>"From Servants to Children of God"

>As I have been reading through the correspondence of Stonewall Jackson to his wife, I have been struck time and again by his fine redemptive-historical insights and and perspective on the Christian life. In a letter dated August 15, 1859, Jackson relays to Mary Anna the insights he gleaned from a sermon preached by the famed Southern Presbyterian minister, James Henley Thornwell:

. . . 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 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.

The reason this is so striking to me is because of the current trend among some who purport to be the heirs to Southern Presbyterianism to discount so harshly redemptive-historical preaching. And yet, here is Jackson reporting on a sermon preached by a Southern Presbyterian that is redemptive-historical to the core! An exposition of the OT that finds its fulfillment in the life of Christ and then points believers to find their life hidden in that Christ in the heavenly places.

What a glorious reality is the gospel! Those who are naturally in Adam servants and cut off from the family of God, are because of the faithful son raised up and given a place in the Father’s house–a place at his right hand, where Christ, his surety is enthroned forever.

Jackson’s response is quite appropriate, then, not because he went out and did some specific task, or determined to correct some moral problem as some today advocate, but rather, his response was one of love.

>"Trust Our Kind Heavenly Father"

>In the spring of 1859, Mary Anna Jackson became very ill and her husband, Stonewall Jackson, determined to send her to New York in order to get her the best medical care. While she was there, Jackson returned to Lexington, VA and wrote her often. In a letter dated May 7, 1859, he sought to encourage her faith in the midst of her medical trial:

You must not be discouraged at the slowness of recovery. Look up to Him who giveth liberally for faith to be resigned to His divine will, and trust Him for that measure of health which will most glorify Him and advance to the greatest extent your own real happiness. We are sometimes suffered to be in a state of perplexity, that our faith may be tried and grow stronger. ‘All things work together for good’ to God’s children. See if you cannot spend a short time after dark in looking out of your window into space, and meditating upon heaven, with all its joys unspeakable and full of glory; and think of what the Saviour relinquished in glory when he came to earth, and of his sufferings for us; and seek to realize with the apostle, that the afflictions of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Try to look p and be cheerful, and not desponding. Trust our kind Heavenly Father, and by the eye of faith see that all things with you are right and for your best interest. The clouds come, pass over us, and are followed by bright sunshine; so, in God’s moral dealings with us, he permits us to have trouble awhile. But let us, even in the most trying dispensations of His providence, be cheered by the brightness which is a little ahead. Try to live near to Jesus, and secure that peace which flows like a river. You have your husband’s prayers, sympathy, and love. . . . I trust that our Heavenly Father is restoring my darling to health, and that when she gets home, she will again be its sunshine.

It is interesting to see how Jackson calls his wife to understand her sufferings in conjunction to the sufferings of Christ and to look to heaven with the eyes of faith for encouragement. Humiliation leading to exaltation . . . the gospel being the ground of our hope in times of trial . . . finding one’s earthly life shaped by the heavenly life to come . . . Jackson would have made a fine redemptive-historical preacher!

>Tribute to a Godly Wife

>Many people are aware of the famous Confederate officer Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. He is known for his bold stand at the first battle of Manassas, which earned him his nickname “Stonewall.” He was known for bold maneuvers that allowed him to defeat much larger armies with his smaller “Stonewall Brigade.” He was known for striking fear in the enemy as he often gave the command for his forces to “Give them [the northern invaders] the bayonet,” and to scream like furies when they engaged in battle.

But many are unaware of the tender, human side of Jackson and the importance of his Christian faith in shaping his understanding of duty and honor. Well in a book I just picked up the other day in the Jackson museum on campus at the Virginia Military Institute, one finds that it was his wife Mary Anna Morrison Jackson that played a huge role in shaping who Jackson was. In Beloved Bride: The Letters of Stonewall Jackson to His Wife, provides this tribute to Mrs. Jackson:

Any portrait of Jackson would be woefully incomplete without giving full understanding to the depth of his love for Anna Morrison Jackson. such a portrait would be missing his heart. The Thomas-Anna relationship . . . [was] a central and vital web in the tapestry of his soul. . . . For Jackson, Anna was a living and breathing example of God’s goodness and beneficence, of the absolute beauty of life on this earth, of the piece of God’s plan that allowed for happiness and fulfillment in this life. Anna not only shared his faith, she epitomized his faith, she sweetened his faith. . . . Her presence in his life brought balance. Her influence and guidance did not inhibit the qualities that made “Stonewall” Jackson a warrior among warriors, but greatly enhanced the virtues that made Thomas Jackson a man among men.

One can see this in Jackson’s own words in a letter he wrote to Mary Anna on April 25, 1857:

In my daily walks I think much of you. I love to stroll abroad after the labors of the day are over, and indulge feelings of gratitude to God for all the sources of natural beautywith which he has adorned the earth. Some time since, my morning walks were rendered very delightful by the singing of the birds. The morning carolling [sic] of the birds, and their sweet notes in the evening, awaken in me devotional feelings of praise and thanksgiving, thought very different in their nature. In the morning, all animated nature (man excepted) appears to join in expressions of gratitude to God; in the evening, all is hushing into silent slumber, and thus disposes the mind to meditation. And as my mind dwells on you, I love to give it a devotional turn, by thinking of you as a gift from our Heavenly Father. How delightful it is thus to associate every pleasure and enjoyment with God the Giver!

Among the many things that strikes me about the correspondence I have read thus far, is the reality that these gentle and tender words and praises are coming from a man among men. It is instructive to read how this fierce warrior was not ashamed to express himself so openly to his bride and leaves me to wonder what Mary Anna was like to be able to have such an effect on this “Stonewall.”

But equally striking is how Jackson is so completely devoted to his bride. Jackson’s love and devotion provides a good picture of what Paul tells us of the love between Christ and his church in Ephesians 5.25-30,

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

May there be such tribute given to all the wives–and might all the husbands promote such love and thankfulness as well.