“Our company are, for most part, very religious, honest people; the word of God sincerely taught us every Sabbath; so that I know not any thing a contented mind can here want…” (William Hilton, an eyewitness account of the first Thanksgiving, 1621)
Even though we are without a doubt one of the greatest nations on the planet, we portray the greatest sense of self-centeredness to all those on the outside looking in. So no, I’m not in shock that Black Friday shopping, which serves the Christmas season, overshadows, no, downright oppresses the true meaning and heart of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is the single greatest all-American holiday, other than Independence Day. In my mind, they go hand in hand. In as much as I’m grateful for the freedom we have and can practice in this nation, I am as grateful for the Thanksgiving Holiday. When you look in to the original purpose of this day, what it represents, and the emphasis placed upon this day by our Founding Fathers, I would hope that you feel the same way. Maybe you do already. If so, I assume you have an affinity for our nation’s history and heritage, and cherish it. I’m not here to give you the history behind Thanksgiving. I’m sure you could tell me about the Pilgrims, Indians, Squanto, and the Mayflower. Rather, I want to share why this is the holiday that it is, and what it’s meant to be. So maybe as you’re camping out in front of Walmart this next week anticipating the deal you’re getting on a blender for your sister, please read the following, and like the turkey or ham you’ll devour on November 24, let this marinate in your heart. Not until 1863 did Thanksgiving become a Congressionally approved holiday. So prior to President Lincoln’s proclamation, it was in the hearts and minds of our Founding Fathers to give thanks to God for all we have. Whether that was a Thanksgiving proclamation, or a day of fasting and prayer, it was apparent to those who established this nation that there was only one who should receive the adoration for all we that are and all that we have. May this speak mightily to us this Thanksgiving.
“It having pleased Almighty God, through the course of the present year, to bestow great and manifold mercies on the people of these United States; and it being the indispensable duty of all men gratefully to acknowledge their obligations to Him for benefits received…And it is further recommended, that, together with devout thanksgiving, may be joined a penitent confession of our sins, and humble supplication for pardon, through the merits of our Savior;” (United States Congress, 1778)
“Whereas it becomes us humbly to approach the throne of Almighty God, with gratitude and praise for the wonders which his goodness has wrought in conducting our forefathers to this western world…” (United States Congress, 1779)
“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor;…Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation;…And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other trangressions…” (George Washington, 1789)
“In such a state of things it is in an especial manner our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience.” (George Washington, 1795)
“As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety without which social happiness can not exist nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed…And finally, I recommend that on the said day the duties of humiliation and prayer be accompanied by fervent thanksgiving to the Bestower of Every Good Gift, not only for His having hitherto protected and preserved the people of these United States in the independent enjoyment of their religious and civil freedom, but also for having prospered them in a wonderful progress of population…” (A Day of Fasting & Humiliation, John Adams, 1798)
“For these reasons I have thought proper to recommend, and I do hereby recommend accordingly, that Thursday, the 25th day of April next, be observed throughout the United States of America as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens on that day abstain as far as may be from their secular occupations, devote the time to the sacred duties of religion in public and in private; that they call to mind our numerous offenses against the Most High God, confess them before Him with the sincerest penitence, implore His pardoning mercy, through the Great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that through the grace of His Holy Spirit we may be disposed and enabled to yield a more suitable obedience to His righteous requisitions in time to come…And I do also recommend that with these acts of humiliation, penitence, and prayer, fervent thanksgiving to the Author of All Good be united for the countless favors which He is still continuing to the people of the United States, and which render their condition as a nation eminently happy when compared with the lot of others.” (A Proclamation of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer, John Adams, 1799)
“The two Houses of the National Legislature having by a joint resolution expressed their desire that in the present time of public calamity and war a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States as a day of public humiliation and fasting and of prayer to Almighty God for the safety and welfare of these States, His blessing on their arms, and a speedy restoration of peace…” (James Madison, 1814)
“The senate and House of Representatives of the United States have by a joint
resolution signified their desire that a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity as a day of thanksgiving and of devout acknowledgments to Almighty God for His great goodness manifested in restoring to them the blessing of peace… And to the same Divine Author of Every Good and Perfect Gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land.” (James Madison, 1815)
“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…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.” (A Thanksgiving Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln, 1863)
The above by no means scratches the surface of what is on file. There is so much more that explains the hearts and minds of those who established this country upon the solid foundation of the truth of God’s Word. And for that, I am THANKFUL!
Happy Thanksgiving and may the Lord God bless you!!
* The quotes used above were gathered from a variety of reputable sources. Please feel free to check them out for yourself: Library of Congress, National Archives, The Avalon Project, Yale Law School, Pilgrim Hall Museum, WallBuilders