Friday, May 1, 2009

He read the Bible

I received my copy of the May Touchstone this afternoon. I always appreciate its arrival, anticipating a period of pleasant, agreeable, and enlightening reading. This issue included something of particular interest to those of us who admire Lincoln, "Lincoln & the Methodists", by Matthew May, which provides an interesting account of Lincoln's relationship with Christianity and Methodist support for the Union and for Lincoln.

In 1846, Lincoln's Democratic opponent for Congress was a Methodist preacher named Cartwright, who attempted to use Lincoln's apparently heterodox religious convictions against him:
.... Lincoln published a pamphlet to combat Cartwright’s offensive. He did not attempt to claim to be something he was not (in this case, a member of a particular denomination), nor did he necessarily disagree with the basic proposition that religious observance was a requirement for public officials. He wrote:
That I am not a member of any Christian Church, is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or of any denomination of Christians in particular. . . . I do not think I could, myself, be brought to support a man for office whom I knew to be an open enemy of, and scoffer at, religion. Leaving the higher matter of eternal consequences between him and his Maker, I still do not think any man has the right thus to insult the feelings, and injure the morals, of the community in which he may live.
Lincoln made good on the prediction he made at Cartwright’s rally and won the 1846 election, serving in the US House for one term. ....
At Lincoln's burial, Methodist Bishop Matthew Simpson, a supporter and personal friend, spoke:
Standing beside the coffin at Oak Ridge Cemetery, Simpson tacitly acknowledged the ongoing mystery surrounding Lincoln’s faith and his distance from formal religious ceremony and ritual. Yet this leader of an organized Christian denomination perhaps best described that faith. The bishop said of Lincoln, according to Crooks, that he
read the Bible frequently, loved it for its great truths, and he tried to be guided by its precepts. He believed in Christ the Saviour of sinners, and I think he was sincere in trying to bring his life into harmony with the principles of revealed religion. Certainly if there ever was a man who illustrated some of the principles of pure religion, that man was our departed president. [more]
There is much more in this issue and it remains, with First Things, one of the few magazines I read from cover to cover.

Touchstone Archives: Lincoln & the Methodists

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