President Lincoln and amending the first paragraph of the Constitution

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Seeking_Thy_Kingdom

Puritan Board Sophomore
The absence of God and Christ’s rule over the nation in the Constitution was for the early Reformed Presbyterians the root cause of all national evils, including slavery, and led to the practice of political dissident.

A little snippet of how close the historic RPCNA came to amending the Constitution with the following text:

WE, THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES [recognizing the being and attributes of Almighty God, the Divine Authority of the Holy Scriptures, the law of God as paramount rule, and Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior and Lord of all,] in order to form a more perfect Union...... do ordain this Constitution for the United States of America.

In the November of 1865 issue of The Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter it recalls a discussion of two RPCNA ministers with President Lincoln:

Some time last winter two men connected with the Reformed Presbyterian Church were in Washington City, and called at the President’s house. While in the room that is always open to visitors, the President came in, and got into a conversation with them, in the course of which mention wras made,of the Covenanters. The name seemed to arrest his attention, a'nd he rem arked: “ I know something about these people—they want the Constitution amended by putting slavery out of it, and by putting a recognition of God in it.” To this they assented, and he proceeded to speak in kind and earnest terms of the brethren who had been with him urging the amendments. He added that they had obtained one object of their mission during his first term in office, and he hoped they would obtain the other before the end of his second term.

We have given as accurately as we could the substance of the conversation. It deepened in our mind the conviction that the death of President Lincoln was a great national calamity.


A more full account of the meeting between the 3 gentlemen is presented here on the Log College Press blog: AN ADDRESS TO PRESIDENT LINCOLN
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
As much as I respect President Lincoln, this account sounds a little too anecdotal to be taken at face value. It may or may not be true but we cannot be sure that it is.
 

Seeking_Thy_Kingdom

Puritan Board Sophomore
As much as I respect President Lincoln, this account sounds a little too anecdotal to be taken at face value. It may or may not be true but we cannot be sure that it is.
Fair enough. From what I have found there is no direct proof of the meeting, but the name of Alexander McLeod Milligan does add significant weight and there are other articles of him meeting with Lincoln.
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
I am not sure how close it came to being a reality, but a similar (I believe more detailed) clause was written for the C.S. Constitution, and advocated by Presbyterian ministers, such as J.H. Thornwell. Perhaps Lincoln would've seen it added, but I doubt he actually believed it.
 

hammondjones

Puritan Board Sophomore
This is covered in Dr. Moore's book Founding Sins. I think there ought to be no doubt the meeting happened.

In the November of 1865 issue of The Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter it recalls a discussion of two RPCNA ministers with President Lincoln:
Actually, it is from Vol. 1, No. 1, 1863, pg 16-18



New York Tribune, Feb 12, 1964 - apparently a second appeal. 1602184006548.png

Here is a quote from Gideon Wells, sec. of Navy under Lincoln, regarding a reading of the draft of the 2nd Inaugural Address to the cabinet:

1602182728825.png



Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Morris, 1864

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Memoir of John DeFrees, government printer:
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Seeking_Thy_Kingdom

Puritan Board Sophomore
Nice, that is a more expansive article than the one I found.

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Thank you for the extra background information, I now feel much more confident the meeting took place.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
Perhaps Lincoln would've seen it added, but I doubt he actually believed it.
Though his public statements were relatively vague, there are multiple credible accounts of Lincoln's faith.

Upon his death it was rumored that Lincoln had been an infidel his entire life, which brought this strong response from Phineas Densmore Gurley (Chaplain of the United States Senate and pastor of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C.):

I do not believe a word of it. It could not have been true of him while here, for I have had frequent and intimate conversations with him on the subject of the Bible and the Christian religion, when he could have had no motive to deceive me, and I considered him sound not only on the truth of the Christian religion but on all its fundamental doctrines and teaching. And more than that: in the latter days of his chastened and weary life, after the death of his son Willie, and his visit to the battlefield of Gettysburg, he said, with tears in his eyes, that he had lost confidence in everything but God, and that he now believed his heart was changed, and that he loved the Saviour, and, if he was not deceived in himself, it was his intention soon to make a profession of religion.​

In response to the same rumor, Noah Brooks, a Christian newspaperman and personal friend of Lincoln's wrote:

In addition to what has appeared from my pen, I will state that I have had many conversations with Mr. Lincoln, which were more or less of a religious character, and while I never tried to draw anything like a statement of his views from him, yet he freely expressed himself to me as having 'a hope of blessed immortality through Jesus Christ.' His views seemed to settle so naturally around that statement, that I considered no other necessary. His language seemed not that of an inquirer, but of one who had a prior settled belief in the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion. Once or twice, speaking to me of the change which had come upon him, he said, while he could not fix any definite time, yet it was after he came here, and I am very positive that in his own mind he identified it with about the time of Willie's death.​
He said, too, that after he went to the White House he kept up the habit of daily prayer. Sometimes he said it was only ten words, but those ten words he had. There is no possible reason to suppose that Mr. Lincoln would ever deceive me as to his religious sentiments. In many conversations with him, I absorbed the firm conviction that Mr. Lincoln was at heart a Christian man, believed in the Savior, and was seriously considering the step which would formally connect him with the visible church on earth. Certainly, any suggestion as to Mr. Lincoln's skepticism or Infidelity, to me who knew him intimately from 1862 till the time of his death, is a monstrous fiction -- a shocking perversion.​

Consistent with remarks seen above from both Gurley and Brooks, a Mrs. Sidney I. Lauck, signed a sworn affidavit (later on as an older woman), saying,

After Mr. Lincoln's death, Dr. Gurley told me that Mr. Lincoln had made all the necessary arrangements with him and the Session of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church to be received into the membership of the said church, by confession of his faith in Christ, on the Easter Sunday following the Friday night when Mr. Lincoln was assassinated.​
Corroborating Sidney's claim, Francis Bicknell Carpenter, a painter and writer resident at the White House during Lincoln's tenure, wrote that he "believed Mr. Lincoln to be a sincere Christian" and reported that Lincoln had told a woman from Brooklyn in the United States Christian Commission that he had had "a change of heart" and intended "at some suitable opportunity to make a profession of religion".

I realize that an inappropriate cult of personality has evolved around Lincoln, and that he never was and never will be popular in the South. But I would caution against publicly casting undue doubt upon his faith.
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
Though his public statements were relatively vague, there are multiple credible accounts of Lincoln's faith.

Upon his death it was rumored that Lincoln had been an infidel his entire life, which brought this strong response from Phineas Densmore Gurley (Chaplain of the United States Senate and pastor of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C.):

I do not believe a word of it. It could not have been true of him while here, for I have had frequent and intimate conversations with him on the subject of the Bible and the Christian religion, when he could have had no motive to deceive me, and I considered him sound not only on the truth of the Christian religion but on all its fundamental doctrines and teaching. And more than that: in the latter days of his chastened and weary life, after the death of his son Willie, and his visit to the battlefield of Gettysburg, he said, with tears in his eyes, that he had lost confidence in everything but God, and that he now believed his heart was changed, and that he loved the Saviour, and, if he was not deceived in himself, it was his intention soon to make a profession of religion.​

In response to the same rumor, Noah Brooks, a Christian newspaperman and personal friend of Lincoln's wrote:

In addition to what has appeared from my pen, I will state that I have had many conversations with Mr. Lincoln, which were more or less of a religious character, and while I never tried to draw anything like a statement of his views from him, yet he freely expressed himself to me as having 'a hope of blessed immortality through Jesus Christ.' His views seemed to settle so naturally around that statement, that I considered no other necessary. His language seemed not that of an inquirer, but of one who had a prior settled belief in the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion. Once or twice, speaking to me of the change which had come upon him, he said, while he could not fix any definite time, yet it was after he came here, and I am very positive that in his own mind he identified it with about the time of Willie's death.​
He said, too, that after he went to the White House he kept up the habit of daily prayer. Sometimes he said it was only ten words, but those ten words he had. There is no possible reason to suppose that Mr. Lincoln would ever deceive me as to his religious sentiments. In many conversations with him, I absorbed the firm conviction that Mr. Lincoln was at heart a Christian man, believed in the Savior, and was seriously considering the step which would formally connect him with the visible church on earth. Certainly, any suggestion as to Mr. Lincoln's skepticism or Infidelity, to me who knew him intimately from 1862 till the time of his death, is a monstrous fiction -- a shocking perversion.​

Consistent with remarks seen above from both Gurley and Brooks, a Mrs. Sidney I. Lauck, signed a sworn affidavit (later on as an older woman), saying,

After Mr. Lincoln's death, Dr. Gurley told me that Mr. Lincoln had made all the necessary arrangements with him and the Session of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church to be received into the membership of the said church, by confession of his faith in Christ, on the Easter Sunday following the Friday night when Mr. Lincoln was assassinated.​
Corroborating Sidney's claim, Francis Bicknell Carpenter, a painter and writer resident at the White House during Lincoln's tenure, wrote that he "believed Mr. Lincoln to be a sincere Christian" and reported that Lincoln had told a woman from Brooklyn in the United States Christian Commission that he had had "a change of heart" and intended "at some suitable opportunity to make a profession of religion".

I realize that an inappropriate cult of personality has evolved around Lincoln, and that he never was and never will be popular in the South. But I would caution against publicly casting undue doubt upon his faith.
I certainly do not wish for Lincoln to be an unbeliever (I believe that in some fellow Southerners, a sort of anti-cult of personality [dedicated to hating him unconditionally] is prevalent), but when I said that I was mainly referring to what I know of his family's interactions with the occult, mediums, and the such. What I said was brash. I personally remain unsure of Lincoln's faith though. I will examine the sources you provided.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
when I said that I was mainly referring to what I know of his family's interactions with the occult, mediums, and the such

I don’t want to unnecessarily derail the thread, but I’ve looked into this some as well.

It’s been a while since I read about it, but it seems in his early days Lincoln was indeed somewhat curious about occultism, though his participation was apparently limited and temporary. It is universally admitted that Mary held séances in the White House and that Lincoln attended at least one or two of them. Some biographers suggest Lincoln had become worried that his distraught and seemingly insane wife was being manipulated, and primarily wanted to see for himself what was going on. There are even some period newspaper accounts of such events, which are, however, likely embellished (imagine that…). If I recall correctly, even Horowitz, in his Occult America, was skeptical of the media version of things as they pertained to Lincoln personally. There are also accounts of his having at times listened to various other mediums during his presidency, which while there is no apparent reason to doubt, seem to have transpired upon the suggestion of others.

Can Lincoln be faulted for even dabbling in the occult and not exerting more control over what transpired within his family and home? Absolutely. He was a sinner like us all. Having said that, I can’t begin to imagine what all he had to deal with, whether in terms of a truly horrific war, unbelievably turbulent government (made today’s politics look almost tame), or a sadly dysfunctional marriage – and then all those at once. How would I have held up under such incredible burdens? I shudder to even imagine.

In the end the evidence points to a gradual shift in Lincoln from having a general and largely misguided spirituality upon entering the presidency, to a more considered and eventual embracement of orthodox Christianity at the end. And, yes, there were seemingly many stumbles and missteps during the whole process. Yet all the tortured turmoil of his life and presidency seems to have been one of the providential means which helped bring him to that end point. This is more or less the conclusion in Mansfield’s Lincoln’s Battle with God, which is well researched and quite an interesting read on the matter.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
I lean toward the interview mentioned in the OP being accurate, although perhaps Lincoln would not have exactly agreed 100% with these Covenanters characterization of everything.

Some historians have said that Lincoln basically told Northern evangelicals what they wanted to hear. As with many aspects of his life, including the question of what he would have ultimately done with Reconstruction had he survived, we will never know this side of heaven. While some in the past have tended to portray "Honest Abe" as some sort of demigod who was above politics, the truth is that he was a politician, and a particularly adept one, at least by the time he became President.

Another piece of evidence of Lincoln being favorably disposed to orthodoxy in his last days is the statement of Phineas Gurley, the (Old School?) minister of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in DC, which Lincoln frequented during his Presidency. (At one point, there was talk of suspending services when Confederate troops were threatening the city. Lincoln requested that it remain open and that services continue.) Gurley said that Lincoln was on the verge of making a public profession of faith when he died. Gurley would not be the first minister to be made to look like a fool in his interactions with famous people. But if you disagree with his account, I think you have to believe that he had been misled, was engaging in wishful thinking, or that he was a liar.

I do not believe a word of it. [i.e. of Lincoln's unbelief.] It could not have been true of him while here, for I have had frequent and intimate conversations with him on the subject of the Bible and the Christian religion, when he could have had no motive to deceive me, and I considered him sound not only on the truth of the Christian religion but on all its fundamental doctrines and teaching. And more than that: in the latter days of his chastened and weary life, after the death of his son Willie, and his visit to the battle-field of Gettysburg, he said, with tears in his eyes, that he had lost confidence in everything but God, and that he now believed his heart was changed, and that he loved the Saviour, and, if he was not deceived in himself, it was his intention soon to make a profession of religion.[

The people who argue that Lincoln remained a rank infidel to the end of his days are leaning hard on disputable accounts from Illinois associates who were relating his views from many years before that, as far back as the 1840s if I'm not mistaken. Mary Todd Lincoln was involved in Spiritualism, which became very popular in this era with so many grief-striken over the loss of their sons. As Phil notes, Lincoln himself is alleged to have participated in at least one seance. What Gurley was referring to was perhaps from some time later. Whatever the case, it is obvious that he was not the same man on religious questions that he was 15-20 years earlier and that some of those who opined on his religious views were probably driven by an agenda or wishful thinking one way or the other.

Lincoln was also of Hardshell Baptist background. That may have had something to do with his increasingly "fatalistic" utterances about God's purposes in the war. It could be that his infidelity as an adult was in part a overreaction to that upbringing. It seems that he also disliked some aspects of the Second Great Awakening. Interestingly, one of his early political opponents was Peter Cartwright, the famous Methodist evangelist.
 
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JimmyH

Puritan Board Senior
An excerpt from Lincoln's 2nd inaugural address ;

Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. 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. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully.

The Almighty has His own purposes. "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!" 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?

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 bond-man'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."

Link to the complete address; https://www.theatlantic.com/past/do...s of both could,Almighty has His own purposes.

An article worth a read for further perusal ;

 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether."
The aforementioned Noah Brooks claimed Lincoln had committed large portions of Isaiah, the Psalms, and Gospels to memory. His speeches and writings would certainly seem to bear this out.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
Another anecdote from Brooks: One of Lincoln's advisors began swearing profusely, upon which he asked, "Are you an Episcopalian?" "Well, yes." was the reply. "I thought so.", Lincoln said with some satisfaction. "[Such and such cabinet member] swears the same way, and he's an Episcopalian. [Such and such other cabinet member] is a Presbyterian, and he swears in quite a different manner." The end gist of the story was that Lincoln gently shamed the man into not swearing again in his presence.
 
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Haeralis

Puritan Board Freshman
I read a book that recounted this story but noted that President Lincoln opposed the idea after considering it for a few days. This is perfectly consistent with his largely liberal and Enlightenment-oriented worldview.
 
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