By Mark Ellis, special to ASSIST News Service
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (ANS — May 4, 2015) — America’s greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, has variously been described as a religious skeptic, deist, or even a fatalist. But as Lincoln wrestled with God and his own “melancholy” during times of intense warfare and suffering at the end of his life, one scholar believes strong evidence for faith emerged.
“He had a remarkable faith journey that the traditional historian doesn’t want to see,” says Dr. Ronald C. White, Jr. author of the New York Times bestseller, A. Lincoln: a biography. White is a fellow at the Huntington Library, visiting professor of history at UCLA, and a senior fellow of The Trinity Forum.
Born on the frontier during the Second Great Awakening, Lincoln’s parents faithfully took him to a Baptist Church. ““From an early age, Lincoln rebelled against something that was too emotional. By the time he was nine, Lincoln could literally say the pastor’s sermon back word for word with all the gesticulations,” White says.
Lincoln’s father was not amused by these recitations – usually delivered atop a stump by the young lad in a less-than-respectful tone. The irreverent performances resulted in Lincoln being pulled down from his makeshift pulpit with some upbraiding by dad.
“By the time he was a young man he became a fatalist, which I would call a kissing cousin of deism,” White notes.
As an emerging lawyer with political aspirations, Lincoln penned a critique of revealed religion, Christianity, and the Bible, and showed it to an acquaintance. “One of his older friends, knowing Lincoln was going to be running for office, ripped it out of his hands and threw it in the fire,” White recounts. “This was not a smart thing to do, to attack orthodox Christianity in the 1830s.”
In 1840, Lincoln became engaged to Mary Todd, but he got cold feet and cancelled their planned wedding. The couple later reconciled and in the days immediately prior to the nuptials Lincoln felt apprehensive once more. Someone asked him where he was going, and he replied, “To hell, I suppose.”
In 1850 Abraham and Mary lost their second child, Eddie, probably due to tuberculosis. Lincoln sought counseling from his Episcopalian minister, but the man was out of town. Instead, he turned to a young Presbyterian minister, James Smith, who had recently arrived in Springfield, Illinois.
“They were impressed with him and his pastoral concern,” White says. “Mary joined the church and Lincoln paid the pew rent for her.”
Mark Ellis is a senior correspondent for ASSIST News Service and also the founder of www.Godreports.com, a website that shares stories, testimonies and videos from the church around the world to build interest and involvement in world missions.
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