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A SERMON DELIVERED IN WILMINGTON, DELAWARE, APRIL 16, 1865;
JOHN XI. 35: “Jesus wept.”
TESUS wept; and well may man weep. Jesus, who had never J sinned, wept at the tomb of poor Lazarus. Yes, a human nature like ours, moved to compassion by the merciful Spirit of God, could weep. The sympathies of the assumed humanity, in their connection with the divine love of our heavenly Father, could feel for the distresses of mankind. That assumed finite nature was so filled with the Father's tender . mercies as to weep with the sorrowing sister of Lazarus, and the weeping Jews who were present.
This act of the Lord is a high and holy example for us to follow in tender emotions for the afflicted. And what heart that is worthy a home in our beloved country cannot join with the multitude in mingling his sorrows and tears with the general flood on the present mournful occasion?
This day a nation weeps. This day has been set apart by our Government, in order that all the people of the United States who love the country and its free institutions, — all who are loyal to the Government, and rejoice at the downfall of the rebellion, all who appreciate the noble, self-sacrificing, and patriotic ser
vices of our late beloved President, may meet to express their united sorrow for his departure; their sympathy with the bereaved family, with the Government, and with one another; and to mingle their prayers in a united offering to our heavenly Father, for the continuance of his merciful providence over us as a nation, and for the final restoration of order and peace to our bleeding country, in accordance with the divine will and wisdom, and for the . best good of the people.
About eighteen hundred and thirty-two years ago last Friday, the body of our Lord, which he assumed in this world, was crucified by the very people whom he had come to bless and save. It was put to death by wicked hands, which were cruelly raised against their best friend. And the anniversary of that appalling event has since been kept by the Christian Church as a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer. On last Friday, April 14, 1865, the body of Abraham Lincoln, the kind and forgiving President of the United States, was put to death by the vile hands of a foul assassin, who took the life of the best friend which such traitors to our country had, or could reasonably expect to have, in this world. And long will that day be remembered, and its anniversary be noted, as the day when the good President died a martyr to the pure principles of justice, and the best rights of humanity.
Last Saturday, which is called Holy Saturday, because it is the anniversary of the day when the Lord was in the sepulchre, was also the day when Mr. Lincoln lay entombed in the apparently dead body before his resurrection. And a most gloomy day it was. Who that witnessed it in this country can forget the morning of April 15, 1865, as the startling intelligence passed from mind to mind. How the hearts of men sank within them, as the faltering voice and tearful eye declared the sad event! And how soon the trembling hands and sorrowing hearts spontaneously expressed their grief, by draping their residences and ·
the flag of their country in the deepest mourning! And, to add to the gloom, the sun himself seemed to withhold his shining. Clouds overshadowed the earth; and Nature herself wept, mingling her tears with those of the people.
Thus passed last Saturday. But, on Sunday morning, the natural scenery was changed. The sun rose clear and bright, removing some of the gloom from material things, and casting his hopeful beams upon the habiliments of mourning. This bright Sunday was the anniversary of the day when our Lord arose from the sepulchre, surprising and making glad the hearts of his disciples. And last Sunday was, no doubt, the day when Mr. Lincoln rose from the tomb of the body into the spiritual world. Thus he has passed through the valley of the shadow of death unhurt. He experienced no pain in the exchange of worlds. It is not probable that he was conscious of being hurt, or that he knew that his body was destroyed until after he had left it. Shocking, therefore, as the event was, it is a consolation to know that he had none of the pains and struggles of a lingering or convulsive death; and that he is now in the bright and cheerful world, in a substantial spiritual body, with all his kind affections, memory, and knowledge; that all who have loved him for his good, honest, patriotic, and benevolent qualities can love him still; that he is not lost to us: our hearts and minds can follow him home. Those of good hearts, who familiarly knew him and loved him, are not separated from him by means of his putting off the body.
All minds imbued with good and true principles are, to the extent of those principles, united to one another, particularly if they are acquainted, and love the good qualities of one another. And, when one of them puts off the natural body, it does not destroy that spiritual union, nor the influence which they may have upon each other. The nation, therefore, has not lost Mr. Lincoln,
nor all his salutary influence in the matters of justice and righteousness. Mind can flow into and affect mind. But his influence will now be a silent one; and those affected by him will probably not be at all conscious that their thoughts are any other than entirely their own, though they may be conscious that they are changing their views and feelings somewhat.
But the great powers and responsibilities of the Chief Magistrate of the nation are now removed from Mr. Lincoln, and are placed upon Mr. Johnson. And, so far as their peculiarities of mind differ as to measures and policy, so far their administrations will be unlike. But, in view of the operations of the divine Providence, we cannot suppose that this change of presidents will prove detrimental to the people or the country. Nobly has Mr. Lincoln managed the Ship of State upon the stormy billows of rebellion's raging sea for the last four years; and joyously did he see the fury of the storm subsiding, and the way opening for peace Steadily has the hand of Providence led him, step by step, in a way to break the shackles of slavery, and subdue the rebellion. This having, with great prudence and kind forbearance, been accomplished, a wise Providence has permitted him to be removed, and another man to take the helm. For, as the winds and waves of rebellion subside, other storms will arise as the ship enters upon the sea of reconstruction, — storms which may require a very different captain, in order to bring her safely into the sure haven of permanent union and peace.
The direct providence of God has not removed Mr. Lincoln. The assassination was a direct violation of God's law. God, therefore, did not order it, nor require it at the hands of the wretch. But as murder was in the heart of the villain, God permitted him to execute it against the divine law, because he saw through all the events of the future, whether Mr. Lincoln should remain or depart. It is, therefore, undoubtedly for the best, that
there be a change of chief magistrates. For, had it not been so, the murder would not have been permitted by the Lord.
For though it was in the heart of the assassin to kill the President, yet the Lord could have prevented it. Not by changing the heart of the assassin, — for that could be done only by repentance, in which the assassin must exercise his own freedom; and that repentance he was not in a state to exercise. But the Lord could have withheld from him the power or strength to commit the deed; for our life, and power to act, either right or wrong, are constantly given us, and we are free to do which we please. So that God's withholding the physical ability to commit the deed would not have changed the disposition of the murderer.
While, therefore, the assassin must suffer the penalty due to his crime, for he was free to do it or not, yet we must remember, that the merciful Lord permitted no injury whatever to be done to Mr. Lincoln. He had finished his work on earth, and has gone home. He is better off than he would be here. He cannot desire to come back. It is indeed a gain to him. The assassin is the only real sufferer. The family of Mr. Lincoln, in their natural feelings, suffer; but it may prove a real blessing even to them, by uniting them more closely with the spiritual world, and enabling and disposing them the better to prepare for it. It may be the very thing they most need. God knows what is best for us, and he always has eternal ends in view.
In all this view, how conspicuous is the mercy and goodness of our heavenly Father, who can thus bring good out of evil, and make the wrath of man to praise him!
Yet the murderer should be arrested, and put to death, because he is not fit to live among men in this world. He is an injury to all minds with whom he comes in contact. And it would be good for him to be removed into the other world, where he will be governed by the divine law, and suffer no more than
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