George Upfold.

National sins the cause of national calamity. A sermon dilivered in St. Paul's church, La Porte, Indiana, on the day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer, April 30, 1863 (Volume 1) online

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Online LibraryGeorge UpfoldNational sins the cause of national calamity. A sermon dilivered in St. Paul's church, La Porte, Indiana, on the day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer, April 30, 1863 (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 2)
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$ National Sins the Cause of National Calamity. $\




St Raul's tf&uwjf, fa $ortr, $nMana,



APKIL 30, 1863.






443 & 445 BROADWAY.




National Sins the Cause of National Calamity.



m. full's C|urt|, fa $ottf, fnMara,

APRIL 30, 1863.





443 & 445 BROADWAY.

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" God, thou hast cast us off; thou hast scattered us; thou hast
been displeased ; O turn thyself to us again. Thou hast made the earth
to tremble ; thou hast broken it ; heal the breaches thereof, for it
shaketh. Thou hast showed thy people hard things ; thou hast made
us to drink the wine of astonishment." — Psalm Ix, 1*3, 3.

. #%***;;

How truthful this description offbu&^ondition as
a nation and country, under existing circumstances !
How clearly and impressively do these words of the
Psalmist set forth the cause of this disastrous con-
dition, and the only way open for our relief ! God
hath inflicted the chastisement under which we are
suffering. We have justly incurred His displeasure,
and he hath smitten us ; that " when His judgments
are abroad among us, we, an offending people, may
learn righteousness." It is the Lord our God who
hath " made our portion of the earth to tremble ;
who hath broken it so that it shaketh ; " and He
alone, " turning Himself to us again," as we humble
ourselves before him, in all sincerity of contrition, in

deprecation of our manifold sins, and in invocation
of His mercy and forgiveness, can " heal the sores
thereof, 11 save, and deliver us.

The judgments of God are upon us and impend-
ing over us. Dark clouds overspread our social and
2">olitical horizon. Civil war is convulsing our once
united, peaceful, and prosperous country; and "sedi-
tion, privy conspiracy, and rebellion " are desolating
the fair heritage bequeathed to us by our fathers.
The Almighty Ruler of nations, in His mysterious,
but wise and gracious providence, hath permitted a
grievous national chastisement to fall upon us, in its
origin, circumstances, and progress, almost unexam-
pled in history.

Scarcely three years have elapsed since our favor-
ed land, throughout its length and breadth, was pros-
pering in its wonted quietness and peace ; and in the
minds of most of our fellow citizens, there were no
apprehensions of any disastrous change. With a
form of government calculated, and proved to be,
eminently conducive to and conservative of the
national welfare; with wholesome laws, imposing
only wholesome restraints; and with a system of
administration which secured equal rights to every
citizen, ample protection of life and property, and as
much individual liberty as is compatible with per-
sonal and social happiness, the people of this feder-
ative Union were blessed beyond most of the nations

of the earth. There was everything to encourage,
and nothing to dishearten us in our anticipations of
advancement and permanence. With a fertile soil,
yielding in its diversified productions, a rich return
to its cultivators ; with exhaustless mineral wealth in
constant development ; with manufacturing enter-
prises of every kind in successful operation ; with a
remunerative commerce, internal and external, and
encircling the globe ; with educational institutions,
open to all classes, and affording every needful facil-
ity for intellectual cultivation, scientific attainments,
and general knowledge and intelligence ; with reli-
gious privileges, unfettered in their exercise, and
universally diffused ; in a word, with all the advan-
tages and appliances calculated to make it a great
nation, and perpetuate its growing prosperity, this
Republic ])romised not only to realize, but to surpass,
the most sanguine hopes and expectations of its
patriotic founders, and become more and more " a
praise and glory in the earth."

Suddenly, a cloud, at first not bigger than a
man's hand, but of ominous aspect, appeared in the
South, which soon enlarged into portentous dimen-
sions, and spread itself wider and wider, day by day,
until it covered the whole southern domain ; and a
storm burst upon and swept over it, with the fury of a
tornado, threatening the North, East, and West with
devastation. War, with its train of attendant evils,


was initiated and fastened upon our common coun-
try ; not from the invasion of a foreign foe, but from
the aggressive acts of a portion of our own fellow
citizens, in the madness of pride and ambition ; and
brother armed against brother in a sanguinary inter-
necine conflict. Ever since a change has come over
our anticipations of advance. Our dreams of pros-
perity have been disturbed and broken up, and dis-
aster and grief have fallen upon our happy land. It
is a sad, sad change ; a change in which all classes
and conditions are directly or indirectly involved, —
those who are remote from the actual fields of strife,
as well as those who are in or near it, spectators or
victims of the devastation and ruin which have
marked the progress of the hostile armies. A gen-
eral and sore national calamity has come upon this
once peaceful and prosperous country, and is still
impending over us, and, as yet, with apparently faint
hope of deliverance, adding daily to our chastisement
as a people, and darkening all our future prospects.

It is, however, of God's permission and ordering
for wise and gracious purposes of His own ; and He
alone can heal and restore. Very properly, very
dutifully, and with a just and commendable recognition
of the wisdom, goodness, mercy, and power of the
Almighty Ruler of nations, and with a due apprecia-
tion of the only reliable interposition for our deliver-
ance, has the President of the United States again

recommended the observance of a Day of National
Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer, and called upon
us " to humble ourselves as a people before Almighty
God ; to confess our national sins ; and to pray for
His clemency and forgiveness." For this purpose
we are now assembled in common with our fellow
citizens throughout our afflicted land ; and, I trust,
with a full conviction of the necessity for such
humiliation, and a sincere desire and intention to
discharge this our bounden duty and privilege in
true contrition of spirit, and with firm resolutions and.
earnest endeavors so to amend individually our ways
and doings as to add our personal influence and ex-
ample to enhance that collective repentance and
reformation on which we can alone hope for the
Divine forbearance, forgiveness, and deliverance.

This is not the occasion nor the place to dilate
on the immediate causes of this national disaster,
which would involve considerations of domestic poli-
tics unbecoming my official position to discuss ; ex-
cept to say, which I do without any hesitation or
reserve, and on high and competent authority," that

* Extracts from the speech of the Hon. Alexander H. Stepheus j
adverse to secession, in the Georgia committee, January, 1801.

" Pause, I entreat you, and consider for a moment what reason you
can give that will even satisfy yourselves in calmer moments — what
reasons you can give to your fellow sufferers in the calamity that it will
bring upon us. What reasons can you give to the nations of the earth
to justify it ? They will he the calm and deliberate judges in the case!

it has arisen from no fault of our National Govern-
meat toward those who were notoriously the origin-
ators of this internecine conflict, in any of its laws
, or m their administration ; that it is not only an un'
natural, but an unprovoked rebellion against one of
the most just and beneficent Governments on the face
of the earth ; and that its resistance to the uttermost
at any sacrifice, and until the madness of those who'
originated and are prolonging it, is restrained and
arrested, and the integrity of the Union maintained
and its safety secured, is not only a dictate of true
patriotism, but a moral and religious duty.

There is, however, a prior cause for this national
calamity, of which I am free to speak ; and of which
the present occasion, and my duty as a minister of
Christ, require me to speak, and to speak out plain-
ly, and without fear or favor. There is a prior cause ;

tranquilly accompanied with unbounded prosperity an i!

and it consists in our general and marked forsaking
of God, as a people ; in our self-glorification, which
has become so common as to have passed into a
proverb ; in our dependence on mere human devices
and instrumentalities for advancement and prosper-
ousness as a nation ; and in ignoring, practically, in a
greater or less degree, the Author and Source of all
our national mercies and blessings, in the inculpatory
language of the prophet, in relation to God's ancient
chosen nation: having "forsaken Him, the fountain
of living waters, and hewed out to ourselves cisterns
broken cisterns, that can hold no water."

The Lord our God is the beneficent source of all
the multiplied and abounding blessings, which, as a
nation, we have heretofore enjoyed, and to a large ex-
tent, and amid the present calamity, still enjoy. But,
alas ! in our blindness and perverseness, in our pride
and presumption, we have forsaken and forgotten
Him ; if not openly and avowedly, in the scornfulness
of utter unbelief, yet practically and to all intents and
purposes. We have undertaken to live without and
independent of Him ; relying on our own wisdom to
guide, our own strength to succor, our own might to
protect and defend, and our own skill to bring our
enterprises, of every kind, to a successful issue. This
gracious God and Father, this bountiful Benefactor,
has been, and continues to be, forsaken, recklessly
or carelessly and most ungratefully forsaken, by great


numbers of His dependent creatures, on whom He
pours forth a constant stream of blessings in His be-
neficent providence, and invites, " in accents sweet as
angels use," to be partakers of His marvellous spirit-
ual grace. His glory is given to other and worthless
objects ; His just, reasonable, and practical demands
of reverence and obedience are deferred to the veriest
trifles of this vain and perishing world ; even if, which
is in truth the inexcusable sin and crying guilt of very
many, His mercy and grace, and proffered salvation,
with His positive commandments, are not wilfully
refused, rejected, and scorned.

In this nominally Christian land, there are noto-
riously numbers who live and act as if there were no
God and Saviour, no moral obligation, no religious
duties and responsibilities. " God is not in all their
thoughts." They never bow the knee to Him in
prayer, nor offer Him the sacrifice of praise and
thanksgiving. They never name Him, save in trifling
and insulting adjurations, or in impious profanity.
This world, and its pursuits and enjoyments; this
world that is passing away, and they passing away
with it to a dread account, which however much they
may ignore, or affect to scorn, they cannot escape or
evade ; this world is their solace, their hope, their de-
pendence, their God. On it all their affections and
desires are fixed ; their confidence placed ; their plans,
purposes, and energies concentrated ; and above it,


aside from it, beyond it, they seem to have neither
thought nor care. Its spirit possesses their minds ;
its principles govern their conduct ; its vain and too
often debasing pursuits engross their time and atten-
tion. Business pursued beyond its legitimate limits,
and absorbingly followed ; money making, political
ambition, sensual indulgences, purely selfish gratifi-
cations of every kind, if there be nothing worse in
seeking their attainment, impair and ultimately de-
stroy their religious sensibilities, and sink deeper, day
by day, in worldliness, ungodliness, and sin.

This is no fanciful picture ; no fiction of the imagi-
nation. The inculpation is a sad reality, an alarming
fact. Will our gracious God and Saviour, who is
thus forsaken and forgotten, pass it all by with im-
punity to the offenders ? May we not expect Him, in
His righteous displeasure, to visit us for all these
things? Is it at all strange, and does it cast the
shadow of a shade on His goodness and His justice,
that He should " cast us off and scatter us ; cause our
portion of the earth to tremble, and break it, so that
it shaketk ; that He should show us hard things, and
make us to drink the wine of astonishment " ? Is it
any marvel that He should permit calamity to come
upon us ; visit our transgressions with the rod of His
wrath, and our offences with a scourge ; and thus
teach us our guilt and exceeding sinfulness, and with
that our littleness and helplessness, proud and self-


sufficient as too many of us have been and are ? Can
Ave be at a loss to discern why the present convulsion
of our national affairs has occurred ; and this once
united, peaceful, and prosperous country is " shaken "
by sedition and rebellion, and involved in a sangui-
nary, Avasting, devastating civil war %

Alas! Ave are "a sinful nation; a people laden
with iniquity." Is this denied or doubted ? Take
only a brief survey of the history of the past half
century, in its bearing on our highly favored land ;
and mark the manifest sad contrast, in its moral as-
pects, of the present with the past. Where is the
pure and elevated patriotism Avhich distinguished the
founders of this Eepublic ? Has it not been gradual-
ly waning, until it has degenerated into a mere sem-
blance, an infinitesimal point ? Has not a selfish am-
bition, a lust of power and emolument, Avith gross
corruption in the attainment, insensibly obliterated
true, genuine patriotism among our public men of all
parties, and increased and cumulated until moral prin-
ciple has been lost sight of, and common honesty be-
come a thing that Avas, a faint and indistinct feature
of the past ? Then turn your eyes to our commercial
and manufacturing cities ; — and many of our remote
villages and hamlets are not far behind them in the
crying sin ; — and note the rapid advance from sim-
plicity to luxury ; the aping of the corrupting habits,
modes of living, expensive pleasures, and general


licentiousness of transatlantic countries and communi-
ties, until from servile imitators we have become rivals,
and in many respects superiors in reckless extrava-
gance in dress, equipages, Household ornamentation,
festive display, and all that is calculated to engender
and foster pride, pomp, and sensuality, corrupt the
heart and principles, and demoralize social life. Then
consider, as growing out of this, the frequent and
enormous frauds which have marked our later course
as a people, the bribery and corruption which have
dishonored many of our legislative bodies, national
and State ; the peculations and defalcations of public
officials, civic and military ; the swindling operations,
immense and repeated, of directors and managers
of banking and insurance companies, railroads, and
other monetary associations ; with the told and untold
sufferings of widows, orphans, and the helpless classes
of society, consequent on these and kindred fraudulent
transactions and wholesale robberies. And these'
outrages — unpunished outrages in proportion usually
to the amount stolen, the larger the fraud the greater
the chance of impunity — not the work of men whose
vocation is crime and robbery, but of men high in
social position, occupying places of honorable trust,
respectable, educated, intelligent, and some of them
professedly religious men, active and ostentatious
leaders in the popular moral and religious enterprises
of the day, and trusted, because they were presumed


to be incapable of a dishonorable action, of any de-
parture from moral principle, integrity, and honesty.
Then, with all this, contemplate the general corrup-
tion of public morals ; the increase and diffusion of
an irreligious, socially disorganizing and demoralizing,
and in many instances infidel literature ; the licen-
tiousness of a portion of the public press, its pander-
ing to the worst passions of human nature, and its
encouragement of social evils, and every novel theory
and scheme for social disorganization ; the utter reck-
lessness of human life ; the robberies, assassinations,
and murders, which fill the daily police record of the
newspapers, and, from their frequency and audacity,
have almost ceased to excite abhorrence and shock
the sensibilities, of those who read them. In all this,
— and it is not a tithe of our moral offences and our
crying national sins, which are too horrible to be
dwelt on in detail — hath not God been forsaken, for-
gotten, and dishonored, and His righteous judgment
incurred ? Is it not of His forbearance and mercy,
that, as a sinful nation, and for our national sins, in-
stead of this corrective chastisement, we are not ut-
terly consumed ?

It is most true, and as lamentable as true, that, as
a people, we have grievously perverted our national
mercies and blessings, and run counter to that right-
eousness which alone exalte th a nation ; that we have
abused our civil and religious liberty to purposes of


licentiousness ; have become selfish, unprincipled,
worldly-minded, morally corrupt and vicious, in re-
quital of the Providential goodness which hath been
lavished upon us, and the religious light and knowl-
edge, and the spiritual grace which have been so
freely and fully accorded to and bestowed upon us,
in the word and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus

But this is not all of God's just complaint of us
as a people and a nation. In addition to the offences
which have been cursorily adverted to and stated,
we have been, and we are offenders in another way,
equally evil, equally deplorable, and equally deserv-
ing the Divine chastisement. We have been, we are
generally, proud, vainglorious, presumptuous, self-
reliant ; counting far too much on human wisdom to
guide, human devices to further and preserve, and
human power to protect, defend, and prosper us.
We have not only " forsaken God, the fountain of
living waters, but have hewed us out cisterns, broken
cisterns that can hold no water."

Among these mere human agencies and instru-
mentalities, our political institutions and their salu-
tary influence have been relied upon for succor and
defence in an hour of national peril, and for perma-
nent national prosperity. Now to a certain extent,
our political institutions are worthy of the high esti-
mation which is entertained for them ; worthy of re-


liance. Informer evil days, and in past emergencies,
they have proved trustworthy in an eminent degree.
Not, however, intrinsically and independently, but
only as God hath ordered, employed, and controlled
them, as his agencies for subserving, securing, and
perpetuating the national welfare.

In and of themselves, the political institutions in
which we have gloried, vainly and presumptuously
gloried, are nothing, and less than nothing, as recent
events have too sadly proved. For they have failed
to disarm faction, and arrest sedition and rebellion,
much as they have been relied upon to do both.
Indeed, in the present commotion, they have seemed
to invite, rather than repel aggression ; and through
a perversion of the just principles they involve, have
been made to sanction the wrong and outrage so
wantonly and recklessly perpetrated. Employed in
distinct recognition of the wisdom and power of God,
which can alone give them efficiency, in humble de-
pendence upon Him, in His fear, and in invocation
of His aid and strength, they have wrought marvels
for the American people ; and will again, and now,
and always. But as independent resources, much as
they may be relied upon to restrain the madness of
the people, and enforce submission to the constituted
authorities, obedience to the laws, and a restoration
of union, harmony, and peace, they are mere human


devices, mere human instrumentalities, and a false
and treacherous dependence.

Then again, our self-adulation and reliance have
found a basis in certain national characteristics,
creditable in themselves, and, subordinated to a
Higher Power, manifestly and extensively influential
in cementing our political fabric, advancing the na-
tional prosperity, and consolidating and expanding
the goodly heritage received from our fathers. These
characteristics are, the general education and intelli-
gence of the American people, their enterprising
spirit, their industrious habits, their indomitable
energy and perseverance, their mechanical skill and
inventive genius, their aptitude for business of every
kind, and their capacity for self-government. These
characteristic features, which have ostensibly produced
such marvellous results, and, in a portion of time un-
paralleled in history, have elevated us from feeble,
dependent colonies to a commanding position and
influence as an independent nation ; these have been
made too much of a self-sufficient and God -forgetting
reliance. These, in our pride and vainglory, have
been substituted for the overruling and controlling
Providence, and the beneficent intervention and
furtherance of Almighty God. These alone are to
make us, as a nation, a praise and glory in the earth.
So many have reasoned; so too many still reason
and speculate, and far more of the latter than the


former. But how fallaciously! What have these
national characteristics done for us in the present dis-
astrous emergency ; and what are they likely to do?
Nothing. They are of the earth, earthly; and, inde-
pendent of the Divine interposition, less than nothing
and vanity.

Then again: our internal improvements, our mul-
tiplied enterprises, in the shape of canals, railroads,
and electric communication, bringing one end of our
wide-spread domain into easy and instant con-
nection with the other, and forming an apparent
strong and inseparable bond of political union ; these
and kindred appliances have been and continue to
be relied upon as sure, unfailing elements of national
greatness, and independent means of advance and
permanence to the Republic. Now what have they
all done, in preventing the existing convulsion, and
in resisting and subduing the threatening machina-
tions against the integrity and stability of the Union ?
What can they do, in and of themselves, in averting
national disaster and in promoting national pros-
perity ? Nothing. If they are relied upon, as they
have been relied upon, in exclusion of God and His
sovereign control, and infinitely wise and gracious
interposition ; if He is not recognized as giving them
all their efficiency and power ; they are useless and
unprofitable appliances, agencies, and instrumentali-
ties of no conceivable account, mere human devices,


with all the necessary imperfection and imbecility of
such devices.

Then, farther: the internal resources of our
highly favored country, its fertile soil, its diversified
products, its mineral treasures, its extensive manu-
factures, its constantly expanding and almost bound-
less commerce ; all these, contributing as they do
largely to national wealth and power, have been,
and are, made grounds of self-reliance and vain-
glorious boasting. These, eagerly and engrossingly
pursued as they are, without reference to God's inter-
vention, and in unmindfulness of His creative and
conserving power, whose blessing alone makes them
in any way and degree elements of national pros-
perity, are a fallacious and treacherous dependence,
far more likely to initiate decay and ruin than to
promote advancement and permanence ; nay, tending,
as history teaches, to engender corruption, pander to
luxury, pride, and vice, and aid in undermiuing and
ultimately overthrowing the political fabric.

Then, farther : the extension of the national do-
main ; the occupancy of vast tracts of country, up to
a comparatively recent period the hunting grounds
of nomadic, savage tribes, or the abode of a degen-
erate race, in industry, enterprise, intelligence, and
civilization, but little in advance of savages ; partic-


Online LibraryGeorge UpfoldNational sins the cause of national calamity. A sermon dilivered in St. Paul's church, La Porte, Indiana, on the day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer, April 30, 1863 (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 2)