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The Noble Army Of Martyrs
by [?]

When the first number of the Chimney-Corner appeared, the snow lay white on the ground, the buds on the trees were closed and frozen, and beneath the hard frost-bound soil lay buried the last year’s flower-roots, waiting for a resurrection.

So in our hearts it was winter,–a winter of patient suffering and expectancy,–a winter of suppressed sobs, of inward bleedings,–a cold, choked, compressed anguish of endurance, for how long and how much God only could tell us.

The first paper of the Chimney-Corner, as was most meet and fitting, was given to those homes made sacred and venerable by the cross of martyrdom,–by the chrism of a great sorrow. That Chimney-Corner made bright by home firelight seemed a fitting place for a solemn act of reverent sympathy for the homes by whose darkness our homes had been preserved bright, by whose emptiness our homes had been kept full, by whose losses our homes had been enriched; and so we ventured with trembling to utter these words of sympathy and cheer to those whom God had chosen to this great sacrifice of sorrow.

The winter months passed with silent footsteps, spring returned, and the sun, with ever waxing power, unsealed the snowy sepulchre of buds and leaves,–birds reappeared, brooks were unchained, flowers filled every desolate dell with blossoms and perfume. And with returning spring, in like manner, the chill frost of our fears and of our dangers melted before the breath of the Lord. The great war, which lay like a mountain of ice upon our hearts, suddenly dissolved and was gone. The fears of the past were as a dream when one awaketh, and now we scarce realize our deliverance. A thousand hopes are springing up everywhere, like spring flowers in the forest. All is hopefulness, all is bewildering joy.

But this our joy has been ordained to be changed into a wail of sorrow. The kind hard hand, that held the helm so steadily in the desperate tossings of the storm, has been stricken down just as we entered port,–the fatherly heart that bore all our sorrows can take no earthly part in our joys. His were the cares, the watchings, the toils, the agonies, of a nation in mortal struggle; and God, looking down, was so well pleased with his humble faithfulness, his patient continuance in well-doing, that earthly rewards and honors seemed all too poor for him, so he reached down and took him to immortal glories. “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!”

Henceforth the place of Abraham Lincoln is first among that noble army of martyrs who have given their blood to the cause of human freedom. The eyes are yet too dim with tears that would seek calmly to trace out his place in history. He has been a marvel and a phenomenon among statesmen, a new kind of ruler in the earth. There has been something even unearthly about his extreme unselfishness, his utter want of personal ambition, personal self-valuation, personal feeling.

The most unsparing criticism, denunciation, and ridicule never moved him to a single bitter expression, never seemed to awaken in him a single bitter thought. The most exultant hour of party victory brought no exultation to him; he accepted power not as an honor, but as a responsibility; and when, after a severe struggle, that power came a second time into his hands, there was something preternatural in the calmness of his acceptance of it. The first impulse seemed to be a disclaimer of all triumph over the party that had strained their utmost to push him from his seat, and then a sober girding up of his loins to go on with the work to which he was appointed. His last inaugural was characterized by a tone so peculiarly solemn and free from earthly passion, that it seems to us now, who look back on it in the light of what has followed, as if his soul had already parted from earthly things, and felt the powers of the world to come. It was not the formal state paper of the chief of a party in an hour of victory, so much as the solemn soliloquy of a great soul reviewing its course under a vast responsibility, and appealing from all earthly judgments to the tribunal of Infinite Justice. It was the solemn clearing of his soul for the great sacrament of Death, and the words that he quoted in it with such thrilling power were those of the adoring spirits that veil their faces before the throne,–“Just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints!”