Francis Wharton.

A willing reunion not impossible. A thanksgiving sermon preached at St. Paul's, Brookline, November 26, 1863 online

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Online LibraryFrancis WhartonA willing reunion not impossible. A thanksgiving sermon preached at St. Paul's, Brookline, November 26, 1863 → online text (page 1 of 2)
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A WILLING REUNION NOT

IMPOSSIBLE.



A THANKSGIVING SERMON PREACHED AT ST
PAUL'S, BROOKLINE, NOVEMBER 26, 1863,



Rev. FRANCIS WHARTON,



KECTOR OF THE PAlilSH.



PUBLISHED BT THi: VESTRY,




BOSTON:
E. P. BUTTON AND COMPANY,

€:f)ut-ci) 33ui)lisluvs.
1863.



' K 55



RIVEHSIDE, cajibriuge:
I'KI.VTEU BY H. O. HOUGHTON.






Brookmne, Thanksgiving Day,
November 26th, 18G3.
Reverend and dear Sir: —

Having listened with great interest to the sermon preached by jou
this morning, and believing that it is well calculated to promote cor-
rect views upon the National affairs of the day, we respectfully request
a copy for publication.

AUGUSTUS ASPINWALL, ~

HARRISON FAY,

JAMES S. AMORY,

J. A. BURNHAM,

AMOS A. LAWRENCE, Wardens and Vestry

FREDERICK P. LADD, of St. Paul's Church.

WILLIAM ASPINWALL,

M. C. FERRIS,

HENRY UPHAM,

THOMAS PARSONS,



Rev. FRANCIS WHARTON,
Brooklines Mass.



THANKSGIVING SERMON.



" In the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice." — Ps. Ixiii. 7.



It is the usage of the divine Word to speak of
God's mystery as the beHever's peace. Conceal-
ment, we are told, is a part of the glory of God ;
and the very darkness, therefore, in which our
path may be enfolded, leads us to trust in God,
who is in the cloud. " Thou canst not see my face,"
said God to Moses, "for there shall no man see
me and live." " And it shall come to pass, while
my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a
cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my
hand as I pass by," — hiding thus from the crea-
ture the movement of the Creator, even when the
Creator is most near. So the apostle cries, —
"• Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom
and knowledge of God ! how unsearchable are
his judgments, and his ways past finding out ! For



of him, and through him, and to him, are all things;
to whom be glory for ever. Amen." And in the
same strain of praise for this, the hiddenness of
the providence of God, the Psalmist exclaims, in
the words of the text, — "In the shadow of thy
wings will I rejoice."

I think, dear friends, in the first place, that this
must be the behever's cry in reference to the
shadows that hung over him during former parts
of his pilgrimage, but which are now passed. Few
of us but must recall moments when we seemed
placed in the cleft of the rock; and, like one pent
in between the rugged walls and the beetling roof
of some dark sea-side cave whose mouth the waves
wash, could then see no path of escape. Yet, as
we now view these moments of depression or
affliction, what is our present cry? Do we not
feel that even for these we can praise God? Do
we not see that he whose paths are on the sea,
and whose footsteps are not known, led us forth
by a way of which we knew nothing? "Before
I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I
kept thy word." We now see that our plans,
which we so much cherished, were very different
from God's plans, which we did not understand ;
and that our plans would have led to ruin, but



God's have led to peace. We see that, whenever,
in our own presumptuous wisdom, we chose our
own path, against his obvious leadings, it led to
sorrow, if not to sin ; and that God's discipline,
which tore us, bleeding as it were, from ties in
which we had thus wrapped ourselves, was the
way of right and of love. We see that even God's
providence of affliction, in removing from us beloved
and believing friends, was a providence of mercy,
— completing the number of the elect, adding to
the glory of heaven, weaning us from earth. We
see how even our own sicknesses and disappoint-
ments have been blessings, warning us, as we grew
older, not to attach ourselves to the transitory
things of earth, but to place our affections on
heaven. In the shadows of the past we can, there-
fore, rejoice in the light of experience ; and so
Faith teaches us to rejoice in the shadow of the
present, grievous as may be the affliction or sore
the trial. For the shadow is the covering of God's
wing.

But if such be the case with personal troubles,
how much more strongly must it be so in refer-
ence to those which strike, not merely individuals,
but nations, — nations whose destiny involves, not
only that of multitudes of individual souls, but, in



a large measure, tliose of Christ's militant church.
It IS true, that, in our own case, as our country
stands on this Thanksgiving day, the shadow over
us is not unbroken. We look back, as we close
this beautiful autumn, upon a harvest of singular
fulness. In no time has wealth poured itself so
abundantly upon our great marts; at no former
period has the giant growth of our giant country
been so marked in this, the favored region in
which we live. And we see this growth and
this flush not only in our business, but in our
educational and ecclesiastical interests. Our schools
were never so full, our religious contributions never
so large, the mental activity of the country never
so great, as now. And yet, as we view all this,
we turn with a sigh to the one great and over-
whelming grief that overshadows us : a country
divided into two hostile camps, and divided by a
chasm into which not merely wealth, but life, is
swallowed up in the costliest libations ; a people,
only a few years since united in affection and
peace, now apparently separated by an enmity even
unto death. In this, the shadow of God's wing
on our land, what reason have we to rejoice ? By
these, the waters of Babylon, -in this, the strange
land of discord in which we now find ourselves,—



how can we, as a nation, raise the voice of praise ?
This question let me now attempt to consider.

And first, in these, our national trials, we are led
to contemplate heaven as the sole country which
cannot be disturbed, and God as the sole ruler
whose supremacy cannot be touched. Each form
of human government has been successively shaken
to its centre. The military despot, the constitu-
tional king, the little community in which each
man has an equal share of power, the vast cen-
tralization, where the aristocrat acts and speaks for
all ; — each, in turn, has yielded to that law which
stamps imperfection on all the institutions of man.
And now, our own system, of all others the most
perfect, — of all others, that which best unites in-
dividual liberty with governmental power, — speaks
the same lesson. The genius of constitutional lib-
erty stands by the camp, and tells us that not
even the best of human governments is able, with-
out force, to control human passion; that there is
but one government that cannot be shocked, — that
of heaven ; but one power in whose protection we
can find peaceful refuge, — the power of God. In
God, then, let our supreme dependence be placed.

But, secondly, these national trials cannot be
studied without seeing in them important political

2



10

as well as religious compensations. I have never,
from the beginning of this melancholy struggle,
been able to conceive of the great country included
between the lakes and the Gulf, and the Atlantic
and Pacific, otherwise than as one. All tlie analo-
gies of other countries forbid its division, unless
division be followed by war which would last until
the one part or the other is politically cancelled.
In no case in Europe do we meet with two con-
tiguous powers, unseparated by natural boundaries,
maintaining their independence and their integrity
untouched. Between France and Spain the Pyre-
nees erect an almost imjDassable natural barrier,
and, in addition to this, there is that moral sever-
ance arising from difference of tongue ; yet France
has, more than once, overrun Spain, and Spain has
now sunk to a second-class power, virtually the
dependent of France. In a still more active
process of absorption, the principalities of Burgundy,
of Navarre, of Normandy, were gradually so worked
up into the body of the kingdom of France, by
the mere energy of homogeneousness of language
and contiguity of soil, that now even the old boun-
daries are lost. Through the same process Wales and
Scotland were united to England, Norway to Swe-
den, Boliemia to Austria, Silesia to Prussia, and, in



11

the very few last years, Naples, Parma, Moclena,
and Tuscany, to the new kingdom of Italy. If, in
some of these cases, the fusion was produced im-
mediately by war, the principle is the same ; for
the only alternative to a peaceable union, when
nature or art has erected no positive boundary, is,
war to be continued until one party or the other
gives way; and it is only by such boundaries, or
by the joint guaranties of Europe's leading powers,
that the smaller states of the continent are kept
from immediate absorption in their more powerful
neighbors. I do not say that this is right; but I
do say that it is in obedience to one of those in-
stincts of human society which it is as impossible
to control as it would be to overrule that law by
which the smaller particle gravitates to the greater,
or the stronger force attains a supremacy over the
weak. And peculiarly does this law seem to apply
to this country, where there is not only no natu-
ral boundary dividing North and South ; not only
no dissimilarity in language, in religion, in histori-
cal antecedents, in general policy of government,
— but where the two sections are united by reci-
procity of staples, where the Mississippi couples the
lakes and the Gulf by one main commercial ave-
nue, and where the Alleghany and Rocky hills



12

divide the country into valleys running north and
south. There could be no permanent peace, were
an artificial boundary cut through interests which
would thus have such interminable causes of con-
flict ; there could be no peace, without pohtical
death, when peace involved a severing of the great
arteries of national life : there can be no alterna-
tive, as I conceive, between a federal union of some
sort, and a series of exhausting wars, which must
continue until the one side or the other obtain an
ascendency which is final and complete.

Nor do I see any answer to this, in the fact that
such is now the antagonism between North and
South, that a willing reunion under the same gen-
eral government is impossible. Antagonisms no
less bitter, — antagonisms often strengthened by
difference of language, and of political antecedents,
as well as by natural boundaries, which do not
obtain among us, existed in all the cases of ab-
sorption I have mentioned ; and yet, the great law
of populations prevailed, and the contiguous lands
were united. No execration of our own time could
be more bitter than that with which the Welsh
bards, as the prophets of Welsh patriotism, visited
the English invaders :

"Ruin seize thee, ruthless king,
Confusion on thy banner wait," —



13

so they have been paraphrased by the poet Gray ;
yet Wales soon began to exchange institutions
with England, and, under a common government,
to be fed by, and to feed, its wealth. No wail
could be sadder than that of the Scotch minstrel,
singing, as it seemed to him, the dirge of Scotch
glory : —

" Old times are passed, old manners gone,
A stranger fills the Stuart's throne ;
And I, neglected and oppressed,
Long to be with them, and at rest."

Yet soon, not only Highland hate and Lowland
suspicion died out, but the poet's melancholy at
the loss of Scotch independence and the departure
of Scotch royalty, gave way to as proud a loyalty
to the new empire as ever was felt to the old
clan.

If, five hundred years back, we should stand with
Wycliffe in one of the cloisters of Baliol, we might
hear him lamenting, as the chief obstacle to Brit-
ish union against papal usurpation, not merely the
feuds between York and Lancaster, but the terri-
torial division of the land among distinct powers.
" Here," he might say, " to the west, protected by
dense forests, and shut off' by a barbarous language,
lift up the Welsh princes a defiant brow. Between



14

us and Scotland rise the Teviot hills ; but more im-
passable than these are the barriers of tongue, of
habit, of bitter, relentless hate. It seems impos-
sible," so he may reason, "that these barriers, so
fatal to the true independence of this isle, should
be removed ; and yet, while they stand, how can
the great cause of truth prosper ? " So argued
the wisest and most hopeful of WyclifFe's day, and
of many a day following ; yet the time came when
these barriers sank away, and these w^arring popu-
lations were fused, under that invisible process of
assimilation which territorial contiguity involves.

Or let us, as illustrating the fugitiveness of the
passions of civil, as distinguished from international,
war, go to the battle-field of Newbury, at the be-
ginning of the great military contest between Charles
I. and his parliament. Let us there listen to Lord
Falkland, the purest and most unprejudiced patriot
of the day ; the one who most faithfully sought to
preserve harmony by reconciling the two contend-
ing factions, and who now, in utter despair of that
country he so much loved, and of that peace for
which he so much longed, is about to throw away
his life on the spot where the carnage is threat-
ened. "He lives too long who has survived his
country," so we can hear him cry. " I see England



15

finally and definitely divided into two hostile clans.
I see the torch of civil war handed down from
generation to generation ; hatred has dug a pit be-
tween brother and brother which they cannot cross ;
hatred is to be the perpetual boundary-line which
is to divide this people into two hostile camps ;
each element has in it much that is true ; each is
essential to England's prosperity: yet now, as it
stands, I see only war until one or the other is
extinguished, and unchecked despotism, or un-
checked anarchy, rules supreme." Yet Lord Falk-
land's o^vn sons might well have lived to see peace
restored without either of these essential elements
being extinguished ; to see Puritanism and Angli-
canism, Eoyalism and Parliamentaryism, each surviv-
ing the contest, to continue, by their own alterna-
tions and interchanges, to build up English pros-
perity ; and to witness a final settlement, in which
each element, divested of the fiercer passions with
which it was once mixed, would vie with the other
in loyalty to a constitutional king.

Nor, should we transport ourselves back to one
of our New York or New England towns, at a
period but a few years later, do we find political
or social antagonisms less marked. New York ac-
knowledged the supremacy of the Dutch crown.



16



New England acknowledged that of England ; and
England and Holland were then at war. New York
held to aristocratic, New England to democratic,
institutions; and besides these political and social
differences, the two countries were inflamed by the
fiercest commercial jealousy. Perhaps nowhere,
even in that hard age of dissension, could be found
two contiguous populations more utterly unlike,
and more heartily disliking each other, as well as
politically more thoroughly antagonistic, than those
then existing in New England and New York. They
were separated by far greater dissimilarities than
now are North and South ; and by equally bitter
antipathies ; but the Revolution gave New York and
New England one government and almost one heart.
I see nothing, therefore, in the immediate ani-
mosities of any two contiguous populations to pre-
vent the operation of the great law of which I
speak ; and, least of all, can I assign this effect to
an animosity so sudden and recent as that now
dividing North and South. We cannot forget that
we are substantially one stock. There is scarcely
a family which can go back three generations
without coming to a common parent whose de-
scendants are scattered north, south, and west ; and,
underneath this surface antagonism, which is none'



17

the less bitter from the very nearness of those
whom it now inflames, I do believe that there is
in the American people a base of mutual affection
and respect which will remain long after this strife
is forgotten. In union were formed the impressions
of our country's youth. The old man, Avhom you
watch, retains his childhood's memories the most viv-
idly ; the old friendships, the old scenes, the old sac
rifices, are what gave his character its final, mould'
And the old country will retain, I believe, its old'
memories, when the transient fever of the present
is long past. It will look back to that infancy
when its two sections interchanged their sons;
when Southern soldiers rallied under a New Eng-
land captain, to reclaim their soil from the invader,
and when Washington's majestic presence first made
a New England army feel the grandeur and the
strength of a united land. This consciousness of
community of blood, of community of history,
of community of religion, of community, it must
needs be, of destiny, lies at the foundation of the
American life ; and, fearful as is the present strug-
gle, and resolute as should be our determination to
maintain to the last the cause of authority and
law, I see nothing in these, the divisions of the
moment, that shows that, as to us, the great laws



18

of population are reversed, and that it is God's
will that we should dwell apart. Once, it is true,
in the world's history, God stretched a sea between
two nations whom it was his will to separate ; and
at his command the path he had opened through the
waters was closed, and the waves lifted themselves
up to execute his omnipotent decree. But he has
laid down no boundary line between the North and
South of this American race, but, on the contrary,
in the councils of omnipotence, has knit together
its rivers, its mountains, its history, its lineage, its
religion, in one. When, therefore, we read this
decree of reunion on nature's face, and in the
country's real heart, and the page of the divine
economy for the Christian future, we may even
now, in these shadows of war, see God's wing, and
rejoice in the hope that we will soon again, though
with temper chastened, and energies refined, and
institutions ameliorated, possess a united land.

One or two practical points I will mention in
conclusion. And the first is, that, as long as recon-
ciliation is scorned, and a war for separation in-
sisted on by those at arms against our government ;
and as long, therefore, as war is necessary for our
own deience, and for that of our country and
homes, we are advised, by every principle of hu-



19

inanity and policy, that the war, on our part,
should receive our united and unreserved support.
"A great country," it was said by a master of
statesmanship, "cannot wage a little war." Our
own imperial attitude ; the desire to spare un-
necessary bloodshed and cost ; the determination
to avoid that border vindictiveness which marks
a protracted and feeble contest, and the determi-
nation, also, if w^e must have war, to have war
disconnected with personal hate, — to have, in
other words, battle, not assassination; the determi-
nation to close, as soon as possible, the terrible
suspense by which we are now^ overhung; — all
these motives combine to urge us to collect our
whole strength, and, in perfect union, so far as this
immediate object is concerned, to stake everything
on the result.

And this brings me to a second point, — the
wrong of giving way to feelings or expressions of
personal bitterness towards those against whom we
are thus arrayed. In the last publication I have
seen of one whom I shall never cease to love and
venerate, but who believing, as I think wrongly,
at the beginning of the war, that the Union was
finally divided, took his stand on the soil to which
he belonged, — in the last publication of the late



20

Bishop Meade, of Virginia, he quoted an old prov-
erb, that we should treat our friends as if they
might some day become enemies ; and our enemies,
as if some day they might become our friends;
and he added, that while all our Christian hfe re-
quired us to reject the first part of this maxim,
the same Christianity required us to accept the
second. And I would add to this, that not only
Christian feeling, but national magnanimity; not
only national magnanimity, but public policy ; —
all these motives combine in teaching us to treat
as those soon to become friends, those now mar-
shalled against us as enemies. We should avoid,
I think, not merely the language, but the temper,
of recrimination, as prejudicial to our own success,
— as forbidden by the first principles of the gospel
' we believe.

One other topic I cannot persuade myself to
overlook. In addition to that care over our sick,
wounded, and imprisoned soldiers to which the as-
sociations of this day so impressively call us, there
is a special work of cardinal importance to be per-
formed to that large body of the African race now
thrown upon us for support. The question is not
one of theory, but of fiict. By the necessities of
war, if not by our own voluntary political choice.



21

vast numbers of this docile and amiable but unhappy
l^eople have been detached from their old homes,
and are now dependent on us, not merely for their
daily bread, but for that practical education which
will enable them to sustain themselves in their new
condition. It well becomes us, on this Thanksgiv-
ing day, to consider what is due from us to this
people, thus so solemnly consecrated to our care.
And I do not hesitate to say, that this most deli-
cate trust is one which we must make up our
minds faithfully and religiously to discharge. We
have now accepted the tutelage of this people, —
a people whose capacities, great as the far past
shows them to be, are to be recalled from the
sluggishness into which they have fallen in the
bondage of centuries ; and we have accepted this
tutelage, as one of the elements of the restoration
of our own political power. We have invited them
to aid us : their men have fought for us on the
battle-field, leaving their women and children to
our care : both men and women are ignorant of
the art of self-support, as well as destitute of its
means ; and may God help us to do to them the
right ! And, among the elements of this right, let
me mention, not merely temporary aid, but the
determination to remove that prejudice which in



22



the North, and particularly at the North- West, re-
fuses to receive the negro as part of the industrial
energies of the land. If, in the present state of
the country, — if, in view of the liberty we are giv-
ing to so large a part of the negro race, and the
military debt we are accumulating to them, we do
not remove this prejudice; if we do not receive the
Africans to a free home, and to the full rights of
labor in this our land, or, if that be impracticable,
give them adequate homesteads elsewhere, — we'
-shall, I think, be eternally branded as a nation dead
to generous impulses, and unfaithfid to the most
sacred trusts. The question is not the political 6ne
of emancipating these particular slaves, for that is
already done; but of saving those whom, for our
own purposes, we have already emancipated from
moral and physical ruin. To this work the intelli-
gence and humanity of the country are most sol-
emnly i^ledged.

And now, as we separate, I recur once more to
the comforting thought which the text brino-s. As
our difficulties multiply; as problems, apparently
msoluble,-such as that which concerns the destiny
of this unhappy people, to whom I have just di-
rected your thoughts, -as problems, apparently
msoluble, start up in our path, we fall back on



23

this great truth : that God, who interposes the cloud,
will, if we trust in him, open the way. The future
will bring its solutions, if the present only bring
its fliith. The very incomprehensible about us is
a proof that it is God who is near, and who leads.
It was a cloud that went, in the day, before Israel,
as he marched from the land of bondage ; but this
very cloud, in the night, when Israel would other-
wise have died, became lit with flame, and led him
in the path of the right. On Sinai, God spake his
law from a thick cloud, in the midst of thunders
and lightnings, and to the voice of a trumpet ex-
ceeding loud : just as in the darkness and tumult
of war by which we are now beset, he speaks to
us. And even divine redemption is hid in the
same shadow ; and, in the moment when the Lord


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Online LibraryFrancis WhartonA willing reunion not impossible. A thanksgiving sermon preached at St. Paul's, Brookline, November 26, 1863 → online text (page 1 of 2)