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true of the other officers of the army is true also of its Chaplains. Among them, likewise, were those who were wholly unfitted for their station. None of them, moreover, had been accustomed to military life, or to labor in the camp; and some were appointed in direct contradiction to the aforesaid military statutes, not being clergymen in any Christian denomination, or even professors of religion. Others were incompetent on the score of education; and others, who loved their work as ministers of Christ, and were in all respects well able to perform it so far as knowledge, piety, and intellectual ability are concerned, found their health fail under the pressure of official responsibilities; willing and anxious to do all that they could do, yet their physical system yielded before the drafts made upon it by the severe labors and hardships of the camp and field; as is true also of many other equally able and patriotic officers of the army. These facts being known and indisputable, it may well be asked why, and for what reason, is the chaplaincy to be thus singled out and pronounced a failure? And why should data, insufficient for such a conclusion in every other case, be deemed sufficient in this ? Can satisfactory reasons be assigned for such a procedure? We think not.
That the brave and gallant defenders of our country and constitution should, on entering the army, be deprived of the institutions of religion, is an idea utterly abhorrent to all the feelings of a Christian community, and would not be seriously tolerated for a moment in our country. The Chaplain may not be able in certain circumstances to perform all or even half that his heart is set upon to accomplish ; but if a true servant of his Divine Master and devoted to his work, he will watch his opportunity, and by God's blessing, his field, however unpromising it may appear at first, will yield its fruit. The value of the mere presence of a godly minister in a regiment, even though the untoward circumstances hereinafter to be referred to, should at times deprive him of the opportunity of preaching, except to a few, is truly great. Those who profess faith in the Saviour will be greatly cheered and comforted by his presence. He is there to counsel them and all, and to intercede for his charge at the blood-bought mercy-seat; to counsel and direct and attend upon the sick and wounded, and to bury their dead. And can any suppose these to be trifles, and matters of no serious importance to the brave men who, for the time being, have severed all the ties and upyielded all the comforts of social life for the hardships of the camp and field, and to imperil health and life itself in defense of their country? The fact that the chaplaincy, as connected with our present vast army, has failed to accomplish all that was hoped from it, is sad to contemplate. But the reasons of that failure are not to be traced, we apprehend, to the supposed inutility of the office itself; and if they can be accurately pointed out and laid before the public, as they were in the case of the incompetent officers before referred to, we question not for a moment that the Christian community will not be backward to devise means for a remedy. And this is our design in proposing the few thoughts which we have to offer on the subject.
Very inadequate ideas have been entertained (and often freely expressed) by the Christian public itself, in relation to the whole subject of chaplaincy in the army. And many even of those who have sustained that office, as before remarked, seemed not to be aware of its duties and responsibilities. And while the importance and actual necessity of the office, are, as we have shown, fully recognized by the Government, and freely conceded by the public; its nature, duties, and responsibilities have not unfrequently been discussed in the most vague and indefinite manner; and conclusions vitally affecting the whole subject, drawn from the most inaccurate and insufficient premises. And this is in fact the true state of the case at present. Hence the necessity is apparent for obtaining definite and accurate ideas on the subject. For until they are obtained by the public, its action in the matter (should it act at all, as we trust it will), may as easily be in a wrong as in the right direction. And while they undertake to give counsel who practically know absolutely nothing of the matter; and while their counsels are applauded and their suggestions attempted to be carried into effect, all idea must be abandoned of arriving at intelligent and practical results, together with all hope of providing a sufficient remedy for the alleged failure aforesaid, and for rendering this arm of the service as efficient as it should be.
But we shall take occasion to refer to this point again on a subsequent page.
The office of the Chaplain is not that of a pastor, strictly speaking, and in the ordinary sense of that term; though it does involve all the sacred obligations of that office in reference to the care of souls. But there neither is, nor can there be in the existing state of things, anything equivalent to a church organization, a bench of deacons and elders; an administration of the sacraments, and of ecclesiastical discipline; or any investing of the office with that authority which is most cheerfully conceded to the pastor in his own communion, and which he is expected to exercise. And never were the wholly inadequate views entertained on this subject by many of our Chaplains more strikingly exhibited than the effort which they made in the Army of the Potomac, at the commencement of the war to inaugurate in the regiments a sort of church organization. The effort evinced a commendable zeal, but a zeal without knowledge in the true sense of the terms; and as any one at all practically acquainted with the duties of the chaplaincy, could scarcely fail to see, must result in disastrous failure. We say disastrous; because as it was wholly out of the question for any such attempt to succeed, so the office of the chaplaincy by being brought thus into association with it, the failure of this unadvised movement, could not, by many, be otherwise construed than as a failure of the chaplaincy itself. But the failure of this, and of any and every similar movement, and the fact, moreover, that there have been and still are unfaithful and incompetent incumbents of the office, prove no more against the importance of the office itself, than the fact that there have been a failure of some of our military plans of operation; and that there have been and still are unfaithful and incompetent officers in the army, would prove the military department of our country to be a failure; or the fact that there are unfaithful and incompetent pastors and missionaries, would prove the pastoral office to be a failure; and that the whole missionary enterprise should be abandoned. The extreme shallowness and inconclusiveness of such attempts at ratiocination would be at once detected and exposed on any other subject than that to which they have thus been applied.
We might in like manner proceed to show, also, that as the Chaplain is not in strictness of terms a pastor, neither is his office that of a missionary, if we employ this term in its ordinary sense and application, but this is unnecessary. Our design in adverting at all to such a train of remarks, is simply to present, in brief, a view of the mistakes which have been made, and which must inevitably be made in every effort to obtain a stand-point from which to contemplate and decide upon the duties of the chaplaincy, by viewing those duties and obligations through the medium of some other organization or institution. In England, or in any country, where a denomination is nationalized, there is less difficulty in finding resemblances and drawing analogics; and in the light of them deducing conclusions and prescribing specific duties, plans of operation, and the like; but the attempt to do anything of the sort in respect to the armies of our country, can not but result in confusion and disappointment.
The proper position of the Chaplain in relation to the army is clearly and fully recognized in the aforesaid acts of Congress and articles of war. He is to be a recognized minister of Jesus Christ; and as such is to preach the Gospel, and to labor in the best way he can for the spiritual benefit of those who have been committed to his charge. He is supposed to understand the duties of his office as a minister of Christ, and to be able to decide for himself as to the best and wisest method of performing them. Hence there is no attempt at dictation; and the whole matter is wisely left entirely to him. We say wisely; for the gifts of the ministry, and consequently the modes adopted for performing their work in this sphere, are as diverse as they are found to be in the missionary field, or in that of the settled pastorate itself. He is appointed to the office as a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ. As such he receives from the Government his commission, and enters upon the field to do the work of his Divine Master. He can go in no other capacity, and in no other capacity can he be regarded as possessing authority. The work is assigned to him, and is before him, and he is to decide for himself as to the best method of performing it. And woe to him, if through negligence, or disinclination, or anything else under his control, he fail to perform that work! No one else can share his
responsibility, and no one, therefore, should presume to dictate to him in respect to the discharge of that responsibility-a thought which it would be well for some to remember, who, without any knowledge whatever of the subject, have been rather more forward than propriety would permit, in propounding their crude suggestions.
As to the asserted failure of this office during the past two years to accomplish what was expected from it, let the question, as already intimated, be adjudicated according to the same principles which are applied to the analogous cases to which we have also referred, and we ask nothing more. Candor itself must admit the justice and equity of this suggestion, and must also concede that the announcement of any such inference from such premises, was as illogical as it was premature. If the chaplaincy has not accomplished all that was expected of it during the last two years, how does this prove that the chaplaincy in the American army is a failure? We do not attribute the sentiment as thus expressed to General Howard, but are referring to the illegitimate use which has been made of what he did say. And in view of the matter, therefore, let it be remembered and considered, that the nation was taken entirely by surprise in regard to the existing war. A necessity suddenly arose for immediately collecting immense armies from the walks of private life. Many entered the service as private soldiers and as officers, who were not only unprepared for the discharge of the duties devolving upon them, but many who both in an intellectual or moral point of view were incapable of fulfilling them, and of course they failed in the effort. Such, too, was the character of many who entered as Chaplains, and of course they likewise failed in their department; and instead of expressing surprise at this, it would indeed have been surprising had they not failed.
We have not ourselves been personally conversant with such cases, and therefore can not speak of this matter from personal observation. But from representations brought before the public from sources whose veracity and candor can not be reasonably questioned, it must be admitted that not a few have entered upon the discharge of the duties of Chaplain not only with no adequate knowledge of its official