Henry Darling.

Grief and duty. A discourse delivered in the Fourth Presbyterian church, Albany, April 19th, 1865, the day of the funeral obsequies of President Lincoln online

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^rief and Butg.







APRIL 19th, 1865, THE DAY OF THE



By henry darling, D. D.,

!Pastor or the Chnrch.




The time of the delivery of this discourse is sufBcient to indicate the
haste of its preparation. It contains nothing more than the expression
of some of the first thoughts that our great national bereavement
suggests ; and it is only in deference to repeated solicitations that the
author consents to its publication.

The discourse was repeated at the United States Military Hospital of
this city, on the afternoon of the Sabbath April 23d, 1865.


Genesis xxxv, 19, 20, 21.
"And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is
Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar npon her grave : that is the pillar
of Rachel's grave unto this day. And Israel journeyed, and spread his
tent beyond the tower of Edar."

The affliction recorded in these verses, has been
the portion of not a few of our race, in every age of the
world. Earthly affinities that we deem perpetual, are
suddenly dissolved ; and worldly ties that we imagine
are ot cable strength, are in a moment, and forever
sundered. Friends are but loaned to us by the Giver
of every good gift, and often at the moment of our
highest expectations are taken from us. Feiv families
can be found that have no vacant chair at their table,
and fewer hearts in which the death of some loved
one has not left an aching void. The people of God
are rapidly striking their tents in this wilderness, and
entering into the palace not made with hands. They
are going up from this gloomy crypt below, to the
grand cathedral above ; and putting off this earthly
house of their tabernacle, are being clothed upon
with that house which is from heaven. The home of
many a man in this world, like a dissolving view, is


gradually vanishing from earth, and is daily develop-
ing itself in the skies. Heaven is rapidly becoming
colonized from earth, and a man need not himself to
have been long in this vale of tears, to have seen so
many that he loved successively emigrate to that
other land, as to make it, even for the earthly friends
that dwell there, the home where his heart is.

In a word, few are the travelers to eternity who
do not pass on their way thither through the land of
Bochim. How, in this passage, it becomes us to
demean ourselves, is to all an important inquiry,
and one to which we may, by an examination of my
text, find a beautiful answer.

During a journey, undertaken by Jacob at the
express command of Jehovah, from Succoth to Bethel,
Rachel, the wife of his youth and of his love, died.
In the strange city of Ephrath, the j)atriarch was
constrained to consign to the grave, the precious
remains of one who had endeared herself to him by
years of faithful affection, and by a cheerful and happy
participation of his sorrows, his companion, amid all
his wanderings, and the light and charm of his dwel-
ling. " And Eachel," says my text, " died, and was
buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem."

But what, in the experience of this affliction, were
the feelings, and what was the conduct of this emi-
nently devoted servant of God ? Was Jacob stoical
and indifferent ? Did he fail to mourn that a holy and
beloved object of his affection had been removed by
death? On the contrary, Jacob was deeply sen-

sible of tlie loss that he had sustained, and his heart
was thereby filled with anguish. He did not in death,
forget one who in life had so constantly ministered
to his happiness. As a testimony at once for his grief
at her sudden decease, and his high appreciation of
her character, upon the cold earth beneath which slie
was sleeping he erected a monument to her memory.
" He set," is the language of my text, " a pillar upon
her grave," so permanent in its nature, and conspicu-
ous in position, that it remained, and was called the
pillar of Rachel, not only until the time of Moses,
but even to the day when Saul was anointed King
of Israel.

And similar feelings it is right that every individual
should have in affliction. If some one dear and
beloved, has been removed from earth, we ought to
sorrow. Humanity demands it, and the Savior weep-
ing over the tomb of Lazarus, allows it. Sorrow is
an affection, implanted by the Creator in the soul for
wise and beneficent purposes, and it should not be
unduly repressed. God has opened in our nature a
fountain of tears, and he who bids us restrain that
fountain when God has touched its spring, demands
us to act contrary to the very design of our constitu-
tion. If the gem that shone so beautifully by my
fireside, and in the rays and sparkles of which I
rejoiced so long, has been removed, it is natural for
me to weep, and the man who bids me dry up my
tears only mocks and degrades me.


As God also intends, when lie bestows liis gifts,
that they should be received with smiles of gratitude,
so he desires that when they are recalled, they should
be surrendered with " drops of sacred grief." Tears
are the silent, pure, unsophisticated testimony of the
heart, to the excellence of the gift God in mercy gave,
and no doubt in mercy took away. We should have
no gratitude in the reception of blessings, if we had
no sorrow at their loss.

But though the Patriarch Jacob mourned at the
death of Eachel, and as a testimony of his affection
set, as we have seen, a pillar upon her grave, yet he
did not — it is fact worthy of special notice — suffer
his grief to prevent him from actively and faithfully
discharging every duty. "And Israel journeyed,"
says my text, " and spread his tent beyond the tower
of Edar."

Jacob was called in the providence of God, to
act a very important part in the history of the
Christian Church. At the very time this sad
calamity overtook him, he was by the express com-
mand of Jehovah on his way to Bethel, the house of
the Lord, and the place where God had previously
revealed to him by vision the future triumphs of his
kingdom. The Patriarch had a great work given him
by God to perform. He had put his hand to the
plough, and although doubtless when this affliction
first broke upon him, his resolution trembled, and he
was almost persuaded to turn back, and seek to allay
the poignancy of his grief, by mingling in the famil-

iar society of his old home, yet at length triumphing
over all these evil suggestions, with a wounded and
a stricken heart, he pressed on in the path of duty.
Having consigned to the earth the precious remains
of his friend, and erected over them an appropriate
monument of his grief, Jacob, in obedience to the
command of Jehovah, continued his journey to
Bethel — in other words, faithfully met every obliga-
tion that was imposed upon him as a servant of God.

The same should be true of us all in affliction.
When grief impairs the health and preys upon the
constitution ; when it paralyzes the energies, and
benumbs and stupefies the soul, so that incumbent
duties, personal or relative, civil or sacred, are
neglected, and the soul does nothing but lie down
upon the sepulchre and weep, then is it a sorrow
unworthy of the honorable name which the Christian

Indeed, so to mourn over an affliction as to be
thereby unfitted for the discharge of present and
future duties, what a complete perversion is it of all
the real designs of earthly trial ! Affliction is the
nursery in which God is training His people for a
more vigorous manhood. It is the gymnasium in
which He seeks to increase and strengthen their
moral and spiritual power. What a perversion of
His design, that, coming out from this nursery or
gymnasium, weary and worn out with the discipline
through which they have passed, they should lie

down in listless inactivity !



The application of these principles, — pertinent to
every instance of affliction that ever visits men in
this world, — to that particular sorrow that has now
convened ns, and that lies to-day so heavily ui)on
every heart, opens to us, if I mistake not, the only
two channels in which our meditations can profit-
ably flow.

First : We do well to mourn the loss of our late
beloved President. His death is a great national
bereavement. It is meet that we to-day set uj) upon
his grave the monument of our warmest love, and
that the whole nation should bedew it with their tears.
But, secondly : called like Jacob to go up, as a people
to our Bethel, on the highway to lieaee and liberty ^ this
sore bereavement on the road, should not hinder or
impede our footsteps, but like the old Patriarch, we,
in the continued and faithful performance of every
duty, should "journey on, and spread our tents beyond
the tower of Edar." To the amplification of these
two thoughts, allow me, in what remains of this dis-
course, to invite attention.

The cliaracter of President Lincoln is a true occa-
sion for weeping over his death. Doubtless the time
has not yet come for us to weigh, this, in a perfectly
even balance ; and certainly our present position is
for such a work exceedingly unfavorable. In the
first gush of sorrow that our hearts feel for the loss
of any earthly friend, we are but poorly prepared to
form any critical estimate of his worth. Making,
however, every possible allowance, for the peculiarly


tender feelings that we all feel for him, on account
of his untimely death, he must he a bitter partizan
indeed, that would not concede to our late President
a very rare combination of both moral, and intel-
lectual excellence. Called, in the providence of God,
to the chief magistracy of this nation, at the most
perilous moment that she has ever experienced in her
whole history, and with no precedents to guide him,
it must be conceded, that, as a whole, Mr. Lincoln's
administration has been conducted with remarkable
prudence, and consummate ability. Indeed, whatever
difference of opinion may have, at the time, been
honestly had, as to the wisdom of many of his im-
portant official acts, I suppose that they are few who,
in the light of our recent victories, and the present
position of freedom in our land, do not regard them
with favor.

Some have denied to our late President the appel-
lation of great, and, if a wide range of scholar-
ship, or brilliant genius is essential to constitute
true greatness, justly. But surely, he possessed
just those peculiar traits of character, that were
essential for the wise conduct of public affairs in a
season of great peril. He was characterized by great
calmness of temper. He was not a man of impulse.
His heart was not so governed by strong passion,
and tumultuous emotion, as to make his acts indis-
creet and hasty. Whatever he did, was deliberate
and well considered.


He was preeminently a practical man. He had
no mere theories of government. With a remark-
able quick perception of the true relation of
things, his acts took their i)articular shape out of
ever-varying circumstances. Either naturally con-
servative, or made so by the consciousness of high
responsibility, he sought more to be directed by
Providence than to direct and govern it. And yet
Mr. Lincoln was a man of great firmness of opinion.
Naturally cautious, as I have just said, in assuming
a position, he was at the same time exceedingly
strenuous, after it was assumed, in maintaining
it. His whole administration is marked by a steady
progress toward one end. We see no flowing back
in the onward wave. Ground once fairly taken was
, never given up. Some men at his very side chided
him for sloivness, but it did not quicken his step, and
others equally near to him in influence, rebuked him
for his hastiness, but it availed nothing to check his
onward progress. Seizing, at the very moment of his
inauguration, the first link of that chain — if I may so
speak — which was to draw us out as a nation of that
horrible vortex of secession into which almost half
the states had fallen, Mr. Lincoln never once
relaxed his grasp upon it, but with a stalwort hand
gathered slowly, but in a sure succession, each other
link to himself, until at last our political salvation
was secured.

And if to this you will now add the twin virtues
of an intense x>atriotism, and a lofty and noble per-


sonal disinterestedness, the political portrait of our
murdered President is almost complete.

In leaving his quiet home, to assume the high
functions of state, you remember that our dear
departed ruler, publicly requested an interest in the
prayers of God's people. And never, at least since
the days of Washington, has such a request found
such a response. From the golden censer of our great
high priest, has the sweet incense of i)rayer in his
behalf, been constantly ascending. The intercession
of the saints have belted with a zone of holy influ-
ence, every day and hour of his whole administra-
tion. And if the grave has seldom closed upon an
American statesman, whose character was so resplen-
dent with virtue, we doubt not, but that many an
excellence heaven bestowed, in answer to her peo-
ple's prayer.

But, the time of our beloved President's death, as
well as his character, is a true occasion for sorrow.
The soldier's work in our terrible internecine war
seems almost ended. We have probably fought the
last great battle of this rebellion, and hereafter
the only flag that is to wave from the lakes to the
gulf, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific, is the red,
white and blue. Indeed, already does it float in tri-
umph, not only over the capital of the so-called con-
federacy, and of every seaport along the whole
Atlantic coast line, but over the very fortress where
it was first constrained to succumb to treason. But
where tlie soldier's work closes, there the task of the


statesman commences. The first pnlls down, it is
the more difiicult province of the last to build up :
and Mr. Lincoln was not a warrior but a civilian.
And from his character as already described, as well
as from his peculiarly intimate acquaintance with
all our public affairs, how much did we naturally
expect from him in this great work of reestablishing
between the discordant sections of our country, har-
mony and good will.

If our late President was great in time of war,
I have a very mistaken idea of him, if he would
not have been far greater in a time of transition
from peace to union. He possessed the very charac-
ter of a iKtcifier. His heart was full of gentle-
ness and love. He was not able to cherish a
bitter feeling, or a vindictive purpose. The last
sentence in his last inaugural, reveals to us his
very heart. " With malice toward 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
him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow
and orphans, to do all which may achieve and cherish
a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with
all nations."

That very conservatism which iDCCuliarly charac-
terized Mr. Lincoln was, so far as we see, just
what at this time we needed. In that struggle
wliicli has just commenced in -this land between
j ustice and mercy, that neitlier may gain a complete


victory, it was just such an evenly balancing intel-
lect as his, a firm but loving hand, that we needed.
Great peril will certainly here come to the state, if r«fZi-
cal views, on either side of this great question are to

As free also from all theories, as regarding facts
as they are, and adjusting his policy to them, how
much in these days of reconstruction do we need
just such a mind to direct us ! To those who atten-
tively read a speech made by our late President upon
hearing the news of the surrender of Gen. Lee's army,
upon that much vexed question of the political status
of the states lately in rebellion, I need not allude
to his truly Baconian and common sense method of
disposing of the whole difiiculty.

Moreover, how invaluable in the pacification of our
great national troubles would have been the council
and policy of our late President, as seen in the almost
unbounded confidence that the i^eople reposed in him !
What Motley says of William the Silent, we may with
hardly any less truthfulness say of Abraham Lix-
COLN. " There was such general confidence in his
sagacity, courage and purity, that the nation had come
to think with his brain, and to act with his hand." *
Surely at such a time, — amid the hosannas of vic-
tory and at the very moment when the warrior was
retiring from the stage, that the statesman might
take his place, — that he who was the foremost in all

" The United Netherlands, vol. 1, page 1.


that company should hav^e fallen, is a large element
in our sorrow.

And then, to add poignancy to our grief, there is the
wretched manner of his death. So far, in our history
as a nation, we have been happily exempt from those
political assassinations that have so frequently dark-
ened the records of the old world. And from our
progress in a Christian civilization and refinement, we
had really supj)osed ourselves to have outgrown such
a possibility. We have not marveled much in see-
ing the princes of Europe, with their armed attend-
ants, Napoleon with the bristling bayonets of his
grenadiers, and the old Pope surrounded with the
stalwort forms of his Swiss guards, for we were in a
despotic country, and such men might well tremble
for their lives ; but surely, in this land of freedom
and equal rights, no such security for human life can
be needed, as no such peril can be felt.

But alas ! for that depth of wickedness to which this
ungodly rebellion has brought man. The murder of
the head of a great nation, of a man of the kindest and
most generous emotions, while sitting quietly in his
chair, surrounded by his family and friends, is only the
culmination of a rebellion that was commenced by
purloining public property, arms, ships, forts, navy
yards, and continued by the establishment at home of
a military despotism that gave the citizen no choice
between conscription and death ; a rebellion that
stripped the wounded on the battle field of every
article of clothing, made personal ornaments out of


the bones of the dead, and starved, by thousands,
those who had, by the fortunes of war, become its
prisoners. True, our real loss would have been just
the same had our dear President died a peaceful and
natural death. But this terrible assassination ! this
passage, almost in a moment, by a ruffian's hand, into
eternity, of one whose life and health God so kindly
watched over and preserved, and who was seemingly
of such moment to our country, O ! it is this that
makes our grief so tumultuous ; and that, added to the
other considerations already noted, converts every
sanctuary in our land into a Bochim ; brings this afflic-
tion home to every bosom with the force of a personal
bereavement, and to-day causes this whole nation
tearfully to follow to the grave its venerated head.

But I must pass from this view of our occasion for
grief, to speak of the duties that, as citizens of this
great country, are still before us to be faithfullj' met
and performed. I have already said that this great
national bereavement has met us, just as Jacob's deep
personal affliction met him, on the highway of duty —
while journeying to peace and liberty as he was to
Bethel — and hence that, while with him we ought to
mourn, with him we should likewise continue on in our
way — " spread our tents beyond the tower of Edar."
Now what are some of these duties that the day
imposes ?

The first is courage. God's purposes never depend
for their fulfillment upon any human instrumentality.


Men, to our purblind vision, seem oftentimes almost
essential for the accomplishment, either in the church
or state, of some great result ; they are in our esteem
the pivot upon which everything turns ; but when, in
his providence, God removes them, how easily by other
instrumentalities does he carry on his work ! Protes-
tantism did not die in Europe when William, the
Prince of Orange, fell in his own palace by the murder-
ous shot of a young Burgundian, nor when the
renowned Gustavus Adolphus was, by an Austrian
bullet, slain on the field of Lutzen. ^o, men die,
but not so those great interests of truth that they
may have lived to promote. Truth lives on, and
when one of her greatest champions may have fallen,
is sure to find another who will take up and plead
her cause.

The very structure, likewise, of our government
makes it almost impossible that the death of any one
man should seriously change its policy, or endanger
its stability. " If the Emperor IsTapoleon," says one of
the journalists of the day, " had been assassinated,
all France would have been in revolution before
twenty-four hours had passed, while the death of
President Lincoln, sudden and awful as it was, did
not interrupt, for an instant, the grand movements of
our republican government. Take courage, then, I
say, my dear hearers. Those great interests that you
have prized so highly, and that seemed a few days
ago so near, are not seriously jeoparded even by


this crushiDg bereavement. It cannot be made to
galvanize any new life into the defunct carcass of
rebeldom. It cannot raise for them a new armj^ or
impart any fresh courage to the remnant that still
remains. It cannot open to their commerce a single
blockaded port. It cannot bring back into bondage
and manacle anew, a single slave that has already
breathed the fresh air of freedom. Nor can it annul
or in the slightest degree change a single edict of the
government. No, though the body of Abraham Lin-
coln may be mouldering in the dust, yet his soul will
— in him who has already assumed the responsibilities
of his office — be marching on and on, till the great
purposes of his administration accomplished, peace
and liberty will be enjoyed throughout the whole land.
Courage then I say, courage !

But, with courage, the duties of this day demand
that all the bitterness and rancor of party spirit
should be forgotten, and that men of every possible
shade of political belief should now stand together
for the support of the nation.

Lord Macauley, in one of his lays of ancient
Eome, thus speaks of that people in the palmy days
of the Eepublic.

Then none was for a party ;
Then all were for the state ;
Then the great man helped the poor.
And the poor man loved the great.
Then lands were fairly portioned ;
Then spoils were fairly sold.
The Romans were like brothers
In the brave days of old.


O ! that the affliction that God has sent upon this
people might here recall them to duty! Children
are very prone, you know, to remember their un-
kindness to each other, and to feel strongly attracted
toward each other when summoned from their far oif
wanderings to the old homestead ; together to bury
their common i)arent. It is an adage that affliction
makes brothers of us all. Would that this might be
the result of our great national bereavement.

Scarcely anything, I think, for the last half cen-
tury, has had toward this nation so threatening
an aspect as the extreme selfishness and passion
of party. Our public men, oftentimes, do not look
at the real desirableness of a proposed measure,
but entirely at its influence in securing the political
ascendancy of their party. They seek their own,
not their country's good. They belong, not to our
whole nation, but to some little clique, some poor
section or fraction only of our great brotherhood.
Would, I repeat it, that the affliction under which
we now mourn might lead us all nearer to the altar
of our country, and beget within us all a more noble
and unselfish patriotism.

And I cannot here refrain from expressing the
lileasure which I have felt in observing, since the
death of Mr. Lincoln, the tone on this subject of
the press, without any distinction of party. It has
greatly rejoiced my heart to see on every side the
exhortation, "Let us rally as one man to the support
of our government in this crisis." Let no man in


an hour like this think, much less talk, of party or
partisanship. Let there be no crimination or recrim-
ination. Let us all sacrifice our preferences and our
prejudices upon the altar of our country, and rally
around the man ayIio rises in the room of a stricken


Online LibraryHenry DarlingGrief and duty. A discourse delivered in the Fourth Presbyterian church, Albany, April 19th, 1865, the day of the funeral obsequies of President Lincoln → online text (page 1 of 2)