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early thanksgiving

“Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 15:57

Individuals, churches, and nations have the privilege and responsibility of giving thanks to God. Each of us should be quick to acknowledge the many ways that God’s goodness has been extended in our lives. Once we realize that God is in control of each day, a consistent attitude of praise and thanksgiving can replace feelings of doubt or insecurity.

From the Pilgrims themselves to America’s founding fathers, to godly leaders of recent times, our heritage has included recognition of our corporate dependence on God. In late November 1620, after having been at sea for over two months, the Mayflower’s 102 passengers arrived in Massachusetts. On December 11, 1620, they signed the “Mayflower Compact,” America’s first document of civil government. 

The Mayflower Compact heavily influenced all subsequent founding documents. It stated that the Pilgrim’s purpose was, “the glory of God, and the advancement of the Christian faith.”

On land, shelters and rough living quarters had been quickly built. Yet by the spring half of all the Pilgrims were dead. The Pilgrims planted their fields and that summer their farming efforts yielded a bountiful crop. While the increase was given by God, the Pilgrims knew that their harvest was due in part to the assistance given by helpful Indians.

On December 13, 1621, the Pilgrims began a three-day feast to thank the Lord and to celebrate with the friendly Indians. The Pilgrims knew that their survival was due to Almighty God. The words of Pilgrim Edward Winslow give insight into the meaning of the event: 

“Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling, so that we might, after a special manner, rejoice together…Many of the Indians came amongst us, and their greatest King, Massosoit, with some 90 men, who for 3 days we entertained and feasted…And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are far from want.”

Two years after the first Thanksgiving, Governor William Bradford proclaimed November 29, 1623 to be an official day of thanks. Bradford decreed:

 “I do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for His blessings…”

Our nation’s day of Thanksgiving to God was declared and passed into law more than 150 years later. 

  • In 1779, Thomas Jefferson, governor of Virginia, proclaimed November 11th as a day of “Public and solemn Thanksgiving to Almighty God.” 
  • In 1785, the Governor of New Hampshire, John Langdon, set aside November 24, “…to testify our gratitude to the Author of all our Mercies, and to confess our manifold transgressions.” Langdon’s official decree also asked that God would, “bless our seminaries, and spread the Gospel over all the earth.” Several other states passed Thanksgiving decrees that carried similar sentiments.
  • In 1789, with the unanimous approval of Congress, George Washington proclaimed that a National Day of Thanksgiving be observed on Thursday, November 26, of that same year. Representing the Christian context from which America was formed; Washington decreed also for prayer to be made that God would “…promote the knowledge and practice of the true religion…”
  • In 1863, Abraham Lincoln passed a Thanksgiving resolution that stated, “It is announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.”

It is clear that our forefathers were a thankful people, and the object of their worship was the God of the Bible. 

In 2017, we must remember that the Lord is our source of all gifts. Without Him, we have nothing and we are nothing! 

  • Let’s pray that God gives Americans thankful hearts.  
  • Let’s pray that all who belong to Jesus be filled with devotion to Him and a desire to walk in His will and ways and serve Him.  
  • Let’s pray that all who do not know Jesus would come to an understanding of His mercy and love, would be humbled and repentant, and would trust in Jesus and find the saving grace He desires to give them.

Happy Thanksgiving.  All Thanks Be To God!

Alex McFarlandALEX MCFARLAND is a well-known and respected Christian apologist, author, evangelist, speaker, and culture and religion analyst. As the organizer of Truth for a New Generation Conferences, he presents timely truths to build and strengthen a biblical worldview.  Alex is the host of TNG Radio and the co-host of Exploring the Word on American Family Radio. He is the founder and organizer of Truth for a New Generation Conferences.     Bio for Alex McFarland


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