Wednesday, April 19, 1865 1865
OCCASIONED BY THE
DEATH OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
PREACHED AT COXSACKIE,
ON WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19, 1865,
J. MUNSELL, 78 STATE STREET.
COXSACKIE, April 20, 1865.
We, the undersigned, citizens of Coxsackie, respectfully request you to prepare and furnish a copy of your discourse delivered at the Methodist Episcopal Church, on Wednesday, April 19th, 1865, on the death of Abraham Lincoln, late President of the United States, for publication.
Very respectfully yours,
STEPHEN P. HALLOCK, SIMPSON S. BELL,
JAMES W. HISEREL, J. B. BRONK,
GEO. REED, S. A. DWIGHT,
GILDERSLEVE BEDELL, H. D. BEDELL,
R. COOK, J. T. BEDELL,
F. C. DEDRICK, MARCUS WING,
N. C. BEDELL, ISAAC BROWN,
E. O. BEATTY, F. S. GREENE,
B. F. BEATTY, R. E. BUCKBEE,
JAMES E. GREENE, HIRAM BROWN,
MICHAEL KRUBE, CASPER I. COLLIER.
WEDNESDAY, April 21, 1865.
Gentlemen:–The hurried preparation of the discourse, to which you refer, would lead me to withhold it from publication; still, I do not feel at liberty to refuse your request from the earnest desire I have to do all that is possible to honor the memory of our lamented President–all that I can to have the people feel and understand the solemn duties of the hour.
I am, most respectfully yours,
As appropriately expressing the sad, calamitous event that has called us together–and also expressing our circumstances and feelings as a nation, we have selected the following Scriptures for our text:
II SAMUEL i, 19.–The beauty of Israel is slain upon the high places: how are the mighty fallen;
II SAMUEL xix, 2.–And the victory that day was turned into mourning unto all the people.
We have congregated with an assembled nation, to attend the funeral of the chief magistrate of the United States. Probably such a day of grief–of vast assemblages and bitter mourning as this, was never seen before in the annals of time. It is no ordinary event that moves a continent, that bows millions in tears, but to day the Great Republic is bereaved, and its mourning has all the elements of sublimity.
Nations have often buried their rulers: gilded hatchments have often graced the royal hearse: the marble tomb which pride and ambition has prepared, has often been unsealed to receive the great, the kingly and the wise; for Death, whose mission is, “to tread out empire and to quench the stars,” with equal pace and power knocks at the palace and the cottage.
But when did millions bow in mourning as they bow to-day? When before has friend and foe, sire and son, freeman and bondman, rich and poor, lofty and lowly,
struck hands in companionship of sorrow, and joined in a concert of tears.
Our soldiers on the field of battle,
Our heroes on the main,
The merchant prince and negro chattel,
All swell the sad refrain:
“Man of the millions, thou art lost too soon!”
Since last Friday night, so far and fast as the tidings of the more than regicide have flashed upon the telegraphic wires, there has been in every heart and upon every tongue but one theme; and today, throughout our land, from the lakes to the gulf, from granite New England to the prairied west, from the Atlantic to the Mississippi: in one grand, mournful, weeping procession–the nation follows the mangled form and gloomy hearse of ABRAHAM LINCOLN. Unexpected, sudden as a bolt from a clear sky, the nimble lightning flashed the sad news, the awful story of the assassination of our President. We are, and have been for days, a saddened, bewildered, terrified people! Certainly no event ever transpired in the United States that has subdued and bereaved so many hearts, caused so many groans of anguish, cast upon our land such a shower of tears.
Suddenly, like the gloom of the dark day of 1780, when the sun was blotted out, and night came at noon, a pall of darkness has fallen over all our land; and God looks upon a stricken, afflicted people–such sorrowing as he never saw occasioned by the death of any Hebrew or Gentile ruler before.
Can it be possible, that he upon whom rested the confidence and hopes of the nation in this hour of bitter trial–is gone!
One day along the electric wire
His words of love and mercy sped;
We came next morn: that tongue of fire
Said only, “He who spake is dead.”
Dead! while his voice was living yet,
In echoes round the pillared dome!
Dead! while his blotted page lay wet
With themes of state and loves of home!
Dead! he so great, and strong, and wise,
While the mean thousands yet draw breath;
How deepened, through that dread surprise,
The mystery and the awe of Death!
Through him we hoped to speak the word
Which wins the freedom of a land!
And lift for human right, the sword
Which dropped from Hampden’s dying hand.
We seemed to see our flag unfurled,
Our champion waiting in his place
For the last battle of the world–
The Armageddon of the race. * * * *
We sweep the land from hill to strand,
We seek the strong, the wise, the brave!
And, sad of heart, return to stand
In silence by a new made grave!
The world at large will mourn with us. The good, the brave, the liberty loving–those who desire the elevation and happiness of our race, will feel they have lost a brother and a friend. The enthralled of Italy and Hungary–the oppressed of every land–will mourn: for one who loved mankind and labored for universal freedom, has fallen!
A few days ago the land was filled with joy; a series of brilliant victories crowned the efforts of the Federal armies. You remember with what breathless anxiety we waited to hear from SHERMAN; he reported at last,
and his bulletin was the record of a triumph. We paused a moment, feeling that the crisis of our nation and the war had come; then the “On to Richmond” of four years ago–now the more sublime–“On to Freedom,” was consummated, and the old flag, unstained with wrong, but battle-torn, waved proudly from the defiant ramparts of Richmond–dropping bread and mercy from its ample folds upon the guilty, famishing foe.
We had hardly time to express our loyal joy, when there came the tidings that our modest, peerless GRANT, had received the sword of Robert E. Lee and the surrender of the grand army of the rebellion. The land was filled with joy. It was a complete contrast to April, 1861, when the flag of the Republic trailed in the dust, and traitors were jubilant; the starry banner was waving in victorious triumph–cannon were uttering cheering salvos–drum and fife and bugle, were uttering prophesies of peace and national integrity. The hearts of millions were beating high with hope as they looked upon the dark folds of the storm-cloud of battle, rolling slowly away, fringed with amber and gold, giving promise in its bow of beauty that the bloody tempest of treason was spent and that we should soon enjoy the calm of national peace and fraternity. There was thankfulness to almighty God, and the pure offerings of praise ascended from hill top and valley from hamlet and city; even New York felt the joyous Pentacost, and “Wall St. spake in unknown tongues,” as there swelled amid her Mammon temples the grand old Doxology–the “Te Deum” of a nation’s deliverance.
There was no indulging in feelings of vengeance, no gloating in gladness over the sorrows and chagrin of a fallen foe; but disposed to let “the lifted thunder of
justice drop,” extend the hand of mercy and love, the people temperately rejoiced. It was not a Roman saturnalia; but a patriotic, Christian jubilee.
But alas, how changed! Now, grief and indignation, soreness of heart and vengeance of purpose, are blended in the American mind: and as we survey our nation to day we look upon “a sea of glass mingled with fire.” The victorious flag droops in mourning, drums are muffled, songs of gladness have suddenly ceased; end throughout the laud, there is mourning for the dead. Strong men weep as they never wept before, hopeful men sigh, good men pray and look to God for strength, loyal men are appalled, the bitter partizan is a contrite mourner, none but heartless traitors can rejoice. Truly, “in the day of victory the people mourn.”
Why this intense and bitter feeling of sadness? Not because death is so strange–we are familiar with its bereavements. Earth is a wilderness of graves, and all mankind are marching to the tomb. During the last four years Death has held carnival; noblest bravest lives have been sacrificed, the bloom and ripeness of our land has fallen.
Neither is it simply because our Chief Magistrate is dead. This not a new experience for the nation. Twice before has Death entered the White House. We are not without a ruler; already the mantle o office has fallen upon one worthy to be the servant and representative of the American people. Yet we feel we have lost the man, who above all others is needed in this time of national peril. The man who above all others seemed chosen of God to lead us through the Red Sea of rebellion, and guide us to the promised land of liberty and peace.
But this is not all; there are noble, devoted patriots
that we can trust; but alas! we stand in the presence of a mangled corse! Our ears tingle with the tidings of a most foul assassination! We have pressed upon our attention an awful crime. Our Chief Magistrate has fallen a victim–basely, cruelly murdered! Shall we be safe? Shall our roof-trees blaze, our hearth stones run with blood?
The most sacred person in the nation has fallen by the hand of a ruffian! No wonder the heart strings of the nation vibrate with strange agony. This is something new. This is a sad, bitter lesson for the Republic. We are reminded of the bloody, stormy days of Rome; when the dagger controlled affairs of State, and Anarchy was on the throne.
But why does this murder so deeply affect us? It does affect us most peculiarly. When we heard the news of this assassination, we felt humbled–subdued in spirit. There was a feeling of oppressive sadness, loneliness. We have been proud of the name American, and as we have looked upon that starry banner, now draped in mourning, we have rejoiced in its short but glorious history; felt that more sacred truth and principle were symbolized in that bunting, than in any other national ensign. Beneath it stood Washington and the Spirit of Liberty, and we were hopeful, that soon, wherever it floated, all should be free.
Murders have occurred before. We know that wicked men will do wickedly. Men have often been murdered for their money, been murdered to gratify the spirit of revenge, because of enmity and ambition; but none of these motives led to the base deed that has plunged the nation in the deepest sorrow.
One thing the assassin has gained–an immortality of infamy, by striking down “the foremost man of all the world.” But let me plainly state if I can the mean-
ing and terror of this deed of blood. Let me state my feelings and convictions. Let me discharge my duty in this solemn hour.
We have come together, as mourners, to show our respect for the departed–without reference to religious sect, or political party. Far be it from me to utter a word to injure the feelings of any loyal man; as to traitors, God forbid that I should please them; but I would withhold no word that condemns national iniquity, that would have a tendency to convict, and convert from political wrong, from organic wickedness. Standing before God, the judge of nations, and in the presence of the mangled form of our late President, it is a time and fraternity. Let citizens be brothers. Let Americans be united, let them heed the farewell words that trembled from the lips of Washington, as they bend over the remains of Abraham Lincoln.
We shall mention four things as points of interest and instruction. First, THE SAD EVENT.
“How are the mighty fallen!”
This was the language of David when the tidings came of the death of Saul and Jonathan. Inspired genius never uttered a more eloquent eulogium, a more tender and touching tribute to departed greatness, than he pronounced on that occasion. Indeed, he seems to eclipse himself in this impassioned funeral ode.
In this noble panegyric, we are led to admire the spirit of David.
Unambitious, forgiving, he seems more good than great. We scarcely know which to admire most, his long heart or his princely intellect. Irresistible with his sword, sweeping the harp with a master’s
hand, unrivalled as poet and king, his greatness is only equalled by his goodness, while his virtues outshine his crown.
You should remember that the only obstacle between David and the throne was removed by the death of Saul. The fallen king had treated him with the utmost cruelty for years, seeking his life with relentless hatred. A price had been set upon his head, and he had been “hunted like a partridge in the mountains.” Yet forgetful of self he buries the wrongs he has suffered, in the grave of Saul. Instead of hailing as a friend the stranger who brings the bracelet and crown of the murdered king, he treats him as a regicide and orders his immediate execution. He had lifted his hand against the head of a government. Saul was the Lord’s anointed. His person was sacred.
No more sacred, however, in the estimation of Heaven, than the person of Abraham Lincoln. As we have said, the assassin in this case is more than a regicide; his crime greater if possible than though he had slain a king. It seems to me that no one who stands at the head of a nation as ruler, can be more truly the Lord’s anointed, so far as government is concerned, than the President of the United States.
This responsible position is not the accident of birth, it is not the inheritance of family, it is the gift of the people. Whoever fills this high office as the choice of the nation is sacred to us, because almost alone among the nations, God has given us this right of election. This high privilege has been secured to us by suffering, sacrifice and blood. It cost the patriotism of ’76–which was not a parlor, or shoulder-strap patriotism merely, but that practical devotion to country that pledged life and fortune and sacred honor to the cause of freedom, and sanctified the battle fields of the
Revolution with the best blood of our race. And no person can be more sacred in view of cost and principle, sacrifice and freedom, than our Chief Magistrate.
We have often been told he was in danger. Still we could not believe there was anything serious in the cowardly threats that were uttered by the friends of the rebellion. Four years ago–we speak it with shame, to save his life he fled through darkness to Washington, and the plot of assassination was foiled. He has been spared until the comparatively unknown man has acquired a world-wide fame. Spared, until he has won the respect and love and confidence of millions. Spared, during the darkness of the night, he has died in the morning. But in the dawn for which he looked and longed and prayed: while its mellow tints were flushing the sky, the murderous blow has fallen. The words of the assassin,–“Sic semper tyrannis“–find no response in the heart of suffering humanity. No tyrant ever had such a funeral, such a mourning as the world decrees for LINCOLN. A tyrant! He was the embodiment of American sentiment, of the liberty-loving spirit of our age; he was the representative in principle and action, of the people.
The murderous blow that shattered the casket of his noble soul was not aimed at him alone, but at us, at Americans, at the loyal, liberty-loving masses, at all who desire the welfare of our government, the stability of our nation. The words of the assassin were the wolfish howl of anarchy, and his blow was struck at the dearest interests of mankind. It was the attempted assassination of the principle of Democracy, of the rights of the people. The murderer aimed to shoot a truth, a principle, a law of God; between him and that truth, that principle, that
law, stood Abraham Lincoln. The ball struck the President, he was mortal, but principle, truth, righteousness are invulnerable–immortal. He alas! was killed, but not that at which the shot was aimed.
Glory to God forever!
Beyond the despot’s will
The soul of freedom liveth
We will think of thee, O brother!
And thy sainted name shall be
In the blessing of the captive,
And the anthem of the free.
Looking over the history of the world, I am often impressed with the omnipotence of righteousness and truth. Nothing after all is so secure as the principle of virtue. It is firmer than the mountains, it is stronger than any fortress on the land, or iron-clad on the deep. Virtue, in the bulrush ark, is more secure than vice in Pharaoh’s palace. And though truth has its martyrs, it is stronger at the stake or on the scaffold, than falsehood in the moated castle, or cannon-mounted citadel. And this effort to destroy virtue and national righteousness at Washington, will impress us again, by showing the immutability of justice and excellence.
We have said the person of our President was sacred. Reëlected by a popular majority of nearly five hundred thousand, the people had said emphatically–“well done, good and faithful servant.” Again invested with the authority of his high office, he was, if possible, doubly sacred to all–save the foul dogs of a gigantic, cruel and fiendish rebellion! He and WM. H. SEWARD, were perhaps, more than any other two, representative men. The people, the Ameri-
can commonwealth, acknowledged their leadership rather I should say regarded them as faithful servants. They were doing the behests of the nation. Hence it is solemnly, impressively true, the President falls for the people: for their rights and liberties, their government and country.
It is an event of awful magnitude. Its influence will be wide-reaching and far-resounding, like the terrible judgments of Heaven. It should lead the American people to humble devotion before God. It should lead to honesty of purpose, candor of heart. It should calm the turbulent waters of party strife, and lead to national repentance. All should pause, review their course, and candidly consider their duty to the nation and the world. Let the public weal, let national prosperity, and virtue, and existence, be more sacred than party. Let us make our political organizations the conservators of truth and righteousness; not mere systematized opposition to the government. Let partyism, be subject to a pure and lofty patriotism.
As Christians, let us not permit devotion to party to blind our eyes so that we cannot see, to fetter our hands so that we cannot strike for the right, to padlock our lips so that we cannot speak for the truth. I would not make religion political, but I would make politics religious. I would not carry party principles into Christianity, but I would have all party platforms christianized. The Jesuitical assumption, that we may do as politicians what we may not do as Christians is infidelity in its worst form, and will lead to individual and national perdition. When wrong is sanctioned in a political platform, when it becomes organic, it does not cease to be iniquitous; and as Christians let us speak trumpet-tongued against all
sin, whether individual or national, whether pertaining to a person or a party.
As Americans, let us cease from party warfare until the government shall be safe and the integrity of the nation firmly secured. 0, let us stand for our country, while traitors are endeavoring to drag us down to ruin! Let us stand in the breach of the wall of our nationality, as the hope of the world, while merciless rebellion aims to bury beneath the ruins of our Republic–Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.
We cannot mourn over this saddest event of modern times (unless we shed crocodile tears) without hating the cause that bereaves the nation of its Chief. We cannot reject the fruit without rejecting the tree. We cannot pronounce the stream impure and bitter while we declare the fountain sweet and good. When we sanction a cause we sanction its effect; and every contrite mourner to-day, must abhor not only this foul crime, but its origin. This leads me to notice–Secondly: THE CAUSE OE THIS EVENT.
It was not because of personal enmity the President was assassinated. Not because he had been guilty of insulting or injuring any man. Not because he had been overbearing, harsh, or in any manner tyrannical. There was no kinder man in the nation. He had a smile and a good word for all. He had tears to shed for the suffering, and time amid the most arduous labors of office to write letters full of sympathy and consolation to those who mourned the loss of friends and children on the battle-field. While sternly, honestly discharging his official duties, his great, tender heart bled for those who shared the perils of war. His honesty of purpose and sincerity of life made him unsuspicious, and though repeatedly warned, he could not believe he was in any danger.
Panoplied in kindness and love, he felt safe as though clad in triple steel. Forbearance has been noticed as a peculiar trait of his character, and seldom has this virtue shone forth more conspicuously than it did in him. His executive clemency has sometimes offended his friends. They have feared that his gentleness might interfere with the true administration of justice. Repeatedly has he exercised his right to extend mercy to those under sentence of death, or imprisonment: and sometimes in such a manner as to show the utmost kindness of heart. Abused, insulted, traduced, defied, as no other President has been: when did he use his great power to gratify feeling s of anger, when did he manifest the spirit of revenge? You cannot point to an angry word, to any evidence of irritability, since his first inauguration. You know how he had been abused in Richmond by the rebel press and government. He went down there the other day, not with vengeance in his heart; he did not go to sow that guilty city with salt, and hang its traitors; but he went as a saviour and friend. The active and passive virtues were strangely, beautifully blended in his character. He will stand in the memory of the world among the most forbearing, kindly and gentle, whose generosity towards the most bitter foes is without a parallel among sucessful rulers and conquerors.
The London Spectator, in the number for March 25th, thus speaks of Mr. Lincoln’s character. “Finding himself the object of southern abuse, so fierce and so foul that in any man less passionless it would long ago have stirred up an implacable animosity, mocked at for his official awkwardness, and denounced for his steadfast policy by all the democratic section of the loyal states, tried by years of failure before that policy achieved a single great success, further tried by
a series of successes so rapid and so brilliant that they would have puffed up a smaller mind and overset its balance, embarrassed by the boastfulness of his people and of his subordinates, no less than by his own inexperience in his relations with foreign states, beset by fanatics of principle on one side who would pay no attention to his obligations as a constitutional ruler, and by fanatics of caste on the other, who were not only deaf to the claims of justice, but would hear of no policy large enough for a revolutionary emergency, Mr. Lincoln has persevered through all, without ever giving way to anger, or despondency, or exultation, or popular arrogance, or sectarian fanaticism, or caste prejudice, visibly growing in force of character, in self-possession, and in magnanimity, till in his last short message to congress on the 4th of March, we can detect no longer the rude illiterate mould of a village lawyer’s thought, but find it replaced by a grasp of principle, a dignity of manner, and a solemnity of purpose which would have been unworthy neither of Hampden nor of Cromwell, while his gentleness and generosity of feeling towards his foes are almost greater than we should expect from either of them.”
No, the cause of this assassination was not in him, was not in his assumption of illegal power. But he died of a foul, infectious, loathsome disease. A disease that has covered the land with graves and filled it with mourning. That has cumbered the green shores of the SHENANDOAH, the JAMES, the MISSISSIPPI, the TENNESSEE, and CUMBERLAND with the heroic dead. A disease that infected our political atmosphere until virtue was almost banished from the councils of the nation, and our great men were, morally, in a dying condition.
In other words, his murder is the result of a system
tolerated and heretofore defended by the American people. It is a result of the same cause that murdered a Lovejoy because he dared to speak for freedom, that brutally assaulted a Senator in his seat in the Senate Chamber at Washington, that instigated this gigantic rebellion, and that has carried it forward in a spirit of the utmost cruelty. It is the culmination of that spirit that has made trinkets of the bones of our dead heroes, and drinking cups of their skulls, that has starved our soldiers taken in battle and doomed them to the deep damnation of a stockade prison. “A tree is known by its fruits.” Freedom, is the tree of Heaven–it produces peace, contentment, joy and love. Slavery, is a bogus plant–forever producing apples of discord, the ashy fruits of Sodom. It must be so until man is emasculated and reduced from the human to the brute. It must be so for.
God works for all. Ye cannot hem the hope of being free,
With parallels of latitude, with mountain range or sea.
Freedom, from Nimrod to Napoleon, has been the pulse-beat of the world, the rallying cry of every inspired ruler and reformer. Jesus, glorious, divine– was a Liberator, whose doctrine of equality, unity and liberty must at last break every yoke and set every captive free. Before the august tribunal of mankind, Slavery will have charged upon it, among its many crimes, the guilt of this felonious homicide. Why the assassin himself, says, by way of justifying his premeditated crime–“I for one have ever considered slavery as one of the greatest blessings that God ever bestowed upon a favored nation.” He has done its behests, he has obeyed its spirit.
Again–we find a secondary cause for this sad event in the bitter language, the unjust, ungenerous assertions of heated partizans. LINCOLN has been called a
tyrant, a usurper, a murderer. O friends, you have misjudged. He has been true to his oath of office, true to the demands of the people. He has been no more tyrannical than the loyal, heroic, sacrificing millions of the nation. If he was a tyrant, there is some excuse for J. W. Booth. Our fathers taught that “resistance to tyrants is obedience to God,” and the world has always been lenient to the crime of tyrannicide.
Men, responsible, influential men have said, He ought to be shot. You have heard such disloyal, inflammatory language. I need not say it is wrong, dangerous. It comes from the spirit of rebellion, and has a tendency to destroy our country, to overthrow its institutions. Such language educates the vile, and tends to undermine that respect for law which is our only security. If our President is guilty of usurpation, or any great misuse of his office, let him be impeached–let him be tried before the high court of the nation. But let us not condemn him to the knife, or ball of the assassin, let us not revolt from his authority simply because he was not the candidate of our political party.
This crime is the legitimate fruit of rebellion. It strikes the nation; it demands for its victim the choice of the people. This is its spirit embodied in action, this is its crowning, and we trust its dying effort. Those assassins, who last Friday night filled Washington with alarm and the nation with sorrow, were not alone in their great crime. They were backed by every defender of treason, from Jeff. Davis, his cabinet and generals, to the feeblest cur that has barked at the heels of loyalty and patriotism. The rebellion aimed four years ago to destroy our President and overthrow our nation, and alas! to-day we mourn the loss of our Chief–but the nation, thank God, is vigorous; he dies
by the hands of traitors, but our threatened country lives–
Round the cold form of death, smiles and roses are blending–
And beauty immortal awakes from the tomb.
The assassin is simply an earnest rebel; simply in this murderous act, the hand on the body of confederate treason. If caught he will be hung; but how then shall the chiefs of the rebellion, on whom there is a torrent of blood, be pardoned and honored!!! O, MY COUNTRY BE MERCIFUL AND JUST!
Thirdly. THE VICTIM.
During the last four years, many a princely, precious sacrifice has been freely laid upon the altar of our country. We have often been called to mourn, as the loved, the noble and the brave, have fallen. We remember the early death of the gallant Ellsworth, whose mangled form, as it passed through the land, seemed, “sent like the twelve-divided concubine to inflame the tribes.”
We mourned when young WINTHROP fell, and LYON, and BAKER, and the peerless MITCHEL; and the many noble patriots, brilliant stars, that gave themselves for home and nation. Yet we never felt as we do to-day, when the body of our President lies stark and stiff upon the altar of our political hopes, the altar of our country.
We shall not forget him. The nation will rear a monument over his grave. But we ought not to forget the noble band, the mighty army of heroes with whom he is now united in death. To-day we think of the first one who fell–that noble patriot boy, LUTHER CRAWFORD LADD. The city of Lowell has built a monument for him. That is right; but there are thousands as worthy, whose names should not be foregotten. It is sad for the dying soldier to think his grave will be unmarked and forever unknown; that his lonely tomb
will never be wet with the tears of affection, or adorned by the hands of love. On the battle field of Fair Oaks, dying apart by themselves, were found four dead soldiers. A paper lay upon the breast of one and a pencil by his side. On the paper written with a faltering hand were their names, and these touching words: “Four dying soldiers. Be kind enough to give us a decent burial.” I repeat, let us not forget our noble boys who have fallen on the field, or died in prison. We cannot give them burial in the church yard at home; we cannot visit their graves; but we can inscribe their names upon the enduring marble, and thus preserve their memory. Every town should erect a monument for those of their number who have falling, “IN THE SACRED CAUSE OF GOD AND THEIR COUNTRY.”
Our fallen Chief was by nature and early education a democrat. He belonged to the masses. He could not, without rejecting himself, be an advocate of social exclusiveness, or of a privileged class.
He was slow to act, devoted to what he thought right, and when his purposes were formed he was firm as the hills. Unambitious, incorruptible, the crime for which he was slain was love of country and freedom, regard for man, for the rights of all–white or black. We shall, as Americans, all glory in ABRAHAM LINCOLN. He is booked for a star, and destined to be one of the brightest that shines in the galaxy of the noble and the great. Like the noblest statesman of England, he ascends to heaven bearing the broken shackles of millions, and stands ready to be crowned the angel of American Emancipation.
He lies before us a martyr. He fell for principle. We cannot but notice the suggestive coincidence that he was struck down on Good Friday: a day mem-
orable forever as the anniversary of the sublimest love and most costly sacrifice. Day of all others that exhibits Divine mercy and forbearance. Our President was betrayed on the night that saw a suffering Saviour in the agonies of death for the salvation and freedom of the world. His blood shall not be lost. In front of the house where he died, a little boy was seen rubbing bits of white paper on the steps and carefully placing them in his pocket. On being asked why he did this, he repeated with childish simplicity: “Don’t you see those dark stains? It is the blood of the President, and I want to save it.” Yes, his blood shall be saved. It is precious. Like the ashes of the martyrs those drops shall be the seeds of freedom.
The Avon to the Severn runs,
The Severn to the sea,
And Wickliff’s dust shall spread abroad
Wide as the waters be.
The cause and tragedy of his death, shall extend his influence and secure his immortality. He fell the victim of a doomed and devoted system, was struck down in the midst of power and the exercise of mercy by a blind, staggering–
Earth-born cyclops, fellest of the giant brood,
Son of brutish force and darkness, who has drenched the earth with blood.
The rebellion has committed a fatal error in his murder. It has destroyed its mediator. He stood beneath the balance of justice, in the attitude of mercy. He stood by the side of vengeance and held back the glittering sword, ready to fall on those who have left us a fatherless, a brotherless, a husbandless nation; and he in the confidence of a victorious people could have bestowed mercy where now bolts of vengeance will fall.
The Lord have mercy on the weak,
And calm their frenzied ire,
And save our brothers ere they shriek,
‘We played with northern fire.’
In conclusion–Let us notice–THE LESSONS OF THE HOUR.
God, who doeth all things well, has permitted us to be deeply bereaved, and if we receive this severe chastening in a spirit of national penitence and humanity, it will at least be seen that it was good for us to be afflicted. We may have needed this last great sacrifice, to lead us to feel how sacred, how priceless, is the freedom of a land; how dearly bought are the principles of national integrity and virtue.
We have, as a nation, been proud and oppressive retribution has come, but while heretofore we have been a nation of mourning individuals, weeping alone–now we are united in one sorrow, bowing together in a great and common grief. Then again, we may have needed a national martyr to make the cause in which he died forever sacred, to stimulate us to sustain with religious devotion, Union and freedom. Being dead, and dying in the service of his country he shall yet speak his words shall influence, his life shall guide, and from his grave amid the prairies of the west, he shall plead with him who sleeps at MT. VERNON for national virtue, for the widest liberty, for the principles of govermental justice.
Our joy has been turned into mourning that we might properly finish the work which he so well began. We might have been disposed to barter the precious blood of our patriot heroes, for the tinsel of an empty peace–or the “pottage” of an iniquitous compromise. We might have been willing after having our fair land ploughed with the burning share of war, and our fields
watered with blood, to permit the sowing again of those seeds of woe that have resulted in a harvest of death. We may have needed this further exhibition of the spirit of slavery, to teach us to detest it with the hearty hatred which it deserves. It is now presented before us in such dawning light, that no one will dare to stand as its advocate. In this solemn hour let us desire not only that rebellion should cease, but unite in the determination to remove its cause forever from our land and nation. While we mourn as no people ever mourned before, let us remember there is a God who has decreed that individual and national prosperity shall depend upon righteousness. Let us learn to put our trust in Him. His throne is unshaken. His government eternal. No power can deprive us of our God, or destroy the love and care of the Infinite.
Let us be hopeful. “Our Country yet remains;” saved by its baptism of blood, it is endeared to us as it never was before by having our loved ones buried on a hundred battle-fields.
Let us in the presence of God, in the presence of Death, renew our vows of loyalty and piety. Let us pray for our government, and hope for that peace which is the result of purity.
There is ground for national hope, for believing that before us there is a glorious future.
With rudder foully broken,
With sails by traitors torn,
Our country on a midnight sea
Is writing for the morn.
But courage, O my mariners!
Ye shall not suffer wreck,
While up to God the freedman’s prayers
Are rising from your deck
Sail on! the morning cometh,
The port ye yet shall win;
And all the bells of God shall ring,
The good ship bravely in.
But he has gone, who fondly looked and prayed for the dawn of that happy morning. Beyond the tumult of battle, beyond the cares and labors and honors of state, our departed President rests in the peace of God. Beyond human praise or blame, we feel we can say nothing better of him than that, he was a good man. He learned to love Jesus as he wept amid the graves of the brave boys who fell at Gettysburg, and to love the Saviour is to secure a crown of eternal life.
As we survey our land with sadness and hope, as we look upward with mingled tears and gratitude, let us remember our duty to our country and our God,–serve both in such a manner that when done with America, we may be prepared for Heaven.