Page images
PDF
EPUB

anxious friends throughout the nation to make a public manifesto of his principles and purposes that would quiet the apprehensions of the Southern people. To this he replied by calling attention to the many statements he already had made, and, having driven home the nail he clinched it by saying:

“If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead."

Immensely significant is this quotation from that dramatic and searching illustration employed by the Saviour to repre-. sent the sin and the danger of human incorrigibility. The Saviour's reference to

“The blood of righteous Abel,” and His declaration that

"He that is not with me is against me," were most appropriately quoted by Mr. Lincoln not only to express his belief in the Saviour's teachings but also to make effective the instruction he was seeking to impart.

“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me.”

It is worthy of note that by these words Mr. Lincoln rebuked some thoughtless boys for their unkindness to one of their number. But why multiply examples? The speeches, letters and recorded conversations of Lincoln teem with allusions to the Saviour's teachings, and the use made of them affords indubitable evidence that he accepted them as divinely inspired. Mr. Lincoln believed also in

THE SAVIOUR'S MIRACLES

His reference to the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and to the case of the Gadarene swineherder who was cured, clothed and brought into his right mind, very clearly indicate his belief in the miracle-working power of Christ; and doubtless he regarded with unquestioning acceptance all the other miracles of the New Testament.

He also believed in * Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. VI., p. 64.

THE SAVIOUR'S SUFFERING AND DEATH

There was probably no time in all his sad, weary life when his sufferings were so exquisite and so devoid of all alleviation as during that period to which reference already has been made, between his first election as President and his inauguration. Utterly unable to lift a hand to avert or delay the calamity he saw sweeping down upon the nation he could but suffer in silence looking on from the distance, while the fires were rapidly kindling to consume the nation. And to his mind it was not unfitting that he should refer, as he did in conversation with Judge Gillispie, to the Saviour's sufferings in Gethsemane, as illustrative of his own inability to find relief from the agony through which he was passing.

In his notes prepared in 1850 for a lecture on Niagara Falls he refers to the fact that the wonderful cataract was in activity “when Christ suffered on the cross.” Concerning the fundamental truth of Christ's atoning sacrifice Abraham Lincoln never faltered. It sometimes may have seemed to him an unfathomable mystery as it does to all; but his cast of mind and the methods by which he gained his wonderful knowledge of law, enabled him to understand in some measure the philosophy of the divine plan for human salvation, and to give atonement for sin its necessary and proper place. If he did not frequently refer to this doctrine, that may merely indicate how inseparable from the Christian system he regarded it. Believing in the gospel story of the life, death and resurrection of Christ, and speaking of Him with the greatest tenderness “as the good Saviour” he could no more doubt the doctrine of atonement than he could disbelieve in his own existence. And fully characteristic of his habits and style, was the course he pursued in treating his belief in the atonement as a matter of course, and in referring to it only as occasions made it necessary.

But there were occasions on which Mr. Lincoln's declarations concerning this matter were clear and comprehensive.

Those who would fain make him out an unbeliever, have repeated with tireless industry the falsehood respecting his hav ing, in early life, written a manuscript against Christianity which a friend snatched from his hands and cast into the fire. This story, which could have originated only in malice and concealed revenge, has been shown to have no other foundation than the burning of a letter which referred to matters of rivalry in love. And instead of having written an attack upon Christianity, it has been proven beyond question, that in 1833, the time referred to, Mr. Lincoln while investigating religious matters prepared with great care an article on the compassion and mercy of God, in which he claimed that all the evil consequences of Adam's transgression found a full and sufficient remedy in the sufferings and death of Christ. “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive," was the passage of Scripture by which the young lawyer sought to prove the perfect efficacy of the work of atonement. That passage of Scripture was commonly quoted in those days, and by many teachers at a later period, as defining the extent of the work of atonement; and it was undoubtedly quoted by Mr. Lincoln with that understanding.

I am not seeking, however, to state definitely the extent to which Mr. Lincoln believed the work of atonement; it is sufficient to know that with all his heart and soul he believed that Christ "tasted death for every man.”

The foregoing statement relating to Lincoln's manuscript on Christianity is borne out by a letter of Mr. Menter Graham, who was upon the most intimate terms with Mr. Lincoln from the time of his coming to Illinois until his departure to Washington, as President, in which he thus testifies: "Abraham Lincoln was living at my house at New Salem going to school, studying English Grammar and surveying in the year 1833. One morning he said to me, 'Graham, what do you think about the anger of the Lord?' I replied, 'I believe the Lord was never angry or mad and never would be; that His loving kindness endureth forever.' Said Lincoln, 'I have a little manuscript written which I will show you,' and stated that he thought of having it published. Offering it to me he said he had never shown it to any one and still thought of having it published. The size of the manuscript was about a half a quire of foolscap paper, written in a very plain hand on the subject of Christianity. The commencement of it was something respecting the God of the Universe never being excited, mad or angry. I had the manuscript in my possession some week or ten days. I have read many books on the subject of theology and I do not think in point of perspicuity and plainness of reasoning I ever read one to surpass it. I remember well his argument. He took the passage, ‘As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive, and followed up with the proposition that whatever the breach or injury of Adam's transgression to the human race was, which no doubt was very great, was made just and right by the atonement of Christ."

In 1859, twenty-six years after the writing of that remarkable production, being the year following the great Lincoln-Douglas debates, and the year preceding Mr. Lincoln's election as President, Mr. Isaac Cogsdale, of Illinois, called upon Mr. Lincoln, at his office in Springfield, and frankly made inquiry concerning his religious belief. Mr. Lincoln's reply was based, as he said at the time, upon his understanding of the teachings of the Bible, and among other things, according to Mr. Cogsdale, he said: “All that was lost by the transgression of Adam was made good by Atonement. All that was lost by the Fall was made good by the Sacrifice; and he added this remark, that punishment being a provision of the gospel system he was not sure but the world would be better if a little more punishment was preached by our ministers and not so much pardon for sin. Lincoln told me he never took part in the argument or discussion of theological

questions."

? Lincoln Scrap-book, p. 64. 8 Ibid.

The following story related by Mr. F. B. Carpenter, the artist who painted the picture of President Lincoln and his Cabinet, considering the Emancipation Proclamation, illustrates the readiness with which Mr. Lincoln summoned Bible doctrines to aid him in the performance of official duty, according to the promptings of his loving heart. Mr. Carpenter says:

My friend, the Hon. Mr. Kellogg of New York, was sitting in his room at his boarding house one evening, when one of his constituents appeared—a white-headed old man—who had come to Washington in great trouble, to seek the aid of his representative in behalf of his son. His story was this: “The young man had formerly been very dissipated. During an absence from home a year or two previous to the war, he enlisted in the regular army, and after serving six months, deserted. Returning to his father, who knew nothing of this, he reformed his habits, and when the war broke out, entered heart and soul into the object of raising a regiment in his native county, and was subsequently elected one of its officers. He had proved an efficient officer, distinguishing himself particularly on one occasion, in a charge across a bridge, when he was severely wounded,—his colonel being killed by his side. Shortly after this, he came in contact with one of his old companions in the 'regular' service, who recognized him, and declared his purpose of informing against him.

"Overwhelmed with mortification, the young man procured a furlough and returned home, revealing the matter to his father, and declaring his purpose never to submit to an arrest, he would die first.'

"In broken tones the old man finished his statement, saying: ‘Can you do anything for us, Judge?—it is a hard, hard case!' 'I will see about that,' replied the representative, putting on his hat; 'wait here until I return.' He went immediately to the White House, and fortunately finding Mr. Lincoln alone, they sat down together, and he repeated the old man's story. The President made no demonstration of

« PreviousContinue »