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A Cause to Give Thanks

November 26, 2015

During the fall of 1863, the Civil War was still raging.  2 ½ years in, the country was still in the midst of this bloody conflict.  During the summer, the tide had turned for the Union forces, but at an appalling cost- including the battles at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Vicksburg. In the month of September, the Union found itself the loser of several significant conflicts, suffering over 18,000 casualties.  At the beginning of October, 1863, the Civil War was far from over and victory for the Union was anything but certain.  The country was in the midst of its darkest hours.  Yet, on October 3, 1863 President Lincoln issued a proclamation of Thanksgiving.

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 unequalled 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 had 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 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.

For many it may seem nearly unthinkable that a President would call the nation to celebrate a day of thanksgiving in the middle of a brutal civil war.  There had been no day set aside for thanks in the last 45 years.  President Lincoln chose that time to call this country to give thanks to God for His abundant blessings. Yet, considering Philippians 4:6, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.”, the day of thanksgiving seems especially appropriate

In several places Paul gives believers the instruction to give thanks.  Ephesians 5:20 “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Colossians 3:17, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of our Lord Jesus Chrst, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.”  1 Thessalonians 5:17, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  Let me remind you of some other reasons, given in Scriptures, for us to give thanks.

•    His eternally enduring mercy
“O give thanks unto God, for His mercy endureth forever.”  (Psalm 136:26)

•    His compassion on the afflicted
“I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor.  Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in Thy presence.”  (Psalm 140:130)

•    Faith and love of the believers
•    Hope of heaven
“We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and the love which ye have to all saints, for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel.” (Colossians 1:3-5)

•    God is good
“O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good: because His mercy endureth forever.” (Psalm 118:1, 29; 107:1)

•    God is holy
“Rejoice in the Lord ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness.”  (Psalm 97:12)

•    The strength, protection and salvation of our God.
“Therefore will I give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto Thy name.”  (Psalm 18:49)

Whatever our circumstances, our God is still gracious.  We can give thanks, in all seasons, because of our God.  We have real reason to rejoice, not because our circumstances are good and our hopes are being accomplished, but because our God is good.  We do well this week to stop and recognize His goodness to us.  Let us give thanks.

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