Documenting the American South Logo

God's Providence in War;
a Sermon:

Electronic Edition.

Rev. Joel W. Tucker

Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services
supported the electronic publication of this title.

Text scanned (OCR) by Christie Mawhinney
Images scanned by Christie Mawhinney
Text encoded by Joshua McKim and Natalia Smith
First edition, 1999
ca. 40K
Academic Affairs Library, UNC-CH
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,

Call number VCP252 T892G2 (North Carolina Collection, UNC-CH)

        The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-CH digitization project, Documenting the American South.
        Any hyphens occurring in line breaks have been removed, and the trailing part of a word has been joined to the preceding line.
        All quotation marks, em dashes and ampersand have been transcribed as entity references.
        All double right and left quotation marks are encoded as " and " respectively.
        All em dashes are encoded as --
        Spell-check and verification made against printed text using Author/Editor (SoftQuad) and Microsoft Word spell check programs.

Library of Congress Subject Headings, 21st edition, 1998

LC Subject Headings:


Title Page


On Friday, May 16th, 1862.


Page verso


FAYETTEVILLE, May 22nd, 1862.

REV. J. W. Tucker:

        Dear Sir:--Believing that the circulation of the Sermon delivered by you on the 16th inst., will prove highly beneficial to the cause in which our beloved Confederacy is now engaged, we respectfully request a copy for publication.

Very Respectfully,


FAYETTEVILLE,May 23rd, 1862.

        GENTLEMEN:--Your note, requesting for publication, a copy of the Sermon I delivered to my congregation on the 16th inst., is before me. In reply I would state, that if in your judgement its publication will in any way help us in the struggle in which we are now engaged, the manuscript is at your disposal.

Yours truly,


Messrs. G. W. I. GOLDSTON,
Page 3


"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things."
--Isaiah 45:7.

        We have met together in obedience to the proclamation of our beloved President, to supplicate the blessing of God upon our arms. Our Chief Magistrate in making this call to prayer, and this congregation in cheerfully responding to it, alike recognize the hand of God in the origin and progress of this conflict. As a christian people, we look not to fortune nor to accidents for help in this hour of our country's peril, but to the God of battles and of nations. The reason is apparent: If the teaching of the Bible, and the revelation of the christian religion be true, there is no such thing as fortune; there can be no accidents. An accident is an effect without a cause; fortune is an act or a series of acts, without an agent. But it is an axiom in Philosophy, and a first principle in all religion, that there can be no effect without a cause; no acts without responsible agents as their authors. What is generally regarded as accident and fortune, are those effects, the causes for which are unknown, and those acts, the agents producing which are unseen. But are we to conclude that because we are ignorant of the cause producing a certain class of effects, that therefore, they have no cause? or that as the agent in a certain series of actions is unknown to us, that they must of necessity be acts without an agent? We certainly cannot pretend that we know all the causes, and are acquainted with all the agents operating in God's vast empire. There can be then no such thing as fortune or accidents--everything is of providence and under the control of God. Every power in nature and man works for God. Every thing that [unclear] s comes to pass

Page 4

by the permission or the decree of God. All acts are provided for in God's plan and over-ruled by his providence, for the advancement of his glory and the well being of his people. It will not do to say that God cannot prevent men from acting as they do without destroying their moral agency, and that therefore, sin is in the world, not by the permission, but in defiance of all the perfections of God.

        We pray to God to prevent the wickedness of men, every day, without destroying their moral agency. Every prayer we address to God asking him to succour our friends in temptation; to bring them to repentance; to give our enemies better hearts and change their purposes of wickedness towards us, is a request for him to do the very thing that it is here assumed he cannot do.

        He certainly controls some men in perfect harmony with their moral liberty. Every good man is an illustration of this. He lives and acts under constant divine influences and attains his highest freedom under this divine control. If God may, and does thus control some men without infringing upon their moral agency, why may he not thus control all men? As every thing is either decreed or permitted by God, he certainly has a purpose in all he permits or decrees. No intelligent or rational being would act or permit others to act without a purpose. It is a mark of intelligence not to act without a motive or reason for acting. Whenever God, who is the supreme, the infinite intelligence, acts, in decreeing that others shall act, or in permitting them to act, he has a purpose for doing so.

        This being true, it is evident that God has a plan and a purpose in reference to all nations, revolutions and wars. All these things are brought about in accordance with the divine plan, and in fulfillment of the divine purpose, which was drafted in the mind of God before the world was called into being. He has a providence in all national revolutions. He directs, controls, governs and regulates them. They are made to subserve his purposes, to advance his glory, and to promote his cause.

        1st. This is clearly taught in the Bible--"Is there evil in the city and the Lord hath not done it. I form the light and create the darkness: I make peace and create evil: I the Lord do all these things." "All things work together for good to them that

Page 5

love God: to them who are the called according to his purpose."

        2d. Men have universally believed this. The heathen nations who have no revelation, and are therefore, guided alone by the light of nature and their own moral and spiritual intuitions, recognise God's providence in all social convulsions and national revolutions. They consult their oracles in reference to wars; they ask God to give them victory on the day of battle, and turn away from them the ruin of defeat. In the hour of victory they return unto him thanksgiving, and offer sacrifices in token of gratitude. Christian nations act under the influence of the same conviction, in appointing days of national humiliation, fasting and prayer for the blessing of God upon their arms. Is this universal faith without a foundation in truth? Does the race act under the influence of a falsehood? That which is universal is natural; that which is natural is divine--"The voice of nature is the voice of God."

        3d. Without this sort of divine control, there could be but little providential protection afforded us. It would afford us but little protection, to save us from the storm and tempest, the flame and the flood, pestilence and famine, and then turn us over without protection to the tender mercies of wicked men and devils. What sense of security could we have under God's providence, if it was confined to the material world, and the whole sphere of its operations was circumscribed to the domain of matter. God's providence is in this war. It must be so if he watches o'er the destiny of men and nations. It was the purpose of no party to bring on this war. All parties tried to prevent it. No one believes, that had all the slave States seceded at once, that there would have been any attempt at subjugation, coercion, or the reconstruction of the Union by force of arms. But the simultaneous secession of the whole South was the plan of the original secessionist. They advocated it as a peace measure; as the only measure that could secure permanent peace, and prevent a bloody war, either in or out of the Union. The war was not desired nor planed by the Union men, either North or South; they deprecated it; it was what they feared--the evil they labored long to prevent; they refused even to consider the question of secession, lest it should result in a bloody war. They pleaded and begged for a

Page 6

compromise, but it was unavailing. The very means they used to prevent it, was the very means that resulted in bringing it about. The manifestation of this strong union feeling confirmed Lincoln in his purpose to put down what he is pleased to term the rebellion by military power. This called forth his proclamation, and this proclamation brought on the war. The Black Republican party North did not desire war; they used all the power of the government to prevent, yet their efforts to prevent it kindled its baleful fires from the banks of the Potomac to the shores of the Rio Grande. In the South we should not criminate each other in regard to the origin, progress and rapid development of this conflict. We all labored, earnestly, honestly, to prevent it, yet that providence which "shapes our ends, roughhew them as we may," overruled these very means to bring it about for some wise purpose. We are in the midst of it, and we should all try, unitedly and earnestly, to fight through it. American society being what it was, no earthly power could have prevented it. God in his providence did not prevent it, though the whole American people earnestly prayed for him to do so. Though we cannot understand it, we cannot question that it is to answer some wise and benevolent purpose in the progressive development of God's great plan for the elevation of the nations and the salvation of the world. God is with us in this conflict; we think he is on our side in this struggle. We believe this, first, because our cause is just; we have acted and still act purely on the defensive; we have asked nothing but the rights secured to us in the constitution--the privilege of self-government Having failed to secure this in the Union, we proceeded to come out of it, either in the exercise of the natural right of revolution or the legal right of secession. I care not which you call it: whether natural or legal, it was identically the same sort of State action that took us out of the Union, that was used to place us in it. If it was a legal process when used to place us in the Union, it was equally a legal process when employed to take us out of it. We went in by Sovereign State action; we came out in the same way. Whether in doing this we exercised a natural or a legal right, or both, I care not. It was right if the privilege of self-government is right; and the

Page 7

conflict necessary to the defence of this action, is, as far as we are responsible for it, a righteous conflict. It is not of our seeking; we could not avoid it. It has been forced upon us. The fires of fanaticism had been slowly consuming the foundation of our government for years, until at last the nations of the earth were startled in horror by the throes of a political earthquake, that shook into ruins the proudest Temple of Liberty that the sun of heaven ever shone upon. We saw the war cloud as it began to rise slowly but surely; and we used every means in our power to arrest it. Statesmanship, compromise, legislation were all employed, but in vain. It at last covered our political sky with the blackness of darkness, and broke upon us in a fearful storm of fire and blood. Our cause is just, and God will defend the right. Second, God is on our side--is with us in this conflict-- because we have had reverses. "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye are without chastisement, then are ye bastards and not sons." The wise and affectionate father will punish, correct and chastise the children of his love for their good. This principle of the divine administration applies to nations as well as individuals. This must be so because the nation is constituted of individuals. God was evidently with his chosen--the people Israel; but he suffered them to endure the bondage of Egypt. He afterwards brought them out of Egypt with a high hand and an out-stretched arm; but he suffered them to meet with sad reverses in the wilderness. He was evidently with his own chosen nation--the Jews; but they were often defeated in battle by the armies of the surrounding nations.

        God has without question been with his church in every age of the world; but he has found it necessary to preserve his people with the salt, and purify them by the fires of persecution. God was with our Revolutionary fathers in their struggle for independence; but he suffered them often to be defeated in their seven years conflict with the mother country; but the eagle bird of Liberty gathered strength while rocked by the storms and tempests of a bloody Revolution. So, God has sent our reverses for our good. They were necessary to humble our pride; to stop our foolish and absurd boasting, and to make us

Page 8

feel the importance of the conflict in which we are engaged. They have tried our patriotism, and have shown to the nations of the earth that it is as pure as the gold which has been tried by the hammer and the fire. Third, Our victories indicate the presence of God with our armies in this conflict. Who can read the reports of the battles of Bethel, Bull Run, Manassas Plains, Ball's Bluff, Springfield, Shiloh and Williamsburg, without being convinced that God gave us the victory, and that to him we should render thanksgiving for the glorious triumph of our arms. Every soldier who moved amid the perils and dangers of these bloody conflicts, must feel that the "Lord of host is with us; and the God of Jacob is our refuge." Fourth, Another evidence that God is with us is seen in the remarkable preservation of the lives of our troops under circumstances of the greatest apparent danger. The bombardment of fort Sumter is a miracle and a mystery. The result can only be accounted for by admitting divine protection. Nor was God's protecting providence less evident in the bombardment of the forts of Hatteras, Port Royal, Roanoke Island and Number Ten, than it was in the result at Sumter. In every case there was employed the most formidable armament that the world has ever known, from which there was thrown into our forts a storm of shot and shell, without a parallel in the history of warfare. And yet, ah! mystery and miracle of providence! not fifty of our men were killed in all the engagements. So signally has God manifested his approbation of our cause by the protection of our troops under circumstances of the greatest peril, and most appalling danger, that it should make our whole people grateful to him as the great Giver of all good and the kind Preserver from all evil.

        We will close by a few practical remarks:

        1st. There is nothing in the present aspect of things, nor in the late reverses to our arms, to cause us to doubt our final success and ultimate victory. The loss of our cities and towns, on the sea-board and large rivers, is the natural result of going into this conflict without a navy; with a people that at present probably has the most formidable navy in the world. We have not had the time nor the material for the construction of a navy; but as ours is an agricultural, and not a manufacturing and commercial

Page 9

society, our strength and national vitality is not in our large cities, on the ocean, but in our rich and fertile fields in the interior These places are not our whole country; the loss of them is not the loss of our country, nor does it render our cause hopeless. We have got an army of five hundred thousand men in the field, well equipped, well drilled, well armed and constituted of as good fighting material as any in the world; an army that has never been whipped by the same number of men on any field; an army composed of the heroes of Bethel, Manassas, Ball's Bluff, Springfield, Shiloh and Newbern. Such an army in an open field and fair fight can never be vanquished. Then why should we fear? Doubt of success in a just cause with such an army, and the God of nations and of battles on our side! If, as a people, we deserve to be free, ultimate failure in such a cause and under such circumstances with such an ally, is impossible.

        2nd. We must have confidence in our government and in our army. There may have been errors in administration, but neither our President nor his cabinet profess to be infallible; they are but men--with all the infirmities of men. We should expect them to commit errors. We should not look for perfection. The fact is the government under all the circumstances, has been a remarkable success. The severe criticism in which we sometimes indulge, in regard to the action of our generals, and the valor of our troops, is irrational, unjust and ungrateful. We are incompetent to criticise the actions of our generals, for two reasons--

        First. We know nothing about the science or the art of war, therefore we should not give a criticism on a subject of which we are totally ignorant. But even if we had military talent, and military training and experience, we, at home know nothing of the circumstances and necessities under which they act. To form and express an opinion, disapproving their course, is to show our own ignorance, and to treat them with great injustice, by condemning them unheard. They understand it--we do not; they know the facts--we do not; they are responsible--we are not; they make the sacrifices, and face the dangers--we stay at home; therefore good sense, modesty, justice and gratitude

Page 10

should make us careful how we censure them. When Johnson evacuated Harper's Ferry, the whole country rang with complaints at the movement; but we now know that it was that movement that gave us the victory at Manassas When General Albert Sidney Johnson fell back from Bowling-Green and Nashville, the whole family of croakers were loud in their censure; but it was that movement that gave us the victory of Shiloh. Now with these facts before us, we should be careful how we complain of our government, our generals, and our troops. Judging of the present by the past, we should infer that the falling back from Yorktown, the evacuation of Norfolk, and the withdrawing our troops from New-Orleans, are movements of as much strategy as those which have been attended with such fine results. These men, with brave hearts and strong arms, stand as a wall of fire between the invading foe, and our homes, our property, and our loved ones; and for this we owe them a debt of eternal gratitude. Shall we repay their sacrifices for us and ours with a want of confidence?

        We should pray to God to give success to our cause, and triumph to our arms. God will defend the right. We may approach him then in full assurance of faith; with strong confidence that he will hear and answer and bless us. Prayer touches the nerve of Omnipotence; prayer moves the hand that moves the world; prayer is the rod in the hand of faith, that extracts the fiery curse from the burning bosom of the dark storm-cloud, and turns from our country and our homes the thunder-bolts of divine wrath. Prayer will convert darkness into light--our night into glorious day--our defeat into victory--our disasters into triumphs--our sorrow into joy--our weakness into strength --our feebleness into might.

        Our cause is sacred. It should ever be so in the eyes of all true men in the South. How can we doubt it, when we know it has been consecrated by a holy baptism of fire and blood. It has been rendered glorious by the martyr-like devotion of Johnson, McCulloch, Garnett, Bartow, Fisher, McKinney, and hundreds of others who have offered their lives as a sacrifice on the altar of their country's freedom.

        Soldiers of the South, be firm, be courageous, be brave; be

Page 11

faithful to your God, your country and yourselves, and you shall be invincible. Never forget that the patriot, like the christian, is immortal till his work is finished. You are fighting for every thing that is near and dear, and sacred to you as men, as christians and as patriots; for country, for home, for property, for the honor of mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, and loved ones. Your cause is the cause of God, of Christ, of humanity. It is a conflict of truth with error--of the Bible with Northern infidelity --of a pure christianity with Northern fanaticism--of liberty with despotism--of right with might. In such a cause victory is not with the greatest numbers, nor the heavest artillery, but with the good, the pure, the true, the noble, the brave. We are proud of you, and grateful to you for the victories of the past. We look to your valor and prowess, under the blessing of God, for the triumphs of the future. Then

                         "Strike till the last armed foe expires,
                         Strike for your altars and your fires,
                         Strike for the green graves of your sires;
                         God and your native land."

        Women of the South. We know your patriotism, your bravery, your nobleness of soul. It is not your privilege to fight. You can not move amidst the dangers, the perils, the blood and the carnage of the battle-field, beside your fathers, brothers, husbands and lovers. But you can do a work quite as important. You can gird them for the conflict, and with words, looks, glances and smiles, cheer them on to victory and to glory. Every letter you write them from home, should be filled with "thoughts that breath and words that burn," that will catch and kindle from man to man, and heart to heart, until all along our lines shall blaze with a martyr's courage and zeal for country and for home.

        You can also, by your fortitude, patience, courage and strength of spirit, shame into silence the fearful, trembling terror-stricken, craven-hearted men in our midst, who are constantly predicting our failure in the glorious struggle in which we are engaged. They absorb all the rays of light, and reflect none--they act as non-conductors in the social chain, that arrest the flow of the currents of patriotism through society--their influence is like the blighting frost upon the flowers. It blasts the hopes of

Page 12

the timid and chills the hearts of the desponding. By destroying confidence in the stability of our government, in the success of our arms, and the ultimate triumph of our cause, they prepare the way, to the extent of their influence, for the ruin of the country by the destruction of our credit and the depreciation of our currency. Wise men, if they cannot be made brave should be taught silence. They should not be suffered to do us harm by their cold comfort, and damn our cause by faint praise.

        You can also pray for God's blessing and protection on the loved ones who are absent. Every home should be a sanctuary--every dwelling a Bethel--every spot an altar, from which prayer should be offered for our country, and for our loved ones who are braving the dangers of the battle field for us, and all we hold dear.