Abraham Lincoln, anguished by the ravages of civil war, declared a “Proclamation of a National Fast-Day” on March 30, 1863. The U.S. Senate requested President Lincoln to set apart a day for national prayer and humiliation. Here is part of that proclamation:
“Whereas, it is the duty of nations as well
as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord:
“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” (The Works of Abraham Lincoln, State Papers, 1861-1865, edited by John H. Clifford and Marion M. Miller, The University Society Inc., New York, 1908, Vol. 6, pp. 156-157, emphasis added throughout).