Baptists and the American Civil War: February 23, 1865

SlaveryWithin the past ten days, Columbia, SC, Charleston, SC and Wilmington, NC have all fallen to Federal forces. The one remaining major Confederate city in the main theater of war is Richmond, VA, the Confederate capital.

While national and state civil leaders, in addition to many white religious leaders, remain ideologically defiant in the defense of black slavery, there is no visible way for the Confederacy to win the war. Even a miracle seems unlikely. The South is bound to lose the war, resulting in freedom for remaining slaves and the harsh reality of a post-slavery economy.

With a Union victory certain, some public voices in the South resort to grumbling about the future. Surely, a Richmond Daily Dispatch commentary offers, the United States will invade and conquer Canada once the South is defeated. Britain, after all, is planning to free America’s northern neighbor in order to prevent war with the United States over the territory.

A commentary in today’s Christian Index, ignoring the realities at hand, insists that Confederate citizens “have faith in God,” a cry repeated so often by Southern Baptist leaders (and others) during the war as if to appear as a daily, civil religious mantra.

The crying sin of the people of God throughout our beleaguered, devastated, and bleeding country, is their want of faith in God, and our righteous cause….

In view of these facts …. “have faith in God.” In view also of our condition, with what mighty grasp of faith should we obey the injunction, and take hold of the gracious promise contained in this scripture;–“Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee.” O, what words, what a privilege, what a duty, and what resistless incentives to its performance. Not only may we bear the cause of our bleeding country before the throne of Jehovah, the righteous, the almighty, and the universal Sovereign; but he himself enjoins it, “Call upon me in the day of trouble,” and then that promise, the unequivocal promise of the ever faithful God, whose ways are everlasting: “I will deliver thee.”–Surely, surely, this is enough! What more can we desire? O then, for the spirit of prayer, and the imitation of God’s elect, who cry day and night unto him! Then should we soon have revived unto us the gracious declaration; “he will avenge them speedily.”

We need now no prophet to unravel the mystery of our having been so long in the fiery furnace. It is our want of faith! Let every one then, that calls the Lord of hosts his God, deeply repent of his criminality, and, from this day onward, with a confidence in God and our righteous cause, that towers to the heavens, with a faith also that knows no wavering, and with a zeal that knows no abatement, arise and call upon his God–night and day–in the name of the great Mediator, in this day of trouble, rebuke and dismay, pleading that promise of the God that cannot lie, and speedily, we shall be taken out of the fiery furnace, shall be delivered from the jaws and gnashing teeth of the lion, be brought out into a large place, established as a separate and independent nation, have our feet placed upon a rock, and a new song put into our mouths, even praise unto our God, for his great deliverance.

Confident prayer aside, righteousness is nonetheless not on the side of the Confederacy. God, willing freedom for all, is, by all appearances, listening to the cries of his people in bondage, rather than the cries of those who are determined to enslave black-skinned human beings in perpetuity.

Sources: Richmond Daily Dispatch, February 23, 1865 (link); N. Phenes, “Have Faith in God,” Christian Index, February 23, 1865