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Pilgrim politician

"Pilgrim politician" Continued...

Issue: "The other campaign," Feb. 9, 2008

That year became the war's bloodiest, with Union troops attacking repeatedly at Cold Harbor and elsewhere, losing thousands of men, but winning a war of attrition against Southern forces that could not readily replace their losses. Lincoln hated the casualty lists and told pastor Byron Sutherland of Washington's First Presbyterian Church that God "has destroyed nations from the map of history for their sins." Still, he said his "hopes prevail generally above my fears for our Republic. The times are dark, the spirits of ruin are abroad in all their power, and the mercy of God alone can save us."

Lincoln's second inaugural address, a month before his assassination in 1865, most clearly exhibits his theological change. That speech, with its call to "bind up the nation's wounds," is often cited as evidence of Lincoln's emphasis on reconciliation, but it shows even more his new sense of Providence. "Fondly do we hope-fervently do we pray-that this mighty scourge of war might speedily pass away," he said. "Yet if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid with 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.'"

How many drops of blood were there? Lincoln's understanding of God had changed his public policy emphases. At first, he had ignored God except when it was politically useful to take His name in vain. Then, Lincoln had speculated repeatedly about God's will, as the war dragged on with no resolution in sight. Finally, Lincoln came to believe that God was the prime actor in history-and a president's task was to lean on and trust Him.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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