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purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must prevail, though we erring mortals may fail to accurately perceive them in advance. We hoped for a happy termination of this terrible war long before this; but God knows best, and has ruled otherwise. We shall yet acknowledge His wisdom and our own error therein. Meanwhile we must work earnestly in the best light He gives us, trusting that so working still conduces to the great ends He ordains. Surely He intends some great good to follow this mighty convulsion, which no mortal could make, and no mortal could stay."25
The most famous Hebrew poetry never rose to a higher level of grandeur, nor did it ever express more comfortingly the thought of God's environing presence, than did the sublimely simple words of Abraham Lincoln spoken on the 11th of February, 1861, when taking leave of his friends and neighbors: “Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well."26
These words, in my judgment, are worthy of being put alongside the sublime utterances on divine omnipresence found in the 139th Psalm, or in the climax of Paul's masterly oration delivered to the Athenians on Mars Hill.
25 Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. X., pp. 215-216. 26 Ibid., Vol. VI., p. 110.
LINCOLN'S RELIGIOUS FAITH-CONTINUED
N the forefront of Mr. Lincoln's religious thinking was
his belief in
THE SAVIOUR'S DEITY
That belief was expressed by him in clear and unequivocal language. The teachings of Scripture relative to this doctrine are not more lucid than was the declaration of Mr. Lincoln when, in that wonderful unbosoming of himself to Dr. Newton Bateman a few weeks before his first election as President, as Dr. Holland tells us, he said: “I know I am right, for Christ says so, and Christ is God.” 1
A few weeks later, after his election as President and before his inauguration, he said to his lifelong friend, Judge Joseph Gillispie: "I have read on my knees the story of Gethsemane, where the Son of God prayed in vain that the cup of bitterness might pass from Him.”
Perhaps quite as significant as any specific statement of Mr. Lincoln respecting the Saviour's deity was his oft-repeated mention of Him as “our Lord.” Again and again, in speeches, in conversation and in his correspondence does Mr. Lincoln thus speak of the Saviour; and there was always a peculiar manifestation of solemnity and reverence when those words fell from his lips. Those of us who were privileged to hear him utter those words will never doubt his belief that Jesus Christ had to him “all the religious value of God," as a modern school of religious thought has phrased
1 Life of Abraham Lincoln, p. 238.
it. There is heart-melting pathos in the little story so beautifully told by Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Emerson, two Christian people of Rockford, Illinois, who stood perhaps as close to Mr. Lincoln as did any human beings outside of his own family. In reporting a time of special communing they say: "During that trip we walked down on the river, and the conversation turned on a trip to Palestine and Jerusalem. Lincoln's countenance seemed at once to light up and he exclaimed, 'Yes, to tread the ground the Saviour trod ! Never from other human lips have I heard the word 'Saviour' pronounced with such deep earnestness. Apparently absorbed with the two thoughts of the evils of slavery and of the Saviour, we wandered on in silence and so parted."
Mr. Lincoln also believed in
THE SAVIOUR'S TEMPTATION
The story of that mysterious experience of the Saviour which is a part of the New Testament record would naturally appeal to one so greatly tried as was Mr. Lincoln, and it may be reasonably claimed that had he made no reference to the matter himself, he could properly be regarded as believing in that story. But Mr. Lincoln has made such inference unnecessary by his own declarations relative to the matter.
In his letter to Dr. Ide and Senator Doolittle, dated May 30th, 1864, he declared that the conduct of some Southern leaders "contemned and insulted God and His Church far more than did Satan whem he tempted the Saviour with the kingdoms of earth. The devil's attempt was no more false, and far less hypocritical.'
Hard to understand as is the above mentioned event in the life of the Saviour it is certain that Mr. Lincoln accepted it as not only authentic and true but as full of significance and meaning. With all his heart and soul, as indicated by his oftrepeated declarations, Mr. Lincoln believed in the supreme authority of
3 Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Emerson, Personal Recollections of Abraham Lincoln, pp. 10-12.
* Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. X., p. 109.
THE SAVIOUR'S TEACHINGS
If from all that Mr. Lincoln has written and said there could be taken that which he quotes from the teachings of Christ, and his own interpretation and application of those teachings, but little of value would be left. Prominent among his many quotations from the words of Jesus are the following:
“A house divided against itself cannot stand."
This quotation was made not only the keynote of that great speech at Springfield by which Mr. Lincoln first attracted the attention of the nation, but also expressed the dominant thought in his subsequent political program.
“Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them."
These words of the Saviour were by Mr. Lincoln accepted as the “Golden Rule” which makes the golden life; and were by him adopted as a full and satisfactory statement of the portion of his religious creed pertaining to human conduct.
"Woe unto the world because of offenses."
This declaration of Jesus stands out in the second inaugural address as the marvelously fitting statement of Mr. Lincoln's distinguishing belief in the great doctrine of divine retribution.
“Let us judge not that we be not judged.”
By these words, Mr. Lincoln in that inaugural calls for the exercise of self-restraint. After referring to the surprise which might be felt in view of the prayers of professed Christians for divine aid in their efforts to maintain slavery, he virtually admonished himself and others to refrain from hasty and uncharitable judgment. This seems the more significant when it is remembered that several months previous to this occasion, when Mr. Lincoln was moved to express with severity his opinion of the conduct of professed followers of Christ, who not only sought to enslave their fellows but had gone to war against their government in order that they might protect and promote slavery, he said: “But I must forbear, remembering that it is also said: “Judge not that ye be not judged.'”
Very beautiful and instructive is Mr. Lincoln's reference to
“The lost sheep."
The significance of Mr. Lincoln's reference to this parable of the Saviour, and his designating of Judge Douglas as fittingly represented by the lost and endangered sheep, should be considered in connection with the Saviour's own interpretation of this parable when he said: "Even so there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety and nine righteous persons which need no repentance.
Among the numberless citations that might be given are the following:
"By their fruits ye shall know them.”
As early as 1850, in a tender letter to his stepbrother, written to be read to his own dying father, Mr. Lincoln quoted the last two of these sayings of Jesus in proof of the Heavenly Father's tenderness and minute, supervising care.
Still earlier, namely, in 1842, in his famous temperance speech Mr. Lincoln refers to the "unpardonable sin,” for the purpose of expressing the conviction that such was not chargeable to the drunkard; but that he was an object of divine compassion and of tender mercy. The text
“Be ye perfect even as your Father, which is in heaven, is perfect, was quoted by Mr. Lincoln as a statement of the exalted aims which should characterize every Christian.
During the period between his first election and his inauguration as President, Mr. Lincoln was urged by some
6 Matt. 15:7.