An Exhortation, Delivered at the White House, 1862.
The Response from Lincoln.
A Letter from Eliza P. Gurney to Abraham Lincoln, 1863.
This Document is on The Quaker Writings Home Page.
I can truly say it is not from any motive of idle curiosity that I have requested this interview. I
come in the love of the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, - that blessed gospel which
breathes glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and good will to men. In common with the
members of my own Society, - may I not say in common with every true-hearted citizen of the
United States? - my spirit has been introduced into near sympathy with our Chief Magistrate in
the heavy weight of responsibility that rests upon him; believing, as I do, that in the faithful
discharge of his various and important duties he does endeavor to preserve a conscience void of
offense toward God and man. And earnestly have I desired that when weighted with cares and
anxieties he may commit his way unto the Lord, that he may be careful for nothing, but in
everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, he may let his requests be made known
unto God; and then, whatever the trials and perplexities he may have to pass through, the peace of
God, which passeth all understanding, will keep his heart and mind, through Jesus Christ our
In common with thousands and tens of thousands on both sides of the Atlantic, my heart has rejoiced in the noble effort which our honored President has made to keep the true fast, - the fast which the Lord hath chosen, to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burthens, to let the oppressed go free; and I assuredly believe that for this magnanimous deed the children yet unborn will rise up and call him blessed in the name of the Lord. But trials and persecutions are the lot of all who endeavor to maintain a just weight and a just balance, and who desire to be found walking in the path of uprightness. Then how sweet is the assurance to the Christian believer that God is his refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. There is a river the streams whereof make glad the whole heritage of God. And seeing how difficult it is to accomplish that which we wish, and how vain is the help of man, I have earnestly desired that the President might repair day by day, and oftener than the day, to this river of God, which is full of water, even to the well-spring of Eternal Life, that thus his spirit may be strengthened and refreshed, and be fitted for the right performance of his various and arduous duties; and by the grace of God he may be made an instrument in hastening the coming of that glorious day when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ, and He shall rule and reign forever and for evermore; when swords shall be beaten into pruning-hooks, when nation shall no longer lift up sword against nation, nor the people learn war any more. What a glorious transition would be witnessed here, from a scene of desolation and sorrow and suffering to one of. peace and joy and love! The wilderness would become as Eden, the desert as the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness would be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody. And now, my dear friend, if so I may be permitted to call thee, may the Lord bless thee and keep thee, lift up the light of His glorious countenance upon .thee, and give thee peace! How precious is the assurance, contained in the blessed book of Divine inspiration, that they that dwell in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty I He shall cover them with His feathers, and under His wings shall they trust. His truth shall be their shield and buckler. A thousand may fall at their side, and ten thousand at their right hand, but it shall not come nigh them, because they have made the Lord their refuge, even the Most High their habitation; there shall no evil befall them, neither shall any plague come nigh their dwelling.
May this be thy blessed experience! May our Father in heaven guide thee by His own unerring
counsel through the remaining difficulties of thy wilderness journey, bestow upon thee a double
portion of that wisdom which cometh down from above, and, finally, when thou shalt have served
thy generation according to the will of God, through the fullness of His atoning, pardoning love
and mercy in Jesus Christ our Lord, receive thy ransomed spirit into that rest which remaineth for
the people of God, unite it to the glorious company of victors whom the apostle saw standing on
the sea of glass mingled with fire, having the harps of God in their hands ! And they sang the song
of Moses and the song of the Lamb, saying, "Great and marvelous are Thy works, Lord God
Almighty, just and true are all Thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear before Thee and
glorify Thy name, for Thou only. art holy!
(Reconstructed from memory by another of the company.)
I am glad of this interview. In the very responsible situation in which I am placed, as an humble
instrument in the hands of my heavenly Father, I have desired that all my words and actions may
be in accordance with His will; but if, after endeavoring to do my best with the light which He
affords me, I find my efforts fail, then I must believe that, for some purpose unknown to me, He
wills it otherwise. If I had had my way, this war would never have been; but, nevertheless, it
came. If I had had my way, the war would have ended before this; but, nevertheless, it still
continues. We must conclude that He permits it for some wise purpose, though we may not be
able to comprehend it; for we cannot but believe that He who made the world still governs it. I
repeat that I am glad of this Interview."
Letter of Eliza P. Gurney to Abraham Lincoln, 1863.
(Written at his request, conveyed through Isaac Newton, U.S. Commissioner of Agriculture.)
To the President of the United States.
EARLHAM LODGE, Eighth mo. I8th, 1863.
ESTEEMED FRIEND, ABRAHAM LINCOLN,
Many times since I was privileged to have an interview with thee, nearly a year ago, my mind has
turned toward thee with feelings of sincere and Christian interest; and as our kind friend, Isaac
Newton, offers to be the bearer of a paper messenger, I feel inclined to give thee the assurance of
my continued hearty sympathy in all thy heavy burthens and responsibilities, and to express not
only my own earnest prayer, but, I believe, the prayer of many thousands whose hearts thou hast
gladdened by thy praiseworthy and successful efforts "to burst the bands wickedness and let the
oppressed go free" that the Almighty Ruler of the universe may strengthen thee to accomplish all
the blessed purposes which, in the unerring counsel of His will and wisdom, do assuredly believe
He did design to make instrumental in accomplishing when He thee thy present post of vast
responsibility as Chief Magistrate of this great nation.
Many are the trials incident to such positions, and believe thy conflicts and anxieties have not been
few. "May the Lord hear thee in this day of trouble, the name of the God of Jacob defend thee,
send thee help from His sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion." The Lord fulfill all thy
petitions that put up in the name of the Prince of peace, of the increase of whose government and
of whose peace He has Himself declared there shall never be an end.
I can hardly refrain from expressing my cordial approval of thy late excellent proclamation
appointing a day of thanksgiving for the sparing and preserving mercies which, in the tender
loving-kindness of our God and Saviour, have been so bountifully showered upon us; for though
(as a religious people) we do not set apart especial seasons for returning thanks either for spiritual
or temporal blessings, yet, as I humbly trust, our hearts are filled with gratitude to our Almighty
Father that His delivering arm of love and power has been so manifestly round about us. And I
rejoice in the decided recognition of an all-wise and superintending Providence, which is so
marked a feature in the aforesaid document, as well as the immediate influence and guidance of
the Holy Spirit, which perhaps never in any previous state paper has been so fully recognized
before. Especially did my inmost heart respond to thy desire "that the angry feeling which has so
long sustained this needless and cruel rebellion may be subdued, the hearts of the insurgents
changed, and the whole nation be led through paths of repentance and submission to the Divine
Will back to the perfect enjoyment of union and fraternal peace. May the Lord in His infinite
compassion hasten the day! I will not occupy thy time unduly, but, in a feeling of true Christian
sympathy and gospel love, commend thee and thy wife and your two dear children to the
preserving care of the unslumbering Shepherd, who in His matchless mercy gave His life for the
sheep, who is alone able to keep of from falling, and, finally, when done with the unsatisfying
things of mutability, to give us an everlasting inheritance among all them that are sanctified
throughout the eternal spirit of our God.
Respectfully and sincerely thy assured friend,
Eliza P. Gurney.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, September 4th, 1864.
ELIZA P. GURNEY:
MY ESTEEMED FRIEND, - I have not forgotten, probably never shall forget, the very
impressive occasion when yourself and friends visited me on a Sabbath forenoon two years ago.
Nor has your kind letter, written nearly a year later, ever been forgotten. In all it has been your
purpose to strengthen my reliance on God. I am much indebted to the good Christian people of
the country for their constant prayers and consolations, and to no one of them more than to
yourself.. The purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must prevail, though we erring mortals
may fail to accurately perceive them in advance. We hoped for a happy termination of this terrible
war long before this; but God knows best, and has ruled otherwise. We shall yet acknowledge His
wisdom and our own error therein. Meanwhile we must work earnestly in the best light He gives
us, trusting that so working still conduces to the great ends He ordains. Surely He intends some
great good to follow this mighty convulsion, which no mortal could make, and no mortal could
stay. Your people, the Friends, have had and are having a very great trial. On principle and faith
opposed to both war and oppression, they can only practically oppose oppression by war. In this
hard dilemma some have chosen one horn and some the other. For those appealing to me on
conscientious grounds I have done, and shall do, tile best I could and can, in my own conscience,
under my oath to the law. That you believe this I doubt not, and, believing it, I shall still receive
for our country and myself your earnest prayers to our Father in heaven.
Your sincere friend,