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After the second defeat at Bull Run, he appeared very much distressed about the number of killed and wounded, and said: "I have done the best I could. I have asked God to guide me, and now I must leave the event with him." On another occasion, having been made acquainted with the fact that a great battle was in progress, at a distant but important point, he came into the room where the lady was engaged in nursing a member of the family, looking worn and haggard, and saying that he was so anxious that he could eat nothing. The possibility of defeat depressed him greatly; but the lady told him he must trust, and that he could at least pray. "Yes," said he, and taking up a Bible, he started for his room. Could all the people of the nation have overheard the earnest petition that went up from that inner chamber, as it reached the ears of the nurse, they would have fallen upon their knees with tearful and reverential sympathy. At one o'clock in the afternoon, a telegram reached him announcing a Union victory; and then he came directly to the room, his face beaming with joy, saying: "Good news! Good news! The victory is ours, and God is good." "Nothing like prayer," suggested the pious lady, who traced a direct connection between the event and the prayer which preceded it.” "Yes there is." he replied "praise :-prayer and praise." The good lady who communicates these incidents closes them with the words: "I do believe he was a true Christian, though he had very little confidence in himself."
Mr. Lincoln always manifested a strong interest in the peculiar work of the Christian Commission in the army, and attended the important meetings of that body at Washington. His official and personal approval of the plan of this charity was one of the greatest encouragements of those engaged in the work. In the early part of 1864, a meeting of the commission was held, at which Mr. Lincoln was a deeply interested spectator. He was particularly moved on this occasion by the remarks of Chaplain McCabe, just released from Libby prison, at Richmond, who described, in a graphic manner, the scene among the prisoners on the reception of the news of the
national victory at Gettysburg, as they took up Mrs. Howe's spirited lyric, beginning with the line,
“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,“ and made the prison walls rock with the melody. The Chaplain sang it to the meeting, and Mr. Lincoln requested its repetition. That was a song that he could appreciate; and it stirred him like a trumpet.
At another of these meetings, he was greatly interested and amused by a story told by General Fisk of Missouri. The General had begun his military life as a Colonel; and, when he raised his regiment in Missouri, he proposed to his men that he should do all the swearing of the regiment. They assented; and for months no instance was known of the violation of the promise. The Colonel had a teamster named John Todd, who, as roads were not always the best, had some difficulty in commanding his temper and his tongue. John happened to be driving a mule-team through a series of mudholes a little worse than usual, when, unable to restrain himself any longer, he burst forth into a volley of energetic oaths. The Colonel took notice of the offense, and brought John to an account. “John,” said he, “did n't you promise to let me do all the swearing of the regiment?" "Yes, I did, Colonel,” he replied, "but the fact was the swearing had to be done then, or not at all, and you were n't there to do it."
Mr. Lincoln enjoyed this story quite as much as he did the singing of the previous occasion, and gave himself up to laughter the most boisterous. The next morning, General Fisk attended the reception at the White House; and saw, waiting in the ante-room, a poor old man from Tennessee. Sitting down beside him, he inquired his errand; and learned that he had been waiting three or four days to get an audience, and that on his seeing Mr. Lincoln probably depended the life of his son, who was under sentence of death for some military offense. General Fisk wrote his case in outline on a card, and sent it in, with a special request that the President would see the man. In a moment, the order came; and past
senators, governors and generals, waiting impatiently, the old man went into the President's presence. He showed Mr. Lincoln his papers; and he, on taking them, said he would look into the case, and give him the result on the following day. The old man, in an agony of apprehension, looked up into the President's sympathetic face, and actually cried out: "Tomorrow may be too late! My son is under sentence of death! The decision ought to be made now!" and the streaming tears told how much he was moved. "Come," said Mr. Lincoln, "wait a bit, and I'll tell you a story;" and then he told the old man General Fisk's story about the swearing driver; and, as he told it, the old man forgot his boy, and both the President and his listener had a hearty laugh together at its conclusion. Then he wrote a few words which the old man read, and in which he found new occasion for tears; but the tears were tears of joy, for the words saved the life of his son.
Only a few months before Mr. Lincoln died, he was waited upon at the White House by about two hundred members of the commission, who had been holding their annual meeting. The chairman of the commission, George H. Stuart, addressed a few words to Mr. Lincoln, speaking of the debt which the country owed him. "My friends," said Mr. Lincoln in reply, "you owe me no gratitude for what I have done: and I-" and here he hesitated, and the long arm came through the air awkwardly, as if he might be misunderstood in what he was going to say, "and I, I may say, owe you no gratitude for what you have done; just as, in a sense, we owe no gratitude to the men who have fought our battles for us. I trust that this has all been for us a work of duty;" and at the mention of that word, the homely, sad face was irradiated with the light of a divine emotion. Looking around for encouragement into the faces of the eager group, he then proceeded in the simplest words to say that all gratitude was due to the Great Giver of all good. At the close of his remarks, Mr. Stuart, who cared as little for precedent as Mr. Lincoln himself, asked him if he had any objection, then and there, to a word of prayer. Quietly, but very cordially, as if he were
grateful for the suggestion, he assented; and Bishop Janes offered in the East Room a brief and fervent petition. It was a memorable scene, which must always be reverted to with interest by every Christian patriot.
On another occasion, when a number of the members of the commission were holding an interview with the President, Rev. J. T. Duryea of New York referred to the trust that they were encouraged to repose in the Providence of God, and to the fact that appeal was so constantly made to it in the prayers of Christian people that even children were taught to pray for the President in their simple morning and evening petitions. "If it were not for my firm belief in an over-ruling Providence," responded Mr. Lincoln, "it would be difficult for me, in the midst of such complications of affairs, to keep my reason on its seat. But I am confident that the Almighty has his plans, and will work them out; and, whether we see it or not, they will be the wisest and best for us. I have always taken counsel of him, and referred to him my plans, and have never adopted a course of proceeding without being assured, as far as I could be, of his approbation. To be sure, he has not conformed to my desires, or else we should have been out of our trouble long ago. On the other hand, his will does not seem to agree with the wish of our enemy over there (pointing across the Potomac). He stands the judge between us, and we ought to be willing to accept his decisions. We have reason to anticipate that it will be favorable to us, for our cause is right." It was during this interview that the fact was privately communicated to a member of the commission, that Mr. Lincoln was in the habit of spending an early hour each day in prayer.
It was during this interview, also, that, on some allusion being made to the unfriendly personal criticisms of the press, he said: "It has been asserted that we are conducting the present administration in the interest of a party, to secure a re-election. It is said that appointments in the army are made with this view, and that the removals are intended to put promising rivals out of the way. Now, if any man shows
himself to be able to save the country, he shall have my hearty support. If he wants to be president, he ought to be, and I will help him. The charge is absurd. What matters it who is chosen the next president, if there is to be no next presidency? What matters it who is appointed pilot for the next voyage, if the ship is going down this voyage?" When allusion was made to the carping spirit of some of the professed friends of the government, who, distinguishing between the administration and the government, condemned the former while pretending to defend the latter, he said: "There is an important sense in which the government is distinct from the administration. One is perpetual, the other is temporary and changeable. A man may be loyal to his government, and yet oppose the peculiar principles and methods of the administration. I should regret to see the day in which the people should cease to express intelligent, honest, generous criticism upon the policy of their rulers. It is true, however, that, in time of great peril, the distinction ought not to be so strongly urged; for then criticism may be regarded by the enemy as opposition, and may weaken the wisest and best efforts for the public safety. If there ever was such a time, it seems to me it is now."
An illustration of Mr. Lincoln's interest in the efforts of religious men, is found in his treatment of a case brought before him by Rev. Mr. Duryea, whose name has already been mentioned. Colonel Loomis, commandant at Fort Columbus, on Governor's Island, was to be removed because he had passed the legal limit of age for active service. His religious influence was so powerful that the Chaplain of the post appealed to Mr. Duryea to use his influence for the good officer's retention in the service. Accordingly, appeal was made to the President for that object, purely on religious grounds. "What does Mr. Duryea know of military matters?" inquired Mr. Lincoln, with a smile, of the bearer of his petition. 'Nothing,” replied the gentleman; "and he makes no request on military considerations. The record of Colonel Loomis for fifty years, in the War Department, will furnish these. He