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Robert Ingersoll Tribute Rev A Clark

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Tribute Rev A Clark

Robert Green Ingersoll


Washington, D.C. July 13, 1879.

UPON the grave of the Reverend Alexander Clark I wish to place
one flower. Utterly destitute of cold, dogmatic pride, that often
passes for the love of God; without the arrogance of the "elect;"
simple, free, and kind -- this earnest man made me his friend by
being mine. I forgot that he was a Christian, and he seemed to
forget  that I was not while each remembered that the other was at
least a man.

Frank, candid, and sincere, he practiced what he preached, and
looked with the holy eyes of charity upon the failings and mistakes
of men. He believed in the power of kindness, and spanned with
divine sympathy the hideous gulf that separates the fallen from the

Giving freely to others the rights that he claimed for
himself, it never occurred to him that his God hated a brave and
honest unbeliever. He remembered that even an Infidel had rights
that love respects; that hatred has no saving power, and that in
order to be a Christian it is not necessary to become less than a
human being. He knew that no one can be maligned into kindness;
that epithets cannot convince; that curses are not arguments, and
that the finger of scorn never points toward heaven. With the
generosity of an honest man, he accorded to all the fullest liberty
of thought knowing, as he did, that in the realm of mind a chain is
but a curse.

For this man I felt the greatest possible regard. In spite of
the taunts and jeers of his brethren, he publicly proclaimed that
he would treat Infidels with fairness and respect; that he would
endeavor to convince them by argument and win them with love. He
insisted that the God he worshiped loved the well-being even of an
Atheist. In this grand position he stood almost alone. Tender,
just, and loving where others were harsh, vindictive, and cruel, he
challenged the admiration of every honest man. A few more such
clergymen might drive calumny from the lips of faith and render the
pulpit worthy of esteem.

The heartiness and kindness with which this generous man
treated me can never be excelled. He admitted that I had not lost,
and could not lose, a single right by the expression of my honest
thought. Neither did he believe that a servant could win the
respect of a generous master by persecuting and maligning those
whom the master would willingly forgive.

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While this good man was living, his brethren blamed him for
having treated me with fairness. But, I trust, now that he has left
the shore touched by the mysterious sea that never yet has borne,
on any wave, the image of a homeward sail, this crime will be
forgiven him by those who still remain to preach the love of God.

His sympathies were not confined within the prison of a creed,
but ran out and over the walls like vines, hiding the cruel rocks
and rusted bars with leaf and flower. He could not echo with his
heart the fiendish sentence of eternal fire. In spite of book and
creed, he read "between the lines" the words of tenderness and
love, with promises for all the world. Above, beyond, the dogmas of
his church -- humane even to the verge of heresy -- causing some to
doubt his love of God because he failed to hate his unbelieving
fellow-men, he labored for the welfare of mankind, and to his work
gave up his life with all his heart.


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