From: T.M. Schoewe
We were trying to get out of the joyful month of February but were sobered by the remembrance of Abraham Lincoln whose birthday we cannot escape. February was also the month when he was re-elected as president of our country and was in the process of considering signing the Emancipation Proclamation, which incidentally was at the great cost of over a half million American lives. Although Lincoln was a great humorist his life was permeated with a deep sadness that caused periods of melancholy. He had seen much death. His mother died when he was a boy. His sister when he was a teenager and Ann Rutledge, the love of his life, when he was in his 20s. Two of his four sons died before him and of course there were the thousands of soldiers that consecrated the ground at Gettysburg.
Lincoln’s preoccupation with mortality reminds us of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles the V who had a coffin constructed that he actually would lie down in once a day and say, “momento mori,” “remember you must die.” Lincoln wrestled with mortality by memorizing great portions of scripture from Job and Ecclesiastes. In the 1830s a friend named Dr. James Duncan introduced Lincoln to the poem called “mortality.” It contained 14 four-line stanzas. Over time he was able to memorize it all and at the tip of a hat he would recite the entire piece. He became so identified with the poem that people thought he had written it. Lincoln would recite the poem one last time the evening before he went to the Ford theatre with Mary Todd, where he was assassinated.
Lincoln never found out who wrote the poem until late in his life, and it is interesting that there is a bronze Lincoln on top of a Scottish-American monument on the grounds of the old cemetery in Edinburgh, Scotland, where William Knox, the author of “mortality” is buried.
“Mortality” entered this wonderful creation we live in through a couple of wonderful creatures who doubted the word of their maker regarding their diet. Their disobedient act of eating resulted in losing the image in which they were created and introduced them and all their offspring to mortality, as the Word “you shall surely die” is passed on to all mankind.
Now we are quite sure you know the Maker of man refused to give up on mortals and entered this world not only to serve as the Son of God but as the son of man. As a man He could take a man’s place and as the Son of God He could take the place of all mankind. That fact is the heart of the Lenten Season you should be observing!
Now back to Abe Lincoln who so often was preoccupied with mortality but often thought well of his enemies and even appointed some of them to his cabinet, winning them over one by one. We quickly connect to our Lord Jesus Christ, Who loved His enemies and Who looked down from the Mount of Olives and wept over the city of Jerusalem because they did not respect His authority or listen to His Word. He dreaded going to the Cross and He could have come down from that cross but did not!
Keep on reading the four gospels we encouraged you to in last week’s article “Let Lent,” and look forward to the great Word “I am the resurrection and life, he that believeth in Me though he were dead, shall live. And whosoever believeth in Me shall never die.” That Word is the destruction of “mortality.”
The Word’s great question is “Do you believe this?” WARNING! If you do not, you are a lost case!
P.S. For the fun of it, you might like to check on William Knox’s poem “Mortality” which Abe Lincoln memorized. Wow! Another thing, although Lincoln was a humorist and quite the self-made man, it is not true that he built the log cabin in which he was born.