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Abraham Lincoln's Religion by Peters

An orthodox believer Lincoln may not have been


"It

would be difficult for any one to define Mr. Lincoln's position or to classify him among the sects. I should say that he believed in a good many articles in the creeds of the orthodox churches and rejected a good many that did not appeal to his reason.

"He praised the simplicity of the Gospels. He often declared that the Sermon on the Mount contained the essence of all law and justice, and that the Lord's Prayer was the sublimest composition in human language. He was a constant reader of the Bible, but had no sympathy with theology, and often said that in matters affecting a man's relations with his Maker he couldn't give a power of attorney.

"Yes, there is a story, and it is probably true, that when he was very young and very ignorant he wrote an essay that might be called atheistical. It was after he had been reading a couple of atheistic books which made a great impression on his mind, and the essay is supposed to have expressed his views on those books,--a sort of review of them, containing both approval and disapproval,--and one of his friends burned it. He was very indignant at the time, but was afterwards glad of it.

"The opposition of the Springfield clergy to his election was chiefly due to remarks he made about them. One careless remark, I remember, was widely quoted. An eminent clergyman was delivering a series of doctrinal discourses that attracted considerable

local attention. Although Lincoln was frequently invited, he would not be induced to attend them. He remarked that he wouldn't trust Brother ---- to construe the statutes of Illinois and much less the laws of God; that people who knew him wouldn't trust his advice on an ordinary business transaction because they didn't consider him competent; hence he didn't see why they did so in the most important of all human affairs, the salvation of their souls.

"These remarks were quoted widely and misrepresented, to Lincoln's injury. In those days people were not so liberal as now, and any one who criticized a parson was considered a sceptic."

An orthodox believer Lincoln may not have been, in fact was not, but he was better,--he had the spirit of Christ which manifests itself more peculiarly in actions than in words. Love to God and man was his creed, the world was his church, kindly words and merciful deeds his sermons.

In a certain formal sense the baptized man or woman is a Christian, just as all foreigners who have been naturalized are Americans before the law, but the simple act of naturalization will not make any man a good American. There is a vast difference between naturalizing a man and nationalizing him. He is an American who is an American at heart, who owes but one allegiance, is loyal to but one country, and is true to but one flag, whose sympathies and choices, whose heroic labors and sacrifices in behalf of his country make him deserve the peerless name of American.

So the mere act of baptism or church membership gives a man but a poor title to the Christian name. Paul said, the man was not a Jew who was only one outwardly, that the mere rite of circumcision was nothing, that the true Jew was one inwardly and at heart. If Paul could thus express himself as to the qualifications which characterized a member of the Jewish church, which was avowedly a ritualistic organization, it must be safe to say the same thing about those who profess a belief in the Christian church, which differed from the Jewish, mainly in caring less for rites and more for rightness.


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