In Springfield, Illinois in the June of 1858, Abraham Lincoln prepared a speech to be delivered at the upcoming Republican convention. He probably put more effect into it than any other address he had ever delivered. Surrounded by twelve of his most trusted friends and advisors, “he quoted what another had said in the midst of his twelve, ‘A house divided against itself, cannot stand’. ‘I believe,’ said Lincoln, ‘This government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.” He went on to say, ‘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. Either to the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it . . . the ultimate extinction or its advocates will push it forward until it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new. North as well as south. (Sounding Forth the Trumpet p 440).
What Lincoln and America faced that led to the Civil War are the same circumstances that we face today in America. We are a house divided against itself and as Jesus declared, such a house cannot stand.
Think of some of the ways that we are divided –
ABORTION – Roughly half of Americans approve of abortion, even in many cases late term abortions whilst the rest of Americans increasingly see this as taking the life of an unborn child. It is hard to find any form of compromise between the pro-choice forces and the pro-life supporters. No matter what is produced to support the sanctity of life, such as ultrasounds, and even Hillary Clinton’s slip of the tongue referring to the unborn as a person, people’s minds are so set in concrete and we remain a nation divided.
SEX AND MORALS – The high court’s ruling on same-sex marriage did not resolve the issue. In many things ways, it made it more difficult and confusing. In Minnesota, when the vote was taken on same-sex marriage, it was roughly half for it and the rest against it. On top of that are the issues of religious freedom and conscience. We are a totally mixed up nation in regard to what is right or wrong in regards to sexual matters.
POLITICS – We are divided by ideology, particularly more than the last 70 years. There are those who are now promoting a socialist form of government for the United States, with Senator Bernie Sanders leading the charge. It has been amazing the amount of support he has received for his progressive socialist agenda. On the other hand, there are those who project the belief that it was the capitalist system that made America into the greatest financial nation and power in the world today and to turn away from that ideology will be the downturn of America. These views, in their extremes, are diametrically opposite concepts of how America should be. Eventually, one of these will win out or else we will keep battling to a draw and that leaves America as a loser.
GENERATIONALLY – There is a growing gulf between the generations. The new millennial generation is more for socialism, supports gay marriage and is more liberal in its views. The older generation is generally more conservative in its beliefs, but of course, it is gradually dying out. It will be interesting to see what society is like in another generation to come.
OUR PLACE IN THE WORLD – There are those who see America as the only country with the ability to make a difference for good in a troubled world, even though the ideals of exporting democracy to other countries have not always succeeded. Others believe America should pull back and put America first and thus be more isolated from the affairs of other nations.
So, we could go on . . . Where will this all end?
Based on the words of Jesus (as well at the thoughts of Abraham Lincoln), our nation cannot stand. A house divided against itself cannot and will not stand. There are only a few alternatives:
- The secular society will take over America and socialism will become the order of the day. Christians will no longer be a dominant factor in the life of our nation.
- A revival will come that will turn the hearts of people back to the Lord and we will begin to rebuild the Biblical foundations that once undergirded this nation, even at the beginning, irrespective of what happens politically.
Some would see that the first option will lead to God’s judgment on the nation. But, sometimes it will involve both judgment and hope, or as one prophecy put it God will send ‘Revival on a Platter of Ruin.’
Indeed, I believe God is desiring to do just that: send a new wave of revival through this land that will draw us back to our God and creator, as we pray the familiar words of II Chronicles 7:14.
REVIVAL – In 1857, there was a man by the name of Jeremiah Lumpier. ‘One day as I was walking along the streets, ‘he recorded in his journal, “the idea was suggested to my mind that an hour of prayer, from twelve to one o’clock, would be beneficial to businessmen, who usually, in great numbers, take that hour for rest and refreshment.” A weekly prayer service – the meeting would be for businessmen, but workmen of all trades would be welcome.
He printed up and passed out handbills, telling where and when the first businessmen’s prayer meeting would take place: at noon, September 23, to run for one hour in the North Dutch Church’s third-floor meeting room on Fulton Street. But now, as the wall clock struck the half hour, it looked as if no one was coming . . . . He stayed in communion with His maker, trusting and obeying. And waiting.
Downstairs, someone had opened a door. There was a creak on the stairs. A man came into the room, saw Jeremiah, and without a word knelt beside him. Another came, and another. By one o’clock there were six. The following week there were 20. The week after that there were 40 – and these asked if they could start meeting every day; a week was too long to go without that blessed communion.
By October 8, there were so many men that they had to move down to the larger meeting room on the second floor. By the fourth Wednesday, there were ‘over a hundred present, many of them not professors of religion, but under conviction of sin and seeking an interest in Christ; inquiring what they shall do to be saved.
The ‘Fulton Street Meetings’ as they came to be know, drew more and more men, and now a few women as well, until all three of the church’s meeting rooms were full, and the John Street Methodist Church around the corner opened to handle the overflow. Other churches began to follow suit, many opening at the noon hour, with another opening before work. Soon there was such a need for places to pray that police and fire stations opened their doors for prayer.
At one meeting, speaking to some 3,000 New Yorkers in Butron’s Theater on Chambers Street, Henry Ward Beecher related this recent incident, “A merchant came here from Albany and called on one of our New York merchants to buy some goods. At twelve o’clock the New York merchant looked at his watch and asked to be excused for an hour. The other objected, as he was in haste to get through with his business. He replied that he must go to the prayer meeting; it was of more importance than to sell his whole stock of goods. The gentleman from Albany inquired if he could not pray enough at morning and night without leaving his business at noon? The merchant said he could not; and by persuasion and gentle force he induced his friend to go to the prayer meeting with him. The man went to the meeting, became interested, and came out a converted man. He went home to Albany, and immediately started those prayer meetings there which have been so blessed to God.’ (Sounding Forth the Trumpet p. 418)
During the 1857 – 58 revival, millions turned to God. It did not prevent the Civil War from happening, but as Dr. Girandeau, of Charleston, South Carolina, who had begun nightly prayer meetings in his church, felt God had spiritually prepared the entire nation to go through the refining fire that was coming. A fire that began a new era.
Maybe that is what God wants to do here in America today and we may well see ‘Revival on a Platter of Ruin’ and the fulfillment of Isaiah 60:1-2. Light and glory in the midst of darkness.