Source: William McKinley: Character Sketches of America’s Martyred Chieftain
Source type: book
Document type: sermon
Document title: “Sermon”
Author(s): Woelfkin, Cornelius
Compiler(s): Benedict, Charles E.
Publisher: Blanchard Press
Place of publication: New York, New York
Year of publication: [1901?]
|Woelfkin, Cornelius. “Sermon.” William McKinley: Character Sketches of America’s Martyred Chieftain. Comp. Charles E. Benedict. New York: Blanchard Press, [1901?]: pp. 91-94.|
|full text of sermon; excerpt of book|
|Cornelius Woelfkin (sermons); McKinley assassination (sermons); anarchism (sermons); atheism (sermons).|
|Habakkuk [misspelled below]; Job; John; Paul.|
Title herein taken from table of contents.
On page 91: Rev. Cornelius Woelfkin.
From title page: William McKinley: Character Sketches of America’s Martyred Chieftain; Sermons and Addresses Delivered by the Pastor of St. James M. E. Church, Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, N. Y., and Addresses by Brooklyn Pastors and Other Prominent Ministers and Laymen, Portraying the Character of Our Late Lamented President.
From title page: Compiled by Charles E. Benedict.
Calamity has forced us into the
gaze of the nations and made us the cynosure of the world’s attention. Our days
of mourning opened the fountain of unrestrained sympathy, and some of our noblest
national qualities have found vent. But now that the climax of our grief has
spent itself, and we are recovering from the shock that plunged us into a conflict
of emotions, we must soberly reflect upon the situation and deal with the causes
of our woe, both those immediate and those remote. Naturally, we feel that we
must first of all crush under heel that serpent of lawlessness that seeks to
strike with death at our institutions. In the outburst of resentment we are
apt to darken counsel with words without knowledge. Passions roused to revenge
have found spokesmen, and cruelty torturing with pain has been suggested. But
all such sentiment is foreign to the spirit of Him who prayed for His murderers.
Much idle talk has demanded the immediate enactment of laws to prevent the recurrence of assassination. But lawmaking is no easy thing. Law is not the verdict of exasperated individuals, but the consensus of wisest, most patient and skillful judicious minds. The hasty utterances of undigested thought fashioned into a code of law would create a machine that would grind many of us to powder. We must leave all remedies within legal province to minds expert in judicial wisdom. Nor will mere law stamp out crime. All crime lives despite law, and anarchy will prove no exception.
We are a nation of a mixed multitude. From every latitude and longitude, with every phase of temperament, phlegmatic and erratic; aristocrat and plebeian; virtuous and vicious, we gather here. With such a heterogeneous people we cannot experiment with erratic nations [sic], but must assimilate convictions about our tried and proven institutions. And what is the most cohesive force in any nation? Not its numbers, wealth,  resources, system of education or form of government. These are all vital and integral factors. But the most potent force is the moral fiber that lives in a nation’s religion. In proportion to the grip of religious truth upon the national conscience and conviction, is a nation’s greatness. And it is no accident that the nations most reputed for evangelical Christianity are the mightiest nations of the world to-day. The custodian of evangelical Christianity in America is the church of God. Through her membership God must exercise the cohesive power of divine grace binding us in one. Christianity must be the salt of the earth and the agent of converting grace. When it fails of this, corruption and disintegration must ensue.
In the present crisis we are face to face with ripened atheism. Anarchy is the deadly fruit, atheism the deadly root. Its logic is concise: no God; no authority; no accountability; no punishment; no law. Law is restraint and restraint is tyranny. As a philosophy it breaks everywhere. Beyond the destruction of law and government it has no plan or ideal. In practice it has no place for restraint, and conscience is dethroned. Free land, free wealth, free love, free beer are its cry, and it strikes death at the foundations of home and society. It is insincere. Make its advocates rich and to-morrow they will demand the protection of the law which to-day they destroy. They violate the law with crime, then ask its protection from consequences.
But there are remote causes for this lawlessness. We need to blush for the lawless visitation on lawlessness enacted within recent years. Cruelty and passion have delighted less in justice than exquisite torture in many recent lynchings. Unshriven the wretched criminals were sent to an account at God’s tribunal to suffer the destiny of eternal punishment. But what cared the mob for that? There was no fear of God before their eyes. They acted with practical atheism, independent of God. The only excuse pled for such acts is the law’s delays and defeats of judgement. Alas that it should be so! If the legal profession would refuse a retainer for every cause which they believe unrighteous, and refused to appeal where justice had made decisions, and repudiated the screening of wrong beneath technicalities and loop holes,  our law would be a thousand fold more effective. As it is, many a criminal boldly gambles on the law’s protection or weakness.
But in how far are the words of Paul (Romans ii:17-24) applicable unto us? We mingle in all the affairs of men, in the social, business and political world.
There are two kinds of skepticism in the world. One that is not sinful or destructive, but ultimately finds God. The other that is ruinous and deathly. With intellectual embarrassment that sometimes suggests the doubt of God’s existence, knowledge or care, God had no quarrel. Calamity, sorrow and disaster may confine the faculties of mind. Job, the Psalmist, Habbakuk, John had their hours of eclipsed faith. But there is an atheism of heart, not head, that rises out of desire. The fool that saith in his heart there is no God, let us break His bands asunder, etc.; this is moral atheism that would not have a God. Practical atheism, this is real atheism. Not how do we say the creed, but how do we live the creed judges the issue of atheism. What force is a Christian society in the social life in the world? How much place has God in the decisions as to whom we shall fellowship as friends, whom we will choose as companions of life, whom we will admit to those intimacies that must exert an influence on us? How much do we reckon with God as to whether we shall be negative or positive in the world? leavening or being drawn away into wordliness? [sic] Do we not in all this act without God? There is no fear of God before their eyes.
In the business world what place has God in the conduct of affairs? Oh, one can’t be honest to-day and succeed. Is that true? Then it is a choice, and to choose success is atheism. God on Sunday, no God Monday. Men make partnerships without God and then cannot jointly ask God in crises. Men engage in lines where they cannot counsel with God. By so far as God is shut out in so far it is Godless, atheistic. “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
What place has God to-day in the family life? That is at the foundation of state. Is there an altar in that citadel of the government? And what place has the closet at the fountain head? We can dispense with churches more safely than the closet and family altar. Let them  crumble and we decay at the core of life. Let us not rise against an individual or a small class, however dangerous; with them we must deal. But we need more. Detective service, court decision, legal execution alone cannot save us. There must be the transforming power of divine love that makes man Godfearing. These men need conversion more than execution. And our hopelessness of such an issue is atheism itself. The power of the gospel can save all men.
For the church, this is the day for us to put on sackcloth and ashes; to return unto the Lord for healing; to consecrate anew life, business and fellowship; to let God into all and make us the salt against corruption; to build the closet, the family altar and acknowledge the Lord in all our ways. To deny ungodliness and unholy lust, living soberly, righteously, we smite atheism at its root and the tree will decay and die.