Thursday, July 11, 2019

Devotion to the Cause

    On November 17, 1863, four and half months after the Battle of Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln arrived at the battlefield to give a speech.  He had been invited to dedicate a new national cemetery for the fallen soldiers of that battle.  The speech was only 269 words long and took less than two minutes to deliver.  Yet, it became one of the best known speeches in American history.

There are two sentences in that speech that demand further comment.  An impassioned Lincoln spoke, "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here." With all due respect to the president, Mr. Lincoln was mistaken. The world did hear and continues to remember the words spoken that day.  His words have not drifted off into forgetfulness; and, amazingly over 150 years later the speech still has not been forgotten.  Why? We may ask.  The answer is plain. When great events are backed up by great words, they last forever.  "The world... it can never forget what they did here."  The cause of Liberty, and the men who fought for it, took a stand and won.

At the time of this speech, the Civil War was already in its second year of fighting, and there were still two more bloody years of fighting to come.  I'm sure Lincoln had that thought in his mind when he penned these words, "It is for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause...we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain."  Lincoln was emphasizing to the future soldiers and to the Nation as a whole, the need to take up the cause for which these fallen has given, "the last full measure of devotion".  He was challenging the North to recommit to picking up the banner of Liberty that these honored dead had fought and died for.  The great task is now for the Living to carry it on.

The Church has a long heritage of great events and powerful words recorded in the Bible.  The stories of the exploits of the Saints of old and their devotion to the cause of Christ still speaks to every new generation of Believers.  The Saints of the past have done their duty and have now passed on.  Their words and sacrifices are not forgotten.  The Scriptures describes them with these words, "We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses...".  The Dead in Christ are cheering and exhorting us on. The baton of the work of the Gospel is being handed off to us today.  This is our time!  Will we take it and run with it?  The writer in Hebrews proclaims, "Therefore, since we have such great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."  Hebrews 12:1

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