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DUTY OF THE HOUR.
REV. SAMUEL T. SPEAR, D.D.,
PASTOR OF THE SOUTH PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF BROOKLYN,
ANSON D. F. RANDOLPH, 683 BROADWAY.
THE DUTY OF THE HOUR.
ESTHER 4: 14. “And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this ?"
THESE words were addressed by Mordecai to Esther, the wife of Ahasúerus, the Persian monarch. Esther was by birth a Jewess, by condition à captive, by marriage a queen, by her mission the elect of Providence to save her people from destruction. An awful crisis had arrived in the history of the Jews; by a royal decree they were doomed to general extermination; and Mordecai, wishing to secure her interposition in their behalf, suggests that perhaps she had “come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” Constrained by the argument, she gave herself to the service, and was the means of saving her people. Great crises in human affairs often, yea generally, either create or find the agency suited to their demands.
Thus, on the twenty-second day of February, in the year 1732, just one hundred and thirty-one years ago to-day, was born a man whom God gave to the world, and especially to this country, as one of the richest legacies of his Providence. He was forty-four years of age when our forefathers proclaimed their independence of the British Crown. He was chosen as the commander-in-chief of the army during that memorable struggle which finally ended in victory, and made us a free and independent people. He was twice elected to the Presidency of the United States. Having served his country in the field, and in the highest civil station known to the laws of this land, he died on the fourteenth of December, 1799, in the sixty-seventh year of his age. He was a patriot and a Christian, a great and good man, heroic on the battle-field and wise as a states
We speak of him as the Father of our country. The American people have been accustomed to hail the anniversary of his birthday, which this year falls on the Sabbath, with special marks of respect to his memory. I need not say to you that George Washington is the person of whom I am speaking. In his age he was the man for the times. In the midst of great difficulties, in the face of severe opposition, often assailed by party jealousy, sometimes almost supplanted in his position, always resisted by the Tories, he nevertheless held firmly to his course, and guided the Revolutionary struggle to victory and success. Humanly speaking, the effort must have failed without Washington. Just as he was completing his last term of Presidential service, he issued his “Farewell Address” to the American people, warning them against the spirit of party, and urging upon them the great importance of the Union for their common prosperity.
Having nobly done his work, alike as the soldier and the statesman, Washington has been sleeping in his grave for more than half a century.
The country to whose good he devoted his life, has advanced in all the elements of national greatness. The Constitution and the Government which he helped to frame, have until recently been the watchwords, the glory and pride of all the people. The Union has proved its wisdom by its great blessings. We have rejoiced in it, and supposed it to be permanent.
Where are we now? What is the present state of our country? It is a little more than two years since South-Carolina began the work of secession. She was soon followed by other States. Soon these seceding States were organized into a Confederate Government; and soon thereafter the nation's flag was assailed at Fort Sumter. War then commenced—a civil war--a war between the Government of the United States and a portion of its rebellious citizens—a war on the part of the Government to preserve the Union, and on the part of the rebels to destroy it—a war for which the loyal people were almost wholly unprepared—a war that has swollen into vast dimensions—I may add, a war which, though not always decisive in particular combats, and certainly not yet ended, has been one of very decided progress to the Federal arms, securing on the side of the Government great advantages, and giving good promise of final victory.
In the commencement, which was the moment of patriotic passion rather than of mature and long-sighted reflection, there seemed to be a very great unanimity of opinion and feeling among the Northern people in respect to this war.
Public sentiment was so near a unit that the exceptions were comparatively rare. The language of sympathy with treason was not heard on many lips; and, when heard, provoked the contempt which it always deserves. Newspapers that had hitherto shown strong tendencies to favor the secessionists, were suddenly converted to the doctrines of loyalty. The truth is, the war was popular, so much so, that it swept all opposition before it.
Since that period, and during the progress of the struggle, various causes have arisen to agitate and disturb the public mind, to set men to thinking, and to call out diversities and conflicts of opinion. The same things existed in the war of the Revolution, and in that of 1812; and they are likely to exist in any war conducted by a free people. They can be avoided only by an absolute despotism, that crushes freedom of thought and freedom of speech. War is a tremendously exciting business ; it presents a vast many questions; and hence it need be no matter of surprise if the people do not all see alike. The fact should frighten no one, and stir no, man's passions to unreasonable violence.
We have all shared in some degree of disappointment, mainly, as I think, because our expectations in the outset were entirely unreasonable. We expected to finish this work with a rush, and in a short time. The popular idea of war is that of speedy victory followed by peace, without any due consideration of what war means, or what are its difficulties ; and hence, when this result is not at once gained, the public heart is very likely to yield to "unmanly depression," and vent its passions upon the Government. Under such circumstances we must have something to find fault with; and the most tangible object is the Government. Every man wants