George Barton Ide.

Battle echoes : or, Lessons from the war online

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slumber, that has fallen on the great body of believ-
ers, and stilled, as by an enchanter's wand, the stir-
rings of anxiety and the wrestlings of faith. An
angry God is visiting us for our transgressions.
Our very existence as a people is in jeopardy. Yet
we laugh and are gay. There are no ashes on our


heads, there is no sackcloth on our loins, no agony
in our souls. The tree of our national greatness,
like that seen in vision by the proud king of Baby-
lon, stands in the midst of the earth, the height
thereof reaching to heaven, and the sight thereof to
the ends of the world. Its leaves are fair, and its
fruit much, and in it is meat for all ; the beasts of
the field have shadow under it, and the fowls of
heaven dwell in its boughs. But, ah ! a serpent has
coiled its deadly folds round it, strangling trunk
and limbs, and blighting fruit and foliage with its
venom. And, lo ! a Watcher and a Holy One
Divine Omniscience watching our sins, Divine Holi-
ness preparing to punish them has comedown from
heaven, and cries, "Hew down the tree, and cut off
his branches ; shake off his leaves, and scatter his
fruit ; let the beasts get away from under it, and the
fowls from his branches." Oh, men of God, awake !
Kill the serpent, and grind it to powder ; and be-
seech the Watcher and the Holy One to spare the
tree, and make it in the future, as it has been in the
past, the home of the free, the shelter of the op-
pressed, the hope and joy of the whole earth.

Finally ; the great emergencies of the hour call
upon Christians to cultivate an unwavering attach-
ment to the doctrines and institutions of the Gospel.
There is, throughout our country, a wide-spread un-
belief, a growing dislike of evangelical truth, and


neglect of its ministrations. Infidelity, profanity,
and contempt for the house of God, are everywhere
increasing. And while this abounding irreligion
has had no inconsiderable share in creating the civil
convulsion that now desolates the land, it has at the
same time been vastly augmented in extent and
boldness by the very evil it has helped to occasion.
In the domestic, social, and moral dislocations in-
separable from a state of war, men are breaking
loose from the restraints of the Bible and the Sanc-
tuary ; and, casting off the principles which their
fathers revered, are afloat on the tossing sea of error,
with no compass but their passions, and no chart
but the opinions of others as corrupt as themselves.
The inroads which the war has made on the sanctity
of the Sabbath, and the disregard of public worship
which it has fostered, have broken down the em-
bankments against vice, and caused the swelling
waves of ungodliness to rush in upon us with unu-
sual violence. At such a crisis, we are specially
summoned to stand fast by the truth and the altar
of God. This is no time for indifference and feeble-
ness ; no tune to give to religion diminished sup-
port ; no time to forsake the Ark of the Testimony,
and shut up the Tabernacle ; no time for silent pul-
pits and vacant sanctuaries.

These days of rebuke and disaster admonish the
whole Church of Christ to rise to one united and


earnest endeavor to bring the Gospel into living
contact with all classes of society. Nothing but this
can adequately meet the exigencies in which we
stand. It is a departure from the Gospel which has
brought upon us the indignation of the Almighty ;
and we can contribute most directly to its removal
by enthroning the Gospel in our own hearts, and
doing all in "our power to enthrone it in the hearts
of others. If the Christians of this land would but
put forth the moral energies with which the grace
of the Saviour has clothed them, the tide of disorder
and anarchy that now threatens to overwhelm us
would soon be rolled back, and the day of our re-
generation come. The combined efforts of God's
children, rendered effectual by His Spirit, would
speedily evangelize and renovate every section of
the Eepublic, till from our cities and villages, from
our mountains and valleys, from our lakes, and riv-
ers, and broad western plains, should ascend in uni-
versal chorus the song of praise to the Crucified
One. Then would slavery, and rebellion, and po-
litical intrigue, and intestine strife, vanish like the
fogs of night before the splendors of the morning.
We should have no fear for the country nor for the
Church in the present struggle, or in any other
through which the providence of God may hereafter
call them to pass. Upheavings and revolutions,
emanating from Wrong, are but as torrents that


rush from the hills after, a summer storm terrible,
it may be, iu their outbreak, yet soon dwindling
away and disappearing. But great moral move-
ments, founded on everlasting Truth and Eight, can
never die. Their going forth is like the sweep of
mighty rivers to the sea. Small and unnoticed .they
may indeed be in their beginning. But, fed from
innumerable springs deep down in the world's heart,
they gather volume as they advance. Onward, still
onward they flow, from generation to generation
never receding, never growing less now gliding
gently along through smiling meadows now foam-
ing over rocks now thundering down cataracts
widened by affluents from all lands, and swelled by
the tribute of all the ages, till their collected wa-
ters expand at last into an ocean of PEACE, EIGHT-





children of Israel, in their passage from
the Land of Bondage to the Land of Prom-
ise, were preceded at every stage of their
wayfaring by a moving Pillar a Pillar of
Cloud by day and of fire by night that
directed their course, and served at once as their
guide and their defence. By its signals their whole
march was ordered. When the Pillar advanced,
they went forward; when it stood still, they en-
camped. And however long it continued at any
time to hover over the Tabernacle, whether it were
for a day, a month, or a year, they abode in their
tents, and journeyed not, till the journeying Pillar
again beckoned them on. Often its movements
seemed to them intricate and involved ; often di-
vergent; often retrograde rather than progressive.
But there was in it, as m^zekiel's wheels, a Living



Spirit, governing with unerring intelligence alike
its stoppings and its goings, and bringing it, and
the favored host which it led, by the right way to
the right destination.

They must have been dull indeed not to have
regarded such a manifestation as a high honor, and
an inviolable security. It was to them the visible
Symbol of the Divine Presence. They knew that
in it the Lord went before them as their Captain
and Upholder. So long as they could see the Pil-
lar, they had ocular testimony that He was in their
midst, to superintend their way, supply their wants,
and subdue their enemies. How safely might they
follow wherever it conducted them, whether through
the depths of the parted sea, or under the quaking
brow of Sinai, or across the wide, dreary stretches
of the burning desert! With what confidence
might they trust it, in all its delays and turnings,
assured that under its leading they could not go
wrong ! And how endeared must it have become
to them during their long and devious pilgrimage !
What precious memories of deliverance in the past,
what hopes of blessing in the future, must they
have learned to associate with it ! Never was sight
of pole-star or sun so grateful to the storm-tossed
mariner, as the sight of that ever present Pillar to
those ancient wanderers in " the great and terrible
wilderness." .- r


In our own circumstances, how natural is the
wish for a similar token of Divine care and direc-
tion ! Encompassed by difficulties and perils ; walk-
ing through private trials and through public com-
motions ; often in doubt where lies our way ; often
desponding as to the issue of current events on the
destinies of the Church .and the world, how fre-
quently are we tempted to desire that some God-
infolding Pillar might move before us, and solve our
perplexities !

We have such a Pillar unseen, it is true, by
the outward eye, but distinct and palpable to the
vision illuminated from above. Throughout the
whole progress of terrestrial affairs, in every cri-
sis of the Redeemer's kingdom, in every step of
our individual experience, the Pillar of God's
Providence is the presiding Presence, arranging
all, overruling all. Hence the startling changes
that are passing around us, and the yet more start-
ling ones which loom in the near future, are not to
be ascribed to chance, nor to the independent action
of human intellect and passion. Chance can have
no place in a universe over which Infinite Wisdom
presides. And human intellect and passion are but
instruments in the hands of Him who sways the
hearts of all men as He pleases. In every unfold-
ing of the world's history Divine Providence is the
controlling power, a Providence which embraces


the entire circle of sublunary events, and subjects
them, however apparently adverse, to one vast com-
prehensive plan, by which Jehovah is conducting
onward to their completion the sovereign purposes
of His Grace.

Under the economy of the Gospel, Providence
has been subordinated to Christ, and is now wielded
by Him for the promotion of His cause. He has
thus been the Leader and Guardian of His people
in all periods, and through all the vicissitudes of
their pilgrimage. As the Pillar of Cloud and of
Fire went before the Chosen Tribes, and marked
out their wanderings in the wilderness ; so has the
Providence of God marked the changeful track of
the Church across the desert of the centuries. That
Providence goes before us now, pointing out our
way, and protecting us in it. The striking occur-
rences of the pregnant hour in which we live, are
to the eye of faith only so many movings to and fro
of the cloudy Pillar, showing the course of our
march, and the direction of our efforts. To our
imperfect vision these movings may appear to be
at one tune backward; at another, sideways; at
another, whirled into aimless gyrations by the winds
of strife or the storms of revolution. But Omnis-
cience guides them still ; and no force of unforeseen
contingencies, no gale of popular excitement, no
hurricane of political tumult, no roaring blast from


the mouth of Hell, can carry the Pillar where Om-
niscience does not intend it to go, and where its
going will not subserve some high and beneficent

How much of courage and of comfort may we
draw from this truth, amid the civil agitations that
now convulse our country ! A fearful tempest is
upon us. The great deeps are broken up. The
earthquake and the tornado are let loose in all their
fury. We look, and lo ! the tall column of the
Federal Union, reared by the sweat and blood of
heroes, the bulwark of our greatness, the Pharos
of the world, is struck by the thunder-gust, and
rent in twain ; its Southern half toppling away into
scattered fragments. Around the mighty ruin, and
in the deepening gloom that gathers over it, the
fierce elements career and rage ; while, mingling
with them, black fiends of Discord flap their sooty
wings, and yell forth their demon cries, "Dis-
union, Secession, War." And there, too, in the
very centre of the wild uproar, we see the Pillar,
seemingly tossed amid the conflict, and borne hither
and thither by the rush of encountering armies.
But the Shekinah is within it ; and as the darkness
grows more dense, we see the Pillar of Cloud be-
come a Pillar of Fire, beaming hope and strength
into the hearts of those who struggle for the great
principles of Freedom and Justice; but darting


lurid and destroying flames on the traitors who, in
their fanatical devotion to Slavery, would pull down
the noblest government the world ever saw, and
deluge the land with fraternal blood. In what
manner He who dwells in the Pillar will overrule
these events for the furtherance of His own glory
and the interests of humanity, we know not. Yet
we have the fullest confidence that He will so over-
rule them ; that He will bring the nation out of the
terrible shock and the scorching furnace, regener-
ated, purified, shorn of nothing but the mighty
Wrong which has weakened and dishonored it ; and
that when the night of strife is past, and light and
day return, we shall see the Pillar changed to a
golden Cloud floating serenely above the scene of
battle, and moving straight forward to Peace, Lib-
erty, and a grander Civilization than the history of
our race has yet witnessed.

And while we thus descry, beyond the black
waves of desolation that now surge around us, a
new career of prosperity and greatness awaiting the
American people, the same vision reveals a bright
future for the spoiled and trampled ones who have
so long been the victims of our injustice. Slavery
is the deadly source from which all our woes have
sprung. Its enormous guilt, unforsaken, cherished,
championed against natural and Divine law, against
reason and conscience, against everlasting Eight,


against the moral sense of the world, has at length
worn out the patience of all-suffering Heaven, and
drawn down its thunder. Slavery is the true origin
of the war. Slavery fomented, inspired it. Slavery
sowed the seed, and ripened the red harvest.
Slavery laid the train and kindled the explosion
which shakes the continent. Slavery has filled the
land with graves, and our homes with mourning.
Slavery is the great criminal on whose head God is
pouring the vials of His wrath. And all the inti-
mations of His will, and all the outstretchings of
His hand, declare His purpose utterly to destroy
this giant iniquity, this "sum of all villanies," foul
with hideous pollution, and steeped in the blood of
innumerous murders. Whatever else of good the
dread crisis may develop, its bearing in this direc-
tion is too plain to be misapprehended, too mighty
to be withstood. He who sits above the din and
turmoil of the storm is evidently so shaping its
forces as to sweep away forever the curse of bond-
age, and eliminate the last vestige of its poison from
the political and social life of the Eepublic. On,
through our doubts and hesitations on, through
our victories and our defeats on, ever on toward
the goal of Universal Emancipation goes the Pil-
lar of His Providence. It marshals the way of the
slave out of the prison-house, by manifestations as
distinct and signal as those which of old led the


exodus of the Hebrews. And across the Red Sea,
whose gory billows are opening the path of his re-
demption, it points him, as it did them, to the
happy bourn where manhood and equal rights shall
be the heritage of all. This high and beneficent end
solves the mystery of God's dealings with us. In it
we read the design, for the attainment of which He
has permitted civil war to break forth and rage in
all our borders. He saw that the slave-demon could
be cast out by no means less violent, and He deemed
the blessings that would follow its extrusion more
than compensative of whatever throes -might attend
it. And here, too, we may discover the reason of
the slow progress we are making in putting down
the Rebellion, and of the many reverses which our
arms have suffered. Our cause is righteous dear
to Humanity, and to the God of Humanity. It is
the cause of Xationality, Order, Constitutional Gov-
ernment, against Disunion, Anarchy, Despotism.
Its final triumph is sure. But in our methods of
conducting it, we are not working in harmony with
the Divine intention. We are aiming to restore the
Union as it was, with slavery in it. God is aiming
to restore the Union as it shall be, with every trace
of slavery expelled from it. Disaster will pursue
us till we accept His plan. In the track of Provi-
dence, and there alone, shall we reach full success
and durable peace.


If we turn our view to foreign nations, we there
behold the Pillar heralding, not less visibly and di-
rectly than among ourselves, the cause of the op-
pressed, and the advancement of true religion.
How straightforward it moves along the path of
Italian Independence ! We see it hanging over the
bloody fields of Magenta and Solferino, giving vic-
tory to the patriot hosts, while it flashes defeat upon
the legions of despotic Austria. Next we see it
guiding the heroic Garibaldi straight to Sicily, and
leading him straight onward from triumph to tri-
umph, till the last chain is broken from that long
enslaved land. Then we see it conducting him
straight across the narrow sea to Naples, and the
expulsion of the Bourbon from, his sanguinary
throne. Straight to Gaeta we see it pursue the fly-
ing tyrant, and having driven him thence into igno-
minious exile, it is now moving straight for the
Vatican, to rend away the secular arm of the Papa-
cy, thus breaking the horn with which the Beast has
for ages gored the Church, and removing the chief
obstacle to free thought and free speech throughout
regenerate Italy.

Not less undeviating is its forward course in the
abolition of Russian serfdom. Over all the broad
steppes and mighty provinces that compose the em-
pire of the Czar from the fertile shores of the
Crimea to the Frozen Ocean, from the plains of Po-


land to the newly explored regions of the Amoor in
the utmost East we see it taking its straight,
swift way, sowing the seeds 'of improvement, plant-
ing liberal institutions, unbinding fetters, till thirty
millions of slaves step forth from vassalage into the
dignity and immunities of freedom.

Look where we will on the map of the world, we
see the track of the Pillar clearly marked, and
stretching in direct lines to definite ends. Every-
where we recognize the presence of a Power, work-
ing through human agencies, yet above them ; ap-
parently identified with their forces, yet separate
and independent. We see it acting upon the varied
populations, inspiring them with a sense of their
rights, and the purpose to assert them. We see it
modifying governments, abrogating or softening
unjust laws, increasing the franchises of the subject,
and rendering him more secure in their enjoyment.
We see it controlling the rivalries of thrones and
the ambitions of dynasties, and making kings and
cabinets, Congresses and Parliaments, diplomacy
and statecraft, unconscious pioneers in raising the
valleys and levelling the mountains for the un-
shackled Word of God to enter in and conquer.
So distinctly may we trace the movings of the Pil-
lar in the political changes which are taking place
on the earth.

Equally manifest is its influence in the extension


of commerce, the pushing forward of discovery,
and the growth of the useful arts. Does the ever
active spirit of trade, in opening doors for itself,
open doors for the Gospel as well, throw down
the wall of Chinese exclusiveness, and, breaking
through the jealous insulation of Japan, bring to
our shores ambassadors from those mysterious Isles
which for untold ages have slumbered behind their
ocean barricades, refusing all communion with the
nations? The Pillar is there. Do Livingstone,
Barth, and their associates, lift the veil from the
heart of Africa, and show us, in place of burn-
ing Saharas roamed over by naked savages, wide
and fruitful plains, covered with luxuriant vegeta-
tion, intersected by broad rivers, studded with cit-
ies, and thickly peopled by thrifty, intelligent races,
already progressing in the industrial arts, and long-
ing for the blessings of Christian civilization ? The
Pillar is there. In the improved state of naviga-
tion, and the means of rapid communication with
all parts of the world, are we furnished with op-
portunities for spreading the knowledge of Divine
Truth, such as no former times have seen? The
Pillar is there. These are the beckonings of Prov-
idence, indicating to us what to do, and where to do
it, and supplying the needed facilities. Follow the
Pillar wherever it goes, whether to the frozen North,
or the blazing South, to the old East, or the young


West, to the lost myriads abroad, or the equally lost
myriads at home. You cannot err, you cannot fail
under such a guidance. As the Shekinah was in
the Pillar, so God is in Providence. And where
God is, victory is.

But it is not alone on the high plane of public af-
fairs that the Pillar moves. While it marches in the
van of commonwealths and empires, it enters not
less into all the walks of individual life and history.
It goes before us in personal duty. The path of
each one is strewed thick with intimations of his
Master's will with occasions of usefulness, and
calls to lay himself out for Christ and the souls of
men. Do you know a neglected child, growing up
in ignorance, and ripening for crime? Do you
know a young man led away by temptation, and
falling into the snare of the destroyer? Do you
know a family that keeps itself aloof from the house
of God a neighborhood destitute of religious in-
struction a haunt of guilt a home of want a
dwelling darkened by sickness and sorrow a body
crushed under burdens a heart broken with mise-
ry ? There is the Pillar pointing you to your work.
You need no other voice to teach you what to do.
Every opening for your activity, every appeal to
your benevolence, every case of need, every object
of pity, every votary of sin, that meets your view,
is a command as authoritative and as clear, as if it


were written on the sky in letters of fire, or thun-
dered forth from the battlements of heaven by an
archangel's trumpet. Go where the Pillar goes.
No matter through what weariness of toil, and
depths of self-denial, and severity of sacrifice, obe-
dience to it may carry you. Peace with yourself,
the approbation of God, the smile of the Comforter,
will lighten every labor, and support you in every
trial, till you reach the world of perfect compensa-
tions, receive the crown of Righteousness from your
Saviour's hands, and hear from His lips the glorious
words, w Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of
the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto

The Pillar goes before us in personal experience.
The dispensations of the Almighty in relation to
His people, are as wise as they are sovereign.
With infallible foresight He adapts His appoint-
ments to the peculiar character and exposures of
each, and so diversifies His dealing as most effectu-
ally to promote their salvation. Does He ordain
for us poverty, affliction, loss? It is because He
knows that we shall there walk most safely. Does
He place us in higher positions, and surround us
with wealth and honors, and all the seducing glitter
of worldly prosperity? It is because He knows
that such circumstances will furnish the fittest disci-
pline of our faith, most successfully develop our


spiritual energies, and best educate us for His ser-
vice. Thus, whether our journey lie through grief
or joy, through gloom or sunshine, through deserts
parched with drought, swarming with serpents, and
frightful in their desolation, or through scenes of
peace and beauty, by the banks of bright rivers,
along "the vale of Beulah," over the "Delectable
Mountains" in either case, we do but march after
the Pillar in the path which it chooses as most suit-
able for us. Fear not to tread where the Pillar
leads. Infinite Knowledge and Infinite Love de-
termine all its movements. It cannot err ; it can-
not miss the true course, nor take you, in ignorance
or in wantonness, over rugged ways, when more
pleasant ones would have been as direct and sure.
Submit your whole pilgrimage to its disposal.
Keep it ever in sight. Follow it implicitly to the
end. And when your toilsome sojourning in the
wilderness is finished, and you stand, at length, on
the brink of Jordan, the Pillar will be there, and
the Shekinah will shine out upon the dark flowing
river, and the Ark of the Covenant will go in before
you, and as your feet touch the waters, they will
cleave asunder, and permit you to pass dry-shod
through the cold, heaving billows to the shore of

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Online LibraryGeorge Barton IdeBattle echoes : or, Lessons from the war → online text (page 8 of 19)