To the Churches composing the Philadelphia Baptist Association:
DEAR BRETHREN: - In the providence of God we are called upon to serve him in trying times. A gigantic rebellion has arisen, and its adherents have levied war upon our lawful Government. In order to maintain its just authority, and to defend its very existence, the Government has been compelled to accept the war thus wickedly thrust upon it, and to call upon every citizen to rally to its support. For eighteen sad months the war has now been in progress; and the end is not yet. The discipline of our God has been upon us. Let us strive to improve thereby. He has laid upon us his rod with repeated chastisement. “Let us hear the rod and him who hath appointed it.” It is our earnest desire that the followers of our Lord may learn the lesson that God in his wisdom is now teaching. It has seemed good to us, therefore, the messengers of the churches assembled in the name of our Lord, to present to you a few themes for our meditation, a few hints for your guidance in this hour of trial.
We would call your attention to some of the teachings of the Holy Spirit. And we trust that our words will not be found either unacceptable or void of profit to those who prize the Spirit's teachings, and are anxious to be found faithful in the discharge of every religious duty.
1. Permit us, brethren, to call your attention to a duty which the Holy Spirit enjoins on every Christian citizen - to offer up prayers and supplications for the Government under which he lives.
The Apostle Paul, in his letter of instructions to Timothy, gives specific directions on this important subject. He says: - “I exhort, therefore, that first of all supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty, for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.” 1 Timothy iii:1-3. This is generally admitted to be a special direction in regard to public prayer in the assemblies of the Church, making intercession! all in authority the first part of this sacred and important service. This peculiar prominence is said to have been given to prayer for rulers in order that the true disciples of Christ might be made manifest, being thus by their open
loyalty strikingly contrasted with certain sects of heretics who were distinguished for their seditious spirit, and by the restlessness with which they bore even the most necessary restraints of government. According to the Apostle Peter such existed in his field also, and they bore an exceedingly unlovely character. “They despise government; presumptuous are they; self-willed; they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities;” they also “speak evil of the things they understand not.” 2 Peter ii:10-12.
We would recommend, brethren, in the name of Him whose word is to be in all things our law, that at this trying period in our history special attention should be given to this injunction. Let every assembly for sacred worship unite first of all in humble, earnest, believing intercession for who are in authority. It is the Holy Ghost which has dictated the command, and has added the blessed assurance that “this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.” These last words were doubtless added for the encouragement of our faith. They give a just ground for confidence. For if such prayer be acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, then we have the best reason to believe that he will answer it. And if the prayer be answered, then those who are in authority will rule in the fear of God; they will administer the affairs of the government for the good of the people. The reward of such prayer will thus come down directly upon the suppliant to smooth his pathway and to brighten his lot. Where such prayer is universally offered, no mover of sedition, no champion of rebellion, no sympathizer with rebels will be found among the disciples of Christ. It will place their loyalty where it should be placed, in the clear, broad blaze of noon-day, obscured by no breath of suspicion, darkened by not even the shadow of a doubt.
If this one clear, forcible injunction be obeyed all other duties which the Christian citizen owes to the government of his country will be performed spontaneously and with cheerfulness. There will be a careful avoidance of that “speaking evil of dignities,” and that “speaking evil of the things they understand not,” which was the disgrace of the heretics of the Apostle's day. There will be a prompt and thorough support of the government in whatever way, or on whatever occasion the support of the citizen may be needed. There will be “tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom ; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” Romans xiii: 7. A heart prepared to join in such intercession as is commanded will fill out the whole circle of the citizen's duties, honorably in the eyes of men, and acceptably to God our Saviour.
2. We deem this also a fitting occasion to caution you, brethren, against the danger of sinking the Christian in the member of the political party; and to urge you to make the teachings of the Holy Spirit the supreme guide in your political judgment and action; to render carefułły to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar; but also to render to God the things that to God alone belong.
The “Father of his Country,” in his farewell address, took occasion to warn his countrymen “in the most solemn manner against the
baleful effects of the spirit of party.” It was not an unnecessary. warning. We see around us continually the proof of the wisdom of the last words of Washington. It has become a matter of common remark, that even a moral wrong, if it can only creep beneath the shelter of a party platform, will be sure to find its active and zealous supporters among Christian men. They range themselves under the party banner, and thus they feel themselves justified in defending everything which the party platform sanctions.
One of our venerable and experienced brethren* said a few years since - “Tell me that such a man is a member of any political party, and I can say how he will judge of political movements, and how he will vote. But the fact that such and such a man is a Christian gives me no such assurance.” He here admits, although with sorrow, that Christian men in general are more swayed in their decisions on public measures, by the platform of a party than by the laws of Christ.
These are sad statements, brethren, and we beseech you to strive that this reproach may be wiped away from the disciples of Christ. You are called upon to sit in judgment on public men and public measures, and your individual judgment will in its own degree shape the policy of the country for right or for wrong, for good or for evil. Let us strive always to follow the command of Christ, and to “judge righteous judgment.”
It is to be expected that in a country such as ours, what is false in theory and bad in morals will often strive to secure to itself so support by means of the organization of political parties. It is for you, brethren, to discern falsehood and wrong wherever found, and to resist them always, as faithful servants of the God of truth and righteousness. We would admonish you, therefore, in the name of our common Lord, to guard with sleepless care against the intrusion of party politics into the sacred domain of morals and religion. We exhort you to resist with steadfastness every attempt of unscrupulous party leaders to hoodwink the Christian judgment, to tamper with the Christian conscience, or to exalt a party platfrom [sic] into that place of authority which belongs alone to the law of God your Saviour. He is your only infallible guide. His will is your sovereign and perfect law. As faithful desciples [sic] ever be found sitting at his feet, learning in politics, as well as in morals and religion, what is his will, approving all that he has approved, condemning whatever he may condemn.
3. We would furthermore present for your consideration what the Holy Spirit has taught of the brotherhood of man, and urge a careful observance of all the duties that grow out of that common relationship. We are the more careful in this because of the systematic and labored efforts that have recently been made to prove that men are not all brethren descended from one common father; and from the fact that such erroneous doctrine is made the ground of practices
* The Rev. Francis Wayland, D. D.
abhorrent to natural justice, and opposed to the teachings of the sacred Scriptures.
The Holy Ghost has taught us that “God hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.” Acts xvii:26. Every man on all the face of the earth may therefore say to every other man, in the language of the prophet Malachi: “Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?” And when injustice is done may ask of the wrong doers, “Why do ye deal treacherously every man against his brother by profaning the covenant of our fathers?” Malachi ii:10.
We invite your attention to the teaching of the Holy Spirit on this subject because of its bearing on the duty of our country at this momentous crisis, when the foot-steps of the Most High are shaking terribly the earth, and presaging the speedy downfall of every structure that does not rest on the immutable foundations of justice and truth. It is peculiarily fitting that in this solemn crisis, we should seek earnestly for the mind and will of the Holy Ghost in regard to the millions of African blood, whose history has been so sadly connected with our national history, and whose destiny has become so fearfully blended with our national destiny.
We would urge you, as the followers of Christ, to close your ears to all the clamors of mere party passion, to rebuke as noisy impertinences, the sneers and jeers of selfish and ungodly men; and to take counsel alone of that God who is no respecter of persons, and who looks down with equal eye on all the habitations of the children of men. We ask of you to accept and to hold as true, all that the Holy Spirit has taught you in regard to the common brotherhood of the African, and to recognize as just, all that the Spirit demands for him, from his more highly favored brethren. It is easy to say that they have not yet attained to that degree of mental culture, and that social elevation which some of their many brethren have secured. The painful proofs of this are all around us; we need but open our eyes to be saddened as we gaze upon them, yet they who take occasion thence to thrust them further down to the level of the Gorilla or Baboon, do but insult their Maker and show their own most sad deficiency in those noble sentiments and generous sympathies which constitute the noblest attributes of man.
Do not you, brethren, because of his present low estate, suffer yourselves to cherish that proud and ungodly contempt, which is so often entertained for the negro by his brethren of lighter color and happier lot, nor ever be led by evil example to join in the unfeeling and bitter sneers that are so frequently flung upon him in his abject condition. This race seems to have been singled out from every other race for scorn and contempt. Yet large numbers of these despised ones are your brethren, by a common faith in Jesus Christ; all of them are brethren by a common descent from God, the Great Father of all. We entreat you, therefore, to show yourselves true brethren, born for adversity, ever ready to resist any addition to the heavy burden already heaped upon the negro; ever prompt with your protest against any prolongation of his wrongs, already long enough endured.
We have thus far spoken of the negro, only as a member of the African race, without any reference to that peculiarly sad condition in which four millions of them are this day placed in our land. Let us further beg of you to hear what the Holy Spirit has said to the slave in regard to the bondage in which he is held. That blessed Messenger of Peace has attempted to soothe the hard lot of the bondsman by consoling words where his bondage is unavoidable; but at the same time it speaks to him of a better condition which he is to enjoy if he possibly can. “Art thou called being a servant? (slave,) care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.” 1 Corinthians vii:21.
The Holy Ghost here teaches us, that in the judgment of Infinite Wisdom, the state of freedom is better than the state of bondage for the slave; and in this teaching bids us recognize this as the happy goal toward which the hand of Infinite Love and Infinite Power is leading him onward. How well then does it become you, brethren, who have been called by the grace of Christ, and are led by the Spirit of God to follow steadily its promptings. Do not fear the angry revilings of men who wickedly ignore the claims of the Holy Ghost in regard to the negro, and who steadfastly resist the plans of the Holy Ghost in regard to the slave. It has long been held as a reproach to cherish any active desires for universal emancipation. The real disgrace however, is to be found in that heartless apathy which would reproduce in our own day the sad sight on which the Royal Preacher once looked down. “So I returned and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun; I beheld the tears of such as are oppressed; but they had no comforter; and on the side of the oppressor there was power; but they had no comforter.” Ecclesiastes iv:1. The day is coming, however, and is even now at hand, when it will rather be a reproach to have failed to cherish in behalf of the bondman all those desires for freedom which the Holy Spirit has bid him to cherish for himself.
Let us learn, brethren, to watch the providence of God and to note the movements of his power. We shall find new proof of that faithful saying “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” The leaders of this rebellion, whose evils are now upon us, have avowed their determination to found, for the first time in the history of the world, a civil government upon the corner-stone of perpetual human bondage. The gigantic struggle which they have undertaken, resolves itself, therefore, into a mad and mighty effort to resist the plans and purposes of the Holy Ghost, which ever look to the breaking of every bond and to the bringing in of freedom for all the enslaved. But “Why do the heathen (the nations) rage and the people imagine a vain thing; the kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying let us break their bonds asunder and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh, the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then shall he speak to them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.” Psalm ii:1-5. It would seem that the very means which were chosen by man for the making of bondage perpetual,
are likely to work, in the hands of God, for the speedy freedom of the slave. War was invoked to make the freedom of the slave forever hopeless; and War is raising now his red right hand to smite the fetters from the slave, and make the bondman free. Truly “the Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth; the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. For the needy shall not always be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.” Psalm ix:16-18.
4. Let us now remind you of the pressing need for redoubled efforts and for increased prayer, that the cause of Christ may be fully sustained, and may be steadily advanced in your own respective churches.
We learn from the letters which have been borne to us by the messengers from the churches, that this is to them a season of unusual trial. The call of their country has taken away many of their laborers who have hitherto aided in bearing the burden and carrying forward the work of their respective churches. Yet while the number of laborers has been greatly reduced, there has been no corresponding diminution of the amount of work to be performed. Many a good cause that has been wont to be pushed with vigor, must be carried feebly forward, or be entirely abandoned, unless the laborers who are left gird themselves to do a double work, until the Lord of the Harvest in answer to their prayer shall send other laborers to aid them in the sacred and delightful tasks.
It is for you, brethren, who in the providence of God remain at home, to care with increasing solicitude, that the cause of the Lord in your own immediate vicinity shall be carried with unabated vigor onward. It will be necessary for many of you to increase greatly your ordinary labors in the church, the prayer meeting and the Sunday School. But do not fear to accept the additional burden, nor refuse to bear it at the call of your Lord. It may also be required of some of you for a season to give more largely of your substance than you have hitherto done. Do not forget that you are the stewards of the Lord; and aim to show yourselves prompt and faithful in responding to His call. Do not forget that special labor and special care bring always special rewards. God loves the faithful worker and the cheerful giver. To them, He promises, “The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth shall be also watered himself.” Proverbs xi:25.
It is also a season for you to look with peculiar earnestness unto the Lord, that the Spirit of his grace may be poured out from on high, that sinners may be converted unto Him. We look forward to the future of your churches with deep solicitude, yet with cheering hope. We trust that when you next come together by your chosen messengers, you may have many a joyful tale to tell of seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Most High, and of precious trophies gathered to the praise of the glory of the grace of Jesus Christ our Lord.
5. Let us also invite constant anxiety for those who have left your
own churches and congregations, as also for those who in the hour of their country's need, have responded to their country's call. In the camp they will be assailed by peculiar temptations; pray for them. On the battle-field they are exposed to wounds and death; invoke for them daily, the guardian care of Him who alone can cover their heads in the day of battle. They may languish long from disease or wounds, in our military hospitals, or in their own once happy homes; sympathize with them, and when necessary, succor them. Let the cry of the praying ones who remain at home ever ascend to God, that his Spirit may dwell in all our crowded camps; may visit each of our national ships as it sails the deep; and may hover over each hospital where brave men suffer and die.
Finally, as your eye looks forward over the years of the future, we beg of you to remember that it is only the hand of God that can guide us safely amid the dangers that darken about our pathway, and give to our country the blessings of righteousness and peace, and to the churches of Christ enlargement and prosperity. With an earnestness that is made more deep, because of the perilous scenes through which we are now passing, let each individual and national sin be confessed before the Lord, and let the unceasing cry go up to God for his mercy to be upon us, upon our land, and upon the people of his grace. May his mercy be ever our hope; his arm be our stay; and his counsels be always in all things our guide: “Happy is that people that is in such a case; yea happy is that people whose God is the Lord.” Psalm cvil:15.
Thomas Winter, Moderator.
Horatio G. Jones, Clerk.
[From Philadelphia Baptist Association Minutes, 1862, pp. 24-30; via U. of Chicago digital document. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
More Pennsylvania Baptist Circulars
Baptist History Homepage