Gettysburg Remembrance Day November 19: Send The Eternal Winds Upon Us Again
President Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863
Given at the dedication of Gettysburg Battlefield as a national military cemetery.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
The Great Task Remained Before Them And It Remains Before Us Still
Today marks the 159th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address. The speech took less than two minutes to deliver, yet its content has undeniably stood the test of time. Today, these words are as profound and relevant as when uttered by our first Republican President in 1863.
Lincoln looks back to the nation’s Founding Fathers, who, 87 years earlier, had “brought forth …a new nation, conceived in Liberty.” Quoting the rhetorical might of the Declaration of Independence, he pierces to the heart of Gettysburg: “all men are created equal.”
Our 16th President then looks to the present. The nation is engaged in a civil war and in this very nation conceived in liberty only 87 years earlier, he is dedicating a battlefield as a final resting place for “those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.” The world can “never forget what they did here.” Adding the clarion call that the living must dedicate to their unfinished work.
President Lincoln concludes by looking to the future and the “great task remaining before us…” that we “resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain,” “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.” Referencing the U.S. Constitution in the final sentence, he states the purpose of the ongoing fight: “that government of the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Whether 87 years (1863) or 246 years (2022), the great task remains before us. The ongoing fight—a nation conceived in liberty, governed by the people—remains before us. If we want it, we too must dedicate to their unfinished work. Not only for those who gave their lives in the Civil War, but also in WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Korea, Gulf, Afghanistan, wherever lives has been sacrificed for America’s freedom. Not only for us now, but for our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and future generations of American citizens to come. We all must newly resolve that our nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.
Our Father in Heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Father, we thank You for the man, Abraham Lincoln, and for what his Presidency and leadership meant for our beloved nation.
We are thankful for Your Sovereignty over history. We praise You for the Providential rendering of just the right man at just the right time. History tells us time and again of ordinary people who rise to do extraordinary things. How could this be otherwise, except that a loyal and loving Father intervenes in the world to help His children.
Tradition tells us that a young Abraham Lincoln dabbled in unbelief and skepticism. But when President Lincoln visited the graves at Gettysburg, so did the ancient winds that blow where they wish (John 3:8). As he spoke over those who died fighting for the Presidential proclamation that he authored, buttressed by the cry of our founding Declaration that “all men are created equal,” the 16th president gave his heart to the One Who authored a similar, but much better, proclamation so long ago.
Father, President Lincoln came closer to knowing Jesus more purely that day, than most of the so-called “religious devout” in his age and ours. May we so turn our hearts so purely to our Blessed Redeemer, and “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
One historian wrote, “Lincoln had come to understand history as orchestrated by God, nations as accountable to Him, and men as the means by which God fulfills his will” (1).
Father, we ask in the Name of Jesus, that You grant us a deep and abiding knowledge of Your Sovereignty over history, more than we’ve ever known. Help us always to keep in our hearts that nations are accountable to You, and that we, as members of Christ’s body, must be earnest in living and sharing the Gospel in order that our nation may see Jesus. Grant us courage and strength through the Holy Spirit to be Your human agency on earth. And as with Lincoln, when all else fails, grant us a ruthless trust in You.
Whatever You ask us to do, grant us all we need to rise to the occasion, being confident that “He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6), Who is for all time just the right Man sent at just the right time.
Oh Father, You are good! Your mercy extends to all generations. You are the everlasting God. May the whole earth praise Your Name both now and forevermore.
In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
(1) Stephen Mansfield, Lincoln’s Battle With God, quoted here.
Quoted from the book Lincoln’s Battle With God, by Stephen Mansfield, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 2012.