Page images



Preached in the East Room of the Executive Mansion, April 19th, 1865, by the Rev. P. D. GURLEY, D.D., Pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, Washington, D. C.

MARK Xi. 22.-"Have faith in God."

As we stand here to-day, mourners around this coffin and around the lifeless remains of our beloved Chief Magistrate, we recognize and we adore the sovereignty of God. His throne is in the heavens, and His kingdom ruleth over all. He hath done, and He hath permitted to be done, whatsoever he pleased. "Clouds and darkness are round about him; righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne." "His way is in the sea, and his path in the great waters, and His footsteps are not known." "Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven: what canst thou do? deeper than hell: what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea. If he cut off, and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder Him? For He knoweth vain men; He seeth wickedness also; will He not then consider it ?" We bow before his infinite majesty. We bow, we weep, we worship—

"Where reason fails, with all her powers,
There faith prevails, and love adores."

It was a cruel, cruel hand, that dark hand of the assassin, which smote our honored, wise, and noble President, and filled the land with sorrow. But above and beyond that hand, there is another which we must see and acknowledge. It is the chastening hand of a wise and a faithful Father. He gives us this bitter cup. And the cup that our Father hath given us, shall we not drink it?

"God of the just, thou gavest us the cup:

We yield to thy behest, and drink it up."

"Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth." Oh, how these blessed words have cheered, and strengthened, and sustained us through all these long and weary years of civil strife, while our friends and brothers on so many ensanguined fields were falling and dying for the cause of Liberty and Union! Let them cheer, and strengthen, and sustain us to-day. True, this new sorrow and chastening has come in such an hour and in such a way as we thought not, and it bears the impress of a rod that is very heavy, and of a mystery that is very deep. That such a life should be sacrificed, at such a

time, by such a foul and diabolical agency; that the man at the head of the nation, whom the people had learned to trust with a confiding and a loving confidence, and upon whom, more than upon any other, were centred, under God, our best hopes for the true and speedy pacification of the country, the restoration of the Union, and the return of harmony and love; that he should be taken from us, and taken just as the prospect of peace was brightly opening upon our torn and bleeding country, and just as he was beginning to be animated and gladdened with the hope of ere long enjoying with the people the blessed fruit and reward of his and their toil, and care, and patience, and self-sacrificing devotion to the interests of Liberty and the Union;-oh, it is a mysterious and a most afflicting visitation! But it is our Father in heaven, the God of our fathers and our God, who permits us to be so suddenly and sorely smitten; and we know that His judgments are right, and that in faithfulness He has afflicted us. joicings we needed this stroke, this and therefore he has sent it. Let us has not come forth of the dust, and our trouble has not sprung out of the ground. Through and beyond all second causes, let us look, and see the sovereign permissive agency of the great First Cause. It is His prerogative to bring light out of darkness, and good out of evil. Surely the wrath of man shall praise Him, and the remainder of wrath He will restrain. In the light of a clearer day we may yet see that the wrath which planned and perpetrated the death of the President, was overruled, by Him whose judgments are unsearchable and His ways past finding out, for the highest welfare of all those interests which are so dear to the Christian patriot and philanthropist, and for which a loyal people have made such an unexampled sacrifice of treasure and of blood. Let us not be faithless, but believing.

In the midst of our redealing, this discipline, remember, our affliction

"Blind unbelief is prone to err,

We will wait for

nothing doubting.

And scan His work in vain ;

God is His own interpreter,

And He will make them plain."

His interpretation, and we will wait in faith, He who has led us so well, and defended and prospered us so wonderfully during the last four years of toil, and struggle, and sorrow, will not forsake us now. He may chasten, but He will not destroy. He may purify us more and more in the furnace of trial, but He will not consume us. No, no. He has chosen us as He did His people of old in the furnace of affliction, and He has said of us as He said of them, "This people have I formed for

myself; they shall show forth My praise."


Let our principal anx

iety now be that this new sorrow may be a sanctified sorrow; that it lead us to deeper repentance, to a more humbling sense of our dependence upon God, and to the more unreserved consecration of ourselves and all that we have to the cause of truth and justice, of law and order, of liberty and good government, of pure and undefiled religion. Then, though weeping may endure for a night, joy will come in the morning.

Blessed be God! despite of this great, and sudden, and temporary darkness, the morning has begun to dawn-the morning of a bright and glorious day, such as our country has never seen. That day will come and not tarry, and the death of a hundred Presidents and their Cabinets can never, never prevent it. While we are thus hopeful, however, let us also be humble. The occasion calls us to prayerful and tearful humiliation. It demands of us that we lie low, very low, before Him who has smitten us for our sins. Oh that all our rulers and all our people may bow in the dust to-day, beneath the chastening hand of God! and may their voices go up to Him as one voice, and their hearts go up to Him as one heart, pleading with Him for mercy, for grace to sanctify our great and sore bereavement; and for wisdom to guide us in this our time of need. Such a united cry and pleading will not be in vain. It will enter into the ear and heart of Him who sits upon the throne, and He will say to us, as to His ancient Israel, "In a little wrath I hid My face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy upon thee, saith the Lord, thy Redeemer."

I have said that the people confided in the late lamented President with a full and a loving confidence. Probably no man, since the days of Washington, was ever so deeply and firmly imbedded and inshrined in the very hearts of the people as Abraham Lincoln. Nor was it a mistaken confidence and love. He deserved it, deserved it well, deserved it all. He merited it by his character, by his acts, and by the whole tenor, and tone, and spirit of his life. He was simple and sincere, plain and honest, truthful and just, benevolent and kind. His perceptions were quick and clear, his judgments were calm and accurate, and his purposes were good and pure beyond a question. Always and everywhere he aimed and endeavored to be right and to do right. His integrity was thorough, all-pervading, all-controlling, and incorruptible. It was the same in every place and relation, in the consideration and the control of matters great or small,-the same firm and steady principle of power and beauty, that shed a clear and crowning lustre upon all his other excellencies of mind and heart, and recommended

him to his fellow-citizens as the man, who, in a time of unexampled peril, when the very life of the nation was at stake, should be chosen to occupy, in the country and for the country, its highest post of power and responsibility. How wisely and well, how

purely and faithfully, how firmly and steadily, how justly and successfully he did occupy that post and meet its grave demands, in circumstances of surpassing trial and difficulty, is known to you all, known to the country and the world. He comprehended from the first the perils to which treason had exposed the freest and best government on the earth-the vast interests of liberty and humanity that were to be saved or lost forever in the urgent impending conflict; he rose to the dignity and momentousness of the occasion, saw his duty as the Chief Magistrate of a great and imperilled people; and he determined to do his duty, and his whole duty, seeking the guidance and leaning upon the arm of Him of whom it is written, "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength." Yes; he leaned upon His arm. He recognized and received the truth, that "the kingdom is the Lord's; and He is the governor among the nations." He remembered that "God is in history," and he felt that nowhere had His hand and His mercy been so marvellously conspicuous as in the history of this nation. He hoped and he prayed that that same hand would continue to guide us, and that same mercy continue to abound to us in the time of our greatest need. I speak what I know, and testify what I have often heard him say, when I affirm, that that guidance and mercy were the prop on which he humbly and habitually leaned; they were the best hope he had for himself and for his country. Hence, when he was leaving his home in Illinois and coming to this city to take his seat in the executive chair of a disturbed and troubled nation, he said to the old and tried friends who gathered tearfully around him and bade him farewell, "I leave you with this request-pray for me." They did pray for him; and millions of others prayed for him; nor did they pray in vain. Their prayer was heard, and the answer appears in all his subsequent history; it shines forth, with a heavenly radiance, in the whole course and tenor of his administration from its commencement to its close. God raised him up for a great and glorious mission, furnished him. for his work, and aided him in its accomplishment. Nor was it merely by strength of mind, and honesty of heart, and purity and pertinacity of purpose, that He furnished him; in addition to these things, He gave him a calm and abiding confidence in the overruling providence of God, and in the ultimate triumph of truth and righteousness through the power and the blessing of God. This confi

dence strengthened him in all his hours of anxiety and toil, and inspired him with calm and cheering hope when others were inclining to despondency and gloom. Never shall I forget the emphasis and the deep emotion with which he said, in this very room, to a company of clergymen and others who called to pay him their respects in the darkest days of our civil conflict, "Gentlemen, my hope of success in this great and terrible struggle rests on that immutable foundation, the justice and goodness of God. And when events are very threatening and prospects very dark, I still hope that, in some way which man cannot see, all will be well in the end, because our cause is just and God is on our side."

Such was his sublime and holy faith, and it was an anchor to his soul both sure and steadfast. It made him firm and strong. It emboldened him in the pathway of duty, however rugged and perilous it might be. It made him valiant for the right for the cause of God and humanity; and it held him in steady, patient, and unswerving adherence to a policy of administration which he thought, and which we all now think, both God and humanity required him to adopt. We admired and loved him on many accountsfor strong and various reasons: we admired his childlike simplicity; his freedom from guile and deceit; his staunch and sterling integrity; his kind and forgiving temper; his industry and patience; his persistent selfsacrificing devotion to all the duties of his eminent position, from the least to the greatest; his readiness to hear and consider the cause of the poor and humble, the suffering and the oppressed; his charity towards those who questioned the correctness of his opinions and the wisdom of his policy; his wonderful skill in reconciling differences among the friends of the Union, leading them away from abstractions, and inducing them to work together and harmoniously for the common weal; his true and enlarged philanthropy, that knew no distinction of color or race, but regarded all men as brethren and endowed alike by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;" his inflexible purpose that what freedom had gained in our terrible civil strife should never be lost, and that the end of the war should be the end of slavery, and, as a consequence, of rebellion; his readiness to spend and be spent for the attainment of such a triumph, a triumph the blessed fruits of which should be as wide-spreading as the earth and as enduring as the sun;-all these things commanded and fixed our admiration and the admiration of the world, and stamped upon his character and life the unmistakable impress of greatness. But more sublime than any or all of these, more holy and influential, more beautiful, and strong, and sustaining, was his abid

« PreviousContinue »