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Church to give itself more fully to the work of supplying the army with the ministrations of the Gospel.
In respect to the best method of successfully encountering the aforesaid obstacles, it may be expected that we should here offer a word. But it is obvious at a glance that he who enters upon this field of labor should be brought fully to realize that his strength and resources in doing his work are preëminently in God. If he does not realize this, he has no business here; and if he does, he shall find that he does not labor and pray and hope in vain. Let him not only stand ready to improve the opportunities which may occur, but let him seek them amid all his discouragements, and he will often be surprised to find how God will go before him and make his path plain. If I may again refer to my own experience, I may be permitted to say that, notwithstanding all the forenamed difficulties which operated long and discouragingly, we have had many most precious seasons of interest in the regiment. And, not to speak particularly of the regular and prescribed regi. mental services on the Sabbath, never have I enjoyed more delightful religious services than we have had in the prayermeetings, Bible-classes and familiar evening-lectures in the regiment. Small, indeed, was the number attending at first; and though often interrupted and, as already remarked, for awhile suspended, yet still kept up with increasing numbers and interest, and as delightful as I have ever enjoyed, or expect to enjoy, on this side Heaven. We have a noble regiment, and one of the best disciplined and most effective in the service. And words would fail me, were I to attempt to describe the emotions of my soul as I have joined in the songs of praise, and listened to and united in the earnest prayers of the heroic men who had stood undaunted, in our country's cause, upon frequent fields of carnage and of death.
And here I must say a word respecting those blessed efforts of the people of God who have labored so assiduously to supply the army with appropriate reading. What an incalculably precious help has this effort proved to the Chaplain in his work! A thousand and a thousand times have I had occasion to say from the deepest recesses of my heart, “God bless them !” in view of their abundant and most appropriate helps. Nothing could be more appropriate. The soldier can carry but little with him besides his necessary equipage, and those neat and beautiful little testaments and hymn books are just the thing. And then the other beautiful little volumes, whose subjects are 80 admirably chosen-how much good have they done, in instances without number! And, likewise, the little tracts of the same character, which, after perusal, the soldier can inclose in a letter and send as a remembrancer to his loved ones at home, to whom any such thing which has been read and sent by the dear absent husband, or parent, or brother, or child afar off in camp, is such a treasure, and is read and re-read so lovingly by all the family. Never was the spirit of Christian liberality more thoughtfully and more successfully employed in sowing the seed of divine truth. And again we say, from our inmost heart, God bless the noble men and women who have thus thought of and cared and provided for the brave and gallant men who have so freely responded to their country's call, and stepped forth to the fields of battle and of death to defend her from the foe.
A Chaplain, moreover, should make it a great point to secure, as soon as possible, the confidence of the men of his regiment in his integrity of purpose and unfaltering desire to do them good. Let them become fully assured of this fact, and that he is one with them in hardships, privations, and perils, and he can, in a manner, do anything with them.
It was a most unfortunate circumstance for the chaplaincy of the whole army, and to which reference was made with terrible effect by the public press, when, more than a year ago, sundry Chaplains in a portion of the Eastern Army, which was about to move on to battle, concluded that it was not necessary for them to accompany it, and acted accordingly. It is true that the Chaplain, no more than the Surgeon, is necessarily required to go upon the field of battle; but it is, at the same time, true that the Chaplain who, in the sphere of obvious duty, will allow a regard to personal safety to determine or influence his actions, has no business in the army. He who would hesitate to accompany the brave men of his regiment when they are moving forward to bleed and die, if needs be, for their country, and, lest he should be exposed to danger, allow the wounded and dying to remain without the ministrations of religion, had better resign his office and go
home. The idea of a minister of Christ thus fearing death, and in such a cause, and shrinking from the post of ministering to those who need his ministrations, and that, too, when multitudes, who are not even professors of religion, go forth joyfully to face death in the sacred cause for which we war, is too humiliating to be dwelt upon. In such an hour, a knowledge of the fact that the Chaplain is near at hand is always a great satisfaction to the men. If he prefer not to go into the field of battle and minister to the wounded and dying as they fall, he yet should ever be near the Surgeon to whom they are brought. And it would have been far better for the army, and for the cause of our country, had those brethren all been slain in the attempt thus to do their duty, than that they should have adopted the resolution referred to. I know of nothing which so effectually opened the hearts of the men of my regiment to my efforts to do them good, as little events like the following, which I trust I may be pardoned for briefly alluding to, in the way of illustration : On several occasions when, at some of our stations, we were momentarily expecting an attack from an overwhelming force, said to be close upon us, I have lighted my pipe (for, to my shame be it spoken, that I have not yet abandoned the unjustifiable practice of smoking) and moved deliberately along the line of battle, conversing familiarly with the men, or addressing them in words of cheerfulness and animation. On one occasion, as I remember, after some new recruits, who had never met the enemy, had been received, the camp was suddenly aroused at midnight, and the men called upon to form immediately for battle, in view of an impending attack; and the gallant officer who commanded that portion of the line where the new recruits were stationed, observing that they appeared to be somewhat excited, called my attention to the fact, and requested me to speak with them. I did so, and, after addressing them for a few moments, found them not only calm and ready, but eager to evince their zeal in the hallowed cause of their country. These and a few other incidents, somewhat similar, wherein, also, duty called upon me to act, have not only removed the effects of the influence of such examples as the aforesaid from my regiment, but have given me an influence over the most inapproachable of our men which it would have taken a long time to obtain in any other way.
As regards the specific duties of the Chaplain, the law under which he is appointed has, and, we think, wisely, said but little on the subject. He receives his appointment as a recognized minister of the Gospel, is supposed to understand his duties as such, and is expected to perform them. The spiritual interests and welfare of the regiment, so far as a clergyman can take them in charge, are intrusted to him; and the sick and wounded are, in the same sense, committed to his oversight. It is not only not to be supposed that an authorized minister of the Lord Jesus Christ could be at any loss how to proceed in such circumstances, but it is to be supposed that he would know, and that he would need little or no instruction in the matter. And hence, as already stated, the Government is concerned in appointing him to the field to do the work of a true and faithful clergyman, and not in prescribing his duties. In a late earnest appeal to the churches, by the New York Committee of the United States Christian Commission, to supply the army more fully with the ministrations of the Gospel, it is said that “the law under which Chaplains are appointed, defines no position, gives no protection, and prescribes no duties ; so that the best men are liable to discouragements, under unfavorable local influences, and the religious interests of the army must be imperfectly provided for, until the law is modified.” But we can not think that the representation is justified by the facts. For, as to his position and duties, they are those which appertain to him as a minister of Christ. The Government recognizes him as sustaining this position, and commissions him to perform its duties in the army; and, in the same connection, earnestly recommends all officers and soldiers to attend Divine service. Our enemies, also, are enjoined, by the highest official authority, to respect the Sabbath, and the hour for Divine service has also been suggested. By his comunission, he is an officer of the army; his pay is indicative of his rank; and he is authorized to place any one under arrest who should attempt to interfere with him in the discharge of his legitimate duties. At least so we have always understood and acted, and no one has ever questioned our full right to do so. That the “Regulations” respecting the chaplaincy may be improved, is, no doubt, true; but we do seriously question whether the attempt to prescribe its specific duties would result in anything but embarrassment and confusion. The truth is, the men themselves not only fully understand the position of the Chaplain as a minister of Christ, but expect him to perform his duty as such. And it is a grievous mistake to suppose that he will forfeit his influence with his charge by strict and undeviating faithfulness in the discharge of those duties. Such is not the fact, though the reverse, however, is true. They expect him to be faithful; and no congregation in the world is more quick to discern any lack of faithfulness, or any inconsistency in deportment. The Gospel commends itself to every man's conscience in the sight of God; and the Chaplain who will not only preach the Gospel, but exhibit it in his intercourse with his charge, can not but effect great good among them. They do not expect him to connive at sin, or wink at immorality; but to reprove, rebuke and exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. A contrary course will at once end all his influence as a minister of Christ, and effectually check all his power to do them good. I have now been with the army since December, 1861, and though, as all will testify, I have never hesitated to rebuke vice and sin, I have yet to receive the first unkind or insulting word from any one of the regiment, with the single exception of a man who was intoxicated, and knew not what he was doing.
And then, finally, to conclude what we have to say respecting the difficulties of this field of labor and the best method of surmounting them, it will be observed that when the aforesaid obstacles have been surmounted, the exhausting drain upon the Chaplain's time and energies has, in a measure, just begun. For whep his labors and prayers and watchings begin, by the divine blessing, to produce their result, and the men begin to evince an interest in the subject of religion, he feels that notwithstanding all he has heretofore done, his labors and anxieties are but commencing. For now will the perpetual calling upon him at his tent for private conversation and counsel, and the desire expressed for religious services