In this age of hero-worship there is a tendency to exalt unduly the virtues of great men, to magnify the religious character of one professing to be a Christian, and even to manufacture ‘Christians’ out of those of notoriously irreligious lives.
This is so well understood that there may be with those who never came in contact with this great man a lingering doubt as to the genuineness of his piety—a fear that with him, as with so many others, his profession of religion was merely nominal.
A few incidents, culled from the many that might be given, will serve to dissipate any such impression, and to show beyond all cavil that with General Lee vital godliness
was a precious reality.
I can never forget my first interview and conversation with General Lee
on religious matters.
It was in February, 1864, while our army was resting along the Rapidan
, Rev. B. T. Lacy
and myself went, as a committee of our Chaplains' Association, to consult him in reference to the better observance of the Sabbath in the army, and especially to urge that something be done to prevent irreligious officers from converting Sunday into a grand gala day for inspections, reviews, etc. It was a delicate mission.
We did not wish to appear as either informers or officious intermeddlers, and yet we were very anxious to do something to further the wishes of those who sent us, and to put a stop to what was then a growing evil and, in some commands, a serious obstacle to the efficient work of the chaplain.
The cordial greeting which he gave us, the marked courtesy and respect with which he listened to what we had to say and expressed his warm sympathy with the object of our mission, soon put us at our ease.
But as we presently began to answer his questions concerning the spiritual interests of the army, and to tell of that great revival which was then extending through the camps, and bringing thousands of our noble men to Christ
, we saw his eye brighten and his whole countenance glow with pleasure; and as, in his simple, feeling words, he expressed his delight, we forgot the great warrior, and only remembered that we were communing with an humble, earnest Christian
In July, 1862, he had issued a general order
to the army in which he said: ‘Habitually all duties except those of inspection will be suspended during Sunday, to afford the troops rest and to enable them to attend religious services.’
The day after our interview he issued the following: