Every Minute We Owe Thanks

From The Duty of Thanksgiving (1663).

No time is unseasonable to [give thanks to God]. Every moment we receive favors, and therefore every minute we owe thanks; yet there are some special seasons that do more pressingly require them. We should be like those trees that bear fruit (more or less) continually; but then more kindly, and more abundantly, when more powerfully cherished by the heavenly warmth.

When any fresh, any rare, any remarkable benefit happens to us; when prosperous success attends our honest endeavors; when unexpected favors fall as it were of their own accord into our bosoms; (like the grain in the golden age springing up without our care or our toil, for our use and enjoyment); when we are delivered from straits in our apprehension inextricable, surmount difficulties seeming insuperable, escape hazards (as we suspected) inevitable; then is a special season presented us of offering up the sacrifice of praise to the God of mercy, help, and victory.

When we consider in our minds (as we should often do) the favorable passages of providence, that in the whole course of our lives have befallen us: how in our extreme poverty and distress (when perhaps no help appeared, and all hopes seemed to fail us), God has raised up friends for us, who have commiserated, comforted, and helped us; and not only so, but hath changed our sorrowful condition into a state of joy; has (to use the Psalmist’s expressions), “Turned our mourning into dancing” (Ps. 30:11); hath “Put off our sackcloth, and girded us with gladness;” hath “Considered our trouble, and known our soul in adversity; hath “Set our feet in a large  room” (Ps. 31:7,8) and furnished us with plentiful means of subsistence ; how in the various changes and adventures, and travels of our life, upon sea and land, at home and abroad, among friends and strangers and enemies, he hath protected us from wants and dangers; from devouring diseases, and the disorders of infectious air; from the assaults of bloody thieves and barbarous pirates; from the rage of fire, and fury of tempests; from disastrous casualties; from treacherous surprises; from open mischiefs, that with a dreadful face approached and threatened our destruction; then most appropriately should we with all thankful exultation of mind admire and celebrate our “Strength and our deliverer” (Ps. 40:17); our faithful “Refuge in trouble” (Ps. 9:9), and “The rock of our salvation” (Ps. 90:1).

Isaac Barrow (1630-1677) was an English Anglican priest and scholar, one of the most influential preachers of the Restoration period. He held professorships in Greek and mathematics at Cambridge, and was master of Trinity Hall. He played a significant role in the development of calculus and deeply influenced his most famous student, Sir Isaac Newton. This sermon was preached at Great St. Mary’s, the university church of Cambridge.


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