Chapter 6 The Noonday Prayer Revival
I. Prologue to
II. Panic of 1857
III. And This
is the Record
Fulton Street Meetings
Other New York Meetings
Remarkable Results on American Christianity
The Awakening to the Uttermost Parts of the World
X. The Civil War
A. Whose side is
to the Soldiers
C. Revival in the
Who on The Lord's Side
The Presidents: Davis and Lincoln
The third great revival in American history began in years
1857-58. Timothy Smith called 1858 Annus Mirabilis or Year
Miraculous. The striking characteristic of the event was the
emphasis on prayer and especially the prayers of the lay people.
Revival historian J. Edwin Orr called it, "the most thorough
and most wholesome movement ever known in the Christian Church."
The crowds became so overwhelming that the secular press printed
daily reports on the "revival news" of the day.
The revival was attached to the Old Dutch Church on Fulton
Street in New York City. However, the meetings were held in
churches, theaters, shops, and any public building that would
handle the crowds. Before the New Year it had spread across the
nation. It continued through the Civil War years and afterward.
The revival even touched five of the six populated continents
five years after it started.
While scholars debated whether revivals were the sovereign
work of God alone or as Finney taught that there were new "means
and measures" available for revival, the religious veterans
recalled the previous events of the century. Then, they agreed
that this awakening was a distinctive outpouring of the Holy
Spirit like the Second Great Awakening.
Moreover, it was not the work of any one great man or great
preacher. Many of the early meetings were initiated by laymen and
businessmen. Only Jeremiah Lanphier, a neighborhood missionary at
the Fulton Street Church, was ascribed much recognition from the
movement. Thus it was determined to be clearly a work of grace,
and as Beardsley wrote, "This divine visitation,
providential in its character, was emphatically a lay-revival."
Furthermore, the event had none of the emotionalism of earlier
awakenings. The physical actions and sounds of the camp meeting
days seldom occurred in the United States during this time. The
original intent of the prayer meetings was to have a brief time
with God, a quiet spiritual respite from the day's work, and a
silence to "wait on The Lord." Consequently, order
reigned and emotional excesses were strikingly absent.
Finally, the most unique feature of the noonday prayer revival
was the "unsectarian character of the work."
Denominational differences were put aside. The demands for pew
space and meeting sites were so great that "union"
prayer meetings became the norm. The only standard to avoid
controversy was the Word of God. It was almost a businesslike
procedure. Call the meeting to order, read Scripture, maybe sing,
but pray and keep it limited to five minutes, and make it
intercessory prayer. Any preaching was secondary. There was a
preference to just hear testimonies. In the end the churches
gained an estimated at one million converts in a two year period.
I. Prologue To Renewal
During the dozen years before the Revival of 1857 the economic
conditions did not seem to foreshadow the event. The pride of
manifest destiny only wetted the American appetite for
territories. The government was willing to spend $10 million
dollars for the barren Gadsden Purchase just so a railroad could
reach Southern California. The height of vanity was the
disgraceful proposal called the Ostend Manifesto which demanded
that Spain sell us Cuba lest we take it by force. Even rumors of
Americans taking over Nicaragua implied that the obvious goal was
a southward extension to gain slave states.
The 49-ers gold rush added an abundance of money to the
prosperous economy. With the rapid material expansion of the 1850's
the decade was titled "The Businessman's Peace."
Manufacturing almost doubled, farm production did double, and
railroad mileage more than tripled. Although the gandydancers
were trying to tie the nation together east and west, the slavery
issue was threatening to split it apart North and South.
On the surface the unprecedented financial and commercial
prosperity made New York City look like a golden gateway of
opportunity. Manhattan grew from 515,000 to 800,000 during the
mid-century decade of the 50's. Immigrants were pouring through
its portals at a rate of 200,000 annually. It was a world port
leaving Boston and Philadelphia in its wake. The assets of their
banks were estimated at $200,000,000 in their vaults. Even the
commuter flight to uptown was taking form, and the rich began
displaying their impressive wealth around the marble-faced
But, a cancer of filth, crime, disease, and vagrancy was
eating at the older downtown neighborhoods and the water front
sections. The poor became poorer in the tenement districts. The
Lower East side averaged seventeen families per three-story
dwelling. By 1850 public officials estimated that three thousand
vagrant children lived on the streets, and most were girls who
survived through prostitution. The alarming mortality rate of one
death for every twenty-nine New Yorkers was double that of London.
Infant deaths tolls were sadly high taking seven of every ten
immigrant children under age two. Cholera epidemics germinated
from the city's pollution in 1849 and again in 1854. Public
health services existed nominally through charities.
The paradigm of New York's urban crime and poverty was in the
area known as Five Points within view of the shops of Broadway
and a short walk from Wall Street. As early as the 1830's no
respectable person could walk through Five Points. It was a
paradox that the onetime neighborhood hub was still called
Paradise Square. As early as the 1820's over a dozen City
Missions operated to minister to the dispossessed of society. By
1850 the best known and most influential was the Five Points
House of Industry. It was founded by Louis Pease, their first
missionary, and the volunteer work of the praying Methodist women.
The mission enrolled 15,593 children in the period 1855-65.
Similar circumstances prevailed throughout the declining
downtown Manhattan area. Business shops and warehouses invaded
the once comfortable residential streets. The population shifted
from middle-class families to immigrants and submerged classes.
The church attendance was only a trace of the former days. It
became apparent that the downtown churches faced the dilemma of
leaving for better pastures uptown, or shepherding their weaker
brothers in the deteriorating neighborhoods. For decades the
Christian community had been troubled by the conflict between
spending their money to propagate the gospel in foreign places or
sending home missionaries to the unchurched in the destitute
areas of their own society.
II. Panic of 1857:
In the Fall of 1857 the boom period ended with the third panic
in American history. After the railroad construction, the land
speculation, the manufacturing growth, and the Western wheat
growth, a banking panic shocked the public and converged on the
New York City financial institutions.
On August 30th the bubble burst with the failure of the Ohio
Life Insurance Co. and their branch bank in New York City. Other
banks called in loans and suspended credit. When the New Haven
Railroad failed, fear spread throughout the City. By mid-September
twenty-nine banks had failed in New York City alone. Interest
rates rose to five-percent per month. With money tight factories
closed and 10,000 NYC workers lost manufacturing jobs.
The scenario was repeated in other eastern cities like
Philadelphia and Boston. Without credit the crop harvests of the
West could not be shipped. Financial ruin spread throughout the
nation's business sector. Only the South's cotton industry
survived and even prospered since cotton was over one-half of the
nation's exports. Their success further antagonized the Northern
animosity toward slavery.
By mid-October unemployment was 40,000 in New York. The number
were high in Philadelphia and Boston, too. On Oct 14th the
nation's banking system collapsed. The Bank of New York, the
city's oldest and strongest bank, failed with 17 other leading
banks. The other banks in New York City closed for two months
from mid-October to mid-December.
The mayor of New York began relief measures by purchasing
flour and selling it at cost. He hoped that public works projects
like grading the streets, the Central Park, and the Reservoir
would stimulate the economy. With winter approaching despair set
in. Businessmen committed suicide. The middle-class began moving
into tenement sections, and the hungry mobs marched on Wall
Street to demand that they circulate the millions of dollars they
were hoarding their vaults.
In December the economic experts were saying that the panic
was totally unjustified. The banks had enough money on hand to
meet any withdrawal run on their deposits. The Secretary of the
US Treasury stated that New York banks had never been sounder.
Then, what caused the mass hysteria? Why the money crisis? Had
rumors lead to ruin?
Historians and economic analysts always like the boom-to-bust
cycle for an explanation. Naturally, over-speculation is another
popular accusation to blame. Another cause is the unsound banking
practices which had little federal monitoring. Tariffs and limits
on money and credit are always criteria for depressions, too.
Even the lack of opportunity for the poor is used as a
However, our forefathers in earlier generations and not just
church leaders had an opinion that the panic had a Divine Hand of
retribution because of the idolatry of money. Samuel I. Prime,
editor of the New York Observer, wrote that the panic was "a
judgment." He, along with other contemporaries, found the
cause in a lust for mammon accompanying the Gold Rush and the
rapid industrialization. Twenty year later C. L. Thompson wrote
"We were becoming a people without God in the world. In His
providence the greed of gain was preparing its own remedy. A
financial crash that shook all the monetary centers fell upon us."
In J. Edwin Orr's posthumous book The Event of the Century, he
boldly argued that the panic was not a cause of the prayer
revival. The strongest argument to refute the "bank-panic
revival" title was the timetable of events. On the day of
the crash Oct 14th only about 100 participated in the prayer
meeting. There was no dramatic increase in attendance during the
crisis which ended on December 15th. But it must be noted that
there was a vast multiplication of the Fulton Street meetings
during the two month crisis. In January, 1858 excitement had
spread across the nation and the press began reporting a "Businessman's
III. And This is
By the time of the Noonday Prayer Revival America was old
enough to have a sense of history. James Smithson had bequeath an
endowment to start collecting the antiques of US history in the
Capital. Church leaders were aware that this event was an
awakening, and they were diligent enough to chronicle the event.
Even the secular newspapers provided many reports that still
exist today on microfilm.
One eyewitness report was made by Rev. Dr. Talbot W. Chambers,
one of the pastors at the Reformed North Dutch Church on Fulton
Street in New York City. He was commissioned by the church board
to write any authentic information about the origin and history
of "The Noon Prayer Meeting." It was completed November
Samuel Irenaeus Prime was the chief editor of the daily New
York Observer. He was one of the first to report the revival. He
published twenty-five revival sermons by the city's most
prominent preachers with the title: The New York Pulpit in the
Revival of 1858. In 1859 he summarized the events in The Power of
Prayer, Illustrated in the Wonderful Displays of Divine Grace at
the Fulton Street and Other Meetings.
Another contemporary writer was William C. Conant, who
detailed the events at the height of the revival. His Narratives
of Remarkable Conversions and Revival Incidents was published at
the end of April in 1858.
James Gordon Bennett, a pioneer of yellow press journalism and
the head of the New York Herald, began exploiting the revival
news in February of 1858. His rival Horace Greeley, editor of the
New York Tribune, began competing for the awakening news, too. In
April Greeley devoted one entire special issue to the movement He
even had reporters race on horseback from meeting to meeting for
attendance totals. Because of development of the telegraph, the
rotary press, and the new unified reporting of the Associated
Press in the 1840's newspapers had the ability to report the news
nationwide. Most newspapers printed notices of the meetings and
the results. Even the telegraph companies allowed "saints"
to send free telegrams to their "sinner" friends urging
them to be converted. Although the secular press preferred to
report the YMCA activities rather than the church news, the
nation knew about this "Great Revival."
Every church denominations had publications that listed the
revival news town-by-town and meeting-by-meeting. Even lists of
the names of the converts were written in the secular and
religious circulation's. Many individuals kept a record of the
happening, and even Jeremiah Lanphier had a personal journal of
The noonday prayer revival was clearly more than anything else
a revival of the laymen in the church. The most famous name that
was connected with the revival was a laymen at the Fulton Street
Church Jeremiah Lanphier. He was employed as a lay-missionary by
the North Dutch Church. His ministry was to the unchurched of the
city and to enlist their attendance.
He was born at Coxsackie, New York in 1809. He was engaged in
the mercantile business in New York City for 20 years. In 1842 he
made a public confession of faith in Christ at the Broadway
Tabernacle which was built for Finney. He became a member of the
Nineteenth Street Presbyterian Church and was taught by Pastor
James Waddel Alexander from 1850 until Mr. Lanphier's call to the
Fulton Street church.
Dr. Chambers found an eastern journal that described Lanphier
as "tall, with a pleasant face, an affectionate manner, and
indomitable energy and perseverance; a good singer, gifted in
prayer and exhortation, a welcome guest to any house, shrewd and
endowed with much tact and common sense."
He began his duties on July 1, 1857. His first effort was to
canvas the wards in Lower Manhattan, and to use a house-to-house
visitation system. He prepared a handout with a brief history of
the church, a description of the services, and a salvation tract.
He organized boys' clubs and Sunday School classes for the youth,
but the poor stayed away from the church with its better dressed
congregation. His efforts faced difficulty and discouragement;
however, he found great comfort in a daily communion with God in
prayer. His prayer was, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"
As he observed the business people during their lunch hour,
Lanphier became burdened by the uneasy looks of indifference and
emptiness. He conceived the idea of a mid-day spiritual
refreshment from their daily routine. A church committee approved
his prayer meeting during the lunch hour that one could visit for
any amount of time for five minutes or up to an hour. Then he
solicited the hotels, shops, factories, mercantile establishment,
and as well as the residential homes. He prepared this handbill:
How Often Shall I Pray? As often as the language of prayer is
in my heart; as often as I see my need of help; as often as I
feel the power of temptation; as often as I am made sensible of
any spiritual declension, or feel the aggression of a worldly,
earthly spirit...In prayer, we leave the business of time for
that of eternity, and intercourse with men for intercourse with
On the other side of the handout, Jeremiah Lanphier announced
A day of Prayer-Meeting is held every Wednesday from 12 to 1
o'clock in the Consistory building in the rear of the North Dutch
Church, corner of Fulton and William Streets. This meeting is
intended to give merchants, mechanics, clerks, strangers and
businessmen generally an opportunity to stop and call on God amid
the perplexities incident to their respective avocations. It will
continue for one hour; but it is also designed for those who find
it inconvenient to remain more than 5 or 10 minutes, as well as
for those who can spare a whole hour. Necessary interruption will
be slight, because anticipated. Those in haste often expediate
their business engagements by halting to lift their voices to the
throne of grace in humble, grateful prayer. Mr. Lanphier set the
very first meeting for noon September 23rd in the lecture room on
the third floor of the Consistory Building of the North Reformed
Protestant Dutch Church.
V. The Fulton
On the first Wednesday at noon Jeremiah Lanphier prayed alone
for the first half hour. At 12:30 he was joined by the first
attendant and by the end of the first hour six men had attended
the prayer meeting. The following week twenty prayed together,
and by the third week almost 40 attended. They decided to pray
daily at the Fulton Street Church.
The following rules were posted by Mr. Lanphier: BE PROMPT.
Commencing precisely at Twelve O'clock. The Leader is not
expected to exceed ten minutes in opening the meeting 1st. Open
the meeting by reading and singing 3-5 verses of a hymn. 2nd.
Prayer. 3rd. Read a portion of the Scripture. 4th. Say the
meeting is now open for prayers and exhortations, observing
particularly the rules overhear inviting brethren from abroad to
take part in the services 5th. Read but one of two requests at a
time-REQUIRING a prayer to follow- such prayer to have special
reference to the same. 6th. In case of any suggestions or
propositions by any person, say this is simply a Prayer Meeting,
and that they are out of order, and call on some brother to pray.
7th. Give out the closing hymn five minutes before one o'clock.
Request the Benediction from a Clergyman, if one be present.
The mode of worship was the same in all meetings. Lanphier's
rules prevailed. The leader sounded a bell, and the meeting began
in a serious, solemn businesslike manner. If anyone prayed or
testified more than five minutes another bell rang. It was mostly
impromptu, spontaneous, or what is called in church circles a
moving of the Holy Spirit. The participants ranged from
businessmen to clerks and from the young to gray-haired.
Distinctions between sects and between clergymen and laymen were
ignored. No controversial subjects like water baptism or slavery
were to be discussed. As the size of the daily meetings grew week
by week, all classes of people began to participate. At first
only men attended but after several weeks women began showing up
for prayer, too.
By the second month a second lecture room in the Consistory
Building had to be opened. By the mid-January the Fulton Street
meetings had to use all three of the lecture rooms in the
building. By February the jam packed meetings at Fulton Street
had a daily attendance of around seven hundred. It should be
noted that on the day of the Bank Crash October 14th only about
100 attended the prayer meeting. Their zenith in the spring
supports Orr's Panic-Revival conclusions.
A notable and unanticipated result of the Prayer Meetings was
the conversions to faith in Christ. As a fervent increase in
intercessory prayer took place, the requests, and needs, and
burdens led to the salvation issue. Suddenly laymen began sharing
their faith on the streets and in the door-to-door visitations.
Then the written and oral requests at the prayer meetings
included the names of unsaved friends and relatives. Joyfully the
testimonies of conversions followed.
VI. The New
York Meetings Expand:
While the Fulton Street Church was the original prayer
meeting, many others duplicated the pattern. At about the same
time the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn started a daily prayer
meeting. By the next spring New York had twenty such meetings and
Brooklyn had about a dozen. The other Dutch Reform churches, the
Presbyterian, the Congregational, and the Methodist Episcopal
churches opened their doors to the crowds in the hundreds.
When overflow crowds created such a demand for space, prayer
meetings were held in stores, fire and police departments, the
YMCA, the Free Academy, Music Hall, and even theaters. Burton's
Theater on Chambers Street in the heart of the commercial
district had the largest crowds. On March 17, 1858 Rev. Henry
Ward Beecher preached to a crowd of 3,000 at Burton's. A corp of
fifty prominent clergymen including Beecher, Theodore Cuyler, and
Robert M. Hatfield were available for stirring sermons at any
time and place. Every church and public hall was filled by the
Finally, everything shutdown from 11 to 2 over the noon hour
because of the lack of business with so many attending the prayer
meetings. Also, the times had to be expanded with church bells
ringing at 8 AM, 12, and again at 6 PM. Prayer was in vogue.
Religion was the topic of conversation everywhere. During the
spring months estimates placed the daily attendance at 10,000. As
usually happens in revivals, famous people profess conversion to
faith in Christ. In March during the Lenten season a famous prize-fighter
Orville Gardner announced his conversion. His notoriety in the
ring had earned him the title "Awful Gardner." After
his conversion at a Methodist prayer meeting, he left the city to
convert his brother. When he returned, he gave his testimony at
several meeting and the city was buzzing about this famous
transformation. He was training three fighters at the time, and
he vowed to meet all them again for a spiritual reason. At the
height of the revival it was estimated the conversions were
running 50,000 a week throughout the city.
Although the awakening was emphatically a lay-movement, about
a hundred evangelical clergymen met to discuss Sabbath-breaking.
The chairman was Dr. Gardner Spring, who was the pastor at the
Brick Presbyterian Church for 63 years. They met at Spingler
Institute and called for enforcement of the statutes on Sunday
observances. The targets were such Sunday businesses as saloons,
German amusements of music and beer drinking, and risqué
sporting events. There were reports that three to four thousand
would show up to view and to bet on the Sunday afternoon trotting
races on Harlem Lane.
By the Easter season the meetings were six months old and the
event was now being called "The Great Revival." Even
the secular press recognized the extra-ordinary moving of the
Holy Spirit. The New York Times called this "the most
remarkable movement since the Reformation" especially since
no revival machinery or revival-preacher was connected to the
religious excitement. But, the best was yet to come for the
awakening was not limited to New York.
VII The Awakening
The only American city comparable to New York with a port for
immigrants, and over a half million population, and with almost
300 churches was Philadelphia. The revival quickly spread to
America's second city, and it followed the same pattern.
John Bliss, a young member of the YMCA, attended the Fulton
Street meetings. When he returned, he purposed that they do the
same in Philadelphia. On November 23, 1857, a noonday prayer
rally was inaugurated at the Union Methodist Episcopal Church.
During the winter, the eminent Methodist revivalist Rev. James
Caughey conducted as series of meetings and more than 500 persons
were converted. By the March Jayne's Hall, a theater on Chestnut
and in the heart of the business district, was drawing crowds of
over 3,000. When a meeting overflowed to nearby buildings,
Philadelphia claimed the "world's largest prayer meeting."
One of the most powerful and prominent speakers at Jayne's
Hall was Rev. Dudley A. Tyng, a young Episcopalian minister. His
untimely death in April resulted in many conversions. On his
deathbed he inspired a friend Rev. George Duffield to write a
song about the standing room only crowds, when he said, "Tell
the men to stand up for Jesus."
Early in May a big tent was purchased for two thousand dollars.
The next four months of tent services drew a total audience of
150,000 people; and the city of Philadelphia reaped a harvest of
ten thousand conversions.
Everywhere reports were the same. A moving in the fall,
excitement during the winter, and by March an explosion of
religious activity. At first it was only for prayers, then the
conversions followed. The stirring in the hearts of people was
clearly and without a doubt providential in origin. The Baptists
were on fire so much during the winter that they cut holes in the
frozen Mohawk River and they baptized the converts in the cold
The divine influence touched cities and villages. It was hard
to find a place that was not moved by God's grace. William C.
Conant's computations revealed revival in 88 towns in Maine, 40
in New Hampshire, 39 in Vermont, and 147 in Massachusetts. It was
said that there were entire New England towns in which scarcely
an unconverted person could be found. Even Boston was awakened
with large crowds, intense prayer, and fruitful conversions.
The best view of the widespread movement of the Spirit on the
nation was at a Charles Finney meeting in Boston. A gentleman
testified, "I am from Omaha, in Nebraska. On my journey East
I have found a continuous Prayer meeting all the way. We call it
two thousand miles from Omaha to Boston; and here was a prayer
meeting about two thousand miles in extent."
In Pittsburgh the Presbyterians set aside the first Sabbath of
the new year for revival preaching, and the first Thursday as a
day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer. Cincinnati did the same.
In Chicago the Metropolitan Theater was crowded daily with two
thousand people for prayer. By May of 1858 most of the businesses
simply closed for "the Hour of Prayer" because of the
lack of customers. Methodist Bishop McIlvaine at the Ohio
Convention said, "I have no doubt 'whence it cometh'....it
is 'the Lord's doing." Timothy Smith recorded that "There were numerous
revivals in schools, the most spectacular being in Cleveland, where all
but two boys (in the Cleveland public schools) experienced conversion."
The awakening in the Northern states
was the same with a long list of cities and towns with
conversions and a growth in church memberships.
The only place not powerfully touched by the revival in the
early years was the South. Although a two year drought and
epidemics hit Southern California, when the evangelists came the
seats were empty, and the church bells did not toll. The revival
did not touch the South until the Civil War with the exception of
the slave population. Reports came along the Underground Railroad
of the revival among the "colored" in Maryland,
Virginia, and the Carolinas. The estimates were that the black
Methodists tripled during the revival years.
One glorious movement was in Charlestown, South Carolina under
the preaching of Presbyterian Pastor Dr. John L. Girardeau. His
congregation was mainly what he called "brothers in black."
After special prayer meetings he preached to overflow crowds of 1,500
to 2,000 blacks and whites in the nightly audiences even past
midnight. The eight-week period was in his words, "the
greatest event of his ministry."
Another phenomenal outpouring was among the youth in the YMCA
movement and the college campuses. The Young Men's Christian
Association first appeared in the US in Boston in 1851 and spread
to other large cities. It had an evangelical goal to win young
men to Christ. During the Awakening of 1858 the YMCA did a great
work in visiting 20,000 persons. Also, the organization spread
nationwide to over 50 college campuses.
Historians have failed to mention the awakening on the college
campuses. J. Edwin Orr said that nearly every Protestant college
in every part of the nation was moved by the revival. It was a
result of the special "days of prayer" at the colleges.
No visiting evangelist or visiting clergyman initiated the campus
movement. From the prayer meetings there was a manifestation of
repentance, confession, and restitution. College historian
Frederick Rudolph noticed the college awakenings in the north,
south, and west in 1858.
The Remarkable Results on American Christianity:
The most remarkable result of the Awakening of 1858 was the
tremendous influence and practice of prayer. E.M. Bounds, who
wrote eight books on prayer, said, "The great movements of
God have their origin and energy in and were shaped by prayers of
men. Prayer has directly to deal with God." The revival was
started by prayers, grew because of prayers, and more than
anything else it was glorified by common Christians praising and
interceding with God. No wonder this is called the purest and
simplest revival in history.
The second major impact was the spiritual refreshment of the
laity and not just their prayers, but their aggressive witnessing.
W.A. Candler said it best, "The revival of 1858 inaugurated
in some sense the era of lay work in American Christianity...the
layman's day fully dawned on all the churches. No new doctrine
was brought forward, but a new agency was brought to bear in
spreading the old truth through the efforts of men who, if they
could not interpret the Scriptures with precision or train souls
to perfection, could at least help inquiring sinners to find the
Lord by relating how they themselves had found Him."
Candler, also, continued, "Since Christianity is a
religion of experience, this lay element was a power in the 1st
Century church...but it dropped out of the church when
Christianity, ceasing to be an experience, was practiced only as
a pompous system of priest-craft or taught as an abtuse
philosophy of religion. It now returned in the regeneration of a
The laymen found themselves useful not only in evangelism, but
in service, too. The two movements that provided opportunities
for the laity were the YMCA and the Sunday School. The YMCA
became a wing of the church that provided recreational and
religious functions for the members. The Sunday School movement
many lay people a chance to practice discipleship. The two young
Sunday School teachers, who became famous were Dwight L. Moody in
Chicago and John Wanamaker in Philadelphia. In the 1860's the
laity, also, had an opportunity to serve in the US Christian
Commission and the US Sanitary Commission during the Civil War.
There were many other opportunities like: missions and
philanthropic agencies to the poor, needy, and helpless. The
greatest lesson of the revival was that the work of the church
was not committed to the clergy alone.
The immediate impact on the church was the growth in new
members. The standard estimate by church historians was one
million over the two years of the revival. The mainstream
denominations such as the Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and
German congregations all reported increases around 20 percent
The church was, also, impacted by the spirit of fellowship in
the "union" prayer meetings. Unlike other revivals
there were no splits or denominational schisms in this awakening.
At the Anniversary Service of the Fulton Street meeting in 1858
there was a unanimous agreement that "unity in evangelism
had routed sectarian controversy." From this time forward
the unique spirit of cooperation grew in the revivalism campaigns
and in the social action activities.
The meetings were not just inspired by the fervent prayers,
but singing was an important part of their worship, too. Many new
songs were added to the hymnals. Anna Warner wrote "Jesus
Loves Me, this I know" in 1858. The Charlotte Elliott hymn
of contrition "Just As I Am" was written in 1836, but
it became popular during this era. The great song writer Fanny
Crosby began writing hymns during this awakening. A Negro
Spiritual "Let us break bread together on our knees,"
became part of communion during this time. Other new hymns
included: "What a friend we have in Jesus," and "He
leadth me! O blessed thought," and Duffield's "Stand
Up, stand up for Jesus.
While calm and control reigned in the awakening, the emotion
and sincerity was deep. It lasted for more than a generation.
Forty years later L. W. Bacon wrote, "Looking backward, it
is for us to raise the question how the church could have passed
through the decade of the sixties without the spiritual
reinforcement that came to it amid the pentecostal scenes of the
1857 and 1858."
IX. The Awakening to the Uttermost parts of the World:
This awakening had the most immediate worldwide impact of any
religious event to that date in history. Every continent was in
some way touched by the movement. The pattern of earnest prayer
reached heretofore little known areas, and their reports returned
with praise and rejoicing of how the Holy Spirit was moving
around the globe. When the news of the Great Revival in America
was heard, many secluded places met for special prayer to
intercede with The Almighty for a similar blessing in their
region. With the expansion of the press and the short-lived
Atlantic cable of 1858, the formative capacity for a world watch
carried information back to the church and their missionary
headquarters. Consequently, the body of Christ was encouraged
with every bit of information. Nevertheless, historians did not
fully realize the revival's widespread influence until the 20th
Almost simultaneous to the Fulton Street meetings, Canada
experienced a revival in 1857. Methodist evangelists Walter and
Phoebe Palmer reported a number of extraordinary conversions in
Hamilton which is now Ontario. Originally the movement occurred
in the Methodist Episcopal Church and at their camp meetings, but
by 1858 "union" prayer meetings with large crowds
attracted intercessors across denominational lines.
When the cable news of the North American revivals reached the
United Kingdom, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland sent a
delegation to observe the Fulton Street meetings. When a revival
broke out in Ulster in 1859, it duplicated some of the physical
manifestations of the Kentucky events earlier in the century.
Prostration's, the jerks, and mass conversions took place during
prayer and preaching meetings. By the time the revival spread
throughout the country 100,000 converts were added to St.
The religious news from America started a similar awakening in
Wales. By 1860 the revival spread to Scotland and England. Every
place experienced crowded prayer meetings, the conviction of sin
and repentance, and a noticeable decrease in crime and vice.
Evangelists like the Palmers were invited in the British Isles.
William and Catherine Booth of Salvation Army fame began their
ministry. Britain's most popular evangelist Henry Grattan
Guinness preached to 20,000 from the top of a cab in Ulster. The
United Kingdom had an estimated one million converts during the
Awakening of 1859-60.
On the continent of Europe the Ulster and American revivals
attracted interest particularly in the evangelical Protestant
churches. Strong vibrations took place in Scandanavian countries
and occasional outbreaks were experienced in Germany and Russia.
However, the oldest Christian churches, such as the Roman
Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Russian Orthodox bodies, maintained
their traditional ways and experienced little influence from the
The Revival's most immediate impact around the world was the
rejuvenation the missionary stations and mission boards. As
prayer increased, missionaries hoped for a movement of the Holy
Spirit. In South Africa it happened with the Zula and Banta
tribesmen. The Dutch Reformed Church, which was already an
evangelical body, prayed that they would experience what had
happened at Fulton Street. The chapels at mission stations were
crowded. Outbreaks even occurred among the Xhosa speaking people
and the Methodist groups.
The smallest continent Australia had a mid-century gold rush
at Victoria, and the population increased to a million people by
1860. Victoria and New South Wales experienced the same revival
as New York and America. When reports came from Ulster and the
United Kingdom, the awakening spread to Melbourne and other
locations around the country. Similar outbreaks spread to
Tasmania and New Zealand. Prayers, conversions, and church growth
took place throughout the region.
The revival flowed around the Pacific. In the1860's Hawaii,
Tonga, and Fiji all beheld revivals in religion and prayer. The
most stirring reports came from Ponape where the remarkable
presence of the Holy Spirit moved in all night prayer meetings.
Miraculously, a pioneer Christian work took place in the Muslim
strongholds of the East Indies' islands.
In Asia the Prayer Awakening sent a new impetus to mission
fields that continued through the next two decades. India was
blessed with some of the greatest missionaries of the century
like George Bowen, William Taylor, J.M. Thoburn, John Clough, and
others. Although small in proportion to the population, where the
converts were in tens they became hundreds and where they were in
hundreds they became thousands. In China the great work of J.
Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission was founded during
this time. For the small pockets of Christians throughout the
continent this was a refreshing period of grace. Only Japan and
Korea were not reached during the awakening.
The continent least impacted by the awakening was South
America. An inaugural Protestant missions work was introduced in
Mexico, Brazil, Panama, Columbia, Chile, and Panama. A most
phenomenal revival did break out in Jamaica. Some of the
manifestations included prostration's and tremblings. The prayer,
conviction of sin, and repentance resulted in a decrease in
drunkenness and couples living in sin. The only other revival in
the region was among the recently freed slaves of the British
The 1857-58 movement continued its influence for 40 years to
the end of the century. It opened a door for the large scale
evangelists, the most notable being Dwight L. Moody. It resulted
in missionaries on every continent. All the churches were
strengthened. While there was no cleavage among the Christian
denominations, it was said that a spirit of reunion appeared for
the first time since the Reformation. Laymen and volunteers were
given a chance to serve in organizations like the YMCA, the Civil
War commissions, and the postwar social reform societies.
J. Edwin Orr called his book of the revival The Event of the
Century. Most of the writers have used every word in the
thesaurus to describe this amazing, wonderful, glorious work of
God. In the final analyst there was an agreement that the revival
was a sovereign and mysterious increase from God.
X. The Civil War:
The American Civil War is the most detailed in US history, and
was the first photographed war in the history of the world.
Abraham Lincoln has kindled more biographies than any other US
President, and some say the most since Shakespeare and Jesus. The
era has been interpreted and revised, and re-interpreted by each
The first popular viewpoint was that the South's secession was
a states right issue over the question of nullifying the
Constitution. The Lincoln response was clearly to save the Union.
Initially, the opponents considered the struggle as a battle
between the armies of rebellion and the armies of invasion. But
when it was over, both sides ended up seeing Lincoln as the
martyr and savior of the Union.
A second opinion for the War between the States was the
slavery question. Although abolition did not seem to be an
original purpose, free soil and the containment of slavery was
clearly a Republican goal. After emancipation occurred, President
Lincoln and the abolitionists, particularly the Boston voices of
Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and the Unitarians, all received the
major accolades for the manumission.
By the 1880's the memoirs of the soldiers and politicians
began appearing. The mutual respect on each side resulted in
biographies and battle plans that glorified their generals, and
particularly the Lee-Jackson team and the President. This second
generation of historians developed what was called the "nationalist"
tradition. Their conciliatory approach said that both sides were
right. And that neither side could give in and they remained true
to their causes.
In the early 20th Century historians like Charles Beard viewed
the war as a collision of two different ways of life. The
economic factors of the industrial North against the agricultural
South were used to explain the difference. The war was regarded
as an enviable, sectional conflict between two different ways of
life. This approach was called the "Second American
By the time a second World War broke out and a lasting peace
had failed, historians came up with the revision that blamed
blundering leaders for needless wars. Consequently, the
abolitionists were perceived as religious fanatics, and the
slaveholders were jealous aristocrats, who refused to adjust
their way of life.
Another revision that took place in the 1930's recognized the
less regarded abolitionists. The evangelical wing of the Tappans
and the Finney followers like Weld and the Grimke sisters were
given their just praise for their emancipation efforts.
The civil rights movement of the 1960's changed some other
opinions about the period. The contribution of nearly 200,000
former slaves to the Northern cause was finally well documented,
and they given some of their well deserved glory. However, on the
other side of the revision, Lincoln was not viewed as a hero.
Since his Emancipation Proclamation did not free a single, Union
or border state slave, he was discredited for using the document
as a means to keep the cotton-buying British out of the war, and
to recruit slaves from the Confederacy.
Lately, another criticism of the textbooks and one Civil War
presentation, is the de-emphasis on Christianity during the war.
Kevin A. Miller, the editor of Christian History, said of the Ken
Burns series The Civil War which was viewed by over 12 million on
PBS, "As great as that series was, however, it often
overlooked one of the most significant aspects of the war.
A. Whose side is God
When the war broke out both sides sought to justify how their
position was in "the will of God." Pulpits on each side
announced, "God is with us." Each found biblical
support for their holy and righteous cause. They petitioned the
same God for His divine blessing on their efforts. Clearly godly
men with sincere convictions fought on each side of the war.
While Lincoln called slavery "a national sin," General
Robert E. Lee, who had freed his slaves, fought for the South. At
the same time General Stonewall Jackson, who kept his slaves,
financed and taught the Negro Sunday School class in Lexington,
Both governments appointed chaplains. Even though the
Confederate constitution had more religious references that the
US Constitution, both Presidents set aside days for fasting and
humiliation and prayer. Many lay at peace on their deathbed
trusting in their Savior for their eternal reward. The "Fighting
Presbyterian" General Jackson calmly told his wife, "I
always wanted to die on a Sunday." The flamboyant cavalry
officer JEB Stuart with Jefferson Davis by his deathbed wanted
someone to sing "Rock of Ages, cleft for me."
In the final analysis the best words may have been spoken in
Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address when he said, "Both read
the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His
aid against the other...The prayers of both could not be
answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty
has His own purposes......so still it must be said, 'the
judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous." It is still
a paradox of efforts today, and perhaps William J. Wolf's title
"The Almost Chosen People" is after all the best
description of our nation.
B. Ministry to
During the four bloody years of the war two philanthropic
organizations made efforts for the temporal and spiritual care of
the soldiers. The US Sanitary Commission began in the Summer of
1861 under the inspiration of a Unitarian minister Henry W.
Bellows. The US Christian Commission began at a YMCA meeting in
November of 1861 with Philadelphia banker George H. Stuart as the
chairman. It was said that he financed the "ambassadors for
The Sanitary Commission with its hundreds of advisory agents
dealt with the problems of sanitation, drainage, preventative
medicine, diet, rest, and hospital management. They were
primarily concerned with the health, comfort, and morale of the
troops. The commission spent nearly five million dollars for the
humane care of the soldiers. Henry Commager called the
organization - a combination of the YMCA, Red Cross, and the USO.
Nevertheless, the death rate from wounds and sickness was four to
one compared to deaths on the battlefields. After the war they
united their efforts with Clara Barton's campaign to form the
American Red Cross.
When the war broke out, Henry Ward Beecher warned that the
military camps were full of carelessness and rudeness, of
idleness and intemperance. The Christian Commission was formed as
an evangelistic-social service agency to serve the Union soldiers
in the camps, on the battlefields, and in the hospitals. Their
efforts were aimed at winning souls through practical social
The USCC had 4,859 volunteers or "delegates." They
helped the military chaplains especially with the distribution of
spiritual reading materials. The agents passed out 1,466,748
Scriptures, 1,370,953 hymnbooks, over 8 million books, 18 million
newspapers, and 30 million religious tracts. They held 136,650
religious services. They wrote over 90,000 letters to relatives
of the soldiers. Countless men and women referred to their work
as "the experience of a lifetime." The Commission's
entire work was organized by executive secretary William E.
Boardman, a Presbyterian minister and a famous devotional writer.
The War Departments of the Union and Confederate governments
authorized one ordained and denominationally certified chaplain
per regiment with the rank of a private. More than thirteen
hundred ministers and clergymen served in the camps. The
Methodist churches provide the most chaplains with nearly 500 in
the North and over a hundred in the South. The major activity was
the evening prayer service which was usually held in a tent. The
Christian Commission tried to hold a meeting at every post every
night of the week during the winter and summer. After a delegate
gave a short testimony an informal hour of exhortation,
testimonies, and prayer concluded the service. Usually overflow
crowds attended in all kinds of weather. The 1858 Revival
practice of cold water baptisms continued during the war.
The concern for the soldiers increased the charitable efforts
of the older organizations. The American Bible and Tract society
published fifty million pages during the war, and so did the
Evangelical Tract Society of Petersburg, Virginia. The YMCA
raised funds for their ministry to the troops. Many Northern
cities founded the Freedman relief societies to aid the former
slaves. Every denomination and church experienced a dramatic rise
in charitable giving. The war produced a philantrophic revolution
through the nation. In early 1864 Linus P. Brockett published an
estimate that all the wartime giving to date totaled $212 million
in the North alone. A new era of social concern and public
participation was born in these times.
C. Revival in the
Any early optimism of a quick settlement by the Fall or
Christmas was dispelled with the Confederate victory at First
Manassas or the First Battle of Bull Run. The usual military camp
life of boredom, homesickness, and irreligious practices
prevailed. Profanity, gambling, drunkenness, sexual
licentiousness, and petty thievery tempted every soldier. Sunday
worship was only nominally practiced. However, that was the
reality of most armies in history with some exceptions like
Cromwell's New Model army and the camp of George Washington.
Each year the war dragged on and the death rates mounted from
the modern firepower of the new weapons. Also, the discouragement
grew. In 1862 casualties rates were almost 25,000 at Shiloh, and
over 25,000 at Antietam. It became a war of attrition. The North
could not win it, and the South refused to lose it. The decisive
battles at Vicksburg, Gettysburg, and Chattanooga in 1863 only
heightened the resolve on each side. However, hope and help was
found in both camps because of the most prominent religious
revival in the world's military history.
Over the winter of 1863-64 The Union Army of the Potomac
experienced great religious excitement. One reporter thought that
their piety might "win the whole nation to Christ."
Meanwhile the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was moved by
the "Great Revival." It was estimated the 7,000
soldiers or about 10 percent of Lee's army was converted to
Christ. Throughout the South army chapels were built by every
brigade. Morning and evening prayer meetings were held. If
evangelical speakers were not present, soldiers got up and
testified about "Peace with God." The plea was not Blue
against Gray, but "Who is on The Lord's side?"
Although Grant's offensive in 1864 interrupted the revival,
conversions reached a peak by the next summer, and they continued
until Appomattox. The chaplain of the Army of Northern Virginia J.
William Jones, a Baptist minister, estimated that 150,000 were
converted in Lee's Army alone. His renowned eyewitness account
Christ in the Camp, or Religion in Lee's Army was published in
1888. It began with the revivals during the war and then,
chronicled the postwar growth in the churches.
William W. Bennett, author of A Narrative of the Great Revival
Which Prevailed in the Southern Armies, estimated that one-third
of all soldiers in the field were men of prayer and members of
some Christian Church. F.G. Beardsley quoted a chaplain who said,
"modern history presents no example of an army so nearly
The impression was that the revival was more fervent in the
Confederate armies. Even President Lincoln was quoted as saying,
"The rebel soldiers are praying with a great deal more
earnestness, I fear, than our own troops, are expecting God to
favor their side." However, steadfast US Christian
Commission reports of conversions in the hundreds flowed from
many Federal camps as many evangelists like D.L. Moody preached
to the Union troops. The best estimates of conversions in the
Union forces place the figure between 100,000 and 200,000 men -
about 5-10 percent of all individuals engaged in the conflict. In
the final analysis the most common figure is 300,000 conversions
in both armies during the Civil War.
D. Who's Who
on The Lord's Side:
No war in American history has so many famous people, who were
also notable Christians. Politicians, generals, and of course
chaplains earned a reputation for their religion. Several great
works by chaplains still remain famous today. E.M. Bounds was a
Methodist Episcopal pastor, who served as a Confederate chaplain
under J.B.Hood. His eight books on prayer were not published
until the 20th Century, but still he leads the bestseller's list
of Christian books today.
The classic reports on the Civil War revivals in the military
were by J. William Jones on Lee's army and William W. Bennett,
who headed the Methodist Soldier's Tract Association. Bennett
surmised that the willingness for revival in the Confederate
armies was due to their cultural homogeneity. Many who served
together were boyhood friends, and their regiments had a hometown
and neighborhood atmosphere. Prayer meetings were just like being
home, only the war created greater spiritual needs.
Dr. John L. Girardeau of Charlestown's Black revival fame was
evenmore endeared after serving as a South Carolina chaplain. At
the end of the war he was released from a prisoner of-war camp.
When he returned home, his Black parishioners hoisted him on
their shoulders and paraded him through the streets.
Sidney Ahlstrom wrote in a wonderful description that "Chaplains
performed heroic duties in many circumstances, in battle and
behind the lines, and won countless tributes for their services
to the sick, the wounded, and the dying. As in no other American
war, they also carried on their preaching ministries with
astounding success, as their great revivals won many converts
even among the highest ranking officers. In these revivals as
well as their pastoral work and many other tasks, the chaplains
were often joined by clergy of the locality."
Of the Civil War generals none was a more respected Christian
than Robert E. Lee. He was an Episcopalian all his life. He was
called "the ultimate gentleman." He graduated second in
his class at West Point, and he was Lincoln's first choice to
lead the Union Army of the Potomac. He was a daily Bible reader
and a man of prayer, who disliked tobacco and hated whiskey. He
was praised by many even beyond his lifetime, but his description
of self was "nothing but a sinner, trusting in Christ alone
for salvation." After the war he was President of Washington
(and Lee) College in Lexington, Virginia until his death in 1870.
Lee's great right arm was Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson
known as the "Fighting Presbyterian." He was converted
to Christianity during the Mexican War and baptized at age 25 as
an Episcopalian. The VMI professor was also a teacher of the
Negro Sunday School in Lexington, Virginia. His military prowess
was even studied by 20th Century general, but he ordered his
chaplains to hold thanksgiving services after every victory. He
was accidentally shot by his own men at the battle of
Chancellorsville, and he died Sunday May 10, 1963.
Lee's chief artillery officer was William Pendleton. At the
first battle of Bull Run he named his four guns: Matthew, Mark,
Luke, and John. His orders were "While we will kill their
bodies, may the Lord have mercy on their sinful souls- FIRE!"
He served throughout the entire war. After the war he served as
pastor of Lee's church Grace Church in Lexington, Virginia.
A Confederate major-general Leondias Polk was a West Point
classmate of Jefferson Davis, and the first Episcopal bishop of
Louisiana. During the campaign around Chattanooga he was called
to General Hood's headquarters. He baptized the one-legged
general with water from horse bucket in a midnight ceremony. He,
also, baptized General's Hardee and Joseph E. Johnston. The
"bishop-general" was killed by a cannonball in 1864.
William Rosecrans was a devout Catholic. Although he was known
for drinking and much swearing, he attended Mass everyday. He
refused to have his army fight on Sunday, and it cost him a
decisive victory at Murfreesboro
Manytimes the officers like Lee and Jackson were leaders at
the prayer meetings. The Confederate camps were called "a
school for Christ." Braxton Bragg, R. H. Anderson, Ewell,
Baylor, Paxton, Pender, Rodes, E. Kirby Smith, and many others
were known for their faith, too. Stonewall Jackson's chief of
staff R.L. Dabney was an ordained Presbyterian minister.
However, the Union side was not without its Christian officers.
The first Commander-in-chief of the Union troops was George
McClellan was a new convert to Christianity just before the war.
He ordered that the Sabbath be observed throughout the Union Army.
However, he was removed after four month because of his
overcautious command decisions.
The Union commander at Fort Sumter Robert Anderson wrote a
clergyman, "Were it not for my firm reliance and trust in
our Heavenly Father, I could not but be disheartened, but I feel
that I am here in the performance of a solemn duty, and am
assured that He, who has shielded me when Death claimed his
victims all around me, will not desert me now. Pray for me and my
little band-I feel assured that the prayer will be heard."
When Anderson surrender the Federal Arsenal at Charlestown, he
wrote his wife, "Praise be to God for His merciful kindness
to us. I think that the whole country North and South should
thank Him for this step." Little did he foresee the coming
The most widely known Christian soldier on the Union side was
Oliver Otis Howard. The general was called "Old Prayer Book"
by his troops. He never smoked, drank, or swore, and he spoke at
many chapel services. When he spoke of his love for The Savior at
Cleveland, Tennessee before the Battle of Kenesaw Mountain,
eighty-three inquirers came forward. Christian commission members
and soldiers spoke of General Howard's impressive faith.
After the war he was the head of the Freedman's Bureau, and
the Black university in Washington DC bears his name. He was
chairman of the American Tract society and Superintendent of West
Point. In 1869 he started the practice of giving every incoming
cadet a Bible. The tradition still continues today.
Another Union general Lew Wallace is better known as a postwar
author. While he was writing an argument against the religion, he
converted to Christianity. The work resulted in his famous book
One of the memorable phrases of the war came from the
Secretary of the US Treasury Salmon Portland Chase. He selected
the motto "In God We Trust" which was first minted on
the 2-cent coin in 1864.
He was raised by his uncle, who was the Episcopal bishop of
Ohio. In his diary almost every entry refers to a Bible verse and
his prayers. When he joined the church in 1830 he wrote, "By
conviction I am a Christian.....I think cordially and gratefully
assents to the plan of salvation through free grace in Christ
Jesus." His strong faith enabled him to persevere through
the deaths of three wives and four children.
Presidents: Davis and Lincoln
The Civil War produced many parallels and comparisons between
the men and the battles, but one match that is always scrutinized
is the two Presidents: Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln.
Jefferson Davis' life like Lincoln was influenced by a
Kentucky childhood. Davis was born a year early in Fairview,
Kentucky and less than a hundred miles from Lincoln's birthplace.
The Davis residence was a double log cabin only slightly better
than Lincoln's home. Although he was raised on a Mississippi
cotton plantation, his Baptist father decided to send the eight-year
old Jefferson to a Dominican Catholic school near Bardstown,
Kentucky. During this time he nearly professed a Catholic faith,
and he maintained a lifetime respect for the Roman Catholic
Church. His college days were spent at Transylvania (Kentucky),
the most prestigious college west of the Appalachians. By his own
admission Jefferson like his namesake, the third President,
developed a critical attitude on religion, and he displayed a
quiet thoughtful approach to faith.
In 1824 Jefferson entered the Military Academy at West Point,
and Leonidas Polk was one of his best friends. Both were
influenced by the Episcopal Chaplain Charles McIlvaine. While
Polk came to faith in Christ, Davis recorded numerous demerits
for his absence from the chapel services and remained unconverted.
Nevertheless, the Episcopal Church remained an influence. His two
wives were both Episcopal members. His first wife was Zachary
Taylor's daughter, who died of malaria three months after their
marriage. Davis' mother, also, joined the Episcopal church after
Jefferson Davis did not become a church member, although he
attended regularly with his second wife Varina. One letter
revealed that she admonished him for his profanity, but he
developed into an aloft, honorable, aristocratic gentlemen. He,
also, became a successful planter with slaves on an a 800-acre
plantation called Brierfield. Unlike many planters, he did not
promote religion among his slaves.
After a military career that included the Black Hawk and
Mexican Wars, he engaged in politics as a congressman and an
influential cabinet official under Franklin Pierce. Although he
spoke against disunion as a US Senator, he was chosen as the
first and only President of the Confederate States of America. .
During the Civil War times in Richmond he sat under the
preaching of Dr. Charles Minnegerode, the rector at St. Paul's
Episcopal Church. Varina Davis confided to the pastor that her
husband was thinking about church membership. After some
discussion Jefferson Davis was baptized in a home ceremony on a
Sunday in May of 1862. He was confirmed and joined the church.
His wife observed that "a peace which passed understanding"
had seemed to settle in her husband's heart. On one occasion she
discovered him in his study on his knees in prayer.
In an effort to prevent Catholic immigrants from joining the
Union forces Davis dispatched a diplomat to Pope Pius IX. He hope
that The Pontiff could intervene for peace. The Pope sent a
personal letter in his own handwriting addressed to "The
Illustrious and Honorable Jefferson Davis, President of the
Confederate States of America." The letter resulted in a
claim that The Pope was the only foreign sovereign to recognize
The Confederacy and its President. As for the immigrant
enlistment's, they did slightly decline.
As President of the Confederacy Davis declared days of fasting
and prayer. In his speeches he made some reference to Providence
and God's guidance. He was criticized for putting the first Jew,
the brains of The Confederacy, Judah P. Benjamin in a major
government post. By comparison he did not deal with people as
well as Lincoln. In the end he was blamed for losing the "cause"
by fighting mainly a defensive war.
After the war he was imprisoned for two years in Fort Monroe
for treason. During that period it was said that his main
consolations were reading the Bible and smoking his pipe. After
he was released on bail he traveled abroad, served as President
of a life insurance company, and wrote his version of the
Confederate government. He died of bronchitis in 1889, and J.
William Jones wrote that "He never ceased trying to come up
to his baptismal vows and to lead a Christian life."
Unfortunately for Jefferson Davis, his evaluation is pale when he
is measured against Abraham Lincoln, but most of the US
Presidents are, too. However, for Lincoln, he has the widest
range of admirers and critics. The single most confusing issue
about the beloved and berated President is his religion. He is
called everything from a "biblical Christian" by
William J. Wolf to an "unbeliever" and an "infidel"
by his junior law partner William Herndon.
After his birth in 1809 he lived in Kentucky, Indiana, and
Illinois, and he was influenced by the Baptists and Methodists
during the Second Great Awakening. His parents were married by a
circuit-riding Methodist preacher, and they joined a Baptist
church where his dad was a moderator and trustee in the church.
Abraham grew up in the frontier fundamentalist faith. His
education came from reading the Bible, John Bunyan's Pilgrims
Progress, and Aesop's Fables. He read them over and over,
especially the Bible.
Although he attended many churches, he never joined one. The
critics are quick to point out that Lincoln is the only US
President, who did not have a church membership. He was never
baptized either, but many religious groups from the Catholics and
Friends to the Universalists and Spiritualists claimed him as one
of their own. President Lincoln's Pastor Dr. Phineas Gurley said
that Lincoln was going to make a public confession of faith in
Christ and be baptized at the Presbyterian Church on Easter
Sunday 1865. However, the martyred President died on that
One widely reported event on Lincoln's religion was during the
1846 Congressional campaign against his opponent the Methodist
evangelist Peter Cartwright. The preacher ask "all who do
not wish to go to hell will stand." Everyone stood except
Abraham Lincoln. Then Cartwright said, "May I inquire of
you, Mr. Lincoln, where you are going?"
Lincoln replied, "I came here as a respectful listener. I
did not know that I was to be singled out by Brother Cartwright.
I believe in treating religious matters with due solemnity. I
admit that the questions propounded by Brother Cartwright are of
great difference. I did not feel called upon to answer as the
rest did. Brother Cartwright asks me directly where I am going. I
desire to reply with equal directness: I am going to Congress."
His prophesy was correct, but his single term as a Whig
Congressman was ended by the "spot fever" over the
initial invasion of the Mexican War.
Lincoln's religious reputation was fostered by his Bible
expertise as evidenced in his speeches, letters, and quotations.
Most speeches contain some reference to God or His will. William
J. Wolf counted thirty-three different ways that Lincoln referred
to God, however he rarely used the name Jesus. He, also, alluded
to many places in the Bible which proved his wide knowledge of
the Old and New Testaments. In his Second Inaugural Address he
included verses from Genesis, Psalms, and the Gospel of Matthew.
He continually used a favorite phrase from Psalm 19:9 "the
judgments of the Lord are true and righteous."
Secondly, his daily practice of kneeling for morning prayers
in the White House was verified by clergymen and associates. His
conviction and praise for an answered prayer resulted in the
Emancipation Proclamation. Treasury Secretary Chase repeated
Lincoln's pledge concerning the Battle of Antietam, "I made
a solemn vow before God, that if General Lee was driven back from
Pennsylvania, I would crown the result by the declaration of
freedom to the slaves."
Not only did he pray but, he, also, called the nation to
prayer with proclamations in every year of his Presidency. His
first of four national Fast day was August 12, 1861. He, also,
called for a day of Thanksgiving on April 10, 1862. Our modern
Thanksgiving come from President Lincoln's proclamation to set
aside the last Thursday of November as a day for prayer to "fervently
implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds
of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent
with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace,
harmony, tranquillity, and union." On the day of Lee's
surrender, President Lincoln even invited his cabinet to kneel in
an hour of a silent prayer of thanksgiving.
No American President faced the trials and deaths as did
President Lincoln. During the Civil War his country suffered
through 600,000 deaths. In his personal life his mother Nancy
Hanks died when he was nine. His 19 year-old girl friend Anne
Rutledge died during their courtship. His sister Sarah died
shortly after his marriage to Mary Todd. Then two of their sons
died: Edward in 1850 and Willie in 1862. Fuller and Green, the
authors of God in The White House, said of President Lincoln,
"he ripened through the whole course of his life into the
profoundest religious spirit that ever occupied the White House."
Dr. James Smith, Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of
Springfield, handled little Eddie's funeral service. Mr. and Mrs.
Lincoln continued to regularly attend Rev. Smith's church for the
next eight years. When he became President, Lincoln respected Dr.
Smith enough to appoint him as consul to Scotland. Rev. Smith
called Lincoln a "converted Christian."
William J. Wolf, who wrote one of the best books on Lincoln's
religion, gave this summary, "Lincoln won his way to ever
deeper levels of faith in response to family suffering and
national tragedy. His religion was not static, but dynamic in its
Shortly before his death an Illinois clergyman asked Lincoln,
"Do you love Jesus?" President Lincoln replied: "When
I left Springfield I asked the people to pray for me. I was not a
Christian. When I buried my son, the severest trial of my life, I
was not a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg and saw the
graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated
myself to Christ. Yes, I do love. Jesus."
The bibliography on Lincoln literature runs into the thousands.
Was he a Christian? His Pastors like: Smith, Gurley, and Father
Chiniquy say, "Yes!" Biographers like: Wolf, Johnston,
and many others say, "Yes!" Many friends and associates
join the chorus to say, "Yes!"
However, if the words of his mouth come from the meditations
of his heart, we can only agree that there is no greater proof of
his faith when he calls for a post-war nation "with malice
toward none; with charity for all; firmness in the right as God
gives us to see the right.....let us bind up the nation's wounds."
No better words for Christian conduct were ever spoken by a US
While numerous Christians have held influential positions and
been involved in important decisions and directions for this
country, Rev. William E. Barton has made one of the most
phenomenal claims. There is no doubt about the family
relationships of George Washington and Robert E. Lee. They were
even born in the same county. Dr. Barton claimed that Lincoln's
mother Nancy Hanks was the grand-daughter of Lucy (Nancy) Lee of
Virginia, thus making Lincoln and Lee distant cousins. It may
well be that the same family (the Lee's) produced all three of these great Christian
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