Untribal God

Lincoln's Second Inaugural
Illinois claims Abraham Lincoln as a native son, because even though he was not born in the state, he settled in Springfield, which is where he practiced law, entered politics, married and raised his children. We Presbyterians like to claim him too, though he never formally joined a church and his parents were Separate Baptists. In Springfield he attended First Presbyterian Church—his wife was a member—and he appreciated the carefully reasoned sermons of the church’s pastor, James Smith.

In Washington the Lincolns tried several churches and settled on New York Avenue Presbyterian, near the White House. The minister, Phineas Densmore Gurley, was a Princeton graduate who, like Smith, emphasized reason. Lincoln was put off by the emotionalism he witnessed as a youth in revivalistic religion. Gurley officiated at Willie Lincoln’s funeral, was called to the bedside of the dying president, and preached Lincoln’s funeral sermon.


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