On February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born in a one-room cabin in Kentucky. On the 200th anniversary of his birth, we remember the lanky self-taught lawyer who hated slavery, who pressed forward until he finally attained the highest office in the country – just in time for the bloodiest war in US history. But, even more, we remember the greatness of that man who loved true liberty, who dreamed in his day "of a place and time where America will once again be seen as the last, best hope on earth."
There are many things that can be said about Abraham Lincoln. He lost his mother when he was nine, and two of his four sons died before he did. He stood at the helm of America while it was torn in two, and he not only protected the Union, but managed to emancipate the slaves in the process. Yet, it was not just his humble beginnings or his ability to overcome personal tragedy that made Lincoln remarkable. Nor did the abolition of slavery or the survival of the United States alone make him a great man. Abraham Lincoln was a great man because of what he believed in and what he stood for. He was not only about the business of preserving a collection of states under one federal government. He was a man determined to protect America to be the haven for true liberty that the Founders intended it to be.
In his 1861 address at Independence Hall, which he described as, "a wholly unprepared speech" Lincoln said the following:
I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence. I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred by the men who assembled here, and framed and adopted that Declaration of Independence. I have pondered over the toils that were endured by the officers and soldiers of the army who achieved that Independence. I have often inquired of myself what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together.Lincoln loved liberty. He loved true liberty in its good old-fashioned sense. Today the concept of liberty has been kidnapped, and the word has become a euphemism for humans to do whatever they like without legal repercussions. Liberty does not mean a blank check for immorality. True liberty is lifting "the weight" of tyranny, freeing men to govern themselves and take responsibility for themselves as men and not as slaves. The freedom of the black man was representative of the very freedom that all Americans embraced in the Declaration of Independence. No longer would they be called "boy" - told what to do and how to do it. They would henceforth be men, fully responsible for their own lives. That's true liberty.
"It was not the mere matter of the separation of the Colonies from the motherland; but that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I hope, to the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men. This is the sentiment embodied in that Declaration of Independence.
It is the same with spiritual liberty. By the blood of Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, we are no longer slaves to sin. In fact, we are no longer under the letter of the Law. Yet, our freedom is one in which we serve God in holiness out of love, pushing closer to the heart of God than the Law could ever lead us. It is never a freedom that condones license to sin, but one in which we walk with God as sons and daughters.
"Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." -2 Corinthians 3:17
"For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another." -Galatians 5:13
But liberty is never free. It always comes with a price. In the case of our spiritual liberty, the only begotten Son of God was slaughtered on a Roman cross to win our freedom. In the case of America, our freedom was also bought with the blood of our forefathers. And it is now protected only with vigilance.
Our precious liberty is in danger of being taken away. Men (and women) who have abused their freedoms have brought financial destruction on the nation and the entire world. Men (and women) who have abused their social freedoms have torn apart the family, brought children into single family homes, and have spread disease, violence, substance abuse and crime. As we have replaced liberty with license, proving ourselves children instead of men, our government has stepped in to hold our hands; we're in serious danger of losing the very freedoms we love.
We are in the midst of another great civil war. This time it's a war of ideas and of values. It's a war that threatens to destroy us just as certainly as the war Lincoln faced nearly 150 years ago. His words from the Gettysburg Address seem just as fitting now as they were then:
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live…The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.That says it.
"It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Happy 200th Birthday Abraham Lincoln. We're grateful to God for your tremendous service to America. May we not fail those who bled for us by treating their sacrifices as little in value. May we treat our freedoms with great regard, walking not as spoiled children but as righteous men. And may we fight so that this nation can have a new birth of freedom; one in which we truly behave as one nation under God.
Lincoln's Address at Independence Hall - National Parks Service
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address - Abraham Lincoln Online
Abraham Lincoln: Statesman for All Ages - The Heritage Foundation
Abraham Lincoln Turns 200 - Reader's Digest
Lincoln vs. Obama: Freedom vs. The Good - The Heritage Foundation