Jay Rogers
Jay Rogers

Recent Posts Recent articles

The Forerunner

Was Abraham Lincoln a Christian?

By Editorial Staff
Published April 4, 2008

By Charles Coffin

Editor’s Preface

The Christian character of President Lincoln is an American enigma. A lifelong non-churchgoer, Lincoln has been the subject of numerous speculations concerning his faith. He was more intensely spiritual than almost any other American President, yet the confusion about the genuineness of Lincoln’s Christianity arises from the ambiguities of his early life. Charles Carleton Coffin, a Civil War correspondent and author of eight American history novels, published his final novel on Lincoln in 1892. Coffin provides us with a definitive answer on Lincoln’s faith. An early spiritual crisis in 1841 marked a turning point in Lincoln’s life

— Jay Rogers

Much has been written concerning him, and doubtless much more will be written. My acquaintance with him began in his Springfield home following his nomination for the Presidency. It was such an acquaintance as a correspondent of a leading journal was privileged to have with public men. I saw him frequently during his Presidential term, met him socially on several occasions, and walked with him through the burning streets of Richmond. In preparing this work, I have visited the scenes of his early years. From playmates of his childhood, and from those who knew him in later years I have obtained this information which may be accepted as authentic.1

The marriage of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd would be a notable event. There was much preparation in the hospitable mansion of Ninian Edwards. The guests assemble; the feast is prepared; all are waiting. The evening wanes. He does not come. The guests take their departure; the lights are extinguished; the wedding feast is not eaten. Mary Todd is in her chamber, overwhelmed with mortification. Joshua Speed searches for the delinquent groom, and finds him pale, haggard, and in the deepest melancholy.2 Heart-rending is the letter which he sent to his friend, Mr. Stuart:

“I am the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be a cheerful face on earth. Whether I shall ever be better I cannot tell; I awfully forbode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible. I must die or be better.“3

Unmindful of what was going on around him, silent, pale, his mind tempest tossed, Mr. Lincoln was sinking into distressful melancholy. It was very kind of Joshua F. Speed, who had closed his business in Springfield, and who was going to Kentucky, to take Mr. Lincoln with him to his former home just out from Louisville.4 There was tenderness in the sympathetic welcome given him by the mother of Mr. Speed, a great-hearted Christian woman.

To men who think for themselves, no matter what may have been their previous religious belief, there not unfrequently comes a period of doubting. Such a period came to Abraham Lincoln. He had not forgotten his mother’s teachings. He could repeat much of the Bible, but he was not moved by emotional appeals. When his first love Ann Rutledge died, and his soul was wrung with grief, no one had talked to him of divine love and eternal goodness. So far as he could see, his own life had been a failure. Hopes had not been realized, desires not gratified. He had accomplished nothing.

He is out in the desert – hungry, thirsty, weary, depressed in spirit – no star to guide him. But as angels of God came to the carpenter’s Son of Nazareth, so came Joshua Speed and Lucy Gilman Speed to him.

He finds himself in a hospitable home. Flowers are blooming around it; balmy breezes sweep through the halls. He breathes an atmosphere of restful peace. A saintly woman sits by his side, opens the New Testament, and reads the words of One who Himself had been in the wilderness. She talks of God as a father, Jesus Christ as a Brother. New truths dawn upon him, and the Bible becomes a different book from what it has been in the past. Little does Lucy Gilman Speed know that God has crowned her with glory and honor, to be a ministering spirit in leading a bewildered wanderer out of the desert of despair and unbelief, that he may do great things for his fellow-men. Weeks go by, the gloom and anguish disappear. The period of doubt has gone, never to return. From that hour the Bible is to be his rule of life and duty.

His biographers – those who knew him later in life – have this to say of him: “The late but splendid maturity of Lincoln’s mind and character dates from this time; and although he grew in strength and knowledge to the end, from this year we observe a steadiness and sobriety of thought and purpose discernible in his life.“5

This estimate does not include the service rendered by Lucy Gilman Speed. When the great account is made up, and the angels of God come from the harvest fields to lay their sheaves at the feet of the Master, hers will be the changed life of Abraham Lincoln.

As this biography of Lincoln unfolds, there will be seen, as the years go by and the responsibilities of life roll upon him, a reverent recognition of Divine Providence, an increasing faith and childlike trust in God.6

1 Charles Carleton Coffin, Abraham Lincoln (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893) Introduction.
2 W.H. Herndon, Lincoln, p. 215 (edition 1889).
3 Letter to J.T. Stuart, quoted in Herndon’s Lincoln, p.215.
4 Joshua Speed, Lecture on Abraham Lincoln, p.39.
5 Century Magazine, January, 1887.
6. Coffin, pp.110-114.

» » History

Your comments are welcome!

If one reads Lincoln’s second inaugural address and his March 15 1865 letter to friend Thurlow Weed – he essentially sees the suffering of the then-current Civil war as a judgment of a just God on both sides of the nation – for slavery. In a letter about this speech, he says “….I believe it [this second ‘judgment of God’ inaugural address] is not immediately popular. Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them. To deny it, however, in this case, is to deny that there is a God governingthe world…”

Posted by v. knutsen on 10/17/2008 08:20 PM #

So what are you saying? Was Abraham Lincoln a Christian or not. Jesus Christ said to become a Christian one must “be born again,” and confess him as “the son of the living God.” So did Lincoln ever say that Jesus Christ was his Lord and Savior? In his writings, I have only been able to find references to God.

Have you located in any of Lincoln’s numerous writings any indication that Christ was his Lord and Savior?


Posted by D. Couch on 02/17/2009 07:02 PM #

Abraham Lincoln was undoubtedly a great man.But was he a Christian and is now comforted in the arms of Jesus ? Or was he a non beleiver and now suffering torment is the question? Jesus said in the 14th chapter of the Gospel of John that no one can come to God the Father except by Him.

Posted by John Elkins on 04/18/2009 03:44 PM #

His faith we will never know. This we do know his wife after his death said he was a “christian in a poetic sense”. His law parteners said he never was a believer and this was after the speed visit. Did he quote scripture? Yes of course but was he a believer? the answer is no at least as we understand it.

Posted by Lance Harvell on 04/24/2009 10:20 PM #

John Rembsburg, Abraham Lincoln: Was He a Christian?

Almost immediately after the remains of Abraham Lincoln were laid to rest at Springfield, one of his biographers put forward the claim that he was a devout believer in Christianity. The claim was promptly denied by the dead President’s friends, but only to be renewed again, and again denied. Ever since, the question of Lincoln’s religious belief has been bandied about. This book collects the testimony of more than one hundred witnesses, and devotes more than three hundred pages to answer the question, “Was Abraham Lincoln a Christian?”

The author, a proponent of Freethought or Freethinking, suggests that Lincoln’s religious beliefs were in line with a sort of Deism, or natural religion, and that he didn’t believe in Christianity or other organized religion. While not claiming Lincoln as a Freethinker directly, Remsburg conducts numerous interviews and other research demonstrating Lincoln’s admiration for Freethinkers such as Thomas Paine, and his contempt for religious revivalism. This is a fascinating work that stands apart form the huge mass of books about Lincoln not only by its rarity, but also by its bold thesis at a time when Lincoln worship was at its height and a full 100 years before current researchers began to take a critical and analytical look at Lincoln, the man.

Some excerpts from private letters from William Herndon to Mr. Remsburg, and published for the first time in Abraham Lincoln: Was He a Christian? in 1893.

I was the personal friend of Lincoln from 1834 to the day of his death. In 1843 we entered into a partnership which was never formally dissolved. When he became unpopular in this Congressional district because of his speeches on the Mexican War, I was faithful to him. When he espoused the anti-slavery cause and in the eyes of most men had hopelessly ruined his political prospects, I stood by him, and through the press defended his course. In those dark hours, by our unity of sentiment and by political ostracism, we were driven to a close and enduring friendship. You should take it for granted, then, that I knew Mr. Lincoln well. During all this time, from 1834 to 1862, when I last saw him, he never intimated to me, either directly or indirectly, that he had changed his religious opinions. Had he done so had — he let drop one word or look in that direction, I should have detected it.

That Mr. Lincoln was an Infidel from 1834 to 1661, I know, and that he remained one to the day of his death, I honestly believe. I always understood that he was an Infidel, sometimes bordering on Atheism. I never saw any change in the man, and the change could not have escaped my observation had it happened.

Lincoln’s task was a terrible one. When he took the oath of office his soul was bent on securing harmony among all the people of the North, and so he chose for his cabinet officers his Opponents for the Presidential candidacy in order and as a means of creating a united North. He let all parties, professions, and callings have their way where their wishes did not cut across his own. He was apparently pliant and supple. He ruled men when men thought they were ruling him. He often said to me that the Christian religion was a dangerous element to deal with when aroused. He saw in the Kansas affairs — in the whole history of slavery, in fact — its rigor and encroachments, that Christianity was aroused. It must be controlled, and that in the right direction. Hence he bent to it, fed it, and kept it within bounds, well knowing that it would crush his administration to atoms unless appeased. His oft and oft invocations of God, his conversations with Christians, his apparent respect for Christianity, etc., were all means to an end. And yet sometimes he showed that he hated its nasal whines.

Let me ask the Christian claimant a few questions. Do you mean to say, when you assert that Mr. Lincoln was a Christian, that he believed that Jesus was the Christ of God, as the evangelical world contends? If so, where did you get this information? Do you mean to say that Mr. Lincoln was a converted man and that he so declared? If so, where, when, and before whom did he declare or reveal it? Do you mean to say that Mr. Lincoln joined a Church? If so, what Church did he join, and when did he join it? Do you mean to say that Mr. Lincoln was a secret Christian, acting under the cloak of the devil to advance Christianity? If so, what is your authority? If you will tell me when it was that the Creator caught in his almighty arms, Abraham, and held him fast while he poured the oil of grace on his rebellious soul, then I will know when it was that he was converted from Infidel views to Christianity.

Posted by Graymalkin on 08/16/2009 02:43 PM #

Hey lets put it this way. Many are called few are chosen.
If there really is a question as to if anyone was a Christian, then he probably isn’t in heavan. It’s not my space to judge, but Jesus said “My words are what will judge you” His Holy Word says whosoever is ashamed of me, when I come back with my Glory and My Angels, I will be ashamed of you”
If Lincoln (although he was a great president) was a saved Christian then he wouldn’t have been ashamed, and everyone would have known He was a Christian.

Posted by Justin on 11/10/2009 09:30 AM #

Be careful or Mr. Lincoln will suffer the fate of Jefferson as a deist to the Texas School Board. dpember

Posted by dpember on 04/15/2010 02:22 PM #

As I was reading this I seemed to recall that Lincoln did accept Christ but not until after he had visited Gettysburg and delivered his Gettysburg Address. I looked into it and found 3 sources for the story. These sources are:

The Parish Messenger of the Church of the Saviour: Commemoration of Lincoln, 1909

Abraham Lincoln: the Christian, William J. Johnstone, 1915

The Lincoln Memorial: Album-Immortelles – O.H. Oldroyd Collection, pg 366, 1883

The story, corroborated in all three sources, goes like this. An Illinois Pastor, whom Lincoln knew well and trusted, asked him “Mr. President, do you love Jesus?” After a long pause, Mr. Lincoln replied: “When I left Springfield I asked the people to pray for me. I was not a Christian. When I buried my son, the severest trial of my life, I was not a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ. Yes, I do love Jesus.”

Posted by Michael on 05/24/2010 09:56 AM #

It is said that Mr. Lincoln’s last recorded words were,
“There is no place I should like to see so much as Jerusalem.”
He was no man’s fool and his words were well chosen.
I believe that he believed in One greater than himself. Whether he believed in Jesus as the son of God I can not know but he cared enough to want to place foot on the same ground where my Lord once walked. Frankly, his beliefs are most important to him and God.
Better we should each search our own hearts and get on with making our time on earth of value.
If there is a lesson to be learned, it is that tongues will wag no matter our choices in life, so make the best choices and examples possible.

Posted by Jenny on 07/12/2010 03:33 PM #

As a Civil War historian I have engaged in numerous discussions with those doing the Abraham Lincoln impression. Regardless of his ability to quote from the Bible, I have fully researched this question of Lincoln’s faith years ago and I am fully persuaded by all accounts that he was not a Christian. If anything, he was considered a traitor to the Constitution of the United States of America. Sadly, his assasination propelled his post-war popularity as both friends and foes elevated him to that of a heroic deity; eventually he was lionized by those who sought to preserve his political greatness. He will be forever enshrined, remembered and quoted as if he were a prophet.

Posted by Howard on 07/24/2010 01:05 PM #

Please. Take of the rose colored glasses.

“‘Mr. President, do you love Jesus?’ After a long pause, Mr. Lincoln replied: ‘When I left Springfield I asked the people to pray for me. I was not a Christian. When I buried my son, the severest trial of my life, I was not a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ. Yes, I do love Jesus.’”

An EXCELLENT example of Lincoln operating exactly according to what Herndon claims was his strategy:

“His oft and oft invocations of God, his conversations with Christians, his apparent respect for Christianity, etc., were all means to an end. And yet sometimes he showed that he hated its nasal whines.”

Gee, I mean if burying his son didn’t get to him, but the Union dead did, then the Civil War — during which Christians slaughtered Christians by the thousands — must have been a good thing.

Blah. He played the Christians like a Stratovarius back then, and still does today.

Great post, Graymalkin. Thank you for the info.

Posted by Jeff Stanley on 07/24/2010 06:52 PM #

“The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession.”
— Abraham Lincoln, quoted by Joseph Lewis in “Lincoln the Freethinker”

Posted by Patrick on 08/03/2010 01:37 AM #

Only God knows if someone is an actual Christian. There needs to be faith in Jesus Christ to be saved according to Paul in Acts. According to James, their needs to be evidence of a person’s Christian faith in terms of not favoring rich people or helping a brother in need. With Lincoln there is evidence he had compassion on Union Soldiers whom he pardoned not to be executed. However, there is no evidence he put his faith in Jesus Christ. Again, only God knows if Lincoln was saved, however, I am not sure Lincoln could defined as an authentic Christian who viewed Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

Posted by Charles on 11/23/2012 01:54 PM #

Thoroughly enjoyed this. A far more historical account than that of the opinionated account on Wikipedia.

Posted by Jim on 01/30/2013 08:33 PM #

Only God knew Lincoln’s heart. But one thing that Lincoln professed was true whether he believed it or not. God was using him not the other way around.

Posted by George on 03/17/2013 12:17 AM #

Of course Lincoln was a believer. God looks at the heart. There is either belief or unbelief. Abraham in the old testament “believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness”. God knew Lincoln’s heart. It is why He chose him for such a time. Praise be to God He gets the only vote.

Posted by Gary Hames on 01/27/2018 08:11 AM #

Was Lincoln a Christian? Most likely an unanswerable question. Was Lincoln a great President and Statesmen? Inarguably yes. Lincoln showed great compassion in pardoning many soldiers sentenced to death and great humanity in freeing the slaves. These are two of the most noble virtues a man can have be he a Christian or no. Personally, I hope he was. Historically his actions indicate to me a man of tremendous ideals and values.

Posted by Dennis Valandingham on 05/13/2020 06:51 PM #

Textile help

The Silent Scream (DVD) Eight Languages

“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981

Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House.

The modern technology of real-time ultrasound now reveals the actual responses of a 12-week old fetus to being aborted. As the unborn child attempts to escape the abortionist’s suction curette, her motions can be seen to become desperately agitated and her heart rate doubles. Her mouth opens – as if to scream – but no sound can come out. Her scream doesn’t have to remain silent, however … not if you will become her voice. This newly re-mastered version features eight language tracks and two bonus videos.

“… a high technology “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” arousing public opinion just as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 antislavery novel ignited the abolitionist movement.” – Sen. Gordon Humphrey, Time Magazine

Languages: English, Spanish, French, South Korean, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese

Running Time: 28 minutes

Special discount price:

(We accept PayPal and all major credit cards.)

Click here for more information

The United States of America 2.0: The Great Reset (Book)

High Quality Paperback — 40 pages of dynamite!

Revival, Resistance, Reformation, Revolution
An Introduction to the Doctrines of Interposition and Nullification

In 1776, a short time after the Declaration of Independence was adopted, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin were assigned to design an official seal for the United States of America. Their proposed motto was Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God. America owes its existence to centuries of Christian political philosophy. Our nation provided a model for liberty copied by nations the world over.

By the 21st century, we need a “Puritan Storm” to sweep away the Hegelian notion that the state is “God walking on earth.” We need revival and reformation in full force to vanquish the problems that plague us as a nation — from government controlled healthcare — to abortion on demand — to same sex “marriage.” This booklet gives a primer on our founders’ Christian idea of government and examines how the doctrine of nullification was woven into the Constitution as a safeguard against federal tyranny. It concludes with the history and theology of civil resistance. A Second American Revolution is coming with the Word of God growing mightily and prevailing! (Acts 19:20).

Special discount prices:

(We accept PayPal and all major credit cards.)

Click here for more information

God's Law and SocietyGod's Law and Society (DVD)

Download the Free Study Guide!

God’s Law and Society powerfully presents a comprehensive worldview based upon the ethical system found in the Law of God.

Speakers include: R.J. Rushdoony, George Grant, Howard Phillips, R.C. Sproul Jr., Ken Gentry, Gary DeMar, Jay Grimstead, Steven Schlissel, Andrew Sandlin, Eric Holmberg, and more!

Sixteen Christian leaders and scholars answer some of the most common questions and misconceptions related to this volatile issue:

1. Are we under Law or under Grace?
2. Does the Old Testament Law apply today?
3. Can we legislate morality?
4. What are the biblical foundations of government?
5. Was America founded as a Christian nation?
6. What about the separation of Church and State?
7. Is neutrality a myth?
8. What about non-Christians and the Law of God?
9. Would there be “freedom” in a Christian republic?
10. What would a “Christian America” look like?

Perfect for group instruction as well as personal Bible study.

Ten parts, over four hours of instruction!

Running Time: 240 minutes

Watch over 60 on-line video interviews from God’s Law and Society.

Special discount price:

(We accept PayPal and all major credit cards.)

Click here for more information

The Beast of Revelation IdentifiedThe Beast of Revelation: Identified (DVD)

Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation?

Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry’s insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation — and even more importantly — amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!

Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.

Ideal for group meetings, personal Bible study — for anyone who wants to understand the historical context of John’s famous letter “… to the seven churches which are in Asia.” (Revelation 1:4)

Running Time: 145 minutes

Special discount price:

(We accept PayPal and all major credit cards.)

Click here for more information

Frank Schaeffer Will You Please Shut Up! (Book)

High Quality Paperback — 200 pages

A Reasonable Response to Christian Postmodernism

Includes a response to the book Christian Jihad by Colonel V. Doner

The title of this book is a misnomer. In reality, I am not trying to get anyone to shut up, but rather to provoke a discussion. This book is a warning about the philosophy of “Christian postmodernism” and the threat that it poses not only to Christian orthodoxy, but to the peace and prosperity our culture as well. The purpose is to equip the reader with some basic principles that can be used to refute their arguments.

Part 1 is a response to some of the recent writings by Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late Francis Schaeffer. This was originally written as a defense against Frank’s attacks on pro-life street activism – a movement that his father helped bring into being through his books, A Christian Manifesto, How Should We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? These works have impacted literally hundreds of thousands of Christian activists.

Part 2 is a response to Colonel Doner and his book, Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America. Doner was one of the key architects of the Christian Right that emerged in the 1980s, who now represents the disillusionment and defection many Christian activists experienced in the 1990s and 2000s. There is still great hope for America to be reformed according to biblical principles. As a new generation is emerging, it is important to recognize the mistakes that Christian activists have made in the past even while holding to a vision for the future.

Special discount price:

(We accept PayPal and all major credit cards.)

Click here for more information

Share |

Subscribe to
The Forerunner

Have The Forerunner blog sent straight to your inbox!

Enter your email address:

The Forerunner Channel on YouTube

Featured Product
If you like the articles on this website, you may also be interested in:

Featured Articles

Live Seminar!

Real Jesus
The Abortion Matrix DVD: Update

The Abortion Matrix:
Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death

is a 195-minute presentation that traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God has produced. You can order this series on DVD, read the complete script and view clips on-line...
continued ...

View My Stats