A Sermon on the Death of Abraham Lincoln, April 15th,
O. E. Daggett, Sunday Morning, April 16th, 1865, And Again, by
Request, the Following Wednesday Evening.,
Congregational Church, Canandaigua, N. Y..
ON THE DEATH OF
April 15th, 1865,
PREACHED IN THE FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH,
Sunday Morning, April 16th, 1865,
AND AGAIN, BY REQUEST, THE FOLLOWING WEDNESDAY EVENING,
BY THE PASTOR,
N.J. MILLIKEN, PRINTER-ONTARIO COUNTY TIMES OFFICES
O.E. DAGGETT, D.D.,
Dear Sir:-The undersigned, for themselves, and many others, whose pleasure and satisfaction it was to listen to your timely and patriotic discourse, the 16th inst., on the melancholy events which have so appalled us in common with the whole American people, respectfully request a copy of that discourse for publication.
L.B. GAYLORD, WM. H. LAMPORT,
F.J. CASTLE, J. ALBERT GRANGER,
H.N. JARVIS, GIDEON GRANGER,
J.B. HAYES, HARVEY JEWETT,
H.W. TAYLOR, A.G. COLEMAN,
MERRICK MUNGER, GEO. COOK,
J.C. FAIRCHILD, CHARLES COY.
L.B. GAYLORD, AND OTHERS:
Gentlemen:-The sermon on President LINCOLN'S death I submit to, your disposal, though of course it cannot excite in the reading the same interest that was expressed by those who heard, it while the theme was altogether new. As printed, I prefer it should keep the form it had on Sunday morning, and hence I omit the allusion, on Wednesday evening, to that day as the time of the obsequies and the memorable 19th of April, inserting, however, near the close, as on the latter occasion, a paragraph inadvertently omitted in the first hasty preparation.
O. E. DAGGETT.
"That your faith and hope might be in God."-1 PET., 1, 21.
We are one with the millions who, having partaken of a common joy, this day partake of a common grief. The nation's heart is throbbing through our hearts. The past week has come and gone like a wondrous dream, yet a momentous reality. What other ever brought such vicissitudes, what other will have left such ineffaceable memories? No sooner had the last Lord's day passed with us quietly, though pleasantly stirred as by ripples of the wave of joy that had just rolled over the land with the tidings of victory from Richmond and Petersburg, than Monday brought another and higher surge of joy from the surrender of the chief rebel army; and so the week began with the ringing of bells, and roar of cannon, and waving of banners, and processions, prayers, addresses, and every spontaneous signal of patriotic hilarity, fitly crowned at night with such illumination as never flashed through our quiet village before. Then yesterday, with the last day of the same week, there came upon us, and upon our whole land yet palpitating with its new hope and courage, a stroke of sorrow so sharp, so sudden, so appalling, that we were as if stunned. Instead of our jubilant thanksgiving, we stood in silent wondering sorrow. The bells that had rung out so merrily tolled in lament. Our beloved flags were draped in mourning. The journals that of late had flamed with announcements of victories, now bore their black lines of grief. "President Lincoln is shot-there is no hope of his recovery;" yet after these telegrams some
* Similar tidings came too, though not so hopeless, of his chief adviser, the Secretary of State, before prostrate on his bed, yet stabbed at the same hour. We have hardly known what to say or think. How can these things be, and what can come of them? Where is the divine Providence? What cloud is this that has burst over us; what emissaries from hell have broken forth at the hour of our triumph? Such questions we have asked, and neither we nor others could answer.
All this bewilderment seemed to me a strange preparation for this Lord's day. But then I thought, so much the more is this day needed, its silence, its worship, its meditation. Whither should we go in such sorrowful confusion, but to the house of prayer? To whom should we look but to God who is our refuge? Yet this day in particular is kept, in the greater part of Christendom, as Easter Sunday, in joyful commemoration of our Lord's resurrection from the grave, and I had intended, in one of our services, to occupy you with that topic. How mingle such sad thoughts of death, and such cheerful thoughts of life? How sing the Lord's song under the shadow of bereavement that has just fallen over our dear country? But, again I have said to myself, we the more need this very theme of Jesus and the resurrection, to allay the tumult of thought, to soothe the wounded spirit, to stay our faltering trust, with a fresh assurance to be thence drawn of the solid foundation God has given us for confidence not in man but in Himself. So I would still keep that theme in sight, with a view to the effect which the apostle Peter sets forth as means to be produced, by our Lord's resurrection, in the minds of his followers. They are thus addressed:-"Who by him (Christ) do believe in God who raised
The result described in these last words is the very confidence we always need, and never more than under the shock of sudden disaster. True Christians may be staggered by ill tidings, but ought never to be, prostrated. Their faith and hope ought to be of such a quality,--that is, ought to have such a ultimate objects and reasons, and grasp them so firmly,--as never to be helpless. This is our confidence, so far as it is in God. In the face of calamity, whether private or public, individual or national, we are made to feel what that good is which; above all things else we hope, for, and what the ground or reason is on which we hope for it, and hence to ascertain our true foundation. If this be in God, it, may be shaken but it cannot be overthrown. No events can utterly confound us. Our hope for our country ought thus to have God, his will and glory, for its object and security, in order to resist all vicissitudes and trials. It is to me a source of satisfaction that in adapting my instructions and exhortations here to the various aspects of our great national struggle, I have always made this thought prominent. When public affairs looked bright, I have aimed to lead you to give God the glory, and when they have seemed darkest I have urged you still not the less to trust and rest in him. Now that we have been checked midway in the joy of new exulting prospects by a sudden disappointment and grief that partake of a personal as well as public character, what better counsel can I give you than to say still, As surely as we are on the Lord's side, He is on ours: "the Lord of hosts is with us!" See to it that this principal design of Christianity be realized in you; that your faith and hope be in God!
It is not a new thing for death to enter the highest place in our land,-we may say the post of highest honor in the world,-and to choose for his victim a President
It is not my purpose, if now it were so soon possible for me, nor is this the time or place, to review formally the administration of our lamented President, or to set forth his history or delineate fully his character. This will be done by many with ample time and means, and will be no small part of the history of his country and of this age. There is an increasing unanimity among the loyal people of the United States in a high estimate of his services and worth as proved by time. I have no doubt at all as to the judgment of posterity. On this occasion I shall but briefly advert to some things in his character and course that make his sudden death so memorable an affliction to us and to our nation.
Abraham Lincoln rose to his high position from the utmost obscurity, by virtue of native intellectual power, and indomitable moral energy. He was an eminently wise and good man, strong in his integrity, faithful to his high obligations, devoted to his country's good, patient in his toils, true to his friends, lenient to his enemies, hopeful and firm in the face of disaster, magnanimous in the hour of triumph. Placed at the head of the government in the opening of our national crisis, he has been true to his official vows in behalf of the Union of these States, and in as active sympathy as his position allowed with suffering patriots and with the victims of southern oppression. It was a thing of course that there should be differences of honest opinion about sundry measures of his administration, and especially as to the conduct of the war in its different stages. Never
And nothing more plainly illustrates these thoughts than his course on the whole subject of emancipation. From first to last, as I have said, he proposed to himself, with the simplicity of a religious vow, this one end, the restoration of the Federal government in its integrity and unity, even to the repossession of every post, not feeling himself authorized by his, vows to assail any institution of any State for any other purpose; but when he believed the time had come that slavery must die in order that the Union might live, as a President of the Union he addressed himself, by proclaiming the slaves free in all the insurgent territory, to the destruction of that which, so virulently assailed the union. While some might think, with Mr. Everett, when consulted on the subject, that
Such being the personal qualities conceded to our President, it was the good pleasure of Providence, within the past few months, to crown his administration with such signal successes, and of late to accumulate such victories for our arms, that the people at large, with all their diversities of judgment or preference, had come into a fuller and kindlier appreciation of his services and his merits than could have been possible through any more limited experience. They had learned to honor him full well while yet he lived, and now that he is dead he has the tribute of a universal sorrow not from this nation only but from the friends of freedom in every land. Patriotism and philanthropy will pay homage together at his grave.
The elements of character thus indicated, in connection with the manner of his death and, with our recent triumphs and joys, give to our sense of the occasion almost a personal quality not felt at every public loss. We think of the dead not merely in his official aspect, but in a closer relation, somewhat as of our brave men for whom he has mourned with us. Indeed he is himself added to our "noble army of martyrs." He too has fallen in his country's service, though not by a soldier's hand but an assassin's. From his high position he has
Death ever has a peculiar solemnity when it enters the high places of the world, not only for its contrast with earthly dignity, but because it suggests the common footing on which we all stand in relation to the unseen world. I have not the materials, if it were proper, to form any estimate of Mr. Lincoln's religious views and feelings, farther than they may be inferred from the moral traits already indicated, and from incidents uncertainly reported. It is pleasant now to remember that more than four years ago, on leaving his western home, not knowing that on his way to the Capital he was exposed to the same peril that has now proved fatal, he asked the prayers of the neighbors and friends about him. It is pleasant now to believe the story of his early morning devotions and reading of the Scriptures, and that other account of his avowal that after his domestic bereavement, and still more decisively at the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery, he had consecrated himself to the Savior. We see what those things are which we most love to recall concerning the dead. It seems easy for us to believe that one who has been so faithful to such an earthly trust, when suddenly called to a higher than human tribunal, has received the testimony, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!"
We are conscious of another emotion under our national bereavement. Besides sorrow for a faithful servant of his country in her highest office, that country is thrilled with horror at the crime which bereaves her, and indignation toward his murderer. If there be on earth
The atrocity of the crime by which this affliction is brought on our country must not lead us to think of the event out of its connection with the providence of God. Events are providential not merely sometimes as independent of human agency, but always as never independent of the divine control; as always under God's permission, and within the scope of his plan, and hence provided for in his all comprehending administration, so as never to frustrate his purposes, or ultimately to confound the confidence that is fixed on him. As no contingencies can be so sudden or so disastrous, so no agencies can be so violent or so malignant as to defeat or surprise his government of the world. The crimes that He most abhors, when not prevented, are yet overruled in subordination to his cause, and against their guilty authors. The Son of God was "crucified and slain by wicked hands" on a Friday, more than eighteen centuries ago
* Let not this new crime in out annals, wrought on the day kept as the anniversary of that day, seem to us as if it had not been foreseen, and permitted, however mysteriously, by him in whom we trust, and would not be made subservient to the very good it was intended to destroy.
Some things I have noted as giving us a measure of relief in the aspect of this national disaster. It is well that our President did not fall in Richmond, where he had been so recently exposed. It might then have been said or thought that he was out of his place, incurring needless danger, and the coincidence would have put into the mouths of our enemies a taunt that we could not but deplore. Still more do I rejoice and thank God that he did not fall a few months sooner. Would that he might have been permitted to see the consummation of the train of events so gloriously begun, and to retire, at the end of his presidency, with the satisfaction and honor of happily completing the whole part that seemed assigned to him, himself rejoicing in union and peace restored, and receiving the tribute now to be rendered to his memory. But since this might not be, we rejoice that he was permitted, after all his patient toils, to ascend the mount and see the land of promise from which the clouds were so far lifted off to his eyes and ours. He lived to do the chief part of his work, and to be assured of its success. He lived till our arms had swept unresisted through the heart of the southern confederacy, and recaptured nearly all the cities and fortresses wrested from us by the enemy; till our old flag waved again over the birth place and the capital of the rebellion, borne to that supremacy by faithful champions from among those whom that rebellion would have trodden down forever; till the ablest rebel leader had surrendered with his army; nor did he die till he could say,
If now it be still asked again, as we have all asked, Why must the Chief Magistrate of this republic, in this day of triumph, fall by the hand of an assassin, and what are God's designs in permitting it? I freely answer, I cannot tell; and just because I cannot, therefore the faith I have is not in events, but in God. "He giveth not account of any of his matters."* It may be that this stupendous wrong, as also the inhumanity shown to our soldiers in rebel prisons, was permitted to show us and the world one more characteristic fruit of this wanton rebellion; that in the assassination of such a man, might be seen also the Satanic ambition and brutal barbarism, not of the rebellion alone, but of that foul system of slavery from which it sprang,-one more accursed offshoot from that which itself, root and branch, must needs be accursed.
It may be also that particularly at this time there was need of a certain effect to be produced on the public mind in the loyal States, which required some such astounding development of the spirit of the southern rebellion. Already we see it working a more entire unanimity of sentiment among all loyal people. Like the first cannon-shot against Fort Sumter, this atrocity has struck the heart of our nationality, and vehemently aroused all patriotic minds with a common impulse of indignation against the common foe. A righteous resentment is kindled over the land. There was need of such a sentiment to be somehow kindled, to counteract the ascendancy of a certain sentimentalism that prevails too much in our days. There has been what one writer called a "rose water philanthropy," which protested against all capital punishment, on the plea of the sacred-
But this we know, that whatever lesson we may learn from the calamity we now deplore, that lesson it was designed to teach. And how could we be more startlingly admonished of the uncertainty of all human expectations, and the necessity laid on us for fixing our faith; and hope, not in the outward aspect of passing events, not in so much as we can see of present promise, but in God? How little do we know what is before us, what even "a day may bring forth?" How a single week or day may be crowded with lights and shades, with rejoicings and lamentations! And how can we dare to lay up
I know not the way I am going,
But well do I know my Guide!
With a child-like trust do I give my hand
To the mighty Friend by my side:
And the only thing, that I say to Him,
As He takes it, is, 'Hold it fast,
Suffer me not to lose my way,
And lead me home at last'!"