President’s Day came and went last month. I had planned to write an article about Abraham Lincoln, our 16th, and arguably our greatest president. It would be a toss-up between George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
There is a disturbing trend in our nation. That trend comes from the halls of academia. It is the attempt on the part of those who do not like the way history, in particular, American History, has been recorded. This is called “historical revisionism.” Let me give you a for instance: A common theme espoused by those who want to revise history concerning George Washington is to declare that our Revolutionary hero and first president was not a Christian. This is so blatantly false as to be laughable. Even a cursory reading of Washington’s extensive writings would reveal a man of deep faith in God and God’s Son, Jesus, our Savior. Add to that the many written testimonies of those who knew him and worked with him. He was a godly man without equal.
When it comes to Abraham Lincoln, the revisionists have tried to convince the younger generation that “Honest Abe” was not a Christian. This accusation was also ascribed to Lincoln in 1846 when he was running for Congress from Illinois. In response to this, Lincoln wrote this reply for the Illinois Gazette, August 15, 1846, which read, “That I am not a member of any Christian Church, is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or of any denomination of Christians in particular……I do not think I could, myself, be brought to support a man for office whom I knew to be an open enemy of, and scoffer at religion.”
One of the revisionist accusations leveled against Lincoln is the argument that he was not really interested in freeing the slaves, but was only interested in preserving the Union. In part, this I true. Allowing the Union to be destroyed in an attempt to rid the nation of slavery, he believed, was tantamount to national suicide. Instead, Lincoln was convinced that if the South could be contained, that is, preventing slavery from extending into the New Territories of the West, slavery in the South would die out on its own without the costly price in blood and resources required in a civil war. This decision was made for him, as many of the Southern States seceded from the Union before Lincoln even assumed office.
What were his thoughts about slavery? Consider these two quotes, "I have always hated slavery, I think as much as any abolitionist." "I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I cannot remember when I did not so think, and feel."
In a letter to a friend dated April 6, 1859, Lincoln wrote these insightful remarks about slavery, “This is a world of compensation; and he who would be no slave must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and under a just God, cannot long retain it.”
Just days leading up to his assuming the Office of the Presidency, Lincoln gave a speech at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, February 22, 1861. In a chillingly prophetic comment, the President said, “The Declaration of Independence which gave liberty not alone to the people of this country, but hope to all the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights would be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance. This is the sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence……I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it.”
The next day in a letter to his friend William Dodge, Lincoln had this to say about slavery, “With the support of the people and the assistance of the Almighty, I shall undertake to perform it……(the eradication of slavery). Freedom is the natural condition of the human race, in which the Almighty intended men to live. Those who fight the purpose of the Almighty will not succeed. They always have been, they always will be, beaten.”
A month before Lincoln’s untimely demise at Ford’s Theater, the president addressed the Indiana Regiment, stating, “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”
In the early weeks of 1865 Lincoln had just survived a close reelection campaign, and was beginning his second term when he spoke of what the United States could yet become. Only weeks before Lee’s surrender, effectively ending the Civil War, President Lincoln shared these thoughts with State Senator James Scoval of New Jersey, “Young man, if God gives me four years more to rule this country, I believe it will become what it ought to be – what its Divine Author intended it to be – no longer one vast plantation for breeding human beings for the purpose of lust and bondage. But it will become a new Valley of Jehoshaphat, where all nations of the earth will assemble together under one flag, worshipping a common God, and they will celebrate the resurrection of human freedom.”
In his famous “House Divided” speech in 1858, Lincoln had the vision to see that the Union, our United States, would either eliminate slavery, or the whole nation would embrace slavery. "A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved - I do not expect the house to fall - but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other."
Lincoln was known as a man of the people. He had his finger on the pulse of the nation. He was determined to do the right thing. During the Civil War, President Lincoln overheard someone remark that he hoped “the Lord was on the Union’s side.” Lincoln gave a straightforward reply, “I am not at all concerned about that, for I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.”
That is a prayer we should pray fervently today!