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Battle echoes : or, Lessons from the war online

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provoke it ? Sure may we be that if judgments so
awful fail to instruct us, the lesson will be voiced in
judgments yet more awful.

Let none imagine that the Sovereign of the uni-
verse is too high, or too remote in His majesty, to
concern Himself about the uplifting of a trampled
race. The very thought is impiety. It is the
glory of our God that He cares for the lowly. No
perfection of His nature has been more clearly
revealed in His word, or more impressively illus-
trated in His providence. "He shall deliver the
poor that crieth, and him that hath no helper."
"He giveth power to the faint, and to them that
have no might He increaseth strength." What
characters are more explicitly denounced in Scrip-
ture than the down-treaders of the weak? All
along the pages of Inspiration threatenings flame
out against oppressors, and against those who coun-
tenance and abet them ; and all along the track of
History those threatenings loom up in terrible ful-
filment. And can we hope to escape, if, from want
of sympathy with the wronged, or indifference to
their needs, we fail in the exigency that is now
before us?


"We see dimly, in the present, what is small and what is

great ;
Slow of faith how weak an arm may turn the iron helm of


But the soul is still oracular ; amid the market's din,
List to the ominous stern whisper from the Delphic cave

They enslave their children's children who make compromise

with Sin."

What, then, ought to be done? More, doubt-
less, much more than it is in our present power to
accomplish. The surest and readiest way of de-
fending the freedmen, is to confer on them the
elective franchise. The ballot is the most effectual
safeguard. Give them that, and they can protect
themselves. But, in the existing state of public
opinion, not only at the South, but in the North as
well, it were vain to expect this, and idle to insist
upon it. Until the national mind is more broadly
educated, and rises to a higher conception of the
natural rights of all men, it would be putting our-
selves on impracticable ground, to demand the im-
mediate bestowment of political immunities. These
will come with the growth of freedom, and the
progress of events. In the mean time, we shall find
ample occasion for all our energies in securing to
the emancipated the enjoyment of those civil rights
the rights of person, the rights of labor, and the
rights of property without which their freedom


will be but a shadow. Here let us take our stand.
Here all who hate vassalage can unite. And here
we can begin and prosecute the work which shall
end in perfect enfranchisement.

Some there may be, avowed friends of emancipa-
tion, and of the elevation of the colored race, who
will refuse to come up to this point. However true
to the Union, however loyal in intention to Liberty,
they cannot so far shake themselves from the influ-
ence of old prejudices and old affiliations, as to
take the part of the negro against the tyranny of
the white man. When such are invested with vast
power, then* scruples are the more to be regretted,
inasmuch as they may seriously retard the righteous
adjustment of the questions now agitating the coun-
try. It is not in the school of slavery that Free-
dom's champions are trained. Pharaoh may bear
the rod of Moses, and profess to guide the people
to the Promised Land ; but, in such hands, the rod,
instead of pointing across the sea, and straight on
to Canaan, will whirl round, and point directly
back to Egypt. Nevertheless, whether the rod
beckon falsely or truly, we must obey, not the rod,
but the Shekinah. That never misleads. As the
Pillar of Cloud and of Fire went before the Tribes,
shaping all their movements, so the Word of the
living God appoints and marshals our way. And
the course which it prescribes is onward, ever on-


ward, farther and farther from the house of bond-
age, nearer and nearer to the goal of full deliver-
ance and rest.

God's Moses, after conducting his charge through
the returnless waters that separated them forever
from their former thraldom, watched and taught
them during the long delay of the wilderness ; and
it was not till the period of probation had passed,
and discipline and culture had prepared them for
the ordained inheritance, that they entered upon its
fruition. Let us follow in his steps. We are
already over the sea, and the reign of chattelhood
is behind us. Protection, guidance, preparation,
constitute the work which we have now to do.'
While we guard the freedmen from wrong and
violence, we must endeavor, at the same time, to
improve their condition, by bringing to bear upon
it all the ameliorating appliances of education and
Christianity. In this direction lies their way to
Canaan ; and by such a process must they be fitted
for its responsibilities. Redeemed by intelligence
and religion from the darkness and debasement
which ages of servitude have induced, they cannot
long be debarred from political privileges. In a
country like ours, men so qualified must sooner or
later acquire the right of suffrage, whatever antipa-
thies and repulsions may array themselves against
it. And when this is gained, the machinery of


their elevation will be complete. A race, acted on
by the three mighty levers, Education, the Gospel,
and the Ballot, must rise. No force of prejudice,
no power of custom, no ban of exclusiveness can
keep it down. As well might an eagle lie grovel-
ling in the dust, with three pairs of wings beating
the air, as a people remain in a low social status,
when schools, Bibles, and the right to vote, com-
bine to lift them up. Advancement is the neces-
sary result of the influences operating upon them.
They will rise rise in spite of every clog and of
every attempt at repression rise in manliness, in
civilization, in knowledge, in skill, in industry
rise in all that imparts dignity to the citizen, in all
that insures repose and prosperity to the state.

" I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things."

So simple and yet so thorough is the method of
reconstruction, which the supreme Governor sets
before us. If we " hide the outcasts " under the
shelter of equal laws, make the justice of the nation
" a covert to them from the face of the spoiler,"
and do not ' ' bewray " them by any device of com-
promise or any yielding to expediency, the great


problem will be solved. On such a basis, the
Union may be rebuilt with a firmness and solidity
that will defy all the shocks of change, and all the
assaults of time. And to this consummation we
believe the providence of God is leading us. We
believe that the same unerring Wisdom that di-
rected our steps in all the critical hours of the
Rebellion, will continue to guide us in the per-
plexities and perils by which we are now sur-
rounded. The All-Ruler has too grand a purpose
to work out in the future of this country, to permit
our folly to frustrate or endanger it. If we disre-
gard His teachings, and set His commands at
defiance, He may humble us by failure, and visit
us with rebuke, till, in despair of our own counsels,
we consent to execute His ; but He will not sur-
render us to anarchy and ruin. What He has done
for us is a pledge of what He will do. The past
foreshadows the future. His agency will so mould
opinion, and so shape events, that, however dying
treason may toss and struggle, the calm, strong
heart of the nation will remain steadfast to the
right ; loyalty and humanity will triumph ; and this
mighty Federation of States be perfect once more,
with every breach repaired, every element of dis-
cord eliminated. And thus will our political sys-
tem, founded on the Civil Equality of all men, rest-


ing on the firm arches of Free Schools and Uni-
versal Suffrage, pillared by Justice, and buttressed
by Christianity, tower up in MATCHLESS STRENGTH


" No floundering more, for mind or heart,

Among the lower levels ;
No welcome more for moods that sort

With satyrs and with devils ;
But over all our fruitful slopes,

On ail our plains of beauty,
Fair temples for fair human hopes

And altar-thrones for duty.

" Wherefore, ransomed people, shout !

O banners, wave in glory !
O bugles, blow the triumph out !

O drums, strike up the story 1
Clang, broken fetters, idle swords I

Clap hands, O States together !
And let all praises be the Lord's,

Our Saviour and our Father."



Ecclesiastes viii. 5.

?HING is more essential to success in the
work of life, than an intelligent comprehen-
sion of the period in which that work is to be
done. Whoever would achieve aught of mo-
ment for the welfare of his race, must pon-
der well the salient features of his own time, and
know the channels along which the current of the
world's thought is moving. From a defect here,
many noble men, gifted with great powers, and
stirred by lofty aims, have lived in vain. They un-
derstood not their age ; and their age neither under-
stood nor heeded them. Striving to draw back the
live, progressive Present into the dead, still Past ; or
laboring, with equal folly, to hurry forward the im-
mature Present into the ripe Future, they won only
scorn, neglect, and failure; and, after all their
efforts, all their enthusiasm, all their sacrifices,
their whole history may be written in the one


brief sentence, " Born out of due time." He who
would influence men in politics, in social reforms,
in the industrial arts, must not hope to do it by
shaking over them the dry bones of by -gone ideas ;
but must take his stand on those living questions of
the day, in which humanity feels a warm and active

" New occasions teach new duties. Time makes ancient good
uncouth ;

They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast
of Truth ;

Lo, before us gleam her camp-fires ! we ourselves must Pil-
grims be,

Launch our Mayflower, and steer boldly through the desper-
ate winter sea,

Nor attempt the Future's portal with the Past's blood-rusted

This knowledge of the Present, however indis-
pensable it may be to the right conduct of secular
affairs, is far more so to the progress of religion.
The Christian, of all men, most needs to understand
the time in which the claims of his high calling are
to be met. The truths of the Gospel, and the obli-
gations which grow out of them, are the same at all
periods ; but the manner in which the one is to be
applied and the other fulfilled, varies with the shift-
ing scenes of the world's history. And he who, in
our versatile and rapid age, thinks to push on the


victories of the Cross, and combat the thousand
new forms which error and sin are every moment
assuming, with precisely the same weapons, and the
same methods of attack, that were used in slower
and less eventful generations, is as unwise as the
soldier who should bring the cumbrous mail, the
battle-axes and battering rams of the old crusaders,
to contend against minnie muskets and rifled can-
non ; or as the naval commander who should oppose
the wooden walls of a lumbering seventy-four to
steel-pointed rams and iron-clad Monitors.

This is the thought enunciated by the Sacred
Writer, when he says, W A wise man's heart dis-
cerneth both time and judgment." In other words,
he comprehends his epoch, and forms a just esti-
mate of its character and of its demands. The
subject, therefore, to which I invite your attention,
is Our Day, and its Work.

That the features of our day are diverse and
many-hued, no thoughtful observer can doubt.
They accord strikingly with the sublime descrip-
tion of prophecy, that " the light shall not be clear
nor dark ; a day, not day nor night " that is,
neither shining in full splendor, nor overshadowed
by unbroken gloom. How accurate a portrait is
this of the time in which our lot is cast ! Some
of its aspects apparently indicate the triumph of
evil ; others the triumph of good. Some are dark


with prognostics of the gathering tempest; others
bright with the precursors of coming peace and
joy. It is, however, my firm conviction that, in
any comprehensive view that may be taken of the
social and moral movements of the present day,
hope must greatly preponderate over fear ; and that
these movements furnish far more cause for encour-
agement than for despondency. This will be evi-
dent if, beginning with those characteristics that are
most unfavorable, we pass on to the more cheering
ones by which they are overbalanced and counter-

Our day is marked by flagrant wickedness. I am
not about to commit the folly which Solomon so
pointedly rebakes in the complainers of his age.
" Say not thou, What is the cause that the former
times were better than these ? for thou dost not in-
quire wisely concerning this." It is not my design,
therefore, to institute any comparison between the
amount of sin in our own and in other periods of
the world's dark annals. Man has always been
vile ; and man always will be vile, till the Gospel
has pervaded and purified the race. Yet while the
inward corruption of our nature remains ever the
same, the degree of outbreaking iniquity may be
greater in one generation than in another. It is ac-
cording to the course of human depravity, that the
farther it proceeds, and the longer its base impulses


continue to act, the more daring and shameless it
should become. But however this may be, the
most careless onlooker must acknowledge that un-
godliness is now fearfully rampant. When were
the claims of Jehovah more disregarded; the au-
thority of His law more contemned ; the sanctities
of His Sabbath, His Word, and His House more
dishonored? When was irreligion more dominant
among the masses the power of earthliness more
intense neglect of the great salvation more deter-
mined and universal?" If we pass from the domain
of things spiritual to that of morals, there too we
find a downward tendency equally decided. Does
any one doubt this ? Let him examine the statis-
tics of crime, furnished by the records of police
and the proceedings of criminal courts, and he can-
not but b'e appalled both at the number and the
enormity of the offenses which they proclaim. Who
has not shuddered at the frightful increase of mur-
der and suicide ? Who does not stand aghast at the
growing frequency of crimes against property the
defalcations in office the dishonesty hi business
the adulterations and robberies that permeate all
departments of trade ? With respect also to those
sins of which human laws take little or no cogni-
zance, we perceive the same startling and abnormal
development. Even Intemperance, for whose sup-
pression so much has been done, is at this moment


rapidly spreading ; while the enormous sin of Li-
centiousness has attained a prevalence in all classes
of society, and shows itself with an unblushing
boldness, that must cause every friend of his spe-
cies to shrink back in dismay and horror.

Along with this growth of atrocious immoralities,
there have sprung up also an effrontery in guilt, a
disregard of decency, and a contempt for the very
name and appearance of goodness, which indicate a
most polluted state of public sentiment and feeling.
Formerly, men reverenced Virtue, if they did not
follow her. But now they throw dust on her sacred
head, and trample down her altars in scorn ; while
Vice, caressed and honored, decked in gaudy trap-
pings, with multitudes shouting in her train, is pa-
raded forth in the light of the sun, and beneath the
gaze of astonished Heaven.

In like manner, the temptations to evil are more
numerous and open now than in other days. No
longer hidden under the veil of darkness, nor con-
fined in their influence to the loathsome purlieus of
profligacy, they stand out before all eyes, spreading
their snares in every walk of life, and in every path
of human pursuit. So insidious, so all-reaching are
they, that no asylum is sacred, no retreat secure
from their presence.

Connected with this increase of vice and of the
incitements to it, there has been, as alike its pre-


cedent and its consequent, a most deplorable exten-
sion of skeptical and infidel opinions. In every age,
there have been men of minds so distorted and de-
praved as to reject the authority of Revelation.
But hitherto these have been mostly retired scholars
and idle speculatists who, dwelling apart from the
intercourse and sympathy of the masses, have mut-
tered their doubts in the seclusion of the study, with-
out doing much harm to any except themselves.
It is a peculiar feature of our day, that Infidelity
has gone forth from the closets of philosophers and
theorizers into the walks of common life, and claims
its votaries among merchants and tradesmen, me-
chanics and artisans, the tillers of the land, and
the wanderers of the sea ; thus infecting that prac-
tical class which gives character and tone to the
community. No longer elaborating its destructive
dogmas in learned disquisitions and ponderous folios,
destined to be safely entombed in the dust and si-
lence of some vast library, it gives them lighter and
more winged forms ; and in the shape of small books,
magazines, and newspapers, scatters them through
the dwellings of the poor, the cottage of the laborer,
the bar-rooms of taverns, the cabins of steamboats
and ships, in the solitude of the rural hamlet, and
in the bustle of the thronged city. By this change
in the mode of its operations, it not only manifests
a hostility to revealed truth unusuallj' active and


bitter, but employs a species of attack most of all to
be dreaded.

From these few and brief references, it seems
evident that glaring impiety is a prominent charac-
teristic of the present day. Whether this constitutes
one of those alarming portents, which, as prophecy
informs us, shall appear in the closing age of the
world, when Satan shall come down in great wrath,
knowing that his time is short, we venture not to
decide ; but certainly some of the marks of that pre-
dicted period are now clearly and strongly devel-
oped. And we cannot avoid the conviction that
wickedness will become more and more outrageous,
until it shall be at last overthrown and annihilated
by the final victories of the Cross.

Our day is pre-eminently a day of change. The
human mind roused from the torpor of centuries,
seems determined to make amends for its past apathy
by tearing everything in pieces. Like a blind giant,
it deals forth its blows of power in all directions,
eager only to destroy, and little heeding what it
assails. Confounding together worthless abuses,
and institutions whose value has been proved by
the experience of ages, it attacks all without dis-
crimination, bent only on making a clean sweep. In
political affairs this spirit of innovation is strikingly
apparent. The whole continent of Europe is at
this moment one vast bed of fire, smouldering and


seething under the thin crust of external quiet ;
and though suppressed for a tune by the strong
hand of military rule, yet all the while collecting
its forces for a grand, terrific explosion, which shall
scatter kings and thrones and all existing govern-
ments, like the dust of the summer's threshing-floor.
Nor are other quarters of the globe exempt from sim-
ilar commotion. Over our own land the hurricane
has already swept. Justice and Oppression, Free-
dom and Slavery have here met and grappled in the
mightiest and bloodiest struggle which the earth has
ever seen ; and the signal triumph which Liberty has
won is a sign of hope for all the down -trodden races
of suffering humanity. And everywhere among
those races we see the stir and tumult of preparation
for a similar conflict of antagonistic principles. In
the sphere of morals and religion the same tokens
of the coming strife are manifest ; while, through
all the departments of civil and social life, there is
a restlessness, a discontent, a yearning after some
dimly apprehended good, which cannot but be
deemed ominous of mighty convulsions in the near
future. The whole face of the world, like the
ocean before the tempest breaks upon it, is agitated
and upheaved as by some unseen power. Every-
where there is disturbance, tumult, revolution. All
things betoken the approach of the great Battle of
Armageddon, where, in the last final encounter of


truth with error, holiness with sin, every principle
and every institution, not emanating from Heaven,
and rendered immortal by righteousness, shall be
destroyed by the breath of Jehovah.

" Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward let us

Let the great world spin forever down the ringing grooves

of change,
Through the shadow of the globe we sweep into the younger


Viewing thus the gathering of the thunder-cloud
ere it burst, and listening to the deep mutterings of
the volcano ere it sends forth the desolating erup-
tion, where is our confidence, where our comfort,
except in Him to whom the thunder and the volcano
are but ministers, and who wields all the move-
ments both of physical and of intellectual nature for
the promotion of His own sovereign purposes ? On
the simple, but all-comprehending truth, "The Lord
reigueth," the Christian may plant his feet, and
stand secure, while worlds are crashing around him.

The present is a day of unwonted activity. Nu-
merous causes now combine to call out the energies
of men, and stimulate them to intense endeavor.
The opening of new fields of enterprise and of new
sources of wealth ; the inventions and improvements
in science and the arts, which render them avail-
able ; the facility with which, by the present rapid


means of communication, the most distant points
may be reached, and the almost instantaneous trans-
mission of intelligence, have supplied fresh objects
of human desire, and given fresh vigor to human
effort. Every sphere, every occupation, feels the
awakening impulse. The sea swarms with ships
exchanging the products of all climes. The laud
echoes with the bustle of trade, the din of manufac-
tures, the noise of multitudes hurrying to and fro ;
and even the far wilderness rings with the tramp of
eager adventurers, seeking homes or treasure in its
hitherto silent wastes. Over all the secular pur-
suits and employments of man there has come the
breath of a new life. The whole earth quivers with
the excitement. Its pulsations have reached even
the insulated Chinese, and he longs to leap the wall
of the Celestial Empire, and mingle in the rush of
"the outside barbarians." The sleep of the world
is over its long dream is broken. A spirit is now
abroad that is destined to move onward from conti-
nent to continent, rousing up the slumbering nations
in its course, until it shall convert the globe into
one wide theatre of stirring life.

This increased activity, which is now animating
all ranks, is capable, if rightly directed, of working
out the most beneficent results in the physical, in-
tellectual, and moral condition of men. But there
is also great danger that by fixing their regards too


exclusively on earthly things, it may become a snare
to their souls, and contribute to their everlasting
ruin. How urgently does this call for correspond-
ing activity on the part of Christians, in order to
counteract the overflowing tide of worldliness that is
now setting in upon society !

Our day is distinguished by the wide diffusion of
knowledge. In point of intelligence, we stand on
an eminence far above any of the ages that have
preceded us. This distinction lies not in the fact
that the scholars of our day are more learned than
those of other periods ; although in the most recon-
dite departments of science advances have been
made, the possibility of which our fathers would not
have believed advances which are producing great
practical effects on the whole circle of social exist-
ence. But the true glory of modern knowledge is
its dissemination. For the first time in the history

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Online LibraryGeorge Barton IdeBattle echoes : or, Lessons from the war → online text (page 16 of 19)