James Abram Garfield Christian President

James A Garfield was converted, on March 4, 1850, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Born in a log cabin in Orange, Cuyahoga County, Ohio on November 19, 1831, James was the youngest of five children. From Puritan and Huguenot stock, James was raised to a strong faith. When his father died suddenly the family endured frontier poverty and learned the stoic tenacity of their situation.

James started at a log hut school at age 3 and knew the value of a high standard of moral and intellectual worth. By fourteen he had read and re-read every book in the district and had a keen interest in American history. At the age of 17 he headed for Cleveland, planning to enjoy the romance of the high seas. But he soon recognised that reality was different to the stories he had read and found work on the canals.

His cousin, captain of a canal boat that sailed to Pittsburgh and back, gave him a job, first on the towpath, pulling the boat, and then as a deckhand. On the first trip young Jim fell into the canal 14 times! And he couldn’t swim!!

Nevertheless the prayers of a godly mother, and the mercy of a loving Heavenly Father, combined to keep him safe.

After a six months’ bout of malaria, and a position as school-teacher … he was confronted with a “revival meeting” at the local Disciples’ Church.  Although regular in church attendance before this time, on 4 March, 1850, he responded to the preacher’s invitation to accept Christ as his own personal Saviour.

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A few months later he wrote: “When I consider the sequel of my history thus far I can see the providence of God in a striking manner.  Two years ago I had become ripe for ruin.  On the canal … ready to drink in every species of vice … I was taken sick, unable to labour, went to school two terms … took a school in the winter; and greatest of all, obeyed the Gospel. Thus by the providence of God I am what I am … I thank Him.” (Quoted in How Great Christians met Christ, by J. Hefley, page 127).

Pursuing his education and expanding his religious training, Garfield excelled himself. “Garfield was not born, but made; and he made himself by persistent, strenuous, conscientious study and work. In six years (1856-61), he was a college president, a state senator, a major general in the National army, and a representative-elect to the National congress. No other American president had received so many rapid and varied promotions.”

Garfield excelled in the Civil War, gaining rapid promotion and achieving significant victories due to the military discipline he maintained with his troops.

In 1881 James A. Garfield became the 20th President of the United States, a position he held for only seven months, when he was assassinated. He was shot while waiting to board a train for a vacation. He lingered for ten weeks after the shooting and the finest doctors did what they could. They could not tell where the bullet was, so Alexander Graham Bell tested a metal detector, which did not work because the president was lying an a mattress with springs in it – which was a novel invention of the day.

Garfield’s dying words, on 19 September, 1881, were – “God’s will be done, doctor. I am ready to go if my time has come” (ibid, page 128).

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Amanda Smith the Colored Evangelist

Amanda Jane Berry Smith died, on February 24, 1915. She was born into slavery on a farm in Long Green in Maryland, USA on January 23, 1837. She was the oldest daughter in a family of thirteen children. Her father was able to buy his freedom, with funds raised by selling products he made in his spare time. He then continued raising funds until he had purchased his wife and his five children born in slavery.

Amanda was an enterprising young lady. She taught herself to read by cutting out large letters from her father’s newspapers then asking her mother to make words for her to read. “I shall never forget how delighted I was when I first read: ‘The house, the tree, the dog, the cow.’ I thought I knew it all.”

Amanda’s parents were devout and the father read the Bible to his family each day. Amanda was converted at the age of 13, during a revival at a Methodist Episcopal Church in Pennsylvania.

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Her own words were that she was “a poor coloured servant girl sitting away back by the door” when a young white women entreated her with tears to accept Christ. “I was the only coloured girl there, but I went. She knelt beside me with her arms around me and prayed for me…”
She felt the Lord’s touch at her conversion. “I went to get up, but found I could not stand. They took hold of me and stood me on my feet. My strength seemed to come to me, but I was frightened. I was afraid to step. I seemed to be so light. In my heart was peace, but I did not know how to exercise faith as I should. I went home and resolved I would be the Lord’s and live for him. All the days were happy and bright.”

She married at the age of 17, but her husband, although ‘religious’, turned out to be a drunkard. He joined the Union Army during the Civil War and never returned. She later married James Smith, a deacon in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, who also became indifferent to things spiritual. But Amanda’s faith kept growing.

A sermon on holiness by a Presbyterian evangelist, John S Inskip, was indeed a “second blessing” to her. Gone were her fears of ‘white people’. “I would rather be black and fully saved than white and not saved”, she said.

She began to preach. Invitations came from across the United States – and even England. “In 1876 she was invited to speak at a Keswick Conference”, then to Scotland, India and Burma. She was not, emphasises one biographer, a feminist or an agitator for women’s ordination. “The thought of ordination never once entered my mind, for I had received my ordination from Him who said, ‘Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you …”

Smith became a legendary personality in her own time. This was achieved by her published works, mostly as letters to such periodicals as Wesleyan/Holiness, Methodist Episcopal, and African-American Methodist, from the 1870s until her death. Her book “An Autobiography: The Story of the Lord’s Dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith, the Colored Evangelist: Containing an Account of Her Life Work of Faith, and Her Travels in America, England, Ireland, Scotland, India, and Africa as an Independent Missionary” was published in 1893 and sold widely.

Amanda Smith died in 1915 in a suburb of Chicago, where she had spent her last years heading up an orphanage for black children. She was 78 years of age.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Thomas Jonathan Jackson as America’s Stonewall Jackson

Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born in Clarksville, Virginia, USA, on January 21, 1824.

At the age of 18 he entered West Point Academy to train for a future military career. And it was here a fellow cadet witnessed to him concerning his need of a Saviour. The word spoken bore fruit. “He immediately became a man of the Bible,” says one biographer.

Jackson saw military action with the United States Army in the Mexican War, in which he was promoted to Major, but he then resigned to enter academia.

There also followed 10 years of “brilliant teaching” in his role of professor at Virginia’s Military Academy. His eccentricities earned him two nicknames from his cadet students, “Tom Fool Jackson” and “Old Blue Light”.

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At the age of 27 he joined the Lexington Presbyterian Church (22 November, 1851). Two years later he married Eleanor Junkin … who died 14 months later. And in 1857 he wed again, to Mary Morrison from South Carolina.

When Virginia seceded from the American Union led to the outbreak of the American Civil War, Jackson left home to fight for the Southern cause. His first command was over the military cadets he had been training. It was from his very first action, at Harpers Ferry, that he was given the nickname “Stonewall Jackson”. He was soon promoted to Lieutenant General.

Next to Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson is the most revered of all Confederate commanders of the Civil War.

Letters to his wife from the battlefield reveal his steadfastness to his God. “While we were near Winchester, it pleased our ever merciful Heavenly Father to visit my command with the rich outpouring of His Holy Spirit,” he wrote on 5 December, 1862. “There were probably more than 100 (soldiers) enquiring concerning the way of life…”

One delightful story tells “his men saw him stumbling and falling over rocks and trees. They almost thought he had had too much to drink. That was not the problem. He was praying with his eyes closed as he walked” (Christian History, Issue 33).

Jackson’s most effective campaign came just before his death, at the Battle of Chancellorville, where he led his men around the Union flank to gain a decisive victory. That night, as he reconnoitred the situation he was shot at by some of his own men, who thought he and his escort were enemy soldiers.

Initially his left arm was amputated, and a week later he died of pneumonia which had set in.

Jackson regretted ever having to fight a battle on the Lord’s Day, and he lost his last earthly battle, with death, on Sunday, May 10, 1863, only 39 years old.

Robert E Lee is quoted as saying, “Jackson lost his left arm, but I lost my right arm”.

When the Confederate soldiers went into battle the next day their battle cry was “Remember Jackson!”

Jackson’s final words as he drifted off to death were, “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees . . .”

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Archibald Thomas Robertson the Baptist Scholar

Archibald Thomas Robertson was born in Virginia, USA, on November 6, 1863.

At the time of his birth the American Civil War was already turning against the South, and so Robertson’s family suffered the loss of most of their fortune through the war. The Reconstruction had devastating effect on the family’s fortunes, so AT’s father, who had been a country doctor and a plantation owner, took his family to work on a small farm in Statesville, North Carolina.

Robertson was a preaching scholar, enjoying both his study and his time in the pulpit.

In the early 1900’s Robertson was a founding member of the Baptist World Congress now known as The Baptist World Alliance.

This Southern Baptist scholar is remembered especially for his Harmony of the New Testament.

Altogether he wrote 45 books, each displaying a scholarly grasp of theology.

His biographer tells us that “Dr Bob”, as he was affectionately called, “wore out a dozen Greek Testaments in his lifetime” (page 125).

In 1914 his ministry was also broadened through a series of summer Bible conferences with D.L. Moody and F.B. Meyer, introducing Robertson to thousands of pastors and layman alike.

W.R. Moody – son of the famous evangelist – invited Robertson to speak at the Northfield Conference … sharing the platform with such men as Dr R.A. Torrey and Campbell Morgan.

Concerning liberal theology with its downgrading of Scripture. “his arrows were swift and deadly” against it (Baptists and the Bible, page 303).

Nevertheless, he did accept Theistic evolution (Biography, page 181), nor would he be dogmatic concerning millennial views (page 187).

On Monday, 24 September, 1934, he was lecturing in the Southern Baptist Seminary, Kentucky, when he became ill and unable to continue, due to a stroke. He was taken home, and entered the presence of his Lord before the day was through.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.