A Comparison of Two Books: Abraham Lincoln's Daily Treasure and Lincoln's Devotional
The Believer's Daily Treasure; or, Texts of Scripture Arranged for Every Day in the Year was published in the early 1850s, by the Religious Tract Society of London, England. The two books compared here are both based on this nineteenth-century book:
Either is a good choice for daily reading. Both, in fact, may be on any Lincoln fan's wish list. Lincoln's Devotional most accurately reflects the original book on which it is based, but Abraham Lincoln's Daily Treasure adds insightful observations about the religious and spiritual views of our sixteenth president.
The Believer's Daily Treasure
Just how Abraham Lincoln obtained his small copy of The Believer's Daily Treasure is unknown. Some speculate that it was given to him by his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, after he gave her a larger family Bible. Others say that this is the "New Testament" Lincoln allegedly carried--the actual testament itself never having been found. We do know that Lincoln owned a copy (fourth edition) of The Believer's Daily Treasure. He inscribed his name on the inside cover. As Carl Sandburg notes in his introduction to Lincoln's Devotional:
"...Lincoln signed his name with typical abbreviation. And from this we can surmise that either the volume itself or the person who presented it to him was held in deep regard, for throughout his life Lincoln was sparing in the number of books in which he wrote his name. His signature, it would seem, was inscribed more as an expression of strong interest or affection than as a precaution against a book's becoming lost, strayed, stolen."
Sandburg's introduction includes several pictures of Lincoln's copy of The Believer's Daily Treasure.
sans introduction, is actually a reprint of the fourth edition of The Believer's Daily Treasure; or, Texts of Scripture Arranged for Every Day in the Year, published in 1852 by the Religious Tract Society of London. The reprinted text is that which appears in the copy of the book owned by Lincoln.
The introduction by Carl Sandburg provides the known history of the original book and surmises how Lincoln may have come to own it. Thereafter, entries appear for each day of the year, starting at January 1, and including February 29.
The entry for January 27, for example, is based on Psalm 130.
Delivered from All Inquity
Let Israel hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities. Psalm 130: 7, 8
Fix'd on this ground will I remain;
Though my heart fail; and flesh decay;
This anchor shall my soul susain;
When earth's foundations melt away;
Mercy's full power I then shall prove;
Lov'd with an everlasting love
Thus, each day follows the same pattern of title, Scripture passage, and inspirational or reflective poem.
Abraham Lincoln's Daily Treasure
Thomas Freiling was more ambitious with Abraham Lincoln's Daily Treasure. Freiling, a lover of books of antiquity, says that he first came across Sandburg's Lincoln's Devotional in a second-hand bookstore and was inspired to research the religious beliefs of Lincoln. He comments on several books used in his research. Of his own book, Freiling says:
"In this book I offer the reader daily doses of Abraham Lincoln's spiritual and moral axioms equaling a year's worth of godly advice from America's greatest president...
"This book does not argue or contend. It does not build a case for or against what Lincoln believed about religion. ...I certainly have my own views, which I'll share with you. But my aim in this book is not to analyze. It is to inspire and motivate, to stir your soul with spiritual nuggets of the things Lincoln said and wrote about God, prayer, faith, and morality."
The body of the book is arranged as a daily devotional, beginning with Week 1, Day 1, and going to Day 5 before starting the next week with Week 2, Day 1. A quick bit of math and you'll know that Freiling's book does not include the complete text of The Believer's Daily Treasure.
In fact, Bible verses and poetry from the original Religious Tract Socitety book that do appear in Abraham Lincoln's Daily Treasure are in a much different order. The entry that includes the verses from Psalm 130, for example, do not appear in Freiling's book until Week 46.
To the verses and poems, Thomas Freiling adds his own conclusions about what Lincoln believed, or how he behaved, in relation to God, spirituality, and/or morality. Many times Lincoln is quoted, although end notes are not provided to denote source materials. Freiling's observations seem only loosely related--if at all--to the verse and poem, although it should also be noted that the poems in the original The Believer's Daily Treasure are only loosely related to the verse or verses for the same day. Regardless, the observations are inspirational and motivational, filled with "godly advice from America's greatest president," as Freiling promises.