Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Abraham Lincoln and his Melancholy

There are five things Lincoln was noted for: (1) He was president, (2) he led the war, (3) he emancipated the slaves (on paper), (4) he was a backwoodsman,  and (5) he was melancholic. We will discuss the latter.

Melancholy comes from melancholia, meaning black bile, the antiquated thought on what caused it. Of course, bile has little to do with this mode of existence.  It's more of a state of emotional depression, and some are inclined to be melancholic from birth.

 I believe anyone without hope is melancholic.  I'm not referring to things of this world, but hope for eternal things. Christians rightfully make qute a fuss over salvation. Salvation provides hope! The hope is in what we're more saved from than for. The attraction to Christianity is that it is the only way to escape eternal damnation. People tell themselves that a righteous God would never send anyone to hell, neglecting that God never does that because there is a choice in the matter! Hell-bound people elect eternal damnation.

The hope that makes it easier to cope with existence is eternal life. This is in contrast to eternal damnation. However, to have the hope of salvation means that there must be something we're saved from. Those who are born-again will be saved from hell. Therefore, to believe in salvation, means a Christian must believe in hell because without that notion, people aren't saved from anything!

Therefore, belief in hell is crucial to salvation. Even if hell is nothingness, right-minded people still would elect eternal life over eternal nothingness, would they not? That brings me to the resurrection. That one miracle changes mankind from mortal to immortal. If there is no resurrection, there is no hope because there would be no eternal life! Yes, resurrection must be experienced to live eternally. Consequently, the resurrection is critical to eternal life, and it brings hope.

If the reader has yet to notice, hope is the inverse of melancholy! Melancholy is not an independent characteristic. It is akin to darkness - the absence of light. Melancholy is the absence of hope. We all are melancholic at times when are faith diminishes. Satan's powers raise doubt. Doubt gives rise to anxiety which leads to depression. We've all been depressed for a short spell, but those who are melancholic are by nature predisposed to depression. When someone doubts the existence of eternal life, then depression sets in and a melancholic mood develops. Those are the people who don't seem to be encouraged by anything because life itself is discouraging; Why live only to die? is the attitude.

Abe Lincoln was of that mood. His nature was melancholic. I link that to the resurrection. When his first son died in Illinois resources in A Team of Rivals by  Doris Kearns Goodwin indicates that after the funeral of Edward Lincoln, that his father placed doubt on the resurrection. He seemed to have little confidence that he would ever see Edward again! That perspective all by itself is enough to be melancholic,  but there were other factors as well! Lincoln was raised a Calvinist (Hardshell Baptist). Election is a major issue in this doctrine. Of course, all Calvinists usually believe that they are the ones elected to live eternally, but it seems that Lincoln realized that perhaps he was not elected. That feeling of being a lost cause would be depressing to anyone.

As far as his counterparts know, Lincoln never joined a church, was never born-again, and never professed faith in Christ as taught by the church. It appears that his belief in Christ was a composite of reason and Universalism,  coupled with his Calvinism and  determinism. Of course, Calvinism works two ways: it can provide hope, even assurance, or it can also foster certainty in eternal death. It appears that Lincoln may have been certain that he was hell-bound. That is enough to make anyone melancholic!

Paul spoke of salvation as a destination which comes at the end of life. Until then, the faithful have hope. What is that hope/ That they will keep the faith until the end! Lincoln appeared to never have that hope. His life was either filled with doubt or the assurance that he would never be saved. Even when the altar call was made, Lincoln never sought heaven nor hell; it was congress that he sought, according to his own words (Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years; Carl Sandburg ). Lincoln apparently was also a humanist and follower of Thomas Paine and Charles Darwin.

After his death there were many critical biographies which came out, as would be expected, which denigrated this man which some compared to an ape. His friends and secretaries, John Hay and John Nicolay, remedied that. They came out a biography which made this average man great.

John Wilkes Booth killed Lincoln. Nicolay and Hay resurrected him, and he stands with resurrected reputation yet today. However, whether he is in heaven or not, only he and God knows. My own hope is that after the death of his son, Willie, that he found the light. Nicolay and Hay expressed that Lincoln never claimed to be a Christian, and other works demonstrate that his idea of Christ was not traditional by any means.

It may be that Lincoln's melancholy followed him to the grave for those who are true Christians have hope. If you're melancholic, there is hope. Belief in the resurrection is paramount for that hope. My hope is that Abe saw his son, Edward, even though he expressed doubt that he would. We must remember that the gate is straight and the path narrow to salvation, and even presidents falter.

I know some who are melancholic. That's a terrible life to live: facing tomorrow without faith. Since there is only one way to salvation, take that path: Jesus Christ... the one from the gospels, not the one from reason.

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