In that ancient day when, as related in the book of Exodus, laws were formulated for the government of the children of Israel, provision was made for the keeping of three festivals, one of which was to be celebrated during the harvest season. "Thou shalt keep . . . the feast of harvest," runs the record, "the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field." From the earliest times, it seems, mankind has been wont to express gratitude for the bounteous return for its labors in the field, even though behind this recognition lay superstition and fear. The titular deity which was supposed to preside over the destinies of the crops and flocks was to be appeased in such manner as would best assure continued prosperity, expressed in plenteous increase.

With a clearer concept of Deity, the one infinite God came to be recognized as the source of increase and of all good. While gratitude for abundant harvests was not lessened, its form of expression changed from ceremonies with the purpose of appeasing Deity, the better to insure the abundance of the next year's crops, to the expression of heartfelt thanksgiving and praise for the increase, accompanied by an abiding assurance of God's munificent provisions for the future needs of the willing and obedient. The children of Israel very generally celebrated the season of harvest, and with increasing spirituality. As the old traditions were departed from, clearer glimpses of the truth of being were had, and a more comprehensive understanding of God as Life.

In America, gratitude for abundant harvest and all God's manifold blessings very generally has come to be associated with the observance of Thanksgiving Day, when the people turn aside from the accustomed duties of daily life to render thanks to God, the source of "every good gift and every perfect gift." This season is ever reminiscent of the first Thanksgiving Day observed by the Pilgrims, under conditions so severe as to leave no doubt of their deep devotion to God, of their acknowledgment of Him as the source of all good and their protection. True to their traditions, with sublime faith in the Father, and with hearts overflowing, having gathered their first crops, they turned to Him with deep protestations of gratitude and thanksgiving for the increase. To people of to-day, surrounded by the luxuries of modern civilization,—a veritable surfeit, be it said, in comparison with their scanty store,—it may seem difficult to understand this deep consecration. Apparently beset by the multitudinous dangers of the wilderness, in a land of savage beasts and savage men, yet they were so imbued with the sense of gratitude that they could recognize God as the source of all bounty; and their fine devotion constituted an example of true Christian character for all succeeding generations. Surely, it was not the abundance of the slender harvest which called forth such expression; for what they had been able to coax from a sternly resisting soil, under most unfavorable conditions, at best could have been but a scanty return. Yet, so certain of the source and Giver were they, that they set apart a day upon which to recognize their dependence upon God and their profound gratitude to Him. In many particulars, this establishing of a day of thanksgiving is without parallel in history. May not Christian find in this incident an incentive to renewed consecration to the highest ideals?

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The Kinship of Spirit
November 1, 1922

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