The Review and Herald


December 23, 1884

Thanksgiving Sermon

[Delivered at the tabernacle Thursday, November 27, 1884, and reported by Eld. E. P. Daniels.]


“Oh! sing unto the Lord a new song; sing unto the Lord, all the earth. Sing unto the Lord, bless his name; show forth his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people. For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nation are idols; but the Lord made the heavens. Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. Give unto the Lord, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts. Oh! worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; fear before him, all the earth. Say among the heathen that the Lord reigneth; the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved; he shall judge the people righteously. Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof. Let the field be joyful and all that is therein; then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice before the Lord; for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth; he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.” RH December 23, 1884, par. 1

I think we have something to be thankful for. We ought to be glad, and rejoice in God; for he has given us many mercies. The thought comes to me that we may have a Thanksgiving in the future without any giving. It may be that the time of trouble will be upon us. But today let us rejoice that we are granted this opportunity of coming within the courts of the Lord. We ought to come with humble thanks for all his mercies that have been given us all through the year. But I fear too many of us encourage the habit of looking always upon the dark side of life, and that at a time when God has crowned us with his goodness and mercy. This is wrong. We should be enjoying the sunshine of his golden blessings, that have crowned the year with plenty. When God pours his blessings into our hearts, we should not shut them up as we would precious ointment, lest the perfume escape; we should bestow them upon those around us, that they also may be glad and rejoice. In my experience I have found that when I brought joy to the hearts of others, my own soul rejoiced, and was filled with the melting Spirit of God. In the morning and all through the day, a sense of God's goodness filled my heart, and it awakened such feelings of gratitude as I cannot express. RH December 23, 1884, par. 2

We want this Thanksgiving to be all it implies. Do not let it be perverted, mingled with dross; but let it be what its name implies—giving thanks. Let our voices ascend in praise. Let our hearts lay hold on the Exalted One; for the train of his glory fills the temple. RH December 23, 1884, par. 3

We should individually aim for a higher and holier standard. The mind will surely become dwarfed if it is continually occupied with earthly things. But if trained to dwell upon heavenly, eternal themes, it will be expanded, elevated, and strengthened. The mind should take hold of things unseen, and meditate thereon; then things of eternal interest will be so exalted above the earthly, that temporal affairs will sink into insignificance in comparison. We do not regard divine things as of high value; and by neglecting to train the mind to prize eternal things more than earthly, we lose a valuable experience. We fail to obtain the wisdom God has brought within our reach. Suppose we change this order of things, and begin from today to train the thoughts to dwell upon the great plan of salvation, devoting less time to self-serving. Suppose you try to count all your blessings. You have thought so little upon them, and they have been so continual, that when reverses or afflictions come, you are grieved, and think God is unjust. You do not call to mind how little gratitude you have manifested for all the blessings of God. You have not deserved them; but because they have flowed in upon you day by day, year by year, you have looked upon them as a matter of course, thinking it was your right to receive every advantage, and give nothing in return. The Lord sometimes withdraws his mercies to bring people to their senses. Shall we make it necessary in our case for him to do so? Look away from your own trials and difficulties. Cease to magnify your little grievances. Put all thoughts of self out of your heart. Cease self-service, and serve the only true and living God. Let his melody be in your heart, and his praises on your lips. The blessings of God are more than the hairs of our head, more than the sands of the seashore. Meditate upon his love and care for us, and may it inspire you with love that trials cannot interrupt nor afflictions quench. RH December 23, 1884, par. 4

Let us give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good, and his mercy endureth forever. What kind of a Thanksgiving shall we keep,—one to ourselves, bestowing all our benefits upon ourselves and receiving the attentions of others, but bringing no thanksgiving offering to God? This is idolatry of the most offensive character in the sight of a jealous God. Everything should be avoided that would have a tendency to draw our hearts’ worship from God. Let not any more Thanksgiving days be observed to please and gratify the appetite, and glorify self. We have reason for coming into the courts of the Lord with offerings of gratitude that he has preserved our lives another year. RH December 23, 1884, par. 5

Parents, do not neglect to impart to your children the very education they should have. Upon their birthdays, instead of calling their attention to themselves by giving them presents, teach them to come with an offering to God. It is a sad fact that there are many children who have been left to come up willful, disobedient, unthankful, and unholy, yet whose birthdays are respected and honored with feasting and with gifts, when it would have been better had they never been born. Their birthdays might better be observed with fasting, clothing them with sackcloth, instead of making them occasions of amusement and giving gifts; for their steps are rapidly leading to perdition and ruin. In many cases, birthday gifts have proved a detriment rather than a blessing. The children should be educated to look to God as the giver of life, their protector and their preserver, and to come to him with an offering for all his favors. Every opportunity should be employed to implant in their hearts right views of God and his love for us. Nothing should be done to foster in them vanity, self-esteem, or pride. Teach them to review the past year of their life, to consider whether they would be glad to meet its record just as it stands in the books of heaven. Encourage in them serious thoughts, whether their deportment, their words, their works, are of a character pleasing to God. Have they been making their lives more like Jesus, beautiful and lovely in the sight of God? Teach them the knowledge of the Lord, his ways, his precepts. “Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” We want the children to learn to look away from self to heavenly things, there to bestow their thanksgiving. RH December 23, 1884, par. 6

God has spared our lives till this day; now how shall we keep it, with feasting and gluttony? Is this a true thanksgiving to God? No; we are to render thanks and thank offerings for the mercies bestowed upon us every day during the past year. How should we keep Thanksgiving?—“When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind; and thou shalt be blessed, for they cannot recompense thee; for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” This is the kind of a feast God instructs us to give. How many will follow these specific directions of God's word by calling the poor to their homes with words of sympathy and the spirit of beneficence, and thus make such a feast as will be pleasing to God? Satan has sought to destroy the true purpose and design of Thanksgiving, to turn away from God the honor due him, and to center it upon ourselves. RH December 23, 1884, par. 7

Now is the time when God should be praised for his goodness and bountiful gifts to the children of men. You may say, “What has the Lord done for us?”—Much in every way. You have the products of the earth, filling your barns, your granaries, your store-houses. In this you have abundance for which to give thanks. Here are your children. They are clothed, and you have fuel, food, and shelter. You should not only praise God, but you should come into his courts with a thank-offering. How many of us have trained ourselves to bring an offering to him? I remember a brother's once taking us to his granary, saying, “You see my barns and granaries are so full I shall have to build an addition; for I do not know where to bestow the products of my ground.” And a little after, speaking of a poor widow, he said, “I do not see how she will take care of herself this cold winter. I fear she will have a hard time of it, indeed.” I said, “Who gave you these things you have just shown me! Was it not the God of heaven? You say it was; then it is your duty to give of your plenty to that poor widow. Thus you can answer this question yourself.” He had not seen it in that light. He had thought helping the poor from his bounty was another consideration. God help you to open your hearts to suffering humanity; for they are the purchase of high heaven. Christ identifies his interests with those of his needy, suffering children; and neglect done to them is registered in the books of heaven as done to Christ in the person of his saints. RH December 23, 1884, par. 8

Brethren and sisters, you ought to be willing to do anything you can for his suffering children, that good deeds may be credited to you in heaven. Jesus will say to you in that day, “I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? or when saw we thee sick or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” They were not aware they had done anything for him; but Christ saw that these deeds of kindness had been done through love for him and his dear children. Let us be careful that we are not deceived in this matter. RH December 23, 1884, par. 9

There are a great many who seem to have a great burden to do missionary work; but I have thought that if such would only begin in their own households, it would be the very best thing they could do. Whenever you take up the duty that lies nearest you, then God will bless you, and hear your prayers. There are too many doing outside missionary work, while their own households are left destitute of any such efforts,—going to ruin through neglect. They do not seem to understand that it should be their first work to take heed to home duties. The first missionary work is to see that love, light, and joy come into the home circle. Let us not be looking for some great temperance or missionary work to do until we have first done the duties at home. Every morning we should think, What kind act can I do today? What tender word can I speak? Kind words at home are blessed sunshine. The husband needs them, the wife needs them, the children need them. Now let us make a thanksgiving at home. How easy it might be for us to bring sunshine, mellow and beautiful, right into our homes, if our hearts were filled with the grace of God! This may be done by kind words and loving ministrations. If there had been more of them in the past, I believe that more of us would have come into this house with the praise of God in their hearts for his loving-kindness unto us and ours. It ought to be the desire of every heart to make as much heaven below as possible. We ought to be just before we are generous. There needs to be a home religion, a home thanksgiving. There needs to be the very soul of a pure life right at home. Then when you come to such a place as this, you will make melody to God in your hearts. They would be full of the tenderness of love. You could speak of the mercy and love and goodness of Christ in your soul. Your hearts would be full of melody all the day. Your song would be, “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” This kind of piety is of some value. There is a great deal of meeting-house religion; but there is little home religion. Cultivate it, that when you come into the house of God, you will love to talk of Jesus. You cannot make your tongue be silent. The love of Jesus will be like fire shut up in your bones. RH December 23, 1884, par. 10

If a feast is to be made, let it be for those who are in need. Do you not think God regards those who are poor, who have but little of life's good things, who long for Jesus to come into their homes with blessing? Does he not call upon us to answer their prayers as far as is in our power, ministering unto their wants? Christ pities and loves them. Any neglect of them is written in the heavenly records as done to himself. Call into your houses the poor, the afflicted, the halt, and the blind. RH December 23, 1884, par. 11

Your blessings do not come from mortal hands. God has ministered to you all these years. It is he who has kept your children. And now in return, why not make him a thank-offering. Even today bring larger and smaller gifts, and put them in the treasury of the Lord. Do you not think it would be pleasing to the God of heaven? Jesus says, “I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it.” What is that open door for? It is that the love of God may come streaming down to us,—poor unworthy mortals. Never have his blessings ceased to flow to us through this open door. And for this reason we ought to let this love flow to others through the open door in our hearts. Oh! let us make this the best thanksgiving we have ever had. Let us look back and see how many thanksgiving days we have spent without acknowledging God's gifts to us, and render to him that which is his own. RH December 23, 1884, par. 12

When you take heed to the word of God, and follow its instructions to the letter, you will enjoy blessings from the God of Jacob. Hear what Isaiah says: “Bring the poor that are cast out to thy house; when thou seest the naked, cover him.... Then shall thy light break forth as the morning.” Your souls shall be like a watered garden, whose waters fail not. “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.” Do you want to hear that voice respond to your call, saying, “Here I am?” Then go to work in God's way. Get rid of your selfishness and heartlessness, and pray God to give you a loving, tender, sympathizing heart. Then when you call you may hear his voice answer, “Here I am.” RH December 23, 1884, par. 13

I remember the case of a poor man, who lived near a rich widow in Battle Creek. She had had her orchard trimmed, and the limbs and sprouts thus cut off lay by the fence. This poor man asked of her the small favor to give him this brush to use for fuel; but she refused him, saying, “I want to keep them; for the ashes will enrich my ground.” I never pass the house of that woman without thinking of this incident. Ground enriched to the neglect of the poor! RH December 23, 1884, par. 14

I thank God for my life—not that it has been one of ease or of pleasure. I am not glad because of any such thing; I would not exchange my experience for any life of ease upon earth. I have a faith that looks over into the future, and sees the tree of life. Upon it grow precious fruits, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No more broken hearts, no more sadness, no more sins, no more sorrow, no more suffering, in that kingdom of glory. If I am faithful, I expect to meet the loved ones there. Oh! I have everything to be thankful for. I expect to see Jesus, in whom our hopes of eternal life shall have glad fulfillment. I expect to see the Redeemer's glorified saints,—the white-robed ones about the throne, singing, the victor's song. They have overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. There they stand by the great white throne, and Jesus, he that was crowned with majesty, glory, and honor,—he leads them to fountains of living waters. He is to open to us the living truths of the word of God. We have a little of it here; but throughout eternity will be unfolded the rich treasures of truth. I am so glad that he has honored me in giving me a part to act in this work of shedding the light of truth on the earth. I am so thankful that I can be a partaker with Christ of his self-denial and suffering, and finally of his glory. I thank him with all my heart; with all my voice will I praise the Most High, and glorify him on the earth. Soon we shall know as we are known. If there are any who have had wrong feelings of jealousy, now is the time to confess them. God help us to humble our proud hearts, and bring Jesus into our midst. Open the door of your hearts and let him enter, and you will have such a Thanksgiving as you never experienced before. RH December 23, 1884, par. 15