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“The more our spirits are enlarged on earth,
The deeper draught will they receive of heaven."
“The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree; he shall grow like a cedar in
Lebanon." — PSALM xcii. 12.
The celebrated German poet Goethe once made this instructive declaration, in a conversation with his friend Eckerman: “Each bon-mot has cost me a purse of gold: half a million of my own money, the fortune I inherited, my salary, and the large income I have derived from my writings for fifty years back, have been expended to instruct me in what I know." Men are apt to overlook the stupendous price at which they have every thing; and the culture which has only been secured through a civilization which has cost suffering and toil and thought, and even heroism and martyrdom, is still deemed to have been obtained without much expenditure, when, in fact, it was priceless; so much so, that to ask its amount is almost like asking, with the Lord Jesus, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
We think of that log-cabin in the woods, of the inelegant surroundings of the future President, and say, "Such a man was not cultured, and it cost nothing to train him for duty and destiny.” But it did cost much: not, it may be, of money, though more of that than a superficial observer might suppose; but labor and influence and
prayers, and the silent but powerful ministrations of Nature and Nature's God with his angelic messengers,
who are declared to be “ministering spirits, sent forth to min. ister for them who shall be heirs of salvation."
Abraham Lincoln was not a man of science, or a literary man, as men often use those terms. He would not be classed with Humboldt or Newton, nor with Scott or Irving; but he was nevertheless a man of culture. Labor made him such; his own earnest efforts to gain learning, his parents' efforts that he should obtain at least the rudiments of an education, and enter, at all events, the porch of the temple of wisdom, and the labor of instructors who must have been encouraged by the earnest attention and patient industry of the boy for whom God had in store a high place and a noble work. Influence the influence of mighty rulers in the realm of mind, mighty though fow— was brought to bear upon his nascent spirit for its growth and culture. Plutarch and Asop, Washington, and Franklin, and Clay, lived for Abraham Lincoln, as well as for others whom they have influenced in the paths of honor and virtue. And the tinker of Bedford, whose immortal allegory wreathes its author's head with the unfading laurels, — he, too, had no mean part in the culture of a man who has proved himself often a Great-Heart, but never a Worldly-wise-Man. And, above all, the historians and prophets of ancient times, the Hebrew bards whose harps will never cease to echo through the ages, the apostolic teachers of the dawning Christian era, and especially He who “spake as never man spake," — all had their mighty and far-reaching influence on the mind of the boy, who, like young Timothy, studied the Holy Scriptures, and early accepted them as a “lamp to his feet and a light to his path.”
Prayers, too, had something to do with his culture.
There may be those who scoff at prayer, who scout the idea once expressed in rhythmical harmony, that
Prayer moves the hand which moves the world;"
but as there are forces in Nature whose origin and influence we cannot fully explain, while yet we are compelled to acknowledge their existence;. so, though we may not comprehend how prayer accomplishes its divinely appointed ends, yet it is none the less true that prayer is a power in the universe. Other things being equal, he that has most power in prayer is surest of success; for in prayer he takes hold of the arm of God, joins to his weakness the infinite strength, and finds himself possessed of the true Archimedean lever.
Abraham Lincoln's mother was a praying woman. “She who would rather her son would learn to read his Bible than own a farm' was a true, model mother; and when in his early childhood a green mound in the wilderness showed that she had finished her course, and gained her reward, well might that boy Lincoln visit that holy place, and weep for very bitterness of soul." * The prayers of such a woman must have been answered in the dew of grace that early fell upon the soul of her motherless boy. There were other prayers, too, which undoubtedly had their unseen influence in the culture of Abraham Lincoln. Far away in the rice-swamps and cotton-plantations of the South, a long-oppressed race were crying for deliverance. Worse task-masters tha those of Egypt were crushing out the very manhood and womanhood of the slavery-cursed people; and the despairing cry of agony went up to heaven, in the tears and groans and prayers of long, long years, for a deliverer. God heard those prayers; and slowly to our eyes and to their waiting hearts, but more surely for the fulfilment of his own grand purposes of love and mercy,
* Rev. A. Caldwell's Address.
, he prepared the man who should grasp the keys of destiny with a firm hand but a tender heart, and unlock the doors of the prison-house. And so prayer cultured Abraham Lincoln.
But how describe the culture which that great soul received from Nature with her myriad forms of beauty, and from God and the angels? The receptive mind, consciously or unconsciously (and more often the latter), is powerfully impressed with the wonders of the outward world; and Abraham Lincoln was one of those who could not witness that awakening of the spring-time, which Longfellow calls "the great annual miracle of Na. ture," without receiving lasting and salutary impressions. Sc, too, the “ soft summer-time,” autumn with its golden glory, and the winter with its crystals of geometric beauty covering the earth with a snowy carpet, - all taught him divinest lessons.
There was no Vatican, nor British Museum, nor Astor Library, with their myriad volumes, to aid in his intellectual culture; but he early learned to find
“ Tongues in the trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing;
and his young soul grew more and more.
Angels from the world of light hovered around his pathway, as long ago around his Lord, and as they encamp around all God's dear children. The dream of Doddridge, which showed him an angel-guardian in many a scene of danger through which he had passed, was but a truthful expression of the fact that the cloud of witnesses” ever around the immortal but earth-veiled spirit
of the child of God are fulfilling grand purposes of blessing to the soul they guard.
Above all, Abraham Lincoln was taught of God. The “still small voice” was not unheard by him from early infancy. His own prayers mingled with those already mentioned, and the Great Spirit heard and answered. The divine utterance in his own soul was not unheeded; and day by day listening to it, and heeding its requirements, he not only “grew in wisdom and in stature,” but, like the Holy Child, he also “grew in favor with God and man.”
“The man who is complete in that for which the world wants him," as Abraham Lincoln was, "seems not only to be suited for his work, but to have had all circumstances suited to him. He is born in the right age of history. The proper spot of earth waits for him and receives him. The household into which he enters appears best for him amidst all the households of humanity. So perhaps it might not be judged in many a case if we saw the man in the first stages of his nurture; but so we find it when we can see his life in its issues. A similar adaptation may be noticed in any remarkable man's tastes, trials, and pursuits; in all, indeed, that subserves his training and his experience.”* Abraham Lincoln became just such a remarkable man, after a youth spent in receiving just the culture of heart and mind needed for his place in the world.
The early days of Lincoln, spent in the obscurity of his forest home, have already been traced. His removal to Illinois brought him to new scenes, and under new influences. He was now to be cultured by society in a greater degree than ever before.
* “Illustrations of Genius,” by Rev. Henry Giles.