O Preacher

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

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 defence, 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 consiousness 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, tranquillity 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

Hard to imagine a letter like this from the President today, isn’t it!  Of course, the nation is far less culturally Christian.  Now we have citizens of all religious stripes.  We feel the need to be “politically correct” and to “separate Church and State”—which has come to mean the erasure of virtually all religious reference from the public square.

Yet, while respecting religious freedom, we must acknowledge  that humans possess an innate knowledge of God—knowledge we typically twist to selfish ends and to our own version of God.  Listen to Paul . . .

“For although they knew God (through his clear revelation in creation–Romans 1:19,20), they did not honor him as God or gives thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images . . . Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity . . . ” (Romans 1:21-23a,24a).

Read the entire section—Romans 1:18-32—and it becomes frighteningly evident that a pivotal step toward coming under the wrath of God is refusing to honor God as God and give thanks to him.  How far America has fallen in a century and a-half!  Today folks gathered around “Thanksgiving” tables may tell what they’re thankful for but not to whom.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9,10). 

May we, who have been born again to a living hope according to God’s great mercy through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, bless him with our praise  (1 Peter 1:3).  Let’s return to the “ancient paths” to which Jeremiah called the people (Jeremiah 6:16).  Let’s consider “the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy” (Lincoln).  And, even though God has been merciful to this whole country, may we be among the faithful remnant who, like the one healed leper out of ten, return and give praise to God (Luke 17:11-19).

 

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