These words were taken from Abraham Lincoln’s “Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day,” March 30, 1863. It was issued during the time when the nation was deeply divided and engaged in the horrendous Civil War. In this decree there is a call for the citizens to repent, to fast and turn to God for help in those dark days. In that proclamation Lincoln says,
“…it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”
Wouldn’t you love to hear such a statement coming from the White House today? Wouldn’t you very much like to see the national leadership in Washington engaging in a day of fasting and prayer for the healing of our nation by the forgiveness of our national sins? Wouldn’t you like to have such a call go forth for all the citizens of our country to give a whole day to praying for personal and national forgiveness? Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen!
Lincoln realized that God has and can again bring “punishments and chastisements” upon nations. He even suggested that the Civil War may have been a punishment upon America for “our presumptuous sins” for which there was needed a national reformation as a whole People.”
“…we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People?” (A. Lincoln).
As a nation, we are way beyond the condition Lincoln described in the quote at the beginning of this article. Perhaps we have reached the point of no return and are headed for God’s judgment to come down on our sin-ridden nation. For years we have been treading a downwardly spiraling path. The people who should have been leading our nation onto a higher level of morality and integrity long since abdicated their responsibility.
Churches of this nation should have been at the forefront of setting the bar high, were instead in the vanguard of liberal thought that has destroyed the moral fiber and national will of our country. How, you ask. By abandoning the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ in favor of a social gospel that sought the material and social good of people rather than a healing of their souls. Others – many of them of the evangelical sort – did it by preaching an easy-believism, utilizing gimmicks of entertainment, sports and recreation in order to attract and keep people attending and donating to their ill-conceived schemes instead of making the formation of the character of their membership their primary effort. For very many people today, “church” is nothing more than a glorified social club or recreational facility. It has very little to do with their character formation or moral decisions.
In order to attract and hold people the churches softened their stance against all kinds of immoral encroachments. As divorce became more and more prevalent, instead of churches crying out against the evils of the dissolution of the marriage institution, little by little they came to accept divorce as simply something that happens and not a serious violation of the will of God. Concurrent with the breakdown of the home there came the loosening of sexual morals with fornication and adultery becoming socially acceptable. With the loosening of morals there came also a demand for abortion which was granted as a “right.” Then came the outcry of the homosexuals for social recognition and equal standing even to the point of demanding (and now getting) the nationally guaranteed “right” of same-sex “marriage”. And now the government that grants people these rights denies decent, moral citizens the right of free speech to criticize these flagrant violations of God’s law – or even the right to state their own moral convictions. Christians are increasingly being viewed as enemies of our civilization.
Churches must bear much of the responsibility for our national dilemma. For one thing they have made their effort to effect change in this world on a grand scale through political maneuvering rather than by changing people one at a time from the inside out by conversion like Jesus did and like the church in the first century did. Rather than the church becoming an equal player in the political arena, it should stand above the common plane and serve as the prophets of old did in passing judgment on the actions of society and calling people to turn to God. By doing all these things the churches lost their power to really make any difference.
There certainly are others who must share in the blame for the condition we are in today. We have, as a people, been sold a worthless “bill of goods” that is costing us far more than we will ever be able to pay. We have been converted to the religion of consumerism – the idea that the greatest good is to buy and spend in order to have more of the “good things of life.” But those good things turn to dry dust in our hands when the trials of life come upon us. They are all to “perish with the using.”
We have been sold the idea that we are entitled to being cared for from the cradle to the grave by the government without realizing that the price we pay for depending on government or anyone else to provide for us is loss of freedom. We become slaves of whoever feeds us. Worst of all, to depend on the government to take care of us means that we do not trust the promises of God. He wants us to depend on Him…
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33).
Depending on Him does not mean that we merely open our mouths and He will drop food in. It means that we work with Him, cooperating in the things He has decreed for our provisions. Paul gives us at least a part of God’s plan in 2 Thessalonians 3:10:
“For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”
Would to God that we would heed the warnings that are “writ large” upon the pages of the Divine Book and repent. I know the United States of America is not a “Christian nation,” but neither was Nineveh a believing, God-fearing nation before Jonah went there and preached to them that they should repent or be destroyed. They repented in sackcloth and ashes and God relented from the promised destruction He was prepared to visit on them. Wouldn’t He do the same for us if we were to repent? Lincoln had the confidence that God would do it for them in their day.
“All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.” (A. Lincoln).
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD!” (Psalm 33:12).
These words were written of the Hebrew nation, but wouldn’t the same be true of any nation that honors God and upholds the values of righteousness that come from Him?