Baptists and the American Civil War: September 25, 1863

Civil War States MapIn the war between the the slave-holding Confederacy and the evil abolitionist North, many Southern Baptist leaders are convinced that God will ultimately rescue his chosen nation, despite the defeats–now three months distant but no less agonizing–at Gettysburg and Vicksburg.

An editorial in today’s Georgia Baptist Christian Index epitomizes this certitude.

Truly our young Confederacy is passing through days of gloom and despondency. The cloud of war hangs over us in the West and in the East. While the storm seems to be raging with increasing violence; while clouds and darkness gather around us, and storms rage, and shot and shell are flying thicker, let each patriotic soldier breast the storm; let him remember the sweets of liberty, the value of peace, which can only be won under God’s blessing by unflinching bravery and invincible courage; and while the brave soldier is thus meeting the ruthless invader of our loved country, let every christian patriot at home, male and female, constantly bow before the God of hosts and invoke his blessings upon our suffering country, that He may go forth with our armies, and make them valiant in fight, and still (as he has in many battlefields) give us victory over our daring and brutal foe.

Christian brethren of every denomination, let us begin to feel the importance of the crisis. Can we close our eyes longer to the imminent danger that now threatens our once happy country? Listen to the voice of God, when he says, “Come, my people, enter into thy chambers, and shut the doors about thee: hide thyself, as it were, for a little season, until the indignation be overpast; for behold the Lord cometh out of his place, to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their inequity; the earth shall also disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.” (Isaiah 26: 20, 21.) Surely if there ever was a time when the people of God should humble themselves, and call upon Him it is now; now when we are hard pressed by an enemy superior in all the appliances of war, and trible our numbers, and which have shown repeatedly a disposition to disregard all the usage of civilized warfare, venting their infernal spite against defenceless non-combatants, such as helpless women and children and even clergymen! What may we expect from such an enemy if he should overpower us? Subjugation or extermination seems to be their motto. We know that God is able to give us victory and independence of such an enemy. O let us ask him in faith, let us give him no rest until he interpose in our behalf. He has said, “call upon me in the day of trouble and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” O this is emphatically a day of trouble. Let us one and all, call upon him and beg him for his dear Son’s sake, to have mercy on us as a people! We are a guilty people (though our cause is eminently just) and have need to confess and forsake our sins , and plead for forgiveness in the name of Jesus, the sinner’s friend, and the sinner’s advocate. Let us, like David, resolve that morning, noon and night, we will pray. And let us try to pity and pray for our enemies, remember the example of Jesus, and of Stephen, and of Paul. “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge,”–“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

O for the spirit and temper of our blessed Saviour, that we may cease to hate and despise those poor, deluded, infatuated Yankees. No doubt thousands of these deluded creatures are fighting for, they know not what; but their leaders have the greater sin. God will hold them to account; whatever may be the issue a fearful retribution awaits those who have instigated this bloody and deceitful war. But let us ask God to show them their error, and if possible to cleanse them from their sin; that is, if it be in the counsel of his will.–“Help us, O Lord our God, for vain is the help of man. Through thee we shall do valiantly, and thou wilt tread down our enemies.”

For their part, the leaders and (many if not most) soldiers of the United States are now fighting for clear reasons and objectives: their mission is to bring the rebellious Southern states back into the fold and eradicate African slavery. And while white Southerners by and large dismiss as evil the efforts of the United States to put an end to African slavery, many Northerners and the entirety of the South’s remaining black population–both enslaved and free–are equally convinced that God is on the side of the liberators.

Source: A. C., “Our Country,” Christian Index, September 25, 1863