Page images



"Be good, sweet friend, and let who will be clever;
Do noble deeds, not dream them all day long;
And so make life, death, and that vast Forever,
One grand, sweet song."


"The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips.” — MALACHI ii. 6.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN was a Christian; but no particular branch of Zion can claim him. He belongs to that universal Church of which Christ alone is head, and all whose members are imbued with their Master's spirit. Under different names, or perhaps, like him, with no denominational rank at all, the great souls that delight to do good, and desire to live and act for the honor of God, are moving forward at the command of one Leader, and to one grand destiny. These are the world's workers. Imbued with Christ's spirit of self-sacrificing love, they act as if, like him, they came to earth, "not to be ministered unto, but to minister." And who shall deny them a place amid God's elect, or shut against them at last the door of heaven? It is not so much creed as life that is to be weighed in the unerring scales of God's justice. A man may profess to have a pure and noble creed, but in daily deeds contradict it; and a man may have a warped and narrow view of truth, and yet his life be broader and better than his creed. But, generally, “as a man thinketh, so is he." Men are biassed by their religious views and opinions; and he who has profoundest

faith in things unseen is most likely to labor assiduously in doing God's will amid the things that are seen and temporal.

Thus did our martyred President. He never joined a church, because, as he said, he found difficulty in giving his assent, without mental reservation, to the long complicated statements of Christian doctrine which characterize their Articles of Belief, and Confessions of Faith.

"When any church,” he continued, "will inscribe over its altar, as its sole qualification for membership, the Saviour's condensed statement of the substance of both law and gospel, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself,' that church will I join with all my heart and all my soul."

The President was a great reader of the Bible. The last photograph taken of him represents him reading that blessed volume, with little Thaddeus standing at his side.

Rev. W. M. Thayer says of him in his youth, "For a boy of his age, he was excelled by few in his acquaintance with the Scriptures. The Bible, catechism, and the old spelling-book named, being the only books in the family at this time, and there being no papers, either religious or secular, the Bible was read much more than it would have been if other volumes had been possessed. . . . That same Bible is still in the possession of a relative in the State of Illinois."*


As long as he lived, the President valued the Best of Books. One who knew him intimately says, "The Bible was a very familiar study with the President; whole

"Pioneer Boy," p. 58.

chapters of Isaiah, the New Testament, and the Psalms, being fixed in his memory: and he would sometimes correct a misquotation of Scripture, giving generally the chapter and verse where it could be found. He liked the Old Testament best, and dwelt on the simple beauty of the historical books. Once, speaking of his own age and strength, he quoted with admiration that passage, 6 His eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.' I do not know that he thought then, how, like that Moses of old, he was to stand on Pisgah, and see a peaceful land which he was not to enter."* It has been said that the President was in the habit of rising early, and spending an hour in the reading of the Scriptures, and prayer. It would be well if all in authority would imitate an example so good and salutary: then might we hope that our nation would speedily become "one whose God is the Lord," and be evermore a "praise in the earth.”+

Shaping his life-course by the chart, which, emanating from God himself, cannot be imperfect, the President was always a temperate man.

"Through his whole life he remained the advocate of temperance. He regretted the intemperance that existed in the army. In reply to a delegation of the Sons

[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

† Like Daniel Webster, Byron, and other writers, Lincoln drew largely on the Bible for illustration. He said to a friend, that "many years ago, when the custom of lecture-giving was more common than since, he was induced to try his hand at composing a literary lecture, something which he thought entirely out of his line. The subject, he said, was not defined; but his purpose was to analyze inventions and discoveries, "to get at the bottom of things," and to show when, where, how, and why such things were invented or discov ered; and, so far as possible, to find where the first mention is made of some uncommon things. The Bible, he said, he found to be the richest storehouse for such knowledge; and he then gave one or two illustrations which were new to his hearers. The lecture was never finished, and was left among his loose papers at Springfield when he came to Washington.” *

"Harpers' Monthly."

of Temperance on this subject, he said, in substance, that "when he was a young man, long ago, before the Sons of Temperance, as an organization, had an existence, he, in a humble way, made temperance speeches; and he thought he might say, that, to this day, he had never, by his example, belied what he then said. As to the suggestions for the purpose of the advancement of the cause of temperance in the army, he could not respond to them. To prevent intemperance in the army is the aim of a great part of the rules and articles of war. It is a part of the law of the land, and was so, he presumed, long ago, to dismiss officers for drunkenness. He was not sure, that, consistently with the public service, more could be done than has been done. All, therefore, he could promise, was to have a copy of the address submitted to the principal departments, and have it considered whether it contains any suggestions which will improve the cause of temperance and repress drunkenness in the army any better than is already done. He thought the reasonable men of the world have long since agreed that drunkenness is one of the greatest, if not the very greatest, of all evils among mankind. That is not a matter of dispute. All men agree that intemperance is a great curse, but differ about the cure."*

One more extract only from Mr. Thayer's testimonial to the great and good man. He says that a friend of Mr. Lincoln, who had known him as a neighbor for many years, writes thus to him: "I have known him long and well; and I can say in truth, I think (take him altogether) he is the best man I ever saw. Although he has never made a public profession of religion, I nevertheless believe that he has the fear of God before his eyes, and that he goes daily to a throne of grace, and asks wisdom, light,

* "President's Words," p. 163.

and knowledge to enable him faithfully to discharge his duties."

Bishop Simpson thus testifies of the departed Chief Magistrate: "Abraham Lincoln was a good man. He was known as an honest, temperate, forgiving man; a just inan; a man of noble heart in every way. . .

"As a ruler, I doubt if any President has ever shown such trust in God, or, in public documents, so frequently referred to divine aid. Often did he remark to friends and to delegations, that his hope for our success rested in his conviction that God would bless our efforts because we were trying to do right. To the address of a large religious body, he replied, 'Thanks be unto God, who, in our national trials, giveth us the churches.' To a minister, who said he hoped the Lord was on our side, he replied that it gave him no concern whether the Lord was on our side or not: 'For,' he added, 'I know the Lord is always on the side of right;' and with deep feeling added, ' But God is my witness that it is my constant anxiety and prayer that both myself and this nation should be on the Lord's side.'"

The following incident must not be omitted in this mention of the President's Christian words and deeds. During the visit of Mr. Lincoln to New York in 1860, he visited a mission-school at the Five-Points' House of Industry. The teacher thus narrates the circumstance:

"Our Sunday school in the Five Points was assembled one Sabbath morning, when I noticed a tall, remarkablelooking man enter the room, and take a seat among us. He listened with fixed attention to our exercises; and his countenance expressed such genuine interest, that I approached him, and suggested that he might be willing to say something to the children. He accepted the invitation with evident pleasure; and, coming forward, began

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »