CREDOS: Great wisdom — VI

In this vulnerable period, Lincoln took counsel from the Reverend Phineas D Gurley, whose Presbyterian church he attended. In his eulogy over Willie, Gurley preached that “in the hour of trial” one must look to “Him who sees the end from the beginning and doeth all things well.”

With confidence in God, Gurley said, “our sorrows will be sanctified and made a blessing to our souls, and by and by we shall have occasion to say with blended gratitude and rejoicing,

‘It is good for us that we have been afflicted.’” Lincoln asked Gurley to write out a copy of the eulogy.

It articulated what would emerge as the president’s central creed.

In his burdens, Lincoln found comfort in humility. “There was something touching,” said the journalist Noah Brooks, “in his childlike and simple reliance upon Divine aid, especially when in such extremities as he sometimes fell into he more earnestly than ever sought that strength which is promised when mortal help faileth.” One time Lincoln said, in Brooks’s hearing, “I am very sure that if I do not go away from here a wiser man, I shall go away a better man, for having learned what a very poor sort of man I am.” It was all the more powerful that Lincoln delivered this message with cheer.

Yet Lincoln’s view did not lessen his grave sense of responsibility. Every day presented scores of decisions — on personnel, policy, movement of troops and the direction of executive departments. —