Abraham Lincoln: Was He A Christian?

MATTHEW 7:21 – 23
JESUS CHRIST said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven…” (Matt. 7:21).

What does it take then to enter the kingdom of heaven? In answering this vital question, let’s use the life of a great American to assess what doesn’t save and what does.

Consider the life of the 16th President of America, Abraham Lincoln. Was Mr. Lincoln a Christian?

After the war, Democrats attempting to undermine the reconstruction of the South painted Mr. Lincoln in scurrilous terms. By aristocrat Wendell Phillips, he was called “the white trash of the South spawned on Illinois,” ” a first-rate second-rate man…waiting to be used.”

Brahmin historian Francis Parker complained in 1862 that Mr. Lincoln was the “feeble and ungainly mouthpiece of the North.”

The “London Herald” wrote of him: “Mr. Lincoln is a vulgar, brutal boor, wholly ignorant of political science, or military affairs, or everything else which a statesman should know.”

New Yorker George Templeton Strong wrote in his diary that Mr. Lincoln was “despised and rejected by a third of the community, and only tolerated by the other two-thirds.”

Remember, it matters not what others think of us, but what we think of Christ that is important in the matter of salvation.

In 1806, Peter Cartright was the premier evangelist in rural Kentucky. Their rather primitive form of worship would seem strange by our standards. One night as Cartright was preaching in an outdoor meeting a young man jumped to his feet and began to dance in the joy of the Lord as King David had done before the ark of the Lord. His name was Tom Lincoln. A short time later a young woman, in praise of the Lord, jumped to her feet and joined in with the others dancing as unto the Lord. Her name was Nancy Hanks. Soon thereafter she married Tom Lincoln and three years later gave birth to a son. This Godly couple gave their son a Bible name Abraham.
Blessed is the child who has Christian parents. But that doesn’t save us.
Young Abraham was taught Scripture verses and Bible principles by his parents. As a young boy, the first of what seemed to be several untimely deaths occurred in his family. As his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, lay dying, her last words to her nine-year-old son were: “I am going away from you, Abraham, and I shall not return. I know that you will be a good boy; and that you will be kind to Sarah and your father. I want you to live as I have taught you, to love your Heavenly Father and keep His commandments.”

On several occasions when asked how he had declined a tempting bribe or resisted a strong suggestion to do wrong, Lincoln said he recalled the voice of his mother repeating, “I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Mr. Lincoln believed the Bible. At a very early age he was taught the Bible. He memorized the Ten Commandments. Through his life there are many instances where his conduct was guided by one of the commandments. It was evident all through his life that he honored his father and mother which is the first commandment with promise.

A. The commandments motivated his honesty and integrity. He was so honest that as a young lawyer arguing a case he would even befriend his opponent. If the attorney arguing a case against him forgot a point, he would remind him of it. Thus, he became known as “the most honest lawyer east of China.” Part of this label lasted through his life, and he is still known as “Honest Abe.”

B. On an occasion he was heard to say, “When I am confronted with temptation, I can still vividly hear the tones on my mother’s voice saying, ‘I am the Lord thy God, which brought you out of Egypt. Thou shall not steal.”

C. He had a great regard for the Lord’s Day. At the approach of the battle of Falmouth General McDowell came to him on Saturday and said, “Sir, my troops are ready at a moment’s notice and can move out tomorrow.” The inquiry was made by General McDowell because he knew Mr. Lincoln’s regard for the Lord’s Day. The president replied, “No, give them the Lord’s Day of rest.”

He knew the Scripture well. In his great debates with Steven Douglas in 1858, he corrected his opponents incorrect use of Scripture several times.

He once told a friend who professed to be a skeptic, “Take all this book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a happier and better man.”

When presented a ceremonial Bible inscribed as being from “the Loyal Colored People of Baltimore,” he responded with these oft-quoted words, “In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.”

He had great regard for the commandments and sought to keep them. However, it is not by works of righteousness which we do that we are saved.

He believed that God works in the affairs of people. He believed God gave him a good body. His gaunt, pitted, sallow complexion made him unattractive to many. However, he responded physically with gratitude for a good body. Few know that he was the champion weightlifter in his parts as a young man. He was also the region’s champion wrestler and distance runner.

He believed it was God’s providence that enabled him to find a copy of Blackstone’s Law Book while rummaging through an old barrel. This book was the seed resulting in him becoming a lawyer.

He was a man of profound God-consciousness and morality in whose mind lived a vision linking the nation with the providence of God. He believed American ideals closely reflected the principles of divine morality.

His many defeats and ultimate victory he attributed to the providence of God. This alone, however, does not save.

After being elected President he left Springfield for Washington. A lady who loved the Lord and Mr. Lincoln prepared and hung out a large banner with his favorite Scripture verse: “Be strong and of good courage. Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed for I am with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

Mr. Lincoln believed God was with him. Some years ago as guest of the President I had the liberty of staying in the Lincoln bedroom. Sitting there late one night I reflected that it was in this room on the morning of January 1, 1863, Mr. Lincoln called his Cabinet together. He had in his hand his characteristic tall, silk hat. He reached into his hat and pulling out a document placed it on the table and said, “Gentlemen, with this document I am prepared to free the slaves.” It was the Emancipation Proclamation. He continued, “I promised the Great God if He would give us victory at Antietam, I would so act.” He believed that at Antietam, one of the strategic battles of the War Between the States, the providence of God was at work in the affairs of the country. He acted to free the slaves out of gratitude.

In a letter to two Iowans who wrote him commending him for his bravery in freeing the slaves and assuring him of their prayers, he wrote he was “sustained by the good wishes and prayers of God’s people.”

In his first inaugural address, March 1861, Mr. Lincoln espoused the belief that “intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.”

He had confidence that even the war which he despised so strongly had a purpose and stated that he believed that God “permits it for some wise purpose of His own, mysterious and unknown to us; and though with our limited understandings we may not be able to comprehend it, yet we cannot but believe, that He who made the world still governs it.”

Perhaps the statement that best reveals his reliance on the providence of God was contained in an address to a delegation of Baltimore Presbyterians in 1863. To them he said, “Amid the greatest difficulties of my Administration, when I could see no other resort, I would place my whole reliance in God, knowing that all would go well, and that He would decide for the right.”

To a close friend he confided: “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”


Biographers record that he never joined a church. If he was saved that means church membership doesn’t save…and it doesn’t. What did Mr. Lincoln believe about the – – –

For our beloved Lord to get to Calvary He had to go through Gethsemane. Mr. Lincoln had his Gethsemane. There was an occasion when a friend saw Mr. Lincoln sitting before a great fireplace with his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. The friend listened as he prayed, “Oh God, oh God, help me, I cannot lead these people without your help, without you.” When the friend returned the next morning, the fire was but embers; but Mr. Lincoln still sat as he was the night before. This time the friend heard him pray, “Oh God, oh God, if it be Thy will, let this cup pass from me.”

All of his life Mr. Lincoln was dogged by defeat, hounded by failure, and stalked by tragedy. Starting with the death of his mother at age nine, grief followed his footsteps like an unshakable shadow. Youthful love shared with Ann Ruthledge ended in heartache at her death. He experienced deep anguish at the death of his son, Eddie, at age four and later, as President, the death of his beloved son, Willie.

Henry Ward Beecher was one of the most prominent ministers of the day. Early one, cold, winter’s morning in the chill of night he was awakened by someone knocking at his door. Upon opening the door he found standing there Mr. Lincoln. The tall, lean, gaunt figure was so gripped with grief and agony that at first Dr. Beecher didn’t recognize Mr. Lincoln. As Mr. Lincoln poured out his soul to the minister, he said, “I think I shall never again be glad…”

A somber President soon thereafter made his way to the battlefield at Gettysburg where he was to deliver his most famous address. Many school children can quote those immortal lines. Historians remember well a letter he wrote soon thereafter which many persons do not know of. Soon after his Gettysburg address, he wrote a friend in Springfield. Therein he said, “When I came to Springfield, I was not a Christian. When I left Springfield to go to Washington and asked you to pray for me, I was not a Christian. When I came to Gettysburg, I was not a Christian; but there at Gettysburg, I consecrated my life to Christ.”

Remember the line from that address: “This nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom…”

November 19, 1863, at Gettysburg where Mr. Lincoln spoke of new birth he experienced it personally through faith in Christ.

There at Gettysburg where he spoke of “dedicating ourselves to unfinished work…” he consecrated his life to Christ. Abraham Lincoln had endured the purifying fires of tribulation to come forth as gold.

This led him to acknowledge before his death: “…I am responsible…to the American people, to the Christian world, and on my final account to God.”

Thereafter, he sought to live and lead a nation to live by these words he quoted there from Scripture: “With malice toward none and charity toward all.”

Mark this date, Tuesday, April 13, 1865. That day Mr. Lincoln wrote a letter to Pastor Gurley of the church in Washington he had attended with increased regularity. In that letter he told of his saving faith in Jesus Christ. Note these lines from that letter dated April 13, 1865,: “On the forthcoming Lord’s day, I would like to make public my commitment.”

The date of the forthcoming Lord’s day would be April 18. Mr. Lincoln’s letter was mailed April 13. The day after the letter was mailed Mrs. Lincoln insisted that they get away from the pressures by going to a play that evening at the Ford Theater.

They arrived late and were seated in the Presidential Booth. During the course of the play the president’s bodyguard left his post to go to a nearby bar for a drink. During the play it was apparent to Mrs. Lincoln the President was preoccupied. Biographers record that during a lull in the play Mr. Lincoln leaned over and whispered to Mrs. Lincoln. “Mary,” he said, “Do you know the one thing in all the world I would like to do? I would like to take you on a trip with me to the Near East and we could visit Bethlehem where He was born.” Just then John Wilks Booth approached the Presidential Box unnoticed. The President paused. Booth raised his gun and the President continued, “We could go to Nazareth, Bethany…” Booth took aim as Mr. Lincoln said, “Mary, we could even go up to Jerusalem.” Just then a shot rang out. Mr. Lincoln slumped forward mortally wounded.

7:22 A.M., April 15, just three days before Mr. Lincoln proposed to walk the aisle of his church to make known his faith in Jesus Christ, Mr. Lincoln walked the golden streets of the New Jerusalem. He was blessed to do so because two years before his death, on November 19, 1863, at Gettysburg, as he later wrote, “There I concentrated my life to Christ.”

That is the only way for a president or any person to be saved. Have you ever made such a commitment? If not do it now.