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Meditation on the Divine Will

This fragment was found and preserved by John Hay, one of President Lincoln's White House secretaries, who said it was "not written to be seen of men." Some of the thoughts expressed here, written after discouraging days of personal sorrow and military defeats, also appear in Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address of 1865.

Hay said that in this writing "Mr. Lincoln admits us into the most secret recesses of his soul .... Perplexed and afflicted beyond the power of human help, by the disasters of war, the wrangling of parties, and the inexorable and constraining logic of his own mind, he shut out the world one day, and tried to put into form his double sense of responsibility to human duty and Divine Power; and this was the result. It shows -- as has been said in another place -- the awful sincerity of a perfectly honest soul, trying to bring itself into closer communion with its Maker."

Washington, D.C.
September, 1862

The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party -- and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say that this is probably true -- that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere great power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And, having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.


Source: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler et al.

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