Why God permits punishment for nations |
National penance is a true American doctrine as well as a profound religious doctrine in the great Hebraic-Christian tradition. Lincoln expressed this better than any President our glorious country ha ever had. Maybe he knew it because he wa better chooled in sacrifice and suffering. Lincoln had about completed his first term a President, and there were many who opposed his reelection. Shortly before the next election a meeting wa held in New York. Present among others were Stephen T. Field, whom Lincoln had appointed to the Supreme Court; Roscoe Conkling, Speaker of the House; Whitelaw Reid; and Horace Greeley. They all agreed that everything possible should be done to prevent the renomination of Lincoln.
It was then that Orvile Browning, a friend of Lincoln wrote, 'I thought that Lincoln might get through the Presidency, as many a boy gets through college, without disgrace and without knowledge; but I fear he is a total failure.'
While the Civil War was raging, the knifing of Lincoln continued. One paper accused Lincoln of drawing his salary in gold, while soldiers received theirs in depreciated greenbacks. It was a lie; Lincoln was taking his pay in salary warrants payable in greenbacks, which he did not cash generally until several months after he received them. Lincoln, hearing of this calumny, made an accounting of what he had. Lincoln pulled open the drawer of his desk, took out a few stocks, bankbooks, and deeds for some real estate, and, carrying it in his big, long arms, he walked from the White House over to the Treasury. Coming to the desk of Mr. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury, Lincoln said, 'Here are all my earthly possessions. Put them all in government bonds, for the sake of the country.'
One night while the enemy barked at Lincoln, he took a sheet of paper and wrote, 'It will be my duty to so cooperate with the President-elect so as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration.' He signed his name and put it back into his desk.
Lincoln ran for a second term. As the returns came in, a friend told him that one of his political enemies in Maryland was being defeated. Lincoln said, 'You have more personal resentment than I. Perhaps I have too little of it, I never thought it paid. A man has no time to spend half his life in quarrels. If a man ceases to attack me, I never hold the past against him.'
At two-thirty on election night, as the telegraphic reports came into the White House, Lincoln stayed up to read them. The band was playing outside, Lincoln began to reminisce to his friends about an incidnent after the first election. He came home exhausted, looked into a mirror on the other side of the room, and saw in the mirror two faces - one his own image, which was very clear; but behind it was another image of him that was quite shadowy. Not knowing what it meant, he got up, walked around the room, and looked again. The two images appeared - one clear and the other ghostly. He asked Mary, his wife, what it meant; she said, 'It means you will be elected two terms. The first one you will live through, and before the second one is finished, you will die.'
Out of this life of sorrow, misjudgment, trial, and war, a great character was made. His Calvaries enabled him to have an insight into the spiritual needs of a nation that is given to but a few. On the cold, windy day of his second inaugural, he asked the American people to make some kind of reparation for their national sins:
'It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling Power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime Truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that these nations only are blessed.
And, inasmuch as we know that by His Divine Law, nations like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of Civil War which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown; but we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the Gracious Hand that preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulnes of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior virtue and wisdom of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken succes, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving Grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the Offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.'
Lincoln clearly taught that the awful calamity of Civil War was the punishment that God permitted us to have because of our national sins. Would it not be well to let ring through America today a voice like Lincoln's, summoning us to fall prostrate before God and ask God for pardon and forgivenes."