“He thanked God and took courage.” Acts 28:15
Gratitude and confidence are individually excellent, but their union is admirable. They adorn and recommend and aid each other. There is no one they become so well as the Christian. And when is he without cause for both? When has he not, if truth examines his condition, a thousand excitements to praise, and encouragements to hope?
It can never be more proper to exercise these than at the interesting period of the last day of the year, when we are so naturally and unavoidably led to think of the past and the future. Let us therefore follow the example of Paul when he met the brethren at Appii Forum—let us thank God, and take courage.
What can be more reasonable than to thank God when we review the past? While many have been cut off, and not a few in their sins, we have been carried through another year in safety. We have been exposed to accidents and diseases as well as they who are now in the dust, and our frame has been as delicate and frail as their frames. But we are the living, the living to praise him, as it is this day, and all our bones can say, Who is a God like unto thee? While he has holden our souls in life, he has also continued our mercies. These mercies have been new every morning. Of the least of all these we have been unworthy. And had we been dealt with according to our desert, we should have been the most wretched beings on earth. But we have been fed at his table, we have been clothed from his wardrobe. We have had not only the necessaries, but the comforts and indulgences of life. He has given us richly all things to enjoy. He has made the outgoings of our mornings and evenings to rejoice. He has given us the succession of the seasons. He has blessed the springing of the earth. He has charmed us in the field and in the garden with melody and fragrance, and colors and tastes. What relative attachments; what endearments of friendship; what pleasing interchanges of solitude and society, of labor and of rest, have we enjoyed!
We have not only to acknowledge private, but public mercies. How has he preserved and blessed our country, notwithstanding all our national provocations. He has not only blessed us personally, but relatively. He has been the benefactor of our families and our friends. Yea, he has blessed us not only in the kindness of his providence, but in the means of grace. We have had our Sabbaths. Our eyes have seen our teachers. We have been made joyful in his house of prayer. He has fed us with the finest of the wheat, and with oil out of the rock has he satisfied us. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”
We have had trials; but even these, instead of checking gratitude, if properly reviewed, will increase it. They have been few, compared with our comforts. They have been light, compared with the sufferings of others. They have been variously alleviated: in measure, when they shot forth, he debated with them; he stayed his rough wind in the day of the east wind. They have all been founded in a regard to our welfare. They have imbittered sin, and endeared the Scriptures, and the throne of grace, and the sympathy of Him who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. They have weaned us from the world. They have told us that this is not our rest. They have also assured us that he knows how to support and deliver. Aaron’s rod blossomed; so shall ours, and yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness. There was honey at the end of Jonathan’s rod, and there is sweetness at the end of ours. Yea, already we can say, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted.” Surely a gratitude is required on this occasion that will not expire in mere acknowledgements, but induce me to dedicate myself to his service, and walk before him in newness of life.
And what can be more reasonable than to take courage when we look forward? We enter, indeed, on the year commencing, not knowing what a day may bring forth; and darkness is apt to gender dread. Duties will arise, and we must meet their claims. Afflictions may arise; indeed, they are almost unavoidable. Does not every path of life lead through a vale of tears? Is not every thing here uncertain? My health may be assailed. My friends may be removed. This year I may die.
But I will pore on this no longer. I will not sour my present mercies by suspicion, or fear, or anxiety. It is my duty, it is my privilege to be careful for nothing, but to cast all my care on Him who careth for me. I take courage from his former dispensations. Has he ever forsaken or forgotten me? “Because he has been my help, therefore under the shadow of his wings will I rejoice.” I take courage from his providence. I am not in “a fatherless world.” Nothing is left to chance. My ways are continually before him, and the very hairs of my head are all numbered. I take courage from his power. Nothing is too hard for him. He can make even mine enemies to be at peace with me. He can render every loss a gain. He can make all things work together for my good. I take courage from his promises. They are all faithfulness and truth. And what case do they leave unnoticed, unprovided for, from which despondency can spring? I will therefore trust, and not be afraid, but go forward cheerfully with Him who said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
“Beneath his smiles my heart has lived,
And part of heaven possessed:
I praise his name for grace received,
And trust him for the rest.”"
-From Morning Exercises for Every Day in the Year, by Reverend William Jay (1769-1852); (Harrisonburg, Virginia; SPRINKLE PUBLICATIONS; 1998)