George Mooar.

The religion of loyalty : a doctrinal sermon, preached in the First Congregational Church, Oakland, April 23d, 1865 online

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Online LibraryGeorge MooarThe religion of loyalty : a doctrinal sermon, preached in the First Congregational Church, Oakland, April 23d, 1865 → online text (page 1 of 2)
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"For when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world
WILL learn righteousness. — Isaiah xxvi : 9, 1. c.

Certainly God's judgments have been in our land.
Certainly the inhabitants of this country have had the
chance to learn the great principles which lie at the
root of all righteousness. Often during the four years
of these judgments, it has seemed to me that a most
instructive volume might be written with some such
title as The Religion of Loyalty. It should be the
purpose of such a volume to gather up the illustrations
which the Rebellion has supplied, of the truth and force
of Biblical doctrine. And if it will not seem presump-
tuous in me, I will undertake to suggest some of the
themes this book might more fully discuss.

1. The scenes through which we have been passing
teach us the importance of correct doctrinal opinions.

Among the most common remarks which you will
hear concerning religious matters is this : '' It is no
matter what you believe. Your creed njakes no differ-
ence with your life or your prospect of salvation."
But the difference between such men as Webster and
Calhoun was a difference of opinion, of belief almost
solely. One was not any purer or safer man personally
than the other. Indeed some might think that if either
had the advantage in this respect, the Southern states-
man had it. And what was the difference between

Jefferson Davis and Stephen A. Douglas ? Both were
ambitious ; both were lovers of power and fitted to be
leaders of the people. Doubtless there were great dif-
ferences in natural disposition. But the point at which
tlie two men separated was quite as much one of belief
as of sympathy. They differed in their political creed.
The one exalted the sovereignty of the State, and the
other the sovereignty of the Nation. Did this differ-
ence between those men lead to no serious conse-
quences? Why, the Rebellion, with all its enormity,
has grown in great part out of that disagreement in
respect to the theory of our Government. For thirty
years the one creed had been industriously preached on
platform and in pulpit in one section, and the other
creed in the other section. This political opinion of
State Rights poisoned the whole Southern mind and
heart. We said : " Oh, it is only a difference of opin-
ion." But it was an entering wedge, which well nigh
split a nation asunder.

We may laugh at opinions, and make merriment of
creeds and catechisms. But, " as a man thinketJi in his
heart, so is he." No personal sincerity or correctness
of general behavior can prevent the injurious influence
of his opinions, if those opinions are wrong. If these
opinions do not seem to affect him, they will affect his
children. If they do not cause ruin in the first genera-
tion, they will in the second.

Doubtless thousands of men who have drawn the
sword against this Government have been as sincere
and conscientious as any thousand of our own soldiers.
They have felt it sweet to die for country as well as we.
They have shown their sincerity by sacrifices great as
any that we have made. The very spies and assassins
have professed to be doing their country service. But

we condemn tliem. History will condemn them to dis-
grace. At their doors will be laid the accusation of a
great crime. And why ? Because they were mistaken
in opinion ! Because they had adopted an incorrect
theory of our institutions ! Is it then of no importance
what men believe ? Does sincerity whiten the assassin's
bloody hand ? Does it prevent the flowing of a nation's
blood and treasure ? Rather we know that this fimati-
cal sincerit}^ has prolonged and aggravated the war.

Differences there may be in religion ; differences as
to mere dress, which will have little effect ; because
they do not pertain to the substance of the faith. But
all differences of creed, which do run down into the
substance of faith, however slight they may seem, are
of the greatest moment, of gravest concern.

2. Among the most prominent lessons in doctrine,
w^hich these times of rebellion have taught us, is, that
government is a great good.

The Bible has often told us indeed, that the ruler of
a land is minister unto it for good. But liberty was the
American idol. The people were irksome of restraint.
We liked to do that which was good in our own eyes.
We did not appreciate the value of civil authority.
But we have been taught to think of government as a
great comfort, a shelter, and a defense. It seems now
like the rocky coast, with green grass and clumps of
flowers in its clefts, which keeps back the angry waves.
We have seen its strong arm uplifted, and we have
rejoiced in that arm, as a little child in a moment of
danger rejoices in the strength of his father.

Government is no longer, in our eyes, a convenient
arrangement, a shrewd political contrivance ; nor is it a
kind of copartnership, into which men enter for a httle
while, which is to be dissolved as soon as a personal

whim or interest may dictate. It is an ordinance of
God, a venerable and blessed institution, with which it
is a sacrilege to trifle, indispensable to personal comfort,
to growth of country, to peace, to progress, to the secur-
ity of all that men hold dearest on earth. Our fathers,
brothers, sons, have laid down their lives by thousands
— for what ? To maintain the Government of the
Union. They counted not their lives dear ; we have
not counted our taxes dear ; nothing has been counted
too dear to be given up to keep the Government un-
harmed. Then, surely, government — just, equal, and
strong — is a great good.

But if human government be a great good, then
God's government is good and blessed also. There are
persons who profess to like to hear concerning the love
of God, the fatherhood and motherhood of God, as they
fancifull}^ speak, but of his law and government they
cannot bear to think. But the Government of God is
the stability and security of the Universe. " The Lord
reif/neth,^^ therefore "let the earth rejoice." He might
live, but if He did not reign, the world would be an

Because, after the assassins had done their work, and
had left the noble President dead, the Government,
nevertheless, in all its departments, remained ; its au-
thority could reach every part of the loyal land, and
every soldier in the national army ; therefore we were
able to pursue our business, and to look forward to the
future with hope. Even the national currency drooped,
if at all, but for a moment. No panic ran like a wild
fire through the States. The Government, that invisi-
ble, but strong and blessed thing, was still in Washing-
ton, and omnipresent also in America. Even the rebel,
camps felt its power. Its flags, floating though they

were at half-mast, were glad emblems still of national

The moral Government of God is, in like measure, a
joy and pride. Because it is strong, the world is secure.
Infinite goodness, unswerving justice — God himself
reigns. Crime often rears its head ; sin plots in the
dark places of the heart ; rebellion so wide and so defi-
ant, seems ready to break all cords asunder. He that
sitteth in the heavens shall laugh. For he hath set his
king in Zion. He " hath prepared His throne in the
heavens, and his kingdom ruleth over all."

3. The events of the past four years have taught us
the reality of the divine providence mid purposes.

It has been gratifying to notice how men have loved,
in the shadow of these passing events, to detect the
hand of God in our affairs. This has been true not of
professedly religious men only, but of men who make
no pretensions to personal piety. Their language has
been surprisingly religious in its tone. When prosper-
ity has come, they have felt like thanking God ; when
there have been reverses, they have even more notice-
ably said : It is God's hand ; He has some great and
good lessons for us to learn. What they have said, has
been strangely true. The humiliating things have been
put into our national experience just at the place and
time in which they were wanted. If the war could
have come to an end in one year, what a curse to us !
if in two years, what would the land have gained ! If
certain men had been permitted to win the victories for
us, how would they have fastened on us the old bond-
age! And even now, it is a feeling universal, sponta-
neous, that this last and most sad event is from the
hand of the same watchful and kind providence. If
you have read speeches and sermons, and talked with

men on tlie street, they all tell you God is in this mat-
ter. And would it not be a curse to think that all
these things were happening, just as men throw dice,
that there was no Hand of a personal God on the secret
springs, ordering events, and bringing good out of evil?
Hardly less disagreeable would be the supposition that
all has come from the mere destiny of things — fate.
We want to feel, and these years of war have taught
us to feel, that it is the will of "Creation's Lord and
friend " which is being fulfilled in these times.
■ Well, if the doctrine of Divine Providence has been
thus commended to us in national affairs, let it be com-
mended to us in all affairs. The same hand which leads
our nation, leads all nations and all individuals, and all
things work together for good to those who love him.
How does this doctrine of Providence come with its
comfort in many a home to-day, in which strange and
dark things have happened ! Tliese strange and dark
things, things not to be explained by any human wit,
do not break the heart, because that heart takes to itself
the great Christian doctrine that God does all things
well : nothing is out of his inspection and sway. Little
things as well as great, terrible things as well as beau-
tiful, are embraced in his providence and obey his be-
hests. Oh, well for us, if we can feel that we love Him
and are adopted into the family of Him who watches
the sparrow as it falls, numbers the hairs of the head,
as well as rules in the movements of mighty armies !

But it deserves marked notice how in these times of
war, loyal men have rejoiced in the doctrine of Divine
Purposes. Not merely has it been a comfort to us to
feel that God's hand was in charge of all our affairs, but
we have been confident that our national future was sure
by his eternal purpose. We were "elected" to be United


States. The great heart of the people has been buoyed
up by the very general belief that God had "foreoi'-
damed" that we should be one, and free. To use a
current phrase, we have believed in a "manifest des-
tiny " for our Republic. Physical geographers have
shown us that this destiny was written for us in the line
of our coasts, in the course of our rivers, in the moun-
tain chains, which traverse our territory. We were
never meant to be divided. Philosophers in history
have traced out the same divine purpose in the coun-
try's annals. Where no such reasonings have been em-
ployed, yet somehow men have said over to themselves :
We were not made to fall. No disaster, bad as that of
Bull Run, or horrid as this at Ford's theater, could
repress the national conviction that God had marked us
out for deliverance. So certain have we been of this,
that immediately on the news of such an event, we
have set ourselves to studying how it was likely to sub-
serve the plan of God concerning us.

The war could not have been waged except for this
firm persuasion that it was purposed to end in victory.
This has nerved the arm of the soldier ; this has cheered
him in toilsome marches ; this has reconciled us all to
"fighting it out on this line," because we have held a
firm faith that this line was the one marked out from
the foundation of the world. It is this conviction of a
Divine piu'pose in our war which breathes in the sec-
ond Inaugural of President Lincoln, and gave that doc-
ument its place in the American heart. ' ' The Almighty
has his own purpose." That was the opening sentence
of a paragraph, which read like words of inspiration,
and which compelled the awe of men on both sides of
the Atlantic.

Again and again men have spontaneously quoted



against our enemies the proverb : " Whom the gods
destroy they first make mad." Steadily the faith grew
that God meant they should fail, signally and terribly

If we have found no objection to holding this faith in
God's purposes with respect to the war, why should we
find any to holding it with respect to all events ? If
it has cheered and spurred men to valorous deeds, why
should it not spur the sinner to work out his own sal-
vation with fear and trembling? If such a faith be
nowise inconsistent with the firmest possible conviction
of personal resjDonsibility and obligation in national
affairs, how should it be inconsistent with such respon-
sibility and obligation any where or at any time ? If
the American mind believ-es in destiny and a divine pur-
pose in the domain of politics, why should it not in the
domain of religion? If Paul, and Augustine, and Cal-
vin, and Edwards utter our belief respecting our na-
tional redemption, why not respecting our personal
salvation ?

4. The rebellion has made men learn the truth of the
Scriptural doctrine of total depravity.

We have long since learned to say that such and such
a man is disloyal, totally disloyal. We well understood
what was meant by the phrase. The man might be a
good father, and an honest man in many relations — nay,
he might be a praying man ; but he was totally disloyal
to his country. There was not one sentiment of true
affection for his Government ; his sympathies were all
against it. That gave him his character ; that divided
him from his fellow-citizens ; it made a deep and black
line between him and them. Taking this position, he
became more and more like those with whom he asso-
ciated. Some of them will be more mad and desperate


than he ; they will not observe the proprieties so much ;
they will do fouler deeds than he. But then we know
that these gentlemanly, and chivalrous, and high-bred
rebels are just as totally disloyal as Wilkes Booth or
any of his accomplices. They differ among themselves,
and some of them are much more enjoyable than others ;
but they all are one in disaffection and alienation from
their country. They are committed to one unholy

But is not this precisely what is meant by^the theo-
logical phrase of total depravity? It means, simply,
total disloyalty. A man either is or is not loyal to his
God — he either does or he does not choose to have God
reign over him ; if he does not choose, we say he is un-
godly, and totally ungodly. We do not say, he is totally
unamiable, or totally dishonest, or totally untruthful.
He is not as bad as he could or may become ; but godli-
ness — a disposition to serve the Governor of the world —
he does not possess — he does not possess it at all ; and
not to possess that, is indeed to be totally wrong. The
main, central pillar of a holy character has fallen, and
the house is a ruin.

With the first moment of secession, the sunny South
became a foreign land. It still was sunny, and there
were memorials of the old Union ; but the atmosphere
was oppressively vacant to the American heart. So with
man's soul ; it^till gives traces of its Maker and Lord,
but the supreme loyalty to God is strangely, unnatu-
rally, and yet wholly absent.

6. We can not help, also, learning in these times the
ierrihkness of sin. One great part of Biblical religion
consists in setting forth the evil and bitter thing it is to
sin against God. On a small scale, and in a single person,
sius of all kinds seem to lose their enormity ; but dur-


ing three years we have seen them on a large scale, and
as they affect millions of people. If we suppose that the
rebellion spnmg from ambition and from the disposition
to perpetuate human bondage, who can compute the
ruin those sins have brought in their train ? If, as is
doubtless true, all that has happened can be traced in
great measure to a few leading individuals — to their
personal lust for power — how many murdered lives
throw back upon those few a criminality such as must
appall and overwhelm them with accusations ? Sin ap-
pears in its full light to us only in its consequences.

It would have been a small thing for Kennedy to have
started a fire here and there in the City of New York,
if each building fired stood alone ; but it was in his
heart to lay the great city of a million of people in ashes.
Arson, with such purposes, becomes a colossal crime.
We mention the crime of treason in a single breath ;
but that crime, as it lay in the purpose, and went out
into the deed of the rebel conspirators, meant the mur-
der of at least a million American men, and the sorrow
and anguish, and poverty, to a greater or less extent,
of ten millions more. It meant wasted cities, devas-
tated towns, ruined industry. All this enormity of evil
sprang out of a sinful heart. You may put that sinful-
ness into what hearts you please, and into as many as
you please ; but you cannot rise from this enormous
spectacle of suffering without feeling tjpit in a world
such as this is, it is dangerous to trifle w^ith sin — just
as it is dangerous in a powder mill to strike as much as
a spark of fire. That single spark may instantaneously
destroy the labor and hopes of a life time.

It has often been to me a serious and solemn thought,
as the months have more and more revealed the immen-
sity of crime, to reflect that the authors of all this are


just such men as ourselves. We are ajot to figure great
criminals to be persons of peculiarly revolting history
and personal appearance ; but they are not always such.
They have the same flesh and blood as ourselves ; they
have no worse natures than loyal men. Exactly such
sins as we indulge have led them into the crime which
now appalls us. At first thought we assume that at least
Wilkes Booth and his accomplices are the worst per-
sons, and the worst looking, that walk the earth. It
will not be found so, very likely. Some leading men
of the South may disavow them — may profess great
horror of them, possibly ; but if you were to converse
with these assassins, it is not improbable they might
even win your sympathies. It would be found that
they were influenced by no worse feelings or motives
than the men who profess to abhor them ; nay, it might
be found that they were ruled by the same sinful mo-
tives which actuate ourselves. Covetousness, or love of
notoriety, or personal resentment may have prompted
the deed. These motives look bad when we see them
seeking the lives of men so eminent and so kindly as
Abraham Lincoln and William H. Seward ; but Oh !
how many times have we given way to precisely these
motives in our own life ? In how many millions of our
countrymen are the same sins working to will and to
do ? So we come out on that exposition of the matter
which our Lord gives : " He that hateth his brother is
a murderer." He who does not love Grod with his
whole heart, and his neighbor as himself, he is an assas-
sin ; that is to say, there is no knowing what a sinner
may do — may be left to do. The most revolting crimes
spring from nothing worse than sin. If covetousness
was Judas' motive in betraying his Master, then that
Master has been virtually betrayed many and many


a time. If covetousness, ambition, pride, and love of
power were the moral causes of the rebellion, then,
wherever these sins prevail, there is the motive power
which may deluge the continent in blood.

6. We have learned also, amid these judgments, that
retrihdion is hoth a necessity and a great good. Our
humanitarian religions, and the peaceful times have
caused many people to have a great horror of punish-
ment. They do not like to hear about it. They quar-
rel with any prospect of future penalty ; but what were
our national security if no retribution had been prac-
ticed, or were yet to be administered to high-handed
offenders ? Who of us does not rejoice that detectives,
sharp and keen in scent, were on all the routes that
led out of Washington, and that they scoured the coun-
try for the arrest of all who had part or complicity in
the great crime of assassination ? Is there a loyal man,
or woman, or child, who does not pray that the highest
penalty which an offender can pay, may be paid when
those men shall be arrested ? Has there not been a
sense of justice gratified as we have seen the hot-beds
of secession trampled into the dust beneath the iron
feet of war ? When we have looked on the skeletons
of our brave fellows returning from the slow death of
Southern prisons, have not our souls clamored for ven-
geance on their infamous keepers ? Have we not felt
glad, soberly and righteously, and yet almost exult-
tantly glad, as we have seen the fomenters of all this
mischief reaping the whirlwind which they themselves
had sown, falling into the pit which they had them-
selves digged ? And if some of them shall hang on the
gallows it will be considered by millions a matter of

Now, if we have learned thus to see the necessity,


the justice, the benevolence, and even the joy, of retri-
bution in national affairs, we must admit that it is pos-
sible to acquiesce in the retributions which are decreed
in the Divine government against those who shall not
comply with the proclaimed amnesty of the Governor
and Saviour of the world ? I have heard one of you
say, you could stand by and see a certain man, once
your friend, hung, because of his prominent agency in
this rebellion. Doubtless there are friends and kindred
who, if they could not, in the temper of the elder Bru-
tus, stand by and see such a penalty inflicted upon those
of their own flesh, would, nevertheless, admit that it
were a just and fitting award. Do we not learn in the
light of such feelings, in reference to national crime, the
necessary place, and reason, and good, of those penalties
which God inflicts upon all sinners who stand out against
his supreme and blessed authority? The great loyal
heart of the people believes the sentimentality, which
would not punish with death the assassin and the perfid-
ious traitor, to be sickly and dangerous. From all the
four winds the popular breath is, "there must be ret-
ribution. Treason must be made odious." The nation
must express by condign penalty its estimation of its
own life. So God says of those who persist in rebellion
against him. They have lifted up unholy hands against
a blessed and perfect government ; they have had no
excuse for it ; they have struck in the face of Love and
Favor — verily they shall have their reward.

7. These yeafs of war have taught us the folly and
emptiness of mere secret religion. We have not been
content with guessing at the loyalty of our fellow-citi-
zens. In times like these the demand has been — show
your colors ; declare where you stand ; take the oath ;
join some league ; contribute to some loyal object ;


show ill some way, in a way which puts the matter be-
yond doubt, which side you are on. We have come to
feel that what a man thinks and speaks about his coun-
try is not a private, it is a public concern. Do I ask
my neighbor in regard to his feelings and views on the
great question, he is not at liberty to tell me that it is
an impertinent inquiry ; it is eminently pertinent — for
when such a question is at issue no man can decently
pretend to be neutral. This lesson is one which Christ
would have men learn in religion likewise. It is not a
merely private affair whether I am Christian or not in
my decisions and sympathies. If I love some private
person, it is at my option, to a great extent, to keep the
matter to myself But our Lord is no private person ;
if a man loves Him it is public concern that he express
his love, and let it be known widely as his influence
may extend. Therefore it is that so much stress is laid,
in the New Testament, on profession. Christ wants out


Online LibraryGeorge MooarThe religion of loyalty : a doctrinal sermon, preached in the First Congregational Church, Oakland, April 23d, 1865 → online text (page 1 of 2)