All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.
At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide (Abraham Lincoln, “Lyceum Address“).
On April 28, 1836, a mob of white men lynched Francis McIntosh, a young black man, by burning him alive in St. Louis. Less than two years later, on January 27, 1838, Abraham Lincoln, only 28 years old, used that event as the “text” for one of his earliest speeches. The quote above struck me as I read this speech out loud to my four year old daughter the other day. At the time, I was oblivious to its context. Today, it hits like a ton of bricks.
In light of the horrific and evil attacks against black Americans this year, I found Lincoln’s words eerily prophetic. Yet Lincoln’s warning of civic suicide, unbeknownst to him, goes beyond race-relations. There are other symptoms that reveal this nation is not progressing, but become more and more self-destructive. If your eyes are open, the signs are hard to miss.
At the same time, we do rightly celebrate being a free nation this weekend. Freedom is a good thing. At the same time, I can’t help but grieve because our civic freedom has given us opportunity to be slaves to things far worse than political bondage. This will lead, in Lincoln’s words, to suicide.
This American experiment will not last forever. It can’t. Like every other kingdom this world has seen, destruction will be our lot. American is not the exception. Why? There’s another Kingdom that exists, and though unseen, it’s real and it cannot be destroyed. And it will overcome all the other kingdoms of this world. And when you see and enter this Kingdom, the King—his name is Jesus—will set you truly free in ways you cannot even imagine. Then, no matter whether your earthly country thrives or dies, you can rejoice all the more because you belong to an abiding and better one.