A hero came among us, as we slept,George L. Christian
At first he lowly knelt, then rose and wept,
Then gathering up a thousand spears,
He swept across the field of Mars,
Then bowed farewell, and walked among the stars
In the land where we were dreaming.
It is important that we remember those who have gone before us and especially on their birthdays. Today marks the birthday of one of my heroes, Stonewall Jackson. On January 21, 1824 Thomas J. Jackson was born to Jonathan and Julia Jackson as their third child in Clarksburg Virginia. After being mortally wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville he died at the young age of 39 on May 10, 1863 during the War Between the States. Heroes are marked by their exemplary lives and it is in this way I would like to remember him.“He was a man of God first, last and always.” (Rev. James Graham). The glory of God in all things was of first importance to Jackson. “God was in all his thoughts” said James Power Smith. S. “His alliance with eternal realities; his foretaste of the power of the world to come; his deep and genuine piety, his adherence to the Bible, the Church, the Lord’s Day, his keeping of his own conscience before God and men, are the outstanding traits of a spiritual prince who was greater than anything he did, and whose deeds took rise in his being.” (S. Parks Cadman) He persevered by the certainty of who God is and the surety of his promises. He wrote, “However dark the night, I am cheered with anticipated glorious and luminous morrow…No earthly calamity can shake my hope in the future so long as God is my friend.” He was a man of the Word and Prayer. Col. Francis H. Smith said that Jackson, “took the word of God as his guide, and unhesitatingly accepted all therein revealed.” He studied the Scriptures and his two favorite passages came from the New Testament: Revelation 21:4, He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. and Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. These particular verses tell of the hope he had in God as he struggled with much brokenness in this life. Harvey Hill said of him, “The striking characteristic of his mind was his profound reverence for divine authority” (God’s Word).” This love for and obedience to God’s word was accompanied by faithful prayer. He was always full of prayer to God. On one occasion while in war he spent many hours in council with his officers about plans for battle. After listening to their many opinions and the discussion he told his men he would give them his answer in the morning. The men left the tent and as they were leaving A.P. Hill joked to Gen. Richard S. Ewell, “Well, I suppose Jackson wants to pray over it.” Later that evening realizing he had left his sword in Jackson’s tent Ewell went to retrieve it and found Jackson on his knees by his cot laboring in prayer for wisdom. Ewell later was converted to Christianity. He was a man who loved his neighbor. The times that Jackson lived in cannot be judged by our own. In 1855 in Lexington Virginia Jackson started a Sunday School class for slave children that met in the Presbyterian church where he was a member. He approached the masters of the slaves and asked permission to teach the children. He then made announcement to parents of the children and the children inviting them to come freely to his class. Each Sunday at 3:00 pm the doors would close to the church where over 100 children had gathered for his class voluntarily. If they were not there when the doors closed they would be locked out and after the first week of being locked out they made certain they were early. He would teach them from the Scriptures and then break them into small groups to learn the catechism where he had appointed young black adult men to lead those groups. The class continued until 1861 when he left Lexington for war. During the War he would send money back home to the church to assist his class. The class ran until 1880. Many of his students were there to mourn his death when he was brought back to Lexington. A number of the students entered the ministry as pastors of black churches in Virginia and beyond. He told them of the cross and cared for their souls with his life, the word and in prayer, even while away at war. Much more could be said of this hero of our American past but I will allow his contemporaries speak. James Powell Smith said of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, “Outwardly, Jackson was not a stone wall, for it was not in his nature to be stable and defensive, but vigorously active. He was an avalanche from an unexpected quarter. He was a thunderbolt from a clear sky. And yet he was in character and will more like a stone wall than any man I have known.” And one of his students remarked of him in 1886, “His fame is as lasting as the solid stones of his native hills…and yet there is for him, a purer, nobler record- his quiet Christian walk in life, his right words, his faithful manly bearing, his victory over self, his known devotion to the Word of truth. He was indeed a soldier of the cross.” I remember Stonewall Jackson as a man who knew the true God and loved him in praise, thanksgiving, trust and obedience. I pray we have more men like him.