Baptists and the American Civil War: August 5, 1863

Civil War States MapThe struggle over Confederate public morale continues. The North Carolina Baptist Biblical Recorder urges readers to maintain faith in their country.

One of the duties of the hour, incumbent on every christian patriot, is to have faith for his country. The face of the sky, lately so fair and cloudless, so cheering to every beholder and so full of encouragement for the future, has been overcast, and dark clouds lower above us. Reverses have come; trusted strongholds have fallen, our armies victorious on many a bloody field, have been compelled to fall back, and our enemies superior in numbers are pressing us at all points. Truly the season is full of peril and anxiety.

What then? Shall we give way to despondency? Shall we give up hope and determination because our expectations of victory and a speedy termination of the war have not been realized? Shall we press forward with less energy on the road which we have been compelled to take because it is hedged about with difficulties and dangers and we can not see our way through them? God forbid. Such a case would be unmanly in the extreme, even if the condition of our affairs were much worse than it really is.–To entertain the thought of giving up the struggle in which we are engaged, before the accomplishment of the object which we have in view, would be to prove false to ourselves–to our brethren who lie slaughtered on many a gory field, to our country, to the interests of civilization and humanity and to those who are to come after us. It would also indicate a mind under the influence of fear, wanting alike in courage and fortitude and all the nobler qualities of the soul and in a knowledge of the teachings of the past. It would also indicate a want of faith in God which would merit the severest punishment that could befall us.

The present crisis is not unlike those which every individual, who has achieved any unusual success in life, has had to pass through. There have been periods in the history of most of us, when all our plans have failed and inevitable ruin seemed to stare us in the face. The most careful scrutiny could not discover a ray of light amid the surrounding gloom. But, pressing forward with faith in the ultimate blessing of God on our labors, we have seen the clouds rolled away, and the road to success and prosperity clear and open before us. Our heavenly Father, with unerring wisdom and infinite love, generally leads his children through these seasons of adversity and apparent defeat, to victory and success. Let us act and think in reference to our country as we have done in reference to our individual interests.

Nor is the discipline of nations materially different. No one of them, which occupies a prominent place in the annals of the past or exerts a controlling influence in the shifting of the present has escaped its seasons of crushing defeat and apparently irretrievable disaster. The Israelites of old, God’s chosen people, were again and again reduced to the greatest straits. To all human appearances they were hopelessly ruined. But deliverance came at the right time. Greece struggled up to greatness and empire through reverses more numerous and serious than any that we have sustained. Rome, once the proud mistress of the world, so great her power, so terrible her fame that a man could claim no higher honor for himself than to say, “I am a Roman citizen,” repeatedly saw her territory overrun and the enemy thundering at her very gates. Gallant little Switzerland is a living demonstration of what a people determined to be free, can accomplish against the greatest odds. Spain was at one time overrun by the haughty and terrible legions of Bonaparte. The most important portions of her territory were in the possession of his Marshals, and she was without a treasury or an army. Yet Spain is free to day.

These and a thousand other instances stand out like bright stars in the twilight of the past to cheer and encourage us. Let no one say that their circumstances were different. The advantage, if there be any, is on our side. They teach us that our cause is not always hopeless when it appears to be so; that for brave men fighting in a just cause and determined never for to submit to oppression, there is light even in the darkest hour. Let us not be behind the illustrious example of the past. We have a cause as just, rights as dear, and interests as great as they. Let us prove ourselves worthy of them.

To the christian patriot, there is no ground for despondency in the present condition of affairs. They have come, not by chance but from God. We have deserved far severer chastisement, than we have received, and we are warranted by past experience in believing that He will restore the light of victory when we properly humble ourselves before Him. The fate of this war is in His hands. He can terminate it in our favor whenever He pleases, and that too without any miraculous or even extraordinary interposition. A single victory on our part, discord among our enemies, foreign aid, or any other of a multitude of causes may be brought into operation and change the whole aspect of affairs. That He will do this if we are true to Him we can not doubt. Let us then be cheerful and hopeful for the future. Let us turn a deaf ear to croakers and cowards, and facing the dangers which threaten us have a firm and abiding faith in God not only for ourselves but also for our country.

Source: J. D. Hufham, “Faith for Our Country,” Biblical Recorder, August 5, 1863 (link)