We have forgotten much of the proud history that has under-girded these great United States and society’s tone has gone from spiritual to secular. Early in our history, practically every anthem, hymn, and song written within a 150-year period referenced Jesus Christ, God’s blessings, glory, gratitude, America’s beauty or religious freedom. For example, in 1861, after a visit to a Union Army camp, Julia Ward Howe wrote the poem that came to be called “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Published in February 1862 in The Atlantic Monthly, the poem has become perhaps the best-known Civil War song of the Union Army, and is a well-loved American patriotic anthem. Here is the first and last verse:
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword
His truth is marching on…
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me:
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free
While God is marching on.
Around this time, President Abraham Lincoln, perhaps one of the most well versed presidents in the holy Bible, resided in the White House. In November 1863, President Lincoln gave his now famous Thanksgiving proclamation in which he mentioned America’s need for a soft heart and our lack of appreciation of God’s providence. Lincoln encouraged all people of the United States to be grateful for the “year filled with blessings of fruitful fields” and for the many things so easily taken for granted, and to acknowledge the Lord, saying “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.”
Earlier that year, President Abraham Lincoln, with full agreement and support of the U.S. Senate, declared a lesser known national day of fasting and prayer to God. Only 87 years after celebrating America’s independence and freedom as a nation, Lincoln saw that the country was showing signs of comfort and complacency which went hand in hand with spiritual tepidness. As some Christians believe that the terrorist attacks on 9-11-2001 were part of God’s judgment on America, President Lincoln believed that the civil war in America was God’s judgment on the nation for its sinfulness. Here is a partial text from Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation:
“And, insomuch as 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? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God.
We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”[i]
Are Christians or is America much different today? Our nation is suffering because the Church has grown lukewarm. What can be done about the state of America’s heart? First, we need to repent of sin or apathy and recommit our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. Next, each of us must seek the things of God and decide how we will live our lives, whether we will seek the approval of God or man. Who are we serving right now, today? The choice is ours.
If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” The people answered and said, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods;” Joshua 24:15-16 (Emphasis mine)