"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 10, Number 1, January 2007

 

“I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know.

For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me;

Inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst.

I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.

I will show partiality to no one.  Nor will I flatter any man.”

Job 32:17-21

 

“That which ordinary men are fit for I am qualified in, and the best of me is diligence.”

Earl of Kent

Shakespeare’s King Lear

Act I, scene iv, ll. 32-34

 

[“As I See It” is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek.  Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God.  The editor’s perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.

 

AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com.  You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address.  Back issues sent on request.  All back issues may be accessed at http://www.KJVOnly.org]

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A Lost Essential in the Christian Life

 

“It is high time we learned that in this nerve-wrecking, maddening modern rush, we have let the spirit of the times rob us utterly of meditation, devotion, rest, the passive side of our Christian experience without which we cannot be truly active to the glory of God.”

Late evangelist Vance Havner

The Vance Havner Quotebook, p. 35

Compiled by Dennis J. Hester

Baker Book House, 1986

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Observations on Modern Charismatics

 

“Pentecostal practice [in claiming modern day revelations and prophets] is a de facto denial of the sufficiency of Scripture.”

Walter J. Chantry

Signs of the Apostles:

Observations on Pentecostalism Old and New

Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975

p. 27

 

“”[W]hen the Spirit comes upon any group of men, he will turn their attention chiefly to the issue of holiness.  It is a mark of sin for men to be more concerned with their happiness than their holiness.  It is a mark of grace to seek personal righteousness above personal comfort.”

            Ibid., p. 98

 

“Nowhere does the Bible allow a form of worship in which the reasoning faculties are suspended.”

Ibid., p. 111

 

“The distinctive doctrine of all Pentecostals finds no Biblical support.  Though numbers have been genuinely converted among neo-pentecostals, we cannot believe that revival is begun in this new ‘protestant’ force.  Too much attention has been diverted from holiness and truth to happiness and experience.”

Ibid., p. 116

 

[Note: Signs of the Apostles by Walter J. Chantry is a generally very helpful book on this topic.  The appendix gives a valuable compilation of quotes from historic Christian leaders declaring the complete cessation of sign-miracles in the present age--editor]

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“Steal Your Sermons!!” (For the Glory of God?)

 

Recently, my attention was directed toward an article posted at “Rick Warren’s Tool Box.”  The article, by one Steve Sjogren (whom I otherwise do not know--nor, as will become apparent, do I have any compulsion to meet.  The website identifies him as the founder of a Vineyard ministry in Cincinnati), is titled, “Don’t be original--be effective!” as though there was a hard and fast dichotomy between the two, and one must choose either/ or, which of course, is utter nonsense.

 

The article addresses the subject of sermon “plagiarism,” a practice the author not only does not condemn, but actually recommends.  The article begins by noting a church whose pastor was dismissed for plagiarizing his sermons.  Church attendance subsequently reportedly declined by half, and financial problems developed.  As Sjogren phrases it, “What a needless waste of God’s momentum that had been resting upon them.”  If the departure of a pastor who was stealing his sermons has seriously, almost fatally, hindered the work, perhaps, just perhaps, the work was being built on the works of the flesh--man-made and man-devised “programs,” rather than the power and blessing of God--and just what is “God’s momentum”?  This is a concept I somehow failed to learn about in my theological education.  But I digress.

 

Sjogren goes on to report, that Dr. Cho, pastor of “the world’s largest church in Korea” (and therefore you just know he is “successful”), when asked how he put together his “powerful” weekly messages, is alleged to have said, “Honestly, I have never given an original message in all my years of ministry here at Yoido Church.  Each week, I preach word-for-word messages from either Billy Graham or W. A. Criswell from Dallas First Baptist Church.  I can’t afford to not have a home run each weekend when we gather.  I don’t trust my own ability to give complete original messages.”   To which Sjogren editorializes, approvingly: “Wow!”

 

I have no way of knowing whether Dr. Cho really said this, or if this is an accurate representation of what he said.  But assuming that it is, there is very much to say about his reported practice.

 

First, the comment about being “entirely original” is a caricature (one that Sjogren will summon up repeatedly).  As has well been noted, if our preaching is Biblically based, we cannot be “entirely original,” for our texts and doctrines must come from Scripture.  No conservative Christian expects a pastor to be “original” and “novel” in the doctrines he preaches.  But that is not the point.

 

When Dr. Cho says that he doesn’t trust his own ability to give original messages, but instead takes his verbatim from Graham or Criswell, in effect, he is actually saying that he doesn’t trust the Holy Spirit to give him a message week-by-week.  Any man who has been in the ministry some years, and has been diligent as a student of Scripture during that time, should have confidence that by the blessing of God and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, he can, from his accumulated stores of wisdom and knowledge, in conjunction with the specific study and preparations for the current message, produce a sermon that is Biblical, interesting, instructive, and relevant to the lives of his hearers.  If he has no such confidence, then he has no business in the ministry at all. 

 

Perhaps there is something more than meets the eye here.  I speak on average some 140-150 times per year, about as often as most pastors.  In some cases, I have weeks for preparation, in some cases a single afternoon, and once in a while, as little as 5-10 minutes (all such “short notice” incidents have been in Romania).  Were I not continually studying and taking in, I would be unable to continually give out.  And I will freely admit that while I greatly delight in such study, it is a burden and a labor that can be and often is exhausting.  Perhaps, just perhaps, this self-justifying “humility” of Dr. Cho is really a fig leaf to cover a ministry marred by mis-placed priorities, or maybe even intellectual laziness.

 

Sjogren goes on to note that some of his “favorite communicators,” meaning noted pastors of large and “successful” churches and ministries, have admitted on their respective blogs that they get 70% of their weekly messages from other preachers, “word for word according to them.”  If so, the plague has spread in the camp.  And I wonder, if God can give good, relatively “original” sermons to those other preachers, how come he can’t give them to all?  Are these who do receive messages from God some special clerical class?

 

Sjogren continues, “We need to get over the idea that we have to be completely original with our messages, each and every week.”  Pure caricature--no one makes such a claim.  “In my mind there is a tremendous amount of pride (let’s call it what it is) when we insist on being completely original as communicators.”  More caricature.  “In our desire to give ‘killer messages’ we are dishing out far less.”  Who desires to give ‘killer messages’?  Apparently Sjogren does, and appropriating others messages so that one can be commended as a great “communicator” smacks far more of pride in my mind that does wanting to be “entirely original.”  I have NEVER preached a single message hoping to be commended by men as a “great” or even “mediocre” communicator.  I have preached, and always do, so as to instruct my hearers in the knowledge of God and enable them to draw nearer to Him.  Sjogren’s comment here is so revealing of what really motivates him--the praise of men, and the commendation of his peers.

 

Sjogren’s self-justifying advise?  “First of all, stop all of this nonsense of spending 25-30 hours a week preparing to speak on the weekend.  The guys I draw encouragement from--the best communicators in the United States--confess they spend a total of about 15 hours preparing for their message.”  I wonder if that latter figure includes all their messages in a week, or just their one (?) on Sunday.  In short--‘don’t waste too much time on preparing your sermon.’  In contrast to this, we have the testimony of the Spirit-led Apostles, “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and the preaching ministry” (Acts 6:4, HCSB). 

 

Modern preachers as a whole know almost nothing about real study.  Just let us read accounts of the study habits of Matthew Henry, John Gill, Phillip Doddridge (to note those who come first to mind), and others: to suggest to those men that they only spend 25-30 hours on sermon preparation per week would have made them laugh in incredulity.  Any such person would have been deemed a slacker and a hireling.

 

We are informed by Sjogren that Rick Warren, the man allegedly most widely plagiarized from today, gets his sermons by listening to three or so preaching tapes per day.  My first reaction is--who could stand that torture?  Truth be told, a man needs far greater depth in study that just listening to the homiletical offerings of other preachers, even the best of them.  He needs technical commentaries, Bible dictionaries, word studies, theological treatises, books on customs, geography and history and more.

 

The article closes with Sjogren, incongruously, whining about how his material, either published in books or presented orally, has been lifted “word for word” without permission by numerous preachers and authors.  Apparently Sjorgen does want to get credit for being “entirely original” after all--the thing he condemned earlier as “pride.” 

 

It should come as no surprise in such an article that there is a sidebar that, naturally enough, advertises “Rick Warren’s Sermons!  Looking for help on your next sermon?  Click here to check out Rick Warren’s collection of messages.  You can find messages by topics of the date it was preached at Saddleback Church.” [bold face and underlining in original] .  We aren’t told whether the sermons are “free” or for a “fee.”  Let me guess.

 

In contrast to all this genuinely evil advice from Sjogren (and I wonder just how many gullible, and often lazy preachers have been sucked in by Sjogren’s siren song), let us contrast the ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892).  Spurgeon’s ministry was (somehow) mightily blessed of God, though Spurgeon assuredly did not run after whatever the latest humanly-devised “program” for building the church happened to be.  His approach to sermon “preparation” was far different that that espoused by Sjogren.  He wrote, in his superb collection of addresses to preachers, An All-Round Ministry (Pilgrim Publications reprint, 1973)--

 

We have all great need of much hard study if our ministry is to be good for anything.

p. 236 

 

“Study” he said, not sermon “stealing.” 

 

In his deservedly famous Lectures to My Students, genuinely essential reading for preachers, Spurgeon spoke repeatedly about sermon preparation--

 

I confess that I frequently sit hour after hour praying and waiting for a subject, and that this is the main part of my study.

Series I, p. 88

 

I too find that this agonizing, praying, and waiting on God is an indispensable part of preparing myself to speak for God.  Those who “lift” their sermons whole from others rob themselves--and their hearers--of this essential personal spiritual preparation.

 

Anything is better than mechanical sermonizing in which the direction of the Spirit is practically ignored.

p. 96

 

Will some, after claiming the Spirit led them into this life of sermon larceny, contend that He now “directs” them in their sermonizing through mere men and not directly Himself, as they study and pray?  And who can speak with genuine conviction another man’s message?

 

Your pulpit preparations are your first business, and if you neglect these, you will bring no credit upon yourself or your office.  Bees are making honey from morning till night, and we should be always gathering stores for our people.  I have no belief in that ministry which ignores laborious preparation.

p. 98 

 

Ah, Spurgeon--but we have programs to administer and ministries to oversee, people to counsel, and success to attain, and who really has time for study these days?  Surely, . . you . . . jest?  No!?!

 

Your people need discourses which have been prayed over and laboriously prepared. . . . We must give out of our very souls, in words which naturally suggest themselves, the matter which has been as thoroughly prepared by us as it possibly could have been by a sermon-writer.

p. 142

 

Notice that he does not counsel dependence on the labors of those “sermon-writers,” but upon our own laborious preparations.

 

No one, especially Spurgeon, who was a voluminous reader of books--usually as many as six at one sitting, each week--condemns the diligent consultation of commentaries, both devotional and technical, sermons, topical studies, Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias, the original language texts and various translations English and foreign, and whatever sources can be drawn upon.  Spurgeon famously commented,

 

The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted.  He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own.  Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people.  You need to read.  Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritan writers, and expositions of the Bible.

Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit

Vol. 9, 1863, p. 668

 

The faithful preacher will dig out gems from many quarries, and add them to those of his own discovery (I make it my regular practice to extract as much as I can from the Bible text myself, before consulting any commentaries or sermons on it).  He will not trespass and steal wholesale the work of others, and let it pass as his own.  Or, as Howard Sugden and Warren Wiersbe memorably put it: “the pastor ‘milks a lot of cows, but churns his own butter’.” (Confident Pastoral Leadership, Moody Press, 1973; p. 69; this first rate book was reviewed in AISI 5:11).

 

Sjogren seems to assume that mere mouthing of eloquent and fine words is preaching.  It is the man who preaches the message, and the conscientious man must prepare himself as much or more so than he prepares his message.  I find that my own close and careful study of Scripture as I “churn my own butter” is indispensable, if I am to be mentally and spiritually prepared to deliver a message from God.  Without it, the task would be impossible.

 

That Sjogren’s deplorable advice passes as the “received wisdom” of the day is distressing, and bodes ill for the future of the ministry and Christianity in America.

---Doug Kutilek

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This Minister in His Study:

The Year Past, the Year Ahead

 

I often view myself as a akin to a dairy cow--constantly and regularly called upon to “give out” something worthwhile and nourishing to those I teach through the spoken or written word.  I regularly speak at least three times per week, weekly teach two seminary courses (seven hours per week) while the ten-week sessions last and from time to time teach week-long inter-term or summer courses (three this past year), write 13 densely-packed pages for publication each month, carry on an extensive correspond (frequently requiring detailed or technical answers to questions submitted), and occasionally write reviews or articles for print publications.  To maintain any kind of respectable quality of material, level of information and readable style is a continual drain, and regular refilling of the reservoir (to change the metaphor) is essential.  Every dairy farmer knows that the quality and quantity of output from his herd is directly related to the quality and quantity of what they take in, and economizing on feed is false economy, always costing more in the long run.

 

I seem to have sensed a particular urgency this past year in my reading.  In all, it came to some 49 books completed, totaling 12,581 pages (my regular goal--50 books per year and 1,000 pages per month).  Unlike most years, the great majority of my reading was Bible-related, directly or indirectly.  In all, the books were scatters topically as follows: 10 biographies, 6 books on history, 6 books of essays, sermons or quotations, 5 on apologetics, 5 on Bible versions, 4 on contemporary theology, 3 on contemporary culture, 2 on Baptists, 2 of trivia, and one each on practical Christianity, science, language, missions, Bible commentaries and nature.  I regularly read, besides, more than half a dozen periodicals, some monthly, some quarterly.  And I read here and there in books not read through, and therefore do not count them. 

 

I read this year a book about a man who read through the whole of Encyclopedia Britannica in one year.  I’ve actually entertained this same project in the past, but know it would take me 5 years, maybe 10, and therefore have dismissed it from serious consideration.  The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge is smaller, more relevantly focused and more manageable--perhaps that could work.  I’ll give it some thought.

 

Usually, at the end of the year, while reflecting on the previous year’s reading, I make a preliminary list of 20-30 meritorious books I want to read in the course of the next year--old, as yet unread “classics,” plus books of more recent vintage. Some have long waited to be read; others have just recently come to my attention.  And the projected subject matter for 2007 is as diverse (or even more so) as my reading for 2006.   There are several biographies--really dozens of these--that I have long wanted to get to.  Some of these are on the new list--biographies of Robert McCheyne, Chinese Gordon, A. J. Gordon. J. G. Machen.  The famous set The Fundamentals, from the 1910s, calls to me.  A volume or two more of Schaff’s Church History finds its place on this year’s list; I hope to eventually read it all).  At least a beginning in the Works of Josephus is hoped for, as is a reading of the writings of the “Apostolic Fathers” and the early apologists, Justin Martyr and Irenaeus.  And Augustine’s Confessions has been too long neglected as well.  And I’d like to get back to Calvin’s Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels (I read the first of the three volumes almost a decade ago now; I have ever since wanted to complete the other two, “someday”).

 

Since I am an unrepentant “Johnsonian”--one with a consuming interest in everything relating to lexicographer and conversationalist Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)--there are several Johnson-related books that I have had for years and hope to finally read--Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholia, a work dating from 1626 which Johnson read as a hoped for remedy to his bouts of crushing depression; William Law’s 1728 volume, A Call to a Devout and Holy Life, which led to Johnson’s conversion while at Oxford University; and a volume of James Boswell’s (Johnson’s famous biographer) journal, probably his account of his year on the “Grand Tour” of Europe.

 

Something by Spurgeon is always on the list, as is yet another biography of Charlie--though I’ve read well more than a dozen, I still have several good ones yet to peruse.  And of course, I always like to read something about Lincoln, a biography of a notable Baptist or two as well as something on Baptist history.  And a book or two or three on the Bible and science (a dozen recently purchased books of this sort summon my attention even now).  And something or several “somethings” on missions as well.  And apologetics.  And Bible versions.  And the American Civil War.  And maybe a Shakespeare play or two or three (I didn’t read any in ’06).  And, . . .  The list quickly becomes endless.

 

Books as yet unknown to me will get my attention during the year.  Some--probably many--of those I now want to read will be neglected yet once again.  But under any circumstances, I intend to get some serious reading done in the next twelve months, and thereby expand my knowledge and improve my perspective.  I cannot imagine doing less, though I will regret not doing more.

 

Some one well said, that in contrast to unbelievers, who are “ever learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth,” we who know Christ have come to the knowledge of the truth and are now ever learning.

---Doug Kutilek

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BOOK REVIEWS

 

Caught in the Web of Words: James Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary, by K. M. Elisabeth Murray.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979.  386 pp., paperback.

 

In earlier issues of AISI, we have reviewed two books, both by Simon Winchester, that dealt with the making of that monument to learning, the Oxford English Dictionary (see The Meaning of Everything, AISI 7:2; and The Professor and the Madman, AISI 3:7).  Both naturally touched to a considerable degree on the life of the third and pre-eminent editor of that work, Sir James A. H. Murray (1837-1915).  The volume currently under review is a full-scale biography of Murray, written by a grand-daughter (who had full access to the voluminous family papers; she grew up referring to James Murray as “Grandpa Dictionary”!).  The previous two volumes made heavy use of this account.

 

Murray was born in the Borders region of Scotland, and was a prodigy of learning and knowledge, possessed of an intense (and lifelong) curiosity about almost everything, including, especially, languages and linguistics, and nature (botany, geology and such)--he trained the family cows to respond to commands given in Latin!  As the eldest child in a large and devout Christian family, he was compelled to leave school at 14, and never attended the university.  He became exceptionally learned, solely as a result of self-driven study.  He became a writer and editor, a school teacher and author.  He became an acknowledged and published expert in the dialects of Scotland, and had a remarkable breadth of knowledge of languages--picked up by contacts with foreigners, ship crewmen, and others, and through books.   Need I say that Murray was considered by some to be somewhat ‘eccentric’?

 

He moved to London shortly after his first marriage, hoping to find work related to his chosen fields of expertise--perhaps in the British Museum library.  Alas, he was compelled to take work as a bank clerk (and was likely the most highly educated bank clerk in history!).  He did ultimately secure employment as a teacher in a private academy.  Murray’s first marriage ended after just a very few years when his wife died, as did his infant child.  His second marriage lasted nearly forty years, and produced 11 offspring, all given odd-sounding ancient Anglo-Saxon names: Wilfrid, Hilda, Oswyn, Ethelwyn, etc.), and all of whom worked at one time or another on the great dictionary project.

 

In London, Murray joined philological societies, gained respect for his accurate and extensive learning in such society, wrote the article on “English” for the 1878 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica, and was invited to become the third editor of the nearly foundering dictionary project that had first been proposed in 1857 by Richard C. Trench. 

 

Murray established the paradigm for how the dictionary was to be done, insisting on excellence and thoroughness.  For the first decade of his editorship, Murray constantly battled with the trustees of the Clarendon Press of Oxford University, who were constantly wanting a less extensive work, produced in a shorter time and at a lower total cost.  Murray insisted on doing it right, regardless of the cost in time or money (and the work ended up being more than twice as long as originally planned, many times more costly, and occupied more than forty years, arriving at completion a decade after Murray’s death.  Had anyone else but Murray, with his eye for detail, and his meticulous accuracy, been the guiding force behind the project, the dictionary would have been far less than it is.

 

For the first several years as editor, Murray was teaching, giving his spare time to the dictionary project.  Then he became a part-time teacher and full time editor, and ultimately gave his whole time--often 70, 80, 90 hours per week--to the tedium of writing and editing the minutiae of dictionary entries (hoping to average 33 completed words per day).  Later, additional editors were added, to expedite the work

 

When Samuel Johnson was challenged as to his dictionary labors (published in 2 vols., 1755)--surely he couldn’t have known all that would ultimately be involved in the labor? (it took him triple the original time span to complete, and was well over budget)--Johnson replied, that, to the contrary, “I knew very well what I was doing, and I knew very well how to do it, and I have done it very well.”  Murray, far less famous than Johnson, was nevertheless also vastly more qualified (which is not to denigrate Johnson), had to labor much longer, with much greater care than his worthy predecessor, and could have with even greater justice claimed Johnson’s retort as his own.

---Doug Kutilek

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Some quotes from Caught in the Web of Words by K. M. Elizabeth Murray:

 

“In his home, [Murray] was brought up to see the hand of God in all that befell them, and to give thanks, and as an old man he looked back and felt that his successes in life were due to the family practice of daily prayer.”  (p. 9)

 

“. . . this method of learning a foreign language by acquiring a Bible, and if possible a grammar, was the one he always followed.” (p. 11; and so do I--editor)

 

“When he was thirteen, [Mrs. Selby] began teaching him Italian and German out of school hours: given a start, he could teach himself, and taking a cue again from John Leyden [a largely self-taught polymath physician], like him he would follow the lesson at family prayers in a German Bible, and when his turn came he read his verse in translation.  Finally, in his last year, [Mr.] Hamilton started teaching him Greek, and James followed this up by acquiring a Greek testament.” (p. 23)

 

Murray admitted that he had “a sort of mania for learning languages; every new language was a new delight, no matter what it was, Hebrew or Tongan, Russian or Caffre, I swallowed them all, at least so as to master grammar & structure, but rarely did enough at the vocabulary.  Still I at one time or another could read in a sort of way 25 or more languages.” (p. 32)

 

“His brother Charles remembered hearing the most alarming sounds coming from James’ bedroom on one of his weekends at home.  He opened the door to ask if he were ill and found James still in bed, with a book, practising Arabic vowels, while on another occasion he startled his companions by pensively bursting out with Hottentot ‘clucks’ which he was trying to produce with the aid of instructions in a book.  If foreigners happened to come to town he always got in touch with them and he used to bring these strangers into his school, paying them for their trouble if they proved useful.” (p. 32)

 

“I was deeply conscious of how little I knew, and I employed all my leisure time from my daily work which I had to do for a scanty living, in learning everything that I did not know, while also trying to learn everything that could be known about some things.  I had not time and no desire to have changes in my surroundings . . . I was always . . . sharpening my mental and intellectual tools in faith that they would be useful.” (p. 35)

 

“For himself, he hated to be idle and he felt that all his life was a training for some work which he would be called upon to do.  How do we know what our life work is to be?  By divine guidance[.]” (p. 116)

 

“[James] Platt [a voluntary worker on the dictionary] traveled on the Continent, spoke every European language and said that anyone who could learn twelve languages could have little difficulty in mastering a hundred, yet he was so quiet himself that he was described as a man who had learnt a hundred languages and forgotten his own!” (p. 307)

 

Murray wrote to a son, “I never could have stood the work that I have done at the Dictionary, and the special difficulties which threatened at times to overwhelm me without earnest prayer every morning for help to do my work . . . And many a time, unknown to anybody, . . . when absolutely at the end of my own resources in dealing with entangled  & difficult words, when all alone at night in the Scriptorium, I have shut the door, and thrown myself on the floor absolutely on God’s help, and asked him to use me as an instrument to do what He knew to be right; and I believe I have never asked in vain.  There are many articles in the Dictionary which could never have been done by me without this earnest and sometimes agonized appeal to higher wisdom to inspire me with fresh effort.  To many a long article, but for affectation and the appearance of Pharisaism, I could gladly append Deo soli sit Gloria [“May the glory be to God alone”].” (p. 308)

 

“The greatest sacrifice the Dictionary entailed up me, by far, was the sacrifice of the constant companionship of my own children; and I doubt if it was worth the sacrifice.  I have tried, as a husband & father, to do what should have been the work of a celibate and ascetic, a Dunstan or a Cuthbert: no wonder it has been a struggle.  But has it been worth it?” (p. 314)

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Twenty Days: A Narrative in Text and Pictures of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the Twenty Days and Nights that followed--The Nation in Mourning, the Long Trip Home to Springfield by Dorothy Meserve Kunhardt and Philip B. Kunhardt Jr.  New York: Castle Books, 1993.  312 pages, quarto.  Hardback.

 

Just after 10:00 p.m., April 14, 1865--Good Friday that year--Southern-sympathizer/ actor John Wilkes Booth fired a single shot from a derringer into the back of the head of President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, as he viewed the stage play “Our American Cousin” from the Presidential box in Ford’s Theater, a few blocks away from the White House in Washington, D. C.  That single shot, which would result in the President’s death at 7:22 a.m. the following day, initiated a series of events lasting 20 days.  Less than a week before, the Northern States had experienced the euphoria and exhilaration of the capture of the Confederate capital of Richmond and the surrender in the field of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, virtually ending four terrible years of Civil War.  But this joy was without warning suddenly transformed into sorrow by the assassin’s bullet, and the mourning nation set itself to both grieve for and honor the President who had seen them through the bloody ordeal.

 

In what must surely have been among the longest and most elaborate funeral procession in history--or rather, a series of elaborate funeral processions--the body of the slain President lay in state and was viewed by the public (an estimated million people in all), first in Washington, then in nearly every city (in reverse order) through which he had passed by train four years earlier as he, then President-elect Lincoln, made his way to Washington for inauguration--Baltimore, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, New York, Albany, Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, Chicago, and finally Springfield, Illinois.  Of course the funeral train also passed through hundreds of small towns where it usually did not stop.  Each city made its own arrangements, had its own viewing, carried out its own tributes.  Washington D.C. took nearly a full week to show its respects, and the remainder of the trip took a full two weeks.

 

Some 300 individuals rode the train all the way to Springfield--a mortician (whose constant attention was necessary to keep the body presentable), a specially chosen military honor guard, various friends, officials and dignitaries.  Mary Todd Lincoln, the President’s widow, overwhelmed by grief, remained locked in her bedroom at the White House, attending none of the services, not even those conducted in the White House itself.  One of Lincoln’s sons--Willie--did accompany his father’s body home to Springfield.  Willie, who had died of a fever in February 1862 and been temporarily interred in Washington, was likewise being transported back to Springfield, where he would be laid to final rest next to his father.

 

About halfway through the journey to Springfield, Booth, the perpetrator of this crime, was tracked down and killed in a barn in rural Virginia.  A wide net was cast to catch him and any co-conspirators in his evil dead.  Ultimately eight individuals would be linked to Booth, four of whom were hanged in July 1865.

 

This well-written account is abundantly illustrated with era photographs from the massive Frederick Hill Meserve collection of over 200,000 Civil War era photos (including every single known photo of Lincoln).  Photos of almost everyone involved and every place involved are included.  The book was originally published in 1965, to correspond to the Centennial of Lincoln’s death.  Though no footnotes are provided and no bibliography given, this is truly a superior work, and of immense value and interest.

---Doug Kutilek

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