During Abraham Lincoln’s eleven day journey from Springfield, Illinois to the Nation’s Capitol, the President-elect heard well wishes from citizens in small towns and key cities; sometimes appearing before small crowds and other times speaking to large audiences all wanting to know what he would do about the seven southern states that had rebelled and left the union! Would Lincoln begin a war? Mr. Lincoln also heard his share of mean and ugly insults. The powerful New York Herald in an editorial advised Lincoln “to resign in favor of a more acceptable man, or totter into a dishonored grave…leaving behind a memory more execrable than that of Benedict Arnold.” WOW! The man had not even been sworn into office, and he was being told to resign, to leave and go back to his small law practice far away from the heavy decisions that must be shouldered. One of the states that already had left the union over the issue of slavery, Alabama, had banners flying proclaiming: “Resistance to Lincoln is Obedience to God.”
Many citizens knew Lincoln had come up the hard way, but they knew little about his character, his thought processes, his values. There were tremendous questions about what he would do, how he would act. Among the country’s wonderment about events and leaders on both sides of the slavery debate Abraham Lincoln was Number One! He was a mystery. All of this is understandable, especially given that period without fine and sophisticated communications our modern society has become so accustomed. Yet, there were those who had known Abraham Lincoln well, and who could have shed light on this humble man who would end the rebellion of twelve states, preserve a nation, begin the process of healing and restoration by ending the blood shed, both on the fields of battle and fields full of cotton and slaves. This tall and gangling looking fella was directed by two constants: The Declaration of Independence and the Bible. He constantly emphasized “the pursuit of liberty” and “equality.” All men were created equal in Mr. Lincoln’s eyes, and he intended to restore this inalienable right granted by God, and given to man to hold, cherish, and protect. He intended to bring America together as one nation, under God, indivisible, and with liberty and justice for all.
As a reminder of his calling, President Lincoln had a suit coat made from the renown tailor Brooks Brothers in New York City. On the inside he had them embroider a patch with an eagle and the words “One County…One Destiny” on a banner gripped between the powerful beak of an eagle (SEE THE PHOTO ATTACHED TO THIS ARTICLE). Mr. Lincoln wore this black over coat on most days, and you can see many photos of him wearing this special coat. On a Friday night April 14, 1865, President Lincoln, his wife Mary, and two friends attended a play at Ford’s Opera House in Washington, D.C. A little past ten o’clock, the President puts this special coat back on and returns to his easy rocking chair hidden from the audience by curtains at his left as he sits and rocks in his private suite over looking the stage. Within minutes the President is shot by a brass derringer pistol held less than five feet from the left side of his head by a man filled with hate; Mr. Lincoln lapses into unconsciousness from which he shall not recover. This special coat with the little known embroidered emblem Mr. Lincoln wore that fateful evening is on display at Ford’s Theater.
Healing and Restoration. Mr. Lincoln devoted his presidency to that cause; the same cause Jesus Christ devoted his full measure. Both men knew God’s heart, and they both demonstrated the love God has for man; the desire to heal the wounds causing hatred and malice; shame; loss of self-esteem and personal worth. Abraham Lincoln didn’t just stop a war, he stopped the mechanism by which Blacks were used, abused and discarded. Mr. Lincoln extended Blacks the God-given rights Whites had always enjoyed and had come to take for granted. President Lincoln ended a war on land, but the battle for a man’s heart continues. Forgiveness and charity for all is what Lincoln preached, and once to his cabinet he said, “those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.”
This July 4th, I will stand near the spot from which President Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address, and have the privilege of speaking to thousands who have been invited by Pastor James David Manning of Atlah Ministries in Harlem, New York to begin, all over again, the process of healing and restoration; to begin laying aside the hurts, anger, shame, hatred that makes slaves of us all. Like Mr. Lincoln, I get to speak into the hearts gathered on this famous and hallowed ground of conflict. I get to continue the work of Mr. Lincoln when, just 87-years after the birth of our Nation, he spoke the words known as the Gettysburg Address (Four score and seven years ago). President Lincoln knew “our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal….” President Lincoln knew he must teach and usher a fractured America into becoming “One Country…One Destiny.” It is now our turn to carry the same message forward, and help heal the land, restore the hearts of those who have been abused, and point to the Destiny God desires for all, that none should perish but come to know the love of Jesus Christ and have everlasting life.
May this July 4th Independence Day truly be a day marked by freedom from slavery to hurts, abuse, shame, ridicule, loss of self-worth, bondage of every category. May this July 4th find a new wind blowing across the fields of precious treasured loss in Gettysburg out across this nation; a new wind of healing and restoration for all who truly are tired and poor and broken. Will you take a moment this July 4th, amidst all the fun, picnic, fireworks, bands, and laughter, and say a prayer for healing and restoring this Great Nation and all who reside within? Just like on the day of the Gettysburg Address, there are people amongst us today who intend to divide us as a people and as a country. Let us pray for our fellow Americans and for our country: “One Country…One Destiny.”
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