Thanksgiving Proclamation

As we take time this week to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I thought I would share George Washington’s Thanksgiving proclamation. While Thanksgiving would not become an officially recognized national holiday until established by Lincoln in 1863 (and made law by Congress in 1941), each state celebrated a day of Thanksgiving in various manners since the original proclamation in 1789. In many places, it was set aside as a time of fasting and prayer, a day of service devoted “that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.” What follows is the original proclamation of President George Washington declaring Thursday the 26th of November a national day of Thanksgiving in 1789.

Thanksgiving Proclamation

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

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; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

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; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

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; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington

Fasting From Communion with God

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me shall not hunger,
and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
(John 6:35)

I’ve been reading through the biography of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a Scottish Presbyterian Minister in the 1830’s.  The biographical sketch of his life is filled with excerpts from his daily journals and insights into his heart and mind for ministry.  It is fascinating (and somewhat comforting) to read of another pastor from an entirely different time and place, who also struggled with a sense of never making the most of his time, who felt terribly unqualified for the high calling of ministry were it not for the Sovereign Grace of God, and whose greatest joy was to bring glory to God in sharing the Gospel.

Something struck me, though, as I was reading, that made me stop and think about my life in comparison with M’Cheyne’s.  Early on there was this summary of the young pastor’s ministry:

From the first he fed others by what he himself was feeding upon. His preaching was in a manner the development of his soul’s experience. It was a giving out of the inward life. He loved to come up from the pastures wherein the Chief Shepherd had met him—to lead the flock entrusted to his care to the spots where he found nourishment.

(Bonar, Andrew A. Memoirs and Remains of R.M.M’Cheyne. (Edinburgh, Banner of Truth Trust, 1978)pg. 36.)

I have shared before my daily Scripture reading practice.  I encourage everyone to read daily from the Word of God, and to read in a way that lets the Word really sink in, soaking the mind and soul with God’s revelation.  There are a variety of reading programs out there, but the one I prefer, actually, was developed by M’Cheyne.  In this program, you read the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice per year, reading about four chapters a day, taken from different parts of the Bible.

I share this, not necessarily as an advertisement for the reading plan (though you can go here to find out more).  No, I share this to warn you of a hazard of such a plan.  Reading God’s Word ought to draw you deeper into the presence of God, knowing His will, revealing His love, and strengthening your faith.  There is deep, nourishing, life-giving power in His Word.  Still, sometimes having a reading plan before you makes you want to read to “get it done” so you can move on to the next thing.

How often do we read our Bibles, check the reading off the “To-Do List” for the day, close the book and move on?  Are we just grazing in the grass, never really getting down to the roots?  I have to admit, there are a lot of days when that’s all my Bible reading really is – just something to do.  I skim the surface of the page, my eyes see the words, but the words never really touch my heart.

How can I expect to feed the flock unless I am first fed by the Word?  If I am not sharing from the deep experience of my soul, if I am not “giving out of the inward life,” then the best I can give is but an anemic, watered-down, half-life of the Gospel.  If I am not fed in the pasture where my Chief Shepherd as met me, how can I ever hope to lead others.

I read that M’Cheyne would rise well before the break of day to worship and fellowship in the communion with God, singing Psalms and hymns and reading God’s word.  That time in devotion would so prepare him for the day that all of his studies, all of his conversations, all of his leisure, was permeated with the fragrance of the Gospel.  He had been to the feast, and he was sharing the portion of the table of the Lord.

Why do we, why do I, fast from such a blessed fellowship today?  Why do we starve ourselves spiritually, content to live of the scraps and droppings that fall before us, when we have been invited to the feast?  God sets before us in His Word a smorgasbord of all the most soul-satisfying, life-giving truth that our hearts hunger for, and we ask for the “weight-watchers” menu.   When we deprive ourselves of all that God offers us, we are essentially telling God we don’t need Him nor what He gives, and we’d rather do this life on our own and in our own way.  (“How’s that working for you?” – Dr. Phil)

The simple truth of the matter is, God is God, and we are not.  He provides our daily bread.  He spins the planets and keeps them going.  Without Him, we can do nothing.  We cannot survive without every good gift that comes from His hand.  And yet, at His right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11), and God would not have us famished spiritually.  Rather, “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…” (Eph 1:3).

Pull up to the table, to the feast of the Lord, and drink deep the blessing of His Word.  Let His Word teach you, correct you, fill you, strengthen you; until His Word gives light to all of yours.  Let your reading time, may my reading time, be a time of sweet communion in the Lord’s presence that give grace and substance to every endeavor through the day.

SDG