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Every Christian's heart is conscious that it owes a debt of gratitude to those holy men who have placed on undying record the words and doings of the Son of God. And doth it not seem that the foremost place in our regard is due to that disciple, the loving and the much beloved, who leaned on Jesus' breast and who had rehearsed in his Gospel is much to assure us of the blessed Savior's pity and human sympathy.
That must be a hard heart indeed which is not softened by the recital of the raising of Lazarus. You know that this chapter is remarkable for containing the shortest verse in the Bible: that expressive verse "Jesus wept". This is the sentiment that pervades the whole narrative. The heart, broken grief of bereaved sisters, the incredulity of the attendant Jews, the marvel of the dead man revived by a mighty word, are all incidents fraught with deepest interest: but in front of them all, and more marvellous [sic] than them all, stands this instance of compassion "Jesus wept". How very full of comfort is this chapter! How many a soul almost ready to sink beneath the burden of grief & trial, has here learned that we are not alone, that one there is at least mighty & merciful who sympathizes with us: how often has some afflicted mortal been thus persuaded to go and tell Jesus of the sorrow, which pent-up and unspoken had been too much for him to bear.
It deserves to be noticed that when our Lord, after a long delay, approached the scene of mourning, and met first Martha and then Mary; both of the sisters, and independently of each other, addressed him in the same words "Lord! If thou hadst been here my brother had not died." This is one of the finer traits in the narrative. It gives us a glimpse of what had passed in that mournful house since the beloved was laid in the earth. How often during that four days interval the sisters had said to one another, how different it would have been, if the divine friend had been here with them. This had been the one thought in the hearts, the one word upon the lips of either, and therefore was naturally the first exclamation of them both when Jesus came. It was a deep and solemn truth to which they gave utterance, and as such well deserves to be pondered by us to whom afflictions and trials are likewise appointed.
We may view these words as an exclamation either of regret or of reproach. Let us consider them in both of these regards. And because the utterances of men are much affected by the character & circumstances of the speaker, let us further consider these words specially as the exclamation of the elder sister.
1.) We consider these words as the expression of regret. "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." Christ's presence would have averted the disaster: death stole into their quiet house when the master was far away. there is here a strange mingling of faith & of unbelief. The sisters so far appreciated the power of their Lord as to believe that in an equal contest death was not able to wrestle with him: had he been there when Lazarus first sickened, or had he come before the citadel of life was actually invaded, the sorrow could have been averted. He was mighty enough to resist it. But see also their incredulity: they deemed that Christ's actual presence was necessary: that Lazarus had died without his knowledge, that the absence was involuntary. They deemed that the case was now beyond his reach, for when Jesus said their brother shall rise again, Martha rejects the promised grace and answers with incredulous sadness. "I know that he shall rise again in the [unclear] each day. And so, these familiar friends and favored pupils of our Lord had thoughts of him which were low and mean. How were they surpassed by that Gentile Centurion who resisted our Lord's purpose of coming into his house to visit his servant: and prayed only that he would speak the word, and let unseen ministers make it affectual.
For us, however, this lamentation us full of truth. The heaviest calamities of life are those whereat no Christ is present to avert or to arrest the blow: and where Christ is not, there Death must always come. To believe in Christ is to have his perpetual presence near at hand: and as the Savior presently explains to Martha, "he that believeth in me, though he were dead yet shall he live & whoever liveth & believeth in me shall never die." But the faithless man, who sits amid his cares, his pleasures, his griefs, his riches, heedless of the stranger who stands at the door & knocks, shall presently find Death, in all the fearful import of that word, his uninvited guest and relentless master.
And so, bretheren, in view of many calamities, our own and other people's, we can truly echo the regretful cry of heart-broken Martha. The Lord was absent and hence all the sorrow. There is a household for instance where all the elements of comfort and prosperity seem to be united. You shall find wealth and intelligence, refinement and good sense. In the individual members of it are not wanting amiable virtues and generous impulses: and where the evening lamp is lit, and the curtain drawn, and the busy world excluded, one would think, there at least is life, the quiet life of the tranquil and the happy.
But according to proverb, there is a skeleton in that house: when you come to know it well, you shall find satiety and [unclear] , envy and ill-will. No heart-felt happiness, no genial sympathy, no cordial fellowship. Parents are fretful and unreasonable: the children disobedient and happy chiefly when abroad: solid, robust prosperity is not there: and when the storm of wild passion is aroused, or when the lightening stroke of misfortune comes, then the skeleton is disclosed, and it seems that death was watching them. For alas! Christ was far away from that favored house. Its unrelished food was not taken with reverent [mention] of the name of him the giver: no common prayer preceded the labours of the day, or sounded with peaceful [voice] at Eve to [unclear] its troubles & to end its strifes. No recognition of religious obligation, no reproof founded on that last appeal "God spake these words & said." They counted these men enthusiasts, who loved the Holy Church of Christ & deemed their little ones safe only beside its altar: who were wont in their sadness to go up to the house of the Lord & spread tidings before him: who in their gladness sought instinctively [corects] of Zion. And when at last unalleviated sorrow has come, or death, or disgrace has come, then from the lips of some humbled persistent comes up the cry: we have all lived without God. Lord, if thou hadst been there, my brother had not died.
We have seen it this in the case of individuals. Witness some youth of ingenuous temper, of open brow, of kind impulses. To look upon him is to love him. But no Christ was near him to sign his forehead with the token of Christian soldiership: men warned against all that was mean, disreputable, ungentlemanly, but not against that which is ungodly, or in a word taught him a religion which Christ was not. You meet him in after years, and how plain the [unclear] of death, the corruption of the soul, fastening upon him. Those wrinkles in the once placid brow are traced with death's finger: that hard selfishness, that lax morality, those intemperate excesses which have bleared his eyes, and swollen his features and robbed him of his manly [beauty], all are signs of death working out its ends. Upon the soul of many a youth who has fallen ingloriously at the very outset of his career, now be inscribed this significant lament "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died".
Bretheren: does not experience assure us that this is so? Think of your most serious misfortunes. If the Lord had only been with you in your day of prosperity to abate your confidence, in the hour of sorrow to tell you of his sympathy, in the time of temptation to strengthen your resistance, in the days when the bonds of charity were rudely severed to suggest the soft answer. What calamities have been spared you! But you called him not into council: and because he was not called, the joy was turned into sorrows, and sorrow wrought despair. & temptation was too strong for you, and insulted charity withdrew in sadness. As we behold the wretchedness of the world, the saddest thought of all is that while some part of it is appointed the most of it is superfluous. It need not be: it comes of Christ's unwilling absence. The wise will adopt the prayer of Moses. "Lord, if thy presence go not with us, let us not go up". No matter how fair may be the prospect before us, if Christ doth not promise to abide with us to restrain, to support, to watch over and bless, the journey of life can end only in disaster, and the end thereof must be the ways of death.
We are to consider these words
2.) As an expression of reproach.
The sisters had depended upon Jesus with warm & confiding attachment. They had believed that no sorrow which came to them would have been indifferent to him. They had adjured him in the sacred name of friend. [unclear] "Lord, he whom thou lovest is sick": but he would not come. Day after day they forsook his [unclear] , only to stand and look searchingly for the much desired helper. But he left them to bear the burden & shock alone. In the words even of the gentle Mary we seem to find the voice of wounded friendship: and when Jesus groaned in spirit and was troubled in answer to her cry, may we not think that his tears were shed not only in sympathy for her grief, but in pity for the blindness, the inability to trust with perfect trust, which cast into the cup of bereavement bitter as that was, the more bitter drop of mortification and disappointment.
Brethren, if in the soul of man there is no hard thought of God, then every grief is tolerable: and the man on whose breast misfortune has emptied her quiver can smile and say "I am cast down, but not destroyed joy shall come presently & the days of my mourning shall be ended. But oh! how intolerable is misfortune, when the heart that should trust & pray, begins instead to reproach and to revile its maker. True, we should not make too much of the mournful words & desperate exclamations of troubled people, but it is sad to hear how men speak under bereavements, reverses of fortune, pangs of sickness and the like. The fault is charged on Providence, the sufferer asks what he has done more than others to deserve a chastisement so severe: he cannot reconcile himself to his visitation because man's error is some how involved in it. Even the patient Job expostulated with his maker that it was not right for him to oppress, or to spend the whirlwind's fury upon a helpless leaf.
Lord, hadst thou been here, my brother had not died. And Jesus turned groaning in spirit & went weeping (the word implies displeasure as well as grief) to the sepulchre. The reproach, gentle as it was and fraught with affection, grieved his heart: for Jesus loved Martha and her sister, and Lazarus. An they reproached him, even while his heart was most full of pity, and while he was preparing to make for them the utmost sacrifice. For mark you, St. John is at pains to tell us this, so far as natural causes and consequences can be interpreted, the death of Jesus was due to the raising of Lazarus. He [must] have come at first, and at his august rebuke, baffled death would have folded his sable wings & silently departed, & the sunlight of peace have streamed again into that house. But Lazarus sickens, dies, is buried--and he's four days in the embrace of death. Then Christ comes: in the light of open day, and when the house is full of officious friends and visitors. He carries them all with him as spectators: Lazarus was a man of note: the tomb was in the very suburbs of Jerusalem: spies of the Priests were watching all around him. There is no concealment, no charge to keep back the report, but a miracle was there wrought more stupendous than any that had preceded it. It was the last public miracle: the last appeal to the people to believe in him if not for his own sake for the works' sake which he did. And the report of it was followed by a desperate resolve: immediately, the rulers met in secret conclave, and determined according to the voice of Caiphas that this dangerous man must live no longer. Shortly after Jesus sat at meat, with the living Lazarus beside him, and Martha serving, and Mary lavishing on his feet the perfume of her gratitude, the plans were matured. And in a few days followed the purchase of Judas, the apprehension, the sentence of Pilate & the cross, and the martyr lamb was sacrificed once and for all.
Little did the sisters know of the almost unprecedented benefit that was in store for them, that they would be known as "women who recd their dead raised to life again. They thought only of the sorrow that had desolated their own hearts and homes: they did not know that this sickness was an eventful circumstance in the history of the world's redemption. They saw but a little way: a cruel blow dealt to helpless women: but presently when they showed at the foot of the cross, amid its thick darkness, a flash of light illuminated the path just trodden. Lazarus died as the Saviour said for the glory of God & that the Son of God would be glorified thereby: that the Son of man might in restoring Lazarus to life furnish the last and most unquestioned argument for his pretensions: they saw then that when he bade Lazarus come forth, it was signing his own sentence to occupy the vacated sepulchre: and that the ointment which they rendered to him as a king, was but the decent arraying in anticipation of one devoted to the tomb. And oh my heaven, how much must they have blamed themselves for the selfishness of the grief: for spending all their tears on Lazarus & on themselves, while they had none for Him, who was marching calmly on to be insulted and wounded to agonize & to die!
Behold then Brethren the folly of all our reproaches against Divine Providence! All complain most when mercy is preparing to do for us her utmost work. And think too of this: that our fortunes stand not alone and disconnected: that the little fibre of our life is inextricably woven into the web of providence which envelopes all creation from everlasting to everlasting. Oh could the veil be taken from our eyes, and the end be seen from the beginning, could we see [discern] the ground scheme which pervades the universe and our own connections with it, we would marvel at the goodness which performs the great while yet it does not sacrifice the small, which while moving to a world's redemption, pauses to wipe away a mortal's tears: we should wonder with trembling and alarm, that we ever dared to venture an opinion or a wish our suggest our own claims & pretensions amid these solemn procedures that are around us: yes, our comfort & discomfort, our good and ill, would shrink into inappreciable insignificance, and all the fabric of present interest would fade as a shadow out of sight, in view of the momentous and far reaching things of eternity, to which these are tributary and subordinate.
Brethren, let this history persuade us never to repine or to reproach our maker. These clamors & complaints of ours, what are they but the lamentation of a child who has lost his toy and is displeased that men are heedless of his cry, when the earth is rocking & yawning beneath his feet, and ancient [unclear] are trembling into ruin: when a moment's true or single word is saving a soul from death, while the sea is strewn with gallant man, battling for life, or sinking by hundreds into watery darkness.
Oh if we have faith in God: if we can discern the mysteries of life & death, and heaven & hell, then we can practice holy moderation: we can rejoice as tho we rejoiced not: and weep as tho' we wept not: and the maddest laughter shall cease & the coldest grief be suspended, while we see war in heaven & war on earth. Christ yet battles with Apollyon & souls that never die, ransomed or destroyed.
But we are to consider the text specially
3.) As the exclamation of the Elder Sister.
Martha has been previously mentioned in the sacred narrative, and we are not without a distinct idea of her character. Her excellence was that she was energetic, orderly, industrious: this was her vocation: she still served after Lazarus was raised: her fault that she permitted herself to be unduly concerned [with] the little things of life. hence our Lord's rebuke to her for being "troubled & careful about many things."
Once she had been disquieted about household cares: but in this heavy trial, how vain & useless seemed all such disquiet. Once she came to the Master with the complaint "Carest thou not that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me", but now hers is the sadder lamentation "Lord , if thous hadst been here, my brother had not died". Oh how evident is the folly of these vexing thoughts, these anxious cares, these murmurs against brethren for petty neglects & wrongs. When bye and bye a real sorrow comes, a calamity worthy of the name, how self-condemned do we feel, how astonished as we remember our former complainings. How just a retribution does it seem that on us who have murmured when no real sorrow was, should come a sorrow worthy to be lamented. And see too, how this fault brought its consequences. Mary needed only sympathy & comfort: but Martha whose spirit had failed to catch the heavenly calm of her master's, still argues and replies, and has need to be instructed & admonished. And even at the grave, she resists her Lord's command & questioned the wisdom of his direction to roll away the stone. Brethren: let us cultivate a cheerful spirit: let us resolutely put down the morbid griefs & troubles which spring up when in fact the Lord is dealing mercifully with us. Let us save our tears and our lamentations until ther is an occasion worthy of them. And all this leads us back to the chief thought we could impress upon you. Christ's absence in Man's trouble is the grief that is absolutely insupportable. We should learn from the experience of the past never to murmur but to deem all things prosperous, even tho' we are left to serve alone, if only Christ is near. And in the future, our single anxiety should be this "leave me not neither forsake me O God my salvation".
It has often been said of the Lord's prophet, "he doth not prophecy good concerning me, but evil". But of a truth the future which we are commissioned to reveal, is first that which men choose it shall be. Say ye to the righteous it shall be well with them: sickness may come & disappointment. Sorrow may come and weary troubles: but if you have chosen the good part, it shall not be taken from you: if you have followed the good shepherd, he will seek you, when you seem lost upon the mountains & enveloped in midnight darkness. But it is not so with those [who] know not Christ. Brethren: it is woe unto you in whose dwellings, in whose plans, in whose hearts Christ hath no place. In vain may you spend all you care upon the seething chauldrun [sic] of your wordly business, & shred into it the prime of your youth, the [unclear] of your intellect, the energies of your will. When the work is over & the time to enjoy shall have arrived, you will cry in horror O true prophet! O man of God, there is death in the pot.
In vain may you persuade yourselves that religion brings men under restraint & abridges their self-indulgence, in vain may Christ be deemed an unwelcome guest, because they who love him would draw all things to him & in his presence forget all lesser matters. You may make the experiment: the result is sure. Awhile he may stand aloof, and you may not deplore his absence. But the evil days shall come: the days when life shall seem emptied of its pleasures: the days when the mistakes of youth shall be matured & show their fruit: the days when irrelgion, that [book torn]: mortals deem so [unclear] , when mere [book torn] carelessness of God, thoughtlessness of Christ, shall produce their just results upon yourselves and upon those for whom you were accountable. And then how lamentable the cry of a conviction too late to redeem the error. Lord if thou hadst been here! While the sob of a broken heart fills out the exclamation! Brethren: Even now he stands at the door & knocks. If you would avert death from your homes & [unallevable] sorrow from your hearts open unto him, that he may come to you quickly and abide with you always.
And in my prosperity I said I shall never be removed: thou, Lord, of thy goodness hast made my hill so strong. Thou didst turn thy face from me and I was troubled. Then cried I unto thee O Lord and got me to my Lord right humbly.
Assembled as we are today, at the call of the President of this government, to recognize the over-ruling of almighty God, and by humiliation and prayer to invoke his benediction, we are led to remember that this is not the only occasion on which we have thus assembled.
On the first of the fast-days, the 13th of last June and for some time thereafter appointed by the Executive, the sunlight of prosperity seemed to shine upon our heads: and the mount whereon was newly planted the banner of a free people, was strong in our estimation. On the part of our enemies we saw divided counsels, military incompetency, a contempt of all the arts of conciliation by which a nation may strengthen itself at home and abroad. And as events rapidly succeeded each other, as the huzza of victory resounded over the land from the bloody plain of Manassas, to the not less-hard fought field of Oak Stills as we saw the sympathies of the world mysteriously and increasingly diverted from our foes, as we saw at the last of that haughty enemy compelled to humble itself to a foreign power, we felt assured that the Lord was on our side, and they who would do us wrong were fighting against him. Perhaps we were over confident: we said in our prosperity it shall never be removed, thou Lord of thy goodness hast made my hill strong. But today our hearts are heavy and our faces sad: for God hath hid his face from us and we are troubled. Unmanly regrets and childish fears are worse than useless. Let us look reverendly [sic] & yet boldly into the mysterious page of God's providence. And oh that we and all the people of this land may be led in this time of gloom and fear, to do that which David did in his hour of darkness. "Then cried I unto thee O Lord and gat [sic] me to my Lord right humbly". Then may we hope that He will turn our heaviness into joy: that He will put off our sackcloth and gird us with gladness. But Brethren, while we do not conceal let us not exaggerate our calamities. The enemy has gained a footing upon our sea-coast, ravaged some fair lands, and blocked up our harbours--But as yet not a single port of importance has fallen into his hands. The mighty army of the Potomac still stands erect before his capitol and he dares not assault its legions. Sad as are our reverses in Kentucky they are very far from being irretrievable or fatal. As yet the defences of the Mississippi are not broken down: as yet this army which stands at our own doors, and which has brought ruin and sorrow to our friends, has only commenced its career. To assure that it will sweep like a flood, carrying all before it to the very waters of the gulf were to do injustice to the brave hearts and strong arms rallied for our protection.
Take away then that which is only a matter of fear and apprehension., estimate that evil only which has actually come upon us, and we must see that though real, it is far, very far from irreparable. But it will assist us still further in forming a just estimate of our affairs to consider those things which have not changed for the worse. Our people and our soldiers have not changed. The fires of patriotism are not quenched: the military genius hath not died: the soul of valour doth not slumber. We look with deepest sorrow, yet without shame, or mortification upon our defeats: for even there, no unmanly weakness no craven panic disgraced our arms: but brave men looked death calmly in the face and yielded only when it were folly to protract the strife.
The right of our cause is still the same: nay it shines brighter as time goes on. Slowly and painfully, with wounded hearts and tearful eyes did many accept the sad necessity of surrendering ancient ties: but now it is clear as the blessed light of heaven, that in justice to ourselves, to our dependents, to our posterity we must maintain our independence. The alternative is a social degradation, a submission to despotic rule, a destruction of all our institutions, to which death itself were preferable.
The conduct of this war has not changed. It began a war of aggression: it is aggressive still. It began in barbarism; it has been prosecuted in reckless disregard of every principle of humanity and of all the alleviations to the horrors of war, which the nations has learned from the religion of Christ. It has warred not only upon armed men, but upon the tottering forms of the aged and upon the tender helplessness of women. Arson and rapine, plunder and insurrection, treachery and espionage have been its favorite implements--The flames of peaceful dwellings, the outcries of insulted women the [plaint] of the helpless and houseless, the moans of captives incarcerated on mere suspicion, these are the sights and these the sounds wherewith this grim Moloch delights his Soul. And Brethren God has not changed. He sees all these things: he notes them in the book of his remembrance. He is indignant as ever at the blood-thirst and cruelty, the impiety toward God and the inhumanity towards men which have characterized this brutal war. He is careful of his saints: we who look to him and trust in him are ever in his sight. The very hairs of our head are numbered, and in [unclear] his own time he will make inquisition for blood.
Assuredly when we consider all these things, no room is left for despairing thoughts. Nothing has yet transpired to blast our hopes of the country's safety, & we must not so much as fear that God will give over this fair land to the spoiler, this people who [unclear] would live at peace to the tender mercies of the cruelty. It is not the mere throb of patriotic devotion to this land of the South which forbids us to despond: but the purer impulses of Christian faith inspires us to believe that this people shall never, never be enthralled, degraded, or surrendered as a prey to the greed and lust of our ungenerous and implacable foe.
But why then doth God hide his face from us, and eve for a time permit the foe to triumph over us?
The Christian is at no loss to answer this question, for he has been accustomed to read the history of God's dealings with nations and individuals: he knows full well that it is no new thing for God to hide his face from the people of his love, and to give temporary success to the unjust and the vindictive.
All know for instance that God is a jealous God: very jealous of his own honor, most indignant when men trust in the creature rather than the creator. When the axe boasteth itself against him that [unclear] , or the Saw against him that shaketh it, when men take sounsel but not of him, when they lean on Earthly alliances, trust in human leaders, in munitions of war, in the strength of forts, or even in the abstract justice of a cause, God is justly incensed. He intends that we shall know and feel that He is God and none else: a God no afar off, but one with whom we have to do: not only the God of creation but the God of providence directly ordering every, even the most trivial event: a God who heareth prayer and unto whom all flesh must come into its necessity. When therefore we forget our dependence on him, when we sequester him in our thought from direct control in all human affairs, he seldom fails to withdraw his favor, and thus force us to our knees. When we are weak then are we strong. When we realize that it is God who teacheth our hands to war and our fingers to fight, then shall the walls of the fenced city yield to a trumpet's blast, and the sling of the shepherd boy overmatch Goliath & his armour. Brethren, we need this lesson. We often hear quoted with approbation the infidel saying that God's blessing goes with the heaviest artillery. We are boastful of our chivalry and prowess, and have uttered many haughty words. Let us cry mightily unto God, and get us to our Lord right humbly: for now 'O Lord thou art our Father: we are the clay and thou our potter and we are all the work of thy hand. Be not wroth very sore O Lord, neither remember iniquity for ever behold, see, we beseech thee for we are all thy people.
It is matter of great consolation to Christian hearts that our government has so distinctly and reverendly [sic] acknowledged that we are thus helpless and impotent without the wisdom which cometh from above and the help which God can give. But let us not barely confess this with our lips: let us stir up our hearts to grasp it and to plead it. And tho' the night be stormy, our cry for help shall be wafted over the wild waters, and he who [unclear] is in the Sea shall come to our relief. But again, God often uses the arms of the wicked to punish his people for the abounding sins. The Philistine invaded the land, the Canaanite enthrals [sic] the people, the King of Babylon carries them away captive; God gives them the bitter bread of affliction and plenteousness [sic] of tears to drink, until Ephraim taught by trouble begins to [unclear] upon his breast and to repent him of his iniquities.
And we Brn. are far from being an immaculate people. Whatever may be the virtues characteristic of the Southern people, and these I would not disparage, their sins are manifest and open. With so many evidences of the insolence of wealth, and the excesses of luxury, of impatience under the restraints of law, and mean revenge sanctified by the tilles [sic] of horror; with the oaths and execrations which have become almost our vernacular language, and the very general absence of a just Sense of responsibility in view of the peculiarities of our social system, we cannot dare to claim that we are a godly people.
For these and other sins we believe that God is scourging us now. Our negligences and our vices cry out against us. It may be that we must pass through the very depths of trouble, before the land can be purged of the abominations which have offended they eyes of a Holy God. There a [sic] numerous reasons why God should hide his face from us, some of which we can barely indicate. You remember he put out the nations of Canaan by little & little before Israel, not all at once--lest said he the beasts of the field increase upon you. A sudden success and uninterrupted prosperity must cause evils to spring us among ourselves greater than those from which we are lately emancipated. National insolence and bravado, have been signally characteristic of our late common government of the U. S. Perhaps God is preparing us to act a kindlier and more modest part in the great fraternity of nations.
Our American system, borrowing many ideas from infidel France, affected an independence of the individual, an exaggeration of each [page torn] man's rights which could result only in anarchy and licentiousness. We have held that the voice of the people is the voice of God: that offices are for the benefit of individuals, that the people are sovereign and rulers, their servants bound to flatter than to govern. We have seen a sedulous desire to teach the working classes that the rich and the educated are their natural enemies.
Wise men of other countries foretold that all this must end in despotism alternating with anarchy: in fanaticism, licentiousness, infidelity. But we jested at their fears.
Perhaps in warning to the world this tree is permitted to mature its fruit, and we must grind their apples of Sodom between our teeth, that we may learn to fear God and to reverence the law.
It is then, dear friends, for good & wise reasons that we are permitted to experience some measure of disaster and defeat. But let us remember, his anger endureth but for a moment Christ in his favor is life. Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.
Today a sorrowing nation bows before God: saintly men & women get them right humbly to their Lord, entreating him to break the power of the adversary, and to bless us as he hath been wont to bless.
He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, we have not so much as heard whether be any Holy Ghost.
It is very beautiful to observe some persons favored with but little religious knowledge and few religious opportunities, do yet feel after God, if haply they may find him, and hold fast the little they have learned about him. Like flowers planted in the dark, they yearn towards the light, and eagerly drink in the slender rays which may chance to fall upon them.
Of this character were the disciples whom St. Paul found at Ephesus. They knew only what John the Baptist had been able to tell them of the duty of repentance and of a Messiah was at hand, of the great plan of redemption, and of the help it offers to feeble man they were ignorant. Hence St. Paul's inquiry into their religious knowledge, and his pains to instruct them, before he caused them to be baptized and laid his hands upon them in confirmation.
It is to be feared Brn. that there is much ignorance, much heresy in relation to the doctrine of Holy Ghost. It is to be feared that many in this Christian land know not so much as whether there be any H. G. or no. and there is reason for this ignorance. God the Father is visible in his works & in providential dealings palpable to sense. It is hard not to believe in God the Father. And God the Son has once shared our humanity, and dwelt among us: he has an earthly history and has done mighty works which carry their own evidence with them. It is hard to disbelieve God the Son. But the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of God: an awful, mysterious Spirit, whose sway is over the spirit of man. Sometimes indeed he has come in visible appearance: for one moment he lighted as a dove upon the head of the son of man; and for another he sat in [unclear] tongues of fire upon the heads of Apostolic men: in early days miraculous gifts and utterances attested to his presence. But now he is as the wind of Heaven, mighty, irresistible, ever-breathing life and power, but secret and viewless. His work is seen, not in the ocean's dash, the shining star, the springing [corn?], but in the gentle heaving of a softened heart, the mild radiance of a Christian temper, the saintly deeds of unobtrusive piety. It is hard to disbelieve the Father and the Son, for evident fact and history are in our way. But incredulity touching the H. G. is easy, because He is a Spirit & must be spiritually discovered. The purely sensuous man knows nothing and cares as little, whether there be a H. G. or no. He cannot even see what difference it makes. He has some notion that he needs a Father to provide for him, and a Saviour to speak in his behalf, but ignorant of the plague of his heart, he seeks little of a H. Gh. whose office is to cleanse and sanctify the heart of man.
But Brn, in order to be saved, you must know and receive the Holy Ghost. Belief in him is as essential as belief in the Son. We cannot be saved unless in baptism we profess our belief in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. And except we be born of water and of the H. G. we cannot see the Kingdom of God. Let us then persuade you to know and to receive the H. G.
1. The knowledge of the H. G.
It becomes us to know that the H. G. is a person--not a thing, an influence, or a name for God's operation with man: but a real Person, possessed of intelligence and will, which are the attributes of personality. A Person is one who can understand what we say, and answer us: who can agree or deny: One who has a being and character of his own. You can readily see the wide difference between those who think of the H. G. as person, and those who think of God's Spirit, as they do of God's goodness, as a mere abstraction or attribute. Now upon this point we need be at no loss. Our Saviour always spoke of the H. G. as a person. He spoke of Him as the Comforter whom he would send: and is careful to call him another Comforter like to himself. The burden of his last discourse is chiefly this, that it was expedient for them that he should go away and yield the guidance of the church on Earth to another Comforter, who should abide with us fore ever. This Comforter should testify of him, should guide them into all truth, should teach them all things bring to their remembrance all that Christ had Taught them: he was to convince the world of sin of righteousness & of judgement. In fire he was to be to the disciples and to the world forever, just the same personal guide, teacher, friend & comforter that our Lord was during his personal ministry. Presently we see the Spirit assuring this office, descending on the day of Pentecost and filling all hearts and tongues with power. When Ananias sinned, he lied to the H. G. It was the H. G. that said separate me Barrabas & Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. When the Apostles legislate for the Church, they say "It seemed good to the H. G. and to us. We read that the Sirit searcheth all things, yea even the deaf things of God. the Spirit bestows all heavenly gifts dividing to every man severally as he will, giving to one a gift after this manner and to another after that. We have cited but a portion of the [unclear] learning on the point: but remembering these, and adding to these the solemn truth that to blaspheme the Holy Ghost is a sin unpardonable in this world and in that which is to come, you must see plainly that the H. G. is a person: an intelligence with whom we have to do. It is a grief to hear people speak of the Blessed Spirit as it. Not so the Saviour. He shall come: He shall speak: He shall glorify me. Let us then be wiser than these converts at Ephesus and know that there is a Holy Ghost: a real person who perceives and wills and acts--and supplies to the Church on earth the place left vacant by our Lord's ascension into heaven.
2. The Holy Ghost is a Divine Person
This is implied in what has already been adduced; Verily I say unto you, all manner of sin & blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but blasphemy against the H. G. shall not be forgiven unto men, and whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him, but whosoever speaketh against the H. G. it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. Here you see the Divinity of the H. G. is hedged about by sanctions peculiarly imposing. The H. G. is even more jea;lous of his honor than is the Father or the Son. Again, in the well known baptismal formula baptizing is the name of the F, S, & H. Ghost, and in the benediction "the grace of our Lord J. X &c.", we find the H. G. associated with the other persons of the Trinity. Imagine the name of an Archangel inserted instead and the impropriety is manifest. None but a Divine person can be thus mentioned with the F. & the Son. Ananias, said Peter, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the H. G. And presently, thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And yet a little after, how is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord. Putting these together, it was God the H. G. against whom he chiefly sinned.
Creative power is attributed to him. For the Spirit of God moved or brooded upon the waters and warmed chaos into life. Omnipotence is ascribed to Him, not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, sayeth the L. G. He whose Bible is full of prophesies of the victories to be won by this spirit when poured forth upon all flesh. Omniscience is ascribed to Him. The spirit searcheth all things, yea the deep things of God, the things of God knoweth no man, but the spirit of God. and in general he displays the power of Godhead in the offices he ministers to us, for his sway is over the empire of mind: all hearts are in his power, and all the triumphs of the truth attest the greatness of his might.
3. It becomes us to know that the H. G. is that person of the Trinity, who specially guides and teaches the Church on earth.
In the wonderful plan derived for the redemption of our race, all the persons of the Godhead write and concur. And yet in the unfathomable wisdom each person each person assures his own share in the grand design. Thus in Old Testament days, while the H. S. was not absent, and while the Son often appeared as the angel of God's presence. It is the Father who is chiefly revealed to us, making his covenant with faithful men, and announcing his holy law. And then the Son of God steps forth to our view, & for 33 years he walks in our midst, preparing the sacrifice for man's sins, and accomplishing his victory over death and hell. And then he tells his disciples it is expedient for you that I go away and send the comforter, who shall abide with you always. He points them to this comforter as the future guide of the Church below. They need not premeditate what to say in hours of trial: in that same hour the H. G. should tell them what to say. He should remind them of truths forgotten, and quicken into life what they coldly know. By him miracles should be wrought, [gainsayers] convinced, and saints knit together in love & faith. And for this reason, the apostles were not permitted to enter upon their work, but tarried at Jerusalem until the promised comforter descended visibly from heaven and assumed this sacred charge.
It is thus under the immediate dispensation of the Spirit that we live. X from his mediatorial throne governs all the universe. The Spirit here below guides and rules the Church. And the economy will continue until the end of Time. Then the Spirit shall finish his holy office and return to the bosom of God. then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, and God & the economy of grace being fulfilled shall be all in all.
Such brn. is the plain teachings of holy S. We owe all our blessings to the mercy of the Father, thro' the mediation of X, by the ministering of the H. S. the Holy Spt is that person of the Trinity who stands next [to] us, and whose hand ministers to us the holy gifts of God the F. & the Son. Under his sanction and blessing, the foolishness of preaching becomes mighty thro' God to the conversion of sinful souls. A few drops of water with his blessing became to us the sacrament of regeneration: they laying on of mortal hands a conveyance of the gift of God. every holy [unclear] , every [unclear] deed, every triumph of the church, every successful struggle with temptation is the gift and deed of the H. S. of God, who abideth with us and shall be in us.
If this be so, how much emphasis is there in the [unclear] --Quench not the Spt--Grieve not the H. S. of God whereby ye are sealed unto the Day of redemption. Wo to the world if his sacred fires be quenched: wo to the soul of man if the gentle dove of peace and healing be grieved & driven away.
Thus for touching the knowledge of the H. G. And now we come to the very solemn enquiry [sic] "have ye received the H. G."? a very awful enquiry [sic] it is, because if any man have not the spirit of X, he is none of his [unclear] . The H. G. is the author of all religious convictions. If left to ourselves you and I would have no thought of heaven and hell, no sorrow for our ungodliness. Unmoved by the spirit of God, we are as incapable of all religious sensibility as a brute on a stone. In this sense, every one of you has recd the H. G., everyone without exception. No man can lay his hand upon his heart and say the spirit has never called me. How often has he stirred the secret chords of your heart! [unclear] a sense of the vanity of all things earthly has stolen over you and your spirit has yearned for goodness--that was the motion of the H. G. When the sweetness & beauty of some dear word of the Gospel have persuaded your mind, and you have looked longingly to the altar where others went to ask God's blessing, that was the brooding of the gentle dove. When in the bitterness of grief you have cried, Oh that God wd [sic] condescend to comfort me, that was the drawing of the Holy One.
Let no transgression say that he has not recd the H. G. in his awakening and convincing influences--but rather let him assume the blame of grieving away, Him who knocked so earnestly & besought so pleadingly. As he remembers how thoroughly he has at times been aroused, let him cry
Oh madder than the raving man
Oh deafer than the sea.
How long the time since X began
To call in vain on me.
He Called me when my manly prime was fully ripe to gin,
I ran from folly on to crime
And yet he called me still
Methinks, dear friends, he calls you even now. If this day, a holy thought has been stirred within you: if you have tempted to bow down meekly & take up a cross of duty, you have recd. in one sense, the H. G. Oh let it not be said to you, as Stephen said to the Jews, "Ye stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart & ears, ye do always resist the H. G."
B. But have ye recd the Holy Ghost in his converting influences? This alas! is a question not so easily answered. And yet except ye he converted & become as little children, ye can in no [way] enter unto the Kingdom of heaven. For the Spirit convinces in order to conversion--if we improve the one gift, the other follows. And by conversion the Bible means not any momentary experience, but a real conversion or turning about of the feelings and purposes of the heart. Have you been fully persuaded that you are a sinner--a grievous sinner--justly condemned to die--with no excuse to offer, with no means to make atonement, with no power to turn yourself and do better? Have you been led to adopt David's words & to say "my sins have taken such hold upon me that I am not able to look up: they are more in number than the hairs of my head & my heart hath failed me"?
Have you been persuaded to go to the cross and there to lay all your sins upon the Lamb of God; pleading for pardon upon the one only ground that he has suffered in your stead and died for you? Have you with fervent importunity besought him to answer for you and to interpose his all-sufficient merits between your prior guilty soul & deserved punishment? Have you there at his cross solemnly removed every cherished sin, cheerfully accepted every appointed crop, and earnestly moved by God's help to submit meekly to the discipline of the Gospel & of the church? These are grave questions and plain ones. Pray God that you may not be deceived, and if there be any doubt about it, make all sure by a reverend consecration of yourself to God. for you may be a man of much infirmity, yet if your heart condemns you not--if you can truly say, God knows my great desire and purpose is to please my master and to be like him, then have you indeed recd the H. G.
4. Have you recd the H. G. in his sanctifying influences.
For brn, He does not cease from his office when we are converted to God. He makes us Christians first--and then he makes us saintly Christians. He gives us life from the dead, and we are born again as babes in X. and then he nourishes and feeds us so that we grow up into full-grown men in X J. We begin with faith, and by faith are justified. And then we add to faith, virtue, patience and all the Xian graces. Oh the Church sorely needs for her work, saintly people, not barely justified, but devout men full of the H. G. and of faith. Say, dear brn, have you advanced in Christ-like character and in saintly tempers? Have you become proficient in the school of X[?] Did you rest contented with the exercise of living faith, or have ye recd the H. G. since ye believed?
5. Have ye recd the Holy Ghost specially as a comforter?
The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace; he calms the vexed spirit, enables us to serve God with a quiet mind, imparts spiritual consolation and delight. I speak not of ecstacies [sic] and transports or of any extravagance of sensibility. But do you know anything of that spiritual calm which soothes the wound of a broken heart? Do you know anything of that calm, solemn joy with which Christ's child exclaims "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine"? do you know what it is to wake up in the night and to have sweet thoughts of good angels hovering around you, and a blessed Saviour watching over you, and a glorious heaven a little way beyond? Have you proved the sweetness of that experience? Call thy burden on the Lord & he will sustain thee & comfort thee. I know that in this matter, temperament has much to do, but in general, we ought habitually to receive the H. G. as a comforter. And I think that if we were more scrupulous in our behaviour, more instant in our prayer, more given to holy meditations, we shd know what it is to joy in God. we should be able to say of X. whom having not seen we love, and in whom tho' now we see him not, yet believe. We rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
6. Have you recd the H. G. in his official gifts?
For these are gifts which he conveys to us only thro' the channels of the Holy Church.
There is a special gift in baptism. By one spirit says St. Paul we are all baptized into one body. We see only the minister and the candidate, St. Paul says. The Spirit is present and he baptizes thro' the minister. In baptism he bestows the gift of adoption, of [unclear] , of election into the family of God. we may so improve there, that our conversion shall be only the voluntary choice of the God with whom we have walked since children. in confirmation he fits upon us the armour necessary in our Xian warfare.
In the Holy Communion he sanctifies to us the elements of bread and wine, so that they become to faithful souls the communion of the body and blood of X. Alas brn, we need all the help God offers us. While we value highly the gifts which come to us by prayer, by reading, by hearing, let us value and seek also the sacramental gifts. We cannot live without them, altho' we cannot live long then, when other gifts are absent.
Let the baptized ask in confirmation a double portion of the spirit & let the confirmed seek out the holy [unclear] that flesh which is meat indeed & that blood which is drink indeed.
Have you recd the H. G.? A solemn enquiry [sic] even in this world. How much more if it be propounded as the test by which in the last day X's sheep shall be distinguished.
I never knew anything about the H. G. [A] lamentable confession in this our day of grace, but oh how offensive a reply to the F. & the S. who sent him down to your relief.
Come down to us O Holy Dove! Expel each intruder from our hearts! Bring to us long lossed dreary waters the olive branch of peace, and gather us helpless orphans, beneath thy wings, till every tyranny be overpast [sic]!
[NOTE: the capital X is a symbol used by Lay to designate the name of Christ]. K. Ray
Some persons of timid and uninstructed conscience have doubted at times whether the profession of arms is compatible with a just regard to the spirit and the precepts of our holy religion. But the well weighed and mature judgement [sic] of Christians has very generally affirmed the position assured by the Church of England in one of her articles "It is lawful for Xn men at the commandment of the magistrate to wear weapons and to serve in wars".
The clearest proof of this proposition is found in the [unclear] of soldiers mentioned in the N. T. For instance John the Baptist that stern and faithful preacher, received soldiers to his baptism, and admonished them not to forsake their called, but to resist its peculiar temptations to injustice and complaint. "Do violence to no man," he said "neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages."
The centurion, or Roman captain whose servant our Lord healed is represented as a man of lovely religious character. Many came to our Saviour to procure healing for their children: but this is the only one we know of who sought this benefit for a servant. Such was his humility and so just were his concessions of Christ's power and goodness as to win from our Lord that singular commendation. "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." That is, this Gentile soldier had a livelier, clearer faith than God's most favored people.
The instance mentioned in the text is equally striking. When the privileged of the church hitherto confirmed to one people, were to be offered to all nations, Almighty God designated a soldier as the first Gentile to whom the Gospel should be preached and Holy Baptism administered. He is described as "a devout man": he made faithful use of those three private means of grace which our Lord commends to us in the Sermon on the Mount, prayer, alms and fasting: "he gave much alms to the people and prayed to God always". He "was fasting" when the angel appeared to him and bade him send for Peter. And his influence pervaded those around him. He "feared God with all his house": "a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually" was his messenger to Joppa. His kinsmen and near friends were blessed through him, for on all of them the H. G. did fall.
When we remember moreover that the O. T. worthies are Moses and Joshua, Samuel and David were warrior Saints, as famed for their valour as for other virtues, we have abundant illustration of the truth that the pulses of the Christian heart may beat calmly and earnestly beneath the breast plate of the warrior.
It may be that some one of tender conscience still enquires, how are these things to be reconciled our religion breathes always the accents of gentleness and peace. It forbids bloodshed and violence: it tells us not to resist inquiry and wrong: it bids us love your enemies and pray for them which despite fully use you and persecute you. It sets out for our imitation the sublime example of One, the most cruelly sinned against and outraged of all the martyrs, whose last breath was expended in the entreaty "Father forgive!"
Does it not seem a contradiction for use with the memories of Calvary in my mind, and the cross, badge of patience signed upon my brow, to uplift the weapon of violence against a fellow creature, and to crimson my hands with the blood of the stranger? To this we answer, that the spirit of revenge, the love of bloodshed, the redressing of individual wrongs at the expense of human life, is expressly forbidden by the precepts of the Gospel. That is no Christian warrior who delights in carnage and who is animated by hate and malevolence.
There are three cases, and I believe only three, in which it is lawful for men to destroy life viz, in self defense, in the protection of the helpless, and at the mandate of the civil power.
We may destroy life in self-defense: for this is a right secured by the law of nature, confirmed expressly by the law of Moses And in nowise taken away by our Saviour. He bids us submit to injuries, but then he specifies the sort of injuries: a buffet on the cheek, the robbery of a garment or such a matter, the imposition of a mile or two of travel--He does not exact passive submission when the injury proffered is a deadly blow, a desolation of home and substance, a shameful and prolonged violation of personal liberty. Manliness is a part of our religion, and he is no true man who does not defend the life and liberty which God has given him against the violence of the wicked.
The protection of the helpless is not only a right, but a sacred duty. Our religion is not all mercy: it is justice as well as mercy. God himself prompts that generous wrath and indignation, that honest uprising of the soul which good men feel, in the view of pride insulting over helplessness and brute power grinding the faces of the innocent. As Moses smote the Egyptian and delivered his oppressed brother, so is it the duty of every Christian man to oppose the protection of his strong arm between the helpless and the oppressor.
We may also bear arms at the commandment of the magistrate. The Bible everywhere speaks of the civil authority as being God's representative: to it is committed the power of life and death for the preservation of the social order & for the terror of evildoers, and he beareth not the sword in vain. Without this right to arm its citizens, Society would lie at the mercy of the reprobate: and when Summoned by its authority, the citizen acquires a new character. He is no longer a private man repelling private injuries, but becomes an official of the State, acting under its authority, obeying its mandates and not his own wishes.
We cannot indeed conceive that a Christian man should for revenge or for anger add one pang to the mass of human suffering, or shorten one life brief and sorrowful enough at best. But it is entirely consistent with our Sense of right and with the teaching of our holy faith that a man of gentlest nature and tenderest sensibilities, a man the freest from hate and rancour, the fullest of kindness and forbearance, shall yet in a case of inevitable self-defense, or to ward off injury from those who look to him for aid, or at the Solemn Summons of the country which has given him birth, shall assume the character of the stern warrior, and smite fiercely until the aggressor desists from his injury.
Every conscientious man, my Hearers, ought to define to himself the grounds on which he acts in any serious matter: should be able to give a rational and religious account of his conduct. And surely it is enough for the Confederate Soldier to rest upon the principles just laid down. He need not enter into speculation as to the nature of government, or touching the origin and causes of the war. It presents itself as a practical matter--what is my duty under God to myself, my neighbors and my country?
Yours is the plea of self-defense. You stand on your soil, next your own hearth-stones, to repel the invasion, not to make aggression. The enemy is here, at your doors in hot and angry pursuit of those who would live at peace; his firebrands are scattered along your border, and the course of the beautiful river may be traced in the darkness by the flame of his incendiary fires. If conquered you are reft of property, reduced to social degradation, nay robbed even of your conscience: for submission is not accepted unless you will add perjury to obedience, Swearing Such oaths and praying such prayers as the conqueror shall dictate. The only mercy for you is the base liberty to crawl dishonored on the earth, and to breathe the common air, so long as you mould into voices that will displease your masters.
You are fighting for the helpless. In this war there are none of these alleviations which knightly courtesy and Christian kindness had grafted on the barbarism of the past. The unarmed citizen is driven from his home and [unclear] in the felon's cell. The man of grey hairs and tottering steps is insulted and jeered, while the torch is applied to his unoffending habitation. The poor widow is surprised as she labours for the bread of her children, and sees every domestic animal slain, every implement of husbandry destroyed that she may be reduced to starvation: and this not occasionally and by a few soldiers, but Systematically and by orders from the Supreme authority. Every where throughout our land, innocent and helpless people are weeping bitterest tears, and with hands upraised to heaven exclaim how long O Lord shall the ungodly triumph: how long shall the enemy do me this dishonor! And you under God are their vindicators and protectors.
Nor would I forget another class of helpless persons in whose defence [sic] you stand forth. I mean our negroes. That is a low and ignoble view of unworthy of any Christian Southerner, which would regard them as mere animals for labour to be bartered in for profit. There is a nobler sentiment among the good men of the Old Dominion, and of other states as well. They are an inferior race committed to our guardianship by divine providence for our mutual benefit. They are members of our families, Sharers in our Sustenance, often the affectionate nurses of our children, faithful watchers by our beds of Sickness. In prosperous times we have reaped the avails of their labour: now we are called to render them their due, and to protect them against the Seductions of the of the crafty, and the refined cruelty of those who first tempt them to betray their masters and then in their distress reply "what is that to us" and leave them to perish.
Alas! how brave they died of want by thousands in every fence corner near their dismantled homes, or shivered and frozen beneath the cold charities of a Northern sky! What ruin of body and soul awaits them, when they exchange kind masters for pretended friends--Leaving all other considerations apart, this one alone seems decisive of our duty. This war is in a true and holy sense a war for the negro: and we would be false and craven if we did not stand forth in defence of our dependents and preserve them from demoralization and extermination. But chiefly, my friends, you are fighting for your country, and that word comprehends all. The commandment of the magistrate or civil power is entitled to be reverenced and obeyed. Its enlistment or commission invests you with rights which a private man has not--Among the Romans it was considered infamous for a man to smite an enemy before he had taken the sacramentum [sic] or military oath: and the public law of later times affirms the principle teaching that while private persons may snatch up arms to defend their homes in case of sudden invasion, none is competent to make war who has not been delegated by the sovereign power and sworn to obey its wishes.
You can readily See how necessary this is to lift war above the level of personal malignity and private revenge. The strife becomes one of principles instead of persons. It is the public enemy you smite and not your own. This view encourages a loftiness and generosity of sentiment along with it, and adds to valour in combat, mercifulness in victory.
It is for your country you are fighting: a fair and lovely land, too fair to be the mere convict settlement of a foreign power. A country which by its heroism and endurance, by its adherence to right and justice, by its noble refusal under every provocation to barbarize [sic] itself by imitating the outrages it has suffered, has won already a glorious name. Could our cause be overthrown tomorrow, and three brief years sum up our national history, the exile in any foreign land should never blush to own I was a soldier of the Confederacy.
I have said this much, not to Strengthen your convictions , for that it [sic] not needed: but that in the hope of assisting you to explain to yourself your own motives. Perchance my words may be recalled in some moment of Solemn interest when you are to charge upon the ranks of living men, and facing death yourselves to carry it to others. And surely it will nerve your arm and strengthen your heart to appeal to almighty God for the justice of your motives--that you strike not in wanton aggression, but for the defence of dearest rights" not to carry wo [sic] to others, but to avert it from millions of helpless brethren; not with personal malice but as the sworn soldier of an honored country.
I have urged thus far that the military profession in general, and the engagement of the Confederate soldier in particular, are entirely consistent with the Spirit and precepts of our holy religion. And now I invite tou to consider another question--what there is in your peculiar circumstances as soldiers to help and what to hinder your religious welfare? It is a practical question and deserves to be weighed.
Some circumstances are in your favor--For instance it cannot be doubted that some of you occupy a much more unselfish position than before the war. And the more elevated are a man's moral sentiments, the more capable is he of readily receiving impressions strictly religious and spiritual. Every young man preparing to enter upon the active duties of life must needs arrange his plans. Shall I remain in Virginia, for instance or remove to the West? Shall I become a farmer, a mechanic, a merchant or shall I prepare myself for one of what are called the learned professions.
Now in deciding these questions you ought to be guided mainly by the consideration that one or another of these paths seems to afford a better opportunity to serve your God and Saviour, to be extensively useful to others, and to promote your own growth in grace and godliness. This ought to be the controlling argument: for whatever inducements any other career may hold out, it will profit you nothing to gain the whole world and lose your own soul. But how few young men do this! How common is it for our youths to ask this question only, in which of these directions can I soonest get rich, or attain the most reputation, or find the most comfort and enjoyment: and to determine their actions by these considerations only or chiefly. And this when you sift it down is selfishness pure and unmitigated. I do not deny that some place may be allowed for duties to God and man, but they are entirely subordinated. Self stands first: God and man stand far below. Bodily ease, human praise, increase of wealth are the main objects of life: religion must reconcile its claims with theirs if it can. And thus many a man at the very outset of life makes the terrible mistake of setting his face in the wrong direction.
Now the war has done you good in this regard. It has enlarged the scope of your vision, and lifted you out of your petty selfishness. You have felt there is a debt greater than that due to Self. Generous ideas have invaded your minds. You have appreciated the beauty and nobleness of Self-Sacrifice. You have rallied cheerfully at your country's call. You have resigned your ambitious schemes and consented to endure the hardness while the extortioner and the laggard win the profit. If you have said world thou must not tempt me: I cannot afford to make money: flesh thou must not murmur: it is in behalf of my country that I endure the weary vigil and the sharp hunger pain. This Self-conquest is not necessarily religious in its character--it may be due to inferior motives: but you are better men for it, nobler men: your moral vision is cleared by it so that you can see something of the sublimity of Self-conquest. You are the better prepared to hear of him, that lonely chieftain Sublime in his love and in his sorrow, who undaunted Stood between the living and the dead until the plague was stayed: who stepped forth with noble boldness and stood patient while there settled on his devoted head that awful curse which would else have Sunk us body and soul in hell.
You have borne privation and losses and felt the comfort of them. You are the more accessible to the entreaty come take up the cross and follow me. And oh that this very day you may rise from this mere stepping stone of duty, to the noblest [unclear] of all: and resolve that you will live all henceforth for Christ, his Church and man's salvation.
Again--There are circumstances in your experience which tend directly to promote religious belief. Do you any of you for instance doubt the doctrine of a Special Providence now?
You have in former days perchance heard some argue that God does not concern himself with everyday matters: that the universe is like some great clock with its movements pre-arranged, wound up once for all, and interfered with only under circumstances of peculiar embarrassment. Such teachers are no longer listened to. In nothing have the people of this great nation been more unanimously agreed, than in recognizing a Supreme Providence, ever watchful, never idle, working all things according to the counsel of his will.
Standing alone and friendless among the nations we have been led to cry there is none that fighteth for us save thou only O our God--we have ascribed to him the glory of every Success, and acknowledged his chastening hand in every reverse.
All have confessed that the future is too inscrutable for us to predict. The wonderful combination of events has baffled the wisdom of the most sagacious: we have felt our littleness and insignificance as unknowing actors in a drama of wonderful incident and unknown results, and have said with one voice "if the Lord delight in us, then he will save us."
Each of you has some story of special providence to tell: each one of you has in his thought been brought face to face with God, as one on whom you are dependent and with whom you have to do. The hair-breadth escape from danger imminent, the garment peirced [sic] by balls which avoided the body, or the strange course of missiles which reached the frame, but travelled [sic] curiously as though avoiding each vital part: these and Such like things have brought Divine Providence home to your thoughts and assisted you to realize that the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
We believe that has been also much in your experience to commend to you Specially the religion of the Gospel. Yourselves exposed to dangers and trials, you need a religion of plain and familiar promises: for yourselves and for the sake of the dear ones at home you need a religion of sympathy: with little time and opportunity for close thought or severe neutral application you need a religion of certain facts and principles easily comprehended. And how do all these characters combine in the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
What a comfort it is, Christian Soldier, to be permitted to look upwards and say, "Our Father which art in heaven"--To remember that you and yours are in the hands of a merciful Saviour who sympathizes with you, who has know by personal experience what it is to hunger and to be weary, to be lonely and persecuted.
A venerable professor of divinity is reported to have said upon his dying bed "My theology is all reduced to this, that X. J. came into the world to save sinners." Ah, my friends, how have you felt that the simple scheme of redemption just meets the need of men anxious and harrassed [sic], in peril and in fear. Vain is the hope to such that they can atone for their misdeeds, and by reformation blot out transgression. That dear word come unto me all ye that travail and are heavy-laden just meets their need: and it is not hard for them to believe that if saved at all, it is as miserable and guilty sinners by the free blood, of the atonement and by the tender mercy of God in X. J.
but I must not forget that there are many things in a Soldier's life unfriendly to godliness. It is a great misfortune to see separated from home influences: these gentle us and civilize us and tent to keep us pure. Mother and wife and sisters are guardians to us, as a general rule they are more unselfish and heavenly-minded than we are. And little-children with their pure minds and loving hearts are useful preachers to us. It is a misfortune to be separated from all these.
And men gathered in large crowds are apt to become coarse and rough in manners; to lay aside the delicacy and courtesy they observe at home. Unable to avoid unseemly and blasphemous talk, they become familiarized with it and ceases to shock and offend them. Nay, one who seeks to keep himself pure, will sometimes excite prejudice and lay himself open to the charge of pride: a charge by which some seek to destroy every man who preserves his self-respect and refuses to let himself down to the level of the vicious. How necessary is it for the good soldier to guard against their influences: to resolve that under any and all circumstances he will still be the Christian gentleman, and carry back to his home a heart as pure, hands and tongue as undefiled as when he left it.
And so also of the publicity which attaches to your mode of life, and the irregularity of it, interfering so much with fixed habits of reflection and devotion. Often you have no closet to which you can retire, Save the Sanctuary of your own heart: you cannot read your bible or say your prayers without interruption and distraction. The day of rest comes with no hallowing influences, and is often occupied with week-day cares and employments that you almost lose the habit of counting it Sacred. And yet you must keep the thought of Christ and his love fresh in your heart: you must pray without ceasing, you must in heart and mind thither ascend where X has led the way--what energy of purpose, what special grace and help to enable you to resist these hindrances and to preserve a religious temper. We are all apt to think that our peculiar state of life is specially unfavorable to religious improvement: and I suppose it is hard for any one to form a correct and fair judgement [sic]. It is enough for you to recognize whatever there is in your State and calling to favour religious endeavour and to use it well: to consider well your difficulties and use every precaution against them. We trust we have proved to you, however the balance may seem to incline, that a soldier can be a Christian: a devout man, a burning and shining light to those around him. Your own observation has found living examples not unlike those which we have cited from the N. T. days. For the Spirit helpeth our infirmities: He is with us abroad as at home, in war as in peace. He works by means and Seemingly without means. And when a Sinner cries "take not thy Holy Spirit from me", this dove of purity and peace come to nestle in his bosom, even amid the discords of horrid war, and the tumult of the crowded camp.
And now my Hearer, suffer us to ask you plainly what sort of a soldier you are: patriotic, brave, uncomplaining, Subordinate to authority--we trust you are all these. The Powhatan troop has won a good report. Among the first to step forth, it has blanched before no duty or danger: it will stand enduring to the end. But there is a deeper question. Are you such a soldier as Cornelius--a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people and prayed to God always? Death has already made mournful gaps in your company: Some of you will probably yield up your breath in the hospital or on the field, before another campaign is over. Consider well, that is the devout soldier only: the God-fearing man, the charitable man, the praying man to whom belongs the promise of a better life after death. Let not any one say that this suggestion discouraged men, and promotes fear and cowardice. For if you have not made your peace with God, or are uncertain of it, still is it better for you to play the man. The post of duty is the place of safety. It is safer for a man to rush up to canon's mouth with only time to say "God be merciful to me a Sinner", than to seek a longer probation by evading his duty as a man and a citizen. He has no right to hope than such a wilful [sic] and presumptuous abandonment of his trust, will ever be repented of or forgiven. But to return, You may be [fired] with generous principles, and win a glorious name, and die an honored death: and yet after all perish for ever. There is mentioned in the Gospel a young man who lived a very upright life, and whom our Lord loved when he looked upon him: he was so amiable and honest. And yet he could not enter into the kingdom of heaven because he would not take up his cross and bear it.
Our hearts yearn over the gallant defenders of their country: God forbid that in so good a cause, spending so much, you should win no more than man's applause; whereas you may so live and die, that at the last God himself: think of it my Hearer: how proud is a private to be praised in General Orders: that God himself shall say to you before an assembled universe "Well done, good and faithful servant!" What must you do to be saved? The answer is plain and familiar. Believe in the Lord J. X and thou shalt be saved: repent and be converted that your sins may be blotted out. Do you not know what these precepts mean? Believe in the Lord J. X. Do you not know what it is to believe in man? Is there no physician in whose skill and kindness you have such confidence, that you would submit to his prescription without a question? Is there no military leader in whom you so believe that you obey his order gladly as well of necessity, and approve his designs when you least comprehend them? Now reason upward. Your soul is sick and X is the good physician. You are a Soldier in an enemy's land, beset with many dangers, and Christ is the captain of your salvation. Believe in him then: trust him with all, submit to his every commandment: do just what he tells you, follow just where he leads you. Expose your sins to him that he may wash them away in the blood of his cross: bow your neck before him that he may bind upon you his yoke.
Do you not know what Repentance is? Its chief element is Godly sorrow for sin: not mere Sorrow, but Godly sorrow: the sorrow that comes when you survey your Sins in the light of God and of eternity: when you stand by the cross and see how terrible is the punishment they deserve, how prodigious the mercy that forgives them all. You have not been sorry because you have been thoughtless and inconsiderate; you have not asked for the help of the Spirit to show you their enormity, to break your hard heart, to give you the grace of grief and tears. But now consider your ways and call to mind your doings: count up your mercies, consider how patient God has been with you, how much X loves you, how tenderly he reproaches you for avoiding him, how lovingly he invites you and you will repent. And "be converted". This you say is my stumbling-block: conversion seems to be such a strange something: you associate it perhaps with an unnatural excitement, and transcendent ecstasy, a miraculous and instantaneous release from the bands of Sin and Sorrow. Conversion is nothing of the sort. God's service is a rational service: his ways are heavenly and spiritual, but they unite sobriety with fervor, and good sense with tender emotion. Conversion, Brn, is properly the outward and visible effect of the inward repentance [and] faith. It does not describe the experience of any one moment, but is used to describe that change of mind and will and affection and purpose, which is wrought in us by the Spirit of God, when we come to him according to the terms of the Gospel. Conversion is not something which we must wait to happen to us: it is a duty to be performed at God's command and with his gracious help. Be converted, X cries to us all. We may well express it in military phrase "face right about". You have mutinied against your lawful sovereign, and deserted your standard. You have fought against God, and are rushing to give yourself up body and soul to his enemies. X, as a warning angel meets you on the way: with the imperiousness [sic] of authority, with the tenderness of love he withstands you. Repent & be converted he cries: remove your shameful purpose and face right about. And when you see your crime and loathe it, when you recognize the drawn sword in his hand & adore his forbearance when from the depths of a convicted and sorrowful heart you cry "Lord if it displease thee I will get me back again". When you do turn back, and renew your allegiance, and acknowledge your ill-desert--This, this my H[earers] is conversion.
My H you ought to understand these matters. If yet in the dark, devout study of God's word and careful meditation over it, constant and earnest prayer for the help of the Holy Spirit, whose office it is to open blind eyes, to teach dull souls & to give heavenly wisdom, that you must seek to know these mysteries on which your life depends. And as an additional means I beseech you to use the counsel and advice of the godly ministers of the Church. Let not shame or diffidence hinder you from coming to us and opening your grief. Our holy office has brought us unto contact with men as erring and as despairing as any of you can be: and the good physician has furnished us with medicine for their diseases. The turning point in many a man's religious history is found often in the moment when he unburdened his Soul to the minister of X.
I have said [that] among the Romans no man was allowed to fight, until he had taken the Sacramentum or military oath. Hence comes our word Sacrament. The Church caught up the word and sanctified it for her own uses. If you would fight in X's army and be carried by him into his glory, you must take his Sacrament. You must Solemnly, in the presence of his people, swear allegiance to him, and by a vow uttered with the mouth, announce the purpose formed by his grace in your heart.
You cannot keep your religious purpose a secret: it is a rash and presumptuous thing to encounter temptation without the help offered you in the Church, and without the spiritual benefits covenanted and conveyed to us in Baptism & in the H. Communion. (Note--Confirmation in Richmond March 20)
Some of you are baptized members of the Episcopal Church: others are inclined to enter her sacred fold. As her accredited representation, as the ambassador of Christ, I say to you one and all, Come thou with us and we will do thee good. She has many chains upon you. It is the old time Church planted first in England by Apostolic men, and brought by our fore-fathers to Jamestown when first they came to Virginia. It is the Church which teaches the faith as once delivered to the Saints, and as constantly held by all orthodox persons in the ancient creeds. It is a Church of devout ceremonial, of authoritative ministry, of boldest and yet gentlest evangelic teaching. It is the Church which framed the translation of the Bible which we do so highly prize, a Church of many learned doctors and Saintly children and to which have adhered many of the wisest and best leaders of the American revolution and of this young republic. Come with us, my brother and we will do thee good.
Not that we can do good to the careless and impertinent, to the prayerless men who love not the Lord J. X. For these are condemned already and the wrath of God abideth on them.
But if you are sorry for your Sins: if you are grieved and wearied with the burden of them, and determined by God's help to abjure and forsake them: if you have a thankful remembrance of X's death, and are willing to trust your all to his power and goodness, then do the Spirit and the Bride say come, and whosoever will let him come & take of the water of life freely.
Thus, dear friends, have I sought to address to you such affectionate counsel and exhortation as the occasion seems to demand: remembering that we shall never all meet again, until at the bar of God we give our several accounts as preacher and as hearers. May these teachings fall as good seed upon good and honest hearts and bring forth fruit abundantly.
May God almighty set his angels to guard you in all perils and hardships: avert every danger and lighten every sorrow. You carry with you the sympathies and the prayers of families and friends: if you fall in battle, oh let them not experience the bitter grief of those who sorrow without hope: if you return, bring with you a pure mind, an unsullied reputation, a holy heart, a Christian character matured by temptations resisted, [torn page] [inaugurated] by unfaltering and manly endeavors.
Sooner or later death must come to all. It matters, much indeed to us, but little to you, whether you be cut off in youth or survive to grey hairs, provided only it may be said at your grave: "He was a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house. He gave much alms to the people and prayed to God always."
[NOTE: the capital letter X was used by Lay to designate the name of Christ.] K. Ray
Such, my He[arers], was the Saviour's mournful yet brave reply to the disciples in the very moment when they were protesting that their faith in him was clear and impregnable. They had Sat with him for hours, and listened to his parting words with increasing reverence and love. They felt themselves knit to him more than ever, and death itself could scarcely Separate them as they thought. But the Saviour knew them better than they knew themselves: in a little the Shepherd would be [unclear] & they scattered as sheep upon the mountain.
And for himself, standing at the entrance of the dark valley which lay before him, anticipating the agonies in store for him, he looked full in the face that dreary solitude of spirit, that terrible isolation from all human help & sympathy which were to be his portion. "Ye shall leave me alone". It is the mournful voice of a gentle heart, full of love for all, and craving love in return. "Alone, yet not alone" Faith lends her aid, and tempers grief with hope. Alone. Alone. Oh what a dreadful word. Yet not alone--what a remedy does faith afford against despair!
The loneliness of X! Have you ever thought of it or realized it--You know what the feeling is. It need not bring up the vision of a dungeon or a desert. We are sometimes most lonely in a crowd. Loneliness is the absence of affectionate hearts & friendly faces, where there is no eye to pity & no voive to bless. It is the exclusion from human sympathies and ordinary kindness. It is the huge sorrow of a great soul which can look no whither for support and comfort, save to its own integrity and to the judgement [sic] of its God. How lonely was the Saviour--a worm and no man, a very scorn of men and the outcast of the people. And how sublime was he in his loneliness, daring to brave it all, because said he "the Father is with me".
Let us trace the thickening of this dark cloud and see how even amid its darkness, our Lord was undismayed.
It began with the treason of Judas--a familiar friend whom he had trusted laid wait for him. One who sat bread with him lifted up his heel against him. O the dreariness of soul that comes over us when a brother proves false: when a friend becomes informer, and is guide to the malicious. We know how one such experience shakes our confidence in the race, and makes us feel as if none cd be trusted. No wonder that the Saviour exclaimed "if it was an enemy that had done me this dishonor I cd have borne it: but it was thou, even thou, mine own familiar friend." In that bold act of treason he saw the beginning of that deffection [sic] which was to leave him without a friend. And to treachery succeeded weakness.
Up to a certain point, our Lord carries with him the interest and the sympathy of his followers. They truly loved him & desired to serve him. But when he would lean heavily upon them, they are unequal to his need. Their sympathy was inadequate & too shallow for the grief of a [unclear] spirit. The agonies of Gentlemen confuse the mind and then the faculties which they shd have aroused to tender solicitude and ready consolation. What a wistful appeal was that "tarry ye here & watch with me." What inexpressible loneliness in the expostulation Could thou not watch with me one hour?
A little while longer, and to treachery & drowsiness were added desertion. The lights of the upper chamber where thay had sat & talked had all gone out: the night dews of Gethsemane had abated the ardour of their zeal. The ungenial air of the gray dawn brought a chill upon their spirits. When the traitor drops his mask and flashing torches & gleaning weapons invade the spot just consecrated by the Saviour's tears, Alas! alas for human nature! they all forsook him and fled. Yes all--John who leaned upon his breast. Peter who was ready to die with him. Nathaniel the Israelite without guile. All. All gone, scattered every man to his [own]. Not one left to stand by him, while he is manacled & carried away.
But as if desertion were not enough, denial is added to it. What voice is that which in its earnestness is distinctly audible in the High Priests hall, declaring with the eagerness of falsehood, with unholy violence and blasphemiteration [sic], I know not the man. I was not with him! The Lord turned and looked upon Peter--what loneliness in that look! How did it seem to say It needed only this to complete my solitude, and to break loose my last hold on earth. He looked on Peter, but not now for sympathy. Nought remained to him save the look to heaven.
When our intimate friends & brethren fail us, we Sometimes turn to the outside world, & I find some relief in their respect and kindness. The Saviour sees around him the multitude familiar with his teaching, & his miracles, the multitude who on the Sunday before thronged his path and shouted hosannas. Is no help there? They have learned their lesson, and the love of yesterday is turned to gall. Crucify him, away with him, crucify him, is their cry. They hated me without a cause, is the sad self-[communing] of the Saviour, and the gulf widens at his feet, & the solitude is more profound.
But the magistrate is there, invested with the sacred insignia of right and justice. Is there no help in him for the innocent, no pity for the wronged? The High Priest Smites him on the face & rends his clothes in affected horror. The Roman Governor washes his hands in impotent distress & confessing that he is faultless dares not protect him. The rulers of the State & of the Church surrender him as unworthy to breathe the common air. And still the tragedy proceeds. Perjury insults him by the imputation of pretended crimes. Levity mocks his degradation with the robe & the reed & the crown of thorns. Cruelty [plucks] his back and defiles his benign countenance. Robbery despoils him of his poor raiment, and Brutality rattles its dice while waiting for him to die. Hate denounces him as an accursed thing, suspends him between malefactors, and racks his body with tortures inconceivable.
Brn, put together all these items--the treachery, the dulness [sic], the desertion, the denial of his friends, the senseless prejudice of the multitude, the injustice of the magistrate, the perjury of witnesses, the levity of Such as beheld his sorrows, the brutishness and hate wh. pursue him on the cross, the [unclear] malice which seeks to [unclear] him with robbers & malefactors. Look upon that emaciated form extended on the cross, with a [unclear] multitude around, & the cry "I thirst" upon his lips. Can you imagine a greater loneliness than that of one with friends all gone & devils & wicked men raging around him?
One other element remains, and the horror of great darkness is complete. Friends have departed & enemies have spurned him from the Earth--Has he ought else to lose?
Hark to that wild cry of agony, such as no stresses, no wounds, no parching thirst, no bodily pain, no indignity cd extol. Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani. It is the cry of the God forsaken--and his loneliness is complete. Darkness is over all the earth--every gleam of goodness has expired & the last beam of comfort is shut out from that tortured spirit.
Once voices from the clouds did honor him. Once when Seated in weariness by Jacob's well, he was refreshed with meat which his disciples knew not of--a little while ago and angels ministered to him. But now there is no voice, no whispered comfort, no ministering spirit. God frowns upon his Son, and restrains the evidence of his love--while the angels veil their faces with their hands, and weep to see the Son of God abandoned to his foes.
Oh, my H[eare]rs, what will you do, shd X's suffering not stand for yours, should God thus frown on you & frown forever! Fear not them wh. kill the body & after that have no more that they can do. But fear him who can cast both body & soul into hell, who shall say with a terrible voice of just judgement [sic] to the wicked--Go, ye accused into the fire everlasting. Yea, I say unto you fear him. Alone--yet not alone. How strange the assertion, yet how true, that in all these dreary hours, yea even in the last & darkest of them, the Father was with him. See how in this calm persuasion, our Lord was sustained & comforted. He endured the treason, because it was the Father's will--the S[cripture] must be fulfilled. When the disciples slumbered his Spirit was not angered, the Father was with him to impart submission & gentleness. Sustained by the assurance of God's approbation, he listened to perjury without resentment--submitted to bodily torture without complaint. Relying on his vindication, he stood silent before Pilate. Filled with his Father's spirit he invoked a blessing on his murderers--and if once he uttered the cry for drink, it was not to ask relief, but to invite the vinegar & gall appointed him by the Father. And even in the darkness, the Father was present to his faith tho' not to sense and feeling. Even then he recognized the father near at hand tho' with averted face, and cried with sublime trustfulness in a love and power, unseen, unfelt, darkened and eclipsed. Father unto thy hands I commend my spirit.
The loneliness of X! How awful the theme we have ventured to present to you--how little do we realize or understand it! How terrible the vale thro' wh. he marched to the cross! How fearful the gloom of loneliness wh. encumbered him there. O Lamb of [God], thou hast trodden the wine [unclear] alone & of the people there were none with thee. Think oh my Hr. that he dared all this, endured all this for you. He was deserted, that you may rest among faithful men. His light was extinguished that you may not be cast into outer darkness. He was condemned that you may be acquitted. He was frowned upon that God may smile on you for ever.
Oh hard heart of man, will nothing dissolve thee into tears--Shall not all this fill thee with awe & reverence, with love and gratitude--Oh remembering all this how canst thou still indulge the complaint, & slumber at thy cross & live for thyself instead of God. Lord, teach us to know the love that X had for sinners--to explore the mystery of his grief & the tenderness of his compassion! and we will leave all & follow him. Brethren, as we revive these holy recollections, let us endeavor to realize that this pain is what our sins have deserved, these pangs the punishment of them laid upon the innocent. Let us unite to love & worship him who has done so much for us, & prove our love by renouncing the sins wh. grieve him, and the perverseness wh. threatens to make that love unavailing. Let not this Good Friday pass away, without some special act of humility. Let us, each for himself, seek our master in the closet, and inasmuch as like Peter we have oft denied him, like Peter let us mourn and ask forgiveness.
We have seen that our Lord in his loneliness was working out our redemption. Let us now consider that he was setting us an example: and by that example let us strengthen ourselves to hear whatever sorrow may be in store for us.
It is not often that we have been left alone. Through most of our life past we have all had friends to love us and care for us. There have not been wanting some good people to admire and help us. God has blessed and prospered us in our Earthly state. We have enjoyed the privileges of the Church and the communion of Saintly people. And when in our poor way we have been faithful to our Xn duty, we have had the testimony of an approving conscience, and the sweet comforts of that Blessed Spirit who dwells in the breasts of God's people. Dark days we all have had, but it oftenest [sic] it has been sunshine. It is hard for us to realize how much we have been supported by love and sympathy, by pious example and present consolation. Solomon however advises us thus--Truly the light is sweet and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to look upon the sun--but if a man live many days and have pleasure in them all yet let him remember the Days of darkness, for they shall be many. The day will come when you shall be alone. Brace yourself for it and resolve that left alone, you will no be alone.
What shall be the occasion that shall carry you into the wilderness of sorrow? God only knoweth.
Perchance it shall be his own doing--He may see best to send you into the solitude of bereavement and misfortune. Alas they are not a few already, who once presided over a happy circle of loving hearts, but now sit down in a desolated home, stripped of all that constituted their pride & ornament, young forms blasted by sorrows, or old people driven as by a thunderbolt, bearing still a life that has been emptied of its joys. Or if it be not thus, still every earnest-minded Christian must in virtue of his religion sometimes be lonely. His fidelity to truth will bring upon him the anger of friends, the hate of enemies. His spiritual-mindedness will make him offensive to his to a trifling world. There will be times when his friendship towards God will mean the enmity of man. Times these are when the multitude think one way, and the good man must choose the narrow and solitary path--When the trusted slumber and the faithful are intimidated, and every man must bear his own burden and bear it all alone. Oh wo [sic] unto us, if unconsciously the example of the many has been our pattern, if we have stayed ourselves absolutely on any arm but God's.
Times there are too in our earthly strife, when God for wise and mysterious reasons, hides his power and veils his face, withdraws from us the consolations of his grace and leaves us, as it seems to contend single-handed with all the powers of darkness. Times like those when David cried out of the depths, and was in misery & at the point to die.
And when the mortal strife is ending, we must reach a barrier beyond which human sympathy may not pass. We must shake hands with loving friends, and tho' they watch us from afar with wistful eyes, each one must go out a lone spirit to the world unseen.
Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. We need not vex our spirits by vain and useless apprehensions of possible calamity. But the prudent man forseeth the evil, while the wicked pass on and are punished.
Some of X's bitter cup, we must all taste. Some moment or two we must expect to spend in his dreary solitude.
Brn, have we the courage to look these things in the face, and to say Father if this cup may not pass away except I drink it, thy will be done! Are we strong in our determination to stand true to Christ and to our duty, tho' all the world shall turn against us, tho' houses & land & libert & life be forfeited? However stern & unloving he may seem to the darkened eye of reason, and tho' he afflict and buffet without measure, are we resolved still to submit & to adore, saying tho' he slay me, yet will I trust in him?
Brn, let us realize the magnitude of the strife into which we have entered and fortify our souls for all that may await us. Let us make more of our religion, [unclear] our souls with its precepts, drinking in more of its spirit--leaning habitually on the beloved as our comfort and our stay. Let us commence with X, until we know intimately the depths of his compassion and the vastness of his power. And then we shall never be alone, for the Father will be with us: supporting under every trial--Sanctifying every loss: making defamation to work for our promotion & sorrow for our ennobling. And oh that we may so live and learn to walk by faith, that in our last extremity, and friends weep around our dying bed because there is nought left for human help & comfort, may we be able to with a faith as full of courage & as of humility--I am alone, yet not alone. father unto thy hands I commend my spirit.