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The Plagues of this Country
Christian Recorder: July 12, 1862
With the Civil War raging on, Turner equates the policies of Lincoln with the biblical plagues that fell on the Egyptians.
Keywords: Civil War, President Lincoln, William Miller, Theology
Mr. Editor:--There seems to be a very singular correspondence existing between the war in the United States and the Egyptian plagues. I suppose no one, in the face of so many evidences, will question the practicableness of the assertion, that this war is being waged through a providential for the benefit of some portion of discarded humanity. For the last two hundred years many of the most pious and learned theologians have been preaching that some dreadful calamity would take place among the inhabitants of the earth about the year 1866. And that this catastrophically condition of things would be very transitory in its duration, and afterwards the earth, being refined by the agencies of this universal disaster, should emerge forth in all the purity of Eden’s innocency.
These speculations are not yet at an end, though they had partially ceased to agitate the theological world till (William) Miller’s theory spread consternation through America and a part of Europe, by proclaiming that the world would end in 1844. When men of all grades and positions began to sift the Scriptures, either for the purpose of refuting or approving this theory; and strange to say that many of its most stern opposers sit down with every fiber of their soul prejudiced against it; but rose after an examination with favorable convictions. And since that time such gigantic minds as are possessed by Dr. Cross, of the Methodist Church, and Dr. (Joseph) Seiss, of the Lutheran Church in this country, in connexion (sic) with the immortal Drs.(George) Cummins and Elliot of England, (especially the latter’s Horse Apocalypse) have been organizing a grand galaxy of pre-millenarians, the works, argument, suggestions and sentiments of whom have been calling attention to some great issue just ahead. Though piles of infamy and derision have been heaped upon Miller and his theory, because he erred in his conclusions, so much so that all those who have not since looked at things in absolute contradiction to Miller, have been branded as a Millerite, yet my impression is that the world will yet see that Miller was not as big a fool as they supposed him.
Though Miller did certainly err in his assumption of fixed dates, and to precise definite periods, and there is where he lost his power. If Miller had took the grounds that Drs. Cumming and Cross did, by compiling his prophetic figures and chronological predictions to show that some great change in human affairs would soon take place, he would have retained a more durable influence, which would have diffused a spirit of inquiry among the common people of as great avidity as he did among the few learned.
But because there was not a literal fulfilment of his predicted statements, two-thirds of the people who even claimed to think, without ever examining or comparing his views with the prophetic bearing of sacred writ, began at once to pour forth their denunciatory tirades upon him, with about as much consistency as the Roman Inquisition did upon Galileo, for what with a little improvement was philosophically true. Now Miller saw, both from the indexes of prophecy and the prognostication of transpiring events, that the world was on the eve of some great mutation, which should rock nations and convulse societies in every human sphere. He saw that this dispensation of human affairs was fast receding, and that God was about to sever the distinctions which split the social order of humanity, by placing them upon a platform of more equality and unanimity. But the great error into which both Miller and others no less distinguished have fallen, is in attempting to define what this great consummation of things should be, which they thought the sin qua non, because every man being prone to think for himself who has mind enough to rise above the current of the fogyism of his day, have been actuated with a sufficiency of self-certainty to tell, so far as his own views extend, what this thing about to take place should be. Some have thought that the world was about to end, others that Christ was about to enthrone himself at Jerusalem and sway a scepter of universal righteousness, or that that God was about to purify the earth with fire, and afterwards to refit it for the habitation of his saints, etc.; but all agree that it is for the bettering of oppressed humanity. Now how far truth may corroborate with any of the above statements must be seen by future generations.
But that the King of heaven has been appealing to the hearts of men to get ready for some dreadful issue, I think is verified in the many ministers whom God has recently raised up, and books which have been sent out to warn us of some great fullness of time.
Three years ago the northern lights, which frescoed the heavens, were terrific in their appearance—that the skies would at times seem to be turning with blood, and the hearts of men in every direction falling, from the dreadful foreboding anticipations which agitate a criminal conscience. The free people of color in every direction were hunted and pursued as rabbits, and particularly in the slave States denounced as an offensive nuisance, while church conventions and conferences broke up in wild confusion, political assemblies, legislative and congressional bodies, ended in partisan strife. The atmosphere of human society seemed to be charged with sectional divisibility, and all avowed obligations which bound man to man appeared to be severed. And then to crown this hell-forged schism, Jeff Davis, elder brother to Pluto, was inaugurated in all his bestial vices to preside over a power organized for the purpose of crushing down the manliness of as loyal hearts as ever owed fealty to the God of heaven.
Abraham Lincoln and not Jeff Davis becomes the Pharaoh of the mystic Egypt (American slavery.) And however unwilling to comply with a dispensation of liberation, nature’s God calls from heaven, echoed to by five million of mystic Israelites, (subject slaves) in peals of vivid vengeance, let my people go. Moses and Aaron, in the garb of threats for the nation’s heart-blood, stand before the mystic Pharaoh with a demand endorsed by the purposed of God, for their redemption; but, being refused, a series of plagues begins, commencing at Fort Sumter.
A proclamation calling forth seventy-five thousand men, to protect an ensign which had long waved over an enslaved people, is issued; but with no contemplations of responding to Heaven’s demand.
The first plagues which staggered the nation’s energies, was the killing of several soldiers in the streets of Baltimore; but partly recovering from that by the encouragement gained through the energetic achievements of Gen. (Benjamin) Butler, Gen. (Irwin) McDowell was invested with the chieftainship of the Potomac Army. He, very forgetful of his mission, issued a proclamation that no Negro should come within his military lines. This, of course, being endorsed by the President, else he would have soon altered it, as in the case of Fremont and Hunter, the second plague smote the American Egyptian in the Bull Run defeat.
Shortly after another partial recover, Gen. Fremont in the West heard a voice saying from heaven, Let my people go. He hearkened to the call by a corresponding proclamation that rebels should be shot and their slaves set free; but the presidential Pharaoh hardened his heart and made void all proceedings. And mystic Egypt was smitten by the third plague in the death of Gen.Nathaniel Lyon, the fall of Lexington, and the demoralization of Gen. (Franz) Siegel’s army. Shortly after Gen. (John C) Fremont was removed and (Henry) Halleck placed in his stead, he issues a proclamation, that Negroes were disloyal, and merely came as spies into the Federal lines, and forbid their future entrance, and returned many back to their rebel masters. Again, as a penalty, the fourth plague smote this mystic Egypt in the destruction of lives, ships, and other property, and almost the demoralization of the entire nation by the coming out of the Merrimac from Norfolk. Gen. Hunter soon after saw that it was no use to try to refuse the heavenly demands, and in one sweeping proclamation, over which angels rejoiced, declared the mystic Israelites free throughout South Carolina, Georgia and Florida; but the presidential Pharaoh hardened his heart, and in one (grim) mutter, furious enough to make hell grumble, precipitously hurled them back into the darkest caverns of oppression, ever felt by a fiendish nerve. Soon after, the fifth plague smites in the extermination of a Maryland regiment, the capturing of thousands of prisoners by (Thomas J.) Stonewall Jackson, the running of Gen. (Nathaniel)Banks, and the perpetration of other cruelties too horrible, too brutal, too infernal to mention. And I tell old mystic Egyptian today, my people must go free. The sixth plague—the sixth phial or vial—or the sounding of the sixth trumpet is just ahead. What Miller and other prophet writers have been seeing, and the great revolution which is to rack the earth and convulse the nations about the year 1866, is the liberation of the oppressed. And I now predict that the time is near at hand. Miller saw it through the fog of a few future years, and could not describe it; but all the nations of Europe and America will be in war before five years, unless freedom’s banner waves in majestic splendor over every hill and dale. If England and France ever interfere with this nation, it will be because God in his providence will compel them for the purpose of exterminating slavery. And mystic Egypt, with mystic Pharaoh at its head, may refuse compliance to Heaven’s demand; but the inexpressible tortures inflicted upon ancient Egypt, the cruelties of Antiochus to the Jews, the devastation of Jerusalem by the Roman Generals Titus and Vespasian, the bloody streets of France in 1792, will all hardly bear a comparison to what will befall this nation.
H. M. T.
Washington, July 2, 1862