Baptists and the American Civil War: June 10, 1864

African SlaveryToday the Confederates score another notable victory in a minor battle. Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his cavalry, utilizing guerrilla tactics, have already scored a number of prior victories. Today they strike again, this time at Brice’s Cross Roads in hotly-contested Mississippi. Again reflecting his strategical brilliance, Forrest defeats a much larger force led by Union Brig. General Samuel Sturgis.

Union forces suffer some 2,600 casualties and losses, compared to less than 500 for the Confederates. Forrest captures large supplies of arms, artillery, and ammunition, while Sturgis is later demoted over the lopsided loss and exiled to the far West. As has happened previously, Forrest, known for his hatred of black soldiers, is accused of massacring blacks in uniform.

The Confederate victory, however, achieves little, as Union forces are only temporarily prevented from penetrating deeper into Mississippi and Alabama. Union military strength, in short, is more than capable of quickly overcoming minor setbacks such as Brice’s Cross Roads.

Meanwhile, an article in today’s Georgia Baptist Christian Index offers the latest of a long-running myriad of apologies for black slavery, Southern “rights” over which the war is waged and the white Confederacy is wholly committed to preserving, no matter the cost.

We are not Right in this War.

Not right? Wherein are we wrong?–Are not the pious, the wise, the reverend of every part of our land engaged in it? Have not the ministers and devout women sided in getting up, and do they not “keep up” the spirit of this war? Do not facts show that we have wronged our enemies in nothing? That after continued encroachments upon our rights under the old, we only asked to be let alone under the new governance? Yes, this is all very true. Nevertheless, we are wrong. Wrong! Wherein are we wrong?–Is slavery wrong? Did not God institute, regulate and perpetuate slavery under the Old Testament dispensation, and does he not give every needful instruction to master and servant in the New? True, very true. Yet, notwithstanding all, slavery is the occasion of great wrongs.

It is well known that this terrible war was originated and is prosecuted by a real or supposed philanthropy for the Southern bondsmen. And since “the hand of the Lord is in it all,” and while he frowns upon us in the angry clouds of war, may we not have wronged him through this institution? Hear what the Lord of heavens and earth says to Southern slaveholders. “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that you have a master in heaven, continue in prayer and watch in the same with thanksgiving.” Col. 4. 12. Many of you thought it a light thing to disobey God. And without regard for the authority of heaven, you have extorted unjust labor and robbed your slave of food and raiment, and withheld that recompense for their labors which was just and equitable between you as master and servant. And while the ill gotten gain has gone to purchase much of the splendor and finery of your country, “Behold, the hire of your laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: And the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”–James 5.4. And yet there are no effectual means used, no effectual measures taken neither by prophet, priest, people nor rulers, for its suppression and extinction.–And while “The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.” Psa. ciii. 6. Well may we fear and tremble for ourselves and our beloved institution.

Again. We have wronged God through this institution by making it a great hindrance to our spiritual advancement in not following the injunction given in order to the more suitable performance of our whole duty to our servants, namely, “Continue in prayer and watch in the same with thanksgiving.” Instead of governing our servants at all times under a prayerful frame of mind, watching against temptations to wrath, vexation and covetousness and joining thanksgiving for deliverance and blessings received, we have almost wholly neglected this  important injunction of high heaven, and our souls thus exposed to all the fiery darts of the devil, we have been given up to covetousness, wrath and vexation of spirit till we were brought near to death and hell.–Thus tried we have sought relief in the employment of overseers all of whom have been so exposed to these evils that it has become proverbial of them, “Overseers can never get to heaven,” and also that “slavery is a great curse to any people.” Thus we have made it a stumbling block over which men fall into hell. These evils must be spedily corrected or God will blot us out from among the nations of the earth.

Again, we have wronged God, ourselves and our servants, in making merchandise of their souls. In our greed for gain we have deprived them of the privilege of the gospel. In many parts of our land, thousands of them after serving their masters for years have gone down to death and hell without hearing the glad tidings of salvation; and the blood of their souls are upon us. And they cry out against us from the “infernal world.” And more, while the Bible says, “Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands unto God,” to the Ethiopian race we have made the Bible a sealed book.” And unless we make speedy and necessary provisions for the spiritual interests of our servants in every part of our land, God will certainly destroy us. Hear the word of the Lord to this people; “Cry aloud, spare not; lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways as a nation that did righteousness and forsook not the ordinances of their God. They ask of me the ordinances of justice. (We must do justice to others if we would have God make our enemies give us justice.) They take delight in approaching to God. Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not?–Wherefore have we afflicted, our souls and thou takest no knowledge? Behold in the day of your fasts ye find pleasure, and exact all your labors. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a feast that I have chosen a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will thou call this a fast and and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fast I have chosen? to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burden and to let the oppressed go free and that ye break every yoke. (Every unjust and unholy yoke.) Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou see the naked that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself from they own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and they health spring forth speedily, and they righteousness shall go before thee: The glory of the Lord shall be thy reward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer. Thou shalt cry and He shall say, here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity. And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness by as the noonday. And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy they soul in drouth, and make fat thy bones. And thou shalt be like a watered garden and like a spring whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places, thou shalt raise up the foundation of many generations, and thou shalt be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in. If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable: and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words, then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord: and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” Isa. 58: 1-14.

O turn us, turn us, mighty Lord.
     By thy resistless grace.
Then shall our hearts obey they word
     And humbly seek thy face.
Then should insulting foes invade,
      We shall not sink in fear;
Secure of never-failing aid,
      If God, our God, is near.

God, in short, will grant the Confederacy victory if the slaveholders of the South stop treating their slaves unjustly, and allow them to hear the reading of scripture.

Not that black slaves, Baptists included, believe a word of this delusional thinking.

Sources: Battle of Brice’s Cross Roads (link) and (link); Nicodemus, “We are not Right in this War,” Christian Index, June 10, 1864