Monday, February 19, 2007

now comes rest

Let me sneak this in on this President's Day. . .

Ted Malley was touched by a President's Day spot about James Garfield that he heard on K-Life. Apparently his mom said, "If he doesn’t want to be a preacher I guess I’ll let him be president.” When he resigned from his elder position at his local church to run for presidency he was quoted “I am resigning from the highest office in the land to run for president."

Ignorant me, I didn't know anything about him. So I went looking. Here's a short bio about a President I bet you don't know much about either . . . from Faith of our Fathers . . .

James A. Garfield was the 20th President of the United States. After serving only four months he was shot and became the fourth President to die in office, and the second to be assassinated. While he was in college, Garfield along with some other students climbed one of the high peaks nearby on "Mountain Day." The surrounding scenery was enough to inspire religious awe and the students stood there in silence. Then young Garfield broke the quiet, "Boys it is a habit of mine to read a chapter in the Bible every evening with my absent mother. Shall I read aloud?" The group assented, and drawing from his pocket a well-worn testament, he read in soft rich tones the chapter that his mother in Ohio was reading at the same time. When he concluded, he called on a classmate to pray.

Garfield began his career as a teacher at Hiram College in Ohio and at the age of twenty-six was chosen as the College's president. There he studied law and preached an occasional sermon at the Disciples of Christ church where he was a member. (Imagine the uproar if President Bush were to actually preach a sermon in a church…)

Garfield was strongly anti-slavery, and at the outbreak of the Civil War was made a Lt. Colonel in the Union Army. At one point he needed a man so loyal that he would rather die than fail or betray the Union. A volunteer named John Jordan stepped forward. Garfield questioned him closely and among other things asked him, "Why did you come forward?"

"To do my part for the country, Colonel," answered Jordan. "I make no terms with the Lord. I gave Him my life without conditions, and if He sees fit to take in this tramp, why, it is His. I have nothing to say against it."

Needless to say, Garfield sent Jordan on the mission. Later, after defeating a superior Confederate force, he was promoted to Brigadier General, then to Major General. While still serving in the Military, Garfield was elected to Congress, taking the position at the wishes of President Lincoln. On April 14, 1863 Lincoln was assassinated, and the next day Garfield happened to be in New York City giving a speech. A crowd gathered in the city, and soon turned into a mob when news reached the city of not only Lincoln's death, but also the attempt of the life of Secretary of State Seward. Armed and ready to avenge Lincoln's death, the mob turned ugly. One man was killed and another injured because they said, "Lincoln ought to have been shot long ago!" The police were powerless. At this critical moment a strong, clear voice spoke to the crowd.

"Fellow citizens," Garfield cried. "Clouds and darkness are round about Him. His pavilion is dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. Justice and judgment are the establishment His throne. Mercy and truth shall go before His face! Fellow citizens, God reigns and the government at Washington still lives." The tumult sank and became still. James A. Garfield had saved the day..

After serving 18 years in Congress, Garfield was elected Senator from Ohio. But then a unique set of circumstances occurred when he was asked to give the nomination speech for John Sherman at the opening of the Republican Convention in 1880. His speech received such a standing ovation that the convention decided to nominate him instead of Sherman. "The people are responsible for the character of their Congress," he said. " If that body be ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption. If it be
intelligent, brave and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent the m…"

Garfield was not shy about proclaiming his faith and beliefs. In his inaugural he said, "…and, above all, upon our efforts to promote the welfare of this great people and their Government I reverently invoke the support and blessings of Almighty God."

Later, as president, Garfield chose to go to church neither with the rich nor in a cathedral, but chose instead a little frame church called the Vermont Avenue Christian Church. He was asked to give a statement of beliefs held by his church, and he drew up a list. Here are a few:

  • We call ourselves Christians or Disciples.
  • We believe in God, the father.
  • We believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and our only Savior. We regard the divinity of Christ as the fundamental truth in the Christian system.
  • We accept both the Old and New Testament scriptures as the inspired Word of God.

When he was killed, his pastor conducted the funeral service, and the casket, which bore a wreath from Queen Victoria, was carried by men who worshiped with him there. On the wreath were the words, "Life's race well run, Life's work well done, Life's crown well won, Now comes rest."

1 comment:

Suzette Lyons said...

How different our country is today. It makes me wonder how things changed so much and why so many consider it "progress"?