Hero, Martyr, Friend, Farewell!
-- MATTHEW SIMPSON
THERE CAN BE no great rhetoric if the conclusion of a discourse is weak and uninspiring. Most of the preachers who composed their sermons as a response to the assassination of President Lincoln understood and practiced this cardinal rule of oratory. As they drew their sermons to a close they reached the summit of their oratorical and homiletical skills. Their concluding sentences and paragraphs are dramatic, moving, eloquent, and well crafted. They make a profound impact upon those who can only read the words; and one can only speculate as to the effect these words had upon those who heard them in a time of great emotional upheaval. By sharing some of those concluding paragraphs, contemporaries may in some limited way recapture the highly charged feelings and tensions of those spring days in 1865, as well as come to appreciate how highly skilled these preachers were in the employment of their craft.
Many, perhaps most, of the concluding paragraphs are the preachers' final attempts to eulogize the martyred President. On Sunday, April 23, at the Holy Trinity Church of Philadelphia, as the body of Lincoln lay in state, the revered Episcopalian rector Phillips Brooks drew to a close what some think is his greatest sermon by likening Lincoln to a shepherd who faithfully fed his flock.
The Shepherd of the People! that old name that the best rulers ever craved. What ruler ever won it like this dead President of ours? He fed us faithfully and truly. He fed us with counsel when we were in doubt, with inspiration when we sometimes faltered, with caution when we would be rash, with calm, clear, trustful cheerfulness through many an hour when our hearts were dark. He fed hungry souls all over the country with sympathy and consolation. He spread before the whole land