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Christian Conversion of Thomas Jonathan Jackson by Dr. Richard Lee Montgomery





“The commanding officer of his regiment while it was in Mexico following the Mexican War, Colonel Francis Taylor, was the first man to speak to Stonewall Jackson on the subject of personal religion. Taylor was an earnest Christian, constantly interested in the religious welfare of his soldiers. He made a deep impression on young Jackson, who after this conversation resolved to study the Bible and seek all the light within his reach. 

On his return to the United States, soon after settling as a professor at the Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Va., he applied for admission into the Presbyterian Church, making a public profession of his faith in Christ on November 22, 1851. He soon became a deacon in the church, and with a soldier's training in obedience to superior command he followed out the same principles in his church duties, going to his pastor as his chief for his ‘orders,’ and ‘reporting’ performance of them in a military way.

Few men had such reverence for ministers of the Gospel as had Jackson, and he often said that, had his education fitted him for it and had he more of the gift of speaking, he would have entered the pulpit.”  
Louis Albert Banks, The Religious Life of Famous Americans (Boston: American Tract Society, 1904), 125-126.

“The thoughts of religion began to stir in his heart under the influence of a pious friend at West Point, and were felt with some power when, a young lieutenant at Fort Hamilton, he was, of his own desire, baptized into the Christian faith, by an Episcopal clergyman. They were moving effectually upon heart and conscience, when in the City of Mexico, applauded and promoted for conspicuous bravery, with a rare candor and open-heartedness he sought instruction of a bishop of the Catholic church, of whom he was accustomed to speak with the most sincere respect. The truths of the religion of Christ found a deep and abiding place in his heart, in the more quiet and regulated conditions of his first years in Lexington, when under the ministry of the venerable Presbyterian pastor, Dr. Wm. S. White, he made a public confession of his personal faith in Christ. Acknowledging his ignorance of religious truth, he came with entire candor and simplicity to be taught as a little child. The truths he heard were not wholly clear to him, and some things he antagonized with an honesty and courage that were most admirable in the sincere seeker after truth. Only through the long process of study, reflection and prayer, was he led into a clear vision of the great essential truths of evangelical religion. As they came out, like stars fixed in the firmament of his upward gaze, he bowed his head and his heart and gave them their rightful authority over all his manhood.”
The Union Seminary Review Volume 25, No. 4 (Richmond: April-May, 1914), 272-273.

“But we have now reached the most important era in Jackson's life ; the beginning of a vital change in his religious character. All the information which can now be gathered, points to the devout Colonel Frank Taylor, commanding his regiment of artillery, as his first official spiritual guide. This good man was accustomed to labor as a father for the religious welfare of his young officers; and Jackson's manly nature seems to have awakened his especial interest. During the campaign of the summer, his instruction and prayers had produced so much effect as to awaken an abiding anxiety and spirit of inquiry in Jackson's mind. He acknowledged his former practical neglect of this transcendent subject, and deplored the vagueness of his religious knowledge. It seems to have been almost a law of his nature even before it was sanctified, that, with him, to be convinced in his understanding of a duty was to set straightway about its performance. He resolved to make the Bible his study, and with a characteristic independence of mind, to take nothing, as to his own religious duties, from prejudice, or from the claims of the various denominations into which he saw the religious world divided. His attitude towards all creeds and sects was at this time singularly unbiassed. His parentage cannot be said to have belonged to any party in religion; his youth had been passed in a household where Christianity was practically unknown; and his later education was obtained among a great company of young men, assembled from every church, under the slender instructions of an army chaplain. His own religious knowledge was at this time extremely scanty. Resolved to examine for himself and decide conscientiously, he concluded that there was now a rare opportunity to inform himself concerning one church at least, the Popish, from a high and authentic source. He was surrounded by educated Papists; and he determined to hear the very best they could say in commendation of their system. He therefore sought the acquaintance of the Archbishop of Mexico, introduced, probably, by his monastic friends, and had a number of interviews, in which that prelate entered at large into an explanation of the Romish system. Jackson always declared that he believed him a sincere and honest advocate of that Church, and that he found him not only affable, but able and learned. He also said that the system, as expounded by intelligent Romanists, was by no means so gross or so obnoxious to common sense as is represented by the mass of decided Protestants. The truth is (and herein is the subtlety of that form of error), the statements of doctrines are so artfully drawn up by the well trained doctor of the Romish Church, that they may bear always two phases of meaning; the one more decided and gross, the other more akin to the evangelical truth. When, for instance, Rome requires her teachers to say that, in the sinner's justification, the "meritorious cause" is the righteousness of Jesus Christ, while the '’formal cause’ is the personal holiness inwrought by the grace of the gospel in the Christian's soul; the words in the hands of a Jansenist, maybe made almost to mean that precious truth which every evangelical Christian, in every church, embraces in substance, that our acceptance before God is only in the merits of the Redeemer; while, in the hands of a self-righteous Jesuit, they will teach essentially a Pharisaic dependence on our own observances. So the doctrine of penance and absolution, in the instruction of the former, will be made to mean little more than that the minister of God's church is commissioned to publish therein His mercy to the truly penitent soul; while, in the teachings of the latter, it will encourage the ignorant to believe, with a gross literality, that the priest, and the priest alone, can forgive sins. Doubtless, in the case of Jackson, the skillful polemic saw that his mind was too clear and strong to be hoodwinked by the darker phase of these dogmas. But with all the casuist's plausibility, he failed to commend Popery to his convictions. The inquirer departed unsatisfied, clearly convinced that the system of the Bible and that of Rome were irreconcilable, and that the true religion of Jesus Christ was to be sought by him elsewhere.”
Robert Lewis Dabney, Life and Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. Thomas J. Jackson, Stonewall Jackson (New York: Blelock & Company, 1866), 55-57.

“Jackson delighted in religious conversation, and frequently engaged in it with his whole soul at times least expected by those who did not know him. During one of his battles, while he was waiting in the rear of a part of his command, which he had put in position to engage the attention of the enemy while another division had been sent to flank them, a young officer on his staff gave him a copy of the sketch of ‘Captain Dabney Carr Harrison,’ a young Presbyterian minister, widely known and loved in Virginia, who had been killed at Fort Donelson. He expressed himself highly gratified at getting the sketch, and entered into a warm conversation on the power of Christian example. He was interrupted by an officer, who reported ‘the enemy advancing,’ but paused only long enough to give the laconic order, ‘Open on them,’ and then resumed the conversation, which he continued for some time, only pausing now and then to receive dispatches and give necessary orders. A chaplain relates that, on the eve of the battle of Fredericksburg, he saw an officer wrapped in his overcoat, so that his marks of rank could not be seen, lying just in the rear of a battery quietly reading his Bible. He approached and entered into the prospects of the impending battle, but the officer soon changed the conversation to religious topics, and the chaplain was led to ask, ‘What regiment are you chaplain of?’ What was his astonishment to find that the quiet Bible-reader and fluent talker upon religious subjects was none other than the famous Stonewall Jackson!”
John Esten Cooke, Stonewall Jackson: A Military Biography (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1876), 506.

“He delighted to enlarge on his favorite topics of  practical religion, which were such as these: The Christian should carry his religion into everything. Christianity makes a man better in any lawful calling; it makes the general a better commander, and the shoemaker a better workman. In the case of a cobbler, or the tailor, for instance, religion will produce more care in promising work, more punctuality, and more fidelity in executing it, from conscientious motives; and these homely examples were fair illustrations of its value in more exalted functions. So, prayer aids any man, in any lawful business, not only by bringing down the divine blessing, which is its direct and primary object, but by harmonizing his own mind and heart. In the commander of an army at the critical hour, it calms his perplexities, moderates his anxieties, steadies the scales of judgment, and thus preserves him from exaggerated and rash conclusions. Again he urged that every act of man's life should be a religious act. He recited with much pleasure the ideas of Doddridge, where he pictured himself as spiritualizing every act of his daily life; as thinking, when he washed himself, of the cleansing blood of Calvary; as praying, while he put on his garments, that he might be clothed with the robe of Christ's righteousness; as endeavoring, while he was eating, to feed upon tli^ Bread of Heaven. So Jackson was wont to say that the Bible furnished men with rules for everything. If they would search, he said, they would find a precept, an example, or a general principle, applicable to every possible emergency of duty, no matter what was a man's calling. There the military man might find guidance for every exigency. Then, turning to Lieutenant Smith, he asked him. smiling: 'Can you tell me where the Bible gives generals a model for their official reports of battles f The lieutenant answered, laughing, that it never entered his mind to think of looking for such a thing in the Scriptures. 'Nevertheless,' said the general, 'there are such; and excellent models, too. Look, for instance, at the narrative of Joshua's battle with the Amalekites; there you have one. It has clearness, brevity, fairness, modesty; and it traces the victory to its right source—the blessing of God.”
Mary Anna Jackson, Life and Letters of General Thomas J. Jackson (Stonewall Jackson) (New York: Harper & Brothers Company, 1892), 458-460.

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