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(caption) In the Hospital
Rev. G. B. Taylor
[between 1861 and 1865]
Call number 4883 Conf. (Rare Book Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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Library of Congress Subject Headings, 21st edition, 1998
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My dear friend, I wish, in the following pages, to offer you some
suggestions for your good.
Let me, in the outset, assure you of my friendly sympathy. I am, indeed,
personally, a stranger
to you. Yet I am a Southerner, and, I trust, a patriot and a
It may be you are sometimes tempted to feel a disgust with the work which you have undertaken--to regret it,
and to wish you could leave it. If so, let me beg you to recall the feelings which animated you when first you enlisted. Doubtless you then were persuaded of the justice of the cause, and freely offered yourself, aware of its dangers, and willing to run all the fearful risks of wounds, disease and death itself. If then, you thus entered the service, and if the cause is still the same, I appeal to you to bear with cheerful fortitude your present sufferings and privations.
The North, and perhaps the world, thought at the outset, that the Southern soldiery might indeed be brave, but were not possessed of endurance. They have begun to see their mistake, and to realize that our men, with a courage superior, have also a fortitude at least equal to that of our enemies.
In this view, your cheerful suffering, your heroic endurance are seen to be no less valuable qualities than the courage that would charge a battery. "They also serve, who only stand and wait." Do not, then, I beseech you, yield to a feeling of discontent, because you are laid aside from active duty. Yours is now the more difficult, and the no less useful part. Every right thinking person regards the sick or wounded soldier, who patiently and cheerfully suffers his appointed time, as no less heroic than when marching or fighting; and doubtless, the historian of this war will refer to our hospitals as being not less glorious to our people than our bloody and victorious battle fields.
Nor may it be amiss to remind you that, painful as is your condition, it might have been far worse. Many of your fellow soldiers have been less kindly dealt with.--How many have perished? Yet you tire still spared.--How many have been suddenly cut off, some unprepared,
and without opportunity even to breathe a prayer formerly for mercy! Yet you are still on praying ground. How many have languished and died for want of the very attentions you now receive! How many have died without one friend to close their dying eyes, and have found not only nameless, but unknown graves! You, on the other hand, may hope yet to recover; and resume your wonted duties, morally benefitted by your affliction. Or, if you are to die, you have opportunity to communicate with absent friends--perhaps summon them to your bedside--and, what is more important, if you are still unprepared to die, secure that "Friend that sticketh closer than a brother," to accompany you through the dark "valley of the shadow of death." Dear impenitent friend, think what would now be your condition, had you been cut off, as many have been?
But I urge upon you still stronger motives. The foregoing might be felt by a heathen, and might lead him to a stoical endurance of ills which could not be avoided, and which might be worse. I would have you cherish a christian resignation under your trials, and seek to improve them to your everlasting good.
Consider, then, that you are where you are, and as you are, by the will of God. It was no chance bullet which made that fearful wound. That fever which now consumes your blood--that rheumatism which racks your limbs--that cough which wastes your frame, came not by accident.--Nor was the second cause which brought it an accident, but an appointment of God. He had a plan of your life, formed in eternity, and when you hung, a helpless babe, on your mother's breast, he distinctly foresaw and willed all this through which you are now passing. You are then bound, as a creature and subject, to submit cheerfully to
the will of your Creator and Sovereign--to lie passive in the hands or Him who has a perfect right to dispose of you as He pleases. Specially strong is this obligation in view of the fact that you are sinner against his Sovereign, and that your life has been far more happy than you could rightly have expected it to be.
This argument equally applies to all the circumstances of discomfort which surround you. However minute they may be, however annoying, and no matter to what extent they may be the result of carelessness or crime on the part of men, they are all none the less a pat part of the great plan of God for your life. Accepting them as such, they may appropriately be endured with a quiet spirit.
But I rise to a yet higher--a more blessed thought. Not only is God your Sovereign, but He is infinitely wise and gracious in His control. He has done all that He has done for your own highest good. He has done for you just what you would have done for yourself, if you had possessed the knowledge which He possesses. His very judgments are mercies; and this none the less because men often pervert these judgements, as they do all His mercies, to their hurt. Whatever your character may be, the present sufferings at are necessary for you; "for the Lord doth not afflict willingly the children of men,"--Lam. iii: 33; and if you are a child of God, they are true blessings, "for all things work together for good, to them that love God,"--Rom. viii: 28.
It becomes you to receive these chastenings in the right spirit. Ponder, then, the advice a of the Apostle to the afflicted "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor saint when thou art rebuked of him." Beware on the one hand, of despising your chastening; that is, bearing it with a sullen indifference, and remaining unaffected
by it. But, on the contrary, accept it as an affliction with a heart anxious to turn it to spiritual good. On the other hand, do not faint under it, giving way to desponding thoughts, but recognize the smiting as front a Father's hand. If you feel sad and lonely, and cast down, let me invite you, in the precious language of the Bible, to "cast your burden on the Lord and he shall sustain you." It is alike your privilege and your duty to be anxious for nothing, but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, to make your requests known unto God, and the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds by Christ Jesus. Commit, then, your body, your soul, your absent friends--yea all that gives you concern, to God, as a faithful Creator, and all will indeed be well.
It is certainly possible for you to be peaceful, in every condition in which you can be placed. I have recently seen two striking illustrations of this in one of the hospitals which I daily visit. A soldier from Mississippi, suffering with a dreadful and offensive wound, and rapidly wasting away with disease, said to me in substance, "All is well, and I would not exchange my hope in Christ for a thousand worlds." Soon afterwards, having exhorted the occupant of the next cot to seek the Saviour, he calmly "fell asleep," giving one more proof not only that religion can cheer in every other trial, but that
"Jesus can make a dying bed
Feel soft as downy pillows are."
I now see almost daily a noble youth--a mere boy--from North Carolina, who lost both of his legs in the battle of Sharpsburg! He is recovering his health slowly, and always
meets me with a cheerful smile upon his sweet, girlish face. He is a Christian, and can cheerfully suffer his great deprivation, and calmly look forward to the life of a helpless cripple.
My dear impenitent friend, consider the certainty and depth of your doom, if you are not affected by all these dealings of God with you. If these do not make you thoughtful and tender, what means shall He employ?--And, at the last day, how without excuse will you be when He shall say, "I not only gave you Sabbaths, and sermons, and the Bible, but I came near to you in my Providence. Having tried blessings in vain, I brought my judgments upon you, and solemnly addressed you, as an individual, warning you to turn from your evil way, but you would none of my reproof."
But, if you will now hear God's voice, and turn to Him, how adapted is the Gospel to your case! In a peculiar sense, you are now miserable and helpless, but Jesus will be your all sufficient and loving Saviour.
Doubtless this will fall into the hands of some convalescent. To such an one I would say, that, in addition to all the motives urged, two should peculiarly affect your mind. Gratitude for recovery should lead you to repentance and consecration; while a remembrance of the vows you uttered while in trouble should lead you to serve that God whose mercy you then invoked, and whom you then so faithfully promised to serve. I now remind you of those vows. I exhort you to "pay that which thou hast vowed." I warn and entreat you not to add to other guilt that of broken resolutions.
When languor and disease invade
This trembling house of clay,
'Tis sweet to look beyond my pain,
And long to fly away;--
Sweet to look inward, and attend
The whispers of his love;
Sweet to look upward, to the place
Where Jesus pleads above;--
Sweet to look back, and see my name
In life's fair book set down;
Sweet to look forward, and behold
Eternal joys my own;--
Sweet on his faithfulness to rest,
Whose love can never end;
Sweet on the promise of his grace
For all things to depend;
Sweet, in the confidence of faith,
To trust his firm decrees;
Sweet to lie passive in his hands,
And know no will but his.
If such the sweetness of the stream,
What must the fountain be,
Where saints and angels draw their bliss
Directly, Lord, from thee!
My God, thy service well demands
The remnant of my days;
Why was this fleeting breath renewed,
But to renew thy praise?
Thine arms of everlasting love
Did this weak frame sustain,
When life was hovering o'er the grave,
And nature sunk with pain.
I calmly bowed my fainting head
On thy dear, faithful breast,
And waited for my Father's call
To his eternal rest.
Into thy hands, my Saviour God,
Did I my soul resign,
In firm dependence on that truth
Which made salvation mine.
Back from the borders of the grave,
At thy command, I come:
Nor will I ask a speedier flight
To my celestial home.
Where thou appointest mine abode,
There would I choose to be;
For in thy presence death is life,
And earth is heaven with thee.