Samuel Dunham.

The nation's tears. A sermon in memory of President Garfield, preached in the West Presbyterian church, Binghamton, N. Y. .. online

. (page 1 of 2)
Online LibrarySamuel DunhamThe nation's tears. A sermon in memory of President Garfield, preached in the West Presbyterian church, Binghamton, N. Y. .. → online text (page 1 of 2)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

E 687
Copy 1







Sabbath Morning, Sept. 26, 1881,


• ' Weep,
Ye stricken people, weep
Around the hallowed bier
Of Garfield's silent sleep."











Sabbath Morning, Sept. 25, 1881,


R,e^- S^^VLTJEL IDTJlsrHIi^iyi::

fl n

Ye stricken people, weep
Around the hallowed bier
Of Garfield's silent sleep."





[written fkom his sick bed.]

Washington, D. C, August 11th, 1881.
Dear Mother:— Don't be disturbed by conflicting reports about my condition.
It is true I am still weak, and on my back : but I am gaining every day, and
need only time and patience to bring me through.

Give my love to all the relatives and friends, and especially to sisters Hatty
and Mary.

Your Loving Son,

James A. Garfield.
Mrs. Eliza (fai'Jield, Hiram, Olu'o.

Memorial services were held yesterday morning at the West Presbyterian
church. A large congregation was present. A line portrait of President
Garfield, tastefully draped and trimmed with white flowers, was placed in
front of the pulx)it, and on either side were stands and vases of flowers. The
choir excellently rendered an appropriate anthem, and also the hymns, " God
Moves in a Mysterious Way," " Come, ye Disconsolate," and "Nearer, my
God, to Thee." The pastor. Rev. Samuel Dunham, read Luther's favorite
Psalm, the 118th, remarking that the great reformer wrote on his study wall,
' 'The 118th Psalm is the Psalm that I love. Without it, neither Emperor nor King,
though wise and prudent, nor saints could have helped me." Also, Isaiah,
III : l-;j : Uabakkuk, iii : 17, 18; Romans, xi : !t-21, and James, iv : 7-14. —
Binghamtoii Daily Republican, Sejjt. .'<'>. ISS'l.


" Weep with them that weep." — Rom. 12, 15.

The flags of the country are at half mast, and the eyes of a
pitying God look down to-day upon a nation in mourning. On
Monday evening, September 19th, between the hours of ten and
eleven, at Long Branch, N. J., passed away President Garfield,
a man doubly endeared to the nation's heart by more than eleven
weeks of patient and heroic suffering. That night was breathed
out the last breath of a life, than which no purer or nobler has
ever blessed this young Republic. On this sacred day of rest
the cherished remains of all that is mortal lie in solemn state on
the banks of Lake Erie, amid the grief of a heart-broken family,
and the lavish affection of fifty millions of deeply sympathizing-
people. Everywhere throughout this broad land —

' ' Sorrow darkens hamlet and hall. "

Sadder Sabbath this nation never knew, though our country
is no stranger to dark, sad days in its history.

The very sea as its curling waves, at regular intervals come,
at this still Sabbath hour, breaking on the sandy beach at El-
beron, seems to murmur a solemn requiem over the illustrious
dead. And the waters of that historic lake, whereon sixty-eight
years ago the present month, thundered the cannon of Commo-
dore Perry, and whose neighboring heights, where now stands
the city of Cleveland, resounded with the noise of battle and the
victorious shout, '' We have met the enemy, and they are ours,"
these waters, I say, to-day, and the city that overlooks them,
seem hushed and awed to silence in the presence of death.

The very skies seem to weep this morning, as they look down
upon a continent draped from ocean to ocean, and from Canada
to the Gulf, with the everywhere visible symbols of mourning.
And never were mourning emblems more truly expressive of
sorrow unfeigned and sincere.

Few are the households in all this land that have had no tear-
blinded eyes during all this season of painful suspense and bitter
sorrow, as they have thought of all the disappointed hopes, as
they have seen the heroic struggle with death, and thought of
the grief of an aged mother, and the sad bereavement of father-
less childi-en, and more than all, the i^ent up, inexpressible
sorrow of a brave, womanly heart that knoweth its own bitter-
ness as none else on earth can know.

Nor is it the families of this nation alone that share this feel-
ing. The hearts of many nations have flowed together in sym-
pathy, and have been cemented by tears into one sorrowing group
of mourners. Do we read in sacred story of the sorrow-
stricken sisters of Bethany, bent in tears over the grave of a
brother beloved ? See this day the spectacle of the whole sister-
hood of nations standing in silent grief around a single, open

The legend that finds conspicuous place on the front of our
Court House in this city, is substantially, if not literally, true :
" The World Mourns Our Nation's Loss." The great heart of
the world is certainly touched as it has rarely, if ever, been
since sin and woe entered this abode of mankind. The name of
Garfield has become a household word, not alone in America,
South as well, as North, but in England, in Scotland, in Ireland,
in France, in Germany, in Spain, in Russia ; and henchforth will
so be cherished and revered in hundreds of thousands of homes.
The Russian people, especially, can well appreciate our sorrow.
It is but six months since I preached from this pulpit a sermon
upon the assassination of their great " Liberator," — the late
Czar, Alexander II.

No man, not excepting President Lincoln, ever came nearer to
the popular heart than James A. Garfield. The death of no
public man in this country was ever more deeply felt, not merely
as a public loss, but as a. personal bereavement. It is as if a
death had occurred in our own families. Many is the man who
to-day might well, and truly say, in words that Shakespeare puts
upon the lips of Mark Antony in his famous speech over Caesar's
dead body — "J/y lieart is iii the coffin there with CfBsar."

Nor is it men of distinction alone — Mr. Garfield's peers — men
who have stood around him as counselors, or who hold positions
of lionor and influence, that thus feci the pangs of a personal

loss. But the great mass of the common people, the low as well
as the high, and even the poorest and most obscure feel the loss
no less keenly. Aside from the grief of the immediate family of
the President, nothing since his death has affected my own heart
more deeply, or drawn tears from my eyes more copiously, than
the reading in the daily papers of the touching tokens of sym-
pathy manifested by all classes alike — the poor as well as the
rich — the hard working men and women, without name and with-
out honor, as truly as the Governor of a State, or a member of
the Cabinet, or a Queen on her throne.

Indeed, it is said that in New York, while Broadway and the
adjacent avenues are fairly deluged with linen and bunting, the
most tasteful displays are. made in the poorer parts of the city.
There the skillful hands of housewives have been at work, be-
stowing a personal care upon the drapings. In this the Ger-
mans esjDecially excel. One scene that attracted much attention
in New York, as it passed through Grand street, was a ragman's
cart with a string of bells in its rear. The bells were clothed in
black and white, and in the middle of the cart was a wooden
frame holding a cheap print likeness of the President. Imme-
diately under it, in uncouth lettering, but large and bold, were
words which proclaim one of the grand secrets of the deep
hold President Garfield had upon the hearts and affections of
the lower classes of society : " He loved the poor, and I revere
his memory."

So is it all through the land. The poor man feels that he has
lost a dear friend, one who, having himself risen by the force of
his genius, out of poverty and obscurity, knew, and never for-
got, how to sympathize with the lowly. A man of the people,
and living all his life close to the popular heart, the bitter trials
of these last sad weeks have served to draw him much nearer to
us all than ever before.

There is no finer mark of genuine greatness and true nobility
of character than this, that when a man has attained to high
position and power, he has not become divorced in his spmpa-
thies from the poor and lowly ; that while growing great in in-
tellect and station and influence, lie does not, at the same time,
grow small of heart and ungenerous and disdainful towards his
inferiors. Such was James A. Garfied. a man of consummate
ability, who might well aspire to the highest offices and honors


in the gift of the nation, and yet like Lincoln, of blessed memory,
simple, honest, true-hearted, and magnanimous, — a man from
whose lips, (if from any one's) on liis djdng bed we might expect
would fall those words, so characteristic of the spirit of the man:
" The people, the people, my trust ! "

In contrast, now, with the demonstrations of sorrow and affec-
tion on the part of the populace, in contrast, especially, Avith
the manifestations of mourning by that poor ragman in New
York, place such as these :

[At this point the speaker made reference to the unprecedented
manifestations of sorrow in Europe, and the touching messages
of condolence and sympathy from varioiis foreign courts, alluding
also to Queen Victoria's beautiful floral tribute, accompanied by
a mourning card bearing the inscription : " Queen Victoria to
the memory of the late President 'Garfield, an expression of her
sorrow and sympathy mth Mrs. Garfield and the American na-
tion. September 22d, 1881."]

Thus it woixld seem that all the great powers of the world
are mourners to-day. And well may they vie with each other in
theii- tributes of respect and honor —

* * * * ''To the great name,
Which he has won so pui-e of blame,
lu praise and dispraise the same :
A man of well-attemper'd fame.
O, civic muse, to such a name,
To such a name for ages long.

To such a name.

Preserve a broad appi'oach of fame.
And ever-ringing avenues of song."'

It is not my purpose to-day to recount the incidents of this
eventful life : to follow him whose death we mourn, in his re-
markable career from a poor tow-boy on a western canal, tlu'ough
the early years of his studj' at school, and his course of training
at Williams' College : to trace his advancement to the post of
professor, and then to the Presidency of Hiram College : to
speak of his occasional eftbrts as a lay preacher of the Gospel ;
to detail the history of his military exploits in the war for the
Union, or of liis public life in the House of Representatives, and
his promotion to the Senate of the United States, till, at length,
he finds himself, by the suffrages of the people, elevated to the
Presidential Chair at Washington, at the head of the nation.

All this has become, in the months past, a matter of familiar
record. And his brief administration and sad and sudden fate,
form too recent a page of history to require any recital on this
occasion. Suffice it to say, in every position held by him he
has acquitted himself with honor, and his whole career is almost
without a parallel in the annals of the nation.

Lessons and impressions too deep, I trust, ever to be effaced
or forgotten, have been written as with pen of iron, and ink of
crimson hue mto the nation's heart, to which I scarcely need
refer, and of which, perhaps, it ill becomes me to speak particu-
larly at this time. But this one fact will ever stand out con-
spicuously in the history of this dreadful tragedy — that the
nations of the earth have been drawn, as by some irresistible,-
magic attraction, into a closer unity. Though separated by a
thousand leagues of ocean, and thaugh sundered more widely
still by the mountain barriers of race and language and religion,
yet so close have the sovereigns and peoples of other lands been
drawn together around the victim of a great calamity, and around
us as a nation in our sorrow, that we have almost heard each
others' hearts beat.

In His last prayer with His Apostles, Jesus, taking the great
world in his thought, prayed " that they all may be one." And
on a previous occasion, having declared that He, as the Good
Shepherd, was to lay down His life for the sheep, bethinking
himself also of the great Gentile nations, as well as the nation of
the Jews, He says : " And other sheep I have, which are not of
this fold ; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice ;
and there shall be one fold and one Shepherd." Is this Scriptm-e,
then, being fulfilled in our time, in a way that we looked not for ?
Is it Christ's mighty voice in Providence— as well as in the Word
of His grace — that the nations are now hearing, and that is
bringing them thus together into one fold and fellowship of a
common sorrow and sympathy, if not of faith ? Is it through
such sorrows and misfortunes as that which we to-day deplore,
that the whole Christian world, at least, is to be attracted to-
gether, and bound in sacred and inseparable union ? Is it thus,
by pain, and sacrifices, and tears, over the grave of one univer-
sally honored and beloved, that we are to be cemented in lasting
concord and peace as nations %

Great, indeed, is the change already wrought— especially as

between the various warring factions of our own country. As
for every drop of Lincoln's blood there sprang up in this land a
score of new patriots, and as his assassination served instantly
to unify and strengthen all loyal hearts, and to nerve all loyal
arms, and so greatly helped the cause of the Union ; so, for
every di'op of Garfield's blood there apjjeared a hundred en-
thusiastic friends of the Administration. In that terrible, fatal
wound, from which the Chief Magistrate of the nation has suf-
fered so long and so much, and from which, at length, he has
died — in that deadly wound, I say, through all these painful
weeks there has been a tongue, and in that tongue a voice, and
that voice, more eloquently by far and more persuasively, too,
than any speech of man, has been pleading for peace, and unity,
and friendship, and harmony and brotherly love, and not least,
for radical Civil Service Reform. Oh, with what power of con-
viction, and with what irresistible, tender pathos has that mute
voice been saying, and now that the patient sufferer's lips and
eyes are closed in death, it speaks with yet greater power of
solemn earnestness, as if it were the very voice of God himself,
saying to all parties and all people in this land : " Let all bitter-
ness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be
put away from you, with all malice ; and be ye kind, one to an-
other, tender hearted, forgiving one another," in the exalted and
noble spirit of Him who had no words of bitterness, even for his
worst foes and accusers. " With malice towards none, and with
charity for all, let us do the right as God gives us to see the
right, and all will be well."

Not only have we been drawn nearer to each otner in sympa-
thy and affection, by the sad scenes and events of the past
weeks, but nearer, also, to God, and nearer to Christ in devout
and humble trust. In all this season of sorrow, we have felt that
there is One on the throne whose divine heart throbs with pity
for us as that of a father for his children. We have felt the sus-
taining power of the thought that we have not in Jesus an High
Priest which cannot be touched Avith the feehng of oiu' infirmities.

During all these weeks of suspense and of hope deferred, this
nation, it is safe to say, has been bowed in prayer as never be-
fore ill all its history — in earnest, importunate, almost agonizing
prayer to God for the recovery of the wounded President. And,
although those millions of intercessions at the Thi-one of Grace

have not been answered according to our expectation and hope,
yet who can doubt they have been answered, and that in a way,
without doubt, wiser and better even than our thought?

Be that as it may, this is certain, — through these weeks of
prayer, and through the events that have called us to such
prayer, we have learned a sublime lesson of trust in God in dark
housi-, when we could not trace His finger; when clouds and dark-
ness were round about Him, amid profound mysteries which we
could not fathom. Thus out of our very woes and distresses
have we been lifted as a people nearer to the throne and heart
of that God who doeth according to His will in the armies of
heaven, and among the inhabitants of earth ; by whom kings
reign and princes decree justice ; who removeth kings, and
setteth up kings ; and who rules supreme in the counsels of na-

M^ eyes have fallen this morning, since writmg the foregoing,
upon General Garfield's own eloquent words, uttered in April,
1866, upon the floor of the House of Representatives, when he
arose in that body and moved an adjournment, as a mark of de-
ference to the memory of President Lincoln, it being the first
anniversary of his death. Verily, history repeats itself, and
words more fit could not be spoken as applicable to the circum-
stances of the present hour : —

" Sir, there are times in the history of men and nations, when
they stand so near the veil which separates mortals from im-
mortals, time from eternity, and men from their God, that they can
almost hear the beatings and feel the pulsations of the heart of the
Infinite. Through such a time has this nation passed. When two
hundred and fifty thousand brave spirits passed from the field of
honor through that thin veil into the presence of God, and when
at last, its parting folds admitted the martyr President to the
company of those dead heroes of the Repubhc, the nation ^tood
so near the veil that the whispers of God were heard by the
children of men. Awe-stricken by His voice, the American peo-
ple knelt in tearful reverence, and made a solemn covenant with
Him, and with each other, that this nation should be saved from
its enemies ; that all its glories should be restored, and on the
ruins of slavery and treason, the temples of Freedom and Jus-
tice should be built, and should survive forever."

Thus, who shall say that, through the power of that sovereign


God who maketh the wrath of man to praise Him, we may not
have escaped far more dire evils, as a nation, than all the evils
we have suffered"? What though that result has been reached
at the great cost of the most valuable and precious life in the
whole nation, and through the m3'sterious agency, moreover, of
a mean and cowardly assassin, and an utterly base and worthless
traitor ! Does not the redemption of a lost world through the
crucifixtion of the Son of God, by the agency of a foul and
wicked traitor and assassin, more than furnish a parallel case ?
And is it not written, " It is expedient for us that one man
shoiild die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not ?"

I look upon President Garfield's death as a vicarious sacrifice
for the sins and crimes of the nation. But, while saying this, I
no more justify the dastardly assassin in his damnable outrage,
than Cnrist exculpated Judas Iscariot, when He declared, " The
Son of Man goeth as it is written of hirn ; but voe unto that
man of whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It had been good
for that man if he had not been born." So say we to-day of the
hard-hearted, cruel, iinrepentant wretch, Guiteau.

But, if the martyr-like death of our President be but another
vicarious sacrifice, — if it be another case of wounding for our
national transgressions, then, most, surely, my friends, to us be-
longs the imperative and immediS,te duty of penitence on account
of oiir sins, and an utter forsaking of them. The great and sol-
emn truth which this awful tragedy lifts into especial promi-
nence, and writes out as on the very clouds before the eyes of
all our rulers and citizens is, " Kighteousness exalteth a nation ;
but sin is a reproach to any people."

We hope and fervently pray that our government and nation
may be so far purified and cleansed from their foulness and sel-
fishness and unholy ambitions, that our sins shall not soon need
again to be atoned for with the nation's best and costliest blood.
In circumstances like the present, the language of an eminent
English divine, spoken concerning his country many years ago,
will be found to have singular fitness now as applied to our own
'and and time, the names and phraseology only being changed to
suit our side of the Atlantic : —

" If America wish to preserve her might among the nations,
let her sons and daughters confess . their transgressions, and re-
pent them of their sins ; let covetousness, the curse and darling


of commercial cities be abhorred, and lust renounced, and am-
bition mortified, and every bold working of impiety chased
from amongst them ; and let them, covered with the sack-cloth
of deep humiliation, bind themselves in a holy league for the ad-
vancement of the purposes of an enlarged philanthrophy. Then,
and not till then, may the hope be cherished that the political
hurricanes which shake the dynasties of tlie Old World, shall
leave unscathed the Repul^lic of the new ; and that whilst the
rushing of a wrathful deluge dash away the land marks of foreign
states, America may lift her granite cliffs above the surges, and
rise amid the eddies like Mount Ararat from out the flood."

If, my friends, we observe faithfully these prime conditions of
national prosperity and growth, yea, rather of national existence,
may not this, after all, be the beginning of one of the best eras
5'et known in our history ?

UlDon us is now laid, with a new and solemn Aveight, the sacred
obligation of guarding and cherishing Avith renewed care and
fidelity, these grand institutions, founded, and so far also per-
petuated, alas ! by tears, and sacrifices, and blood. Ours it is
gallantly and manfully to defend the Government and liberties
bequeathed to us at such costly sacrifice of noble life : and ours
to transmit, untarnished and unimpaired, to coming generations,
the priceless boon of a nation true and loyal to God, and bring-
ing forth the fruits of righteousness.

At such an hour as this —

" On God and Godlike men we build our trust.

Hush I the Dead March wails in the people's ears ;

The dark crowd moves and there are sobs and tears ;

The black earth yawns ; the mortal disappears ;

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust :

He is gone who seemed so great.

Gone ; but nothing can bereave him

Of the force he made his own

Being here, and we believe him

Something far advanced in State,

And that he wears a truer crown

Than any wreath that man can weave him."

To-morrow, when the treasured remains of the late James A.
Garfield, amidst the grief — almost too deep for tears — of a sor-
rowing wife and mother and children, and the lamentation of a
stricken nation, shall be deposited upon an eminence command-
ing the view of Lake Erie, in Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, —
that beautiful and fit resting place of the honored dead — all that


is mortal of one of America's most illustrious sons will have
been biu'ied out of human sight. The stately form of an accom-
plished scholar, a brilliant orator, a brave and daring soldier, a
prudent counselor, a wise and honest and pure statesman, a re-
vered and tenderly loved President, a Christian man and patriot
of noblest aspirations and highest hopes, a son and husband and
father without soil lor stain uj^on his character, will have been
laid calmly down to rest beneath the ^d,

' ' Let the sound of those he wrought for,
And the feet of those he fought for,
Echo round his bones forevermore."

In him we have seen a well-rounded Christian manhood, built
up on Christ as a model, to stand as a perpetual example to the
young men of this great American nation.

Peace to his sacred ashes, and happiness and victory eternal
to his ransomed soul, when, out of all tribulation, he shall come
to the heavenly Zion, with songs and everlasting joy, like a
crown of glory, upon his head, — sorrow and sighing and pain of
heart having forever fled away.

To him, in closing, we will apply — and I know not to whom
they can better be applied — the words of England's poet lau-
reate, uttered as an eloquent tribute to the memory of the Duke


Online LibrarySamuel DunhamThe nation's tears. A sermon in memory of President Garfield, preached in the West Presbyterian church, Binghamton, N. Y. .. → online text (page 1 of 2)