Previous Desktop Ramblings

My previous posts may be accessed here:

September 23, 2012

Night Before Slaughter

One of the most harrowing battles in the Civil War took place on December 13, 1862 in Fredericksburg, VA. The Union's 9th Army under General Ambrose Burnside was sent on a suicide mission across the Rappahannock River. Stationed across the river for weeks, my great-great grandfather, William James Burk, waited with his 116th PA Volunteer Regiment in the Irish Brigade. He would be among the young men marching across the quickly-placed pontoon bridges to the town (the main bridge had been destroyed). The battle ground would be on an elevated field called Marye's Heights where the Southern Army had perfectly staged defenses.

I cannot imagine the thoughts and emotions William had while preparing for this day of slaughter. Hopefully, he was praying for the God of all mercy to spare his life, and if he did, God answered that prayer, because he lived to fight in many more battles before being captured at Petersburg and sent to a number of Confederate prisons.

Clara Barton was more than a wonderful nurse: she also wrote letters that contained poetry in her prose. She was with the Union troops on the eve of this battle and penned the following [punctuation is original]:

Head Quarters 2nd Div.
9th Army Corps - Army of Potomac

Camp near Falmouth, Va.
Dec. 12th, 1862 - 2-o'clock A.M.

"My dear Cousin Vira,

"Five minutes time with you; and God only knows what those five minutes might be worth to the maybe-doomed thousands sleeping around me.

"It is the night before a battle. The enemy, Fredericksburg, and its mighty entrenchments lie before us, the river between - at tomorrow's dawn our troops will essay to cross, and the guns of the enemy will sweep those frail [pontoon] bridges at every breath.

"The moon is shining through the soft haze with brightness almost prophetic. For the last half hour I have stood alone in the awful stillness of its glimmering light gazing upon the strange sad scene around me, striving to say, 'Thy will Oh God be done.'

"The camp fires blaze with unwanted brightness, the sentry's tread is still but quick - the acres of little shelter tents are dark and still as death, no wonder for as I gazed sorrowfully upon them, I thought I could almost hear the slow flap of the grim messenger's wings, as one by one he sought and selected his victims for the morning sacrifice. Sleep weary one, Sleep and rest for tomorrow's toil. Oh! Sleep and visit in dreams once more the loved ones nestling at home. They may yet live to dream of you, cold lifeless and bloody, but this dream soldier is thy last, paint it brightly, dream well. Oh northern mothers wives and sisters, all unconscious of the hour, would to Heaven that I could bear for you the concentrated woe which is so soon to follow, would that Christ would teach my soul a prayer that would plead to the Father for grace sufficient for you, God pity and strengthen you every one.

"Mine are not the only waking hours, the light yet burns brightly in our kind hearted General's tent where he pens what may be a last farewell to his wife and children and things sadly of his fated men.

"Already the roll of the moving artillery is sounding in my ears. The battle draws near and I must catch one hour's sleep for tomorrow's labor.

"Good night dear cousin and Heaven grant you strength for your more peaceful and less terrible, but not weary days than mine."

Yours in love,

September 8, 2012

What Is Theology?

John Dick was a Secessionist pastor in Scotland. Born in 1764, he started preaching in Slateford, near Edinburgh in 1786. He received his Doctor of Divinity at Princeton, NJ in 1815 and returned to Scotland to head the theology 'department'.
He gave lectures on theology, which were published in two volumes. I remember visiting Bob and Peggy West when Bob was attending Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS. The library let me copy volume 1's Attributes of God pages, which I collated and covered when I got home. The picture below is of an original 1858 printing, not my copy.

Here is Rev. Dick's explanation of theology proper. Be sure to read the last paragraph.
"Theology literally signifies, a discourse concerning God. By the ancients,
the term was used in a more restricted, and a more extended sense. In the
writings of the Fathers, mention is made of the Theology of the Sacred Trinity,
and of the Theology of the Son of God, or of the Divinity of our Saviour;
while the word, at other times, denotes the general system of truth contained
in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, or these Scriptures themselves.

"It may be defined to be the science which treats of God, his nature, his attri-
butes, his counsels, his works, and his dispensations towards the human race.
I call it a science, because it is equally worthy of that designation with any of
those departments of knowledge to which it is applied by common consent; for,
although its authentic records do not deliver theology in a scientific form, it is
founded on first principles, from which its subordinate parts are deducible; and,
throughout all its ramifications, there is a connexion, a mutual dependence,
constituting a harmonious whole.
"Reflection upon the subject of theology will convince us that it claims the preference
to all other studies. In God, we behold an assemblage of all conceivable excellencies,
existing in the highest degree, and in  the most perfect accordance; the union of grandeur and loveliness, of every thing fitted to awaken solemn and pleasing emotions,
to impress us with veneration, to gain our confidence, to inspire us with hope.

He is invisible to mortal eyes, but this is not a reason for suspending our inquiries,
because we are furnished not only with external senses, by which we communi-
cate with the material creation, but also with mental faculties, which qua-
lify us for liolding intercourse with the intellectual or spiritual world. The
mystery which envelopes his nature might discourage us, if we entertained a
presumptuous wish to comprehend his infinite essence; but it presents no ob-
stacle to the attainment of that degree of knowledge which will serve as the
foundation of religion, since he has been pleased to grant such manifestations
of himself as are suitable to our limited capacity and our present state of exist-
"His remoteness from us, who are separated from him by an interval of
infinite extent, has been urged by some men as an argument for dismissing him
from our thoughts, and confining them to subjects more nearly allied to us; but
it will have no weight in the estimation of those who consider, that independent
and self-existent as he is, he stands in the closest relations to us, as our Maker,
our Lawgiver, and our Judge. To know this mighty Being, as far as he may
be known, is the noblest aim of the human understanding; to love him, the
most worthy exercise of our affections; and to serve him the most honourable
and delightful purpose to which we can devote our time and talents. To ascer-
tain the character of God in its aspect towards us; to contemplate the display
of his attributes in his works and dispensations; to discover his designs towards
man in his original and his present state; to learn our duty to him, the means of
enjoying his favour, the hopes which we are authorized to entertain, and
the wonderful expedient by which our alien race is restored to purity and
happiness; these are the objects of theology, and entitle it to be pronounced
the first of all the sciences in dignity and importance.
"Ignorant of the other sciences, and of the arts which minister to the ornament
and amusement of life, a man who can sustain himself by mechanical labour, may spend
the short time of his earthly pilgrimage, not without comfort, nor without the
honour which honesty and integrity may procure, especially if religion has
shed some rays of its celestial light upon him; but he who has stored his
mind with every kind of knowledge except the knowledge of God and divine
things, lives like a fool, and shall die without hope."


September 2, 2012

Color the Skies

God created all things ex nihilo - from nothing. That doesn't mean God is nothing, but that God exists apart and outside of His creation. Space, time and life were spoken into existence by the "word of His power." Hebrews 1:3.

And in His wisdom He created color - that visible electromagnetic spectrum of light with different wavelengths.

Colors have come to symbolize certain Biblical truths. Blue refers to heaven and black to sin and judgment. Yes, I know - black isn't really a color.

Most people enjoy any lavish use of complementary colors - and they most likely don't know why. It's a spiritual thing, actually. God's image is relected in us, and part of that primal image is appreciation of beauty - color is part of an expression of all that is beautiful. Genesis 1:26.

This is one reason we enjoy visiting the Color the Skies Balloon Festival each year. Few events boast so much color on a large scale.

Today is a good day to thank God for this wonderful gift of sight and the visible electromagnetic spectrum!