James Andrew McCauley.

Character and services of Abraham Lincoln : a sermon preached in the Eutaw Methodist Episcopal Church, on the day of national humiliation and mourning, appointed by the President of the United States, Thursday, June 1, 1865 online

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Online LibraryJames Andrew McCauleyCharacter and services of Abraham Lincoln : a sermon preached in the Eutaw Methodist Episcopal Church, on the day of national humiliation and mourning, appointed by the President of the United States, Thursday, June 1, 1865 → online text (page 1 of 2)
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Baltivorb, June 2^/, 1865.

Rev. J. A. McCAlTLEY,

Dear Sir :

Representing the wish of many members of the

Congregation who had the pleasure of listening to the admirable discourse,

delivered bj^ you on the late day of National Humiliation and Prayer, to have

it for perusal and reflection ; and also their anxiety that it may have a publicity

more commensurate with its merit and the importance of the subject it so forcibly

discusses, the undersigned respectfully request a copy for publication.

Truly and affectionately 3'ours,







Baltimore, June 3(1, 1865.
Gentlemen :

I covet to be known, in every way, as honoring the man to whom the
Nation owes so unspeakable a debt ; and could I feel that my Discourse was a
worthy treatment of its theme, your proposal to prolong and widen its impres-
sion would be to me a real satisfaction. Defective as it is, I place it in your
hands, as thus, besides complying with your wish, my witness, though unworthy,
may have a more enduring form than spoken words.
Yours, very truly,

To S. Helsby,

S. Baldwin,

J. W. Krebs, and others.


Consider now great this man was. — Hebrews vii. 4.

I SELECT these words with no design to use them in tlieir
original reference. I take them merely as a motto for what
I wish to say concerning the man in memory of whom this
service is appointed.

It is well the nation has heen summtmed to cease from its
activities, and spend a day in contemplation of the scenes
through which it has been passing. So stirring and so
stunning have been the events crowding on us recently,
sweeping us so rapidly through all the possibilities of emo-
tion — casting us down, by one rude Ml, from the raptures
of rejoicing to a sorrow too deep for utterance or tears — that
we have been disqualified to estimate their real magnitude.
People stirred as we have been: dizzy, one day, with joy,
and dumb, the next, with grief; in the very whirl and din
of events, destined to fill the brightest and darkest pages
history will write, have lacked the composure needful to
their just appreciation. Timely, then, this day of pause
and contemplation truly is, saddened, though it be, by
memories of a sorrow we can never cease to feel.

Several days of our recent history will be noted in the
calendar of coming years. One day bears the double stigma
of treason's first and latest blow — the assault of Sumter,
and the murder of the President. On that day, too, the
nation lifted up the symbol of its majesty on the scene of its
first humiliation. In fame and infamy, the fourteenth of
April will be immortal. Eemembcred, too, while freedom
has a friend, will be the day of Richmond's fall, and tlie
days of the great surrenders. A day of sadder memory


will the present be. But one day like it has this nation
known. When death removed the man, who made our
fathers free^ the spectacle was seen of a nation hathed in
tears. But the scene to-day is more affecting. That was
the sorrow of an infant nation ; this, of one immensely
grown. That was sorrow for a man who died; this, for one
most foully slain. The man who piloted the nation through
gloom, and stress, and storm, just as the gloom was break-
ing, and the storm began to lay, while at the helm, was
stricken down. Never was there such a blow. As the wires,
flashed tlie heavy tidings from sea to sea, the nation put on
sackcloth^ and wept as never nation wept before. That
scene will go down in history without an equal in tlie annals
of the race — a nation, elate with joy for rebcUitm overcome
and liberty preserved, tearfully bewailing its illustrious
Chief untimely slain. And though time has somewhat
eased the agony that wrung all hearts, and, in a measure,
dried the tears that could not be restrained, when the great
bereavement fell upon us, it is not a form of sorrow in which
the nation now unites. The people of this land, in solemn
service, are to-day recording their tearful tribute to the hon-
ored dead, and humbling themselves bei'ore Him, by wht)se
righteous sufferance their great distress has come.

We are calmer now than when, in the freshness of our
grief, we shared in a service similar to this. And as our
words could then but be the sobbings of our sorrow, it is fit
they now should voice our more considered estimate of the
man whose death we grieve. Of the deed itself, it will not
be for this generation to think or speak, without emotion.
But of its victim — his noble nature, and illustrious deeds —
we are enough recovered now to calmly think and speak.
To this my thoughts incline; and so 1 now invite you to
review his character and services, as seen in connection with
the struggle through which he led the nation to victory and

The order I propose regards his adaptation for the task
assigned him to perform; the singleness of mind and stead-
iness of zeal with which he bent himself to its accom])lish-

ment; and the result which crowned his honest and persis-
tent toil. In fitness, performance, and success, it is
acknowledged now, and the years will growingly reveal that
he was truly great.

I. It is a truth not always seen at first, but afterwards
perceived too clearly to be doubted, that the men, to whom it
falls to take the lead in the great movements and struggles
of oar race, have previously been schooled to fitness for their
task. In the light of Scripture and of History, it can be
clearly read, that God prepares, by special training, the
instruments to execute His special purposes. Slowly, per-
haps through generations. He gets the world ready for what
He purposes to do ; and when, at last, the time is full, there
never fails to step forth one qualified to take the lead, and
carry His purpose on to consummation.

Israel's leader was an instance. Four liundred years — from
til e day of Abram's call, till the cry of an oppressed people
rose to heav^en — God was educating a people for severance
and isolation, that they, in turn, might educate the world
for His ultimate designs of mercy to the race. At length
they are ready to go forth on their Providential mission,
and one to lead them is at hand. Peculiar was the training,
which formed that Hebrew boy for leadership and rule.
From the bosom of the Nile, he was transferred to the palace
of the Pharaohs. Until his fortieth year the schools of
Egypt opened to him the treasures of their lore ; and gave
him thus, as far as learning could, fitness for his destined
mission. But other fitness he would need: heroic firmness,
which foes and dangers could not turn; a sturdy strength,
which toils could not break down. And as courts were not
the place to foster these, God sent him to complete his
training in a sterner school. Forty years a herdsman, fol-
lowing flocks among the deep ravines and frowning sides of
Midian mountains, he was nurtured to a vigor, which bore
unhurt the cares and burdens of the Exodus ; and when^
forty years thereafter, he sank to rest on Nebo, "his eye
was not dim, nor his natural force abated." In that school.


too — aloof from men, in the lonclinoHS of these grand soli-
tudes communing with himself and God — lie grew to sucli a
consecration that, only once in forty years, a thouglit of self
dishonored God. By training so peculiar and ])rotracted
did God prepare, for tlie enslaved seed of Israel, a Leader
into liberty. And so in all his great designs. John, to
herald Christ, and Paul^to prcacli among the Gentiles, were
the fittest men of all thit lived, because of what their lives
had been. And so in all the social struggles by which our
race has won its way to any higher ground: the men, who
bore the banners, got tlieir place, and did their work, because
of special fitness.

Abraham Lincoln was raised up of God to be the instru-
ment of a great Providential purpose: to conserve the libei-
ties bequeathed us by our fathers, and to make the bond
among us free. On the sky of our long night, God has been
writing this fact for the world's recognition; and, now tliat
day has dawned, it shines as clear as shines the sun. Recall
the facts. The struggle was peculiar. It lacks but little of
a hundred years since the Colonies declared their ])ur})OHe to
be a nation ; and b}^ their prowess, under God, they made
their purpose good. Not only, however, to he, but to continue,
nations must prove tlieir worthiness. And hist(M-y shows
that nations have a double peril to their perpetuity — from
without, and from within. Fifty years ago this nation hum-
bled, on land and sea, its mightiest foreign foe, and taught
the rest respect. The world won to fairness, there was no
danger now but from within. It was not long till mutter-
ings of this began to jar the land. Interest of sections
clashing, it feigned to be; but its real root and character
were not long concealed. This nation was the birth of one
idea — Liberty. But another, essentially incongruous, wove
itself into the nation's life — Slavery, In their irreconcilea-
ble antagonism, it was early seen our greatest peril lay.
Mollified by compromise, for thirty years slavery was con-
tent with menacing and noise ; but these grew angrier with
the years, breaking forth at last in the traitorous resolve
that, if not allowed to overleaj) lis bt)unds, and have the


soil of IVeeduiu I'ur its own, it would take the nation's liic.
Favoring its design was the theory it held, that the Status
were not component parts of one organic whole, hut separate
sovereignties, entitled at their option to withdraw. Follow-
ing this, wherever it could, it decreed dismemberment, and
drew the sword to cleave its way to separate empire. What-
ever any think, this they may be sure the pen of history
will write was the real nature of the contest into which
the nation was compelled. Placable no more, Slavery de-
creed that Liberty should perish, sooner than its purposes
be ibiled. Whatever in the land had affinity for this,
gathered to its standard — with sword and bullet, those it
could control ; with smiles and succor, foes of freedom
everywhere. Fighting these, in front and rear, while on
the issue hung the fate of Liberty, was tlie real nature of that
contest from which the nation is emerging now — emerging,
God be praised, with victory on its banners.

I speak of this that we may see how manifestly he, who was
the nation's leader in this great battle for its life, reveals a
litness, which compels belief that his selection was of God.
In all his previous history we now can see the Providential
training of a champion for the Nation's cause in the day of
its great peril. Sprung from the people, love of freedom
fired and filled him. To this his being jnilsed ; to this his
life was consecrate. His patriotism was a vestal fire : it
went not out, nor waned. Again and again was his deep
conviction uttered, that freedom is the right of all. He
was the impersonation of that one idea, of which this Repub-
lic was the birth and the embodiment. Coming up from
humblest occupations, to posts of honor in the nation, till the
highest was attained, the unequalled excellence of the insti-
tutions, framed and left us by the fathers, was graven dceji
upon his heart by experience of their kindly working. And
in that love for these, which began with his life^ and grew
with his years, and was fostered by his fortune, consists the
ground-work of his fitness_, when these were put in peril, to
marshal the Nation's energies for their preservation. In say-
ing this I do not mean that, when hostile hands were lifted


to cleave down the nation's liberties, no one else of all its
sons abhorred the traitorous deed as much as he ; but only
that devotion to the cause of freedom, and abhorrence of the
system in whose interest the treason was conceived, were a
needful part of fitness for the work assigned him to perform.
And these in part single him out as the chosen of God to
direct the nation's energies in the struggle for its life.

But other qualities were his, rarely fitting him for that
great work. Minds of loftier mould could likely have been
found ; finer culture surely could. But it is doubtful if the
nation had a single other mind, better qualified than his, to
grapple witli the great necessities of the Presidential ofiice
during his term. The world, I think, consents that he was
a man remarkable for quick and clear perception ; lor cau-
tious, acute, almost unerring, judgment ; for a will in which
pliancy and strength w^ere combined, in a singular degree.
And, to the occupant of his position, these were qualities of
imperative necessity. The easy round of peaceful times was
not the path he must pursue. To deal with trials wholly
new was the task that faced him at tlie first, and pressed
him to the last. No sooner was he chosen, than rebellion
braced its arm to strike. The tones of his inaugural had
scarcely died upon the nation's ear, when worse than light-
ning- fires lit up the land, and thunders of war made the ear
of the world tingle. Yet, unappalled by these, with faith
in the right, and faith in the Lord, he grasped the reins for
that perilous career on which he had been driven ; and, to the
admiration of the world, he held them, till the assassin's
bullet struck them loose, just as was wheeling the nation,
through the gates of victory, into the morning light of peace.
On such a course — so full of perils so untried, and daily new,
frowning here, and yawning there — only the keenest eye, the
coolest brain, the steadiest hand, could save the nation from
disaster. Happy for the nation, God had given it a guide
possessing these abilities in wonderful degree. With intui-
tive celerity, he saw the dangers as they rose, and saw the
wisest thing to do ; and, with steady purpose, rested not till
it was done.



Even his peculiarities were no trivial part of his pecu-
liar fitness for tlie place. Quaint, uncourtly, even droll,
many, who wished him well, thought his ways and talk
sometimes undignified ; while foes were never Aveary, Avith
tongue and pen, hlazoning these as proofs of incapacity. But,
when people came to see that these were but the healthful
play of a genial and transparent nature, that through them
gleamed the genuine ore of invincible good sense, they wrote
them down for what they were — efficient helps to his great
work. The flash of humor was a medicine to him ; and it
poured a liglit sometimes into the very centre of perplexities,
Avhich no logic could unravel. His manner, ahvays kind,
drew the people to him with stronger hooks than steel.
The humblest got as near^ and were as welcome to his
presence, as the mightiest that came.

But time would fail to mention all that marked him as the
man of Providence. Patience that toiled untiringly ; that
bore, unfainting, loads of care and woi'k, which hardly one
of any million could have borne ; honesty transparent as the
light ; iinseduced by any bait, unswerved by any pressure,
hastening on, with single purpose^ to its goal, the nation's
good; kindliness and clemency almost superhuman, which*
hatred and abuse seemed but to kindle to an ardor more
divine, breaking out at last in those grand words, which
will ring down the centuries — ''malice toward none, charity
for all ;" even meditating kindest things for bitterest foes,
when murder struck him down — all these were his, and, with
the rest, compose a wondrous fitness for the work allotted
him to do. A man of the people — one with them in training,
habitudes and spirit ; of keen perception, practical sense, and
wisely-yielding will ; of patience, conscientiousness, and
clemency, seldom united in mortal before — he centered in
himself a combination of qualities, which can leave no room
for doubt that God prepared him for the nation's need.

II. From his fitness, I pass to speak of his performance :
the singleness of zeal with which he bent himself to meet
the nation's need.

lie took tliu Presidential seat with one idea — to save the
Unionofthe States. Thatwas tlie single stai- that lixedhis eye.
For that he steered. Never from that could he be bent. His
personal wish for any result beside sank and was lost in the
mairnitude of this. All measures were good that furthered
this ; all that hindered it were bad ; and those were best tliat
helped it most. He Avas ibrced into a struggle in which he i'elt
that he must have the nation's energies on his side, or iail.
Hence one axiom controlled his policy : as people think, they
will do; as opinion rules, power goes. With an end in view
that consecrated all means, the conservation of national
liberty, his sole concern, regarding policy, was to have it be
a reflex of the predominant opinion of the nation, that so
it might command the preponderant power of the nation.
Narrowly he watched the schooling of events. As these came
dimly whirling from the mists — from smoke of battles and
the darkness of defeat — no keener eye was turned to see them
taking shape ; no readier mind to accept their lesson. That
liis policy, from first to last, was undergoing change was not,
as sneeringly was said, because he was volatile, witliout a
settled purpose, a reed in the wind, a feather on the wave.
J-t was because there was in him, that practical wisdom
v.diich^ with a goal in view, watches the tide, and takes tlie
flood, and goes to ibrtune. As the currents of o})inion swe})t
wildly by, he did not try to battle them, but bent his sail to
catch their force, that so the precious ark, instead of stag-
gering in the storm, or going down beneath the wave, might
be carried, if with creaking timbers, yet unwrecked, to where
the haven lay in peaceful ca,lm. Had he been a Avilful man,
set on following certain lines, despite the pressure of events,
Columbia would to day be weeping, not for him, but for
freedom, slain.

Open thus to Providential teaching, he came, as soon as
it was safe, to that measure, with which his name will go
down to immortality — Emancipation. Long before the war,
his individual views were on the side of universal liberty.
No public man had done more efficient battle for it, with
tongue and ])en, than he. But when he found himself the


head of the imi)GrikMl nation, and needing to unite the
nation's strength to wage the battle for its life, he would
not travel in the line of his desires, faster than the nation
signified its wish. None can donht that he was right in
judging the nation unprepared for this measure, when the
war began. Adopted then, he had been deserted by the bor-
der States entire, and by niany in the North, and so tlio
Union had been lost. But opinion drifted to it rapidly as
martial necessity. And candid men will not deny that, had
he delayed much longer than he did to smite the shackles
from tlie bound, the masses, unwilling longer to connive at
what they now believed the sole occasion of the great rebellion
against their liberties, would have left him unsupported ;
and so, for this, tlie Union had been lost. This determined
its ado})tion. Solemnly he had said, if freeing a slave would
peril the Union, he would forbear ; or, he would shatter the
system, if so he could the better compass its safety. Events
were solving which to do. Two years of indecisive war had
passed. The armies of the West had scarce been able to
keep back the tide of invasion ; and, in the East, matters
had gone even worse. The army of the Potomac had closed
a disastrous campaign. The Peninsula gory with the blood
of thousands shed in vain; the grand army driven from the
Eapidan, broken and dismayed, to the very gates of the
Capital ; the foe aggressive ; the Potomac crossed ; fear of
rapine, sword and flame ; all were summoning the nation to
a solemn inquisition. Standing on his tower of anxious
observation, Mr. Lincoln seemed to hear it borne from every
quarter, that now it was the will of most that freedom be
proclaimed. Voicings of disaster, of the press, and of the
ballot, seemed unitedly to say, Ee-inscribe the nation's ban-
ner. He ventured to obey ; and, while the guns of Antietam
held the nation silent, he penned the notice of his great
resolve. The earliest light of 'G3 revealed upon the banner's
folds, beneath the old device, another word^ — Emancipation.
The world read and shouted its approval. And though
some among ourselves trembled lest that word should prove


the signal of our doom, a little while revealed that he had
rightly read the nation's will.

Thenceforth two stars flamed in his sky: Union — liberty
conserved for those already free ; and Emancipation — liberty
decreed for the millions hitherto enslaved. These he stead-
ily pursued. Through storm and calm^ through victory and
reverse, toward these he sought to lead the nation on.
Questioned from whatever source, he let fall no word ignor-
ing these. Whether writing to any it might concern, or
speaking to representatives of the tottering rebellion, seek-
ing armistice and compromise, while assuring of concession
on every minor point, he clung to these: unconditional
acknowledgment of the national supremacy, and acquies-
cence in the fiat enfranchising the slave. And though for
this he fell, it was not till he had seen these stars fixed in
the clearing azure of the nation's sky, beyond the peril of
extinction or eclipse.

III. A closing word I wish to say concerning his achieve-
ment — the success which crowned his patient waiting, and
assiduous toil. To measure this, in all it means, the time
has not yet come. The great i'acts appear, indeed, before
our eyes so real, so cheeringly in contrast with all that
recently has been, as to compel their recognition. Recently
the land was lurid with the flames of war; the air was
heavy with its woes. Now the noise of guns is hushed.
The dust is lifting from the field. Columbia smiles from sea
to sea. Grandly loom the great results: the Republic is
safe ; treason is dead, or dares no longer strike ; one flag
floats, and not a second will. These results^ for which the
nation has been toiling, as nation never toiled before, are
facts accomplished now. And much of what they mean we
already comprehend. We know that the questions, so trou-
blous in the })ast, will no more disturb the nation's peace.
State supremacy, that restless spirit which walked the land
so long, and which no skill of Statesmen could compose, has
been laid to sleep to wake no more. General Lee is rumored
to have said, '^'the right of a State to secede was an open


question till my fliihive settled it.'" It is settled now. No
more will rivalries of rule disturb the nation's peace. No
more the stars will leave the sun. In the Union every State
will stay, each pursuing its allotted course, and dutifully
doing its appointed work.

But order not alone, universal liLerty has been achieved.
The nation's stain has been expunged. The one incongru-
ous element has been taken from its life. To-day it stands
before the world, and henceforth will, the real embodiment
of that great ti-uth which its founders so nobly proclaimed,
the right of all to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happi-
ness." And thus is sealed the other source of dissension
and disturbance. At the ballot, where people voice their
will, in the halls where laws are made, and on the benches
of decision, Slavery will no more inflame feeling, darken
counsel, pervert judgment, or inspire sedition. Quietus —
may it be eternal ! — has come to this potency of ill.

All of this is clear to us. But the measure of blessing
treasured in these results, for revelation and enjoyment in
the future we are pressings is hidden from our eyes. Eleva-
tion of the masses ; development of material resource ; scope
for energy, growth of every kind, the coming generations
will increasingly attain, which, could they be pictured now,
would be pronounced the pencillings of poetry, or the visions


Online LibraryJames Andrew McCauleyCharacter and services of Abraham Lincoln : a sermon preached in the Eutaw Methodist Episcopal Church, on the day of national humiliation and mourning, appointed by the President of the United States, Thursday, June 1, 1865 → online text (page 1 of 2)