This Thanksgiving Eve, I thought I’d take a break from the study of Jeremiah Burroughs’ work on the Causes, Evils, and Cures of Divisions in the Church, and offer, instead, a brief word from John Calvin on Gratitude. This comes from the “Golden Book of the True Christian Life,” which was originally part of Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion, and is a wonderfully practical devotion on basic Christianity. I share today just a couple of his concluding points as a guide to gratitude in the coming celebrations.
Earthly things are gifts of God.
- The first principle we should consider is that the use of gifts of God cannot be wrong if they are directed to the same purpose for which the Creator himself has created and destined them. For He has made the earthly blessings for our benefit, and not for our harm.
- If we study why he has created the various kinds of food, we shall find that it was His intention not only to provide for our needs, but likewise for our pleasure and for our delight. If this were not true, the psalmist would not enumerate among the divine blessings “the wine that makes glad the heart of man, and the oil that makes his face to shine.”
- Even the natural properties of things sufficiently point out to what purpose and to what extent we are allowed to use them. Should the Lord have attracted our eyes to the beauty of the flowers and our sense of small to pleasant odors, and should it then be sin to drink them in? Has he not made the colors so that one is more wonderful than the other? Has he not made many things worthy of our attention that go far beyond our needs (Ps. 104:15)?
True gratitude will restrain us from abuse.
- Let us discard, therefore, that inhuman philosophy which would allow us no use of creation unless it is absolutely necessary. Such a malignant notion deprives us of the lawful enjoyment of God’s kindness. And, it is impossible actually to accept it, until we are robbed of all our senses and reduced to a senseless block. On the other hand, we must with equal zeal fight the lusts of the flesh, for if they are not firmly restrained, they will transgress every bound.
- If we want to curb our passions we must remember that all things were made focus, with the purpose that we may know and acknowledge their Author. We should praise his kindness toward us in earthly matters by giving Him thanks. But what will become of our thanksgiving if we indulge in dainties or wine in such a way that we are too dull to carry out those duties of devotion or of our business? Where is our acknowledgement of God, if the excesses of our body drive us to the vilest passions and infect our mind with impurity, so that we can no longer distinguish between right and wrong?
- For many so madly pursue pleasure that their minds become enslaved to it. Many are so delighted with marble, gold, and painting, that they become like statues. The flavor of meats and the sweetness of odors make some people so stupid that they have no longer any appetite for spiritual things. And his holds for the abuse of all other natural matters. Therefore, it is clear, that the principle of gratitude should curb our desire to abuse the divine blessings.
In short, enjoy the bounty of creation, this is God’s good gift to you. But always keep in mind it is His gift, meant to direct our devotion and gratitude, not to the gift, but to the giver. Let gratitude keep you from taking God’s gifts for granted, and from overindulging in His gifts.
Have a very blessed Thanksgiving!