First, The substance, or act of it, ‘Giving thanks.’ Praise relateth to God’s excellencies, thanksgiving to God’s benefits. There is a twofold thanksgiving—(1.) By way of celebration or commemoration, when we speak of God’s mercies one to another; (2.) By way of invocation, adoration, or worship, when we express them to God himself.
1. A thanksgiving by way of commemoration, when we communicate to others what experience we have had of God: Ps. 22:22, ‘I will declare thy name, unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.’ The name of God is that by which he is made known in his word or works. As we are to propagate to others what knowledge we get of God by his word, so also what we have found of him in his works, how God hath made known his name to us by acts of grace and mercy: Ps. 66:16, ‘Come and hear, all ye that fear the Lord, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.’ This is one part of the communion of saints, to call upon others to praise God with us, as one bird sets the whole flock a chirping. We are usually barren, vain, foolish in our communications with one another. This celebration and commemoration should be our cure and solace: Eph. 5:4, ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον ἐυχαριστία, ‘But rather giving of thanks.’ Speaking to each other of God’s goodness is a christian’s mirth, and a choice remedy against foolish talking, jesting, and other sins. To put down idle and sinful talk, he prescribeth giving of thanks.
2. There is thanksgiving by way of adoration, or direct address to God himself. This is a special part of christian worship, therefore the whole is expressed by it: 1 Cor. 14:16, ‘Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?’ where the whole christian worship is expressed by ‘blessing with the spirit,’ or ‘giving of thanks.’ And thence God is said to ‘inhabit the praises of Israel,’ Ps. 22:3, because he is often magnified and praised by his church: the praises of Israel, that is the subject of it. Yea, it is doctrinally declared by God himself: Ps. 50:23, ‘He that offereth praise glorifieth me.’ The Lord taketh it as an honour to himself when we praise him for his excellencies or bless him for his benefits.
This thanksgiving is an acknowledgment of benefits received to the praise of the bestower.
There is included in it partly notice and observation of what God hath done for us. The contrary is taxed, Isa. 1:3, ‘The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.’ The brute beasts know such as feed them and make much of them, but men take no notice of what great things God hath done for them: Hosea 2:8, ‘For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold.’ Little notice is taken of God’s kindness in the world.
And partly too an esteem of the benefits received; for we cannot give thanks for what we value and prize not. Solomon gave cities to Hiram, but they pleased him not; and therefore he called them Cabul, that is, displeasing or dirty, 1 Kings 9:12, 13, because they stood in low and moorish places. So God vouchsafeth many mercies, but most men are discontented with their portion; the mercies of God please them not: Mal. 1:2, ‘I have loved you, saith the Lord; yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us?’ What love is it to be restored to bare hills and mountains, or to be brought home to a wasted land, where they were to begin the world again? On the contrary, they that esteem the effects of God’s love will bless him, and praise him: Ps. 63:3, ‘Because thy loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.’
They that are affected with mercies received cannot but be affectioned towards the God of their mercies, and therefore will speak good of his name. And partly actual acknowledgment; they excite and stir up their hearts to give God the glory these mercies call for: Ps. 103:1, 2, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.’ This acknowledgment, if it be serious, will excite and urge them to make some recompense, as to consider what they may do for God: Ps. 116:12, ‘What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me?’ And it was Hezekiah’s fault, 2 Chron. 32:25, compared with Isa. 38:9, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness, that ‘he rendered not according to the benefit done him.’ Therefore unless this acknowledgment doth excite us and urge us to honour, please, serve, and glorify God, it is not right. They do anew devote themselves to him upon every eminent mercy.
Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 19 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1874), 417–419.