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I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing. — 2 Timothy 4:7,8
The speech known as “The Gettysburg Address” was the dedication ceremony message for the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, given by President Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863—154 years ago. Following a two-hour-long oration by the Honorable Edward Everett, Lincoln spoke ten sentences in less than three minutes which summarized and inspired—and gave us perhaps the greatest speech in American history:
“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.”
I know what that speech does to me—it speaks to my heart of everything real and good about America and its defense of freedom around the globe. What was true in 1863 reminds me of our nation’s purpose on the battlefield today.
But have you ever wondered how this particular visit to the battlefield affected President Lincoln? Coming just 4 ½ months after the Union army’s decisive defeat of the Confederate forces at the Battle of Gettysburg, Lincoln was so moved by the view of acres of soldiers’ graves that he gave his heart and life to Jesus Christ right there.
Later, when asked by a friend if he loved Jesus, Lincoln, after weeping, said: “When I left home to take this chair of State I requested my countrymen to pray for me; I was not then a Christian. When my son died, the severest trial of my life, I was not then a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg, and looked upon the graves of our dead heroes, who had fallen in defense of their country, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ. Yes, indeed, I do love Jesus.”
In many ways, you are the ones we honor today, on the 154th anniversary of that momentous speech. You are the ones who carry on the fight. You are the ones who fulfill Lincoln’s call to “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.”
Those words grip us. And God gripped Lincoln’s heart that day in November of 1963. According to accounts, it was at Gettysburg that Lincoln gave his heart and life to Jesus Christ.
My day was in 1980, in a little church in Oklahoma—when my husband was deployed. In repentance and faith, has that day happened in your life?
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Romans 6:23
The Gettysburg Address is found at www.ourdocuments.gov
Tuley, Terry. Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from The Civil War (Chattanooga: Living Ink Books, 2006), p. 318.
Questions to Share:
1. What are your thoughts now that you read the words of the Gettysburg Address as a couple fighting in the current war?
2. Can you point to a day when you gave your heart and life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Perhaps today is that day!