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LAMENTATIONS V: 15, 16.
THE JOY OF OUR HEART IS CEASED ; OUR DANCE IS TURNED INTO MOURNING.
THE CROWN IS FALLEN FROM OUR Head.
WHEN, three days ago, the morning of the day appointed for fasting, humiliation, and prayer, rose upon a people jubilant with the joy of victory, many felt that both the designation of the day and the accustomed manner of its observance should be changed; that, instead of fasting, there should be feasting, instead of humiliation and supplication, thanksgiving and praise.
But some of us remembered, and we called it to mind, that the chief intent of the day, as our fathers kept it, was prospective. It did not look backward with penitential review, so much as it looked forward with forecasting deprecation to possible evils. The day was appointed in the spring season, when the great venture of the harvest was at hazard, and all the uncertainties of elemental blight and blessing hung poised in the scales of Providence. If there were confession, forsaking of sin, - as was always true,- it was 29
preparation of heart for availing prayer, that “the early and the latter rain ” might fall, cach in its time; the hand of the reaper bind and gather its sheaves with joy, and the autumn granaries be full. Then should follow the commemorative festival, looking to the past, and celebrating the throned goodness that had provided abundance for the wants of man and beast. It was this ideal of the day recently observed, that held so many Christian pulpits and Christian people so closely to its first design.
We ought to have felt, more deeply than we did, that the future might bring up, into that bright morning sky, dark clouds big with storm and tempest, and have stretched our hands up with a mightier reach of suppli. cation toward the sovereign hand holding the balances weighted with coming events.
The thought was on our hearts and on our lips that there might be perils brooding for our country, shadows gathering over the path of its future. But who could have looked forward to so dark a shadow as this which has fallen! who could have painted this sable cloud on that smiling sky!
There was talk, with some, of reversing our associations with this month of the Spring, and our religious observances wedded. to its annual return, and making it henceforth our month of most tuneful rejoicing, - the coronal of the year. But not now! We cannot change thee, oh, weeping April ! oh, month of tears ! Pour down all thy warm showers : from our eyes the rain falls faster yet! Evermore, from henceforth, at thy return, thou and the sorrowing nation shall weep together.
How sudden the changes of the April sky, shine! shower! And beneath, on our faces and in our hearts, how faithfully copied ! What glad days they were that followed those two memorable sabbaths, freighted with such a gospel of victory and peace ! What a deep and tender joy rested upon all our homes and temples! Richmond was taken. The sword of Lee was broken. Loyal and honest hands were on their way to run up the old flag above the battered and ruined walls of Sumter. Every eye was sunny with gratulant greetings to every other. How sudden the darkness! Night comes in nature with twilight herald running before. Our night came without precursor, “ in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” as though noon and midnight had met.
There were beds the night before last, I suppose, restless with dreams; but with all the sleepers there was no dream so black as that awful fact that went pulsing and tolling through the night, and lies now like an incubus which memory cannot chase away, upon the shuddering national heart.
We have lost great and good men before. They have been taken from the high places of honor and of trust with their robes of office on. They have been taken from the scenes of retirement whither a nation's homage followed them, bearing in its offerings before their feet. Washington died leaving that one peerless title behind him, “ The Father of his Country.” Harrison and Taylor died, sinking wearily down from that chair toward whose great vacancy our dim eyes look to-day. Our two great Massachusetts statesmen and orators passed
away leaving us to feel that the world was less rich and grand since they were gone.
But these were all led gently from our presence, by a messenger hand, whose power and whose right none of us could question. The Divine Will, by itself, and alone, made up and executed the summons.
But our dear President was snatched from us by the hand of violence. This was the bitter element in the cup. He might have lived. He was not sick. He was not old. "His eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.” All wantonly and wickedly his precious blood was shed; unchilled by age, untainted with disease. He had reached no natural bound of life. It was not a treasure expended, but stolen by forceful robbery. It is not simply bereavement, but, bereavement by such awful fraud, that tries us most sorely.
And yet none the less but how it strains upon our submission none the less is it the solemn, sovereign providence of the reigning God. Truly “clouds and darkness are round about him.” In this visit to us maketh darkness his pavilion," and our hand cannot draw back the heavy folds. He is trying, by a hard test, our faith, our confidence, our resignation. Ob that our struggling lips could say clearly, if not calmly, “It is the Lord, let Him do what seemeth Him good.”. We must say that, before we can have any comfort, before our prayers can find acceptance, and before the divine hand will take from our suppliant hand the loose-lying reins of state. God help us to say out of the depths of this great grief, without a doubt, without any reserve, with our yearning affections still clinging around that