August 15: Thomas Jonathan Jackson

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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