By Sabine Baring-Gould
14th Sunday after Trinity.
S. Luke xvii. 18. "There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger."
INTRODUCTION,--There is nothing that the merciful God desires more from man than thanks, and there is nothing of which He receives less. In the Gospel for to-day we have an example. Christ performs a notable miracle. He heals ten lepers, and only one returns to thank Him. The disease from which He delivered them was disgusting, and it was one which cut the sufferers off from association with other men. They might not approach, under penalty of death, a man who was sound. All at once they are healed. The disgusting disease is removed, and they are restored to the society of their fellow-men. Yet nine out of the ten are ungrateful, they do not take the trouble to give thanks to Him who had healed them.
SUBJECT.--That story is repeated over and over again. We are incessantly receiving blessings from God, and nine to one, but we do not thank Him: we take them as a matter of course. However, God expects thanks. S. Paul exhorts us, "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." And again, "Give thanks always, for all things, unto God and the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." And again, "Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him."
I. When the children of Israel reached the river Jordan, on their way into the Promised Land, out of the wilderness in which they had wandered forty years, Joshua bade the priests that bare the ark go down into the river. And as soon as their feet were dipped in the water, the river was divided, "The waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap; and those that came down towards the sea of the plain failed, and were cut off, and the people passed over right against Jericho. And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan."
Now when this had taken place, Joshua ordered twelve men, one out of every tribe, to go down into the river, and each bring up a large stone out of the bed of the river, from the place where the priests had stood, and plant them in the earth, on the bank, at the place where they lodged that night. But this was not all. They were to carry as huge stones as they could manage down into the bed of the river, and set them up also there, so big and strong as to stand above the surface of the stream, and resist the force of the current. This seems a curious proceeding, does it not? to take twelve stones out of the bed of the river and plant them on the ground, and roll twelve great stones off the bank into the river, and set them up there.
What was the purpose of this? Listen to what Joshua says: "This shall be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, when it passed over Jordan; and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever." In one word, they were to be perpetual reminders to the Israelites to be grateful to God for having brought them into the land promised to their fathers, the land flowing with milk and honey.
Very well! how many times has God sent you great deliverances, and brought great blessings upon you: has carried you through great dangers: has brought you out of the depths of sickness? Over and over again has He done this. He blesses you every day. Look around--you, too, have got your tokens set up as a memorial unto you for ever. Look at your houses, they are memorials to you of what God has brought you into. Look at your children, every one of them is a little mark-stone or memorial of God's goodness to you. Look at your health, your good strong arms. They should be to you memorials for ever of God's loving protection extended towards you. Look at your conscience, which stings you when you do wrong, which approves when you do right. What is that but a mark-stone or memorial that God's Good Spirit has been given you to be a guide? Look at this church, it is a mark-stone or memorial to you that God's word sounds in your ears, and God's Sacraments are celebrated for your benefit. Look at that altar, it is a memorial for ever that Christ died for you, and gives His Body and Blood for the strengthening and refreshing of your souls. Verily, you have only to look into your homes, and look through your lives, and you will find many and many a memorial set up to remind you of, the love of God, and also--mark this!--to be thankful.
II. When Jacob was dying, he said to Joseph, "Behold, I die, but God shall be with you. I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren." Now, my brethren, there are diversities of gifts, you have all received of God many gifts, some of one sort, some of another. I turn to the rich. You have been given wealth, whilst so many are poor. "God hath given to thee one portion above thy brethren." What use do you make of it? Are you thankful?
I turn to those with talents. "God hath given to thee one portion above thy brethren." What use do you make of the talent committed you? Are you thankful?
I look at you who are so healthy and robust. There are numbers infirm and ailing. "God hath given to thee one portion above thy brethren." How do you show your thankfulness?
You, tradesmen! On all sides I see men failing in business, but to you work comes, as much as you can execute. Well, "God hath given to thee one portion above thy brethren." Are you grateful?
And you, good house-wife! You have got a steady, affectionate husband, and, alas! so many have drunken or unthrifty mates, or husbands with bad tempers. Verily, "God hath given to thee one portion above thy sisters." Thank Him, thank Him on your knees.
CONCLUSION.--"In everything give thanks," says S. Paul. Remember, Adam and Eve were in Paradise surrounded by every blessing, but we do not hear that they thanked God for them, and they lost them. Beware lest a thankless spirit forfeit those good things which you now enjoy. "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits! Who forgiveth all thy sin: and healeth all thine infirmities: Who saveth thy life from destruction; and crowneth thee with mercy and loving-kindness."