Sheldon Jackson was a 19th century Presbyterian missionary who travelled over a million miles in the Western frontier of America, including Alaska. After graduating from Princeton Seminary in 1858, his mission field included Minnesota and the surrounding region. Later he was moved to the Colorado area and still later he did extensive mission work in Alaska. The stories of Jackson’s missionary travels are incredible and even legendary. The man went through a thousand hardships to bring the gospel to people all over the West.
To be sure, some events in Jackson’s early years were formative for his later ones. Even at a young age while living in a solid Christian home, he desired to serve the Lord. In his journal, he wrote about how, as a child in rural New York, he and his family travelled ten miles one way to get to their local church. Jackson’s mom often used the time to teach her children the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Despite the miserable traveling conditions, the Jacksons rarely missed a service. They were devoted to Lord’s Day worship. One of Jackson’s biographers put it this way: “It is a matter of record that the villagers within two blocks of the church door were not more regular in their attendance at the morning service than the entire Jackson family” (Stewart, 24.). Here’s an excerpt from Jackson’s journal about winter travel to church:
In the short days of winter on Sabbath morning the chores were done, preparations made, and breakfast over before daylight. The team was hitched up, buffalo robes, blankets and straw, with the necessary axe and shovel were placed in the sleigh; and as the family locked the doors and went out from the house they carried with them the lunch-basket, and a three-inch oak plank, or soapstone, that had been heated in the oven of the stove, to keep their feet warm. On these ten mile trips, going and returning from church, it was not an uncommon occurrence for the sleigh to upset, or the horses to get down in the snow. In such case, a buffalo robe would be spread on the snow upon which would be placed the mother and daughter. Then while the son was stationed at the horses’ heads the father would loosen the traces and right the sled or help up the team. Frequently, on these occasions, a panel would be broken out of the road fence with the axe and a path shoveled through the drifts into the neighboring field, where the sled could make progress parallel with the road, until a place was reached where the drifts were passable.Robert Stewart, “Sheldon Jackson”, p. 24.
The Jacksons, along with so many other Christians in the present and past, took Christian worship, teaching, and fellowship very seriously. They also understood the call of Hebrews 10:25, which says we should not neglect meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing. These Bible texts and the above story should encourage us to cultivate a biblical attitude towards Lord’s Day worship, being devoted to gathering together as his people – even if it’s not always easy to do so!
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015