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Title: Gideon Bands for work within the race and for work without the race - a message to the colored people of the United States
Author: Grimké, Francis J. (Francis James)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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GIDEON BANDS

  FOR WORK WITHIN THE RACE
  AND FOR WORK WITHOUT
  THE RACE

  A Message to the Colored People
  of the United States

  A DISCOURSE DELIVERED IN THE FIFTEENTH STREET
  PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, WASHINGTON, D. C.,
  SUNDAY, MARCH THE 2ND, 1913,
  BY THE PASTOR,
  REV. FRANCIS J. GRIMKE, D. D.

  “BETTER NOT LIVE AT ALL THAN NOT BE NOBLE.”

  “UNLESS ABOVE HIMSELF HE CAN
  ERECT HIMSELF, HOW POOR A THING IS MAN!”

  “FOR FREEDOM’S BATTLE ONCE BEGUN,
  BEQUEATH’D BY BLEEDING SIRE TO SON,
  THOUGH BAFFLED OFT IS EVER WON.”

  “EVERY BONDMAN IN HIS OWN HAND BEARS
  THE POWER TO CANCEL HIS CAPTIVITY.”



  R. L. PENDLETON
  609 F ST. N. W., WASHINGTON, D. C.
  TELEPHONE MAIN 1148



GIDEON BANDS FOR WORK WITHIN THE RACE AND FOR WORK WITHOUT IT.


And Jehovah said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too
many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel
vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me. Now
therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is
fearful and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Giliad.
And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there
remained ten thousand. And Jehovah said unto Gideon, The people are
yet too many; bring them down to the water, and I will try them for
thee there; and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall
go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I shall
say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go. So
he brought them down to the water: and Jehovah said unto Gideon, Every
one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him
shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon
his knees to drink. And the number of them that lapped, putting their
hands to their mouth, was 300; but all the rest of the people bowed
down upon their knees to drink water. And Jehovah said unto Gideon,
By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the
Midianites into thy hand; and let all the people go every man to his
place.--JUDGES 7:1-7.

       *       *       *       *       *

Several years ago this passage formed a part of the annual programme
of the Young Peoples’ Society of Christian Endeavor, and was discussed
under the heading, “Wanted: Men for Gideon’s Band.” And this is the
subject that I desire to consider this morning. There are several lines
of thought suggested by the topic. No one can read the narrative out of
which it grows without being profoundly impressed.

I. In ringing terms there is the proclamation of a want. Wanted! is the
note that rings out clear and distinct. There is a demand, a pressing
need, a crying necessity. Wanted! Wanted! Wanted! We have all heard
that cry before. It is not a new one. It is one with which we are all
familiar. Along the street we often see the sign in the windows of
stores or on the outside, “Boy wanted.” “Man wanted.” Every paper we
take up, every magazine we read is full of advertisements of one kind
or another, all of which are expressions of a want of some kind. They
are put in and paid for by people who have goods that they want to
sell, houses that they want to rent, property that they want to dispose
of, money that they want to put out at interest, or, they want to find
employment of some kind.

II. Another thought that grows naturally out of the topic is, Wanted
by whom? The context leaves us in no doubt as to the answer. Wanted
by the Lord God of hosts, by Jehovah. The great power that is working
here is God:--he it is who is directing everything; he it is with whom
Gideon is in communication and who is planning the whole campaign that
is to be projected. It is Jehovah who is expressing the need, and who
is making the appeal. While primarily the reference is to God, in
another sense, the need expressed here was felt by the whole Jewish
community--the state, the church, the family, society at large. These
were all in need, and in great and pressing need. No one can read the
narrative without feeling the burden of this need pressing upon him.

III. Another thought that springs naturally into our minds as we think
of the subject is, What is it that is wanted? And the answer is Men for
Gideon’s Band. Men are what is wanted; men to be welded together in one
compact body for a definite and specific purpose. This band, which God
is seeking to organize here, is called Gideon’s Band. Who was Gideon?
He was the son of Joash, of the tribe of Manasseh. He lived in the
midst of distressing circumstances. His people were greatly oppressed.
There were powerful enemies that harassed them; that made life
miserable for them. The writer of this book of Judges gives us this
insight into their sad condition: “And the hand of Midian prevailed
against Israel. And because of Midian the children of Israel made them
dens which are in the mountains, and the caves, and the strongholds.
And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and
the Amalekites, and the children of the east; they came up against
them; and they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of
the earth, till they came unto Gaza, and left no substance in Israel,
neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. For they came up with their cattle and
their tents; they came in as locusts for multitude; both they and their
camels were without number: and they came into the land to destroy it.
And Israel was brought very low.”

What is said here of Gideon reveals the same sad condition of things.
“And the angel of Jehovah came and sat under the oak which was in
Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon was
beating out wheat in the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.
And the angel of Jehovah appeared unto him, and said unto him, Jehovah
is with thee, thou mighty man of valor. And Gideon said unto him, Oh,
my Lord, if Jehovah is with us, why then is all this befallen us? and
where are all his wondrous work which our fathers told us of, saying,
Did not Jehovah bring us up from Egypt? but now Jehovah hath cast us
off, and delivered us into the hand of Midian.”

What a wail of distress runs through the whole of this narrative.
In order to preserve a little wheat, enough to keep soul and body
together, it had to be hid away: and when the time came for threshing
it out, it had to be done in secret, in obscure, out-of-the-way places,
as we find Gideon doing here. They certainly were in a most pitiable
condition. It is well for us to remember, in this connection, that the
evils from which these people were suffering were due to their own
misconduct. They had no one to blame but themselves. Their condition
might have been very different if they had behaved themselves. And this
fact is clearly brought out in the narrative: God is very careful to
bring to their attention the secret of their misfortunes:--

“And it came to pass when the children of Israel cried unto Jehovah
because of Midian, that Jehovah sent a prophet unto the children of
Israel: and he said unto them, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel,
I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house
of bondage; and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and
out of the hand of all who oppressed you, and gave you their land; and
I said unto you, I am Jehovah your God; ye shall not fear the gods of
the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell. But ye have not harkened unto
my voice.” When evils come upon us, it is well to ask ourselves the
question, How far are we responsible for them? How far are they due to
our own misconduct, or the misconduct of those who have gone before us?
It isn’t safe to assume that we are not to blame, that our skirts are
clear. In nine case out of ten the opposite will be found to be true,
as we find it here, in regard to these Israelites.

Gideon’s Band was a body of men gotten together, in view of the
distressing circumstances here set forth for the purpose of fighting
the enemy, of shaking off the yoke of the oppressor. Let us study these
men for a moment. There were three hundred of them in all. So far as
the record goes not one of their names has been preserved to us, save
that of the leader only. The names are all omitted, but the qualities
that characterized them are preserved. We are not told who they were,
but we are told what kind of men they were: and it is to this point
particularly that I desire to direct attention just here. A careful
study of what is written here in regard to these men will reveal the
following facts about them:

(1). They were fully conscious of the evils from which they were
suffering, and earnestly desired to be rid of them. It matters not how
these evils originated, the point to which I am directing attention
here is, that these men recognized them as evil. They were not
satisfied with conditions as they were. They wanted a change. They were
tired of the oppression of the Midianites. They realized that they were
being oppressed, and that it was not good for them to continue in
the condition in which they were. And it is only where such a mental
attitude exists that there can be any successful warfare against
oppressive conditions. Unless the evil to be remedied is felt, and
keenly felt, it is not likely that there will be any effort put forth
to remedy it, or any prospect of securing the cooperation of those who
are suffering in an effort to do so.

(2). They were men of courage, of splendid daring. They came in
response to a call from Gideon. Gideon had thrown down the altar of
Baal which his father had erected; and because his father refused to
turn him over to be put to death by the Midianites, the adherents
of Baal, a large force was collected to enforce the decree of death
against him. It was under such circumstances that Gideon issued his
call. We are told, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he
blew a trumpet; and Abiezar was gathered together after him. And he
sent messengers throughout all Manasseh; and they were also gathered
together after him: and he sent messengers unto Asher, and unto
Zebulun, and unto Naphtali; and they came up to meet them.”

As the result of this call some thirty-two thousand men came to his
relief. Twenty-two thousand of these, however, came simply because
they felt that they must come, but their hearts were not in it. They
recognized the fact that there was danger in the step they were taking,
that they might lose their lives in the conflict which was sure to
ensue between them and the enemy. As soon therefore as the opportunity
presented itself they went back to their homes. Of the ten thousand
who remained however, who, with the full consciousness of what the
outcome might be, kept their places, the three hundred of whom we are
speaking were a part. The men who went back, who availed themselves
of the permission granted by the proclamation “Whosoever is fearful
and trembling, let him return from Mount Gilead,” would have been glad
to have the oppressors’ yoke broken, to have been relieved of the
evils from which they were suffering; but they were not willing to
risk anything, to expose themselves to any danger. They were timid;
they were afraid of making things worse; of bringing upon themselves
still greater evils. Not so however with these men. They were willing
to endure hardship; to encounter danger; to lay down their lives, if
necessary. The enemies were all about them, and about them in vast
numbers. The record is, “And the Midianites and the Amalekites and
all the children of the east lay along the valley like locusts for
multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand which is
upon the seashore for multitude.” But there is no fear discoverable in
these three hundred men.

(3). They were men of faith. They believed in God. They were willing to
trust God; to rest upon his promises. They knew perfectly well that,
in and of themselves, they were no match for those who were opposed
to them and with whom they were to measure arms; but they knew that
Jehovah, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob--the God who had
brought their forefathers out of Egypt and who had sustained them for
forty years in the wilderness, was more than a match for them; and
that it was under his direction that they were to fight. It was this
element of faith in God that enabled them on that night, when the
assault was made, to go forth as they did a bare handful and to take
their places as indicated to them by Gideon. That their hope of victory
was not in their own strength is clear from the manner in which they
were armed. There was not a deadly weapon among them. There was not a
single weapon of warfare, either offensive or defensive, among them.
They were armed with what? The record is: “And he divided the three
hundred men into three companies, and put into the hands of all of them
trumpets and empty pitchers, with torches within the pitchers.” This
was a strange way to equip men to do battle with powerful and deadly
enemies; and yet this was the way they were armed. The smallness of
their number, as well as the manner in which they were equipped for
battle, show, in a very striking manner, their faith in an arm that
was mightier than theirs. If it had not been that God was back of
them, and that they were conscious of that fact, they never would have
budged a step. Gideon might have issued his order, but it would have
met with no response. He would have called, and called in vain for
help. Faith in Jehovah--in the Lord God Almighty--becomes important as
an element of character: (1) Because of the subjective effect upon the
individual exercising it. It is a real source of strength to him. And
(2) because God can help, and does help those who put their trust in
him. “All things are possible to them that believe,” we are told in the
inspired record. And Jesus said to his disciples: “If ye have faith as
a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence
to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible
unto you.” In saying that these were men of faith means a great deal
therefore. It is a great thing to be linked with God; to be consciously
in league with the Almighty.

(4). These men were reliable. They could be depended upon. What they
were directed to do; what they undertook to do, they did faithfully.
The order which they received from their leader was: “Behold when I
come to the outermost part of the camp, it shall be that as I do so
shall ye do. When I blow the trumpet, I and all that are with me, then
blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, For
Jehovah and for Gideon.” This was the order which they received; and
here is the record as to how they carried it out: “So Gideon and the
three hundred men that were with him, came to the outermost part of
the camp in the beginning of the middle watch, when they had but newly
set the watch: and brake in pieces the pitchers that were in their
hands. And the three companies blew the trumpets”--that is what they
were directed to do; and brake in pieces the pitchers--that is what
they were directed to do; and held the torches in their left hand and
the trumpets in their right hand--that is what they were directed to
do; and cried the sword of the Lord and of Gideon--that is what they
were directed to do. What they were directed to do, they did. Not a man
failed. The record is, “And there stood every man in his place round
about the camp.” They did not skulk away; they were at the post of duty
to which they had been assigned. Each one answered the call of duty;
each one proved faithful.

(5). There is still another thing about these men that should be noted.
It comes out in connection with the manner in which they drank water.
The record is, “And Jehovah said unto Gideon, The people are yet too
many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee
there; and it shall be that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go
with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto
thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go. So he brought
down the people unto the water: and Jehovah said unto Gideon, Every
one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him
shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon
his knees to drink.” The three hundred men, of whom we are speaking,
lapped the water and because of that fact were selected by Jehovah for
the special work which he had in view. It is not quite clear, perhaps,
exactly what the quality is which this is intended to indicate. The
fact that they did not get down upon their knees to drink might
indicate that they were younger, more vigorous, more active than the
rest; or it might indicate that they were more alert, more vigilant,
more watchful. They were surrounded by enemies, and were liable at any
time to be assailed. Their not getting down upon their knees would seem
to indicate that they realized the danger to which they were exposed,
and kept themselves in an attitude that would enable them instantly
to defend themselves, to meet the enemy. The test to which they were
subjected, if we take this view of the matter, shows that they were men
of force, that they were active, wide awake. They fully appreciated the
circumstances in which they were placed and the necessity on their part
of being active, wide awake, on the alert.

Such was the character of the men of whom we are speaking. They were
men of conviction--they felt, and felt keenly the evils from which
they were suffering, and their minds were fully made up to endure
them no longer, if by any effort of theirs they could escape them.
They were men of genuine courage--they were not afraid to meet the
enemy. They were men of faith--faith in God. They were men who were
thoroughly reliable--who could be depended upon, to whom any duty could
be assigned in the confident assurance that it would be faithfully
attended to. And they were men who were active, vigorous--men of
physical and mental stamina.

The getting together of such a company as this was a great achievement.
It wasn’t easily done. Thirty-two thousand men had to be sifted before
they could be found; but they were found. When the time comes God is
always able to find the men he wants to use. When the great Civil
War broke out in this country, it was a singular fact, that there
were three such men as Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan ready to lead the
Union forces on to victory. And the same was true when the war between
Russia and Japan occurred: God had already in waiting a Togo to send
to the bottom of the sea of Japan the combined fleet of the enemy;
and on the land an Ozama and a Kuroki to overwhelm in a succession of
unprecedented victories the army of the enemy. And here God found three
hundred men to do the work which he wanted done, and placed at their
head a man who was worthy to lead them.

GIDEON’S BAND was organized for the purpose of fighting the
Midianites--the enemies that were oppressing the Jews at that time. It
is not of the Jews, however, that I desire to speak at this time, but
of ourselves as a race. We too have enemies--present, ever-active, and
powerful. These enemies may be divided into two general classes--those
that are affecting injuriously our moral and economic condition, and
those that are affecting injuriously our civil and political status.

(1). Those that are affecting injuriously our moral and economic
condition. Under this head are to be classed the evil tendencies
within our own hearts, and, which are not different from the evil
tendencies in other races; for, after all, human nature is everywhere
the same. The same radical tendencies are discoverable in all men.
Human nature is not different in the black man from what we find it
in the white man, or in the men of any other race. Everywhere, in the
human heart are evil tendencies that lead inevitably downward, that
gravitate towards lower levels. We, as a race, have these tendencies
just as other races. Under this head may be classed also such organized
forces of evil as strong drink, the saloon, the whole liquor business;
impurity, all gambling institutions, the dance hall, the many agencies
that encourage idleness, and frivolity. Everywhere among us these
forces are at work. And just as the Jews, in the time of Gideon,
suffered from the inroads of the Midianites, so are we suffering
from the ravages of these foes. What inroads the saloon is making
among us. How we are being ruined by it morally! How our physical
strength is being depleted by it! How we are being impoverished by it!
Think of what impurity is doing! How it is dragging down hundreds and
thousands of our young men--down, down into that deepest hell of moral
degradation; for there is nothing that sinks a man so low in the scale
of being as impurity, as a lustful, lascivious life. Think of what the
dance hall and the spirit of frivolity which it encourages, are doing
to demoralize our young people. These and many other forces are at work
among us, and are steadily, persistently, day and night, operating
to destroy us, soul and body. The evil tendencies within us, and the
evil influences without us are conspiring to destroy us--to destroy us
physically, morally, economically. It is well for us as a race to know
what these evil influences are and how we are being affected by them.

(2). As a race, in addition to those forces that affect injuriously
our moral and spiritual, our physical and economic interests, we are
also beset by enemies that are laboring earnestly to deprive us of
our civil and political rights as American citizens. These enemies
are most persistent in their efforts, and everywhere are endeavoring
to create a sentiment against us. Every blunder that any member of
the race makes, every misstep that any member of the race takes is by
them magnified, and by them paraded through the press, and charged
to the race as a whole. These are the enemies that are clamoring for
Jim-Crow cars, for segregation in our cities, for laws against the
inter-marriage of the races; and who are endeavoring in every possible
way to humiliate us and to make life just as hard as possible for us.
The marvel is, as a race, that we are doing as well as we are, in view
of the many and deadly forces that are arrayed against us. The verdict
seemingly is, If we are allowed to live at all we must be content to be
menials, to occupy only the lowest places; and there is a disposition
to crowd us out of even such places. The feeling is, not only that
this is a white man’s government, but that everything in this country
is for the white man. The right of the colored man to life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness, to even the most ordinary courtesies of
life, seems to be questioned. He is, nominally, in a Christian land;
but when it comes to the treatment which it accords to him, there is
no thought of Christianity, no effort or endeavor in any way to be
governed by the simplest principle of the religion of Jesus Christ. In
the treatment that is accorded to him every principle of Christianity
is ignored. There is not the slightest disposition to recognize him as
a brother, to treat him as a man. The atmosphere in which he lives is a
hostile atmosphere. The emigrant from Europe, with all his ignorance
and degradation is welcomed with outstretched hands; but no such
spirit greets the Negro. This is as much his home, and he has just as
much right to be here as any other class of citizens; and yet he is
treated, is made to feel as if he were an alien. During the Christmas
holidays I received a Christmas card upon which was represented a very
forlorn looking little colored boy, and under it was written: “No one
loves me.” Whether it was intended by the artist, who was colored, to
represent the condition of the race in this country or not, I do not
know; but, in a sense, and to a measure, it certainly does represent
our condition among this white population in the midst of which we are
living. This is not true, of course, of all of the white people. There
are some who are, in a sense, friendly to us, and who, up to a certain
point, are willing to stand by us; but there are comparatively few even
among these who, in their heart of hearts, recognize us as brothers
in the sense in which they recognize white men, or who feel that we
are entitled to precisely the same treatment as white men are entitled
to. They think we are entitled to some consideration, but not to all
that white men are entitled to. The broad Christian principle of the
brotherhood of man, not of white men, but of all men, is a principle
that, in spite of our professed Christianity, and our professed passion
for democratic institutions as a nation, has never been recognized
in this country except so far as white men are concerned. And this
is why the struggle of the colored man here for civil and political
equality has encountered such wide-spread opposition on the part of the
enemies of the race, and such half-hearted support on the part of even
his professed friends. It is because, at bottom, on the part of both
friends and foes, there is this denial, consciously or unconsciously,
of brotherhood, this feeling that they are dealing with a different
order of beings from themselves. Loyalty to Christianity and to
democratic principles requires, however, that this barrier be broken
down. And, sooner or later, I believe it will be broken down. The Negro
cannot permanently be denied equality of rights and opportunities and
Christianity and true democracy be maintained. One or the other will be
sure to succumb. Christianity and true democracy cannot exist anywhere
and inequality of rights and opportunities continue to exist. The whole
tendency of both of these forces is to break down walls of separation
and to bring about a state of universal brotherhood. And these are the
great forces of the future--the forces that will more and more, control
the destiny of humanity.

What now is our duty, in view of present conditions--in view of
the forces that are arrayed against us--the forces that mean, if
victorious, physical, intellectual, moral, economic, social, and
political degradation? How are these evils to be met? God’s method of
meeting the enemy, as set forth in the passage we are considering, is
the one that must be followed.

How was the yoke of the Midianites thrown off? It was through a band of
faithful men, whom he had gotten together, and who worked in dependence
upon him. And this is all that is needed to-day to bring victory, to
overthrow the forces of evil, to drive out the enemy.

(1). We need the right kind of men and women--men and women who see
the evil and deplore it--men and women of moral convictions--men and
women whose sympathies are with the right, whose whole nature rises
up in protest against the evil. One reason why it is so difficult to
get anything done along moral lines is because there are so few who
have any convictions, so few who feel, as the apostle felt when he
said, “Necessity is laid upon me, yea, woe is me if I preach not the
gospel.” So profoundly had the truth taken hold of him, such were his
convictions in regard to the needs of humanity and the adaptation of
the gospel to meet those needs that he simply could not keep still.

We need also men and women of courage--men and women who are not afraid
to attack the evil, to speak out in condemnation of the things about
them that are demoralizing in their tendency. Another reason why it is
so difficult to make any headway in moral reforms is because there are
so many cowards in society, so many who are timid, who are afraid to
speak out, to lift up their voices for fear of hurting themselves or of
offending somebody. Cowardice has silenced many a lip, has paralyzed
many an arm that might have wrought mightily for God and truth.

We need also reliable men and women--men and women who can be depended
upon; men and women who, when the crisis comes, when the conflict
begins, will not desert, but will stand by their colors. There are so
many who blow hot and cold on moral issues, who are with you to-day and
with the enemy to-morrow.

We need also earnest men and women--men and women who are zealous in
the cause of right--heartily in favor of what is pure, lovely, and
of good report--who are not disposed to make any compromises with
evil, who are out and out in their opposition to the forces of evil
about them. And here is another reason why it is difficult to do very
much--there are so many who are lukewarm, indifferent, who don’t seem
to care whether moral reforms go on or not. If they do anything at all
it is in an indifferent, half-hearted, non-committal way.

We need also God-fearing men and women--men and women of faith--men and
women who build on God, who stand on the promises of God. One thing
we may be assured of--nothing can be effectively done for the moral
uplift of the race, for the overthrow of the forces of evil that are at
work in our midst, unless we have in every community men and women such
as I have been describing, through whom to operate as the first great
requisite.

(2). These men and women ought to be brought together in some form
of organization. The three hundred men who formed Gideon’s Band were
welded together. They understood each other; they saw alike; they felt
alike--all had the same object in view; all worked according to the
same plan; all were under the direction of one leader. An individual
working alone may accomplish something; but the most effective way of
working, especially where there is much to be done, is in combination,
is by uniting our forces under intelligent leadership. Three hundred
men working together can always do more than one man working by
himself, however effectively he may work. The good people in every
community, the people who feel the need of doing something, must come
together and pull together--must join hands in waging war against the
forces of evil, by directly opposing them, and by setting up counter
influences. In other words, they must stand together if they are to
make their influence felt, if they are to do the most effective work.
And here is another reason why we do so little. The people who ought to
stand together do not always stand together. The people who ought to
say, Amen when a blow is struck for the right, when evils are assailed,
are the very ones often who criticise the man or the woman who has
the courage to speak out. And so the little that is done is often
neutralized.

(3). We need still another thing. After we get the right kind of men
and women; and get them organized we need help from God. The real
secret of the success which came to these three hundred men was that
God was with them. In other words, what I mean is, that we have got to
carry on this fight against the forces that are arrayed against us,
moral or otherwise, if we hope for success, in dependence upon God; we
have got to feel as Luther did:--

  “Did we in our own strength confide,
     Our striving would be losing;
   Were not the right man on our side--
     The man of God’s own choosing:
   Dost ask who that man may be?
   Christ Jesus, it is He;
   Lord Sabaoth His Name,
   From age to age the same,
   And He must win the battle.”

Unless we fight in the consciousness that we are not fighting alone;
unless God actually comes to our aid, our efforts are vain. God has
promised to help; and he will help. And this we should remember and
avail ourselves of.

With these conditions fulfilled--with the right kind of men and women
among us, animated by the same spirit, working towards the same end,
and linked with God all things in the way of moral uplift, and in the
way of counteracting the influence of the forces of evil about us are
possible. The gates of hell will not be able to withstand the united,
aggressive, persistent effort of men and women of this stamp--men and
women who are themselves thoroughly alive to the importance of keeping
the standard high, and of waging unceasing warfare against the forces
of evil. “One,” we are told, “shall chase a thousand, and two shall put
ten thousand to flight.” And where the conditions are fulfilled the
rule never fails to work--victory always follows. We are weak, because
we haven’t faith; we are weak, because we are not united; we are weak,
because we are not in earnest.

Such bands of men and women as I have been describing, are everywhere
needed to-day--in the home, in the church, in the Sabbath school, in
the Young Peoples’ Society of Christian Endeavor, in all our secret
organizations--among the Masons and Odd Fellows; in all our benevolent
societies, in our schools, colleges, universities, in all business
corporations, banking and other establishments--everywhere such bands
are needed--bands of clean men and women, pure men and women, men and
women who stand up for what is right, who are willing to fight for what
is right, who can always be depended upon in every moral crisis--who
fight, and who fight always on the side of right, of honor, of
decency--whose influence is always thrown in the interest of the things
that are true, and just, and pure, and lovely, and of good report.

All that I have said in reference to meeting the moral evils that
assail us, is also true as to meeting those enemies who are assailing
our civil and political rights, as American citizens. They are to be
met in the same way.

(1). In every community we have got to have men and women who put a
proper estimate upon our civil and political rights--men and women who
know what rights we are entitled to as American citizens, who value
those rights; and who are deeply conscious therefore of the wrong which
the enemies of the race are seeking to perpetrate upon us by depriving
us of those rights. There are some members of our race, unfortunately,
who, for one reason or another, have attempted to minify the importance
of civil and political rights, or who, at least, pretend that they
see no great evil in the deprivation of these rights. I say pretend,
for, at heart, I do not believe they think anything of the kind. They
cannot believe as they say they do, if they have any self respect,
or any appreciation of what citizenship means. Such people are of no
value to us in the fight which we are making for our rights under the
Constitution: they are rather a hindrance to us, because they are used
by the enemy in justification of the course which they are pursuing.
The fact that there are colored people, and some so-called leaders, who
don’t attach much importance to these rights, makes the white assailant
feel that, after all, no great injury is done to the Negro. The colored
people themselves, they say, in effect, don’t regard it as such,
and why should we, why should we attach any more importance to the
matter than they do. In every community therefore, as a foil to this
pernicious doctrine, there must be men and women to whom these rights
mean something; there must be men and women who hold them in high
estimation, who have a deep and abiding sense of their value, of their
importance. Everywhere, throughout the race, very little patience ought
to be shown, or respect either, to Negroes, whether big or little, who
undervalue, and who are seeking to instill into the race a spirit of
indifference to civil and political rights. To do so is to encourage
the race to commit political suicide; and the race that is willing to
commit political suicide is the race that will be driven to the wall,
that will be the football of every other race within the Republic.
Strange, that some of us are so stupid or so blinded by selfishness
that we don’t see this! Personally I have absolutely no patience with
the Negro, big or little, who is content to live in a country, under
laws which are made for his government without his consent and about
which he, not only has nothing to say, but is purposely excluded from
participation in the functions of government. The American colonies
resisted the imposition of a tax by the British Parliament, because
they were taxed without representation; and they were right in the
resistance which they offered. The position in which our enemies are
seeking to place us is a humiliating one, and I pity the race or
individual who doesn’t see it, and who doesn’t feel the humiliation of
being compelled to submit to laws without having a voice in the making
of them, while others are accorded that right, and for no reason except
the color of their skin. It is humiliating to be thus discriminated
against; and the more deeply this sense of humiliation is felt by the
average Negro, the more difficult it will be to permanently deprive him
of that right.

(2). The men and women of our race, in every community, who value civil
and political rights, who are not content to be legislated for without
having a voice in saying who the legislators shall be, should work
together, should come together in some form of organization, for the
purpose:

(_a_). Of asserting in a kindly, but positive manner, whenever it shall
be necessary, our claims as American citizens under the constitution.
We have rights under the constitutions; we are American citizens, and
we are not to forget this ourselves, nor are we to let others lose
sight of it. The manly assertion of our rights is a duty which we owe
to ourselves; and which at the proper time, we should never hesitate to
perform.

(_b_). We should come together for the purpose of resisting, in
every lawful way, all attempts to abridge our rights, to curtail
our privileges as citizens. Whatever other citizens enjoy we have a
right to enjoy; and we ought not to submit quietly to discriminations
which violate this principle. If we can’t do anything else, at least,
protest; cry aloud. Let those who are responsible know that we know
that we are unjustly discriminated against.

(_c_). We ought also, as far as possible, to carry on a campaign of
education, the design of which should be to strengthen our hold on the
friends that we have among the whites, and to so present the facts
touching the race, as to make a favorable impression upon, and, win
over, if possible, our enemies, or, at least, to get them thinking
along right lines. In this connection the _Crisis_, a magazine that
is published under the auspices of The National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People, ought to appeal to our people in every
community, and ought, through their support, to be given the widest
circulation. It presents, as no other organ does, the bare naked facts
as to our race along all lines; and, after all, the facts are the
things that tell, that win their way, and that produce conviction. The
more widely we can get this magazine distributed among the whites, the
more hopeful will be the outlook for us.

(_d_). In every community also, through our churches, through our
schools--Sunday and day schools, and through every other agency by
which they may be reached, we should endeavor to impress upon our
people the importance of being respectable, of behaving themselves,
especially in their public deportment, when they are before the eyes
of those who are prejudiced against them, and who will be sure to view
them with a much more critical eye than they would their own race. We
should impress upon them also, in every possible way, whenever the
opportunity presents itself, the importance of being trustworthy,
reliable, of qualifying themselves to do well whatever they undertake
to do, so that as they come in contact with the whites, as they may
find employment among the whites, the fact of their respectability,
their efficiency, their reliability, their trustworthiness will stand
out conspicuously. In this way much can be done to create a sentiment
favorable to us, to set us in a better light, to give us a better
standing with those who have been indifferent or hostile to us. We
need, as a race, every one of us, to understand and to lay to heart,
and to get our children to understand and lay to heart, that in the
environment in which we find ourselves, we can do very much through our
personal conduct, through the manner in which we bear ourselves, the
manner in which we acquit ourselves, through what we make of ourselves
and of our children, to intensify or to diminish this opposition to
us. This won’t accomplish everything, of course, but it will aid
mightily in removing some of the obstacles out of the way. The better
we behave ourselves, the more we make of ourselves, the more, I know,
we are hated by some, but that doesn’t destroy the force of the general
principle we are here laying down.

(3). There is still another force that we can utilize in the great
struggle that we are making against our enemies, and that is the force
that lies in effectual, fervent prayer, the force that links us with
God, with the Mighty God. We have the reputation of being a religious
people. I don’t know whether we are really religious or not. We have, I
know, a great many professors of religion among us; but as to whether
there is a great deal real true religion, which consists in loving
God and in keeping his commandments, among us, may be a question. One
thing I know, however, in the days of slavery, when the iron heel of
physical oppression was upon our necks, there were many, many of the
fathers and mothers of the race who believed in God and in the power of
prayer, and who by day and by night, in the cotton fields and in the
rice swamps, sent up their petitions to heaven. And while I know that
Garrison and Philips and the noble band of anti-slavery worker labored
earnestly and faithfully to quicken the national conscience; and that
the armies of the North, under Grant, and Sherman, and Sheridan and
others, marched in the South and grappled in a death struggle with
the forces of rebellion; and that Lincoln issued his Emancipation
Proclamation, nevertheless, I believe that among the mightiest forces
that wrought for the slave were the prayers which they themselves sent
up to Almighty God. Prayer became a power in their hands mightier than
armies and proclamations. And that power we can wield to-day and ought
to be wielding it. God can do wonders for us if we will rely upon him,
if we will put our trust in him. He can soften the hard hearts of our
enemies; he can raise up friends for us; he can open ways for us that
we know not of. I have just been reading over the Book of Esther,
known as the book of God’s Providential Care. How wonderfully did he
interpose in behalf of the Jews; but it came as the result of days
of fasting and prayer. When Esther suggested three days of fasting
and prayer, everything seemed to be against them. Their arch enemy
was highest in the favor of the king; and he had not only obtained
permission to destroy the Jews throughout the empire, but the decree
had already been issued and the day fixed for its execution. It was at
this juncture that earnest, incessant prayer was made to Jehovah, and
the result was the man that sought their ruin was hurled from power,
and hurled into eternity to answer at a higher than earthly tribunal
for his infamous conduct. We, as a people, would do well to ponder
carefully the words of Esther to Mordicai in our struggle against
the enemies in this country that are bent on our destruction just as
truly as Haman was bent on the destruction of the Jews, and for the
same reason, because we are not disposed to bow and cringe and debase
ourselves before them. The statement is “When Haman saw that Mordicai
bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath.” It was
then that he formed the determination to destroy, not only Mordicai,
but the whole race with which he was identified. And at the bottom it
is the same spirit against which we have to struggle in this country.
If we were willing to efface ourselves, to accept the position assigned
us by our enemies there would be no trouble. The thing that offends,
that excites the ire of the whites is the assertion or exhibition of
manhood on the part of the Negro; it is because he has the temerity
to claim for himself what they claim for themselves, and precisely
on the same ground. The thought of the Negro as a slave has so taken
possession of them as to entirely obliterate from their minds the
thought of him as a man and citizen. And these are the people who are
in the seat of power; these are the people who have the ears of the
country, the people who control, largely, the press and pulpit, the
business and labor organizations, and who command, in virtue of their
wealth, the best legal talents of the country. We seem to be hopelessly
in their power, as hopelessly as the Jews seemed to be in the power
of Haman. But Haman did not succeed in carrying out his diabolical
purpose; and the power that checked him, and that overthrew him, was
the power of prayer. We, as a race, must use this power more than we
have been in the habit of doing. Those among us, in every community,
who believe in God, and who are trying earnestly to serve him in
sincerity, for unless we are our prayers will avail nothing, should
make it a business to take our race troubles to him as well as our
individual and family troubles. God has promised to help, and to help
right early if we call upon him. And this is what we must do; and do
more largely than we have been in the habit of doing. The exhortation
of the apostle is, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer
and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto
God.”--Phil. 4:6. A praying race or people has nothing to fear from
enemies, however numerous or powerful. And the sooner we learn this the
better it will be for us.

And now with the thought of Gideon’s Band before us, the thought of
the kind of men they were, and what they accomplished under the divine
direction, and in reliance upon God, in view of the adverse influences
against which we have to contend, we may well ask ourselves the
question:

(1). Are we seeking, as members of this race, to possess the noble
qualities of the men of Gideon’s Band? They were men of character; men
of courage; men dominated by a great purpose; men who fully realized
the seriousness of the business in which they were engaged: they were
not of the giddy, frivolous, pleasure-seeking, namby pamby type that
is so often met with to-day, especially among our young people, and,
often, it is no better among the older ones.

(2). Are we binding ourselves together in Gideon Bands in every
community, to help uplift the race; to help battle against the evils
which tend to drag us down, to undermine our health, our character, our
good name? Are we coming to realize, more and more, the importance of
cooperation, of working together for the general good?

(3). Are we, in our personal character and conduct, in all our
bearings and relations so clearly, so distinctly of Gideon’s Band--so
unquestionably on the side of what is best and noblest, as to be a
steady uplifting influence for good among ourselves: and in our contact
and relation with the whites, as to lead them to think more highly of
the race because of what they see and know of us? Gideon Bands we need
everywhere--men and women of the highest character, whose clean pure
lives will be not only an incentive to the race to live nobly, but
also an unanswerable argument against the traducers of the race. We
cannot, as a race, present in any considerable numbers, men and women
conspicuous for moral and spiritual worth without producing a favorable
impression for the race. Gideon Bands everywhere are needed, for work
within the race, and for work without the race, upon those who need
to be mollified, changed, converted. Such bands should not only be
organized, but we should see to it, that we are members of them.

(4). Are we keeping alive within our own breasts, as individuals, and
within the consciousness of the race the value of citizenship and of
citizenship rights? It is our duty to cherish these rights ourselves,
and to instill into our children a like appreciation of them. And it
is our duty also, and the duty of our children to stand up manfully
for them. It may not be a popular thing to do, but it must be done
nevertheless. We may not be able to hold the pass of Thermopylæ, but
it should never be surrendered. It may be taken, but it should be
only when there is no one left to hold it. It is always more glorious
to perish in a righteous cause than to survive with dishonor. And I
believe as long as there is a spark of manhood left in the race the
struggle for our rights, as American citizens, will go on. I do not
believe that the time will ever come, when the Negro will be quiescent
on his rights until those rights are fully accorded to him.

The call that I am making to this race to-day is for the
self-respecting men and women of it, in every community, to band
themselves together for the building up of character; for the setting
up of lofty ideals; for the maintenance of a high standard of morals
among men as well as women; for waging uncompromising warfare against
all the forces of corruption--against the saloon, the gambling den, the
bawdy house and every other demoralizing institution; for keeping alive
in the race an interest in matters civil and political; and for active,
aggressive work in resisting encroachments upon our rights. It is a
call, I trust, that will be heeded; that, all over this land, there
will be a rallying of the better elements of the race in concerted
effort for race betterment; for enlarged opportunities; and for the
full enjoyment of all of our rights as American citizens.

Once in four years, in connection with a Presidential Inauguration, is
a good time to look each other in the face; to reaffirm our principles;
and to pledge ourselves anew to go fearlessly forward in the good work
which we have begun. If we do our part faithfully--if we work; if we do
right; if we eschew evil; if we put our trust in God and make his word
a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, there is no power anywhere
that can defeat us in our purpose to rise to the full measure of a
man, and to the full enjoyment of all the rights that belong to us as
American citizens. We cannot fail; we will not fail, if we are wise,
active, wide-awake, persistent, resistant, in earnest. Our future is
largely within our own hands.

  “In the field of destiny,
   We reap as we have sown,”

is what the poet says. And that is true of races as well as
individuals. It is important that we realize this, and that every
latent energy within us, as a race, be aroused and enlisted in the
great work of sowing such seeds as will insure a glorious harvest. If
we sow frivolity, idleness, improvidence, intemperance; if we are lax
in morals, if we put material things above spiritual things, if we
are indifferent to our rights, as citizens, if we are content to be
like dumb driven cattle, we will reap accordingly. And vice versa, if
we discourage frivolity, idleness, improvidence, intemperance, if we
insist upon enforcing a high standard of morals, if we put spiritual
things above material things, if we stand up for our rights as men, and
cultivate a divine unrest, keeping the eyes of the soul ever turned
towards the heights, we will also reap accordingly. Every thing depends
upon the sowing, and therefore let every member of this race, in the
consciousness of his or her responsibility, say, as one of old, “God
do so to me and more also,” if, in my personal character and life, in
what I may do or say, I sow anything that will jeopardize the moral,
economic, or political future of this race. If we, in this generation,
will sow in the hearts of our people the right kind of seeds--seeds
of morality, and religion, of civil and political equality, the next
generation will catch our spirit and go on sowing the same kind of
seeds, and when the harvest time comes we know what the reaping will
be. Up then every member of this race! Let us do our level best to
ensure a good harvest--a harvest of good men and women and children, of
God-fearing men and women and children, of men, women, and children who
know what their rights are and how to maintain them. To this end let
every one of us here this morning pledge ourselves, and go forth with
the solemn purpose and determination to inoculate every man, woman, and
child of the race, with the same spirit, with the same purpose, with
the same determination.



Transcriber’s Note:

Changes to the original publication have been made as follows:

  Page 4
    enemies that harrassed them _changed to_
    enemies that harassed them

    an delivered us into _changed to_
    and delivered us into

  Page 8
    three companies blew the trumpets _changed to_
    three companies blew the trumpets”

  Page 9
    land a Ozama and _changed to_
    land an Ozama and

    tendencies that lead inevitablly _changed to_
    tendencies that lead inevitably

  Page 12
    cause of right _changed to_
    the cause of right

  Page 14
    upon our civil and poltical _changed to_
    upon our civil and political

  Page 15
    under laws which are are made _changed to_
    under laws which are made

    reason except except _changed to_
    reason except

  Page 16
    to our race along all line _changed to_
    to our race along all lines

  Page 18
    at a higher than earthly tribunals _changed to_
    at a higher than earthly tribunal





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