George Washington’s Thanksgiving: A National Day to Honor Jesus Christ

1Thessalonians 5:18 “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

“You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are.” Can you name the person behind this quote?

It was George Washington, who became our first President on April 30, 1789, just 14 years after the first battles with the British army at Lexington and Concord, and only 6 years after the final battle at Yorktown, ending the American War of Independence on September 3, 1783. America’s Founding Fathers had ignited the war with Britain by declaring their independence in July of 1776, as the “United States of America”, which is now celebrated every year by all Americans as the 4th of July national holiday.

But Washington is also to be credited with another, possibly even more celebrated national holiday. Few Americans realize that he is the one who instituted Thanksgiving just 6 months after taking office. And to whom is George Washington expressing his, and our country’s, thanks? Let’s read and find out the truth.

“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. Both Houses of Congress have 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 signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” Washington is publicly thanking the God of the Bible and His Son, Jesus Christ. He continues in his thanks.

“I do 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 favorable interpositions of His Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, 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, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.”

It was George Washington who established our Thanksgiving holiday, not to eat turkey and watch football, but as a day to honor God for His kindness, mercy, peace, protection, and multiple blessings on us all.

Washington concludes his Thanksgiving Day proclamation with these words: “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 transgressions– 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 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 shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, 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 3rd day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.”

Washington understood what it meant to offer thanksgiving to our Lord and Savior long before he became our first president. Often, during the Revolutionary War, he held thanksgiving services for his troops after battles. He would also join the Continental Congress in proclaiming days of thanks around military victories. George Washington, the “Father of Our Country”, instituted Thanksgiving Day to the God of the Bible.

Our verse for this week comes from the apostle Paul’s first of two letters to the church in Thessalonica. Scholars date this letter at around 51AD. One of Paul’s main themes to the church is to give thanks to God for His manifold blessings in His Son, Jesus Christ. Why is America the greatest nation in the history of mankind? I will argue that we are founded by a man who, nearly 1,740 years after the apostle Paul, continues the legacy of making Thanksgiving to God the foundation of who we are as a nation.

The Evidence of Faith’s Substance – Article #377

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