President Lincoln and the Sin of Presumption



Abraham Lincoln is considered by many to be one of the greatest presidents of the United States and liberator of African American slaves during the American Civil War.  Yet his public and personal views on slavery were in stark contrast to much of history’s judgment of his accomplishments.  Lincoln, in public addresses and private letters, considered saving the Union to be the top priority of the war and even though he was personally against slavery, really didn’t care if abolition was part of the solution to save the Union.  He viewed freed African slaves to be inferior to the white race and favored colonization of slaves in Central America as opposed to integration into mainstream society. 


Lincoln’s mindset towards slavery and Africans in general was completely at odds with God’s will on this issue.  Lincoln experienced several recurring dreams and visions which further reinforced this disconnect, but were misinterpreted by Lincoln as meaning something else.  This, along with other spiritual openings, all led Lincoln to a sin of presumption – one of willful arrogance.



Lincoln’s Views on Slavery and African American Slaves


In speeches and private letters quoted below, Lincoln espoused his views on slavery, Africans in general and the civil war.  In summary, Lincoln believed:


·         Even with freedom, the black race would never be equal with the white race,

·         America was fighting a civil war because of slavery and the black race, implying that the Civil War was the fault of the slaves,

·         It would be best if both races were separated because of all the suffering experienced by both whites and blacks,

·         Abolishing slavery was not a priority of Lincoln’s – it was saving the Union,

·         The answer to separation of the races was the colonization of freed slaves in a land other than America, and

·         Slavery would have gradually disappeared by itself over time.


Inequality of the Races


On August 14, 1862, Lincoln addressed a delegation of free black men that he had invited to the White House.  In the address, Lincoln shared his thoughts on, among other things, the suffering of both races, white and black, as a result of slavery.  Even though he was personally against slavery, his comments to this delegation not only revealed his total lack of sensitivity to all black people, but he also blamed them for the civil war!  In his address he stated:


“… You and we are different races.  We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races.  Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence.  In a word we suffer on each side.  If this is admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated…


Your race are suffering, in my judgment, the greatest wrong inflicted on any people.  But even when you cease to be slaves, you are yet far removed from being placed on an equality with the white race.  You are cut off from many of the advantages which the other race enjoy.  The aspiration of men is to enjoy equality with the best when free, but on this broad continent, not a single man of your race is made the equal of a single man of ours.  Go where you are treated the best, and the ban is still upon you.


I do not propose to discuss this, but to present it as a fact with which we have to deal.  I cannot alter it if I would.  It is a fact, about which we all think and feel alike, I and you.  We look to our condition, owing to the existence of the two races on this continent.  I need not recount to you the effects upon white men, growing out of the institution of slavery.  I believe in its general evil effects on the white race.  See our present condition – the country engaged in war! – our white men cutting one another’s throats, none knowing how far it will extend; and then consider what we know to be truth.  But for your race among us there could not be war, although many men engaged on either side do not care for you one way or the other.  Nevertheless, I repeat, without the institution of slavery and the colored race as a basis, the war could not have an existence. 


It is better for us both, therefore, to be separated….”[1] (emphasis added)


Lincoln’s Word Curse


Were Lincoln’s comments above that the black race would never share equality with white people a word curse?  In a word, yes.  Lincoln’s words were the “feigned” words of 2 Peter 2:3 that Satan used to spiritually enslave people and in this situation, African Americans:


Invisible shackles: “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” (2Peter 2:3, KJV)


Since Satan could no longer “make merchandise” of the African Americans with the visible shackles of slavery, his strategy was to make merchandise of them with the invisible shackles of feigned words.


Visible shackles: “If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and maketh merchandise of him, or selleth him; then that thief shall die; and thou shalt put evil away from among you.” (Deut 24:7, KJV, emphasis added)


There are many examples to support that Lincoln’s words carried the weight of a “word curse”.  Following is only one of the latest incidents whereby someone that the world considers intelligent made statements that clearly indicate that they do not believe in equality between the black and white races and remind us of the words spoken by President Lincoln so long ago. 


The below remarks were made in October, 2007 by James Watson, co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for his role in discovering the structure of the DNA molecule.  Watson’s statements were made while on a book tour in London; however, he lives and works in America.  Following are excerpts from a Washington Post article:


“James Watson, who in 1962 shared a Nobel prize for discovering the structure of DNA, on Friday canceled a tour to promote his latest book after suggesting in a published interview that black people are less intelligent than whites.  In an interview in the Sunday Times of London, Watson, 79, was quoted saying that he is ‘inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa’ because ‘all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really.’  … Watson was quoted as saying that although he hopes that various races have equal intelligence, ‘people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true.’”


            Dr. Watson is Chancellor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, New York.  This institution, along with many others in America and London, was outraged at the Watson’s statements.  The same article further states:


“Bruce Stillman, the president of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, said in a statement Wednesday that his faculty members ‘vehemently disagree’ with the published comments and that the lab ‘does not engage in any research that could even form the basis of the statements attributed to Dr. Watson.’ … ‘Scientific prestige is never a substitute for knowledge,’ said Elias A. Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health, in his own statement.  ‘As scientists, we are outraged and saddened when science is used to perpetuate prejudice.’” [2]


Saving the Union – the Top Priority


In a letter to Horace Greely of August 22, 1862, nine days after his address to the delegation of free Negroes, Lincoln’s true reasoning behind the civil war was made perfectly clear:  saving the Union, not abolishing slavery, was his priority; therefore, he could go either way concerning the issue of slavery.


“… I would save the Union.  I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution.  The sooner the national authority can be restored, the nearer the Union will be ‘the Union as it was.’  If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them.  If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them.  My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.  If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.  What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forebear because I do not believe it would to save the Union... I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.  [3] (italics in original)


Colonization of Freed Slaves


In this same address, Lincoln spoke further about the separation of the races proposing colonization for freed slaves, an idea shared by many others at that time, and even went as far as suggesting where this colony could be established:


 Lincoln appealed to the free Negroes to make sacrifices for themselves and for mankind.  In the Chiriqui region of Central America, near the Isthmus of Panama, in the Republic of New Granada, were rich coal mines, and ports on two oceans.  Certain capitalists with investments in that region were willing to sponsor a venture.  If the President could induce some intelligent Negroes to go there and make a start, others could be persuaded to follow them.  The place might provide a new homeland for the Negro.  The President promised to see that the migrants were fairly treated.  In seeking to promote colonization Lincoln followed a policy deplored by abolitionist believers in Negro equality, but favored by liberal Southerners.”[4]


Gradual Extinction of Slavery


At one point in time, Lincoln had no doubt that the gradual extinction of slavery would be the most peaceful approach and the best way for all concerned.  Unfortunately, Lincoln was unwilling to wait.  His primary purpose, to save the union, took priority over the gradual extinction of slavery and to save the union – war was inevitable.


            The following quotes from a book written by Lord Charnwood in 1917 remind us that not only did Lincoln believe that slavery would ultimately become extinct on its own and in its own timing, but his discernment was that this was the belief of our forefathers as well.  It was this belief in the gradual extinction of slavery that Lincoln thought best for America.


“‘The fathers,’ Lincoln could fairly say, ‘place slavery, where the public mind could rest in the belief that it was in the course of ultimate extinction,’.  The task for statesmen now was ‘to put slavery back where the fathers placed it.’” [5]  


“The practical policy, then, on which his whole efforts were concentrated consisted in this single point – the express recognition of the essential evil of slavery by the enactment that it should not spread further in the Territories subject to the Union.  If slavery were thus shut up within a ring fence and marked as a wrong thing which the Union as a whole might tolerate but would not be a party to, emancipation in the slave States would follow in course of time.  It would come about, Lincoln certainly thought, in a way far better for the salves as well as for their masters, than any forced liberation.  He was content to wait for it.  ‘I do not mean that when it takes a turn towards ultimate extinction, it will be in a day, nor in a year, nor in two years.  I do not suppose that in the most peaceful way ultimate extinction would occur in less than a hundred years at least, but that it will occur in the best way for both races in God’s own good time I have no doubt.’” [6] (emphasis added)


            Lincoln believed that it would be best for all of America to let slavery cease to exist without bloodshed and in God’s timing, even if it took a hundred years.  Again, the Union was Lincoln’s primary concern, not slavery.  According to Lincoln, he would do anything to hold the Union together – and he did – he went to war.



Lincoln’s Will vs. God’s Will


According to one of his biographers, Lincoln approached the issue of slavery with “religious passion” and viewed himself as “a homely prophet to an America he described as ‘God’s almost chosen people,’”.   Furthermore, Lincoln:


“… saw himself more and more as an especially appointed agent of the Almighty, chosen to preside over the worst crisis in American history, and coming to see that the immense loss of life in the war could be justified by one thing alone – complete and permanent freedom for the slaves.” [7]


As President of the United States, Lincoln felt that if the LORD revealed His will to anyone concerning the Civil War, it would be revealed directly to him.  While Lincoln expressed his desire to know the will of God concerning the Civil War, at the same time  he wasn’t sure that the LORD spoke through revelation as He did in Biblical times: 


“These are not, however, the days of miracles, and I suppose it will be granted that I am not to expect a direct revelation.  I must study the plain physical facts of the case, ascertain what is possible and learn what appears to be wise and right.” [8]


Interestingly, even though Lincoln viewed himself as a modern day Moses, Lincoln approached the issue of slavery from the mindset of a civil lawyer, his life long occupation.  His strategy:  to study the plain physical facts of the case, ascertain what is possible and then learn what appears to be wise and right – the strategy of a lawyer. 



The Church Age and Slavery – Paul’s Letter to Philemon


We are in the Church Age; therefore, it would seem wise to consult the Scriptures to see how the early Christians dealt with the issue of slavery.  Paul stated that he is our example as Jesus Christ is his example and it is his example and how he dealt with the issue of slavery that Lincoln should have followed.  If Lincoln had followed the example of the Apostle Paul – the tremendous loss of life in the Civil War might not have been necessary. 


In the book of Philemon, Paul writes one of the most beautiful letters recorded in Scripture.   The letter was addressed to his dear friend, Philemon.  Paul wrote to inform Philemon that Onesimus, his runaway slave, was now a brother in Jesus Christ.  Paul informed Philemon that Onesimus was returning to him no longer a slave, but better than a slave, and urged Philemon to receive Onesimus as he would receive Paul himself.  Paul wanted Philemon to view Onesimus as an equal to both he and Philemon - as a man and as a brother in the LORD:


“Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good – no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.  He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the LORD.  So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.” (Philemon 15-17, NIV, emphasis added))


Paul also expressed his love for Onesimus by referring to him as his son.  (Philemon 10)


Paul’s Desire for Onesimus to be Set Free:  We know from Scripture that Paul’s advice to anyone in slavery was to gain their freedom if the opportunity availed itself. 


“Were you a slave when you were called?  Do not let that trouble you. But if you are able to gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.”  (1Cor 7:21, Amplified Bible)


However, it’s important to note that Paul did not start an uprising to set Onesimus or other slaves free – nor did he go to the civil government.  Rather, Paul appealed to the emotions of a Christian slave owner to change his mindset concerning his slave.  Furthermore, Paul was confident that Philemon would do even more than he asked – and I believe Paul’s desire was that Philemon would provide the opportunity for Onesimus to be set free. 


“Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.” (Philemon 21, KJV, emphasis added)


Contrary to President’s Lincoln’s mindset, according to Scripture there is to be equality between all Christians, whether enslaved, slave owners or not slave owners.    


“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27-28, KJV)


A Modern-day Moses?


President Lincoln regarded himself as a modern day Moses justifying the loss of many lives in order to set the slaves free.  However, the actions of Moses did not involve the Israelites fighting a war or starting an insurrection. 


An insurrection could have resulted from Moses’ first attempt to free the Israelites from slavery had the other Israelites murdered their Egyptian task masters by imitating Moses when he murdered the Egyptian for oppressing an Israelite. 


Instead of an uprising, Moses fled to the wilderness for the next forty years as he felt threatened by his own brethren who didn’t understand that he wanted to free them from slavery. (Acts 7:23-36)   His brethren didn’t understand because it was not God’s timing to deliver them, nor was it the way that He wanted to deliver them.  God’s timing for the Israelites to be freed from slavery was forty years later and it was at that time that the LORD also revealed to Moses how He wanted the Israelites to be freed from slavery – and it was not through an uprising, but through God’s power (the exodus).  In either situation, the LORD did not allow Moses or Paul to start an insurrection to set any slaves free.  


New Testament Teachings


Many of the slave owners in America justified slavery based on selected Scriptures.  However, Scripture interprets Scripture; therefore, the higher way would have been to view Christian slaves as the Apostle Paul did - as fellow believers and as human beings – better yet, to set them free.  Furthermore, whether the salve was a Christian or not, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.  In other words, a Christian should have set all their slaves free regardless of whether they were believers or not. 


Realizing that not all salve owners were Christians –Scripture still seemed to be the prevailing justification or “excuse”.  Nonetheless, if Paul’s approach had been taken, it’s probable that slavery would have died out on its own. 


Many believe that Abraham Lincoln was a Christian, and that may be true, and even though he felt he was doing God’s will, his behavior did not differ nor set him apart from the unbeliever during his presidency.  According to Romans 2, the law of what is right and wrong is written on the hearts of the unbeliever as well as the believer and each has to make a choice as to how he will respond to what he knows to be moral.  Therefore, many unbelievers as well as believers favored slavery.   On the other hand, many believers as well as unbelievers wanted slavery abolished. 



Lincoln’s Dreams and Visions


According to Scripture, there are different types of dreams.  Some dreams are of the flesh and are a result of some physical condition, such as stress in the workplace or hunger.  Others are prophetic in nature, foretelling an event or revealing a condition in our life.  Still others are recurring or frightening.  Scriptural examples of each are shown below.


Types of Dreams


Dreams of the flesh:


·         “For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.”( Ecclesiastes 5:3, KJV)

·         “It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty:  or when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite:  so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that against mount Zion. (Isaiah 29:8, KJV)


Prophetic dreams:


·         “But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these”(Daniel 2:28, KJV)

·         “But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.”( Matthew 1:20, KJV)

·         “And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.” (Matthew 2:12, KJV)


Recurring dreams:


·         “And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.” (Genesis 41:32, KJV)


According to Scripture, dreams serve many purposes, but a recurring dream, such as experienced by Lincoln, indicates that “the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.” 


Frightening dreams:


·         “Why do you contend against him, saying, ‘He will answer none of my words’?  For God speaks in one way, and in two, though people do not perceive it.  In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on mortals, while they slumber on their beds, then he opens their ears, and terrifies them with warnings, that he may turn them aside from their deeds, and keep them from pride, to spare their souls from the Pit, their lives from traversing the River [NIV& KJV: his life from perishing by the sword].  They are also chastened with pain upon their beds, and with continual strife in their bones.” (Job 33:13-19, NRSV, emphasis added)


“Traversing the River” in Job 33:18 above, can be read as “crossing the River”.  Scripture interprets Scripture and even though Job 36, below, is not about dreams, it speaks about those who are in danger of perishing by the sword, meaning crossing the River.   In other words, crossing the River in dreams can be symbolic of a violent death.


·         “And if they are bound in fetters and caught in the cords of affliction, then he declares to them their work and their transgressions, that they are behaving arrogantly.  He opens their ears to instruction, and commands that they return from iniquity.  If they listen, and serve him, they complete their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasantness.  But if they do not listen, they shall perish by the sword, and die without knowledge.” (Job 36:8-12, NIV, emphasis added)


As the Civil War was raging, Lincoln had a number of dreams and a vision that he interpreted as pertaining to the war.  The first dream, which recurred multiple times usually before a war battle, involved Lincoln aboard a sailing ship moving swiftly towards an undefined shore.  In the second dream, which turned out to be prophetic, Lincoln saw himself in a coffin, dead as a result of an assassin’s bullet.  The vision that he saw on election night also turned out to be prophetic.


The First Dream


“On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, with solemn religious service the Union flag was hoisted again on Fort Sumter by General Anderson, its old defender.  On that morning there was a Cabinet Council in Washington. … Lincoln was in a happy mood.    He now told Grant and the Cabinet that good news was coming from Sherman.  He knew it, he said, for last night he had dreamed a dream, which had come to him several times before.  In this dream, whenever it came, he was sailing in a ship of a peculiar build, indescribable but always the same, and being borne on it with great speed towards a dark and undefined shore.  He had always dreamed this before victory.  He dreamed it before Antietam, before Murfreesborough, before Gettysburg, before Vicksburg.  Grant observed bluntly that Murfreesborough had not been a victory, or of any consequence anyway. …” [9] (emphasis added)


Later that same evening President Abraham Lincoln was shot.


Same Dream – Second Reference: 


“Good Friday, April 14, … Grant recounted incidents of his final drive and gave particulars of Lee’s surrender.  He expected to hear hourly from Sherman, he declared, for Johnston’s capitulation could be only a matter of time.  Lincoln said it would come soon, because last night he had a dreamone that had come to him several times on the eve of an important happening, usually a Union victory.  It was a vision of a phantom ship, moving very rapidly toward a dark, indefinite shore.  It had come to him before Antietam, Murfreesboro, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg.  The matter-of-fact Grant observed that Murfreesboro had been no victory; but Lincoln, not to be denied a sign of peace, asserted that this time the dream must foretell the awaited news from Sherman.”[10] (emphasis added)


Same Dream – Third Reference: 


“At a midday meeting on April 14, Lincoln surprised his Cabinet members and General Grant by mentioning a dream he had.  Gideon Welles recorded that it came in answer to the question of whether news from General Sherman would soon be coming.  The President remarked it would, he had no doubt, come soon, and come favorable, for he had last night the usual dream which he had preceding nearly every great and important event of the War….  I inquired what this remarkable dream could be.  He said it related to….water; that he seemed to be in some singular, indescribable vessel, and that he was moving with great rapidity…[T]hat he had this dream preceding Sumter, Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, Stone River, Vicksburg, Wilmington, etc..


‘I had,’ the President remarked, ‘this strange dream again last night, and we shall, judging from the past, have great news very soon.  I think it must be from Sherman.’” [11] (emphasis added)


It seems strange that Lincoln considered the dream to be good news when some of the above-mentioned battles were Confederate Victories.  For example, both battles at Bull Run were Confederate Victories as well as Murfreesboro.  Unfortunately, because of his own reasoning, Lincoln was unable to discern the correct meaning of the dream.


The Second Dream


            Even more disturbing was a dream that Lincoln had, which he described to Lamon (the man responsible for Lincoln’s personal safety):


‘There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me.  Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping.  I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs…..It was light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me…..I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered.  There I met with a sickening surprise.  Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments…..’Who is dead in the White House?’  I demanded of one of the soldiers.  ‘The President,’ was the answer, ‘he was killed by an assassin!’  Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which awoke me from my dream.  I slept no more that night…..’”


“To the end of his life Lincoln remained fascinated by dreams, which had the power both to frighten him and to fill him with joy.  …..’I had one the other night which has haunted me every since.’  Lincoln then narrated his dream of seeing himself dead in a coffin in the White House.  Lamon remembered Lincoln later trying to downplay the fears it had engendered.” [12] (emphasis added)


Lincoln’s Vision on Election Night


“Just after the election, a circumstance occurred which Mrs. Lincoln interpreted … Mr. Lincoln thus repeated it.  ‘It was after my election, when the news had been coming in thick and fast all day, and there had been a great ‘hurrah, boys!’ so that I was well tired out and went home to rest, throwing myself upon a lounge in my chamber.  Opposite to where I lay was a bureau with a swinging glass upon it; and looking in that glass, I saw myself reflected nearly at full length; but my face, I noticed, had two separate and distinct images, the tip of the nose of one being about three inches from the tip of the other.  I was a little bothered, perhaps startled, and got up and looked in the glass, but the illusion vanished.  On lying down again, I saw it a second time, plainer, if possible, than before; and then I noticed that one of the faces was a little paler, say five shades, than the other.  I got up and the thing melted away and I went off, and in the excitement of the hour forgot all about it – nearly, but not quite, for the thing would once in a while come up, and give me a little pang, as though something uncomfortable had happened.  When I went home, I told my wife about it, and a few days after I tried the experiment again, when, sure enough, the thing came back again; but I never succeeded in bringing the ghost back after that, though I once tried very industriously to show it to my wife, who was worried about it somewhat.  She thought it was a ‘sign’ that I was to be elected to a second term of office, and that the paleness of one of the faces was an omen that I should not see life through the second term.’ 


Mr. Lincoln regarded the vision as an optical illusion, caused from nervousness, ‘yet, with that tinge of superstition which clings to every sensitive and deeply thoughtful man, in a world full of mysteries, he was so far affected by it as to feel that ‘something uncomfortable had happened.’  Viewed in the light of subsequent events, Mrs. Lincoln’s prophetic interpretation of the vision had almost a startling import.”[13] (emphasis added)


Had Lincoln understood James 1:22-24 he would have understood what the LORD was revealing to him through his open vision. 


“A double minded man is unstable in all his ways…. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:  For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” (James 1:8, 22-24, KJV, emphasis added)


First of all, the double image of Lincoln’s face side-by-side in his vision reveals that Lincoln was a “double minded man”.  Double-minded means that Lincoln was a man of two different minds.  Lincoln was consistently declaring one thing. only to change his mind and direction.  Lincoln spoke about doing the Will of God – yet he based his decisions and actions on the ways of the world.  Lincoln’s supposed civic duty was in opposition to God’s commands.  When a Christian’s civic duty is in opposition to God’s commands. he will find that he is nothing more than the double-minded man referenced in James 1.  


James was also saying that people who study the Bible (hear the word), but do not apply the Scriptures to their lives, are like a man who sees the imperfections of his image in a mirror (glass), yet walks away without correcting the imperfection.  Lincoln’s image in the mirror revealed a truth about himself, yet he did not correct the imperfection. 


Lincoln studied the Bible, but did not apply Biblical principles to the decisions he made concerning the circumstances surrounding the Civil War.  Lincoln was self-deceived, basing his decisions upon his own reasoning.  We are to go to the Scriptures to know what our civic duty is.  We are not to let the traditions of man determine what the civic duty of a Christian is. 


If Lincoln wanted to know God’s will concerning the civil war, then he needed to use Scripture to discern and understand what was happening in the natural realm – not the other way around.  Lincoln relied on what he saw in the natural realm to discern God’s will. 


Lincoln believed that dreams were from the LORD, but being double-minded, he discerned the dreams according to the ways of the world.  If he had lined his dreams up with Scripture, Lincoln would have understood that his nightmares were actually warnings from the LORD in an attempt to turn him away from sin in his life.



Lincoln’s Sins


President Lincoln’s approach to setting the slaves in America free clearly was not in accordance with Scripture.  However, because he led others to believe that the Civil War was God’s will, he committed two sins: 


1.      The sin of presumption, and

2.      The great transgression of self-sufficiency and spiritual pride


Lincoln’s Sin of Presumption


“Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.” (Psalm 19:13, KJV, emphasis added)


The Old and New Testaments, which are divinely inspired writings, reveal the true nature of God as well as His will for all mankind.  To please God, our conduct, thoughts, and how we carry out His will for our lives are to conform to His Word.  How we represent God to others should always agree with what Scripture reveals about Him and His nature.  Therefore, when someone represents God to others based upon a mindset that does not agree with Scripture, then that person is misrepresenting God.  His relationship with the LORD is based on who he determines the LORD to be – not who Scripture reveals the LORD to be.  This type of mindset can easily lead someone to “sin presumptuously” and commit “the great transgression of self-sufficiency and spiritual pride”. 


The sin of presumption is to sin arrogantly or proudly.  When someone regards their personal opinions as God’s will, then they are overstepping the bounds of reverence for the LORD.  Spiritual pride can mislead someone to believe that God has called them to a duty to which God has not called them.  When someone has spiritual pride – their own self-sufficiency is all that is needed. 


Lincoln overstepped the bounds of reverence for the LORD when he approached the Civil War with the mindset of a lawyer and made decisions based on probable evidence and logical presumption rather than according to the Word of the LORD.


Lincoln’s attitude that he could expect no direct revelation from the LORD was contradictory to Scripture.  Misled by his own deductions, Lincoln depended on his personal beliefs which misrepresented God.   It was presumptuous of Lincoln to:


1.      View himself as a modern day Moses,

2.      Justify the immense loss of lives in the war in order to abolish slavery, and

3.      State that all black people, whether they were enslaved or free, were inferior to white people.


It was presumptuous of Lincoln because those beliefs were all contradictory to Scripture. 


The Sin of Presumption can Lead to Death


“But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.” (Num 15:30, KJV)


“Why do you contend against him, saying, ‘He will answer none of my words’?  For God speaks in one way, and in two, though people do not perceive it.  In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on mortals, while they slumber on their beds, then he opens their ears, and terrifies them with warnings, that he may turn them aside from their deeds, and keep them from pride, to spare their souls from the Pit, their lives from traversing the River [NIV& KJV: his life from perishing by the sword].  They are also chastened with pain upon their beds, and with continual strife in their bones.” (Job 33:13-19, NRSV, emphasis added)


Job 33:13-19 cited above reveals that the LORD will speak to men through dreams and visions, though man may not perceive it, to terrify them with warnings in order that they will turn aside from sin in their lives, otherwise they will cross the river unto death.  It was through a recurring dream that the LORD revealed to Lincoln the connection between sin in his life and the events of the Civil War with his death.


Then he sheweth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded.  He openeth also their ear to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity.  If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures.  But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge. (Job 36:9-12, KJV, emphasis added)


            As noted above, the NIV Study Bible note indicates that Job 33:18 can also be read as follows:  to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword”.  According to the NIV Study Bible notes, perishing by the sword “refers to the figurative waterway between the land of the living and the realm of the dead.  The Hebrew for ‘River’ here is shelah (from a root that means ‘to send’) and sometimes means ‘water channel’, a conduit through which water is ‘sent’… by a spring.  The “River” therefore is the figurative means of passage between this world and the next.” (emphasis added)


Lincoln’s Recurring Dream Could Have Saved His Life:  


            Keep the above verses in Job 33 and 36 in mind while reading the accounts of Lincoln’s two dreams.  Job 33 and 36 both refer to “perishing by the sword” (traversing the River) which is a figurative waterway between the land of the living and the realm of the dead – meaning the passage between this world and the next.  The meaning is clear: if the person who has the dream, does not turn from his sin, he will cross the River to his death. 


In a recurring dream, the LORD forewarned Lincoln that he would “cross the River” to his death if he did not turn from presumptuous sin.  Even though Lincoln stated that he did not expect any direct revelation from the LORD regarding the Civil War, he believed in prophetic dreams from the LORD.   I believe that the LORD was trying to tell Lincoln to turn from the presumptuous sin to spare his life (premature death). 


President Lincoln was mistaken that he could expect no direct revelation from the LORD concerning the issue of slavery in America. Scripture is clear that the LORD gave direct revelation to people through dreams.  Even though Lincoln believed in dreams from the LORD, he failed to discern the correct meaning of a recurring dream that he had throughout the Civil War.  That dream could have saved his life. 


In addition to direct revelation through Lincoln’s dreams; Scripture is not silent on the issue of slavery.  It’s obvious that Lincoln did not consult the Word of God, otherwise he would have approached the issue of slavery with a much different mind set than that of a lawyer.  To understand God’s Will concerning slavery, the spiritual man would have consulted the Word of God.


On the other hand, the unbeliever or carnal Christian would have studied the plain physical facts of the case, ascertained what was possible and then learned what appeared to be wise and right.  In other words, the civil law, laws made by man, would have a greater bearing than the Word of the LORD.  By depending on his abilities as a lawyer, President Lincoln misrepresented God and God’s Will concerning slavery. 


A Great Man does not mean a Righteous Man


The word “transgression” in Job 36:9, above, means “a revolt” national, moral or religious (Strong’s Concordance).  In the eyes of the world, Lincoln was a great man.  However, a great man does not make a man a righteous man.  The manner in which Lincoln chose to abolish slavery was through a war; however, according to Scripture, it was not the LORD’s way, and in that sense, it was a revolt. 


The word “exceeded”, also in Job 36:9, means “to be strong; by implication to prevail, act insolently, to be great, to be mighty, to be strong, to be valiant” (Strong’s Concordance).  One might say that “exceeded” describes President Lincoln.  The world views him as a strong, great, mighty and valiant man.  However, in the eyes of the LORD, “exceeded” in the context of Job 36:9 was a presumptuous sin.  The Amplified translation reads: “Then He shows to them [the true character of] their deeds and their transgressions, that they have acted arrogantly [with presumption and self-sufficiency].”


John Brown was another man who was presumptuous.  There were times when Abraham Lincoln thought of himself as being prophetic.  Therefore, taking into account, that Abraham Lincoln and John Brown both felt they were doing God’s will in setting the slaves free and both died in doing so, Lincoln’s perspective of John Brown and his death seemed to be prophetic for himself as well: 


“Lincoln, who regarded lawlessness and slavery as twin evils, could only say of John Brown’s raid:  ‘That affair, in its philosophy, corresponds with the many attempts related in history at the assassination of kings and emperors.  An enthusiast broods over the oppression of a people till he fancies himself commissioned by Heaven to liberate them.  He ventures the attempt, which ends in little else than his own execution.  Orsini’s attempt on Louis Napoleon and John Brown’s attempt at Harper’s Ferry were, in their philosophy, precisely the same.’” [14] (emphasis added)


Other Spiritual Openings:   Lincoln Allowed Séance’s at the White House


Necromancy is a pagan practice and is forbidden by the LORD (Isaiah 8:19, Deuteronomy 18:10-11, Leviticus 20:6).  Yet not only did President Lincoln allow his wife, Mary, to hold séances in the White House in the hope of communicating with their dead son, Lincoln actually attended several of these séances as well.  


“‘The pale face of her dead boy threw her into convulsions’.  Try as she might, Mary never fully recovered from the shock and loss.  ‘I feel rebellious,’ she exploded.  ‘[I] almost believe that our heavenly father has forsaken us.’  Desperately seeking solace, answers, anything to stem her overwhelming despair, Mary turned to the spirit world.  With much of America caught in the spell of the spiritualism cult, mediums were conducting séances everywhere, even, Mary now made sure, in the White House itself.  Half amused, the President turned up at one or two of these sessions.  But as superstitious as Lincoln was, the table rappings in the dark, the floating objects, the tweaked beards, the unworldly voices, could not persuade him to join his wife in her hysterical belief that she was really and truly communicating with her lost boys.” [15]


            Notice that Mary felt “rebellious”.  According to Scripture, rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and that is exactly what Mary did in her rebellion – she became involved with necromancy – one of the practices of witchcraft. 


“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” (1Sam 15:23, KJV)


            Interestingly, one of the reasons that King Saul lost his kingdom was because in his rebellion he sought counsel from a woman who had a familiar spirit (1 Chronicles 10:13-14).  Like Mary Lincoln, King Saul sought a woman with a familiar spirit because he felt the LORD was no longer speaking to him (1 Samuel 28:6-7). 


            The manifestations that Mary did experience were not those of her dead son - they were demonic manifestations of a familiar spirit.  The following account is taken from the same reference as above and is from the diary of Mary’s half sister Emilie while visiting Mary at the White House.


“‘After I had said good night and had gone to my room’, Emilie recorded in her diary, ‘there was a gentle knock at the door, and [I heard] Sister Mary’s voice…She was smiling though her eyes were full of tears…’[H]e lives, Emilie!’ she said with a thrill in her voice I can never forget.  ‘He comes to me every night, and stands at the foot of my bed with the same sweet, adorable smile.’”[16]


The Mindset as a Stumbling Block


The Apostle Peter is a good example of how reasoning apart from God can be a stumbling block.  There is no doubt that Peter loved Jesus with all his heart.  He gave up his profession, fishing, to follow Jesus, was one of Jesus’ closest disciples, was one of the three to go to the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus and in his heart, was willing to go to prison or even die for Jesus.  When Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, “He said, Lord, you know all things; You know that I love you.”  (John 21:17, NIV)  There was just one problem:  Peter had the wrong mindset.  Peter’s mind was on the world and the world’s ways, not on the thinking and ways of the Lord.


When Jesus told His disciples once again that He would have to suffer and die, Peter took Him aside privately and rebuked Him, saying, “God forbid, Lord!  This must never happen to You!  (Matthew 16:22).  Here is how Jesus responded:


“But Jesus turned away from Peter and said to him.  Get behind Me, Satan!  You are in My way [an offense and a hindrance and a snare to Me]; for you are minding what partakes not of the nature and quality of God, but of men.” (Matt 16:23, Amplified Bible)


“But turning around [His back to Peter] and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, Get behind Me, Satan!  For you do not have a mind intent on promoting what God wills, but what pleases men [you are not on God’s side, but that of men].” (Mark 8:33, Amplified Bible) 


As a result, Satan could try to tempt Jesus by working through Peter’s worldly opinion/earthly point of view concerning Jesus’ destiny.  Jesus did not fall into this trap.  Instead, He bound Satan from interfering – Get behind me, Satan! – and simultaneously rebuked Peter regarding his worldly mindset.


For a more detailed article on the “mindset” – see the separate article entitled “Testing, Trials and Temptations”. 



© Gwen Thomas, November, 2007





Ashland University Website (Teaching American History).  “Reply to Emancipation Memorial Presented by Chicago Christians of All Denominations. 13 September 1862,


Charnwood (Lord). Abraham Lincoln. Garden City, NY: Garden City Publishing, 1917


Holloway, Laura C. The Ladies of the White House. Philadelphia: Bradley & Company, 1881


Kunhardt, Jr., Phillip B., Kunhardt III, Phillip B. and Kunhardt, Peter W. Lincoln: an Illustrated Biography. NY: Gramercy Books, 1999


Parish, Peter J. ed. Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and Letters. London: Orion Publishing Group, 1993


Thomas, Benjamin P. Abraham Lincoln: A Biography. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1952


Washington Post Website. “Scientist’s Remarks on Blacks Cause Furor”, Robin Shulman. 20 October 2007,


Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.  Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. 


The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society.  Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.


Scripture quotations taken from The AMPLIFIED BIBLE, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation.  All rights reserved. Used by permission. (




[1]  Peter J. Parish, Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and Letters, p.213-214


[2]  Washington Post Website, “Scientist’s Remarks on Blacks Cause Furor”, Robin Shulman, 20 October, 2007,   


[3]  Peter J. Parish, Abraham Lincoln Speeches and Letters, p.214-215


[4]  Benjamin P. Thomas, Abraham Lincoln: A Biography, p.362


[5]  Lord Charnwood, Abraham Lincoln, p.125


[6]  Ibid, p.127-128


[7]  Phillip B. Kunhardt, Jr., Phillip B. Kunhardt III and Peter W. Kunhardt, Lincoln: an Illustrated Biography, p.336


[8]  Ashland University Website (Teaching American History), “Reply to Emancipation Memorial Presented by Chicago Christians of All Denominations,


[9]  Lord Charnwood, Abraham Lincoln, p.449-450


[10]  Benjamin P. Thomas, Abraham Lincoln A Biography, p.516  


[11]  Phillip B. Kunhardt, Jr., Phillip B. Kunhardt III and Peter W. Kunhardt, Lincoln: an Illustrated Biography, p.346


[12]  Ibid, p.334


[13]  Laura C. Holloway, The Ladies of the White House, p.532-533


[14]  Lord Charnwood, Abraham Lincoln, p.152


[15]  Phillip B. Kunhardt, Jr., Phillip B. Kunhardt III and Peter W. Kunhardt, Lincoln: an Illustrated Biography, p.284


[16]  Ibid