Page images

captive, and give us men the pledge of a like resurrection. He gave us the profound assurance that He rules over us in all the ages; that He guides for us the world and all its changes; that there can nothing die which is His truth; that even if individuals pass away the Truth, guided by Him, lives and moves on, and will have its due success by His care. This resurection of Christ gave us not alone the pledge of individual resuscitation from the grave. Great as that advantage is to each individual; as pure and blessed a revelation as that personal hope is to each soul which goes down to the grave; the other lesson is as grand and replete with comfort. The apostles, each proclaimed his single belief in his own resurrection, cheered his disciples in all the Churches with the exulting arguments which told that as in "Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive;" yielded each his spirit in peace, like St. Stephen, as seeing the Lord Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

But there is another lesson in it, which they and all Christians have received deep into their consciousnessthe fact that in Christ, the great law of Truth and Love, which underlies all our civilization, can never die. I do not fancy an Apostle of Jesus, as he felt his life slipping away in agony; as he looked around on faces of enemies, taunting him with every epithet of shameful abuse, and glaring upon him with the scowlings of brutal rage, comforting himself with the individual consolation: "I shall rise again; I shall turn to the dust, but that dust of mine. shall be watched by angels, and at the resurrection recalled and changed into a glorious and spiritual body." No; this may have formed their subject of rejoicing, as they sang psalms and hymns in hours of respite. This became

their grand argument as they combatted unbelief or rebuked sin. This was the theme of their discourse as they bent over the parchment on which with the stylus they wrote the words of quiet and serenest comfort to the Christians, who were not yet "resisting unto blood," but only bearing up under ordinary trials. But when the hour of their own final trial came, they doubtless (as I conceive of them) were wrought up to a grander theme: that in Christ, the Truth could never die. Even pagans had taught them the great fact, that it was easy to die for one's country, when the faith in their country was strong in them. Even old Norsemen have set before us the image of this great consolation; and their scalds represent their heroes when overcome in battles, chanting the songs of their national glory; that while they as individuals fly away to the halls of Valhalla, the life of the people ever lives on. And those loving hearts, which had endured and dared all things for others who, moved by Divine pity had learned to forget self in charity to the miserable of all countries when their hour of martyrdom came at last, laid down their lives in sublime trust, that while they as individuals perished, the Church could never perish. They felt themselves to be but particles running in the veins and arteries of the Spiritual Body. That Body would live on, though they passed out of sight. "The gates of death" could never prevail against it. It had risen in Christ and would live even by their sorrows; would gain new strength from their defeat, would yet crown their names with testimonials of gratitude for the blessings purchased by their "faithfulness unto death." It is that profound faith in the spiritual oversight of Christ over us, in our Christian civilization, which has

made the deaths of individuals tolerable-which gives us a solemn strength in the midst of the most agitating doubts and the gloomiest disasters. Martyrs in all ages have taught us the meaning of that quaint merriment of the noble old bishop at Oxford, as he said: "We shall light this day a candle which shall give light to all England."

When in old Rome, Cæsar fell before the daggers of assassins, there was a gloom which hung like a pall over the whole land, unrelieved by one certain, assured hope of the future; but to-day, much as we have quaked in horror at the atrocious crimes which have defiled the land with the blood of unresisting victims, we unconsciously rest assured of our Future. There may yet be circles of trouble and fear, but the stream will again run smooth, and the Country, after its scourging has passed and its wild passions are quieted, will once more pass on to its high place in the catalogue of the nations. We have this faith deeper fixed than we think it, till some severe trial brings it to the surface. We may call it up as the true lesson to us of this great Christian festival. And if any one has made the wretched mistake of doubting this deep faith in this nation, or supposing that our life has hung entirely on any single individual, he has only by a dastardly cowardice given us the opportunity of showing the vital force of the institutions which we have received from our forefathers. Let us in that sublime conviction lean back on our trust in God and "dwell in the land and be doing good." Let us join to remember that vengeance belongeth to the Lord, and administer justice upon the guilty, unruffled by the passions or the fears of the first shock of alarm. Our country will enshrine the fallen in

her inmost heart, will forget their errors, if they had them, will pardon their faults, such as they were, and give them a glorious record of her love and gratitude, such as they might have missed by a gentler exit. I do not make them out to be martyrs to Religion, but to their Country. They have died in the midst of a community, that has thrilled with horror at the utter wantonness of the deed; its mere stupid, brutal, theatrical revenge. No cause of all those for which men are struggling can be supposed by the most fanatical imagination to be advantaged by this deed. If it has been plotted to defeat our national life and to hurry us into anarchy, it will take but one calm hour of reflection to show the madness of such a hope. We are not the Christian people I wish and pray we may be; we are in many things too careless and profane; we have too often forgotten God, and neglected too many of the duties that we owe Him; but there is yet a deep consciousness under all these visible faults of character, which will suffice to carry us through these dangers. We can call up our faith in the Truth, the Christian charity for all men, the deep innate struggle in us as a nation for the Rights of man, and believe that individuals may perish, policies may rise and fall, great mistakes may be made and repented of; but the normal life of the Nation will increase in vigor, and prompt to new and better epochs. Trusting to this, let us be calm. Let us be brave, and consider our own sins and beg God to watch over us and mercifully pardon us the past.

I conclude with a word or two concerning the distinguished individual, who has been struck down by a dastardly, cowardly crime. How fair was that Good Friday! The sun came up with purest, whitest light; the buoyant

air was full of Spring, and the calm hours glided awaythe truest, best picture possible of peace. How many hearts were exulting that Peace and Spring seemed coming in together; that magnanimity was becoming the theme of common consideration; that as the quiet after a thunder-storm, so the social scenery would witness the pause and tears of reconciliation and renewed brotherhood. I had received a letter from the distant Diocesan of Maine, (a man loyal to the core,) occupied with delicate scruples concerning our returning brethren of the Church. And for such a day to pass into such night-the heart is paralyzed by it!

But for the immortal soul, which was called so suddenly to meet the award of death, has there been one day in all the past four years of his administration that would have such an idea of Divine mercy mingled with it for him, when we think of him as immortal, and as having passed the change which meets us all? He is believed by all men, by his political enemies as well as his intimates, to have been a kind man-one easy to be entreated. In mercy he was simple and sincere. He had long since given orders that no one on a mission to him of life and death should ever be refused an audience. I have heard those who differed from him in political life declare him to be beyond question a merciful man. At one recital of grief I know, he broke down, and mingled his tears with those of the suppliant. I can testify from personal knowledge to his quaint but honest mercifulness of disposition; willing to spare suffering to a tale of woe, and then struggling to conceal, under a blunt exterior the tenderness of his own almost womanly sympathy. But on last Good Friday, of all the days of his adminis

« PreviousContinue »