The Source of Abraham Lincoln’s Resolve

I read this great piece recently from Abraham Lincoln: The Spiritual Growth of a Public Man, by Elton Trueblood, pp. 25-26:

“When President Lincoln was at the lowest point of his grief, in the late winter of 1862, one visitor to the White House made a lasting difference. This was Dr. Francis Vinton, rector of Trinity Church, New York. The insight which Dr. Smith had given the Lincolns in Springfield twelve years before was reaffirmed and made more intelligible by the spiritual help which Dr. Vinton offered the bereaved couple. His help came by the intellectual route, the only way in which it could come to Abraham Lincoln.The visitor showed that it is wholly rational for God to continue His interest in and concern for persons after the death of the body, just as before. Dr. Vinton called attention to Christ’s own teaching on this point, especially as it is reported in Luke 20:38: ‘For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.'”

“This approach seemed utterly fresh, as the rector of Trinity expounded it. Lincoln was struck especially by the visitor’s confident words, ‘Your son is alive.’ As the President pondered, his entire outlook began to change for he realized that God cannot be defeated. If God cannot be defeated by the death of a little boy, it is also true that He cannot be defeated by a civil war. Ida Tarbell’s insight at this point is as follows: ‘It was the first experience of his life, so fare as we know, which drove him to look outside of his own mind and heart for help to endure a personal grief. It was the first time in his life when he had not been sufficient for his own experience.’ If there had not been the darkness of the late winter of 1862, it is not likely that there would have been the amazing burst of light at the end of the year. As he had done before, Lincoln matured best in sorrow. The profound paradox is that the great man became more confident in his approach to other men, including the men of his own Cabinet, when he recognized that his major confidence was not in himself but in Another.”

“That the new and stronger mood was the result of a fundamentally mystical experience is the conviction of one of the most thorough of Lincoln scholars, the late Nathaniel Stephenson. ‘Lincoln’s final emergence,’ he says, ‘was a deeper thing than merely the consolidation of a character, the transformation of a dreamer into a man of action. The fusion of the outer and the inner person was the result of a profound interior change. Those elements of mysticism which were in him from the first, which had gleamed daily through such deep overshadowing, were at last established in their permanent form.'”

(Courtesy of The Trinity Forum)

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