Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Use: The American President Who Made Greater Use of the Bible

Abraham Lincoln:

 The American President Who Made Greater Use of the Bible

Of all the United States Presidents, none has made greater Use of the Bible Than Abraham Lincoln.

Pic. Credit.

In the summer of 1864, a friend named Speed went to a soldier’s home in Washington where President Lincoln was spending the night.  Later, in a lecture, Speed reminisced:  “As I entered the room… he was sitting near the window intently reading his Bible.

“Approaching him, I said, ‘I am glad to see you so profitably engaged.’

“Yes, ‘he said, ‘I am profitably engaged.’

“‘Well,’ said I, ‘if you have recovered from your skepticism, I am sorry to say I have not.’

“Looking at me earnestly in the face and placing his hand on my shoulder, he said, ‘You are wrong, Speed.  Take all of this Book on reason you can, and the balance on faith and you will live and die a happier and better man.’ “

From early childhood, Abraham Lincoln had a fantastic memory.  He could tell “the boys” what the minister had said at the Church days after the event.  In moments of merriment, he mimicked the preachers  for the gang; often he quoted in fun; but he owed a heavy debt to the wilderness preachers  who impressed God’s Word into his personal fiber.  His favorite was the fiery preacher Peter Cartwright, and it was with him that Lincoln was to contest for his only term in Congress.

 Of course, it was a politic in that day to be acquainted with and to quote the Bible.  People understood the references, for the Bible was one of the books most often found in frontier cabins; and if frontier preachers were not seminary-trained, they knew God’s Word and told its stories over and over again while they drilled home the Commandments.

It was a hot day in August 1858, when the first Lincoln-Douglas debate was held in Ottawa County, Illinois.  When Abe rose to answer the ‘Little Giant” Stephen Douglas, the audience knew the reference as Lincoln shucked his duster (outer coat) and commenced, “Hold my coat while I stone Stephen” (see Acts 7:59).  It brought a chuckle from hundreds, and few were puzzled about Lincoln’s meaning.

Of all the United States Presidents, none has made greater use of the Bible than Abraham Lincoln.  His own prose echoes scriptural cadences.

The recorded utterances and writings of Lincoln contain 77 quotations and references from the Bible.  His speeches led the way, with conversation following closely.  The Gospels and words of Jesus were favored, Genesis being second, and Exodus and Psalms in third place.  One-third of the 66 books are referred to, 16 of them in the Old Testament.

How, actually did Lincoln gain this almost fabulous knowledge?  Some of his contemporaries deride the idea that Lincoln spend much time with Holy Writ, while another says that he was a great talker on the Scriptures”  and read them often.  A relative says Abe’s father bought a Bible about 1818 or 1819.  At Washington, John C Nicolay, one of his secretaries, says he was “a constant reader of the Bible and (had) great faith in it.”

In his prairie years, Lawyer Lincoln was called upon to draw up a last will and testament for a dying lady.  When he finished legal formalities, his client requested he read the Bible.  To the surprise of all, Lincoln quoted the Twenty third Psalm and the beautiful words of Jesus in John 14:1,2,  “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.  In my father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.”

Then, it is not strange that the “Great Commoner’s” daily speech was salty with Bible quotations.

One day when General McClellan was complaining about endless rain and mud that hindered troop movements, Lincoln told his secretary, John Hay, that the General forgot that rain fell “on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45).

The Civil War President was continually subjected to criticism.  After the great preacher, Dr. Henry Ward Beecher, had taken deft aim in his publication, “Independent,” Lincoln threw the paper down and cried, “Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?” (II Kings 8:13).

At the time the cabinet was discussing the possible inclusions of a motto on the Civil War greenbacks, President Lincoln slyly remarked that “silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee” (Acts 3:6) might be more appropriate than “In God we trust.”  END

Confident Living Magazine,
Courtesy: Sword of the Lord. 
(Used by permission)

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