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HIS RELIGIOUS CHARACTER.
and yet it is not the neglect of duty alone in this particular which gives it its weight in determining Christian character. The fellowship of the saints is the natural lement of the converted man.
He is impelled by his wants and desires to seek their companionship and communion. When the man's heart is warmed by the love of Jesus, he wants every other man to love Jesus, and will do all he can to impart his joy to others. He thirsts for more light and knowledge on this absorbing interest, and hears with avidity the Christian experience of Christian people.
Nothing of all this is seen in Lincoln's life until shortly before his first election to the Presidency. With a grasp of intellect which our ablest statesmen do not seem to have possessed, he had seized upon the character of slavery, the relations it bore to the will and attributes of Almighty God, the immense power in which it was intrenched, and from these facts and the signs of the times was convinced that the tremendous contest was near at hand. He knew intellectually that “our God is a mighty tower," and then, as we believe, and as he himself thought, it was that he first earnestly desired security within its impregnable walls.
It may be asked, Ilow could a man think more upon the subjects of God's justice and providence, and the desirableness of faith in Christ than upon all others for years, and yet have no love for God? What hidden motive would impel him to carry the Testament in his bosomn, and how could he truly describe it as his rock without having felt its shadows above bis head and its firm footing beneath his feet? Does any man habitually for years employ a large proportion of his thoughts upon God's perfections and providence unless he loves God? We may not know that dividing line which is known only to the Father of spirits; yet “no man lighteth a candle and putteth it under a bushel.” “My sheep hear my voice, and they know me and they follow me. He that confesseth me before men him will I confess before my Father.” God knows our time and our future, and in his own good time and way brings his saints into his kingdom.
Mr. Lincoln once asked a lady connected with the Christian Commission for her idea of true Christian experience. “Mrs. — ” said he, “I have formed a high opinion of your Christian character, and now, as we are alone, I wish
HIS RELIGIOUS CHARACTER.
you, in brief, to give me your idea of what constitutes a true religious experience.” The lady replied that, in her judgment, “it consisted of a conviction of one's own sinfulness and weakness, and personal need of the Savior for strength and support; and that when one was brought to feel his need of Divine help, and to seek daily the aid of the Holy Spirit for strength and guidance, it was satisfactory evidence of his having been born again.” Mr. Lincoln replied, earnestly : “If this is really a correct view of this great subject, I think I can say, with sincerity, that I hope I am a Christian. * * I think I can safely say that I know something of that change of which you speak; and I will further add, that it has been my intention for some time, at a suitable opportunity, to make a public religious profession.”
Afterward, referring to a change of heart, he said he could not mention any particular period when he experienced such a change, except so far that he thought it became manifest to him at the period of his first election to the Presidency, and that in the crisis immediately following, his mind became more confident and fixed upon this subject.
In a conversation with Hon, H. C. Deming, of Connecticut, he said: “I have not united myself to any church, because I have found difficulty in giving my assent, without mental reservation, to the long-complicated statements of Christian doctrine which characterize their articles of belief and confessions of faith. When any church will inscribe over its altar the Savior's condensed statement of both law and gospel, “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself,' that church will I join with all my heart and with all my soul.”
A clergyman, who, if his expression correctly indicated his feelings, must have been a doubting Thomas, once remarked to Lincoln that he “hoped the Lord was on our side in this contest.” The reply was as characteristic as it was epigrammatic and noble: “I am not at all concerned about that,” said he, “for I know the Lord is always on the side of the right; but it is my constant prayer and anxiety that I and this nation should be on the Lord's side."
That sentence contains the kernel and essence of all true statesmanship.
HIS RELIGIOUS CHARACTER.
Let us trace Mr. Lincoln's Christian character by the light of other events. Armies, both as such and as individuals, have always been prone to disregard the obligations of the Sabbath. This gave Mr. Lincoln great pain. So much was his feelings enlisted by the wanton violations of the Lord's day, that on the 16th of November, 1863, he issued a circular, saying: “ The importance for man and beast of the prescribed weekly rest, the sacred rights of Christian soldiers and sailors, a becoming deference to the best sentiment of a Christian people, and a due regard for the Divine will, demand that Sunday labor in the army and navy be reduced to the measure of strict necessity. * * The discipline of the national forces should not suffer, nor the cause they defend be imperiled, by the profanation of the name or the day of the Most High.” We need not allude to the joyous proclamations of thanksgiving sounded forth by him at various times when God gave us victory, because the rebel chief blasphemously sought, by similar proclamations, to implicate God in his burnings and butcheries for the establishment of slavery; and we have, within a brief period after his departure, heard devout proclamations from