Amory Dwight Mayo.

The martyr President: a discourse preached on the anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln, in the Church of the Redeemer, Cincinnati, Ohio online

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[For the Ambassador.


A Discourse Preached on the Anniversary
of the Death of Abraham Lincoln) in the
Church of the Redeemer, Cincinnati, 0.


" He beiug dead yet speaketh." — Heb. xi. 4
The President of the United States, by
proclamation, ordered the departments of
the National Government at Washington
to be closed yesterday, in solemn observ-
ance of the Martyrdom of Abraham Lin-
coln. To-day, the American people will
spontaneously commemorate his death
by public ceremonies, by services in thou-
sands of Christian churches, and by the
almost adoring gratitude of millions of
afflicted hearts.

This is not a day for statesmen or
ministers of religion to open afresh the
wounds of the past, to inflame partisan
animosities, or to heap execration on the
fallen foes of the country. Dreadfully
have our enemies sinned against God and
mankind, aud only future ages can reveal
the full enormity of the folly and despot-

ism that drove them into such a war. It
opened by firing upon the only flag on
earth that symbolized the coming free-
dom of all men. It revolved through
four ghastly years, of such horrors as
Americans will blush to read in future
days. It closed with the assassination of
the best man who in modern times has
been called to rule any people. But oh,
how terribly has that crime been punish-
ed 1 Could any man now pass all over
the territory which five years ago burst
out into the insanity of rebellion, and
hold in his mind what he saw of death,
and sickness, and starvation ; of poverty,
of the annihilation of families, of the com-
plete overthrow of governments and in-
stitutions, of the prostration of religion,
of the utter ruin of society down to its
foundation-stones, which are all thrown
up as by an earthquake, he would stand
aghast, and forget vengeance and hatred
in amazement at what the Almighty had
done. Never was such an outrage upon
* human society contemplated, as when the
fifteen Slave States of this Union attempt-
ed, five years ago, to rear a slave empire
on the ruins of the American Republic ;
and never was a people so utterly crushed
in so short a time. Were they left to
themselves to-day, they would drift
through anarchy to civil perdition ; and
only because we have hold of them, and
God has hold of us, have they any hope
of a new civilization. Surely their pun-
ishment is enough for them ; enough for
the warning of mankind through long
ages to come. It is demonstrated that
what they tried to do can never succeed
in a world governed by a God of justice
and love. To-day, then, let their crimes
and sufferings be forgotten and forgiven,
as far as a sacred regard for liberty and

order will permit ; and let us turn to the
more pleasing task of contemplating the
character and example of him who, being
dead, yet speaketh, with a voice more
potent than that of any monarch now
upon the earth.

There are two classes of great public
men who rise to speedy fame, and remain
as fixed-stars in the reverence of mankind.
The first class are, the great military
chieftains, who deliver their country from
imminent peril, like Cincinnatus and Sci-
pio, Marlborough and Frederick, Wel-
lington and Grant. But their fame,
though permanent and genuine, is like
that of noted discoverers, inventors, or
material benefactors of the race. It is
honor for a special work of physical de-
liverance, and has little to do with the
personal character of the object. The
most popular man in America now is the
Lieutenant-General, and yet no public
man is so little known, as far as concerns
his opinions, personal character, and his
qualifications for anything save splendid
military success. Wellington was always
rather an iron statue to his countrymen
than a man. Frederick and Marlborough
had eccentricities and faults enough to
kill a hundred men less eminent for great
military services. Every American hon-
ors Winfield Scott, but no American is
edified when he makes a speech or writes
a book. This sort of fame is genuine,
but it is not of that kind which rests on
personal reverence and love for the no-
blest qualities of manhood, tried in all
possible emergencies of human responsi-

But there is another, smaller, class of
men, like William of Orange, Washing-
ton, and Lincoln, whose death is but the
signal for the almost unanimous rever-

ence of the civilized world. While they
live, like others, they divide men into
fierce parties ; are assailed by bitter foes
and disappointed friends ; are pronounced
iucompetent, incumbrances on the good
cause they serve. They oftener than oth-
erwise fall martyrs to truth and freedom.
But when they really pass away, the
world seems to recognize at once the
sort of men they were, and henceforth no
man can safely utter words of disparage-
ment. Read, in the speeches and writ-
ings, and early history of the Republic,
the bitterness of jealousy and hatred
against Washington, during the twenty
years when he , was the Father ol the
People. Much that was then said may
have been partially true ; but what man
with any regard for his own reputation
would reiterate those charges now? There
were things as offensive and insultiug
said and written against Abraham Lin-
coln, in the household of his friends, up
to the day of his death, as were ever
hurled against the worst President of the
Republic ; but would the most malignant
rebel utter aloud such aspersions to-day,
without a feeling of meanness and re-
morse ? The race must have ideals — men
that can be held up as models to the
young in all generations. No man is ac-
tually good enough to deserve this per-
fect approval of humanity. But human-
ity is not strong enough to go on the
road to progress without the help of men
who shall form a chain from the average
mass up through society, to the Saviour,
and to God. The common instinct of
the civilized world fastens on the eminent
few, as such ideals and guides; and that
verdict is never annulled: and no critic
or censor is so universally and justly des-

pised as he who .attempts to destroy this
historical estimate by parading the hu-
man frailties of its venerable object.

Abraham Lincoln is probably to-day
more honored, admired and loved all over
the world, among all orders of men, than
any character in human history. The
reputation of William of Orange and
Cromwell is limited by walls of religious
prejudice and race. Washington chal-
lenges the veneration of the historian, the
statesman, the leading progressive classes
in all lands. But Lincoln is the friend
of man. The emperors and statesmen of
the world honor the man who has saved
a continent from anarchy. The loyal
people of the loyal United States confess
that only such a man could have held
them together, and at once learned and
interpreted their best ideas. The friends
of the Union admire the skill with which
he earned the nation through a great
war, with no State lost and the national
honor unstained — yet, leaving its con-
quered enemies no cause to complain and
no excuse for further resistance. The
negro race, that bids fair to become in
process of time a numerous and import-
ant element in human affairs, will always
hold him second to the Saviour of the
world ; and all over the world the masses
of the laboring, progressive and aspiring
people, who long for more liberty and
light, will cherish his memory as no other
man was ever loved. A reporter of the
New York press lately spent a night in
visiting the lowest haunts of lust and vi-
olence in that city, and saw in every hovel
he entered a picture of the Martyred
President. Even in death, he conquered
the class that furnished his assassins ; and
now, from high to low, he reigns first in
the affections of a grateful world.

Tins reverence is not accidental or
transient, or founded on ignorance of the
real character of the man. No ruler in
history was so well known to so many
people during his life. He lived before
the world, and in his breast was no dark
concealment of motive or policy. Man-
kind is the only final critic and judge ;
and when the verdict comes up from ev-
ery order of men so unmistakably as in
the case of Abraham Lincoln, there is no
danger of a reversal of judgment. That
great fame of his rests on imperishable
foundations. He was the most valuable
kind of a man for the ruler of a nation in
a crisis in human affairs, and he was one
of the best men of his kind the world
ever saw.

The deep foundations of his manhood
were laid in a profound and unaffected
piety, and a reverence for man as the di-
vine child of God. He was no theolo-
gian ; no sectarian partisan ; not accus-
tomed to .sound the praises of great reli-
gious sects, which are supposed to com-
mand influence and votes. And many
who saw only his common-sense, shrewd,
or humorous estimate of men, accused
him of levity in sacred things, and indif-
ference to human freedom. But never
did man more humbly and patiently wait
on God than he. Never was there a ruler
of men who so truly loved and revered
the least, or so easily forgave the worst
of men.

It is so common in public station to
find men who have no faith in anything
higher than force and statecraft; devour-
ed by unholy ambition ; contemners of
the rights of man and defiant of God's
higher law, that all men turned instinct-
ively to one who was as religious, and as
ready to be guided by Providence, as a
little child. Hasty spirits ridiculed and

abused him because he declined to rash
upon great changes in advance of the
convictions of the people. But he knew
that in such things as the relations of
human society God is slowly educating
the men of every generation from point
to point ; and to push on, regardless of
this natural growth of sentiment, is only
to tempt civil and social destruction. He
felt, from the day he was elected to the
great office he adorned, that his lot was
cast in one of the great eras of history.
He wished, first of all, to be the humble
agent of God's purpose in the uplifting
of man. He feared to get in the way of
the majestic laws of national destiny. So
his movements were as slow as the steps
of Providence ; and when he put down
his foot, men felt that now indeed the
hour of the freedom of man had come.

How simple, and yet how reverent and
strong, was his conduct on the Proclama-
tion of Emancipation. He heard all that
all kinds of men had to say, with a pa-
tient mind. He bore the taunts of those
friends of liberty whose zeal outran their
knowledge. He forgot the threats of
vengeance that stole up to him from the
dark places of despotism. He fortified
himself in all the legal aspects of the great
cause. He repressed his generals who
proclaimed the New Republic at the head
of armies. Slowly did he see the hand
nearing the hour on the dial-plate of the
nation's history. At length, the North
was invaded, and, as he said to Mr.
Chase, he resolved, one night, lying in
his bed, meditating on the state of the
country, that if it should please God to
drive the army of Lee out of Pennsylva-
nia, he would proclaim freedom to the
slaves. Lee was driven from Pennsylva-
nia, and Mr. Lincoln said, " I wish he had

been driven further ; but I have got to
do it, and I will issue the proclamation."
Only a mind like his could thus, at the
end of its own power and wisdom, take
the hand of God Almighty, and submit
to be led like a little child into the act
that would he a heritage of everlasting

Thus founded on a genuine religious
faith, which was a perpetual guide and
support to his troubled career, he built
up on such foundations one of the rarest
executive characters among men. He
combined, as no man of our country has,
the complete consecration to the idea of
hixman progress with the wisest circum-
spection in dealing with masses of men
and deeply- rooted insitutions of society.
The country was thronged with sincere
lovers of liberty and humanity, who knew
little of the actual state of American af-
fairs, and who, so that a good end were
sought, were reckless about the steps to
success. There were even men who be-
lieved so devotedly in order, peace and
outward concord, that they would permit
none to be sacrificed to save these. Be-
tween these fierce parties in the state, he
walked in constant martyrdom. He was
so sympathetic, that he felt through his
soul all that was thought and said of him,
and died daily in the slaughter and sor-
rows of his countrymen. But he loved
liberty so much better than its heedless
advocates, that nothing could persuade
him to put it in peril by rash attempts to
establish it beyond the power of the peo-
ple to sustain it. He loved order, and
law and peace so much better than the
peace and order and law faction, that he
determined to lay the foundations of per-
petual union in the freedom of all men in
America. While wielding greater power

than any tyrant on earth, the commander
of a million soldiers, he so blended rigor
and moderation that when the war was
done his mighty armies melted away, and
peace and law came back as quietly as
the sun rises after a stormy night.

It is the hardest thing to convince men,
in the moment of their passion and hot
haste, that this is the true executive man-
hood which succeeds. But when the suc-
cess comes, all men applaud and worship
the great leader and organizer of liberty ;
though they so quickly turn again into
their old ways of narrowness. But this
sort of men hold society together. Eve-
ry neighborhood would explode into a
Babel once a month, were it notfor a few
wise men and women who love liberty
and order, and know how to teach the
two to move in accordant steps. Every
nation that does anything for man is guid-
ed by such men, who teach the ignorant,
selfish, violent masses to respect human-
ity a little more, and consent to some
slight advance for human good. Ameri-
ca might as easily have been hurled into
the pit of military despotism or chronic
anarchy during the last five years, as
France, or Germany, or Italy has been,
again and again. There were generals
enough to play the dictator ; politicians
enough to head as many factions as the
days of the year. But, though there nev-
er was such a revolution on earth, society
was undisturbed in every loyal village in
the land ; and though the earth swarmed
with armed hosts, and a girdle of war-
ships answered each other's signals round
three thousand miles of ocean and river-
coast, no general or admiral for one in-
stant wrenched the sword from the hands
of that kindly and paternal Commander-
in-Chief He guided us over the awful

perils of the disruption of slave society |
so gradually and natuially, that we hard-
ly recognize to-day that we are on the
other side of a deluge that threatened to
engulf a continent, and pour its devastat-
ing flood through all the world.

His patriotism was only his religion
and his wise conduct of affairs applied to
his country. He loved America because
he thought it was the promised land,
where mankind could achieve a higher
estate than ever before. He loved the
Union, because in it he saw the Provi-
dential method of securing the highest
good of man in the Republic. He loved
his country in the line of his love for God
and man, and tenth and civilization. He
loved it so fondly, that he spoke, and
thought, and acted almost impersonally ;
and' in his halting, thoughtful, sometimes
awkward, but always onward career, it
seemed as if the Great Republic itself
had entered into him, and made him its
representative. He aspired to no fame,
no notoriety, no leadership that separated
him for an instant from his sivffering
country. Only too grateful if he could
learn its destiny, and be borne upon the
topmost wave of its majestic advance, he
did not aim at the impossible creative
power which is the insanity of strong
but irreverent agitators of men. He was
no agitator, but an administrator of the
purposes of God respecting the people of
his native land.

He had that noble incapacity to hate,
even his enemies, which is the true indi-
cation of the grandest order of manhood.
When Jesus said, "Love your enemies,"
I suppose he could hardly conceive how
anybody could hate or despise the worst
man. He could pity him ; could punish
him, for correction; could see God's re-

tributions go over him ; but could neither I
despise nor hate. So I doubt if Lincoln
could have hated the worst sinner, or
permanently despised the greatest fool in
America. Many violent people talked of
that as his weakness ; as if it were not
the easiest thing for any bad-tempered
man to curse, or any supercilious man to
despise almost everybody. It was his
strength, the divine manhood in him, his
likeness to God, that made him so tender
to all the rebellious children of the Re-
public ; so ready to welcome them home,
whenever they would come back and
share our common lot. It was no lack
of courage, no amiable folly, that sealed
his lips and kept his heart soft — even
when the men he trusted were toiling to
upset him, and throw disparagement up-
on his motives and disgrace upon his
name. He knew that they would yet be
led up to high places to testify to his sin-
cerity and patriotism, and held his peace.
So, when the war was done, his enemies
were ready to submit to his clemency.
He died, leaving no printed or spoken
word that held contempt or malice for
any child of God.

It would be a pleasant task to delineate
yet other features of this rare though
simple manhood : his unpretending cour-
age, and dauntless fortitude, and tireless
industry, and unwearied patience and per-
sistence, that challenged time itself; we
might describe his homely yet almost
saintly ambition to deserve well of his
country, and do some good thing for his
fellow-beings ; and his intellectual power,
so like the half-conscious working of
Providence itself; so admirably adapted
to let in light on every side of that broad
and comprehensive manhood ; so original
and natural in its processes ; so clear in

its results ; so on the level of men's real
thought, and apt to behold the real value
of human affairs ; so ready to see rising
merit, though his wondrous patience often
bore all things from men he hoped yet to
save for their country's weal. But we
can not say these things. For genera-
tions to come, our children, and they who
follow them, will dwell fondly on this
theme ; and never will the American peo-
ple be less grateful than to-day, that Hea-
ven gave such a man to the Union and
the world.

And, now, may his nobility shame us
out of our narrowness, our hot wrath, our
partisan fury, our impatience with Provi-
dence, our mischievous readiness to re-
kindle the flames of war, and make this
wound of one half of the nation a chronic
malady of the Republic. Let those who
have been defeated so utterly confess that
God was against them, and resolve to
help us once more rebuild the waste places
in a broader and statelier fabric of human
rights. Let those who chafe under the
slow growth of a Christian civilization
remember that God has His own times,
and only asks them to do their own work
and be content. Oh, it will be a shame-
ful thing if now, with all our prospects
for the grandest success ever vouchsafed
to any people, we put liberty and order
again in peril ! Forbid it, father of our
country, who toiled and died to bring us
where we are ! Forbid it, our Father
in heaven, who rulcst over the nations of
the earth, and guidest all human desti-
nies towards eternal love and peace !


Online LibraryAmory Dwight MayoThe martyr President: a discourse preached on the anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln, in the Church of the Redeemer, Cincinnati, Ohio → online text (page 1 of 1)