A City Upon a Hill: How Sermons Changed the Course of American History

By Larry Witham

The phrases That Stirred a country

From colonial instances to the current, from Abraham Lincoln to Billy Graham, the sermon has been the dynamic medium in which the US conducts its most vital debates, motivating us to struggle wars in addition to struggle for peace and finally defining the process our historical past. A urban Upon a Hill tells the yankee tale via those robust phrases, exhibiting us at our best—and occasionally at our worst.

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The Gettysburg deal with and moment Inaugural gave the country a sacred reminiscence, conciliatory phrases of judgment, and of the nation’s maximum secular sermons. however, the struggle raged, and Lincoln used to be bent on overall victory. within the similar years that he composed such evocative prose, he additionally invented the scheme of overall struggle in the USA. In North and South, the clergy believed that God used to be in charge of earthly occasions. Victory and defeat left them to plumb the mysterious depths of the covenant of their reviews, prayers, and sermons. within the first years, northern ministers had the worst of it, for they struggled to provide an explanation for Union regress. on the finish of June 1862, a lengthier conflict flared back in Manassas, known as moment Bull Run. After common Robert E. Lee smashed the Union military there, his forces made their first lunge into Union territory. It seemed determined, even from far off Kansas. within the city of Leavenworth, James D. Liggett had simply develop into pastor of the 1st Congregationalist Church, which stood close to the river. in addition to analyzing newspaper studies, it used to be the easiest position to head for information of the warfare. A month after moment Bull Run, Liggett determined to evangelise on why the Union armies have been happening in defeat. yet his sermon, “Our nationwide Reverses,” may well purely be understood opposed to the political backdrop of the North within the first yr of the Civil battle. whilst warfare begun, either North and South denied that the clash was once over slavery. Abolitionism was once no longer common within the North, as A. L. Stone’s preaching at Park road Church in Boston confirmed. “It isn't an anti-slavery conflict we salary; now not a sectional conflict; no longer a conflict of conquest and subjugation,” he stated. “It was once easily and completely a struggle for the upkeep of the govt and the structure. ” For black clergy equivalent to Bishop Daniel A. Payne, the African Methodist Episcopal church’s guy in Washington, this northern outlook left blacks ambivalent. within the first yr of conflict, he stated, “the South was once earnestly invoking God opposed to the North, the North invoking God opposed to the South, and the blacks invoking God opposed to either! ”6 The North had its biblical warrants, in fact. Even Christ didn't insurgent opposed to the Romans, so how may the South insurrection? the yank Revolution used to be a sound rebel, for a colonial govt was once an absentee one, while the South had its voice in Washington, a countrywide govt “of divine authority,” as preachers within the North asserted. For the Kansas preacher Liggett, even though, this used to be a skinny ethical argument for conflict. So in his September 7, 1862, sermon—as Lee marched into the North—he got down to clarify northern defeats. 7 They got here as the North was once now not combating to finish slavery. “Our President has stated, and all his coverage has been, to maintain the nationwide lifestyles and slavery too, if he can,” he stated. yet slavery and the oppression of blacks was once the very sin that God used to be gazing. It used to be a sin even of the North, with discriminatory black codes and provides to ship slaves again to Africa. during this warfare, northern hearts appeared jam-packed with hatred and revenge, no longer a wish to correct wrongs.

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