Monday, 10 June 2013

J. S. Walker's Letter (22 Dec. 1861)

Camp near Youngs Mills,
22d Dec., 1861.

My very dear Wife:

            Your last announced the sickness of little Norman and I felt for Georgie with Norman away. I regret that they do not improve the experience of Norman when a child and see the origin in the disordered state of his stomach from something he has eaten which disagreed with him.
            I was thankful that the same letter brought the tidings that our little ones were well, and that you were all getting on well, tho I fear you have had some anxiety about me growing out of the thousand and one rumors which reach the itching ears of Richmond. I heard that you had sent Col. Geo. W. Randolph through Mrs. Jones to enquire after me, my whereabouts, my health, etc., and I fear you have not received my several letters in which I advised you not to give heed to rumors.
            We have been kept in a continual state of suspense for the past ten days, our General expecting an attack, our heavy baggage sent to the rear, and every activity to prevent the enemy overpowering our comparatively small force, but up to the present time there has been no advance movement of the enemy, and so far as we can judge, none in contemplation. These annoyances have of course stopped our preparations of winter quarters, and while my men are comfortable in their log huts, I am equally comfortable in my tent. We have been blessed with remarkably mild weather, and winter cannot be said to have visited us yet. With the little stove and the buffalo robe I keep very comfortable and in perfect health, for which I hope I am grateful to a kind Heavenly Father, who has done so much for me and is willing to do still more.
            There are a great many of our officers and men who are very anxious and pressing to be allowed to visit their homes during the Christmas, and with the absent, sick, and those sent on duty to other places, our Regiment is not half its accustomed strength, and our camp wears rather a quiet, melancholy aspect. My military duties are light, so I have a good deal of quiet to myself for meditation and self examination, and as I have no reading but the Bible and “Rise and Progress’, I have improved the time for my good, I trust. I have no one that I esteem as a sympathizing, close Christian friend, though there are very many pious good men in the Regiment. While I cannot say that I enjoy the blessings of Christian joy and happiness at present, nor do I think I ought under the pressure and dampening influence of war without. I am truly thankful to say that I have peace in believing, and that with all the anxieties surrounding me that I am able to pursue my Christian course smoothly and hopefully. I am satisfied that this is not the hour for Christian joy, but that the Lord as it were veils his face for the tie even to those whom he owns as his children, that in love he would try their faith individually and thus perfect them in holiness, while collectively as a church he would humble them and show them that worms of the dust they stand in danger of the judgment by reasons of the very blessings by which He in His bounty has placed at their disposal in a time of peace, and that neither riches nor worldly goods can purchase peace of mind and soul either in this world or that that is to come.
            I believe the day has come when the Lord proposes to draw a line between His and the worlds, that the barriers which his religion would place between the lives of His children and those of Satan having been broken down by profession and the world, and those that profess to be His followers wear no longer the sign of the cross in their foreheads, that He will separate between the sheep and the goats and again either one prove vital godliness in His Sanctuary, that self deceived professors having in their hearts still the gown of sin but for want of a congenial air and favouring circumstances have remained dormant, not being tempted have consequently not give place to sin openly; now surrounded by evil and temptation, under favourable circumstances for its development, it brings forth fruit to the surprise of its possessor, and seeing and feeling its presence with true penitence, he turns a confessed sinner to his merciful Heavenly Father and it received with open arms, ransomed from his own blinded self and sin.
            There is more hope for the perpetrator of open sin than the possessor of secret sin, for the one is seen while it is felt, while the other indulgence is neither seen nor felt, the conscience being too often blunted by its continual presence. I know there is nothing in this life comparable to the inward sense of right, of God’s approval, and that while it cannot be purchased by silver or gold, maybe enjoyed by all who with honest hearts turn their face to God and at the same time their backs to the world, for it is impossible to serve God and Mammon.
            It is a hard thing to be a compromise Christian, while it is an easy thing “for the wayfaring man tho a fool cannot in” to be a whole souled Christian, provided we give our hearts wholly to God. The difficulty is we seek to enter the holy of holies with defiled hands, we would withhold part of the purchase money and not consecrate the whole to God, we would seek to secure a place in Heaven while we hold with a firm grasp this world. We express strong faith in God’s promises, while we show strong faith in the things which perish with the using, we dream of Heaven while our conversation is of the earth, earthy, the secrets of our hearts, are sin, while our outspoken virtues, which the world commends, are deceits. These characteristics make up the present day Christians, but not the Bible Christian, as I pray the great national calamity of war may prove to many self-deceived ones and be to them the greatest blessing of their lives.
            The Lord worketh and none can hinder, and in a wonderful way for to the many evidences of His Providential interference in our behalf if the signs of the times are an index, He has given our enemies over to their lusts and blindness and is raising up in our behalf a strong alley in England, which will be to us, I hope, a speedy deliverance from war, while it will humble our proud oppressors. The prayers of God’s people are more powerful than a ____________ arm, and we should be encouraged to pray more earnestly and continuously for his favor, and that in granting that favor our people may see and realize that not by their might and strength but the power of God we are delivered, and seeing it may acknowledge him in all their ways. Then will war have brought a great good to us as a people.
            It is Sunday, the Lord’s day. It has been to me a day of rest and peace, and though I have not heard a sermon I think when you get through this you will say I have written one. I have put my thoughts and feelings on paper. I fear it will impair your eyes to read them, for I have still to write on one knee.
            I was officer of the day yesterday and last night about midnight had to put your friend, Roach, in the Guard House for drunkenness, riot and disorder, fighting and cursing and straining at the Guard. Poor fellow, like too many others liquor will prove his ruin, and while he may aid to gain liberty for his country, in the chains of intemperance he will be dragged down to eternal slavery unless rescued by the blood of Jesus. I must talk to him when sober. It may be that the Lord will open his heart and divine truth take the place of hellish lust.
            Kiss the dear children for father and tell them to be good. I pray God that with the approaching spring peace may be vouchsafed to us and the sword turned into the pruning hook and we return to our own better prepared to be truly thankful to God for our daily blessings.
            May the Lord give us strength for every hour of trial and we be at all times able to say: “Thanks be to God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ”. Love to all, especially Amandus, and try to help him. Let me know how he gets on. So soon as we have quiet I will write him.

                                    Yours very affectionately,

                                                Jno. S. Walker

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