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October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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Thanksgiving 1676
Jonathan Pait
November 26, 2003

The tradition of Thanksgiving has come to mean different things to many people. In reflecting on what the day means to me, I decided to go back to the first "Thanksgiving Proclamation" and read what those first settlers thought of the – not yet tradition back on June 20, 1676.

Granted reading the proclamation as originally penned is like reading elfish runes from Tolkien. Thanks to the University of Oklahoma Law Center you can find this and many other historical documents online. Upon reading it, I thought it might be a good idea to convert the ideas expressed centuries ago into today’s language. Of course, proclamations are never that easy to read. It is though it is one huge run-on sentence.

The Holy God having placed us in these long and trying times of our present war with the heathen natives of this land has determined that we, though of His Covenant, should face these trials in the wilderness for the purpose that we may evidently discern that even in His judgements He has shown Himself merciful and has remembered us with Fatherly compassion and regard despite our sins; having protected many of our towns from the threats of war and our enemies by giving us and our allies many recent victories with much less loss than we have suffered in the past, knowing that it is only by His mercy that we have survived to this time and we should be thankful when we see victory and we should not be insensitive to His goodness by refusing to offer him Thanksgiving with the same fervor as we express when we seek His aid in pressing circumstances.

The Council believes it is only fitting to appoint and set apart the 29th day of this June, as a day of solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God for His goodness and favor, of which there have been many examples of His mercy, for we know that there are many who have known God’s trials upon us and have been diligently calling upon Him to return His favor, and upon His seeing us, He would see us as a people offering praise to Him and thereby glorifying Him; the Council calls upon the ministers, elders and all the people of this community to solemnly and seriously continue to seek the mercies of God because we are persuaded that by the mercies of God we may all, every one of us, be able to present ourselves as living and acceptable servants unto God by the grace of Jesus Christ.

The proclamation struck me as quite different from my current concept of Thanksgiving. Especially here in America we focus much on being thankful for the material things we have accumulated. Of course, we should be thankful for that blessing, but it struck me that these early Americans even expressed thankfulness for the trials they faced.

When I look back over the last year, I certainly see trials there – though I wouldn’t say that there were people trying to take my scalp! It is easy for me then to catalog the things I’m thankful for and the things for which I am not thankful. These early settlers understood the doctrine of Paul, "Rejoice in the Lord always."

My prayer for this Thanksgiving is that God would make me truly thankful for His blessings – not only for those blessings that brightened my path with pleasure, but also for those dark trials that caused me to look outside my own meager abilities to find comfort in His mercy, goodness and favor. Finally my prayer will be that He will look once more upon America and find a people who out of desire – not submission – will present themselves as living and acceptable servants unto God by the grace of Jesus Christ.

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We celebrated Thanksgiving by taking a week as a family and spending it together at the beach. If you can spend a week with your family and actually want to do it again, then you have something for which to be thankful! (And I certainly have cause to be thankful.)

I would like to take this opportunity to point out the irony that the practice of gluttony is the way in which a self-righteous "Christian nation" chooses to show its gratitude for its blessings. . . .

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