On April 1st. 1863 the Richmond Dispatch wrote the following article:
“The congregation of the Second Baptist Church in this city have set an example that may challenge emulation, but for self-sacrificing patriotism cannot be excelled. They met not long since and by unanimous vote gave their church bell to be cast into cannon to be used in the public defense. To show that this was not an empty promise made for effect; they immediately had it taken down to be put to the use indicated. At the same meeting, at which the resolution above stated was passed, it was determined to subscribe a sum sufficient to purchase enough metal to add to that in the bell, to form into a “battery” to be called the Second Baptist Church battery. (note: a “battery” is a group of four cannons that work together as a unit.)
Mr. John F. Tanner, an influential member of the church, and largely engaged in the foundry business, promised on behalf of himself and associates that the “battery” should be ready at an early day, and without cost to those who furnished the materials. The churches in New Orleans, a large proportion of them being Catholic, have with the sanction of their Bishop, adopted the same course.”
When I read the above article something just rang inside me. Please pardon the pun! However, the power of what this historical fact signified for the church in America is remarkable. It is to be noted that the same practice was also found in states above the Mason-Dixon line as well. Think for just one moment, about how important this is. The fact that churches gladly gave up their most prized and unique possession, their bell, is remarkable. They did it so each bell could be melted down into a cannon for the defense of their country, the affirmation of their patriotism and the securing of their beliefs.
This is a practice you never, ever hear mentioned in any of our history books, yet it is so very significant. It was a major influence of religion upon our military, and in our society. More than that it actually impacted the outcome of the war. With this action, the direct involvement of the church in every aspect of American life was forever etched in American history and nothing can change it. The Church no longer saw itself restrained to quietly meet in a building on Sunday morning, or to do weddings, baptisms and funerals. The church actually took on a new vision, the real vision of Jesus. It would be actively involved in shaping the morals, the beliefs and the direction of the entire nation. That, my friends, is the shocking reality we all need to re-embrace if America is to flourish once again!
What’s interesting to note is that because many of the cannons were forged from church bells some were made with the Cross of Christ mounted on the barrel. This was to remind the soldiers of where that piece of artillery came from and Who their faith was to be in. History records that the men soon realized they could actually sight down these barrels using the Cross and it actually improved the accuracy of their shot. This was called getting a target in the “cross hairs”, and the term stuck. Every weapon today uses some variation of the “Cross” to hit it’s target. How ironic that the One who died for our sins on a cross finds the tool of His execution on weapons that can both kill and protect. It still depends on which side of the Cross you are on! So …. which side are you on????
Here is what hit me as I considered all of the above. The bell that was found in every church in America was placed there for a specific reason. To begin with, every community in America had a Christian church of some denomination, and a town square, at the very center of the community. This signified that Christ, and His teachings were to be at the center of American life. Secondly when the church bell rang out, it was a united call for all the people to gather together. The moment they heard that bell, they would come, knowing they would hear either preaching, the news of the day or be informed of a need to help in an emergency. The sounding of the bell grabbed the attention of all and it drew them together as one.
History also records that after the war, those same cannons were then melted down and re-forged back into church bells. Churches across America were then given a notice to come pick up a bell of their choosing, and have it reinstalled in their church steeple. From that point on, the sounding of every church bell in America held a very different meaning. It’s clarion voice still called the community together, but it now remind everyone of the bloody conflict that had been fought, and the victory that had been won, both on the battlefield and on the Cross of Christ. All this happened because a church bell was re-forged to become a cannon, which was re-forged to become a church bell.
What caught my attention is that the bells and cannons both had a voice, a specific sound that identified them exactly. A bell ringer could tell you what the bell was made of, and what note was being sounded the moment the clapper hit the side. A gunner could also hear distant cannon fire and know exactly what caliber it was, and how far it could shoot. What’s fascinating to me is that both were made from the same material, but the form of each determined it’s purpose. More importantly, when each voice sounded, the final outcome was very different! All of it depended on the season of life, and the needs that were present at that time.
The point being that our lives are exactly the same. There are seasons when all we need is a sweet sounding bell to get our attention and keep things going in the right direction. At other times the deafening roar of cannon fire is required to blast through resistance and destroy that which threatens to overrun our life. You don’t ring a bell on the battlefield, and you don’t fire a cannon from a church steeple. When God repurposes the things of your life NEVER try to just fit it into what has always been. Could it be that the metal in you is being melted down right now so that your voice will be the right one for the season you are about to enter into?
If you fail to understand the plan of God to repurpose you in a new season of life, you will walk in what I have seen so many others do in the past. I have witnessed those who were clearly in a battlefield ringing a bell, when they should have been silent. The bell only drew heavy fire to their position and it resulted in hurt and destruction that was just not necessary. I have also seen those in a season that was relatively peaceful, level a canon against that which only needed the clear voice of reason, like a bell, to provide guidance. When the air finally cleared, the destruction was much worse than anyone had imagined, and there was no one left to put the pieces back together.
My suggestion? Why not just relax and let the blast furnace you are in do its work? Perhaps your bell is being repurpose as a cannon, because warfare you don’t yet see is just over the horizon. Maybe your cannon is beginning hammered into what looks more like a bell, and the clear voice of reason will be needed in what is about to come. I guarantee you that you will absolutely love the sound of that new voice when it is finally released. Best of all, it will be exactly what you need sounding out of your life in that new season of repurposing. Now get out there and let your voice be heard!
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