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Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

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Leading into the Archangelic In-Soulment on August 28, 2010, Kira Raa read the text of Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. This powerful message is as timely now as it was when it was delivered in Washington DC on March 4, 1865.

This theologically intense
speech has been widely acknowledged as one of the most remarkable documents
in American history. The London Spectator said of it, "We cannot read it
without a renewed conviction that it is the noblest political document known
to history, and should have for the nation and the statesmen he left behind
him something of a sacred and almost prophetic character."

Journalist Noah Brooks, an
eyewitness to the speech, said that as Lincoln advanced from his seat,
"a roar of applause shook the air, and, again and again repeated,
finally died away on the outer fringe of the throng, like a sweeping wave
upon the shore. Just at that moment the sun, which had been obscured all day,
burst forth in its unclouded meridian splendor, and flooded the spectacle
with glory and with light." Brooks said Lincoln told him the next day,
"Did you notice that sunburst? It made my heart jump."

According to Brooks, the
audience received the speech in "profound silence," although some
passages provoked cheers and applause. "Looking down into the faces of
the people, illuminated by the bright rays of the sun, one could see moist
eyes and even tearful faces."

Brooks also observed, "But chiefly
memorable in the mind of those who saw that second inauguration must still
remain the tall, pathetic, melancholy figure of the man who, then inducted into
office in the midst of the glad acclaim of thousands of people, and illumined
by the deceptive brilliance of a March sunburst, was already standing in the
shadow of death."

At this second appearing to take the oath of
the presidential office, there is less occasion for an
extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in
detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the
expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly
called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs
the attention, and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new
could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly
depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust,
reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future,
no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four
years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All
dreaded it–all sought to avert it. While the inaugeral [sic] address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent
agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war–seeking to dissole [sic] the Union,
and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of
them would make war rather than let
the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

One eighth of the whole population were
colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the
Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest.
All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen,
perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents
would rend the Union, even by war; while the
government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial
enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the
duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with,
or even before, the conflict itself should cease. 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 a just 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. "Woe
unto the world because of offences! for it must needs
be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" If
we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the
providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His
appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and
South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came,
shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the
believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we 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 bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited 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"

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 lasting peace, among ourselves,
and with all nations.

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