Baptists and the American Civil War: April 29, 1862

Samuel Boykin

Samuel Boykin, Editor, Christian Index

Samuel Boykin, editor of Georgia Baptists’ Christian Index, today plumbs the depths of God’s Providence and the Confederacy.

The prosperity of God’s spiritual Kingdom is the moving cause of all His dealings with the nations of the earth. And when His people retrograde in piety; when they neglect Christian duty; when they disregard His statutes; and permit heresy, hypocrisy, pharisaism, worldliness and covetousness, to defile the sanctuary, then He sendeth forth His judgments to purify the church. God’s Saints are the salt of the earth; and to preserve the savor of His people, that the earth may be kept pure, He often finds it necessary to punish nations wherein His people dwell.

Thus the whole body suffers because of deriliction in a member; and this is mete. For the true life of a nation is its religion; and to preserve purity, sanctity, vitality in its religion, by the punishment of a nation, is the dictate of the loftiest wisdom, and of the most sublime benevolence. All of God’s designs are governed by justice, benevolence and wisdom: justice towards Himself, benevolence towards man, and wisdom in the application of means. And although the means may at times appear harsh, yet the Christian mind discerns in them the greatest wisdom, and the eye of faith beholds in them naught but an exercise of the most exalted benevolence.–Behind a frowning Providence God does hide a smiling face. And the vision of faith, piercing the dark clouds of sorrow and painful visitation, and reaching up into the realms of eternal day, where infinite Love sits enthroned in sweet and gracious majesty, beholds the fatherly countenance of Him, who doeth all things well, wreathed in inviting smiles at the very time when His Omnipotent hand grasps the rod of correction. God chastises the nations of His love, lest they forget Him, and, in accordance with the irreversible decree, be cast into hell. And as no nation can truly be said to forget Him, wherein dwell no people of God, or upon which the pure light of Christianity is shed by the holy lives and principles of the people of God, so, when He visits a people in wrath, it is an evidence that professed Christians have not been faithful: that it is necessary to call them back to the line of duty; and hence it follows that the visitations of God’s corrective providences upon a nation are indicative of remissness, backslidings, lukewarmness and sinfulness, on the part of His people, as it is indisputably true, that God makes obedience the channel through which He bestows blessings, so is it also true, that He makes disobedience the channel of His punishments; and when punishments are inflicted, we may rely upon it, that God is angry with His people for practical infidelity, heresy, or idolatry. And as our land is writing beneath the inflictive dispensations of our Allwise, merciful, and yet jealous God, we may rest assured that it becomes the churches, and christians individually, to examine themselves.

As a people, have we not been proud, boasters, forgetful of God, seekers of pleasure, laying up for ourselves treasures on earth rather than in heaven? As churches, have we not been too contentious, sectarian, bigoted, neglectful of duty, maintaining rather the form than the power of Godliness? As individuals, do we not show by our works that we have merely a name to live, but are dead?–(Rev. 3:1) How much heart-burning, rancor, coldness, want of spirituality and brotherly love may be found exerting the most baleful influence over the words and conduct of Christians North and South? But, with the sins of the North, bitter and full of infidelity though they be, we have nothing to say. In God’s own day shall they reap their full reward.

Sufficient for us is it, that our land is swept by the tornado of war; that our households are made desolate; that sorrow, suffering, want and fearful anxiety, have taken their abode near each hearth-stone beneath our fair skies. God grant that we may speedily see that it is our own sins for which we are being punished; that God is calling us out to turn from our evil ways that He may without His hand; and that it becomes us to repent in sack-cloth and ashes, and return to our first love, and do our first works.

O Christians, will ye not take heed in time? God cannot bless a rebellious and gain-saying people. Have we any patriotism, any love for our own souls, any love for the welfare of others, any love for God himself?

If we have, then let it become manifest by our actions. As citizens, as churches, as individual Christians, let us seek to do better. We must be better men, better ministers, better church-officers, better churches. We must return to the Lord, with patience for shortcomings and wrong-goings, and with renewed trust in the all-sufficing righteousness of our Redeemer. We must have more personal holiness, more zeal for good works, more liberality in Christian enterprises, more of the spirit of Christian brotherhood, and a greater regard for eternal things. Bickerings, jealousies, and fault-finding, should cease; and faith, love and charity, should abound.

Then will God bless us, and stay this cruel war, and change our mourning into rejoicing. Then will the Sun of His loving mercy beam forth gloriously over our land, and cause peace, prosperity and happiness, to reign supreme.

Repentance of Southern sins is thus necessary for God to again bless his chosen nation in their biblical mission of perpetuating African slavery.

Source: “Why God Afflicts Nations, and the Remedy,” Christian Index, April 29, 1862