Baptists and the American Civil War: August 31, 1861

Abraham LincolnSouthern Baptists, like other southerners, miss many northern goods because of war-related trade sanctions. Yet in one respect, Baptists of the South voice gladness that a particular northern industry has been marginalized: as of this week, Bible publication is no longer dependent upon northern printing presses. The Tennessee Baptist thus reports:

The first set of plates for printing pocket Bibles and Testaments ever owned and worked in the South were laid upon the press of the Southwestern Publishing House last Wednesday, and it can now be said for the first time that the South is independent of the North for the Word of God. Lincoln no longer binds the Word of God.

These plates for the Bible and Testament have cost, including tariff, ($150), freight and other expenses connected with them, some $1250. More than one-half of this sum was contributed by the brethren and citizens of West Tennessee and North Alabama to us personally—to enable the Publishing House to print cheap Bibles and Testaments for the Confederate soldiers. There is not another set of plates on which a pocket Bible or pocket Testament can be printed in the Southern Confederacy to-day.

Believing that the balance for the plates will be contributed as a voluntary offering to the enterprise, the Southwestern Publishing House offers to print Bibles and Testaments for the Confederate army at the following rates: Pocket Testaments.—Plain $12.50 per 100—15 cts. retail; Gilt Sides $15 per 100—20 cts. retail. Pocket Bibles.-$7.50 to $12 per dozen, according to style and binding. Fine bound copies, with name in gilt letters, from $2 to $5 per copy. Let every community that has sent out a company forward each soldier a Bible or Testament, and a package of religious tracts—price 25 cents per package of 300 pages.

Will all our exchanges in the South call attention to this enterprise, and to the fact that the Southwestern Publishing House offers to supply 100,000 Bibles and Testaments for the Confederate army at cost of material and labor?

In the coming months, the southern presses produce tens of thousands of Bibles for Confederate soldiers. The ever-growing need for religious literature alongside calls for soldier conversions thinly masks a great irony of the Confederacy: the South’s army, the army of God, is itself largely unconverted.

As to the new southern-produced and approved Bible, the Confederacy is guilty of “binding” the “Word of God” to African slavery, a practice white Southern Baptists now defend with their blood. And while white Baptists of the South by and large despise Lincoln as a godless infidel, it is the northern, ex-Baptist president of the United States who, speaking of a God whose ways are higher than those of humanity and who cannot be bound by any man, will emerge by war’s end as the predominant public theologian of the American people, white and black alike.

Source: “The Word of God is Not Bound,” Tennessee Baptist, August 31, 1861 (link)