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Battle echoes : or, Lessons from the war online

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from utter corruption, but also as they avert from it
that storm of Divine wrath which would otherwise
overwhelm it. The pointed rod that turns away
the lightning is not more essential to the protection
of our dwellings, than are Christian men to the
safety of nations. And if this be so ; if "the holy
seed," through its union with God, thus becomes
the guardian of civil communities, may it not well
be called "the substance thereof"?

Pious men are the saviours of a land, because to
them is intrusted the only remedy against national
demoralization and ruin.

Philosophers and statesmen have speculated much
on the means by which the social welfare of a peo-
ple may best be secured. Some have relied on the
force of armies, on the skill and prowess of com-


manders, on the wisdom of legislators, on the nice
balance of constitutional powers, and on the har-
monious adjustment of the various interests of so-
ciety. Others, with better reason, have built their
hopes on learning and culture, and on the spread of
general education. But all these expedients, how-
ever valuable in themselves, and however necessary
as subordinate agents, are wholly insufficient, when
operating alone, to achieve the end in view. Many
of the nations of antiquity, whose towering great-
ness overshadowed the world, and the crash of
whose fall will echo to the latest time, were eminent
for military talent, for political sagacity, for well-
ordered governmental institutions, for wide intelli-
gence, and for a high state of social refinement.
But how strikingly has their history demonstrated
the inadequacy of all such barriers ! Their vices
destroyed them. Over all the splendor of their
civilization public and private corruption shed its
withering power eat through the bulwarks of
their strength sapped the foundations of their
glory, and laid the whole fabric in the dust.

National virtue is the only national safeguard.
The land in which this lives and reigns cannot be
subdued. No matter with what fury the storm of
invasion or the deluge of conquest may rage around
it. They cannot overthrow it. The pillars of its
defence will stand unshaken amid the shock of


thrones and the convulsion of empires. Virtue is
omnipotent. It inspires every bosom in which it
dwells with the courage of a martyr, and the might
of a host. It is insuperable invulnerable re-
sistless. Treason cannot betray, nor ambition en-
slave it. It is that invincible, inextinguishable
enemy, against which tyrants league in vain, and
from which the pride of the oppressor recoils
broken and vanquished.

But the virtue, so indispensable to national wel-
fare, can be produced and maintained only by the
influence of a pure Christianity. In lands where
the Gospel is unknown, or where it has been shorn
of its life-giving truths, and degraded into the mere
handmaid of ignorance and priestcraft, there is no
such thing as public morality. Individuals may
occasionally be found rising above the common
level in uprightness of character ; but the masses
of the population are in all cases sunk in debasing
vices, irnbruted by superstition, or frenzied with
unbelief. In such communities there is no health-
ful principle in exercise, that can resist degeneracy,
or act as a barrier against the encroachments of
lawlessness on the one hand, and of despotism on
the other. It is from this cause that France and
Germany, after shaking oif their old tyrannies, as-
tonished the world by riveting anew the chains
which they had broken. Their people, emascu-


lated by profligacy, blinded by falsehood, insane
with infidelity, were unfitted for freedom, and were
therefore powerless to retain it. And never will
any country long continue to be either free or pros-
perous, where the Gospel in its purity does not so
thoroughly pervade all classes, as to become the
governing law of public and private life.

Now, it is to true Christians alone that we can
look for the diffusion of this vital element of social
virtue and happiness. Our Lord committed the
spread of His Gospel to His Apostles, and, through
them, to the whole body of His followers in every
subsequent age. This is the chief purpose for which
the Church of Christ exists in the world. It was
intended by its Divine Founder to be the grand
Receptacle and distributing Centre of all holy agen-
cies on earth a moral light-house, thro whig the
rays of Truth far out over the dark and restless
sea of human ungodliness a mighty reservoir,
receiving the water of Life from its Fountain-
Head above, and dispensing it, by numberless
channels,^ through the broad wastes of our siii-
blasted globe. From age to age, under all forms
of civilization, in all stages of intellectual develop-
ment, in all epochs, all lands, this has constituted
the one instrumentality by which God has been lift-
ing our fallen race from the abyss of its degradation
and misery. The ministers whom He appoints, and


the people whom He sanctifies by His grace, are
required, everywhere and at all times, so to teach
to others, and so to illustrate in their own lives, the
Word of Salvation which they have received, that
the corrupt multitudes around them may be pene-
trated and transformed by its energy. This is their
godlike work a work in which none but they are
fitted to engage. They only who have themselves
felt the renovating power of the Gospel, are pre-
pared to diffuse that Gospel among their fellow-
men. They alone understand the Gospel. They
alone love the Gospel. They alone know the real
value of its blessings. They alone comprehend its
momentous bearings on the interests of time, and
on the destinies of eternity. And, therefore, they
alone can be expected to enter with heart and soul
into the labor of extending it. If, then, the Gos-
pel, in its living influence, is indispensable to the
weal of nations ; and if God has committed the em-
bodiment and dissemination of that Gospel to His
regenerate Church is it not evident that the Chris-
tian men of a land are "the substance thereof"?

Such men are the hope and strength of a country,
inasmuch as they only are qualified to put forth in
its behalf the power of prayer.

That there resides a wondrous efficacy in prayer,
none can question who accord any credence to the
declarations of Scripture, or regard the experience


of the children of God in all periods of time as any-
thing better than a conceit of enthusiasm, or a dream
of delusion. In the economy of Grace, under which
our Divine Sovereign has placed all terrestrial af-
fairs, it is His ordinance, that every outflow of His
beneficence and of His mercy should descend to men
in answer to humble and earnest supplication,
offered up through His Son, whom He has appoint-
ed to be their Mediator and Advocate. And this
arrangement includes not merely spiritual blessings,
but temporal ; not merely the bestowal of benefits
on individuals, but on communities, and on the
world. " The effectual, fervent prayer of a right-
eous man availeth much." That it so avails with
respect to public as well as private events ; with
respect to providential occurrences affecting the in-
terests of this life, as well as with, respect to those
mysterious operations of the Spirit reaching forward
into the life to come, is manifest from the example
which the Apostle immediately cites in proof of his
statement. He refers, for this purpose, to the fear-
ful drought which desolated the territories of Israel,
in response to the prayer of Elijah ; and to the fact,
that when the prophet prayed that the judgment
might cease, " the heavens gave rain, and the earth
yielded her fruit." In short, the whole teaching
of the Bible, alike in its narratives and in its doc-
trinal announcements, proclaims prayer to be the


chief means by which good is obtained, and evil

But this instrument, so benign and so potent in
its effects, the sincere friends of the Redeemer are
alone competent to use. It is the prayer of the
righteous man only the prayer of the man justified
by atoning blood, and sanctified in heart and life by
the Holy Spirit that is effectual. All real pi-ay er
is prayer in the name of Christ, prayer presented
in reliance on the merits of Christ, and necessari-
ly involves a cordial recognition of His office and
His claims. Hence none can pray acceptably but
those who believe in Christ, and embrace Him as
the Saviour of their souls.

In the spiritual telegraph which prayer has estab-
lished between earth and heaven, at man's end of
the line Christians are the only operators. They
alone know the mystery of its mechanism, the way
in which it is worked, and the laws that govern its
results. And their despatches alone will be regard-
ed by the Great Superintendent, at God's end of the
line. Upward along the celestial wires they send
the plea of the sinful for pardon, of the wretched
for comfort, of the wronged for redress, of suf-
fering lands for deliverance. And when the answer
comes back, though it is always through them, it is
not always for them, but often for others glad ti-
dings addressed to millions ; a word of power and
of salvation for imperilled nations.


The evaporation from the earth's surface, which
is returned to it in fertilizing rain, rises from places
and from substances containing water. Little or
nothing is given to it by the trodden and dusty high-
way, the barren mountain, or the broad reaches of
the stony desert. It is drawn up, by the attractive
forces of the atmosphere, from fruitful fields and
gardens, from the foliage of the forests, from the
springs that gush from the hill-sides, from the brooks
that flash and sparkle in the glens, from the streams
that enrich the valleys, from the oceans that carry
health and plenty round the globe. Much of it is
polluted. Some has been exhaled from stagnant
pools, some from fetid morasses, some from loath-
some sewers. But all goes into the air, and is there
filtered and purified. The salt becomes fresh, the
foul sweet, the turbid clear. And then the shower
falls, yet not alone on the spots whence its treas-
ures came, but everywhere, rushing and pouring
in its fulness over the land and over the sea, op the
thirsty plain and on the swelling river, on the low
shrub and on the lofty pine, on the grain-clothed
meadow and on the naked rock, on the hovel and
on the palace, on the green lanes of the hamlet, and
on the paved streets of the crowded city. How the
earth rejoices ! How the young leaves glisten !
How the corn sings ! How the valleys smile ! How
the hill-tops shout ! How all nature laughs in its
gladness !


So does the Spirit of grace and of supplication
draw up prayer from the hearts of God's children
from hearts wet with the tears of penitence, and
washed in the blood of Propitiation. Imperfect, in-
deed, that prayer is, and ever must be. The foun-
tains from which it ascends are yet strongly imbued
with remaining earthliness, often sullied by sensual
passion, often roiled by the feet of worldly care.
Still, however unworthy, it is borne aloft by its Di-
vine Attractor into the presence of Infinite Holiness.
There, cast into the alembic of Christ's Interces-
sion, its defilement taken away, its faith and sin-
cerity accepted, it is distilled into blessed rain
rain freighted with every mercy which man can need
now and forever rain descending not merely on
the offerers of prayer, but on the undevout and god-
less ; bringing grace to the sinner, freedom to the
slave, respite to doomed nations ; and travelling in
its mighty sweep from continent to continent, till it
has emptied its stores over all the world. If such
be the power of prayer, such its place in the moral
government of God, and such the relation which
Christians sustain to it, who can hesitate to admit
that praying men are the defence, the security, the
very life of the land in which they dwell ?

From this view of the connection of religious
men with the public weal, we proceed to notice
briefly the duties which that connection imposes.


They ought to manifest a lively solicitude for the
welfare of their country. A Christian should be,
in the most emphatic sense, a patriot. He should
not feel that the Gospel, while relating chiefly to a
future world, has nothing to do with this. He
should not persuade himself that his religious pro-
fession requires him to stand aloof from the great
social and political movements of his day. Still
less should he imagine, as many seem to do, that
when he goes forth to exercise his influence on these
movements, he may leave his religion at home. His
relations alike to God and to his fellow-men pre-
eminently demand that he should take part in all
those momentous public questions which concern
the glory of the one, and the improvement of the
other ; engaging in the promotion of freedom, order,
and righteousness ; and doing what he can in his
sphere to make his land wiser and happier. This
is at all tunes sacredly binding on him, even in
periods of national peace and prosperity. But the
obligation becomes vastly more imperative when his
country is encompassed with dangers ; when ad-
versity overtakes it, and the storm of invasion or
of civil war threatens to sweep all its cherished in-
stitutions into one common ruin. Then it is that
the Christian, beyond all other men, should meet
the crisis with the noble courage of faith, and the
utmost devotion of patriotism.


With what peculiar urgency does this duty press
upon ourselves at the present hour ! The govern-
ment under which we live ; the government founded
in the wisdom and cemented by the blood of our
fathers ; the government which has been the shield
of our civil and religious rights, and the source of
our national greatness this government, the freest
and the best that ever blessed the world, is assailed
by a rebellion as unprovoked as it is impious. A
fierce and fanatical oligarchy, reckless with ambition,
and madly resolved to rule or perish, is attempting
to overthrow our glorious Republic, and erect in
its place that vilest of all tyrannies, a slave-des-
potism. The tempest is upon us. The great deeps
are broken up. The earthquake is let loose in all
its fury. We look, and lo ! the tall column of the
Union, the bulwark of our strength, the Pharos
of the world, is rent in twain by the thunder
gust. Still the heavens grow blacker, and the
conflict thicker and more deadly. Huge armies
confront each other. Mighty battles heap the
ground with their countless slain. The glories of
the past, the hopes of the future, the very life of
the nation, all hang trembling in the balance.

And while we are thus struggling in the death-
grapple, our perils are intensified by the hostile at-
titude of European Powers, from whom we have a
right to expect, if not aid, at least fairness and


sympathy. France looks sternly and menacingly
at us. England sneers and blusters. England
from whose blood we sprung, forgetting her own
course in similar emergencies; ignoring her past
words and deeds in condemnation of slavery
claps her hands, and hounds on the slave-power
while its fangs are at our throats ; assumes that the
Republic is destroyed, and exults in the assump-
tion; accords to rebels and traitors belligerent
rights ; gives them help and comfort in their work
of riveting forever the chains of the bondman ; fur-
nishes them with military supplies and munitions of
war ; and builds for them a pirate navy, and mans
it with pirate crews, to plunder our commerce and
burn our ships on the high seas. O Hypocrite of
the world ! meanest, falsest of nations ! Seest thou
not that thy own day is coming? As surely as
there is compensation with God for outrageous
wickedness, so surely shall thy cup be the bitter-
est that kingdom ever drank. And when the dread
reckoning arrives ; when the measure of thy crimes
is full; when thy daughters shall leave thee and
strip thee bare; when ravaged India shall once
more shake off thy yoke ; when the myriads of
China shall rise to punish thy greed and thy fraud ;
when Ireland's wrongs shall come up for judg-
ment ; when the volcano of thy crushed and starv-
ing masses shall burst forth, toppling over thy hoary


Establishments, and scattering like chaff King and
Parliament, priest and aristocrat; and all the peo-
ples whom thy insolence has wounded, and thy ava-
rice overreached, and thy selfishness betrayed, shall
gather as eagles to thy fall, and revel round thy dis-
honored corpse -then will avenging Heaven pay
thee back for thy perfidy to us in this hour of our

What, then, is the position demanded of religious
men and of religious bodies at a moment so awful?
Is it one -of neutrality, inaction, silence? There are
some who appear to think so. At a Convention
lately held in New York, representing one of the
most influential denominations among us, a de-
nomination claiming to be exclusively "the church,"
a large portion of the delegates refused to utter
one word of cheer for the Government, or one word
of rebuke against treason, and even opposed the
adoption of a prayer for the suppression of the Re-
bellion, on the ground that it would be leaving the
service of God to serve Caesar ! Are such Chris-
tians " the stock of the nation ? " Is this the way in
which " the sacramental host " is to fulfil its mission
in a juncture so terrible, and so big with stupendous
issues? Oh, no, no! The cause of our country
and the cause of religion, the cause of humanity,
the cause of eternal Right and Justice, are so in-
timately blended in this crisis, that you cannot sep-


arate them. The triumph of the Government will
be the triumph of order, the triumph of civilization,
the triumph of freedom, the triumph of a pure Gos-
pel. The triumph of the Rebellion will be the tri-
umph of anarchy, barbarism, slavery, and of a
Christianity so debased by slavery as no longer to
deserve the name. If, therefore, you would meet
your obligations as religious men, stand by the
Union, stand by the Government, stand by the
old banner, stand by the grand destiny which God
has written all over our land, in the circling of the
oceans, the course of the rivers, the trend of the
mountains, One Country, One People, One Gov-
ernment, One Flag, from the St. Lawrence to the
Rio Grande, from the rocky headlands of Maine to
the golden shores of the Pacific. To save the na-
tion from dismemberment, give labor, give prop-
erty, give your sons, your brothers, yourselves.
For this live; for this, if need be, die.

As Christian men, we ought to bow in deep re-
pentance for the nation's sins, and humbly implore
the Father of mercies to remove the chastisement
which they have drawn down upon the land. The
calamities that now afilict us must be viewed by
every thoughtful mind as an expression of God's
abhorrence of the iniquities with which our history
is stained. In these iniquities the people of the
North are implicated as really if not as deeply as


the people of the South. I do not mean that with
respect to the slave-holding States themselves we of
the North are guilty of any wrong which can justify
or excuse their foul conspiracy against all that we
deem precious and sacred. But while we have
done nothing to deserve punishment at their hands,
we have done much to deserve it at God's hand.
Against Hun, not against them, our offences have
been committed.

It was said of Israel in the time of the Judges,
" They chose new gods ; then was war in the gates."
Here has been the great crime of this country. We
have denied to Jehovah His rightful place as the
Supreme Governor, and substituted for His high,
unchangeable law, the low maxims of the politician,
and the varying dictates of expediency. We have
chosen new gods. Mammon, " the least erected
spirit that fell," has been proclaimed, by almost
universal acclamation, god of the North. We have,
indeed, sought to hide his more disgusting features,
and to render his worship respectable, by clothing
him in borrowed garments, and giving to him ficti-
tious titles. We have applied to him the better-
sounding names of "Business, Enterprise, Indus-
trial Development, Material Prosperity." But,
under all disguises and all designations, he is the
same old shuffling, cringing, grovelling Demon still.
On his altars we have laid our manliness and our


self-respect ; our principles and our consistency ; the
national character and the national conscience ; the
claims of the helpless, and the mandates of Heaven.
Nothing has seemed to us too valuable or too sacred
to be relinquished in his service. At his bidding,
we have been ready to surrender justice and mercy ;
to submit to any degradation, and to plunge into
any slough of meanness or wickedness, whence we
might extract the glittering incense in which he de-
lights. And while the North has been thus en-
grossed in its idolatry of Mammon, the South has
paid its homage to Moloch

" Moloch, the strongest and the fiercest spirit
That fought in heaven, now fiercer by despair.
His trust was with the Eternal to be deemed
Equal in strength, and rather than be less,
Cared not to be at all. With that care lost,
Went all his fear. Of God, or hell, or worse,
He recked not."

In modern demonology, the name of this fiend is
Slavery. His temple is built on robbery. His
religion is the chattelizing of beings made in the
image of God. His insignia are whips and chains ;
his ministers, cruelty, licentiousness, and murder.
Such is the deity of the Southern oligarchs the
deity to whom they have sworn eternal allegiance ;
in whose interest they have inaugurated rebellion ;
and with the symbols of whose horrid worship their


whole Confederacy is inscribed from corner-stone to

Now we may be sure that He who is King over
all will not permit His authority to be thus usurped,
without manifesting His displeasure; and, there-
fore, it is not presumption to affirm that the civil
war, which now rages in all our borders, is Heav-
en's judgment, alike upon the money-worship of the
North, and the slavery-worship of the South. God
grant that both may be utterly consumed in the fire
which His wrath has kindled !

With what emphasis, then, do these solemn cir-
cumstances invoke the pious to penitence and hu-
miliation ! We are all connected, directly or indi-
rectly, with the sins which have provoked the Al-
mighty. We have committed them, or we have
countenanced them, or we have failed to rebuke
them. So that each one is personally guilty, and
has cause to humble himself before God. But there
is more than this. The repentance of a nation is al-
ways the repentance of that part of its population by
whom the motives and claims of religion are ac-
knowledged and felt. And if this nation shall re-
pent and be pardoned, it will be, not its ungodly
many, but its godly few, who will repent, and for
the sake of whose repentance the pardon will be be-
stowed. If all who fear God, in every city, and
town, and rural neighborhood, were to prostrate


themselves in lowly contrition at the footstool of
Mercy, confessing the nation's guilt, supplicating
the nation's deliverance, can any one doubt that the
plea would be heard, and the nation saved? Has
not God said, "If my people, which are called by
my name, shall humble themselves, and seek my
face, and pray, and turn from their wicked ways,
then will I hear from heaven, and forgive their sins,
and heal their land " ? Do we believe this ? Then
why do we not act upon it? Why is there such
worldliness in our churches, such languor in our
places of prayer ? Why are our sanctuaries almost
deserted, and the fire on their altars left to burn
dim and low ? While we are so alive to the war,
so eager for progress, so impatient of delay, why is
it that so few turn to Him from whom alone success
can come? With all that we hold dear at stake,
why does not one universal burst of petition go up
to that Almighty Power on whose decision the issue
depends ? Surely, among the many strange aspects
of this strange time, there is nothing stranger, noth-
ing sadder, than the spiritual apathy, the death-like

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Online LibraryGeorge Barton IdeBattle echoes : or, Lessons from the war → online text (page 7 of 19)