Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Mourning, Contrition, Confidence”
City of publication: New York, New York
Date of publication: 19 September 1901
Volume number: 72
Issue number: 38
|“Mourning, Contrition, Confidence.” Evangelist 19 Sept. 1901 v72n38: p. 3.|
|William McKinley (mourning); William McKinley (death: religious response); society (criticism); anarchism (dealing with); Theodore Roosevelt (assumption of presidency).|
|Leon Czolgosz; Jesus Christ; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt.|
Mourning, Contrition, Confidence
This morning’s sun rises upon a nation on its
knees. It needed not that President and Governor should appoint this day to
be one of mourning and prayer. The whole nation mourns the sacrificial death
of him whom to-day we lay in the tomb; and to-day, however unspiritual it may
have seemed in recent years to have been growing, however unmindful of its relations
to God, to-day the nation prays. McKinley is dead. The most successful of our
Presidents, the President best beloved in his life-time, is dead. The President
to whom forevermore this people will proudly look back as their safe leader,
through undreamed of vicissitudes, from insignificance to a place among the
dominant nations of the earth, he lies in his narrow house and his mortal part
is now to be committed to the dust from whence it came.
Ah, no, this President is not dead! Not only in the bosom of God does he live forevermore, but also in the heart of the nation. The President who was slain not for himself, but as the representative of government, of law and order, of all that makes a people, that President cannot die. He who so truly followed his Master in the dolorous way, whose last words, the unpremeditated utterances of a Christlike heart, were so marvelously like the words of Christ, he is not dead. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do;” “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”—“Let no one touch him;” “Nearer my God, to thee”—the spirit of Jesus breathed in these words, and he who has this spirit has in himself the springs of eternal life. The influence, the example which these words made clear will go pulsing on through the centuries, a living force in the life of the American people.
Yet while we bless God for the priceless heritage of this living influence, we put dust upon our heads because of the occasion of his death. The unspeakable wretch whose atrocious act has plunged a nation into grief is one of ourselves; born in our midst, educated in our schools, moulded by our impact, breathing in through his whole life the influences of our institutions. We do not account for Czolgosz and the irremediable woe that he has wrought when we say that the words of an alien woman moved him to it. Her words were the spark falling upon tinder, but the tinder, the dead, decaying principle, was already in himself. We look in the wrong direction when we seek for a remedy, for a preventive of the evil in the exclusion of anarchists or the revision of the criminal code. Anarchists and nihilists were exotics once but we are beginning to breed them now, and no closed door, no punishment for crime, can safeguard us from this ill. When contempt for law sits in the high places of a metropolitan city, when reverence is weakening for that parental rule, and that authority of law, which are the very representatives of God, when prosperity awakens not the sense of responsibility but the instinct of self-gratification, then the country is in danger, for this, far more than the reign of tyranny, is the environment in which is nurtured, not that revolt against evil rule which is a nation’s safeguard, but that rebellion against all rule which is its destruction. The one safeguard which our country needs, that all potent safeguard, is the revival of true religion; a new recognition of the character of God and our relations to him as children, owing his therefore love and obedience wherever he manifests himself, a new recognition of our relations to men as fellow children of God, brothers by that bond, and by it entitled to our love and our self-sacrificing service. McKinley will not have died in vain if his death awakens his country to this need, and if that Christianity which as a nation we profess becomes a potent influence in our institutions through its influence upon individual lives.
Thank God, though the hour is one of deep affliction, of deep heart searching, it is not an hour of despair. God reigns and the Government at Washington still lives. Not for an hour, not for an appreciable moment of time, was the assassin’s bullet potent for that for which it was sent. Aimed at a great nation, it pierced the hearts of the people, but left the nation unharmed. In the President’s chair to-day sits one who has peculiarly the confidence of the people because in a peculiar sense he represents that reverence for law which anarchy cannot tolerate. In the past history of President Roosevelt, the outstanding feature is a determination that at all personal hazard the law shall be obeyed. And the whole nation recognizes it as the good providence of God that such a man should take the chair and assume the duties of the man who was a martyr in that cause. The quick response of the whole people to the call of this emergency must reassure this man as he assumes a duty of unparalleled delicacy and importance. He, a Christian man, cannot but be strengthened by the witness of the past six days that this nation is looking unto God for the power to be loyal and true to him and to its high calling among the nations. Not soon again—let us hope, never again—will their influence be potent who in the press and in fiction have ridiculed that which is essentially holy, that embodiment of God’s rule which is a national government. Society has not been terrorized by the awful calamity of the past weeks, because deep down in its heart it feels the power of God, and recognizes as it looks upon its brave young President, that it is this which he represents, as it was this for which his predecessor died. The people will stand by President Roosevelt with all the more loyalty and confidence as they love and reverence the memory of President McKinley.