William Gadsby

SERMON IV.

The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving.

Preached on Lord’s Day Morning, Nov. 1st, 1840, in. Manchester.


“I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving.”—Psalm116: 17.


Under the Jewish dispensation, God had appointed a variety of offerings and sacrifices for the Jews, under certain circumstances, to be attended to; and if you turn to Leviticus 7 you will find that the offering of the sacrifice of thanksgiving was to be accompa­nied with unleavened bread, mingled with oil, with wafers anointed with oil, and with cakes fried in oil. Now in reality, beloved, there is no sacrifice of thanksgiving without this oil; and it is not neces­sary merely that the wafers should be anointed with oil, but that the fat of the offering should be mingled with oil. The figure im­ports the essential necessity of the Divine anointings of God the Spirit in the conscience, and the same anointings being made mani­fest in our external worship. Alas, brethren! If you or I examine the various branches of our external worship and professions of thanksgiving, where do we find the oil? There may be the tongue, there may be the judgment and the bodily exercise; but where is the oil? If there be no oil in our worship, whether betwixt God and the conscience, whether in our families in private or in the pub­lic assembly of God’s saints, if there be no oil, there really is no true thanksgiving. And yet our God tells us that “he that offereth praise glorifieth him, and to him that ordereth his conversation aright he will show the salvation of God.”

If I may be allowed this morning just to give a word of advice before I enter more particularly upon the subject, it will be that you would endeavor to cry to the Lord for oil, that both you and I may feel the solemn unction, the Divine anointings of God, all in all. I do not know anything that has tried me more for the last two days than that I should be suffered to come before you for the first time after this affliction [This was the first sermon Mr. Gadsby preached after he broke his leg, on Sept. 14, 1840], without oil. O Lord, forbid it! What­ever thou withholdest, graciously grant us the Divine oil and anoint­ing of the Holy Spirit, that we may be led feelingly into the truth of the gospel of God, and feel its sweetness and unction in the heart.

I shall not attempt to give you many divisions, but just drop a hint or two:

  1. That we have all cause for thankfulness, whether we are thank­ful or not.

  2. That God’s people have more cause to be thankful than the holy angels in heaven; for God has done more for them than he ever did or ever will do for the holy angels.

  3. I shall give you a short statement of some little that God has lately done for me, to sanctify my affliction.

I. Is there a poor sinner in this assembly who has not cause for thankfulness? Young men and young women, if you are kept in the path of morality and virtue, O what cause for thankfulness you have! Your nature is no more pure in itself than the youth that is dying with rottenness, and, to all appearance, likely to be damned. It is the Lord that preserves you. May the Lord make you feel it, and teach you to be thankful for it. And if he has kept you hitherto, may he lead you to be cautious, and humbly to seek his aid, to keep you in time to come. Alas! There are some pre­sent who tremble, whose consciences tell them they are guilty, and who are ready to say, “Then what cause have I to be thankful?” Why, that God does not cut you off in the midst of your transgres­sions, and say to you, “Young man, young woman, you have vio­lated your conscience, and set yourself against your common under­standing, to sin against me, and I will honor my justice in damn­ing you forever.” He has spared you. And has be spared you, and you have naught to say? God forbid that it may be to fill up the measure of your wickedness! O come, blessed Spirit, with thy divine power, and bring the oil of life into their dead souls, if it be thy sovereign pleasure. Make them thankful that thou hast not given them their deserts; and may they be concerned to cry to thee for favor and preservation in time to come.

Young friends, harden not yourselves in sin. Be assured that the period will come when your sins will find you out. Then you must stand before God naked, exactly as you are, without disguise or covering.

But we have cause to be thankful for the common necessaries of life. Few of you, if any, are in that extravagant want and distress that numbers of your fellow creatures are. And remember that numbers of those who are in the most agonizing distress, want, and calamity are as good as you. No thanks, then, are due to you. Thanks are due to a kind, preventive God; to God’s mercy that is over all his works. Perhaps some of you, in the stiffness of your hearts, and it is a stiff heart we have, will say, “I am more prudent, more economical, more industrious and cautious than many I see in extravagant distress.” This may be true; but, instead of this pampering you up with pride, it calls for thankfulness. Who has made you prudent? Who keeps you prudent? The Lord! Sin has rendered us all mad, and there is not a prudent man in the world if God do not make him prudent; not one, if we were left to the workings of our corrupt hearts. There are no bounds to our folly but what God fixes; and, therefore, we have great and constant cause to be thankful for all the common necessaries of life. And we never shall enjoy a particle of the blessedness of becoming pen­sioners upon God till God makes us feel that, and feel it under need of a little oil. No. Then shall we bless him for all we enjoy more than the damned in hell; for it is God’s mercy that we have any­thing more, or are any way better, than they.

II. But God’s people, called by Divine grace, made partakers of the Divine nature, have great cause to be thankful above all the rest; yea, above the angels in heaven. I do not know, but perhaps some of you may think this rather extravagant; but I have been brought, through the grace of God, to feel that I would not thank God to make me an angel. I envy them not. If there are different races and orders of angels in heaven, I do not envy,—when in such a solemn frame of mind, with the oil of rejoicing in my heart, I do not envy the highest rank of those adored beings. They are not sin­ners; but, as Hart very solemnly said,

“If sinless innocence be theirs,

Redemption all is ours.”

O the riches of the love of God! The redemption of the soul by the blood of the God-man-Mediator is all ours; and the angels cannot even sip it. It is out of the reach of their pure lips and holy hearts; but the Lord, in the riches of his grace, bestows that especial favor, with all the blessings connected with it, upon the objects of his precious choice, of his love, his own love.

Have you, my friends, been brought, as poor sinners, poor broken-down sinners, to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Have we been brought to cast your cares upon Christ, to feel a little measure of his love and blood? O how amazing, then, how wonderfully amazing the feeling, when sometimes we have been drawn up by the power of God the Spirit to behold the glory of the workings of a faith entering into the bosom and the love of the God-man, and saying, “My Lord and my God!” How amazing! Reason is confounded; even Unbelief is obliged to skulk away for a moment; but it is such a devil it will soon come again; but it is obliged for a moment to skulk away, while the soul has solemn, sweet, and blessed intercourse with God in Christ Jesus. To speak of a millionth part of the blessings that God’s people have secured to them, which are causes for thankfulness, we never can. Just let us drop a hint or two, if we can, upon the suggestion, and then leave it.

First, Before God made the world, before a creature existed, his loving heart wrapped the people of his choice in himself, and, by en eternal, immutable, unalterable decree, fixed the eternal glory of millions of millions that should live with him at last. And when his blessed Spirit brings you and me to feel, by a vital faith, that we are of that blessed number, does it not call for thankfulness? “Why,” say you, “do you think you can prove such a statement as that from the Word of God?” Really, if I could not, I would as soon have, not only another leg broken, but my neck broken into the bargain, if that would put me out of existence entirely,—if I did not believe such a truth as that. “Why,” say you, “what comfort can there be in that?” I will tell you. It is a cord of infinite strength that ties the blessedness of believers so firmly to God’s honor that God’s honor and their degradation must, blessed be God, go to­gether. If they sink into degradation, the Lord’s honor must sink too. The Lord has coupled the church of the living God and his own honor; and the pages of the written Word have connected it with his own honor and glory, and “his glory he will not give to another.” Now this blessed truth, therefore, is what the apostle triumphed in when he said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, before the foundation of the world.” Again: “Who hath saved us and called us with a holy calling; not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began.” O Lord, of thy mercy and grace to us, give our poor, lumpish souls a dead lift, and lead us solemnly and sweetly, by grace, into the mys­teries of thy love, to taste the glory of God, as secured to us in Christ; and may we find a rest in our souls that the world can nei­ther give nor take away. Well, now, connect with this that the Lord has given his Son to be a propitiation for us. Believers, if you can forget your poverty, and come to your stock,—I do not mean the stock you are keeping of your good deeds, for that is not a bit better than lumber and rags; it is only fuel for the fire, and I should like to see it all in flames; and yet I am such a fool that I often get another stock of lumber ready for God to burn up. Lord, what fools we are! What a wonderful thing it is after the working of God in our souls, that we should be such fools as to gather such lumber together, which brings to us so much pain and anxiety. But what I mean is that stock of treasure laid up in Christ. There is immortal life; there is immortal holiness; there s immortal grace; out of the reach of sin; out of the reach of death or hell, or Satan. All the vomiting up of the filth of our guilty nature cannot drown it. No, blessed be God, it cannot. I have proved that; and the sea of love and blood secured in the obedience of Christ is a crown of consolation for the church of God in the midst of their trouble. And surely it calls for gratitude and thankfulness

“But,” say you, “I am such a fool; such a poor, weak, helpless, worthless sinner.” If you were not, I would not give you my spec­tacles for your religion. That a poor, weak, worthless sinner cannot be saved is the devil’s invention to deceive souls and wrap them up in strong delusions; to insult Christ, and to dishonor the reve­lation that God has made of his Son. But the poor, the needy, the loathsome, and the lost are just fit for Christ, and Christ is just fitted for them; and God fits them together; and there is not a better fit in being. And when the blessed Spirit does put Christ in us and us in Christ, fits us together with the binds of love, and anoints us with oil, O what a sacrifice of thanksgiving there is then! All the powers of the soul have been drawn sweetly and solemnly into exercise, and we are able feelingly to say, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name; who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases, and who crowneth thy life with loving-kindness and tender mercies.”

Secondly, In this blessed gift of Christ there is strength for the weak; but there would be no need for it if there were no weak folks to be found. Here is wisdom for fools; but if all the fools were out of the world, what must the Lord do with his wisdom? Here is holiness for the unholy; for he “is made of God unto us sanctification.” But if all men were holy, then he might keep his holi­ness to himself, for we should not want it. Here is fullness for the empty; but if there were no hungry souls, of what use would be Christ’s fullness? God shall “supply all your need, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Poor, burdened, dejected, cast-down, broken-hearted, worn-out sinner, as God is God, it is all thine. God help thee to believe it, and to receive it under the Di­vine unction and anointing of the Holy Spirit; that thou mayest then have mingled with the cake of the offering the holy oil, and offer thanksgiving to God in spirit and in truth; that so you may know the blessedness of vital religion, and worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

III. But I must leave this part of my subject, and just take up a few minutes in relating a little of the dealings of the Lord with myself. And the first thing I must do, shameful as it may appear, must be to incriminate myself before you all. I had made up my mind for more than a month before this providence took place that I would spend a few days at Buxton, in what we call a holiday. I had proved, it is true, that the bathing and the air of Buxton had done my poor old hobbling carcass a deal of good, and, therefore, I expected it would again; but, at all events, I determined to try it. And, therefore, I made up my mind that whoever might write, and however urgent they might be for me to go and preach, I would go nowhere that week; I would have a pleasure and a holiday; and no one nor any set of people should dissuade me from it. So that I was quite as fixed as man could be. You know well that the day before, which was the Lord’s day I was at Oldham. A friend was to go with me to Buxton, and I left it with him to engage our places in a coach that left at two o’clock on the Monday, as I should get home in time to get a few things ready, and call at his house for him, or meet him at the coach office. So I came; and really I can­not see at this moment any real reason why I came off but to break my leg. It appeared that so God had ordered it. I know some people have said my leg was not broken; but I do not think them worth powder and shot; and all I shall say is, if their jawbone were broken as much as my leg, they would say a little less; and here I leave them. But I came home, and I found that my friend had sent word that there was no room in the coach. So I posted away my servant-girl instantly to tell him that there was another coach which went a little afterwards. When she was gone, I said, “If that is full, I will take it for granted that God does not mean me to go.” I went up stairs, stripped off my coat, put another on, and went into the garden, and there saw a friend who had been doing a little job for me. I asked him what it would be. I came into the house for the money, and paid him, and then went into the garden; and, to cut the matter short, my leg slipped under me and caught against a side-flag; my whole body fell upon it, and 1 heard it break just like a stick. I had never sat down in the house. It appears evident that the design of the Lord was that I should come home for that very purpose, to break my leg. And the Lord and I had evidently agreed in this one thing, that I should have a holiday; only we were not agreed as to the place where and the means how. I meant a holiday at Buxton, like a gentleman; and God meant at home, with a broken leg. There was the difference between the Lord and me; but, at the same time, so kind has the Lord been that I have blessed him for his choice since then, and felt satisfied that it was infinitely preferable to mine, and I could not murmur or grumble against the dispensation of God.

The first thing that struck my mind and that I said to myself, as soon as I fell, and found that I could not move, was this, “God would have done right if he had broken your neck.” “O, then,” say you, “you must be a wicked creature.” Yes, the Lord knows I am; but I am a sinner saved by grace. Devils tremble, the Lord is honored, Christ is glorified, and my soul is filled with joy. “But why should you imagine that it would have served you right if the Lord had broken your neck?” Well, I will tell you. I began to reflect in a moment that my intended journey to Buxton was a job of my own, and I never asked leave of God. I had never consulted him in prayer, or at least very little upon the subject; and, therefore, the Lord was determined to let me know that he loved me too well to let my pride carry me anywhere without the guidance of the Lord. And O what a mercy it is when God brings us to feel our own wick­edness, when we have sought him in prayer, and when he leads us to feel, at the same time, his tender compassion towards us. Well, his blessed Majesty was graciously pleased to bring the sweet text to my mind, after I was laid in my bed: “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting;” and I never saw and never felt more glory in the mercy of the Lord in my life. His mercy, in the solemn opening of his love in a covenant of grace, in the Divine operations of the Holy Spirit, was opened in such a glorious way to my soul that I felt a sweet, a solemn giving up of self and a bathing in the flood of the love and blood of the God-man Mediator, Christ Jesus. No waters, no air of Buxton, could be like those glorious, those heavenly waters, those Divine breezes, when God’s Spirit filled me with love and joy unspeakable, under a feeling sense of the mercy, the atonement, and the everlasting love of our covenant God.

By and by my mind began a little to decline, and I began to tremble and wonder where it would end. At length my whole at­tention appeared to be interested in Hebrews 12:11: “Now no chas­tening for the present seemeth joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them who are exercised thereby.” The text dwelt in my mind, especially the words, “Nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” “Why,” said I, “there are tens of thousands who are chastened in various ways. Their property goes, their strength goes; they are brought into a great variety of trials; and yet no fruits of righteousness arise.” But then it arrested my mind, “It is God’s people that are intended in the verse.” “Well, true,” said I; “but I cannot help hoping that I am a child of God; yet I have been afflicted myself in a variety of ways, and it has yielded no peaceable fruits of righteousness in me.” I began at home, and recollected a number of instances in which I had been afflicted, in body and circumstances, and I could not recollect any peaceable fruits of righteousness arising therefrom. And I remem­bered that others of God’s people besides me had been just the same, and have come out of affliction just as they went in. If anything has been yielded, it has been some rebellion of heart against God; but no “peaceful fruits of righteousness.” Yet the text says, without any equivocation, that the affliction is afterward to yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness. How is it, Lord? Must it be solemn, sweet joy, or are they impostors that are afflicted and no peaceable fruits of righteousness are afterwards yielded to them? I prayed and cried, and prayed and cried again, that God, in his mercy, would open the passage to my soul, and lead me into it. I searched other branches of Scripture to see if I could find the key; and I found some that staggered me almost as much as that: “Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest.” “Well,” said I, “this seems as positive as the other. How is it?” At length I believe the Lord solemnly broke into my poor heart, let me a little into the mystery of the text, and let me feel that a deal of the mar­row of it is couched in the last two words, “exercised thereby.” “Lord, I see it now!” We may have affliction, and no discipline; we may have affliction, and yet never be exercised thereby. We may be like a boy taking a little firelock and putting on a soldier’s garments; but by and by he strips it off again, and is just where he was. He has never been drilled; he has never been exercised; and, therefore, he is just where he was. And so it is with those who are afflicted. I was led to see for myself that sometimes the Lord suffers afflictions of a variety of natures to come upon us, and we wear them just as a person may wear a soldier’s garments; yet we are not drilled or exercised. We learn no discipline from them; and, therefore, they leave us hard, careless, cold, and mad-brained, just as they found us. Here is no exercise. Then I was led a little further, and a solemn feeling I had at this time. There is no real fruit of righteousness without spiritual exercise, and there is no spi­ritual exercise unless God be the Exerciser. You may make what you will of it; but I was led to the feeling that God is condescend­ing to be the Commander-in-Chief, to command afflictions, and to govern them, and rule them, and exercise his people thereby. And I could like to bring him down to a drilling-sergeant, to drill us again and again, until we are made into good and obedient soldiers, marching uprightly, and that when his blessed Majesty called upon us, and our own corrupt nature resisted, he paid no attention to our groanings under it, but went on to hunt us out of self to himself. When this is the case, there is the peaceable fruit of righteousness; and without that exercise, the Lord himself working in it, with it and by it, there really will be no real fruits of righteousness pro­duced. But when that is the case, it does away with self-confi­dence and self-hope, opens the mysteries of the cross of Christ, and brings our souls to a solemn, sweet, and blessed deep feeling of the Lord our God, the fruits of the love and blood of Christ springing up in the soul, and we adore God for the affliction.

I speak that I know, and set forth a little of the love and truth of God to a poor, perishing sinner, like myself.

Well, after a sweet and solemn enjoyment of this truth, my com­fortable feelings appeared to go. One thing or another that I had to cross me, that I cannot state, worked upon my very nature, and I began to kick and to rebel again. O, brethren! If God were not to exercise us we should kick ourselves into hell after all. What a mercy it is that he has commanded; is it not? What a mercy that he does not leave our poor nature to itself. In this fit of re­bellion and kicking against the dispensation of God, the Lord was pleased to bring this text with power to my mind: “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” I felt it; I fell under it; and with solemn freedom I said, “Ah, Lord, it is hard to kick against the pricks, especially with a broken leg!” There was I. Prior to that, I was kicking against the Lord, and he made it evident that I was kicking against the goads; but his blessed Majesty was gra­ciously pleased to bring a heavenly calm and serenity into my soul, and I was led once again into the sweet and blessed enjoyment of the mysteries of the cross of Christ.

“Ah,” say you, “I would not be such a fool as to be moved about like that.” But you never were tiled. Do not talk about it. Let a man be brought to feel it, and then he will know that he can only enjoy this as the Spirit is given to him; not a bit more. It comes from the Lord, and the Lord must have the glory.

Well, after that, I came into such a dead, cold frame of mind that I said to myself, “I hope none of the folks will come to see me;” and every time I heard the bell, I was glad it was a beggar, and none of you coming to try me and probe me; for I felt such a poor wretch that I could say nothing but what would be to my own dishonor and your distress.

But to sum it all up in a few words. After all these changes, I live a monument of the mercy of God; and now solemnly declare that I have been brought to adore God for the dispensation. I believe the Lord has prevented something or other that I should have done, I cannot say what; but perhaps I should have been get­ting into some more lumber, and the Lord has prevented me, and brought me to some sweet and solemn enjoyment of the mysteries of the love of God, to lead me to salvation, and to taste of the grace, the free grace of God. Every principle that would make it con­ditional in man, I hate as I do the devil; because God, in the riches of his grace, has brought me so solemnly to feel that it is all a rich precious teeming out of the love of God.

May the Lord bless you and me with the oil of joy, that we may be thankful to God for his mercies towards us unto this day.

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