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when a new generation had arisen, a generation born
in the desert and vigorous with its fresh life a gen-
eration born free, and educated under the influences
of freedom when such men stood in the place of
their feeble sires, He consummated His assurances
to the patriarchs, and bestowed on their offspring
the heritage which He had ordained for them.

At this point, also, we witness corresponding
manifestations of retributive Holiness. The land of
Canaan was then inhabited by numerous races of


Phoenician origin, who were intruders upon the soil,
which the All-Owner and Disposer had allotted to
the children of His Covenant. Their obscene idola-
tries and enormous wickedness had long reeked up
to heaven, and Divine justice had decreed their
extermination. The future developments of God's
providence, in relation not merely to His chosen
people, but to the whole human family, required the
expulsion of these heathen trespassers from the cen-
tral position into which they had thrust themselves,
and its transfer to the nation selected as the conser-
vators of the knowledge and worship of the One Je-
hovah, till the Light of the Gentiles should appear,
and the lost brotherhood of man be restored by
Christ. For the carrying out of this arrangement,
the Almighty clothed His arm with terror. At His
command, the hosts of Israel passed into Canaan,
routed its armies, sacked its cities, ravaged its ter-
ritory with fire and sword, slew vast numbers of its
population, reduced the remnant to submission, or
forced it to seek new settlements. In all this they
were but the agents of the universal Sovereign, to
whom the whole earth belongs, and who has a right
to apportion it as He pleases. His will was their
authority ; His aid the source of their triumph.
Guided and supported by Him, they took possession
of the land set apart as the birth-scene of the world's


Salvation, and cleared it for the waiting wonders that
were in reserve for it.

From this rapid survey, how clearly do we per-
ceive in the Hebrew Exodus the ministry of judg-
ments ! How thickly along its path stand the "ter-
rible things," which bring about the purposes of the
Most High ! Nor were these the outburstings of
mere arbitrary vengeance. They were righteous in
their infliction, and compensative in their end. The
blessings which they prepared transcended a thou-
sand fold the sufferings which they occasioned. It
was only through them that God could introduce the
era of Organized Religion the era in which His
Truth, no longer homeless and a wanderer, should
be established in a permanent abode, and be em-
bodied in a national worship, reflecting its light on
the surrounding darkness, and serving as the pre-
cursor of that broader and more spiritual economy
which was ultimately to embrace the world. The
scourging of Egypt, the afflictions of Israel in the
wilderness, the conquest and extrusion of the idola-
trous hordes of Canaan, stood in intimate and neces-
sary connection with the fulfilment of the promise,
that in the seed of Abraham all the families of the
earth should be blessed. And so it was, that from
miseries narrow in their range, and transient in du-
ration, sprung Hope and Happiness for the human


Analogous events marked the inauguration of
Christianity. This epoch, the most important
which the earth has seen, was waited for with intense
desire, from the hour of its first announcement in
Eden, down through all the slow-moving centuries
that preceded its introduction. In every land, in
every period, under every form of social existence,
it was the one bright expectation which cheered the
travail of the darkling generations. Even among
pagan races, however ignorant and barbarous, there
prevailed an indistinct, yet strong and universal im-
pression, arising from the intuitive feeling of need,
or from dim traditions of the original Promise,
that some Divine Personage would appear, to reme-
dy the disorders of humanity, and usher in the gold-
en age of purity and joy. The Jews, instructed by
revelation, possessed clearer views, and cherished a
hope more definite and assured. They knew that
the Celestial One, for whose advent the world thus
vaguely longed, was to be their own Messiah, the
King and Saviour of Israel. They knew that the
covenant of God with their fathers, the predictions
of their prophets, the ceremonial of their religion,
and its whole spirit, pointed to His coming as their
consummation and fulfilment. To the dawning of
His day they looked forward with eager yearning.
For its arrival the devout among them incessantly
prayed. And in all their changeful history, in


weakness, in exile, in the humiliations inflicted on
them by their foreign conquerors, they were upheld
and consoled by the never-wavering faith, that the
mighty Champion who was to arise for their deliver-
ance, would avenge every wrong, and heal" every


Yet, though right in their belief as to the fact of
Christ's mission, they were utterly in error as to its
nature and objects. The ideas which they formed
of the relation which He was to sustain to them, and
of the work which He was to accomplish, were alto-
gether carnal. They had no conception of the moral
bearings which His manifestation was to assume
of its vicarious and expiatory character of its
grand scope in putting away sin by the Sacrifice of
the Cross, and erecting, through the power of that
sacrifice, a spiritual empire over the hearts of men.
A political redemption, a material sovereignty, en-
grossed their thoughts, and kindled their anticipa-
tions. They looked for a temporal Messiah a
Prince wearing an earthly crown, wielding earthly
weapons, leading invincible armies a Divine
Hero, who should break the Eoman yoke, vanquish
the heathen in battle, raise Jerusalem to the seat of
a universal monarchy, and, infusing new life into
effete and dying Judaism, make it the religion of
the world.

Doubtless there were contingencies in which some


of these expectations were possible. Had they rec-
ognized, in the coming of the God-man, the com-
pletion of their national Hope ; had they compre-
hended the true meaning of His office; had they
yielded to the evidence of His Divine authority,
acknowledged His claims, received His words, and
embraced His salvation they might have escaped
the tremendous doom which subsequently befell
them. Accepting Jesus of Nazareth as their De-
liverer from spiritual bondage, they would have
found in Him the Guardian and Uplifter of their
social condition. Then* existence as a people would
have been preserved. The dispensation of the Law
would have melted into the dispensation of the Gos-
pel as silently and as serenely as the orb of night
disappears before the rising of the sun. The land
in which they dwelt, endeared to them by so many
glorious memories, would have remained the inalien-
able heritage of their race. And their Holy City,
the renowned centre of Hebrew worship, would
have been no less hallowed in all future times, and
among all kindreds of men, as the birthplace of
Christianity, and the radiating point from which its
light first went forth to dispel the darkness of the

But their obstinate unbelief blasted all these
splendid possibilities, and evoked, in their place,
public and individual ruin, as certain as it. was


utter. The unpretending manner in which the Re-
deemer entered upon His ministry, His humble
origin, His lowly demeanor, His recoil from all
schemes of ambition and aggrandizement, shocked
their prejudices, and ran counter to the whole cur-
rent of their opinions in reference to the Messiah.
His humility offended their pride. The holiness of
His doctrines condemned the corruption of their
lives. The method of justification which He un-
folded, overthrew their self-righteousness. They
clearly saw that if the divinity of His character
and of His teachings were admitted, the national
religion in which they gloried, with all its legal
observances, and all the puerile additions with
which they had disfigured it, must be swept away
and superseded by this new .system of truth and
worship. Hence they clung to their sensual views,
and rejected Him whom prophecy and miracle, the
converging of events, His own forthputtings of in-
finite power, and the concurring witness of Heaven,
pointed out as the Only Begotten of the Father.
Fired with jealousy and hate, they heaped on Him
scorn and insult and contumely, and, at last, com-
passed His crucifixion, crying out in their awful
blindness, "His blood be on us, and on our chil-
dren." And when He had risen from the dead, and
they knew that He had risen, and had thus given
the crowning proof of His Messiahship, they per-


secuted His followers, and endeavored, by threats
and imprisonment, to restrain them from preaching
the Name which they detested and feared.

From that hour their destruction was sure. They
had put themselves into antagonism with Omnip-
otence. In their opposition to Christ and His
Gospel, they strove to block the path of Jeho-
vah's purposes, and so came within the sweep of
that dread law which crushes the enemies that
mercy cannot subdue. The Judaism to which
they adhered, distorted, debased, and shorn of all
its primal virtue, false to its Founder and false to
its design, instead of welcoming Christianity, and
opening the way for its triumphs, stood forth as its
chief and most envenomed foe ; and, therefore, the
cause of human salvation, no less than the voice of
outraged Justice, demanded that it should be driven
from its place of power, its home made desolate,
and its abettors scattered over the face of the earth.
In accordance with the usual course of Divine deal-
ing, by which national crimes become the means of
national punishment, the final ruin and dispersion
of the Jews, and the complete uprooting of their
state and polity, were the consequences of their
own act. The same ecclesiastical bigotry which
led them to repudiate and murder their Messiah,
incited them also to rebel against the authority of
Rome, and brought upon them its swift and terrible


vengeance. The fierce legions of Vespasian strode
over the land, filling it with carnage and woe, turn-
ing its fertile plains into deserts, storming its forti-
fied places, laying its towns level with the ground,
and driving the houseless inhabitants before them,
till nearly the whole nation was shut up in Jerusa-
lem. Then commenced a siege, memorable through
all time for its duration, for the vigor with which it
was pressed, for the desperation with which it was
resisted, for the horrors that attended it a siege
in which more than a million of Jews perished by
the sword or by famine. So fearfully was their
own imprecation verified ! At length, the city was
taken, its walls demolished, its very foundations
razed, its temple laid in ashes, its surviving popu-
lation given up to slaughter, or borne away as
slaves by their conquerors. Hebrew nationality
was extinguished. The land, stained with the
blood of the Crucified, was surrendered to per-
petual desolation ; and the race that committed the
awful deed were to be evermore wanderers and
outcasts, abandoned of Heaven, and abhorred of
earth. Thus, by a visitation as necessary as it was
stern, as righteous as it was overwhelming, the All-
Euler swept from the pathway of His Gospel the
mightiest obstacle that impeded its introduction and

Similar revealings of His hand may be seen in


all the great epochs that have signalized the march
of Christianity along the track of the centuries.
History abundantly shows that whenever organ-
ized wickedness, whether that of governments,
hierarchies, or institutions, has opposed the ad-
vance of His kingdom, striking exhibitions of His
power have come forth to remove the obstruc-
tion. But we cannot now trace out and describe
each instance in detail. The brief space which re-
mains to us -will barely suffice to present the work-
ing of this law in our own tune and country.

The period in which we live is distinguished pre-
eminently as the Era of Freedom. We do not so
designate it because freedom is yet either perfect in
its nature, or universal in its extension. But there
is everywhere a growing appreciation of it, a more
earnest struggle to secure it, a stronger conviction
of the right to it which belongs to all, and of the
deep wrong involved in the violation of that right.
This feature is so prominent in our day as to consti-
tute its leading characteristic, and determine its
place in history. And God has stamped this fea-
ture on the age with a view to the promotion of His
work of Grace in the world. It is the grand intent
of His mercy to recover the lost children of earth
from the degradation and misery into which sin has
plunged them, emancipate them from moral thral-
dom, elevate them in civilization, knowledge, com-


fort, and render them holy and happy under the
peaceful sceptre of His Son.

Among the external hindrances to this redeeming
process, the tyranny of man over his fellows is the
most unyielding and potent. Even the Gospel,
with all its heaven-born energies, cannot uplift
masses held down by the iron clutch of despotism,
till that clutch is rent away. It may save from final
perdition the souls that truly receive it, however
shrouded in ignorance, and imbruted by vassalage ;
but it cannot exert its high and transforming influ-
ence on. social welfare where thought is fettered,
and every faculty lies benumbed and paralyzed un-
der the incubus of oppression. Nor can its more
spiritual work be successfully prosecuted in such a
field. It may reach here and there an individual
among the benighted and down-trodden; but the
wide, dead waste of debasement will remain unaf-
fected by its power. The spirit of the Gospel is a
free spirit, and can hold no alliance with absolutism,
whether civil or ecclesiastical, whether that of king,
pope, or oligarch. Hence we might well expect
that the Providence which rules in all terrestrial af-
fairs, would direct its operations with special refer-
ence to the removal of this greatest barrier to the
spread of truth and righteousness. And the going
forth of its agency to this end is manifest, not only
in the overturning or liberalizing of despotic govern-


ments, but more emphatically still in the tremen-
dous conflict with slavery which now convulses our
own land.

Human bondage, so long dominant in this other-
wise favored country, has been the chief impediment
to the growth of a pure Christianity at home, and to
the efficiency of our labors hi the cause of evangel-
ization abroad. It has been the nation's blackest
sin, and its deadliest curse. A monstrous crime
and a blighting pest wherever it exists, its enormity
has been more flagrant here than elsewhere, from
the fact that it has here assumed its most ruthless
form, and also on the ground that it has been up-
held and cherished in direct antagonism to our re-
publican principles, and to our noble antecedents.
Inscribing on the organic framework of our nation-
al government the great truth, that God has created
all men free and equal, and proclaiming it as the
corner-stone of our political system, we have held in
chains millions endowed with the same natural rights
as ourselves ; have robbed them of their manhood ;
have bought and sold them like brute beasts ; have
dishonored and defiled the proud banner of Liberty
by making it the protector of the man-stealer, and
the symbol of chattelhood. What wonder is it that
an infamy like this should have exposed us to the
contempt of the civilized world ? Who can marvel
that our vaunted freedom has been the scoff of aris-


tocrats and monarchists throughout the earth ; or
that we have been branded as a nation of hypocrites,
whose philanthropy tolerates injustice, and whose
religion is linked with the foulest iniquity on which
the sun ever looked ?

This glaring blot on our character and on our in-
stitutions has not only been reprobated by the gen-
eral voice of humanity ; its evils have been felt and
deplored by ourselves. We have long viewed it as
our country's guilt and bane. We have seen it de-
bauching the public conscience and the public mor-
als, entering into all the walks of business, contami-
nating our literature, corrupting our churches, and
pervading every department of society with its fatal
poison. For its removal wise and good men have
labored during many years with patient zeal, and in
the unblenching faith, that argument, and expostu-
lation, and the reforming forces of the Gospel,
would finally eradicate and banish it from the land.
And there was a time when this faith seemed to be
well founded. The giant curse appeared to be
losing strength under the moral stress brought to
bear upon it. Slaveholders themselves began to
grow weary of it, to acknowledge its baleful tenden-
cies, and to contemplate the possibility of its future
extinction. There were few so blinded by prejudice
and passion, as to pronounce it a good in itself
few so lost to all sense of right, as to assert its rec-


titude. The almost unanimous verdict even of
slaveholding society declared it to be a system of
labor wasteful, unremunerative, an injury to the
master, and a wrong to the slave a system whose
longer existence could be justified only by the fact,
that it was so interwoven with all the habits and in-
terests of Southern life as to render its sudden with-
drawal productive of wide-spread industrial de-
rangement. The sentiment was general that slavery
was not a blessing to be perpetuated, but an evil to
be removed as soon as it could be done with safety.
And so extensively did this sentiment prevail, that
in some of the slaveholding States incipient steps
were taken for so changing their constitutions as to
provide for gradual and final emancipation.

That was the day of grace the probation-hour
of the South. Then she had a Conscience. Then
her heart was tender. Then the Spirit of God
moved upon the minds of her people, convincing
them of righteousness. Then all that was Christian
in her condemned on moral grounds the making
merchandise of men, and all that was patriotic de-
sired its abolishment as a great social mischief.
Oh ! had she known, in that day of her merciful vis-
itation, "the things which belonged to her peace"
had she seen that a fungus so deadly was to be
cured, not by delay, but by prompt and instant ex-
cision had she obeyed the voice of Providence,


the voice of history, the voice of her own convic-
tions, and broken at once the fetters of her bond-
men the devastating wrath which she has called
down upon herself and upon the nation would not
have been inflicted !

But the propitious season was not improved.
Soon a marked change occurred in the financial as-
pects of the question. A wider market for cotton,
and new facilities in the growth and preparation of
the staple, led to increased production, and thus
created a demand for slave labor, and greatly en-
hanced the price of human bones and sinews. Then
a complete revulsion of opinion and of feeling passed
over the South. All thought of emancipation,
present or future, was laid aside. All conscious-
ness of the wrong of involuntary servitude was over-
borne and extinguished by the dazzling rewards
which it promised. Slave ry, no longer deemed un-
profitable, but a source of boundless wealth, seemed
to undergo a wondrous transformation. The demon
became an angel; the destroyer -a saviour; the es-
sence of barbarism a grand agent of civilization ;
the blaring scandal of the age, detested by God and
man, a sacred and holy thing, the twin sister of
Christianity. The population of the slave States
declared itself a unit in support of the institution,
in maintaining its equity before Heaven and earth,


and in claiming for it universal and perpetual

From that moment, the fate of the oligarchy was
sealed. From that moment, it passed within the
sweep of the retributive law which we have de-
scribed. From that moment, its punishment was as
fixed and determined as it is now. A just God gave
it up to. the power of an infatuation, which was as
certain to plunge it into the abyss of ruin, as a boat,
set adrift in the rapids of Niagara, is sure to go over
the cataract. The abettors of Slavery were smitten
with judicial blindness. In attempting to make the
Bible an apologist of their accursed system, they
blasphemed the Holy Author of the Bible, and per-
petrated the sin for which the All-Merciful has no
forgiveness. Thenceforth, every ministry of Grace
forsook them. They had crossed the line which
separates trial from doom had left the region in
which their redemption was possible, and madly en-
tered the dread realm over which wrath and judg-
ment alone preside. Return was barred to them
forever. There was no longer any place for moral
appliances. Reason, and Conscience, and Remon-
strance, and Persuasion were recalled from the field ;
and Nemesis became the sole actor. To its red
hands the work was committed. Yet we knew it
not. We still thought that Light and Love might
prevail in the struggle, and continued to marshal


their superseded forces. But the more we looked
for a peaceful issue, the farther it receded into dis-
tance. The more we trusted that the clouds would
break away, and the glad sun of freedom shine out,
the louder the thunder muttered, and the blacker
grew the gathering tempest.

" We prayed and hoped; but stillwith awe
The coming of the sword we saw ;
We heard the nearing steps of doom,
And saw the shade of things to come."

And now the hurricane is upon us. He, who
employs even the wild passions of the reprobate as
instruments of His benign decrees, has permitted
the Southern oligarchs to rush into treason and re-
bellion, for the purpose of destroying the Union,
and rendering the empire of slavery permanent and
supreme. He has thus made their own madness the
occasion and the means of their overthrow. In the
mighty battle which we are compelled to wage in
defence of the nation's integrity and the nation's life,
we are but the ministers of His vengeance. He
appoints our task, and His hand beckons us onward
to the utter annihilation of the fell iniquity that has
defied His laws.

True it is, that in this fearful conflict we ourselves
suffer, as well as the doomed ones against whom we
are called to execute the sentence of Heaven. God
is chastening us for our participation in the sin


which He is visiting with such signal outgoings of
His anger. We have shared in the guilt of slavery.
We have bowed down before it. We have com-
promised with it. We have legislated for it. We
have given it scope and verge. And it is for this
very reason that God has laid on us the work of its
destruction. He intends that we shall expiate, with
rivers of blood and oceans of treasure, our part in
riveting the chains of the bondman. Not otherwise
could our political regeneration be accomplished.
Through tears and agony lies the nation's way to its
new and higher life. The flame must scorch deep,
that renovates and purities.

" We wait beneath the furnace-blast

The pangs of transformation ;
Not painlessly doth God recast
And mould anew the nation.
Hot burns the fire
"Where wrongs expire ;
Nor spares the hand,
That from the land
Uproots the ancient evil.
What though the cast-out spirit tear

The nation in his going ?
We who have shared the guilt must share
The pang of his o'erthrowing 1
Whate'er the loss,
Whate'er the cross,
Shall they complain
Of present pain,
Who trust in God's hereafter? "


No, no the furnace will not consume us, seven
times heated though it be. It will burn up our
league with death, arid our covenant with hell. It
will burn out from us whatever is mean and false,
and burn in all that is great and true. As the
glowing oven expels from the porcelain the stains
left on it by unclean hands, at the same time that it
fixes and deepens the beautiful tints with which the

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Online LibraryGeorge Barton IdeBattle echoes : or, Lessons from the war → online text (page 5 of 19)