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(title page) A Fast-Day Sermon; Preached in the Church of Sugar Creek, Mecklenburg County, N. C., February 28th, 1862.
Rev. R. H. Lafferty
Fayetteville, N. C.
Printed at the Presbyterian Office
Call Number Cp252 L16f (North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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"Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to-morrow: for thus saith the Lord God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you."--Joshua, vii: 13.
GOD had made many precious promises to the children of Israel. And in the fulfillment of these promises he did lead them out from the land of Egypt, and the power of their oppressors, by a mighty hand and an out-stretched arm; and he established them securely in the land of their fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey. But in the attaining of these great promised blessings they had many powerful enemies to meet, they had many battles to fight. They had taken God for their leader, and had committed their cause unto him who judgeth righteously. Hence, there was a peculiar obligation resting upon them to obey God, their leader. And just as long as they abide by the commands of Jehovah and obey orders, their enemies fall before them; but the moment they forget the covenant, commit sin, and disobey God, they are not able to stand before their enemies, but are filled with terror and dismay.
They came to Jericho, a strongly fortified city, and it fell before them an easy prey; "And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword. And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein; only the silver and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord," as God had commanded them.
The next place of attack was the city Ai. Joshua sent men to view it, and they report that about two or three thousand men will be sufficient to go up and smite Ai; "for they are but few." Accordingly about three thousand men of Israel went up against Ai, but they could not stand before their enemies, they were smitten, and fled: "wherefore the hearts of the people of Israel melted and became as water." This is a sad disappointment to Joshua and the elders of Israel, and they prostrate themselves "to the earth before the ark of the Lord," expressive of their deep grief. And Joshua cries out, "O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies. For the
Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?" Joshua is at a loss to know why it was that he and Israel, who professed to put their trust in the Lord, had met with such a signal defeat. God reveals to him the cause of his defeat. "Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them; for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff." "Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you." "Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify ourselves against to-morrow: for thus saith the Lord God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you." It is now folly for the children of Israel to go out to battle, for uninterrupted disaster and defeat will follow them, until they expel that from their midst which has offended God. In taking Jericho, the specific command was that the city, together with all that it contained, should be utterly destroyed, except "all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron," which were to be consecrated unto the Lord; and were to be brought into the treasury of the Lord.
But among the hosts of Israel there was one covetous man, and for his sin they all suffer. Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was the transgressor. His confession shows the supreme wickedness of his heart in endeavoring to enrich himself by robbing God, and breaking his commands. "When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it." This transgressor and all that appertained to him were taken out and destroyed, Israel was purged of his sin, God returned to them in mercy, and their enemies were easily vanquished. The great lesson taught by all this is, that if Israel take God for their leader, they must implicitly obey him, and if they trust in him for deliverance, that trust must not only be nominal but real.
We, my hearers, citizens of these Confederate States, are engaged in a terrible war, in self defence. It is a war, not of our seeking, but forced upon us. In the commencement of these difficulties we used every means that honor and religion demand, to avoid hostilities. We sent our Commissioners again and again
to the Capital of the United States for the purpose of adjusting our affairs in a friendly manner. They were spurned from the throne, treated with contempt, insult, and with dark, dark duplicity. We sought not the blood, the soil, nor the treasures of our enemies: we only asked them to let us alone, and permit us to work out our own destiny, as a people. We plead for this inalienable privilege and right. This was peremptorily denied us. We then arose in the defence of our own soil, and in the protection of our homes, and committed our cause into the hands of God who judgeth righteously. God favored our cause in a remarkable manner, and gave us as signal deliverances as he gave to the children of Israel. We have declared that we put our trust in God, and therefore virtually have declared that we would obey God, turn from sin, and hate covetuousness, as a people, and as individual citizens. This has been our position from the beginning. It is a solemn position; for it secures to us the chastising rod of God if we disobey him, or violate his commandments.
Recently our cause has not prospered, our army has again and again been defeated, the enemy has triumphed. We may well ask, why is this? Has God forsaken us, and given us over to the power of our enemies? I answer, no. But God may in these adverse providences be saying to us as he said to Joshua, "Israel hath sinned," "there is an accursed thing in the midst of thee: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you."
In view of these disasters, and under a sense of dependence upon God, our most worthy and beloved President, Jefferson Davis, has recommended that the people throughout these Confederate States observe this day, as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer, and that we confess our sins, and implore the guidance and protection of God. This then is our professed business in the Sanctuary to-day. It is a matter of vast importance that we look at our sins, and mourn over them with a godly sorrow. I will at this time notice some of those sins over which we should mourn to-day, and for which God may be chastising us as a people.
God has showered down upon us many blessings; he has given to us a pleasant land, a goodly heritage, and has caused our cup to run over. He has given us an open Bible, Sabbath, Sanctuaries; all the means of grace. Perhaps no people has been more highly favored; and we ought to have been a people overflowing with gratitude to God, the giver. But this has not been the case with us. To too great an extent we have forgotten God, and in
our prosperity we have said, I shall never be moved. The signal deliverances which our army and our country received drew forth expressions of thankfulness to God, and professions of gratitude for the special divine interposition which we had experienced. But it must be admitted that this has been followed, if not accompanied, with a boastful self-relying spirit, which is the very opposite of that spirit which prompts true gratitude. Our true condition is just this; we are not only frail, ignorant, helpless creatures, but we are sinful creatures, and as such deserve not, and have not, any claim upon the favorable notice of God. God might in justice deliver us up to the power of our enemies, and, employ them as agents, with all their malice, in chastising us for our sins. He might in justice send pestilence and famine throughout our land. But he has not thus dealt with us. Not because we have not deserved all these things, but because of his unmerited mercy. We may then say with the prophet, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not." This ought to be the sentiment of our hearts; and in view of God's undeserved deliverances and benefits, and of civil and religious blessings, even in the midst of revolution, we should be humble in the very dust before God, and gratitude should fill our souls. But we have failed to do this, our humility has been a feigned humility, and we have to a great extent forgotten the hand that has been holding, leading, defending, and feeding us. This is ingratitude. God is now chastising us for our sins, and by the disasters with which our army has recently met, he is saying to us, "there is an accursed thing in the midst of thee: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you." Let us get low before God to-day, let us, not feignedly, but truly, confess our sins, and do it with the firm resolve that, by his grace assisting us, we will forsake sin, and cleave unto the Lord. "Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens."
And let us be careful to cherish that gratitude which ought ever to accompany a sense of our dependence and sinfulness, and of God's goodness manifested towards us.
About a year ago fears were entertained that the cause of our Confederacy might suffer much from a scarceness of bread. Supplies from abroad were completely cut off: the blockade was upon us. Indeed our enemy made his boast that he would soon starve us out. Consequently the public journals all over the land, at an early day, exhorted and urged our people to give
special attention to the cultivation of corn and other grains and vegetables, necessary for food both for man and beast. The timely advice was heeded, labor to an unusual extent was put forth in this direction, and many prayers were offered up for a fruitful season. God answered these prayers, and blessed the husbandman with an overflowing harvest; so that according to the general estimate, a sufficiency was produced last year to feed our Confederacy for two years. Thus God turned the counsel of our enemies into foolishness, and quieted the fears of our people.
In view then of our circumstances, of our fears of the marked blessing of God, and of that gratitude that ought to fill our hearts, there was a special obligation resting upon us to garner every bushel of corn, and sacredly use it in feeding our people while engaged in the sacred work of defending our homes, securing our rights, and expelling the invader from our soil. But instead of this, to our utter astonishment and mortification, as soon as the harvest is gathered, we see, all over the land, a thousand distilleries in full blast, converting that which was given to sustain and strengthen our people into something worse than a deadly poison. No sooner than our prayers are answered, God's bounty received, and our fears of starvation dissipated, than we turn round and destroy the bounty, and in that destruction produce that which wherever it goes secures imbecility, distress and death. Whether the making of whiskey is right or wrong in itself considered is a question which I will not stop to consider, as that is not the point now before me; but I do assert, that, in our present peculiar condition, our people could not adopt a more suicidal course, or more efficiently aid our enemies, than by converting the bread that God has given us into whiskey, and thereby securing a famine. When our corn is converted into ardent spirits its nutritious properties are forever destroyed, and these properties cannot be brought back, although the salvation of our country might hang suspended upon the attempt.
If Joseph, and the people of Egypt, had destroyed the surplus corn of that country during the seven years of plenty, famine and extinction must have been the inevitable result in the years of scarceness that immediately followed. And although they might have had their store houses filled to overflowing with spirituous liquors of the choicest quality, yet they could derive no relief or nourishment from these. They could not be a substitute for corn. So when the year of scarceness comes to us we will not be able to subsist long upon our corn converted into whiskey, however abundant it may be. And what will we do? We cannot procure our supplies from abroad, for the enemy is besieging us, and we surely cannot have the impudence to go and seek relief from God, after grossly insulting him by deliberately
destroying the bread with which he had so liberally furnished us. We should look at this insult now, and with shame and contrition confess it before God, and forsake it. It is an accursed thing in the midst of us, and we cannot stand before our enemies, until we remove this accursed thing from among us.
There can be no doubt, in the mind of any one, who takes a glimpse at the places of general concourse, that intemperance is on the increase in our land. Let any one visit our court-yards and depots, or take a seat in our cars, and he will see the evidence around him that we are becoming an intemperate people. View our citizens as they assemble to consult respecting our common safety and defence, and how many are there entirely disqualified by intoxicating drink for calm deliberation? Witness our soldiers as they pass to the scenes of deadly strife, or return on furlough to their homes, and how many of them seem to think it an absolute necessity to be armed with the bottle or the jug, and boldly draw from it until they are completely drunk! And are these things to continue? Is it so, that the more the enemy presses upon us, and our dangers increase, we will seek relief and comfort from the intoxicating bowl? Intemperance is a great sin in the sight of God, and it is especially so in those who profess to put their trust in him. Is it not an insult offered to God to ask or to expect him to bless and co-operate with drunken soldiers, and intemperate commanders! God's displeasure must rest upon such a practice. "No drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of heaven." "Wo to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim. The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet." Now if these things be so, ought there not to be great searching of heart to see if this be not that "accursed thing in the midst of us" which displeases God, and causes us to flee before our enemies? The sin of Achan brought the displeasure of God and defeat to the entire camp of Israel. And one drunken commander or soldier may bring down the displeasure of God and secure the defeat of our entire army.
If there ever was a time in the history of our country when virtue, temperance, calm determined resolve, and wise deliberate counsel, ought to be exercised, this is that time. The grog shops throughout the land ought to be closed, the distillery fires extinguished, and our people from the highest to the lowest practice true temperance. We might then expect God to go forth with our arms. But let intemperance continue and increase, and the result must be increasingly disastrous.
Bablyon of old was taken when the King was in a state of intoxication. And although a powerful enemy was beating at the gate of that renowned city, yet Belshazzar and his thousand lords did not hesitate to engage in a drunken carousal; then it was that Babylon was entered and fell an easy prey to the invading foe. And we know not but some, perhaps rainy of our recent disasters have had their secret remote origin in intemperance or intoxication.
It is my deliberate opinion that our people must abandon the free use of intoxicating drinks, or intoxicating drinks will prostrate us under the power of our enemies, and be our ruin. Let us then confess before God, mourn over, and forsake that sin, which must be a reproach to any people. Let us ask forgiveness of our God, and plead with him to return to its again, and again go forth with our armies, and give them, not the mad reckless daring produced by ardent spirits, but the courage undaunted of the true christian patriot. Then one will chase a thousand, and two will put ten thousand to flight.
Intemperance and profaneness are near of kin. They often go hand in hand. Profaneness is a habit inexcusable, in past days regarded as impolite, and is certainly highly displeasing to God. It is a disregard of the authority of God, and an irreverent use of the sacred titles of the Ruler of the Universe. It tramples under foot a plain command: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." The teaching of Christ is very plain on this point. "Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne; Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool; neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, yea, yea; nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."
It is an excuse that will not be valid at the court of heaven, that we have become so accustomed to swearing that we do not know often when we take God's name in vain. This only enhances our guilt, and it exhibits the dreadful wickedness of sin in leading us to disobey God until we can do it without a thought. But does any one doubt that profaneness prevails in our land? This doubt may be soon dissipated. Take your seat, if you please, in a large popular hotel in one of our cities. The large promiscuous croud are all strangers to you. You are amazed to find that oaths are belched forth on the right hand and on the left. You fix your eye upon one whose dress and general bearing is that of the true gentleman. Your instictive thought is, surely
here is one who will not swear. He soon enters into conversation. He becomes a little excited; and presently you are satisfied that you have been somewhat deceived, for he too employs the dialect of hell. He intersperses freely his assertions and conversation with oaths. But this practice is not confined to the promiscuous croud, but prevails all over the land, and has found its way, to an alarming extent, into our army. Our soldiers swear; and may I not in truth say, that many of our officers are profane.
In view of these things, and in the knowledge of these things, must not the solemn question arise in the serious reflecting mind, how can God go with our army, and crown their efforts with victory, while that army, professing to trust in him, curse and blaspheme his holy name?
It would have produced amazement in heaven and earth too, if God had blessed, defended, and crowned with victory Joshua and the hosts of Israel, while they were disobeying him, and taking his name in vain.
So we may not be astonished at the recent defeats of our army, When we remember the holiness of God, and the veracity of God, and that he has declared that he "will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." The prospects before us are gloomy. Not simply because we have a powerful malignant enemy with which to contend. This is but a small part of my fear or dread, for it is easy for God to save by many or by few. But it is because we have offended God by our sins. Profaneness stalks abroad. Even our boys and servants are rapidly coming up to the stature of perfect men in profanity. They too can swear. God declares by his prophet Jeremiah, "Because of swearing the land mourneth." Is not this an accursed thing in the midst of us, a fatal moral disease all over the land, securing the displeasure of God, and by his judgments causing the land to mourn? And may it not be true that we cannot stand before our enemies until we are purged of this daring sin? Let us with humility confess it, let us morn over it, and let us forsake it that we may find mercy. And if my voice could reach the ear of all our beloved soldiers, I would earnestly and affectionately say to them, soldiers, if you would have the blessing of God, if you would be shielded by God's power in the day of battle, and if you would be able to stand victorious before your enemies, revere God, obey his commandments, fear an oath. You then have God with you, and you can sing as the saints have ever delighted to sing, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge."
Under ordinary circumstances, when commerce is uninterrupted, supply and demand will generally fix just prices in the market. But at such a time as this, when commerce is broken up, when our harbors are blockaded, and the necessaries of life are monopolized, there cannot be free trade, and a healthful competition, but the consumer is at the mercy of the seller. The seller has the consumer now entirely in his power. If he asks and receives a fair price, he is dealing uprightly with his neighbor; but if he asks and receives an enormous price, more than he knows the article to be worth, he is dealing unjustly with his neighbor, and is taking from him that to which he has no righteous claim. And it alters not, in the least, the case, to say, that he voluntarily gave the enormous price; it was a willingness produced by necessity; and advantage was taken of this necessity. This is extortion. It has its origin in an undue love of gain. It is a practice that is pointedly condemned in God's word, and is classed among the blackest crimes: "Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." God brings this as a heavy charge against the children of Israel: "Thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbors by extortion, and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord God." God expresses his displeasure and anger for such conduct, by Saying, "Behold, therefore, I have smitten my hand at thy dishonest gain which thou hast made." Ez. xxii: 12-13. Extortion then is a sin upon which God frowns and fixes the token of his displeasure. But the question here arises, is this sin practiced in our land? I answer that it is. The evidence of this is found in the fact of the exorbitant price at which many articles are held and sold. It is practiced not only upon our citizens and soldiers, but likewise upon our government. There are those who are determined to grow rich by the war; they are ready to take advantage of any needy pressing demand for the necessary articles of life, and they perseveringly wring, if possible, from government with a death grasp the very last dollar. Such sin approximates, perhaps transcends the sin of Achan. Achan took the wedge of gold from the spoils of Jericho, and thus supposed that he was enriching himself; but these enrich themselves by dishonest gain, taken, not from an enemy, but from fellow-citizens, and from that government that is throwing over them the egis of its protection; and this too at a time when every nerve is strained in self-defence, and in beating back the invading foe. The rebuke of the prophet Elisha to his servant Gehazi
is a fitting rebuke for them: "Is it time to receive money, and to receive garments, and olive-yards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and men servants, and maid-servants?" 2 Kings v: 26. Is it a time to set the heart upon riches, and go in their pursuit, when the enemy is at the door, and our soil is invaded? Surely each one ought to be satisfied with moderate gains, and be willing to sacrifice even these for the common good.
In view then of that utter abhorence which God has for extortion, and in view of the undoubted fact that it is largely practiced through this land, we should speedily humble ourselves at the feet of our offended Sovereign, confess our guilt, and turn to him by righteousness. The spirit of extortion must be supported by the spirit of justice and of honesty, if we would have God smile upon us and our country's cause. If we would have the protection of heaven, we must seek it by hating covetousness, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God. We must seek it, by withdrawing our sympathies and our confidence from every one who engages in this dishonest business, and thus keep ourselves back from being partaker of this sin; and we must seek it by sanctifying ourselves, by "washing our hands in innocency."
War is a business not to be sought or desired. But when our peaceful homes, these sacred spots of earth, are invaded, every instinct of our nature, and every principle of christianity urge us forward to their protection and defence, even unto blood. So it is of our States. They are each the sacred home of a great family, where each member has secured to him rights and privileges, and where each one has duties to perform. Our General Government is the Confedracy of these great families or States for their mutual safety and well-being. There are mutual interests, mutual benefits, and mutual obligations. And when our country is invaded, as it now is, it is a duty which we owe our families, our country, and the world, to arise and meet the invading foe. And although it may touch the most tender chord of our hearts to part with our sons and send them away to the tented field, yet our effection for them is not to keep them back from offering themselves for the defence of our country. The present is no time for hesitation or for shrinking back from the stern obligations that now look us in the face. The plain teaching of God's providence and his word is to gird on the weapons of warfare and go forth to the deadly charge. "Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood."
When Israel, on a certain occasion, had a great battle to fight it was expected that all would be present and meet their obligation, and share in the dangers. But there were those who would not forego the ease and the comfort of home, but continued their ordinary business, and left their brethren to fight their battle and "jeopard their lives unto the death in the places of the triumphal song they are very sarcastically rebuked for their indifference to their country defence. "Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks? For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart." And the inhabitants of a certain place refused to go and aid in fighting their country's battles, but they were marked as cursed of God. "Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty." There are then times when it is our duty to offer ourselves and our sons freely, and go forth to battle, and show ourselves valiant to fight. When Israel did this their song was, "Praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves. My heart is toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people.
Have we willingly and freely offered ourselves and our sons? Or have we not rather to too great an extent been remaining at home, "to hear the bleatings of the flocks," and have left our army and our country to be overrun by an aggressive powerful foe?
It is well for us to look at the point before us, and the issue of this deadly strife. It is not the re establishment of the old Federal Government. This is now placed beyond a possibility. But it is the independence of these Confederate States, or subjugation. This is the only issue, this the only question now to be settled. And what is subjugation? I reply, it is that of being reduced to a state of vassalage, we become tributary States, and will be obliged to pay tribute to our conquerors. What then is the duty which we owe our children, our country, and our God, in view of such an issue as this? Evidently freely to offer ourselves and defend our country even to the last bitter end, and adopt the sentiment of the patriots of former times, "give me liberty, or give me death."
I fear that we have not sufficiently entered into the merits of this momentous question that our country is now discussing and settling at the point of the bayonet, and the cannon's mouth. And while our countrymen, our fellow-citizens, have been suffering and bleeding, and dying, for our defence and safety, we have been too indifferent of the great interests at stake. God is
rebuking us for this in our recent disasters, and is saying to us, "there is an accursed thing in the midst of thee," and is leading us to feel that we have erred in not more freely offering ourselves, and is perhaps impressing many a mind with the solemn denunciation, "Cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood."
Our interests, our obligations, and our dangers, are mutual, and therefore we cannot, without guilt, refuse to take any part in that strife and struggle in which our country is now engaged. Your affections may be strong, as they ought to be, for your fathers, husbands, brothers, or sons, but this is no valid reason why you should not be willing that they should go and perform that duty which God in his providence has imposed upon them, and to which our country is loudly calling them. Let us make the sacrifice, however costly; it will only enhance in our estimation, the sacred boon of independence when once achieved, and will lead us to watch and defend it, in all coming time, with undying care.
We are obliged to believe from the teaching of God's word that individuals and nations are safe who put their trust in the Lord. "O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man who trusteth in thee." "They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever." Trust in God implies confidence in him, and at the same time implies a sense of our dependant helpless condition. It likewise implies a pledge on our part, that we will honestly endeavor to obey God, and have respect to all his commandments. And this trust is not confined to the hour of danger and calamity, but is carried with us along all the paths of life.
We as a people profess to put our trust in God. Now what is the nature of this professed trust, and the fruits which it produces? Do we feel our weakness, and our ignorance, and are we impressed with a sense of the great truth that "vain is the help of man?" I am persuaded that, to a certain extent, these things are so; but I greatly fear, that we are not honestly taking God for our portion, and sincerely endeavoring to keep his commands. If we throughout these Confederate States had the spirit and humble reliance upon God which Jehoshaphat, King of Judah and his people had, when their enemies invaded their soil, how soon might peace be established throughout all our borders. "And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the Lord; even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord." Now notice the
humble, helpless, and confiding spirit manifested in the prayer offered up. "And now, behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom thou wouldest not let Israel invade, when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them, and destroyed them not; Behold, I say, how they reward us, to come to cast us out of thy possession, which thou has given us to inherit. O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon thee." "And all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children," expressive of their hearty assent to every sentiment uttered in this prayer. Here we see that entire trust which in God's sight is so acceptable; and the result was that the enemy became their own destoyers, and God's people stood still, by his command, and beheld the salvation which to wrought. "And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries, when they had heard that the Lord fought against the enemies of Israel. So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet; for his God gave him rest round about." We must then as a sinful, helpless people come and cast ourselves upon the arm of our God, to whom we have referred our cause; and to this point I believe that God will bring us by the defeats that are overtaking us. Then God will appear for us as our deliverer.
If we are placing our entire trust in God we are betaking ourselves unto prayer. Are we doing this? Is the spirit of prayer increasing in our land? Perhaps both these questions must in truth be answered in the negative. Prayer constantly should be made unto God, both in our army and over the land, as a people professing christianity cannot reasonably expect to succeed without this. When Israel was engaged in war with Amalek, the whole battle turned upon the point, whether Moses held up his hand or let down his hand, expressive of looking to God and trusting in him for victory, or failing to look to him and withdrawing that trust. "And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed, and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed." Now may it not be true, that we have failed to hold up our hand daily in importunate prayer, pleading with God to prosper our cause, and go forth with our army? And if this be true, we may not be astonished that we are not able to stand before our enemies, but are defeated and thrown into confusion. There is something wrong in our midst, sin is at the door, and we may be sure our sin will find us out. God requires of us more than the bare profession that we trust in him. Israel made such professions, but they were never saved from the power of their enemies, until they searched out their sins, and brought forth fruits meet for repentance. So we must
exhibit our trust in God by turning away from sin, and having respect to all the statutes of the Lord. Let us then now turn to the Lord, from whom we have grievously departed, "with fasting, and with weeping, with mourning; and let us rend our hearts and not our garments." Let our repentance and humility be genuine and not hypocritical, and God will be gracious to us as a people, and cause us to praise him yet, for his signal deliverances.
In conclusion, I will add that there are two things on which I have no doubt. First. That God will chastise us for our sins. God chastises nations as well as individuals. And we may be well assured that our ingratitude, our folly in converting the blessings of God's hand into a curse, our intemperance, our profanity, and our covetousness, will bring down upon our heads the corrections of our Heavenly Father. These corrections may be severe; they may be protracted; and they may be varied. But they will come, until we are brought to confess our sins, turn from them, and trust in God with the whole heart. "God cannot be deceived, and he will not be mocked." If we have taken him for our God, and have committed our cause unto him, and at the same time have forsaken his law, walked not in his judgments, broke his statutes, and kept not his commandments, he will visit our transgression with the rod, and our iniquity with stripes, until we are brought to feel that it is an evil and a bitter thing to sin against God. God has commenced this work. O that we were wise, that we might speedily confess our sins and forsake them, that the uplifted rod might be turned away. Secondly. That our cause will eventually triumph. All over the land there is the consciousness that ours is a righteous cause. Our warfare is the sacred work of defending our homes from the polluting touch of the invader. God has given us the assurances of his in favor in those signal victories which he has granted unto us. And although our arms have recently been defeated, and disasters have overtaken us, yet we are not to sink down in despondency and gloom, but we are to betake ourselves to the throne of grace, as we do this day, and there confess our guilt, seek the Divine guidance and protection, and renewedly place our trust in God. And the time will come, I have no doubt of it, when these Confederate States will come out from that furnace through which they are now passing, and will take an enviable position in the family of nations, as the most complete exponent upon earth of a free government, and will have inscribed upon their banner in brilliant undying characters, to be seen and read by the latest generation, "God is our Helper." Amen.