The First Thanksgiving: The Providence of God and the Pilgrims Progress.
By Daniel Shultz
A lot of debate takes place about when (and where) the First Thanksgiving took place, many Puritan celebrations and “Thanksgivings” took place when the pilgrims first came to America and none have concrete evidence of being the “First Thanksgiving.” Since there is no clear evidence of when exactly the “First Thanksgiving” took place, I think we should instead look at the first time the United States celebrated it together.
The First Thanksgiving as we know it was declared by George Washington to be celebrated on November 26th, 1789, in this 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 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 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, 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 hath 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 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 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 shewn kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease 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.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving let us remember to not only thank God for the temporal blessings He bestows upon us, but let us thank Him for His Son Jesus Christ.
As Christians we should constantly remind ourselves of Christ’s finished work on the cross, and of the forgiveness of our sins won by Christ on that cross.
Both temporal discomforts and pleasures are fleeting, wisdom and knowledge are ravaged by dementia and Alzheimer’s, good physical health fades with age, our families will continue to argue, our finances may take a turn for the worst, we may lose our jobs, but we will never lose the forgiveness of our sins through faith in Jesus Christ. This forgiveness is totally free, it costs nothing on our parts, but is given in mercy and grace.
So please join me this Thanksgiving in reminding our loved ones about Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, and thanking God for his grace and mercy.
Happy Thanksgiving and may God bless you in His grace and mercy won by Jesus Christ on the Cross!