“My comfort and salvation, Lord, shall surely come from Thee.”*
Today on the Episcopal Church calendar we remember with a lesser feast the life of William Porcher Dubose (April 11, 1836 – August 18, 1918) .
Dubose served as a Confederate soldier and chaplain in Virginia and was captured and imprisoned at Fort Delaware. During Reconstruction he was an Episcopal minister in Abbeville and Winnsboro, S.C., and became a theologian at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee in 1871. Indeed, according to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, he was “probably the most original and creative thinker the American Episcopal Church has ever produced…He was not widely traveled, and not widely known, until, at the age of 56, he published the first of several books on theology that made him respected, not only in his own country, but also in England and France.”
You can read more about him here. Read the comments section for a long-winded, back-and-forth argument about whether Dubose should be disqualified from the Calendar because of his Confederate ties and his “support” of the KKK during Reconstruction and on and on. Or don’t bother. Whatever.
Here is a quote from a letter written by Dubose to his first wife Annie toward the end of the Civil War where he admits his imperfections:
“I have just commenced today our reading of the Old Testament. I will have to skip all the intervening chapters and begin afresh at the lesson for the day. You must read by the lessons and also keep in mind during the week the Collect, Epistle, and Gospel. It will be sweet to know that we are reading and thinking together. My traveling etc. threw me a little off my balance and I am just recovering again. How is it that we will so often stray away from God when it is so sweet to be near Him and so full of discomfort and wretchedness to be far from Him? If our hope rested on our own faithfulness how miserable we’d be! But blessed be God, it rests upon His faithfulness and not ours. Is not God’s patience and forbearance a mystery! I am almost tempted sometimes to feel that it is useless to try Him again. I have been so often faithless to my most sacred vows. Then I feel I cannot live without Him and I always find Him more ready to receive me. Oh how I wish I could be more consistent and steadfast. The hymn beginning ‘Jesus my strength, my hope’ is a very sweet one to me.”
I have no doubt that God is patient with and forebears even self-righteous comment-writers of the 21st century.
*Jesus, my Strength, my Hope, Charles Wesley, 1742