GENERAL
SHERIDAN'S HORSE
AND URBAN
LEGENDS AT THE
CHURCH HOUSE

It would seem impossible that General Sheridan, Civil War hero, and his horse Rienzi would have anything in common with Bible believers today, right?

Please read on, and you will plainly see that we and that horse may have much in common. The main target of this article is pastors. Having pastored four churches, and been a missionary speaking in churches all over the USA, I know all too well the temptation to use stories that I could not prove were true if my life depended on it.

The worst horror is that there are thousands of pastors around the world who regularly tell stories they KNOW are not true. If you do this, whether in the pulpit or in the coffee shop, you need to examine yourself thoughtfully.

Why do people tell urban legends and false tales? Virtually all of the time it is because we all want to seem to be amusing, exciting, and heroic. Urban legends, especially if "it happened to me," give us maximum attention from the listener. The Bible hits this sin right on target:

Jude 1:16 (KJV) These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage.

 

 

Many a saint and editor mourns the passing of some famous preacher who was a great story teller when he crosses over into the eternity. His friends assumed he joined the celestial quorum, and that he is tearing up heaven with stories of his great accomplishments. Some, hearing of his passing, sigh, and they wonder if God will even let him tell all those stories when we all are raised eternally into the Glory.

It is not the duty of the saints who remain behind to determine where a professing Christian goes at death. If that alleged saint trusted for his soul's salvation in Jesus, who is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, then his place at the throne of God is secure. His folly in this life, twixt confession of faith and death, has no bearing on his destiny. If it were not so, we would all be damned, for in many ways we do all offend.

But the blessed hope of the "security of the believer" is not a license in this life to wander the earth telling lies and tales that never happened.

Consider the legacy of the saints. Some seem obscure and leave a simple legacy of good works and quiet faithfulness. Others leave a legacy of legend, and they are often followed with white hot zeal by their former disciples. Some saints, especially preachers and evangelists and politicians, know that your fame after your death will be secure if you told loads of cool stories which people will quote. Teach the Word Faithfully, and men soon forget you. This is as it should be, for the Word of God is meant to give GOD the glory, not the teacher.

So, we need to examine these urban legends at the church house and over the dinner table at the church picnic. Pastors and church members by the thousands swoon and shout "Glory" at the mere mention of the name of some recently deceased church house story teller. It becomes urgent that we see if church house urban legend tellers are as worthy of adulation as we assume.

 

A NOTE ON EXALTING MEN

Elihu, Job's friend with compassion, said this about exalting men:

Job 32:21 (KJV) Let me not, I pray you, accept any man's person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man.
22 For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my maker would soon take me away.

Jesus warned of the trap of flattery and praise of men.

Luke 6:26 (KJV) Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.

We are warned in strong language about flattery.

1 Thessalonians 2:4 (KJV) But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.
5 For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:
6 Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.

Proverbs 26:28 (KJV) A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.

If, by any chance, the urban legends and suspect sermon illustrations are myths and lies, then great ruin is being done to thousands of saints who trust these teachers and preachers.

 

THE EVOLUTION OF A LEGEND

I want to show you how legends evolve. I could send you to the Koran and the Hadith of Mohammed (his sayings which are part of Islamic canon), but you would miss the point since we Anglo Saxons learn nothing from other cultures. We are much too arrogant. I assure you though that the Hadith of Mohammed are the most entertaining nonsense of urban legend since The Arabian Nights.

So, we call on a classic Anglo Saxon humorist whom I particulary am fond of. [Rush Limbaugh recently declared that dangling prepositions are perfectly OK, so I use a few as you can see]

Most of us missed the passing of General Sheridan's horse, Rienzi. No doubt you were not aware of the great horse's last days and untimely passing, and some of us were not even able to join in the great fratricide called the Civil War, a very UNcivil event. Had we been there, I have no doubt that most of us war like Baptists would have climbed on our soap boxes and screamed for blood and mayhem. Then we would have gladly held the coat of some "volunteer" while he went to Gettysburg and filled the grass with gore. I say this because I hear so many Baptist preachers today screaming for the massacre of half the Middle East, but I have yet to meet one who has "joined up" to go to battle.

Our satirist is Bill Nye of Laramie, Wyoming. You will see exactly what I am talking about in this discussion of the legend of General Sheridan's famous horse, Rienzi:

General Sheridan�s Horse
By Bill Nye -- C. 1885

I have always taken a great interest in (Civil) War incidents, and more so, perhaps, because I wasn�t old enough to put down the rebellion myself. I have been very eager to get hold of and hoard up in my memory all its gallant deeds of both sides, and to know the history of those who figured prominently in that great conflict has been one of my ambitions.

I have also watched with interest the steady advancement of Phil Sheridan, the black-eyed warrior with the florid face and the Winchester record. I have also taken some pains to investigate the later history of the old Winchester war horse.

�Old Rienzi died in our stable a few years after the war,� said a Chicago livery man to me, a short time ago. �General Sheridan left him with us and instructed us to take good care of him, which we did, but he got old at last, and his teeth failed upon him, and that busted his digestion, and he kind of died of old age, I reckon.�

�How did General Sheridan take it?�

�Oh, well, Phil Sheridan is no school girl. He didn�t turn away when old Rienzi died and weep the manger full of scalding regret. If you know Sheridan, you know that he don�t rip the blue dome of heaven wide open with unavailing wails. He just told us to take care of its remains, patted the old cuss on the head a little and walked off. Phil Sheridan don�t go around weeping softly into a pink bordered wipe when a horse dies. He likes a good horse, but Rienzi was no Jay-Eye-See for swiftness, and he wasn�t the purtiest horse you ever see, by no means.�

�Did you read lately how General Sheridan don�t ride on horseback since his old war horse died, and seems to have lost all interest in horses?�

�No, I never did. He no doubt would rather ride in a cable car or a carriage than to jar himself up on a horse. That�s all likely enough, but, as I say, he�s a matter of fact little fighter from Fighttown. He never stopped to snoot and paw up the ground and sob himself into bronchitis over old Rienzi. He went right on about his business, and, like old King What�s-His-name he hollered for another hoss, and the War Department never slipped a cog.�

Later on I read that the old war horse was called Winchester and that he was still alive in a blue grass pasture in Kentucky. The report said that old Winchester wasn�t very coltish, and that he was evidently failing. I gathered the idea that he was wearing store teeth, and that his memory was a little deficient, but that he might live yet for years.

After that I met a New York livery stable prince, at whose palace General Sheridan�s well-known Winchester war horse died of botts in �71. He told me all about it and how General Sheridan came on from Chicago at the time, and held the horse�s head in his lap while the fleet limbs that flew from Winchester down and saved the day, stiffened in the great, mysterious repose of death. He said Sheridan wept like a child, and as he told the touching tale to me I wept also. I say I wept. I wept about a quart, I would say. He said also that the horse�s name wasn�t Winchester nor Rienzi; it was Jim.

I was sorry to know it. Jim is no name for a war horse who won a victory and a marble bust and a poem. You can�t respect a horse much if his name was Jim.

After that I found out that General Sheridan�s celebrated Winchester horse was raised in Kentucky, also in Pennsylvania and Michigan; that he went out as a volunteer private; that he was in the regular service prior to the war, and that he was drafted, and that he died on the field of battle, in a sorrel pasture, in �73, in great pain on Governor�s Island; that he was buried with Masonic honors by the Good Knight Templars and the Grand Army of the Republic; that he was resurrected by a medical college and dissected; that he was cremated in New Orleans and taxidermed for the Military Museum at New York. Every little while I run up against a new fact relative to this noted beast. He has died in nine different States, and been buried in thirteen different styles, while his soul goes marching on. Evidently we live in an age of information. You can get more information nowadays, such as it is, than you know what to do with.

What a master of wit Bill Nye was.

 

STORY TELLERS AT THE CHURCH HOUSE

In the above collection of legends, who was the guilty culprit? Answer: The men who made up the tales of heroism to tailor fit their own lives so that they would look good or seem to be authorities. The horse was not responsible for any of the folly. With church house story tellers, the myths and legends are the responsibility of both the story teller AND his disciples who remain behind to retell the stories and expand the glory of a story teller.

I have personally heard preachers and evangelists tell many such stories which I know were lies, and I have heard the stories told by gullible disciples of these men.

 

300 SOULS A WEEK

It is claimed that one well known preacher lead 300 people to confession of Christ every week. We sat down and figured out how much time he would use doing various tasks of life, and we included time for travel which he claims is much. We came up with 20 to 30 minutes per soul won. That does not allow for any of them refusing the Gospel. If he did not win every person he allegedly witnessed to, the 300 who believed would have to be won in as little as ten minutes each.

This claim is then 100% a lie. It also means that the preacher does NOT intend to tell the truth, for he heard people introduce him for years making this claim. He could have corrected it anywhere along the way, but he needed the legend to look mightier than other pastors and evangelists. This is not just naughty, it is devilish.

 

STORY OF THE VULTURES IN ISRAEL

I heard a number of years ago that the vultures in Israel were laying five eggs a year instead of only one. This was then applied to give the listener another proof that the Rapture of the Church was imminent, and the Battle of Armageddon was just around the corner. The vultures were assumed to be getting ready to eat the dead bodies on the plains of Armageddon.

Prophecy is NOT in the Word of God so that we have a neat way to keep people paying attention. Nowhere are we commanded to preach the prophecy to every creature. Prophecy is in the Word of God so we can say, "Look here, this Bible prophecy, written in the Bible three thousand years ago, was fulfilled by Jesus Christ." The prophecies of the future are to either give hope to the Church, as with the Rapture teaching, or to give a sign to the Jews during the last days AFTER the Rapture of the Church, such as the prophecies about the Antichrist.

The error of lusting to predict the day and the hour of Christ's coming for his Bride, the Church, has hatched all these damnable urban legends and a lot of stupid charts that can be stretched across the front of a church house for 30 feet during a prophecy conference.

 

A HOLE INTO HELL

Several years ago a story went around that Russian scientists have dug some super deep research hole into the earth. The story was picked up by Art Bell and his radio show and spread around he USA. The claim was that when the Russians reached a certain depth, they dropped a microphone into the hole, and they heard human voices screaming and wailing.

Youth ministers loved to use this story with youth groups in churches, and a girl in our church was told the story at a youth camp. She came home in horror because her grandfather had never confessed faith in Jesus Christ, and her imagination told her that the Russians may have heard her granddaddy screaming.

It does not take long to see the utter insanity of this story, but the urban legend was told over and over by wide eyed pastors and Sunday School teachers.

 

PHARAOH'S CHARIOT WHEEL

A self-proclaimed archaeologist cum Christian zeal, some years back, claimed to have found the city of Sodom, the Red Sea crossing, the Ark of the Covenant, and other proofs of the Bible's truth. Never mind that real archaeologists have spent whole life times looking for such things, only to end their days with a couple clay bowls that might have belonged to Nebuchadnezzar's great uncle twice removed.

One tale this inventor of urban legends told was that he and his two sons went swimming one day in the sea in the Middle East, and they found a golden chariot wheel that came off of Pharaoh's chariot. This man was touted by thousands of pastors as a hero and a great boon to the Lord's Church. In the end, the man claimed that Ellen G White of the Seventh Day Adventists was his original inspiration to go digging in the Middle East.

Many Baptist pastors had egg on their gullible faces.

 

THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AND STORY TELLING

Recently, we were talking about Jesus and his teaching and story telling. We concluded the following:

Jesus told parables. The names, with the exception of the beggar Lazarus and Abraham, were not given. They were real life examples of what Jesus was teaching at the moment, and nothing more. They ONLY illustrated truth, and did not draw attention to Jesus.

Modern preachers and teachers tell true stories. Some avoid this, but nearly all of us have done this, and it seems to serve the purpose. True stories prove they are true, they prove the story teller has credibility, and they usually teach a truth. So, if Jesus did not add details to prove the parable happened, why do we not tell more parables?

Compare please:

Matthew 13:3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

The parable did not tell of something in particular, an event in time. It was a story simply organizing a scene the listeners had seen hundreds of times as they walked the paths of Galilee. The object was not to be exciting or even give credibility to Jesus. The whole point was to "throw along side" a story that would illustrate a truth. Parable means "throw along side."

Now, when we stand in the pulpit or teach in our homes, what is our objective? Do we want to teach truth, or do we want to create and exciting moment? Do NOT get me wrong-- story telling is very powerful stuff, and men in particular learn a lot better if stories and illustrations are included. Ladies, the shrinks tell us, can take in truth without illustrations better than men. That is why the girls in sixth grade learn math by the rules, and the boys never catch it until you tell them, "If I had six candy bars and ten friends etc etc."

So, Jesus told parables constantly:

Matthew 13:34 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:

But, Jesus did NOT tell stories in the model of modern preachers and teachers. We cannot avoid the singular contrast in this fact. There is something here about WHY we tell stories. We need to get it very clear and alter our method to come in line with Jesus' method. There are thousands of parables available to us in every day life if we would just think about it.

 

CONCLUSION

Life would be rather dull without legends, tales, and stories. I sure love them, and I love to listen to men whom I trust tell about "the good old days" and other places and other times. But , when we stand before the saints, or teach our children about the Gospel and the truth of the Bible, we must learn to make sure that our illustrations are not more exciting then the Gospel or the Lord Jesus Christ himself. He is the true story, therefore, our parables, which we throw along side the truth, better be true and better lift up our Lord.

It is the height of hypocrisy to claim we are defenders and disseminators of the truth once delivered to the saints, and then support it with urban legends that we cannot prove are true, or worse, we KNOW are not true.

Romans 12:17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

1 Peter 4:11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Beware, saint! Are you the oracle of God when you teach the Word, or are you just another talking head? Do you crave to be quoted, or do you crave to see saints edified and, "... that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ"?

Acts 20:36 And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.
37 And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him,
38 Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.

Read Acts 20 from the first verse. Paul taught the people all night long. Paul loved to teach. He used a handful of parables in his epistles, but that night with the Ephesian saints, Paul did not tell one parable that we know of except that "that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock."

Would you say that telling lies to prove the truth is somewhat like a wolf?

Do I hear the whisper of the Serpent, "... ye shall be like God."

 

LINKS:

READ Sheridan�s Ride by Thomas Buchanan Read

GENERAL SHERIDAN ABOUT HIS HORSE

MORE OF BILL NYE'S HUMOR

 

 

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