No Sorrow like Our Sorrow: Northern Protestant Ministers and the Assassination of Lincoln

By David B. Chesebrough | Go to book overview

5
The Assassination as an Act of Providence

It is not chance; it is not accident; it is the Lord.

-- THOMAS LAURIE

MOST PREACHERS IN the mid-nineteenth century perceived events, whether individual or national, as providential. God had his hands on his creation. He led nations into war, bringing victories and administering defeats. Thus, most Northern preachers insisted that even such an abhorent deed as President Lincoln's murder somehow fell under the purview of God. On April 23, Seth Sweetser reminded his congregation that "Events are God's teachers." He then asked, "Shall we say, that the hand of the assassin, which struck at so noble a life, did it for any fault of his? or shall we say, that God permitted for a greater good to us, to our country, to posterity, that the sword, with a sharper edge than ever, should cut to the very core of our hearts?" From Brooklyn, Presbyterian Samuel T. Spear declared that "Providence has permitted what seems to us an untimely fall. I cannot explain it -- I shall not try." "Yet," he said, "I am comforted by the thought that God has made no mistake.... He has permitted this great apparent calamity for some wise reason.... On earth we may never see this reason; yet the Lord knows and this should suffice us."1

On April 19, at the South Evangelical Church in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, Thomas Laurie offered, "I cannot point you to all the reasons for such an event, for I know them not any more than you; but we can together enjoy the consoling thought -- it is not chance; it is not accident; 'It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good.'" George Mooar asked: "And would it not be a curse to think that all these things were happening, just as men throw dice, that there was no Hand of a personal God on the secret springs, ordering events, and bringing good out of evil?" Because the assassination was an act of Providence, George Duffield noted, we must accept it and learn the lesson God wished to teach.

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No Sorrow like Our Sorrow: Northern Protestant Ministers and the Assassination of Lincoln
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xi
  • 1 - A Nation Grieves 1
  • 2 - The Character of Abraham Lincoln 16
  • 3 - Responsibility for the Assassination 41
  • 4 - The Demand for Justice 53
  • 5 - The Assassination As an Act of Providence 66
  • 6 - Sermon Conclusions 79
  • Conclusion 90
  • Appendix 112
  • Notes 139
  • Bibliography 149
  • Index 196
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