Baptists and the American Civil War: October 27, 1863

revivals_confederatesSamuel Boykin, editor of the Georgia Baptist Christian Index, has on more than one occasion criticized Georgia Baptist pastors for not volunteering as army evangelists and missionaries. His criticism has not gone unchallenged. In this week’s North Carolina Baptist Biblical Recorder, an editorial defends the inaction of most Baptist pastors by associating the problem with the refusal of many churches to financially support their ministers.

There is a great demand for ministerial labor both at home and in the army. The cry for laborers comes from all quarters, and ministers are severely abused because they do not promptly respond. We fear those who denounce them do not sufficiently consider their condition that they are generally poor, and too hard pressed by the stinginess or dishonesty of their churches and the heartless demands of those from whom they must buy the necessities of life for themselves and their families. We fear that, in most cases, the war has not improved the hard lot of minister. Here and there a church is found, willing to meet her obligations to her pastor, but too many act on the sordid selfish plan of getting the labors of their pastor for as little as possible. Below we give the examples of both these classes of churches, furnished by the Richmond correspondent of the Christian Index. We commend these cases to the consideration of our readers:

A Baptist minister of fine talents and great worth, in an adjacent county, engaged to serve his churches, during the pastoral year just closed, at a salary of $600. He received only $340–a sum which would scarcely have been sufficient to purchase corn for his horse, but for the kindness of an Episcopal neighbor, who sold him the corn he needed at Government prices, while his own members required him to pay $25 per bushel for theirs! It adds to the significance of these facts that the churches he served were never more prosperous: as is illustrated by the boast of one the members, that from the single article of butter, he had realized, during the year, a profit of $900! In pleasant contrast with this case, stands that of a Baptist minister in our city. His own church supplements his salary for the past year with a gift of $500; while a church of which he was pastor more than a dozen years ago, makes him a recipient of $2,000 and upwards, as a token of the grateful remembrance in which his services are still held! I hope that the readers will ask himself, whether the church to which he belongs resembles the churches connected with the first of these cases, or the churches connected with the second; and, if it resembles the former, how far he is to blame for its niggardly and unrighteous spirit.

The inconsistencies of human nature were never more strikingly brought to light, than during the present struggle. A notable instance of this sort came to my ears, several days since. A farmer, who, from the beginning of the war has been noted for his bold and unmeasured denunciation of extortioners is now selling the bacon which cost him twelve cents per pound, for two dollars and a half; and selling it at this price, too one of his neighbors whom he reckons as a friend, and who withal is a minister of the gospel!

Source: “Light and Shadows of Ministerial Experience,” Biblical Recorder, October 28, 1863 (link)