May 3, 2014

Thy faith is changed to sight

When Rev. Francis E. Butler, Chaplain of the New Jersey 25th Regiment, died on May 3, 1863, having been fatally wounded at the siege of Suffolk, Virginia, during the Civil War, his acquaintance Alfred Gibbs Campbell was devastated. Campbell, like Butler, was from New Jersey, as well as a published poet. Though he was himself born free in the North, Campbell frequently used his writing to voice his strong abolitionist stance and became vice-president of the American Anti-Slavery Society. His poem to Butler, simply titled "In Memoriam," emphasized the holy role he played as a man of faith and a religious leader for soldiers:

Soldier of Christ, no more!
    Victor—thy warfare's done.
For thee the battle's roar
    Is hushed. Thy crown is won!

Oh! not for thee our tears!
    Happy in fadeless light,
Beyond the reach of fears,
    Thy faith is changed to sight.

Thine eyes with rapture see
    Thy dear Lord face to face,
Whose life of Love in thee
    His own eye loved to trace!

Kind helper of God's poor!
    Friend of the friendless one!
Thy memory shall endure
    While suns their courses run;

And bright thy crown shall be
    With living jewels set!
Souls won to Christ by thee
    Adorn thy coronet!

And yet our tears will flow,
    As we our loss recall:
How can we let thee go,
    Brother and friend of all?

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