The Religious Opinions And Life Of Abraham Lincoln -- By: William H. Bates

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 071:281 (Jan 1914)
Article: The Religious Opinions And Life Of Abraham Lincoln
Author: William H. Bates


The Religious Opinions And Life Of Abraham Lincoln

William H. Bates, D.D.

A very dear friend, a captain in the Confederate Army, a St. Louis lawyer, and a Presbyterian elder, has recently sent to me a pamphlet copy of an address by the Hon. George L. Christian, on Abraham Lincoln. This address was delivered before the R. E. Lee Camp, No. 1, Confederate Veterans, at Richmond, Virginia, October 29, 1909. The friend kindly said he sent it to me, rather than to any other person, because of my “honesty, love of research for truth regardless of consequences,” and he asked a “report on it” and my “opinion in full.”

The first paragraph of the address concludes thus: “I wish to state in the outset that what I shall say on this occasion will be said in no spirit of carping criticism, with no desire to do injustice to my remarkable subject, and will be as free from sectional prejudice and passion as one who has suffered as I have, by the conduct of Mr. Lincoln and his followers, can make it; and I shall also strive to say what I do say solely in the interest of the truth of history.”

Surely, that sounds well; and the fond anticipation was raised that, in reading what should follow, there would be found confirmation of opinions that had been formed from reading history and from hearing those talk who had personal acquaintance with Mr. Lincoln. But when the first sentence of his third paragraph was read,— “Whenever the

good character of a person is put in issue, the party avouching that good character challenges the opposite side to show, by all legitimate means, the contrary of the fact thus put in issue,”—an interrogation point was raised as to what was coming, and the point was straightened out into a large exclamation mark when the reading of the pamphlet was finished.

An incident was recalled. In a southern New York parish early one Saturday afternoon, a young man came to the manse and asked that a wedding service be performed as soon as we could reach the place where the nuptial event was to occur. He apparently was very poor,— too impecunious to furnish a carriage to convey us the three or four miles thither. So, as ministerial exercise was really needed, the proposition was made to walk the distance with him. Duly arriving at a miserable shack in the midst of a piece of woods, there was a wedding that made a memorable experience of a lifetime! Returning, a parishioner was met who once lived in that neighborhood, and to an inquiry as to what sort of people those were, he answered: “If you had raked the infernal regions over with a fine-tooth comb you couldn’t have scraped together a worse lot!”

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