Page images
PDF
EPUB

nated by one of themselves; and no doubt, if he could have again spoken, he would have prayed, in the language of our Saviour on the cross, " Father, forgive them: they know not what they do."

The event to which our attention has now been called, will not pass into oblivion, and be forgotten. It was not done in a corner; but the crime was perpetrated, as it were, in the presence of a gazing crowd of spectators, infinitely larger than that gathered in the theatre where it took place. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on the world's wide stage. There was a great cloud of witnesses. What shall be its influence upon the nation and the world, we know not now; but we shall know hereafter. It will be overruled for good. How unspeakably thankful we all should be, that he was spared thus long to the nation, even to see a virtual ending of the rebellion! God permitted this stunning blow to fall for the accomplishment of some wise purpose.

I do believe, that, in after years and ages, it will be seen to have been necessary for bringing about the final triumph of justice and truth, and the punishment of the guilty. For a season, clouds and darkness may surround the throne of God, and envelop his plans and purposes; but, ere long, he will make all clear and plain. If we are watchful, and take the word of God for our guide, we shall see the dark clouds revealing rainbow of glorious promise. I am confident that a bright and glorious future is opening before our country. Let us be hopeful. Great results must follow from these tragic events of war and commotion. Surely we have witnessed enough to make us trustful and confiding. It seems to be a law or principle which God observes in his management of nations, as well as individuals, that, when he would bestow some signal favor, he prepares the way by severe chastisements. Surely I think we may hope that God has great good in store for that people, when he shall have chastised them for that great sin of slavery. That

must be removed before the millennium come, and the gospel shalbeverywhere triumph. In the appropriate language of Longfellow, I would exhort you, " Look not mournfully upon the past: it comes not back again. Wisely improve the present: it is thine. Go forth and meet the shadowy future, without fear, and with a manly heart.” Let us not go forth, however, trusting in

arm of flesh,” but in God, our Saviour and Deliverer, most fully believing the sentiment of the text, "What I do, thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” — God is the

ee judge.

an

[ocr errors]

SERMON:

PREACHED IN THE SECOND CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH, HOLYOKE, MASS., ON

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19, 1865 ;

BY REV. O. H. DUTTON.

PSALMS xc. 6: “In the morning it flourisheth and groweth up; in the evening it is

cut down, dried up and withered."

THE whirling swiftness of the events in the midst of which

we live, takes us through strange scenes, and forces sudden contrasts upon us.

We stand bewildered and doubtful among them. Man's importance dwindles. By a common instinct, which puts aside with authority all the impious thoughts, all the blasphemous words of the scoffer, men turn their eyes to God, and pause in humble waiting on his will.

Among strange scenes, and amid sudden contrasts, indeed, we move. Where are now the jubilant clang of bells, and the roar of answering cannon; the cheerful countenance; the mutual congratulations of men; the flashing illumination, — all the demonstrations of joy and gratitude which but ten days ago gave a bounding energy to every step, and caused us all to smile as we looked from the smoky past toward the bright sunshine of the future?

Given place to muffled sounds, to hearts bowed down, to heads shaking in foreboding, to breasts surcharged with grief for whose utterance even groans will not suffice.

The country has mourned before this day. A few here and there live who dimly remember the lamentation for the death of the first President. Many of us recall with ease the sorrow upon the land when the ninth ended his briefest term of office. And most of us distinctly recollect the death of our twelfth Chief Magistrate, with all the attending circumstances of the general grief. The nation has mourned before; but never as now.

And where lies the pungency of our sorrow? Not chiefly in the loss of a wise man of far-seeing vision and of firmest will. That is a subject for calmer regret, but not for blinding, despairing affliction of soul. No: the thought which smote all hearts as the horrible tidings of last week's close swept over the land was, that we had lost a friend; a living, loving personality had been snatched away: 'twas as if some one whom we knew, and with whom we had taken sweet counsel together, had been laid low. Therefore we wept. Thence arises this weary moaning, which makes of the whole nation a grand Æolian harp, whose thousand strings vibrate in shivering unison, with tones of deepest

woe.

And now, the people of the country everywhere assemble, as we do here, to take part in the burial of this true fellow-citizen, this wise counsellor, this noble-hearted friend. In the nation's capital, the mortal remains are now passing amid tenderest care toward the grave; and, in every village where stands a house dedicated to God's worship, overflowing hearts are paying the tribute due to one whose memory shall ever be accompanied with blessing

While we need not to-day attempt to give what would necessarily be an imperfect sketch of the late President's life; and while we cannot hope to present any thing like a thorough résumé of his character, or to make any thing like an intelligent grouping of his great official acts, — we yet may properly and profitably refer to some of his more marked qualities as statesman and man.

You know that honesty of his, which has become proverbial. It was not the mere honesty in pecuniary matters, but an uprightness which pervaded all his relations with mankind; a desire to know the absolute truth, and a fixed determination to act upon that knowledge when gained. It was the honesty of action as well as of intention: some men, you know, are honest at the outset in their purposes, but through an imperfectly balanced character are twisted aside into a crooked line of action. This was by no means the case with him. He sought first to know himself, and all the dangers to which he was liable from his own personal peculiarities; then he endeavored thoroughly to learn the real bearings of every question offered to him: he would present it to all lights; would take the opinions of the enemies as well as the friends of any measure: he knew how to make allowances for the prejudices of those in favor of, as well as of those against, any line of action pressed upon him. He was not to be pushed hastily into any step, nor was he to be restrained when the time seemed to his honest, justice-loving mind to have fully come.

As a natural consequence, Mr. Lincoln was misunderstood for a long time,-a very long time. Radical men from one important State and another would post to Washington, have an interview with the President, and urge their most violent plans upon him: but then they would be chagrined to find, that, while they were more than courteously listened to; while every bit of valuable intelligence or useful suggestion they had to offer was eagerly seized by him, and honestly used, - their pet schemes were not put in motion; and thereupon there would result dissatisfaction.

But then appeared the shining qualities of Mr. Lincoln's nature. He could be patient in the midst of the censures of his friends. Confident in his own integrity, and with a splendid trust

« PreviousContinue »