Friday, August 22, 2008

Chalk up another one for the prophet

I just returned from Maine, where I spent four days at a Pastor's retreat, and then spent one day with my wife for her teacher's retreat. Since I am not a teacher, I used some of my time to knock off some more pages in Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, Team of Rivals, which details Abraham Lincoln's presidency. It is an epic and wonderful book - one that I have mentioned a time or two before on here.

Among other things, I was absolutely amazed to find a quote by Lincoln that immediately turned my thoughts elsewhere. I shared the quote with Brenden Krueger - who is the principal at Pine Tree Academy; a huge history buff; and a big fan of Goodwin's book - and within about two seconds, he also linked the quote to the same place I did. The context in which Lincoln shares the quote was after another defeat at the hands of the Confederate army. Lamenting the North's plight, he scribbled down this perspective, which was later found among his papers (this larger quote is taken directly from
The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, which I was able to find online):
The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be wrong. God can not be for, and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party - and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say this is probably true - that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere quiet power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds. (The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 5, pp. 403-404. Emphasis added.)
Does this quote remind you of anything?

How about Ellen White? She essentially argued that at the first battle of Bull Run (in Manassas, Virginia), God caused the Union army to suffer defeat - though they were winning - because it was not His will to have the Civil War end so soon (kudos to my friend Charles who mentioned this a few weeks ago on here). Among other things, since the North had not been proactive enough in trying to abolish slavery, and there were still men in leadership who were against the abolition of slavery, God was "punishing" the North by prolonging the war.

I have heard about and read this quote for many years, but never before have I seen a confirmation of it by someone involved in the war, let alone Abraham Lincoln. What Ellen White understood - that God's hand was directly prolonging the war - is precisely what Lincoln perceived as well. Of course, Ellen White's explanation is a little more detailed, but below is the quote. Notice the similarities in ideas between Lincoln and Ellen White:

I had a view of the disastrous battle at Manassas, Virginia. It was a most exciting, distressing scene. The Southern army had everything in their favor and were prepared for a dreadful contest. The Northern army was moving on with triumph, not doubting but that they would be victorious. Many were reckless and marched forward boastingly, as though victory were already theirs. As they neared the battlefield, many were almost fainting through weariness and want of refreshment. They did not expect so fierce an encounter. They rushed into battle and fought bravely, desperately. The dead and dying were on every side. Both the North and the South suffered severely. The Southern men felt the battle, and in a little while would have been driven back still further. The Northern men were rushing on, although their destruction was very great. Just then an angel descended and waved his hand backward. Instantly there was confusion in the ranks. It appeared to the Northern men that their troops were retreating, when it was not so in reality, and a precipitate retreat commenced. This seemed wonderful to me.

Then it was explained that God had this nation in His own hand, and would not suffer victories to be gained faster than He ordained, and would permit no more losses to the Northern men than in His wisdom He saw fit, to punish them for their sins. And had the Northern army at this time pushed the battle still further in their fainting, exhausted condition, the far greater struggle and destruction which awaited them would have caused great triumph in the South. God would not permit this, and sent an angel to interfere. The sudden falling back of the Northern troops is a mystery to all. They know not that God's hand was in the matter. (Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 266-267. Emphasis added.)

So there you have it. Take it for what it's worth.


Charles said...

Pastor Shawn, C'mon... ;-)

I enjoyed the read, but I hardly think that this is in the category of "chalk up another one for the prophet". There is no way to prove that what she said is true, and with Lincoln having said what he said - well we know that he thought religiously, and by most accounts, was somewhat of a spiritual person.

Regardless, I do find Lincoln's words interesting in light of what EGW said. I like American history up until the point of the Civil War and then I lose interest. Slavery, Civil War is such a blight on this country and on history - it is so painful to read about. And don't get me started on my Native American brothers...

Wait, my comments were supposed to be on EGW and Lincoln. Um, I guess I lost track. LOL Have a good one.

Shawn Brace said...


Thanks for your feedback! I am not at all trying to imply that this "proves" what EGW said is true. I just think it is enlightening, and certainly lends some credence to her thoughts.

As it relates to Lincoln: Goodwin would have us believe that Lincoln was not as religious as some might portray him. She claims that he didn't really believe in an afterlife, and only referred to God occasionally. I don't know if she is right or not, but I am at least open to the possibility that she is!

Charles said...


Regarding Lincoln and the book, I find it interesting how our view of history changes over time.

As a kid, all I read about Lincoln was how deeply spiritual he was, how he walked like a billion miles to return 2 pennies, and what a "President-of-God" he was. Now, it seems, every president was a non-religious cad! LOL

On a side note, I read an online article that stated that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson basically hated each other whilst running against each other and that George W's (not GWB!!!) wife absolutely despised Thomas Jefferson. I laughed so hard! Here is the link. Enjoy.