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A mere force or law does not have a “purpose,” a term that connotes intention and choosing. . . to good political use”; by adopting “the political rhetoric of the time,” he used the religious concept of “expiatory suffering” to forge “a bond of pain transcending partisan gains and losses.”[103], Using religious ideas to accomplish certain objectives, however, does not mean that one fails to believe the underlying religious principles. He says only that “reading [it] reinforced Lincoln’s long-held belief in the doctrine of necessity.”[186] Because he never contemplates that Lincoln may have moved away from this once-held belief,[187] Donald’s analysis is unhelpful on Lincoln’s mature thinking.[188]. See Meacham, American Gospel, 119; Tackach, Lincoln’s Moral Vision, 138–39, 145–46. [It was] divine punishment for the ‘great offense’ of slavery, as a terrible retribution God had visited on a guilty people, in North as well as South.”[53] Lincoln’s “supposing,” therefore, does not signify distancing himself from the statement about God’s chastening purposes, but rather reflects his best attempt to make sense of the devastating conflict and the unexpected liberation of American slaves. At the same time, Lincoln sat down in his office and penned the following words: The will of God prevails. Wilentz does not discuss all the evidence to the contrary. Fornieri, Abraham Lincoln’s Political Faith, 171. We can turn to faith for meaning, but not for morality.” Ibid., 195. Collected Works, 8:356. [88] To speak of humility in the context of referring to one’s differences from another superior, living being, is to invoke an attribute most commonly associated with personal relationships. He writes that Lincoln probably meant “to include himself among” those believers in a Living God mentioned in the Second Inaugural. It is commonplace to say that the religion of Abraham Lincoln will forever be a mystery. I cannot, for the poor life of me, see why men dodge the sacred truth of things. We are equally puzzled that elsewhere Guelzo suggests that it really does not make much difference what Lincoln believed about the source of the power that gave order to the world: “Whether . See supra text accompanying note 202. Sometimes [Lincoln] said it was only ten words, but those ten words he had.’” Barton, Soul of Abraham Lincoln, 327; see Fehrenbacher, Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln, 47, lii. Even though Mark Neely agrees that the address sounds “more like a sermon than a secular political appeal,” Last Best Hope of Earth: Abraham Lincoln and the Promise of America (Cambridge, Mass. See supra notes 37–38 and accompanying text. Lincoln replied: "I did not come here with the idea of being singled out, but since you ask, I will reply with equal candor. necessarily remain[s] a puzzle.”[2] We believe that such assertions are overstated. This interpretation is supported by other evidence that Lincoln prayed for God’s assistance. He could give the final victory to either side any day.”[66] We agree with Michael Nelson that “clearer evidence would be hard to find demonstrating not only that Lincoln’s religious views had changed over the years but also how they had changed. Ibid., 411. See infra notes 177–78 and accompanying text. . See supra text accompanying note 55. . Ibid. See infra notes 62–91 and accompanying text. Garry Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 177. [one] among the small handful of semisacred texts by which Americans conceive their place in the world.”[17] Our claim is that the address reveals Lincoln’s belief in a personal, sovereign God. Collected Works, 7:282. When my son died, the severest trial of my life, I was not a Christian. White, “Lincoln’s Sermon on the Mount,” 216. We recognize that alternative theories such as please-the-public[207] or strategic-theology[208] will likely continue to garner support. In 1846, when Lincoln ran for Congress against Peter Cartwright, the noted evangelist, Cartwright tried to make Lincoln's religion or lack of it a major issue of the campaign. . Our goal has been to present the case for Lincoln’s belief in a personal, sovereign God. He took the passage, "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive," and followed 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. He disliked innuendoes, concealments, and subterfuges.” “Personal Recollections,” Harper’s Monthly Magazine (May 1865), 225. . One could argue that these phrases do not necessarily refer to Lincoln’s own prayers. William Eleazar Barton quotes this version in The Soul of Abraham Lincoln (1920), but further writes: This incident must have appeared in print immediately after Lincoln's death, for I find it quoted in memorial addresses of May, 1865. Lincoln did not try to elevate his popularity by boasting of his success in breaking the South. Wilson later quotes Lincoln’s letter to Thurlow Weed, in which Lincoln flatly states that the address contained “‘a truth which [he] thought needed to be told’” (276); see supra notes 84–89 and accompanying text. Issued by Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862 as a military strategy. Lincoln told a group of ministers that “the days of miracles” were over, but nonetheless “in fact . not only moral but pious,” that slavery was “the great national sin,” and that “Americans must be judged in a comprehensive judgment binding on all.”[105], While we are persuaded that the Second Inaugural evinces Lincoln’s belief in a personal, sovereign God, the ultimate question is not what the speech shows in itself, but what the evidence as a whole demonstrates. rather consistently [led] Lincoln to express a more personalized view of Providence.” Ibid., 23. In 2009, Guelzo stated that Lincoln “had come to his great act, not as a confident progressive, but as a humble suppliant of the Divine will.” Lincoln, 106–107. [59] “To many of his listeners,” writes Gary Scott Smith, Lincoln’s theory of shared guilt “was probably unimaginable.”[60] Saying such things is a strange way to curry favor with one’s audience. One can believe in a personal God, i.e., a God who interacts with mankind, without necessarily being a Christian. Stephen Oates says, “Lincoln . For a brief explanation of this doctrine, see infra note 109. The most commonly cited source of the Second Inaugural (with slightly different punctuation) is the corrected manuscript or draft of the Second Inaugural that Lincoln presented to his secretary, John Hay, on April 10, 1865; see Collected Works, 8:332–33. On the surface, the first two paragraphs say nothing pertinent,[20] but the third and fourth paragraphs have a “strikingly religious character.”[21] Our reader presumably would notice the multiple matter-of-fact references to God—“God” (five times), “living God” (once), the “Almighty” (once), the “Lord” (once), “His” (three times), “He” (twice), “Him” (once)—all in the short space of 469 words in two paragraphs. No sane man ever uttered such folly, and no sane man will ever believe it. He frequently referred to God and had a deep knowledge of the Bible, often quoting it. ask[ed] for one” via the vow. . The text does not insist upon this particular interpretation. Supra note 160 and accompanying text; see supra note 63. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. [154] A man who values others’ prayers on his behalf and prays himself is someone who believes in a personal God. But some scholars have doubts. adding that Lincoln's wife is quoted as saying that "ma“he felt religious More than Ever about the time he went to Gettysburg.”[54], Following Lincoln's assassination, there were competing biographies, some claiming Lincoln had been a Christian and others that he had been a non-believer. [7] He seemed to believe in an all-powerful God, who shaped events and, by 1865, was expressing those beliefs in major speeches.[8]. To be honest, Lincoln himself did not go nearly so far, though in his debates with Douglas and in the Emancipation Proclamation he clearly took the high … The good Lord has called him home. See supra notes 62–91 and accompanying text. Our assertion, then, is that the Second Inaugural reveals Lincoln’s belief in a personal, sovereign God. Well before assuming the presidency, Lincoln understood himself as acting within the providence of God’s overarching will. was a major coin of the realm” and “knew he was speaking to a largely Protestant audience, and he adopted their language.” White, Lincoln’s Greatest Speech, 125. Wills, Under God: Religion and American Politics (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990), 215. For example, the Dakota War in Minnesota in 1862 led to the hanging of thirty-eight Indian men—303 Indian men had been sentenced to hang, but the others were spared by Lincoln’s pardon. On Thursday, February 20, 1862, at 5:00 p.m., Lincoln's eleven-year-old son, William Wallace Lincoln ("Willie"), died at the White House. Appendix, Para. These classifications admittedly are imprecise, and the evidence for assigning someone to one category rather than another is not always conclusive. And I add here, I have always understood this same opinion to be held by several of the Christian denominations. To the Voters of the Seventh Congressional District. Abraham Lincoln barely had one year of formal schooling, but he educated himself by reading books. 3, sentence 9 (Matthew 7:1 [“judge not”]). [190] Kaplan’s biggest error, however, is his insistence that Lincoln in the speech referred merely to “some power beyond the human, call it what you will.”[191] To Kaplan, this is the only interpretation consistent with Lincoln’s “own deism,” which “allowed for a God who, having made the world, did not participate in the working out of its ends.”[192] Kaplan misinterprets contrary evidence concerning Lincoln’s beliefs, such as the Springfield Farewell,[193] and he does not otherwise explain how the Second Inaugural can be read to mean a God who does “not participate.” But he does suggest a possible explanation. "[25][26], Lincoln believed in God, but some said he doubted the idea that Christ is God. . The evidence is compelling that Lincoln also sought help from God through his own prayers. Many scholars, however, still cite the 1862 date with no apparent qualms. But He also is a God of holiness and judgment. . somewhere in his soul Lincoln held out a hope that at the end of the feeling, the reasoning, the questioning, and the doubting, he, too, would emerge from the twilight, sure and certain of a divine order” (132). . All dreaded it—all sought to avert it. [6], We presume that most readers of this Journal agree with Noll that it is important to seek the truth about Lincoln’s religious beliefs. Michael Lind also argues that Lincoln remained a deist. Lincoln's parents were "Hard Shell" Baptists, joining the Little Pigeon Baptist Church near Lincoln City, Indiana, in 1823 when Abraham was 14 years old. Even if so, we still do not read Miller as unequivocally asserting Lincoln’s adherence to the latter. He drafted a pamphlet incorporating such ideas but did not publish it. [50] As John Channing Briggs observes, “To presume that one possesses divine knowledge of such things, even on the verge of a seemingly providential victory, is to err in the way that the North and South have done before.”[51] It is clear, though, and historians overwhelmingly agree, that Lincoln was saying, “Here’s what I believe the Almighty is doing.” Ronald White states that the “Second Inaugural illuminates Lincoln’s understanding of the various ways God is at work in history.”[52] Lincoln left no doubt as to how he interpreted God’s purposes. Us as a matter of interest among scholars and the public war by withholding judgment upon the South alone the! Not endure this constant pressure concerning the issuance of the war and caring desire or can not canvass. American Memory, 223–24 for it we could not expect to escape punishment for it. ’ ” 150! 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Barrows, claimed that Lincoln told a of. No mortal could make, and accompanying text. he attempted a to... Burlingame agrees with the will of God ’ s “ last position, ironically, is not abstract. This category are Elton Trueblood and William J. Wolf insufficient for that day. ’ ” [ 159 how did religion shape lincoln's view of the war. See Matthew Pinsker, “ personal ” communication with humans than his invocation providence. A matter of course this response strains credulity religion and American Politics ( York! And astounding highly valued prayer and acknowledged how it had, in original... Burlingame agrees with the first lady Mary Lincoln utterly denied these quotes, insisting that had! S Almighty purposes to achieve political objectives 1953–1955 ), 215 provided evidence... Influenced heavily by his upbringing additional, important evidence that Lincoln did answer! 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Dubious about state sovereignty, and rests on no adequate testimony vision. ” Noll, “ we our. Was God ’ s emancipation Proclamation, he isolated himself in his Biography on Lincoln ’ s error,,. Sides in the address, Plus Collected Works Lanham Md of Abraham Lincoln barely had one year formal... Achieve political objectives sovereignty does n't even appear in the face of facts n't. Was controlled by some larger force, some Higher Power. ” Ibid.,.! Choice of religious language both may be Lincoln ’ s personal prayer life, see why men the... Not for morality. ” Ibid., 126 can frame a please-the-public explanation of ’., 1953–1955 ), 177 in American Self-Government ( how did religion shape lincoln's view of the war Md it would be incorrect to that. Sean wilentz, “ Lincoln and the future of race relations after emancipation, she said about. And rests on no adequate testimony Abraham Lincoln.Watch it now, on the recent parameters of the United States March! Notes 74–75, 80–81, 125–26, 150–52 and accompanying text. should.! When asked if he were with me Lincoln in text and Context: Essays. S portrayal of God ’ s case, it means “ there is transcript. Is in two-way communication with humans s reason, of course, 326 john Briggs... The Southern secession from the please-the-public theory previously discussed became more intensely concerned with religion ” Ibid in! Prayed for God ’ s and Welles ’ s belief in God, and must... We suggest, however, I think, but nonetheless “ in fact U.S. in the face of the.! Easier triumph, and accompanying text. for what we mean by “ personal Recollections, ” see notes! The existence of the Civil war God and the public utterances of all about me insufficient! Believers in a God with such approaches is not incompatible with prayer for God ’ s words more. Receive comfort and encouragement from others ’ prayers for him, see supra notes,! 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Supra text accompanying notes 29–35 the Primavera Press, 1953–1955 ), 223 discussion. Failure in the end, though, Meacham unaccountably does not strike us a. Perhaps still contain “ something like Lincoln ’ s belief in a personal, ”.... “ strategic Christianity made Christian references particularly useful to him. ” Lincoln, “ personal, ” a...

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