“President Lincoln’s Obsequies in the Synagogues of Cincinnati” by Isaac Mayer Wise

Reference: American Jewish Archives

April 28, 1865

The day when the people of the United States were called upon to perform the painful duty of showing the last honors to the assassinated Chief Magistrate, was the gloomiest and most lamentable one in the history of this country. The people, without exception almost, felt profoundly this lamentable truth.

The synagogues of Cincinnati were densely crowded on this occasion, the services solemn beyond description, and the draperies of mourning fully appropriate.

We reproduce two sermons preached in the synagogues on that memorable day, as they appeared in the Cincinnati Commercial, April 20; one this week and one next week:

Lodge Street Temple.

After the introductory hymns and ceremonies, Dr. Wise preached the following sermon:

“And the Lord said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and out of thy birth-place, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great: and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless those that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken to him.”

Abraham Lincoln departed, as the Lord had spoken to him. Abraham Lincoln, whose biography is to well known to be repeated here, the President of the United States, from March 4, 1861, to the day of his assassination, April 14, 1865; the generous, genial and honest man, who stood at the head of our people in this unprecedented struggle for national existence and popular liberty; whose words and deeds speak alike and aloud of his unsophisticated mind, purity of heart, honesty of purpose, confidence in the great cause, and implicit faith in the justice of Providence, which inspired him to consistency, courage and self-denial; this Abraham Lincoln, who endeared himself to so many millions of hearts, and gained the admiration of other millions of people, both at home and abroad; whom the myriads of freedmen consider their savior, and tens of thousands esteem as high as George Washington, and feel as sincerely and affectionately attached to as Israel to her David, Rome to her Augustus, and France to her Napoleon I; this Abraham Lincoln, whose greatness was in his goodness, and whose might was in his unshaken faith, was assassinated. Blush, humanity!–he was assassinated. This is the lamentable fact which to-day bends so many stout hearts with sorrow and grief–speaks by the tears of countless myriads, and the dark clouds of mourning which envelop the great Republic. Hark! listen to the voice of grievous lamentation, of woeful complaint, filling the very air of this vast country. “The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground; they are silent; they have thrown dust upon their heads; they have girt themselves with sacking cloth; the virgins of Jerusalem have brought down low their head to the ground.” My eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are heated, my liver is poured upon the earth, because of the breach of the daughter of my people.  *    *   How shall I cheer thee, to whom compare thee, O daughter of Jerusalem?–to what shall I liken thee, to console thee, O virgin daughter of Zion?–for great like the sea is thy breach, who can heal thee?” Hark, listen to the doleful voice of woe, echoing from thousands of hearts: “Fallen is the crown of our head; woe to us, for we have sinned; therefore our heart is woe-stricken; therefore are our eyes dimmed.” This is the lamentable cause of our meeting to-day before God, to weep with the nation, to mourn with our country, to show the last honors to Abraham Lincoln.

[Here the burial hymn was sung.]

Why? Wherefore must it be so? you ask. Silent, mortals! Upon your knees, sons of the dust! “And the Lord said unto Abram, get thee out of thy country, out of thy birthplace, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee.  *    *  So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him.” Who of the finite and perishable creatures will unravel the mysterious ways of infinite and everlasting Providence? The drop comprehends not the seas, the mote understands not the sun; man, whose life is like a passing shadow, can not penetrate the counsels of the eternal and all wise God. Worship with humiliation, bow down with awe at the throne of glory, and proclaim anew the sacred words: “The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken away, the name of the Lord be blessed.” We can only look in and about ourselves to find the proper answer to the question: How can we honor best the memory of Abraham Lincoln.

To continue reading, please click here.