The Silent Preachers:
By Dr. H. Rondel Rumburg
“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” –Eccl. 11:1
Many would raise a startled eyebrow upon hearing that any preacher could be silent. But there was a variety of Confederate preachers that fit that description. Confederate tracts may be known as “silent preachers.” The voice was confined to the printed page, but often spoke powerfully to the mind and heart of the reader. The Spirit of God would according to divine purpose smite the conscience and trouble the sinful heart over the mandates of God and the good news of salvation by grace alone through Christ alone.
One Confederate soldier said tracts were “silent but powerful preachers.” These “powerful preachers” were weapons of choice among the colporteurs. Gospel tracts were weapons in the Confederate chaplain’s arsenal for the spiritual warfare he conducted in the Confederate army. Robert Murray M`Cheyne the Scottish preacher asserted, “The smallest tract may be the stone in David’s sling. In the hands of Christ it may bring down a giant’s soul.” There was a great consumption of reading matter in the Confederate armies. The soldiers had such an appetite for tracts, Bibles, New Testaments, hymnals, and other literature that full satisfaction was never met. The Rev. Dr. George W. Leyburn director of the Presbyterian Board of Publications wrote to J. Wm. Jones from Appomattox Court House in February 14, 1867 that “Never … was there such an opening for evangelism by the press” [J. William Jones, Christ in the Camp, 490].
CHAPLAINS IN MINATURE
Tracts were chaplains in miniature. A chaplain wrote, “One (soldier) came to me with a tract in his hand, and tears flowing down his cheeks, and said, ‘I would not take thousands for this tract. My parents have prayed for me, and wept over me; but it was left for this tract to bring me, a poor convicted sinner, to the feet of Jesus. Oh, sir, I feel to-day that I am a new man, and have set out for heaven’” [Jones, 214].
TRACTS OR HARDTACK
Chaplain Jones in reply to his old colonel, then Lieutenant-General A. P. Hill’s words, “John don’t you think the boys would prefer ‘hard-tack’ to tracts just now?” Jones replied, “I have no doubt that many of them would, but they crowd around and take the tracts as eagerly as they surround the commissary, when he has anything to ‘issue,’ and, besides other advantages, the tracts certainly help them to bear the lack of ‘hard-tack.’” And to this Hill replied, “I have no doubt of it, and I am glad you are able to supply the tracts more abundantly than we can the rations” [Jones 53]. Leyburn mentioned that in his experience the withdrawing from the pocket of a packet of tracts or religious papers would result in the collection of an eager crowd clamoring for something to read. At the time they may have preferred tracts to hardtack. His experience was that “They were generally read, and very promptly” [Jones]. They eagerly devoured the tracts. The letter went on, “I have never found any class of men so approachable on the subject of their salvation. I could talk with them about it almost anywhere…. And here I found one of the admirable uses of religious tracts. A tract almost always afforded an easy way of introducing religious conversation, whilst it also answered the purpose of ‘clinching the nail’ of what was spoken” [Jones].
Tracts could also be called assistant chaplains. They were certainly more portable. These assistants were quite needful considering there were military units without their own chaplains. The tracts were written for various purposes. They first dealt with the eternal soul on the subject of salvation by grace alone and through faith alone in Christ; secondly, tracts were written to encourage men to be good soldiers; thirdly, tracts were written to comfort those wounded or sick; fourthly, tracts were used to teach and encourage Biblical morality; and lastly, tracts were used to instruct in various realms of spiritual duty. Chaplain Joseph H. Martin writing from Knoxville explained, “While I was opening a box of tracts a soldier said, ‘Some of those tracts were given to our regiment at Chattanooga, and never before in my life have I seen such an effect on men. Many have given up swearing, and I among the number, through the influence of these silent but powerful preachers” [William W. Bennett, A Narrative of the Great Revival, 78]. Tracts were excellent assistants to the chaplains.
Some of the titles of tracts are: A Mother’s Parting Words to her Soldier Boy, We Pray for You at Home, Justification by Christ, In Camp, How Can I be Saved, Sin and its Wages, Have you Heard the Good News, A Wounded Soldier, Anecdotes for Our Soldiers, Faith and Assurance, Sunbeams for Human Hearts, The Christian Soldier the True Hero, The Countersign, A Voice from Heaven, All Sufficiency of Christ, Are you Ready, Come to Jesus, Don’t Put it Off, Motives to Early Piety, Private Devotion, Self-dedication to God, The Act of Faith, The Sentinel, The Sick and the Physician, Traveller, A Noble Testimony, etc.
Many tract societies came into existence to supply the need tracts. The Evangelical Tract Society of Petersburg, Virginia supplied over a hundred different tracts during the war, and in less than a year after the organization of that tract society they had published more than a million pages of “these little messengers of truth.” Every major Protestant denomination often in each state produced tracts and formed tract societies. The Baptists of Virginia published over thirty million pages of tracts. Rev. W. J. W. Crowder of Raleigh, North Carolina as an individual published tracts, with the assistance and encouragement of others, and furnished over thirty different tracts and produced over five million pages of tracts.
FRUITFULNESS OF TRACTS
Tracts were used by God the Holy Spirit in touching the hearts and minds of men about to die. One Baptist chaplain on duty near Gordonsville, Virginia noted, “One hundred of the men in my Regiment have professed conversion since we have been in the service, and the greater number spoke of tracts as having been instrumental in leading them to Christ” [South Western Baptist, September 11, 1864]. Rev. W. M. Young testified, “I have seen scores of instances in which the reading of tracts had been instrumental in the conversion of souls. Yesterday, going up Main street, I was hailed by a soldier sitting on the pavement, ‘Parson, don’t you know me? Under God I owe everything to you. While languishing in the hospital you gave me a tract, ‘Christ found at the lamp post,’ which has brought joy and peace to my soul. If God spare me to go home, I expect to devote my life to the public proclamation of the gospel’” [Bennett, 77]. Another noted, “Several young men in the Alabama regiments have been converted by reading the tract, ‘Come to Jesus….’” [Jones, 170]. A chaplain wrote from Williamsburg, “I know twelve men in my regiment, who have professed conversion from reading your tracts” [Jones 214]. Rev. J. A. Hughes wrote from Atlanta, “Three have professed conversion from reading, ‘Why will ye die?’ several from reading ‘A Mother’s Parting Words.’ A soldier told me ‘The Call to Prayer’ had roused him to a sense of his duty as a professor of religion” [Bennett, 80]. One soldier declared, “When I entered the army I was the chief of sinners. I did not love God, nor my soul, but pursued the ways of unrighteousness with ardor, without ever counting the cost. I studiously shunned preaching and our faithful chaplain, lest he should reprove me; and when he was preaching in the camp I would be in my tent gambling with my wicked companions. One day he presented a tract entitled, ‘The Wrath to Come,’ and so politely requested me to read it that I promised him I would, and immediately went to my tent to give it a hasty perusal. I had not finished it until I felt that I was exposed to that wrath, and that I deserved to be damned. It showed me so plainly where and what I was, that I should have felt lost and without a remedy had it not pointed me to that glorious Refuge which has indeed been a refuge to me from the storm, for I now feel that I can trust in Christ” [Bennett, 83].
Probably it would be difficult to actually grasp the extent of the impact of tracts. Many were converted reading the tracts and many believers were encouraged reading them. “In hundreds of instances the reading of tracts has been blessed to the spiritual good of our men” wrote Rev. Dr. A. E. Dickinson from Lynchburg, Virginia [Jones, 178]. Soldiers also distributed tracts, as well as chaplains, evangelists and colporteurs. Common soldiers were often greatly used in tract distribution [Bennett, 83].
The tracts were written by some of the preeminent ministers, theological educators, and accomplished writers of the South. One could compose a very lengthy list, but some of them were: J. L. Dagg, J. A. Broadus, Wm. F. Broaddus, Andrew Broadus, J. B. Jeter, J. L. M. Curry, A. M. Poindexter, C. D. Mallory, John S. Grasty, George B. Taylor, C. T. Quintard, Charles Manly, James H. Thornwell, the Furmans, etc. There were other Southern and non Southern writers whose tracts were published or re-published: Mrs. L. N. Boykin, Mrs. M. M. M’Crimmon, M. J. Wellborn, J. C. Ryle, John Bunyan, Horatius Bonar, Archibald Alexander, and many others.
Millions of pages of those silent preachers were cast like bread upon the water and were found after many days. Their silent but powerful messages were found in camp, hospital, tent and bivouac. Remember one tract may be an instrument of the Spirit of God in the salvation of a soul. Christ may manifest Himself through the printed page very powerfully and savingly.
The present day Chaplain’s Corps can certainly use these same little missives to distribute. There are reproduced versions of these same tracts.
SUGGESTIONS ON TRACT DISTRIBUTION
“In every thing by prayer and supplication let your requests be known to the Lord.” “Men ought always to pray and not to faint,” Jesus said. Prayer should be an important part in all that we do even in tract distribution. We should sow and water with prayer. Most of our compatriots when they realize the tract is a facsimile of a tract given to our Confederate forefathers will relish having a copy.
First, be familiar with the tract that you hand out to anyone. Read it to be sure it is orthodox and appropriate. What if the person who reads it has a question?
Second, be discerning of the person’s needs to whom you give the tract. Every tract does not fit every need.
Third, have a selection of tracts that you are familiar with and give them as seems appropriate to the case.
Fourth, it is important to give a tract with a proper spirit and thereby be an encouragement to the reading of it. Remember the soldier quoted above who was presented a tract with such a polite request that he promised to read it.
Fifth, “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:6).
A FEW WORDS
CHARLESTON, S. C.:
Evans & Cogswell, Printers, 3 Broad Street
FEMALE BIBLE, PRAYER-BOOK, AND TRACT SOCIETY.
Evans & Cogswell, Printers, 3 Broad Street
[This was a tract produced for the Confederate Soldiers during the War of Northern Aggression 1861-65]
A FEW WORDS
Soldiers of the Confederate States.
It is related that as, on a certain occasion some years past, in England, a party of gentlemen were dining together, among the company were found a colonel of the army and a bishop of the Church of England. The colonel, like as he presumed, a true son of Mars, fain would wage war upon the son of the Church; but as it would have been a violation of military courtesy to make a direct personal attack upon him, he determined to thrust at him through the cloak of religion, and thus take him at disadvantage. In the course of conversation, the colonel let drop many bitter innuendoes and insinuation against religion in general, without any apparent effect upon his intended victim; at length, piqued at his ill success, he observed that the only rational prayer he ever heard, proceeded from the lips of an officer just on the eve of a battle; he repeated it as follows: “O GOD, if there be a GOD, have mercy upon my soul, if I have a soul. Amen.” There ensued a deep silence, and all eyes seemed to turn upon the bishop in expectation of a reply to this scarcely covert attack upon religion, both natural and revealed. He gravely, and without any apparent emotion, observed, that he had heard of, in his humble opinion, a far more reasonable and proper one, uttered under precisely similar circumstances, by a private soldier, viz. “O LORD GOD, if in the heat of action I forget thee, do thou not forget me. Amen.”
The prompt, decided unanimity of preference given by the company to the simple piety and manly fervor of the latter over the cold and cheerless skepticism of the former prayer (if prayer it can be termed), was a mortifying repulse to the insolent unbeliever, whose lips were completely closed.
While reflecting upon this anecdote, it suggested itself to the writer that the following dialogue between an old pious sergeant of the revolutionary line, and a clever private in the army of the present day, might prove neither an unapt nor a weak commentary upon it,
Sergeant. Well, Thomas, I see you are in the service of the Confederate States.
Soldier. Yes, I took on about a year ago.
Serg. You soldiers of the present day have far easier times than we old continentals.
Sold. Be it so or not, we think our situation might be bettered.
Serg. Come, now, let us compare new with old a little; perhaps you will be more content with your lot.
Sold. I have no objection.
Serg. First and foremost, you’re better paid, clothed and fed. In the Revolution we received but a scanty stipend at best, and that came very irregularly, large balances still remaining due; besides, it was in old continental money—mere rags compared in actual value with the bank notes you are paid with. Our food was miserable in quality, often in a spoiled condition, and so scant that we were oftener starving than otherwise, and as to clothing, we more nearly resembled scarecrows than regulars—many were blanketless, and during our sad retreat through the Jerseys, our army could have been traced by our men’s shoeless and often bloody tracks.
Sold. Is it possible! Those were hard times, in truth. And did none mutiny?
Serg. Mutiny! Ah, we had no time for that. We were continually in motion or in action; but above all, our poor fellows were full of patriotism, and thought far less of their own sufferings than of their country’s wrongs. Now, I dare say, Thomas—I mean no offence to you—were Congress to reduce the pay of their soldiers now, and to order them upon hard and dangerous service, with scanty clothing and short allowance, they might mutiny.
Sold. I think you are hard on us, my old friend.
Serg. Not a whit, not a whit, Thomas. Pardon an old veteran’s bluntness, but human nature is human nature still; however, I speak not without observation. A year or more ago, I spent some months with a granddaughter of mine who is married, and lives in the vicinity of Fort _____; like all old soldiers who love to “Shoulder a crutch, and show how fields were won,” I was attracted by the rattle of the drum, and frequently visited the fort, where I formed an acquaintance with the non-commissioned officers and some of the privates. Thus, you see, I had opportunity of seeing and hearing how things are carried on in these times. Upon the word of an old soldier, they compare but illy with old times.
Sold. No doubt, in your opinion, old folks are sadly prejudiced, one and all.
Serg. Perhaps so, but let us see the result of my discoveries at Fort ____. First of all, desertions were of every-day’s occurrence, and the most trifling causes were alleged. When I expressed my honest indignation at so base, so unsoldierly a crime, forsooth I was laughed at. What! exclaimed I, is it no crime to forswear one’s self? to be false to our Maker and to our country at the same time? I was only mocked at the more. Bitter taunts were uttered against religion, and as to patriotism, scarcely one knew what it meant. Now, tell me, whether such men, if exposed to the privations cheerfully borne by my brave and trusty old comrades, in “times which tried men’s souls,” would be likely to stand by their colors.
Sold. I must candidly say, I fear not; and moreover, I regret I cannot say that desertions are less frequent at my station.
Serg. Drunkenness, too, to a beastly degree, commonly prevailed at Fort_____, and was not looked upon in general by the men as disgraceful; indeed, it was deemed manly to make light of it; and when a man was punished on account of some crime he had committed while drunk, he was viewed as a kind of martyr, because his excuse of “being a ‘little high,’’ and didn’t know what he was doing” was not taken. And as to the long-delayed and mild inflictions of a modern court-martial, compared with the prompt, efficacious sentence of an old drum-head, they only appeared to provoke ridicule—every drill and parade the ranks were sure to be disordered, till one or more staggering soldier was sent to the guard-house—sometimes when a crowd of ladies and gentlemen were present as spectators, this shameful exhibition took place; but I never found that those guilty were at all pointed at, or considered dishonored by their comrades. But, however men may regard so vile a habit, the words of the Bible will ever be found true in the end—“At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.” Prov. xxiii, 32.
Sold. How is that, pray?
Serg. Do you ask? But you are a young soldier yet. Why, the “mania a potu” as the doctors call it–the horrors—the being confined on bread and water in a bombproof, etc., are rather biting. Then, squandering their wages, destroying their constitutions, bringing on chronic disorders and bilious fevers—being tempted to steal, lie, and desert—being often discharged, and shamefully drummed out of service as confirmed sots—all these are capable of stinging to the quick as to the present life; and as to that to come, the Bible declares that “the drunkard shall not inherit the kingdom of GOD.”
Sold. These things appear very wrong, without going so much to the Bible; that will do very well for nervous old women—they are far readier subjects to be priest-ridden than we soldiers.
Serg. Surely, Thomas, you don’t mean to cast disrespect upon the Bible! You read it, sometimes, of course?
Sold. Not I, indeed; not since I was a boy at home: though there are a number on the mantel-piece in my barrack-room.
Serg. Not read GOD’s Word, in a Christian country? And why, indeed?
Sold. You call it the Word of GOD. I am not sure that it is; nor, in truth, am I altogether certified that there is such a being.
Serg. Amazing! Why, Thomas, you astonish me quite; what, has not your chaplain taken the pains to instruct—but what do I say; perhaps you have no chaplain in your regiment.
Sold. No, indeed, we don’t allow such folks to humbug us.
Serg. More’s the pity of you, and shame upon it. But ah! the old continental Congress and General Washington, GOD bless their memory, thought differently; so did my old Colonel C, and Captain M. Many and oft are the times that I have seen the general’s staff, and the several regimental staffs, standing with hats doffed, while our chaplain offered up, by order of Congress, at the head of the army drawn up in hollow square, thanksgivings for our past successes, and implored a blessing upon our arms for the future—ah! believe me, it did us good, it was a cordial to our harassed minds, and nerved anew our wearied bodies for battle in our country’s cause.
Sold. Sergeant, you are eloquent: but that was many years ago—things are altered now; people are wiser. We are troubled with little praying or preaching in our regiment, and as to the Bibles and Testaments, which the societies furnish gratis (I can’t tell how), their leaves are more torn out than read.
Serg. Yes, many years ago; and then we were familiar with want and danger, were living from hand to mouth, with no other shelter oftentimes but the sky above; were literally naked, hungry and thirsty most of the time, and no man could tell when he might fall for his country—thus were we led by a sense of our frailty, peril and want, to look upward for help and strength.
Sold. That seems all reasonable. You were on severe, honorable and dangerous duty, and were always employed; but in time of inaction we, for the sake of excitement, visit the sutlers, or the numerous grog-shops which are by law provided for the weary and the thirsty traveler within a stone’s cast, and stupefy ourselves with beer, or get “high” upon gin or whiskey, as it is termed, in order to be lowered below the level of the brute.
Serg. Much more, therefore, do you need moral instruction? It is said somewhere, “that idleness is the root of all evil.” But if I remember aright, you doubted awhile back the being of a GOD.
Sold. Not altogether; but only that I am not quite sure in my own mind.
Serg. When I call to mind, Thomas, your worthy, pious parents, who are both now reaping above the fruits of their faith and obedience, it grieves me to the bottom of my heart to find a child of theirs so unbelieving. Most willingly would I spend hours, nay, days, to instruct you in my poor way, if I believed you sincerely desirous of learning; but do not play upon an old soldier for the purpose of scoffing, I beg of you, Thomas—that would be unmanly.
Sold. I fear I have, my worthy old friend, given you just grounds to suspect me from talking heedlessly; in sober truth, I have latterly associated with so many infidels and bad men as to have caught their slang; but there are moments, and you have touched upon one, when better feelings come over me: then the early lessons taught me by my beloved parents are remembered, and I feel that I lost them before I was well prepared to withstand the temptations of the world. Not to detain you, I do wish some instruction as to GOD, and in regard to the Bible, that I may have somewhat to oppose to the boasted skepticism of too many of my companions.
Serg. Now you talk like the son of a pious father, as you are; and if you will be a patient listener to an old man who desires your best good, I will endeavor to give you some homely information on such important points as those in question.
As to a GOD—without going to the Bible—common sense tells me that all the objects which I see or feel, about, above, and below me, on the earth and in the skies, are manifestly to my senses so adapted to each other, so fitted for the purposes to which they are naturally applied, that some all-wise, all-powerful being, far superior to man, must have planned and made them so. For a plain example, you once knew how to manage a patent plough, as you now do to handle a firelock; but you yourself can neither manufacture them nor have you seen them fabricated. Now, tell me, when you compare their several parts—wood work, share and coulter of the one, and barrel, stock, lock and ramrod of the other, and see how well adjusted they are, and when joined together, how admirably they accomplish certain useful ends, do you doubt that some far more skilful man, personally unknown to you, some time or other has made them.
Sold. I do not.
Serg. Now, it is related that when the early Mexicans first beheld the Spanish ships, with swelled canvass, approach their shores, and afterwards perceived the terrible report and deadly effect of their cannon and small arms, they believed the gods whom they worshipped were come down in human shape. A watch, too, with its nice work, its regular and animated motions, has been found to strike savages with the idea of superior wisdom and power; though they ignorantly consider the power to dwell in the watch itself.
Sold. These ideas are quite novel to me, though very simple.
Serg. Take a more familiar object still: look upon your hand—is it not wonderfully contrived for all the uses to which you put it: to provide the body with food; to dress and cook it; to convey it to the mouth; to manufacture, fit and put on clothes; to defend the body; to handle the plough and the gun; to wield the axe; to build, guide and manage ships; to write, to sew, etc., etc.? Behold your other members: your eyes, how keen their vision, how delicate their formation, and how well fortified from injury, and covered from the lightest dust; your ear, so sensitive to the smallest noise, and yet capable of sustaining the loudest; your tongue, to aid mastication, and to speak withal, etc. Now, who made them thus? Did your father make them? and so on to Adam. Who made him, and of what? Who, but that all-wise, almighty Being we call and adore as GOD, formed man of the dust of the earth?
Sold. I see not how to deny your reasoning, or that its conclusion can be refuted. What you have said is simple enough, and yet is more convincing than anything I have heard.
Serg. Because it is the simple truth, and we are not left to bewildering chance. But “enough,” they say, “is a feast;” I will not weary you with more, but go at once to the Bible.
Sold. Aye, do so, and explain how it is the word of GOD, as you termed it awhile past. That seems mysterious to me, how GOD should have spoken to man, whom he made!
Serg. That’s somewhat owing to your mistaking my meaning. I have called it GOD’s Word; but not that every word and sentence was spoken directly or dictated to mankind by GOD himself; but that men were raised up and inspired by him from time to time with the substance of its several parts, the language being their own chiefly. Let the Bible speak for itself—“Holy men of GOD spake as they were moved by the HOLY GHOST.” 2 Peter i, 21. It is divided you know into two parts, the Old and the New Testaments; I will describe them separately.
Sold. Do so, I’m all attention.
Serg. The Old Testament consists of the books written by Moses, and by various leaders, judges and prophets of the Jews who succeeded him. They treat of the creation of the world, the flood, and the history of mankind from Adam to Abraham, and from him of the history, laws, rites and worship of their nation down to about 400 years before CHRIST.
These legislators and prophets in their writings claim to have performed miraculous acts before the whole nation, and as they ever appealed to them as the proofs of the divine source of the laws, precepts and prophecies they delivered to their countrymen, therefore, the acknowledgment by the latter of their writings as the true annals or history of their nation, is a conclusive testimony to the truth of the miracles performed by them, as well as to the inspiration of their several messages; since GOD alone could give power of working miracles.
Sold. Pray give me a distinct explanation of the word “miraculous.”
Serg. It means something done contrary to or superior to the usual laws or course of nature—such as healing the sick, raising the dead at a word, with a touch, etc. Another unanswerable evidence is to be found in their predictions, exactly foretelling particular future events, as to nations and as to individuals—the judgments of GOD upon their own nation, and the pagan people around them—the rise and history of particular men—to the nicest degree, thousands of years before their fulfillment.
Sold. Give me an example or two?
Serg. I approve of your curiosity much, and will cheerfully gratify it; there was the Babylonish captivity—that the Jews for disobedience to GOD’S precepts should be conquered by the King of Babylon, their temple be destroyed, and themselves carried captives to Babylon—that after remaining there a number of years, they would be restored to liberty and to their native land, and enabled to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple; again their continued idolatry and wickedness, and their final subjugation by the Romans.
The coming of CHRIST, and particular events in his personal history, namely: to be born of a virgin—to be of David’s family—to be born in Bethlehem—to ride into Jerusalem upon an ass—to be a man of sorrows—to be sold for thirty pieces of silver—to be scourged, buffeted and spit upon—to be numbered with malefactors, that is, to be crucified between two thieves—to have gall and vinegar given him to drink—to be mocked while hanging on the cross—to have lots cast for his garments—to make his grave with the rich—and to rise from the dead on the third day without corruption. Isa. liii; Dan. ix, 26. It was foretold that CHRIST should perform many notable and beneficial miracles—that the “eyes of the blind should be opened”—“the ears of the deaf unstopped”—“the lame man leap as a hart,” and “the tongue of the dumb sing.” Isa. xxxv, 5. It was also predicted that he should appear before the sceptre departed from Judah, that is, the final overthrow of the Jewish government by the Romans.
Sold. But how do you know that these facts were not written after they had occurred.
Serg. I have told you already that the Jews had acknowledged for ages before CHRIST came, the Books of the Old Testament as their national annals, containing the prophecies I have just mentioned. They guarded them with the most watchful care, and to prevent the smallest alteration or addition, even counted the number of the words or letters: they handed them down from father to son, from generation to generation, as their true national history—as the genuine writings of their prophets, legislators, etc. There could have been no possibility of being deceived as to their authenticity or date. As Christianity is founded upon the fulfillment in CHRIST of the predictions contained in these books, the Christians have ever referred to them as the foundation of their faith; the Jews, who were mortal enemies and opponents to CHRIST and his followers, and are so in their scattered state to this day, would not contend for the truth of the very words of the Old Testament (though they deny CHRIST), unless the universal and perpetual testimony of their nation, from Moses down, had established their genuineness beyond doubt.
Sold. I think I have kept with you so far. Now, I wish some more particular account of their actual fulfillment.
Serg. This exactly brings us to the New Testament. We have laid the foundation, and will now proceed to the Gospel superstructure; I hope you are tolerably persuaded in your own mind as to the divine origin, and of course the truth of the Old Scriptures, that “holy men of GOD” did “speak” therein “as they were moved by the HOLY GHOST.” The Gospel, or glad tidings as it means, of peace and good-will from GOD to sinful men, shows how GOD’S free and sovereign mercy and the glorious plan of man’s redemption flowing from it, were declared, exemplified and fulfilled in JESUS CHRIST, and him crucified.
Sold. Yes, I do wish to know something clear and intelligible about a person whose name I have heard oftener blasphemed in the army than reverenced, and of whom I have heard preachers assert hard things.
Serg. What, for example?
Sold. Why, calling him GOD at one time and man at another.
Serg. Preachers often confound leading doctrines without distinguishing between, and showing their relation one to another. Now, they only stated the truth in these declarations.
Sold. I am astonished in my turn. I should think this to border on blasphemy.
Serg. Precisely what the Jews said when CHRIST claimed to be divine.
Sold. What, did he claim to be divine to the Jews?
Serg. Yes, to their very faces, and proved it, too.
Sold. And how, pray?
Serg. By opening the eyes of the blind, unstopping the deaf ears, raising the dead, etc., as foretold in prophesy.
Sold. You have surely forgotten that you said the same of the legislators, leaders and prophets: and they were not divine.
Serg. No, I have not; far from it. These last, when they delivered their messages to the Jews, were careful to say, “The LORD of Hosts saith,” “The LORD commandeth,” etc., and always appealed in a solemn manner to JEHOVAH to give miraculous attestation to their words as his inspired message, on some sign on their part, as when (Exod. vii, 19) Aaron stretched out his rod over the land of Egypt, and its fearful plagues ensued; when the Amalekites fought with Israel, and were worsted when Moses held up “the rod of GOD in his hands,” but victorious whenever, through heaviness, he let it down. Exod. xvii, 11, 12. When the wall of Jericho fell down at the sound of Joshua’s trumpets. Josh. vi. When the Prophet Elijah contended with the priests of Baal, and erected an altar, and put wood and a bullock thereon, and dug a trench around about it, and poured water upon it, and prayed, “O LORD GOD of Abraham, Isaac and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art GOD in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word,” etc. “Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed it,” in the sight of all the people. 1 Kings xviii, 20-38. But CHRIST says to the tempestuous sea, “Peace, be still,” and the elements are hushed; to the palsied, “Arise and walk;” to the leper, “I will, be thou clean;” to the widow’s son, “young man, I say unto thee, Arise;” and to the nobleman, “Thy son liveth,” etc.: don’t you see the difference?
Sold. Yes, CHRIST speaks as one who commands and is obeyed in his own right: but have you not digressed from the chief matter in hand?
Serg. Somewhat; but owing to your own invitation: we will return to the Gospel.
The history of the life and ministry of CHRIST is mainly contained in the four gospels or books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which, though in separate narratives, give most impartially, and with winning simplicity, a connected and harmonious history of the birth, actions, precepts, death, resurrection, and ascension of CHRIST. These men were poor and unlearned fishermen—two of whom, the first and the last, were amongst CHRIST’S immediate disciples. How can we account then that these simple narratives of so many interesting, wonderful, and supernatural events; so many pure and heavenly doctrines and precepts, unknown before to the most eminent human sages and moralists, and subversive of the most favored prejudices of both Jews and Pagans, could have been sustained against the incredulity, the inveterate and bitter hostility of the whole world, save “a small sect everywhere spoken against;” could have disseminated the Christian faith and doctrine among so many kindreds, tongues and people, for above 1,800 years, and are even now being multiplied by the power of the press, beyond enumeration, for circulation over the whole earth, unless from the truth of the facts contained in them, indelibly impressed upon the minds of the more civilized nations of the globe—unless the chain of testimony from the Old Testament to the New, and thence through the Church of CHRIST down to us has remained unbroken, and proof against the malice of wicked angels and men.
The testimony of Jewish and Heathen writers corroborates, in the chief particulars, and controverts in none, the plain narratives of the humble fishermen of Galilee; the great, the wise, the learned and the good, have reposed their faith upon them as the inspired repository of divine revelation in every age: and what is far more, the authors themselves, and their fellows the primitive Christians, staked their lives upon their truth, and were given some to the sword, some to the cross, and some to the fiery stake.
The writers of the New Testament state themselves to have been present at the miraculous events they describe, and would not have risked their lives unless satisfied beyond doubt by the testimony of their senses, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching, of the truth of what they affirm. Is it reasonable to think that any man would expose himself to the most sure, cruel persecution and suffering, and finally peril his life, upon a falsehood?
Sold. Not at all, I’m free to admit. Well, my good old friend I am obliged to you for your brief, but most clear and interesting account of the Bible, and will now thank you to return to the nature of CHRIST. What you have already said seems to me very strange and mysterious.
Serg. Well may it do so, when the inspired St. Paul writes in his epistle to Timothy, “Great is the mystery of godliness. GOD was manifest in the flesh,” etc., but it is plainly written in the Bible, and if we do indeed believe that to be the word of GOD, we must believe it, though in its nature it be out of the reach of, but not contrary to, our understandings.
Sold. Can a man believe what he does not comprehend?
Serg. We do believe many things we do not understand nor can explain fully: for example, we believe that when we sow any kind of seed it will, in due season, take root downward, spring up, blossom, and bear fruit; but we do not comprehend how God, who said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind” (Gen. i.11), performs so wonderful an operation. We believe, unless a miracle intervene, the sun will rise tomorrow; but do we understand how God will cause the earth to turn round upon its axis, that the sun may apparently rise to us? I might add many more examples, but will only draw a conclusion from what has been already said. We see the works of creation; we behold their order, method, fitness; we behold unerring wisdom in their plan, almighty power in their execution; we, therefore, acknowledge and adore GOD, but we understand not his manner of existence.
Sold. I see you are right, and that we fain must believe many things we cannot comprehend; but I interrupt you.
Serg. The Bible declares that all men are, in the sight of GOD, sinners, and under the curse of the perfect law of GOD, which declareth, “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” And, my young friend, can our own consciences, or our own observation, assure us that we, individually, or our relations and associates, are not sinners against the pure laws and precepts of our Maker, our Preserver, our Master, and our King? And when GOD, who cannot lie, solemnly tells us in his Word that we are all found wanting, and condemned, and under sentence by this law, shall we rather believe the world, and our own deceitful hearts, and be at peace, when “to the wicked there is no peace?” When the wrath of GOD “who made,” and “who can as easily destroy,” is gathering above our guilty heads?
But whatever we may think, the truth of GOD is pledged—we must all die—’tis true we must, from the mortality of our bodies, sooner or later crumble into dust: but our souls must stand before the bar of GOD—a justly offended GOD!
Now, my fellow sinner, I ask you solemnly, between you and myself alone, and GOD who hears us, how can you and I escape that searching trial of our most secret thoughts, our idle and profane words, our evil deeds? Who shall plead for us there, and make atonement for our sins? There is neither angel nor man worthy enough, or of sufficient dignity, to expiate the universal violation of GOD’s holy laws by our race—for “GOD chargeth the angels themselves with folly.” Job iv, 18.
The Prophet Isaiah saith: “And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore, his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.” Isaiah lix, 16. Yes, GOD’s mercy and goodness “have laid help upon one that is mighty.” Psa. lxxxix, 19. GOD, in the person of his only-begotten Son, JESUS CHRIST, took upon him our nature, that human nature which had sinned; CHRIST, according to the prophecies of the Old Testament which went before on him, “was born of a virgin,” and “became a man of sorrows”—he was poor and despised, he was persecuted, calumniated, betrayed, scourged, spit upon, and crucified as a malefactor; but he was without sin, and fulfilled in every point the divine laws which our race had all broken, and “once made by his body upon the cross, a full, perfect and complete, satisfaction and atonement” for all men. But he was GOD as well as man; therefore, when be spoke it was “as never man spake:” it was, “Verily I say,” and when he commanded, “lo! the winds and the sea obey him,” it was as when GOD in the beginning said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”
In the Bible we find the names and attributes of GOD bestowed upon CHRIST, as well as the name, character, and physical infirmities of man: he must needs be, therefore, GOD and man, or the Scriptures are untrue. But, pray, is it a whit more marvelous for Almighty Power to unite his own self-existent nature with the human nature created by him, in the person of the holy child JESUS, than that he should have formed man of the dust, and have breathed into him a living soul?
Sold. Both are, in truth, beyond our comprehension. Did you mean, when you stated just now that CHRIST made a full atonement for all men, that all are without exception pardoned on account of it?
Serg. Alas! No. St. Peter says, “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Acts x, 43. To believe in him is the condition on which sins are remitted. I will explain this by a kind of parable. Suppose a number of persons confined in jail under sentence of death for some notable offence, and some benevolent and great man interests himself in their behalf, and, after much entreaty, obtains from government the lives of the prisoners; but on condition that they sign a solemn pledge to remove, by a certain day, from the country forever. If these persons do not put faith in this promise, and refuse to sign the pledge, or if, after signing it, they should begin to think that government would wink at their remaining after the appointed day, and should fail to go, they would justly be put to death under their original sentence, would they not?
Sold. To be sure.
Serg. The Bible (you do not wonder now, I see, as you did, at my frequent reference to this book) declares that CHRIST “died for our sins, and rose again for our justification.”
1st. That our actual sins should be pardoned, in virtue of his bearing the punishment due unto them, in the same nature as our own, and of his perfect obedience to the perfectly pure laws we have violated, conditional upon our hearty trust in him as our sole, all-efficient Saviour, and upon our “bringing forth fruits meet for repentance.” Matt. iii, 8. CHRIST died to save us from, and not in our sins. St. Paul says, “But if, while we seek to be justified by
CHRIST, we ourselves also are found sinners, is, therefore, CHRIST the minister of sin? GOD forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.” Gal. ii, 17, 18. As if those criminals mentioned above should return whence they were banished, and commit the same or other offences, surely the mediation of their intercessor would be of no more avail. Does this seem clear to your mind?
Sold. Quite so; but, alas! Who can cease from sin? Who can be perfect?
Serg. None—not the greatest saints; but far less they who rely upon any fancied goodness or strength of their own: only they who seek aright that supernatural and spiritual aid CHRIST has promised, will be delivered from the power of it, and enabled “to work out their salvation with fear and trembling?”
Sold. What aid is that?
Serg. The help of the HOLY SPIRIT, to inspire us with good thoughts and holy resolutions, and to strengthen us to fulfill them.
Sold. That’s to my mind fanatical.
Serg. It is the doctrine of the Bible, and a vital one; and what is surprising in it, since the great heathen moralists and sages, Plato and Socrates, acknowledged man’s need of divine instruction? We have now a divine revelation, and that assures us that GOD will (St. Luke xi, 13) “give the Holy Spirit to them who ask him,” to impress the truths of that revelation upon their minds and hearts. GOD, who formed our spirits within us, can, assuredly, in secret influence them by his own Spirit. You call it fanatical, and so does the world; but it has been, and ever is, the most comfortable animating doctrine of the Jewish church, from David “the sweet Psalmist of Israel,” and of the Church Of CHRIST, from its institution.
Sold. I own that I have thought little on it: I always slighted it as mere enthusiasm and cant.
Serg. I pray that you may henceforth regard it as a most reasonable and comforting truth—may experience its holy adaptation to your own necessities as a sinful, and weak pilgrim on earth—a prodigal son far away from his father’s house, desiring to return thither, but fearing to do so? Did a Christian, during his perilous warfare with enemies without and foes within, doubt it for a moment, he would be in despair, as any man would have been in our revolutionary struggles, who exercised no faith in a superintending Providence.
Sold. You believe, then, that it may be had, if prayed for.
Serg. Certainly, if GOD sees that it is asked in a humble, teachable frame of mind.
Sold. But how shall one know if his prayer be answered?
Serg. “And he said, So is the kingdom of GOD, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.” Mark iv, 26, 27. “And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.” Gal. vi, 9. “For the promise is unto you and your children, and to all that are afar off,” etc. GOD has promised, and will certainly perform, to you and to me, and to all who will humbly and importunately call upon him.
Sold. I know not how, in general, the revolutionary soldiers regarded this doctrine; but, my old friend, the soldiers of the present day would mock at and deride it, and I incline to think some of the officers would laugh at it as an old woman’s tale. Why, I have heard of more than one as having said that religion might do for citizens well enough, but that soldiers had no business with it.
Serg. It is hardly to be wondered that the majority of private soldiers, who are mostly unlearned men and without the benefit of instruction, either mental or spiritual, with no chaplain to care for their souls, should ignorantly deride what they do not understand, and have not given a serious thought to; but I am unwilling to suppose for a moment, that any well-informed officers of our army, who have received at the West Point Academy, founded under Gen. Washington’s auspices, a sound mathematical education, and are qualified thereby to make an accurate and intelligent examination of the evidences of Christianity, besides having abundant leisure in time of peace, would set so unwise an example to the poor soldiers whom GOD has put under them, as to hoot at what they have been at no pains to investigate. Such a state of things, if at all true, and you are not misinformed, is surely deplorable. Now, how worthy of imitation the conduct, as simply portrayed in Scripture, of two Roman centurions (or captains). The one mentioned in the seventh chapter of St. Luke, though born a Pagan, has exhibited an instance of perhaps the most intelligent yet humble faith on record, which our Saviour at the moment commended, “as greater than any he had found in Israel;” that nation of whom it was said, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” He had heard of Jesus’ miracles, and far from doubting, or from attributing them, as did the Jews, to diabolic influences, he thus expressed through his friends a humble reliance upon the Saviour: “Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee, but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.” The other is described in Acts x, 2, as “a devout man, and one that feared GOD with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to GOD always.” Unto him GOD gave the glorious distinction of becoming, through angelic agency, the first baptized convert from the Gentiles; and that his example was blessed to the soldiers under him, may be seen from the seventh verse of the same chapter. And it was a centurion, who, when CHRIST expired on the cross, seeing his magnanimous submission to so ignominious a death, gave that noble and ingenuous attestation to his divine character and claim, “Truly this man was the Son of GOD.”
Sold. Most beautiful examples, truly; I confess with shame I never noticed them before. I must read my Bible more.
Serg. Ah, my young friend, I am an old, superannuated veteran; my earthly battles, in one sense, are long since over; I have outlived many of my relatives, and the associates of my youth and manhood; my toils and pleasures are alike past, my sun is about to set: but I thank GOD that I have my Bible, and sight enough to read its consolatory, animating promises, and assurances of a better world to come. I trust that when the time arrives, as soon it must, for my poor crazy limbs to be laid in a soldier’s honored grave, I will be able humbly to say as a soldier of JESUS CHRIST, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness,” etc. Sincerely do I pray that you may also find within the sacred pages, “the pearl of great price.” CHRIST says, “Search the Scriptures; they are they which testify of me.” John v, 39.
Sold. I am too much your debtor, my good old friend, to neglect your kind admonitions; depend upon it, I will not put them from me as before.
Serg. But as there are many things contained therein hard to understand, and which we may “wrest to our own destruction;” many things opposed to our corrupt and evil propensities; pray secretly to GOD to enlighten your mind and influence your heart by his Holy Spirit, and to give you such a teachable disposition, that the blessing of CHRIST may rest upon you. To the incredulous Thomas, he said, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” St. John xx, 29.
Sold. I cannot, if I would, gainsay your advice; I have lived like a heathen, I confess, without prayer of any kind.
Serg. And, therefore, fell unresistingly into the ranks of cold and cheerless infidelity. Why, the poor Pagans are very diligent in praying to stocks and stones, and shall Christian soldiers, in a gospel land, not pray to GOD their Maker, nor read his Word!
What would be the result, I ask, if soldiers read the holy and peaceful precepts of the Bible, and would pray to GOD for his Spirit to enable them to understand, to love, and obey them? Drunkenness, that bane of soldiers, gambling, lying, stealing, evil speaking, desertion, waste of health, character, and pay, would all cease. Soldiers, instead of the character of idle, worthless sots, which the bad conduct of too many of their number causes their fellow citizens to entertain, would be looked upon as quiet, orderly, cleanly members of society. They would be obedient and respectful to their officers; friendly, kind, and at peace one with another; would perform their duties, “not with eye-service; as men pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing GOD.” They would be content and frugal with their wages; would be satisfied with the warm and excellent clothing, and the wholesome food they are provided with; and as to the comforts and benefit of their post hospitals when sick, they would haply be without much opportunity of experiencing them, from their improved health of body and cheerfulness of mind. And if, in the dispensations of Providence, laid upon a bed of sickness and brought to death’s door, their Bibles and their pious comrades would be their comfort; but above all, their habits of prayer would bring down assurances and consolations above what earth can give, and which, in moments of pain, and sickness, and death, neither infidel nor scoffer can intermeddle with.
Sold. Ah! my own brief experience tells me what a blessed aspect a garrison would put on under such circumstances. What a pleasant thing to be a soldier it would then be; every one would do his own share of duty, and not throw it upon his more innocent comrades by getting confined; the only strife, if such at all, would be who should excel as a ready and clean soldier.
Serg. Aye, aye, then “would the desert rejoice and blossom as the rose.” (Isaiah xxxv, 1.) Every soldier would be a Christian gentleman. None by intoxication or vulgar conduct would put himself on a par with the brute. Should war arise, what an army of heroes, of conscientious, high-principled Christian soldiers to defend our country! Mutiny, desertion, cowardice, drunkenness, and sleeping on duty, etc., would find no place. The banner under which they fight would be honored by such defenders, and they would deserve a general such as Washington, who, after the disastrous affairs of Brandywine and Germantown, while the army lay at Valley-Forge, during the severe winter of ’77 and ’78, in a very destitute condition, was in the frequent habit of visiting alone a secluded grove. This excited the curiosity of a neighboring Quaker gentleman, named Potts, who sided with the Tories, and led him to watch his movements on one of these occasions, till he perceived this great and good man upon his knees, and engaged in prayer: such was the impression made on him, that on returning home he related the circumstance to his family and exclaimed—“Our cause is lost,” etc. Surely, when a man like Washington thus acted, no officer or soldier of our army should view himself as doing an unbecoming act, or as being justly open to ridicule in “praying to GOD always,” and in all things setting a pious example to his fellow beings and companions in arms. GOD forbid.
Sold. A most striking example, indeed; one which no truehearted Confederate soldier should hear without emotion. I pray never to forget it.
Serg. His wonderful preservation on Braddock’s bloody field, and on other occasions—his calm and undismayed demeanor in the most gloomy and disheartening circumstances—and the final success of the American arms under his auspices—may well be attributed in part to his manly prayers, and pious trust in an overruling Providence. ‘Tis true that great matters were at stake in those times, and calculated to drive us to our knees; and so it is now; but, if it were not so, we have no reason to doubt but that GOD will regard us in the day “of small things,” nor forget at any time those who humbly call upon Him, since he has declared that “not a sparrow falleth to the ground without Him,” and that he “will ever temper the wind to the shorn lamb.” Therefore, my dear young friend, do not omit in your youth and manhood, when all things are apparently smooth and prosperous to you to offer with constancy, faith, and devotion, the sacrifices of prayer, thanksgivings, and praise, to Him who is the author of all your blessings, that you may not be “ashamed in the evil time” of misfortune, war, bereavement, sickness, old age, temptation and trial; and your own short experience has told you how numerous, treacherous, and powerful, the temptations to which a soldier is every day and hour exposed. We are about to part, perhaps never to meet again in this world; let my last words be then impressed upon you as the legacy of a poor, old veteran, as to this world’s goods, to the son of departed friends. The Bible is like a golden mine; prayer is the only instrument by which its treasures may be dug and brought to light, and what now is more rational, more suitable to a dependent and accountable creature than to supplicate and worship his Almighty Creator!
Sold. Ere we part, accept my best thanks, my good, old friend, for your patience and perseverance in endeavoring to instruct one as ignorant and willful as myself. Your remarks, at once so clear and so true, and so charitably urged on one, I fain hope will not be lost upon me. I am determined, as God shall help me, whatever my comrades may say, no longer to despise and neglect the Bible, but attentively to read it; and hope I shall never be ashamed hereafter to follow the example of so brave a soldier, so great and good a man, so true a patriot, as George Washington; and to kneel in prayer to GOD who made, who preserveth, who hath redeemed, and who will finally judge me. I hope we may again meet, and renew out interesting discourse.
Serg. Most heartily say I Amen to this. I am not worthy of so much commendation, since, when I have done all, I am “still an unprofitable servant,” and have only done my bounden duty; but I am thankful we have met, and pray that GOD will bless those truths I have uttered in His name for want of a better spokesman; because they are those He has himself, in mercy and compassion to our proud and ignorant race, caused to be promulgated in his blessed Word. Farewell.
“Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.”
A TRACT FOR THE SOLDIER
BY REV. J. A. PROCTOR.
I PRESUME you have a leisure hour. If so, it may be interesting to you to peruse a few thoughts which I purpose to set down in simple language and address to you. Every soldier of our Confederacy is an object of great interest to those for whom he is fighting. Sometimes the soldier is disposed to doubt this. Letters from home come but seldom; his name is not mentioned in the newspaper; he sees himself as only one of a great multitude, “lost like a drop in the boundless main,” and he concludes that he is uncared for and well-nigh forgotten. Soldier, this is not so. There are but few in our whole country who are not anxiously concerned in regard to your condition. Compared with our entire population, there are but few heartless speculators, and there are hardly any whose hearts are in sympathy with the Yankee Government. All the rest of our people feel a constant solicitude for the brave soldiers who are enduring hardships, and fearlessly facing the dangers of the battle-field, in defence of Southern honor and Southern rights. They are concerned for your bodily condition. When they meet around the table to share the food with which a kind Providence has supplied them, they think of your scanty and hard fare, and would joyfully divide their portion with you. When the wintry winds are howling around their dwellings, and the rain pours down in torrents, or the snow is covering the earth and chilling the air, they remember the poor soldiers who are exposed to it all, and would gladly protect them from the storm. To hear that any of our soldiers are without blankets, or clothing or shoes, sends a pang to every true Southron’s heart. Our people know that you have enough to suffer even when best provided for, and I am very greatly mistaken if they will not do all in their power to make your condition as comfortable as your circumstances will admit.
But, soldier, your people at home are not merely concerned for your bodily condition, they are concerned for your moral and spiritual welfare. Not all, it is true, who are interested in your physical well-being are careful of your religious condition, but there are thousands at home who feel the deepest interest in this subject, while they are not forgetful of the former. There are mothers here who, in the fear of God and in the faith of the Gospel, are sending up earnest prayers to heaven for the sons whom God has given them. They are praying not only that God may protect their boys in the day of battle and from the diseases of the camp, but that He will preserve them from the vices of the army, and make them upright, honorable, high-minded Christian men. Soldier, have you a mother? There are fathers and sisters here, who have brothers and sons in the field, believe in God, that daily and fervently pray for God’s spiritual blessings on their brothers and sons in the army; and the Church of Christ, in all its branches, feels this solicitude pressing on its great heart a mighty weight of responsibility. From every congregation in the land, fervent supplications for blessings on the army are sent up every Sabbath; and in the stillness of the closet, at morning, noon and evening of every day, the prayers of the Sabbath are earnestly repeated. Societies have been organized for the especial purpose of promoting the religious interests of the soldier; holy, God-fearing men have been employed to act as colporteurs, and thousands of religious tracts are being daily distributed in the hospitals and in the camps. It is a matter of devout thanksgiving to Almighty God that all this interest has not been manifested in vain. Cheering accounts of religious revivals come in from almost every department of the army. It is not extravagant to say that thousands of soldiers, who were unconcerned before, have been converted to God since this war began. Some of those are now living to adorn the doctrines of the Saviour, and some of them are filling soldiers’ graves; but they died in the triumphs of a Saviour’s love.
Soldier, you have witnessed this interest in your spiritual welfare. You have seen the colporteur in his daily rounds, and you have read some of the tracts; but let me ask you how has the exhibition of this interest on the part of your friends at home affected you?
The writer of these lines is to you, soldier, an unknown stranger. Your eyes and his, it is probable, never met. You may never see him until the conflicts and storms of worldly life are over. But as he writes these lines he feels the sympathies of a common kindred, and his heart moves within him in strong desire to do you good. Come, then, and let us reason together, for a little season, on this most important concern that relates to man. I shall ask you one question, which I hope you will patiently consider. I can not hear your answer; but God is ever near you; His eyes behold you, and his ears understand the voiceless language of your heart.
Are you a Christian? Perhaps you answer, yes.– You look back to the time when your soul first felt the peace of God. It was a happy day. If I were with you to-day it would give me pleasure to hear you recount the comforts of that blest occasion. It is well to speak often of the time of our conversion. If we have no hearers who will take an interest in the story, we should at least meditate upon it in our own hearts. If you have been in God’s service long, you have no doubt often felt refreshed by singing that sweet hymn of Dr. Doddridge, beginning:
Oh, happy day that fixed my choice
On Thee, my Saviour and my God.
Well may this glowing heart rejoice,
And tell its raptures all abroad.
It must be especially pleasant to the soldier who was converted at home to call up the memory of that day. He goes back to the church where his fathers worshipped–”forms and faces” of dearly loved ones, which perhaps “he shall see no more,” stand up before him, and crowd around him–and for a moment he imagines that the war is ended and the endearing associations of former life returned. But my friend let me call you away from this pleasing meditation, to remind you that you have had many strong temptations and many terrible struggles with the enemy of souls since you first became a Christian, and to assure you that, in all probability, if you live much longer, you will have many more. Oh, be strong for the coming conflicts. Prepare yourself by reading God’s holy word, frequent meditations and earnest prayers.
The boatman’s oar may pause upon the galley,
The soldier sleep beneath his plumed crest,
And peace may fold her wing o’er hill and valley,
But thou, oh, Christian, must not take thy rest.
As a good soldier, in your country’s service, you “endure hardness”–sometimes advancing, sometimes retreating, sometimes without food and sometimes exposed storm and cold, sometimes in health and sometimes sick–but always, with unconquered will, your watchword is “liberty or death.” So likewise, as the soldier of Jesus Christ, you must be firm and strong. Hold fast to your profession, maintain your integrity, trust in the living God. If you fall, be not utterly cast down, but rise up, and in the name of Jesus, who lives in Heaven to intercede for his tempted followers, determine to try again. May God help you, Christian soldier, to “fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life!”
Perhaps your answer is, I was once a Christian. Poor backslider! While battling with carnal weapons against the enemy of your country, you have been unmindful of the secret stratagems of the great adversary of souls. You are to-day “led captive by Satan at his will.”The “strong man armed” has bound you, and you feel powerless and helpless. I do not reproach you. If you ever reflect on the past, you have enough to oppress you without any word from man.
You remember the day of your conversion, the consolation you found in religion, the peace which passeth understanding, and the joy which is unspeakable. You remember the joy of your friends when you told them that God was gracious, and the solemn vows and promises you then made to your Heavenly Father. But what a change since then! Your vows are broken, your friends have been disappointed, the joy of your heart has ceased, and you are without hope and without God. But what will you do? It must be a hard lot to lead the life of a backslidden Christian. You cannot forget the past; your hopes of Heaven and your fears of Hell conscience–is ever at work, bringing all these things to your remembrance. What will you do? Soldier, let me lead you back to the Saviour! Like Peter, you have denied the blessed Jesus, but He looks on you to-day and says gently “come back.” He is able to save you. He is stronger than “the strong man armed.” He has saved thousands as bad as you. He is willing to save you. He died on the cross to manifest his love. David, and Peter, and thousands like them, departed from God, but coming to Jesus found him a precious Saviour still. This world can not satisfy you; it will soon be gone.– Oh, why not come back to God, so that when your flesh and heart shall fail, He may be the strength of your heart and your portion forever. If you continue as you are, your life must be miserable, and dying, you will have no hope. Oh, that our merciful God may help you to return!
But it may be, soldier, that you answer my question with this language: “I am not a Christian.” What are you then? A mariner on a stormy ocean, without a compass and without a star; a pilgrim in a dreary wilderness, without a father and without a home; a sinner born to die, and without a Saviour! Why are you not a Christian? Perhaps you have never tried to answer that question. That you are not a Christian is not because it is not to your advantage to be one, not because you have not been invited; not because you have not had opportunity, nor because you have never felt the necessity of being Christian. Why, then, let me ask, are you not a Christian? I will answer this question for you, and I pray God that the truth which I shall now tell you may be sanctified to your good! It is because you have been lulled into a deathlike slumber by the enemy of souls. As the ship-master came to Jonah, so come I to you! “What meanest thou, oh, sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God!” It is passing strange that you should have lived so long in this land of Gospel light, without being greatly concerned for your soul’s salvation. The earth beneath and around you, and the sky above you, have told you of God; your soul is conscious of its own existence and of its immortality, and the Bible tells you that your future eternal destiny depends upon your acceptance or rejection of the terms of the Gospel. “How is it that you have no faith?”
Soldier! let me invite you to become a Christian. You doubtless remember that you have heard this invitation before now. In the church, at home, your minister has often urged you to give your heart to God. Perhaps a fond Mother has wept over her wandering boy, and urged the same request. Sisters, fair and gentle,–oh, how you would love to hear their voices to-day! –have entreated you to be reconciled to God. You have not yielded. You are still sleeping–sinning still. Oh, put off your return to God no longer. By the shortness of time and the uncertainty of life, I urge you to repent. Many years of your time are already past, and your heart, in its throbbings, is beating your funeral march to the grave. At best you can expect the years of your pilgrimage to be only “three score years and ten.” How few live out the full measure of their days! But these are times of violence. Hundreds have fallen on your right hand and on your left. You have seen them die. Neither youth nor strength could save them. The enemy still threatens. He is cruel as the grave.– Other fields must be made red with human gore, Soldier, you may fall. Oh, be prepared; and then, living, you will be brave–and dying, you will fall a blessed martyr! But I urge you to repent on other grounds. The love of Jesus should induce you to be religious. He loved you and gave himself for you. On the cross he suffered a bitter agony and died to redeem your soul. Will you let him die in vain? He loves you still, and is now interceding for you in Heaven. How matchless is this love, –pleading love for rebellious man! Oh, soldier, believe that he loves you! it will restrain you from sin, it will bind you to the cross, it will soothe your aching heart. I might say more to you on this interesting subject, but perhaps I have already taxed you long enough. I now commend you “to God and the word of his grace which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among the saints in light.” If you are willing to become a Christian, be not afraid that Christ will cast you off. “Whoso cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out,” is the blessed promise which he makes to every sinner. Come to him by forsaking your sins, by believing his word and trusting in it, and by earnest prayer for his atoning mercy. Now; as you read, you may give up your poor heart to God. Would you know how to approach Him? Let this be your language:
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bid’st me come to thee,
Oh, Lamb of God, I come!
ARE YOU FORGIVEN?
[A Confederate Tract]
All men need forgiveness, because all men are sinners. He that does not know this, knows nothing in religion. It is the very A B C of Christianity, that a man should know his right place, and understand his deserts.
We are all great sinners. Sinners we were born, and sinners we have been all our lives. We take to sin naturally from the very first. No child ever needs schooling and education to teach it to do wrong. No devil or bad companion ever leads us into such wickedness as our own hearts; and yet the wages of sin is death. We must either be forgiven, or lost eternally.
Probably these pages will be read by some one who feels he is not yet a forgiven soul. My heart’s desire and prayer is, that such a one may seek his pardon at once. And I would fain help him forward by showing him the kind of forgiveness offered to him, and the glorious privileges within his reach.
Listen to me, then, while I try to exhibit to you the treasures of gospel forgiveness. I cannot describe its fullness as I ought. Its riches are indeed unsearchable. Eph. 3:8. But if you will turn away from it, you shall not be able say in the Day of Judgment, you did not at all know what it was.
Consider then, for one thing, that the forgiveness set before you is a great and broad forgiveness. Hear what the Prince of Peace himself declares: “All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme.”—Mark 3:28. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”—Isa. 1:18. Yes! though your trespasses be more in number than the hairs of your head, the stars in heaven, the leaves of the forest, the blades of grass, the grains of sand on the sea-shore, still they can all be pardoned. As the waters of Noah’s flood covered over all and hid the tops of the highest hills, so can the blood of Jesus cover over and hide your mightiest sins. “His blood cleanseth from all sin.”—1 John 1:7. Though to you they seem written with the point of a diamond, they can all be effaced from the book of God’s remembrance by that precious blood. Paul names a long list of abominations which the Corinthians had committed, and then says, “Such were some of you; but ye are washed, ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”—1 Cor. 6:11.
Furthermore, it is a full and complete forgiveness. It is not like David’s pardon to Absalom,—a permission to return home, but not a full restoration to favor: 2 Sam. 14:24. It is not a mere letting off, and letting alone. It is a pardon so complete, that he who has it is reckoned as righteous as if he had never sinned at all. His iniquities are blotted out. They are removed from him as far as the east is from the west. Psalm 103:12. There remains no condemnation for him. The Father sees him joined to Christ, and is well pleased. I verily believe if the best of us all had only one blot left for himself to wipe out, he would miss eternal life. If Noah, Daniel, and Job had had but one day’s sins to wash away, they would never have been saved. Praised be to God, that in the matter of our pardon there is nothing left for man to do. Jesus does all, and man has only to hold out an empty hand, and to receive.
Furthermore, it is a free forgiveness. It is not burdened with an “if,” like Solomon’s pardon to Adonijah, “If he will show himself a worthy man.”—1 Kings 1:52. Nor yet are you obliged to carry a price in your hand, or bring a character with you to prove yourself deserving of mercy. Jesus requires but one character, and that is that you should feel yourself a sinful, bad man. He invites you to “buy wine and milk without money and without price;” and declares, “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”—Isaiah 55:1, Rev. 22:17. Like David in the cave of Adullam, he receives “every one that feels in distress and a debtor,” and rejects none.—1 Sam. 22:2. Are you a sinner? Do you want a Saviour? Then come to Jesus just as you are, and your soul shall live.
Again, it is an offered forgiveness. I have read of earthly kings who knew not how to show mercy,—of Henry the Eighth of England, who spared neither man nor woman—of James the Fifth of Scotland, who would never show favor to a Douglas. The King of kings is not like them. He calls on man to come to him and be pardoned. “Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of men.”—Prov. 8: 4. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.”— Isaiah 55:1. “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.”—John vii. 37. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”—Matt. 11:28. O reader, it ought to be a great comfort to you and me to hear of any pardon at all; but to hear Jesus himself inviting us, to see Jesus himself holding out his hand to us,—the Saviour seeking the sinner before the sinner seeks the Saviour,—this is strong consolation indeed.
Again, it is a willing forgiveness. I have heard of pardons granted in reply to long entreaty, and wrung out by much importunity. King Edward the Third of England would not spare the citizens of Calais till they came to him with halters round their necks, and his own queen interceded for them on her knees. But Jesus is “good and ready to forgive.”—Psalm 86:5. “He delightest in mercy.”—Micah 7:18. Judgment is his strange work. “He is not willing that any should perish.”—2 Peter 3:9. He would fain have all men saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Tim. 2:4. He wept over unbelieving Jerusalem. “As I live,” he says, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways: why will ye die?”—Ezek. 33:11. Ah! reader, you and I may well come boldly to the throne of grace. He who sits there is far more willing and ready to give mercy than you and I are to receive it.
Besides this, it is a tried forgiveness. Thousands and ten of thousands have sought for pardon at the mercy seat of Christ, and not one has ever returned to say that he sought in vain. Sinners of every name and nation,—sinners of every sort and description, have knocked at the door of the fold, and none have ever been refused admission. Zaccheus, the extortioner, Saul, the persecutor, Peter, the denier of his Lord, the Jews who crucified the Prince of life, the idolatrous Athenians, the adulterous Corinthians, the ignorant Africans, the bloodthirsty New-Zealanders,—all have ventured their souls on Christ’s promises of pardon, and none have ever found them fail. Ah! reader, if the way I set before you were a new and unraveled way, you might well feel faint-hearted. But it is not so. It is an old path. It is a path worn by the feet of many pilgrims, and a path in which the footsteps are all one way. The treasury of Christ’s mercies has never been found empty. The well of living waters has never proved dry.
Besides this, it is a present forgiveness. All that believe in Jesus are at once justified from all things. Acts 13:39. The very day the younger son returned to his father’s house, he was clothed with the best robe, had the ring put upon his hand, and the shoes on his feet. Luke 15. The very day Zaccheus received Jesus, he heard those comfortable words, “This day is salvation come to this house.”—Luke 19:9. The very day that David said, “I have sinned against the Lord,” he was told by Nathan, “The Lord also hath put away thy sin.”—2 Sam. 12:13. The very day you first flee to Christ, your sins are all removed. Your pardon is not a thing far away, to be obtained only by hard work, and after many years, It is nigh at hand. It is close to you, within your reach, all ready to be bestowed. Believe, and that very moment it is your own. “He that believeth is not condemned.”—John 3:18. It is not said, He shall not be, or will not be, but is not. From the time of his believing, condemnation is gone. “He that believeth hath everlasting life.”—John 3:36. It is not said, He shall have, or will have: it is hath. It is his own as surely as if he were in heaven, though not so evidently so to his own eyes. Ah! reader, you must not think forgiveness will be nearer to a believer in the day of judgment than it was in the hour he first believed. His complete salvation is every year nearer and nearer to him; but as to his forgiveness and justification, it is a finished work from the very minute he first commits himself to Christ.
Reader, I have set before you the nature of the forgiveness offered to you. I have told you but little of it, for my words are weaker than my will. The half of it remains untold. The greatness of it is far more than any report of mine. But I think I have said enough to show you it is worth the seeking, and I can wish you nothing better than that you strive to make it your own.
Do you call it nothing to look forward to death without fear, and to judgment without doubtings, and to eternity without a sinking of heart? Do you call it nothing to feel the world slipping from your grasp, and to see the grave getting ready for you, and the valley and the shadow of death opening before your eyes and yet not be afraid? Do you call it nothing to be able to think of the great day of account, the throne, the books, the Judge, the assembled worlds, the revealing of secrets, the final sentence, and yet to feel, I am safe? This is the portion, and this the privilege, of a forgiven soul.
Such a one is on a rock. When the rain of God’s wrath descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, his feet shall not slide,—his habitation shall be sure.
Such a one is in an ark. When the last fiery deluge is sweeping over all things on the surface of the earth, it shall not come nigh him. He shall be caught up and borne securely above it all.
Such a one is in a hiding place. When God arises to judge terribly the earth, and men are calling to rocks and mountains to fall upon them and cover them, the everlasting arms shall be thrown around him, and the storms shall pass over his head. He shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
Such a one is in a city of refuge. The accuser of the brethren can lay no charge against him.—The law cannot condemn him. There is a wall between him and the avenger of blood. The enemies of his soul cannot hurt him. He is in a secure sanctuary. Such a one is rich. He has treasure in heaven which cannot be effected by worldly changes, compared to which Peru and California are nothing at all. He needs not envy the richest merchants and bankers. He has a portion that will endure when bank-notes and dollars are worthless things. He can say, like the Spanish ambassador, when shown the treasury at Venice, My master’s treasury has no bottom. He has Christ.
Such a one is insured. He is ready for any thing that may happen. Nothing can harm him. Banks may break and governments may be overturned. Famine and pestilence may rage around him. Sickness and sorrow may visit his own fireside.—But still he is ready for all: ready for health, ready for disease—ready for tears, ready for joy—ready for poverty, ready for plenty—ready for life, ready for death. He has Christ. He is a pardoned soul.
Blessed, indeed, is he whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered. Psalm 32:1.
Reader, how will you escape if you neglect so great salvation? Why should you not lay hold on it at once, and say, Pardon me, even me also, O my Saviour! What would you have, if the way I have set before you does not satisfy you? Come while the door is open. Ask, and you shall receive.
Are You Ready.
[For the Soldiers]
[This tract was written and published for the Confederate Soldiers during the war.]
“What do you mean by this question?” There is a great event before you: its arrival is certain; but it is utterly beyond your power to ascertain at what hour it will arrive. Ten or twenty years may elapse before its arrival—perhaps not as many minutes. Some have expected it long, but it still delays. Millions have put it far off, but it has burst unexpectedly upon them. This is a most momentous event. It will sunder all your relations to the present world: it will break every tie of mortality—strip off every disguise—expose every error and deception—bring out to light your whole character, even to every secret thing—present you before a just and holy Judge, and introduce you to an unchangeable condition of joy or sorrow. This event is DEATH; and the question is, “Are you ready to die?”
“Who asks this question?” Your Maker. He does it in his word. One of the grand objects of that blessed volume is to enable you to give it an affirmative answer. By judgments and by mercies does his holy providence press this matter upon you. Your own rational nature does the same. When reason and conscience are permitted to speak, they urge attention to this great concern. Dispel from your mind the delusive charms of this world; press your way out of that torrent of cares or pleasures which sweeps every serious thought away; rebuke every other appeal, and let that only be heard which the unblinded reason and the unseared conscience make, and you will perceive that this inquiry is solemnly addressed to you. By your frailty and mortality is this question pressed. Nothing can be more precarious than your hold on life. Your body is the tie that binds you to the earth. How frail a flower. “The wind passeth over it, and it is gone.” It is in health and vigor today; tomorrow it is lifeless and cold, and full of corruption. “The worm is thy sister and thy mother.” Your frailty therefore cries, Are you ready? and the voice waxes louder and louder with every wasting hour of your probation. Eternity seems uttering the same appeal: as if with a living voice, it presses every human mind with the momentous truth, that beyond the grave man’s destiny is irreversibly settled; the righteous are “righteous still,” the filthy, “filthy still.” And it utters the earnest admonition, “Beware of unpreparedness to die.” But there is yet another voice—and, reader, if there be any voice that should drown all the appeals of the cares and pleasures of this world, which should excite the soul’s most intense and devout attention, which should penetrate its lowest depths, and arouse its strongest emotions, it should be the voice of the Redeemer. “Be ye also ready,” is his admonition. No voice breaks upon human ears in so much tenderness and love; for no friendship has man experienced like that shown by the Son of God, and no voice is go suited to inspire solemnity and awe as that of the final Judge.
“Why ask THIS question?” Because none can be conceived of so much importance. Because, disturbing men’s sinful minds as it does, they are not disposed to press it honestly and earnestly upon themselves. Because an honest, serious, enlightened decision of this question may be of everlasting benefit to your soul. Because, amid the hurry of business or the whirl of pleasure you may at this hour need something to lead you to consider your character and eternal prospects. Because, if the subject which this question urges upon you is not attended to, the soul will be lost.
“Why ask ME this question?” Because it respects interests of yours of infinite value—interests in fearful peril, if you cannot answer this question in the affirmative. Because this question is suited to arouse attention to what you may have totally neglected. Because you may be the very person of all living who most need such an appeal; being, perhaps, the victim of a false hope, or of fatal error, and borne farther and farther every day from God by the growing power of sin. Because it is of infinite importance that you make a correct decision of this question. And especially, because the next bosom pierced by the dart of death may be your own.
“Who are not ready?” Common opinion, in a gospel land, sweeps a large circle, and there stand within it the murderer, the thief, the drunkard, the idolater, the profane swearer, the adulterer, the scoffer, the liar, and the hypocrite. But the word of God sweeps a larger circle still, including not only those, but these: the covetous, the lewd, the lovers of pleasure more than of God, the fraudulent, the unmerciful, the formalist, the prayerless, the worldly—indeed every soul which has not been washed in the blood of Christ, and is not a habitation of the Holy Spirit, Not one of all these can give an affirmative answer to the question now urged. Not one of them is ready to die. Death’s arrival if they understood their own condition, would fill them with inexpressible consternation.
“If I am ready, what then?” As this is one of the most important decisions mortal man can make—as it involves interests of infinite value—as a wrong decision would be unspeakably perilous, make it not without the most careful examination. Spread before you the Holy Scriptures, and ponder deeply their descriptions of Christian character. Apply the line and plummet to your own heart and life. Rest on no man’s good opinion. Keep in mind the final trial of your case. How solemn, how searching that trial! How momentous the result! If, after all, you can humbly hope you are accepted in Christ, then honor with the warmest zeal, and in every possible manner, the Author and Finisher of your faith. Let all men see that your hope purifies, and your faith works by love. Let them see that your whole character has been cast anew in the mould of the gospel. By every energy you can employ, endeavor to make your fellowmen possessors of a like glorious hope.
“If I am not ready, what then?” Then you have already run a most desperate hazard of losing your soul. You could not have said, in any hour of life, the next should not be your last; and as you are now unprepared to die, you have run as many risks of everlasting ruin as you have lived hours. You have stood on the dizzy height of a most frightful precipice. Your feet had well-nigh slipped. Look back: it would seem your heart would grow faint and sick at the dreadful peril to which you have been exposed. Your not being now ready also implies very great guilt. It implies insensibility to the most powerful and affecting motives; stubborn refusal of a thousand kind and affectionate invitations; contempt of most solemn warnings; reckless indifference to the soul’s value. I appeal not to vices and crimes in proof of sin; there is evidence enough without this to prove you stained with crimson guilt. But if you are not ready, there is no work so important, no obligation so pressing, as your immediately seeking the favor of God. Bid the world retire. Its highest and most pressing claims should not impede you for a moment in the great work of getting ready to die.
“But I am in health, in the fullness of my strength, why press this matter so earnestly upon ME?” You are just the person to be addressed. If you lay upon a dying bed, life’s lamp expiring, and all your powers sinking into ruin—if you had reached such a point unprepared, had crowded this great work into that most unfit hour, there would be scarce the slightest prospect that any appeal would avail.
Once more, the question, Are you ready? though now asked in affectionate earnestness, will not be asked by that unrelenting destroyer, DEATH. He asks no man if he is ready. He drives his dart alike through the ready and the reluctant soul. Furnished or unfurnished for the world to come, it must obey the dreadful summons. Reader, by all that is blessed in a death of peace and hope, be entreated to regard the solemn expostulation of your Lord: “Be ye also ready; for in such an hour ye think not, the Son of man cometh.”
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