I believe one of our nation’s most often quoted past Presidents is Abraham Lincoln. I have recently been reviewing known quotes by Mr. Lincoln and came across one that struck me as being a particularly relevant commentary concerning our country today. The quote is as follows:
“We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving Grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!”
Again this year, we celebrated our National Day of Thanksgiving on November 28th. Thanksgiving Day became a national holiday due to guess who? Yes, Abraham Lincoln, at the heartfelt and earnest request of a woman by the name of Sarah Josepha Hale, author of a very popular women’s magazine of the day named “Godey’s Lady’s Book.” President Lincoln presented his Thanksgiving Proclamation in October 1863, while the nation was in the midst of a hard fought Civil War. This proclamation established the precedent for annually observing a national Thanksgiving Day (the fourth Thursday of November every year). In the midst of this great trial and challenge, with the State of the Union at stake, he encouraged all citizens to take time and render thanks to Almighty God. That says something about the character of Abraham Lincoln!
Therefore, let’s take this aspect of Lincoln’s character and apply it to the current situation in our nation. We, too, are facing challenges and dramatic division in our country, as evidenced by our nation’s Congress and political leadership. Our nation’s character is being severely tested once again. Here is another quote of Lincoln concerning character:
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
Lincoln used his power and authority not only as President of the United States, but also as a lawyer, shop owner and manager, to humbly serve others. There was no arrogance in his approach to others. He expressed a deep sense of compassion, patience, and kindness in his relationships with others. He often found inner strength and encouragement, wisdom and discernment by reading his Bible. When he received a special Bible from the black or Negro people of Baltimore in 1864, part of his response was as follows:
“All the good Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.”
May you express a thankful character on Thanksgiving to the same Almighty God that Lincoln trusted and believed in. If he were alive today, what Thanksgiving Proclamation would he write to encourage us and inspire us. May a thankful heart always be part of your character!
The Rev. Steve Nagler of Evans Mills is a chaplain at Cape Vincent Correctional Facility. An ordained minister with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, he previously served as a chaplain in the U.S. Army from 1985 to 2005.