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PRAYER-MEETINGS IN THE ARMY, HOSPITALS, AND NAVY.
Agencies Employed-Bible Society-Tract Society--Christian Commis
sion-Letters from Soldiers in the Camp-From a Chaplain-PrayerMeetings in Hospitals—Testimony to the Prayer-Meeting-PrayerMeetings among Seamen-Benevolence of the Age in Marine Hospital, the Post Society, the Sailors' Home, the Marine Church-Sailors' Narratives—Ship Niagara-Chaplain's Letters-Religious Interest of Commodore McKean, and his example in behalf of the Prayer-Meeting -Lessons—The Old War-Ship North Carolina-A Place for PrayerMeetings-- The Ohio and her Prayer-Meetings--U. S. Ship St. LouisA Sailor's Letter to Dr. Stewart-Reflections upon the important Lessons of this Chapter.
Prayer-meetings among the Soldiers. THE impression has, perhaps, been very general, that
the camp is a very unfavorable place for the development of Christian graces, for the conversion of sinners, or for the reform of those addicted to habits of vice. The heart of Christian benevolence has seldom been so deeply sounded as during the late campaign for the suppression of rebellion against the government of our country. The Sanitary and Christian Commissions drew their hundreds of thousands of dollars in voluntary contributions from the masses of the Christian and patriotic people. And while the temporal comforts of the soldier was a matter of deep solicitude, perhaps it is not too much to say his spiritual interests excited far more of the Christian sympathy of a Christian people. Efforts, unparalleled in the history of
all former wars, were made to supply the army with religious reading matter. The Bible Society, the Tract Society, and other agencies, issued by the millions copies of reading matter. And yet these Bibles and tracts, good books, and every variety of religious publications, were of little avail alone. It was the concurrent testimony of Chaplains, Agents of the Christian Commission, and other Christian men and women, who visited the army on errands of spiritual benevolence, that, with all the outlay of Christian charity in this way, if there should be no prayer, there would be no good done. It would be seed scattered by the way-side. But when the prayer-meetings were opened, and the prayers of God's people went out with these, and in behalf of the soldiers, then hearts were moved and encouraged, and filled with hope and joy.
A soldier, who, in addition to patriotic motives, was moved to enlist that he might have opportunity of laboring for the salvation of the poor soldiers in the army, makes the following statement: “When he got into his regiment, after very diligent inquiry, he could find only one pious man, but he was of kindred spirit. They were only two, but they were resolved on a prayer-meeting. It was begun in much fear and trembling, and against not a little opposition and ridicule. They had no help but God; and, Oh,' said he, 'how did He answer and help us!' He converted four of our fellow-soldiers-the four most unlikely that we could have picked out. We felt all the time that some one would be converted, but were almost overcome when these four came out for Christ.”
One who had visited the Army of the Potomac, to promote the spiritual interests of the soldiers, said, on his return :
“ You can have no idea of the eagerness of the men for religious reading. You cannot take a wagon, with religious tracts and religious newspapers, and drive into one of these camps, and begin to distribute them, but you will be almost devoured. Hundreds of men will come running from all directions, stretching out their hands and pleading for something good to read. In one of the regiments there is a genuine revival going forward at this present time. They have meetings every night.. One night is a prayermeeting; the next night is an inquiry meeting; the next a meeting for the relation of religious experience, and so all through the week."
Thus, where there is strong desire for religious reading matter, and especially where there is revival of religion, or even any live religion at all, there soon will the
A soldier once communicated to his praying friends the following:
“You will, perhaps, remember, that I, some time ago, asked prayer for a regiment. I want to tell you what has been, and is now, its spiritual condition. Vice and immorality prevailed in it to an alarming extent. Soon after I asked prayer in their behalf, four of the soldiers resolved to establish, if possible, a prayer-meeting in camp. At the first meeting only these four were present. At the second meeting thirty-three attended. At the third, three hundred were present, and at the fourth, nearly all the regiment, except those who were on guard or other duty.”
“The chaplain of a Maine regiment stated, in the daily prayer-meeting, that God was pouring down his Spirit upon the regiment, and about twenty-five of the men had been hopefully converted within three weeks. Among them was an old man aged sixty-eight years. He was a soldier in the war of 1812 and has always lived a moral life, but wholly unconcerned on the subject of religion. It was very touching to hear him talk or pray in the prayer-meeting, He blesses God that he came into the army, for he thinks if he had remained at home, he would have lived and died in his sins, without repentance. All the newly converted men took part in their regimental prayer-meetings."
A soldier in a New York regiment, writing from a fort to which his regiment had been sent, says:
“On Saturday evening we hunted up some half dozen young men, who were professing Christians, and appointed a prayer-meeting for Sabbath morning, at half past six o'clock; and on Sabbath morning, at that time, there were gathered some dozen or more at the southwest bastion, which we had permission to use for the purpose. It was a pleasant reviving meeting, and it shed its influence over us during the whole day. At night, at eight o'clock, we had another meeting of the kind, at which there were, I think, more than twenty present, and among them two of the captains, one of whom is a professing Christian, and at that time joined in the exercises with us. We met again last evening, and the exercises were conducted by one of the captains, who is a Christian. We have these meetings now every evening in the week, and more than once a day on Sabbath. We hope and pray they may do much good to those who are out of the ark and without hope, and we pray God to use it to his own glory and to that effect."
Another soldier, writing from Beaufort, S. C., April 27, 1863, says:
"I can name several regiments in which daily prayermeetings have been sustained for several weeks, even without a chaplain. In two regiments there have been one hundred and fifty conversions each. In other regiments, one hundred, eighty, and so on, down in numbers. In this place is a daily evening prayer-meeting, held in
the large Episcopal Church, at which from three to five hundred soldiers attend. And they come, not from curiosity, not to escape the confinement of the camp, but to take part in the meeting, to pray, to bear witness for what the Lord has done for them, to invite others to come to Jesus, and to encourage one another in the Christian course.”
“One of the most faithful chaplains in the army of the Union was the Rev.Mr. Wyatt, a clergyman of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, who, after passing unhurt through the battles of James Island, Antietam, Fredericksburgh, and others of the severest conflicts of the war, died in the officers' hospital, at Memphis, Tennessee, July 10th, 1863. In a report, which he made to the Synod with which he was connected, he stated that fourteen hundred men had been under his immediate care during his chaplaincy; that eight hundred of these had fallen on the field of battle, or of their wounds subsequently, while a few only had died of disease. Among these, he adds, several had been converted to God after they joined the regiment, and of the religious men in the regiment, many presented the highest types of Christian character. On the evening before the assault at James Island, near Charleston, in 1862, he held a prayer-meeting with his men, a goodly number of soldiers being in attendance; and his heart was moved to speak very tenderly to them, because he knew that many of them would not see the setting of tomorrow's sun. He said afterward, in picking up the wounded and visiting them in their hospitals, he found some three or four who thought they became Christians that night in that prayermeeting.”
PRAYER-MEETINGS IN THE HOSPITALS.
“The chaplain of one of our large hospitals, in the vicinity of the metropolis, said: There is much religious