19 November 2008

Liberty: Civil and Christian

Psalm 119:41-48

41 Let Your mercies come also to me, O LORD— Your salvation according to Your word.
42 So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me, For I trust in Your word.
43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, For I have hoped in Your ordinances.
44 So shall I keep Your law continually, Forever and ever. 45 And I will walk at liberty, For I seek Your precepts.
46 I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, And will not be ashamed.
47 And I will delight myself in Your commandments, Which I love.
48 My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, Which I love, And I will meditate on Your statutes.

Unfortunately, many of you reading this probably do not know that this date, 19 November, is the 145th Anniversary of the original reading by then President Lincoln of the Gettysburg address. At this event, the dedication of a National Cemetery on the grounds of the Gettysburg battle field in southeastern Pennsylvania, President Lincoln gave an address that took around 2.5 minutes to read, but will remain in the annuls of history forever as one of the greatest speeches ever given.

Lincoln was a very religious man, and had been through much in his life. Coming from an impoverished home, poor personal health, the death of a child, what most believe to be at least a severely depressed if not mentally ill wife, and what others perceived as bad luck followed him much of his life. Lincoln knew better, and understood that providence was the provider of his life experience that was to become his testimony and legacy. Humble to the day he was assassinated, liberty was something that Lincoln understood perhaps better than anyone in his generation, or since. Civil and Christian alike.

While I do not know with certainty that this verse in Psalms was one that President Lincoln read frequently, I can imagine him sitting behind the desk of the Oval Office, reading this aloud as he prayed for the secession of war in his country, for the liberty of the blacks from slavery, for the liberty of the citizens of the then, not-so-United States of America, and for the liberty of the souls of the hundreds of thousands already killed in the US Civil War by the fall of 1863. In great part, by the prayers, unfainting hope and unwavering Christian faith that lived in President Lincoln, this nation has survived as united, yet free. In a not so small way, we owe our civil liberties in this nation to the unabashed Christian, because of his faith in Christ and the liberties that He offers to us all.

President Lincoln is know to have said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day.” We walk in liberty, because Abraham Lincoln sought His precepts.