Project Canterbury






MORGAN DIX, S.T.D., Rector,













God's ancient prophets in Judah and Israel, when beholding visions of the power and glory of the wonder-working Lord, or coming before the people with the burden of dolorous message, were wont to cry lamentably, "Woe is me!" Woe is me, for seeing what the eyes of man can scarce endure; for having such words as these to speak! So may it be with the ministers of the Gospel of Christ through all our beloved land to-day. Men and brethren; eye to eye, hand to hand, heart to heart, we face each other now, crying "Woe is me!" Woe for the common grief! Woe worth the day and the tidings which it brings of destruction, desolation and death, of violence lording it over us all! We are one in distress at a national calamity and affliction, in horror at an unspeakable crime. And so suddenly has the blow been dealt that there has been no time to search for the words which one might wish to speak.

Two things surely are filling our thoughts to-day. We are looking at the Man; we are looking at the Crime! As for the Man, his warmest friends, his greatest admirers, could not have asked for him a more brilliant apotheosis. Estimates have varied of his abilities and his work. But millions have been praying here, as men seldom pray, that his life might be precious in the sight of [3/4] God; and far beyond our borders, and widely through foreign lands, others innumerable, our brethren in a common humanity, have been on their knees pleading for his life. This decides the estimate of his character, his acts, his greatness; the general consent of the wide world, from which there can be no appeal. Our President was a great man, in the highest sense in which that adjective can be applied. I am not speaking as a publicist, nor analyzing a political career; there may be room for difference of judgment there; but there are other matters on which we are all agreed. What is it to find, in the highest place among us, a man devout and faithful in his Christian profession; modest, calm, capable; a pattern of the domestic virtues, an example of right living? Has not the public, the great American nation, taken in the beauty of that good, honest, loyal life? Is it not for this that the man has been beloved and honored far and wide throughout our families and our homes? What makes the Christian gentleman but simplicity and sincerity of life, courteous manners, dislike of pride and ostentation, abhorrence of display and vulgar show? So have we thought of this man; and then we have followed his life; through its varied phases we have seen the quiet student, the soldier, the legislator, the executive officer; and, looking on, our admiration has grown from more to more. We have seen him, chosen by a great popular movement to be the Chief Magistrate of the nation. We have scanned his conduct and acts, during four years, among the most critical in the nation's history, and as the result of such scrutiny, [4/5] in the broadest light that could be thrown upon his path, and under the severest criticism to which a public man could be subjected, we have seen him re-elected to his great office by a larger vote than ever, amid the acclamation of the people, and to the confusion of his adversaries and traducers; all this have we seen. And then we have said: In this system of ours we do not ask for a man to make and control, but for one who shall wisely guide, oversee, direct; for one who catches the spirit of the age, reads the signs of the times, interprets movements, and his sound judgment shapes their course. And, looking at the past four years, more full of vital issues to the nation than any since the days of Abraham Lincoln, we have seen wonderful things; a nation passing from small to great, from narrow places to broad; the horizon enlarging all the while; the nation attaining its majority; the world looking on with amazement; great questions put, and answered well; great principles settled; great deeds done, for freedom, and clarifying of evil, and instruction of the ignorant in sound views of government: one grand, forward, upward movement dazzling the eyes, and charming the senses, and kindling hope: and at the head of all this A Man: not as if he had been the author and prime cause of these things; but certainly we have seen in him the wise, prudent, earnest leader; such a leader as Providence must have raised up for that particular work and inclined us to put in that position. That was the man. And up to Friday, the 6th of September, the scene presented by our happy and highly favored [5/6] land was that of a people blessed and contented, at peace and secure; never before so prosperous, never yet so honored abroad, never yet so hopeful, so confident; marching on a splendid path to greater things. And always at the head, that good citizen, that earnest patriot, that wise head, that warm affectionate heart, that example of the best that our American civilization has yet brought forth; beloved devotedly by the people; trusted by them; strong, able, healthful, with his friends about him, and the light of the coming years in front. Such was our trust in him, and such was the nation's will; and according to our ideas, the will of the people is the law of the land, and he who gainsays is the enemy of the sovereign people. So stood matters a week ago last Friday.

And now, what see we? Or what shall we say?

The Crime: What was it, that high treason against the Sovereign People of these United States? Comparing crime with crime, we see in this the worst that we have ever known; the most outrageous ever committed in this land.

Lincoln fell in 1865, by an assassin's hand. But the act was bred of the passions of the Civil War. It meant nothing as against the order of the world or the stability of government in general. It was a personal act of revenge, by one who loved the Confederacy, and thirsted for vengeance for a lost cause. Nor was it a new crime. Such crimes were known ages ago; they grew out of a mistaken love of country, or what stood for country; the [6/7] assassin, under a rule of his own choice, and institutions of his own selection, would have been loyal and content. It was a horrid crime; it did more harm to the South, to which we the assassin was devoted, than any other act could have done. But there was worse to come.

In 1881, on the 19th of September, President Garfield died, the second of our murdered Presidents; also victim of an assassin's hand. But the fact, though it stirred the nation to horror, had no political significance. The wretch who did the act was merely a disappointed office-seeker. His act was the pitiful result of low party politics; bred of the vindictive spite of a miserable man, with none behind him to aid and abet. Justly did he pay the penalty of his deeds. But there was worse to come.

And it has come. Something else. Something new among us; not new elsewhere, alas; but new in this land, supposed to be a land of freemen, the refuge for the oppressed, the home of a higher and better civilization. Right in the path on which this great nation is advancing stands the most horrid spectre by which the social order has yet been confronted. A shadow has fallen on the road blacker than any shadow of death. Be the individual who he may, that happens to represent this new force, he is of very little consequence compared with that which lies behind his act. This grisly shape announces boldly as its aim and end the total destruction of modern civilization; the overthrow of all law, Divine and human; of all forms of government, of restraint of any kind on the private individual will. And the fatal blow of Friday, the [7/8] 6th of September, dealt at the Chief Magistrate of the United States was the deliberate act of a believer in that scheme of destruction, and in accord with its well-known principles. That lends its deeper horror to the act; that gives its double horror to the Crime. It is not a Crime like other crimes; it is not one with which we are familiar. And the heart sinks at the thought that we are now at length face to face with this infernal propaganda, and have felt, in the merciless butchery of our great and good President, the fist taste of more to come, unless God grant the resolute will to defend ourselves and teach the way.

Next to the anguish of the hour, which has made strong men weep like children and melted hearts at the cruel desolation of a pure and loving home, comes the dread engendered of a doubt as to the will and power of the nation to save its own life; whether there shall be found force enough among us to rise, and lay strong hold on this monster, now distinctly revealed and upon us, and striking down the first and foremost of American citizens. Already we are beginning to hear it said that the people are rallying from the blow, that the first alarm is over; that all are recovering courage; that business will soon be flowing on again in its usual channels; that we shall go forward once more in our lawful pursuits and the ordinary avocations of the time. Yes, all this is well. But is this nation to fail to act as a great nation should? To deal as it ought to deal with the deadliest foe it has or ever can have? For if this foe prevail, the Nation, the [8/9] State, the Law, the Government, disappear, and, for us, the history of the United States is closed forever. Are we to forget what has thrown us into this present mourning and these tears? Are we to lapse into a fatal apathy and let the preaching of Murder, and the inciting to Murder, and the applauding of Murder go on as heretofore? Are our laws still to protect the persons who hate and detest them, and are banded together for the overthrow of society? It seems to me that the most solemn issue of the hour is what we are to do who remain; whether we are equal to the occasion; whether we who have subdued foe after foe, and won the victory in many wars for the State, the People, and the Flag, are now to fall back before this enemy, the last and most dangerous we ever have encountered or ever shall, and let things drift from worse to worse, amid repeated outbreaks of a passion, illogical, unreasoning, mad, which will not spare one life that stands in its way.

Much may and should be said of the national sins which have led to such national judgments; of the falling away from religious standards, of the loss of faith, of growing luxury and sin, of the decline in morals and piety, which invite the judgments of heaven; of the indifference to law, the loss of respect for authority, the habit of railing at and reviling our public men and telling lies about them, such as that gross one heard not long ago that our President was a traitor and would fain overturn our republican and democratic government. Of these things there will be time to speak later, but to-day I cared [9/10] not to speak of more than these two, the Man and the Crime.

And so leave we the beloved and honored President to his rest and his future glory; for certainly his name will shine magnificently among those of the greatest of the line, immortal with those of Washington and Lincoln; great for the way in which he guided the country through a mighty crisis in its fortunes; great in his closing words, great in his constant thought for others, great in his submission to the will of God, greatest perhaps in that death-bed scene, so perfectly accordant with the precepts of the Gospel and the example of his Saviour. Let us bear in mind that wife, to whom his devotion forms one of the lovelist and purest pictures in the past. God comfort and help her, and grant her a glad reunion with her beloved; and to him be given the light perpetual with the chosen of the Lord; and to us all strong hearts and clear heads to see the duty pointed out so plainly on that terrible day which has plunged the nation into mourning, and filled our souls with horror and our eyes with tears.

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