This Day in Presbyterian History:
A Soldier Remembers a Sermon
To countless secular Civil War authors, they seem to take delight in ridiculing the spiritual side of Thomas Jonathan Jackson, better known as “Stonewall” Jackson on the battlefield. Not knowing or caring that this Presbyterian church deacon was not a mere Christian in name only, but a genuine born-again Christian, some of these authors are embarrassed by his Christian conversation and conduct. Especially do they take delight to record the number of times in which General Jackson fell asleep in a worship service! And while that happened, there are of course many occasions when he was not only awake, but also took notes in his heart and mind of the sermon preached on that Lord’s Day. One such occasion was a sermon preached by the Rev. Robert L. Dabney, a Presbyterian chaplain, on September 26, 1861. Listen to Jackson’s words, written to his wife Anna Jackson:
“I did not have room enough in my last letter, to write as much as I desired about Dr. Dabney’s sermon yesterday. His text was from Acts, seventh chapter, and fifty-ninth verse. [Note: And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” — Acts 7:59, King James version; compare the ESV translation: “And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”]
He stated that the word “God” being in italics indicated that it was not in the original, and he thought it would have been better not to have been in the translation. It would then have read, ‘calling upon and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ He spoke of Stephen, the first martyr under the new dispensation, and like Abel, the first under the old, dying by the hand of violence, and then drew a graphic picture of his probably broken limbs, mangled flesh and features, conspiring to heighten his agonizing sufferings.
“But in the midst of this intense pain, God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, permitted him to see the heavens opened, so that he might behold the glory of God, and of Jesus, of whom he was speaking, standing on the right hand of God. Was not such a heavenly vision enough to make him forgetful of his sufferings? He beautifully and forcibly described the death of the righteous, and as forcibly that of the wicked.”
That was on this occasion an understanding of both the sermon and the sermon’s application. For believers who may possibly suffer the loss of their lives, or various limbs of their bodies, as Jackson did later in 1863 regarding both of these cases, that heavenly vision was sufficient to make him forget his earthly sufferings.
Further, another application was that of the blessed gospel, preaching the death of the righteous in contrast to the death of the wicked. Civil War chaplains always included sincere invitations to believe the gospel and return in commitment to the Lord. That is why there was such a mighty spiritual awakening of sinners and revival of believers during this years of the War Between the States.
Despite all secular commentators to the contrary, it is obvious on this occasion that we had a close listening to the preached Word with an understanding of the two-fold application of that sermon. Divine worship was alive and well in Jackson’s heart and life.
Words to live by: It was said of our Lord Jesus, that his custom or habit was always to be found in the Jewish synagogue on the Sabbath. And the writer to the Book of the Hebrews enjoined believers to not forsake their assembling together as some were already doing in his day and age. We must be in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, worshiping in His house the Triune God
Through the Scriptures: Daniel 1 – 3
Through the Standards: Interpretation and Obligation of Oaths
“An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation, or mental reservation. It cannot oblige to sin; but in anything not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance, although to a man’s hurt. Nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics, or infidels.”