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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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Freedom: The Model of Christian Liberty (DVD)

“Give me liberty or give me death!”

Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.

The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).

Welcome to the Second American Revolution!

This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.

$14.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

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The Four Keys to the Millennium (Book)

Foundations in Biblical Eschatology

By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.

All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?

These and many more questions are dealt with by four authors as they present the four views on the millennium. Each view is then critiqued by the other three authors.

$12.95 — ORDER NOW!

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

Download the free Study Guide!

Is there a connection between pagan religion and the abortion industry?

This powerful presentation traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God and crime against humanity has produced in our beleaguered society.

Conceived as a sequel and update to the 1988 classic, The Massacre of Innocence, the new title, The Abortion Matrix, is entirely fitting. It not only references abortion’s specific target – the sacred matrix where human beings are formed in the womb in the very image of God, but it also implies the existence of a conspiracy, a matrix of seemingly disparate forces that are driving this holocaust.

The occult activity surrounding the abortion industry is exposed with numerous examples. But are these just aberrations, bizarre yet anomalous examples of abortionists who just happen to have ties to modern day witchcraft? Or is this representative of something deeper, more sinister and even endemic to the entire abortion movement?

As the allusion to the film of over a decade ago suggests, the viewer may learn that things are not always as they appear to be. The Abortion Matrix reveals the reality of child-killing and strikes the proper moral chord to move hearts to fulfill the biblical responsibility to rescue those unjustly sentenced to death and to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 24:11,12; 31:8,9).

Speakers include: George Grant, Peter Hammond, RC Sproul Jr., Paul Jehle, Lou Engle, Rusty Thomas, Flip Benham, Janet Porter and many more.

Ten parts, over three hours of instruction!

Running Time: 195 minutes

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

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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.

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

$17.95 — ORDER NOW!

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Dr. Francis Schaeffer - How Should We Then Live? (DVD)

Special Two-Disc Set!

After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.

Available for the first time on DVD, this documentary spectacular also includes intimate in-depth conversations with Francis and Edith Schaeffer. With the on-disc study guide, this presentation forms a unique course of comprehensive study. While this series forms an innovative analysis of the past, this outstanding work is more than history. Each episode focuses on a significant era, yet speaks clearly to 21st-century man with answers for modern problems.

$49.95 — ORDER NOW!

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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...
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