THE HISTORY OF
FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
820 COLONIAL AVENUE, NORFOLK, VA
Note that some of the sermons and writings were written in historical and sociological context and are not wholly part of the present day church's mission statement.
1. "The Lesson of the Pestilence"
Preached by Rev. George D. Armstrong
December 2, 1855,
at First Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, VA.
2. The Victory of Manassas
"The Good Hand of God Upon Us: A Thanksgiving Sermon."
Preached by Rev. George D. Armstrong
July 21st, 1861, at First Presbyterian Church.
3. "What Hath God Wrought: A Historical Discourse."
Preached by Rev. George D. Armstrong
June 25, 1876, at First Presbyterian Church
4. "Jesus Christ and Him Crucified"
Preached on September 16, 1888
By Geo. D. Armstrong, D. D., LL. D.
5. Farewell Sermon of Rev. James I. Vance,
Reported in the Ledger Dispatch January 29, 1895
6. Predestination: A Sermon
By Rev. James I. Vance, D. D.
* * * * * *
Preached in the Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, Va.,
on Sabbath, Dec. 2nd, 1855,
By George D. Armstrong, D. D., Pastor
Published by the Members of the Church
Richmond, Printed by Charles H. Wynne,
"He," (the Father of spirits, chasteneth us,) "for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness."—Heb. xii: 10.
About four months have elapsed since, as a congregation, we began to be scattered. Today, through God's good providence, we meet in full assembly again, in this, our accustomed place of worship. Four months! How short a period when measured by the ordinary rules for measuring time! Often has one been absent from us for a longer time than this, and yet, on his return, has found all things continuing so much as they were, that neither he that had gone, nor he that remained, had aught of interest to tell the other. It is not so now. The four months last passed have been four long months to us, measure them as we will. This summer of the pestilence has burned in its record upon the memory of every one of us.
To those who were away, these four months have been long months of harassing anxiety; anxiety which no kindness, no sympathy of those among whom you were temporary sojourners could alleviate; anxiety about known and loved ones left behind, about friends and neighbors, those with whom you associated in the business of the world, those whom you were accustomed to meet in the intimacies of social life, those with whom you had walked to the house of God in company. With painful interest you watched from day to day for the private letter, or turned to the public prints, that you might there read the list of the sick and the dead in our plague-stricken city. And when in the former you read a name you had honored or loved, with eager haste you sought the next day's paper, and yet, hardly dared to open it, fearing there to read that name repeated among the fallen—a transfer which the deadly character of the pestilence rendered  strangely familiar. Four long months of painful anxiety have they been to you. And their record is blotted with many a tear.
To those who remained, and who yet are numbered with the living, these four months have been long months of painful trial; and in many an instance, of labor and of suffering. In the record left upon the memory there is noted, first, a period of apprehension, as the pestilence was seen, day by day, widening its range, and darkling o'er us in its terrible might; days spent in ministering to the sick and helping to bury the dead, often succeeded by nights of broken slumbers—broken through sympathy with sufferings we could not alleviate; then, a period when we too were numbered among the sick, (for it is only here and there that one is to be found who escaped the fever altogether,) a period of which we know but little, save that it was a time of burning thirst, of irresistible nervous restlessness, of feverish anxiety; and then, in almost every instance, there is the remembrance of a dark hour of family affliction—the hour of parting with loved ones, when at the bedside we sat troubled watchers, and the heart, though it would not, it dared not, question either the wisdom or the grace of God, yet, in its anguish, sent up the cry, "Would God I might die for thee."
In the four months last passed, there has been crowded the incidents of years. And so thick and fast have the changes come upon us, that the mind can hardly yet take them in as a reality. How aptly descriptive of the pestilence from which we have suffered the phrase of Holy Writ, " the overflowing scourge"! Yes; as the swollen, overflowing torrent, which has o'ertopped its banks, and in its headlong might sweeps onward, often, in one short hour, obliterating every trace of the labor of years, so has this pestilence swept o'er us; and the mind can yet hardly realize the changes it has wrought.
I suppose I speak but the experience of many an one, when I say, that the crowded history of the past few months seems, at times, more like a dream than a reality; and we almost await the hour of awaking, when these shadowy, troublous visions of the night shall pass away. But no, it is not a dream. The evidences of its reality crowd upon us whichsoever way we turn. When gathered, as we are this day, in the house of God, the sight of almost every family clad in the habiliments of mourning; the  the vacant seats—now vacant, but a little while ago occupied, from Sabbath to Sabbath, by those who shall no more worship with us here on earth—tell us it is not a dream. And when we go from God's house to our homes, the vacant scats by the table and the fireside, and the lack of loved voices, long familiar to the ear, ever witness, it is not a dream. And even in the silent hours of the night—those waking hours, which the pestilence has left us as a part of its terrible legacy, when the eye is accustomed to expect no sight, and the ear no sound, and the access of every witness from without is barred—even then, the scarred heart, in its troubled throbbings, feels it is not a dream. No, it is not a dream. The "overflowing scourge" has swept o'er us.
When the fearful alternative was presented to David, for his sins, of a choice between "seven years of famine," and "three months of flight before his enemies," and "three days of pestilence in the land," in choosing the latter, his language is: "Let us fall now into the hands of the Lord, for his mercies are great; and let us not fall into the hands of man." And thus he speaks, not because David did not regard famine and war as a part of God's providence, but in the pestilence, the mysterious, the terrible pestilence, "the pestilence that walketh in darkness, the destruction that wasteth at noon-day," the soul instinctively acknowledges the presence of an agent, fresh from before the eternal throne.
"The pestilence which walketh in darkness!" "No words will more fitly describe the pestilence which has wasted our city, than these words of David. The pestilence! Why did it come among us? and whence came it?
Some have said, its coming is to be traced to the filthy condition of our city during the early months of the summer; and I have read, in papers published at a distance, of numbers of new wharves, and a long causeway, all filled in with rotting wood and mud from the river bottom, and to these has the fever been traced as its origin. Speaking among you who best know the facts in the case, I say, our city is one of the cleanest, best paved cities on the whole Atlantic seaboard; and during the early summer, its streets and alleys were as clean as usual. Of the long causeway, I know nothing; and whilst a large new wharf has been in  process of construction, that wharf is in the very opposite part of the city from that in which the fever first began to prevail. And further: In the neighboring town of Portsmouth, where the fever was as fatal as with us, no new wharf, that I know of, has been filled in for years. 'Tis true, the fever first located itself, and was most fatal in the lowest, most crowded, most uncleanly portions of the city; and, no doubt, the filth and crowded condition of those portions of the city aggravated the disease; but further than this, facts will not authorize us to go. The fever extended its ravages to every part of the city, and even into the surrounding country; and in all parts, if not equally, it was terribly fatal. From that which has always been regarded the healthiest portion of the city, but partially built up as yet, where there are no wharves, and no filth has been suffered to accumulate, I have accompanied to the cemetery, from one house, two corpses, side by side, in the same hearse.
Others have said, we are to trace the fever, in its origin, to that ill-fated steamer, the Ben Franklin, which in the early summer, was smuggled into our harbor, laden with its freight of death. But of this there is no certainty. It has been asserted by eminent physicians, that the first cases of the fever in Norfolk could not be traced to that vessel, and the one that seemed to be its radiating point in the city occurred in a person who had been bed-ridden for six months, and if not actually before the arrival of the steamer at Gosport, at least, so soon after, as not to be traceable to that vessel. No doubt, the poisoned air, the fatal miasm, let loose when the hold of that steamer was broken up, aggravated the disease in that one locality, and for a time at least, rendered it more fatal—but further than this, I do not think the known facts in the case, will authorize us to go. For one, I do not believe the pestilence came passenger in any barque built by mortal hands.
In the present state of human science we know this pestilence but as "pestilence which walketh in darkness." As with respect to the cholera, which has girdled the earth, and scored its track among the nations with its breath of fire, the questions—why, and whence came it? and whither has it gone? are questions which God alone can answer; so with this terrible epidemic. Appearing in Rio five years ago, its march has been onward. God, who directeth its course, alone knoweth whither its steps are tending. All that man knoweth is, that its track is everywhere rough with new-made graves, and wet with tears.
But 'tis not alone in its origin that this pestilence appears mysterious. Its credentials as God's messenger may be read with equal distinctness in the mysterious character of the disease itself. Like to the ordinary yellow fever, it was in some of its features, perhaps a professional man would say, and say truly, like to it in its characteristic features; and therefore, to be regarded as that disease in its malignant, epidemic form. This may be, probably is, all true. And yet, this fever, in many a case and in some of its features, seemed most unlike the ordinary yellow fever, and in different cases, most unlike itself: and certain it is, that the most skillful physicians, and those of largest and longest experience in its treatment, often found themselves utterly at fault. I have seen those sick with this fever, raving maniacs, so that in their unnatural strength they could hardly be held, and have heard them, in their terrible agony uttering unearthly screams, such as put a spell even upon the spirit of the fierce watch-dog which guarded their dwelling. Blessed be God, such cases were few. And again, I have seen them sick unto death, where they have told me that they suffered not at all, where the mind was as clear as in hours of perfect health, and to the eye, no symptom of disease presented itself save a nervous tremor pervading the body: and yet again, there wore cases, in which, from the very inception of the disease, the patient was in a profound stupor, broken it may be, to return again and continue until death closed the struggle. And it would be hard to tell, in which of all its various forms, the fever was most fatal.
There were cases, in which the remedies resorted to, seemed at once to check the progress of the disease, and in a few days the sick man was well again: whilst in other cases, in which the attack seemed no more violent, and medicines seemed all to produce the immediate effect designed, the disease with steady tread, moved right onward to its fatal consummation. Nor is it possible to assign satisfactory reasons for this difference. 'Tis true, that intemperate habits of life aggravated the disease; and very few intemperate persons, once attacked, ever recovered. 'Tis  true also, that excessive fear seemed to render its subject more liable to attack, and the attack more fatal. But, at the same time, it is true, that some of our best and noblest-hearted citizen have fallen—persons of good constitution; of strictly temperate habits; imprudent, in so far as man could see, in nothing; and of whom, it would be a slander upon the dead, to say that they yielded to unreasonable fear. There was no age—there was no station in life—there was no condition of bodily health—there was no care of friends—there was no skill of the physician, which could effectually shield against the aimed arrow of the destroyer, or draw its barbed point when once it had struck its victim. Whilst the epidemic was yet raging, a physician, second to none in his profession, said to me, "I never felt so powerless in the presence of any disease, as in the presence of this; God's hand is upon us." And this was just the conclusion to which every ingenuous, thinking person among us had then come.
God's immediate providence in this epidemic is instinctively acknowledged by the soul, not alone in the mysterious origin and nature of the disease, but also in its terrible might. 'Twas "the destruction which wasteth, wasteth, at noon-day," as well as "the pestilence which walketh in darkness."
For several weeks after it first appeared in our city, the progress of the fever seemed to be but slow; and once or twice we were almost ready to hope that it had been checked altogether. Up to the time of the chill north-easterly storm which occurred during the last week in August, although the disease had been spreading for more than a month, there were not, I suppose, over three hundred sick in the city. During that storm and the day succeeding it, not less than a thousand new cases were added to this number. After the storm had passed, in going around among the families of our congregation, I witnessed such scenes as, I pray God, I may never be called to witness again. Some households were all sick, with not a single well one left to wait upon them. Other houses had been literally converted into hospitals, and although there were some of the family, in each instance, who had thus far escaped, yet were they hardly enough to attend upon the sick. In portions of the city there were the sick, the dying and the dead in almost every house, not deserted of its inhabitants. During the week succeeding, commencing with Sabbath, the 2nd of September, the pestilence raged with its greatest violence. 'Twas then, the plague-fly, a strange insect, of which none can tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth; but whose appearance is said to make the crisis of the epidemic, was in all our dwellings. On that Sabbath, and the days immediately succeeding, I speak advisedly when I say, no man will over know the number of deaths that occurred in our city. This, however, I know, that from among the communicants of this church, there were more deaths on that Sabbath day, than the average yearly number of deaths, since I have been its pastor; and on that Sabbath and the Monday and Tuesday following, more deaths than during any one year of which I can find a note among the records of the church; and this, although two-thirds of our members were then away and beyond the range of the deadly epidemic. And now, that the pestilence has passed, as nearly as I can tell, our church stands, as to numbers, about where it did ten years ago—not altogether, but yet in large part, owing to the fearful ravages of the fever. In the space of a few weeks, God's own hand crumbled down the building of years. And throughout the city at large, the ravages of the pestilence were, I believe, even greater than among the communicants of our church.
During the first part of September, so great was the number of deaths, daily, that all the ordinary forms of burial had to be dispensed with. In those instances, in which a clergyman and a few friends could accompany the corpse to the cemetery, and this was the case with but a small part of the whole number that died, it was at a rapid gait we were driven thither, and after a brief prayer, the coffin was deposited, more frequently than otherwise, not in the grave, but at the spot where the grave was to be dug, and there left, to take its turn, for burial, at the hands of the overtasked grave-diggers. Our grave-yard, at that season of the year, usually so green, so quiet, so solitary, so fit a cemetery, a resting place for the dead, was then the busiest spot about our city; its avenues, the only dusty avenues to be found; its green sod, so broken every where, that God's acre wore the appearance of a ploughed field. On Wednesday, the 5th of September, I had occasion to go to the potter's-field in the after-  noon, and I there saw coffins and rough boxes, such as necessity compelled us, in many an instance, to substitute for coffins, lying in two separate places, piled up like cord wood, as high as a man could easily reach to pile them, all awaiting a place in the pits which were then being dug to receive them; and this I saw, after seeing in the old cemetery, through which I had passed on my way to the potter's-field, I know not how many coffins awaiting burial. I did not myself see any burial without, a box, at the least, surrounding the body; but that there were corpses thus buried, in one instance, eight in a single night, I have from the lips of one who helped with his own hands to bury them. And all this, not because our people are more careless about a proper respect for the dead than others; in this particular, I believe that the citizens of Norfolk will compare favorably with those of any city in our land. No. It was a terrible necessity which compelled us to the course we took. We buried them thus, because thus only could we keep pace with Death in his rapid strides. We buried them thus, because in this way only could the tainted air be kept from becoming so poisoned that our city would be left without inhabitant.
It did seem, during those fatal weeks, as if we were realizing the fulfillment of the Apocalyptic vision: "And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, thrust in thy sickle, and reap, for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped. And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great wine-press of the wrath of God. And the wine-press was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the wine-press, even unto the horse-bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs." Rev. xiv: 14-20.
These are some of the darker shades in the history of the summer of the pestilence. Blessed be God, there was mercy mingled with his judgments; and in the midst of our sore rebuke and sharp chastisement, our God must be acknowledged as one "who knoweth our frame, who remembereth that we are dust." As with the natural sun, which tinges even the darkest cloud that comes in between it and earth, with enough of its own glory to witness, both that it yet is, and that it is in its nature, light; so with the God of providence, although clouds and darkness may be around about him, yet is there so much of grace mingled with his judgments, that even that darkness is made to bear testimony that "the Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works."
There was mercy mingled with God's judgments. That mercy appeared in the slow progress which the pestilence was permitted to make, for the first month of its existence among us. As already remarked, so slow was this progress, that once or twice we had almost begun to hope that it was checked altogether; and it was not until the last week in August, that it burst upon us in its terrible might. It is altogether owing to this, that so large a portion of our population were enabled to escape from the city; and now, through God's good providence, are here, living men and women, this day. After the last of August, there were very few that went away, not because all desire to escape had ceased to be felt, but in many an instance, because there were sick in the family, and those yet well could not leave the sick. Had the cold storm, of which mention has already been made, with all its consequences, occurred at an earlier stage in the epidemic; when our people were yet at home, and no time had been given for physicians and nurses from abroad to reach us, the heart shrinks from attempting to conceive of the wide-spread desolation which must have ensued.
God's mercy appears in the prevalence of the panic, under the influence of which so many of our citizens fled the city. We can often get a more correct knowledge of a way by which we have traveled, in the retrospect, than we can by observations made as we passed along; so is it in many an instance with our judgment of God's providence. And as I look back over the incidents of the past summer, I cannot but regard that panic as like to "the noise of a great host," which the Lord made the Syrian army to  hear when encamped before Samaria—a providence by which he scattered our people that they might be saved. The quarantine regulations adopted by many of the towns and cities, and even counties, to which our citizens would naturally turn as places of refuge, together with the reports which prevailed from day to day, that each trip of the boats plying to and from our city would be their last, had much more to do in leading our people to flee, than any threatening aspect of the fever among us. It was not so much present danger from the pestilence, or danger distinctly apprehended from that source, as it was the idea that we were being shut in to grapple with it, be it what it might; that unless the then present opportunity of escape were improved, we would be walled in, with no way of egress, even though our city should become one vast charnel-house. This it was, which caused so many to flee during the earlier stages of the epidemic, whilst flight was yet possible. I have spoken of this as a part of God's providence; I have spoken of it thus, the more confidently, because, when the time of real trial came, this wall around us was prostrated as by the breath of some mighty one. And the cities which had been first to shut us out, now threw wide open their homes and their hearts to us, saying come—come if you must even with the fever on you—but by all means come. Who but He that holdeth all hearts in his hand, could have wrought this change?
There was mercy, too, in the sympathy awakened for us, throughout the length and breadth of our land. Besides the abundant evidence of such sympathy, which the records of the Howard Association will furnish, I myself received many a letter expressing the warmest interest, assuring me that our stricken city was not forgotten in the prayers of God's people, and enclosing generous aid for the afflicted; and this from brethren in distant States; brethren whose faces I have never seen, and never expect to see on earth, and who could know nothing of us, excepting that we were their brethren, and in deepest affliction. Had famine come, and but for this generous aid from abroad, I see not what could have prevented its coming, and adding its ravages to those of the pestilence, few would have been left to tell the sad story of our sufferings.
And let us not forget God's mercy, as it appeared in the  timely coming of so many skillful physicians and excellent nurses from abroad, to help us in our season of sorest extremity. You have seen a person when overwhelming misfortune has suddenly come upon him; although all is not lost, and there is hope, if he will but put forth his strength, yet standing still, bewildered. Such seemed to be the condition of our people when the pestilence burst upon us in its might. It was just at this juncture physicians and nurses from abroad began to come to our relief;. and their coming was a blessing to us, not only in the aid they rendered us directly, but also in the renewed hope and confidence their coming awakened in our hearts. Had you stood, as I did on one occasion, at the door of a house in which all were down with the fever, and hailing a physician passing, had begged him at least, to come in and prescribe for the sick; and received for answer, "I have already so many cases on hand, that I cannot honestly, conscientiously, undertake another"—an answer which you were constrained to acknowledge to be a righteous answer—you would then feel that our's was indeed a case of extremity. And at how great risk these physicians from abroad came among us, the score that lie buried in our cemetery this day bear witness. Honor, lasting honor, to those who so generously came to our aid. And thanksgiving to Him, mightier than they, whose hand guided them hither.
But some may ask, ought we to regard this pestilence as sent of God, when so many of God's own people were its victims? Is it not true, that many of those who bore the name of Christ, and whose lives were witness that they bore it not unworthily, are among the fallen? And not only so—but is it not true, that in many an instance it was just their, faithful discharge of Christian duty which was the immediate cause of their death? Was it not because the pastor would not forsake his suffering flock—the parent would not leave the sick-bed of the child—the wife would not turn from the husband—the sister would minister to the sister—the Christian would carry, at the least, a cup of cold water to the sick, for Jesus' sake; that the pastor, the parent, the wife, the sister, the follower of Jesus, are now numbered with the dead? To all these questions, the only answer which can with truth be given, is, yes—it is even so. I cannot speak so particularly of other churches; but of our own, it is true, that  some of the brightest, loveliest Christians among us, the pestilence has numbered with the dead; some at whose feet we loved to sit and ask their counsel—some, whose prayers and sympathy made us feel strong in the prosecution of every good work—some, whose holy life was ever a sufficient answer to the sneer of the infidel, "what do these Christians more than others?" They have been taken away, to meet with us no more on earth. In view of such facts as these, I have heard the question asked, "What becomes of God's justice, when the very discharge of duty is the immediate cause of death? When his disciples fall because they will visit the sick, for Jesus' sake? When his own ministers fall, because they will not desert his altar?
And is death necessarily and always an evil? To die, is it to all the great misfortune? If so, what meaneth an Apostle when he writes: "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ; which is far better. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Or come with me to the bedside of one of God's people, who, but a little while ago, was accustomed to meet with us here from Sabbath to Sabbath. His life is fast ebbing away, and yet his reason is as clear as in hours of perfect health. A friend sits by his bedside, and to quiet the nervous restlessness from which he suffered, that restlessness which is characteristic of the fever, she commences repeating the 23d Psalm: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake," and then hesitating a moment—the dying man takes up the sacred strain, and the last connected words he utters are: "Yea, though I walk through the valley and the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." Think you, that death was to him an evil? Or come with me to the bedside of another. Long a devoted servant of Christ has she been, and yet often troubled, especially because conscious of an unwillingness to die. On mentioning this to her pastor, some twelve months before, he had reminded her of that precious promise, that great principle of the Christian life: "as thy day, so shall thy strength be." She is about to die; the fatal symptoms have appeared in her case, and no one understands them better than she. Reminding her pastor of their conversation a year ago, she says: "I wish to bear my testimony to the faithfulness of God. He has not forsaken me; He is with me; all is peace, sweet peace, perfect peace." Think you, that death was to such an one an evil? Come with me, yet again. A mother lies here awaiting her release. She has taken leave of her little ones, and her last charge to them has been, that when they think of her in coming years, they think of her, not as their mother in the grave, but their mother with Christ in heaven. A friend has said to her, it will be pleasant to meet again with those of your children who have been taken before you, to "our Father's house." Yes, she replies, that meeting will be pleasant; but the prospect is to me now a far more pleasant one, that I shall there see Jesus as he is, and love him as I ought. Have you ever known the Christian's conflict with the corruption of his own deceitful and desperately wicked heart? that conflict, which wrung from the lips of an Apostle the cry: "O wretched man man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" That knowledge, and that only, can unfold fully the meaning of that dying mother's words: "the prospect is to me now a far more pleasant one, that I shall there see Jesus as he is, and love him as I ought."
Life—death; the life, the death of the Christian, what are they? and what is the relation in which they stand the one to the other? "Let not your heart be troubled," said the blessed Jesus. "In my Father's house are many mansions: I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself: that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know." The Christian's life; it is his journey along "the way," and a way it is in which many troubles, heart-troubles, are to be encountered. The Christian's death; it is his welcome to our Father's house, to be with Jesus.
A traveler on a desert way, has for many a long day been pressing forward toward his journey's end. He has found springs of sweet water by the way-side, where he has slaked his thirst; and green spots, where for a little season he has rested his weary limbs—and yet, he has quitted them, passed them by, one after another, ever pressing onward toward his journey's end.  Why this? Because in spite of springs and green oases, his way is a desert way still, and his father's house lies beyond. Yes, and besides this, he has a precious treasure committed to his charge, and this desert has ever been the abiding place of robbers; and all along the way, even amid the tall rank grass which waved by the spring-side, he has seen the bleaching bones of those, once pilgrims like himself, but who loitering, have been robbed and murdered. Many a long day has passed since first he took the pilgrim's staff, many a difficulty has he surmounted, many a danger has he braved, and all along, thoughts of his home, his father's house, have been his stay and solace. And now the desert way is almost past; his father's house, with doors wide open is just before him; his precious treasure is yet safe in his keeping; and blessed messengers, those "angels swift to do God's pleasure," whisper in his ear a glad welcome. To go forward, to enter that father's house, to be with Jesus, to be ever with him—this it is for the Christian to die.
That death is always and necessarily an evil, is a dictum of that shallowest of all shallow philosophy, which would blot eternity from view, and degrade immortal man to a level with the brutes that perish. And in no circumstances does such a philosophy appear more contemptible than in the circumstances in which we this day stand. Cast out of account eternity, and the problem of the pestilence is a problem involved in inextricable confusion. A fool, aye, a thrice-sodden fool is he, who can this day say, "there is no God."
In the pestilence, God's hand has been upon us, and so sore has the chastening been, that but for the mercies mingled with his judgments and his sustaining grace, we had "fainted at his rebuke." But why has God thus chastened us? Surely He who "is love," and whose might and wisdom are such that "none can stay his hand, or say unto him, what doest thou?" cannot have chastened us thus by chance, nor without a purpose, and a purpose worthy of himself. Why has God thus chastened us? In the text, we have an answer, and an answer direct from heaven: "for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness."
Christian hearer, have not your own heart's utterances, as you have smarted under the rod, accorded with this voice from heaven? The pestilence, from day to day, separated between "chiefest friends"—parents and children, husbands and wives, pastor and people, friends and neighbors. And as we, the living, hastily committed the dead to the earth; some, in the confident anticipation of a glorious resurrection—others, in whose death we had no hope—oh! how did the thought that for them our last word had been spoken, our last deed done, our last prayer uttered, oppress the soul? Seemed there not something then to whisper in our ear, Fool that thou hast been, to live so much for this present world, so forgetful of the great end and aim of life? And was there not the purpose formed, if God spares me, I will, by his grace, become more fully a "partaker of his holiness;" I will, henceforth, be more decidedly on the Lord's side; more earnest in prayer; more constant in effort: more habitually faithful and humble, sitting at Jesus' feet, that I may learn of him?
The "over-flowing scourge" has passed by, and you are this day numbered among the living. Christian hearer, God has spared you. In his good providence, you go out again into the world, to take part in its business; you enter the social circle, that you may there exert a mighty influence for good or for evil; you meet with God's people, in the sanctuary, in the Sabbath-school, in the prayer meeting. And now, will you turn again to the impracticable, the foolish, the wicked work—for such God's word declares it to be, and such God's spirit made you to feel it to be, while the pestilence was among us—the impracticable, the foolish, the wicked work, of attempting to serve, at once, both God and mammon? Christian parent, yet a parent, through God's mercy, in the midst of many left to weep as did Rachel, because their children "are not," shall the business of your life, henceforth, be to rear your children for this present world; to make them accomplished, that they may be admired by the gay and the thoughtless; to teach them to heap together the gold of earth, and set their hearts upon it; to climb to high station in society, prizing the honor which is from man above the honor which is from God? Was it for such a purpose God spared you? No. The witness of God's Spirit, in his word, and in your own hearts too, is, that you have been chastened, yet not destroyed, that you might be "partakers of his holiness."
 I recollect, once, to have read an account of the battle of Waterloo, written by one who was a soldier in the British army on that occasion. A large portion of the British infantry were formed into hollow squares, and the fortunes of the day turned upon the preservation of those squares in their integrity. From time to time, one and another of them would be broken for a moment, by the French artillery or some furious cavalry charge; and then, the order would be heard "close up," and at once living men stepped forward to take the place of the fallen. And but for this, said he, we had lost the day. Christian brethren, we have, in this incident, a representation, at once, of our condition as a Church and of our duty. In our encounter with the pestilence, our ranks have been broken; many of those whose place was in the fore-front of the battle, have fallen; and now the order comes, "close up,"—the living must take the places of the dead—their places in the sanctuary, in the prayer-meeting, in the Sabbath-school, in the closet, in the family, in the world, if Christ's cause is to win the day. Oh, for God's Spirit, to teach us and enable us, each one, to meet fully and fairly the responsibilities of the day.
But many in this congregation, to-day, do not bear the name of Christ; make no profession of love or allegiance to him. The pestilence came, commissioned of God, to address itself to such, as well as to his professing people. And, as I stand here to-day, between you, the living, and the more than two thousand dead, who, within the last few months, have been buried on the outskirts of our city, methinks I can almost hear a voice from heaven uttering the solemn admonition, "Be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh." Will you heed the admonition?
Do you say, It is not likely that another visitation of the pestilence, such as that from which our city has just suffered, will occur again for many years, perhaps not during the life-time of any one of us; and in a twelve months the business of the city will hardly shew a trace of the desolation which it wrought; I will, therefore, turn me again to the world, and dismiss, at least for the present, the serious thoughts which have for a time obtruded themselves upon me?
You may be—you probably are, correct in your anticipations respecting the business of the city. You may be—you probably are, correct in your judgment respecting a recurrence of the pestilence. But is this the return you mean to make for God's long-suffering forbearance towards you? Is this the use you mean to make of the life which he has spared you? Is this a fulfillment of the vows you made in the hour of peril—vows unheard, it may be, of man, but heard and registered on high? Is not death just as certain, and may not death be to you just as near, in this time of general health, as in a time of pestilence? The mere circumstances in which death shall occur, are matters of very little moment. Whether a man shall die under the stroke of pestilence, when the city is so filled with the dead and the dying, that none shall follow his lifeless body to the grave, or at a time of general health, and when a long procession of weeping friends shall give him burial; whether a man shall die suddenly, and in great suffering of body, or by some lingering disease, his life fading away "as fades the light of even"—these, these, are but the trappings, the outward garniture of death. Death, in its reality, is the passage of an immortal being from a land radiant with gospel hope, and bordering close on heaven, to a land between which and heaven there is a gulf impassable—a land where God hath forgotten to be gracious. In this, its reality, death you must encounter. How late, how soon, God only knoweth. Death may be, even now, at your door. Living men, spared in mercy, whilst one was stricken down on your right hand and another on your left—you heard God's warning voice as he spake in the pestilence—oh, heed that voice; and to-day, even to-day, harden not your hearts.
* * * * * *
"The Good Hand Of Our God Upon Us."
A THANKSGIVING SERMON
Preached on Occasion of
THE VICTORY OF MANASSAS,
July 21st, 1861,
in the Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, VA.,
By Rev. Geo. D. Armstrong, D. D., Pastor.
Published by J. D. Ghiselin, Jr.,
Norfolk, VA, 1861.
"The Lord is my strength and my song, and He is become my salvation: He is my God, and I will prepare Him a habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt Him. The Lord is a man of war; the Lord ia His name."—Exodus xv, 2, 3.
On receiving official intelligence of our recent victory at Manassas, the Congress of these Confederate States unanimously
"Resolved, That we recognize the Most High God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, in the glorious victory with which He has crowned our arms at Manassas, and that the people of the Confederate States are invited, by appropriate services on the ensuing Sabbath, to offer up their united thanksgiving and praise for this mighty deliverance."
In the first published official account of the first important battle of this war, the battle of Bethel, Brigadier-General Hill concludes with the words: "Our Heavenly Father has wonderfully interposed to shield our heads in the day of battle. Unto His name be all the praise for our success." There is a heartiness in the recognition of God's "good hand" in these words, which make this dispatch unlike any other official dispatch from a battle field I have ever read.
I have seen three private letters, from three of our soldiers, written on the battle field at Manassas, in every one of which there is the distinct recognition of God's good providence in that battle, and this, though not one of the three is a professor of religion. "It is with feelings of joy, and thanks to Almighty God that I am still alive, I write you these lines," are the words of one. "I was knocked senseless, and they trampled all over me before I was carried off the field: but I am safe now, I thank God for that," are the words of another. The third, who fainted from exhaustion near the close of the battle, and recovered his consciousness to find himself in an ambulance with the dead and wounded, writes: "God must have watched over and protected me, for, surely, I was in the very jaws of death."
These facts, and others of similar import, which I might mention did it seem necessary, show that the impression is wide-spread, if not universal, among our people that God, even the God of our fathers, is with us in the contest in which we are engaged. The wide extent of such an impression as this, though not conclusive, is strong presumptive proof that it is founded in truth; and what I purpose on the present occasion is—
To place a statement of the Christian Doctrine of Divine Providence, and certain facts in the history of this second "war of independence" side by side; that we may see just what foundation there is for this impression; and, consequently, what call there is upon us to render thanksgiving to God to-day. If it is right that we should repeat Moses' song of thanksgiving, of which the text forms a part, let us sing that song "with the heart and with the understanding."
In fulfillment of this design, I remark—
1. The Scriptures teach us that God does exercise a providential control over the seasons, rendering them propitious or adverse to the designs of men.
To this, as a doctrine universally believed among the heathen, as well as taught in Scripture, Paul appeals in his words: "Nevertheless He (i. e. God) left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." Acts xiv, 17.
At the time this present contest first began to appear to us all inevitable, our necessities as a people seemed to require peculiarities in the season almost impossible of fulfillment. Abundant crops, especially of grain, were necessary, and, to secure these, there must be "rain from heaven." Defences were to be erected, an army was to be gathered, and equipped, and disciplined, and brought into the field; and, for this end, we needed fair weather; more especially, in view of the fact that many of our troops must be put into the field without a proper supply of tents to shelter them there.
How wonderfully God's "good hand has been upon us" in this matter appears in the result. This year, we. have not had the constant succession of rains which we are accustomed to speak of as "the long, wet season in May," and yet God has "given us rain from heaven" enough to secure us what is admitted on all hands to be the most abundant grain crop ever gathered in the Southern States. Our barns are full. We have enough and to spare. And we have had so much fair weather that our defences have progressed with sufficient rapidity to secure all important points against the attacks of the invader. And we have been enabled to gather, and discipline, and bring into the field a military force which has given to the largest and best equipped army that has ever been gathered in this Western world a defeat, of which an eye-wit- ness, and one competent to express an opinion, says: "History records no such defeat for the past century—no rout so utter and complete as that of the federal forces at Manassas." (Mr. Russell, as reported in the " Baltimore Exchange.")
Surely, for this reason, so strangely propitious to us, we should render thanksgiving to God to-day.
II. The Scriptures teach us that God does exercise a providential control over all that immediately concerns the preservation, or cutting short of human life: It is His hand that guides, and His power that controls "the destruction that wasteth at noon-day" as well as "the pestilence that walketh darkness."
"Thou (God) turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return ye children of men." Ps. xc.
3. "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your father. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows." Matt, x, 29, 31.
From the battle field of Bethel. Brigadier-General Hill wrote: "Our Heavenly Father has wonderfully interposed to shield our heads in the day of battle." In that battle, in which some thirteen hundred of our men were opposed to four or five thousand of the enemy, during a battle of several hours, we lost not one killed, but one mortally wounded (Wyatt died after the battle was over), and seven or eight slightly wounded, whilst the enemy lost so many that they have never been willing to publish the official account of their loss, but, judging from what I have heard and read from persons in the battle, and in the neighborhood for several days after the battle, I should say not less than five hundred in killed and wounded— probably more.
In all the attacks which have been made upon our batteries about Norfolk, on the south side of James' river, including the several attacks upon Sewell's Point, Pig's Point and Day's Neck, together with the firing from the Quaker City upon private houses, and at our cavalry on the bay shore, and the firing from the great rifle cannon at Fortress Calhoun, not one of our men, thus far, has been killed or seriously wounded. How many of the enemy have been killed I know not, but, taking their own published statements of their own case, they can show no such record as ours.
From the recent battle at Manassas, in which those best informed on the subject estimate the force actively engaged on our side at fifteen thousand, whilst the invading force actively engaged amounted to thirty-five thousand, we have not yet learned definitely the number killed and wounded on either side; but, after having seen several private letters from persons in the battle, and conversed with some who have returned from the battle field in the last few days, as well as read carefully the published accounts of the engagement, I do not hesi-  tate to express the opinion that where our loss is numbered by hundreds, the loss of the enemy will be numbered by thousands.
And such has been, in general, the result in the battles of this war; with the single exception of the reverse to our arms in the engagement at Laurel Hill—a reverse inconsiderable in its consequences, since the enemy has not been able to cross the mountains; a reverse to be remembered only because of the death of the gallant Gen. Garnett and a few of his brave companions in arms who met death at his side.
Compare this with the history of the brilliant campaign of Napoleon III, in Italy, the summer before the last—and I select this campaign because the same differences characterize the parties engaged, "which are sometimes cited to explain the unequal loss in the present conflict:—the French, from natural disposition and previous habits of life, were better soldiers than the Austrians, and they certainly were led on by better commanders. They conquered: and yet, in the decisive battles of Magenta and Solferino, the loss of the French was almost as great as that of the Austrian's.
Why is our case so different? I can give no explanation of the fact but that contained in the words of General Hill: "Our Heavenly Father has wonderfully interposed to shield our heads in the day of battle." To Him let us render the thanksgiving due to-day.
III. "The right man in the right place," such as the great and good Washington, in the days which tried our fathers, is to be regarded as a gift of God to a people.
"God is judge; He putteth down one and setteth up another." Ps. lxxv, 7. "By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth." Prov. viii, 15, 16. Of Cyrus, God says, by the mouth of Isaiah, "For Jacob, my servant's sake, and Israel, mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name; I have summoned thee, though thou hast not known me." Isai. xlv, 4.
Do I not express the thoughts of your hearts, my hearers, when I say, surely, "God's good hand has been upon us" in giving to us the men who to-day guide our councils and lead our armies?
The leaders of our armies, by their admirable generalship, have already secured the enthusiastic confidence of their troops and made for themselves a name in history.
The members of our Confederate Congress have exhibited a statesmanship and a pure and lofty patriotism which, in all coming time, will associate their memory with that of the fathers of our first revolution. Who of us is there that would not be shocked—I do not say, surprised; but shocked—at the bare proposition to appoint among them a Committee, such as has recently been appointed in the Federal Congress, to inves-  tigate alleged abuses of power and peculations upon the treasury, and frauds by members of their own body and others in power?
Of our President I will say nothing but to remind you of what recently occurred at Manassas. When, after many hours of hard fighting, Davis appeared upon the field, it is said that "men who lay there wounded, bleeding and exhausted, waved their caps as they lay, and cheered him as he passed; and where their ranks had been broken, and the men were somewhat scattered, when they saw the President of the South in their midst, they shouted, they would follow him to the death, and rallied once more for the last and successful onslaught." Call to mind now the character of our army, made up, as it is, from all classes of our community—our fathers—our husbands—our sons—our brothers—the very flower of our Southern people—and I can conceive of no more emphatic declaration than this, that, in the judgment of the people, our President is "the right man the right place."
A few months ago, when the storm which has now broken upon us began to gather thick and dark o'er our heads, many of us exclaimed—O, for such men to guide our councils as the fathers of our first revolution—O, for another Washington. God has been better to us than our fears:—And for our rulers, let us render thanksgiving to Him to-day.
IV. Courage, such as lies at the foundation of patriotism, as well as Christian heroism, the Scriptures teach us, is a gift of God.
"Give us help from, trouble: for vain is the help of man. Through God we shall do valiantly; for he it is that shall tread down our enemies." Ps. lx, 11,12. "Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight. My goodness and my fortress; my high tower and my deliverer; my shield, and He in whom I trust." Ps. cxliv, 1,2. "And now Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants that with all boldness they may speak thy words." Acts iv, 29.
Attempting an analysis of human courage, with an eye to its immediate origin, I would say—
1. There is courage (understanding the word in its common, comprehensive acceptation) which is the immediate result of peculiarities of mental and physical constitution. Insensibility to sudden or living impressions of any kind, strong nerves and unbroken bodily health, enable some men to encounter danger unmoved. Such men, we say, are naturally bold.
Courage of this kind, though not courage of the highest type, is yet something to be thankful for: and is as evidently the gift of God, as is the unbroken bodily health upon which, in part, it depends.
2. There is also a courage which has its immediate origin  in the strong working of evil passions in the breast of man, such as lust, avarice, revenge. And the Scriptures teach us that an influence "from beneath" often mingles itself with the evil passions of the wicked heart in giving to such courage unwonted vigor. Such is the courage which sometimes renders the midnight robber, the assassin, the pirate, utterly insensible to danger.The influence "from beneath" which mingles with man's evil passions in giving vigor to such courage as this, is exerted through the agency of lying suggestions as to the value and possibility of obtaining the thing coveted, and constitutes what, in Scripture, is termed a temptation of the devil. Hence it is that the men who exhibit most of this courage are to be found among the vicious and abandoned. Would you enlist them for an army? Go to the dram shops and other sinks of iniquity in our large cities and inscribe upon the banner under which you would muster them, some such motto as "booty and beauty."
Such courage as this is often desperate, it is generally cruel, it is always uncertain. Men inspired with it may sometimes fight a bloody battle—they are always liable to causeless panic and sudden rout.
3. There is a courage, which is courage of a higher type than either of these. It has its immediate origin in the better passions of the human soul, such as indignation at wrong, admiration of justice, love of country, love of kindred, love of truth, love of God, all invigorated by conscience—that master power in the human soul.
In courage such as this there is often mingled, with the better passions of the soul, the Scriptures teach us, an influence from above, causing this courage to take on the form of "more than mortal heroism:" an influence exerted, when God's service is concerned, through the agency of revealed truth, and hence often and truly spoken of as the influence of Christian faith. Such is the courage which has sometimes enabled feeble woman to brave the terrors of the rack, and even to sing a song of triumph whilst burning at the stake. Such is the courage of the true patriot and Christian warrior, often frail in body and timid in natural disposition, yet, on the battle field, keeping even pace with him of iron nerve, ready "to do or die."
Among those who, throughout the protracted battle of Manassas, stood firm under the deadly storm hurled upon them from musket and cannon and howitzer, were some personally known to me, whose heroism I can account for in no other way than by tracing it to courage of this last mentioned kind; and letters which I have seen from them, disclosing their thoughts and feelings while the battle raged, have served to confirm this belief. And here, in God's house to-day, I say, thanks be to God for much of that courage which enabled our  fifteen thousand to turn back the thirty-five thousand of the invading force.
V. God, in his providence, when men oppose themselves to His righteous will, often so blinds their judgment and confounds their counsels, that by their own acts they precipitate their overthrow.
Hence David, when sore pressed by those who, without cause, were his enemies, prays: "O my God, make haste for my help. Let them be confounded that are adversaries to my soul; let them be covered with reproach and dishonor who seek my hurt." Ps. lxxi, 12, 13. The general belief of God's exercising His providence in this way is expressed in the oft-quoted Latin maxim, "Quem deus vult perdere, prius demental."
Does the history of the present contest give us reason to believe that God's providence has been thus working for us? Six months ago the people of the Confederate States were a thoroughly divided people. A large majority in Virginia—and the same is true of the other border slave States—were fixed in purpose to maintain the old Union. When in February last we elected a Convention, we elected to it Union men by an aggregate majority of sixty thousand.
In the course of ninety days all is changed. With a unanimity such as was never witnessed in the time of our first revolution, eleven States, embracing one-third of the population, and covering nearly one-half the territory of the old Union, declared themselves independent of that Union, and, confederating together, pledged to each other "their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor," to maintain that independence at every cost and at all hazards.
The reality of this change President Lincoln and those who sympathize with him have persistently denied—affirming that the action of the several Confederate States is not a fair expression of the sentiments of their people, but a result accomplished by an active and imperious minority; and thus have they endeavored to make this great mass movement of the South to appear in the eyes of the world a rebellion and not a revolution, and to affix to those engaged in it the stigma of rebel and traitor. The truth with respect to this matter must ultimately appear, but it is of great importance to us that it may be made to appear speedily, in order that we may have that sympathy from all who love constitutional freedom throughout the world, to which we are fairly entitled. As if smitten with blindness from God, our very reviler has been made to furnish the refutation of his own charges, in his call for an army, of 500,000 men and 400,000,000 dollars "to suppress the rebellion." A rebellion in one section of a country, such as ours, which requires 500,000 men and 400,000,000 dollars to be furnished by another section for its suppression, is an absurdity such as the very schoolboy will laugh at when the excitement of the present times shall have passed away—an absurdity too gross to impose upon any foreign people whose sympathy is worth the having.
The causes of this great change in the sentiments of the Southern people, and, consequently, in their position with respect to the old Union, are briefly these:
In God's providence we have a dependent race among us, sustaining peculiar relations to the governing race. The character and position of this dependent race is such that its safety, its very existence, as well as the well-being of ourselves and children, require that the absolute control of all matters concerning it shall be left entirely in the hands of our Southern people. On the 4th of January, the day observed as a day of fasting and prayer, upon recommendation of the late and the last President of the old Union, I said to you I did not see how we, as honest, Christian men, could answer to God for our act, did we surrender one iota of this control; and I said this, not in arguing the question at issue with the North, but as giving expression to your views and feelings respecting the matter.
That this exclusive control of our own institution and our own people was intended to be secured to us by the Constitution of the old Union; and that the slaveholding States were intended to have an equal status and equal rights with the so-called free States under that Constitution; and, further, that the Constitution fairly interpreted does secure these to us, no honest man can deny. That they have been sought to be wrested from us by a party at the North, controlled by men, some infidel in sentiment, others fanatical in religion, and others still unscrupulous in their pursuit of place and power, is well known to the world. In such circumstances, our duty to ourselves, as well as our duty to this dependent race, required that we should demand certain alterations in the letter of the Constitution—not alterations in its spirit and intent, but alterations in its letter, such as would place its intent beyond all question. On these points the people of the Confederate States have been of one mind from the beginning.
Most of us honestly believed that the North, when the question was fairly presented, would accede to our demands, so evidently righteous in themselves; or, if not, would consent to our peaceable separation from them. Others, as the result proves, forming a juster estimate of the purposes and power of the dominant party in the free States, did not sympathize with us in this belief, and hence the division which at first appeared among us. Some of the Southern States took steps for a peremptory withdrawal from the Union as soon as the accession to power of the Republican party, by a purely sectional and a minority vote too, was rendered certain; others refused to take this step, and remained in the Union, making effort after effort to secure their rights, but defeated in every one. So unwilling were we to open our eyes to an unpleasant truth that, even after Congress adjourned, having refused every offer of compromise, we yet held fast to the hope of an adjustment, and were a divided people.
The attempt of the present federal administration to reinforce Forts Sumter and Pickens; and the call for an army of seventy-five thousand men, to assemble in Washington, in whose midst the South must meet the North and settle the differences between them, made "the scales to fall" from all eyes. In the light with which our heavens were ablaze when yonder navy yard was abandoned in flames, even the dullest of vision could read the inscription written with the finger of God upon the old Union, "TEKEL, thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting."
Thus, through the madness of the Washington government, our divided people became at once thoroughly united, and, as the victory at Manassas has proved, united in time effectually to secure the rights and liberties bequeathed to us by our fathers.
Had the federal administration pursued a wise, or even a prudent course after the withdrawal of the eleven Confederate States, some might have been found among us who, with proper constitutional guarantees first obtained, would have been willing to see the Union reconstructed—so great is the influence of old associations over human opinions and human conduct; and thus division, a second time, might have been introduced into our ranks. But now, when the mad acts of last April have been followed by repeated infractions of the Constitution on the part of the executive, "such as," it has been truly said, "would have cost any English king, during the last three hundred years, his head," and Congress, instead of impeaching the perjured usurper, has set its seal of approbation thereto. Now, when the purpose has been openly avowed in the Federal Senate Chamber to reduce these Southern States, and among them, four of the original thirteen who fought the battles of our first revolution, to the condition of territories, to be ruled over by governors and judges sent from the North, and none is found to rise and rebuke the foul treason—treason to constitutional liberty—treason, to humanity—treason to God. Now, surely, no man can entertain the thought of reunion under the proffer of constitutional guarantees from the North. Such constitutional guarantees—what can they be but the dishonored notes of the bankrupt, the deceitful promises of the convicted perjurer? Should a thought of trusting to them enter for a moment any mind, methinks our very dead would start up from their graves upon the bloody battle fields of Rich Mountain and Manassas, and rebuke the folly.
Thus, through "the good hand of God upon us," in making mad our enemies, we stand this day a thoroughly united people, with none feeble of purpose in all our hosts; and the foul aspersion attempted to be cast upon our fair fame in calling us "covenant-breakers, traitors, rebels," recoils upon its authors. For this let us thank God as we stand here in His house to-day.
VI. Men instinctively acknowledge God's hand in events which are out of the ordinary course of things, and beyond human control, and Scripture history abundantly testifies to the truth of this belief.
In the late battle at Manassas, ought we not to regard the arrival of General Kirby Smith, with his division, upon the field, at the critical moment when the fortunes of the day seemed hanging as "in an even balance," as a special providence on our behalf? Had his division arrived at an earlier hour, its accession must have proved of far less service than it did. Had it arrived at a later hour, it would, in all probability, have found our troops driven off the battle field, or else maintaining their ground at a sacrifice of life which would have made many a Southern home a house of mourning. But, arriving at the critical moment, it decided the fortunes of the day—the battle was won—the glorious victory" of Manassas was ours.
The arrival of this division upon the field at just the time at which it did arrive, was determined, in part, by an accident to the train which bore it, we are told. An accident differs from a providence in this, that it is an event, out of the ordinary course of things, having no causal relation to the purposes of God; whilst a providence is often, also, an event out of the ordinary course of things, but having its source in the purposes of God. Was it an accident, a blind chance, which determined the arrival of that train just at the critical moment when the fortunes of the day were to be decided? Was it not rather a special providence of God, for which we should give Him thanks to-day.
And this is not the only instance of the special providence of God in our behalf in this war. At the very commencement of active hostilities, an unexpected storm prevented the arrival of the federal fleet sent to reinforce Fort Sumter, off Charleston harbor, in time to accomplish the treacherous purpose of those who sent it. From their own showing, it is evident that the Washington Government had come under obligation to give due notice of any attempt on its part to reinforce Sumter, and it is equally evident that it attempted to give that notice in such a way that all practical advantage from its reception should be lost to us, with treacherous equivocation "to keep the promise to the ear, but break it to the sense."
 Ought we not to acknowledge God's special providence in this storm? Is it not truth which is expressed in the words:
"Such wonders never come by chance,
Nor can the winds such blessings blow,
'Tis God, the judge, doth one advance,
'Tis God that lays another low."—Psalm lxxv.
God's special providence ought to be acknowledged, too, it seems to me, in that sudden change of wind which took place at the time our navy yard was in flames, having been first fired and then abandoned by orders from Washington. Fired at the point at which it was, had the wind continued to blow from the same quarter from which it blew when the torch was applied, the vandal work of destruction had been complete; the finest-navy yard in this western world, together with a part, at least, of the City of Portsmouth had been laid in ruins. But no sooner have the federal incendiaries embarked than the wind shifts to a different quarter, and the good service "which what remains of that navy yard has done the cause of the Southern Confederacy from that day to the present, bears witness to the worth of the special providence of God manifested in the sudden shifting of the wind which occurred just before day dawn on that, to us, memorable Sabbath morning. Enough was burned to furnish a beacon light to arouse our slumbering people from one end of the Confederate States to the other. Enough was saved to prove of a value to us, which the historian, when our independence is secured and our own navy takes its place upon the seas, alone can estimate.
Yet more remarkable does a special providence appear, as it seems to me, in "the terror from God" which was the immediate cause of the abandonment of our navy yard at the time and in the circumstances in which it was abandoned.
I have been told by navy officers whose acquaintance with such matters renders their judgment worthy of respect, that after the federal reinforcements, carried up by the Pawnee, had been added to the force already there, the yard might have been successfully defended against an attack of ten thousand men. It was abandoned, however, as I have been credibly informed, under the belief (1st) that we had a battery of heavy cannon just ready to be unmasked against it, from behind the little piece of woods which shades the magazine at St. Helena, and (2d) that General Beauregard, with five thousand Southern troops had come to our aid. The reality of this battery, seen by man after man from the foretop of the Cumberland, must have been the clay banks thrown up at the brick-kilns near St. Helena. So far were we from being in a condition to furnish the armament for such a battery, our people, in their extremity, were actually digging up the old rust-rotted cannons from the corners of our streets, to find something with which to defend themselves. The reality of the arrival of General Beauregard with five thousand Southern troops was the coming of eight hundred volunteers from the neighboring cities of Petersburg and Richmond, to aid us in our time of need, together with the noisy passage of an engine with some empty cars attached, up and down our railroad, throughout the night of the 20th of April. So far were we from being able to attack the yard with a force of five thousand men, I doubt whether we could have raised an armed force of fifteen hundred, even after the volunteers from Petersburg and Richmond had arrived—we had the men, but not the arms to give them to defend ourselves against any attack which might be made upon us.
Compare, now, this portion of the history of the present war with the inspired record of a special providence wrought of God in the days of Elisha. "And when they were come to the uttermost part of the camp of Syria, behold there was no man there. For the Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us. Wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight" [the very hour at which our navy yard was abandoned] "and left their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was." 2 Kings vii, 5, 7.
Surely we have occasion to acknowledge Gods special providence in this flight of the federal troops and ships-of-war from our navy yard, and to render Him thanks therefore to-day.
Such are some of the instances in which, evidently, "the good hand of our God has been upon us" in this second war of independence. As we remember them, shall we not say with David: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits." Ps. ciii, 1, 2.
With a thought suggested by the name Manassas (or Manasseh), for I cannot regard it as mere accident that our two important battle fields should bear the significant Scripture names of Bethel and Manassas, I will close this discourse: "And Joseph called the name of his first born Manasseh; for God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil." Gen. xli, 51. As the excellent Matthew Henry remarks, "In the name he gave his son, he owned the divine providence giving this happy turn to his affairs. We should ever bear our afflictions when they are present, as those that know not but Providence may so outweigh them by after-comforts, as that we may even forget them when they are passed."The present is a season of sore trial to us—sore trial, especially, in this—that many of those nearest and dearest to us are  exposed to all the dangers of the camp and the battle field. We blessed them as they went forth; we follow them with our prayers now that they are absent from us. God, I believe, has this day guided our thoughts pilgrims to Manassas, that here our faith may learn to say, in glad anticipation of the future—"God hath made me forget all my toil."
* * * * * *
"WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT"
A HISTORICAL DISCOURSE
Preached June 25th, 1876, on the Completion of a Twenty-five years ministry,
in the First Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, VA.
By George D. Armstrong, D. D., Pastor
Norfolk, VA: Published by the Congregation, 1876.
"It shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought?
This, the last Sabbath in June, completes the twenty-fifth year of my ministry in Norfolk. In answer to the call of this Church, having resigned my place in what is now Washington and Lee University, I came hither and, on the first Sabbath in June, 1851, commenced my labors among you.
During all these years God has guided and kept and blessed us. They have been eventful years to our Church. At no other period in its history have so many and so great changes been crowded into so brief a space as in the twenty-five years last passed. A month of pestilence or war is often equal to years of quiet life in the changes it makes, and in the lessons it teaches; and both pestilence and war have fallen to our lot during these years. For this reason I have thought it proper, and hope it will prove profitable, to-day briefly to review the history of this period, "that we may remember all the way by which the Lord our God hath led us, to humble us, and to prove us, and to know what was in our heart."
As I attempt to recall the Church and congregation as they were twenty-five years ago, by the aid of memory to fill these pews again, as they were then filled from Sabbath to Sabbath, my first thought is of the changes, the great changes which these years have wrought, and the same thought presents itself if I turn from our own to other churches of the city. Of all the pastors who filled the pulpits of our different churches in Norfolk and Portsmouth twenty-five years ago, I alone remain. Of all who were officers of this Church, twenty-five years ago, Pastor, Ruling Elders and Deacons, I alone remain. Of the two hundred and seventy-four members whose names appear in the manual printed shortly after I came here, forty-two only appear in the manual just printed, and of these not more than twenty are in the house to-day, large as the congregation is.
This change in our Church and congregation is, in part, a consequence of growth, and so an evidence of life in the Church. Not a  few of those whose names have disappeared from our register have gone out from us to form or to strengthen other churches of kindred faith with ours. They are not lost to the service of the Master, but called of Him to labor in other parts of the field, where they are laboring to-day as faithfully and more efficiently than would have been possible had they remained with us. As they went out from us, we gave them a hearty "God speed ye;" and as we think of them now, in the same spirit we add as hearty a "God bless you." Such changes, though involving a loss to a particular church, and the breaking up of old and cherished associations, yet are they a gain to the cause of Christ; and therefore in all such changes we can and will rejoice.
By far the greater number of the names, however, which have disappeared from our register, have disappeared because they are no longer the names of the living. As nearly as I can tell, one hundred and sixty-six out of the two hundred and seventy-four who were enrolled twenty-five years ago, have passed away from earth. At first thought, this seems a sad fact to record; and yet, if we look at it in the light of God's word, we will see that it is only in seeming, not in reality, it is sad. "And I heard a voice from Heaven," writes the Apostle John, "saying unto me write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, and their works do follow them." Rev. 14:13. That the tired laborer should rest from his labors; that the faithful laborer—faithful through grace—should hear from the Master's lips the welcome, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord," should be a cause of rejoicing, not of sorrow, to all that laborer's friends.
And to the Church her members removed by death are not lost. In our every-day life in the world, we are so accustomed to deal with the things of sense, that when we turn our attention to the kingdom of God, we often fail to use that vision of faith which the Spirit gives, and so see what is real, yea, eternal but in part. To the eye of faith it is but an inconsiderable portion of the true Church which, at any particular time, is present upon earth. In the language of our venerable Confession, "The Catholic or Universal Church, consists of the whole number of the elect that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one under Christ the head thereof.'' [Confession of Faith, chap. 25, Art. 1.] In the language of an old hymn, dear to many of us through its associations with the past—"For all the servants of our King,
In Heaven and earth are one.
One family we dwell in Him,
One Church, above, beneath,
Though now divided by the stream,
The narrow stream of Death."
In the Apocalypse, Jesus having shown his servant John the sad spectacle of short-coming and faithlessness presented by the portion of His Church on earth, when He would encourage him to expect the Church's final triumph, "opens a door in Heaven," and to the prophet rapt up thither grants a vision of the portion of the Church in Heaven, a vision of "the four and twenty elders sitting enthroned, clothed in white raiment, and having on their heads crowns of gold." Rev. 4:4. Just how and in what ways the Church in Heaven is laboring as one with the Church on earth to hasten the coming of the kingdom of God, the scriptures do not tell us; but of the fact they leave us in no doubt. Our dead members are not lost to the Church, but are workers together with Christ, and with us the living members, in the great work assigned the Church in the world.
Turning from such reflections as these, I will now briefly sketch the history of our Church for the twenty-five years last passed:
For the first four years of this period our Church had a steady, quiet growth. The only event in its history calling for special notice on this occasion being the setting off of fifteen of our number to form the High Street Church, Portsmouth.
The Presbyterian Church of Portsmouth was originally a colony from this Church, having been organized in 1822. In the division which rent in twain the Presbyterian Church of the United States in 1837-8, forming the two bodies popularly known as the Old and New School—a division now happily healed—the Norfolk Church as a whole adhered to the Old School. The majority of the Portsmouth Church, on the contrary, sided with the New School, whilst a minority withdrew and connected themselves with the Norfolk Church.
Thus it came to pass that at the time I took charge of this Church, I found quite a number of its members resident in Portsmouth. This number increased until it was deemed advisable to maintain a regular weekly service among them—a service held from house to house. In the Summer of 1852, with the hearty approval of the session of our Church, these members, fifteen in number, were organized into a new Church, under the name of the High Street Church, Portsmouth. In the autumn of that year they called and  settled the Rev. Robert J. Taylor as their Pastor. Under his charge the Church prospered, and in the Spring of 1862, when our two cities were evacuated by the Confederate troops, and Mr. Taylor left them to serve as a chaplain in the army, they numbered fifty-eight communicants; and were nearly ready to assume the position of a self-sustaining Church.
By the war the two Presbyterian Churches of Portsmouth suffered such loss in members, that when peace returned, following the example of the bodies to which they respectively belonged, which had then happily united, they also united, forming what is now known as the Presbyterian Church of Portsmouth. The extent of their loss during the war appears in the fact that of the one hundred and sixty communicants the two churches numbered in 1862, only fifty-eight remained to form the present Church in 1865.
The Portsmouth Church is thus, in part, an out-growth of our Church during the last twenty-five years. From its re-organization in 1865, it has grown steadily, until now, it is a, self-sustaining Church, numbering one hundred and three communicants.
The Summer of 1855, is the one which will long be known among us as "the Summer of the Pestilence." In the year 1850, a malignant form of yellow fever desolated the city of Rio, South America. Like the cholera, "a traveling epidemic," this fever can be traced as it moved steadily northward, along the Atlantic coast, until in 1854 it raged with great violence in the cities of Savannah and Charleston , especially in Savannah; and in 1855 it appeared and did its fatal work in our midst.
What the intimate nature of these "traveling epidemics" is, just how they spread from point to point as they move onward in their course, and in what their deadly poison consists I do not pretend to know. But that they do possess a character well described by the title, "traveling epidemics," will not admit of question. The cholera, which in 1832-3, swept with such terrible fatality over portions of our country, can be traced eastward, month by month, and year by year, to its origin in India, as clearly as the course of the tornado can be traced through the forest, and by the same means, too, the desolation which marks its tract.
The epidemic of yellow fever, from which we suffered in 1855, was more fatal in Norfolk and Portsmouth than in any of the cities in which it had before prevailed. This, as I think, was not because it increased in malignity as it moved onward in its course, and not  because the sanitary condition of our cities was worse than that of the cities in which it had previously prevailed, but mainly for two reasons: first, it commenced with us early in July, and so had all of three hot months, before the frost came, to do its fatal work in; and, second, so long a period had elapsed (more than thirty years) since the yellow fever had prevailed in our cities before, that very few of our people were protected from its fatal attacks by having already had the disease in a milder form.
Commencing early in July, the epidemic raged with greatest violence during the first week in September, and before the last week in October, when the frost put a final check to its ravages, it had swept over the whole of our two cities, and almost disappeared from lack of food to feed upon. As I have attempted to recall the scenes of that Summer, that I might tell you something of the story of those times, memory brings them up rather as the scenes of a troubled dream than of a reality I have known in the past. It is a general law of our nature that intervening years shall dim the recollection of great sorrows and great trials, and I thank God it is so. But for this merciful provision our later life would be all dark with the shadows of the sorrows of our earlier years.
Doing the best I can, I will relate a few incidents of that Summer, selecting such as belong to the history of our Church for the period now under review:
Early in August, when the yellow fever, in an epidemic form, was universally acknowledged as existing among us, and having ravaged Portsmouth had begun to spread in our city, a panic seemed to fall upon our people, increasing from day to day, and great numbers fled, some in one direction some in another, until not more than one-third of our white, population were left to grapple with the pestilence.
In speaking of this fight as the result of a panic, I would be understood as simply stating a fact, and not as censuring or in any way disapproving the course of those who fled. On the contrary, had I reason to believe that the yellow fever in an epidemic form had appeared again among us, my advice would be, to every one that could get away, to go, and to go at once. As I look back, I thank God for that panic, and I believe it was sent of God to preserve to His churches here "a seed alive in the earth."
In April, 1855, our Church reported to Presbytery two hundred and ninety-six communicants, of whom about two hundred and fifty were resident in the city. On looking over the communion roll on  the first of September of that year, I found that eighty-seven were all that remained in the city. Of this number there was but here and there one who escaped the fever altogether, and thirty-two, more than one-third, died. But the number of deaths, great as it was, does not measure the loss of our Church from the fever. The breaking up and scattering of families by the death of the head, occasioned an indirect loss greater than the direct loss by death. In December I wrote to a friend: "In the few months last passed God's own hand has thrown down the building of years. Our Church, as to numbers, stands pretty nearly where it did ten years ago. In all the congregation present on last Sabbath I saw but three families that were not clad in mourning, and in every part of the house there were vacant seats, the accustomed seats of those who shall no more meet with us here below; and among the missing ones are some of our best members."
On the first Sabbath in September, this Church and St. Paul's, across the street, were the only Churches opened for divine service in the city. The pastors of all the others were away, or attending upon the sick in their families, or sick themselves, or dead. I recollect the day well, for it was the last Sabbath upon which any attempt was made to have public service in our churches until after the fever had run its course. A bright, beautiful day it was, the sky without a cloud, a refreshing sea-breeze moderating the heat of the season (and we had many such days during the prevalence of the fever), just such a day as at other times would, have given us a full house. On that day but a mere handful gathered here, for the people, like their pastors, were, away or attending upon the sick, or sick themselves, or dead. Leaving the pulpit and calling the few present up around me, I read a portion of Scripture and led in prayer, feeling that in all probability we should never all unite again in God's worship here on earth, and so it proved. When after the fever had spent its force we assembled in God's house, more than one of that little company had passed away for ever.
The remainder of the day, both before and after public service, was devoted entirely to visiting the sick and the dying, and almost every house had the sick or dying among its inhabitants; many were literally hospitals, with hardly enough well to take care of the sick. The week ushered in by this Sabbath was the one during which our people were driven to the necessity of burying the dead in pits, as in the great plague in London. The place of these pits, in which corpsesin rough coffins and boxes were piled layer upon layer, is marked by no monument, and perhaps it is best it should be so. If among those dead bodies there are those of God's saints, and I believe there are, we may rest assured that He whose eye shall search the ocean's depths for "the dead in Christ," will find them even there, and that the haste and apparent dishonor of their burial shall in no way dim the glory of their resurrection. Throughout that week and the week following, the busy city and the quiet cemetery seemed to have changed places, and by the end of the time "God's acre" pre[s]ented the appearance of a ploughed field.
The exact number of those who died from the pestilence will never be known. For months after the fever was over, it was a common occurrence for one of our citizens to miss some old friend or acquaintance then for the first time, and on instituting inquiry about him to learn that he had "died in the fever." Forming a judgment from the best data I could obtain at the time, I estimated the number of the dead at not less than two thousand, and this out of a population of about five thousand, the number who remained in the city—and fully one-half of them died during the first two weeks in September. There were seven Protestant ministers on duty here who remained in the city with those who could not or did not get away. These all had the fever and four of them died. Of our resident physicians who remained a similar statement may be made, all had the fever and more than half of them died.
What was the religious effect upon our people of this terrible visitation of the pestilence? To this question I make answer: The impression was a salutary one upon two classes at the least. Upon Christians the effect was to call into active exercise the Christian graces of "brotherly kindness and charity." Little differences for the time were all forgotten, and Christians dwelt together and labored together as members of one family. Never at any other time have I ever seen as near an approach to the condition of things which characterized the first planting of the Christian Church in Jerusalem, and described in the words "they that believed were of one heart and one soul; neither said any of them that aught of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things common." Upon thoughtful persons, many of them long thoughtful on the subject of religion, the effect was a happy one. In several instances, in our own congregation, persons who had been hesitating, doubting, holding back, were brought to a decision, and this, not upon their 
sick beds, but whilst themselves in perfect health, by the felt presence of God in the pestilence around them.
Upon those who were thoughtless and devoted to the world, no lasting impression seemed to be produced. Business with its absorbing interest was at an end; the revel and the dance ceased for a season, and when the pestilence first broke in its might upon our city all seemed stunned for a little while, but it was only for a little while. While the pestilence was at its height, the gay and worldly seemed to have as little real concern as at other times, thus furnishing an illustration of the truth set forth in Scripture in the word: "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."
In the case of the vicious and abandoned, the effect of God's judgment was only to harden. Thieves stole from the dying and the dead, and in one instance within my own knowledge, a drunkard, who in a sober hour had been engaged to nurse a sick man, stole and drank the brandy provided by the physician for his patient, so that the morning light disclosed the sad spectacle of the dead patient and the drunken nurse lying side by side.
At an early stage of the pestilence, Hunter Woodis, then Mayor of Norfolk, fell a victim to his zeal and devotion in seeking to alleviate the sufferings, and in other ways provide for the sick poor. At his death Dr. Nathan C. Whitehead, one of the Ruling Elders of this Church, as Senior Magistrate, succeeded to the office of Mayor, and by his excellent judgment, and his firm impartial administration of justice, put a check upon such crime as I have just referred to. Those of our people who were here, and who understood the nature of the danger which then threatened us, in the addition of lawless violence to all our other sufferings, alone can know how great the service he rendered our city, and by all such, I feel sure, he will over be gratefully remembered.
The subsequent effect of this visitation upon our people at large was not such as I had hoped for. Often, during the years which followed immediately upon the fever, I felt like taking up the lamentation of the prophet, "Lord, when thy hand is lifted up they will not see," Our records show that the number of communicants added to our Church during the two years next succeeding "the Summer of the Pestilence," were not enough to make up the loss from death and removal during those years. Then followed three years of quiet steady growth of the Church, so that in April, 1861, we reported to Presbytery two hundred and sixty-two communicants.
In 1861, the war—what, I suppose, we of this generation will always speak of as the war—began, and continued until the Spring of 1865. More than ten years have now passed since the war closed, and I think I can speak of the events of the years of war, at least, of such of them as enter properly into the history of this Church, without passion, certainly without any bitterness of feeling.
Opposed to the war in the first instance, and praying and laboring, in my place as a minister of the Gospel, to avert it, when Virginia by vote of her convention entered the Confederacy of the States, I heartily approved of her action, and from that hour to the close of the war, as a matter of conscience and in the fear of God, I tried to do and to bear my part in the conflict. I mention this because I believe that in this particular, my case was just that of the great body of Christian people in the South. This fact alone will explain the other fact, that our Christian people were able to carry their religion with them throughout the war and into the army. I am sure I never preached the Gospel with a more earnest desire to save souls than during the closing months of the war, spent in laboring as a missionary in the Army of Northern Virginia. I am equally sure that I never preached to more attentive congregations than the congregations of soldiers, sometimes gathered on the hillside, but more frequently, as the season was Winter, in the rough log chapels which they had built for themselves along the lines in front of Petersburg. Some of the most cherished memories connected with my ministry are memories of this period.
During the two years which followed the evacuation of Norfolk by the Confederate troops, and until forcibly removed, I occupied the pulpit in this Church regularly, filling, as best I could, the place to which God had called me. These years, especially the latter portion of them, were years of trial in many ways, one only will I mention: The most persistent effort was made by the military commander of the district, General Benjamin F. Butler, to compel our ministers to pray for our rulers, particularly the President of the United States—not in the way and spirit in which the Scriptures instruct us to "pray for Kings and all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (I Tim. 2:2), for this we were not only ready to do, but habitually did in the public service in the sanctuary,—but so to pray for the President as to identify the praying Church with the cause he represented and the  course he was pursuing. [See note A.] I thank God that grace was given me to refuse to lead this Church in any such hypocritical mockery of Jehovah, as such prayer would have been for our people at the time. As I recall these efforts of General Butler now, I look at them with amazement, not so much at their wickedness as at their folly; and I am ready to ask, will man never learn the first principles of true religious liberty? Will man never learn that true religious faith and service cannot be imposed at the point of the bayonet?
During these two years my congregations in this Church, and so also in Portsmouth when I was able to preach there, were as large and often larger than in peaceful times. The explanation of this is to be found in the fact that many of those who occupied the position of pastors in our churches at the time of the evacuation, either then or afterwards, voluntarily left the city and went within the Confederate lines, whilst the Church buildings of others, St. Paul's for example, were taken possession of by military authority and ministers from the North placed in their pulpits. This was the case with our Church building, for a short time, after my removal. [See note B.] At the time of my arrest but one other of our Protestant pastors remained in occupancy of his pulpit in the city. As they lost their pastors, such of the people as were left behind, gathered around those of us who remained, and thus it came to pass that this Church was usually full, when opened for divine service, with a congregation of Episcopalians, Methodists and Baptists, as well as Presbyterians; and at no time since I first came among you have I been kept busier in ministerial labor out of the pulpit, in visiting the sick and burying the dead, than during these months. And my ministry was not a fruitless ministry. At almost every communion season some were found ready to come out openly and profess their faith in Christ. At our Spring communion in 1863 twelve were added to our Church, and at the Spring communion in 1864, on the last Sabbath I was permitted to spend with the Church until the war was over, five were added.
I have had occasion several times to refer to my forcible removal from the Church; my "deposition," as it was ridiculously styled in the published "order" of the day, and my imprisonment and subsequent banishment following thereupon. Having been placed of God as I believed, in this pulpit, I never voluntarily left it. Having taken pastoral charge of this Church, I never, of free will, deserted my post. Of my forcible removal from the pulpit, if viewed as a military measure, I have no disposition to complain. War is, in its very nature, made up of acts of violence, and what would be gross injustice in time of peace, may, in time of war, be a military necessity. Of my subsequent hard imprisonment I feel differently, [See note C.] but as it does not specially concern the history of our Church, I will say only this respecting it: That my imprisonment was for no crime I have ever felt ashamed of; for no sin I have ever repented of.
My forced absence from my pastoral charge lasted for fifteen months, from the first of March, 1864, to the last of May, 1865. I returned to Norfolk by the middle of April, of the last mentioned year, but it was not until the close of May that the order for my "deposition" was revoked, and I was allowed by the military government, which then existed here, to occupy the pulpit again.
For the greater part of the time during these fifteen months of my absence, public service on the Sabbath was conducted by the two Ruling Elders of the Church who remained in the city. In God's good providence we had in our session, at the time, a man eminently fitted for such an emergency. To most of you, there will be no need for me to say that I refer to William D. Bagnall. Possessing naturally a clear mind and retentive memory, Mr. Bagnall had improved these gifts of God by a judicious course of reading, persevered in for years, until he became more thoroughly acquainted with the history and doctrine of our Church, as well as with Scripture truth in general, than many of our ministers; and thus he was eminently fitted to supply a pastor's place in his absence. His sterling integrity none ever questioned. His warm-hearted, unaffected piety all had confidence in. And when, in this season of sore trial to this Church, he stood up on the Sabbath to expound the Scriptures, or kneeled by the bed-side of the sick to lead in prayer, or conducted the funeral services of the dead—and in all these ways he ministered to the Church—he was enabled to do all in such a way as to endear him to God's people, and greatly to honor the office to which the Holy Ghost had called him. God spared this good man to us until the war was over, and something of order restored to the Church again, and then, in January, 1867, he "entered into his rest."
For these reasons, whilst our Church suffered greatly by the war, it did not suffer as much as some other churches in the city. When the war was over, and our absent members had generally returned to their homes again, we had about two hundred communicants left us—  along with the Pastor, and frequently, private members of the Church came with inquiring friends; but with those exceptions, the meet-__ just about the same number we had ten years before, when the pestilence had done its work. Again had God, in his providence, "thrown down the building of years;" yet could, we say, "though troubled, we are not distressed; though perplexed, we are not in despair; though cast down, we are not destroyed."
As one of the first fruits of returning prosperity to our Church, the people were able, in the Summer of 1869, to resume work upon our Church building. In 1858 we had begun to remodel, I might almost say, to rebuild our house of worship; not attempting to do the work all at once, but only as we were able to make payment for it. This work was continued during the summer of 1860, and then interrupted by the war. In 1869, ten years after it was begun, the work was resumed and the spire of the Church built, and so the building was completed; and when I say completed, I mean paid for as well as built.
During the latter part of 1870, and throughout March, 1871, God blessed our Church with a remarkable revival of religion, and to some brief historical notes on this revival I will now ask your attention: Early in the Autumn of 1870, indications for good, appeared in the increased size of our congregations, and in the greater attention with which the preached Gospel was listened to. By the first of January such serious attention to religion was shown, as led to the appointment of a meeting in the Pastor's study for such as desired particular instruction in Gospel truth, God's way of salvation for sinners; and the meetings thus begun were continued every Sabbath afternoon for a period of five months.
At the first of these meetings thirteen were present, and from that they increased in numbers, one or more being added every Sabbath, until from thirty to forty were regularly present. In these meetings no attempt was made at personal conversation, but after singing and prayer, some practical topic, of especial interest to those inquiring after "the way of life," was made the subject of remark, such, for example, as the nature of true conviction of sin, and its place and purpose in conversion to God, the nature of saving faith, and the Scriptural evidences of regeneration; and then with prayer the meeting was dismissed. Opportunities for private conversation with those who attended these meetings were sought and obtained at other times.
 Usually some one or more of the Elders attended these meetings [and] were made up exclusively of those who were inquiring after the way of salvation. I kept a record of the names of all who came to these meetings, in order that I might know whom to visit throughout the week, and on looking over that record, at the close of the revival, I found that those who attended, almost without exception, afterwards came forward and made a public profession of faith in Christ; not all at one time, but all before the revival had ceased.
With the exception of this Sabbath afternoon meeting in the Pastor's study, there were no extra services in the Church, and the preaching, with the the exception of a single sermon in May, was all by the Pastor, God's blessing throughout this revival coming as a blessing upon the diligent and faithful use of the ordinary means of grace. What renders this the more remarkable is, that the year before we had held a protracted meeting, and had with us a brother who preached night after night for a week, and preached, as it seemed to me, some of the best sermons I ever listened to; and yet, in so far as I could learn, his preaching did not result in the conversion of a single soul to God. If I attempt to explain this, I am compelled to trace it, not so much to any difference in the preaching from that of ordinary times, as to a difference in the praying, the praying of the Church. In the first great Christian revival in Jerusalem, of which we have an account in the opening portion of Acts, the Spirit begins the story with the record: ''They went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphens, and Simon Zealots, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary, the mother of James, and with his brethren." Acts 1:13,14. And such, I believe, is the history of the beginning of every great revival of religion, from that day to this.
At our regular February communion that year, thirty-eight were added to our numbers; at an extra communion in April, thirty-one were added; at our regular communion in May, twenty-one, and in the course of the year closing with February, seventeen more, in all one hundred and seven, most of whom were added on profession of faith in Christ. This number embraced persons of every age, from then man of more than eighty years, tottering on the brink of the grave, to the child of eleven; the oldest and youngest it had been my privilege to admit to the Lord's table stood side by side, as they  made their public profession of faith in Christ. An unusually large proportion of the number admitted were persons of middle age, settled in life, and the heads of families. Of the number then gathered into the Church, "the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep."
The especial lessons of this revival, as it seems to me, are first, that a true revival is not the work of one man, in so far as human instrumentality is concerned, but the work of a united living Church, a Church in which pastor and people "continue with one accord in prayer and supplication;" and, second, that there is no need to await some season of extra service, desirable as such extra service may be at certain times, or the coming of some celebrated preacher or evangelist, in order that we may pray for and expect a revival of religion. God can hear our prayers, and bless the ordinary means of grace to the abundant revival of a Church, and the salvation of many souls. Brethren, let us remember these lessons, that we may live and labor accordingly.
Shortly after the close of this revival, and as the fruits of it, in July, 1872, a colony was sent out, and organized by Presbytery, under the name of the Second Presbyterian Church, of Norfolk. This colony consisted of fifty-five members, fifty joining in the organization in the beginning, and five more uniting with them when they were ready to occupy their new house of worship. For nearly a year after their organization, the new Church continued to worship with us, and it was not until June, 1873, that Neander M. Woods, their Pastor, reached Norfolk, and their separate existence was fully inaugurated. From the first, they have been a self-sustaining Church, and they have increased in numbers, until they reported to Presbytery, in April last, one hundred and nine communicants.
Such is a brief sketch of the history of our Church for the twenty-years last passed; and with this history before us, let us see what are the fruits of these twenty-five years of life and labor on the part of the Church:
The number of names on the "Roll" just published, is almost the same with that on the "Roll"published twenty-five years ago. Does this mean that there has been nothing accomplished in all these years, if we estimate the work done by a Church by the number of names on the communion roll? By no means. During these twenty-five years this Church has sent out two colonies, viz: the High Street Church, Portsmouth, which, as already stated, after growing stead- ily until it had almost become a self-sustaining Church, was so weakened by losses during the war, that at the close of that season of sore trial, it united with the Middle Street Church, in like condition, and formed the present Church of Portsmouth. This Church is now a self-sustaining Church, and reported to Presbytery, in April, one hundred and three communicants. One moiety of this Church may fairly be considered an outgrowth of our Church during the period under review. The Second Presbyterian Church of Norfolk is also an outgrowth of our Church during the same period. Adding to the number on our own communion roll, the number on the roll of the Second Church, and one-half the number on the roll of the Portsmouth Church, we have four hundred and thirty communicants now, against two hundred and seventy-four, twenty-five years ago. This shows a rate of increase greater than that of the population of the two cities for these years, and fully equal, I think, to that of any other Church in either of the cities.
If we turn from the absolute increase, in numbers, to the rate of increase, the result is equally cheering; and as under our Presbyterian system, our increase comes as a result of instruction given in God's truth in the family, the Sabbath School and the Church, "precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little," the rate of increase is as good a test of the efficiency of a Church as its absolute increase in numbers. From a careful examination of our records I find, that during the first ten years of the period under review, our increase was one hundred and forty-six, or an average of something over fourteen a year. During the last ten years it has been two hundred and forty-two, or an average of over twenty-four a year. Last year our additions numbered twenty; the year before, twenty-three, thus showing that the increased ratio of addition during the last ten years is not altogether owing to the great revival.
Look now at the efficiency of the Church, at the beginning and close of these twenty-five years, as measured by its Sabbath School labors; and as this is a department of Church labor, in which the private members are the chief workers, it furnishes a very good means of judging of the advance or decline in the efficiency of a Church. In 1851 we had a large Sabbath School at the Church, and a Mission School, which met in a rented room on upper Church street. Now we have as large a Sabbath School at the Church, and two Mission Schools, meeting in Chapels erected for their use. The Second Church has a flourishing School at the Church, with a Mission School  meeting in a neat Chapel in Atlantic City. The Portsmouth Church has a flourishing Sabbath School at the Church, and has recently completed a handsome and commodious Chapel in connection with a Mission School which it has maintained for a year past. Reckoning now, as before, the Second Church, and one-half the Portsmouth Church as an outgrowth of our Church during these twenty-five years, and we have six Sabbath Schools and three Chapels built and paid for, now, against two Schools and no Chapel twenty-five years ago.
"Honor the Lord with thy substance and with the first fruits of thine increase" (Prov. 3:9), is the instruction of inspired Solomon under the Old Testament dispensation. "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver" (II. Cor, 9:7), writes Paul under the New Testament dispensation; and James adds: "Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him" (James 3:17). In such emphatic terms do the Scriptures teach us that giving to the Lord of our substance is an evidence of life in the individual Christian, and in the Church as well.
During the year closing with April 1st, 1851, the last year of Dr. S. J. P. Anderson's ministry, the amount contributed by this Church, for all purposes, as reported to Presbytery, was $3,085. I take the contributions of this year, and not of the first year of my ministry, because my first year with you was a broken year, when the Church was for a time without a Pastor, and so the contributions fell below the average, whilst those of the year I have taken are a fair average of the contributions at that time. During the year closing April 1st, 1870, as reported to Presbytery, our Church contributed, for all purposes, $5,538; the Second Church, $3,824; the Portsmouth Church, $3,416. Adding, now, to our contributions, those of the Second Church, and one-half those of the Portsmouth Church, we have $11,070 given to the Lord during the year just passed, against $3,085 given twenty-five years ago.
Judging in any of these ways, by the number of communicants, by the annual rate of increase, by the Church's labor in the Sabbath School, or by the amount given to the Lord from year to year, our Church, to-day occupies a position much in advance of that of twenty-five years ago; and as we remember all the circumstances  under which this advance has been made, we can but exclaim, "What Hath God Wrought?"
I have dwelt at some length upon these facts, not in any spirit of vain-glorious boasting, but because, in reviewing the history of these twenty-five years, we have had to remember God's sore chastisements of our Church in "the Pestilence" and in "the war;" to recall times when all things seemed to be against us, and God's own hand threw down the work of years. Twice in the course of these years have I been called to stand in this pulpit, when from Sabbath to Sabbath my heart was made sad by the sight of many vacant seats in all parts of the house; the vacant seats of those whom God had taken from us. I have no great respect for the philosophy which always looks at the dark side of events and never at the bright. I do not believe that the piety is of the most Scriptural type which habitually remembers the evil received at the hands of the Lord, and forgets the good. Brethren, if the history of these years furnishes us occasion to humble ourselves before God, it furnishes equal occasion to rejoice in "God most high, who performeth all things for us."
In conclusion, there are two thoughts suggested by this review of our history, to which I would ask your attention for a few moments:
The first, I cannot better express than in the language of Scripture, "The things which are seen are temporal, the things which are not seen," and they alone, "are eternal" (II. Cor. 4-18). The months when the Pestilence raged in our city were months of sore trial and deep affliction; and yet I remember them, as I doubt not do some of you, as months of great spiritual peace. Lifted above the murky atmosphere of the world, the heavenly Jerusalem seemed very near. A light brighter than that of the sun seemed glinted back from its walls of precious stones, and all appeared very real. So was it with the long years of war. Years of sore trial they were, and yet years in which God sustained and comforted his people; and Heaven seemed but a little way off. The months of pestilence and the years of war have passed. Health blesses our city, and peace has been restored to the land. And yet, to-day, the things of earth, its pleasures, its wealth, its honors, are no more substantial, and we hold them with no more certain grasp than we did when we knew that the red hand of war might rend them from us at any moment, or the pestilence might hurry us from them "to return to the dust from which we were taken." Oh, that all might heed the voice of God's  providence in these years, as it repeats the solemn question once asked by the Lord Jesus: "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36.)
The second thought suggested by the review is this: Our God is a God to be trusted. He has said: When thou passeth through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour" (Isaiah 43:2, 3). And what he has said he will make good. His promise is sure to such as trust him. This, brethren, has been our experience throughout these years. As we remember all the way by which he has led us can we not say—
"Lord, I would not be much concerned,
Nor vainly long to see,
In volumes of thy deep decrees,
What months are writ for me."
As we call to mind the power of his love as made known to us in days of trial, can we not make our own the language of the triumphant Apostle: "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:37,9).
Note A, p. 12.—Just what was meant by "praying for the President of the United States," as that phrase was used by General Butler and his Aid-de-Camp, Captain George P. Edgar, may be learned from the following extracts from my examinations before them, as published at the time:
"Ques. 18. Have you determined not to pray for or allude to the President of the United States, the authorities or the armies and navies thereof, that they may be successful in all their efforts to put down this wicked rebellion?
Ans. I have.
Ques. 19. Do you think this a wicked rebellion?
Ans. I do not."
Examination before. Captain Edgar.
"General. You said you would not willingly open your Church to any recognized minister of the Gospel from such denominations as before the war, you would have exchanged with, did you know he would pray for the Union, and and against the Rebels?
Mr. A. Yes, sir."
Examination before General Butler.
Note B. p. 12.—
"Headquarters, Provost Marshal's Office, District of Virginia,
Norfolk, March 9th, 1864.
"Owing to the vacancy of the pulpit of the Presbyterian Church of this city, caused by the deposing of its late Pastor, the Rev. George D. Armstrong, D. D., by action of the Commanding General, the Rev. C. L. Woodworth, Chaplain of the Twenty-seventh Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers, will officiate until further orders. It is not doubted that the true loyalists of the congregation will approve of this change, and cheerfully co-operate in the usual services of the Church. The Church officials will continue on duty as usual, in their respective spheres.
Charles M. Wheldon.
Lieutenant Colonel and Provost Marshal."
To the credit of Rev. C. L. Woodworth I would add, that finding his services were not acceptable to the congregation, after officiating for a few Sabbaths, he was, at his own request, returned to his regiment again, and the Church building was thus left in the hands of the proper officers of the Church.
Note C. p. 13.—"Of my subsequent hard imprisonment I feel differently." By this I mean, such an imprisonment was not a military necessity; nor do I think that it was inflicted on me in that view of the case, but solely to gratify the personal ill-will of General B. F. Butler.
July 21st, 1861, was set apart by the Confederate Congress, then assembled in Richmond, as a day of thanksgiving for the victory of Manassas, and was generally observed throughout the Southern States. All the Churches in Norfolk were opened and service held appropriate to the occasion. My sermon preached on that day was subsequently published, by request of the congregation. In that sermon, and as illustrating what seemed to be the good providence of God toward us, I said: "From the battlefield of Bethel, Brigadier General Hill wrote: 'Our Heavenly Father has wonderfully interposed to shield our heads in the day of battle.' In all that battle, we lost not one killed, but one mortally wounded (Wyatt died after the battle was over), and seven or eight slightly wounded; whilst the enemy lost so many that they have never been willing to publish the official account of their loss, but judging from what I have heard and read from persons in the battle, and in the neighborhood for several days after the battle, I should say not less than five hundred in killed and wounded, probably more."
 "In all the attacks which have been made upon our batteries about Norfolk, and the firing from the great rifle-canon at Fortress Calhoun, not one of our men, thus far, has been kill or seriously wounded."
As General Benjamin P. Butler was in command at Fortress Monroe at the time, and the battle of Bethel was fought under his direction, and the attacks upon our batteries around Norfolk must have been of his ordering, these statements of mine were damaging to his military reputation, and because true, none the less damaging.
My reason for believing that these statements were the ground of a personal ill-will, which found vent in my hard imprisonment, I will lay before the reader:
1st. My sentence, as published in The New Regime, of March 29th, 1864, "the official journal of the Department," was in the words: "(To an Aide) Make an order that this man be committed to the guard-house, in close confinement, there to remain until he can be consigned to Fort Hatteras, thereto be kept in solitary confinement until further orders; and send a copy of this examination to the officer in command there." The reader will notice that in this sentence, there is no offence specified; and if he will read over the "examination" referred to, he will find that there is no word or act of mine charged as an offence.
3d. At my examination before Captain Edgar, I was questioned about this sermon, and requested to furnish a copy, which I did. In Captain Edgar's report to his commanding officer—a copy of which I have now lying before me— he writes: "Accompanying, please find a record of his investigation made by me February 22d, witnessed by several of my clerks, and a copy of a thanksgiving sermon preached by him on the 'Victory of Manassas,' upon the recommendation of the Confederate Congress, July 21st, 1861."
In my examination before General Butler, as published in The New Regime, he says: "Now, sir, while you did preach a very virulent sermon upon 'the Victory of Manassas,' at the recommendation of the Confederate Congress, have you ever since preached in your pulpit a sermon favorable to the Union cause?"
After I had been in prison several months, and fruitless efforts had been made by friends to secure my release, Mrs. Dr. Mallory, an excellent Christian lady, but not a member of my Church, thinking, for certain reasons, that there was some prospect of success in such an effort, headed a petition for my release with her own name, and presented it to General Butler in person. After retaining it for a few days he returned it with the following indorsement, viz:
"1. Dr. Armstrong is the author of a book advocating the divine right of slavery.
2. He preached and published a sermon on occasion of the Rebel Victory of Manassas, which contains false and disloyal statements.
3. He has confessed most disloyal sentiments to my Aid-de-Camp and to me. I therefore say, as I believe the Judge will say at the last day, 'let him go to his own place.'
Benj. F. Butler, Major General, U. S. A."
The first charge might have some weight in securing my hard imprisonment at the hands of an honest, though fanatical Abolitionist, but surely no man can regard General Butler as an honest Abolitionist who remembers that in 1860, he was a leading Democrat, and at the Charleston Convention voted time after time for the nomination of Jefferson Davis for President of the United States.
As to the third charge, no one knew better than General Butler, that my "disloyal sentiments" were the sentiments of nine-tenths of the citizens of Norfolk.
The second charge alone furnishes any explanation of the "virulent" animus of the closing words of the above quoted indorsement.
By the officers of the United States Army, with the exception of General Butler, I was always treated politely, and of the course they pursued toward me I have no occasion to complain. My hard imprisonment, as already said, I trace to General Butler's personal ill-will, occasioned by my telling the truth, and putting it in print so as to be beyond his power to blot it out, respecting his incompetence as a military commander, manifested in his attacks upon the Confederate batteries near Norfolk and his battle of Bethel.