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manifest evidence of final impenitence and died with a blasphemy on his lips—what then? God compels no man to accept His proffered mercy, neither can your prayers force any one to surrender his will to the influence of divine grace. Nevertheless, your prayer was not offered in vain. If the heavenly waters find no lodgment in his stony heart, they will flow back abundantly into the valley of your own soul, and the words of the Psalmist will be fulfilled in you: “My prayer shall be turned into my bosom.” 1
1 P. XXXIV., 13.
GRATITUDE TO GOD.
Gratitude is another essential element in the worship of God. He is the Author of every perfect gift.1 He is the Source of every blessing, natural and supernatural, that comes to us.
Gratitude has been justly called the Respiration of the Soul. As in every human breast there are two movements: the one that inhales the air, the other that exhales it after it has invigorated the blood; so there should be in every soul two movements: the one receiving the gifts of God, the other pouring forth those gifts in the form of thanksgiving.
1o. God has given us life. How precious is life! How delightful to cross that mysterious boundary which separates nothingness from existence, to leap from darkness to light and life! How great is the boon to breathe the air of heaven, to contemplate the starry firmament above us, to commune with our fellow beings!
Life would be precious in any shape or form. It would be a valuable favor if God had made us birds
of the air or beasts of the field or fishes of the sea or even creeping reptiles; for even the creeping reptile shrinks with horror from death, and clings with tenacity to life. But God has made us neither bird nor beast, neither fish nor reptile; for He has given us not merely animal life. He has created us human beings, the noblest of all earthly creatures. He has made us to His own image and likeness. “And God created man to His own image: to the image of God He created him.” 1 He has endowed us with a sublime intelligence, with a free will, with an immortal soul, as will be shown in subsequent chapters. “What is man," O Lord, "that Thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that Thou visitest him? Thou hast made him a little less than the angels, Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, and hast set him over the works of Thy hands. Thou hast subjected all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen : moreover the beasts also of the fields, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the sea.”2 That universal jurisdiction which He gave to Adam, He imparts also to us. He repeats to us what He said to him: “Rule over all living creatures that move upon the earth.” 3
This universal dominion which God has given us over the earth and all that it contains, is not of a merely nominal and indefinite character. It is to be understood in its strictly literal sense; for all crea
tures pay tribute to us as our subjects. If they try to escape our hands, it is not because they deny our authority over them, but because they dread our sovereign power.
When we sit down to partake of our daily meals, let us consider how many lands and how many creatures are ministering to our wants and comforts. China and Japan supply us with tea; Arabia and Java, Brazil and Cuba, with coffee. Louisiana and other countries send us sugar. One field yields us bread; another, vegetables. One animal furnishes us with meat; another, with milk and butter. The sea gives up its fish, to contribute to the luxuries of our board. Even the bowels of the earth are invaded to procure fuel for our fires, silver for our table, and iron and other metals for our domestic utensils. One animal affords covering for our hands; another, for our feet; and another, for our head. The sheep is shorn of its fleece, and the silk-worm labors industriously to furnish us with clothing for our body. And yet how many habitually make their toilet and go to their daily meals, without bestowing a thought of thanksgiving on the Giver of all these gifts, as if they were a purchased right, and not a favor granted ?
But, some one may say, are we not indebted to human energy, to daring enterprise and skill, for most of the comforts and luxuries just enumerated ? I grant it. But was it not God who inspired man with the skill and enterprise necessary for importing
or manufacturing these articles of daily use? If, therefore, we admire the engine of the human brain, which exercises such power over inert matter, how much more praise and gratitude are due to the Divine Engineer who has put the brain-engine itself in motion !
The man that studies the famous Moses of Michel Angelo will not waste a thought on the tools with which he wrought, but will concentrate his admiration on the great artist himself. When we reflect on the marvellous enterprise and consummate skill of the nineteenth century, we should rise from the consideration of human genius to the contemplation of the Divine Wisdom, who communicated such talent to
“Hath not the potter," says the Apostle, "power over the clay of the same lump, to make one vessel indeed unto honor, and another unto dishonor?”1 And if the Author of our being infuses into human clay the spirit of a Beseleel? or of a Columbus, instead of the spirit of an ox, to whom are they indebted for their handicraft or nautical enterprise? “What hast thou that thou hast not received ? And if thou hast received it why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?" 3
We are indebted to God not only for the life that He has given us, but also for the preservation and continuance of that life; for as none but almighty hands could have created us, so none but almighty