THE TWIN ELEMENTS IN TRUE THANKSGIVING By Rev. A. W. Tozer* U NDERLYING the whole Christian religion is a broad foundation o f fact upon which it rests and up from which it rises. This is the rational element in Chris As for the philosophy of thanksgiving, there is nothing very profound about it. Just get a few facts straight and immediately the mind will be convinced.
tianity. It is this rational element which constitutes that “ form of doctrine” which was once for all delivered. It is this also which the church has condensed into her noble and justly honored creeds such as the Apostles’ Creed and those known to us as the Nicene and the Athanasian. Because this rational element is present as a large and solid part o f all genuine spiritual experience, God does not hesitate to call reason over onto His side, as when He says in Isaiah, “ Come now, and let us reason together.” The bases o f revealed religion are so reasonable as to be self-verifying. Divine truth confounds the human conscience by carrying its own proof with it and forcing the hearer to admit (at least secretly) the soundness of what he has just heard. Back o f everything in the Christian faith there are ade quate reasons; not all those reasons, however, can be known to or understood by the human intellect. Not everything God would say to us can be said in words. Some things by-pass reason altogether and, if known at all, are known to the heart only by the revelation o f the Spirit. Here enters the suprarational element in religion, and here Christianity goes over into the spirit and becomes essentially spiritual in its content. In true faith there are qualities which, as David says, are “ too high” for us and can only be referred back to God with the hush-voiced exclamation of Ezekiel, “ O Lord God, thou knowest.” Yet the power over us o f the things we cannot understand may be as great as that o f the things we do, for they may be “ spiritually discerned.” Since the faith o f Christ has in it these twin elements, two things will always be true of every bona fide Christian: He will possess a philosophy of truth and he will be possessed by a spirit ' of truth. The one he can grasp with his reason and cast into words; it will constitute his total creed, the body o f his Christian witness. The other will be known to him in and by the Holy Ghost. It will reveal itself as a kind of inward mystery, a delightful wonder which will elude his reason even while it warms and illuminates his heart. While his mind rests in the forms of truth, his soul will be filled with the spirit o f truth and he will know by an inward miracle what eye has not seen nor ear heard, and what has not by any human process entered into the heart of a man. This rather formidable introduction is placed here as a backdrop against which might be set the truth I wish to emphasize. It is simply that Christian thankfulness is both reasonable and spiritual. The facts require us to be thankful. The circumstances being what they are, thanksgiving is a rational act; yet, unless the heart is possessed by a spirit o f gratitude, no real thanksgiving will be possible.
For instance,. the best man that ever lived, whoever he might be, deserves from God exactly nothing at all. One sin is’ enough to forfeit forever all claim upon God’s providential care. Once that sin has been committed (and what man sinneth not?) every gift of God from that moment is a gift of pure grace. Every natural benefit, every common blessing, flows as surely out of grace as salvation itself does. In strict justice we rate nothing, not a moment o f life, not a day of health or happiness upon this earth. All this notwithstanding there are still millions of people who in spite of a long record of aggravated sin are sourly convinced that God qwes them everything, and are ready to strike back at Him savagely if they do not get it. Such as these cannot be made thankful by presidential decree. Sin has upset their moral reason and, holding the philosophy they do, gratitude would be for them not only impossible but. positively irrational. The true Christian, however, knows himself too well to believe that he deserves the benefits which are daily showered upon him. He has been smitten with a deep sense of his own unworthiness, and reverently accepts his daily bread and every temporal arid spiritual blessing as the unmerited gifts o f a kind and forgiving Father. Considerations such as these make up the reasons back of the act o f thanksgiving whether that act be one o f private devotion or o f public celebration. Without such a philosophy Thanksgiving Day is no more than a time o f feasting and animal gratification. Now, the other element in true thanksgiving is the spirit o f thankfulness. This is an inward thing. It is more than a conclusion drawn from facts. It affects the heart as a radiant sense o f gratitude, felt rather than understood. Without this all our reasoning will fall short of producing real thanks giving in the soul. The mind may be convinced that it should praise the Lord, while at the same time the heart lurks sullenly in the shadows, refusing to come into the sunshine and join in the doxology.
AH our dutiful efforts to celebrate Thanksgiving will fail without a true spirit of gratitude; and such a spirit is impos sible apart from the Holy Ghost. So dark and low is the human spirit that it can never of itself rise to those sunlit heights where praise is normal and spontaneous. The spirit o f thankfulness accords with the facts but does not. spring out of them. It descends as an independent thing-in-itself; it is the Spirit o f the very God singing in the human breast, and that song will often be heard bursting ecstatically forth when for the time all the external circumstances are against it. In the spirit o f thankfulness Job praised God on the ash heap, David worshiped in the wilderness and Christ sang on His way to Gethsemane. Like every other gift of God the spirit o f thankfulness, if it is not to die o f suffocation, must |£be given external expression. The psalmist sensed this need j^ f o r vocal overflow when he exclaimed, “ Oh, that men would *Pastor of the South Side Christian and Missionary Alliance^ßprsiise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works Tabernacle, Chicago, III. Ü ito the children o f men.”
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