In observance of the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth, I have begun re-reading his collected papers. I ended tonight by reading the second inaugural address, which I have read many times, and parts of which I have memorized. It is the yardstick by which all other such addresses must be measured (and in comparison to which Obama's failed miserably). And it must have taken him no more than five minutes to deliver it.
What is stunning about this speech is not only Lincoln's flat assessment that slavery brought about the civil war, but, more so, his categorical assertion that God gave us the war. He states unequivocally that God permitted slavery to exist in this country, and that he now chooses to end it through the civil war. And he concludes that the war will go on as long as God wills it to go on, even if that means that 250 years' worth of wealth accumulated by slavery will be sunk, and that every drop of blood drawn by the bondsman's lash will be paid by another drawn by the sword. And if this is so, he tells us, then who can challenge the idea that the judgments of the Lord are just and righteous altogether?
Now the point I want to make here is a simple one. If any modern American president dared to make such an assertion about the direct intervention of God in the nation's affairs, he would be ridiculed, reviled, perhaps called insane or a fanatic, and driven from office. And yet we consider Lincoln to have been our greatest president. But he was our greatest president, not despite his belief in divine intervention in the affairs of men, but because of it. It was his belief in the intimate relationship between God and man, between God and national destiny that made him our greatest president.
Today the secular left would pillory him for making even a shadow of such statements, and in righteous indignation demand that he be banned from the public sphere, even as they demand that religion be banned from the public sphere. Yet in another of Lincoln's writings that I read tonight, a proclamation calling for a day of fasting and national confession of sin, he begins by stating his belief, and that of Congress, and that of the Founders, that it is God who governs the affairs of this nation. A man who held such beliefs could not be elected to any high office in this country today, and that is a terrible commentary on the spiritual state of our nation, and the scabrous effect which the purveyors of secular liberalism have had on our national consciousness.