not rejoice in God, but he rejoices only in things which he possesses apart from the fellowship and communion with God. His praise is nothing but priding himself on his own skill and success.
The only way to true gratitude is by learning the depth of our own misery and the glory of our redemption in Christ. This is only possible by grace. When touched and changed by that grace all sinful pride will vanish. When, by the regenerating power of that grace, our minds have been enlightened we shall clearly see that we have nothing to boast and have every reason for shame. Then we shall see that we have only been successful in corrupting and polluting our ways before God and making ourselves the just objects of His wrath and holy indignation. Then too, we shall clearly understand that the many material gifts, which we receive day by day, are not grace, but are a curse, since by their receipt we prove before God and all the world that we are totally depraved and use all things in the service of sin and in enmity against God.
Thus, having learned our misery, and then having found grace in the blood of Christ, our boasting will be in God only. God is then for us the Source and Fount of all blessings. It is His grace that turns all things to our profit. It is He who gives life through death.
To Him shall be our praise! His glories we shall sing! For us every day will be Thanksgiving Day, even throughout the endless ages of eternity.