Baptists and the American Civil War: March 5, 1862

Confederate States MapA pseudonymous Baptist writer of the South offers his perspective of the Church, the Confederacy and the war  in this week’s Baptist press:

Money! Money! Money! is all the cry.–Money for the soldiers–money for their dependent families–money for war taxes–and yet no cotton selling–or if selling, not at remunerative prices. Never so much money demanded before, and yet never so little to give. Now, the war must be sustained, our battles must be fought, and our arms must be victorious, or we are a ruined people. Had we not better suspend our missionary work, and cut off our Pastors’s salaries, till the war ends?–These are conclusions arrived at by a vast majority of our churches. Hence many of them are as sheep without a shepherd. The poor Pastor has for years given himself wholly to these churches for a salary which barely supported him, and now his income is cut off, and he is either gone to the war or engaged in some secular business to obtain food and raiment. There are but meagre congregations attending a heartless Sabbath prayer meeting, held by cold-hearted members. The Sabbath School is waning, and the weekly prayer meeting has been given up. The church is scattering, the cause for which Jesus bled is waning, and spiritual Christianity is rapidly disappearing. The Bible is supplanted by newspapers, a religious conversation by war news. It must be an evil tree which produces bad fruit. Let us see.

1. The brethren who are most clamorous for giving up or suspending the benevolent enterprises, are generally, if not universally, those who do, and always have given the least, to their ability; and now perhaps give but little to support the war or feed the poor.

2. To justify the suspension they must believe our national enemies are more dangerous than our spiritual; that the cause of the Confederate States is of more value than the cause of Christ; that temporal interests take precedence of eternal; that the body and land and negroes are to be preferred to the interests of the soul.

3. They must forget that in this great national struggle, that we are dependent for success on that Almight arm “which hath gotten us victory;” and that He honors those who honor Him, and that if we forsake Him He will forsake us.


1. There is no conflict between the interests of our young nation, even in this crisis, and the cause of Christianity. This is one of “the wars of the Lord,” and Christianity is his also. What, therefore, is due to His cause, is not due to the war, and vice versa.

2. If we are not able to give as much as usual, it is no reason we should not give at all. “It is accepted if a man give according to that he hath, and not according to that he hath not.” … “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.”

3 The “time has come when judgment must begin at the house of God.” It has begun; we are now suffering under it. Shall we be indifferent, and grow worse, and have the severity of the judgment increased? This would be very unlike to the children of God. Our faith is now being tried; shall it fail us, or will it “be found unto praise and honor and glory as the coming of Jesus Christ?”–Never has there been a better opportunity to prove to the world the moral influence and value of Christianity than the present. Shall we be equal to the crisis, or dishonor Jesus? Let us be equal to the crisis; let us as patriots respond cheerfully, liberally, to our country’s call, and, if need be, die in her defence, and thus prove our love for liberty. Let us also rally to the standard of the cross. A host of enemies are hovering upon the borders of Zion, armed with the weapons of eternal death.–Many of our citizens are falling under his galling fire, and are sent down to the cold death-damps of eternal night; and shall we not come boldly to the rescue? Shall we stand ignominiously aloof, and not face the enemy? Never, no NEVER. We must show our loyalty to Christ, love for His cause, and our sympathy for precious souls.

Then let no pastor have to leave his field; let his usual salary be paid, for less will not support him at the exhorbitant rates of living. Let our contributions to missions be as large, at least, as usual, for we have never given a tenth of what we ought.

All this we can do, and we are faithless to the cause of souls, and in rebellion to Christ, if we do not.

O, Jesus, be with us, and help us to be faithful in this our hour of temptation.

Source:  Hatton, “Sheep Without a Shepherd,” Christian Index, March 4, 1862