So what would Abe Lincoln think about the way of the USA these days? He was no stranger to conflict and chaos, of course. Issues of freedom, rights, justice, race, and more engulfed this nation in civil war as Lincoln bore the burden of seeking to bring peace and healing to a divided people. Could unity become a possibility?
What principles guided his decisions? Whom did he consult for help? How did he lead through such turmoil?
There’s one account that offers a glimpse into the mind of a man who faced an impossible challenge, which offers some insight that would serve us well today.
On September 11, 1863, The New York Times reported on a meeting Lincoln held with a committee of the Loyal Colored People of Baltimore. This was just several months following his Emancipation Proclamation, essentially declaring that “all persons held as slaves” (within the rebellious states) “are, and henceforward, shall be free.” Of course, the fight would and must continue, but this executive order paved the way toward the abolition of slavery in America.
Speaking on behalf of the committee, the Rev. S.W. Chase addressed the President with a presentation of a beautiful edition of a Bible in token of their appreciation for his labors.
In part, Chase said:
“Our hearts will ever feel the most unbounded gratitude toward you. We come forward to present a copy of the Holy Scriptures as a token of respect to you for your active part in the cause of emancipation. This great event will be a matter of history. In future, when our sons shall ask what mean these tokens, they will be told of your mighty acts, and rise up and call you blessed.”
Lincoln’s reply (in part) unveils his heart: “I can only say now, as I have often said before, it has always been a sentiment with me that all mankind should be free.
“So far as I have been able, so far as came within my sphere, I have always acted as I believed was right and just, and done all I could for the good of mankind…In regard to the great book. I have only to say it is the best gift which God has ever given man.
“All the good from the Savior of the world is communicated to us through this book. But for that book we could not know right from wrong. All those things desirable to man are contained in it. I return you my sincere thanks for this very elegant copy of this great book of God which you present."
So how did Lincoln lead this nation through an impassable divide? He led by believing that the Bible alone provides the answer to what is right and what is wrong – and he acted upon that truth. All the good for mankind he desired to achieve was grounded in the principles communicated in this “great book of God.”
The psalmist wrote: “The sum of your word is truth, and all your righteous rules endure forever” (Psalm 119:160).
May God grant our leaders today wisdom, courage, and faith to govern according to the truth of God’s righteousness.