In September 1862 Lincoln was increasingly concerned by the tremendous growth of causalities. Following the disastrous loss at the second battle of Bull Run he wrote a Meditation on the Divine Will.
“The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God can not be for and against the same thing at the same time,” Lincoln wrote.
But to most Americans - north or south - God was on their side. Union and Confederate soldiers both prayed to the same God. Both read the same Bible. Both invoked the same God to aid him in battle against the other side.
Lincoln’s thoughts read like an ancient philosopher’s argument. “By his mere quiet power on the minds of new contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.”
In a country split and ravaged by war - truth, for Lincoln, had begun to dawn. God was not at America’s beckoned call. America was at his.
In October 1863, with the Union victory in the Civil War all but assured, President Abraham Lincoln was looking for ways to reunite the country. He proclaimed a national holiday to be spent in reflection – a day of thanksgiving.
The proclamation, written by his Secretary of State William Seward, called upon each citizen to regard America’s vigorous growth despite the long war. “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.”
Once again, America finds itself in a war – not a civil war but one that divides us spiritually nonetheless.
As we pause to celebrate Thanksgiving 2007, and acknowledge our blessings, let us also remember our disobedience and “commend to His tender care those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers” in our present conflict.