Publication information
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Source: Mirror
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “A New-Kindled Flame”
Author(s): Reedy, William Marion
Date of publication: 26 September 1901
Volume number: 11
Issue number: 33
Pagination: 1-2

Reedy, William Marion. “A New-Kindled Flame.” Mirror 26 Sept. 1901 v11n33: pp. 1-2.
full text
William McKinley (death: religious response); William McKinley (religious character); William McKinley (last words); society (criticism).
Named persons
William McKinley.


A New-Kindled Flame

THAT the circumstances immediately attendant upon the death of President McKinley have deeply impressed the popular mind and heart cannot be doubted. Quite aside from the fact that the President was the victim of an assassin there was that about his end which touched something in the people’s nature more profound even than patriotism or personal affection. The event, as it has been faithfully described in the public prints,appealed [sic] with singularly effective directness to the religious nature of Mr. McKinley’s countrymen. The simple story of his dying moments has undoubtedly awakened in the populace a great deal of the faith and simple trust that we have been led to believe were passing from the world.
     There was no priest to shrive the Chief Magistrate, no minister to console him, no sacramental ceremonies of impressive symbolic significances. He died in patient, humble submission to God’s will and murmuring his conviction that death’s protals [sic] opened for him only to admit him nearer to the Divine. His simple faith in the goodness of God and the beneficence of death, given voice in almost the same breath in which he bade farewell to her to whom he had been “a lover all his days” touched a somewhat cynical world to the deep-hidden quick of old, sweet, spiritual memories. Here was a great one of the earth who believed the old, fond things, that certain new brazen things had proclaimed effete. Here was a doer of things surrendering unto death without a trace of pride of place or pride of power. Here was the executant of the will of mighty millions recognizing the will of One who doeth all things well, even though through the pain and anguish of His instruments. This man, who might have been supposed to take some credit to himself for mastery of circumstance, faced death with a calm childlikeness that added to the glory of his days by just what it so serenely put away as of nothing worth. He believed in God, he feared God, he trusted God, he hoped in God. God was his refuge at the last, as the world and its one face sweeter than all faded from his sight.
     There was no insistence upon any particular religious cult or creed. There was no trace of any formalism, of fine drawn distinctions of doctrine or discipline. The faith in which the President died was a faith so simple and so wide that it could be accepted by every one of the civilized myriads who waited sorrowing while he swooned into the silence and the shadow. The selfless aspiration “God’s will be done” was from the one prayer that is all mankind’s—the Lord’s Prayer. The refrain from the old hymn “Nearer my God to Thee” speaks a faith and hope that lurk at the bottom of all creeds. The universality of the application of each utterance went home to every heart. The world felt that these expressions were almost miraculously sufficient. No mortal could have said more before the mystery soon to receive him. Faith could say no more. Reason could say no more. Hope could hope for nothing more. Love could yearn for nothing more. The life of the man was, somehow, summarized in his last words. No one who contemplated the scene in the light of the dying man’s career could fail to preceive [sic] that it had been an honest effort to do God’s will. The man’s life had been one long devotion. He had borne his crosses uncomplainingly. He had never failed in gentleness. He had never shirked a duty. His public career had been a singularly consistent demonstration of his determination to do his best as he saw it, but always with an intensely conscious recognition of the Divine Will as the last supreme authority. Do we not all remember, now, that there were times when we called this turning to the Divine Will “fatalism,” “opportunism,” “drifting”? Yes, and some of us called it worse things still, like “cant” and “hypocrisy.” And now the manifestation of this attitude of mind and soul in his last dark hour comes upon us to stab us with remorse for our own uncharity. How forcibly come back to us the old words “as a man lives, so shall he die.”
     There is no manner of doubt that the quiet pathos of the President’s trust and hope has touched us all to a more fervent charity. There is no manner of doubt that from the deathbed of this man who lived a clean, serene life, consecrated to the humbler duties not less than to the greater, there radiates the influence of a beautiful example. When such a man could believe and could live up to his belief and could do so without loss of intellectual vigor or force and could design and carry out in all humility achievements irrevocably affecting the destiny of mankind, how can the rest of us, placed by circumstances in a humbler station and narrower spheres, puff ourselves up in intellectual pride and presume to look upon such faith as something the world has long outgrown? We cannot do it and be honest with ourselves. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that such high, calm piety was the very essence of the character that we all revere. We cannot smile at the man as presuming to know what was God’s will and arrogating to himself the right to declare it, for that Mr. McKinley never did. He only strove to do his best according to his conscience and trusted that God would, in inscrutable but inevitable ways, bend His servant’s efforts to the ends which are from everlasting unto everlasting.
     The simplest as the proudest of us recognize in the popular response to the suggestions emanating from the death of the President, a sort of renaissance of the religious spirit. With one accord the multitude took up, as if it were some new shibboleth, “God’s will be done.” It appeared on all the banners and wreaths. It was a sort of formula of universal consolation. It suspired from millions of hearts as the President’s body was laid away and its firm strong spirit seemed to nerve the country for the future. “God’s will be done;” so be, we shall do it—all of us.
     In all the public assemblages men sang “Nearer My God to Thee.” Doing so they felt drawn nearer to each other. They felt, somehow, that approach to God was God’s will for all. Their tawdry agnosticism fell away from them. Their cynicism was smitten by the great example of patience and fortitude and submission into a glowing spiritual optimism. They found in the spectacle of a good man dying something that assured them definitely, as an old pagan said, that “no harm can befall a good man, whether he be alive or dead.” Their eyes were opened to the inevitable accord of true faith and good works. Not the wisest of us all could find flaw in the philosophy of resignation that marked the end of the country’s chief servant. President McKinley’s religion evoked in the people the natural religion that too many of us are inclined,in [sic] a blatant, silly vanity, to deny. This religion knows no sect. It is the religion upon which all sectarianism is but the embroidery of men’s reasonings, imaginings and temperaments. It is the religion that none can evade. It is essential affirmation, the death of negation.
     The civilized world sees the effects of that religion in the pure life that closed triumphantly proclaiming it. The lesson of that life is thus borne home in a wider and more ardent acceptance of that religion as giving all of satisfaction that existence can contain, for the highest as for the lowest, for the genius as for the dullard. This religion is innocent of fear and hate. It has its immortal springs in love, its ineffable attainment in sacrifice, and between these there lie only the requirements for each of us that we do our duty by ourselves and others, that we be trustful of the [1][2] purposes of the Power we feel above us and that we be considerate and kind evermore.
     Against such religion no voice but one has been raised in all the centuries, and that voice trailed away in maniacal jabberings in a German madhouse, but a short time ago. That religion is ideal democracy, idyllic republicanism. It has for its ultimate, absorption in the Infinite. It moves the world to-day, as the world was never mov[e]d before, to a recognition that none of us can do more or better than God’s will, and that there is no greater destiny, for each or all, than final oneness with the source of all perfection.



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