Thankful…But to Whom and for What?

Today is the day we celebrate thanksgiving.  President Abraham Lincoln’s thanksgiving proclamation on Saturday, October 3, 1863, Formal Portrait November 8, 2863written by his Secretary of State, William H. Seward, called Americans “to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise…” Giving thanks requires us to ask “to whom?” and “for what?”  Notice what follows in Lincoln’s proclamation as it answers the “to whom?” question, “…to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”  The “for what?” is also answered when the prosperity of the nation continues even in the midst of a crippling civil war, “…the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

As we celebrate thanksgiving, the “to whom?” and “for what?” questions are important.  Psalm 145:15-16 reminds us that God bestows common grace and blessings to all:

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. [16] You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The sunshine and rain are common grace blessings from God according to Matthew 5:45.

so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

For those who have tasted of the heavenly gift of God’s saving grace we have every reason in the world to be thankful because we have every spiritual blessing in Christ according to Ephesians 1:3,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

As you celebrate thanksgiving today, how do you answer the “to whom?” and “for what?” questions.

Here’s the entire text of Lincoln’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving in case you are interested.

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

 

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