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THE MARTYR OF LIBERTY :
A SERMON PREACHED IN THE UNITARIAN CHURCH, DOVER, N.H.,
ON SUNDAY, APRIL 16, 1865;
BY THE PASTOR,
REV. FRANCIS E. ABBO T.
Gen. 1. 19:
“Fear not; for am I in the place of God?” DEAR friends, we assemble this morning, in our house of
worship, in the shadow of a mighty affliction. The hearts of a vast nation are throbbing with anguish, horror, and dismay. The pistol of the assassin has done its hellish work; and he, who, by the enthusiastic acclamations of a great people, was declared, but five short months ago, our chosen leader in the march to universal freedom, our foremost champion of liberty, has now become its martyr. In his fall, the country bleeds at every pore; the stoutest heart thrills with fear; and the voice of universal wailing is our requiem for the great departed. Treason, which we thought lay buried beneath the yet warm ashes of Richmond, has leaped over the heads of our victorious armies, and carried by storm the impregnable forts of Washington. To
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 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