Baptists and the American Civil War: December 6, 1863

African SlaveryDuring the gloominess that hangs over a despondent Confederacy, many white southerners cling to the hope that the past can yet be restored into a glorious future. Samuel Boykin, editor of the Georgia Baptist Christian Index and since prior to the war a dreamer of a glorious future for the Confederate nation, obliges the persistent hopes of many of his fellow Baptists by writing from his home of Macon of “a prophetic vision” that God has given to him to share with southern whites.

Trouble and sad forebodings brooded over my spirits. My heart was overwhelmed at the mere possibility of subjugation, and my soul melted within me from very heaviness. It was the gloomy hour of dusk, when man returns weary from his daily task, oppressed with the cares of life, and worn with the fatigues of the past day. I had placed an easy rocking chair upon a shady balcony, and sealing myself in it, and with my temple resting upon my hand, had given myself up to melancholy musings. The busy hum of city life had faded away: the shadows were creeping over the eastern hills, and enveloping the city and river and forest in gloom profound: a dark cloud came rolling up from the South–symbolizing the dark cloud that hung over my Spirits. The probable consequences of Bragg’s disaster, resulting in the dispersion of his army, the overrunning of Georgia, and the final subjugation of the South, floated through my mind with vague but appalling terrors. I saw our brave troops pressed by overwhelming numbers giving away gradually–falling back–and falling back–ever and anon gazing, as it were, over their shoulders, so see who and how many, in this terrible strait, fired with all the ardor of patriotism, and with all the determination of freedom’s sons, were hastening to their rescue. And, as my mind wandered thro’ city and town, over hill and dale, I saw the same intense desire to “make money” enthralling many minds: I saw the same intention to “hold on for higher prices;” the same calculation as to a “probable advance;” the same indifference and woful apathy in the minds of all the “stay at homes;” the same disinclination to venture among the whistling bullets on the parts of the tens of thousands who from some cause or other have not yet shouldered musket. This strange indifference to a fate so appalling, so heart-rendering, so utterly ruinous, as that which will befall us if subjugation ensues, was the great, dark cloud that rolled up over my mental firmament and obscured all its heavens, almost shutting out the light of the sun of Hope, and quite obscuring the rays from every star of Present Relief.

“Oh, for one clear gaze into the gloomy future!” ‘Twas thus I sighed, intense anxiety dictating a too curious desire.

Long and painful thought bowed my head lower and lower: darker and stiller grew the evening air: higher and higher rolled up the threatening clouds, until, like a think and impenetrable curtain, it seem to suspend between heaven and earth, obstructing all my view.–Suddenly a low rushing sound is heard, and there sweeps by me the huge shadowy form of one whose scanty forelock and immense scythe I at one recognize. As he dashes by, his robes flutter in the wind created by his own swift motion. All at once with a powerful sweep of his mighty arm he lifts the huge curtain that had obstructed my view, and, poised high in air, holds it up, that my gaze might feast upon the wonders seen beyond. Lo! a scene of surpassing loveliness! Tis a broad and far-extended landscape, composed of hill and dale, field and forest, river and mountain, all mellowed by the radiant beams of a Southern sun, with far in the distance the bright blue ocean, bearing upon its heaving bosom Cotton freighted argosies. Broad acres there are, waving in corn and cane, while the glistening cotton-plants, that stretch out almost interminably, are flecked with their snowy produce, and speak volumes for peace, prosperity and independence. Herds graze peacefully on extended plains: happy negroes throng the fields and luxurious farm houses, where dwell indulgent masters, dot the scene all o’er: church spires innumerable point gratefully to heaven: institutions of learning, with studious pupils thronged, in multitudes rear their lofty forms and cast back the sun’s bright beams: steamboats plow mighty rivers freighted with productions of a Southern clime: Rail Roads stretch their iron bands across the prosperous scene; while on a central point a magnificent Capital stands out in bold relief, its marble sides adorned with the statues of Revolutionary Heroes, and its Cupola surmounted by the glorious “Southern Cross” that waves in the breeze as tho’ proudly conscious that a nation gazed on its ample folds as an emblem of glorious nationality achieved by suffering, bloodshed and valor.

As I gaze on the glorious life-picture spread out before me, and recognized in it the future of our Confederacy, tears of rapture stole down my cheeks–

“Why weepest thou?”

I turned at the sound of these words. Methought my locality was changed and that I was standing on a lofty eminence gazing upon that earthly scene of glory, happiness and prosperity, and that by my side stood one whose majesty of mein, and dignity of aspect, filled me with awe.

“I weep for joy!” was my reply.

“And well mayest thou; for the sun shines not upon a land more glorious and prosperous. Here thou seest every evidence of material grandeur, intellectual glory and spiritual greatness.”

A glorious patriotic rapture thrilled my frame, and an unearthly joy took possession of my soul.

“And why,” I asked, “are we compelled to endure so much tribulation, in order to attain this glory and these blessings?”

“That ye may properly appreciate and be thus induced to preserve them!”

“And why are we inflicted with those severe reverses that have, of late appalled our country? I allude to the recent disasters in Tennessee.”

“They are but intended to draw out the full energy of your people, and to test the reality of their earnestness in the great work of achieving independence.”

“Since, then, Old Father Time has lifted the curtain of the future and granted me a glimpse into its glorious realities,” was my rejoinder, “I am to conclude, then, that my countrymen, will arise in their might and from the throes of defeat pluck the prize of victory?”

“Thou judgest rightly–“

A noise, as of the flapping of a mighty curtain, caused me to turn my head. He with the scythe had indeed dropped the ponderous folds that had been upheld for my special benefit; and darkness only, as of a mighty cloud enveloping the whole heavens, met my gaze. I turned to my angelic companies–he, too, had disappeared. In my surprise I started and–was awake.

My countryman! This is a lesson of encouragement for you! Arouse you from your apathy! Cease from your money-getting! Fly to arms and rush to the rescue! Let God and men and angels behold the terrible earnestness of your purpose to be independent! Be not dismayed by disaster; for before you lies a path of honor and renown all lit up by suns of glory. Along that path it is the destiny of your country to careor with untarnished fame if you are but true to her in this hour of extremity. Arise, then, in your might, and hurl the invaders from your border, and soon shall be fulfilled this prophetic vision.

Perhaps lost upon Boykin is that the vision is that of a Southern prosperity gospel, even as he criticizes those who are now seeking prosperity. And as in other Southern Baptist visions of a glorious future for the Confederate States of America, no end is envisioned for the enslavement of blacks upon which Southern prosperity rests.

Source: Samuel Boykin, “A Prophetic Vision,” Christian Index, December 4, 1863