Baptists and the American Civil War: April 30, 1863

African SlaveryToday is designated national fast day in the United States, as declared by the government. Many sermons are preached on this occasion, including a discourse by Northern Baptist minister Daniel C. Eddy to the combined congregations of the First Baptist Church and Tabernacle Baptist Church, both of Philadelphia, the latter of which Eddy serves as pastor.

Today’s sermons across the land tend to the patriotic and condemnatory of slavery, as is Eddy’s discourse based on Isaiah 12, here excerpted:

The moral attitude of the American people today, is one of profound awe. The whole nation, as by one common impulse, has gone down on its knees before the throne of God. Among the mountains of Maine, along the shores of Massachusetts bay, in surging New York, in quiet Philadelphia, in all the cities of the West, along the leaping Mississippi, away out to the Pacific Ocean, Christians assemble at this unusual hour for religious worship. The Puritan of New England, the Catholic of Maryland, the Quaker of Pennsylvania, the Lutheran of Ohio, the German of Missouri, all lisp one prayer today—” Our Country.” The merchant-princes of the East have closed their doors and locked their counting-houses; the farmer on the prairie of the West has left the plough in the furrow and the ox in the stall ; the gold digger on the far distant coast has forgotten his gains, while he gives the day to his native land, the honor and perpetuity of which are far more valuable than gold and precious stones. The sermons preached have one common subject, the prayers offered bear of one common burden — ” Our Country.” A nation of thirty millions of people, representing all the interests of mankind, and freighted with all the hopes of universal progress, has gone into the audience chamber of the King of kings, and Constitutional Liberty, stands waiting at the door to know what God the Lord, will say.

Crowded between this day and the 15th of April, 1861, are the most notable events that ever transpired on this continent. A country that had risen to stupendous proportions, that occupied the most enviable position on the globe, that was making gigantic strides towards national wealth and political aggrandizement, was plunged at once into all the horrors of a civil war so colossal in its proportions, that months rolled away before the laboring minds of our statesmen could comprehend the importance or measure the magnitude of the catastrophe.

For many years past things have been tending to the result we now witness. In the very core of our national greatness a reptile had deposited an egg which time has hatched, and a most fearful brood let loose. The troubles which have culminated in civil war, are not of modern origin. They commenced away down in the early history of our Government, and have grown until they have become mighty enough to convulse the whole structure. There has not been an hour since the days of Nullification when there have not been men who desired the destruction of the Union; and the whole history of our legislation has been but little more than an effort to bolster up, vitalize, perpetuate, and make national one of the institutions of the South, at which Humanity shuddered, and from which Christianity turned away aghast….

….And now, today our duty is prayer and humiliation — humiliation for our national pride and vanity, for our avarice and ambition — humiliation that we have so long delayed justice to the oppressed, and that we have been so indifferent to the rights of man ; that we have so disregarded God. To-morrow, we shall be called to act ; to welcome conscription, taxation, and perhaps new defeats; to set our faces against treason, North and South ; to hold up to honor men who fight our battles, be they of what creed or party they may ; and to hold up to scorn the men who, in this dark hour, would betray us.

Through the clouds, darkness and blood of this day of battle, we are beginning to see the moral, political and commercial advantages of this war. We have found that the Union is more than a rope of sand, and it cannot be long before our Government shall challenge the admiration of the world. Slavery has received its fatal wound. Whatever may come, Union or disunion, war or peace, that system of wrong is within a few years of utter extinction. We are learning our mission and finding out God’s plan concerning us. We are becoming acquainted with our resources, gauging the depths of our mighty power. We are disciplining in fire and blood for greatness.

Who would have this country rolled back to where it was on Thanksgiving-day of 1860, with James Buchanan in the chair of State ; John C. Breckinridge as President of the Senate ; and John B. Floyd, Secretary of War ; and Mason from Virginia, Slidell and Benjamin from Louisiana, and Wigfall from Texas, prominent and influential members of the Federal Congress? Who would have this nation put back where it was when the North was but the vassal of the lordly South’? For all the blood we have lost, and all the treasure we have expended, and all the sorrow we have had, we would not go back to the condition of 1860.

This Union never was so great as now. The storm which has torn its sails, and racked its sides, and strained its cables, has only embedded its anchors more securely in the earth. The question of its permanence is already settled. The close of the Rebellion is only a matter of time ; it will come, and the arch-traitor will exclaim as did Lord North, when he heard of the surrender of Cornwallis : ” O God ! it is all over ! it is all over!” Be patient! Be hopeful! Let God work it out, for His hand is in this war as surely as His hand was in the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt. I said this was the slaveholders’ war on Law and Government : I might have said it was God’s war on national wickedness, on a slaveholding barbarism ; and when the war is over the wickedness will be expiated in blood, the barbarism will have disappeared forever. As sure as the slaveholder’s hand is seen tearing the Constitution to pieces, God’s hand is seen breaking off the fetters of the slave. Peace will not come until freedom is secured. When the nation is right we shall be victorious. God will keep us in the crucible until the dross of this plague is burned off. Amen, so let it be ! Who would want this war closed until we get ready for a firm, lasting peace, until the viper that has been stinging and poisoning us is dead.

O, what a country ours will be when the States shall be reunited ; when the dear old flag shall wave from Maine to Georgia, from the Atlantic to the Pacific ; when slavery shall have become extinct ; when the barbarism of Southern society shall have given way to a better civilization ; when those immense cotton-fields shall be worked by free labor, or cut up into farms for our brave soldiers ; when by those blood-dyed rivers shall rise huge manufactories ; when there shall be no cause of desolation and strife, but when all will be animated by one common interest, and inspired by a common faith in Liberty and Religion ! That day will come. It may be away over some dark trials, beyond some fearful calamities, but it will come. It will be such a day as Washington and Hancock and Adams pictured and dreamed about, and prayed for. It will come with blessings, and be greeted with Hallelujahs, it will be the Millennium of political glory, the Sabbath of Liberty, the Jubilee of Humanity.

Eddy’s heady vision of freedom and liberty for all humanity–equated with Old Testament imagery of justice–is yet two years away. Even then, Eddy’s hoped for millennium (New Testament imagery) will prove to be not yet, as despite a devastating loss to the United States, Southern whites in the post-war years remain convinced of their racial superiority and resort to widespread, localized violence to make certain Southern blacks remain second class citizens for another 100 years.

At the least however, the evil of slavery even now is being dealt severe blows as the war enters its third year.

Source: Daniel C. Eddy, “Secession: A National Crime and Curse” (April 30, 1863) (link)