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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Training For Thankfulness

John A. Broadus

If you study the history of the Southern Baptist Convention, you are likely to come across the name of John Broadus. He was one of the greatest American Baptist preachers in the 19th century. He was also one of the founders and the second president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In the following excerpts, Broadus teaches us about thankfulness:

[G]ive thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (Thessalonians 5:18)

Remember . . . how our seasons of affliction make real to us the blessed thought of divine compassion and sympathy . . . remember that the sufferings of this present life will but enhance, by their contrast, the blessed exemptions of the life to come. A thousand times have I remembered the text of my first funeral sermon, “And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” These are the present things now-all around us and within us; but the time is coming when they will be the former things, quite passed away. . . .

How may the habit of thankfulness be formed and maintained?

Well, how do we form other habits? If you wish to establish the habit of doing a certain thing, you take pains to do that thing, upon every possible occasion, and to avoid everything inconsistent therewith. Now, then, if you wish to form the habit of thankfulness, just begin by being thankful-not next year, but tonight; not for some great event or experience, but for whatever has just occurred, whatever has been pleasant, yes, and we did say, for whatever has been painful. You certainly can find some special occasion for thanksgiving this very night. And then go on searching for matter of gratitude, and just continuing to be thankful, hour by hour, day by day. Thus the habit will be formed, by a very law of our nature.

But remember that good habits cannot be maintained without attention. They require a certain self-control, a studious self-constraint. Is not the habit of thankfulness worth taking pains to maintain? The older persons present remember Ole Bull, the celebrated violinist. I once dined in company with him, and in an hour’s conversation across the table found him a man of generous soul, full of noble impulses and beautiful enthusiasms, and rich with the experience of wide travel. And I was so much interested in a remark of his which is recorded in the recent biography: “When I stop practicing one day, I see the difference; when I stop two days, my friends see the difference; when I stop a week, everybody sees the difference.” Here was a man who had cultivated a wonderful natural gift, by lifelong labor, until, as a performer upon the finest of instruments, he was probably the foremost man of his time; and yet he could not afford to stop practicing for a single week, or even for a single day. “They do it for an earthly crown; but we for a heavenly.” Christian brethren, shall we shrink from incessant vigilance and perpetual effort to keep up the habit of thankfulness to God?

I see many young persons present this evening. Will not some of you at once begin the thoughtful exercise of continual thankfulness? Will you not think over it, pray over it, labor to establish and maintain so beautiful and blessed a habit? Ah, what a help it will be to you amid all the struggles of youth and all the sorrows of age! And in far-coming years, when you are gray, when the preacher of this hour has long been forgotten, let us hope that you will still be gladly recommending to the young around you the Habit of Thankfulness. (“The Habit of Thankfulness”)

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