The spirit of humble thankfulness for past mercies. . .is a grace to which we are especially called in the Gospel. . . .Such thankfulness, I say, is eminently a Christian grace, and is enjoined on us in the New Testament. For instance, we are exhorted to be “thankful,” and to let “the Word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord.”
Elsewhere, we are told to “speak to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our heart to the Lord: giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Again: “Be careful for nothing: but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.”
Again: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” [Col. iii. 15, 16. Eph. v. 19, 20. Phil. iv. 6. 1 Thess. v. 18.]
Mission of Nombre de Dios, site of America’s first Mass of Thanksgiving
The Apostle, who writes all this, was himself an especial pattern of a thankful spirit: “Rejoice in the Lord always,” he says: “and again I say, ‘Rejoice.’ I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I have all and abound; I am full.” Again: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; who was before a blasphemer and a persecutor, and injurious. But I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant, with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” [Phil. iv. 4, 11, 18. 1 Tim. i. 12-14.] . . . .
David, then, Jacob, and St. Paul, may be considered the three great patterns of thankfulness, which are set before us in Scripture. . . .A perishing wanderer had unexpectedly become a patriarch; a shepherd, a king; and a persecutor, an apostle: each had been chosen, at God’s inscrutable pleasure, to fulfil a great purpose, and each, while he did his utmost to fulfil it, kept praising God that he was made His instrument. . . .
Well were it for us, if we had the character of mind instanced in Jacob, and enjoined on his descendants; the temper of dependence upon God’s providence, and thankfulness under it, and careful memory of all He has done for us. . . .He gave; He may take away. He gave us all we have, life, health, strength, reason, enjoyment, the light of conscience; whatever we have good and holy within us; whatever faith we have; whatever of a renewed will; whatever love towards Him; whatever power over ourselves; whatever prospect of heaven.
He gave us relatives, friends, education, training, knowledge, the Bible, the Church. All comes from Him. He gave; He may take away. Did He take away, we should be called on to follow Job’s pattern, and be resigned: “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” [Job i. 21.] While He continues His blessings, we should follow David and Jacob, by living in constant praise and thanksgiving, and in offering up to Him of His own.
Blessed John Henry Newman
We are not our own, any more than what we possess is our own. . . .We are God’s property by creation, by redemption, by regeneration. He has a triple claim upon us. Is it not our happiness thus to view the matter? Is it any happiness, or any comfort, to consider that we are our own? It may be thought so by the young and prosperous. These may think it a great thing to have everything, as they suppose, their own way, — to depend on no one, — to have to think of nothing out of sight, — to be without the irksomeness of continual acknowledgment, continual prayer, continual reference of what they do to the will of another. But as time goes on, they, as all men, will find that independence was not made for man — that it is an unnatural state — may do for a while, but will not carry us on safely to the end. No, we are creatures; and, as being such, we have two duties, to be resigned and to be thankful.
Let us then view God’s providences towards us more religiously than we have hitherto done. Let us try to gain a truer view of what we are, and where we are, in His kingdom. Let us humbly and reverently attempt to trace His guiding hand in the years which we have hitherto lived. Let us thankfully commemorate the many mercies He has vouchsafed to us in time past, the many sins He has not remembered, the many dangers He has averted, the many prayers He has answered, the many mistakes He has corrected, the many warnings, the many lessons, the much light, the abounding comfort which He has from time to time given. Let us dwell upon times and seasons, times of trouble, times of joy, times of trial, times of refreshment.
How did He cherish us as children! How did He guide us in that dangerous time when the mind began to think for itself, and the heart to open to the world! How did He with his sweet discipline restrain our passions, mortify our hopes, calm our fears, enliven our heavinesses, sweeten our desolateness, and strengthen our infirmities! How did He gently guide us towards the strait gate! how did He allure us along His everlasting way, in spite of its strictness, in spite of its loneliness, in spite of the dim twilight in which it lay! He has been all things to us. He has been, as He was to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, our God, our shield, and great reward, promising and performing, day by day.