President Abraham Lincoln is known as “The Great Emancipator” because he signed “The Emancipation Proclamation” freeing the slaves in the southern states which were in rebellion against The United States government as of January 1, 1863. Though legally free, the slaves in the South were not physically free until the North won the Civil War in April of 1865. Even after the war was over, it took a long time for the news to penetrate into the back country of the deep South. An old slave, still working on a plantation, was asked what he thought of The Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Lincoln. He replied that he had not heard anything about that. The fact that he had not heard anything about his emancipation from slavery did not mean that he was not legally free.
The Greatest Emancipator
There have been other emancipators of slaves in other countries. Moses freed the Jewish people from over 400 years of slavery in Egypt. The Greatest Emancipator of all is the Lord Jesus Christ who died to free everyone in the whole world from slavery to sin. Jesus declared that you will know the truth and the truth shall make you free. He further stated that everyone who sins becomes a slave of sin, but the one whom the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:32-36 RSV). The fact that many people around the world have not yet heard of their emancipation does not mean that they have not been spiritually freed.
The Great Emancipator
President Abraham Lincoln, The Great Emancipator, believed in and was inspired by The Greatest Emancipator, the Lord Jesus Christ. Concerning salvation, Lincoln’s key verse of Holy Scripture was I Cor. 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” He logically and correctly concluded that whatever harm Adam had caused the human race, was all corrected in Christ, the Redeemer and Savior of the world.
When word leaked that President Lincoln was going to appoint Rev. James Shrigley (1813-1905), a universalist minister, to be a chaplain in the United States Army, some Protestant clergymen traveled to Washington D. C. hoping to persuade Lincoln not to appoint Shrigley. When the President asked them why they were opposed to Rev. Shrigley’s appointment as an Army Chaplain they replied that he believed that everyone is going to be saved including the southern rebels! President Lincoln responded that there was no better reason than that to appoint Shrigley, and he made the appointment.
As the bloody Civil War appeared to be drawing to a close, President Lincoln gave his Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865. He compassionately stated, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” Unfortunately, for Lincoln’s family and our nation, he was assassinated on April 15, 1865, and a harsh, rather than a compassionate, reconstruction plan was pursued by those in the Federal Government who wanted to punish more than rehabilitate the southern states which had formed the Confederacy.
If The Great Emancipator, with human failings, was so compassionate as to declare, near the end of the Civil War, “malice toward none and charity for all,” how much more will The Greatest Emancipator, at the end of the war between good and evil, proclaim hatred for none and love for all! Punishment by The Greatest Emancipator is only for correction and rehabilitation so it will be exactly proportional, perfectly just, totally redemptive, and forever lasting. The result of the war between good and evil will be all spiritual rebels back home in the family of God living peacefully with all created beings and worshiping God and the Lamb (The Greatest Emancipator) eternally (Rev. 5:13)!