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The Episcopal Church of Virginia on the Civil War Home Front
(Source: http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Religion_During_the_Civil_War)

Judith McGuire, a refugee from occupied Alexandria, attended St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond on the March 27, 1863, fast day. “The churches were all crowded with worshippers,” she reported, “who, I trust, felt their dependence on God in this great struggle.”

McGuire’s comments begin to show the extent to which Virginia’s and the Confederacy’s leaders succeeded in framing the Civil War as a religious struggle. …

White churchmen who believed that they were engaged in a holy war sometimes feared that Virginians might not be righteous enough to succeed. … Clerics tried to address this fatalistic turn of white Southern religiosity by arguing that God chastened his chosen people—and that suffering was thereby a sign of white Southerners’ special relationship with God, not of their pending defeat. In a widely published sermon in January 1865, Episcopalian Charles Minnigerode preached that “[t]he might and power which our enemies bring against us, are not the might and power of God’s spirit, we may be sure—except so far as they are permitted to chasten us for our sins and train us for the hardships of a godly warfare.”

The Rev. Charles Minnigerode DD preached that sermon at St. Paul’s Episcopal, Richmond on January 1, 1865. Richmond falls in April of 1865.

More from the sermon:

 Is it not want of faith, which is the root of all that murmuring against God’s providence, that impatience at delay and the frustration of our plans, that repining under the pressure of misfortunes and losses and reverses? of that hasty spirit which charges our losses upon others, and finds relief in censure and distrust? which acts upon the impulse of the moment and forms its conclusions from the passing events of the day, judges of the favour of God by a success and of his displeasure by a reverse? which allows itself to be tossed about by changes which meet us in our earthly life, and rushes with equal thoughtlessness or recklessness–now into presumption on the crest of a prosperous wave–again into utter despondency, aye sinks down in despair, when the billows rise above us and seem ready to swallow us up.

And instead of falling into despair, and giving up and sacrificing all in pusillanimity or personal spite, manly action, which meets the stern reality with courage and, in reliance on God’s help, and trusting to his mercy, begirts itself to the work before him, and redeems the time by using every lawful means and making every reasonable exertion to do his duty and accomplish his purpose. Such, I say, are the marks of the true man, of the Christian, of the believer; who shall not make haste, but persevere under trials and against difficulties till his work is done; and who can never fail–even though here on earth he should find no other triumph but the martyr’s crown.

This is the true lesson of life, the secret of our failure or success, our victory or defeat in the problem of our existence.  …

What is it that makes the present crisis so painful?

Our reverses? NO, BRETHREN. For great as they have been, (and no honest man would hide their extent,) we have had reverses before, and God always has blessed them to us, made them the source of greater harmony among ourselves, roused us to new and greater exertions, and taught us to bear them and repair them as men. What makes the present crisis so painful and so perilous lies not in what the enemy has done to us with his armies, but in what our own coward, faithless, selfish hearts may do. The all but general despondency, the lack of faith in ourselves and in God’s assistance, the haste with which, from want of faith, many would rush to this or that wild expedient, though at the sacrifice of all that first armed us to the battle, some perhaps at the sacrifice of honour and truth…

… Let us do our duty, be faithful in our work, and we can safely leave results with God! The might and power which our enemies bring against us, are not the might and power of God’s Spirit, we may be sure–except so far as they are permitted to chasten us for our sins and train us for the hardships of a godly warfare. Trust in his Spirit and in his might and gracious promises; and that trust shall buoy us up to do our part in the work of our deliverance and independence. Oh! when I recollect what others have done in the struggle for their liberty and existence, the sacrifices they have brought….

… How true are the words of the present Governor of South Carolina, when in his Inaugural he said: “Other nations, for lesser purposes, have striven longer, endured more than we have, and won for themselves imperishable honour. Let us not hesitate in our purpose, or falter in its execution.” Aye, Brethren, no nation ever gained its freedom without suffering; and had we time to refer to the facts of history, we could easily show how true it is that others have suffered more and struggled longer….

 There have been many whose great stimulant was not the principle of national freedom and the sacred cause of constitutional and inalienable rights, but the aspiration for wealth and power and a great new empire. But “pride goeth before a fall”–can we wonder that such a fall should overtake us? But shall we be cast down and not rather take it as a solemn, painful lesson to profit by, and be led to the true and only foundation of all right and hope and prosperity? Shall it be said of us, that “we begun to build and were not able to finish?’

The question resolves itself into this: Shall we be of the number of those who, in the crucible of affliction, were found wanting, and proved themselves unworthy of the prize they fought for? or, shall we be of those who, through trials and fiery persecution, endured and glorified God, and honoured themselves and blessed their country by remaining faithful, and in every danger proved themselves true men, brave men, Christian heroes?

Errors, grave errors have been committed, no doubt. Only let us acknowledge the hand of God even there, even in our failures; and let us remember that the great error, the great difficulty is in us, in ourselves, in our own faithless hearts, and sinful lives, and selfish fears, and hasty judgments; and oh! I do pray and hope that God will have mercy upon us, and give us better minds and stout hearts and unfailing faith, that shall not make haste, that shall win the prize. But if we fall, let us fall with our faces upward, our hearts turned to God, our hands in the work, our wounds in the breast, with blessings–not curses–upon our lips; and all is not lost! We have retained our honor, we have done our duty to the last, and lived and died as the servants of God, lived in faith and died in the hope of glory.

Emphasis added.

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