Monday, April 24, 2023

Higher Authority



     When Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, he was certainly not thought of as a man given to religious fervor. But over the next 4½ years, when thousands of Americans were dying in the Civil War, the 16th president began to evolve, using the language and concepts of the Bible to reflect on the war’s larger meaning.

Lincoln frequently used the Bible as his moral compass with respect to contemporary issues. He applied its principles to any political issue he could, often citing the Bible's teachings as support for his positions.

Why, for instance, did Lincoln begin the Gettysburg Address with the words “fourscore and seven years ago?” It wasn't because he usually spoke that way. He knew that his audience was deeply familiar with the King James Bible and would recognize the language of the Psalms: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years.”

 Abraham Lincoln grew up in a highly religious Baptist family. He never joined any Church, and was a skeptic as a young man and sometimes ridiculed revivalists. He frequently referred to God and had a deep knowledge of the Bible often quoting it. Lincoln attended Protestant church services with his wife and children. After the death of his young son Willie in 1862, Lincoln seemed to have moved away from his earlier religious skepticism.

Throughout the war, in his letters and speeches Lincoln would plead with a divided Nation to remember, honor, and be guided by the principles and laws written in the Constitution.  These were his words, "Let us then turn this government back into the channel in which the framers of the Constitution originally placed it."  July 10, 1858

But we can see by his many other writings that he saw the need to direct people’s hearts and minds to a higher authority, The Bible.  His country, his administration, his people, needed a moral compass to redirect a divided nation. What was needed were truths far greater than any skillfully worded human document, or any eloquent speech writer’s flowery words.  In the New Testament book of Hebrews, the power of the Word of God to penetrate men’s hearts is boldly stated.

For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

Lincoln used the Scripture as a spiritual mirror so the Nation would hopefully take a closer look at what true righteousness is for a Nation and a People.  The admonitions of the Apostle James hammer home this powerful point, But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.  But one who has looked intently at the perfect law, the law of freedom, and has continued in it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an active doer, this person will be blessed in what he does. James1:22-25


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