Confederate Army camp life perplexes Southern Baptists. While lamenting over the evils in the camps, they also relish the possibility of evangelizing the masses of southern men who are housed in cramped, crude quarters far away from home and hearth. Such an environment, some Southern Baptists contend, should make the South’s men more open to the Gospel, while mass conversions would further Christianize the Confederacy. As Baptist army missionary and colporteur A. E. Dickinson argues this week:
Though there is much in the present aspect of our national difficulties to fill our hearts with gloomy forebodings, yet there is some sunshine on the dark clouds. Many are now receiving the Gospel who would be destitute if they were to be at their peaceful homes. For long years the churches have been laboring to evangelize Texas, Arkansas, the great valley of the Mississippi, the Indian Territory and the destitute portions of the older States. Much has been done by our State and Domestic missionaries; but what thousands even in the oldest States had not been reached when this war war was forced upon us! But now God seems to be facilitating the work of evangelization, by bringing multitudes from the new and more sparsely settled States into the old ones, where they can more readily be reached and supplied with religious truth. The same effort which a missionary would make in visiting five hundred persons in times of peace, will enable him now in the camps to converse with at least five thousand. In a few years’ laboring among these mighty armies, one may impart as much soul-saving knowledge as under ordinary circumstances he might hope to do in half a century. In this view of the matter, what a sublimely glorious field does this war present for Christian enterprise. By sending pious men laden with life-giving pages into the army, we are carrying on State Missions, and Domestic Missions, and Indian Missions. If the Christian community of the South will but awake to a due sense of their responsibility, and go forth into these whitening fields with that holy enthusiasm which the exigency demands, we may expect to find many returning at the close of the war to engage in a nobler struggle than even this, to fight the battles of God, in bringing this world in subjection to His Son.
Source: A.E.D., “An Encouraging Aspect of the War,” Biblical Recorder, March 12, 1862 (link)