The Hand of God in Unfolding History

Neal Pollard

Dave Chamberlin gave me a copy of the latest Civil War Times.  On page 14, there is a story about two of my great-great-great grandfathers and a picture of one of them, Stephen Pollard.  Apparently, the photo of great-grandpa has been "widely publicized" and went unattributed for some time.  It was found in the Liljenquist collection of Civil War portraits in the Library of Congress.  This grandfather survived the war and farmed in Haralson County, Georgia, until his death in 1899 (Petranek, Ed., Vol. 51, No. 6, 12/12, p. 14).

It's the story of the other grandfather mentioned in the article, John Rigby, of the 35th Georgia Infantry, that is so fascinating.  The authors, Linda Wheeler and Sarah Richardson, did not know this story.  My cousin, Paul Pollard, told me about grandpa Rigby.  While fighting in the battle of Gaines Mills in 1862, grandpa Rigby was wounded seriously enough to be discharged.  He walked from Mechanicsville, Virginia, back home to Haralson County, Georgia.  While he was recovering at home, he and grandmother conceived their first child. About two years later, he was well enough to rejoin the 35th as they fought in the Wilderness Campaign of 1864. Though he received only a flesh wound, grandpa was captured by Union Forces and imprisoned in the infamous Elmira Prison Camp in upstate New York.  He died shortly after the signing of the Appamattox Treaty in the Spring of 1865.  But, if grandpa Rigby had not been wounded in Mechanicsville (where I preached almost 12 years!), I would not be here! What seeming providence, as God's hand preserved a lineage that has produced several preachers and may well produce several more!

One of the most faith-building exercises is to study the eternal scheme of redemption in Scripture.  God worked out His salvation plan historically, through time and events, to bring the Christ into the world (cf. Gal. 4:4).  There were times, such as Noah's day, awaiting the birth of Isaac, the period of the judges, the divided kingdom, the Babylonian Captivity, and many other events or eras where that plan seemed imperiled.  Yet, more than merely a story of providence, God's eternal plan involves the sovereignty and intentional grace of God.  Peter said Jesus was crucified as part of "the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23).  God announced it beforehand (Acts 3:18).  It was foreknown by God from before the foundation of the world (1 Pet. 1:20).  To see the people and events used by God to bring us Christ should excite us.  Be reminded that this same God is at work today, providentially bringing about His purpose through willing people like you and me.  Be a part of God's unfolding history simply by being at work to accomplish His purpose!