Abraham Lincoln: Extraordinary but Unorthodox Faith in Action

To my knowledge, Abraham Lincoln was not influenced by Leo Tolstoy.  Indeed, Tolstoy did not write and publish What I Believe until almost 20 years after Lincoln’s death.  Perhaps Tolstoy was influenced by Lincoln.  I do not know.  However, Lincoln’s faith and actions were very much aligned with those of Leo Tolstoy.

Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) was a practical man and a man of ideals in his mature years.  In those years, he was not one to push processes too far, or too fast.  Rather, he chose to work through the inherited structures of American democracy.  His paramount concerns were duty and service. He became a man of principled action, whatever the cost, as Thoreau would have admired.

Years later, Lincoln became the most popular president we have had, and perhaps the most quoted.  But his presidency did not enjoy such popularity.

With the South threatening secession upon his election, Lincoln was not willing to anticipate what might happen, but only to do what he was called upon to do, consistent with his duty under the Constitution as President.  He was spirit-filled with the sense of Providence, not born of religious fundamentalist belief, but like that which sustained and inspired the Deistic founding fathers who stood at the brink of an age, and stepped out in faith into an uncertain future, with a sense of eternal presence.

Lincoln looked at the roots of slavery in relation to the ideals and principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence.  What did they mean for his circumstances in the mid-Nineteenth Century?  During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said,

The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are in want of one.  We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.  With some the product of his liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men. . . .

Lincoln remained faithful to principles of Natural Law from which sprung the Constitution.  They became a guide for action in his difficult, isolated years of the presidency.  He understood Providence to be an active, vital force in life that cannot be contained in a creed, or confined to a church.  Indeed, the reality of Providence to Lincoln, and his unabashed invocation of it and reliance upon it, have been misunderstood by those who flippantly invoke it without understanding its vital nature and the risks that arise from commitment to that faith.

A close personal friend of Lincoln, Jesse Fell, wrote of Lincoln’s unorthodox religious belief:

On the innate depravity of man, the character and office of the great head of the Church, the Atonement, the infallibility of the written revelation, the performance of miracles, the nature and design of present and future rewards and punishments (as they were popularly called) and many other subjects, he held opinions utterly at variance with what are usually taught in the Church.  I should say that his expressed views on these and kindred subjects were such as, in the estimation of most believers, would place him entirely outside the Christian pale.  Yet to my mind, such was not the true position, since his principles and practices and the spirit of his whole life were of the very kind we universally agree to call Christian; and I think this conclusion is in no wise affected by the circumstance that he never attached himself to any religious society whatever.

His religious views were eminently practical and are summed up, as I think, in these two propositions: “the fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of man.”  He fully believed in a superintending and overruling Providence that guides and controls the operations of the world, but maintained that law and order, not their violation or suspension, are the appointed means by which this Providence is exercised.

At his inaugural address, Lincoln assured the South that he had no intention of interfering with the institution of slavery where it existed. He believed he had no legal right to do so.  Although the institution was abhorrent to him, he was the President, and he was sworn to uphold the law.  The law said slaves were property, and one cannot be deprived of property without due process of law.  He addressed secession:

Physically speaking, we cannot separate. Suppose you go to war, you cannot fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides, and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions as to terms of intercourse are again upon you. . . .

Almost immediately Lincoln had to make some crucial decisions concerning Fort Sumpter, South Carolina: on April 13, 1861, the fort fell to Southern secessionists.  The next day, Lincoln called up the militia.  The nation was at war, and the early progress of that war was disastrous for the North.  As the early stages of the war wore on, the populace and officials became impatient with repeated losses.  Lincoln struggled against ineptitude, cowardice, and disorganization among his military staff and generals – and just plain bad luck.

In April, 1862, Ulysses S. Grant led his Union troops to disaster at Shiloh.  Although the army fought valiantly it was driven from its position to the river.  That evening Buell’s army met and joined with Grant’s.  The next day, after hard fighting the position was regained, the tide of battle was turned and the Southern army fell into retreat.  The North was aroused against Grant, believing that his disaster of the first day was saved only by Buell.  Despite Grant’s earlier victories which were a welcome relief from the succession of losses in the East, the North and Congress now demanded that he be replaced, and that Grant be discharged from the Army.  He also had a reputation of being given to drink, of which Lincoln was aware.  The general sentiment was that unless Lincoln removed Grant, his own political fortunes would also fall.

Lincoln kept Grant against popular and political outcry because Grant was willing to fight.  Grant survived to realize a series of successes thereafter which led to Lincoln appointing him as commander of all the Union armies.  Lincoln knew Grant’s shortcomings of character, but he also knew his strengths, which were necessary to save the Union.

In the summer of 1861 Fremont issued a military proclamation freeing the slaves in Missouri. Lincoln overruled him, and the Abolitionists bitterly railed against Lincoln.  General Hunter issued a similar order in May, 1862, and Lincoln again overruled it.  In August 1862 Lincoln wrote an open letter to the New York Tribune, Horace Greeley, editor:

My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.  If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.

 Lincoln had been considering emancipation as an aid to preserving the Union for some time before that letter.  Lincoln labored several weeks drafting the proclamation.  When he had completed it he handed it to Thomas Eckert, Superintendent of the Military Telegraph, saying that he had written it to free the slaves for the purpose of hastening the end of the war.  And yet Lincoln left the proclamation in the hands of Mr. Eckert for several weeks.  He waited, on the advice of his cabinet, for some victory to provide an occasion for its announcement.  And while he held it he told one group that urged immediate emancipation, “Whatever shall appear to be God’s will, I will do.”

On September 22, 1862 Lincoln issued a warning to the south that if it did not end the rebellion and return to the Union by January 1, 1863, he would issue a second proclamation emancipating all slaves.  On that New Year’s Day he signed the Proclamation.

The Emancipation Proclamation is lauded as an ideal act freeing all the slaves within the United States.  But the slavery issue was for Lincoln subservient to the issue of maintaining the Union.  In the Proclamation, Lincoln named the states that had rebelled, and noted the parts of any of those states which had not joined the rebellion, among them the forty-eight counties in western Virginia which became West Virginia.  He continued,

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defense; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

Abraham Lincoln

The limitation on the region affected by the proclamation was not lost upon critics and the anti-administration press.  The New York Herald criticized,

While the Proclamation leaves slavery untouched where his decree can be enforced, he emancipates slaves where his decree cannot be enforced.  Friends of human rights will be at a loss to understand this discrimination.

Sandburg recounts in his book,

The Richmond Examiner spoke for much of the South in declaring the proclamation to be “the most startling political crime, the most stupid political blunder, yet known in American history,” aimed at “servile insurrection,” with the result that “Southern people have now only to choose between victory and death.”

The basis of Lincoln’s action was his duty under the law, not merely his personal moral principles, nor mere expediency.  He was sworn to uphold the law, and he was not free to “do what is right” apart from the authority granted him as President.  By the Proclamation, Lincoln had taken what the law had recognized as livestock, in the same class as barnyard livestock, from the enemy valued at $3,000,000,000.  He had no authority to take such property from those states with which the Union was not at war, or those within the Union.  But he chose to begin the process in the interests of saving the Union by taking first that of the enemy.  Slavery in all other parts of the United States, although he opposed it, was the responsibility of that people to end.

The cynic, seeing the hero stripped of the idealism that others may have superficially attributed to him, may respond, “He had an agenda in his own self-interest, as does everyone.”  But both those who would paint the hero larger than life, and the cynics who would strip him of all valiant qualities fail to see the dynamic nature of the hero’s action.

Sandburg addresses the romanticized popular view of Lincoln’s action:

Around the world and into the masses of people whose tongues and imaginings create folk tales out of fact, there ran this item of the Strong Man who arose in his might and delivered an edict, spoke a few words fitly chosen, and thereupon the shackles and chains fell from the arms and ankles of men, women and children born to be chattels for toil and bondage.

The living issues coiled and tangled about Lincoln’s feet were not, however, to be set smooth and straight by any one gesture, or a series of them, in behalf of freedom.  His authority, worn often as a garment of thongs, was tied and knotted with responsibilities.  Nailed with facts of inevitable fate was his leadership.  The gestures of stretching forth his hand and bestowing freedom on chattel slaves while attempting to enforce his will by the violence of armies subjugating the masters of slaves on their home soil, the act of trying to hold a just balance between the opposed currents of freedom and authority, raised a riddle that gnawed in his thought many nights.

That Spring the Peace Democrats, through an antislavery radical, Wendell Phillips, argued,

I believe that the President may do anything to save the Union.  He may take a man’s houses, his lands, his bankstock, his horses, his slaves, — anything to save the Union . . . We need one step further, – an act of Congress abolishing slavery wherever our flag waves. . .

People too frequently want a leader to do for them what they are unwilling to do for themselves.  Lincoln had the wisdom and the courage to resist that temptation, however it was interpreted.

In the turmoil of that winter Lincoln came under intense criticism from both sides.  There was even talk of a secret movement to impeach him.  But he persisted in his course, making many enemies but remaining obedient to his duty of public service under the law, confident of the leading of Providence.

In the Spring of 1863 Lee followed a great victory at Chancellorsville with a march north.  Hooker’s army sought to shield Washington from Lee’s advance, but it was demoralized by the defeat.  Mead was placed in command of the Army of the Potomac, and he proceeded to Gettysburg where he encountered Lee in a bloody battle which marked Lee’s first defeat.  It was a decisive battle in the war between the states.

Of the battle at Gettysburg, it was reported that the Union suffered casualties of 23,000, and the Confederacy, 28,000.  Lincoln announced the victory to the Union on the Fourth of July, 1863. Lincoln instructed Meade, through Halleck, to pursue Lee.  He warned not to call a council of war, because they “never fight.  Reinforcements are being pushed on as rapidly as possible.  Do not let the enemy escape.”  However, Meade called a council of war.  Only two commanders wanted to fight.  Meade did not pursue Lee.

Robert Lincoln reported that he found his father “in tears, with head bowed upon his arms resting on the table at which he sat.”  Robert asked the President what was the matter, to which he responded,

My boy, I have just learned that at a council of war, of Meade and his Generals, it had been determined not to pursue Lee, and now the opportune chance of ending this bitter struggle is lost.

That Lincoln felt the leading of a higher power is unmistakable.  On July 15, 1863 Lincoln issued a “Proclamation of Thanksgiving:”

It has pleased Almighty God to hearken to the supplications and prayers of an afflicted people, and to vouchsafe to the army and the navy of the United States victories on land and on the sea so signal and so effective as to furnish reasonable grounds for augmented confidence that the Union of these States will be maintained, their constitution preserved, and their peace and prosperity permanently restored. . . It is meet and right to recognize and confess the presence of the Almighty Father and the power of His Hand equally in these triumphs and in these sorrows:

Now, therefore, be it known that I do set apart Thursday the 6th day of August next, to be observed as a day for National Thanksgiving, Praise and Prayer, and I invite the People of the United States to assemble on that occasion in their customary places of worship, and in the forms approved by their own consciences, render the homage due to the Divine Majesty, for the wonderful things he has done in the Nation’s behalf . . .

Rather than a mood of thanksgiving, however, the North was embroiled in its own popular revolution.  In New York mobs formed on July 13, 14, and 15 to attack government offices, killing and destroying property; one group hanged three black men each day; in other incidents at least thirty blacks were hanged, beaten, shot, or trampled to death, and the black population escaped the city.  The white mobs shouted, “To hell with the draft and the war!” and “Tell Ole Abe to come to New York!”  Anti-administration newspapers charged the administration with tyranny and violation of the Constitution.”  Draft resistance was at an all-time high.   10,000 troops were sent to New York City to renew order and to enforce the draft.

Meanwhile Sherman was pursuing his campaign of terror under the justification that “We must conquer them, or ourselves be conquered.”  The South was itself dealing with insurrection.  North Carolina’s 33-year-old governor, Zebulon B. Vance was giving indications he might be willing to bring his state back into the Union.

A National Soldiers’ Cemetery was created at Gettysburg, and a dedication was planned for November 19, 1863.  The orator for the event was Edward Everett, a former U.S. Senator, governor of Massachusetts, Secretary of State, Minister to Great Britain, professor of Greek at Harvard, and president of Harvard.  Lincoln was invited to attend, which he accepted; but he was not invited to speak at the dedication.  As an afterthought, about six weeks later and about two weeks before the dedication, the Board of Commissioners sent a letter to the President: “It is the desire that after the oration, you, as Chief Executive of the nation, formally set apart these grounds to their sacred use by a few appropriate remarks.”

Lincoln went to Gettysburg in the face of intense criticism of the war, of him, and of his administration.  He went in the face of a widely repeated story that at Antietam battlefield he had laughed obscenely at his own jokes and had asked Lamon to sing a cheap comic song.  He went with his son Tad at home, seriously ill, and his wife recalling hysterically the loss of their son, Willie.

Following the two hour oration of Everett, the President spoke his “few appropriate remarks:”

Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation – or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated -can long endure.

We are met on a great battle-field of that war.  We are met to dedicate a portion of it as the final resting place of those who have given their lives that that nation might live.

It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow, this ground.  The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or to detract.

The world will very little note nor long remember what we say here; but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated, here, to the unfinished work that they have thus far so nobly carried on.  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us; that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Lincoln’s “remarks” met strong criticism in the press.  The Patriot and Union of Harrisburg reported, “We pass over the silly remarks of the President . . . ”  The Chicago Times commented, “The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and dish-watery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States.”  The London Times stated, “The ceremony was rendered ludicrous by some of the sallies of that poor President Lincoln . . . Anything more dull and commonplace it would not be easy to produce.”  Others considered his speech more concerned with reelection than with the interests of the country.  Lincoln was no kinder to himself.  He said to his old Illinois friend and advisor, Ward Hill Lamon, “Lamon, that speech won’t scour.  It is a flat failure and the people are disappointed.”  “Scour” was a term from Lincoln’s childhood for mud that would stick to a plow, and would not cut clean.

But not all the press was disappointed.  The Chicago Tribune said of it, “The dedicatory remarks of President Lincoln will live among the annals of man.”  The Cincinnati Gazette added after the text of the address, “That this was the right thing in the right place, and a perfect thing in every respect, was the universal encomium.”  The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin said it would moisten the eye and swell the heart, and the Providence Journal noted, “We know not where to look for a more admirable speech than the brief one which the President made at the close of Mr. Everett’s oration.”  The Springfield Republican called the speech “a perfect gem.”

Grant’s military fortunes turned for the better, so much so that the New York Herald advocated his candidacy for president.  In March, 1864 Lincoln commissioned Grant as Lieutenant General in the Army of the United States, a rank authorized by act of Congress in February 1864, which was last held by George Washington.

That summer, at the time Republican party was to nominate its candidate for the presidency in the elections of 1864, the tenor of the war was shifting.  Earlier that year the Detroit Free Press reported, “Not a single Senator can be named as favorable to Lincoln’s renomination as President.”  Other papers agreed.  The Abolitionists were critical of Lincoln’s moderation.  The establishment felt threatened by this unorthodox man, and each part, for its own reasons sought to be rid of him, if for no other reason than that he could not be controlled.  Lincoln appointed Grant to head the army, and now there developed a movement in the country to make Grant President as well.   That Spring Justice David Davis wrote to General Orme, “Mr. Lincoln seems disposed to let the thing run itself and if the people elect him he will be thankful, but won’t use means to secure the thing.”

Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, resigned in July 1864, with his own eye on the presidential candidacy as a strong advocate of abolitionist policy.  He hoped to bolster his candidacy by attacking the Lincoln administration as bungling, and Lincoln as lacking strong control and leadership.  With all of the opposition to him, Lincoln was generally believed to be unelectable in the early part of 1864.

June 7, 1864, the National Union party, made over from the Republican Party because of the dynamics of the war, met in Baltimore.  By the time for nominations, all opposition to Lincoln had melted, except for the Missouri delegation’s 22 votes cast for Grant.  But before the completion of the balloting, Missouri changed its votes to make a unanimous decision for the nomination of Lincoln.

In July, General Lee made a defensive move upon Washington.   In August Lincoln and Grant believed that the North had progressed to the point that it was effectively placing a strangle hold on the South.  But others did not believe so, and they clamored for peace.  Lincoln was considered in New England to be against peace.  In August a secret movement was afoot in the Republican Party to replace Lincoln with another nominee.  Lincoln responded to the criticism,

The pilots on our western rivers steer from point to point, as they call it – setting the course of the boat no farther than they can see.  And that is all I propose to do in the great problems that are set before us.

The Democrats met August 29 in Chicago to nominate their candidate for president.  The agenda of the Democrats was peace, not abolition.  They argued that Lincoln was not so committed to the preservation of the Union.  They nominated George B. McClellan.

Then on September 3, Lincoln announced a dispatch from Sherman, “So Atlanta is ours and fairly won . . . ”  The bitterness of the earlier defeats and loss changed to hope.  Atlanta was the crossroads of the Deep South.  With the hope of victory in the air, and with it the possibility of the abolition of slavery, McClellan a few days later submitted his letter accepting his nomination for President.  Now, with the possibility of more fighting, he wrote, “The Union is the one condition of peace – we ask no more.”  Twenty days before the November elections Sherman obtained for the North one of the most dramatic victories for the North.  On November 8, 1864 Lincoln was elected for a second term.

Lincoln had freed the slaves of the Rebel States with his Proclamation.  In January, 1865, at his request, the Thirteenth Amendment was passed and proposed to the states, freeing all slaves in the country.  The next day Illinois was the first to ratify the amendment.

In February of 1865 Sherman was inflicting destruction on his “march to the sea.”  Two thirds of Columbia, South Carolina was devastated by fire after falling to Sherman.  Grant had engaged Lee so that he could not send forces against Sherman.  There were victories in Charleston and Wilmington as well.  The North could see the end in sight, and it was in a festive mood.

On March 4, Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address.  His mood was not festive:

[Fellow Countrymen:]  At the second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first.  Then a statement, somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper.  Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented.  The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all.  With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to the four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil-war.  All dreaded it – all sought to avert it.  While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war – seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation.  Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish.  And the war came.

One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it.  These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest.  All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war.  To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.  Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained.  Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease.  Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.  Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other.  It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged.  The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully.  The Almighty has His own purposes.  “Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense  cometh!”  If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him?  Fondly do we hope – fervently do we pray – that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.  Yet, if God will that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toils shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.”

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.

It was only natural that Lincoln should speak freely in his Second Inaugural Address of Natural Law and of its source in “The Almighty.”  For Lincoln, it was not a Natural Law from an authoritarian God, readily perceived by the initiated.  And yet, that Natural Law, and its source, “The Almighty,” were real to Lincoln, it had vitality, and it was active in the nation’s life and in his own as well.  Lincoln was not driven by principle apart from the law or his duty under the law.  Rather, he sought change through the law.  He was unwilling to do for others what they must do for themselves.  But Lincoln relied upon the reality of those principles in the performance of his duty through the darkest of times.  That reliance is expressed in his Inaugural Address.  Lord Charnwood responded:

Probably no other speech of a modern statesman uses so unreservedly the language of intense religious feeling.  The occasion made it natural; neither the thought nor the words are in any way conventional; no sensible reader now could entertain a suspicion that the orator spoke to the heart of the people but did not speak from his own heart. . . . In early manhood he broke away forever from the scheme of Christian theology which was probably more or less common to the very various churches which surrounded him.  He had avowed this sweeping denial with a freedom which pained some friends, perhaps rather by its rashness than by its impiety, and he was apt to regard the procedure of theologians as a blasphemous twisting of the words of Christ.  He rejected that belief in miracles and in the literally inspired accuracy of the Bible narrative which was no doubt held as fundamental by all these churches. . . . [But H]e loved the Bible and knew it intimately . . . It was not so much the Old Testament as the New Testament and what he called “the true spirit of Christ” that he loved especially, and he took with all possible seriousness as the rule of life.  His theology, in the narrower sense, may be said to have been limited to an intense belief in a vast and overruling Providence . . .  In his presidential candidature, when he owned to someone that the opposition of the clergymen hurt him deeply, he is said to have confessed to being no Christian and to have continued, “I know that there is a God and that He hates injustice and slavery.  I see the storm coming and I know that His hand is in it. If He has a place and work for me, and I think He has, I believe I am ready.  I am nothing, but truth is everything; I know I am right because I know that liberty is right, for Christ teaches it, and Christ is God.  I have told them that a house divided against itself cannot stand, and Christ and reason say the same, and they will find it so.”  When old acquaintances said that he had no religion they based their opinion on such remarks as that the God, of whom he had just been speaking solemnly, was “not a person.” . . .  So humorous a man was also unlikely to be too conceited to say his prayers.  At any rate he said them; said them intently; valued the fact that others prayed for him and for the nation; . . . so he would speak of prayer without the smallest embarrassment in talk with a general or a statesman. . . . This man had stood alone in the dark.  He had done justice; he had loved mercy; he had walked humbly with his God.  The reader to whom religious utterance makes little appeal will not suppose that his imaginative words stand for no real experience.  The reader whose piety knows no questions will not be pained to think that this man had professed no faith.


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