Lincoln’s View on Tearing Down Sacred Statues

Timeless counsel from one of America’s greatest presidents

Across America, radicals have been desecrating and tearing down statues and memorials. They condemn our nation’s history and want to blot it out.

This is a serious problem. What is the solution? Abraham Lincoln, considered by many to be America’s greatest president, had the solution. His advice remains relevant to this day. I believe you will be moved by it.

In 1838, Lincoln gave a famous address to the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield, Illinois. He was just 28 years old. In that speech, Lincoln said this about George Washington’s burial site: “During his long sleep, we permitted no hostile foot to pass over or desecrate his resting place.” Lincoln demanded that they simply not permit such desecration.

What a contrast to today! Now people are tearing down statues of George Washington and many other monuments—supposedly in the name of equality and justice. They even deface and demolish memorials of Lincoln, the man responsible for emancipating the slaves in America! Does that make sense? It shows that these radicals’ motives aren’t truly about equality.

The word desecrate means to destroy the sacredness. Many of these statues and memorials really are sacred because they bring God into the picture. Is there a godlier example of a U.S. president than Abraham Lincoln? So could this desecration of statues be anti-God? We need to think seriously about this; physically, what could be more serious for our nation?

How do we solve this problem? Consider Lincoln’s view.

A Biblical Foundation

Firstly, Lincoln had profound respect for the Bible. He once said: “In regard to this great Book [the Bible], 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 this Book” (emphasis mine throughout).

He was right: Without the Bible, we don’t even know the difference between right and wrong! We ought to be teaching our children from the Bible so they can understand right from wrong. The Bible itself commands this (e.g. Deuteronomy 4:9; 6:6-7; 11:18-19; Ephesians 6:4), and Lincoln knew it. He knew the Bible and believed it.

Yet today, the Bible is hardly allowed in education at all. Our failure to teach our children right from wrong as the Bible reveals it is the foundation of the problem we face.

Lincoln’s knowledge of the Bible put him at odds with the so-called Christianity of his day. “They all claim to be Christians and interpret their several creeds as infallible ones,” he told a friend. “I doubt the possibility or propriety of setting the religion of Jesus Christ in the models of man-made creeds and dogmas.” He saw that most religion is man-made and not following God! He told his friend he wouldgladly unite witha churchthat would assent to the Savior’s statement of the substance of the law.” But he never found such a church! That is a serious problem.

Lincoln’s understanding of the Bible informed his view of how to handle the political problems of his day. How many politicians is that true of today?

The Danger in Mob Rule

In his Lyceum address, Lincoln warned about a dangerous trend at the time: “[T]here is, even now, something of ill-omen, amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of courts.”

He then recounted many atrocities that were being committed by pro-slavery forces in the nation at the time. People were taking the law into their own hands, being ruled by their passions rather than by the law. This horrified Lincoln—and it should horrify us.

Lincoln believed in a strong government that would protect its citizens and their property. He spoke of the danger in its failure to forcibly restrain these lawless forces. “[G]ood men, men who love tranquility, who desire to abide by the laws, and enjoy their benefits, who would gladly spill their blood in the defense of their country; seeing their property destroyed; their families insulted, and their lives endangered; their persons injured; and seeing nothing in prospect that forebodes a change for the better; become tired of, and disgusted with, a government that offers them no protection; and are not much averse to a change in which they imagine they have nothing to lose.”

Lincoln condemned a government that failed in its duty to protect, and he would do the same today. Why even obey the government if it won’t protect you?, he asked. He understood that continued abuse of law-abiding citizens leads to revolution and war!

This spirit of lawlessness is overtaking us today! In many cities and states, our governments are surrendering to destructive mobs!

Lincoln continued, “[W]henever the vicious portion of population shall be permitted to gather in bands of hundreds and thousands, and burn churches, ravage and rob provision stores, throw printing-presses into rivers, shoot editors, and hang and burn obnoxious persons at pleasure and with impunity—depend upon it, this government cannot last.”

What was Lincoln’s solution to this grave threat? To keep and enforce the law of the land!

Enforce the Law

Read these wise words about how to stamp out the sins of rioting, vandalism and violence: “The answer is simple. Let every American, every lover of liberty, … never to violate in the least particular the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others. … Let reverence for the laws be breathed by every American mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in primers, spelling books and in almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice,” he said. “And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation ….”

Lincoln’s reverence for law earned him great respect in America at that time. But far too many Americans today disagree.

He talked about the passions that fueled the American Revolution—and then said: “Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defense. Let those materials be molded into general intelligence, sound morality, and in particular, a reverence for the Constitution and laws: and that we improved to the last; that we remained free to the last; that we revered his [George Washington’s] name to the last; that, during his long sleep, we permitted no hostile foot to pass over or desecrate his resting place; shall be that which to learn the last trump shall awaken our Washington.”

Lincoln discussed the “last trump”—Jesus Christ’s return. How many politicians today ever mention that? Few ministers even talk about that. Lincoln spoke about what he read in the Bible, and he believed it.

Why did he mention not allowing any “hostile foot to pass over or desecrate [Washington’s] resting place”? There must have been people seeking to desecrate that grave—but Lincoln would ensure this never happened! How would he address the assault on statues in our day? He would forcibly confront it by enforcing law and order!

We haven’t been teaching this history like we should. Most of our young people today are ignorant of these important truths.

Lincoln detested and despised slavery. He literally put his life on the line to free slaves. Yet people today would mar the sacred memorial of this godly man. At what cost?

What if this history is erased, as some are trying to do today? Surely we can see this would be a devastating catastrophe to the nation.

Bring God In

In 1862, during the Civil War, Lincoln wrote to a friend, “We are indeed going through a great trial, a fiery trial. In the very responsible position in which I happen to be placed, being a humble servant in the hands of our heavenly Father, as I am, as we all are, to work out His great purposes, I have desired that all my work and acts may be according to His will, and that it might be so, I have sought His aid.”

Do presidents or politicians talk like this today? Again—it is rare to even hear a minister speak in such terms!

Following two devastating defeats in Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg, the war effort hinged on Gettysburg. What did Lincoln do? “I went to my room one day, and I locked the door, got down on my knees before Almighty God, and prayed to Him mightily for victory at Gettysburg. I told Him this was His war, and our cause was His cause, but we couldn’t stand another Fredericksburg or Chancellorsville. And then and there I made a solemn vow to Almighty God, that if He would stand by our boys at Gettysburg, I would stand by Him. And after that (I don’t know how it was, and I can’t explain it) a sweet comfort crept into my soul that God Almighty had taken the whole business into His own hands and that things would go all right at Gettysburg.”

Lincoln cried out to God for victory at Gettysburg! He brought God into the Civil War! And God used the Holy Spirit to comfort him and let him know He would give him victory.

Today, we are about to suffer a civil war that will be far worse! Are we too far beyond involving God this time? Lincoln brought God and His power and might in—and God heard that prayer. This is the only solution to these nightmarish problems.

In 2017, prominent members of President Donald Trump’s administration misquoted an important Bible passage, which reads: “If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14). Those leaders omitted the parts about turning from wickedness and receiving forgiveness for sin!

The Bible says our prayers are in vain if we don’t repent and obey God! Christ said, “[W]hy call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).

Lincoln warned Americans about growing complacent in their wealth and blessings. He said, “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 forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and 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 to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!” (March 30, 1863).

This is certainly true of America today. This world bristles with nuclear bombs, so many in the hands of men who shouldn’t even be in charge of nations. Christ warned of human extinction if He didn’t return to save us! (Matthew 24:21-22). Yet most people are heedlessly, foolishly pushing God aside. Very soon, all men will stop making that mistake—at that last trump, which, even if we don’t obey God, will be here in a very few years! That is how close we are to the Second Coming!

We must follow Lincoln’s example and look to God for solutions and deliverance. This is the only solution to America’s deadly division. The law is being discarded, and passionate, violent mobs are gaining more and more power. Our constitutional republic is at stake.

Soon God will intervene to solve our problems. He will do it His way, the only way that works: by putting down rebellion and establishing His perfect law!