If I was to make a list of the best examples of American prose, I would need to include Robert Lewis Dabney's Life and Campaigns of Lieutenant General Thomas J. Stonewall Jackson. Regardless of my contempt for the Confederacy and the Southern Cause, Dabney can transport the reader to the feel of those days, the passions of each crisis and victory, and cause the reader to form a true love for and see the greatness of this man Stonewall Jackson. If anyone truly enjoys books on politics, Christian thought, or war; this book is a must; but it is Jackson's deathbed admonition to his chaplain to which I would like to draw the attention of my readers.
Jackson's death was a lingering one which saw long periods of lucidity. He had however been on the brink of immediate death when in the confusion of him being shot and transported away from the battle, his litter bearers dropped him. Seeking to give God every ounce of glory that he could from his death, Jackson spoke, "I was brought face to face with death, and found all was well. I then learned an important lesson, that one who has been the subject of converting grace, and is the child of God, can, in the midst of the severest sufferings, fix the thoughts upon God and heavenly things, and derive great comfort and peace: but, that one who had never made his peace with God would be unable to control his mind, under such sufferings, so as to understand properly the way of salvation, and repent and believe Christ. I felt that if I had neglected the salvation of my soul before, it would have been too late then." (Page 708)
Jackson, who had often expressed the desire to lead a converted army, was distressed by the many reports he had about men who put off salvation, but assured others that if they were to be mortally wounded they would turn to Christ upon their death beds. Not only do we get an insight into the soul and thinking of this great man, we get a better insight into the thinking of soul winners during the Civil War and its era. If, "for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved", was interpreted by Confederate Chaplains in those days in the same way it is today, it is hard to see where any men would have held back.
Those chaplains would have been trained in the techniques so loved today, wherein a skillful preacher induces every single person in a crowd to bow his head while no one is looking and raise his hand if he meant business with God. Surely, Jackson is not telling us that he could not have called out to Jesus to save him during the agony of his fall. Surely, he is not telling us that no mortally wounded man could cry out, "Jesus save me". What is Jackson saying? He plainly says that the action of being saved is attended by a thought process that culminates in the personal repentance of the person seeking salvation, and that process is not a simple prayer.
Repentance to Jackson, and to those of like ilk, was not changing the mind about whether or not to receive Christ as some modern preachers define it. Repentance was a reflection upon the graciousness of God compared to the severity of his law, and a personal understanding of the repentant sinner of his own need for that grace based on his understanding of his own transgression of God's law.
It is hardly possible to find saints of God prior to WWII who professed less in their testimonies of salvation. Today, it is rare to find anyone with such a testimony. Were the saints of old throwing too much flotsam into the mix? Were they exaggerating some aspect of the current culture and mistaking it for a part of the salvation process? I think not. Each person in the Bible who gets saved, exhibits such a repentance.
Probably no person in the bible is more representative of true repentance than the thief on the cross. The crowd around the cross openly mocked; He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth, Matthew 27:43,44. How did we get from a malefactor casting taunts in the teeth of Jesus Christ, to a pardoned sinner who sits with Jesus Christ today? Look at what the man said. And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss, Luke 23:39-41. What changed this man's mind?
Three things are for sure. This thief had seen the same things that the Centurion was observing. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one, I John 5:8. He saw that earthen vessel, Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh hanging on a cross and dying. He saw the blood come forth and he witnessed the spirit with which Jesus spoke. He was to see the water come out. We know that this was enough for the Centurion to identify Jesus as the Son of God. The thief also knew the law. For by the law is the knowledge of sin, Romans 3:20. He has had the work of the Comforter apply those things to his heart. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged, John 16:8-11. This man recognized that his deeds righteously condemned him to an agonizing shameful death. Keep in mind, both men asked for salvation. One said, If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us. The other said, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom, Luke 23:42.
To what else can we ascribe this other than to biblical repentance? He went from mocking Jesus Christ to recognizing himself as guilty and Jesus Christ as righteous. I don't know how many of my readers are familiar with criminals, but the rarest thing amongst them is to find one who freely acknowledges his guilt and the justness of his condemnation. Is this not the crux of what Elihu told Job? He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light, Job 33:27,28. Does not this thief see that his earlier mocking was a perversion of what is right? Does he not freely acknowledge his sin? Does he not freely acknowledge the unprofitableness of his sin?
It is easy to get people to acknowledge that they have sin. That is not repentance. I have heard men brag of their sins. Both Pharaoh and Saul confessed that they had sinned. What you would never hear either of them doing is to admit that it had been a perversion of that which was right or acknowledging that it had not profited them. Each was playing a hand in a longer game. No man, woman, or child has ever been saved in such a game. God wants to shut their mouths. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God, Romans 3:19.
Herein is where I want to diverge into the issue of new versions or purposefully corrupted versions. First, I want to go over a little history. In the mid 1800s, it was almost impossible to find a premillennialist. Moody wasn't one. Spurgeon or Finney weren't premillennial. Then in the late 19th century and in the early 20th century, Larkin, Blackwell and Scofield began educating preachers. Within the next 50 years, it was almost impossible to find a man of God with any power on him who was not premillennial. There were still many preachers who were not premillennial, but to find one actually doing anything useful for God is rare.
It has been told to me about men who actually were called to preach in the 1950s, and I have heard the personal witness of such, that every preacher in those days needed to make a decision of whether he was Calvinist or Arminian. The concept we know today as the Baptistic Doctrine of free will to choose or reject Christ, but a salvation that could not be lost, was just not understood until the late 1950s and mid 60s by most preachers. Yet today, it is almost impossible to find a man of God with any power on him at all who identifies himself as either Calvinist or Arminian. God has bypassed such men whereas, just a half century ago, he blessed their labors. Part of the secret to serving God is to understand the times. And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, I Chronicles 12:32.
The men of Issachar had to make a decision. In doing so they turned their back on the majority of God's people. They recognized that what God blessed only a few years earlier, he would bless no more. Likewise, in the days of Jeremiah, those who abandoned Jerusalem, the priests, and the king found favor with God. A decade or so earlier the same behavior would have been damned by God. We live in such an age.
How do we know when a nation has crossed a line with God? Paul tells us. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient, Romans 1:28. Every Fundamentalist that I know has taught for as long as I can remember, that the Constitution of the United States of America was a God given document and that our government was established by God. How can they not see that the same God has reached down into the very bowels of our government and used the Supreme Court and the other two branches to turn this nation over to a reprobate mind as a collective people? We crossed a line in 2013 with the mandatory nationwide acceptance of Sodomy as being equal to nature. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? Matthew 16:3.
From the inception of the King James Bible until about the 1990s, God honored preachers who corrected the English with the Greek. Just go listen to some Oliver Greene messages. Do not expect to ever see the power of God on such men again. Those churches have become jokes. God will wink at ignorance for a time for his own purposes, but to turn back from revelation is to despise God.
For almost the first 200 years of our nation, the knowledge of God was ever before the eyes of our citizens. It was in every home. It was in every courthouse, every school, every church and every public gathering and in most private gatherings. The revivalists of those days did not need to instill a sense of the awe of God in such a populace. What they had to do is to shake people out of their ignorance to the grace of that awful and terrible God. The consciousness of almost every man, woman, and child in our nation was burdened with a sense of sin and unrighteousness. According to author Edward Dolnick in his book The Clockwork Universe, which detailed the age of scientific discovery, the common man freely saw himself as damned. Even children's books commonly showed detailed pictures of the torments of hell. From the 1600s through the mid 1900s, the job of an evangelist was to show forth the hope in Jesus Christ.
Is there any preacher so foolish as to describe our current situation as equal to our forefathers? As M. R. DeHaan preached to the hundreds of thousands of GIs boarding ships for the pacific battles during WWII, he did not need to emphasize their guilt. Most men had been inculcated with a sense of the awe and righteousness of God all of their lives. They understood that God had laws and they understood that they had broken them. What they did not understand was the free gift of God. Does anyone think that our nation even remotely resembles those times?
What makes soul winning in the 21st century different than any other time in the English-speaking world since the days of Wycliffe, is that the preacher must cause the hearer to be rid of his entire life's understanding of a humanistic existence, and to view himself as guilty before God. Until a person believes Moses's judgements against himself, he cannot be saved. I didn't say that Jesus did. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? John 5:47. As one of the few preachers I know who almost went to hell from a King James Bible believing church, was awakened to my danger, encouraged to seek God through repentance, and now seeks to turn others to God through repentance, I can testify that it is not easy. The brethren fight it. The social workers fight it. The sinners themselves fight it. Jesus Christ, the Father and the Holy Ghost bless it.
Here is the matter stated flatly. A people who have been reared on Alexandrian texts or humanism and taught the precepts of God through perverted bibles have a perverted sense of their relationship to God. They are in no condition to repent. When an artificial Jesus is put forth to people steeped in an artificial sense of God, and an artificial Jesus is shown to have died and been buried and rose again, it has no more effect to the salvation of their souls then when they see the anti-Christ die and be raised again. It's the death burial and resurrection of the anti-Christ. The death burial and resurrection of the Jesus of the NIV, the ESV, NASB, the NASV, the New World Translation, the Book of Mormon etc., is as effectual for the deliverance of souls as the death burial and resurrection of Judas Iscariot.
Am I saying that if a person fully conscious of his or her debt to God through the law, can't be delivered if the preacher preaching paraphrases the gospel, or doesn't cross every "T" or dot every "i" of the King James Bible while he is preaching. God forbid, there would be no grace to man. I am saying that the preparatory work of the Holy Ghost that Stonewall Jackson so clearly understood was necessary for salvation, that every other age has had performed in their souls by God in the course of their lives, but is now extinct in our culture, can never be done with false bibles. God honors truth, and is gracious to unconscious error, yet he hates conscious error which those bibles represent. At no point does the Holy Ghost bear witness.
What about a person prepared unto repentance by godly parents and a traditional understanding of God, a person not unused to hearing about God through proper scripture? Can such a person be saved when the cross is presented to him using another version? I don't have a clue. I just know that that type of person is rarer than albino deer on Main Street. The only people raised with such an understanding and consciousness today are Fundamental Baptists for the most part, and most of those will never repent because they have been spoon-fed a false sense of security through easy believism.
To me, the greatest proof of a cult, is someone who clings to one or two verses to prove a doctrine, and studiously hides behind those verses when presented with other verses which in their context disprove the interpretation they have given to their pet verses. Jehovah Witnesses don't mind quoting Ecclesiastes 9:5, even out of a King James Bible. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. No matter how many other verses you show them in context that dead people have feelings, memory and either torment or reward, they just come back and hide behind, Ecclesiastes 9:5 and accuse you of not believing the bible.
Likewise, we have a strain of preachers who are historical King James Bible believers who fall short of molding their doctrine solely on its words. They quote Romans 10:13 and I Corinthians 15: 1-4, and studiously avoid every verse in a King James Bible whereby God demands repentance. Applying those verses on repentance does not contradict Romans 10:13 and I Corinthians 15:1-4 but waving Romans 10:13 and I Corinthians 15:1-4 while ignoring those other verses causes contradictions. A true Bible Believer never falls into the trap of saying, "I have my verses and you have yours". Until a man's doctrines can encompass all of the verses relevant to that aspect of doctrine, he can never call himself settled.