Mason Noble.

Sermon delivered in the United States Naval Academy : on the day of the funeral of the late President, Abraham Lincoln online

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Online LibraryMason NobleSermon delivered in the United States Naval Academy : on the day of the funeral of the late President, Abraham Lincoln → online text (page 1 of 2)
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U. S. Naval Academy, ~)

JYewpnt, R. I. Jpril 20, 1865. £

Bear Sir : — Having listened with deep interest to your Sermon of yesterday s
and desiring that its sentiments may be more widely known, we respectfully re-
quest a copy for publication.

The events which called us together were of the most solemn character, and
have made a most serious impression. The calamity which has befallen the na-
tion has spread over our land a fearful gloom not soon to be dispelled.

Your remarks yesterday were admirably calculated to shew the feeling which
animates the entire American people, and while feelingly observant of the noble
character, true patriotism and spotless integrity, of our late chief magistrate,
they were fitted to remind us of the existence of our Creator from whence Com-
eth comfort in the hour of affliction. Hoping for a favorable reply, we remain
Very respectfully,
Rev. Mason Noble. F. M. Hendrix, R. B. Bradford,

Committee from the 1st Class.
R. Waterman, M. S. Day,

Committee from the 2d Class,
W. H. Frailey, J. P. Newell.
Committee from the 3<£ Class.

U. S. Naval Academy, }
April 20, 18(55. >
Gentlemen : — I have received your very kind note of this date requesting a
copy for publication of my sermon delivered before you yesterday.

I most cheerfully comply with your request, and will with pleasure furnish
you a copy for the press.
I remain, gentlemen, with great regard faithfully yours,

Messrs. F. M. Hendrix, ")
R. B. Bradford, |
R. Waterman, y Committee.
W. H. Frailey,
J. P. Newell, J


'■' For promotion cometh neither from the East nor from the West, nor from
£he South. But God is the Judge. He putteth down one and setteth up anoth-
er."— Psalm 75 :— 6— 7.

We are assembled here to-day at the summons of the
Government. We gather with a weeping Nation around
the body of our late beloved and venerable Chief Magis-
trate, ABRAHAM LINCOLN ! Though the capitol is
so many hundred miles away, yet we can as it were, hear
the sobs of grief which cannot be suppressed in the im-
mediate presence of that loved form, and can mingle
our tears with those of the thousands who crowd the
great procession that is winding its way through the still
and gloomy streets of our National metropolis. Yes !
The dread reality is as vivid to us as to them. None of
us can escape from its presence. It surrounds us every
moment. It is with us in our busiest hours. It haunts
our very dreams ; and when we awake to consciousness
we hope sometimes that it may be only a dream. But
the sad truth soon forces itself again upon us. For it
has covered our homes with the symbols of mourning.
It has closed up in darkness and comparative silence our
shops and stores and places of public resort. It has filled


our streets with anxious and gloomy faces, and our friends
as they meet us press our hands in speechless sorrow and
turn away to weep alone.

But independent of all these external signs of grief,
there is a sense of the terrible calamity in the depth of
our hearts which no words can express and no symbols
illustrate. I would not intrude upon the sacredness of
your sorrow ; and I feel that my own is too deep and
solemn to be spoken of to any one but God. To Him
we may speak ; and this is the meaning of this hour of
worship. The temples of the land are all thrown wide
open at this hour, and the Nation is prostrate before the
throne of the God of our Fathers. The American peo-
ple have come with stricken hearts into His presence ;
and it is some alleviation to our own anguish to know
that while we are here singing our solemn dirges, depre-
cating His wrath and .supplicating His mercies, our broth-
ers in all the loyal States have turned away from their
usual employments, and are looking up sadly and hope-
fully to our common Father in Heaven.

We all feel probably as we have never felt before the
awful sovereignty of God. We sec clearly that if " the
earth and the inhabitants thereof arc not dissolved," it is
because " He bears up the pillars thereof." It is no
theological dogma with us to-day but a living faoi thai
tl promotion cometh neither from the Bast, nor from the
West, nor from tin; South. Bui God is the Judge. Uo

th down one ami setteth up another." A week
to-day how firmly was Abraham Lincoln seated in the
eery centre of earthly power and glory ; the object of

the Nation's warmest love ; tin- hope and joy of all the

loyal millions of the land. He seemed appointed of God


to bear up the pillars of the Government, and the Nation
leaned in full confidence upon his strong arm and manly
heart. In a moment the hand of an assassin is permit-
ted to overwhelm him, and another stands in his place,
clothed in his power and summoned to his responsibilities.
Yes ! the hand of man has done it in wrath and hate,
but God has permitted it to be done, and the solemn
voice which speaks out of Heaven to all of us as we turn
our weeping eyes toward his gracious and yet awful
throne, is " Be still and know that I am God. I will be
exalted among the wicked. I will be exalted in the '

The Divine supremacy is a fact ; and that fact made
glorious and attractive by all the perfections of Him who
reigns over the boundless universe, is and should be the
chief source of consolation in the sorrows that to-day
overwhelm us. Especially may we remember as we see
the head of our National Government so suddenly laid
low in death, that

1. Government itself is ordained of God.

The State is not so much an institution of man as it is
an ordinance of God. As it is not a question with any
one of us whether we should be born at all, so we are
not permitted to say whether we will be subject to the
power of an organized State. We are introduced into
its presence at the moment of our birth. It encompasses
us on every side with its laws, its high behests, its pro-
tection, its unceasing inspection, its obligations and its

The form of the Government, the degree of power
which it may weild, and the particular mode of its ad-
ministration, may all be made dependent on the will of


man. But the fact of the State is independent of men,
and is ordained of God as directly as the roll of the plan-
ets, or the laws of the light, or the balancings of the
clouds or the changes of the seasons.

If then, «' the wicked bend their bow, and make ready
their arrow upon the string that they may privily shoot
at the upright in heart," the foundations are not des-
troyed, nor one pillar of our glorious civil temple torn
from its base. The President may die. But " Jehovah
is in His holy temple. Jehovah's throne is in Heaven.
How say ye to my soul ? Flee as a bird to your moun-
tain ! In Jehovah put I my trust ! The powers that
be are ordained of God. Jehovah is then my Rock, and
my Fortress, and my Deliverer ; my God, my strength
in whom I will trust."

But there is another truth which we may well remem-
ber in this day of our national bereavement, viz :

2. God has ordained that civil Governments should
grow out of and represent the general character of the

Our God is a great King who putteth down one and
setteth up another. As Governor among the Nations He
is governed by certain great principles of justice and
right as well as of Divine beneficence. The Bible teach-
es US that lie so orders and controls all events that the
heart of the Nation, or its great moral principles, should
be fully represented in the Statt 1 which is ordained and

It may be brae in one sense that a ruler may give
oharacter to the Nation which he governs. But there is
a higher and grander truth than this. Thai omniscient
eye which penetrates beneath the mere surface of human


society, sees thoughts, feelings, principles, working there
in the depths of men's souls, and actually forming by
immutable moral laws the very despot and tyrant who in
his time comes up and treads the people down in the
dust, or that beneficent and glorious Sovereign who will
acknowledge and protect their rights, and raise them to
the sublime heights of national honor and happiness.

The despotism of King Saul, rising as it did out of a
Divine democracy, was ordained of God ; and yet it rep-
resented the false views and proud ambition of a people
already corrupted from their primitive simplicity, and to
whom despotism was a necessity as well as a just pun-
ishment. The various modifications of the State under
his successors, David and Solomon and Rehoboam, were
immediately connected with the character of the people
and represented the changes in their views and feelings
and conduct. Their rulers came forth by the decree of
the most High, and yet they grew out of the soil of the
Nation and faithfully represented the Nation in its real
character and deserts.

And so it has ever been in the history of States. The
world has never been forsaken by its Maker, or left to be
the sport of chance, nor its Governments permitted to
rise out of chaos with no directing hand or intelligent
forming power. God has ever been in the midst of
States, illustrating and vindicating great principles of
righteousness and truth as well as mercy. No one, in-
deed, can read history intelligently or profitably, unless
he remembers that God is superintending and controlling
all, and in the Governments which He ordains, is never
departing one iota from the principle of representing the
character of the people in the privileges and immunities


which they enjoy, or in the oppressions and sorrows which
they endure.

The State may be a bald and heartless despotism ; or
a mixture of arbitrary power and wild freedom ; or a
great and wise monarchy more jealous of the rights of
all than the most unrestricted democracy, or a free and
noble Republic where man stands up in his truest dignity
and liberty is most strongly guarded by constitutional
law. But whatever they arc, they are all not so much
man's invention as God's ordinance, and that not by ar-
bitrary appointment, but according to eternal and immu-
table principles of right. States, as well as individuals,
are ever reaping what they have sown, eating of the fruit
of their own way, and filled with their own services.

In relation to our own Republic, we rejoice to know
and acknowledge that in its form and substance it is one
of the most precious gifts that God has ever conferred
upon any people. But we are certain that in this He
has not departed one hair's breadth from those great
principles which have ever been illustrated in the history
of Nations. We say, and we say truly, that it was
Washington and that noble band of self-sacrificing men
who surrounded him, who secured to us our political in-
stitutions. We can, indeed, follow them step by step,
through many anxious and weary years, guiding us by
their wise counsels, leading on our discouraged and yet
patient army of brave and Buffering heroes, and finally
establishing our institutions on a, solid basis of enduring

prosperity and glory. But it is true, also, that such men
as these could have been found nowhere else id the world.
Such tall, majestic tiers, could have grown in no other
soil. If the soul of Washington had been brought into


existence in Mexico, or old Spain, or France, or even
England itself, his intellectual and moral character would
have been very different from what it became in this land.
That remarkable man— so pure, so true, so patient, so
wise, so exalted in his views, of such gentle dignity
among men and so reverent before God, turning with in-
stinctive aversion from oppression in every form, and lov-
ing liberty with a calm and strong, if not a passionate,
devotion, forgetting to use his power for his own exalta-
tion and laying everything he possessed at the feet of
the Nation, prizing the people as the greatest treasure of
a State, and assured that by their own intelligence and
virtue they might secure all the blessings of good Gov-
ernment — such a man, we say, could have been formed
in no other Nation except by a miracle. When these
sublime virtues had been concentrated in his person he
was then raised up on the heights of power by that God
who had determined to represent in him that band of
men who were once gathered on the deck of the May-
flower, and whose descendants, through Washington and
his co-workers, might give character to the counsels and
the deeds that should secure our free institutions and our
immortal Republic.

There were, as we all know, defects in their charac-
ter ; and those defects appear in the State which they
organized. The stream will never rise above the foun-
tain ; and political institutions will show the plague-spot
on the hands of those who form and administer them.

Our Republic consists practically, not simply of the
constitution, but of the administration of the Govern-
ment. It is a solemn fact which we would this day rec-
ognize, that as our Administrations have followed each


other in quick succession for nearly a century, they have
represented the real character of the people. The enact-
ments of law and the policy and measures of Govern-
ment, have been such as the people on the whole de-
manded. Our public dealing with great moral questions,
such as the punishment of crime, the observance of the
Sabbath, the treatment of the Aboriginal races of this
continent, the manner of regarding the Nesro in his
bondage, and our habit of considering the claims of jus-
tice and of the will of God as supreme over all, our deal-
ing, I say ; with these questions in our public counsels,
has been such as the people demanded, and to them they
have consequently given the sanction of their deliberate

But why do I dwell on such a topic in the midst of
the desolations and sorrows of this day of our National
bereavement and lamentation? It is that I may set still
more distinctly before you, young gentlemen, the great
fact, that

3. Our late President was a true and conscious Repre-
sentative of the heart of the American people.

His character as a statesman was formed by the insti-
tutions and prevailing public sentiment of the Nation.

Born in the South, and trained there for a time, he
was familiar with their domestic institutions. He knew
thoroughly the condition of the slave, and the effects of
slavery on those who hold them in bondage. He saw
the great, the indescribable evils of the whole system ;
and was most deeply impressed with the diiliculty of re-
moving them.

At the same time, his long residence in the live States
had convinced him o{' the infinite superiority of free


labor, and he felt that these two systems could not co-
exist permanently under the same Government. And
yet, in common with the vast majority of the American
people, he hoped that by mutual forbearance for a time
and the honest carrying out of the principles of the
Fathers of the Republic freedom would ultimately triumph
without war, and that the Nation would remain one and

WJien therefore the Slave Power struck at the life of
the Nation and the Providence of God elevated him to
the chief Magistracy and committed to his hands the af-
fairs of the Republic in the bloody struggle to which it
was summoned his heart beat responsive to the heart of
the people.

In the tender and earnest appeal of his first Inaugural
Address and his solemn determination to restore every
fortress and every inch of territory to the control of the
Government, in his reluctant and yet courageous summons
to arms when the flag of Fort Sampter was dishonored
by a traitorous and arrogant foe, in his subsequent proc-
lamations, and faithful, firm, sagacious and glorious acts
of administration in which he so carefully and conscien-
tiously guarded his steps he knew that he was not leading
the people or exciting and goading on a hesitating Nation.
He felt rather that he was their servant, and that to him
as President the voice of the people was most truly the
voice of God. Hence he himself said that he had not
controlled events but was controlled by them. The war
was not for a moment his war or the war of his admin-
istration, or the war of the Republican party. It was
the people's war for the life of the Nation. Their wis-
dom, their valor, their zeal, their sacrifices, their sor-



rows, their hopes, their living, fiery, unquenchable patri-
otism, their immutable and ever intensifying purpose to
save the Nation, were ever concentrating their power
upon him. Under the pressure of such an influence he
went forth to his great work, and by such inspiration he
accomplished, under God, his glorious success.

Even in his leniency from the beginning towards those
in insurrection, in his reluctance to believe in the savage
barbarity of their leaders, in his inability to appreciate
the cruelty which long habits of oppressing a servile race
had made possible if not natural to them, in a deep com-
passion for the insane delusions which had swept like a
tornado over the minds of the masses, and in the benev-
olent hope that pardon offered to all would result in uni-
versal submission and a restored Union, and in an entire
freedom from revenge and hate, he truly represented the
great heart of the American people.

And finally, when after years of conflict the last ter-
rific campaign came, it was through him that the voice
of an united and determined people proclaimed as their
ultimatum peace through victory ! And when he said
" war ! and war only to the bitter end of rebellion !" he
rose only to the height of sublime determination on which
the Nation itself finally stood.

And when victory hung out her glorious banners on
every side, when stronghold after stronghold fell before
the lesibtless might of the military power, when the cap-
itol of the pretended confederacy was hurledfrom its bad
eminence and the proud army of their commander-in-
chief was broken and routed and captured, and sent
without arm- to their ruined homes, when rebellion was
everywhere prostrated> and " mene, menu, tekel, uphar-


sin," was written by the finger of God Himself on the
palace wall of the modern Babylon, then what were the
emotions of the great soul of our chief ? Gentleness,
kindness, sympathy for the suffering, forgiveness, union,
peace ! Not one word of reproach, not a single taunt, not
a whisper of revenge, not a desire for one degree of unne-
cessary sorrow. And in all that too I think he represented
the forgiving heart of a great and magnanimous Nation.

But in this, both he and the people were in danger of
the most grave error in judgment, and of thus falsely in-
terpreting the providence of God. With few exceptions
we seemed in the joy of victory and the anticipations of
peace, to be blind to the malignant and deadly spirit of
the rebellion, while we failed to recognize the dread
claims of justice in the settlement of the Nation on foun-
dations that could endure forever.

But at this point God interposes His awful hand. By
a providence as mysterious in some of its aspects as it
was terrific and overwhelming, He permits the insane
spirit of the rebellion to reveal itself to the Nation and
to the world. Its satanic form suddenly presents itself in
the bloody assassin of the chief magistrate himself. As
he falls in death the scales instantly fall from the eyes of
the Nation, and Justice, pure as white robed mercy, is
seen descending out of Heaven, and though her garments
are red as blood, yet the people recognize her as the
Messenger of God and the Deliverer of the Land. The
cry, the shout, the fearful shout of the people is, Just-
ice ! Justice ! Justice ! And as they cry the man steps
forth. Andrew Johnson is now the Representative op
the American People. God's appointed Agent to do
His work.


I tremble as I see him sit down in that high and holy
place. My prayer is that his hand may remain firm
while his heart is true. My hope is— a Nation estab-

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Online LibraryMason NobleSermon delivered in the United States Naval Academy : on the day of the funeral of the late President, Abraham Lincoln → online text (page 1 of 2)