A Review of [Stonewall Jackson’s Pastor] Rev. William S. White, D.D. and His Times: An Autobiography
History is most often written by the victors. In eras of particular primacy in a nation’s history, it is important to look at events through the accounts of multiple eyewitnesses. Autobiographies provide insightful reading. Pastor White’s autobiography was compiled by his son, mostly from notes that Pastor White left at his death.
A native Virginian, William S. White was born into a pious family in l800. The hardship he faced as a child was but a sovereign preparation for the harsh times he would face some sixty years later. Impoverished, due to family trials, he worked diligently to obtain a seminary education.
A lover of Calvinism, he rejoiced to preach the doctrines of God’s grace throughout his ministries in various Virginia towns. He, also, called congregations and individuals to repentance. He evidenced a true Biblical balance of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. God blessed his efforts in the salvation of the lost and in the sanctification of believers.
He pastored the Presbyterian Church in Lexington from l848 until his retirement in l866. Three years into his pastorate, Stonewall Jackson was among those elected to the office of deacon. Jackson has a documented ministry to area blacks through the Sunday schools he established for them. Numerous paragraphs are devoted to Jackson’s outreach and anecdotal details of his Christian character.
The reflections from White’s Lexington years are insightful and helpful. Although he was opposed to secession, he explains why Virginia voted to secede and why he supported the decision. He, also, relates that the call for emancipation originated in the South. This call for gradual emancipation was overtaken by louder voices in the North calling for immediate freedom for blacks. White shares the grief that came with church members being killed or injured. He gives a citizen’s view of race relations and the terror experienced when the enemy invaded his town in l864. His counsel regarding the sovereignty of God in the midst of hard times is relevant for any day.
This volume provides accurate insights into Pastor White’s life. He does not cover up his mistakes nor gloss over sorrows that are a part of the ministry. He incorporates numerous glimpses into Jackson’s life, yet these do not become the book’s focal point. The reader is reminded that Jackson was but one of many Christians in the flocks that White shepherded; God used Pastor White’s faithful saints in a variety of ways for gospel advancement. In the midst of ministerial responsibilities, White also sought to be a devoted husband and father. White’s account of his work as a chaplain at the recently established University of Virginia reveals his heart for youth and those involved in campus life.
This book gives worthwhile insights for those interested in the War Between the States’ era. However, this volume is much more than a history lesson. It provides an account of a pastor who sought to be faithful where God called him, whether it be to a church or in the halls of education. He saw the necessity for the Bible to be applied in both spheres. One can read it and be encouraged, edified, and educated.
The volume closes with the inclusion of numerous, brief memorials on the life of Pastor White and his wife written by their peers.
Topics: American History, Biography, Theology