BORN: February 12, 1809
DIED: April 15, 1865
Sixteenth president of the United States, 1861-1865. Abraham Lincoln was one of the world's truly great men. The American Union was preserved under his leadership. Lincoln expressed the deepest beliefs of the American People and, though primarily self-educated he created some of the finest examples of American literature. As president, he never lost touch with the common people who knew him as "Honest Abe" and "Father Abraham."
Like many other Americans of his time, he was born in a one room log cabin, 16'x18'. The logs were chinked with clay and light came dimly through the single window. There was a dirt floor with a cornhusk stuffed mattress on top of a bed constructed of poles. He grew up in a farming family facing the hard times of frontier life. In the spring of 1811, the family moved to a farm on Knob Creek, ten miles northeast of Sinking Spring, Kentucky. This was the first home Abe would remember and he loved it. He learned to plant, hoe, husk corn, build hearth fires, carry water and chop wood. When he was six years old, his sister Sarah and he would tramp some two miles each way to a log schoolhouse where he learned reading, writing and arithmetic. Even in dusty or snowy weather, Abe would practice his writing using charcoal on the back of a shovel. At the age of seven, his family moved to present-day Spencer County, Indiana where his mother (Nancy Hanks) died early in the winter two years later. Abe's father (Big Tom Lincoln), made her rough-hewn coffin which was held together by wooden pegs, hand-carved by little nine-year-old Abe. As she was buried in a shallow winter grave, Abe remembered her words: "I would rather Abe be able to read the Bible than to own a farm if he cannot have but one."
Tom was an uneducated farmer descended from an English Quaker family who came to America only seventeen years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. His grandfather, also named Abraham, emigrated from Virginia to Kentucky, with his wife and five small children in about 1780. He was shot and killed by an Indian six years later. His son Tom, a wandering laboring-boy, grew up without an education. Somehow he learned enough carpentry to become competent in this trade. He was a sober, hard-working man, that was respected by his neighbors.
In 1816, Tom Lincoln settled with his young family in Indiana where they lived for about 15 years. Tom chose Indiana since slavery wasn't practiced there. It was grueling work, covering 160 acres of virgin forest into workable farmland. They shared this primitive region with bears and other wild animals. That first winter, they lived in a make-shift cabin of three sides, a roof, and a continuous fire on the fourth side. Abraham was very young, but large for his age and strong enough to handle an ax. All winter, in fact as long as he lived in Indiana, he was seldom without his ax. Together they built a comfortable cabin for the family.
In the autumn of 1818, milk cows in the Valley of Pigeon Creek, Southern Indiana, were affected by a disease caused by eating poisonous plants. The result was an epidemic of "milk sickness" which spread over the countryside. Pretty Nancy Hanks Lincoln soon had the disease which had already fatally taken two other members of the family. On her death-bed, she called Abe and Sarah to her, touching them and admonishing Abe to care for his sister and be good to his father.
It was a terribly lonely time for the struggling family. Abraham's sister, then twelve years old, kept house as best she could. Not only did Tom have his own children to care for, but also their three orphaned cousins; Dennis Hanks, plus Squire and Levi Hall. One day it became even more lonely as Tom left them with a promise to return as soon as he could. His destination was Elizabethtown, Kentucky to look up Sarah Bush Johnson, who he knew was also now a widow. He had proposed marriage to her many years previously, but she had chosen someone else. He found her willing to come and grateful that he would pay off her debts. Dennis explained it this way: "Tom didn't drink or cuss none, so she married him." They borrowed a team of horses, loaded a wagon with her belongings, including her three children, and hurried back to Pigeon Creek.
When the wagon rolled into their farmyard, the children ran out to greet the wonderful woman who became at once a loving mother to all. "Here's your new mammy," Tom announced, as Abe looked up into the strong, large-boned, rosy, kind face with steady, loving eyes. When she held him against her skirt it seemed like a heavenly gift, but when she traded his old cornhusk mattress for a soft featherbed, he knew God had indeed sent a miracle. There was never any partiality or resentment toward Tom's kids. She accepted her stepchildren, as well as their cousins, as if they had been blood brothers and sisters to her own Matilda 9, Elizabeth 13, and John 5. Although she tried not to show any favoritism Sarah quickly took a special liking to Abe. She always made him "feel like a human being." Tom was immediately inspired to greater potential by Sarah, who encouraged him to provide for them all. He put in windows and flooring for their one room cabin and she in turn kept both the cabin and the children spotless.
Sarah's industrious personality was further enhanced by her ringing Christian testimony. Although Tom was a good man and attended church, it was Sarah who saw to it that the family Bible was always at hand. Family devotions were a part of every day and included Bible reading; Scripture memorization; morning and evening prayers; and a hymn or two in between. As a member of the Pigeon Creek (Hard Shell) Baptist Church, she was an exemplary Christian. The only contradiction was that she kept her hair curled. This was considered by some to be a frivolous, worldly act - but she smiled, kept it curled and maintained her testimony.
The nearest school was nine miles away, so Sarah talked her husband Tom into allowing Abe to study at home. A few years later a neighbor, Mr. Crawford, opened a school in his log cabin which Abe gratefully attended. Tom didn't see any need for education. Sarah recognized Abe's exceptional intelligence and determined to further his education in any way she could. Abe read every book that crossed his path - often borrowing from others in the community. When he came across a passage noteworthy, he would write it down on boards if he had no paper. He also used a board and charcoal to do his arithmetic before the big fireplace. Abe read the Bible until he knew much of it by heart. Other favorite books were "Aesop's Fables," "Robinson Crusoe," "Pilgrim's Progress," and biographies of George Washington, Henry Clay and Benjamin Franklin.
Later, Lincoln described his education this way: "There were some schools, so called, but no qualification was ever required of a teacher beyond readin', writin', and cipherin' to the rule of three. If a straggler supposin' to understand Latin happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he was looked upon as a wizard ... when I came of age I didn't know much, but I could read, write and cipher to the rule of three, but that was all."
Long before Abraham came of age, he reached his full height of six feet, four inches. He was thin and awkward, big-boned and strong. His face was homely, his skin dark, and his hair was black, coarse and often standing on end. Everyone, however, seemed to like him. Even as a boy, Lincoln showed ability as a speaker. He would often amuse himself and others by standing on a stump and imitating some preacher or politician who had recently spoken in the neighborhood.
At age 19, Abe got his first contact with the outside world by taking a flatboat of cargo down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. From sunrise to sunset Abe and the boat owner's son pulled on the long oars of the flatboat that measured 40 feet from bow to stern. The two brawny young men even had to fight off robbers as they guided their valuable cargo into port. They lived on board, cooking and sleeping in a rickety lean-to on deck. In New Orleans Abe got his first deep impression of slavery. He saw his first auction of slaves in May of 1831. Slavery was lawful south of the Ohio River. "If I ever get a chance to hit that institution, I will hit it hard," he said.
Although he was free to strike out for himself, he spent his 21st year helping his father build a new log house in Illinois. Abe took down the trees, formed the logs for the cabin, and split the fence rails. From this experience he gained the moniker "Rail-Splitter" that stayed with him the rest of his life.
In 1830, the Lincolns, the Hanks, the Halls, and the Johnsons ... thirteen in all, moved from their crowded Indiana farm home to Illinois where they settled in a cabin ten miles south of Decatur.
Soon Lincoln was on his own, but he never forgot his step-mother. A man of few words, Lincoln once explained his success thusly: "All that I am, or ever hope to be, I owe to may angel mother." In further illustration of his devotion to her, the following narrative is included. "Even in the limelight, Lincoln never neglected his stepmother. Late in the evening of January 30, 1861_ , several persons had gathered at the depot of the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad in Charleston, Illinois to greet him, three months after being elected president of the United States. He had come 120 miles from Springfield, eluding office seekers and politicians who were dogging his every step, for a very special visit. He came on an evening freight train, so the few passengers there were stepped from the caboose several hundred feet down the tracks. Presently the President-elect was seen picking his way through mud and slush in a faded felt hat and a coat several inches too short for one of his great height. His battered bag, tied with an ordinary string, would not have impressed anyone, but Lincoln hadn't come to impress anyone . . . he had come to tell his stepmother good-bye before leaving for the White House."
At age 21, Abe moved to New Salem, Illinois where he stayed for six years. There he clerked in a store, served as postmaster and deputy to the county surveyor. When things were especially tight, he could always work as a farm laborer or salesman. In 1831, he was defeated for a seat in the Illinois State Legislature.
At the time of the Black Hawk Indian War in 1832, he was elected captain of a company of riflemen from the New Salem region. He really enjoyed that. In all, he served ninety days. During that time he saw no fighting, but, as he later said, he "made frequent attacks upon the wild onions and had a good many bloody struggles with the mosquitoes." In 1834, while he was campaigning for legislature, he began to study law. He overcame his doubts about his education. Perhaps he reasoned that if he could teach himself the fundamentals as a boy, and learn enough on his own to be a surveyor, he could learn law as well. He had to borrow the books, often walking to and from Springfield for this purpose. He tackled his legal studies with great vigor. While he was still in New Salem, a strong attachment developed between Lincoln and an attractive, intelligent girl of the village named Ann Ruthledge. The romance ended in 1835, when she died. For years Abe regularly visited the grave, seven miles outside of New Salem, Illinois.
Four times Lincoln was elected to the Illinois State Legislature as a representative of the Whig Political Party. He soon became a prominent political figure. He was witty, ready in debate, and so skillful in party management that he became the Whig floor leader at the beginning of his second term. In 1842 he declined further nomination. Meanwhile, in 1836, he had been admitted to the bar and began to practice law in Springfield (1837). During his leadership in the Whigs, he led a successful campaign to move the "Illinois State Capitol" from Vandalia to Springfield, where he lived and frequently lifted his voice in opposition to slavery.
It was in Springfield, a few months after his arrival that he and several other lawyers attended a camp meeting on the outskirts of town. Peter Akers, preached that night on "The Dominion of Jesus Christ." In essence, his sermon said that the "dominion of Christ" could not come to America until slavery was abolished. The preacher further explained that it would take a civil war to destroy the evil institution of slavery. Lincoln was moved and said the next morning, "I shall be involved in that tragedy."
On November 4, 1842, Abe married Mary Todd, a dark-eyed, lively Kentucky girl. They lived at a Springfield boarding house where they paid four dollars a week for their room and board. Eighteen months later, Lincoln bought the plain, but comfortable farm house that was to be the family home until he became President. By that time, his first son, Robert Todd was 9 months old. The second son, Edward Baker, was born March 10, 1846, but died four years later after a 52 day illness. The third son, William Wallace, born December 21, 1850, died in the White House at the age of twelve. Thomas "Tad" Lincoln was born April 4, 1853 and died in 1871 at the age of 18. Thus only one of the four children reached adulthood. The family lived humbly but comfortably. The portrayal of Lincoln as a poverty-stricken failure, is an inaccuracy. It is true that he often took care of his own horse and milked the family cow, but so did most of his neighbors. His marriage was often unhappy and turbulent, in part because of his wife's pronounced instability. Her emotional sensitivity was certainly heightened by the loss of her three children.
In 1843, Lincoln was defeated for a U.S. Congressional Seat. In 1846, however, he defeated the Methodist circuit-riding preacher, Peter Cartwright for a seat in the National House of Representatives. In serving as a Whig representative from Illinois (1847-49) he was a strong voice denouncing the Mexican/American War. He was defeated for re-election to the U.S. Congress in 1848. Returning to private law practice, Lincoln became recognized as the leading member of the Illinois bar. The issue of slavery continued to trouble his conscience. He strongly opposed Stephen A. Douglas in 1854 on the question of slavery spreading to free territories. In 1855 he was defeated for the U.S. Senate and in 1856 he was defeated for the U.S. Vice Presidential nomination.
Abraham Lincoln became one of the founders of the Republican Party whose formation in 1856, was necessary to create a political vehicle that clearly opposed slavery. As the Republican candidate for U.S. Senator in 1858, he held a series of joint anti-slavery discussions throughout Illinois with the Democratic candidate, Stephen Douglas. These debates attracted the attention of the country. Although Lincoln carried the popular vote, he lost the senate election by just a few votes.
Two years later, Lincoln won the Republican presidential nomination. On November 6, 1860 he was elected president by a strong vote on the third ballot. It was a clear victory since the Democratic party was split by north and south. Lincoln received 180 electoral votes, John C. Brekenridge (Southern Democrats) 72, John Bell (Constitutional Union Party) 39, and Stephen A. Douglas (Northern Democrats) 12.
Inauguration day came on March 4, 1861. In his inaugural address, Lincoln argued the futility of secession, declaring the union perpetual. Several states had already seceded over the slavery issue and a few weeks later, The American Civil War was declared. Hostilities began with an attack by the Secessionists of South Carolina on the Federal troops at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. The fort surrendered on the 13th. On the 15th, Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 volunteers to meet in Springfield, Illinois. The control of events passed from the cabinet of bureaucrats to the camp of soldiers. In a fever of excitement, far more volunteers than the government could equip responded. As Commander-in-Chief, Lincoln had to select officers capable of organizing green volunteers into armies. He also had to maintain strong popular support. After the first enthusiasm wore off, different opinions arose. Many Northerners were willing to fight to preserve the Union, but not to destroy slavery. Others wanted to put the destruction of slavery as the key fighting point. Since slavery was protected by the Constitution in states where it already existed, Lincoln faced an enormous political challenge. He needed to preserve the Union and in the process defeat the South so that slavery was no longer a government recognized institution. Time after time in public statements he declared that the purpose of the war was the restoration of the Union . . . by this course the border states remained during the first critical months of the war.
The Lincoln's considered their "home" church in Washington to be the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Dr. Phineas Densmore Gurley, a Princeton Theological Seminary graduate of 1840, responded to a call from the "F" Street Presbyterian Church in 1850. Nine years later this church united with the Second Presbyterian Church to form the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, where Dr. Gurley became Lincoln's pastor in 1861. The last four years of his life, Lincoln heard Gurley preach the central doctrines of the cross. No phrase fell more frequently from his lips than "Christ and Him crucified."
Lincoln expressed his appreciation for the Gospel message he received at this church: "I get enough politics during the week. When I go to Church I like to hear the Gospel." Mrs. Lincoln joined the church. As was the custom at that time, she reviewed a chart of the church seats, selected a pew eight rows from the front on the center aisle and rented it for the then current rate of $50.00 per year. The pew today is marked by a silver plaque and is closed with a silver cord.
The death of their little son, William, in 1862, deeply affected the President and Mrs. Lincoln. After the funeral service, Lincoln presented the pastor with his son's bank with coins saved for Sunday School missions. From this time on Lincoln leaned even more heavily on spiritual strength.
Noting his increased interest in spiritual things, a lady of the congregation approached Dr. Gurley with, "Why don't you get Mr. Lincoln to unite with our church?" "We'll be glad to have Mr. Lincoln when he is ready to join," replied the pastor. Then he added, "Mr. Lincoln believes enough to join our church, but he doesn't seem to think he does."
There are two stories about his conversion: One takes place in Springfield, Illinois in May of 1839 Lincoln (age 30), heard a sermon by a Methodist pastor, James F. Jacquess on "Ye Must Be Born Again." The preacher related, that following the sermon Lincoln visited him, consulted and prayed with him about his soul's salvation: "I have seen hundreds brought to Christ," this pastor said, "and if ever a person was converted, Abe Lincoln was converted that night in my house."
The other salvation experience seems to be more reliable and plausible. When Lincoln was age 53, his twelve year old son, Willie, died in the White House. In his hour of great grief, Willie's nurse shared with Lincoln her personal relationship to Christ and encouraged him to know the Savior. Some time later he told a friend he found peace, saying, "When I left Springfield, I asked the people to pray for me, I was not a Christian. When I buried by son, the severest trial of my life, I was not a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg, and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ." In the days that followed, Lincoln worshipped regularly at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, not only on Sunday, but at the Wednesday evening prayer service as well.
By late summer of 1862, it was clear to Lincoln that the time had come for a change in his policy toward slavery. He issued a preliminary warning September 22, 1862, declaring that effective January 1, all slaves would be freed in the rebelling states or where practiced in parts of bordering states. On January 1, 1863 he issued the famous, world-changing "Emancipation Proclamation." This soon led to the writing of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution by which slavery in all parts of the Nation was ended.
Another especially moving experience was the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Lincoln proclaimed a day of thanksgiving for the victory. That same day, he went to church and heard Dr. Gurley preach on "Man's Projects and God's Results." His Gettysburg Address of November 19, 1863, was a high point in the record of American eloquence.
In 1864, Lincoln was unanimously nominated for a second term. He received an overwhelming majority in the election; 212 electoral votes to 21 for George B. McClellan, the Democratic party candidate. He began his second term of office March 4, 1865. His second inaugural speech was a classic that reads like a sermon, with two complete verses of Scripture and fourteen references to God. A month later he entered Richmond, Virginia with the Federal Army, only two days after the flight of the Confederate Government. Five weeks after Lincoln's second inaugural address, General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. The tragic American Civil War was over on April 9, 1865.
Photographs of Lincoln taken at this time show the effect that four years of war had upon him. His face was gaunt and deeply lined. His eyes were ringed with black. He had slept little, eaten irregularly and found almost no relaxation . . . he was terribly weary. Nevertheless, he continued to see the widows and soldiers who called daily at the White House and when he could to help them in their troubles.
President Lincoln was occupied with plans for the Reconstruction of the South when he was shot at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. while watching a play entitled, "Our American Cousin." A shot rang through the crowded house. John Wilkes Booth, one of the best known actors of the day, had shot the President in the head from the back of the Presidential Box. Leaping to the stage, Booth caught his spur in the folds of the American flag. He fell, broke his leg, limped across the stage brandishing a dagger, and crying "Sic semper tyrannis" (Thus ever to tyrants, the motto of Virginia). Lincoln died the next day, April 15, 1865, at 7:22 a.m.., bringing the nation and the world into mourning and sorrow. The timing of his death, just 8 days after the end of the Civil War, seemed to indicate that his life's work was finished.
According to Dr. Gurley, Lincoln's pastor, Lincoln had made all the necessary arrangements to make a public confession of faith in Christ on Easter Sunday, 1865, sadly, the assassin's bullet ended his life before the events could transpire. Although he had long believed in Jesus Christ as his Saviour, Lincoln had some doubts on a few minor points of the Westminster Confession of Faith, a requirement for Presbyterian Church membership. When the pastor pointed out that as e laymen he didn't have to subscribe to every article as long as he believed the essential parts, Lincoln had decided to unite with the church.
Lincoln was both one of the most loved end most hated men in American politics. Reflection has made him "The Greet Emancipator", "Champion of Freedom" end "Hero of American history."
His love for the Bible was boundless. He reed it end referred to it in his speeches. He wrote to e friend, "Take all of this Book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith, end you will live and die e better men." He also wrote, "I decided e long time ago that it was less difficult to believe that the Bible was what it claimed to be then to disbelieve it. It is a good Book for us to obey." He was adamant in his faith, praying often and exhorting others to prey.
Undoubtedly, when Lincoln came to Washington, he was unsettled in his beliefs. From this period came many statements such as "I could join any church that teaches love to God end neighbor", which were often quoted to prove he didn't understand the Gospel's plan of salvation. Uttered early in his residence et Washington, such sayings do not give time for his faith to grow end do not indicate his final beliefs.
Ultimately, Lincoln end Gurley became close friends. Occasionally, the President and his pastor used to cell together on the sick in Washington hospitals. When war clouds loomed menacingly, Lincoln would send for Gurley, even in the middle of the night, to come to the White House end pray. More then once Lincoln expressed his faith in Christ as God end Saviour to his friend. They had e special arrangement between them permitting the President to attend e prayer meeting at the church, unnoticed and unhampered. Whenever he could, one Wednesday night, the President would unobtrusively slip into the Pastor's study from e seldom-used outside door and sit unnoticed in the dark, hearing the entire service clearly through doors slightly ajar. No reference was ever made to Lincoln's presence in the adjoining room. Today, that room is celled the Lincoln Memorial Room. Lincoln's blossoming friendship with Gurley was demonstrated in many ways including the delivery of e fat turkey for Thanksgiving the year before he died . . . end after he died, Mrs. Lincoln sent Gurley the hat worn by him, for the first end only time, et his Second Inauguration with the words, "While its intrinsic value is trifling, you will prize it for the associations that cluster around it."
Dr. Gurley was with Lincoln et the end. At 10 o'clock in the evening on Good Friday, a White House carriage came to the pastor's door with e message from Mrs. Lincoln, asking him to come immediately to her husband's side. Not until then did he learn of the tragedy. All night long Pastor Gurley remained at Lincoln's bedside until his death the following morning.
As President, Lincoln had sometimes been bitterly criticized. After his death, even his enemies praised his kindly spirit and unselfishness. To the millions that had felt e personal kinship to him - the image of e "Father Abraham" - his death mirrored the loss of e beloved parent. Thousands wept as the funeral train made its lonely journey from Washington to Springfield where he was buried on May 5, 1865 et The Oak Ridge Cemetery.
To all Americans, end to the people of many other nations, Abraham Lincoln has become e beloved symbol of union end democracy.
Abraham Lincoln, as a Bible believing Christian, knew that his place in Heaven was secured by repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ and the blood He shed for our sins when He died on the cross of Calvary. Brother Smith is with the Lord Jesus Christ right now, but do you know, with 100% assurance, from God's Word, that you will be with Jesus when you die?
If you do not have this assurance, please read:
God's Simple Plan of Salvation
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God;
that ye may know that ye have eternal life,
and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
1. Biographies have always been used of God to stimulate more service for Christ. Paul said, "Be yea followers of me as I am also of Christ." Only eternity will reveal how many have gone into Christian service or a deeper walk with God as a result of reading such as David Barren's journal.
2. Biographies keep the wonderful ministries of many people alive and fresh before us. Many might soon be forgotten unless their challenging stories are brought to the attention of the Christian world afresh.
3. Biographies introduce people to us whom we might not know, or perhaps have misunderstood. This would be especially true of people now living. In a day when Christians seem to be divided into many "camps", it is hoped that this series will help give all true believers a new appreciation of ministries other than their own.
4. Biographies introduce us to people we will soon be living with for all eternity. The "family of God" is such a wonderful family. If you do not have the assurance that heaven is your home, that your sins have been forgiven, and that Jesus Christ lives in and through your life, please write us. We would like to introduce you to the Saviour, and welcome you to this wonderful eternal family.
ED REEVE, Psalm 35:28
Fundamental Publishers - Publishers & distributors of Christian aids & reference works
The scores of sources used in obtaining data for this series are too numerous to mention. They include back issues of many Christian journals, such as Christian Life, Decision, Sword of the Lord, etc. The major sets of encyclopedias plus the Who's Who in America series often provide factual data not obtained elsewhere. A library of close to 500 biographies plus numerous other books, booklets and files have been most valuable as well. Questionnaires returned from Christian leaders now living have also been helpful.
The people who have encouraged me and worked hard in the project are also rightfully acknowledged. The designing and editing of my wife Margaret, and the typesetting of Griffin Graphics have all made these biographies possible. I am thankful for this team God has put together.
Also a word of thanks to Harold Henniger of Canton, Ohio for allowing me to use the Christian Hall of Fame title, which he originated.
Biographies and More of Great Christians
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