L. M. (Livingston Maturin) Glover.

The character of Abraham Lincoln : a discourse delivered April 23d, 1865, at Strawn's Hall, Jacksonville, Ill. online

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Online LibraryL. M. (Livingston Maturin) GloverThe character of Abraham Lincoln : a discourse delivered April 23d, 1865, at Strawn's Hall, Jacksonville, Ill. → online text (page 2 of 2)
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Where the greater honor lies it were difficult to tell.

Such in brief is the estimate I form of the character and services
of the man at whose tragic end a nation is sunk in grief. I have
aimed only at a delineation of what he was ; what lie did has passed
before all eyes and is perfectly familiar.

He is no more ! He slumbers with the mighty dead. His work-
is done and the measure of his fame is full. In an unsuspecting
moment he fell by the hand of an assassin, a cowardly and fiendish
assassin for whose foul crime the vocabularies of human language
furnish no significant word. Manslaughter, assassination, murder,
how tame even these words seem, and how inadequate to express
the awful enormity as our souls feel it. These may tell the story of
the outward act, but after all they leave us grasping after some form
of thought capable of indicating the utter badness — the infinite ma.
lignity of the plot and of its execution. But the deed shall not go
unpunished, for it is written " Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I
will repay." Again it is written " There is no darkness nor shadow
of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves." And
it is written further, " He that neeth of them shall not flee away, and
he that escapetli of them shall not be delivered ; though they dig
into Hell, thence shall mine hand take them ; though they climb up
to Heaven thence will I bring them down ; and though they hide
themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out
thence ; and though they hide from my sight in the bottom of the
sea, thence will I command the serpent and he shall bite them ; and
though they go into captivity before their enemies, thence will I


command the sword and it shall slay them ; and I will set mine eyes
upon them for evil and not for good." The curse of the Almighty
will rest on the perpetrator of this crime, as it rested on Cain, and
even if he is not brought to condign punishment, as the probability
is he will be sooner or later, * yet he will feel that his punishment
is greater than lie can bear, for he will be a vagabond and a wan-
derer in the earth, ever fleeing and yet never escaping from the
shadow of his foul deed ; remorse, Ins accuser, following hard upon
his footsteps as the unappeased aveuger of blood.

Abraham Lincoln is dead. " The beauty of Israel is slain upon
thy high places. How are the mighty fallen! Tell it not in Gath,
publish it not in the streets of Askelon, lest the daughters of the
Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.
Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew neither let there be
r ain upon you nor fields of offerings ; for there the shield of the
mighty is vilely cast away as though he had not been anointed with
oil." And so it is that " One sinner destroyeth much good." The
maddened brute, without understanding, may gore with his horn
the proudest of human flesh. The mean man, the hardened wretch
who has no character to save and is morally incapable of any good,
may yet do boundless mischief; he can strike down the righteous,
he can vilely cast away the shield of the mighty ; by a single act, in
a single moment he can cast down the heart of a jubilant people and
overspread a great nation with gloom. So fell our Saul as if he had
not been chosen of God and anointed with oil.

How great the change which has come upon our dead President !
How sudden and how vast the transition ! He has passed from time
to eternity, from the shifting and changeable to the permanent and
enduring. His offices and honors he has laid aside. His ear is now
forever deaf to the applause of his countrymen, and will not listen
to the strains of panegyric which posterity waits to accord him.
And may we not trust that his spirit is where both his name and
fame are, among the mighty and the worthy dead ? 'A general con-
viction is that he was ready for this great change, ready in the only
way by which readiness can be secured. Oppressed by his respon-

*On the 27th of April, John Wilkes Booth, the assassin, was captured, and
killed in being captured, near Port Royal, Va., thus meeting his doom in less than
two weeks from the date of his crime.


sibilities, weighed down by private grief and by public calamities,
often at bis wit's end to know what to say and what to do, it would
be marvelous indeed had he not felt constrained to lay hold on God
for wisdom, direction and aid, nay, if he had not come to the cross
of Jesus, as a stricken sinner, for comfort and hope. But it would
be still more marvelous if this man, in whose behalf a whole nation
was in a ceaseless agony of prayer, had not been inclined to rule in
righteousness and even to yield himself up a willing captive and ser-
vant to Christ. If reports are true, President Lincoln not only im-
itated Solomon in the search for true wisdom where alone it can be
found, but David also and other pious princes in the exercise of faith,
and the cultivation of the temper and the habit of devotion. Al-
lowing it to have been so, then the change which has come upon
him is as blessed as it is great ; the aching head is at rest ; the
throbbing heart is calm and peaceful; the burden of a nation's wel-
fare no longer oppresses the anxious mind, and the unfettered spirit
has risen on jubilant pinions to the home of the good and the true.
If it were so, then the honors of a Chief Magistrate on earth are
only laid aside for those of an eternal royalty and kingship with
Christ and the Father; the fading glory of this world being only
exchanged for the brighter and more enduring glory of Heaven.
If it is so, then write, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord
from henceforth ; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their
labors and their works do follow them."

How are we to understand the event which has occasioned such
universal sorrow, and what lesson of practical good may be derived
from it? Regarded in the light of a divine judgment it must have
some designed relation to the sins of the people, and yet to their
highest welfare likewise; that relation may be general or it may
be special ; it may be prospective or it may be retrospective ; it
may be a punishment or it may be a chastening. I confess myself
incapable of reading the lesson at present. I know not what the
Great Ruler of the Universe means by it. " How unsearchable
are his judgments and his ways past finding out ! " And is it not
presumptuous in any man to stand forth at once with his divining
rod and declare, as with certainty, the interpretation of the thing ?
Different persons will of course view it from their own standpoint
and through the medium of their own peculiar opinions, prejudices


and passions. Some -will say it for. this, and some for that. One
will assert that it is the last tremendous judgment upon slavery
and complicity with it; another that it is a rebuke in advance of
Presidential clemency towards the rebellious ; a third that it is an
interposition to prevent any compromise of the rights and welfare
of the colored race ; a fourth that it is a providential removal of the
main obstacle to the pacification of the country, the speedy rein-
stalling of the Union and the Constitution over the whole land, I
am amazed at the boldness and confidence with which such views
are actually put forth. We might almost fancy that the old proph-
ets were risen from the dead when we hear persons speak on
the subject in such a spirit of solemn earnestness and authority
as if they held relations of immediate intercourse with Heaven,
and knew by a direct inspiration the will and decrees of the
Almighty. As to myself, I must wait for further light before
accepting their uterances. At present I am jealous of all human
suggestions on the subject, especially of any which, designedly or
undesignedly, by friend or foe, reflect upon the lamented President
and tarnish the brightness of his fair and well earned fame as a
wise ruler, a friend of the lowly, and a servant of the human race.
Let us be content to wait and pray until all the truth shall burst
upon us, for

*' God is his own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.''

At the same time, I would humbly suggest that every judgment is
a call to personal humiliation and penitence before God. And I
would add that whatever the main and ultimate design of this afflic-
tive event may be, we can hardly fail to observe in it a solemn re-
buke of national vanity, and a divine correction of that tendency
too common among the dwellers on earth to put undue confidence
in man, in princes, and munitions of war, and especially that ten-
dency to hero-worship and the unmeasured adulation of the great,
which the infinite Ruler can only regard with an intense and holy
jealousy as so much contempt of his supreme authority and of his
all-controlling agency in the affairs of men and nations. What-
ever else we fail, through ignorance, to discern in this providence,
this lesson comes clearly and impressively out of it, that "God


alone is great,'' and that praise as well as power belongeth exclus-
ively unto Him.

" How are the mighty fallen !" But the lesson of the hour is not
one of despair. The nation has not fallen with its prostrate Chief.
The Constitution has not fallen with its chosen defender. The laws
have not fallen with him who executed them in the highest magis-
tracy of the land. The Union has not fallen with him who so dili-
gently sought to throw around it the strong bands of national su-
premacy. The cause of humanity has not fallen with its mighty
standard bearer. The death of the President has invaded and
changed nothing that is fundamental in our civil structure. The
ancient buttresses of the Government stand firm. Eo strife for the
succession has arisen in consequence of these events. The supreme
authority has already passed quietly and without question into
other hands according to the fixed order of the Constitution. The
Cabinet is entire. The status of the army and navy is unchanged.
The prospect of victory and of peace is as near at hand, and the
beneficent work of emancipation is as likely to go forward as it was
before. Society is not unhinged, order is not subverted, anarchy
is not inaugurated. The entire machinery of law and of authority
moves smoothly and powerfully on. Doubtless the assassin thought
to stun the nation, to paralyze it, to cast it down in the moment of
its exultation; perhaps he dreamed that the life of the Republic
would flow out with the blood of its representative, his distinguish-
ed victim. If so, it was but a dream. The Republic stands and
will stand. Its existence has no absolute dependence upon any one
man. To millions it seemed that President Lincoln was indispen-
sable to the nation, and the first rush of feeling at the news of his
death was that all was lost. But all is not lost, Nothing that is
vital to a great people lies within the power of an assassin. He
may destroy the representative man, but the principles represented,
if good and true, remain and flourish still. The mighty fall, but
justice, truth and freedom fall not with them. These are imperish-
able. Though often cast down in the persons of their defenders,
they yet rise again in the persons of other defenders and pursue
their march towards universal supremacy. There is an ever work-
ing, eternal providence that watches over the interests which wick-
ed men would thwai t, and that gives vitality to the righteous cause.


So that no sincere and humble effort of good men fails or is fruit-
less. Whatever was undertaken by President Lincoln, that was
right in itself, is sure to be achieved, though he is gone. The con-
stitution and government will be vindicated and established, the
Union will be restored, the liberties handed down from our fathers
will be maintained and transmitted to those who are coming after
us, and freedom will become universal throughout the land. Slave-
ry, the occasion of so many of our public troubles and of our private
griefs will, at no distant day, come to an end. Indeed it may be
said to have virtually ceased already. It is so, so far as the declar-
ed purpose of the people and of the government is concerned. Mr.
Lincoln decreed its destruction — but the Almighty had decreed it
before him — and it is sure to be accomplished. The human instru-
ment has perished, but the divine purpose will go on. The hand of
the assassin cannot arrest the march of events, or turn back the pur-
poses which rule the universe, and through the long years and ages
of time, by means often mysterious, sometimes awful, move on the
car of improvement and work out the best welfare of man. Indeed,
truth seems to become more vital and commanding by opposition.
Stricken to the ground it rises again with renewed vigor and force
Blood poured out in its defence does but enrich its roots in prepara-
tion for a new and more bountiful harvest of good. Whatever just
principles President Lincoln sought to advance while alive are more
upspringing and forceful now that he is dead. The grave hallows
them, and the poor dumb mouth on which the heavy clod rests will
continue to speak in their behalf more eloquently and effectively
than the living voice ever did or could, and hence it w T ill prove, as
in numberless other instances, so in this, that " though the work-
men die the work goes on."

The fame of the departed, too, is secure. The assassin may have
thought to arrest that fame in mid career, to mutilate by separating
it from its objects. It was in vain. He applied himself to his task
too late. The work on which the glory of his victim would rest was
already accomplished. The great facts out of which the web of his
life story would be wrought had already transpired. The record
was already made up. Had he perished four years earlier, that
record would have been short and comparatively unimportant. A
few lines then would have sufficed for all that was noteworthy in


his career. But since then so rapidly have events been generated,
events of which he seemed the centre and soul, that volumes alone
can contain them. Had he lived to finish the term of public service
to which he was called his fame might have reached a more round-
ed fullness; and he doubtless looked forward with pleasing expec-
tations to the time when, his country united and tranquilized and
all manner of good descending upon it as the results of his faithful
labors, laying aside the cares of office, he might return to private
station among the people he loved so well, and while reaping the
tribute of their gratitude- might also participate with them in the
blessings of a beneficent and stable government which, though pur-
chased by infinite toil and sacrifice, are worthy of it all. Alas, it
was not to be so. And yet the cutting short of his life does not con-
tract his fame, which was essentially complete when the fatal shaft
flew ; indeed, I am not sure but martyrdom was intended to give
an unusual brightness to the immortality which was already gather-
ing in a glorious halo about his name.

Thus have I spoken of the deceased President, not in the spirit of
a politician or of partisanship, but of sincere admiration, and I feel
quite sure that my words have met a warm response in every gen-
erous heart. Love of worth is a prerogative which party lines can-
not circumscribe, and which prejudice ought not to repress. It is a
privilege which nature gives, that we may admire flowers blossom-
ing elsewhere as well as about our own dwelling. The beauties of
sky, of ocean, and of earth are for man, and all are entitled to the
varied emotions of pleasure which they are adapted to excite; much
more, then, have we a common inheritance in all that gives a real
lustre and a true attractiveness to any human character. All good,
great, and useful men belong to their country and their race. Their
names and fame are in no private keeping. Their ownership is
not vested in a party or a clan. None can appropriate their fight
or their glory in a sense that all others may not do the same. Like
the sun and moon and stars, they shine for all mankind and they
shine for all ages.

That this man had weaknesses, had faults, and that he committed
errors none can doubt, and no one was more ready to acknowledge
it than himself. Some regrets hang over the memory of the noblest
and the best, for " to err is human," and, as the Scriptures assert,


" Great men are not always wise." His failings whatever they may
have been, were such as are common to men, and such as are inci-
dental to high station. But even of these he plainly had far less
than we have been accustomed to see in public men. He had no
degrading habits, he practiced no low vices. He was not fond of am-
bitious displays ; he was not given to strong drink ; his lips were not
addicted to profanity. Nor am I aware that he had acquired. any
special fondness for dramatic representations, or that he had formed
the habit of attending upon the amusements of the stage. I think
it my duty, however, to say that in common with many others, I
have a regret that, if he was to fall by the hand of an assassin, the
event had not occurred elsewhere, in the street, in the council cham-
ber, in the national mansion, or even in the sanctuary of God. And
yet my regret does not take the form of expression adopted by some,
that being in the theatre he was out of God's jurisdiction and for-
feited the divine protection, but that regret is this, that besides the
general impropriety of the indulgence for one whose example gives
law, and especially while public affairs were so troubled, the fact
should have been made by " wicked hands" to serve as the link of
destiny, and seized upon as the fatal condition of such universal
down-casting and grief. And yet in all this painful matter there
is nothing which a gracious God cannot or which a generous people
will not forgive, nothing but the atrocious crime of him of whom it
might be said as of another whose name is never mentioned but with
horror, " It had been good for that man if he had never been born,"
while, as relates to the victim himself, the cloud which overshadows
his last hour is thin and transient, but the glory behind will be re-
flulgent and perpetual.

And now I have to commend the character of Abraham Lincoln
to the study of all, especially of young men, whose aspirings are
naturally so ambitious and hopeful, but who in their ignorance and
haste are liable to mistake the true conditions of honorable and suc-
cessful effort. It is not the accident of birth, or wealth, or social po-
sition, or official place that gives true and lasting eminence. With-
out an underlying virtue all these are baseless and vain. Good
sense, simplicity, sincerity, honesty, love of right, of justice and of hu-
manity, above all the fear of God, these were the undergirdings of
character in him we mourn, these the conspiring forces which made


bim truly great. Therefore, our youth of promise and worthy long-
ings, who would place themselves in the way of honorable distinc-
tion, should get wisdom and understanding, should " buy the truth
and sell it not," should form right purposes and steadily pursue
them, should live for the attainment of useful ends alone, agreeable
to the poet's advice,

" Honor and shame from no condition rise;
Act well your part; there all the honor lies."

And now let us all prove ourselves worthy of the time and the
emergency. The lesson of the hour is one of hushed solemnity; one
of penetrating personal inspection and inquiry. " In the day of ad-
versity, consider." Calmness and silence become us in the presence
of such events. Impatience, excitement, and passion ill befit a peo-
ple circumstanced as we are. Bitterness, wrath, clamor, evil speak-
ing, revilings, and all words of virtuperation are unsuited to our pres-
ent condition. These, when indulged, are elements of discord and
anarchy. Let those who would suitably honor the memory of Abra-
ham Lincoln, imitate and seek to diffuse the spirit which was emi-
nently characteristic of him. Let them be kind and courteous,
charitable and tolerant ; let them chasten down the asperities which
may burn in the heart or rise to the lips ; let them be patient, for.
bearing, magnanimous ; let them illustrate the virtues they admire
in him they fondly call the father of his country. Following so
goodly an example will secure to us and to our children greater
blessings than any that are achieved by arts or arms, will give us
peace, union, strength, liberty, religion — all that can make the
present agreeable or the futur e glorious.

Another lesson of the hour is a hopefulness based upon the reali-
ty, the certainty, and the unfailing wisdom of divine providence.
The heavens are not about to fall, the earth is not about to be up-
heaved, chaos and wild disorder are not about to be launched upon
us ; all is and all will be safe because God reigns, and because chris-
tian people in their extremity will put their trust in him. There
is also a rational faith in public men and in the general virtue of
the people, which inspires the hope that all will be well.

And finally, prayer is an important, perhaps the most important
duty to be learned and practiced at this time and in the midst of
these calamities, for " God is our refuge and strength, a very pres-


ent help in trouble." It is prayer that has buoyed up the Ship of
State through the storms of the last four years ; prayer that in-
spired the mind of our President in the straits to which he was of-
ten reduced ; prayer that gave courage to the hearts and vigor to
the hands of the brave men who have fought our battles and achieved
our victories. Therefore let not prayer be restrained now that the
nation's Chief has fallen, for another has taken his place who, for
aught we know, may be equally solicitous of the same kind offices at
the throne of grace that were cheerfully bestowed upon his lamented
predecessor, and yet if he is not, he only needs them all the more.
And should there be any misgivings in regard to the new Presi-
dent's habits, principles, or policy, nothing is so likely to prove
them needless, or to disappoint all fear as the earnest, sympathetic,
united prayers of a great people ; such remembrance at the throne
of mercy will at least assure him of the people's desire to confide in
him, and will naturally produce in him the reciprocal desire to
prove himself worthy of that confidence. Let us also pray that
God would cause the wrath of man to praise him and restrain the
remainder thereof, and especially that he would turn the current of
our afflictions into channels which shall convey increasing good to
the land and the nations.

This discourse is now ended. I have told the story of Abraham
Lincoln as well as I could in one brief hour. That hour is a strik-
ing emblem of the transientness appertaining to his and every hu-
man life. A few hasty years are passed, then comes the "last of
earth;" a few solemn words are spoken and all is over. Since,
therefore, life is so fleeting let us all apply ourselves diligently to
life's most important work, that whenever, and in whatever form
the messenger of death may come we may be ready with our record,
and by the rich mercy of God in Christ ready also for an everlast -
ing reward.

■ • &J :••:■•:•■■ • mWk '■

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Online LibraryL. M. (Livingston Maturin) GloverThe character of Abraham Lincoln : a discourse delivered April 23d, 1865, at Strawn's Hall, Jacksonville, Ill. → online text (page 2 of 2)