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HOME > Short Stories > The Soul of Abraham Lincoln > CHAPTER XVI CHITTENDEN AND CHINIQUY
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 Two notable interviews touching the religious opinions of Mr. Lincoln deserve record here. One is by Rev. Charles Chiniquy, some time priest in the Roman Catholic Church, and afterward a strong Protestant. He had been a client of Mr. Lincoln's in Illinois, and Mr. Lincoln trusted and believed in him. He visited Mr. Lincoln in the White House, and there, as before Mr. Lincoln's departure for Springfield, he warned him that there were plots against the life of the President. The other is by Hon. L. E. Chittenden, who was chosen by Mr. Lincoln as Register of the Treasury, and who was an honest and incorruptible man.
Father Chiniquy visited Mr. Lincoln in the White House in August, 1861, June, 1862, and June, 1864, for the purpose of warning Mr. Lincoln of plots, which Father Chiniquy believed to be inspired by Jesuits, against the life of Mr. Lincoln. On the last of these occasions, June 9, 1864, in the course of an extended interview, he reported Mr. Lincoln as saying:
"'You are not the first to warn me against the dangers of assassination. My ambassadors in Italy, France, and England, as well as Professor Morse, have, many times, warned me against the plots of murderers whom they have detected in those different countries. But I see no other safeguard against these murderers, but to be always ready to die, as Christ advises it. As we must all die sooner or later, it makes very little difference to me whether I die from a dagger plunged through the heart or from an inflammation of the lungs. Let me tell you that I have, lately, read a message in the Old Testament which has made a profound, and, I hope, a salutary impression on me. Here is that passage.'
"The President took his Bible, opened it at the third[Pg 189] chapter of Deuteronomy, and read from the 22d to the 27th verse:
"'"22. Ye shall not fear them: for the Lord your God he shall fight for you.
"'"23. And I besought the Lord at that time, saying,
"'"24. O Lord God, thou hast begun to shew thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might?
"'"25. I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon.
"'"26. But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter.
"'"27. Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes; for thou shalt not go over this Jordan."'
"After the President had read these words with great solemnity, he added:
"'My dear Father Chiniquy, let me tell you that I have read these strange and beautiful words several times, these last five or six weeks. The more I read them, the more it seems to me that God has written them for me as well as for Moses.
"'Has He not taken me from my poor log cabin, by the hand, as He did Moses, in the reeds of the Nile, to put me at the head of the greatest and most blessed of modern nations just as He put that prophet at the head of the most blessed nation of ancient times? Has not God granted me a privilege, which was not granted to any living man, when I broke the fetters of 4,000,000 of men, and made them free? Has not our God given me the most glorious victories over my enemies? Are not the armies of the Confederacy so reduced to a handful of men, when compared to what they were two years ago, that the day is fast approaching when they will have to surrender?
"'Now, I see the end of this terrible conflict, with the same joy of Moses, when at the end of his trying forty years in the wilderness; and I pray my God to grant me to see the days of peace and untold prosperity, which will follow this cruel war, as Moses asked God to see the other side of Jordan, and[Pg 190] enter the Promised Land. But, do you know, that I hear in my soul, as the voice of God, giving me the rebuke which was given to Moses?
"'Yes! every time that my soul goes to God to ask the favor of seeing the other side of Jordan, and eating the fruits of that peace, after which I am longing with such an unspeakable desire, do you know that there is a still but solemn voice which tells me that I will see those things only from a long distance, and that I will be among the dead when the nation, which God granted me to lead through those awful trials, will cross the Jordan, and dwell in that Land of Promise, where peace, industry, happiness, and liberty will make everyone happy; and why so? Because He has already given me favors which He never gave, I dare say, to any man in these latter days.
"'Why did God Almighty refuse to Moses the favor of crossing the Jordan, and entering the Promised Land? It was on account of the nation's sins! That law of divine retribution and justice, by which one must suffer for another, is surely a terrible mystery. But it is a fact which no man who has any intelligence and knowledge can deny. Moses, who knew that law, though he probably did not understand it better than we do, calmly says to his people: "God was wroth with me for your sakes."
"'But, though we do not understand that mysterious and terrible law, we find it written in letters of tears and blood wherever we go. We do not read a single page of history without finding undeniable traces of its existence.
"'Where is the mother who has not shed real tears and suffered real tortures, for her children's sake?
"'Who is the good king, the worthy emperor, the gifted chieftain, who has not suffered unspeakable mental agonies, or even death, for his people's sake?
"'Is not our Christian religion the highest expression of the wisdom, mercy, and love of God! But what is Christianity if not the very incarnation of that eternal law of Divine justice in our humanity?
"'When I look on Moses, alone, silently dying on the Mount Pisgah, I see that law, in one of its most sublime human manifestations, and I am filled with admiration and awe.
"'But when I consider that law of justice, and expiation[Pg 191] in the death of the Just, the divine Son of Mary, on the Mount of Calvary, I remain mute in my adoration. The spectacle of the Crucified One which is before my eyes is more than sublime, it is divine! Moses died for his People's sake, but Christ died for the whole world's sake! Both died to fulfill the same eternal law of the Divine justice, though in a different measure.
"'Now, would it not be the greatest of honors and privileges bestowed upon me, if God in His infinite love, mercy, and wisdom would put me between His faithful servant, Moses, and His eternal Son, Jesus, that I might die as they did, for my nation's sake!
"'My God alone knows what I have already suffered for my dear country's sake. But my fear is that the justice of God is not yet paid. When I look upon the rivers of tears and blood drawn by the lashes of the merciless masters from the veins of the very heart of those millions of defenseless slaves, these two hundred years; when I remember the agonies, the cries, the unspeakable tortures of those unfortunate people to which I have, to some extent, connived with so many others a part of my life, I fear that we are still far from the complete expiation. For the judgments of God are true and righteous.
"'It seems to me that the Lord wants today, as He wanted in the days of Moses, another victim—a victim which He has himself chosen, anointed and prepared for the sacrifice, by raising it above the rest of His people. I cannot conceal from you that my impression is that I am the victim. So many plots have already been made against my life, that it is a real miracle that they have all failed. But can we expect that God will make a perpetual miracle to save my life? I believe not.
"'But just as the Lord heard no murmur from the lips of Moses, when He told him that he had to die before crossing the Jordan, for the sins of his people, so I hope and pray that He will hear no murmur from me when I fall for my nation's sake.
"'The only two favors I ask of the Lord are, first, that I may die for the sacred cause in which I am engaged, and when I am the standard bearer of the rights and privileges of my country.
[Pg 192]
"'The second favor I ask from God is that my dear son, Robert, when I am gone, will be one of those who lift up that flag of Liberty which will cover my tomb, and carry it with honor and fidelity to the end of his life, as his father did, surrounded by the millions who will be called with him to fight and die for the defense and honor of our country.'
"'Never had I heard such sublime words,' says Father Chiniquy. 'Never had I seen a human face so solemn and so prophet-like as the face of the President when uttering these things. Every sentence had come to me as a hymn from heaven, reverberated by the echoes of the mountains of Pisgah and Calvary. I was beside myself. Bathed in tears, I tried to say something, but I could not utter a word. I knew the hour to leave had come. I asked from the President permission to fall on my knees and pray with him that his life might be spared; and he knelt with me. But I prayed more with my tears and sobs than with my words. Then I pressed his hand on my lips and bathed it with tears, and with a heart filled with an unspeakable desolation, I bade him adieu.'"—Fifty Years in the Church of Rome, pp. 706-10.
Hon. L. E. Chittenden, Register of the Treasury under Lincoln, gives this testimony to Lincoln's religious character:
"In the Presidential campaign of 1864 there were sullen whisperings that Mr. Lincoln had no religious opinions nor any interest in churches or Christian institutions. They faded away with other libels, never to be renewed until after his death. One of his biographers, who calls himself the 'friend and partner for twenty years' of the deceased President, has since published what he calls a history of his life, in which he revives the worst of these rumors, with additions which, if true, would destroy much of the world's respect for Mr. Lincoln. He asserts that his 'friend and partner' was 'an infidel verging towards atheism.' O............
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