Samuel Lunt Caldwell.

A sermon preached in the First Baptist meeting-house, Providence, Sunday morning, June 9, 1861, before the Second Regiment of Rhode Island volunteers: online

. (page 1 of 1)
Online LibrarySamuel Lunt CaldwellA sermon preached in the First Baptist meeting-house, Providence, Sunday morning, June 9, 1861, before the Second Regiment of Rhode Island volunteers: → online text (page 1 of 1)
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" The Land we from our fathers had in trust,

And to our children will transmit, or die :

This is our maxim, this our piety;

And God and Nature say that it is just.

That which we would perform in arms, — we must.

We read the dictate in the infant's eye ;

In the wife's smile; and in the placid sky;

And at our feet, amid the silent dust

Of them that were before us ;

While we go forth, a self-devoted crowd.

With weapons grasped in fearless hands, to assert

Our virtue, and to vindicate mankind."


Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.

For ye shall not ^o out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before
you; and the God of Israel %vill be your rearward. — Isaiah lii. : 11, 12.

Blessed indeed is the army which carries with it the
benediction of rehgion, and sets up its banners in the
name of God. It goes as his servant, and he goes as
its van and rearward. Such was the grand vision of
the prophet, of the marriage, in the history of his nation,
of the martial and the sacerdotal, the priest and the
soldier ; of a march and a procession ; of an army and
a church ; a " sacramental host," bearing the vessels of
the Lord, whether Levites serving at the altar, *or sol-
diers serving in the camp ; of Jehovah in the midst of
Israel, alike when they fought and when the}'^ wor-

For it is not one God who is in the sanctuary, and anoth-
er Avho is in the camp, but the same God, leader and fol-
lower of the Hebrews, who goes before and behind our
hosts to the battle. He consents, nay, demands, to be
served sometimes by the soldier as well as the priest.
He strikes the hour when a nation must fio-ht or die.

* These few words of address arc printed at the instance of gentlemen who
wished, for tlic sake of tlic soliliers who lieard tliem, that they might prolong their
influence a little beyond ilie liour in which they were spoken; and especially to ex-
ecute the liberal propositiou of two gentlemen of Providence, to place a copy in the
hands of each soldier in the two Regiments of the State.

The musket of the soldier may be a vessel of the Lord,
executhig the powers ordained of Him, speaking for
Him to men who are deaf to other arguments. You
may serve God, even as a priest unto Him, with as
clear a sense of duty, with a conscience as loyal to Him,
in smiting rebellion, as in supporting His worship.
Powder may be sanctified by the word of God and
prayer, as well as your daily bread. The magistrate is
not to bear the sword in vain, any more than the min-
ister is to handle the word of God deceitfully^ The
nation which will yield its government and its life,
Avithout resistance, will not wait long before it gives up
its God. If it is too timid, or too mercenary, to strike
for its imperilled existence, its God has already become
a tradition, and its existence will soon become a shame.
And so, too, when its army is only brute muscle and
metal, with no soul behind, or only with a devil instead
of God in it ; handling its weapons without regard to
God, or the things God loves ; when righteousness and
religion cease out of the conflict ; then there is no place
for it in the sanctuary of God, only to humble itself in
the sackcloth of penitence, and in supplications for a
new and consecrating faith.

Tlierefore, this is the first thing I have to say to you
in God's behalf, as you wait here in His house for an
hour, on the way to yoiu- perilous place of duty : — that
you enter upon this service of your country, as on some
service for God ; that you remember that you bear the
vessels of the Lord, and that therefore you must be

You expect brevity : allow, therefore, a necessary
ill) (I inililitrv directness.

1. Tliis God requires, that you go into this work, as
into every other, in a spirit of careful fideUty to Ilim ;
for this calling of a soldier is no exception to the usual
rules of life. There is nothing in his occupation to
separate him from God, — to exempt him from a con-
tinual and religious responsibility to his Maker. The
sword, the pen, the plough, the hammer, alike you may
make vessels of the Lord, by the spirit in which you
use them. Indeed, there are special reasons why he
who carries the gun, and represents the law and
avenging genius of his outraged country, should do it
in a temper of the bravest loyalty to God. He who is
faithftd to the stars of his flag, why shall he not be
faithful to his God, who is above the stars of heaven ?
He who arms himself for law, order, righteousness, —
whose first virtue as a soldier is obedience, — shall he
break from the orders of his heavenly King, and disown,
all moral obligations ? Shall he suppress rebellion,
while he is insurscent ag^ainst all heavenlv authorities ?
The Law of God, high, serene, eternal, — it follows you
in the camp and the field. While human laws may be
silent amidst the contest of arms, that cannot suspend
its tremendous authority. Your friend, or your enemy,
it will follow you ; sentinel over you as you walk your
lonely watch under the silent stars ; in the day, shining
over your soul brighter than the sun. As you drop
your common duties, and take up the sword, think not
it is necessary to drop religion, — one of its most sacred
sentiments, — any of its divine obligations or affections.
Christianity is a religion for man and for life — for life
everywhere. Angel of heaven, breathing God's peace ;
expecting and announcing the final truce when the
sword shall cease to slay ; if we must go to the battle, it


also will go. Mercy of God it is, that it can go, tem-
pering the dreadful necessities of war ; that God has
not forbidden it to enter the awful hour when a nation
buys its freedom, its security, at the terrible price of

This I say, not for you only, but for all of us, — that
our cause is just ; that God, in his righteous attributes,
is on our side ; that this case is so clear, — this war so
righteous — so forced upon us by Heaven and earth, — so
utterly unavoidable without destroying ourselves, with-
out recreancy to trusts more solemn than were ever
laid by the Almighty on any people, without crime
against the dearest and divinest things in a nation's
life, — that we must try to rise to the level of our cause,
and be worthy of it ; that we must purge out of our
resistance to this most iniquitous and unprovoked ag-
gression, all selfishness, malice, revenge ; that we must
arm ourselves not only with steel, but with righteous-
ness, which is mightier and more invincible than that.
Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord. Let
the cause lift and sanctify the spirit of the people,
wdiose it is ; especially of these select sons and soldiers
of the people, bearers of the Hag of our sovereignty
through the smoke of battle, carriers of the national
authority across every parallel of latitude to the waters
of Mexico. Let Holiness to the Lord be written on
their very guns, out of whose smoking mouths this
cause of God and humanity is looking for its pure and
immortal victory.

2. The peril ahvays lies over against the duty, and
this is the special peril and temptation to leave God
out, and a religious fidelity to him ; to disown him, and
so to lose the blessings, to incur the risks which go with

obedience or disobedience. Tliis is the moral peril of
all life. Much more is it of a time like this, the peril
of all of lis, to forget God ; after the godless creed of
Frederick of Prussia, to trust the strongest battalions ;
to burn incense to our own arms ; perhaps to let the
higher and religious life decline. Much more than all
is it the peril of life in the camp. It were a false and
disreputable modesty if I hesitated to tell you the truth
about the life on whose perilous edge you stand. I do
not say your camp may not be as pure, as free from
reckless passions, as devout in its recognition of God, as
beautiful with the humanities and charities and pieties
of life, as the peaceful town and home you leave be-
hind. It may be ; but not without care, — without some
knowledge beforehand of the danger, — without even a
more stringent moral and religious discipline than you
put upon your life at home.

Home, — that is the word, for that is the first thing you
will miss. That is the first disadvantage and j)eril of
the camp. It is not home. The gentleness of woman,
the love of children, the restraints, the inspirations of
domestic life, become a memory, — and the memorj^ you
must by all means cherish as a most vital bond to purity
and happiness : but the ill-assorted, often harsh and
rude companionships of the camp are not home. You
leave one of the great safeguards of virtue. You sub-
mit to one of the great provocations to looseness in
manners. You are liable to brush ofi" refinement, to
lose the impulse to decorous life, when you exchange
the household for the company of a thousand men of
all sorts, in the shifting and necessarily unhomelike life
under tents, in the fields. At home you may have the
secret oratory of devotion. In the camp, you must


make it as you can, and often cannot make it except in
your own breast.

Hold on to the memories of home and the good you
leave behind. Carry it with you, — the home, the church,
all of your usual life you can, — and set it up wherever
your tent is pitched. Ye who remain, keep it round
them, by visits, letters, all possible communications,
which shall make each man feel that he is surrounded
by the vigilance, the love, which serves to keep the
heart tender and the life pure.

Again, you go to war, you handle arms, you are to
become familiar with physical violence, perhaps to shed
blood. You may keep your tenderness, truth, meek-
ness, through it all. Believe not that war obliges a man
to be anything but a humane, humble, true man, as
long as Robert Anderson lives on the earth. But where
one man does it, ten grow hard, cruel, — their moral na-
tures suffering all the dangerous consequences of a life
given to the arts of war and the use of physical force.

There is the peril, too, on the side of the senses, of
the appetites ; the temptation to foul pleasures, to un-
clean and intemperate indulgences, provoked by the
hardness of the soldier's life, by the unnatural state in
which he is placed ; the passion for it kept down at
home, and fearfully kindled in the exhaustions and ex-
citements of the comparatively wild life of camps.

I do not forget for one moment, I remember with
grateful joy, all that redeems you from many of these
dangers, in the admirable means which all classes supply
to protect, to cheer, to benefit you ; the provisions
which the State has made ; the personal and pains-taking
carefulness of our noble chief magistrate, and of your
officers ; the prayers which rise in clouds to Heaven


for every one of you ; a chaplain solicitous for your
highest welfare ; the pride, the aflection, the hopes of
a whole people Avliich will follow you ; but because
there is danger, I speak for God to your hearts, now
tender with thoughts of exile from home, and of the
unknown fate which lies before you. Be ye clean, that
bear the vessels of the Lord. For no army is so thick, so
pressing, so perpetually on front and rear, as these in-
visible powers of mischief, assailing all life, and most
surely yours ; corrupting with secret contagion, digging
trenches under your very feet, and wounding with a
hurt immedicable by anything but the infinite grace of

3. There is the duty and the peril, and so also is
there the encouraging and yet admonishing fact in
the text, that God goes before, and behind, and in the
midst, Inspector, Sentinel, Leader and Commander. A
pure God, too pure to love sin, or to look kindly on it,
walks through the land and through the camp. Oh ! let
us see Him whose face shines as the light, and whose
piu'it}' Ijurns like fire, going in the midst of us. For
here He is, inevitable, present always, asleep never, our
God to see us, and our God to help us. If we expect
Him to help us, we must be careful, we must keep our-
selves clean. Our success is to come of Him. If we
cast Him out, or try to, if we provoke and ofiend Him,
how soon can He loosen our joints, and turn the mighty
energies which now seem swinging us on irresistibly to
victory, into the unmanageable tempests which shall
dash us more swiftly to ruin. Forty years He kept this
people of the Hebrews marching across from the Red
Sea to Jordan, instead of the month in which they
might have crossed it, for the uncleanness, unbelief, sin


He ibuiid ill their camp. We may provoke Him to
keep us for a generation in the wilderness, till we are
purged by bitter trials, and make clean by adversity,
what we would not purify hy faith, and loyal love to

And the voice which speaks to all the people, goes
to 30U who carry the standard and bear the arms of
the Republic. You are the priests of the Lord. You
are anointed, and set forward for this great, heroic, im-
mortal service. Harden not your heart as in the pro-
vocation. Be ye clean, who bear the vessels of the

Be clean, without, within. Count it no impertinence,
if I tell you that physical purity is pleasing to God.
How carefully He prescribed their washings, how clean
He required his priests to be, you may see in the Old
Testament. What plagues and death he has bred in the
uncleanness of camps, let military history tell you. For
if cleanliness has not always its proverbial neighborhood
to godliness, it is close to health ; to the best estate of
mind and body. Keep the body pure. Keep it under ;
its fiery and its unclean passions. Wash ofi' all sensuali-
ties, as you would the stain of blood.

Above all, it is an inward cleanness God speaks for, —
a clean heart, clean unto Him, clean with a holy rever-
ence, with a penitent humility, with a filial trust. For
this is the first word of the gospel, and the first neces-
sity of your soul immortal, that it be renewed with the
spiritual washing of regeneration, and the turning of
the whole heart to God. And when, in the sight of the
pure God with Avliom you have to do, }'0u feel through
all your aching soul the defiling, poisonous sin, and cry
Unclean, unclean, that I am, what shall I do ? look


not only to the purity there is in God, Ijut to the mercy
there is in the Cross of his {^on ; to the Blood -which
cleanseth utterly, and from all sin. When you feel, as
you will, how hard it is to keep this commandment
of God, — Be ye clean, — and feel condemned altogether
by it, know that there is a Fountain open, that the
Cleanser is he wdio once fought the hard battle on Cal-
vary, and conquered, that you might be " more than
conquerors," You will learn, on the field you are go-
ing to, as never before, that it is by the blood of sacri-
fice that God secures the rights, the happiness, the
peace of nations, the stability of government, the pro-
gress of civilization ; and so you Avill learn to see new
meaning and power, and your own life and salvation, in
that great Sacrifice in which the most sacred blood Avas
contrijjuted to pacify God's rebellious empire, to recon-
secrate His authority, and to purge us all from sin, its
dread disabilities, its unclean mark and power.

Sons, soldiers of Rhode Island ! you go out from the
sight of our eyes, but we shall not lat you go out of
our hearts, our prayers, our hopes and fears. Unseen
arms will embrace you ; homes which yearn after you
in the watches of midnight, in the sultry noon ; these
churches bearing you first and most tenderly in the
bosom of every prayer ; this State, from its gallant Gov-
ernor, sharing your march, and generously careful for
your needs, to every citizen solicitous for its honor,
Avhich is now on a field in sight of all the world, en-
trusted to your keeping ; ten thousand sympathies, so-
licitudes, pieties, the pride, the gratitude, the patriotism
of a hundred thousand hearts, — all will follow you, and
breathe their blessings round jo\i, if so you will allow.
Hail, with hospitable joy, these angels of mercy, — mcs-

12. ^^•

sengers between us and you. Let them keep burning
in your souls, — often sad, often weary, tried, tempted,
hard beset as they will Ije, — the memories, the affec-
tions, which will be your comfort, which may be your

Go, go, with the hope of our patriotism, with the
benediction of our religion ! God Almighty bless you.
God, the all-pure, breathe his purifying, unquenchable
life into your hearts ! May His everlasting arms clasp
you, as no love or 23rayer of ours can do ! And you,
w^hom we shall see no more, if so God has ordained it,
into your dying eyes, may a light shine from that radi-
ant Lamb in the centre of Heaven, once slain for sin-
ners, whose merciful look, in that hour, will give such
j)eace as can only come from God ; peace like a river,
like an infinite sea, on which you shall float into joy
Avhich is unspeakable and full of glory.

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Online LibrarySamuel Lunt CaldwellA sermon preached in the First Baptist meeting-house, Providence, Sunday morning, June 9, 1861, before the Second Regiment of Rhode Island volunteers: → online text (page 1 of 1)