Edward Norris Kirk.

Sermons preached in Boston on the death of Abraham Lincoln. Together with the funeral services in the East Room of the Executive Mansion at Washington online

. (page 11 of 21)
Online LibraryEdward Norris KirkSermons preached in Boston on the death of Abraham Lincoln. Together with the funeral services in the East Room of the Executive Mansion at Washington → online text (page 11 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

from these honored dead we take increased devotion to
that cause for which they here gave the last full measure
of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these
dead shall not have died in vain ; that the nation shall,
under God, have a new birth of freedom ; and that
government of the people, by the people, for the people,
shall not perish from the earth."

In a true devotion to our dear country, the mother
of us all, let us, standing here, as it were, by the bier
of our chief magistrate, consecrate ourselves anew to her
love and service. Let us resolve to give a true support
to him who is called to that lofty place by such an awful
messenger. Let not the shock of our bereavement cause
us to forget the Christian spirit which breathed six
weeks ago in that Inaugural.

"With malice towards none, with charity for all, with
firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right,
let us strive on to finish the work we are in ; to bind
up the nation's wounds ; to care for those who shall
have borne the battle, and for their widows and orphans.
And with all this, let us strive after a just and lasting
peace among ourselves, and with all nations."

With these words of peace yet, as it were, on his lips,
he has gone into the higher kingdom of perfect peace,
where the weary weight of cares, borne for our sakes, is
laid aside forever. We would not sit by his grave
desolate in our tears ; we would be grateful that He
whose cross is to us the sign of hope, has assured to us


the promise of eternal life. And, as we look up after
that departing presence, with the cry, " My father, my
father ! the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof,"
it shall not be in despair, but in the spirit of perfect



It being the Easter Communion, after an extended
service, in which the liturgical and musical portions
were very rich and solemn, the rector, Dr. Huntington,
addressed the congregation from the chancel, substantially
as follows :

WE have finished a week of which it seems not too
much to say, that, in the concurrence of public glory and
public crimes, it is without precedent or parallel in the
human history of the world. No doubt, as these strangely
contrasted events have been announced to us, first filling
the land with a joy that could scarcely find moderate
expressions at the sudden prospect of an early, success-
ful and righteous termination to four years of bitter
alienation and bloody strife, and then overwhelming it
with alarm, affliction, and indignation, equally sudden
and even more unspeakable, at that appalling act of
infamy that has struck the civil head of the nation from
his seat and his life together, many of us have inquired
within ourselves whether there is any one thought, or
truth, or doctrine, large enough, powerful enough, and



reconciling enough to subdue this awful sense of discord,
and to harmonize the terrible contradictions, under one
benignant law of love. Is there any solid shelter, any
holy pavilion, where AVC can take refuge, and find these
distracting transactions falling into place as parts of one
perfect plan of God? And probably many of you have
already found a consoling answer to that question.

The solemn path through which the holy evangelists,
in their narratives of our Saviour's last days, and before
he suffered, have led us, to his sacrifice, to the sealing
of his grave, and to its miraculous opening as on this
morning, has brought us to just that comforting and
immortal truth, deep enough, high enough, and wide
enough to take in and interpret every one of these
conflicting emotions. For there is no possible joy of
deliverance, or jubilee of victory, where the feeling of
both public and personal sin, and the need of a Redeemer,
does not pursue us. Nor is there any secret heaviness,
nor any national mourning, where the cross of Christ
will not support us, and his resurrection from the dead
re-assure us. Here, then, is the reconciliation. Here
is the complete and sufficient declaration of our peace.
Here is solid rock, be the earth never so unquiet !
There is nothing we have felt, as citizens or as men,
that may not find its needed ministry in the scenes where
we have walked and lingered, Bethany, the Mount of
Olives, Gethsemane, Calvary, and the broken sepulchre.
In the most exultant emotion of triumph at a re-estab-
lished government we have seen the Prince of Peace
marching, with palms and hosannas, in front of the
great procession of kings and commanders. The in-


tensest and most loyal patriotism is sanctioned by Jesus
weeping over Jerusalem. Every bereaved household is
solaced by going to Bethany, where Lazarus was raised,
and by hearing the Son of Mary commend his mother
to the beloved St. John, amidst the agonies of the

When we lift up our hearty praises and thanksgivings,
as we must day by day, that the God of Liberty has
struck off the bonds from four millions of enslaved men,
and set our whole country free from that wretched
wrong, how can we help remembering that it is all the
working out, at last, of his infinite mercy by Whom all
the families of men are made of one blood, Who shed
his own most precious blood in sacrifice for all alike,
the poorest and weakest and darkest as much as any,
and whose Christian service, as our daily collect says, is
alone " perfect freedom" ? Nay, more, we learn how to
look on this appalling assassination, and every attendant
enormity, leaving retribution to divine and human
courts, when we hear the Crucified, who was anointed
to be betrayed, praying for his murderers, "Father,
forgive them, for they know not what they do ! " When
we turn our eyes forward into the future, with whatever
misgivings or anxieties, who can deny or doubt an
instant that all our best and sure hopes rest on the one
inestimable and transcendent fact, which we are now
commemorating, that the Blessed and Holy and Al-
mighty Lord has so loved us as to give himself for us,
the just for the unjust, bringing life and immortality to
light ? Our only safety from coming evil, as a people,
is in righteousness ; and that not of our own obtaining,


but obtained for us by the wonderful grace of an infinite
and everlasting Mediator. Therefore, dear friends, we
do and we will, to-day, joy and rejoice in Christ Jesus,
the resurrection and the life, by whom we have received
the atonement ; who hath broken down the middle wall
of partition, reconciling man with his brother man, and
with his Father, God. For God commendeth his love
to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for
us. And if we are reconciled by his death, much more,
being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.


DANIEL /T.-35.



WE would have celebrated the joyous festival of
Easter to-day. Generous hands had provided the flow-
ers that were to adorn our altar, and tuneful voices had
made ready the anthem that was to hail the resurrection
of our Lord from the dead. Next to Christmas, this is
the great feast-day of the Church ; and believers of all
denominations are uniting to appreciate and observe it
in a proper manner.

But, yesterday morning, like a clap of thunder from
clear skies, came the appalling announcement, " The
President has been assassinated." '* Impossible; it can-
not be ! " we all exclaimed, because we felt it should not
be, it must not be. But when it was re-affirmed, and
the official statement, spread before our strained and
eager eyes, forced the unwilling conviction upon us that
it was, alas ! too true, how startling and dreadful the
blow ! We all felt personally bereaved. About our



streets the people walked with mournful faces., as though
each one was bowed down by a personal sorrow. We
all seemed to have lost a father, a brother, a dear bosom-
friend. How much we loved, how much we trusted,
how much we leaned upon him, we never knew before.
How can we bear it ? what shall we do without him ? what
could have provoked such an atrocious crime ? what does
it all mean ? Such were some of the questionings which
darted through all minds, and formed the burden of
conversation passing from lip to lip.

We can now understand, somewhat, how the apostles
felt when our Lord was arrested, and cruelly put to
death. They had leaned wholly upon Him, supposing
that it was He who should have redeemed Israel ; and
when He was taken from them, and ignominiously
crucified as a common malefactor, no wonder they were
scattered, each one to his own place, leaving Him

The week through which we have just passed has
not been unlike that Holy or Passion Week, which, in
Judaea of old, was so eventful to the Saviour and his

It began in triumph and rejoicing, not only because
Richmond had fallen, but because Lee and his army
had been compelled to surrender, prisoners of war, and
our country was saved at last. It seemed impossible
to express the universal exultation. Churches were
thronged ; cannon boomed from the forts ; assemblies,
gathered from all classes of society, were extemporized
in hall and mart ; flags fluttered on every breeze ;
buildings were gayly decorated with the emblems of


rejoicing ; schools were dismissed ; stores and work-
shops closed ; bonfires, illuminations, and fireworks
brightened the night, and every loyal heart was full of
happiness. But, alas ! it ended like the week of sor-
rows, in gloom and blood. And is it not strange that
Good Friday was the day, of all days in the year,
chosen by the murderer for his infamous deed ? It is
one of those remarkable historical coincidences, which,
whether we will or not, challenge observation and cause
remark ; and, no doubt, could our President have spoken
after he was shot, he would have forgiven the cowardly
perpetrator of this inhuman act, and rounded the par-
allel with a final and complete imitation of our Lord's

Let us not imagine that the evil of this deplorable
event is unmitigated and unrelieved ; for, in the %vorst
condition of human society, and amid the most disastrous
circumstances connected with human affairs, " God is
our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed,
and though the mountains be carried into the midst of
the sea." God maketh even the wrath of man to praise
Him, and the remainder He restraineth.

" All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as
nothing ; and He doeth according to his will in the
armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the
earth ; and none can stay his hand, or say unto Him,
What doest Thou ?' "

This awful occurrence has not taken God by surprise,
for known unto Him are all his works from the begin-
ning of the world.


Death is an experience of such magnitude, that, as we
are assured, not even a sparrow falleth to the ground
without God's notice ; and surely an event of such tran-
scendent moment as the brutal murder of the ruler of a
great and free nation, in the zenith of his popularity and
usefulness, cannot occur without the oversight of an all-
controlling Providence.

" The very hairs of our heads are all numbered."
" The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,
and He delighteth in his way."

Let us never forget that God gave us President
Lincoln in the first place. That He led his father to
move across the Ohio River when he was as yet but a
child, leaving that condition of semi-bondage in which
all poor whites were then compelled to live in the slave
States, and settling down where he could breathe the
air of freedom. Let us remember the struggles, labors,
and aspirations of his boyhood, youth, and early man-
hood ; how he toiled, as a boatman, up and down the
great rivers of that region ; how, axe in hand, he hewed
his own way through the world ; how he studied,
thought, observed, prepared himself for the bar, and
finally entered upon his political career ; how he dis-
tanced all competitors in the nomination for the
presidency ; how he was elected, after the most exciting
canvass ever known in this country ; how his life was
preserved during the passage through Baltimore to his
first inauguration ; how signally he has been directed
and sustained throughout his official career thus far, and
how really he has not been taken from us until his work
was done ; his enemies scattered, the rebellion put
down, the Union restored, and the country saved.


Though dead, he yet speaketh to us, in that earnest
request of his, for the prayers of all Christians through-
out the land, that he might be guided and controlled of
God. And who knows, but the Most High, how much
he owes to the prayers of righteous men and women,
which have been going up day and night for him,
accordingly, ever since he entered upon the discharge
of his duties. As a nation, we have relied too little
upon God. Ever since the war broke out, we have
been seeking and trying General this and General that,
feeling sure, at each fresh selection, that at last we
had hit upon the right man, and he would prove our
national deliverer. But as one after another our
Generals have been tried and found wanting, how
plainly has God revealed to us. that " all the inhabitants
of the earth are reputed as nothing ; and He doeth
according to his will in the armies of heaven, and
among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay
his hand, or say unto him, ' What doest thou ? ' ' How
clearly and irresistibly, after every fresh disaster, has
He led us back to himself, and taught us that vain was
the help of man ; that " the race was not to the swift,
nor the battle to the strong," and that we were to
prevail over our enemies, not by might, nor by power,
but by his blessing and favor.

Never had nation stronger reason for reliance upon
God than has ours. The location of our Puritan ances-
tors here, after a vain endeavor to settle in Holland ; the
Declaration of Independence leading to the Revolution-
ary war, during the first years of which hardly glim-
mered the hope of our success ; the final achievement of


national existence ; the adoption of the Constitution ; the
federal Union of States, growing stronger and more
numerous every generation, and the survival of political
convulsions caused by the overthrow and destruction of
powerful parties, these prove that God had a purpose
to accomplish in the preservation of the country, which
not all the malice of its foes nor the folly of its mistaken
friends could tlvwart.

Who may say that that purpose is yet attained? And
if not, who can deny that God is ordering the course of
events so as to secure its attainment ? Let us rely upon
Him, therefore ; assured, that, having begun a good work
among us, he will carry it on to a successful termination.

Was it not a signal manifestation of Divine favor, that
the assassin was not allowed to triumph until the very
work he would interrupt had been completed ? No
doubt this deed had been long premeditated by more
than one of those domestic traitors who have been toler-
ated in our midst, and opportunities may have been sought,
again and again, to take the lives of our honored Chief
Magistrate, and all associated with him at the head of
affairs. No doubt it was the hope of the miscreants,
directly and indirectly engaged, had their nefarious
schemes succeeded, to have thrown the administration
into embarrassment and confusion : profiting by which
they hoped to seize the reins of government, and have
everything their own way. Man may propose, but God
disposes. It was not to be. The cowardly assailant of
the President could not even pretend to any such motive.
He exclaims, "/ am revenged!" His' feelings were
wholly personal. His act was the wilful, deliberate,


execrable crime of a hireling cutthroat and ruffian,
unattended by a single palliating circumstance.

He was too late to arrest the mighty current which
this war has started in favor of universal liberty, and
his act must tend to make that current wider, deeper
and stronger than ever.

Thus will God overrule what was intended to be a
fatal blow to all our hopes and prospects, for their
speedier fulfilment and their brighter realization.

President Lincoln was the most prominent representa-
tive and illustration of the great national idea upon
which all our free institutions are founded. He was
emphatically a man of the people. He spoke the lan-
guage of the people. He thought and acted after the
manner of the people ; and his assassination, at such a
time, will lay broader and firmer the foundations of
popular liberty in the heart of mankind, than could
years of common life and labor.

God may have seen that a sterner hand than his was
needed to hold the helm of state during the next four
years of reckoning and reconstruction. We all have
marked how gentle and kindly he has been ; with what
forbearance he has treated enemies ; how he has warned,
expostulated, and entreated rebels to return to their
allegiance ; how he has given them time for repentance,
and foretold plainly tlio doom which sooner or later must
overtake their cause. Hundreds of men whose lives
were for f eit by the law, he has pardoned and released.
Of all papers, the hardest for him to sign was a death-
warrant : and. whenever he could, consistently with his
duty as Chief Magistrate of a great nation, he has com-


muted the death-penalty to labor or imprisonment. I
have seen him at many reviews of the national troops,
and his face always wore a genial and friendly expres-
sion. He was approachable to all, and as courteous in
his manner towards the private in the ranks as the
officer on the line. The soldiers lov( d him. Thousands
who voted against him at his first election voted for him
at the second, not because their political preferences had
changed, but because they had come to believe in the
man ; and upon no hearts has fallen the burden of a
heavier grief than rests upon those who have fought for
the country he has served so well.

His death, under God, will do as much for the cause
he had at heart, as did his life : for all great causes need
martyrs quite as much as they do men. If the blood of
martyr believers is the seed of the Church, surely the
blood of martyred patriots is the seed of the country.
Not a few the noble souls who have risked and lost
all during the fearful conflicts of the last four years.
And now, as he led them in life, he leads them in death.
They were allowed the privilege of meeting their foes in
fair fight. He fell, the victim of unexpected butchery ;
and, as men can never get out of their hearts and souls
the honest indignation such a deed excites, so they will
never dismiss from their minds the noble principles for
whose dissemination he labored, and in defence of which
he died.

President Lincoln, as the victim of an assassin, will
have vastly more influence in the future than would
President Lincoln the successful ruler of a great people.
His v^ry wound will cry out against the spirit and belief


of those who have connived at his destruction. The
man might provoke animosity ; the martyr will com-
mand respect. We know that, already, several of the
leading supporters of his administration, hitherto, had
taken issue with him on important points connected with
reconstruction in the rebel States, the confiscation of
property, the unconditional abolition of slavery, the ex-
tension of the right of suffrage, and the publication of
an act of amnesty offering pardon to everybody willing
to renew allegiance. Hundreds of perplexing questions
would no doubt have arisen, splitting up his former sym-
pathisers into conflicting parties intent on compassing
their ends, and willing, for this purpose, to separate from
him. This was evil to come. He has been removed
from it ; and, high above the storms it may cause tc
gather and break, his image will be treasured in every
heart, his example be an inspiration to every life.

He has left, in sacred trust to every person in this
country, a legacy of invaluable principles, far more likely
to be carried out because adherence to them has cost
him his life.

There is an element of reverence for the heroic dead
in human nature, which wields constantly-increasing
sway over human faith and action. We never know
how great or good are the prominent men among whom
we live ; or, if we know, we do not seem to realize it so
keenly while they are moving in our midst, as when they
have left us forever. So we ride past one of the stately
churches which adorn our streets. The symmetry and
grandeur of its proportions do not catch our eye when
near ; but as we are borne farther and farther from it,


its walls and towers loom up higher and higher, its
harmonious outlines stand out more and more boldly, it
separates itself faster and faster from the ranges of
common buildings around it, and becomes in the distance
the most prominent and commanding feature of the

Had President Lincoln lived on through the entire
term of his office, being in our midst, and not always
the representative of our ideas, no doubt he would often
have failed of appreciation, had he not provoked opposi-
tion, and some of his measures or recommendations
would have been sharply criticised, if not severely

But now, as it were, he has bequeathed to us the
principles of his administration as an inheritance bought
and sealed with his blood, all the more sacred and bind-
ing upon us because he no longer lives to expound and
enforce them himself. The more they are examined,
applied, and tested, the more they must be valued ; the
more thoroughly and faithfully they are adhered to, the
more highly will they be esteemed.

God would have such principles though obnoxious
to a large number of the American people brought
into bold relief before the eyes of men ; and, in spite of
every effort to the contrary, it has been done. Truly,
' All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing :
and He iloeth according to his will in the armies of
heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth : and
none can stay His hand, or say unto him, ' What docst
thou ? ' "

Let me remark, in conclusion, that the assassin's act


shows the terrible depravity of human nature. There
are many who call him fiend and demon, but to me he
seems to be only a bad man. So low will human nature
sink when left to the unrestrained control of hatred,
selfishness, and passion; so vile and base and brutal
will a man become, if he is wholly bent on evil. Let us
not deceive ourselves with words. Call the act devilish
and infernal if you will, for it deserves all the epithets
that depravity has forced into our language ; but let us
not forget that once the actor was an innocent, harmless
child, and that he has been sinking to the infamy of his
present condition, step by step. His whole life seems to
have been filled with flagrant violations of the moral law.
A traitor from the beginning, without manliness enough
to induce him to enlist in the rebel army, he has pre-
ferred, like thousands of others, to stay at home, and
meanly appropriate the blessings, comforts, and protec-
tion of a country which all the time he was endeavoring
to destroy.

No wonder the conspirators against the life of our
beloved President found in such a man a willing tool
all ready for their purposes. What he has done is only
a practical re-affirmation of God's holy word, that "The
heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately
wicked," and should convince us that the germs of all
possible iniquity, latent, undeveloped, it may be, are in
all our hearts ; and we need, without exception, the
presence and the grace of God to prevent them from
springing into a vigorous and powerful growth.

Finally, God has again providentially lifted the veil
that apologists for slavery Northern and Southern


have drawn over its hideous features, and shown us just
what spirit it is of. Thank God, the utterances from

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryEdward Norris KirkSermons preached in Boston on the death of Abraham Lincoln. Together with the funeral services in the East Room of the Executive Mansion at Washington → online text (page 11 of 21)