Sullivan Ballou Echoes King Solomon.
The Song of Songs, by King Solomon, says, “Set me as a seal upon thine heart … for love is strong as death. … Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.” (Songs of Songs 8:6-7). Those words were penned many centuries ago by an Israelite king, but during the American Civil War, a Union soldier penned words that echoed those of Solomon, almost exactly, in a letter to his wife about one week before he died.
Major Sullivan Ballou poured out his heart to the one woman he knew would understand it, his wife Sarah. He told her, “Sarah, my love for you is deathless. It seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence can break. Yet my love of country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me … to the battlefield.” In another statement he describes the level of his commitment to his love of country as well as his wife: “I know … how great a debt we owe to those who went before us, through the blood and suffering of the Revolution, and I am … perfectly willing to lay down all my joys in this life to maintain this government and to pay that debt.”
In those words, Sullivan Ballou spoke for every American soldier who has left loved ones safe at home to go into hate-filled, death-filled foreign lands and willingly give everything he had — including his own life — to make sure those loved ones were kept safe — and that the nation whose constitution undergirded that safety was defended and secured from all that would try to destroy it.
In every war that America has fought, thousands of her soldiers have gone courageously into harm’s way because they believed in the truth that “love is strong as death.” They believed that all the hatred and all the wars this world will ever know cannot quench love. And they have been right: ALL THE HATRED AND ALL THE WARS THIS WORLD WILL EVER KNOW CANNOT QUENCH LOVE — because real love comes from only one source: the eternal, unfathomable, unquenchable Creator of the universe. It is He who gives soldiers like Sullivan Ballou the unquenchable love that he writes about in his letter — love for his wife — and love for his country and all it offers a world full of people who long with all their hearts for freedom and security.