Reuben Stark Jackson was born in Southern Louisiana (Pt Coupee parish), September 12th, 1844. His family was one of the oldest and wealthiest of the American families of the State. Left an orphan at the age of two years, he was brought up by an aunt in Rapides parish, whose Christian character decidedly influenced him till her death in 1860. After this he was under the care of her husband, his guardian, who was not a believer in Christianity, and whose teachings in time led his ward into the rejection of all religions belief. Little or nothing is known of his childhood. When the late civil war began he was in the senior class of the Louisiana State University (of which Gen. Sherman was then Superintendent), but enlisted at the first call for volunteers, went to Virginia with one of the first regiment s from his State, and served faithfully throughout the war. His war record is a good one. He went in as Lieutenant, was severely wounded at the second battle of Manassas and sent home, but got well of his wound (apparently well - it was at last the cause of his death), and became Captain of cavalry in Louisiana. Here he was one of the actors in a brilliant feat. Going out hastily to meet a raiding party, he was captured, and sent with others by sea to Fort Delaware in the "Maple Leaf;" but on Chesapeake Bay the prisoners overpowered their guard, got possession of the boat, ran her on shore, paroled her crew, and then made their way painfully through the Dismal Swamp and North Carolina to their homes. The rest of the war he served west of the Mississippi He was twice a prisoner.
The close of the war found him stripped of the greater part of his property, but he went cheerfully to work teaching and studying for the bar. He was for some time with Rev. Mr. Paxton, at Minden, and then in charge successively of the Male College and the Masonic Female Institute at Homer, whence he went to his plantation near Cheneyville, intending to go soon to New Orleans to attend law lectures. But God had other designs for him. In September of this year (1869) he was converted to faith in Jesus, determined to abandon the law, and settled on his plantation. The following year (in September) he was licensed to preach, taught in Mississippi College the session of 1870-71, was ordained in June, did missionary work the rest of the year, was called (Christmas, 1871,) to the pastoral charge of Bastrop and Oak Ridge Churches in Morehouse parish, La, and remained here till September, 1873, when he went with his wife (he had been married some years) to the Theological Seminary in Greenville, S. C. He studied in the Seminary the session of 1873-4, preached during the vacation (May-August) to Ninety-Six and Fellowship Churches in South Carolina, returned to Greenville at the opening of the session (September 1st) eager for work, was taken sick immediately (the old wound in the foot), and died September 10, 1874.
His Conversion and Ministerial Work
Bro. Jackson's religious history is full of interest. As already stated, his training after he was fifteen years old was an irreligious one. We have few details of his life in the army and immediately after the end of the war; but his strong decided nature could not rest in any half-way position, and he gradually gave himself up to thorough unbelief, which was nourished by reading the writings of French and English deists. Yet his deeper spiritual feeling seems all along to have protested and rebelled against this ungodliness, and there ensued an inner conflict which culminated in 1868 in a state of long continued dissatisfaction and wretchedness. A long time he wrestled with himself in silence; he spoke to nobody (not even to his wife) of his suffering, and had no earthly helper. Outwardly he was calm, inwardly he was miserable. At last he resolved (led, we believe, by God's gracious Spirit) that this state of doubt should continue no longer. He set himself to examine the Bible and the evidences of its truth, and the result was a thorough conviction of its Divine origin and authority. His harassed soul gladly laid hold of the hope given in the gospel. It was dring a fishing excursion (he used to go on such excursions that he might be alone with his own heart) that he was enabled to trust God, to fall as a penitent sinner at the feet of the Savior.
From this time he never wavered in his single hearted devotion to the cause of Christ. In becoming a Baptist preacher he gave up what was regarded as brilliant prospects, but he did not stop to count the cost in determining his religious duty. As soon as he resolved to preach, he set himself to prepare for the work. It was with this view that he became tutor in Mississippi College, and afterward went to the Seminary, which last step excited no little astonishment among his friends; they thought him already a well equipped preacher. But his standard of ministerial work and qualification was a high one; he was determined to spare pains to become all that was possible. At the Seminary his instructors and fellows students can testify to his ardor and thoroughness in study. The writer of this memorial had often __sion to re_____ the steady industry and invincible determination with which Bro. Jackson applied himself to the subjects of his studies. He had wide reading and a vigorous grasp of mind. His ambition was not the less strong because it was a sanctified one, and, with his mental and physical strength, it seemed that he might hope for everything. He made everything bear on his ministerial work. His private note-book contains, besides general devotional meditations, suggestions and precepts for the self-government of the minister in his official work. He speaks in one place of the necessity for the preacher to be cheerful and yet avoid levity and trifling: and again, troubled by the fact that a brother had misunderstood a joke, he says that it will be better for him, he thinks, to give up jocular talk altogether. He speaks strongly against introducing into conversation (a fault into which preachers among themselves are prone to fall) discussions of impure topics. His study was devotional; in his busiest times he redeemed hours for private prayer and reading of the Scriptures. At the same time he had enlarged, broad ideas about education, for himself and for others, and was a devoted friend of the Louisiana University, of Mississippi College, and of the Seminary at Greenville.
As a preacher Bro. Jackson was vigorous, practical and straightforward. His first pastor, Eld. Thomas Lansdell (who baptized him) has preserved an account of his beginnings in the work (his first sermon was in French to a French audience), and a brother who knew him well (Rev. Geo. B. Eager) speaks of the effect produced by a sermon preached at Clinton on "The Power of the Gospel," and especially by the air of deep conviction and earnestness which the young preacher had. As a missionary and pastor in Louisiana, and in his work in South Carolina, he was greatly blessed in the conversion of sinners and the strengthening of the churches. He was untiring in effort and faithful in prayer. He had a deep sense of the need of the Spirit's power, and a very thorough conviction that the gospel of Christ was what men needed.
His Inner Religious Life
From the moment of his conversion he showed deep godliness and spirituality, and his whole Christian course was marked by growth. In the last months of his life, especially his increasing spirit of consecration was very observable in his diary and letters. The care which he bestowed on the plan of his religious life, the diligent inquiry after the best principle of action, his faithful scrutiny of his own motives, his constant recourse to God for help, showed the realness of his spiritual life. "His habit," says a friend, "was to spend much time in self-examination and prayer, even in the midst of pressing labors. His role was to be sure that he felt at rest in God before he went out into the bustle of the day's work He often spent hours in solitude and prayer before going to the house of God. The peace of God ruled in his soul even when fiery trials beset him without. During the last vacation, his letters have breathed the spirit of one who seemed sitting at the feet of Jesus, ever conscious of his love, and working with bounding zeal under the constraining power of that love."
C. H. Toy
Extracts From His Diary, May-August, 1874 follow and are not recorded here.
[From The Baptist newspaper, January 2, 1875. New Series - Vol. VIII, No. 7.
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