From Chaplain Alan Farley
(Hon Chaplain, 290 Foundation
A PASTORAL LETTER TO CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS
By Pastor Calvin Wiley
Matthew 5:13, “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”
Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Luke 11:33, “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.”
The following letter, which is self explanatory, is from Pastor Calvin Henderson Wiley (1819-1887). It is in the form of a pastoral letter from Alamance Church on March 15th, 1863. The letter was sent to the members of that congregation, who were, at that time, in the Army of the Confederate States of America.
It is our duty and our privilege to remember you continually in our prayers.
The Church of God is a Missionary Society, commanded by its Divine Head to preach the gospel to every creature, "beginning at Jerusalem," or with its neighbors and kindred according to the flesh; and if you were not bound to us by the dearest ties of nature we would still be under the strongest obligations to exert ourselves for your spiritual welfare.
The fact that you were raised up in our midst invests us with a responsibility for you at the Bar of Heaven; and to these considerations is to be added the important one that you are our kindred, bearing our names, and inseparably connected with all our earthly hopes and fears.
We, therefore, address you with the freedom of the most intimate and sacred friendship and with the earnestness and affection of Christian love; and we feel sure that the object and source of this Letter will commend its contents to your most careful consideration.
You have left the comforts of home and are hazarding your lives for one of the most noble of worldly causes; and while this endears your memory to all the true friends of our country, it greatly enhances the interest and the anxiety of the Christian in your behalf.
While you are exposing yourselves for our common rights and interests, your countrymen at home are laboring for the subsistence and comfort of those in the tented field; and they are at the same time mindful of the manifold dangers which beset the soul as well as the body of the soldier.
The very importance and urgency of the cause in which you are enlisted increase the difficulties of your spiritual condition; and without farther introduction we will suggest at once, and as briefly as possible, some considerations which we pray, that God would impress on your most serious attention.
We address ourselves first to all, to the members of the Church; and to those who have never made a profession of faith in Christ; and with a profound sense of our obligations to our Common Lord, we solemnly remind you that nothing will avail us in the eye of Heaven but repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
No species or amount of good works on our part will constitute a ransom for our souls; nothing but an interest in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, will entitle us to a pardon for our sins, and only the favor of the Holy Spirit can wash out the stains of guilt, and fit us for the Society of holy beings.
We are born in a state of depravity and prone to actual sin; and we have the express authority of God for saying that unless we are born again, entirely, radically changed in our spiritual nature, we can never enter the kingdom of Heaven.
We may spend our time in devotion to the interests of our fellows, and offer our possessions and our lives a sacrifice for the public welfare—but while such a cause should win the gratitude of those concerned, it will not and cannot reconcile us to God, nor fit us for the enjoyment of Heaven.
We may do all this, and still be hostile in our hearts to our Maker; and we are opposed to Him, whatever we do or say, as long as we put our trust in any other means of salvation than that of His own appointment.
He has told us that Christ is the “way the truth and the life”, and that no man can come to the Father but by Him: that all who repent and believe on Him shall be saved, and that all who do not shall be damned.
He that hath Christ hath God: He who denies the necessity of Christ's atonement opposes himself to the Almighty.
To believe in Christ is to have no faith in ourselves or in any of our own works—to know and feel that we are, in ourselves, sinful and helpless, to be broken and contrite in spirit, and to accept of life as the free and undeserved gift of God for Christ's sake alone.
These are simple but great Truths; and we state them now with the more earnestness from a knowledge of the proneness of our fallen nature to seize upon any pretext rather than seek for salvation in that way which lies through the crucifixion of our self-esteem, and of our innate passions.
To follow Christ is to turn from men, and from all creature aid; to be in Him is to cast away all our own righteousness as filthy rags and to humbly receive of Him, and as His unbought and unmerited gift, all that can make us good or worthy in His sight. Let us then most kindly but solemnly entreat you to remember this; and never for one instant to harbor a hope of salvation from the character of the cause in which you may offer up your lives.
It is, in one sense, easier, far easier to enter the kingdom of Heaven, through the way of God's appointment, than by any other means; for we have not to travel to find the Saviour, we are required to bring no price of His favor in our hands, and called on to do nothing that is laborious or really afflictive to our bodies. It is, therefore, not a hardship if we give ourselves to lives of toil and privation for our Country, and dying in its defense, are lost forever; for God has fixed a way of escape from His wrath, always open to us, and if we choose to rely on another it will not alter the course of His immutable Justice.
This High-way of life is accessible to every class: it is so plain that none can miss it, and it runs by the mansions of the rich and the cottages of the poor, by the laborer in the field and by the soldier's tent.
And this brings us to a few suggestions which we would affectionately make to those whose names are recorded with ours on the books at Alamance as followers of a crucified Saviour.
We know, dear brethren, that you are now placed in the midst of great and severe temptations—but it is by the trial of your faith that its character is proved.
God will safely keep that which we have committed to His care; and He will, with every trial, furnish to all His true children a way of escape.
Fire consumes only the dross that may be mixed with pure gold—and trials will but test the Divine origin of our faith.
God does not permit us to lay aside His service in any place; and though we cannot in some situations devote ourselves to Him with the same time and means that we can in others, we can still, in all places, bear effectual testimony for His truth.
The real Christian, in any part of the world, is a stranger and exile: he is always, while here, in the midst of the enemies of His Master, exposed to persecutions for His sake, and assailed by temptations. This world is essentially opposed to him, and to his Christian sympathies and affections; but he is kept here simply and solely to preach to his fellows, and to be a co-worker with God in the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom on earth. The Christian element of society is its salt that preserves it from corruption; and this salt of the earth is scattered through it for beneficent purposes.
Wherever there is moral corruption there is the need of this purifying element; and the Christian, while kept in this world, serves the cause of Christ, if he only preserves the savor of his religion. He is, therefore, properly termed a witness for Christ; for while on earth he is always among the enemies of God, and if he merely lives up to his faith he convicts the world of lying in wickedness.
You need not deliver sermons or discourses in order to serve God where you are—nor is it necessary to call assemblies for devotional exercises, nor to dedicate whole days to this purpose. You may have no opportunities for public expositions of the truths of Scripture, or no gift for leading in public exercises; but one thing you can do, and this will be an eloquent and effective sermon.
You can display the holy and saving character of your faith in your daily walk and conversation: you can, by the whole tenor of your lives admonish the world, convince the gainsayers, and win souls to Christ.