Lincoln’s words for our present difficulty
Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally. (1)
This one, short quip conveys well how Abraham Lincoln felt about the forced subjugation of a whole race of human beings by another race. His strong conviction in the inherent, God-given right to freedom for all people stayed him through four long years of the Civil War, and compelled him before the war ended to defy the US Supreme Court and proclaim all slaves emancipated. Lincoln lived long enough to see the Union preserved, but unfortunately not long enough to enjoy it.
I wonder what he would think about our current uncivil, civil conflict that has not yet escalated into war. I think he would be amazed and appalled at the racist, Marxist “protests” and propaganda at the center of it, in a nation that just overwhelmingly voted in a black man as president. I wish he were here to talk some sense into those who seem intent on dividing the country he fought so hard to unite.
As a man of faith, Lincoln knew that certain human rights like freedom were not conferred by man but by God, so could not be “rightfully” denied by man. At his inaugural address in March of 1861, with the Civil War on the horizon, President Lincoln warned against allowing government entities to overstep their bounds. The Supreme Court had a few years prior declared that slaves were not citizens nor even persons in the awful Dred Scott decision, and he was not happy about it.
“I do not forget the position assumed by some that constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court…At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made…the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having…resigned their Government into the hands of the eminent tribunal…”(2)
Four months later, after the war had begun, Lincoln proclaimed a National Day of Prayer and Fasting to call upon the mercy of the supremely Supreme Court.
“It is fit and becoming in all people, at all times, to acknowledge and revere the Supreme Government of God; to bow in humble submission to his chastisement; to confess and deplore their sins and transgressions in the full conviction that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and to pray, with all fervency and contrition, for the pardon of their past offenses, and for a blessing upon their present and prospective action…
And whereas when our own beloved country, once, by the blessings of God, united, prosperous and happy, is now afflicted with faction and civil war, it is peculiarly fit for us to recognize the hand of God in this terrible visitation, and in sorrowful remembrance of our own faults and crimes as a nation and as individuals, to humble ourselves before Him and to pray for His mercy…that the inestimable boon of civil and religious liberty, earned under His guidance and blessing by the labors and sufferings of our fathers, may be restored.”(3)
At the start of his presidency, Lincoln cited four things which would get the nation through the difficult, divisive years ahead.
“Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty.”(4)
Two years later, as the bloody war raged on, he was yet confident that, by the grace of God, the Union would survive.
“But the God of our fathers, who raised up this country to be the refuge and asylum of the oppressed and downtrodden of all nations, will not let it perish now. I may not live to see it…I do not expect to see it, But God will bring us through safe.”(5)
Intelligence…patriotism…Christianity…and a firm reliance on God. They are again “the best way [out of] our present difficulty.”
(1) William J. Federer, America’s God and Country: Encyclopedia Of Quotations (St. Louis: Amerisearch, Inc., 2000) p. 390.
(2) Ibid, p. 378.
(3) Ibid, pp. 378-379.
(4) Ibid, p. 378.
(5) Ibid, p. 385.