Baptists and the American Civil War: September 14, 1861

Samuel Boykin

Samuel Boykin, Editor, Christian Index

Opining in this week’s Christian Index, Georgia Baptist editor Samuel Boykin, appropriating the language of providence, situates the Confederacy both under God’s control and as a part of God’s Kingdom. He also castigates the North for driving down the value of southern slaves and thwarting the Christian South’s efforts to save the souls of southern slaves.

Our President, our Cabinet, our officers, our armies, our States, our enemies are under the control of Him who ‘hath on his vesture and on his thigh name the name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.’ He has on his head many crowns, and no doubt one of those crowns is there as an emblem of his control over the issues of this great contest. … Whether the struggle be short or protracted, whether our own earth-beclouded hopes and plans are fully realized or not, God’s plans will not be frustrated … The Gospel will march forth to new triumph … The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and meekness, and fidelity, and true honor shall be exalted on the earth. Fanaticism will receive … weakening wounds … Sooner or later, in some way or another, all this and more will happen to the world as a result, under the guidance of the Captain of our salvation, of the present momentous struggle. And we think we can see some of the methods through which glorious results to Zion may be anticipated.

1. Our deep affliction will teach the people their dependence on God. Who does not feel the pressure of our present troubles? In the very beginning of our contest, its afflicting, saddening influence penetrates the whole land. It is blocking the wheels of commerce, deranging our internal, local traffic; depreciating the value of every town lot, of every servant, of every country acre. Families are torn asunder; fathers, brothers, sons are bleeding on the battlefield, and there is weeping throughout the land. Surely these judgments will teach the people righteousness. Surely they will awaken reflection in the hearts of the skeptical and worldly minded; surely the righteous throughout the whole land, east, west, north and south, will sooner or later betake themselves to earnest and prevailing prayer, that God would withdraw the rod of his anger, sanctify to our good those terrible corrections, and open the window of heaven for the outpouring of his spirit.

2. Enlightened, constitutional liberty will come forth from this struggle with new strength and glory. This will spread new guarantees over our civil, domestic, and religious rights, and it is needless to add that all this will be favorable to the progress of divine truth, and that as the triumphs of truth advance, God is glorified in the church.

3. Especially may we hope that the issue will improve our disposition and ability to promote the spiritual good of the African race. Four millions of this race are amongst us – God has cast them on our hands to protect and nurture – to point upward to the world of glory. We have done something for their good, much we trust by the kind hand of God upon us, but not all that we have desired, or all that God required and purposes. Our enemies have hindered us. By their … mistaken zeal for our servants, they have increased the disabilities of blacks, oppressed our hearts, and embarrassed our benevolent plans. A natural schism has come, and one that must be … a permanent separation. Then will we be able to take care of our helpless, dependent blacks in our own way … provide for their earthly comfort, and especially to meet the wants of their uninstructed souls.”

Many Northern Baptists, by contrast, arguing that bodily freedom is as important as soul freedom, are convinced that God’s will is for the eradication of the South’s “domestic” institution of African slavery. Yet to Boykin and many other Southern Baptists, striving for the bodily freedom of blacks is “fanaticism.”

Source: “Christ, as Head Over all to the Church,” Christian Index, September 11, 1861