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Soul Growth of

Abraham Lincoln

By john Mcelroy

Gutzon Borglum's Study of Abraham Lincoln.

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Soul Growth of
Abraham Lincoln



October 15, 1910







It is always impossible to get a real portrait of any great man.
An artist inevitably imbues his work with his own individuality, and
he will not fail to emphasize that in his subject which appeals di-
rectly to : him. Not one of the many portraits and even photo-
graphs of Lincoln satisfies those who have known, studied and
admired the great President. The best of all the portraits is that
made by Gutzon Borglum, whose marble bust in the Rotunda of
the National Capitol is the result of a long and exhaustive study
of all the known portraits and photographs. Mr. Borglum found
two entirely different sides to Mr. Lincoln's face, one full of his
mercy and tenderness, and the other of his strength of leadership.
Reproductions of this are given herewith. The other portrait,
that by Mr. Marshall, is interesting, since it seems to have caught
the exaltation of spirit which we associate with the great Hebrew

©CI. A 273516

Soul Growth of Abraham Lincoln

NOT since the Divine Tragedy on Calvary has man-
kind seen such an exaltation of the soul as in
Abraham Lincoln.

Birth as lowly as that in the Manger at Bethlehem;
parentage of the rude and unlettered jetsam, flung far out
by the advancing wave of civilization ; denied a draft from
even the humblest fount of learning; early moral training
vague to the vanishing point ; unschooled even by the sight
and speech of men of higher culture, yet dying at the early
age of 56, Lincoln reached the very pinnacle of the world's
material and moral greatness.

Hath the omnipotence of God shown any greater miracle?

We must see in Abraham Lincoln in the beginning a plain,
ordinary American soul, differing not one particle or im-
pulse from those of the primitive toilers around him, but
this soul, receiving some Divine germ — some quickening
ray from the Holy Ghost — growing and expanding, day
by day, year by year, widening its reach as it rose with
the steadiness of the sun over the broadening horizon of
men's minds, until its fame "folded in this orb of earth."

All this time this soul remained wholly and essentially
American— an absolute product of the soil on which it grew.,
taking no form, shape or color from Old World learning,
character or thought. It was as distinctively American as
the noble trees and plants which spring only from our own
unworn, untainted soil, expand under our own wide-arching,
strength-compelling skies, and are found nowhere else in
the world.


UST we believe that the age of miracles is past —
that the Holy Spirit long since ceased to manifest
itself to man?

Assertions of Divine Intervention and Special Providences
should and must be always viewed with obdurate doubt.
Not because such things are impossible, but from the diffi-
culty of believing that the Creator of the Universe often
intervenes to change or arrest the operation of His own
immutable laws.

Yet, at wide intervals of time there come events of such
momentous importance to mankind, for which the sever-
est scrutiny can develop no other explanation, that we are
constrained to turn to Divine Interposition for the reason
that must exist for all things.

Protestant, Catholic, Jew, Mahometan or Free Thinker,
believing in any degree that life and the universe have a
moral purpose, cannot escape the conviction that Divine in-
tervention is from time to time necessary to set the clock
of moral progress.

The first fact we are to consider, and it is startling in
magnitude, is that we know inconceivably more of every
part of Lincoln's life than of any other man's who ever
lived. The Egyptian flies were scarcely more numerous
than the political enemies swarming about him; certainly
they were not more virulent and inevasible. On the other
hand, Lincoln's political friends of that day and the eager
historical students for nearly a half century since have left
no day or act of his life unscanned, no friend or acquaintance
unquestioned. Fiercer white light than ever beat on any
throne makes every day that Lincoln lived as familiar to
us as our own yesterdays. It is impossible that the career
of any other man should bear this scrutiny as Lincoln's
has. So absolutely blameless a life as he led was a miracle
in itself.

Let theologians wrangle as they will over the dogmas as
to the Holy Ghost. Plain people of all faiths will persist
in understanding Him as the agency by which the Deity


makes His purposes effective. The Holy Spirit made an
obscure maiden of Galilee the Mother of Jesus. Did not
the same medium make the equally obscure Illinois boy
the greatest moral power since the Man of Sorrows?

This is not so much a presumption as a legitimate con-
clusion from all known facts.

MANY see the Holy Spirit in everything that makes
the world good and gladsome, from the singing
of birds and fragrance of flowers to the life-giving

Others would confine this to that which lifts Man above
the brutes that perish, and to a little lower than the angels.

Still others would restrict it to a Pentecostal gift to some
particular man like Moses, John the Baptist, St. Paul and
Luther, to raise him far above his fellows, make him their
moral guide, and lead them to newer and higher planes of

Theologians have always held that the Holy Ghost was
present with, guided and controlled the great solemn coun-
cils of the Church. Some one man has always been at
the forefront, standing out far before the others, in every
great forward moral stride that the world has made.

Abraham Lincoln stood thus at the front, when the world
made the greatest spiritual advance since the day when
Christ lifted mankind out of the cramped and purblind
materialism of Paganism and Judaism and revealed the
exalted verities of Eternal Life.

WE AMERICANS fall short in only thinking of
Lincoln as the Emancipator, the Nation Saver,
the wisest of statesmen. We are slow to compre-
hend his inestimable value to the whole world, and that
he opened a great moral era like those of Moses and St. Paul.


Since history began Power has been always intimately —
inevitably — allied with haughtiness, harshness and dire
cruelty; Authority with arbitrary selfishness; War with
spoliation and vengeance.

No Asiatic despot or military chief ever held in his hand
the absolute power wielded by Abraham Lincoln. Yet no
man was more humble before the Lord and the meanest of
his people. Authority in Abraham Lincoln's hands was
determined justice ever swerving toward mercy. In the
greatest, fiercest war in history not a blow was struck, not
a victim sacrificed after resistance ceased. Every hour
of Lincoln's life saw some deed of mercy, some act of for-
giveness, not one of hate or vindictiveness.

The cruelties and wrongs which have deformed all Gov-
ernments lost their excuse before this exhibition of over-
whelming strength and relentless purpose acting in absolute
righteousness. Everjr Government in the world has become
much the better for it. Every man in authority has found
himself compared with Lincoln's exalted use of power, and
forced in some degree to emulate his example.

Scarce one so lowly and oppressed in any land as not
to receive an uplifting ray from the shining avatar in the

All Governments became purer in their aims, higher in
their ideals, more just in their practices, because of the
example he set.

CHRIST was born in the hoary and storied East, a land
filled with the decaying temples and dying faiths
of thousands of years. He came to a people whose
racial history was a succession of subjugations, captivities
and enslavements. Their overworked, jaded soil gave but
grudging support to the multiplying population. Super-
imposed above the Jews were the strata of all their former
masters, Hittite, Egyptian, Persian and Greek, with the
heavy-handed Roman above them all. All was dejection


and hopelessness, with the people in the sordid debasement
of the effort to merely live. Christ brought to them the
Evangel that the soul was far greater than the body, and
that the highest freedom was obtained by emancipating it
to righteousness. Christ grew up to His great mission bj'
living with and sharing the life of the lowliest, bearing
their burdens, performing their duties, feeling their sorrows.

Contrast this with one of the greatest of His followers.

Abraham Lincoln grew up on virgin soil, fresh and un-
polluted from the hands of its Maker, among a free, strong,
virile people. They had never known a master but God
and their own wills. They were rude as the foes they
conquered, primitive as the wilds they subdued, poor to
nothingness in worldly goods, but rich in hope, courage and
will. Their minds were as wide-reaching as their prairies,
bounded only by the high-arching heavens.

Sharing to the uttermost their toils, privations and hard-
ships, learning their language, speaking their speech, even
thinking their thoughts, Lincoln became their leader in
the smaller things, then in the greater ones, his soul broad-
ening with every "process of the sun" until he reached the
pinnacle of human greatness.

Lincoln's supreme work lasted precisely as long as
Christ's— four years.

THERE had come the fulness of time for an advent
of the Holy Ghost.
The hundreds of years of religious wars which had
scourged the world had ended in an armistice. Roman
Catholic, Protestant and Mahometan held what they had
gained, and sheathed their swords. The battleflags of the
creeds had been folded away. Men had forgotten them in
rallying around the broader war-banners of human rights
and just government. The discredited Captains and the
Kings of Absolutism were departing. Puny principalities


ceased their little wars of jealousy, and people of kindred
blood coalesced into great Nations.

At last, in the divine program had come the day when
Governments were to be for man and not man for the Gov-
ernments — when the supreme function and object of all Gov-
ernment was to secure the most absolute justice, liberty and
love for every man and woman, as the will of

"That God which ever lives and loves,
One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off divine event,

To which the whole Creation moves."

And the Spirit of God moved, not on the face of the waters
as in the creation of a world, but on the hearts of men in
the creation of a moral firmament.

God has always called His chosen agents out of an ob-
scurity like that darkness from which He created the world.

A foundling gave laws, religion and racial life to the
Jews, and higher morals to all mankind. The forerunner
of Jesus dwelt in the desert, far from men, until he appeared
among them clad in a coarse garment of camel's hair. Un-
known in all the circles of Jerusalem was the humble maiden
residing remotely in despised Galilee, who was selected for
motherhood of the Redeemer. The cloisters of rude, almost
semi-barbarous, Germany contained, among their crowd of
meek-eyed scriveners, no more obscure monk than Martin
Luther. The birth and rearing of Abraham Lincoln was
as lowly as any of these. The work he did in bringing
nearer the coming of the Kingdom was second only to
that of the greatest of the religious leaders.

THE way that humbly planted soul grew under the
quickening of the Holy Ghost was like unto the
mustard seed in the parable. To-day merely a leader
of his rude fellows in athletic sports, to-morrow one of their
law-givers. In a few swiftly growing years he was the
head of the mightiest armies that ever shook the earth


with their tread, and which covered the extent of an empire
with their awful battlefields.

Under the quickening and guidance of the Holy Spirit
he called a whole Nation to instant arms for the Right. At
the bidding of a man whose heart was so gemtle and merciful
that he stopped and lifted the stricken fledgelings back into
their nests, five hundred thousand men died for their country
and another half million fell before them. This man

"So slow to strike, so swift to spare,"

saw without faltering of purpose "a thousand fall at his
side and ten thousand on his right hand."

What but the actual presence of the Holy Ghost could
have made this man wiser than all the "learned statesmen
who at his council met?" Greater in war than any of the
Generals who commanded his hosts?

The English-speaking race has occupied the center of the
world's stage for a thousand years. During that time it has
crowded every branch of effort and achievement with the
greatest men the age has produced.

Yet the greatest of all men who have spoken English is
admittedly Abraham Lincoln.

AS THE end of his mission approached, his soul, free-
ing itself from the physical and material facts of
the great and engrossing conflict, assumed more and
more the sublimity of the old Hebrew prophets.

At his second inaugural— only six weeks before his death—
when he was so near Eternity that his far-seeing vision
might have beheld the Gates of the Beyond opening for him,
he spoke as none but Isaiah might have spoken:

"Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would
make war rather than let the Nation survive, and the other
would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war


"The prayer of both could not be answered — those of
neither have been answered fully. The Almighty has His
own purposes. 'Woe unto the world because of offenses!
for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that
man by whom the offense cometh.'

"If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of
those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs
come, but which, having continued through His appointed
time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to North
and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by
whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any depart-
ure from those divine attributes which the believers in a
living God always ascribe to Him ?

"Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this
mighty scourge of war may soon pass away.

"Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth
piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of
unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood
drawn by the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the
sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it
must be said, 'The judgments of the Lord are true and
righteous altogether.'

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firm-
ness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us
strive on to finish the work we are in ; to bind up the Nation's
wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle,
and for his widow and for his orphan ; to do all which may
achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among our-
selves, and with all Nations."

His heart went out in unfailing sympathy and love to
everything that breathed. He not only noted the sparrow's
fall, but hastened to help the sparrow to wing again. Ee-
sponding like a sensitive harp to the lofty self-sacrifice of
every boy fighting, enduring and dying for the Nation,
sorrowing for every bereaved mother of a fallen son, he
yet brooded over his erring countrymen as Christ did over
stiff-necked, rebellious Jerusalem.



ROM Lincoln's lips fell the nearest approach of any
human utterances to the Sermon on the Mount. Let
us garner a few :

"At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be
expected? xlnswer: If it ever reaches us, it must spring
up among us.

"It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot,
we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation
of free men, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

"This nation cannot live on injustice. 'A house divided
against itself cannot stand,' I say again and again.

"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for
themselves, and under a just God cannot long retain it.

"Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that
faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty, as we under-
stand it.

"In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and
not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war.

"The Government will not assail you; you can have no
conflict without being yourselves the aggressors.

"You can have no oath, registered in heaven to destroy
the Government ; while I shall have the most solemn one to
'preserve, protect, and defend' it.

"I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends.
We must not be enemies. Though passion may have
strained, it must not break, our bonds of affection.


"The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every
battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and
hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the
chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they
will be, by the better angels of our nature.

"And having thus chosen our course, without guile and
with pure purpose, let us renew our trust in God, and go
forward without fear and with manly hearts.

"We say that we are for the Union. The world will not
forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union.
The world knows we do know how to save it. We — even
we here — hold the power and bear the responsibility.

"In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the
free — honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve.

"We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last hope of
earth. Other means may succeed; this could not, cannot,

"The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just — a way which,
if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must
forever bless.

"Whatever shall be sincerely and in God's name devised
for the good of the soldiers and seamen in their hard
spheres of duty, can scarcely fail to be blessed.

"How willingly would I exchange places today with the
soldier who sleeps on the ground in the Army of the
Potomac !

"I have higher faith than yours. I have faith, not only
that God is with our cause, but that He will control the
hearts of the people so that they will be faithful to it, too."

Gutzon Borgluui's Study of the Right
Side of Lincoln's Face. Showing His

Gutzon Borglum's Study of the Left
Side of Lincoln's Face, Showing
His Sympathy and Mercy.

;T X4 1$

Recalling the Faces of the Old Hebrew Prophets.

One copy del. to Cat. Div.

OCT 14 1910




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Online LibraryJohn McElroySoul growth of Abraham Lincoln → online text (page 1 of 1)