The Divine Goodness displayed, in the American Revolution: A Sermon, Preached in New-York, December 11th, 1783. Appointed by Congress, as a Day of Public Thanksgiving, Throughout the United States; by John Rodgers, D.D. Printed in New-York by Samuel Loudon, 1784.
Ps. CXXVI, 3.
The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.
The subject of this divine poem, from whence I have taken my text, not obscurely points us to the occasion on which it was penned. It was the return of the Jews, from their captivity in Babylon. This is what is meant by “the captivity of Zion,” in the first verse.
It is generally supposed, and with great probability, that the prophet Ezra was its inspired penman. The first verse expresses the effect this signal deliverance, of his people, had upon them. “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like men that dream.” It was so great and unexpected an event, that they could not, at first, believe it was real. But they soon found it was real, however great: And in consequence thereof, were filled with the most sincere joy and gratitude to God. “Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.”
Such was the nature of this deliverance, that the Heathen nations around them took notice of it. “Then said they among the Heathen; the Lord hath done great things for them.” It is no uncommon thing for our God, so to effect the salvation of his people, as to attract the attention, and force the acknowledgments of their enemies themselves. But however they may treat it, those who are the subjects of God’s delivering goodness, at any time, or in any way, ought to notice it with care, and acknowledge his hand in it, with gratitude of heart. Thus did the people of God of old; and thus are we taught to do in the words of our text. “The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.”
You will readily perceive, my brethren, with what ease and propriety, the words of our text apply to the design, and the duties of this day. They contain the very language the God of providence has put into our mouths; and teach up that notice, we are to take of the dealings of his gracious hand towards us.
If you will please to attend, I will,
I. Point you to some of the great things our God has done for us; and for which we have cause to be glad this day.
II. Shew you how we ought to manifest this gladness.
I. Let us consider some of those great things our God has done for us; and which it becomes us to notice, and acknowledge this day.
These are different, according to the different points of view, in which we consider ourselves; either as the creatures of his hand——as sinners, under a dispensation of grace——or, as the members of society. But to enter into a particular consideration of each of these, would be as vain, as to attempt to count the stars in the firmament, or number the sands on the sea shore. You will expect, therefore, but a very few of the numerous instances, of the great things, our God has done for us.
1. He has given us his son Jesus Christ, to redeem us from the curse of his broken law; and open the way for our return into that favour of heaven, which we had lost by sin——And who that attends to the inestimable value, of this gift of God; the character of the persons for whom he was given; the nature of the work for which he gave him, and the rich and numerous benefits, that flow to our race, from God, through Him; but feels the force of the apostolic remark? “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us; and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Surely God has done great things for us, in this unspeakable gift of a Saviour.
2. He has opened a treaty of peace with us, through the mediation of this his incarnate son——He is “a God in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” This treaty he is negociating, in and by the ministry of the gospel; which is therefore stiled, “The ministry of reconciliation.”
I am well aware, that the ministry of the gospel, however judiciously and faithfully discharged, is esteemed by many, as the Israelites esteemed their manna of old; but as a light thing. They do not consider, there is not a faithful Minister of Christ, whatever may be his particular denomination, or wherever he may be employed, but his gifts and graces cost the son of God his blood upon the cross; or a single gospel sermon they hear, or might hear and neglect, but what our Lord purchased with his expiring groans on mount Calvary. And this is the reason, why the ministry of the gospel, is ranked, by the apostle of the gentiles, among the richest of our Lord’s ascension gifts.
Thus it appears, God does great things for a country or a people, when he blesses them with a judicious and faithful administration of his word, and ordinances; however the more ignorant, or profane part of mankind, may esteem it.
3. He gives us his Holy Spirit, for the rendering this word and these ordinances effectual, for the great purposes, for which they are instituted——Thus they become “the power of God, and the salvation of God, to them that believe.” Such is the ignorance and depravity of human nature, that they will be all unavailing, unless rendered successful, by this divine agent.
Hence we hear the evangelical prophet complaining, “Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? And it is worthy of our notice, that our Lord himself, was far from being so successful in his ministry, as might have been expected, seeing, “he taught as man never taught.” Multitudes who heard him, not only continued unbelieving; but blasphemed him and his doctrine. This was, no doubt, wisely ordered, for the support of his faithful ministers, in every age; who for reasons, worthy of God, tho’ not known to us, labour so much in vain.
But this serves to illustrate, the necessity of the operations of the spirit of grace, for rendering the ordinances of the gospel successful; and at the same time highly illustrates, what great things God has done for us, by appointing him to this important office.
4. God does great things for his people when his Spirit applies the redemption of Christ to their precious souls——Then it is their sins are pardoned, and they receive a title to the inheritance of the saints in light. Then it is, they become “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Then it is, they are renewed in the spirit of their minds; and that good work begun in them, that shall be perfected to the day of the Lord Jesus. “Happy is that people, that is in such a case; yea happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.
But it is time I should proceed to observe,
God has done great things for us, if we consider ourselves, as members of society. This is one of the most interesting points of view, in which man can be considered. And a point of view, in which much is required of us, and much is done for us. This is the point of view, in which the Psalmist principally considers himself, and the church of Israel, when he exclaims exulting in the text, “The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.” And this is the point of view, in which we are especially to consider ourselves this day. And were we to take a particular survey of what God has done for us, as members of society, we should be led to consider the many blessing spiritual, and temporal, we enjoy, either as the church of God; or as citizens of the State. But this would be a subject too copious for our time.