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The Mighty Scourge of War: Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

By Editorial Staff
Published April 4, 2008

By Stephen B. Oates

On the morning of March 4, 1865, heavy clouds moved over Washington, ranking the capital with tails of rain. At noon Lincoln made the traditional carriage ride up Pennsylvania Avenue, teeming with bands and spectators and clattering cavalry.

Ahead the new iron dome of the Capitol, crowned with a statue of liberty, moved against a somber sky. The inaugural platform stretched out from the east front of the Capitol; here Lincoln took his place, as clouds scudded across Washington’s horizon, rolling and turning in the wind. Below him, he noticed Frederick Douglass in the crowd. Behind him, on the platform and along the front of the Capitol, were various officials and spectators.

Presently Lincoln rose and stepped to the speaker’s stand; as he did so the sun broke through the clouds, flooding the entire gathering with brilliant light. Then the clouds closed in again. Lincoln began reading in “ringing and somewhat shrill tones, “said Noah Brooks, which “sounded over the vast concourse.”

It was a terse speech, succinct and lyrical, like his address at Gettysburg. Yet his words today blazed with religious eloquence as he reiterated what he’d told a delegation of Kentuckians in the darkening spring of 1864: in his search for the meaning of this vast struggle, he’d come to view it finally as a divine punishment for the sin of slavery, as a terrible retribution visited by God on a guilty people, in North as well as South.

When the war began four years ago, he sang out, neither side expected it to last as long or grow to such magnitude as it had. Neither side anticipated that slavery might perish in the flames, “that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease.”

No, Lincoln said, “each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.” And God’s perhaps was to will “this terrible war” on both North and South to remove “the offence” of slavery.

Fondly we do hope – fervently do we pray – that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with 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.’

And if it were God’s will, the country must see this grim purgation through to its Providential conclusion, when at last both sides might be cleansed and regenerated: “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness 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 his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Lincoln turned now, took the oath from Chief Justice Salmon Chase, and kissed and open Bible. Chase noted the spot – Isaiah 5:27 and 28. “None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep … Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows are bent, their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind.”

The President bowed to the cheering assembly, and an artillery salvo exploded on the wind. Then a huge procession escorted his carriage back to the White House, bleak against the clouds. Later Lincoln encountered Noah Brooks. “Did you notice that sunburst?” the President asked. “It made my heart jump.”

In a reception that evening, Lincoln stood in line in the White House, shaking hands with hundreds of well-wishers. In a moment somebody informed him that Frederick Douglass was at the front door, but that the police wouldn’t let him in “because he was a negro.” Douglass had come to congratulate Lincoln, contending that since black men were dying in battle for the Union, they had a right to come and shake the President’s hand like any other citizen: “if the colored man would have his rights,” Douglass said, “he must take them.”

Lincoln had Douglass shown in at once. “Here comes my friend Douglass,” the President announced when Douglass entered into the room. “I am glad to see you,” Lincoln told him. “I saw you in the crowd today, listening to my address.” He added, “There is no man in the country whose opinion I value more than yours. I want to know what you think of it.” Douglass said he was impressed: he thought it “a sacred effort.”

“I am glad you liked it!” Lincoln said, and he watched as Douglass passed down the line. It was the first inaugural reception in the history of the Republic in which an American President had greeted a free black man and solicited his opinion.

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Amazing GraceAmazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism (DVD)

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Just what is Calvinism?

Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won’t evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? What are the differences between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Why did men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards and a host of renowned Protestant evangelists embrace the teaching of predestination and election and deny free will theology?

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A Revival Account: Asbury 1970 (DVD)

What is true Revival and Spiritual Awakening?

Discover the answer in this eyewitness account by Dennis Kinlaw, President of Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky, who recounts the story of a visitation of the Holy Spirit in 1970. This is the presentation that has continued to spark the flames of Revival in the hearts of people around the world. Contains eyewitness footage from the Revival at Asbury College in 1970 in Wilmore, Kentucky.

Certain to challenge you to greater holiness and a deeper commitment to full-scale revival. Original news and private footage has been included. If you are a student who longs to see a spiritual awakening at your school, you must see this video!

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Frank Schaeffer Will You Please Shut Up! (Book)

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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.

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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.

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Why Creeds and Confessions? (Book)

High Quality Paperback — 219 pages

Foundations in Biblical Orthodoxy

Driving down a country road sometime, you might see a church with a sign proudly proclaiming: “No book but the Bible — No creed but Christ.” The problem with this statement is that the word creed (from the Latin: credo) simply means “belief.” All Christians have beliefs, regardless of whether they are written.

Yet a single book containing the actual texts of the most important creeds of the early Church will not often be found. Out of the multitude of works on the evangelical Christian book market today, those dealing with the creeds of the Church are scarce.

Why Creeds and Confessions? provides a foundation of biblical orthodoxy as a defense against the false and truly heretical doctrines advanced by the spirit of this age.

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