As often as Abraham Lincoln referred to faith issues in speeches and ordinary conversation, one wonders if he may have felt a call toward pastoral ministry. An incident in the decade before Lincoln went to the White House suggests he might have been just as effective in ministry as he was in politics.
One day in the 1850’s, Lincoln traveled to the home of a Springfield, Illinois client to help her with her will. He took along fell Springfield resident Gilbert J. Greene to serve as a witness to the signing of the document. His task was urgent, since the elderly client was nearing the end of her life.
Lincoln conferred with his client about her wishes and worked rapidly to document her estate plans. Once that was complete, Lincoln sensed she had more on her mind than putting her earthly affairs in order.
Greene recalled how impressed he was with the sympathy, compassion, and spiritual counseling the distinguished attorney conferred upon the woman. He talked with her, read the 23rd Psalm, and concluded by reciting the words of the hymn “Rock of Ages.” “While Lincoln was reciting the last stanza,” said Greene, “a look of peace and resignation lit up the countenance of the dying woman. In a few minutes more she passed away.”
Later, as the two men departed the woman’s home, Greene said, “Mr. Lincoln, I have been thinking that is very extraordinary that you should so perfectly have acted as pastor as well as attorney.” Lincoln paused, thought about his colleague’s words, and responded, “God and Eternity and Heaven were very near to me today.”
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