In a few days we will celebrate the birthday of our sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln. There is so much inspirational quality in his life for all people, and especially today, that it should be profitable to spend a few minutes meditating upon it.

No other person in American history is known and quoted so widely. “What is it,” I have asked myself, “that makes Lincoln stand apart from all the rest?” The more we grope for the things that raised Lincoln to his distinctive pedestal of greatness, the more we are forced to conclude that they lay in the realm of the spirit. The attributes that were distinctively Lincoln’s were remarkably those set forth by Christ in the Beatitudes.

Lincoln was poor in the sense that Christ was poor. True, he had few financial resources. But more to the point, he had a basic spirit of humanity that is rare on the political scene. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Lincoln was dogged by defeat, hounded by failure, and stalked by tragedy. From the loss of his mother, at the age of nine, grief followed his footsteps like an unshakeable shadow. The youthful love he shared with Ann Rutledge ended in heartache at her death. He knew unspeakable anguish at the death of his son Eddie at the age of four, and later, as President, the death of his beloved son Willie. But “Blessed,” said Christ, “are they that mourn.”

There can be no doubt as to Lincoln’s personal feelings about slavery. The spectacle of one human being owned as property by another did violence to his sense of right and wrong. On a trip to New Orleans as a young man he saw for the first time the true horrors of slavery. His conscience rebelled ...

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