In 1835 he wrote out a small work on Infidelity, and intended to have it published. This book was an attack upon the whole grounds of Christianity, and especially was it an attack upon the idea that Jesus was the Christ, the true and only-begotten son of God, as the Christian world contends. Mr. Lincoln was at that time in New Salem, keeping store for Mr. Samuel Hill, a merchant and postmaster of that place. Lincoln and Hill were very friendly. Hill, I think, was a skeptic at the time. Lincoln, one day after the book was finished, read it to Mr. Hill, his good friend. Hill tried to persuade him not to make it public, not to publish it. Hill, at that time, saw in Lincoln a rising man, and wished him success. Lincoln refused to destroy it – said it should be published. Hill swore it should never see the light of day. He had an eye on Lincoln’s popularity – his present and future success; and believing that if the book was published it would kill Lincoln forever, he snatched it from Lincoln’s hand when Lincoln was not expecting it, and ran it into an old-fashioned tin plate stove, heated as hot as a furnace; and so Lincoln’s book went up to the clouds in smoke. It is confessed by all who heard parts of it that it was at once able and eloquent; and, if I may judge it from Mr. Lincoln’s subsequent ideas and opinions, often expressed to me and to others in my presence, it was able, strong, plain and fair. His argument was grounded on the internal mistakes of the Old and New Testaments, and on reason and on the experiences and observations of men. The criticisms from internal defects were sharp, strong, and manly.
Mr. Lincoln moved to this city in 1837, and here became acquainted with various men of his own way of thinking. At that time they called themselves Freethinkers, or Freethinking men. I remember all these things distinctly; for I was with them, heard them and was one of them. Mr. Lincoln here found other works – Hume, Gibbon, and others – and drank them in. He made no secret of his views; no concealment of his religion. He boldly avowed himself an Infidel.
When Mr. Lincoln was a candidate for our legislature, he was accused of being an Infidel and of having said that Jesus was an illegitimate child. He never denied his opinions nor flinched from his religious views. He was a true man, and yet it may be truthfully said that in 1837 his religion was low indeed. In his moments of gloom he would doubt, if he did not sometimes deny, God.
Mr. Lincoln ran for Congress against the Rev. Peter Cartwright in the year 1846. In that contest he was accused of being an Infidel, if not an Atheist. He never denied the charge – would not – “would die first.” In the first place, because it could and would be proved on him; and in the second place, he was too true to his own convictions, to his own soul, to deny it.
From what I know of Mr. Lincoln, and from what I have heard and verily believe, I can say, first, that he did not believe in special creation, his idea being that all creation was an evolution under law; secondly, that he did not believe that the Bible was a special revelation from God, as the Christian world contends; thirdly, he did not believe in miracles as understood by Christians; fourthly, he believed in universal inspiration and miracles under law; fifthly, he did not believe that Jesus was the Christ, the son of God, as the Christian church contends; sixthly, he believed that all things, both matter and mind, were governed by laws, universal, absolute and eternal. All his speeches and remarks in Washington conclusively prove this. Law was to Lincoln everything, and special interferences, shams and delusions.