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Lincoln’s Theology

December 7, 2016

Although we cannot say with certainty whether Lincoln believed in salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we do know that he cited the words of Christ.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ said: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”  In his 2nd Inaugural Address, Lincoln said: “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.”  Lincoln had not changed his mind that slavery was wrong.  He was merely appealing to the Highest Authority in order to make the case for national reconciliation.

Toward the end of the speech Lincoln said: “‘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.’”  This is from the Matthew 18:7, also the words of Christ.  Lincoln then applied the text of Scripture to the cause of the Civil War.  “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?”

But that is not all.  “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil 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.’”  This last line is from Psalm 19:9.  Obviously, whatever else Lincoln may have believed, in one of his last public addresses he affirmed the biblical doctrines of human responsibility and divine sovereignty.

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