Robert L. Dabney was born in Virginia in 1820. He was converted at seventeen years of age. In 1839 he entered the University of Virginia and graduated with a Master of Arts in 1842. From 1842 to 1844 Dabney taught school and managed his mother’s farm. Deciding to study for the ministry, he attended Union Seminary. In March 1852, Dr. Dabney was elected professor in Union Seminary, where he remained for over thirty years.
When the War for Southern Independence erupted, Dr. Dabney enlisted in the Confederate Army as chaplain and became General Stonewall Jackson’s Chief of Staff. More than once he distinguished himself for courage. Near Port Republic in the Valley campaign his quick thinking and reaction averted disaster for the army, for which his modesty alone prevented him from receiving the credit he deserved.
Dabney was an unrivaled teacher and he possessed a powerful intellect which grasped the most profound philosophical themes and made them plain. Dr. Dabney was also a mighty preacher of the Gospel. Dabney did not dally with unbelief, nor only partly believe the Word of God. Dr. Dabney had deep convictions and the courage to stand for them. He refused to compromise and did not fear unpopularity. He obeyed God rather than man. The only stain which I can attach to his character or thinking was his defense of slavery. I confess that I do not understand how such a godly man missed the mark in this area of his life. Yet, I do acknowledge how often in my own life I have missed the mark concerning important issues. Otherwise, I find no fault with Dabney’s theology. He is possibly the greatest theologian born in the South. Below is an excerpt from one of Dabney’s fine works on saving faith:
The special object of saving faith is Christ the Redeemer, and the promises of grace in Him. By this, we do not mean that any true believer will willfully and knowingly reject any of the other propositions of God’s word. For the same habit of faith, or disposition of holy assent and obedience to God’s authority, which causes the embracing of gospel propositions, will cause the embracing of all others, as fast as their evidence becomes known. But we mean that in justifying faith, Christ and His grace is the object immediately before the believer’s mind; and that if he have a saving knowledge of this, but be ignorant of all the rest of the gospel, he may still be saved by believing this. The evidences are that the gospel is so often spoken of as the object of faith; [but this is about Christ]; e. g., Mark 16:15-16; Eph. 1:13; Mark 1:15; Rom. 1:16, 17; et passim. That believing on Christ is so often mentioned as the sole condition, and that, to men who must probably have been ignorant of many heads of divinity; e. g., Acts 16:31; John 3:18; 6:40; Rom. 10:9, etc. The same thing may be argued from the experiences of Bible saints) who represent themselves as fixing their eyes especially on Christ. 1 Tim. 1:15, etc., and from the two sacraments of faith, which point immediately to Jesus Christ. Still, this special faith is, in its habitus, a principle of hearty consent to all God’s holy truth, as fast as it is apprehended as His. Faith embraces Christ substantially in all His offices. This must be urged, as of prime practical importance. Owen has in one place very incautiously said, that saving faith in its first movement embraces Christ only in His priestly, or propitiatory work. This teaching is far too common, at least by implication, in our pulpits. Its result is “temporary” faith, which embraces Christ for impunity only, instead of deliverance from sin. Our Catechism defines faith, as embracing Christ “as He is offered to us in the gospel.” Our Confession (chap. xiv., section 2), says: “the principle acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification and eternal life.” How Christ is offered to us in the gospel may be seen in Matthew 1:21; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 5:25-27; Titus. 2:14. The tendency of human selfishness is ever to degrade Christ’s sacrifice into a mere expedient for bestowing impunity. The pastor can never be too explicit in teaching that this is a travesty of the gospel; and that no one rises above the faith of the stony ground hearer, until he desires and embraces Christ as a deliverer from depravity and sin, as well as hell. (Systematic Theology)
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Faith, God, Grace, Jesus Christ, Philosophy, Preaching, Reformed Christian Topics, Salvation, The Cross of Christ, Theology | Tagged: Christ, Dabney, Jesus, Mark, Stonewall Jackson, University of Virginia | Comments Off