A “gentleman” is a genteel man. In other words he is noble in the Christian sense of the word. he is a man of character. Character is actually what a man is and not what a man is perceived to be or perceives himself to be, which is reputation. Douglas Southall Freeman distilled Robert E. Lee’s visible life into one word, “Character!”
General R.E. Lee was considered the consummate Southern Christian gentleman. He exemplified the best in Southern manhood. Freeman remarked, “In Lee the South sees character…Success could no dim it. Public adulation could not tarnish it. Defeat could only test it. For character is invincible.”
How can Southern men lead the South back to the culture of their forefathers? Certainly not by aping men such as the drunken Grant, the pyromaniac Sherman, or the agnostic Lincoln. The South must have men such as Lee, Jackson, Stuart Davis, Stevens, Pelham and the myriad of others who were Christian gentlemen. These Christian gentlemen practiced their faith in a manly way. Christian gentlemen are not effeminate! Southern men of Confederate ancestry must seek to become such gentlemen. Unless this is true of us no amount of flag waving, monument preservation, moralizing about our Confederate dead, promotion of Southern literature or any such will make a lasting impact on our generation. We must be men whose lives demand respect and thus have credibility.
First, one needs to be a Christian to be such a gentleman. In creation “God hath made man upright” but in the fall man “sought out many inventions.” Man has tried to evade God’s mandates for his life. Man outside Christianity has “many inventions” or many fallen speculations of heart that are foreign to God. A christian is a person who has had a regenerating work of the Holy Spirit; has been convicted of his sins against God and has embraced Christ as his only Lord and Savior. He is given a new nature whereby old things have passed away and all things have become new. He then has the Christian graces of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, temperance, and many more such attributes, which are the true traits of character. Lee reflected, “I can only say that I am nothing but a poor sinner, trusting in Christ alone for salvation.” Lee’s life exemplified the presence of those Christian graces.
Second, when a man is a Christian he will be on his way to being a gentleman. Thomas Nelson Page, the great Southern writer wrote, to his father, “To be a…gentleman was his first duty; it embraced being a Christian and all the virtues.” Dabney Carr Harrison heart Lee say, “The virtue and fidelity which should characterize a solider, can be learned from the holy pages of the Bible alone.” Lee as president of Washington College, explained the code of honor–“be a gentleman”. That was succinct and implied what the culture of the day expected, which included a man who was a practicing Christian. Lee answered an inquiring student, “Young gentlemen, we have no printed rules. We have but one rule here, and that is that every student must be a gentleman.” Sadly the Southern culture of today is not producing such men. The cause seems to be ignoring or despising of Biblical Christianity, which leaves men pagans. Paul the apostle warned against “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof,” and he said, “from such turn away.”
Lee composed a test for a true gentleman during the war for Southern independence. “The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman. The power which the strong have over the weak, the magistrate over the citizen, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly – the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in plain light. The gentleman does not needlessly remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He can not only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which imparts sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.” The need of the hour is Southern men of quality, which is another way of reiterating the point of this article. Lee certainly has a grasp of it and exemplified it. Even so the sons of the Confederate soldiers, as well as other men, should be men of quality. It is written, “Honor your father.”
What is required of such Southern men? And what is not meant by it? The men needed are those who not only respect Christianity, but who are Christians in the true sense of the Word. Such men who are needed do not just acknowledge the Bible to be God’s Word, but they practice the principles of that Word in every facet of life. The kind of men needed not only favor honor, but they are honorable. They not only desire respect, but they are respectful and respectable. Needed are men who do not just want to be treated honestly, but are men of integrity. Gentlemen respect the Lord, the home, the family, womanhood, neighbors and the church for which the Savior died.
The Old South could not conceive of a Christian who was not a gentleman or a gentleman who was not a Christian. The sons of such illustrious ancestors must return to the old ways if they would experience the old days. ~ Deo Vindice