Home page Jews in the Civil War Jews in the Wild West History of Palestine The Occident Virtual Library Shopping Mall of Zion

בס"ד

בס״ד

FUNERAL ADDRESS
BY RABBI ISAAC M. WISE

Delivered at Lodge Street Temple, Cincinnati, O., April 19, 1865.

“And the Lord said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country; and out of thy birth-place, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless those that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken to him.”

ABRAHAM LINCOLN departed, as the Lord had spoken to him. Abraham Lincoln, whose biography is too well known to be repeated here, the President of the United States, from March 4, 1861, to the day of his assassination, April 14, 1865; the generous, genial and honest man, who stood at the head of our people in this unprecedented struggle for national existence and popular liberty; whose words and deeds speak alike and aloud of his unsophisticated mind, purity of heart, honesty of purpose, confidence in the great cause, and implicit faith in the justice of Providence, which inspired him to consistency, courage and self-denial; this Abraham Lincoln, who endeared himself to so many millions of hearts, and gained the admiration of other millions of people, both at home and abroad; whom the myriads of freedmen consider their savior, and tens of thousands esteem as high as George Washington, and feel as sincerely and affectionately attached to as Israel to her David, Rome to her Augustus, and France to her Napoleon I; this Abraham Lincoln, whose greatness was in his goodness, and whose might was in his unshaken faith, was assassinated.

Blush, humanity!—he was assassinated. This is the lamentable fact which today bends so many stout hearts with sorrow and grief—speaks by the tears of countless myriads, and the dark clouds of mourning which envelop the great Republic.

Hark! listen to the voice of grievous lamentation, of woeful complaint, filling the very air of this vast country. “The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground; they are silent; they have thrown dust upon their heads; they have girt themselves with sackcloth, the virgins of Jerusalem have brought down low their head to the ground. My eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are heated, my liver is poured upon the earth, because of the breach of the daughter of my people. How shall I cheer thee, to whom compare thee, O daughter of Jerusalem?—to what shall I liken thee, to console thee, O virgin daughter of Zion?—for great like the sea is thy breach, who can heal thee?”

Hark, listen to the doleful voice of woe, echoing from thousands of hearts: “Fallen is the crown of our head; woe to us, for we have sinned; therefore our heart is woe-stricken; therefore are our eyes dimmed.” This is the lamentable cause of our meeting today before God, to weep with the nation, to mourn with our country, to show the last honors to Abraham Lincoln.

Why? Wherefore must it be so? you ask. Silence, mortals! Upon your knees, sons of the dust! “And the Lord said unto Abram, get thee out of thy country, out of thy birthplace, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee. So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him.” Who of the finite and perishable creatures will unravel the mysterious ways of infinite and everlasting Providence? The drop comprehends not the seas, the mote understands not the sun; man, whose life is like a passing shadow, can not penetrate the counsels of the eternal and all-wise God. Worship with humiliation, look down with awe at the throne of glory, and proclaim anew the sacred words: “The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken away, the name of the Lord be blessed.” We can only look in and about ourselves to find the proper answer to the question: How can we honor best the memory of Abraham Lincoln?

Repent your sins. “Return, Israel, to the Lord thy God, for thou hast stumbled in thine iniquity,” this deplorable event cries, with a loud voice. God has punished us grievously. His mighty hand inflicted a deep and burning wound upon the heart of the nation, and He is just. “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all His ways are just. The God of truth and without iniquity, just and upright is He.” The Lord has revealed His powerful arm to remind us of our iniquity, and move us to repentance.

Behold the man at whose command the mightiest armies of this world moved, and whose name is associated with the dearest affections of so many millions of men; the man upon whom the whole civilized world looked, and whom, to protect and shield, a great nation was ready, was destroyed by one mad villain. Must not this rouse us from our sinful lethargy to a consciousness of our weakness? All the power, wisdom, goodness and affection of man can not protect us when the Lord decrees to call us hence. Must not this rouse us from our sinful lethargy to a consciousness of our guilt? Abraham Lincoln was a good man; the millions testify, and history, with her impartial pencil will record it. Not in his sins, in ours, he died; “for before wickedness, the righteous is taken away.” He is the sin-offering for our iniquities. His death cries aloud, “Repent, repent your sins.”

Verily, we need not inquire deeply to find our sins, when we know that an assassin was born and raised in our midst; the assassin of Abraham Lincoln brooded over his diabolic schemes in the very capital of our country. Where shall we begin to speak of the enormity of our sins? Must we speak first of the precepts of revenge which poison so many hearts and pervert so many minds to consider murder and assassination a matter of honor—assassination for offensive words—murder in duels? Or must we mention first the barbarous habit of bearing concealed arms to hide cowardice under the garb of crime? Or must we speak of the mercenary passions, which know of no intrinsic value of either persons or duties, honor or pride, art or science; which weigh or measure all persons and things alike by the standard of the market? Or must we mention the frigid hypocrisy which seeks refuge on the cushioned pews of fashionable churches; the haughtiness of little creatures embellished in costly garments and beglittered with gems, or such other dust; the scorn to which religion is subjected, the smile of pity cast on old-fashioned virtue, or the numerous and costly means to silence the crying conscience? There is no necessity for mentioning either of them, which are the mere fountains of our national sins, when we may look at once upon the broad and mad streams, with their impetuous billows and thousand whirlpools. Remember the frauds which were committed on the nation when hundred thousands of her noblest sons rushed to arms and offered their lives in vindication of her holy cause. Remember the legion of traitors and spies who surrounded our armies and penetrated into the most secret recesses of our Government. Or if that is too vast, too much to be remembered at once, then remember, simply, that our very President, the chosen banner-bearer of our people, the Messiah of this country, was slain by the assassin’s hand in the midst of his people; and we must cry with Cain, “Mine iniquity is greater than I can bear.”

Repentance is the great lesson which this deplorable event should teach us. Away with your idols of silver and your idols of gold; away with haughtiness, selfishness, delusion, deception and barbarism; prostrate yourselves with humble spirits and contrite hearts before God; confess and repent your sins; be healed of your diseases, distill the Balm of Gilead in the wounds of your conscience; cry for mercy and forgiveness to your God, then rise better men, better citizens, true children of the living God—and you have honored the memory of him who died in our national sins; you have erected a durable and grand monument to that martyr of liberty whose untimely departure we lament. Let him live in your virtues, resurrect in your patriotism; let him glow and shine in your aspirations, for the benefit of humanity, and the triumph of justice and liberty, of light over night, and right over might; and Abraham Lincoln lives as he wished to live—the benefactor of his people; and Abraham Lincoln departed as the Lord had spoken unto him that God might fulfill his divine promise: “And I will make of thee a great nation.” So let us do honor to the memory of the departed martyr of liberty.

Honor brethren, honor the deceased President of the United States, by securing to him a perpetual reign, and a dominion everlasting. How? The dead should reign, the deceased one have dominion everlasting? Yes, even so shall you do.

The photographer or lithographer, the painter or sculptor, can not eternize a man; he can not give you more of him than a faint delineation of the outside, shape and features, the most unimportant portion, the mere case of a person. Monuments, however lofty and extensive, crowded with inscriptions and symbols, tell very little, after all, of the man himself, to whose honor they may be erected. The passions, feelings, struggles, victories, motives and thoughts of a great mind, and each of them is a real fraction of his existence, are so innumerably manifold and change so often, that no artist can represent a considerable portion of them. This is the case especially with the deceased, Abraham Lincoln. The best representation of his figure will not tell posterity who he was. His outside appearance bore no resemblance even to his real nature. The most skillful philosopher will fail in describing the man who stood at the head of affairs during this gigantic struggle, his cares and troubles, his sleepless nights and days of anxiety, his thoughts and his schemes, his triumphs and mortifications, his hopes and fears, and ten thousand more sentiments, feelings and thoughts, which moved his mind in the stormy period of his Presidential term. He will be obliged to satisfy himself with the focus in which all these rays of the mind centers, with the actions of the deceased. Let these actions be our political creed, and Lincoln reigns perpetually; his is the “covenant of an everlasting priesthood,” he is immortal in his people.

“I will restore the Union,” he promised us, and twice he took the solemn oath to protect and enforce the Constitution of the United States. Let these two points be forever the beginning and end of our political creed. He gave liberty to an oppressed race, “And ye shall proclaim freedom to all the inhabitants of the land.” Let us adhere to this great principle. All shall be free, all equal before the law. He was kind, charitable, and lenient towards the enemies of his country, longed and hoped for peace.—Let also these be cardinal points of our creed. Let us not be led astray by blind passions, hatred, a spirit of revenge; let us act entirely and conscientiously in the very spirit of the departed man, and we honor him. He reigns in death, and holds his dominion as though he were living still.

Let us carry into effect and perpetuate the great desires which heaved the breast of Abraham Lincoln; let us be one people, one, free, just and enlightened; let us be the chosen people to perpetuate and promulgate liberty and righteousness, the union and freedom of the human family; let us break asunder, wherever we can, the chains of the bondsman, the fetters of the slave, the iron rod of despotism, the oppressive yoke of tyranny; let us banish strife, discord, hatred, injustice, oppression from the domain of man, as far as our hands do reach, and we secure to Abraham Lincoln a perpetual reign and dominion everlasting; we set him the most durable monument in the hearts of the human family; then he is not dead, not removed even, from our midst, and will live forever. If his person was called from our midst, that we be guarded against the follies of apotheosis, which numerous admirers already approximated, to teach us again the great lesson, “Trust not in the noblest ones, in the son of man with whom there is no salvation,” or as the prophet Isaiah expressed it, “Withdraw yourself from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; because, for what is he to be esteemed?” If God permitted it that we learn the great lesson of the firmness and fitness of our Government, which is the people’s Government, depending on no man or party; or to wake us to a sense of duty to our Government, to unite and fraternize us more in mourning and the common sympathy with the deceased President and his mourning family, the abused and ill-treated Secretary of State and his sons; if God has permitted the sudden removal of THE PERSON of Abraham Lincoln from our midst, for any or all of these reasons, or for reasons unknown to us, (but just and wise they certainly must be); his personality, his essence and substance, his mind, his soul, his principles, may forever remain with us and be our guiding stars. So we may secure to him a perpetual reign, and a dominion everlasting; for the ideas of union, justice, liberty, peace, kindness, charity, forbearance and goodness are everlasting, like God himself.

Murmur not against the justice and wisdom of Providence. God is just. Abraham Lincoln fought the battles for great ideas, and his enemies, of necessity, must be numerous and violent. He was a man, and where is the mortal one without his measure of faults and infirmities; with a great man, in a great period of time, they only become, with his virtues, more conspicuous. Every man has his mission, his destiny on earth; with men of eminent positions it only becomes more conspicuous. Whenever our mission is fulfilled God calls us hence. Abraham Lincoln fulfilled a great mission; he led the country through this glorious struggle to glorious victory, and bequeathed to us the ideas which, when fully developed and realized, not only will bring upon us the great blessing, “And I will make of thee a great nation,” but will also fulfill that sacred and most glorious promise, “And in thee all families of the earth shall be blessed.” All families of the earth shall be blessed by freedom, as the chain of the negro was broken; by union, peace, justice, equality, charity and kindness. So Abraham Lincoln shall reign perpetually and have an everlasting dominion. Therefore, “Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken to him.”

Brethren, the lamented Abraham Lincoln believed himself to be bone from our bone and flesh from our flesh. He supposed himself to be a descendant of Hebrew parentage. He said so in my presence. And, indeed, he preserved numerous features of the Hebrew race, both in countenance and character.

He was a man of many noble virtues, which may be our heritage; and God may forgive him his sins, and accept his soul in grace among the righteous men of all nations, and the martyrs of every sacred cause. May the Lord send consolation to his bereft widow and children, and heal the burning wound of this country which his departure afflicted on her. Brethren, let us read the funeral service for the soul of departed Abraham Lincoln.

PRAYER

O, God and father! with bleeding hearts we submit to Thy paternal decrees, and acknowledge the justice and wisdom of Thy providence, although our eyes are too dim to penetrate the designs of Thy paternal goodness. Thou art God, and we are dust and ashes. Thou art the Great Cause of all causes, the Eternal Reality, the Infinite Substance, and we are small and perishable effects, whose life lasts but a few hours, and whose wisdom is too insignificant to be brought in account before Thee. Thou art the Father—the benign, merciful and gracious Father—and we are Thy children, Thine image; we submit with childlike confidence and faith, to the decrees of Thy holy will. O, God! turn Thy correcting hand from us, consume us not in our sinfulness; let us behold days of joy and happiness, as we have seen time of calamity, affliction and distress. Behold, O Lord! this bleeding, mourning, weeping land; heal us, for we are wounded; sustain us with Thy heavenly manna, for we are sick and woe-stricken. Guard us, that we may see war and rebellion no more; let us behold Thy blessing of peace. Protect us and preserve our Union, our Government, our freedom, to the blessing of all Thy children. Shield the administrators of our Government, inspire them with Thy wisdom, justice and goodness, that Thy will be done on earth.

We beseech Thee, O Lord, to heal the wounds of Thy servant, William H. Seward, and bless him with many years of prosperity and happiness. We entreat thee, O Father, to console the widow and children of Thy deceased servant, Abraham Lincoln. Thou art the Father of orphans and the Protector of widows; with mercy Thou regardest the helpless and feeble ones. We pray Thee, O Lord, to vouchsafe Thy blessing to this city, this country, and to all lands where Thy children abide. Grant peace, justice, freedom and truth to all the sons of man.
Blessed Father, bless this congregation; fulfill upon us Thy sacred promise: “For if the mountains move and the hills totter, My grace shall not be moved from thee, and the covenant of My peace shall not change, with Thy merciful God.” Amen.