In September that year, the North had suffered another disastrous reversal, this time at the Second Battle of Bull Run. Lincoln was considering the radical step of proclaiming the emancipation of slaves in the South. In those circumstances, at one of the darkest moments of the war, he penned the following "Meditation on the Divine Will." It was written, as his secretaries, Nicolay and Hay, said, "while his mind was burdened with the weightiest questions of his life …. It was not written to be seen of men." Here is what Lincoln wrote about the religious meaning of the war.
"The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God can not be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party -- and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say this is probably true -- that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere quiet power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds. "