Thanksgiving Day Sermon - 1795 Massachusetts




FEBRUARY 19, 1795:




Throughout the United States.




In obedience to the call of the President of the United States, we are now, my brethren, assembled in the house of God to offer thanksgiving and prayer to the “great Ruler of nations, for the manifold and signal mercies which distinguish our lot as a nation” [a direct quote from the 1795 Thanksgiving Proclamation issued by President George Washington]. And as God is this day publicly to be praised in the assemblies of His people, I have thought the [Bible] passage now read might be a suitable foundation of our present meditations.

This beautiful psalm, whoever might be the penman of it, is evidently designed to set forth the power and goodness of God in such an amiable [agreeable] light as to excite our confidence, awaken our gratitude, and warm the devout passions of the soul with sacred joy.

If we contemplate God either in His word or works, we shall find abundant matter for joy and thankfulness: “For the word of the Lord is right, and all His works are done in truth. He loveth righteousness and judgment; the earth is full of goodness of the Lord” [Psalm 33:4-5].

From this view of the righteousness, equity, and benevolence of the Divine government, the pious psalmist was led to exclaim, as in the text; “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, and the people whom He hath chosen for his own inheritance.” That we may more fully enter into the spirit of the text, we shall attempt:

I. To show when it may be said of a nation that “the Lord is their God” – to consider what evidence a people may have that the Lord has chosen.

II. To consider what evidence a people may have that the Lord hath chosen them for His inheritance.

III. That we may infer the duty and obligations of a people thus favored and blessed (in illustrating of which we shall attend to several particulars contained in the proclamation).

I. We are to show when it may be said of a nation that “the Lord is their God.”

As a nation, we form a particular character in distinction from that of individuals. As such, we may exhibit the amiable [likeable] features of virtue and religion, or the base picture of vice and infidelity. In this character we may receive temporal blessings as the fruits and reward of virtue, and also suffer national calamities as the punishment of our vice and impiety.


1. When as a nation we acknowledge the eternal God to be the Creator, Preserver, and Upholder of all things – when we acknowledge His universal dominion over all worlds, and all beings – and when we attribute those Divine perfections to Him which are necessary to form His exalted character and render Him the proper object of our love and esteem; and

2. When we acknowledge that system of truth contained in the Bible to be His word, and as such reverence and obey its doctrines and precepts – when we cordially subscribe to its Divine originality [inspiration] and rest all our hopes of futurity on its precious promises – when we endeavor to imbibe its genuine spirit and live agreeably to its dictates; and

3. When we acknowledge Him as the lone object of religious worship and adoration in distinction from all false gods and idols – when at stated seasons we attend upon His institutions and offer up our prayers and praises through that medium which He hath appointed; and

4. When we acknowledge Him as our rightful Sovereign and live in subjection to His laws (for it can never be supposed that a people have chosen the Lord for their God, while they refuse to have him reign over them. The very language of His enemies is, “Let us break His bands in sunder and cast His cords away” [Psalm 2:3], whilst those who approve of His government say, “The Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King, He will save us” [Isaiah 33:22]. And, said Jesus, “Then are ye My friends when ye do whatsoever I command you” [John 15:14]); and

5. When we acknowledge His universal Providence over all the works of His hands (if we rely upon His protecting care and Providence, we shall manifest it by appealing to His wisdom to direct us when involved in darkness and difficulty, and to His power to defend us when surrounded by threatening dangers; and finally, in leaving the issue of our most interesting concerns to the righteous disposal of Him who controls all human events);

6. And lastly, when we acknowledge the Lord to be the Giver of all mercies (nothing can be more calculated to keep us humble and thankful than to realize our dependence on God: “Every good and every perfect gift comes down for the Father of lights” [James 1:17]. A sense of our own unworthiness and of the Divine goodness in bestowing favors upon us will excite in us the most lively [strongest] sentiments of gratitude and undissembled [genuine] joy and will finally issue in thanksgiving and praise).

Read the rest of the sermon at Wallbuilders