Lincoln and the Great Emancipator

February 16, 2017

Roger Campbell

Roger Campbell

The birth dates of our famous February presidents (the 12th and 22nd) have been easy for me to remember since I was a child. My grandfather shared the calendar date of his birth (Feb. 22) with George Washington, the emancipator of political freedom, but the year of his birth (1858) was closer to that of Abraham Lincoln, the emancipator of slaves. Adding to my intrigue with that era, were my grandfather’s related childhood memories of marching around the house beating on a dishpan, pretending he was a soldier in the Civil War.

William Wilberforce was another February born emancipator. Born with poor health, on February 23rd, 1759 in England, Wilberforce finally became a member of Parliament and gave himself to ending the slave trade in Great Britain. His passion for emancipation grew out of his faith in Christ, whom he saw as the ultimate emancipator, and though his struggle to free slaves, ending this terrible trade was long, Parliament officially ended slavery on the day of his funeral.

While public recognition of Lincoln’s passion for freeing slaves is rightly connected with his signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, there is another little known dimension to his passion relating to slavery of all kinds, especially to those in bondage to alcohol. In one of his speeches, he said alcohol had come across the land “like the Egyptian angel of death, commissioned to slay if not the first, the fairest born of every family.” And on the day of his death, Lincoln pledged to give of his heart, hand and purse to helping people break free from alcohol’s enslaving power.

What was Lincoln’s strategy for lifting people from the power of addiction? We’re not sure of the details of his plan but there is no question about his concern and commitment to freeing slaves, whatever the product or profit motive that had brought them into bondage. This passionate president had come into a personal relationship with the Great Emancipator and believed there was no limit to His power to set people free.

What does this have to do with you and me? Today, a century and a half after the horrendous practice of human slavery ended in America, there are an estimated twenty seven million slaves in the world. This unspeakable practice is terrorizing millions of men, women and children who have become property or pawns for pleasure or profit.

Add to this appalling picture the millions who have become voluntary slaves to alcohol and other drugs and the tragedy is mind boggling. What can we do about it? We can become concerned enough about this problem to enlist the help of Lincoln’s Great Emancipator.

How long has it been since freeing slaves became a passion of your prayers?
What part does breaking chains play in the mission of your church?
How long has it been since you introduced a slave to the Great Emancipator?

Are you content to just go through religious routines or are you inviting those in bondage to trust the One who said He had come to set prisoners free (John 8:36)?

Roger Campbell was an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. Contact us at

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