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The religious element in Garfield's character was deep and earnest. In his early youth he espoused the faith of the Disciples, a sect of that great Baptist Communion which in different ecclesiastical establishments is so numerous and so influential throughout all parts of the United States. But the broadening tendency of his mind and his active spirit of inquiry were early apparent, and carried him beyond the dogmas of sect and the restraints of association. In selecting a college in which to continue his education he rejected Bethany, though presided over by Alexander Campbell, the greatest preacher of his Church. His reasons were characteristic: First, that Bethany leaned too heavily toward slavery; and, second, that being himself a Disciple, and the son of Disciple parents, he had little acquaintance with people of other beliefs, and he thought it would make him more liberal, quoting his own words, both in his religious and general views, to go into a new circle and be under new influences.
The liberal tendency which he had anticipated as the result of wider culture was fully realized. He was emancipated from mere sectarian belief, and with eager interest pushed his investigations in the direction of modern progressive thought. He followed with quickening steps in the paths of exploration and speculation so fearlessly trodden by Darwin, by Huxley, by Tyndall, and by other living scientists of the radical and advanced type. His own Church, binding its disciples by no formulated creed, but accepting the Old and New Testaments as the word of God, with unbiased liberality of private interpretation, favored, if it did not stimulate, the spirit of investigation. Its members profess with sincerity, and profess only, to be of one mind and one faith with those who immediately followed the Master and who were first called Christians at Antioch. But however high Garfield reasoned of “fixed fate, freewill, foreknowledge absolute,” he was never separated from the Church of the Disciples in his affections and in his associations. For him it held the Ark of the Covenant. To him it was the gate of heaven. The world of religious belief is full of solecisms and contradictions. A philosophic observer declares that men by the thousand will die in defence of a creed whose doctrines they do not comprehend and whose tenets they habitually violate. It is equally true that men by the thousand will cling to church organizations with instinctive and undenying fidelity when their belief in maturer years is radically different from that which inspired them as neophytes. But after this range of speculation and this latitude of doubt, Garfield came back always with freshness and delight to the simpler instincts of religious faith, which, earliest implanted, longest survive. Not many weeks before his assassination, walking on the banks of the Potomac with a friend, and conversing on those topics of personal religion concerning which noble natures have unconquerable reserve, he said that he found the Lord's Prayer and the simple petitions learned in infancy infinitely restful to him, not merely in their stated repetition, but in their casual and frequent recall as he went about the daily duties of life. Certain texts of Scripture had a very strong hold on his memory and his heart. He heard, while in Edinburgh some years ago, an eminent Scotch preacher, who prefaced his sermon with reading the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, which book had been the subject of careful study with Garfield during his religious life. He was greatly impressed by the elocution of the preacher and declared that it had imparted a new and deeper meaning to the majestic utterances of Saint Paul. He referred often in after years to that memorable service, and dwelt with exaltation of feeling upon the radiant promise and the assured hope with which the great Apostle of the Gentiles was “persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The crowning characteristic of Garfield's religious opinions, as, indeed, of all his opinions, was his liberality. In all things he had charity. Tolerance was of his nature. He respected in others the qualities which he possessed himself—sincerity of conviction and frankness of expression. With him inquiry was not so much what a man believes, but Does he believe it? The lines of his friendship and his confidence encircled men of every creed and men of no creed, and, to the end of his life, on his ever lengthening list of friends were to be found the names of a pious Catholic priest and of an honest-minded and generous-hearted freethinker. On the morning of Saturday, July 26, the President was a contented and happy man—not in an ordinary degree, but joyfully, almost boyishly, happy. On his way to the railroad station, to which he drove slowly, in conscious enjoyment of the beautiful morning, with an unwonted sense of leisure and a keen anticipation of pleasure, his talk was all in the grateful and gratulatory vein. He felt that, after four months of trial, his administration was strong in its grasp of affairs, strong in popular favor, and destined to
grow stronger; that grave difficulties confronting him at his
of this world's interest, from its hopes, its aspirations, its
victories, into the visible presence of death—and he did not quail. Not alone for one short moment in which, stunned and dazed, he could give up life, hardly aware of its relin
quishment, but through days of deadly languor, through weeks of agony, that was not less agony because silently borne, with clear sight and calm courage he looked into his open grave. What blight and ruin met his anguished eyes, whose lips may tell—what brilliant, broken plans,
what baffled, high ambitions, what sundering of strong, warm, manhood's friendship, what bitter rending of sweet household ties! Behind him a proud, expectant nation, a great host of sustaining friends, a cherished and happy mother, wearing the full, rich honors of her early toil and tears; the wife of his youth, whose whole life lay in his; the little boys not yet emerged from childhood's day of frolic; the fair, young daughter; the sturdy sons just springing into closest companionship, claiming every day and every day rewarding a father's love and care; and in his heart the eager, rejoicing power to meet all demands. And his soul was not shaken. His countrymen were thrilled with instant, profound, and universal sympathy. Masterful in his mortal weakness, he became the centre of a nation's love, enshrined in the prayers of a world. But all the love and all the sympathy could not share with him his suffer. ing. He trod the wine-press alone. With unfaltering front he faced death. With unfailing tenderness he took leave of life. Above the demoniac hiss of the assassin's bullet he heard the voice of God. With simple resignation he bowed to the Divine decree. As the end drew near his early craving for the sea returned. The stately mansion of power had been to him the wearisome hospital of pain, and he begged to be taken from his prison walls, from its oppressive, stifling air, from its homelessness and its hopelessness. Gently, silently, the love of a great people bore the pale sufferer to the longedfor healing of the sea, to live or to die, as God should will, within sight of the heaving billows, within sound of its manifold voices. With a wan, fevered face, tenderly lifted to the cooling breeze, he looked out wistfully upon the ocean's changing wonders; on its far sails; on its restless