“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:14-15
Meet Edwin Thomas, a master of the stage. During the latter half of the 1800s, this mall man with the huge voice had few rivals. Debuting in Richard III at the age of fifteen, he quickly established himself as a premier Shakespearean actor. In New York he performed Hamlet for one hundred consecutive nights. In London he won the approval of the tough British critics.
Edwin had two brothers, John and Junius. Both were actors, although neither rose to his stature. In 1863, the three siblings united their talents to perform Julius Caesar. The fact that Edwin’s brother John took the role of Brutus was an eerie harbinger of what awaited the brothers – and the nation – two years hence.
For this John who played the assassin in Julius Caesar is the same John who took the role of assassin Ford’s Theatre. On a crisp April night in 1865, he stole quietly into the rear of a box in the Washington theater and fired a bullet at the head of Abraham Lincoln. Yes, the last name of the brothers was Booth – Edwin Thomas Booth and John Wilkes Booth.
Edwin was never the same after that night. Shame from his brother’s crime drove him into retirement. He might never have returned to the stage had it not been for a twist of fate at a New Jersey train station. Edwin was awaiting his coach when a well-dressed young man, pressed by the crowd, lost his footing and fell between the platform and a moving train. Without hesitation, Edwin locked a leg around a railing, grabbed the man, and pulled him to safety. After the sighs of relief, the young man recognized the famous Edwin Thomas Booth.
Edwin, however, did not recognize the young man he’d rescued. That knowledge came weeks later in a letter, a letter he carried in his pocket to the grave. A letter from General Adams Budeau chief secretary to General Ulysses S. Grant, thanking Edwin Booth for saving the life of the child of an American hero, Abraham Lincoln. How ironic that while one brother killed the president, the other brother saved the president’s son. The boy Edwin Booth yanked to safety? Robert Todd Lincoln.
Edwin and James Booth. Same father, mother, profession, and passion – yet one chooses life, the other death.
Abel and Cain, both sons of Adam. Abel chooses God. Cain chooses murder.
Abraham and Lot, both pilgrim in Canaan. Abraham chooses God. Lot chooses Sodom.
David and Saul, both kings of Israel. David chooses God. Saul chooses power.
Peter and Judas, both deny their Lord. Peter seeks mercy. Judas seeks death.
The choice is ours to make:
A narrow gate or a wide gate (Matthew 7:13-14)
To build on rock or sand (Matthew 7:24-27)
To serve God or riches (Matthew 6:24)
To be numbered among the sheep or the goats (Matthew 25:32-33)