The Countersign

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The following Christian Tract was distributed among our Confederate Soldiers during the late War for Southern Independence. While it is not dated, it is believed to have been issued during the years 1862 through 1864, and is presented here as it was then.

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THE COUNTERSIGN

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Brethren of the Southern Armies, ---- Ye who have exchanged the quiet delights of home, the society of mother, sister, wife, the pleasant face of mature lit up with the sweet smiles of early spring, for the stormy music of the battlefield, the deep-mouthed cannon's heavy roar and the musket's sharp flash, ye who have flung freedom's banner to the winds, and appealed to the God of battles for strength and success, ye whose hearts, animated by the undying love of liberty, would willingly pour out their last and most precious drops to secure freedom and independence for your country, I address you this day.

I address you, the subjects of so many prayers --- prayers offered in the holy sanctuary of the crowded city, where the church-going bells, summoning the worshippers, ring out sweetly on the balmy Sabbath's air, and the pealing organ's notes are heard; prayers offered in quiet little country churches, half hidden by the dense foliage of the encircling grove; prayers offered around the family alter, where the strong voice of the father grows tremulous as he prays for his absent sons; prayers offered in the retirement of the choset, in the shady grove, in the solemn silence of the night, when God's ear alone could hear: I come this day to ask if, while arming yourselves for the defense of your country, you have also put on the armor of God? If, while you are careful to know the countersign of your camp, you have also learned that countersign which alone can procure you an entrance into the great camp above?

You are safe within the lines of your camp, you are surrounded by thousands of brave hearts willing to bleed in your defence; you are, as it were, in a city of refuge, from which no enemy will be able to drag you, and while thus shielded from your enemies, let me ask you if the everlasting arms are around you, to keep you from that worst of foes - sin?

You have identified yourself with the Southern cause; your cheeks flush with joy and pride as you read of Southern victories, as you hear the names of the gallant leaders of the South, have you made the cause of Christ your cause? and does your heart thrill at Zion's success, and with love for its great Captain?

Two armies are in the field, they speak the same language, frequently they wear the same uniform and the same badge. What, then, is to designate them? It is the COUNTERSIGN, breathed in a whisper only, by the officer, as he places the sentinel on his lonely post.

And thus, in a spiritual sense, two armies are in the field; on the one side the dark legions of sin and Satan, on the other, the army of the Lord of Hosts. To outward appearance they may be the same, but the great Captain, Jesus, has breathed His Countersign into the ears of His soldiers, and they have an inward witness known only to themselves that they are His.

Confederate soldier, have you this Countersign? Were you outside the lines of your camp, and had not the word which alone could secure your entrance, how would your heart sink with dismay and dread when challenged by the sentinel! And let me tell you, if you have not believed in Christ, that you are outside of the lines, that you have not the Countersign, and that you are exposed to the wrath of a sin-hating God.

But though this be your situation, yet you need not despair. You may yet learn the countersign from our great Captain, who says, "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out," whose bowels yearn with tender compassion over the unhappy wanderer in the ways of sin, and who saves to the uttermost those that come unto God through Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.

Let "the precious blood of Christ" be your countersign on earth, and your watchword at the gates of death, that the greeting of "All's well" may be yours, that you may be victor in a contest whose triumph shall never end.

To you who have this countersign, let me add a word of exhortation. When the power of Satan and sin assault you to drive you from your duty, endure hardship like a good soldier, stand firm on your post until your Captain shall come to relieve you; for so strong and so wise is He, that so long as you stand firm, trusting in Him, no force that the devil shall be able to bring against you shall prevail over you.

You are, perhaps surrounded by circumstances unfriendly to your growth in grace; but as if to show that nothing is too hard for the Lord, some of the brightest examples of the power of Divine grace have been raise up on the battle-field. The lives of Vicars of Havelock, and of Gardener, tell you of the highest attainments in the Divine life to which a Christian soldier may arrive; and from Donelson's bloody sod, the voice of Dabney Carr Harrison calls you to follow to a death of glory and an immortal crows.

Soldiers of Christ, arise!
And put your armor on,
Strong in the strength which God supplies,
Through, his eternal Son:
Strong in the Lord of hosts,
And in his mighty power,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts,
Is more than conqueror.
Stand, then, in his great might,
With all his strength endued;
But take, to arm you for the fight,
The panoply of God:
That having all things done;
And all your conflicts past,
Ye may overcome throng's Christ alone,
And stand entire at last.

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Soldiers Tract Society, Virginia Conference, M.F. Church, South


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