“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Aspiring senatorial (and later presidential) candidate Abraham Lincoln opened one of his most famous speeches with these words in 1858. He intended it as a stark warning that the ideologically deeply divided nation could not continue on its course.
His warning was prophetic, as less than three years later the nation tore itself apart in a bloody four-year civil war that took hundreds of thousands of lives.
Two decades earlier, as a much younger man, he proclaimed his concern for the future of his country:
“At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! . . . At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer: If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us . . . If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide” (Lyceum Address, 1838, emphasis added throughout).
This warning was also prophetic, and a generation later the nation came perilously close to dying by suicide. More than 600,000 men died in battle or from wounds and disease. It was by far the bloodiest war in the nation’s history.
Abraham Lincoln, like so many U.S presidents up until recent generations, was a student of the Bible. When he was growing up, as was the case in many American households, books were rare and the Bible was often the only book many families possessed. Lincoln himself said of the community schoolhouse he attended, “We had no reading books or grammars, and all our reading was done from the Bible.”
President Lincoln’s words often echoed those of the biblical writers and prophets. His warning about “a house divided” was taken directly from the words of Jesus Christ (Matthew 12:25; Mark 3:25; Luke 11:17). It’s not surprising, then, that the Bible greatly shaped his thinking, including how he viewed the nation.
In one of the darkest periods of the Civil War, he issued a “Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day” on March 30, 1863. His words strikingly apply to our day:
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God . . .
“We have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient . . . , too proud to pray to the God that made us. It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”
Lincoln did not hold back on telling it like it is. As president, he felt a deep responsibility to his country. He didn’t want to see it perish, devoured by war and destruction from within.
We at Beyond Today believe and feel the same. We are deeply grateful for the abundant physical blessings God poured out on the United States of America, including those extending back to its roots in Great Britain before the nation was even founded.
We are also deeply grateful for the spiritual blessings God bestowed, such as the spiritual roots of the nation and the faith of its Founding Fathers (described in this issue). We so appreciate the blessings of being able to freely worship God and share His truth through the pages of this magazine, our Beyond Today TV program, our many study guides, our Bible study course, our website and the freedom to gather to worship Him and learn His truth at weekly Sabbath services.
But we are also compelled, as was President Lincoln, to speak out on the grave national sins that threaten those blessings and freedoms—which we see being withdrawn day by day. We have a God-given responsibility to speak to the modern nations and tell it like it is, and we do.
We hope and pray that you will have ears to hear and, most importantly, a heart to heed and seek God. Take to heart the words of Abraham Lincoln and Scripture—repent, turn to God and pray for mercy for the nation!