Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 18.djvu/372

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372
Southern Historical Society Papers.

As my academic instructions were confined to the fourth or oldest class, and the association of the cadets with the officers of the academy was very limited, I had no knowledge of him as one of the congregation to which I preached on Sunday, until circumstances of a very interesting character brought him to my house. The condition of the academy was very far from being encouraging to a chaplain seeking the spiritual welfare of his charge. There was not one professor of religion among the officers, military or civil. Several of them were friendly to the efforts of the chaplain, others were decidedly the reverse. Of the cadets, not one was known to make a profession of personal interest in religion. There was a great deal of avowed and manifested infidelity, accompanied with manifestation of a disposition to scoff at the Christian faith and life, and this among cadets, officers, and instructors. My venerable and beloved friend and then commanding officer, Colonel Sylvanus Thayer, whose name I can never utter without a tribute of veneration and love, though not a communicant of any church, must be understood, with other of the officers, as untouched by any such remarks as the above.

I had been laboring under these circumstances nearly a year without the slightest appearance of any encouragement. Not a cadet had ever called to see me; I knew them only as I met them in my class, or saw them as a congregation. They seemed to feel as if it would be regarded as a profession of some serious interest in religion to come to see me. One of them, whose father had requested him by letter that he would become acquainted with me, was afraid (as he afterwards told me) to do so, out of the fear just mentioned. He put it off until tidings of his father's death constrained him to fill his father's last injunction. These statements are important in their bearing on the character of our cadet.

In the deepest of my discouragement, when I scarcely ventured to hope for any fruit of my ministry, and when I had concluded a series of discourses on the Evidences of Christianity without any known effect, the cadet just alluded to came to my study. He introduced himself by saying he came to fulfill his father's last request; that his father had recently died; and, he was ashamed to say, a foolish fear had long kept him from coming to see me. Before he left me I put two tracts into his hands. "This," I said, "is for you." It was addressed to a person in affliction. The other was addressed to an unbeliever. "Take this," I said, "and drop it somewhere in the barracks; perhaps I shall hear of it again." He smiled, and said he would do as I asked. A week had passed, and I had forgotten the tract, but the following Saturday afternoon came another cadet. I