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THE NATIONAL MOURNING for President Abraham Lincoln at St. George’s Church

Rev. Stephen Tyng on the treatment of the conquered

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Abraham Lincoln at 48 years old. Photo: Abraham M Byers

Abraham Lincoln at 48 years old. Photo: Abraham M Byers/Library of Congress

On the day after President Lincoln's death, New York city witnessed  "an Easter Sunday unlike any," George Templeton Strong wrote in his diary. "Nearly every building in Broadway and in all the side streets, as far as one could see, festooned lavishly with black and white muslin. Columns swathed in the same material. Rosettes pinned to window curtains. Flags at half mast and tied up with crape. I hear that even in second and third class quarters, people who could afford to do no more have generally displayed at least a little twenty-five cent flag with a little scrap of crape."

On Wednesday, April 19th, 1865 the nation mourned the fallen President Abraham Lincoln with the funeral services being held in Washington, DC. New York also declared that April 20th would be a Fast Day with additional ceremonies of mourning. “But this Fast Day was unlike all others, wrote the New York Times.

It “was a terrible bereavement which oppresses all hearts, the long-continued cessation of business, the somber appearance of the streets, and the season of fasting and humiliation recommended by the Governor.

In the morning a chilly, keen, cutting wind blew sharply through the streets, filling the city with clouds of dust, and making a decided change from the Summer-like weather of Wednesday, when the heat was oppressive; in the afternoon and at night the heavens were opened, and from the leaden clouds came down copious showers of rain, drenching every flag, drooping every display of mourning, and causing the streets to be deserted.

Although it would seem impossible to more completely shroud the city in crape than it was on Tuesday or even Monday, it cannot fail to be noticed that today the folds are darker, denser and more numerous than then. It would be difficult for the keenest eye to find a block whereon the sable exponent of grief is not displayed, or a building whose inhabitants have not, in some manner, indicated their sympathy with the general feeling.

In comparison with the great crowds which thronged the streets on Wednesday, there was no one to be seen. Whole streets were untrod for hours and even Broadway, which one would imagine could never look dreary, seemed actually lonely, and the few who breasted the chilly blasts and dusty clouds looked glum and unhappy, as with red eyes, flying hair and disarranged garments, they hurried to their destination.

The announcement of Mr. Stanton that the sacred remains of the late President would be brought to this city on their way to their final rest, lent fresh zest to the outward manifestations of respect.

In most of the city public services were held on Thursday."

Rev Stephen H Tyng led the opening prayer for NYC's officail memorial service for the slain president. Etching of Tyng in 1978.

Rev Stephen H Tyng led the opening prayer for NYC's officail memorial service for the slain president. Etching of Tyng in 1878.

Rev. Stephen H. Tyng preached to an immense congregation in St. George's Church, on Stuyvesant-Square.

The clergyman was an evangelical Episcopalian who promoted urban ministry among immigrants, the poor and downtrodden. He redesigned St. George's so that it would be welcoming to all classes and accommodate over 2000 children in its Sunday school program. Tyng had been one of the main preachers in the 1857 Layman's Prayer Revival that spread around the world. During the revival, his son's steadfast faith as he lay dying of injuries from being mangled by a farm machine inspired the hymn "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus" (listen to a very early recording of the song at end of the sermon).

Dr. Tyng's Church, Madison Avenue, New York, from Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views" by Unknown - Original source: Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views, New York Public Library.

Dr. Tyng's Church, Madison Avenue, New York, from Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views" by Unknown - Original source: Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views, New York Public Library.

According to the New York Times transcript, Tyng's sermon was devoted wholly to a consideration of the character and Providences of this war against rebellion, with special reference to the treatment we should extend to enemies subdued. His text was from II. Kings, 6:31:

"And the King of Israel said unto Elisha when he saw them. My Father, shall I smite them? Shall I smite them? And he answered. Thou shall not smite them. Wouldst thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and let them go."

The point of this story, Dr. TYNG said, is very manifest. The simple question proposed to the prophet and answered by him was, What shall be our treatment of an enemy subdued?

One class of sentiment demands, "Shall I smite them?"

Another replies, in the spirit of the Divine teaching, "Set bread and water before them and let them go."

The combination of both would be in the analogy of Divine admonition, "Behold the goodness and the severity of God."

The leaders in crime should never be excused from the just penalty of their offence. The subordinates -- often more sinned against than sinning -- are never to be dealt with on the same plane of responsibility. For them mercy delights.

I assume four propositions as absolutely and minutely illustrated by our national condition:

First. -- The warfare which this Southern rebellion has made on our government and nation has been really a warfare against God.

Not Israel was more truly a nation divinely commissioned than have been the United States of America. This nation, in its establishment and prosperity was the last hope of a weary world, that man could ever on earth enjoy a peaceful and protected liberty. The warfare through which we have passed was organized expressly to overthrow the government and integrity of the American nation, for the establishment of local sectional sovereignities.

It was avowed to be for the destruction of universal liberty, for the maintenance and perpetuation of American slavery. It would have been the overthrow of all the efforts of Christian benevolence in the mere hardihood of selfish gain and acrid hostility.

Second -- The power which has prevailed was the providence of God. The Reverend Doctor illustrated and enforced this, as well as his third position -- that the victory attained was the gift of God -- by a survey of the whole contest, in which every event was so overruled by the Almighty, that it was but a review of Divine Providence.

He dwelt specially upon the Divine concealment of the real issue from the body of our people at the commencement of the struggle, when but few were willing to accept the thought that thus God would overthrow the giant wrong of human slavery.

Perhaps, the last act of Providence was the most remarkable of all. They had combined for the murder of the President and his Cabinet, in the hope of creating an unexpected anarchy of a nation without a ruler. But how has God confounded! Providence triumphed over our enemies and given us the victory.

Fourth -- The resulting treatment of the captives in the Lord's example. "Thou shalt not smite them. Wouldst thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow? Set water and bread before them, that they may eat and drink, and let them go."

The carrying out of this resuscitating plan seemed eminently adapted to the mind and heart of President Lincoln. The generosity of his spirit and wish, his readiness to give the utmost possible latitude and mercy, in the arrangement of their return to national duty and penitent loyalty, were perfectly understood and known.Reward Poster

Those whose influence and example have nourished this spirit of assassination should be held responsible for it; and our government ought not to allow such an abhorrent violation of human authority and safety to pass without a very clear and distinct retribution upon the guilty.

Still, let not a spirit of individual vengeance be allowed to rear the monument of one fallen head. Let the widest possible door be opened to the exercise of kindness and the utterance of welcome to those who honestly desire to return to their loyalty and duty to the nation which they have outraged and the God which they have insulted and despised.

There may be great difficulties in the details of the resuscitation of our afflicted land, but there can be none which such a spirit and purpose as were displayed in President Lincoln would not soon overcome. And upon nothing will memory more delight to dwell than upon that high, forgiving temper, which lifts up a fallen foe, restores a wandering brother, and repays the cruelty of hatred by an overcoming benignity and love.

At the conclusion of the address, a collection was taken up for the aid of the orphans of our soldiers and sailors.

On Tuesday, April 25, 1865 at about 5:15 pm, Tyng lead the city's ceremonies in opening prayer for the Lincoln funeral procession at Union Square.


Condensed and edited from The New York Times, April 21, 1865.


The first recording of "Stand up! Stand up for Jesus!" made by Grace Spencer (1872-1952) and the Lyric Choir on a Victor Monarch record in 1901:

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