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THE NATIONAL MOURNING for President Abraham Lincoln at Broadway Tabernacle

Sermon: President Lincoln’s Life and Its Lessons. April 30, 1865

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Broadway Tabernacle in 1850. Source: NY Public Library Digital Collection.

Broadway Tabernacle in 1850. Source: A Journey through NYC religions/NY Public Library Digital Collection.

Joseph Parrish Thompson (August 7, 1819–September 20, 1879) was an abolitionist and Congregational minister. He was a founder and editor of The Independent, an anti-slavery religious weekly based in New York. His church Broadway Tabernacle, which was associated with the ministry of evangelist Charles Finney, was an evangelical mega-church that preached against slavery from its inception.

Thompson looked upon “slavery as a crime against God and man” and often punctuated sermons with the cry, “Slavery must go down!” Upon passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the pastor declared that not only would the church not give up slaves but would provide for them as if brothers and sisters: “the fugitive shall not be surrendered; he shall have protection; he shall have bread; he shall have money; he shall have shelter…”

At the city's funeral procession ceremonies in Union Square on April 25, 1965, Thompson read the late "President's Second Inaugural Address."

Afterwards, the late President's wife Mary Lincoln gave Thompson her husband's ebony cane as a symbol of carrying forward Lincoln’s deep concern for the downtrodden, particularly the former slaves. 


Pastor JosephThompson. Source: Christian Herald,  Oct 16 1879.

Pastor Joseph Thompson. Source: A Journey through NYC religions/Christian Herald, Oct 16 1879.


An exceedingly crowded audience listened last evening to the discourse of Rev. Dr. Thompson, at the Tabernacle, upon the life of President Lincoln and its lessons.

The text was from 2 Samuel, 23_3-4: "The God of Israel said, the rock of Israel spoke to me. He that rules over men must be first be just, ruling in the fear of God."

It is one of the noblest events in the history of the human race that this nation has rendered such a universal homage to a man whom it had not learned to call great. He was, however, great in his own way, though not in literature nor in polity. Not greatness, but grandeur of soul, is the proper quality to ascribe to Mr. Lincoln. He was grand in moral qualities; he belongs in the foremost rank of moral heroes.

Mr. Lincoln was a self-made man, but only in the sense in which every man of strong individuality must be self-made. He did not undervalue scholarly culture, but he always studied and practiced the highest quality of thought and feeling.

When Mr. Lincoln was 25, as he himself told a clergyman, he happened to hear the word "demonstrate" used in some striking connection. He considered what might be its precise meaning; found himself not sufficiently clear about it; made up his mind that if he were ever to be a lawyer he must know exactly what "demonstrate" meant, and now to do it; and going home to his father's house, he set himself to work on Euclid, and never left it until he was able to "demonstrate" any of the problems of the first six books, at sight. This incident shows shows how earnest was Mr. Lincoln's homage to real mental culture.

He always had a passion for simplifying thoughts. It was an old practice with him to spend much time, and sometimes even to walk his room hall the night, in laboring to fix exactly and state simply and completely the points of arguments among his neighbors during the day. This exercise did much to secure him his extreme clearness of thought and statement.

Enthusiasm was not wanting in a mind that could prophecy that those then living would see the Union include 250,000,000 inhabitants.

Comprehensiveness of views was another characteristic of Mr. Lincoln's mind. It was often observed in important Cabinet discussions, that every phrase of the subject in hand seemed to have already occupied the President's mind. Accordingly, he was a sagacious man, and was more and more recognized as such by the nation. His mental processes were characterized by great care, logical clearness and strength.

Mr. Lincoln's adherence to Christian ethics in politics gave his reasonings their greatest strength. This characteristic was especially evident in the only speech he made in this city, that at Cooper Institute; and -- to the honor of the American people -- that speech made him President.

Mr. Lincoln was of a "meek and quiet spirit" -- prime elements in a really strong character, and which were cultivated in him by his own early hardships. He suffered no insults of enemies nor misunderstandings by friends to ruffle his temper in the least. He learned not only to endure his individual troubles, but also those of the nation, and calmly to wait until the proper time cause for using whatever means any crisis required. Cheerfulness was with Mr. Lincoln a moral quality.

His kindness and sensibility were proverbial, and were almost faults; and yet these qualities especially show the greatness of his soul, for they were founded upon a deep and broad sympathy with humanity. His own prosperity never closed his ear nor his hand to those of low estate; he was always ready to hear and to remedy the injuries of the poorest and plainest men.

Mr. Lincoln's entire integrity, in speech, purpose, opinion, action, was thoroughly believed and trusted in by the people, and secured him the homely but expressive epithet of "Honest Old Abe." This integrity secured him against deviating from principle in political debates, and insured him with a real moral heroism; for as he well knew, to lay down and ollow out the avowed principles of his public life, was to court death.

He was truly, sincerely, and unobtrusively a Christian man. Many circumstances show this. It appears from repeated public avowals of his own, and especially in his last inaugural. Just after the explosion of the Merrimac, while all the rest of the steamboat load were indulging in laughter and sport, a passenger casually found the president in an obscure corner, quietly pouring over an old and well-thumbed pocket-testament.

The choir sang an old set to the music of the well-known choral, Integer vitae. The words are as follows:

"He who is upright, kind and free from errors.

Seeks not the aid of arms or men to guard him;

Calmly he moves untouched by guilty terrors.

Strong in his virtues.

Tranquil and peaceful is his path to heaven.

Where in the brightness of the Saviour's presence.

Souls of the martyrs purified by suffering.

Wait to receive him.

Leader and martyr, fallen in his armor'

Lives yet our captain, strong is our salvation --

Fails not our victory -- dies not the nation --

Christ our Deliverer.


Condensed and edited from the New York Times.

LIncoln's funeral procession in New York City, April 25, 1865. Stereograph by E&H Anthony/New York Public Library Digital Collections.

LIncoln's funeral procession in New York City, April 25, 1865. A Journey through NYC religions/Stereograph by E&H Anthony/New York Public Library Digital Collections.


Also read:

How a Jewish congregation in NYC memorialized President Abraham Lincoln. When Lincoln died on Passover, Jews prayed for the soul of a man not a Jewish believer.

THE NATIONAL MOURNING for President Abraham Lincoln at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral. "He was taken away in the midst of his glory in this world, and it is a lesson to teach us that God alone can give us peace."

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