Monday, November 7, 2022

Remarks and Prayer by Rev. Stephen H. Tyng at Gettysburg

Stephen Higginson Tyng, 1800-1885
Mathew Brady Studio -
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Frederick Hill Meserve Collection

Delivered at Gettysburg on Independence Day, 1865, the "eloquent prayer" by the Rev. Dr. Stephen Higginson Tyng, Pastor of St. George's Episcopal Church in New York City, is transcribed below from the Revised Report Made to the Legislature of Pennsylvania, relative to the Soldiers' National Cemetery, at Gettysburg (Harrisburg, PA, 1867). Previously, the text of Rev. Tyng's Prayer had appeared with the printed Oration of Major-General O. O. Howard (Gettysburg, 1865); and in the full account of the proceedings at "Gettysburgh" published in the New York Times on July 6, 1865.

Herman Melville's Civil War poem Gettysburg ends with a direct reference to the imposing ceremony for laying the cornerstone of the Soldiers' National Monument in the new National Cemetery:

Soldier and priest with hymn and prayer Have laid the stone, and every bone Shall rest in honor there. -- Gettysburg by Herman Melville

Numerous military officers participated under the direction of General John W. Geary in his official role as Chief Marshal. Soldiers who formally participated in the ceremony included the featured orator General Oliver O. Howard, any military men among the Pennsylvania Freemasons who conducted the rites of consecration, and Colonel Charles G. Halpine aka "Private Miles O'Reilly" with his tribute of stirring verses entitled  "Thoughts of the Place and Time." Colonel Halpine's poem was printed in the July 15, 1865 issue of Harper's Weekly, accessible online courtesy of the great Internet Archive:

Only one soldier offered a hymn, as such: General William H. Hayward, whose Monumental Ode was sung by the National Union Musical Association of Baltimore after the remarks and prayer by Reverend Tyng and reading of a letter from President Andrew Johnson. General Hayward with his hymn most closely resembles the "soldier" in Melville's poetic image of "soldier and priest." With his impressive devotional prayer at Gettysburg on July 4, 1865, Stephen Higginson Tyng seems the real-life counterpart of Melville's unnamed "priest." 

06 Jul 1865, Thu The New York Times (New York, New York)
After the procession reached the stand in the Cemetery, and order had been restored, the Band played a piece of music, which was followed by devotional exercises by the Rev. STEPHEN H. TYNG, D.D., as follows:





We are assembled on an occasion of great solemnity. We invoke the presence and the blessing of the all-seeing God. We acknowledge Him as the God of our fathers, and of their children—we confess him as the God of our nation and of its posterity—we acknowledge His power and His wisdom—His mercy and His providence—as displayed in the whole government of our land. He has defended us in danger. He has been our shield in the day of battle. He has given us the victory. He is our strength. He has become our salvation.

We meet this day under His protection, and with His guidance, to erect a monument of our gratitude for His Goodness; and to the honor of the faithful men whom He has been pleased to make the glorious agents of our security and success. By their fidelity unto death, He has restored peace to our nation, given stability to our government, established union among our people, and renewed the prosperity and happiness of our homes and our households. To God we owe the gift of such noble children of our common country. To them we owe the tribute, under Him, of the highest earthly honor, and the most abiding and reverend recognition.

We are gathered here this day to proclaim, with humble, but glad hearts, our common obligations, to Him whose inspiration gave them fidelity, and to them, whose deeds and sacrifices, we hold in everlasting remembrance.

We confess Him this day as the Gracious Giver of divine revelation to us, in those Holy Scriptures, which we acknowledge to have been given by inspiration of God. That sacred book we receive, as the foundation and rule of all religious truth. The glorious redemption which it proclaims—the gracious promises which it contains—the immortal hopes which it imparts—the holy rules which it impresses—the sanctifying power and guidance which it exercises, as the infallible word of the living God, we humbly, gratefully confess—we honor the mighty Saviour whom it announces—we ask the teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit, whom it has promised.

Under this guidance we assemble, with solemn prayer and harmony, to vindicate the memory, and to declare the honor of our exalted dead—to testify our unchanging loyality and love, to the country for which they died—to erect a monument which shall stand a perpetual witness of their glorious achievements, and of our fellowship with them, in the great principles of Union, Loyalty and Liberty, for which their costly sacrifice was so willingly and so nobly made.

Let me call you first to a few appropriate utterances from this Holy word of God: “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask thy Father and he will shew thee; thy elders and they will tell thee. When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people, according to the number of the children of Israel. For the Lord's portion is his people, Jacob is the lot of his inheritance." Deut. 32: 7-9.

“We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old. How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them; how thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out: For they got not the land in possession, by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favor unto them.” Ps. 44: 1-3.

“Happy art thou O Israel; who is like unto thee, O people, saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thine excelleney! And thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places.” Deut. 33: 29.

“The Eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee, and shall say, Destroy them.” Duet. 33: 27.

"All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the Lord's, and he is the Governor among the nations. A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this." Psa. 22: 27–31.

“Instead of thy fathers, shall be thy childern whom thou mayest make princes in all lands. I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations; therefore shall the people praise thee forever and ever.” Psa. 45: 16, 17.

“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning; if I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy." Psa. 137: 5, 6.

“Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness. Surely he shall not be moved forever; the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance." Psa. 112: 4, 6.

“Also the sons of the stranger that join themselves to the Lord to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer. Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls, a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” Isaiah 56: 5-7.

“And many that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake. And they that be wise, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars, forever and ever." Dan. 12: 2, 3.

“Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.” St. John 11: 25, 26. “Verily, verily I say unto you, the time is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” St John 5 : 25.

“For if we believe that Jesus died, and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus, will God bring with Him.” 1 Thess. 4:14.

“To him that overcometh, will I give to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” Rev. 3: 21.

"These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple, and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." Rev. 7: 14-17.

"And I heard a voice from Heaven saying unto me, Write, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." Rev. 14:13.

Under the guidance of these words of God let us unite in


O God, whose days are without end, who art from everlasting and inhabitest eternity, we bow homage before Thy throne.

To Thee belong the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. In thine hand our breath is, and thine are all our ways.

We behold Thee in the glories of thy creation, and adore the wisdom with which thou hast made them all. The heavens declare Thy glory. The earth is filled with thy goodness. All creatures wait upon Thee, and Thou givest them their meat in due season.

We acknowledge Thy love in the redemption which Thou hast revealed to sinful men in Thy Word; removing their condemnation by a divine sacrifice and ransom; unfolding to their acceptance glorious and sustaining hopes of eternal life; displaying the victory of pardoning grace over human sin, and of everlasting life over mortal death in the triumphant resurrection of Thy dear Son; presenting an assurance of glory to all who believe in Him, though they die, in His ascension to the throne and kingdom, and through His all-sufficient merit, and His unceasing intercession.

We praise Thee for that Holy Spirit whom Thou hast sent in His name, and for His sake, to be the Comforter of Thy people, and to lead them there, whither our Saviour Christ has gone before. We bless Thee for this new and living way of access for sinners to Thy throne of grace.

Cheered by this hope which Thy glorious gospel gives, and adoring the grace which has bestowed it upon us, we are gathered here this day to offer our united praise to Thee for Thy gracious providence and government over our nation; and to commemorate before Thee the glorious and inspiring record of the noble dead, by whose energy and faithfulness the security of our country has been maintained, its peace restored, and its cherished Union and integrity preserved.

The memories of this day lead us, O God, in every year to Thee. Wanderers ready to perish, were our fathers, when Thou didst protect them, in the origin of their history here. Contending for liberty and life, for themselves and their children, against oppression and superior power, were they, in the early struggles of our nation's childhood, where Thou didst maintain their right, and gave them the victory.

Thy grace adorned them with the virtues, in the record of which we rejoice. Thy watchful care and guidance carried them through a warfare, displaying a patriotism, an earnestness of sincerity, a devotion to their country's welfare, and a love for the rights and liberty of man, which have been the highest honor to our nation.

It is Thou, O God, who didst give them wisdom in counsel, courage in war, endurance in depression and distress, patience amidst protracted disaster, and final victory over the hosts of their opposers. It was Thou who didst teach them to establish a nation in peace, and a government in wise, righteous and equitable operation, over the people whom Thy Providence collected beneath it.

In all the past years of this favored nation, Thou hast been our fathers' God and our God. Thou hast guarded us in foreign wars, defended us by land and by sea, multiplied upon us the blessings of civilization and advancement, of religious freedom and truth. Thou hast given to every class of our people their due measure of prosperity; and hast secured for them, under wise and equal laws, the hopes and rights of all. Thou hast made a little one to become a strong nation, and hast here poured out the treasures of Thy mercy, in every varied shape of blessing, upon the millions who have here fed upon Thy goodness, and acknowledge Thee as the God of our salvation.

To Thee, O God, we owe these long succeeding years of peace, prosperity, and social exaltation. To Thee we owe that long succession of wise and honored men, whom thou hast raised up to be the rulers of this people. To Thee we owe that ruling in justice, and in the fear of the Lord, which has so honorably, and habitually distinguished our national history.

The distinction and exaltation which our fathers have attained for us, among the nations of the earth, by the success of their administration, and the fidelity of their personal government, we acknowledge still to be wholly Thy gift, who rulest as the Governor over all the earth, and puttest down one and settest up another.

As we survey the whole history of our nation, in peace and war; in its government and its people; in its intellectual advancement and social exaltation; in its religious privileges and material gains; in the great principles which it has established; and in the example of power acting in justice and forbearance, which it has displayed in all relations, and toward all people; we confess, O God, that all which we have enjoyed and possessed has been Thy gift; and not unto us, but unto Thy name, O Lord, our God, be all the praise.

Each year, O Lord, has justly brought us, on this day, to offer unto Thee the tribute of our thanksgiving and the homage of our praise. Generation after generation have thus adored Thee, as the God who alone has brought salvation unto them.

But we are gathered on a day which calls for very peculiar acknowledgments of our gratitude to Thee; and in a place, and for an especial occasion, which present new and impressive demands for our humble thanksgiving, our submissive penitents, our chastened but rejoicing memory, our sympathizing and benevolent tenderness, our renewed fidelity to our country's welfare, and our fixed and indomitable purpose to maintain the authority which Thou hast established for us, and the liberty and order which Thou hast arranged and appointed.

We are this day, a nation, free, united, independent and at peace—because Thou, O our gracious God, hast defended us from a violent and ungodly conspiracy—hast preserved us through a terrific warfare— hast given us unlimited victory, and hast set up Thy dominion over us, in overturning the wickedness of man's rebellion, and taking the violent in their own craftiness; in breaking the oppressor's yoke, in giving liberty to the prisoner, and freedom to the bruised and suffering slave; in opening to all the children of sorrow a door of hope in the midst of trial, and a day of promise and of glory after a long night of weeping and despair.

O let this day bring this rejoicing nation to the footstool of Thy throne. Wide as the triumphs of the assembling people may spread, may the higher triumphs of Thy grace and mercy be still more gracefully acknowledged, and thankfully enumerated and called to mind.

O God, it is thy patience and bounty which have placed us this day where we are, and made us what we are. Suffer us not to say that our wisdom, or the mightiness of our hand, have gained this triumph; or that anything in us has deserved its bestowal. In the very degree in which Thou hast exalted us, enable us to humble ourselves before Thee; and while Thou art speaking unto us, in language of amazing encouragement, may we sincerely speak to Thee, in the language of self-renouncing penitence, and deeper earnestness of desire and purpose, in everything to do Thy will.

As we look back this day, over all this conflict ended—this journey through deep waters completed—we bless Thee anew, O God, for the great and faithful men whom Thou hast raised up among us, in civil, military and naval life, mighty in counsel, triumphant in battle, and glorious in contests on the deep. But above all, we praise Thee for that beloved and exalted ruler, whom Thou didst set over us, under whose shadow we rejoiced, whose example in life was our faithful guide; whose gentle and forbearing administration was an honor to humanity, and in whose death, though it leaves him enshrined in our hearts, in the grateful affection of millions of his fellow-citizens, we have felt bereaved beyond the common example of mankind.

With our thanksgiving for all the past, we offer this day, O God, our earnest prayers for the abiding welfare, prosperity and peace of our beloved country. We pray Thee to maintain the government which Thou hast given us, against all assaults, and to multiply upon every generation of our people, the social and personal blessings which it is adapted to bestow and secure. May it ever be administered in righteousness, and wise and upright rulers be given to this people. Defend the nation from the violence of rebellion, and rescue them from the mutual recriminations of party spirit. Guard and direct the President of the United States in the faithful discharge of his responsible duties; and pour Thy gracious blessings, both spiritual and temporal, for time and for eternity, upon him and his household. Give to all who are in office under him, the spirit of wisdom and fidelity, in the execution of their various trusts. And ever raise up men fearing God and working righteousness, to administer the government over Thy people, in all the branches and relations of its responsibility. Thus, under the shadow of thy wing, may our land abide and our people dwell, seeking the good of this nation, and speaking peace to all the inhabitants thereof.

And now O Lord, who art especially the God of the suffering, of the widow and the fatherless, we unite to pray for all whom this bitter warfare hath bereaved, or reduced to condition of want or suffering. We are assembled to lay the cornerstone of a monument to soldiers who freely poured forth their blood upon this spot, in their country's defence. The bodies of many who were dear and cherished in the households of our nation, lie buried around us here. While we honor their memory, and would perpetuate the record of their renown, their widows and their orphans we commend to Thee. Their many wounded companions, the charge upon their country's gratitude and kindness, we present, also, before Thee. Awaken a spirit of liberal kindness and just remuneration toward them all, among this whole people; and bless, prosper, and reward every effort which may be made for their comfort and relief. Spread the influence and power of that gospel which teaches love to God and love to man, as the duty and privilege of all who hear it, in every portion of our land, and make this nation an example and an agent of its influence in blessing throughout all the earth.

May all the exercises of this day be made to awaken a spirit of union, loyalty and love, among those who are here assembled, and all the inhabitants of this land. And may this monument, and this ground, consecrated by the honored dead, be, in years to come, a token and a witness to all who shall ever visit this place, of Thy blessing upon this people, and of all the interests which Thou hast preserved for them, and an admonition to every coming generation, that Thy favor is life, and Thy loving kindness is better than life.

Thus, O God, do we look up unto Thee in praise and prayer, and ask Thine acceptance and favor in the name of our glorious Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The National Union Musical Association of Baltimore, then sung “ FRENCH'S HYMN.”

The hymn by Benjamin Brown French had been composed for the earlier Consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863. At the 1863 ceremony, the singing of French's Hymn immediately preceded Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address

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