Baptists and the American Civil War: August 26, 1862

August is revival season among Baptists of the South. Each year from August through September, most Baptist congregations set aside a week or more for revival meetings. During this time, many churches acquire the bulk of their new members for the entire year, with many new converts joining by confession of faith and baptism.

The war changes patterns of baptism is ways obvious and subtle. Most male members of many congregations now serve in the Confederate Army, leaving an even greater ratio of women sitting on church pews and coming forward during revival meetings. And while the war may not be directly addressed (other than in prayers) in many revival services, the mere absence of men bears witness to the great conflict. Of those remaining on the home front, death of family members and worries about loved ones yet serving in the army make heaven and hell seem all the more real in an era when revival preaching is largely focused on saving individuals from the eternal torment of hell. Often reflecting the joy of church families gathering for extended fellowship in addition to the preaching, revivals this year are of a decidedly more somber note than usual.

The South’s Baptist newspapers print hundreds, if not thousands, of local church revival accounts during the months of August and September. These accounts–usually written by pastors–typically follow a similar format, noting the length of the revival, using positive (often glowing) language to describe the event, focusing on the number of converts and other decisions, noting that there are sinners who yet need to be saved, and lamenting that so many more Christians need reviving.

One such account is published in today’s Georgia Baptist Christian Index.

The Lord has graciously revived the church at Antioch, Morgan county, Georgia.

We commenced our meeting Saturday before the 2nd Sunday in August, and continued 9 days with glorious results. The church revived, and 17 added, 14 by baptism and 3 by restoration. Several have defered uniting with us till our next meeting.

This Scripture was litterly demonstrated during our meeting:

“The one shall be taken and the other shall be left.” Whilst it is true 3 heads of families were happily united in the glorious bonds of christianity and church fellowship, it is also true that 2 others were separated. O! that these 2 sisters may yet be permitted to receive their husbands alive from the dead, to walk with them in church relation!

Two things to my mind have been clearly demonstrated in regard to our meeting–That our present troubles are no reasons why we should not be blest with gracious revivals. But to the contrary, the reasons why revivals should abound. Again it has been proven, that when a church is properly revived, she will give liberally. Our Sabbath collections heretofore have been from 10 to 15 dollars, not it is between 75 and 80 dollars!

I will mention one other result of the revivals, earnest and fervent prayer for our soldiers, and for God to grant unto us a speedy termination of this bloody war. O! that God would revive all His people in this the time of our great need is my prayer.

J. M. Stillwell

Source: Revival reports, “Antioch,” Christian Index, August 26, 1862