"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Excellency of Gratitude In Comparison to Other Christian Virtues Including Repentance and Prayer

I am currently a quarter of the way through updating into modern English an 18th century Christian classic entitled Meditation Among the Tombs, written by James Hervey and published in 1745. This little book went through twenty-five editions by the turn of the 19th Century, and Hervey donated all proceeds from the sale of his book to charity. The newly edited and modern English version, which I hope to be able to publish by the end of this year, is titled "Thoughts While Sitting In A Cemetery." I have been careful to turn Hervey's archaic but beautiful 18th Century English into simple and modern English so that a new generation can enjoy Hervey's "Meditations.". At the same time I wish to keep, if possible, the rythm and style that is peculiar to Hervey, a man who has often been called "The Prose Poet" by his biographers.

Hervey was an original member of the The Holy Club at Oxford along with John and Charles Wesley, George Whifield, and a handful of others. He remained friends with Whitefield throughout his entire life, but John Wesley publicly turned on Hervey due to Hervey's insistence that salvation is only experienced though the imputation of sin to Christ at Calvary and the imputation of Christ's righteousness to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus' work on behalf of sinners. Wesley, who taught righteousness before God came through "methodical" holy living, called imputed righteousness "imputed nonsense." It was years after being involved with "The Holy Club" at Oxford that Hervey came to personal faith in the righteousness of Jesus Christ for the salvation of his soul--under the influence and teaching of a poor farmer who had no formal theological education but had come under the influential teaching of grace by famous non-conformist pastor Dr. Philip Doddridge.

Hervey was at his best when he wrote to convince the lost of their need for a righteousness that comes from outside of themselves. I have profited greatly from updating Meditation Among the Tombs for possible republishing. Hervey's works often contain more nuggets of truth that edifies the soul per page than most books have in their entirety.

An example of one such nugget of truth I offer below. The following is a rewrite of a small portion of "Meditations" as Hervey describes being seated in an ancient church that doubled as a cemetery for the dead. He notices a beautiful, framed painting behind the altar and later discovers that the altar-piece has been donated by the craftsman who originally built the church in "gratefulness to the Almighty" for being able to complete their task. The meditation Hervey offers on the workmens' gratitude to God has caused me a great deal of pleasant and profitable reflection this week. I trust it will do the same for you.

I have always considered gratefulness to be the greatest instrument in moving the heart of man toward action. Gratitude contains something noble; feels naturally selfless, and if I may say so, seems always attached to an intense devotion. Unlike gratitude, repentance keeps a sharp attention on our fallen nature, and prayer is most often focused on oneself. In the Garden of Eden there were no prayers and repentance because there were no faults or sins to deplore—but there was gratitude. Likewise, there will be no prayers or repentance in heaven for what is faulty has been restored and “God is all in all”—but gratitude shall be perpetuated there. Gratitude is the most excellent of all Christian principles. The language of the grateful spirit is: “I am unspeakably obligated. How may I express my appreciation?” ... Gratitude would quicken each of us toward effectual holiness more than a thousand other motives! Under the influence of such thankfulness we would work to maintain a purity of intention, a dignity of action and a walk worthy of that transcendently majestic Being who admits us to a fellowship with Himself and with His Son Jesus Christ.

In Gratitude for His Grace,


Wade

12 comments:

Rex Ray said...

Wade,
This is fly your flag day in memory of 9/11.

Like you said, “Hervey's works often contain more nuggets of truth that edifies the soul per page than most books have in their entirety” so I put a space between each great thought for easier reading.


“I have always considered gratefulness to be the greatest instrument in moving the heart of man toward action.

Gratitude contains something noble; feels naturally selfless, and if I may say so, seems always attached to an intense devotion.

Unlike gratitude, repentance keeps a sharp attention on our fallen nature, and prayer is most often focused on oneself.

In the Garden of Eden there were no prayers and repentance because there were no faults or sins to deplore—but there was gratitude.

Likewise, there will be no prayers or repentance in heaven for what is faulty has been restored and “God is all in all”—but gratitude shall be perpetuated there.

Gratitude is the most excellent of all Christian principles.

The language of the grateful spirit is: “I am unspeakably obligated. How may I express my appreciation?”…

Gratitude would quicken each of us toward effectual holiness more than a thousand other motives!

Under the influence of such thankfulness we would work to maintain a purity of intention, a dignity of action and a walk worthy of that transcendently majestic Being who admits us to a fellowship with Himself and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

Thy Peace said...

James Hervey (1713-1758): The Prose Poet by Dr. George M. Ella.
While Hervey was walking alongside the ploughman, he decided to catechize him. He began with the question, "What is the hardest thing in religion?" The ploughman replied, "I am a poor illiterate man, and you, Sir, are a minister. I beg leave to return the question." Taking up the cue, Hervey said, "The hardest thing is to deny sinful self." He was thinking of the Lord's words in Matthew 16:24, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." Hervey then lectured the labourer on self-mortification. The son of the soil soon realized what was lacking in Hervey's view of sanctification. "There is another instance of self-denial," he said patiently, "to which the injunction extends, is of great moment, and is the hardest thing in religion, and that is, to deny righteous self."

The simple man had seen that Hervey's own righteous self, his own self-righteousness, was standing between him and a saving knowledge of Christ. Whilst Hervey was taking this in, it was the ploughman's turn to lecture his clergyman friend. "You know," he continued, "that I do not come to hear you preach, but go every Sabbath, with my family, to Northampton, to hear Dr. Doddridge: We rise early in the morning, and have prayers before we set out, in which I find pleasure. Walking there and back I find pleasure; under the sermon I find pleasure; when at the Lord's table I find pleasure. We read a portion of the Scriptures and go to prayers in the evening, and we find pleasure; but to this moment, I find it the hardest thing to deny righteous self. I mean the instance of renouncing our own strength, and our own righteousness, not leaning on that for holiness, not relying on that for justification."

Hervey looked at the man with pity, thinking "What an old fool!" but God had begun a work in his heart. He found himself thinking of Christ's holy life. Suddenly, he felt that he hated Christ's righteousness as it stood in the way of a trust in his own. Nevertheless, Hervey could not forget this experience and was soon led to see that he had been the ignorant fool and the uneducated farmhand had taught him solid sense and godly wisdom.

Thy Peace said...

Meditations among the tombs: tending to reform the vices of age, and to ... By James Hervey - Page 6.
0! how amiable is gratitude! especially when it has the Supreme Benefactor for its object. I have always looked upon gratitude, as the most exalted principle that can actuate the heart of man. It has something noble, disinterested, and (if I may be allowed the term) generously devout. Repentance indicates our nature fallen, and prayer turns chiefly upon a regard to one's self. But the exercises of gratitude subsisted in Paradise, wheu there was no fault to deplore; and will be perpetuated in heaven, when " God shall be all in all."

The language of this sweet temper is " I am unspeakably obliged: What return shall I make ?" And surely, it is no improper expression of an unfeigned thankfulness, to decorate our Creator's courts, and beautify " the place where his honour dwelleth." Of old the habitation of his feet was glorious ; let it not now be sordid or contemptible. It must grieve an ingenuous mind, and be a reproach to any people, to have their own houses wainscotted with cedar, and painted with vermillion ; while the temple of the Lord of Hosts is destitute of every decent ornament.
.

Thy Peace said...

Meditations among the tombs: tending to reform the vices of age, and to ... By James Hervey - Pages 10-11.
Nay, the everlasting God does not disdain to dwell in our souls by his Holy Spirit; and to make even our bodies bis temple. Tell me, ye that frame critical judgments, and balance nicely the distinction of things, "is this most astonishing or most rejoicing ?" He humbleth -himself, the scripture assures us, even to behold the things that are in heaven.* 'Tis a most condescending favour, if He pleases to take the least approving notice of angels and archangels, when they bow down in homage from their celestial thrones. Will he then graciously regard, will he be united, most intimately united to poor, polluted breathing dust ? Unparalleled honour ! Invaluable privilege ! Be this my portion, and I shall not covet crowns, nor envy conquerers.

Christiane said...

FROM THE SOUL OF . . . .

The 'Nishmat', A Hebrew hymn, sung on the Sabbath,
from ancient times:

"Nishmat ('The breath of'), is the opening word of an ancient hymn, after which the hymn itself is called. The hymn begins:

'The breath of every living being shall bless Thy Name, O Lord our God, and the spirit of all flesh shall ever extol and exalt Thy fame, O our King,' and continues with the praises of God.

Thanksgiving for God's mercies is expressed with typical oriental hyperbole:

'Were our mouths full of song as the sea,

and our tongues of exultation as the multitude of its waves,

and our lips of praise as the wide extended skies;

were our eyes shining with light like the sun and the moon,

and our hands were spread forth like the eagles of the air,

and our feet were swift as the wild deer;

we should still be unable to thank Thee and to bless Thy Name, O Lord our God and God of our fathers, for one-thousandth or one ten-thousandth part of the bounties which Thou hast bestowed upon our fathers and upon us.'

Christiane said...

A Reflection from the Orthodox:

"The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21)

To thank God in everything and for everything is the result of faith and faithfulness in God.
It is the result of absolute trust in the Lord who knows best what we need for our salvation and does all that He can within the evil conditions of the world to bring us to eternal life, to peace and to joy.

It is the product of believing, with Isaiah, the Word of the Redeemer who says:
"For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love will I have compassion on you.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts...

And you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing...

Keep justice and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come..." (Isaiah 54:7-8, 55:8-9, 56:1)



We are grateful to the extent that we are able to trust in the Lord and to the extent that we are able to love God and one another.
Love, L's

Tom Kelley said...

The Excellency of Gratitude In Comparison to Other Christian Virtues Including Repentance and Prayer

Hmmmm ... gratitude, prayer, repentance ... isn't there a passage someplace with all those themes?

Luke 18:11
God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector...

willohroots said...

This post explains why I love the old hymn, "Count your many Blessings"
That old tune and those wonderful words have brought me to a praying state that life had pushed me away from. Name them one by one, gratitude for grace. Thank you Pastor Wade.

Christiane said...

There was a time when evening was approaching and the Lord Christ was in 'a distant place',
that He raised His Eyes to Heaven,
and gave thanks
and a miracle occurred:


A great crowd had come to hear Lord Christ. There was no food but a boy had brought a few fish and some loaves of bread with him.

These are Words of the Lord:
"Bring them here to me,” he said.

And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven,

HE GAVE THANKS

and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children."
Matthew 14:15-21

When our evening is coming and we are in 'a distant place',
does He still raise His Hands before His Father
and give Thanks,
and care for us?

For the spiritually starved?
For the perishing sinner?

He gives thanks
and we are cared for so abundantly that His nurturing overflows in its abundant blessing.

The Lord Christ in His Kindness has taught us by His Own Hand to give thanks, and has shown
how the Father can use that thanksgiving to abundantly bless us in the time of our own evening and 'in a distant place'.

linda said...

I believe it is impossible for the unregenerate person to grasp gratitude.

I believe the unregenerate will always be looking inward--do I love enough/do enough/sacrifice enough--to be accepted?

The regenerate soul KNOWS the answer is a resounding NO! It also knows the rest of the answer is BUT JESUS DID AND DOES.

Only then, with the burden off the back, can we know gratitude.

I have a friend who had a wife determined to see him saved. He wanted no part of it. The pastor talked to him, but he totally rejected Christ.

And then one day, working alone in the oilfield with salvation the last thing on his mind, God called him, and saved him wonderously, and he has rejoicingly and gratefully served Him since.

He's a pretty passable preacher now, too.

Christiane said...

From the LUTHERAN tradition:
a hymn written in 1636 in Germany


Martin Rinkart, a Lu­ther­an min­is­ter, was in Eil­en­burg, Sax­o­ny, dur­ing the Thir­ty Years’ War. The walled ci­ty of Eil­en­burg saw a stea­dy stream of re­fu­gees pour through its gates. The Swed­ish ar­my sur­round­ed the ci­ty, and fa­mine and plague were ramp­ant. Eight hund­red homes were de­stroyed, and the peo­ple be­gan to per­ish. There was a tre­men­dous strain on the pas­tors who had to con­duct do­zens of fun­er­als dai­ly. Fi­nal­ly, the pas­tors, too, suc­cumbed, and Rink­art was the on­ly one left—doing 50 fun­er­als a day. When the Swedes de­mand­ed a huge ran­som, Rink­art left the safe­ty of the walls to plead for mer­cy. The Swed­ish com­mand­er, im­pressed by his faith and cour­age, low­ered his de­mands. Soon af­ter­ward, the Thir­ty Years’ War end­ed, and Rinkart wrote this hymn for a grand cel­e­bra­tion ser­vice. It is a test­a­ment to his faith that, af­ter such mis­e­ry, he was able to write a hymn of abid­ing trust and gra­ti­tude to­ward God.




NOW THANK WE ALL OUR GOD

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Thy Peace said...

Pastor Wade, it would be very difficult for you to do justice to update this work in modern english. What I mean is the updating of the beauty and lyrics of the prose. Also since this work is full of condensed wisdom, it might be better to do a devotional or "meditational" on a day by day basis. For one can not absorb the truths therein at once, but more easily absorbed when read in small increments.

I read through all the links, but was able to get to only pages 36 of Hervey's book so far. Very profitable posts for this past week.

Meditations among the tombs: tending to reform the vices of age, and to ... By James Hervey - Page 32 ....
Hitherto, one is tempted to exclaim against the king of terrors, and call him capritiously cruel. He seems by beginning at the wrong end of the register, to have inverted the laws of nature. Passing over the couch of decrepid age, he has nipped infancy in its bud ; blasted youth in its bloom ; and torn up manhood in its full maturity. Terrible indeed are these providences ; yet not unsearchable the councils.

" For us they sicken, and for us they die."

Such strokes, must not only grieve the relatives, but surprise the whole neighbourhood. They sound a pow- erful alarm to heedless dreaming mortals, and are intended as a remedy for our carnal security. Such passing bells, inculcate loudly our Lord's admonition : " Take ye heed, watch, and pray; for ye know not when the time is." We nod like intoxicated creatures, upon the verge of a tremendous precipice. These astonishing dispensations, are the kind messengers of heaven; to rouse us from our supineness, and quicken us into timely circumspection. I need not, surely, accommodate them with language, nor act as their interpreter. Let every one's conscience be awake, and this will appear their awful meaning: " 0! ye sons of men, in the midst of life, you are in death. No state, no circumstances, can ascertain your preservation a single moment. So strong is the tyrant's arm, that nothing can resist it's force ; so true his aim, that nothing can elude the blow. Sudden as lightning, sometimes, is his arrow launched; and wounds and kills, in the twinkling of an eye. Never promise yourselves safety in any expedient, but constant preparation. The fatal shafts fly so promiscuously, that none can guess the next victim. Therefore, be ye always ready; for in such an hour as ye think not, the final summons cometh." ,

Be ye always ready; for in such an hour as ye think not—Important admonition ! methinks it reverberates from sepulchre to sepulchre ; and addresses me with line upon line, precept upon precept. The reiterated warning, I acknowledge, is too needful ; may cooperating grace, render it effectual. The momentous truth, though worthy to be engraven, on the tables of a most tenacious memory ; is but slightly sketched, on the transient flow of passion. We see our neighbours fall; we turn pale at the shock; and feel perhaps a trembling dread. No sooner are they removed from our sight; but, driven in the whirl of business, or lulled in the languors of pleasure, we forget the providence, and neglect its errand. The impression made on our unstable minds, is like the trace of an arrow, through the penetrated air; or the path of a keel, in the furrowed wave. Strange stupidity; to cure it another monitor bespeaks me, from a neighbouring stone. It contains the narrative of an unhappy mortal, snatched from his friends, and hurried to the awful bar ; without leisure, either to take a last farewell of the one, or to put up so much as a single prayer preparatory for the other;— killed, according to the usual expression, by a sudden stroke of casualty.