THIRTY-SECOND LORD S DAY
THE THIRD GENERAL DIVISION OF THE CATECHISM.
Having now considered the misery of man, and his deliverance through Christ, the doctrine of gratitude or thankfulness is necessary, 1. On account of the glory of God, inasmuch as the chief end of our redemption is thankfulness, which comprehends acknowledgement and praise for the benefits of Christ. 2. On account of our consolation, which consists in our deliverance by the free grace of God. None now obtain this deliverance, but those who desire to show their gratitude to God. 3. That we may render unto God such worship as is lawful, and acceptable. God disapproves of all worship which grounds itself in self-will. We must, therefore, show from the word of God, what is the nature of true thankfulness, which is the worship due to God. 4. That we may know that all our good works are expressions of thankfulness, and have no merit in the sight of God.
Thankfulness in general is a virtue acknowledging and professing the person from whom we have received benefits, as well as the greatness of the benefits themselves, with a desire to perform towards our benefactor such reciprocal duties as are becoming and possible. It includes truth and justice. Truth, because it acknowledges and makes mention of the benefits received: and justice, because it desires to return thanks equal to that which has been received.
True Christian thankfulness, therefore, which is here taught, is an acknowledgement and profession of our gracious deliverance, through Christ from sin and death, and a sincere desire to avoid sin, and every thing that might offend God, and to conform the life according to his will; to desire, expect, and receive all good things from God alone, by a true faith, and to render thanks for the benefits received.
This thankfulness likewise consists of two parts truth and justice. Truth acknowledges and professes the benefit of our free redemption, and renders thanks unto God for it. Justice offers unto God'such a return as he requires from us, which is nothing else than a true worship of him, consisting of obedience and good works. The doctrine of prayer belongs to truth; whilst that of good works to justice. That in which both these things root and ground themselves, is the conversion of man to God: for the works of none but those who are regenerated, are good and pleasing to God. Hence we must, under this division of the Catechism, treat of manís conversion to God, and of the law of God. There are, therefore, four principal Common Places which belong to this general division of thankfulness; Man's conversion good works the Law of God, and prayer.
The order and connection of these several parts may be thus explained. We have learned, from what has been said upon the two former general divisions of the Catechism, that we are redeemed from sin and death, that is, from all the evils of guilt and punishment by no merit of ours, but only by the mere grace of God for the sake of Christís merits. From this, it follows that we ought to be thankful to God for this great benefit. We cannot, however, show and approve ourselves thankful to God, except we are truly converted: for whatever is done by those who are unconverted, is done without faith, and is, therefore, sin. and abomination in the sight of God. Hence, those things which are to he spoken concerning man s conversion to God, are first in order. Then follows the subject of good works, since true conversion cannot be without them, and we in this way especially show our gratitude to God. Afterwards, there is. subjoined the doctrine respecting the law of God, from which we learn what constitutes good works. Those now are in reality good works in which God is worshipped aright, and by which we declare our gratitude to him; which are done by faith, according to the command of God's law, and with the design that we may honor and glorify God thereby. And seeing that God desires to be chiefly honored and praised by us, by invocation and prayer, it follows, lastly, that prayer is likewise necessary, in order that we may properly express our thankfulness to God.
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