Baptists and the American Civil War: June 10, 1863

confederatesoldiersReaders of Southern Baptist newspapers are, by now, fed a steady diet of news regarding the religious condition of the Confederate army, and this week is no exception, as an article in today’s North Carolina Baptist Biblical Recorder testifies.

The letters, which we have been publishing for weeks, will give our readers some notion of the religious condition of portions of our army. It is indeed cheering and encouraging. From private letters, and from our exchanges, we learn that a similar state of things exist in almost every quarter where our forces are gathered together.–From Virginia, the South, the West and the South West, the indications of the Spirit’s presence among our soldiers are felt and acknowledged. The good work had begun, before the late active movements, and so far from checking or impeding it they only seemed to deepen and widen it. Chaplains, Colporters, Missionaries, and the soldiers themselves, concur in their testimony on this point. Men who have been open, God-defying sinners have become changed and serious in their deportment; those who have been careless and indifferent have, in many cases, manifested a deep interest in spiritual things; and those who have stood without flinching amid the fury of the battle storm have been made to tremble under the apprehension of God’s wrath, and been led to the Saviour of sinners.

Such a state of things is, so far as we know, without a parallel in the annals of the world. Hitherto the army has been considered the school for every vice, and the sure road to ruin, and it has perhaps deserved the reputation it bore. How cheering now to find it the school of Christ where thousands are being taught and made to feel as they never have been before, and are not only fighting the battles of their country, but are also enlisting as good soldiers under the great “Captain of our Salvation.” The preaching of the word in their lonely and trying condition, and the sterner preaching of the battle-field, accompanied by the prayers of loved ones far away have, with the blessing of God, awakened in them a spirit to which they have hitherto, been strangers.

This intelligence will carry joy to the heart of every christian patriot, feeling deeply solicitous, as he must do for the spiritual welfare of the soldiers in their exposed condition, and knowing that the destinies of our country through the coming years depend so much on them. How much more cheering will it be to the thousands of yearning hearts all over the country, that have sent forth their husbands and sons and brothers to maintain the cause of right and justice against oppression and brutal tyranny. The assurance that their loved ones are safe amid the contaminating and hardening influences to which they are exposed, that they will reform[?] the scene of their dangers and hardships and heroic deeds, possessed not only of a nation’s love and gratitude, but also of immortal life; or if they must fall, in the confusion and carnage of the battle field or in the dreary hospital, that they are not lost, but gone before, to a realm where sorry and parting are unknown, will kindle a joy too big for utterance.

Let us be stimulated by these things to redouble our efforts and our prayers in behalf of the soldiers. Let us labor and pray for a still greater outpouring of God’s spirit on them. Let it also lead to increased confidence in Him for the state of our country.–He has done so much for us since the commencement of this unhappy struggle; has shielded us from so many dangers and crowned us with so many blessings, and has given us at last, so great a manifestation of His favor, that we must surely trust Him for the future, even though He should seem, for a time, to withdraw His face from us.–Let us also hope that this gracious work in the army will exert a reflex influence on the churches at home, until the whole country shall be made to feel its influence.

Source: J. D. Hufham, “Religion in the Army”, Biblical Recorder, June 10, 1863 (link)