A Real Look at Thanksgiving
When Abraham Lincoln left Springfield, Illinois to assume the presidency, even though he wasn’t a committed Christian, he asked people to pray for him. When he buried his son, perhaps the most severe personal trial of his life, he wasn’t a Christian. On a spiritual level, it was when he walked through the cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where 60,000 Union soldiers were buried, that the Spirit of God touched him. He told a friend that it was there that he gave his heart to Jesus Christ.
For President Lincoln, the consuming association of the blood of soldiers shed for their country and families, the value of personal freedom, preserving unity, and the hopeful message their loving, all-in commitment represented was too compelling for “Honest Abe” to miss. His fellow countrymen’s great sacrifice became an instant and dramatic testimony to what Christ had already done. He had shed His blood in love for our liberation into God’s Kingdom and family, He proved our value by rescuing us from eternal damnation by dying on the Cross. and He lit an unfailing hope to those who simply believe.
Months later, on October 3, 1863 Lincoln issued the following proclamation that set the precedent for America setting aside a national day of Thanksgiving. Please read it thoughtfully and carefully. Under the circumstances of a fiendish civil war, you decide if it’s written by a mastermind or inspired by the mind of the Master Himself.
By the President of the United States of America.
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
“In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our
settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.
“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
“In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
“Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
“By the President: Abraham Lincoln
“William H. Seward, Secretary of State”
So friends, in spite of this seemingly impersonal, callous, rapid fire godless world of ours, we have the living God’s never exhausting well of blessings and seriousness of purpose. No matter what….even in the midst of a personal civil war, because of His grace, we can heart-fully and mind-fully review our past, respond thankfully today, and reload in His hopeful goodness for tomorrow. That’s the eternal precedent set by God.
In Him, having a Happy Thanksgiving is that simple!!
Steven J. Bouley Fairhaven
Sources: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler; Origin of annual Thanksgiving Day, — www.christiananswers.net
Editor’s Note: The address by the president is not subject to copyright. The material is also available at http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/thanks.htm and https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/docs/transcript_for_abraham_lincoln_thanksgiving_proclamation_1863.pdf
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