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[252]

Rev. Dr. R. L. Dabney was a gallant and efficient officer on Jackson's staff, and often preached to the men at Headquarters, and in their camps and bivouacs as opportunity offered. On this march he preached a very able sermon on ‘Special Providence,’ in the course of which he used this emphatic language: ‘Men, you need not be trying to dodge shot or shell or minnie. Every one of these strikes just where the Lord permits it to strike, and nowhere else, and you are perfectly safe where the missiles of death fly thickest until Jehovah permits you to be stricken.’

Major Nelson, of General Ewell's staff, one of the bravest of the brave and an humble Christian and devout churchman, heard that sermon and did not fully endorse what he called its ‘extreme Calvinism.’

Dr. Dabney rode with General Jackson into the very thickest of the fight, on many a hard fought field. The men used to say of their soldier-preacher ‘He does not mind it any more than we do.’ The gallant Major Nelson frequently met Dr. Dabney and discussed with him his doctrine of ‘Special Providence,’ and when upon one occasion he heard him directing the men who were under heavy fire to shield themselves as far as possible behind trees, and a convenient stone wall he rode up to him and with a graceful military salute said: ‘Major Dabney, every shot and shell and minnie strikes just where the Lord permits. And you must excuse me, sir, for expressing my surprise that you are directing the men to shelter themselves behind trees and a stone wall, and to put such things between themselves andSpecial Providence.’’ But Dr. Dabney promptly replied: ‘Why, Major, you do not understand the doctrine of ‘Special Providence.’ I believe it, and teach it with all my heart, but I look upon those trees and that stone wall as a very ‘special providence’ for the men at this time, and I am simply acting on the doctrine when I direct them to avail themselves of these ‘Special Providences.’Major Nelson was convinced, and accepted the doctrine of ‘Special Providence’ as Dr. Dabney expounded it.

I remember that, remaining for a season with the wounded in the field hospitals after Cold Harbor and Gaines's Mill, I rejoined the command just after the line of battle was formed in front of General McClellan's position at Harrison's Landing (Westover), and General Ewell said to me pleasantly: ‘I have not seen you preaching, or heard the songs of your prayer-meetings for several ’

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