NOTE: Today’s blog is a guest blog written by an old friend, Thomas Ray Floyd, a resident of Mississippi. It reflects on the extraordinary and exemplary Christian testimony of General Robert E. Lee.
"Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace." (Psalm 37:37).
"The perfect man" in our text is defined by the next clause as being a man who is "upright." While no man ever achieves sinless perfection in this life, there are some men who are graced by God to such a degree that their lives and characters are such examples that we should mark them, learn from them, and follow their example. So the scriptures call Job a "perfect" man (Job 1:1).
Next Monday (January 16) we will mark such a man -- General Robert Edward Lee. The Sovereign State of Mississippi recognises this truly upright man by designating the third Monday of January as a holiday in remembrance of General Lee's birth on January 19, 1807.
Robert Edward Lee was descended from a long line of honourable men. His father, Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee was an officer in the Revolutionary War and served under George Washington. He also served the Old Dominion State as governor for several terms. One of his relatives, Francis Lightfoot Lee was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Robert E. Lee married Mary Custis, the great-grand-daughter of George Washington. When General Lee said, "all the South has ever wanted is the Old Constitution as bequeathed to us by our forefathers," he was speaking of his own family who had been instrumental in the founding of our Republic.
Robert E. Lee displayed great character even from boyhood. Providence appointed that he would become the caretaker of his widowed and invalid mother when only eleven years old. He grew up quickly and had no time for frivolity and play. He and his mother were faithful members of the Episcopal Church. Of course the Episcopal Church in that day, and especially in Virginia and the South still believed the Bible. The Church the Lee's attended was the same one that George Washington had attended in his lifetime, and was not "high church," but was distinctly Protestant and Puritan in its doctrine and practice. He continued to show himself to be an upright man as a cadet at West Point, and never received a single demerit.
Robert E Lee first distinguished himself as a soldier in the Mexican war under General Winfield Scott, who said he was his own right arm in that war. Because of his great ability Abraham Lincoln offered him the command of the entire federal army when he decided to invade the South. Lee refused the offer knowing that Lincoln was committing treason by invading the Southern States. Lee knew the odds were great against the South, but he did not believe that "might makes right" like his modern day detractors do. Had Lee accepted Lincoln's offer, he would no doubt have had all this world has to offer- fame, power, and wealth, but he believed that righteousness and honour were more important than man's empty praise.
Although he initially opposed secession, he also said, "a union that can only be held together with bayonets has no attraction for me." When the Lincolnites invaded the South, the issue was settled for Lee. The South had a right to secede and it was nothing less than tyranny for Lincoln to try to force them back into the union by force of arms. After the War, Lee accepted defeat humbly and graciously and made many conciliatory gestures and statements, but when the Red Republicans treated the South as conquered provinces during "Reconstruction," Lee said to Governor Stockdale of Texas, "had I foreseen these results of subjugation, I would have preferred to die with my brave men with my sword in my hand."
During the War General Lee promoted piety among his troops and showed sincere interest in their spiritual condition. He issued an order that only necessary duties be performed on Sundays and he encouraged chaplains and preaching in his army. No doubt his labours for Christ and prayers for the souls of his men contributed to the Great Revival among the Confederate troops in which upwards of 150,000 men were converted. This was one of the few genuine revivals that God has sent upon this continent and has been documented in Christ in the Camp" by J. William Jones, one of the preachers used of the Holy Ghost in that glorious work. We urge you to read it.
One of the greatest examples of General Lee's character was shown when after the War a large insurance company from up north offered him a high-paying position. Of course the war had left him and his family destitute, and such a lucrative position would have helped them tremendously. General Lee responded to the offer by admitting he knew nothing of the insurance business and had no idea how he could possibly be of any use to them. They told him they did not want to him to do anything, they just wanted his name associated with the company since he was so well respected in the North as well as the South! General Lee then said, "well, all I have left is my name, and it is not for sale"!
Robert E. Lee was well respected all over the world, and still is by good people. Hear what Booker T. Washington said of this upright man: ""No people could live in the atmosphere of Lee and [Stonewall] Jackson and not be the best."
Mr. Washington also said, "the first white people in America, certainly the first people in the South to exhibit their interest in teaching the Negro and saving his soul through the medium of Sunday-School were Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson." (Actually there was much gospel preaching directed to the Negroes by many in the South from the earliest days of colonization, but Booker T Washington did recognise that Lee and Jackson were both zealous particularly for the "coloured Sunday Schools." We highly recommend The Religious Education of the Negroes in the United States, a wonderful and well-documented history of evangelism among the blacks from the earliest days of colonization.)
In a day when monuments to General Lee (and others from north and south) are being vandalized, we need to heed the words of Booker T. Washington on the subject. In a letter to Mamie A. Harrison (from New York!) dated June 6, 1914, Mr. Washington wrote, "I am going to take up carefully the matter of the Confederate monument about which you wrote me, and see if I can find someone to give the money that is still needed. I am very much interested in the matter and thank you for writing me........ I want to say again how very much we all appreciate the visit of [former Confederate] General George Paul Harrison to Tuskegee. We all realise more and more that men like him are the true friends of our race, and that any monument that will keep the fine character of such heroes before the public will prove helpful to both races in the South." Amen.
Thomas Ray Floyd has pastored churches in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee.
STAY IN THE FIGHT!
NEVER GIVE UP!
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