In the summer of 1858 Abraham Lincoln stood before the Republican State Convention in Springfield, Illinois and delivered the shocking “A house divided” speech for which he is widely remembered and quoted: “I believe that this Government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved–I do not expect the house to fall–but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.” It was his polarizing, gauntlet-throwing statement, this preemptive shot across the southern bow, that ultimately set the stage for the southern slave states to immediately secede from the Union the moment Lincoln won the 1860 Presidential election.
Let us not, however, forget that Lincoln was quoting Jesus who in Mark 2:25 was describing an important key of supernatural division of the kingdom. The church leaders of his day had just claimed that Jesus had derived his miracle- working power from Satan and Jesus was setting them straight on the origins of Holy Spirit power. Spiritual warfare was rampant in Jesus’ day, equally evident during the Civil War times. Today we are poised on the precipice, with front- row seats for the final act.
No matter what your denominational roots or political affiliations, we can all agree that we live in very serious times. I have written many times on various red flag concerns and potential pitfalls that I see forming internationally as well as here at home. There are startling Mid- Eastern developments which the United States seems determined to broker, along with the residual effects of poorly managed overseas military operations which daily give rise to what can only be seen as fulfillment of Biblical prophecy before our eyes. Closer to home, we find ourselves in a country deeply divided along many lines and on many issues. Unfortunately, political corruption and government scandals are rampant. None of us like to think that the Government has the right to tell us what we can and cannot do. Many critically important cans of wormy issues have continually been kicked down the road awaiting leaders with the fortitude and wisdom to tackle them. As a result, now, a host of critical chickens have come home to roost that will affect the future and livlihood of our grandchildren and beyond. We live in a time where the Congress is so steeped in verbal animosity and political showmanship that its seems that nothing of import can ever be accomplished!
These are all statements that could just as easily have been made during Pre-Civil war years in America. Sadly, when a nation, states, organization or an individual saturates themselves completely in these types of sentiments of entitlement, hostility, a sense of impending doom and abject lawlessness, it can and will metastasize into something dark and ugly. And, although slavery is no longer the hot button issue on the floor of the Senate, there are many legalized, morally repugnant laws that fly in the face of Godly tolerance. We as a nation would do well to look back and learn; for those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. Here is a prime example:
John Wilkes Booth was a tall, good-looking man from a famous theatrical family with a marvelous career. In our day he would be a movie star complete with fan club and public notoriety. His home state of Maryland had opted out of joining the Confederacy and he was not alone in the Washington area in his Southern sympathies. As though he may have been playing out a starring role in some dramatic scene in his own mental play, the imminent Confederate collapse began to twist something in the actor’s mind. News several weeks before,that Lee had surrendered at Appomattox, appears to have spurred him to action; whether to prolong the conflict or fell a Goliath foe, we will never know. On April 14 he slipped into President Lincoln’s box at Ford’s Theater and before anyone even noticed what had happened he delivered a fatal .50 caliber shot into the back of Mr. Lincoln’s head. Booth leaped over the small balcony to make his escape but his foot got caught in the fancy bunting that decorated the presidential box at the theater. He lost his balance, landed badly and broke his leg when he hit the stage. Adrenalin, no doubt, quashed the shock of his injury and he pulled himself up to make his escape. Mid-stage, Booth turns and gives the last line he will ever deliver from stage to the stunned audience, “Sic Semper Tyrannis!” Which is Latin for: Thus always with tyrants and– the Virginia state motto as well.
Booth had a horse saddled and ready for a quick get-a-way and made it out of Washington and across the river into Virginia. He was able to get his leg set and then spent the next 10 days on the lamb, lurking in the woods hoping to find a viable route to safety. On April 26, 1865, 150 years ago this week,Federal troops scouring the countryside, finally found him hiding in a tobacco barn. In the excitement of trying to burn the barn down around his ears, Booth was shot in the head, just an inch from the same place where he had shot the President. Sic Semper Tyrannis, indeed!
Booth had, narcissistically, expected fame and glory, and gratitude. He viewed his actions as a public service and seemed shocked that the third act of this play did not end with victorious escape into sheltered Southern hinterlands. He had perhaps envisioned himself as a famous poster-boy to rally the weary troops, or a beloved savior of the South who if they could not win the conflict could at least eliminate the ONE that he had decided was to blame for all the southern woes. It is interesting to note that one so committed to the cause had not seen fit to enlist on behalf of the South. Instead, it looks as though he chose to Monday-morning quarterback. Unhappy with the final score, he festered and fumed with cronies of a similar mindset, they tried to send the game into overtime with their nefarious violent actions.
Booth’s assassination of Lincoln had long and devastatingly, lasting ripples. A President who was weary of war and ready to mend burned bridges and unify the country at any cost was now gone. His successor, Andrew Johnson , fed on the anger and outrage of Lincoln’s assassination and went out of his way to use Reconstruction to vengefully punish and humiliate the Southern states for Booth’s actions. This was a crushingly sad end to the Civil conflict where 620,000 American’s died in the Civil War with disease killing twice as many as those lost in battle.
I don’t know if Mr. Booth ever came, belatedly to any regretful conclusions. Noteworthy historic lessons if learned at all are often better learned from a safe distance. However, I will posit a few that jump out at me and have Biblical substance to back them up:
Forgiveness is essential in any situation, no matter who you are or when you live. Black-White: North-South: Republican- Democrat. Haves or have nots. Unforgiveness is a toxic cancer that will eat you alive, open doors to the demonic and keep you from your inheritance. (Matt 18:21-35)
Mr. Booth, surely, finally realized that murder is a sin and punishable by death (Exodus 20:13) and Pride comes before destruction.(Proverbs 16:18) He couldn’t see that that he was the slave. (John 8:34)
In a world of 24 hours news and constant verbose commentary as well as hosts of internet sources for any political bent it is easy to react in fear and anxiety. 2 Timothy 1:7 clearly states that Fear is not a spirit that emanates from God. Folks need to be particularly vigilant about the amount of time they spend watching, listening and reading news. political ruminations, conflicts, conspiracy theories real or imagined and
consciously balance that volatile input with equal doses (or more)of worship, prayer and Bible study. True wisdom is from God.( 1 Cor. 3:19, Proverbs 3:13-18, James 3:17) It keeps your thinking in balance. Many a conflict could be avoided if this helpful hint were followed. Isaiah 26:9, 2 Tim 2:15, Psalms 119:15
Constitutional States rights surely took a huge hit in the 19th Century and have never fully recovered. We also continue to watch and note that Big Government unchecked and unbalanced is never a good thing. From the comfort of time and our 21st century arm chairs we can all agree that slavery is wrong. Could perhaps the Civil War been avoided had compromise’s been entertained that compensated Southern land owners for their loss? Perhaps, but we will never know. (Matthew 22:21) Daniel 2:21 and Psalms 75:7 are also good cautionary reading that our leadership should review.
Conflict and Chaos are the permanent playground of demonic forces.They feed on anger and relish the blood sacrifice sown of fear and violence. Ironically, both sides as well as John Wilkes Booth, were positive that God was on their side and that right would prevail. The tragic loss of lives and treasure and potential is a sad, bitter legacy for both sides. Satan’s fruit is Hate, anger, death and chaos. Jesus’s stock in trade is Love, truth, Peace and Life! Choose your sides carefully as the consequences are eternal. (Galatians 5:22)
Unfortunately, while legalized slavery is a thing of the past there are many types of slavery and bondage that are rampant today. (Lev. 18:21, Lev.20:2-5, 1 King 11:7, Jerimiah 32:35) Freedom comes with a price that defies John Wilkes Booth’s dramatic cry of SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS! Tyrants will not always prevail. True, lasting freedom, is only found through belief in Christ Jesus. (John 14:60) I want to leave you with Jesus’ thoughts on slavery which apply not to just one color or segment of society but to every one of us:
As he spoke these words many believed on him. Then Jesus said to those Jews which believed on him,” If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed: And you shall know the truth and the truth will make you free”
They answered him,” We are Abraham’s seed and were never in bondage to any man: how an you say that you will be made free?”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly I say unto you, Who ever commits sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abides not in the house for ever: But the Son abideth forever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed!” John 8:30-36
Overthrow the plan of the Tyrant and be Free Indeed!