Page images

day, the enemies of God and man rejoice: to-day, friends, there is jubilee in hell.

I had planned to congratulate you this morning on the downfall of rebellion, and the inauguration of a new civilization. I had planned to speak hopeful words of our own prospective agency in redeeming mankind from barbarism and sin; and to urge you, with fresh courage and rekindled zeal, to do your part in this great and noble work. But that theme must wait: God has given me a different message to-day. One subject alone occupies our hearts and minds; and I must hearken to the imperative demand of the hour. Its lessons are weighty and solemn; and woe to us if we heed them not!

In the very hour of victory, while the welkin rang with shouts of triumph and exultation; while we gloried in the prowess of our armies and navies; while we rejoiced, and thanked God, that our gigantic task was well-nigh ended, -the stroke has fallen like a thunderbolt from a cloudless sky. The Ship of State has weathered the storms of mid-ocean, and now approaches the region of sunken reefs and tortuous channels; the haven is in sight: but the danger was never so great as now. And, behold! in the very hour when our need of a skilled and trusty pilot is most pressing, he is struck down at the helm. Who is so blind as not to see the peril? who so bold as not to fear it? Rebellion will receive fresh life from this its greatest triumph; and, trusting to gain by murder what it has failed to gain by war, will strain every nerve to follow up this terrific blow at the nation by others as terrific. Loyal men will be so maddened and dismayed by an outrage to which American history can furnish no parallel, as perhaps to seek security from its repetition by dangerous means. The day has gone by when the Chief Magistrate of the great Republic could trust himself among the people. Henceforth, body-guards and household troops must attend his

steps; and, in sight of a military pomp which has hitherto belonged solely to the Old World, who, alas! can repeat our boast of olden times, that the American President is a simple citizen? And further, in their exasperation at this cowardly and bloody deed, the people of the North will be tempted, nay, have been tempted, to take unlawful vengeance on those whose guilty sympathy and support are given to its perpetrators. Who does not perceive that their fiendish crime has put liberty and law in greater jeopardy, and struck a sharper blow at the cause of our country and of humanity, than the murder of many thousands in fair and open battle? If we have no place of refuge, if we can find no better than human súccor, our hearts may well grow.sick with fear and anguish. What a friend we have lost! His sterling integrity, his high moral principle, his unselfish and unambitious spirit, his simplicity and tender-heartedness, his pure and patriotic aims, and, above all, his humble and childlike faith in God, - these these gave him a hold on the popular heart, and an influence, both at home and abroad, which have made him almost the saviour of his country. Faults he doubtless had; mistakes he doubtless made: but the country reposed so confidingly on his honesty, firmness, and cautious judgment, that it now feels stunned at its loss. Peace to thy ashes, tried and trusty friend! Thou hast fought a good fight; thou hast earned a rich reward, praise, honor, and everlasting love, from thy country; approbation, benediction, and eternal life, from Almighty God. We knew not how we loved thee, till we found thee passed away for ever. For us hast thou toiled; yea, for us hast thou died. Our hearts are full of sorrow, and our eyes of tears: when shall we look upon thy like again? Peace, I say, — peace to thy ashes, for evermore!

I fear, my friends, that we have leaned overmuch upon this great-hearted and large-minded man. I find myself bewildered

by his death, and asking, almost faithlessly, "Who can fill his place?" And yet the whole life of Abraham Lincoln is a rebuke to such doubts and fears. Perhaps his strongest trait was a childlike faith in the guidance of Almighty wisdom. From that bleeding corpse in the Presidential Mansion comes a voice more solemn than any of its living words, a voice full of encouragement and reproof, "Fear not; for am I in the place of God?" The nation has leaned upon him, it scarcely knew how much, and looked to him to steer us safely among the perilous rocks of reconstruction. And now that we have lost our faithful helmsman, we are warned afresh to put our trust where he put his, in a.God of justice and mercy. The bullet of the assassin cannot reach to the Almighty's throne. The Lord God omnipotent reigneth for ever. No: great and good as he was, honored, trusted, and loved as he was, Abraham Lincoln is not "in the place of God." Though our perils are imminent and manifold, it is weakness to be dismayed, and treason to despair. cause of our country is the cause of God; for he loves justice, mercy, and righteousness better than we, and will raise up men to carry out his holy designs. Did he not summon him whom we mourn, out of obscurity and humble station, to be the Moses of our deliverance, and to guide his chosen people through a Red Sea of blood? And, though our leader has fallen before we have reached the Promised Land of peace, shall we not trust God to raise us up a Joshua? We dishonor our cause and our country, our own souls, and their Creator, if we give way to the cowardly fears which assail us. The very fact, that God has given us a Lincoln in the past, and a Grant in the present, is a pledge that the line of our heroes and saviours shall not fail in the future. Our fear must pass away with the first shock of this tremendous crime: we must "come to ourselves," and repossess our souls. After the battle of Cannæ, which cost Rome seventy thousand of


her best troops, and brought her to the very brink of destruction, the Roman Senate voted public thanks to Æmilius Paulus, the commander of the defeated forces, "because he had not despaired of the Republic." To-day, dear friends, when a great prop and support is stricken out from under us, and a danger more terrible than the loss of an army overhangs us, America calls upon her children not to "despair of the Republic," not to lose faith in God. On him, and not on any human strength or wisdom, depends our ultimate salvation.

Abraham Lincoln was a providential man; and, because I most thoroughly believe this, I believe, also, that he lived to fulfil his mission. He lived to vindicate the insulted majesty of the nation, and to redeem the promises of his first Inaugural Address. He lived to enter Richmond in triumph, to behold the Stars and Stripes waving over the rebel capital, and to witness the destruction of the grand army of the rebellion. By his moral greatness, his patience, his forbearance, his practical wisdom and unselfish patriotism, he has earned a renown pure as that of Washington, and will stand side by side with him, through all coming time, on the same high pedestal. I would that his earthly remains might slumber in the same august tomb; and that Mount Vernon, doubly consecrated by the ashes of Washington, and by. the ashes of him who alone, in the annals of historic time, stands forth his peer, might become the Mecca of the New World, the shrine where millions of pilgrims, through generations untold, and from nations yet unborn, shall kneel and pray, and rise up fired with the divinest inspirations of liberty. The toil of that great soul is ended.

Perhaps the day had come when Abraham Lincoln could no longer serve the Republic he so dearly loved; perhaps, by his exceeding kindness and mercy towards undeserving men, he was about to sacrifice the vital interests of his country; and perhaps

God suffered the long-threatened and long-averted blow to fall at last on that beloved head, just in season to prevent dire calamity to America, and a lasting eclipse to his own pure fame. Who shall fathom the purposes of the Unsearchable One? The great work of Abraham Lincoln is still incomplete; but his death by horrid hands may be the only way to complete it. Of one thing God's plans are never balked. The souls of John Brown and Abraham Lincoln in solemn fellowship are "marching on," God himself at their head, and millions of tramping feet in their rear: the earth shakes with their mighty tread; and, beneath the millstone of that stupendous march, slavery, treason, and rebellion shall be ground into impalpable dust.

be sure,

But, friends, the lesson of renewed faith in God is not the only one forced in upon our minds by this heart-sickening crime. We need, and now we see our need written out in letters of blood, not only a passive faith in God, but an active obedience to his will. Murder is a stern tutor, and sternness is the burden of his tuition. The fiend of secession has at last torn off his mask, and, like the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan, has revealed to the outraged light of heaven a visage hideous with all the ugliness of hell. Every misguided follower whose heart is honest, but whose head is weak, must shrink back in horror and affright. None but devils in human form will justify or palliate a deed like this; and to such our reply must be short and sharp. Not revenge, but self-defence; not vengeance through an irresponsible and lawless mob, but justice through courts of law. We must make it dangerous to dabble in treason; for we see its danger. The diabolism of secession is now patent to all; and, if we show it either mercy or pity, our blood shall be upon our own heads. In the exultation of victory, the nation betrayed marks of a good-natured weakness, of a criminal magnanimity; and God may have suffered this appalling blow to strike us, to

« PreviousContinue »