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 3 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 3 of 21)
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his brow.

A thousand times in this war has the sentiment of
justice within us called for fire from heaven to fall upon
the monsters. To-day it calls for the extermination of
a miscreant race, that prove themselves unfit to breathe
the air of heaven. But even that sentiment must be
restrained ; for we hear another voice. It proclaims to
us, " Be still, and know that I am God. I will judge
nations, communities, individuals, bringing them to my
bar, to make every man answer for the deeds done in
the body. Ask no more, wish for no more than that.
When the time comes for your tribunals in my name to
try each man by the laws of his country, then stand by


your judiciary in its righteous decisions, and let no
mawkish sentiment check the execution of them."

Another sentiment is now called into action.

5. Fear. A new pilot takes the helm. Mysteriously,
he did not command our respect on the solemn day in
which the nation put the crown upon his brow, and he
took the solemn oath of office. He has repented : this
is all we ask of him. Everything else in his history
inspires hope, respect, and gratitude. But still, it is not
the hand that held the rudder-wheel on those tempestu-
ous nights in which we were running through those
narrow channels where ruin lay on either side. Fear
naturally arises in such circumstances. It would come
up if you were in a steamship at sea, among icebergs,
with a captain who had sailed only river-craft until now.

And we have another source of fear. The man who
has held the powers of Europe at bay may also be
removed. A new man there would naturally awaken

And then, again : how do we know what new phase
this assassination may put upon a yet unfinished war ?
what new demonstrations of sympathy with treason may
spring up in the loyal States ? But when these fears
start up, we hear a voice saying to them, "Be still,
and know that I am God. I kill, and I make alive. Of
whom hast thou been afraid, and hast not remembered
me ? Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong,
fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance ;
he will come and save you." " Fear not, thou worm
Jacob, and ye men of Israel ; I will help thee, saith the
Lord thy Redeemer, and the Holy One of Israel." His


aim is to produce in you that confidence which shall
say : " God is my rock, my buckler. In God have I
put my trust. I will not fear what man can do unto
me. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help
in tiouble. Therefore will we not fear though the earth
be removed, and though the mountains be carried into
the midst of the sea."

" Be still, and know that I am God." Do nothing
rashly, say nothing rashly. Wait until you see the
pillar of cloud go before you ; then move. Be still.
Qtiiet the agitated sea of your heart. Feeling was not
designed to hold the helm, but simply to fill the sails.
When trouble comes, be still ; so still that you can hear
every syllable God is whispering. For, you remember,
that when the prophet stood upon the mount before the
Lord, and the Lord passed by, there was " a great and
strong wind" that "rent the mountains, and broke in
pieces the rocks before the Lord ; but the Lord was not
in the wind ; and after the wind, an earthquake ; but
the Lord was not in the earthquake ; and after the earth-
quake, a fire ; but the Lord was not in the fire ; and
after the fire, a still small voice." There God was. The
wind is raging and howling around us now, the earth-
quake shakes the solid globe ; nay, our very hearts. The
fire is raging. But if we listen only to them, we shall
not hear the Lord. He is not in them. We must be
still ; for he comes in the still small voice, in a whisper
within that soul which waits, above all things, to hear
him speak.

Now when we are thus tranquillized, what does the
Lord say to us ? He says : " I am God."


II. His existence, attributes, providence, grace, and
glory are what he would have us to know and permanently
recognize. " Be still, and know that I am God."

1. His personal existence he would have us know.
Just bring this test home to yourself. Imagine one of
your neighbors to deny that you had a personal exist-
ence, to try to persuade others that you had not, to treat
you as if you had not. Nay, let him affirm that you
lack any one attribute of a rational being, memory,
judgment, conscience, affection, how deeply he injures
and offends you. And if he be your own beloved child,
nurtured and cherished by you, how painful his treat-
ment and estimate of you become ! Judge from that
how God regards pantheism, polytheism, atheism,
theoretic or practical. This nation has manifested
atheism very extensively. The Lord says do so no
more. Deny not, forget not my person, my attributes.
Be not blind, amid the works of my hands, to my glory.
Be not deaf when I speak to you in my word. Treat
me as having a heart, an intelligence, a will, of which
your own is an imitation. Come as children, and speak
to me daily.

Oh ! will this nation be still enough now to hear the
Lord God Almighty assert his own existence, and
declare that excellence which makes the command to
love him supremely, infinitely reasonable ?

2. His providence he would have us know. It is a
providence of care : " upholding all things by the word
of his power." States and families, like the individuals
that compose them, " live and move, and have their
being" in Him. It is a providence of forethought and


purpose, directing all events to one glorious issue, from
the fall of a sparrow, or the shooting of an assassin's
pistol, to the overthrow of an empire, making the
wrath of man to praise Him, and restraining the
remainder. Look at the shortsighted wickedness of
Joseph's brethren in sending him into what they sup-
posed would be a lifelong bondage. Look at Pharaoh's
oppression, aiming at the extermination of the sons of
Jacob, resulting in their becoming the medium of salva-
tion to the world. Look at these conspirators. They
have now sealed the verdict of the world ; the Confed-
eracy is a conspiracy of assassins. It began with
attempted assassination of the chief citizen, the repre-
sentative man of the nation. It ended in securing his
murder. They have murdered their strongest friend,
and broken down the last bulwark that kept the popular
will from being executed on them. A dark destiny is
now before them. And woe to the man that now comes
between them and the preparing blow! They have
united the loyal citizens more completely in that pur-
pose which will leave in some places no vestige of them
but the desolation their wickedness has wrought. They
have now made the issue. Die they, or the nation

Is it not wonderful how God secures his ends by the
aims and endeavors of those who are attempting to
thwart his purposes ! See Him, fellow citizens ; recog-
nize his purposes concerning us, and his employment of
his and our enemies to execute them. His time has
come to bring Israel out of bondage, and Pharaoh must
do it. His time has come to release our African


brethren, but the masters must do it. His providence
is one of moral judgment. He does not make up the
full issue for any individual until death occurs. But
communities He judges here. He declares by his servant
Malachi : " Then shall ye return, and discern between
the righteous and the wicked ; between him that serveth
God, and him that serveth him not. For, behold, the
day cometh that shall burn as an oven ; and all the proud,
yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be as stubble."

What a development have the slaveholders made of
their character ! Some thought it severe, some untimely,
for a senator to utter that sentence of judgment on them,
pronouncing slavery barbarous. But the burning day of
judgment has now come, and they are witnesses on the
stand to the truth of the indictment, arrogance, trea-
sons, perjury, breach of trust, brow-beating, cruelty,
assassination ; these are the epithets history will apply
to their conduct. The great white throne is set, and
black appears black before it. Davis and Stevens, Lee,
Toombs and Floyd, Mason and Breckenridge, every
naval and military officer that left our service, every
member of their Congress, every gaol-keeper that
guarded our soldiers in their prisons, every act of vio-
lence to our negro soldiers in their hands, every loyal
man of the South that they robbed and murdered, the
corpse of Abraham Lincoln, the mangled frame of Wil-
liam Seward are their witnesses. Truly there is a Ne-
mesis. They have gone like Judas to their own place in

To know God in his providence we must become
familiar with his treatment of the Jews. The Old Tes-


lament must enter into our education. He made his
providence more marked and distinct with them than
with any other people. He blessed them when they
recognized his presence, and treated Him as their bene-
factor and ruler. But see what terrible displays of his
displeasure followed their disobedience. Their various
captivities, of a duration of from five years to seventy,
and their final dispersion show Him to be a holy God,
holding nations and communities responsible to Him
under terrible penalties.

3. His grace is the other form of manifestation He has
employed. We must know Him as holy, requiring an
expression of the evil of sin as great as can be made
through the cross, in extending mercy to sinners. We
must know Him as merciful, ready to be reconciled to
us in Christ ; as ready to make a covenant or compact
of friendship with us, a covenant containing the richest
promises of which the mind of man can conceive ; as a
hearer and answerer of prayer.

And this is the end at which He principally aims.
All the real value of nations recognizing Him is, that it
implies the personal knowledge of Him by individuals.
And He counts no knowledge of Him satisfactory and
complete, except that which leads us individually to
repent of sin, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and
follow Him in the regeneration. Nations perish ; indi-
viduals live forever. Hence God attaches a' supreme
importance to the personal faith of each individual. So
it is said : " God so loved the world that he gave His
only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him
might not perish, but have everlasting life. As many as


received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons
of God, even to them that believed on his name."

This is, then, the great issue to which the events of
providence are pointing. The rebellion, this series of
victories filling the nation with joy and thankfulness,
this horrible crime filling the nation with grief and dis-
may, are all revelations of God. His language in the
events which cheer and gladden you is, " I beseech
you by the mercies of God that you present" yourself
" a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God,'
The language of an event which arouses the turbulent
emotions of the heart, exciting grief or fear or anger,
is, Be still : hold that feeling in check, and observe
me. I have come forth from my hiding place, to show
you I am God.

Fellow-Christians, we never occupied such a vantage-
ground as now, for bringing a revolted race to its alle-
giance to God. Our neighbors are beginning to see his
presence, to recognize his will and power in passing
events For his sake, for their sakes, let us help them
onward in this direction. Filled with adoration, sub-
mission, confidence, and love to Him, let us speak of Him
in the convincing and persuasive words the quickened
heart can always supply. Oh, may this nation to-day
hear that voice as distinctly as it was heard from Sinai !
Fellow-citizens, make this a religious day, a day of
thought, of such deep reflection as becomes you as
rational beings brought into a wilderness of rugged
rocks and frowning cliffs, of desolation and death,
where you can, undiverted, hear the voice of God. Be



I AM unable to give, and you perhaps indisposed to
receive any regular preaching to-day. If 1 can but tell
you what is in the air; if I can voice your feeling and
my own, still more that spirit of God which is ready to
be voiced by human lips, the real end of our meeting will,
however informally, be reached. I lay aside therefore
my written discourse. Though it be ecclesiastically a
festival this morning, no Komish or other rubric has a
right to prescribe our theme. I take no text save from
the Bible of providence, the great book of events, God's
finger is still writing in burning words every hour. I
accept his subject, and defer my own.

I need not even tell the youngest of you what has
occurred. How all too suddenly it was known ! How
on the wires it flashed, how in the atmosphere that over-
hangs, and in every wind that sweeps across our borders, f
it brooded and was borne ! The craped and drooping
flag, the slow-sounding bell, the minute-gun told it ;
and had the ocean-telegraph, yet to succeed, only
served, the brain and heart of the world would be trem-



bling with one sympathy. California, from our farthest
bounds, is with us in the same sensation to-day.

I shrink from, naming the deed by which we are
so stirred. An actor in a theatre performs a part, in a
scene of real life, which extinguishes all the interest of
the mimic stage. What a contrast the last tragedy to
our late jubilee ! God seems to have chosen sacred
days for his messages,- on two successive Sundays
appointing celebrations of victory, and now giving to
Good Friday and Easter a new association indeed in
Christian minds !

But, on this dark day, my purpose with you is not a
lament, but comfort. Let me try to mention some con-

First, though our chief magistrate all of him that
could die is dead, THE NATION LIVES. "What is
your first impression ? " asked a brother clergyman,
adding that his was, the line must be drawn stricter
between the friends and enemies of this country. A
second said his first impression was, that an era of mis-
rule had come. I said, my first impression, after the
shock of grief, was, though the President is gone, the
nation lives, and will live more vital and vigorous for
this blow. What did the madmen, that struck at the
Chief and the Secretary, so meanly at the one from
behind and the other in his bed think to do ? To kill
the nation, to assassinate liberty, to cut the throat of
law ? What a mistake ! This blow will hurt, not our
cause, but only the hand that struck it ; and no mis-
chance to the truth be suffered by Him without whom
not a sparrow falleth.


It is one consolation, too, that slavery died more
swiftly and surely by this very stroke. Most important
is it, that the act should be traced. We should not con-
nect it with any quarter without proof. But we know
its general and most authentic origin. It is not from
any individual alone, but from the barbarism of slavery.
That demon whispered in the actor's ear ! That dragon
fired his passion, and nerved his arm ! His birth and
breeding were in the hot-beds and centres of slavery,
slave-breeding, and slave-trading. With indignation for
the crime, mingles in my mind infinite pity for the crimi-
nal, whose personal guilt has what palliation depravity
so deep can find in early nurture, bitter prejudice, or
constitutional bias. He impersonated slavery itself in
that theatre, which will hang henceforth, one of the most
terrible pictures of history, on the walls of time forever.
The horror affords this solace ; that it hints the death-
agony of the deadly foe of our republic. The monster,
pursued in northern seas, is never more dangerous than
in his dying struggles. Let the boat beware, that ap-
proaches him, lest the last lashing of his tail mix the
blood of its crew with his own ! With a worse monster
than ever swam the deep, this new evidence of malig-
nity should move us to keep no terms. Let this last
precious life-current it has caused to flow be the mor-
dant to set and seal the color of our eternal hatred, nol
to its misguided supporters, but to itself! Now that
the assassination, which has been for four years and
more after our Head, has accomplished its end, let our
consolation be in the slavery's own unsparing destruc-



But still another consolation is in the power of jus-
tice returning to our hands. If we were going to be too
lenient ; if, to a lax and vicious good- humor, we were
sacrificing the law and honor of God, we have learned
that indulgence is not equity, and leniency is not love.
Not revenge should be our object ; for, spite of the text
that ascribes it to him, I do not believe it is God's !
Nor can we compass the absolute justice which God
alone can measure out. But, for the protection of so-
ciety, for the reformation of the criminal, for the guard-
in* and nursing of the national life, we must watch
every motion, and strain every nerve. Such atrocities
of crime as can be traced should have condign sen-
tence. Those who are responsible for the starving, in
Southern pens and prisons, of our captured soldiers,
should have due penalty. We cannot mete out the
fair desert to all who have committed treason. We can-
not hang a community. But the wicked leadership, the
official malice, should feel our express displeasure, in
the solemn sentence of the law. Let us convert what
we can, disfranchise what has sinned basely, and banish
with the mark of Cain what can never belong to us !
We are gathering power to do this. The wild beast,
which we have fought so long in the wilderness and the
woods, we are getting under. Quickly as possible let us
set up everywhere the civil and criminal courts ! What
the national stomach cannot assimilate it must vomit ;
and not keep it in the system, an indigestible and poi-
sonous lump.

The last consolation is, that God can sanctify to us
our supreme earthly ruler's death. He would not have


permitted his life to be taken, had he not done his
work. He has finished it, how well and nobly!
Perhaps he would have been too gentle with evil-doers
in the time to come. " Sic semper tyrannis," shouted the
tragic actor, after discharging his pistol, as he brandished
his blade. A strange motto for a slave state ! For a
murderer, as he slew the softest-hearted of men, a mar-
vellous cry ! Sic semper tyrannis I What ! for him,
Abraham Lincoln, the mildest among all he was set over,
mild as May, into whose soul, from others' opposition or
ridicule, no resentment could get ; who never knew, in
the way of authority or manner, how to get up to the
dignity of his office ; whose fault, if he had one, was,
that he was not sufficiently stern with the vileness he
could not comprehend ; a man of the people, who waited
before he struck at crime ; a waiter on the people,
who also waited on the Lord, and harkened for the har-
mony, yet to the coming of God's and the people's voice,.
he, among whose last accents were words of kindness
to the rebellious South, HE a tyrant ! The speaker on
the stage was playing indeed, though in a ferocious way.
He feigned or fearfully mistook the side tyranny was on.
Davis and Benjamin and Wigfall and Mason and Slidell
not the tyrants ? Nay, if such as they have not fallen by
any privy blow, the reason is not that they are not tyrants,
but we not assassins. Ah ! could the agents and plotters
of this ghastly crime have themselves only waited a little
while, the measureless toils of our beloved one, more our
servant than captain, might have worn him out. They
need not have been so eager to anticipate the fate for


him, toward which he was so rapidly consuming his own

But be it our consolation, that the chariot of the Lord
goes forward. He that takes hold of the spokes of its
wheels, shall not stop it. What were the gentlest lips,
that ever spoke, parted to say ? " He that falls on this
stone shall be broken ; but on whom it shall fall, it will
grind him to powder." Truly " the wrath of man shall
praise him," and " the righteous shall be in everlasting
remembrance." The " blessed martyr," that bore him-
self so meekly in the greatest station on earth, has gone
to his harp and crown in heaven.

After toil,
To mortals rest is sweet.





"AccoEDiNG to the word of the Lord." Sweet
announcement to a broken-hearted nation, to-day !
" Abraham Lincoln died this morning at twenty- two
minutes after seven o'clock." That was the message
which the wires, heavy-laden with their tidings, sobbed
forth yesterday in all our pleasant places. And we awoke
from our troubled sleep this morning, and, lo ! it was
not a dream ! " According to the word of the Lord."
" Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight."
We look above all human agency. We recognize the
will that never errs nor falters, and that worketh all
things, in Heaven and on earth, after its own perfect

" So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there."
He had brought us through the " great and terrible



wilderness," unto the borders of our goodly heritage ; but
was himself forbidden to enter. May the same God,
who made him so much better than our fears, such a
father to us all, do even greater things for the Joshua
who succeeds him as the leader of our Israel ! To this
petition, every heart devoutly responds Amen! New
responsibilities sober men oftentimes. Possessing real
goodness of heart, they bend their shoulders loyally to
the unexpected burden, and display great qualities of
which they were thought destitute before. Thus a
bereaved nation prays and hopes.

How incomplete, how complete, the dear life that has
passed on ! The surroundings, the hour, the instrumen-
tality, how painful ! Why could not the name of one
whom we so loved, whom we so tenderly revered, have a
seemlier passage to its immortality ? Thou, Lord,
knowest ! Thou dost not respect the person of any man.
" Wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person
perish." " Man being in honor abideth not." " Like
sheep they are laid in the grave ; death shall feed on
them." We had traced a resemblance, often, between
our beloved President and the great Prince of Orange,
called William the Silent. The same devotion to country,
the same trust in a Divine Providence, the same cautious
and persevering wisdom, the same tender regard for the
people who confided in them. Oh, could not the
parallel have been left imperfect ? Must it be carried on
to the bitter end ? We loved to think that they were
alike in their patriotism ; but poor, blinded mortals !
we did not foresee the dreadful event that was to make
them so much alike in their death ! Both slain with wife


and friends around them, in the moment of social free-
dom and unconcern, by the assassin who long had been
waiting for his chance to strike.

Let me quote from history, " On Tuesday, the 10th
of July, 1584, at about half-past twelve, the Prince, <
with his wife on his arm, and followed by the ladies and
gentlemen of his family, was going to the dining-room.
William the Silent was dressed upon that day, according
to his usual custom, in very plain fashion. He wore a
wide-leaved, loosely-shaped hat of dark felt, with a
silken cord round the crown, such as was worn by the
Beggars in the early days of the revolt. A high ruff
encircled his neck, from which also depended one of the
Beggar's medals, while a loose surcoat of grey frieze
cloth, over a tawny leather doublet, with wide, slashed
underclothes, completed his costume. Gerard ( the
murderer) presented himself at the doorway and de-
manded a passport. The Princess, struck with the pale
and agitated countenance of the man, anxiously ques-
tioned her husband concerning the stranger. The Prince
carelessly observed that it was merely a person who
came for a passport ; ordering, at the same time, a secre-
tary to prepare one. The Princess, still not relieved,
observed in an under-tone that she had never seen so

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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 3 of 21)