Never Forgetting What We Should Ever Remember
by Derrick G. Jeter
Forgetting is easier than remembering. This is why God so often told the children of Israel to remember—remember the four hundred years of slavery and their miraculous deliverance; remember their wilderness wanderings; remember how God gave them victory to conquer the Promise Land; remember the glory and peace of David’s and Solomon’s kingdoms; remember that God dwelt among them in the temple. But they forgot. “As they had their pasture, they became satisfied. / And being satisfied, their heart became proud; / Therefore they forgot Me” (Hosea 13:6).
This downward slide into forgetfulness is not unique to the children of Israel. We, Americans all, with our satisfied and proud hearts have also forgotten God. We’ve forgotten what we should ever remember—that faithful and courageous Pilgrims came to America to worship God in freedom; that the God they worshiped was and is sovereign and faithful, even over and to America.
Abraham Lincoln, in the midst of the deadly smoke that was the American Civil War, didn’t forget. On October 3, 1863, he issued a thanksgiving proclamation, entreating ever American citizen to pause and give thank to Almighty God on a particular day in November. So on this Thanksgiving Day, 145 years after President Lincoln’s proclamation, let us remember once again.
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 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 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 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, tranquility and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed. . . .
“Blessed are You, O Lord God . . . our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name” (1 Chronicles 29:10–13).
1. Abraham Lincoln, “Proclamation of Thanksgiving,” October 3, 1863, in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 6, ed. Roy P. Basler (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 496–97.