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The Gettysburg Address: One Nation Under God
Gettysburg National Cemetery
The Gettysburg Address
One Nation Under God
Government Of The People, By The People, For The People
The date is November 19, 1863. It has been 4 months since the battle at Gettysburg and the Civil War is not yet over. It has been 87 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The country is engaged in a war that has split her in two. Gettysburg proved to be the turning point. While the borders of the United Sates would eventually be restored, the task of uniting her people would prove to be even more difficult than the war itself. For Abraham Lincoln, the strife and bitterness of that war will cruelly take his life two years from now. Today, however, he will humbly take center stage to address a nation that is questioning its identity and its purpose for existence. A nation that needs to be reminded who they are and why they are fighting.
His speech is being presented only minutes after a two hour oration by the renown speaker and Senator from Massachusetts, Edward Everett. The audience is kind but their attention span has been taxed to the limit. President Lincoln knew this would be the case. He had carefully crafted a speech before hand that would be direct and to the point. His appointed task is to dedicate the battlefield at Gettysburg to the men who died there defending the Union. His speech will take a total of 2 minutes to deliver. Two powerful minutes that the nation would never forget. His inspiring words are among our greatest speeches.
The Gettysburg Address
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 battle-field 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 can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not 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.
While Mr. Lincoln never expected it to have such an impact, his simple expressions would eventually be written into the conscience of every American. We all well up with pride when we hear these words and they are still speaking to us today. The President was determined to keep the country together and to end slavery. He intended to see the Civil War to its bitter end. He had resolved that those who had fought and died to save the Union would not have done so in vain. We have the same responsibility today. We owe a debt of gratitude that can't be repaid. We too must determine that the sacrifice these men gave on the battlefield in Gettysburg, France, Germany , the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, wherever, and whenever, our troops go to defend our constitution, will not have been in vain!
Further, he reminds us that we are a nation "Under God," Meaning God is greater than we are. That our rules and laws are subservient, subordinate to His laws. Put simply, we answer to Him. These words "Under God" are the prerequisite for a people who wish to self-govern. Our founding fathers recognized that God is sovereign, not us!
To the chagrin of the atheists in America today, the American Constitution and Bill of Right, are based on the Christian understanding of God. Our laws are based on the Ten commandments and other principles found in the bible. Our faith is so tightly wrapped up in its DNA, it is sometimes difficult separate one from the other. Our constitution in a very real way is an extension of God's Laws.
One of the things that our forefathers were banking on when they designed the constitution and the Bill of Rights was the Christian view of freedom. They were able to designed a government with limited power because the nations population was already living according to God's Laws. The need for the fear of reproof was minimal. Christianity understands that true freedom is not found in the absence of Laws, but in the obedience to them.
One True God
Further, Christianity holds to the belief that there is only one true God and that He is sovereign over us. When Abraham Lincoln used the word "God" I ask that you notice he capitalized it. Meaning that God is "The God," The one and only true God! If he had believed in multiple god's as some faiths do, he would have left the G lower case. President Lincoln is acknowledging that our God is the only God not one of the many.
Why is this important?
We believe that humanity is self-centered. That we make gods of ourselves. We teach that a fair and just society can't be ruled by a people who deny God, or more correctly, a people that see themselves as gods. For then, right and wrong becomes relative to the individual. Each person bases right and wrong on their own understandings. Their own whims and perspective. I believe that a person will either serve God or he makes himself his god and seeks after the lusts of the eye, the lusts of the flesh, and the pride of Life. However, a people who fears God subscribe to His view of right and wrong.
It was no accident that President Lincoln used the words "Under God" before the phrase "Government of the people, by the people, for the people." For he believed, as did our forefathers, that only a people who fears God can self-govern. For a people who believe they will be judged by God, will be just in their judgment. But as we learned in the garden, knowing God to be fair and just is not enough. We must be willing to submit our wills to His. For this to happen, something else is needed. A personal and intimate relationship with God. The Christian's relationship with God is not based on fear of reproof but love and respect. We are afraid of dishonoring God. We love Him and do not want to hurt him by acting in a way that he would disapprove of. It is this element that allows a Christian society to self-govern. A Christian, out of love for God walks in obedience to God's laws. So Government of the people, for the people, by the people becomes possible.
One of the consequences of turning away from Christ is the need for bigger government with more Laws to control it populace. As the majority of American turn from Christianity to atheism or to works based faiths. The need to govern by the fear of reproof creeps its way into our society. I find it incredible that America has exchanged its God! That she has forgotten how to blush,(Jeremiah 2) For the sovereign that she is now embracing is not one of tolerance and Grace, but one of control and mistrust. Slavery over freedom. Such is the way of the Godless. Make me! They say, or else, I will do as I please.
There is a way that seems right to a man,
but in the end it leads to death.
Abraham Lincolns prayed that our government of the people, by the people, for the people, would never parish from the earth. However I fear we are becoming a people of the government, by the government, for the government. All because we are no longer One Nation Under God!
Something to consider
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