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CAMP BARTOW, Sept. 24th, 1861.
REV. R. N. SLEDD, Dear Sir:
Believing that the Sermon preached by you on Sunday last, before the "CONFEDERATE CADETS," is calculated to do much good in the form of a Tract for Soldiers, we have been appointed by the Company most respectfully to solicit a copy for publication, in order that others may enjoy by reading, what we so highly appreciated by hearing.
With the highest considerations of personal regard,
We remain your grateful and ob'dt serv'ts,
Capt. J. B. LAURENS,
Lieut. V. L. WEDDELL,
" J. H. MEACHAM,
" W. N. BELL,
Sergt. JAMES SMITH, Jr.
PETERSBURG, Oct. 1st, 1861.
Capt. J. B. LAURENS, and others, Gentlmen:
The Sermon delivered on the 22d ult., before the "CONFEDERATE CADETS," is herewith placed at your disposal. Some emendations deemed essential to the more forcible presentation of the truth have been made. My only wish is that the end contemplated by its publication may be accomplished.
Please accept my thanks for the polite terms in which you have communicated the request of your Company.
Very truly yours,
R. N. SLEDD.
Our blessed Redeemer is called by the prophet Isaiah, "the Prince of Peace." His advent into the world was celebrated by "a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Said he, in his first sermon, "Blessed are the peace-makers: for they shall be called the children of God." His kingdom is said to be a kingdom of "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." And we are exhorted to "follow peace with all men": in other words, "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." We conclude, therefore, that the spirit of Christianity is eminently pacific, and that nothing can be more in harmony with the genius of the gospel, and with the purposes and plans of God as unfolded in His Word, than the reconciliation of all contending parties, the adjustment of all differences, and the establishment everywhere of relations of amity and good will among men and nations.
But though such be its spirit—though its object be the diffusion of the blessings of peace—though it be the revealed purpose of its Author that the sword shall ultimately be beaten into the plough-share, and the spear into the pruning-hook, and nation no more lift up sword against nation—we are not to suppose that it requires of us passive submission to all the insults and encroachments of others. As individuals, it is true we are to cherish no personal revenge. We are rather
to love our enemies, to bless them that curse us, and pray for them which despitefully use us, and persecute us. But "the powers that be are ordained of God"; ordained "for the punishment of evil-doers"; ordained for the settlement of the conflicting claims and the protection of the rights of men. And hence, whenever our individual rights are assailed, it is in perfect accordance with the object of government, and with the purest morality for us to resist the invasion by seeking the defence and protection of law. But nations have no such tribunals to which they can appeal for the adjudication of their differences. And when compromise and concession are unavailing, there is no alternative but a resort to arms, and a resentment of injuries by force, or the loss of all position and influence as a government, and a failure to secure any of those benefits or accomplish any of those objects for which governments are divinely established.
Moreover, the design of our being is that we may be happy. And it is God's will that we should occupy the position most favorable to the realization of that end. If our capacity be such that a condition of subjection and dependence will best promote our welfare, then does it accord with the purpose of our being and with the will of God that we should occupy that position. If on the contrary we be qualified for self-government, and for the appreciation and enjoyment of the blessings of freedom—if a state of independence be most conducive to our happiness and to our accomplishment of the objects of life, then have we an inalienable moral right to that state, and to the unmolested fruition of its advantages. And when any foe would degrade us from that position, and deprive us of its privileges, neither the principles of morals nor the laws of God enjoin non-resistence. Both justify the individual in calling to his aid the strong arm of the law, and the government in appealing, as a last resort, to the great arbiter of national difficulties—the sword.
While, therefore, the gospel requires the individual to restrain hand from violence—forbids his assuming the place and authority of law and in the blood of a fellow-man seeking satisfaction for his injuries, it cannot, without coming in conflict with God's will concerning us, demand that a government, founded in justice and mercy, shall keep back its sword from blood when the destruction of its enemies is essential to the security and happiness of its subjects. So far from it, when the interests of humanity are imperilled—when the cause of equity and religion is at stake—when all that men hold dearest, all that makes existence desirable is in jeopardy, then does God, by His providence, if not by His word, bid us buckle on our armor, and "behave ourselves valiantly for our people, and for the cities of our God."
Numerous illustrations of the correctness of this position are to be found in the history of the Jews. Their government was a theocracy, strictly so until the days of Saul. But though under the immediate direction and control of God, but few nations of antiquity were more frequently engaged in war. Their territory was acquired by the conquest and expulsion of its original inhabitants, and its possession maintained by force of arms. God required of them no compromise of their honor, no surrender of their freedom for the sake of peace. But when their rights were assailed and their security threatened, Himself summoned them to arms, and led them to victory. And while His hand was less prominent in their government in the days of the kings, He no less distinctly manifested His approbation of their efforts to defend themselves against the encroachments of their neighbors. David, in many respects their greatest king, was pre-eminently "a man of war." His reign was characterized by almost incessant conflicts with the surrounding nations. In no instance did he hesitate to take up the sword when the honor, the liberty, or the life of his subjects was in danger. And yet he was a man after God's own heart,
a man whose "heart was perfect with the Lord"—a man inspired by God's Spirit, guided by God's counsel, and honored with the highest evidences of His favor and love. If therefore examples from the Word of God are of sufficient authority as testimony, then have we in the history of God's ancient people ample confirmation of the righteousness of a war of defence, or the consistency of such a war with sound morality and pure religion.
Such do we regard the contest in which you are soon to become active participants. You go to avenge no merely private injuries. Your country's freedom, her dearest privileges and richest blessings, her God-given rights are in danger. And voluntarily denying yourselves the comforts and fond endearments of home and friends, you have placed your all on her altar, counting not your life itself a price too great to be paid for the discomfiture and overthrow of her enemies, and the achievement of her independence. And it is but appropriate before entering into such a struggle—a struggle which may result disastrously to you, and bring many sorrows to hearts that love you well—that in God's house, and from God's Word, you should seek those instructions that will best prepare you for the eventful scenes before you. There is no condition in life, there are no circumstances in which men may be placed which God has not anticipated and for which He has not provided. His "Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our pathway," whether that pathway lie amid the flowers and fruits of a prosperous peace, or the desolation and ruins of "grim-visaged war."
I. The first lesson which it inculcates on this occasion has reference to the temper of mind with which you should engage in this contest. "Be of good courage." Nothing is more essential to success in any avocation than genuine courage. The path of life is thronged with obstacles: beset with difficulties at every step. And if we achieve any triumph, or
obtain any eminence in our respective callings, it can only be the result of firm resolve, steadiness of aim, and unyielding perseverance. "He that wavereth is like the wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed." "Unstable as water thou shalt not excel." Indecision and instability, vacillation of will and that cowardly spirit that prefers obscure ease to an encounter with difficulty but seldom transcend the limits of a miserable mediocrity. Genius may sometimes enable even the irresolute and fickle to achieve distinction. But if unsustained by a strong will and a stout heart its most brilliant successes are but transient and unsatisfactory. On the other hand, not more certainly does the morning star foretell the splendor of coming day, than do stability and decision, resolution and fortitude, founded in a strong conviction of right, and warmed into life by a love of the right, guarantee permanent prosperity, and lead ultimately to the realization of the desired end.
Courage, however, in the popular sense of the term, is a temper of very doubtful character, and often of unquestionable immorality. It is usually ascribed to all who are fearless of danger, or reckless of life. But such fearlessness may be the result simply of incompetency to comprehend and appreciate the reality and extent of the danger. It may be the fruit of an unjustifiable sensitiveness to public opinion. It may spring from sympathy, from love of plunder, or from any passion which is of sufficient strength to overpower the passion of fear and banish all thought of peril. In its popular sense, therefore, it may not only be associated with the worst of vices, but may have its origin in the basest of motives. Indeed its best illustrations are to be found in the history of duelists, who hazard their lives and the happiness of their families, and with vindictive barbarity seek the life of a fellow man on false principles of honor, or merely to escape the suspicion of cowardice; or, in the history of pirates, who willingly brave
every peril and commit every enormity merely to gratify an unhallowed lust for gain. And as the effect partakes of the moral quality of the cause, a courage originating in such motives, though lauded by a corrupt public sentiment, cannot be otherwise than grossly immoral in its character and tendency, and unbecoming the true man.
Such courage we cannot recommend to you. We would not have you exhibit a spirit of brutal ferocity. We would not have you actuated by an insane disregard of consequences, or a savage prodigality of life. Be the soldier of enlightened principle—not of wild enthusiasm or malignant passion. Enter the conflict with an intelligent, deliberate fixedness of purpose: with an invincible resolution to do and suffer whatever the success of your cause may demand: with the spirit of a christian, not of a demon. Take as your model "the father of his country," our Washington—him to whose memory poetry and eloquence delight to pay the tribute of their homage, and to perpetuate whose fame the canvas glows and the marble speaks. In him you find an inflexibility of will which seven years of doubtful experiment could not swerve from its purpose: an iron nerve which the prospect of danger but strung to a higher tension: a fortitude which disaster and defeat, which the unspeakable sufferings even of a Valley Forge could not overcome: and above all an integrity and a devotion to right which no lure of ambition, no prospect of personal aggrandizement and glory could tempt to a violation of justice and mercy. Be this your courage. Be his virtues the fire that shall warm your heart, the power that shall invigorate your arm, and the light that shall guide your steps. Be his renown your highest ambition, and his laurels your coveted reward.
To have this good courage it is essential that you have "the peace of God which passeth all understanding" in your hearts. You have within an immortal spirit—a spirit that shall outlive
time, and be happy or miserable forever. And if your "heart is not right in the sight of God," already has the prospect of coming peril awakened within you a strange misgiving. You cannot be indifferent to the future. You cannot forget the terrible retributions of eternity. And while conscious that you are guilty before God, and convinced that death will be followed by banishment from His presence and from the glory of His power, whatever the strength of your nerve and the stoutness of your heart, the one will relax, the other will quail when the dreadful issue is confronted. "A guilty conscience makes cowards of us all"—often palsies the arm when most its strength is needed, and overwhelms with disaster even in the moment of victory. Often, indeed, is its victim panic-stricken and flying before dangers which exist only in his own imagination. But while "a sinful heart makes a feeble hand," conscious innocence is an impregnable bulwark of defence against all those ghostly fears and suspicions that "haunt the guilty mind"—a safe-guard against mad passion, and the surest spring of that well-advised, yet vigorous action so essential to success in great emergencies. And while it is incumbent upon us always "to have a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men," now that you are about to hazard your life in the cause of your country, it is peculiarly important that you should at once secure forgivness of sin and the favor of God. Reared as most of you have been by godly parents, you cannot escape the remembrance of their pious admonitions. Persuaded as all of you are of the truth of the gospel, you cannot blot out the vision of its plagues. And with these clinging about your spirit you can but shudder and shrink back at the prospect of death. Oh, then, let the guilt of your past mis-doing be cancelled by faith in the Son of God. Hasten without delay to the blessed Jesus! Give Him no rest until He bids thee "Go in peace." Then mayest thou be strong, and quit thyself like a man. For
if thou fallest, thou hast a higher life—a life which is "hid with Christ in God"—a life, whose joy and blessedness "no rude alarms of raging foes" can interrupt or destroy. Death in its most revolting form will but bring thee into possession of an eternal home of peace and rest.
It is true that some have imagined that religion is inconsistent with that contempt of danger and death so requisite to the good soldier. But let the life of a Washington, who was never greater than when on his knees, refute the objection. Let the history of a Havelock, at once the ornament of christianity and the pride of the British army, noted no less for his piety than for his soldierly qualities, silence the infidel insinuation. Or go to the bloody field of Manassas: behold the dauntless courage of the heroic Harrison: and hear him, after receiving the death-wound while nobly pouring out his heart's blood on the altar of liberty, faintly whispering of the love of Jesus and the hope of heaven! Yes, and ere the victors' shout rang o'er those plains, his spirit on the wings of the battle-cloud, sprang upward to God, shouting in its flight, "Victory! victory! over death and hell!" And, oh, say not in view of that scene, a scene that might well thrill the heart of an angel, that the humble christian, the child of God, cannot fight the battles of his country! Nay, "godliness is profitable unto all things": not only adorns and elevates the character of the votary of peace, not only lights up and beautifies the death-scenes of a quiet home, but showers her benefits and blessings amid the sterner realities of war, inspires the soldier of freedom with the loftiest patriotism, breathes into his heart the sublimest courage, and when he falls throws about him her grandest charms and scatters around his grave her richest perfumes. Oh, be the soldier of Christ! Let this be the element of good in your courage. While on your banner may be inscribed Liberty's device, let there be another banner, all unseen yet even unfurled before the eye of your faith, on which is inscribed
the reeking cross with its bleeding Victim encircled with the promises of the Gospel, and bright with the dawning glories of heaven. Then may you afford to be brave—to encounter embattled hosts—to encounter death itself! For that banner's magic inscription
Lights life in death,
Turns earth to heaven; to heavenly thrones transforms
The ghastly ruins of the mouldering tomb!
And falling beneath its folds, thou fallest but to rise again in triumph, incorruptible, glorious, immortal!
II. We may likewise learn a lesson with respect to the conduct that should characterize us in the field. ""Let us behave ourselves valiantly." Courage has respect chiefly to our temper of mind, and is subjective in character. Valor has respect to our mode of action, and is objective. It is courage in exercise. The one is usually the concomitant of the other. He who is truly courageous in heart is seldom otherwise than valorous in action. He who has that strength of will and firmness of purpose, that invincible fortitude and resolution, originating in an intelligent perception of right and duty, which are the essential elements of true courage, will seldom be wanting in vigorous action when the good of his cause demands exertion, or shrink from danger when it demands exposure.
But however necessary and commendable individual valor may be, in a great contest in which tens of thousands are engaged, it can be of but little real benefit unless it be subject to control and exhibited in the execution of some established plan. An army without a commander is usually worthless. And an incompetent commander, one who has not sufficient merit to inspire confidence, and sufficient nerve to exact obedience is oftener an injury than an advantage to the cause which he espouses. There must of necessity be in every army a ruling mind: one planning, directing, controlling all.
Otherwise, in the conflict of opinions and plans naturally arising from the absence of all control, and in that disorder and confusion of action which such conflict will occasion, there will exist the elements of certain disaster. A body of men, all governed by one mind, may effect in a few hours that which the same number, each acting independently of the other, could not accomplish in a lifetime. It is, therefore, not only wise, but necessary to your efficiency, that for the time you surrender your will to that of your officers, and they in turn to their superiors, and all yielding an implicit obedience to the incumbent of the highest office, be intent simply on the execution of his orders. This lesson of submission to control is a difficult one for many to learn; but until you have completly mastered it, though you may be individually brave, yet as an integral part of a great army, you are not prepared to behave yourself the most valiantly and the most efficiently in the field of conflict.
It is necessary, too, that you keep a perpetual curb on those passions which, in a contest like this, are so apt to be awakened and cherished. You may perceive the effects of ungoverned passion around you on almost every day. You see it in the child who inflicts a severer punishment on himself in his effort to punish the stone which he imagines has done him injury. You see it in the conduct of the man whose heart is fired with jealousy or burning with revenge. You see it everywhere blinding the understanding, overpowering the reason, stilling the voice of conscience, disqualifying its victim for all deliberate action, and leading to the perpetration of deeds at which even fallen humanity shudders. You feel that your country is insulted and outraged. You behold her pleasant places made desolate by an infidel and fanatical foe. Her honor is your honor. Her insults, her injuries, her destiny, all are yours. And it is but natural that there should spring up in your heart, not simply a feeling of indignation, but a burning
desire to be revenged on her enemies and despoilers. But curb that vindictive spirit. 'Tis the spirit of the savage, not of the christian hero: a spirit condemned alike by reason and religion, and which, unless checked, when the hour of conflict comes will precipitate you into dangers which reason would have escaped, and perhaps sacrifice a life which reason would have saved. Your enemies may need the spur of the basest passions of their nature to give them a heart for their wicked work. You need it not. And he, indeed, must be a miserable craven, who, in a contest like this, has need of the excitement of passion or any artificial stimulus to nerve him for the onset. No. "Bid tumultuous passions all be still." Let reason have her sway. Recollect,
'Tis reason your great Captain holds so dear;
'Tis reason's injured rights his wrath resents;
'Tis reason's voice obey'd his glories crown;
To give lost reason life, He poured his own.
Remember that you are christians, and are struggling for the most precious boon, save the Son of God, ever bestowed on the children of men; and even in the midst of carnage and blood, let the Word and grace of Christ dwell richly in your heart, and the good pleasure of your God absorb every other motive and govern every impulse and effort.
And thus armed against confusion and panic by a wholesome discipline, and against the excesses and dangers of unbridled passions by reason and religious principle, with the determination of men who act from an unshaken conviction of the righteousness of their cause—with that determination which takes no step backward, relying upon God's arm for your support and His shield for your protection, move forward with the song of David as your battle-shout: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea"! Your comrades
on the right and left may bite the dust. You too may fall. But animated by this spirit, and falling in this spirit, all around you are the bright-winged messengers of God, ready to catch away your spirit and bear it in triumph above the tumult and storm of battle to the mansions of the redeemed.
III. We learn from the text a lesson of dependence upon God, and of submissiveness to the dispensations of His providence. "Let the Lord do that which is good in his sight." He is not an idle and uninterested spectator of the events that are transpiring in our land. He is not indifferent to the fate of the nations of the earth, nor to the wants and destiny even of the most insignificant of His creatures. By Him "kings rule and princes decree judgment." "He doeth according to his will in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth." The universe, in all its measureless extent, is filled with the light, the power, and glory of His presence; and from the flaming archangel to the minutest insect, from the blazing sun to the imperceptible atom, all are upheld continually "by the word of His power." And let Him withdraw himself but for a moment, and creation, animate and inanimate, becomes at once a chaotic wreck.
What then more befitting His creatures, whose every blessing is from His infinite bounty and whose every breath is from His hand, than that they should carry about them continually a conviction of His presence, and a spirit of dependence on the decisions of His righteous will? "Go to now, ye that say, To-day, or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy, and sell, and get gain: whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow—For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this or that." And "go to now," ye that build your hopes of triumph on the strength of your own arms, or the courage of your hearts, without regard to the will and providence of God:
whereas ye know not that the next hour your eye may have lost its fire, your arm be palsied, and your heart still in death. For that ye ought to say, ALL our sufficiency is of God; the fortunes and events of war are all at His disposal; and if He will, victory shall perch upon our banners.
Saith the wise man: "Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall." Said a greater than he: "Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased." If as a people we have any thing to fear, it is the spirit that possessed the Assyrian monarch when he ascribed the splendor of his capital and the glory of his kingdom to the power of his own might—a spirit which God signally punished by driving him from men and compelling him to dwell with the beasts and eat grass like an ox. If we look simply to the chivalry of the South, if we rely simply on the fiery valor of her sons for success, and ascribe all the glory of our victories, as we are prone to do, to our military chieftains, we may expect God to humble our pride and punish our impudent vainglory, by withdrawing His support and covering us with defeat. He is God and there is none other beside Him, and on nothing is he more resolved than that men shall every where acknowledge his sovereignty. "I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." It is therefore our highest wisdom, yea, the noblest patriotism to cultivate a spirit of dependence upon Him, and while exerting ourselves to the utmost, look simply to Him for the success of our efforts and the prosperity of our cause.
And not simply dependence, but an attitude of perfect submission to the disposal of God is not only most becoming our condition, but the surest way to secure the accomplishment of the end we seek. It is thus that we are brought into union with Him—have access to his svmpathy and exhaustless resources. It is thus that we become parties to that covenant in which He declares, "I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour. When thou passest through the waters,
I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." And since in His hands are the issues of life and death, of victory and overthrow, since, whatever we may do, He will control our affairs according to the good pleasure of His own will, and since by submission we secure the benedictions of His grace, the guidance of His Spirit, and an interest in His special providential care, what so wise as a hearty surrender of our cause, and our all, to Him! True, He "resisteth the proud" and self-sufficient, and is resolved to crush out all rebellion and opposition to His will. But He "giveth grace to the humble," and honors their humility with His peculiar favor and blessing. Then let life or death, let success or disappointment be the issue of this dreadful conflict, still let us say, "Let the Lord do that which is good in his sight." Though our homes may be invaded and dishonored, though our loved ones may be afflicted, and weep, and mourn, though throughout our land is heard the clanking of the despot's chains, and seen the blight of the despot's touch, still let the language of our hearts be, "Not my will but thine, oh God, be done"!
And surely if any one has need of the constant protecting care and power of an almighty hand, that one is the soldier. The admonition, "Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth," may be addressed to him with a peculiar propriety and force. For of him is it pre-eminently true that
Dangers stand thick through all the ground
To push him to the tomb.
And although he may escape the missiles of the foe, the air which he breathes is loaded with disease; and often when he thinks himself the most secure, the enemy is fixing its deadly fangs in his vitals. Oh, then, humbly submit yourselves to God! Seek shelter "in the secret place of the Most High,"
that you may find protection from "the arrow that flieth by day," and "the pestilence that walketh in darkness." Let the God of Jacob be your God, His will your will, and his glory your end. Then may you claim that promise which saith, "A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked."
IV. The objects for which you contend are of sufficient importance to inspire you with a good courage, and stimulate you to behave yourselves valiantly: of sufficient importance to induce you to cultivate that spirit, and make whatever self-sacrifices may be necessary to your success. You are actuated by no thirst for power, no desire for the gain and glory of conquest, no disposition to encroach on the rights and disturb the peace of the innocent and unoffending. No sacking of cities, no rapine and plunder enter into your programme. Your mission is to repel lawless invasion, to avenge national injuries and vindicate the national honor.
We fight "for our people." The avowed purpose of our enemies is our subjugation, the extinction of liberty in our land: an end which they profess to be resolved to accomplish though it bring desolation to every home and "baptize every foot of Southern soil in fire and blood": a purpose which savors more of the heartlessness of an Alexander, or the barbarity of an Attila than of the civilization of the nineteenth century. And hitherto their conduct has been characterized by a vandalism, a rapacity, and a contempt for virtue and religion perfectly accordant with their savage purpose. To save those we love from their indignities—to shield our gray-haired sires and honored mothers, our noble wives and lovely daughters, our tender children and faithful servants, from the wanton violence of a despotism whose deeds would disgrace the annals of the Middle Ages; to drive from our soil the propagandists
of principles subversive of all social order and domestic happiness; to secure to ourselves and transmit to our posterity the blessings bought by the blood of our fathers—these are the objects for which we contend—this the work to which God and every interest of humanity calls us. Yea, our all has been staked on the issue of the struggle; and before us now is naught but the palm of the victor, or the chains of the slave and the doom of the traitor; naught but the liberty to think, and speak, and act for ourselves—the enjoyment of the inherent rights of every virtuous and intelligent people, or the holding of our property, our opinions, our lives, at the will of an unscrupulous and unprincipled tyranny. To protect our people from the one, and establish them in the enjoyment of the other, is our simple desire and aim. This is the cause for which you are to battle—the cause to which our patriot sires pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor: the cause, too, to which our fathers' God has hitherto given the encouragement of His smiles and the help of His hand.
Nor is this all. We fight "for the cities of our God." Ah, that allusion of the Jewish general must have thrilled his hearer, and given an intenser glow to the patriotic fire of his heart. Our God! the God of our fathers, who brought them out of Egypt with a high hand and a stretched out arm, who gave them bread from heaven forty years, guided them in their wanderings by a "fiery, cloudy pillar," and led them at last into this goodly land—the God who has chosen us as His peculiar people, made us the repository of His will and the light of the world—the God who has ever been about us as a wall of fire, a strong tower of defence, and who has lavished upon us the richest gifts of His love—His honor is assailed, and His majesty despised by these idolatrous Ammonites! And the cities of our God! Their pleasant places, their peaceful homes and stately palaces, their vine-clad bowers and dancing fountains, where innocence sports and happiness lives—Jerusalem
which he hath chosen, and Mt. Zion where his glory dwelleth—all are threatened with desecration and ruin! Then let us be valiant for Israel and for Israel's God!
You have the same motive to inspire your hearts and quicken your ardor. The cause of Christ, the interests of religion are involved in this direful conflict. The men in high places, the manufacturers of public opinion among our adversaries are avowedly the advocates of a higher law than the Bible. As a natural consequence, the leaven of infidelity is at work through all the ramifications of Northern society. Among the intelligent and among the ignorant, in the pulpit and in the parlor, in the bar-room and in the counting-house it is found, preying with an insidious but deadly virulence on morality and religion. We would not do them injustice: but we believe that no people equally enlightened have ever originated and fostered so many infidel delusions; that nowhere has there been such a general degradation of the sacred office of the ministry to the purposes of fanaticism; that no people of equal religious privileges combine in their character and exhibit in their conduct so much that is inconsistent with that law which is "holy, just, and good." And the great principle which seems now to animate every heart, and on the supremacy of which they seem determined, may be shown to lead, and in a multitude of instances has already led to an open rejection of the Word of God. President Mahan, a man of learning, a Doctor of Divinity, uses these ominous words: "We are constrained to admit either that slavery is right or the Bible not of God. If I felt myself forced to take one or the other of these positions, I freely confess that for one I should take the latter." When ministers of the gospel of high position and influence can thus proclaim to the world their readiness to sacrifice the Word of God rather than the principle of abolitionism, we need not wonder that among the masses that Word should fall into disrepute and contempt.
We refuse to admit that principle. And in resisting its forcible intrusion upon us, we are but refusing to surrender the principles of revelation for the falsehoods and deceit of a vain philosophy. Only to yield to the idea of the fallibility of the Bible by admitting its error, or surrendering its teachings on this one subject, and the way is open for the rejection of whatever it enjoins that comes in conflict with human opinions and passions. Its authority is gone, its wholesome laws are of none effect, and its precious promises and inspiring hopes more baseless than the "fabric of a vision." We are afloat upon the ocean of existence without an anchor, without a pilot, without chart or compass, at the mercy of every storm, and the sport of every demon. No, no! In God's name, give me the Bible, whatever it may cost and whatever it may enjoin! Say it is unworthy of credit if you please. Say its religion is but a dream. Ah, then, 'tis the sweetest delusion that ever entered the brain, or enchained the heart of a mortal! 'Tis a delusion that makes me strangely happy in life and gloriously triumphant in death! 'Tis all that makes life a blessing—'tis my only support amid earth's sorrows—my only guide to eternity! Yes, give me such a delusion rather than life itself. And, oh, let me hand it down to my children, the charm unbroken, that they too may enjoy some of its sweetness and reap some of its blessed fruits!
Nay, but the Ammonites are upon us with their strange gods. They would dispel the delusion. They would dissolve the charm. They would undermine the authority of my Bible. They would desecrate the temples of our God, and infuse into a pure christianity the poison of their own infidelity. You go to contribute to the salvation of your country from such a curse. You go to aid in the glorious enterprise of rearing in our sunny South a temple to constitutional liberty and Bible christianity. You go to fight for your people and for the cities of your God. And though it may cost us many
a tear of sorrow, we bid you God speed in your noble work. Our prayers shall follow you wherever you go. But not more earnestly will we pray for your protection and safe return, than that you may "be of good courage, and behave yourselves valiantly for your people and for the cities of your God." May God's providence preserve you. May His grace dwell richly in your hearts by faith. May his glory be the aim and object of your life. May His love and smiles be your reward here, and a happy immortality your inheritance forever.
Be just, and fear not;
Let all the ends thou aim'st at, be thy country's,
Thy God's and truth's; then, if thou fall'st,
Thou fall'st a blessed martyr.