Gen. Stonewall Jackson

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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.”

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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:  

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.”

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