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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Keeping the Sabbath Holy

Countless Americans applaud General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson’s  abilities on the battlefield in America’s Civil War, or War Between the States. But many of those same Americans ridicule the spiritual side of this much admired military man.

Nowhere is this seen better than in his views on observing the Sabbath day, or Lord’s Day.  It is here that words like “fanatic” come to the fore in books and media reports of his character and conduct. Indeed at one point, his own wife, Mary Anna Jackson, a Presbyterian minister’s daughter, wrote him a letter which expressed concern that he had attacked Union troops at the battle of Kernstown, Virginia in April 1862, in violation of the Sabbath.  Jackson answered his wife with the following words:

“You appear much concerned at my attacking on Sunday. I was greatly concerned too;   but I felt it my duty to do it, in consideration of the ruinous effects that might result from postponing the battle until the morning. So far as I can see, my cause was a wise one; the best that I could do under the circumstances, though very distasteful to my feelings; and I hope and pray to our Heavenly Father that I may never be circumstanced as on that day.  I believed that so far as our troops were concerned, necessity and mercy both called for the battle.  Had I fought the battle on Monday instead of Sunday, I fear our cause would have suffered; whereas, as things turned out, I considered our cause gained much from the engagement.”

In the above letter, and I have underlined the important phrase, you read the words “necessity and mercy.”  Any one who knows the sixtieth answer in the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Standards will remember that “necessity and mercy” were two divine exceptions in the observance of the fourth commandment, given by Jesus Himself.  But, it may be asked, did Gen. Jackson know of these two exceptions in the catechism?  The answer is in the affirmative, because he had memorized the Shorter Catechism in his pre-war days in Lexington, Virginia with his wife, and he was a deacon in the Presbyterian Church of that city, which office required his acceptance of the Westminster Standards.

So under no circumstances did the military officer violate the spiritual standards of his convictions and religion. Necessity and mercy dictated his military moves on that day, the Lord’s Day, or the Sabbath.

Words to Live By: The world is always ready to condemn the actions of true Christians, if only to get the attention off of themselves and their sinful ways.  We must be sure to have solid biblical evidence to back everything we say and do, so as to not place a stumbling block before unbelievers.

Through the Scriptures: Isaiah 49 – 51

Through the Standards: The requirements of superiors to inferiors

WLC 129 — “What is required of superiors towards their inferiors?
A.  It is required of superiors, according to that power they receive from God, and that relation wherein they stand, to love, pray for, and bless their inferiors; to instruct, counsel, and admonish them; countenancing, commending, and rewarding such as do well; and discountenancing, reproving, and chastising such as do ill; protecting, and providing for them all things necessary for soul and body; and by grave, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God, honor to themselves, and so to preserve that authority which God has put upon them.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

What More can God Do than Give Himself as a Ransom?

We turn once again to our favorite Presbyterian deacon who was also held the rank of General in the Confederate Army during the War Between the States.  Thomas Jonathan Jackson, or as he was known from the battle of Bull Run, Stonewall Jackson wrote a letter to his wife Anna on October 13, 1862.

He says, “I heard an excellent sermon from the Rev. Dr. Stiles.  His text was 1 Timothy, chapter 2, 5th and 6th verses.  (“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”)  It was a powerful exposition of the Word of God; and when he came to the word ‘himself’ he placed an emphasis upon it, and gave it a force which I had never felt before, and I realized that, truly, the sinner who does not, under Gospel privileges, turn to God, deserves the agonies of perdition.  The doctor (Stiles) several times, in appealing to the sinner, repeated the sixth verse—’Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.’  What more could God do than to give himself a ransom?  Dr. Stiles is a great revivalist, and is laboring in a work of grace in General Ewell’s division.”

It is clear that this response in the form of a letter he wrote to his beloved wife was not simply a nominal Christian answer.  It is evident from the language used, such as even the phrase “the work of grace,” that General Jackson knew what it was to be a recipient of God’s costly grace, in the perfect life and sacrificial death of His Son, the Lord Jesus. Indeed, what more could God do than to give Himself a ransom for us all?

Words to live by:  Despite what the anti-religionist Civil War authors state with regards to Stonewall Jackson, claiming he was a hypocrite because he often slept through the church worship services, the General was an attentive listener whenever the gospel was preached and the Word of God held forth in all its fullness.  He could listen and give an outline of the sermon.  Well might we who listen regularly to the Word of God be able to not only listen to it, but take down notes for ourselves and others of the content of the sermon.  Then, and only then, can we be more than mere hearers of the Word, but doers of it as well.

Through the Scriptures: Nehemiah 10 – 13

Through the Standards:  The Tasks of the Visible Church

WCF 25:3
“Unto this catholic visible Church, Christ has given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and does, by His own presence and Spirit, according to His promise, make them effectual thereunto.”

WLC 63 — “What are the special privileges of the visible church?
A. The visible church has the privilege of being  under God’s special care and government; of being protected and preserved in all ages, notwithstanding the opposition of all enemies; and of enjoying the communion of saints, the ordinary means of salvation, and offers of grace by Christ to all members of it in the ministry of the gospel, testifying, that whosoever believes in him shall be saved, and excluding none that will come  unto him.”

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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

WCF 22:4
“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.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Never Felt Such Love to God

The mighty Stonewall, that is, Thomas Jonathan Jackson, was married to Mary Anna Jackson for just a few years before God took him home in 1863. But during  that brief time together, we have many letters which passed between the two Christians which illuminate our understanding of  the Presbyterian general.

On August 15, 1859, he wrote the following letter to his wife.  It follows here:

“Last night I enjoyed what I have long desired — listening to a sermon from the Rev. Dr. Thornwell, of South Carolina.  He opened with an introduction, setting forth the encouragements and discouragements under which he spoke.  Among the encouragements, he stated that the good effected here would be widely disseminated, as there were visitors from every Southern state.  Following the example of the apostle Paul,  he observed that whilst he felt an interest in all, yet he felt a special interest in those from his own state.  He spoke of the educated and accomplished audience it was his privilege to address.   After concluding his introductory remarks, he took his text from Genesis, seventeenth chapter, seventh verse, which he presented in a bold, profound, and to me original manner.  I felt what a privilege it was to listen to such an exposition  of God’s truth.  He showed that in Adam’s fall we had been raised from the position of servants to that of children of God. He gave a brief account of his own difficulties when a college student, in comprehending his relation  to God.  He represented man as a redeemed being at the day of judgment, standing nearest to the throne, the angels being farther removed.  And why?  Because his Brother is sitting upon  the throne he is a nearer relation to Christ than the angels.  And his being the righteousness of God himself.  I don’t recollect having ever before felt such love to God.  I was rather surprised at seeing so much grace and gesture in Dr. Thornwell.  I hope and pray that much good will result from this great exposition of Bible truth.”

Obviously Major Jackson was hanging on every word of Dr. Thornwell.  This is especially noteworthy because in future years, he would often fall asleep in religious services.  Whether it was the nature of his bodily constitution, or the tiring rigors of military leadership, or perhaps because of a boring preacher, we don’t know.  But Thomas Jackson did not fall asleep under the preaching of Dr. Thornwell.  He heard and responded by being able to adequately recount the sermon to his wife

Words to live by: 
One interesting answer in the Larger Catechism speaks to the requirement of hearing the Word preached.  It says in WLC 160 “It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.”  This contributor has written this answer on the fly-leaf of his Bible so that I am able to review it frequently in church attendance.   It is a good reminder.

Through the Scriptures:  Jeremiah 33 – 36

Through the Standards:The true doctrine of Christian liberty

WCF 20:2
“God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing, contrary to His Word; or beside it, in matters of faith, or worship.  So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.”


This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Being Content in God’s Will

In what was General Robert E. Lee’s greatest campaign victory, that of Chancellorsville, Virginia, in the spring of 1863, was also his greatest loss, for it was in that battle that he lost the services of General Thomas Jonathan Jackson, better known as Stonewall Jackson.

Wounded several times in the early hours of May 2, Jackson was shot by his own men who thought that the small group on horseback were Federal cavalry. His arm was amputated back at the field hospital. Taken by wagon to Guinea Station, he was to eventually contract pneumonia and die.  But before he died, he had this conversation with his Presbyterian chaplain, Rev. Lacy:

“You see me severely wounded, but not depressed, not unhappy.  I believe it has been done according to God’s holy will, and I acquiesce entirely in it.  You may think it strange, but you never saw me more perfectly contented than I am today; for I am sure that my Heavenly Father designs this affliction for my good.  I am perfectly satisfied that, either in this life, or in that which is to come, I shall discover that what is now regarded as a calamity is a blessing. And if it appears a great calamity, as it sure will be a great inconvenience, to be deprived of my arm, it will result in a greater blessing.  I can wait until God, in his own time, shall make known to me the object He has in thus afflicting me.  But why should I not rather rejoice in it as a blessing, and not look on it as a calamity at all?  If it were in my power to replace my arm, I would not dare to do it, unless I know it was the will of my Heavenly Father.”

Stonewall Jackson was a Christian Presbyterian, a deacon in the Presbyterian church back in Lexington, Virginia.  He had learned the Shorter Catechism in his married life, repeating it word for word to his beloved wife, one Sabbath afternoon.  And, he lived an outstanding  Christian life in peace and in war.

It was said that just before his death on Sunday,  May 10, 1863, he uttered the last  sentence on this side of glory, “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”   His wife, Mary Anna, said, knowing him intimately, “Was he reaching forward across the river of death, to the golden streets of the Celestial City, and the trees whose leaves are for the healing of the nations?  It was to these that God was bringing him, through his last battle and victory; and under their shade he walks, with the blessed company of the redeemed.”

[Editor : Our readers might want to know of a well-received study guide on the spiritual life of Thomas Jonathan Jackson, written by Dr. David T. Myers and titled Stonewall Jackson: The Spiritual Side. The cover of this 93 page book is shown above. Published by Sprinkle Publications in 2003, copies may be obtained from either Sprinkle or from the Cumberland Valley Book Service.]

Words to Live By:  To live entirely in the sense of the Lord’s will, brings a contentment which is beyond words. You are at peace with your life. You sense that God is in control of your life. You have complete trust in  whatever your Heavenly Father appoints or allows for your life. Think where you are now. God knows all about it, for He is praying for you right now at the Father’s right hand. In that light, pray for a complete and full submission to live in God’s will in your situation.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 88 – 90

Through the Standards:  Justifying faith in the catechisms

WLC 72 — “What is justifying faith?
A.  Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assents to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but received and rested upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.”

WSC 86 “What is faith in Jesus Christ?
A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation as he is offered to us in the gospel.”


Make Me A Map of the Valley
by Rev. David T. Myers

hotchkissJedOur title was not just a request, but a famous order from an Army commander, Stonewall Jackson. That order was, “I want you to make me a map of the Valley, from Harpers Ferry to Lexington, showing all the points of offense and defense in those places.” The time obviously was that of the Civil War, or War between the States, in 1862. And the Confederate soldier to whom it was directed was Jedidiah Hotchkiss.

Jed, as he was known to his friends, was born in the North, in fact, born on this day, November 28th, 1828 in Windsor, New York. His father was a farmer, but his great grandfather was the founder of Windsor, New York. Seeing the studious interests of his son, the father enrolled his son into the prestigious Windsor Academy of that city, from which he graduated at age eighteen. During this time, he was fascinated with geology and geography. After graduation, he taught school in Pennsylvania, a profession which would occupy his talents both before and after the future civil war of the nation.

In the background of all these pursuits, the Presbyterian faith of his parents became his convictions and choice of churches. He always joined the Presbyterian churches in which he was located, even after his marriage to Sarah Ann Comfort of Lanesboro, Pennsylvania in 1853. Together they moved to a farm near Churchville, Virginia, and joined there by his brother, they opened the Loch Willow Academy. The school was highly successful.  It was during this time that he taught himself map-making. It would be this career which would make him a name to be remembered.

Despite his brother’s staunch Unionism, Jed joined the Confederacy in June of 1861 by entering the Confederate Army. First serving in what is now West Virginia, he later gained a calling into the Army of Northern Virginia under the command of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. In this  time, in which he provided vital geographic support to the major battles in Virginia, he did not leave his Christian faith behind. It was said of him that he had “a well rounded Christian character of beautiful  piety and cheerfulness.” When Jackson was shot by his own soldiers by mistake, and died several days later, Jed, upon hearing the news, remarked, “all things were ordained of God and must be accepted.”

Jed Hotchkiss transferred his map making talents to other general officers, like  Richard  Ewell and Jubal Early. He served to the end of the Confederacy, and returned to his wife in Staunton, Virginia. Reopening his school, he was involved in promoting the recovery of war ravaged Shenandoah Valley, as well as West Virginia. The latter state recognized his efforts to help the people, and especially their spiritual state,  by naming a town after him in Raleigh County.

While in Staunton, Virginia, an evangelist came to that town and held successful meetings. With many converts to Christ, Jed Hotchkiss led a small group of members in 1875 from the First Presbyterian Church  to begin what became known as the Second Presbyterian Church of Staunton.  That church still exists today.  Jedidiah Hotchkiss died in his 71st year in 1899.

Words to Live By:
While some of our readers may not have agree with his choice of allegiance to the Confederate States of America, we can all agree with his convictions of Presbyterian doctrine and government.  That stood him through many challenges and trials.  Indeed, his belief in the sovereignty of God should help us in our own lives.  Look up Romans 8:28,  memorize it, and then live it.


An Educator and Minister to the Souls of Young and Old
by Rev. David T. Myers

Arriving at the Mason-Dixon line dividing Virginia from Pennsylvania in 1861, Dr. George Junkin and his family stopped their carriage carrying all their worldly possessions. In an act of intentional symbolism, Dr. Junkin cleaned off from both his own boots and the hooves of his horses all traces of Southern mud, wanting to make sure that none of the Rebel dirt would be carried into the Union North.

The Rev. Dr. George Junkin was born on November 1, 1790 outside the small village of New Kingstown, Pennsylvania. The sixth son of Joseph Junkin, who was a ruling elder in the Junkin Tent congregation of the Covenanters in central Pennsylvania, remained on his parents’ farm while being educated in private schools in Cumberland County. He was later sent first to Jefferson College in western Pennsylvania, graduating from there in 1813. He then attended the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in New York and became a Covenanter minister. For eleven years, he was the pastor of two Pennsylvania churches of that denomination. In 1822, he transferred into the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, and became a leader in the Old School Presbyterian Church. He was accorded the honor of being Moderator of the 1844 General Assembly of the PCUSA.

The education phase of his ministry started in a small Manual Labor Academy in Germantown, Pennsylvania.  He then became the first president of the brand new Lafayette College, building up that Presbyterian school into a fine educational facility. After a brief stint at Miami at Ohio College, he went down to Washington College in Lexington, Virginia from 1848 – 1861, resigning at 71 years of age.

Two of his daughters married Confederate officers. Elinor was the first wife of Thomas Jonathan Jackson, later Stonewall Jackson. She did not survive the birth of their first child, who also died. Another daughter married Confederate and later General D. Harvey Hill. A son, named after him, became a staff member of Gen. Jackson’s headquarters, and was captured at Kernstown, Virginia, by Union forces. So, as it was in so many families of the War Between the States, their allegiances were in two different nations.

Returning to the North, Dr. Junkin in the last seven years of his life preached seven hundred sermons, many of them to Union soldiers in their camps. He visited wounded Union soldiers in hospitals. He went to be with the Lord in May of 1868, while residing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

It was perhaps unique that near the end of the century, his coffin was dug up and sent south for re-burial in the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery outside Lexington, Virginia.

Also this day:
The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church was formed by union of the Associate Presbyterians and the Reformed Presbyterians of America, meeting in Philadelphia on November 1, 1782.  

Words to live by:  Conviction, both religious and national, was part and parcel of George Junkin’s life. He knew what he believed and his actions reflected that to both friend and enemy.  Of all the Junkin family, he was the most celebrated not only in that family, but in his generation.  It is great to have a good name. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 15:1 “A good  name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” (NIV) He is remembered, not only by the Junkin ancestors, but by Presbyterians everywhere. Let us seek to be known by our biblical convictions and work to maintain our good name.

Called to Be Faithful to God
by Rev. David T. Myers

Oh no, another post on yet another minister, you the reader might say. But this pastor was different. Yes, he pastored two churches in the south in the eighteen hundreds. But this shepherd of souls was unique in many ways. His name? James Power Smith.

Born in New Athens, Ohio on July 4, 1837 to a Presbyterian minister and his wife, Joseph and Eliza Smith, he had the example of his father on the challenges of being a shepherd of souls. It is not surprising that he felt called to that same profession. Attending Jefferson College in 1854 – 57, (and other sources say Hampden-Sydney College), he graduated and went to Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia in 1858. However, his studies there were interrupted by the War Between the States, or Civil War. Like many other young men, this Northern boy joined the Confederate Army, and specifically the Rockbridge Artillery of the Confederate States of America, which was filled with many other theological students. He would fight in it until 1863, when he would be asked to report to a Lt. General by the name of Jackson, Thomas J Jackson, Stonewall Jackson. For the rest of that “rebellion,” as the North would call it, he would find himself as Aide-de-camp of that command, and as such involved in the important scenes of the war.

Captain Smith was present when he heard that General Jackson was mistaken in the early morning darkness in Chancellorsville, having been shot by his own Confederate troops. Captain Smith became a litter bearer seeking to get the wounded officer to neutral ground. It was a harrowing move as several litter bearer were shot. Finally, they moved slowly but surely to an ambulance and finally to a military hospital, in a tent east of the battle field. Jackson’s left arm was amputated by Dr. Hunter McGuire with the light held by James Smith. Later on May 3rd, Captain Smith accompanied the wounded Jackson twenty-five miles by wagon to Guiney’s Station, where seven days later, the great general succumbed to his wound and died.

Captain Smith remained in the Confederate corps, serving under Richard Ewell, until the end of the war. Then returned to Union Seminary to resume his preparation for the ministry. Ordained upon graduation on this day, October 13, 1866 by Montgomery Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church U.S., he served one Presbyterian Church in what is now Roanoke, Virginia, before going to the Fredericksburg, Virginia Presbyterian Church for the next 23 years. During those years, he also served as an evangelist two years for the Synod of Virginia, was editor of the Central Presbyterian newspaper for 17 years, and Stated Clerk for the Synod of Virginia from 1871 to 1920. He went to be with the Lord in 1923, becoming the last soldier of the Stonewall Brigade staff to die.

Words to Live By:
Some of our readers, including this author, may not have agreed with his choice of country in those perilous days, yet we can rejoice for the years of his shepherding of souls during his long life and ministry. After all, that will be the record remembered in heaven when eternal rewards are handed out. Let us be faithful, wherever God’s Spirit calls us, to serve our Lord and Savior.

[excerpted from The St. Louis Presbyterian, 31.27 (10 September 1896): 435.]

strickler_GB            Dr. Strickler was born at Strickler’s Springs, Rockbridge County, Virginia, April 25, 1840. On his father’s side he was of German descent; his great-grandfather being a Lutheran minister. On his mother’s side, (her name was Mary Brown) he belongs to that sturdy, earnest race, the Scots-Irish, who at an early date settled in the Valley of Virginia, and gave that favored land its strong leaning towards Presbyterian doctrine and polity. He was taught in the schools of the County, and at the outbreak of the Civil war was in Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. He entered the Southern Army with the College Company, who called themselves the “Liberty Hall Volunteers,” and this was a part of the 41st Virginia Regiment, and this regiment was a part of the famous “Stonewall Brigade,” receiving this name from its first commander Stonewall Jackson. The brigade was in nearly all the battles in which its famed commander took part, and always behaved with conspicuous courage and gallantry. The young soldier soon became the Captain of his company, by his gallant bearing, and popular manners. Twice was he wounded, but was soon back at his post. In a charge at the battle of Gettysburg, he was captured, and remained a prisoner in the hands of the Federals until the close of the war.

            Then he entered Washington and Lee University, where he from the first took a high stand as a student. He graduated from this Institution in 1868, the last year acting also as Tutor in the University. He at once entered Union Theological Seminary, and graduated from this School of the Prophets in 1879, with the highest distinction. He was at once licensed by his Presbytery, and being invited to Tinkling Springs one of the largest and most influential of the country churches in Virginia, he was ordained and installed pastor in the fall of 1870. [In this pastorate he was following the Rev. R.L. Dabney (1847-1852) and preceding the Rev. J.A. Preston (1883-88).]  About the same time he married Miss M.F. Moore, of one of the oldest and most respectable families of the Falling Spring’s church, near the Natural Bridge.

            Dr. Strickler remained pastor of  the Tinkling Spring Church for twelve years and a half. His reputation for vigorous and earnest preaching, clear and solid thinking, wise and faithful pastoral work, soon spread far and wide, and many calls from large and influential churches came to him. But he preferred to work at his first charge. Finally in the fall of 1882, the Central Church of Atlanta, Georgia, made such an earnest plea for his services that he yielded, and came to their church in the Spring of 1883.Hardly had he begun the work in their city before he was urgently and unanimously called to the chair of Church History in Union Theological Seminary. After a considerable struggle between his church, who fought his transfer, and the Seminary Committee, Atlanta Presbytery advised him to remain where he was; this he did with all cheerfulness and loyalty. His loving church at once began to build him a new, and a larger church.

            This was finished in 1886, and is one of the handsomest and most commodious edifices in our Southern Church. Dr. Strickler’s fine administrative abilities soon manifested themselves, not only in the thorough organizations of his own church in its individual work, but also in the impetus given the work of our Presbyterian Zion all over the city, Presbytery and State. His church at once began to plant missions in different parts of the city, and several of them are now growing working churches. Dr. Strickler’s wisdom and ability were also most conspicuous in the contest against the teaching of Evolution in Columbia Seminary. As leader of the Anti-evolution men he won decided victories in the Synods at Marietta, La Grange and Sparta. Shortly after he was elected to the chair of Theology in Columbia Seminary and to Chancellorship of the University of Georgia both of which he declined.

            In 1887 he was chosen moderator of the General Assembly of the Church which convened at Saint Louis. In this responsible and delicate position he acquitted himself most creditably and wisely. At this Assembly he was chosen chairman of the Southern Assembly’s Committee to confer with the Northern Church Committee in regard to organic union. In 1895 the Board of Directors by a unanimous vote elected Dr. Strickler to the important chair of Theology in Union Seminary, and gave him a year in which to decide the question; they at the same time promised to remove the Seminary from Hampden Sidney to Richmond the beautiful and historic capital of the State. During the winter of 1895-96, the devoted flock over which he had presided so long did everything in their power to induce him to decline this call. But a sense of duty to the Church at large impelled him to accept the call, and to ask the Presbytery to allow him to leave his church. It was a sad and solemn meeting which met for this purpose, we all felt that it was the will of the Lord calling His servant to a post for which by nature and training he was eminently fitted. Dr. Strickler preached his farewell sermon to his people on the last Sabbath in July, 1896, and will enter upon his new duties September 2, 1896.

            Then in stating the truth as it appears to him, he is always as clear as one of our mountain streams; the simplest can understand him. In the pulpit, he is, besides all this, earnest and effective. In his dealings with his people he was always kind, sympathetic, wise. In the church court he is always patient, considerate of others, but eminently wise and faithful.

            His theology is of the most orthodox type. He believes in the inspiration of the Scriptures, in the old fashioned orthodox Calvinistic type of religious thought. He has no crochets, no vagaries, no new ideal as to the cardinal truths of the word of God, and his strong loving character will impress this type of theology on all the students who come from his hand. May his bow long abide in strength. [Among his many honors and accomplishments were the Doctor of Divinity degree, conferred by Washington & Lee University in 1878, the LL.D. degree, awarded by Davidson College in 1894, a term of service as Moderator of the PCUS General Assembly in 1887, and his tenure as joint editor of The Presbyterian Quarterly.]

“The Nature, Value, and Special Utility of the Catechisms,” in Memorial Volume of the Westminster Assembly, 1647-1897, Containing Eleven Addresses Delivered Before the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, at Charlotte, N.C., in May, 1897, in Commemoration of the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly, and of the Formation of the Westminster Standards (Richmond, VA: The Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1897), pp. 115 – 138.

[Excerpt] : Teaching, by the catechetical method, has marked the history of the church almost from the beginning down to the present time. A divine warrant for it, if not requirement of it, may be found in such passages of God’s word as Deut. vi. 6, 7: “And these words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart, and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” And Exodus xii. 26, 27: “And it shall come to pass that when your children shall say to you, What mean ye by this service?” (the service of the passover) “that ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.” In these instances, in order to give children the full and accurate instruction they needed about the commandments of the Lord referred to, and about the important sacrament instituted in the church in the passover, it was necessary that a number of questions should be asked and answered; and then, that the truth about these and other subjects, once learned, might not be forgotten, but kept ever fresh in the memory, and in constant and influential contact with the mind and heart, it was necessary that it should be frequently reviewed; that there should be “precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little and there a little.” Thus, we may say, the catechetical method of instruction was instituted at the very beginning of the Mosaic dispensation.

“The Philosophy of Faith,” in The Presbyterian Quarterly, 16.2 (October 1902) 149-165.


Sermons. New York, Chicago: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1910. 273 p.; 20 cm.  [available on the Web at]


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A Chaplain of the Stonewall Brigade

It was said that no danger deferred him; no sacrifices were too great for him to make.

The year was 1862. For those living in that section of Virginia now bordered as present day West Virginia, the great civil war was an imminent and daily reality of danger and disruption. It was a time of separation from family, soldiers on long distance marches, and life-threatening casualties from battle. And Stonewall Jackson always had his fair share of them.  Into this scene, Abner Crump Hopkins entered.

Born in 1835 in Powhatan County, Virginia, young Abner was educated at Hampden-Sydney College, graduating in 1855 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Whatever was used of the Holy Spirit to call him into a relationship with Jesus Christ, we do not know. But we do know that he was born again after his collegiate years.  With a call to be a minister, Abner entered Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia during the years of 1857-1860. Licensed and ordained by East Hanover and Winchester Presbyteries, he took the congregation of the Presbyterian Church of Martinsburg, Virginia. It was evidently a happy ministry until Federal troops invaded the town.  Leaving behind family and friends, Abner Hopkins was commissioned as a Confederate chaplain by the Second Virginia Infantry Regiment on May 3, 1862.

Right at the very beginning, Chaplain Hopkins made it his determination to share the suffering, marches, and perils of the men in the regiment.  Indeed he was so successful in this determination to be faithful always in his post of duty that the officers and  men of his regiment, and other units, sought him out for spiritual comfort. Opportunities to proclaim the gospel of grace came frequently from nightly prayer meetings at headquarters as well as on the Sabbath, which brought many souls into the kingdom.

On two occasions during the war, the hardships of this life and ministry produced emotional and physical breakdowns which set him apart from his military “congregation.”  But after times of rest and recovery, he always returned to the military  to further minister God’s Word. He was a part of the great “revival” which took place in the Southern army, especially during the latter part of the War.

After the close of the war, he returned to the civilian world as a pastor. His longest pastorate was in the Charleston area of West Virginia, where he was faithful in one congregation for forty-five years.  He was known all over the South, in that he served one year as the moderator of the 1903 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. He died in 1911.

Further study :
The grave site of the Rev. Abner Crump Hopkins.
His diary is preserved at the Virginia Historical Society Library. The diary contains entries describing participation of the Second Virginia Infantry Regiment in the battles of the Seven Days’, Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Bristoe Station, and 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaigns.

Also on this day :
May 3, 1895 marks the birthday of Cornelius Van Til, born this day in 1895 in the Netherlands. For more on Dr. Van Til, including a photographic retrospective, click here.

Words to Live By:   How important it is to pray now for future difficult situations in your family or work or congregation, so that you will be faithful to the Word of the Lord and His will when the time of those difficult situations arrive.

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