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Lincoln was disinclined to retain him in the position which he held until he learned of the religious work he always had conducted among the men under his command; when he remarked that this was “his highest possible recommendation.”
According to the statement of Mrs. Rebecca Pomeroy, who was for fourteen weeks a nurse in the White House, the President frequently accompanied her upon her visitations to the hospitals, and would never permit her to pass over the religious exercises which formed part of her work, but always listened with close and constant attention while she pointed afflicted and suffering soldiers to Jesus Christ as the only one in whom they could find salvation, and from whom there could be administered to them consolation and comfort.
Mrs. Pomeroy in her very interesting and instructive record of the events of those weeks says that Mr. Lincoln, in a conversation with her at the White House, inquired with great diligence and minuteness concerning her methods of communicating to the soldiers the gospel message, and the evidence of their acceptance of the Saviour.
Mr. Lincoln accepted without qualification the doctrine of
The work of grace to which the Saviour referred when he said, “Ye must be born anew" (John 3:7), to which the Apostle referred when he said, “If any man is in Christ he is a new creature" (2 Cor. 5:17), that work which Mr. Lincoln designated as “a change of heart," was to his mind clearly taught by reason and Revelation. All that Mr. Lincoln is known to have said respecting his own religious experiences and standing bears witness to his settled conviction that personal regeneration is included in the work of saving grace and is indispensable to salvation. His carefully guarded expressions of uncertainty as to "the precise time” when he was the recipient of that gracious work of the Holy Spirit, and experienced "a change of heart," as he termed it, and his later more definite declarations relative to the same matter give assurance of his recognition of the necessity for such an experience. His occasional reference to this matter indicates that he supposed his belief in the doctrine of regeneration was understood as a matter of course. This is confirmed by his statements which appear in later pages of this volume.
LINCOLN'S FAITH IN PRAYER
N his statement before quoted Mr. Roosevelt employs a
very unusual word when he says, “Lincoln studied the
Bible until he mastered it absolutely.” It is not often that any one is credited with having "mastered” a great literary production, yet in a carefully prepared address upon an important occasion, when as chief magistrate of the nation he occupied a position which caused his words to have peculiar weight, Mr. Roosevelt declared that Lincoln had “mastered absolutely" the greatest book in existence.
Mr. Lincoln's methods of study were calculated to accomplish the result here claimed for him by the former President. He was always thorough in his examination of every subject that he deemed worthy of consideration. He carefully read, diligently studied and pondered over volumes which others hastily perused. Thus he became able to repeat verbatim extended passages from books and other publications upon which he had bestowed absorbing attention. By the same painstaking methods he studied the Bible and by so doing he came into that sublime and beautiful faith in prayer which for more than half a century has been the marvel of the world.
When Mr. Lincoln discovered a very skillfully constructed plot to secure by perjury a verdict against his client in the case he was conducting for Father Chiniquy, he said: “The only way to be sure of a favorable verdict tomorrow is that God Almighty will take our part and show your innocence. Go to Him and pray for He alone can save you." At three o'clock, the next morning, Mr. Lincoln came to Father Chiniquy's room, and finding him in agonizing and tearful prayer, merrily exclaimed: "Cheer up, their diabolical plot is all known and if they do not fly away before the dawn of day they will surely be lynched. Bless the Lord, you are saved.”
A little later, while in conversation with Father Chiniquy, he said: “The way you have been saved when, I confess it again, I thought everything was nearly lost, is one of the most extraordinary occurrences I ever saw. It makes me remember what I have too often forgotten and what my mother often told me when young—that our God is a prayer-hearing God. This good thought sown into my young heart by that dear mother's hand was in my mind when I told you to go and pray. But I confess to you that I had not faith enough to believe that your prayer would be so quickly and so marvelously answered.”1
HE ASKED FOR PRAYERS
A sincere, earnest request to be remembered and mentioned in the prayers which others offer should be regarded as quite as pronounced an expression of faith in the efficacy of prayer as could be stated in human language. With some it means but little to make a request for prayer, but such was not the case with Abraham Lincoln. He was a man of such proportions, so broad and generous in his human sympathies, so profound and earnest in his regard for sacred things, and so absolutely sincere, that for him to express a desire to be remembered in the prayers of others, meant all that was in his power to express. The record of his eventful life is marked by many such requests. Some of these will be stated in this connection, and I must begin by asking the reader to stand with me, in imagination, in the dampness and falling snow of that with of February, 1861, when Mr. Lincoln bade adieu to his friends and neighbors as he started on his journey to Washington for his inauguration as President, and hear him say: "To His care commending you, as I trust in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell."
1 Fifty Years in the Church of Rome, pp. 657, 658, 662.
Mr. Lincoln had just been speaking of the assurance of God's presence and of His all-sufficient helpfulness given to Washington and those associated with him; and realizing, as he did, and as he most beautifully stated, his own utter unfitness for the great task before him he turned with all the simplicity and solemn earnestness of a devout and spiritually enlightened soul to the one only source of help in times of need. His whole confidence was in God and with all his heart and soul he believed in the efficacy of prayer in securing divine assistance. He believed in his neighbors and friends who stood before him and in the potency of their prayers. His heart yearned to be remembered by them when they were interceding with God for the imperilled nation. But let us not forget that while his heart was yearning for remembrance in their prayers, he did not, and could not forget that they, too, were in need of the presence and blessing of Omnipotence. And this doubtless brought him unconsciously to an expression of his belief in what is known as "communion in intercession.”
“There is a place where spirits blend,
When interceding for a common cause we have fellowship in prayer sweet, and comforting. But it was something more personal, more inexpressibly precious, that Mr. Lincoln had in mind. What was in his thought is often expressed in devotional conferences and testimonies. No doubt Mr. Lincoln, on many occasions, at social religious services which he frequently attended, had heard the request and promise: “I hope to be remembered in your prayers and I will not forget you when I pray.” The thought expressed in that very common statement was the thought which Mr. Lincoln clothed in such incomparably beautiful language, in the closing passage of that farewell address.