S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
There is not a more pleasing exercise of the mind than gratitude. It is accompanied with such an inward satisfaction that the duty is sufficiently rewarded by the performance. It is not, like the practice of many other virtues, difficult and painful, but attended with so much pleasure, that were there no positive command which enjoined it, nor any recompense laid up for it hereafter, a generous mind would indulge in it for the natural gratification that accompanies it.
If gratitude is due from man to man, how much more from man to his Maker! The Supreme Being does not only confer upon us those bounties which proceed more immediately from his hand, but even those benefits which are conveyed to us by others. Every blessing we enjoy, by what means soever it may be derived upon us, is the gift of him who is the Author of good and Father of mercies.
If gratitude when exerted towards another naturally produces a very pleasing sensation in the mind of a grateful man, it exalts the soul into rapture when it is employed on this great object of gratitude, on this beneficent Being who has given us everything we already possess, and from whom we expect everything we yet hope for.
I may perhaps be pardoned if I conclude this memoir with a valueless but sincere tribute of admiration and gratitude to Peter Leopold, the late Earl [Cowper] . From him I received kind and encouraging notice when I was poor and obscure; and his benevolent and exhilarating smile is one of the most delightful images in my memory of pleasures to return no more.
Lord Campbell: Lord Chancellors: Life of Lord Cowper.
Active beneficence is a virtue of easier practice than forbearance after having conferred, or than thankfulness after having received, a benefit. I know not, indeed, whether it be a greater and more difficult exercise of magnanimity for the one party to act as if he had forgotten, or for the other as if he constantly remembered, the obligation.
Amongst the many acts of gratitude we owe to God, it may be accounted one, to study and contemplate the perfections and beauties of his works of creation. Every new discovery must necessarily raise in us a fresh sense of the greatness, wisdom, and power of God. He hath so ordered things that almost every part of the creation is for our benefit, either to the support of our being, the delight of our senses, or the agreeable exercise of the rational faculty. If there are some few poisonous animals and plants fatal to man, these may serve to heighten the contrary blessings; since we could have no idea of benefits were we insensible of their contraries; and seeing God has given us reason, by which we are able to choose the good and avoid the evil, we suffer very little from the malignant parts of the creation.
Gratitude and love are almost opposite affections: love is often an involuntary passion, placed upon our companions without our consent, and frequently conferred without our previous esteem. We love some men we know not why; our tenderness is naturally excited in all their concerns; we excuse their faults with the same indulgence and approve their virtues with the same applause with which we consider our own. While we entertain the passion, it pleases us, we cherish it with delight, and give it up with reluctance, and love for love is all the reward we expect or desire.
Gratitude, on the contrary, is never conferred but where there have been previous endeavours to excite it; we consider it as a debt, and our spirits wear a load till we have discharged the obligation. Every acknowledgment of gratitude is a circumstance of humiliation; and some are found to submit to frequent mortifications of this kind, proclaiming what obligations they owe, merely because they think it in some measure cancels the debt.
Thus love is the most easy and agreeable, and gratitude the most humiliating affection of the mind: we never reflect on the man we love, without exulting in our choice, while he who has bound us to him by benefits alone, rises to our ideas as a person to whom we have in some measure forfeited our freedom.
The nature and office of justice being to dispose the mind to a constant and perpetual readiness to render to every man his due, it is evident that if gratitude be a part of justice, it must be conversant about something that is due to another.
As gratitude is a necessary and a glorious, so also is it an obvious, a cheap, and an easy virtue: so obvious, that wherever there is life there is place for it; so cheap, that the covetous man may be grateful without expense; and so easy, that the sluggard may be so likewise without labour.
Gratitude is properly a virtue disposing the mind to an inward sense and an outward acknowledgement of a benefit received, together with a readiness to return the same, or the like, as the occasions of the doer shall require, and the abilities of the receiver extend to.
If you think how many diseases and how much poverty there is in the world, you will fall down upon your knees, and, instead of repining at one affliction, will admire so many blessings received at the hand of God.