Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

by Abraham Lincoln

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What theme does President Lincoln present in this passage from his second inaugural address?

"Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes."

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In his second inaugural address Lincoln is referring to the soon to be concluded Civil War and its combatants. Both sides have prayed to the same God; both sides have prayed for an easy victory. Yet neither side has had its prayers answered fully. As Lincoln sees it, this is only right and proper, for God moves in mysterious ways to perform his wonders. Although it was perfectly natural that people on both sides of the conflict desperately wanted a speedy conclusion to the war, ultimately its continuation was God's will. Lincoln wants to remind his audience of how everything is ultimately part of a divine plan, much bigger than any single one of us. Having had our hopes and prayers dashed for a swift cessation of hostilities, all that we can now do is to recognize that God has his purposes and that we must humbly yield to them.

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