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Los Angeles herald. (Los Angeles [Calif.]) 1900-1911, February 14, 1909, Image 53

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Persistent link: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85042462/1909-02-14/ed-1/seq-53/

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FEBRUARY 14, 1909
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ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND HIS FAMILY
LINCOLN'S USE OF SCRIPTURE
WILLIAM H. HERNDON,
who knew Abraham Lin
coln as intimately as any
other man did, has said of him:
'' The truth about Mr. Lincoln is
that he read less and thought
more than any man of his sphere
in America." This is true, but
he had been a great reader of at
least three books, all of which were first read in his
boyhood. Those books were the Bible, Aesop's Fables
and Bunyan's ''Pilgrim's Progress." His matchless
English style was formed largely on these three books,
and chiefly on the Bible.
Of another and much younger man it has been re
corded that '' he was never asked to read the Bible, and
consequently read it, greatly to the advantage of his
literary style." It is probably a fact that Lincoln
did not have to be asked to read the Bible. He read
it, as a boy, because it was one of the extremely few
boots that he had to read. And in after life he read
it because he liked to read it, and because it was of
more value to him than any other book.
It is well known, of course, that Lincoln did not be
long to any church. He did not even claim the name
of Christian. But he was as deeply religious in feel
ing as any man could be. He was a Bible man—not
in the sense that he arranged his views according to
any particular interpretation of the Bible, but in the
larger sense that he read the Bible as he read no other
book, knew it almost from cover to cover, and spoke
and acted on its inspiration. The spirit of the book
had flowed into his very soul, and its words came out
on his lips whenever he spoke seriously.
When a man speaks who is so full of the Bible as
Lincoln was he almost always seems to give the book
a new meaning. Somehow Lincoln's biblical quota
tions, which occur in almost every speech he uttered,
take on a special significance in his mouth. They seem
to have been inspired for that occasion. Once, as long
ago as 1842, he made a speech against intemperance.
In it he drew a terrible parallel. Speaking of the
demon of drink, he said: '' He ever seems to have
gone forth like the Egyptian angel of death, commis
sioned to slay, if not the first, the fairest born of
every family.'' This makes the slaughter of the
eldest sons of the children of Israel a universal thing,
not a special thing; it presents to our eyes and our
thoughts a living destroyer, not one that existed ages
apo. And Lincoln went on to quote from the same
Bible, referring to the victims of this destroyer:
"Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe
upon these slain, that they may live! " The employ
ment of scripture in such a way as that far transcends
the usual preacher's use of it.
LOS ANGELES HERALD SUNDAY MAGAZINE
He Employed Bible Phrases as the Backbone of His Eloquence,
and Made Use of Them in Demolishing the Structure of Treason
JOSEPH EDGAR CHAMBERLIN
For one thing, Lincoln liked the Bible on account
of its literary value, and as an aid to his own elo
quence. But he had wisdom enough to see that what
we may call its literary value rested on a deeper foun
dation than any artifice. In the year 1864, within
s?ven months of his death, a deputation of admiring
colored men came to him from Baltimore, and in the
gratitude of their hearts presented him with the best
thing they could think of, which was a fine copy of
the Bible. Lincoln received the gift with infinite
grace, and the speech of acknowledgment which he
made to the colored men showed that he prized the
book for much more than its literary and suggestive
value. This is what he said:
'' In regard to this great book I have but to say:
It is the best gift God has given to man. All the
good Saviour gave to this world was communicated
through this book. But for it we could not know right
from wrong. All things most desirable for man's wel
fare here and hereafter are to be found portrayed in
it. To you I return my sincere thanks for the very
elegant copy of the great book of God which you pre-:
sent.''
k LITTLE book has been published on "Lincoln's
" Use of the Bible," by S. Trevena Jackson, which
expresses the opinion that the above is hardly a use of
language which would have been possible to a com
plete skeptic, and the author is certainly justified in
his opinion. Lincoln was a religious man. Some peo
ple, in his own time, thought that no one could be a
religious man without joining some particular church
and subscribing to some particular creed, but that no
tion does not prevail at the present time. Lincoln
thought religiously, generally acted religiously, and
frequently—not always—spoke religiously.
Yet he was capable of making a humorous use of a
scripture passnge. Many a doctor of divinity has
done that. In 1864, when the Cleveland "peace con
vention" met and nominated John C. Fremont for
the presidency in opposition to him, some one re
marked that, instead of the thousands who were ex
pected to attend the convention, there were only about
four hundred persons in the hall all told. Whereupon
Lincoln picked up the Bible which always lay upon
his desk, and read from the first book of Samuel:
From a lithograph published early in 1865, and which
became very popular throughout the United States.
'' And every one that was in
distress, and every one that was
in debt, and every one that was
in bitterness of soul, gathered
themselves unto him; and he be
came captain over them; and
there were with him about four
hundred men.''
When he was accused at Cin
cinnati of being in politics lor "the loaves and
said, '' Well, he who is not with us is against us, and
he who gathereth not with us scattereth." lie could
even express his resentment toward those who wished
to perpetuate slavery with a grim scriptural refer
ence: "If they, like Hainan, should hang upon the
gallows of their own building, I should not be among
the mourners for their fate.''
Lincoln could hardly make a great speech without
bringing in something from the Bible. It was in his
second inaugural address that he used these words:
'' 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
up by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of
unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of
blood drawn by the lash shall be paid by another
drawn by the sword, as was said three thousand years
ago, so still it must be said that 'the judgments of the
Lord are true and righteous altogether.' "
The keynote of his greatest speech against Douglas,
when he took the field in his famous campaign for the
senatorship, was in its very first sentence, and that
sentence was from the Bible: "A house divided
against itself cannot stand.''
In the same debate with Douglas he spoke of the
insidious attack which was being made upon the Amer
ican Union through the Dred Scott decision of Eoger
B. Taney, the complaisance and pusillanimity of Pres
ident James Buchanan, and the political compromises
01 Douglas, as '' the conspiracy of James, Roger and
Stephen," and compared it with the building of
Solomon's temple, as if by stealth, in different parts
of the land; "so that there was neither hammer nor
axe nor any tool of iron heard in that house while it
was in building." Every part of this terrible con
spiracy of ruin had been made ready before it was
brought to Washington, so that all at once the awful
structure of treason and ruin appeared before the eyes
of the astonished people.
There was prophecy, as well as a subtle terror of
words, in this picture; and though it did not avail to
send Lincoln to the Senate, it helped to make him the
man to whom the task of overwhelming that edifice of
treason was committed by the people.
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