Rev. Treadwell Walden.
Dear Sir: Desiring to have in permanent form the Sermon preached by you on the evening of the 9th instant, and the Addresses of the 16th and 19th instant, we respectfully request that you will furnish us with copies for publication.
With much respect, we remain yours, &c,
John Lambert, H. Henderson, P. P. Morris, S. S. Moon, Ephraim Clark,
Jno. A. McAllister, George N. Allen, H. C. Thompson, Henry Norris, Edward H. Rowley.
Philadelphia, April 25, 1865.
Philadelphia, May 1, 1865.
I have hesitated a good deal whether or not to give you the Sermon and Addresses you so kindly request, as they all, under the circumstances of their composition, have too much of an impromptu character to be worthy of a permanent form.
However, as a memorial of an extraordinary moment, and as a true reflection of the feeling of the congregation which heard them, I venture to place them at your disposal.
With, much respect, sincerely yours,
Messrs. John Lambert, Henry Henderson, P. Pemberton Morris, Samuel S. Moon, Ephraim Clark, John A. McAllister, George N. Allen, Henry C. Thompson, Henry Morris, Edward H. Rowley.
PREACHED ON SUNDAY EVENING, APRIL 9, 1865, BEING THE SUNDAY FOLLOWING THE CAPTURE OF RICHMOND, AND PRECEDING THE DEATH OF THE PRESIDENT.
"IT IS EXPEDIENT FOR US THAT ONE MAN SHOULD DIE FOR THE PEOPLE, AND THAT THE WHOLE NATION PERISH NOT."---JOHN 12: 49.
This hallowed day has witnessed a strange conflict of emotion in the religious mind. A new incident has unexpectedly entered it, which has no doubt seemed to many at unfortunate variance with the feelings to which, for years, the Church has been moved on this especial Sunday of all the year. It is the Sunday which opens upon Passion-week,--the week of darkness and sorrow, which contains the day when our Saviour was crucified, and became the one offering for the sins of the world. Every sympathy and emotion of the Christian heart comes to the surface now. Even the thoughtless world feels the over-shadowing gloom of the approaching period. The faces that fill the sanctuary are grave and sad. The ritual moves like a funeral train shrouded in black. Only one object fills the imagination,--the innocent, [5/6] sinless, disinterested, devoted Son of Man, suffering punishment for sins He never did, hanging on the cruel Roman cross, and dying in unutterable agony of body and mind, in order that we might live.
This is the spectacle that occupies our hearts, and yet, in the very midst of these gradually darkening days, there has been such a public joy abroad, such a wonderful deliverance vouchsafed, and such a triumph achieved, that we have been enjoined by the civil authority, and moved by our own impulse, to sing hosannas to Almighty God, and acknowledge, in joyful and grateful prayers, that it was His right hand and holy arm which hath given us the victory.
The sad face and the glad face, the sad heart and the glad heart, are they compatible? Or shall the close reality of a national victory eclipse the remote reality, but most near and tender memory, of a conflict in its intensest hour of suffering and of blood?
But are you really called to engage in services that are incompatible, and to the expression of opposite feelings? I think not. I think that if you put the merely superficial feeling aside, and descend into the deeper considerations which underlie the jubilee, that, while the joy will last, it will be such a joy as will add strength and definiteness to the annual sentiment of this day. Doubtless it appears strange to you that I venture to declare as much, and yet I shall hope, before I close, to show, and without recourse either to fancy or ingenuity, that hardly any other Sunday could [6/7] have been so appropriate as this. More than that: I shall hope, by the simplest evolution of my subject, to deepen your love for the Saviour of your soul, even while trying to deepen your gratitude to God for being the Saviour of your country.
I take you back, therefore, to the events which surround my text.
The life of Jesus was drawing to a close. The final day of His life-long sacrifice was at hand, and His sufferings increased as they drew near the period of their culmination. The contradiction of sinners was now approaching the moment of personal violence. He had just performed the most startling and wonderful of all His miracles, by raising Lazarus from the dead. The event took place in close neighborhood to the Holy City, and at the very moment when the dense multitudes of the Passover season were beginning to assemble. At no time in the year was Jerusalem so astir, and the Hebrew heart under so much excitement. This excitement was not only religious, but patriotic. The temple was theirs, but the city was under the Roman yoke. For several years, however, their spiritual leaders had been under strange and increasing apprehension of danger from a different quarter. The growing influence of Jesus of Nazareth, and His absolute antagonism to them, shown on every occasion, and always to their exposure and discomfiture, for awhile diverted their thoughts from the present usurpation to the fear of a more legitimate but not less dethroning power. But [7/8] this last miracle, in the very midst of the Galilean and Judean throng, on the verge of their most sacred season, compelled them to take instant measures, as they thought, for their safety.
The Sanhedrim assembled to see what could be done. Caiaphas, the High Priest, heard the debate, and at last interposed his counsel with the whole weight of his personal and official influence: and it instantly prevailed. It would seem, from the record, that he was inspired like the old magian Balaam, to utter more than he comprehended, and yet to utter the very thing that appealed most to an indefinite but powerful sentiment in the Hebrew mind. To him it came like a sudden thought of his own wisdom, a subtle political measure, which would remove all fear or hesitation from the Priests around him, and bring about at once the destruction of Jesus. Indeed, to use a very familiar phrase of to-day, he succeeded in "firing" the Hebrew "heart."
"Ye know nothing at all," he exclaimed, after hearing them say "What do we? This man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone all men will believe on him, and the Romans shall come and take away our place and nation." "Ye know nothing at ' all," said he, "nor consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not."
To his auditors it was the enunciation of a great and overwhelming truth, one inwrought with their [8/9] very constitution. From the days of Adam and of Abraham they had been familiar with the thought of sacrifice. Millions of animals had died in their stead, and now, this seditious opponent of their present pretensions, this man, so full of what they chose to think diabolic power, and so rapidly gaining influence over the masses, to their most certain undermining, if sacrificed, could prevent the destruction of the nation. To Caiaphas it was an unscrupulous use of a mere expedient close to his sacerdotal hand, but to St. John, who recorded the incident many years afterward, it was the release, and bursting forth of the fact and sentiment of sacrifice which had been slumbering in the Hebrew ritual for two thousand years.
Now, through a High Priest, it had found, unintentionally, its unsealment. At last the High Priest, full of a political, not a religious, purpose, had opened, with unwary hand, the chambers of prophecy, and, behold! the real sacrifice appeared, and the true High Priest was revealed. Caiaphas unwittingly disrobed and deposed himself by using the divine intelligence of his office to advance a political object. In a few days from that perversion of his calling, the vail of the temple, which he alone was allowed to draw aside, was rent from the top to the bottom. The priest, the sacrifice, and the holy place disappeared together.
But you observe the identity in the mind of the priest, and in the mind of the council, of two things, never separate, never incompatible, either in the [9/10] Hebrew mind or in the Divine mind. Their church and their country were interchangeable names for the same thing; their religion and their political constitution were identical and intertwining systems. One was never thought of without the other. Body and soul were not more absolutely one. To save the nation was to save the people, to save the people was to save the nation. The error of Caiaphas began in his incapacity to appreciate or to sustain this original divine unity. His religion had lost its true character, and his patriotism its true object. He was neither truly a priest of God nor truly a friend of the people. His mediator-ship had passed away. And, therefore, while he spoke the truth, he spoke it in the dark, and brought about a result which he never desired and never anticipated. His short-sighted material counsel in the temporary interest of a people occupying an obscure corner of the world, has turned out to be in the interest of the whole world of mankind forever and ever.
But you must remember this one thing: that it was in the anxiety of a national solicitude, and in the stress of a national danger, that the spiritual cross was up-reared, and the spiritual Christ was hung thereon.
There was a divine principle at work,--a principle which could bring about the salvation of a state or of a soul,--a principle which could work in either temporal or eternal things--a principle for the world or for the universe, for an individual or for the whole mass [10/11] of mankind. It held its place equally in all. It was not to be omitted in anything.
I mean the principle of SACRIFICE.
On this principle is everything in nature built, and by virtue of it everything in nature grows. You already know that the Gospel which has been preached for ages, which appeals to your hearts, which appeals to your minds, which has reached you in every possible form, in a form that you have respected, and in a form that you have shrunk from, and in a form that you have been tempted to despise, that has sometimes come to you through natures unrefined, and through intellects uncultivated, which has had expressions abhorrent to you, and yet a spirit withal most powerful, which has come to you in all the prismatic colors of the divers human minds through which it has spoken,--you already know that, whether weak or strong, dull or brilliant, true or false in minor things, the terrible vitality by which it lives, and by which it moves you, despite yourself, is this divine principle of sacrifice.
But, perhaps, you have never thought of the same thing as underlying your own daily life, and accounting for so much that is strange in it. You have beheld the great doctrine as it was supremely illustrated in Christ, but never dreamed that you had your share of it in your own nature, and that you were also made to illustrate it.
Whenever you live in a relation to another by which you are impelled by your own heart, or compelled, by the circumstances of the case, to give up [11/12] something, yield something, devote something, which is your own and which you value, to him, that is sacrifice. Turn wherever you will, and instances enough will appear to further define this general definition. No man lives entirely to himself, he is obliged to live for others; others live upon him, and he lives upon them, and that sustenance which is thus mutually derived comes from each individual by depleting him. There is no use in resisting the principle. We are made as much to give as we are made to receive, and that life is noblest, therefore, which moves as earnestly and generously outward as inward.
There are occasions when the impulse is wanting and duty alone compels the act, but there are conditions, also, when nature impels too ardently for hesitation to be thought of. What does the mother refuse her child in the days of its helplessness and utter dependence? She gives of her life-blood to save it. Through hours of weariness and pain that inexhaustible love pours out its bodily strength, and endures the extremest tension of mind and heart, rather than one little need should not be supplied, or one instant of suffering be felt. And in any other and lesser form of love the same thing takes place in its proportion. We are always giving up to one another, and even the smallest act of the kind is part of the great law of sacrifice, and part of the great duty of self-sacrifice.
Carry this also into the great things of life, and see men expending themselves soul and body in some great [12/13] cause, living in utter engrossment of feeling and faculty in it, an enthusiasm burning away their vitals, and a strength given to that for which they labor, taken forever away from themselves. All this giving forth, this giving forth is sacrifice.
But I come to a deeper part of the principle. Sacrifice, whether voluntary or involuntary, is vicarious. Vicarious means in the place of, done for or suffered instead of another. And here we open the books of a terrible law. There is so much and no more given in this life. All cannot have it or share it. Some one must yield in order that another may receive. Two of you are equally anxious to do the same thing. Under the circumstances both cannot. The one who yields, offers the sacrifice; the one who indulges, enjoys by virtue of the other's deprivation.
Can you think of anything that does not stand on this pedestal of suffering, that does not root itself in this soil of pain? I have but little time to delineate the principle further--the circumstances of every one will furnish abundant illustration. But you have probably little thought that the great principle of vicarious sacrifice on which your conception of Christ is formed, actually lives among you, and in such minute forms as this.
In things of destiny and necessity, also, it is the great fact of God and of Nature. So much is to befall us, and the question is, on whom shall it fall? If it fall on one, it cannot fall on another; that other is [13/14] relieved. So many thousand missiles will be flung into the bosom of an army of a hundred thousand men on a certain battle-day. The heart that receives a bullet is a sacrifice instead of some one else; on account of its outpouring blood, another life remains untouched. The two or three thousand men that lie prone on the field, dead and cold, are they who died that the rest of the army might live.
So in everything--great or small. There is so much to happen, so much to be endured, so much to be undertaken, and we are drawn up before the impending thing, whatever it may be: on whomsoever it comes, on one or on many, it expends itself, there; the remainder are released; they stand free, because another has received what equally threatened all. And so we advance in this life, as over a battle-field. We step over the fallen. We, in our turn, fall, and others step over us, but the battle goes endlessly on. It is the one condition of possession, of success, of achievement, of progress, of safety, in fact of everything we value, that some one or something be sacrificed. If the operation of that tremendous principle were to stop, everything would stop, an insurmountable bar would hold all things back. Something in the present must give, or something in the future will fail. Something here must make room, or something else cannot literally "take place." Something must suffer or die, or suffering and death will be felt where it will work universal ruin. Unless either finds its true object upon which to centre, [14/15] the bewilderment of irregularity ensues. "It is expedient for us," said Caiaphas, "that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not." If, as we are now able to interpret him, such a being as Christ would go before, and receive into His own heart the fate ordained for all men, if it could but expend itself upon Him, then the race was saved, the world was redeemed. The catastrophe of the future would be anticipated if He were to advance in front of all humanity, and let it fall upon Himself. And this was that very thing which He came to do. Caiaphas and his council thought that they had dragged Him to the judgment-hall and the cross against His will. How little did they comprehend the Being whom they encompassed and delivered! How little did they dream that the sacrifice was His own, not theirs--His voluntary act, brought about by His supreme knowledge of our condition! He saw our necessity, and met it Himself. He saw what we needed, and He yielded that we might receive. He saw us in danger of perishing, and He perished Himself. He took the fatal and inevitable missile into His own heart. When He knelt that night, on the moonlit ground in Gethsemane, He bowed under the great and terrible law of sacrifice; and when, on the cross, His sacred head dropped upon His breast in death, "It was finished,"--the terrible law was entirely obeyed, and the race was free! Mankind was redeemed!
And, therefore, while our tears come, they are [15/16] mingled tears of sorrow and of joy, of grief and of gratitude. We cannot but feel our relief and exemption, even while we realize how much was suffered to obtain it. Dark and full of dread as Good Friday is, yet Easter is behind it; we cannot help seeing the light of Heaven beyond the Cross.
I know very well that this exposition of a great principle does not explain all its mystery, nor develop all its truth, so far as it finds a supreme example in Him who redeemed mankind. But the fact that it was enunciated in the interest of a nation, and was given its opportunity to compass the infinite result it did under the apparently finite form of a national sacrifice, although, "not for that nation only," brings it to the very doors of our hearts to-day.
By a singular coincidence of time and circumstance, we are looking at the stupendous redemption of our nation, worked by this self-same principle of vicarious sacrifice. And so deep is the issue involved, and so great is the salvation we feel, that it is not an irreverent association to put the sacrifice which has saved our country beside that which has saved the world. They are both in the line of the same Providential order, although one is an immeasurable distance behind the other. For it has not been the cause of an empire intent upon conquest, or upon saving itself from destruction. It is a cause which stands alone in history. There is no precedent for it but one,--the cause of that very nation for which the High Priest would have [16/17] had Jesus to die. It is a cause in which not only our own present interests are concerned, but on which the hope of all humanity hangs. Everything most dear to suffering millions, everything most near to human enlightenment and progress was brought up to the front and ventured when this nation breasted the onset of war for its life. The Hebrew Commonwealth "in which all the families of the earth were to be blest," was not more a part of the whole world's concern than is this Republic. There has been no other people and no other cause, save one, for which Christ himself could so soon have come and died.
And yet it did not require such a stupendous and superhuman sacrifice. Human nature was equal to the effort. There was not wanting among us that magnificent spirit which went forth willingly and eagerly to suffering and cruel wounds and bloody death, in order that "the whole nation should perish not." There were not wanting tens of thousands who, if it were "expedient," would "die for the people." It is they who went in the great advance, and breasted the inevitable fate that was rushing upon us, and bowed before the storm of lead and iron, and received the whole force and virulence of treason and rebellion into their own hearts. The power to injure and endanger has spent itself upon them!
Oh, see the cross! the cross of our country's sacrifice and salvation! A thousand blood-stained battle-fields scattered over the land. Trenches piled with dead. [17/18] Graveyards as newly and thickly sown as the fields of spring with corn. Whitening bones unsepulchred. Gaunt skeletons of famine. Hospitals in endless pavilions, roofing countless numbers of broken and dying men. Streets filled with the maimed and the mutilated. Houses full of bereaved and bleeding hearts: mothers mourning their sons unreturned, wives weeping for husbands lying in bloody graves, sisters wailing the loss of brothers, the little infant playing with its dead father's sword. Behold our cross of sacrifice, a cross borne also for all humanity.
And yet contained within it all is national salvation, the redemption of our people, their resurrection to a yet greater life, their inspiration to a yet nobler purpose. The Easter Sun of the Republic is already dawning. The day of peace and joy and prosperity is at hand. The Kingdom is come! Let it bring healing to the broken-hearted, deliverance to the captives, sight to the blind, liberty to the bruised. Let it grow till every throne is made to fall, and every people is lifted out of the mire. Let it grow "till all men everywhere are free."
Let our country and our cause grow till humanity itself can go no further, till it develops that nobility in man which will ally it with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let our Republic grow, let its spirit of humanity and of sacrifice expand, till Christ adopts it for His own,--His very people, of whom He was ideally born, and for whom He suffered and died,--the people of His choice and His love,--the people not of His disappointment, but of His glory.
I HAVE no heart to speak,--nor have you to hear. I put aside all that I had prepared to say, and turn to that which has filled us with such unspeakable grief and unspeakable consternation. Our day of jubilee, our Easter, so auspicious for our country, so bloodily redeemed, a day when hearts were to be happier and faces brighter, because the Prince of Peace had so really come, our day of jubilee is a day of tears, lamentation, and great mourning. The emblems of sorrow and death accompany the emblems of joy and life. The interests of the temporal and the interests of the eternal here mingle together without incongruity, but with added beauty, because they are not incongruous interests. Our hearts love our country, even while they hope for eternity.
Little did I think, my brethren, last Sunday night, as I laid before you the great and pervading principle of sacrifice, and tried to show that it was the terrible law of nature that no advance or progress could be [19/20] made but over a field of blood, and that our country had moved on to its new epoch over the bleeding forms of so many hundred thousand men, little did I think that, before the week was out, we should have to pass over the bleeding, lifeless body of our President. Little did I think that words only accommodated to the crisis of the day, and only in principle coincident with it, would have such a literal fulfilment:
"IT IS EXPEDIENT FOR US THAT ONE MAN SHOULD DIE FOR THE PEOPLE, AND THAT THE WHOLE NATION PERISH NOT."
In the decree of that Providence which has carried us so far, even this unexpected concentration of the principle upon one in whom every interest of the nation had centred, has become necessary, and the only consolation we have is, that in some mysterious way the death of Abraham Lincoln will work a greater result than his life.
But the consummate sacrifice of the war has been reached. No higher price can be paid. We have lost our President--lost him just as the mind of the whole people at last understood, appreciated, and approved him--lost him just as the heart of the whole people began to love him, and all consciously began to lean on him.
In this whole land there was no such centre and cynosure as that one man. The doubts, the suspicions, the contentions, the strifes of four political and distracted years had at last subsided and disappeared. The unfolding of our history had justified the choice of [20/21] the people. It had proved to be a choice influenced by something above mere human wisdom. It had proved to be an inspiration of God. Nothing else had carried us through the fast-occurring critical moments of this period but the moral qualities of the chosen Executive. No one had dreamed of their depth; no one knew how wonderfully they would control and sustain his judicious mind.
But the event developed and manifested him. Parties and policies became bygones. He went on in advance of them, and stood before us all in the sweet atmosphere of Peace. We looked with astonishment upon his modest, unostentatious, unelated figure, surrounded by the greatest of historic triumphs. But he acted on the instinct of his character and of his position. He was only the man of the people, not their monarch.
And how deeply the people appreciated it! How loud were their shouts and hosannas! It was a sudden recognition of intrinsic greatness and goodness, as it passed over the crest of a great epoch, and drew near the glorious end, and they connected it properly, but vaguely, with the Providential aspects of their cause. They were ready to spread their garments in his way. A new feeling took possession of them. A religious impulse seized them. Never were a people or their ruler so devout, or so full of touching ascriptions of praise and thanksgiving to God. The air resounded with hymns to the Almighty as their Saviour [21/22] and Deliverer. A solemnity of feeling grew, as if they stood in the presence of a stupendous miracle, and beheld the evolution of a distinct and conspicuous Providence.
And all this gathered round one who seemed to bear in his innermost heart the simplicity and honesty of a child, even while, as we now perceive, he was carrying out the purposes of God.
It used to be said that the peculiar sentiment of love and loyalty which is felt by a nation for its hereditary king, as the representative of a perpetual dynasty, and as the invested of God with a right to rule, could not be felt for an ephemeral and political President. He was only an official,--an almost abstract executive,--an honorary excellency only,--no supreme, permanent, or universal object of regard. In a brief period he would sink out of sight into private life, with no further claim upon his country than as having been its faithful servant.
But what do we see to-day? Our once official and merely executive President has become so identified with our hearts that we cannot separate him from ourselves. It is among the strangest of the many strange developments of the democratic principle. The man of the people can grow so close to the heart of the people that he would become the unconscious inmate of every household, an invisible member of every family, one whom it is the instinct of all to love, and the habit of all to lean on for support.
 It was even this that our President had become. Through four years of dreadful peril, uncertainty, and conflict, he had pursued his simple, dutiful, and faithful course, and at last the moment arrived when he had vindicated the cause of his country, and the majesty of its government. It was confirmation enough. It was occasion enough for gratitude and love.
And then appeared that touching exhibition of mercy and magnanimity, which has moved us all, and which has so ennobled our cause. He held out the arms of the government and people in an invitation to return. He held out the promise of forgiveness and restoration. He uttered the sweetness of his own earnest, generous heart, till he carried our hearts with his, and it seemed as if even the heart of the alien could no longer withstand or refuse.
We were prepared by him for everything that was noble, merciful, and magnanimous. Our own unembit-tered spirit, despite all our sacrifices, coalesced round his. He became the expression of our feeling and our wish. We lived and breathed, nationally, through him. We were not aware, I repeat, how close a personal affection had grown in us toward him. We did not realize how every interest we had centred in him. Unconsciously, as I say, he had become a part of our family and household. And, therefore, when yesterday morning we rose from our beds, roused by the alarming note of evil news, and we were told that the President was dead, dead by violence and murder, we felt sick, and [23/24] stunned with consternation and grief. Each one took the sorrow into his own heart. Each one was overwhelmed in his own consciousness. No one looked to the next one to interpret the catastrophe. There was no contagion of a common sorrow. The husband sunk down by himself in bewilderment and despair. The wife wept alone by herself in equal astonishment and grief. Every household mourned. Every family was bereaved. It seemed as if a near sorrow had descended upon every one. The feeling was felt under every roof that a death had occurred in the house, and that a member of the family had gone. "There was not a house where there was not one dead!"
Oh, the sadness and sorrow of yesterday! Who can forget it? Everywhere men acted like the stricken and bereaved. They closed their offices and stores; they gave up their business; they wandered restlessly about; their reddened eyes told of the hot tears of recent weeping; their depressed and yet excited, often fierce faces, told of unutterable grief and indignation. Least of all as an indication were the emblems of mourning that were almost instantly hung out amid the folds of the flag and the twinings of the national colors. One needed not to look up at the windows, and their sable decorations, for evidences of the universal sorrow. It was more apparent in every face that passed by than in all that array of flags at half-mast, and all that gloomy upholstery of woe.
The garlands and rejoicings of Palm Sunday had gone, [24/25]--the cross, the blood, the sacrifice, the darkness, and the despair of Good Friday had come. Treason and rebellion had taken a Judas shape. They had come up again, but stealthily, like Satan discomfited. The spirit that could take pride in holding four millions of human beings in bondage forever; the spirit that could strike down a helpless Senator in the national halls, and applaud the act; the spirit that could so wantonly rebel against rightful and constituted authority; that could, for so little reason, turn against a once-beloved Republic; that could rejoice in firing upon its flag and in trampling the holy symbol under foot; the spirit that could mutilate the dead, massacre garrisons, mine prisons, and set fire to cities in the night; the spirit that could starve to death uncounted thousands of prisoners of war,--is the self-same spirit that stole into the heaven of our peace, and struck the unsuspecting, confiding President from behind,--and that struck the Secretary, when lying broken, wounded, and helpless in his bed.
That was our Good Friday as a people. We were astonished, and suddenly cast down. For not to other and untried hands were we yet prepared to transfer what had become so entirely his individual work. All day yesterday it seemed, as it did to the disciples of old, that all was over; that our cause had been committed to hopeless burial. [It will be borne in mind that the disciples themselves had not identified their Master with anything higher than a material kingdom.] For no more than they could we [25/26] understand it. But the third day explained that infinite catastrophe, and a future day will explain this. Our national Easter will surely come. Our cause will rise again more beautiful, more noble, for the sacrifice. We know not what Providence intends that we shall suffer, nor what disappointments may come, nor how many hopes will be deferred. But the past is the guarantee of the future. The same Providence who has so conspicuously guided us thus far, will do for us and for our country all that is best. Remember, and take the consolation of the Divine coincidence--your greater anniversary is yet to come, perhaps it has already come. Let us wait in patience and in faith. Such an event as this has not occurred for nought. Let us hold our breath and wait. Let us watch the terrible vengeance, not of the people, but of God. Although we may pray, as our Master did, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!" yet it was long ago they invoked the blood of our sacrifice, whatever it might be, upon themselves and their children. May it not be visited upon them further. May peace come without the price of their doom. May happiness come to us, to humanity, to the race, without the world beholding their Jerusalem a heap of stones, and their children perishing within it.
But the judgments of God are stern and terrible. If there is still venom and vitality enough in a crushed cause to strike such a fang as this into the heart of a just and merciful man, the incarnation of a people's [26/27] kindliness, patience, and forbearance, if there is madness enough in an evil cause to strike down the very friend who would interpose forgiveness, what can we expect? what can we not fear?
But oh, in the spirit of Christ, let us pray that the doom be averted, that its lightnings may pass harmlessly from the cloud that overhangs us, and that the day will soon come when the skies will be clear, and our people, under another Easter sun, will be found living together in unity, happiness, and peace.
DELIVERED ON WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19, 1865, AT NOON, AT THE FUNERAL SERVICE HELD IN UNISON WITH THE SOLEMNITIES OF THE SAME HOUR, IN THE NATIONAL CAPITAL.
We are attending the funeral of the President of the United States. This service, in this crowded church, is as much his funeral service as that immense ceremonial attended by multitudes in the capital of the nation, immediately around his body. In every city, village, and hamlet of the land, as the hour of twelve has struck to-day, the people will have assembled in their temples of worship to observe the selfsame expression of respect and sorrow which is being observed at Washington. It is a national funeral, and as the noon hour will advance westward, that gathering of the people will take place at successive stations, till, like a great forerunning preparation, it has made read}' the way for the melancholy train which will bear his body westward to his home.
The President returns for the first time after his setting out upon his great duty, with that duty performed; but he returns a martyr. He will sleep in [29/30] the midst of his neighbors and friends unconscious of his work. It is among the most touching of the circumstances attending his death, that it has occurred so instantly after his success had been achieved, and before the well-earned compensation had come for so much labor, anxiety, patience, and courage. A feeling of personal sympathy has gone out of every heart on this account, as well as the feeling of personal bereavement which every one has experienced.
But who can measure our bitter disappointment as a people ] The exclamation of the old prophet, under unexpected national calamity, would seem to have an equal meaning now: "We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold trouble!"
During four years we have lived in the very din and confusion of one of those periods when the history of the world concentrates itself upon a single spot. For awhile we saw no order, and no development. We could only wait: chaos had come again. Misfortunes were thick about us. The nation was involved, before it knew, in a struggle so terrific, and in an undertaking so stupendous, that if the immensity only of the enterprise and the effort had been foreseen, no human counsel would have advised the course it took. But God led it on by its hopes and by its illusions till it could not go back, till it had awaked the latent powers of the people to an extent that the wildest dreamer of a democracy had never thought, till the cause grew [30/31] holier and holier as the pillar of cloud began to lead its hosts by day, and the pillar of fire by night.
But for a long time the wisest brain at the head of the Government could see nothing but darkness, could feel nothing but that tense anxiety which the helmsman feels at night when he plunges with his ship into the dense gloom, and receives the heavy blows of the invisible surges, and knows not for how long, nor how enduringly, and there is only the tender gleam of the binnacle-light, beneath his hand, between him and the bottom of the sea. But the night ended, the darkness lifted, the day began to break, the light on the needle was no longer the light of reason and of hope, but the light of God.
There came a moment when, instead of the slow and painful progress of the Government armies, enveloping a city here and there, and redeeming territory now in the east and now in the west, there came a moment when the whole Atlantic coast was swept into our possession almost in an instant, when the capital of the counterfeit Republic fell, when its armies capitulated, when the chieftain, in whom lay their whole military hope, was a prisoner, when the Confederacy could nowhere be found. It had evaporated away,--it had broken like a bubble--and, "like the baseless fabric of a vision, left not a wreck behind!"
What could we do in the hour of such results, and the sudden collapse of what had vaunted itself a mighty government, a separate country, and an unconquerable cause, but stand and stare with breathless [31/32] awe, and say as we grasped our neighbor's hand, "What hath God wrought!"
How full our hearts were of joy and expectation! "We looked for Peace!" How beautiful was the word to us! All we asked was to go back to the halcyon days of awhile ago, and never see a military figure in the street, nor read of a battle or siege in the newsprint. After all the heroism and excitement which has stirred our blood, we could desire even this, that all should subside into quiet, that our armies should dissolve, and our soldiers turn from the weapons of strife to the implements of industry and peace. We felt as if an angel's wing had swept over our land, and the smile of love and reconciliation was upon our faces as we turned them toward the South.
"We looked for Health!" We thought we had cured the disease by the cruel surgery to which we had been compelled. We thought we had destroyed that cancerous affection which had eaten into the heart of many a noble Southerner, and turned him away from the Constitution of his fathers. We thought we had awaked the spirit of true nationality, and developed our people into a spirit of widest humanity. We thought we had come to the hour for true ideas, and divine conceptions of duty. Before this war had broken out, the splendid manhood which makes nations great was latent and unknown among us, in danger of being softened by prosperity and perverted by pride. But now the very deep of the human heart had spoken. [32/33] The noblest principle on earth, the principle of sacrifice, had sprung forth. In everything we were enlarged and enlightened. We had been brought by trial and suffering back to the era of the Revolution, and were made to live that anxiety over again. The bloody baptism was repeated, and we had been born anew into a love of country so deep that it was the nearest thought of every heart, and so universal that the national flag floated from every house. "We looked for health,"--and felt the time was close at hand when the regenerate South would thank the Providence which had chastened it, and had removed the house of bondage from its midst, and when, shoulder to shoulder with the North, it would advance to the consummation of the work which both North and South, as one Republic, had been given to do.
But were we in danger of "healing the hurt of the daughter of God's people slightly?" Were we crying "Peace! peace! when there is no peace?"
Let the recent experience of the people admonish and warn.
We are never so far within the counsels of Providence that we can foretell anything with certainty. This, at least, we had thought, that we had got beyond the hour for reverses. But the mistake is nothing new. God always visits with adversity in an unexpected form. That member of the family dies with whom death was never associated. That form of affliction comes which was never apprehended. The image of a great battle, [33/34] with whole square miles of soil drenched with blood and strewn with dead, was the only form in which we could put a calamity that would bereave the people. And then, in the moment of our security and bright expectation and happy feeling that the end had come, one man among us, the very one whose office it had been the effort of all these battles and all these lives to uphold, falls forward dead,--killed by the alien cause in the hour of its weakness, but unconquerable malignity. To our speechless consternation our President was dead! "We looked for peace, but no good came, and for a time of health, but behold, trouble!"
What can the calamity mean? What is it for?
I suppose, after the first emotion of astonishment and grief, that which took deepest possession of the public mind was horror and indignation. And this, hereafter, will be the permanent feeling, the characteristic and the effective one. After the pain of bereavement has passed, the conviction of injury and crime comes up and takes its immovable station in the national heart. The nation has been struck a blow more dreadful than all others together in this long struggle with its assassinating foes. All the collisions of more than a thousand battle-fields have not shaken the country so much as this in the midst of the capital. All the thunders of ten thousand cannon have been empty noise beside that one pistol-shot. All the blood of four hundred thousand lives has not been grieved for so much as that which has trickled from a single wound. If all the households in [34/35] this city which have been privately bereaved were to darken their windows, and drape their dwellings, the symbols of mourning would be far fewer than they are to-day.
The nation has been injured: the people have been smitten. That one man, clothed and dignified by his imperial office, was of more worth than a million lives, not because of his personal greatness, but because of his official position,--because the country and the cause were represented, for the time, by him. It is not Abraham Lincoln, only, it is the President who has been murdered. Treason and rebellion would not have been guilty of half their crime, had they fought on the battle-field and stopped short of this; but now their guilt is consummate and inexpiable. Now an inexorable principle is let loose, the majesty of the law rises up, the righteous indignation of the people bursts forth. Not only must the man be avenged, but the President! Avenge does not mean revenge. Avengement is justice done, the right vindicated. We stand and tremble as we see this stern duty darkening the countenance of the Government. We feel a fearful anxiety as we see the beautiful development of forgiveness and conciliation suddenly broken, and another and different development smouldering in the secret counsels of the nation. Whatever it be, God wills it in His infinite wisdom. A greater good must be coming from this than could have come from that. But this hour of suspense is an hour of apprehension. It may be that less [35/36] severity of measures will issue out of this than we fear, but the dreadful character of this final result of the rebellion cannot but have its positive effect upon the nation. The best result that we can foresee, and it is one which a former policy could never have brought about with such ungenerous foes, is not only the annihilation of the rebellion, and the rebuke of treason, but the merciless extinguishment of the sentiment in which they originated. Whether by execution, or expatriation, those minds will be removed from our midst in whom the infernal flame burns, and will burn so long as they live or remain. And this may be the great blessing which Providence designs: a more perfect success, a more positive union, a more unanimous people than we could possibly have expected or otherwise had.
"The something that was to astonish the world," the plot for the simultaneous assassination of every high officer of the Government, and the sudden overthrow of its power in the confusion, has failed. It has touched but one, and his place is instantly filled. All the other great minds in whom the crisis lay, and from whom the epoch was issuing, are safe,--safe beyond peradventure or peril.
We do not realize the calamity we have been saved from, nor the inextricable difficulties in which we might have been involved. And we are not as grateful as we have reason to be to Him whose protecting hand has been so marvellously over and near us.
It will be as much the work of the historian [36/37] hereafter to count up our providences as to recount our fortunes--so many, so peculiar, and so conspicuous have they been. The fact has been seen by the people, and it has touched the popular heart. We praise God with our first breath of joy at good news. Praise Him now, in this hour of calamity, that it is not as horrible as it might have been.
There are certain ulterior consequences of this event which we cannot clearly anticipate, because they will be the peculiar development of a national system which refers so much to the people. A public sorrow in such a country as ours touches the whole people just as poignantly as a private sorrow touches an individual. And this is only one of the many new things which are daily coming to the surface with us. We see what the appeal of patriotism to the intuition and heart of the masses has done. We see the many singular virtues which have been brought to light in the passage of a people through the ordeal of political strife and civil war. We may expect, therefore, that this fearful visitation will have a most extraordinary and secret working in the public mind. We know not, in the strangeness of the free human nature of this land, how it has gone or will go to the heart of the individual citizen we never saw. We cannot foretell its mysterious agency, as it will keep ramifying about under the surface among twenty millions of people. But you may rely upon it, that it will be a slumbering fire for many years to come, stealing from heart to heart as the secret [37/38] attendant of the Holy Ghost, and burning its way for a good, we know not what.
It will be the tragic story of our history. Mothers will tell it to their children, and as the spirit of patriotism has been instilled, from generation to generation, by the traditions of the great Washington, so will the spirit of simplicity and honesty and sacrifice be distilled into the hearts of the many millions yet unborn who are to carry this Republic on, as the tradition of the good Lincoln is dropped from the lips of the fathers to their children.
The figure of that man who now lies dead in the midst of his people, will be in the days to come, the most symmetrical finish to the development in which we live. His virtues will be remembered with astonishment. His rude features will be idealized by art till nothing but the greatness and beauty of his character will shine through them. History will delight for once in the romance of goodness, and in detailing the self-devotion and triumph of principle. The blaze of this wonderful era will surround him with a glory of which he never dreamed, but which he has fully deserved.
And now our hearts recur to him as he lies at this hour, embalmed and coffined, sorrowed and mourned, by the high officers of the Government, its great statesmen and great generals, and a dense multitude of the people.
He has left behind the benediction of his just and patient spirit. He has left behind a country delivered [38/39] and redeemed. He has left behind a cause triumphant and glorious. At the close of this week, as his funeral train moves slowly through your streets, uncover your heads in reverence for him whom God raised up to be the saviour of his country, and whom God has taken away that his people might be united, and his work more mightily finished.
Look on that train, as it passes by, as if it were led by the hand of Providence. Look on it as the symbol and the reality together of the whole nation's mourning and desolation, suffered now for four long years. Look on it, and pray that it may be the end of the calamity, the end of the sacrifice.
He will lie on Sunday next in Independence Hall. The history of the nation began in that room, and continues to flow through it to this day. Nothing national occurs but that sacred chamber shares it. It has appeared in this very period almost as conspicuously as in the first war for liberty. Through a popular instinct, the President stood there in the dark days before his inauguration, but on an auspicious anniversary, and with his own strong hands raised the national ensign on high. By a strange, almost prophetic, coincidence, the thought of assassination then crossed his mind for the principle first enunciated in that room, and symbolized by that flag. "If this country," said he, "cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say that I would rather be assassinated on the spot than surrender it. I have [39/40] said nothing but what I am willing to live by, and, if it be the pleasure of Almighty God, to die by."
And now, by a most appropriate provision, the funeral train will rest in this city on the coming hallowed day, and he will lie in his martyrdom in that historic hall, sleeping amid the memories of eighty-nine wonderful years, dumb and unconscious as the great bell at his head; but the world will never forget that he sounded the note of liberty, and rung out the joy of a nation redeemed, before the strength of his honest heart was broken. [The original bell which was rung at the moment of the signing of the great Declaration, but which is now broken, stands on a pedestal in the hall.]
In a new meaning of the old royal formula he will "sleep with his fathers,"--the fathers of the republic,--with their shades looking down from the walls upon him, simple, devoted as they, having given his life in the cause for which they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
But he goes to his grave near by his humble home, with no assemblage of bygone kings to keep him company, and therefore it may be better said of him, "he sleeps with his children:"--the Mississippi flat-boatman in a coffin worthy of a monarch,--the plain man of the people thronged about and wept for by millions of hearts! True instance of the genius of our Republic! glorious instance of worth, first seen and first declared by a majority, and now perceived and acknowledged [40/41] by all!--terrible instance of that inevitable law of sacrifice under which he must fall who stands foremost for the right, and who most earnestly opposes wrong!
May this historic martyrdom make us a people loyal to God, as well as to man. May we rise higher and higher in character as a nation. Above all, may it bring us closer to another and infinite Sacrifice, which was for all nations and for all time, even of One who fulfilled in His death the issues of eternity and of the soul. And at last may it bring such an acclaim to Him, the Lord of all, that His kingdom may fully come; and, as we lift and unfurl our country's standard before men, in a grateful future, may it be to display the Cross in the midst of the stars.