Our Rich Heritage

2014 | Week of November 24 – #1073

Oh what a rich heritage we have as Americans! We are well-served this Thanksgiving to remember there was a time in this nation when we knew what this national observance is all about and to Whom we give thanks.

The year is 1863. The Civil War has been ripping our nation apart for two years and would rage on for two more years. Abraham Lincoln as president knows the war is important, even necessary, but finds no joy in it.  He has often publicly and privately referred to the importance of Christianity in our country and has implored Heaven for direction during these trying times.

And so it was in September of 1863 when Lincoln received a letter from Sarah Hale, a 74 year-old magazine editor, that he paid close attention. Mrs. Hale, as she had done with earlier presidents, requested that Thanksgiving become a fixed and permanent “festival” in our country. Unlike the previous presidents, Lincoln honored Mrs. Hale’s request and established the fourth Thursday in November each year as the day for a national Thanksgiving observance.

To proclaim the observance and to commemorate the day that year, Lincoln issued the following proclamation.  I ask you to reflect on it carefully.

“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.

This proclamation and the truths it contains is your inheritance. And the same Holy God Who blessed the nation in 1863 and Who was openly acknowledged in the proclamation is still on the throne today accomplishing His purposes in individual lives and in the lives of the nations. Regardless of what the current president may nor may not do, you and I and our families can certainly honor President Lincoln’s call for giving great thanks to God for His incredible goodness to us as a nation even in the midst of our “perverseness and disobedience.”

This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council wishing you and your family a truly blessed Thanksgiving and reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

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