Page images

heart was stilled forever, and word was brought to the woman who wept that she was to walk thenceforth alone in the shadow. The hideous infamy of the deed shocked the nation to its depths, for the man thus struck at was in a peculiar sense the champion of the plain people, in a peculiar sense the representative and the exponent of those ideals which, if we live up to them, will make, as they have largely made, our country a blessed refuge for all who strive to do right and to live their lives simply and well as light is given them. The nation was stunned, and the people mourned with a sense of bitter bereavement because they had lost a man whose heart beat for them as the heart of Lincoln once had beaten. We did right to mourn; for the loss was ours, not his. He died in the golden fulness of his triumph. He died victorious in that highest of all kinds of strife—the strife for an ampler, juster, and more generous national life. For him the laurel; but woe for those whom he left behind; woe to the nation that lost him; and woe to mankind that there should exist creatures so foul that one among them should strike at so noble a life!

We are gathered together to-night to recall his memory, to pay our tribute of respect to the great chief and leader who fell in the harness, who was stricken down while his eyes were bright with "the light that tells of triumph tasted." We can honor him best by the way we show in actual deed that we have taken to heart the lessons of his life. We must strive to achieve, each in the measure that he can, something of the qualities which made President McKinley a leader of men, a mighty power for good -his strength, his courage, his courtesy and dignity, his sense of justice, his ever-present kindliness and regard for the rights of others. He won greatness by meeting and solving the issues as they arose-not by shirking themmeeting them with wisdom, with the exercise of the most skilful and cautious judgment, but with fearless resolution

when the time of crisis came. He met each crisis on its own merits; he never sought excuse for shirking a task in 'the fact that it was different from the one he had expected to face. The long public career, which opened when as a boy he carried a musket in the ranks and closed when as a man in the prime of his intellectual strength he stood among the world's chief statesmen, came to what it was because he treated each triumph as opening the road to fresh effort, not as an excuse for ceasing from effort. He undertook mighty tasks. Some of them he finished completely; others we must finish; and there remain yet others which he did not have to face, but which if we are worthy to be the inheritors of his principles we will in our turn face with the same resolution, the same sanity, the same unfaltering belief in the greatness of this country, and unfaltering championship of the rights of each and all of our people, which marked his high and splendid career.




Mr. Chairman, ladies, and gentlemen :

I am glad to have the chance of addressing this representative body of the great church which Wesley founded, on the occasion of the commemoration of the two hundredth anniversary of his birth. America, moreover, has a peculiar proprietary claim on Wesley's memory, for it is on our continent that the Methodist Church has received its greatest development. In the days of our Colonial life Methodism was not, on the whole, a great factor in the religious and social life of the people. The Congregationalists were supreme throughout most of New England; the Episcopalians on the seaboard from New York southward; while the Presbyterian congregations were most numerous along what was then the entire western frontier; and the Quaker, Catholic, and Dutch Reformed churches each had developments in special places. The great growth of the Methodist Church, like the great growth of the Baptist Church, began at about the time of the Revolutionary War. To-day my theme is purely Methodism.

Since the days of the Revolution not only has the Methodist Church increased greatly in the old communities of the thirteen original States, but it has played a

peculiar and prominent part in the pioneer growth of our country and has in consequence assumed a position of immense importance throughout the vast region west of the Alleghanies which has been added to our nation since the days when the Continental Congress first met.

For a century after the Declaration of Independence the greatest work of our people, with the exception only of the work of self-preservation under Lincoln, was the work of the pioneers as they took possession of this continent. During that century we pushed westward from the Alleghanies to the Pacific, southward to the Gulf and the Rio Grande, and also took possession of Alaska. The work of advancing our boundary, of pushing the frontier across forest and desert and mountain chain, was the great typical work of our nation; and the men who did it-the frontiersmen, the pioneers, the backwoodsmen, plainsmen, mountain men-formed a class by themselves. It was an iron task, which none but men of iron soul and iron body could do. The men who carried it to a successful conclusion had characters strong alike for good and for evil. Their rugged natures made them powers who served light or darkness with fierce intensity; and together with heroic traits they had those evil and dreadful tendencies which are but too apt to be found in characters of heroic possibilities. Such men make the most efficient servants of the Lord if their abounding vitality and energy are directed aright; and if misdirected their influence is equally potent against the cause of Christianity and true civilization. In the hard and cruel life of the border, with its grim struggle against the forbidding forces of wild nature and wilder men, there was much to pull the frontiersman down. If left to himself, without moral teaching and moral guidance, without any of the influences that tend toward the uplifting of man and the subduing of the brute within him, sad would have been his, and therefore our, fate. From this fate we have been

largely rescued by the fact that together with the rest of the pioneers went the pioneer preachers; and all honor be given to the Methodists for the great proportion of these pioneer preachers whom they furnished.

These preachers were of the stamp of old Peter Cartwright-men who suffered and overcame every hardship in common with their flock, and who in addition tamed the wild and fierce spirits of their fellow-pioneers. It was not a task that could have been accomplished by men desirous to live in the soft places of the earth and to walk easily on life's journey. They had to possess the spirit of the martyrs; but not of martyrs who could merely suffer, not of martyrs who could oppose only passive endurance to wrong. The pioneer preachers warred against the forces of spiritual evil with the same fiery zeal and energy that they and their fellows showed in the conquest of the rugged continent. They had in them the heroic spirit, the spirit that scorns ease if it must be purchased by failure to do duty, the spirit that courts risk and a life of hard endeavor if the goal to be reached is really worth attaining. Great is our debt to these men and scant the patience we need show toward their critics. At times they seemed hard and narrow to those whose training and surroundings had saved them from similar temptations; and they have been criticised, as all men, whether missionaries, soldiers, explorers, or frontier settlers, are criticised when they go forth to do the rough work that must inevitably be done by those who act as the first harbingers, the first heralds, of civilization in the world's dark places. It is easy for those who stay at home in comfort, who never have to see humanity in the raw, or to strive against the dreadful naked forces which appear clothed, hidden, and subdued in civilized life-it is easy for such to criticise the men who, in rough fashion, and amid grim surroundings, make ready the way for the higher life that is to come afterwards; but let us all

« PreviousContinue »