Category Archives: God’s Providence

Stonewall Jackson’s Faith Speaks to Christians Today

I have happily returned to reading Robertson’s biography of Thomas Jonathan Jackson. Because the writing is good, and based on both first hand accounts, private letters and contemporary reports, I feel I almost know the man. And I admire him. We need people like him in our country today, those who are public servants in the best sense: committed to fulfilling public and private duty. But more than that, I admire him as a Christian, a man who struggled to know and do God’s will.

The following section from the book occurs shortly after the Harper’s Ferry incident and the ensuing anxiety about sucession.

From the book:

“For Jackson, Lincoln’s election meant that, barring divine intervention, the days of the Union were numbered. Now was the time for serious discussion and mediation. He joined with eleven other Lexington gentlemen in issuing a call for a town meeting to consider the state of the Union. ‘By expression of our opinion,’ the group stated, residents could band together and ‘contribute our mite [sic] to arrest, if possible, the impending calamity–and if that is impossible, then to consult together as to what is the safest course for us to pursue in the event of a dissolution of the Federal government.’ Several gatherings took place, and a number of study committees came into being. Each produced much rhetoric but little resolution. As meetings became more inflammatory, Jackson’s support dwindled. He soon stopped attending the sessions.

Within a few days, Jackson relaxed. He had decided, as was his custom, to put his trust in God. Deacon Jackson would await further developments. Meanwhile, and as a deacon, Jackson had the responsibility for securing accommodations for visiting Presbyterian clergy. Jackson usually found it expedient to extend to such guests the hospitality of his own home.

The Reverend J. B. Ramsey of Lynchburg was at that time staying with the Jacksons. One morning the family had just risen from family prayers. Ramsey expressed lamentations over the state of the country. Jackson listened patiently, then gave the preacher a mini-sermon. “Why should Christians be disturbed about the dissolution of the Union? It can come only by God’s permission, and will only be permitted if for His people’s good; for does He not say, ‘All things work together for good to them that love God?’ I cannot see how we should be distressed about such things, whatever be their consequences.”

Seeing the Whole Context of Providence

Thanks to Alan Jacobs for this reference!

Barth on Mozart

I must again revert to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Why is it that this man is so incomparable? Why is it that for the receptive, he has produced in almost every bar he conceived and composed a type of music for which “beautiful” is not a fitting epithet: music which for the true Christian is not mere entertainment, enjoyment or edification but food and drink; music full of comfort and counsel for his needs; music which is never a slave to its technique nor sentimental but always “moving,” free and liberating because wise, strong and sovereign?

…It is possible to give him this position because he knew something about creation in its total goodness that neither the real fathers of the Church nor our Reformers, neither the orthodox nor Liberals, neither the exponents of natural theology nor those heavily armed with the “Word of God,” and certainly not the Existentialists, nor indeed any other great musicians before and after him, either know or can express and maintain as he did. In this respect he was pure in heart, far transcending both optimists and pessimists. 1756–1791! This was the time when God was under attack for the Lisbon earthquake, and theologians and other well-meaning folk were hard put to it to defend Him. In face of the problem of theodicy, Mozart had the peace of God which far transcends all the critical or speculative reason that praises and reproves. This problem lay behind him. Why then concern himself with it?
He had heard, and causes those who have ears to hear, even today, what we shall not see until the end of time—the whole context of providence. As though in the light of this end, he heard the harmony of creation to which the shadow also belongs but in which the shadow is not darkness, deficiency is not defeat, sadness cannot become despair, trouble cannot degenerate into tragedy and infinite melancholy is not ultimately forced to claim undisputed sway. Thus the cheerfulness in this harmony is not without its limits. But the light shines all the more brightly because it breaks forth from the shadow. The sweetness is also bitter and cannot therefore cloy. Life does not fear death but knows it well. Et lux perpetua lucet (sic!) eis — even the dead of Lisbon. Mozart saw this light no more than we do, but he heard the whole world of creation enveloped by this light.
Read it all here.

humans, humanity, humanism

 

Not By Chance

Providence:  The Almighty and everywhere present power of God; whereby, as it were, by his hand, he upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea all things come not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.

Heidelberg Catechism

Ever Thankful

“In Him we live and move and have our being.”   

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The Loom of Time

Man’s life is laid in the loom of time
To a pattern he does not see,
While the weavers work and the shuttles fly
Till the dawn of eternity.

Some shuttles are filled with silver threads
And some with threads of gold,
While often but the darker hues
Are all that they may hold.

But the weaver watches with skillful eye
Each shuttle fly to and fro,
And sees the pattern so deftly wrought
As the loom moves sure and slow.

God surely planned the pattern:
Each thread, the dark and fair,
Is chosen by His master skill
And placed in the web with care.

He only knows its beauty,
And guides the shuttles which hold
The threads so unattractive,
As well as the threads of gold.

Not till each loom is silent,
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God reveal the pattern
And explain the reason why

The dark threads were as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
For the pattern which He planned.

Author Unknown –

Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

 

I Thessalonians 5: 18

Hearty Medicine for the Suffering Soul

Trevin Wax, a Christian blogger at the Gospel Coalition, has written a personal account of the comfort of trusting God’s providence and presence in his family’s present crisis, the illness of his wife’s mother in far away Romania.

Wax:

For two days I was unable to pray. How strange it felt, as someone who is used to praying at specific times and off and on throughout the day, to be unable to spiritually breathe. It was as if the wind had been knocked out of me. No words could come. My inability to pray did not stem from anger toward God or faithlessness in his purposes, but from the shock that paralyzed my heart. I felt him, but I couldn’t talk to him….

And then this:

Through this time, I began reading a little book from my favorite Puritan writer, Thomas Watson, called All Things for GoodWatson calls Romans 8:28 the Christian’s “cordial,” hearty medicine for the suffering soul. He connects the pain of the present moment to the joy that comes from being assured of God’s providence.

“To know that nothing hurts the godly, is a matter of comfort; but to be assured that ALL things which fall out shall co-operate for their good, that their crosses shall be turned into blessings, that showers of affliction water the withering root of their grace and make it flourish more; this may fill their hearts with joy till they run over.”

This line ministered to me more than anything else in the book. Here, Watson is speaking of the times of trouble that the Lord leads us through:

“He is their strength in the time of trouble” (Psalm 37:39). God will be the strength of our hearts; he will join his forces with us. Either he will make his hand lighter, or our faith stronger.”

God will not allow us to be overcome by our weakness. He is our strength. Either he will lighten the trial or strengthen our faith. In both cases, he is with us. Then I came across this reminder of what Christ does for us in those moments when life’s trials throw us on our faces and make it nearly impossible to pray:

“When a Christian is weak, and can hardly pray for himself, Jesus Christ is praying for him; and he prays for three things: that the saints may be kept from sin, for his people’s progress in holiness, and for their glorification.”