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Re: To commemorate the death of James K. Polk, 160 years ago

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  • Ken S
    Thanks Evelyn, and it s nice to hear from you again.
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 16, 2009
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      Thanks Evelyn, and it's nice to hear from you again.

      --- In James_K_Polk_Appreciation@yahoogroups.com, "Evelyn Radecke" <e.radecke@...> wrote:
      >
      > The following is an excerpt from the Biography of John McFerrin, the pastor who baptized the ex-President and preached at his funeral a few days later. The book, and others about James K. Polk can be googled out on the site of www.archive.org
      >
      > (page 219)
      >
      > CONVERSION OF PRESIDENT POLK.
      >
      >
      > THE story of the conversion of President James K. Polk, eleventh President of the United States, is to be told here. It is outwardly to be dated in 1849, but its genesis goes back farther than that. There are what are called sudden conversions, and there are gradual conversions, so called. But what seems to be a sudden conversion may go back to the first glimmer of spiritual perception and include every gracious influence that has ever touched the soul. The culminating experience may be very vivid to the consciousness, and may be the result of special conditions that crystallize the elements that were mingled in the life, and had been gathering in preparation for this final transforming touch.
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      >
      > At a camp-meeting held at McPeak's Camp-ground, near Columbia, Tennessee, in 1833, McFerrin preached one of his characteristic sermons. Among his hearers was a young lawyer who was rapidly rising to distinction as a public man. The plain common sense and earnest spirit of the sermon commended the truth to the judgment of the clear-headed and honest lawyer, and the Holy Spirit opened his heart to receive the message of God. The gracious impression was indelible. He went away from the camp-ground a convicted sinner, if not a converted man. The words of the sermon still rung in his inner ear, the prayers and songs of the worshiping multitude followed him, and as he rode homeward through the beech forests and fertile fields of Maury County he was a changed man. Why did he not make an open profession and unite with the Church? He was a man of strong political convictions, and was an ardent partisan, not slow to express his opinions nor weak in their defense. It may be that he was one of the many men of this stamp who, in the rush and rough collisions of politics, defer positive action with regard to the vital matter of religion for the quieter hour they hope to find in a coming day.
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      > Ambition is hardening, and delays are dangerous. Happy for them if they are not swept to destruction by the fatal current to which they thus yield themselves. The pushing of a political career too often proves the ruin of a soul. A double tragedy is enacted when, having broken over the moral barriers that seemed to stand in the way of success, the lower nature becomes altogether dominant, and both body and soul are lost. The very temperament and gifts that command success in politics are the sources of the temptations that destroy politicians. The tide that floats them dashes them against the rocks. Mr. Polk was Speaker of the House of Representatives; he was the presidential candidate of the Democratic party in a canvass of intense excitement; he was President during four eventful years, with a foreign war on his hands and a vigilant and able opposition party to fight at every step; and yet no whisper of detraction was ever breathed against his personal character.
      >
      > As he was opposed to that matchless party leader, Henry Clay, it was partisan fashion to belittle him intellectually; all the wit and sarcasm of the splendid old Whig party were expended in drawing unfavorable contrasts between the two men in this regard; but no one ever insinuated that Polk was not a true man, pure in his private morals and above all suspicion of official venality. Now that they are both dead, all their countrymen are proud of the genius and patriotism of Clay and of the purity and administrative ability of his less brilliant but more successful competitor. [Clay was dead when the sermon was published in the book, but not at the time when was preached.]
      >
      > Mr. Polk was fortified by Christian principle. Under the pressure of the heavy responsibilities of his great office he leaned upon the arm of the gracious God who came so close to him that Sunday, under the brush-arbor in the hills of Tennessee, while the minister of Christ preached to him the word of life. His mother was a member of the Presbyterian Church, and his wife was a worthy member of the same denomination. Mr. Polk was a Methodist in sentiment. These facts probably explain his failure to make a formal profession of his faith in Christ by uniting with the Church.
      >
      > The thought of separating in Church affiliation from his beloved mother, and from the wife whose virtues and gifts so adorned her high station as the wife of the chief ruler of a great nation, and whose affection was the joy of his life, was painful to him. His domestic relations drew him in one direction, and his religious convictions and affinities in another. Thus pivoted, he let the years go by, holding to his faith and purpose and hope as a believer, but doubtless losing much both in the comforts and joys of religious experience and in the influence he would have exerted as an avowed disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ and an active member of his Church.
      >
      >
      > On his return from Washington City, at the expiration of his presidential term, Mr. Polk settled in Nashville, where he proposed to spend the evening of his life. He had fixed the purpose in his heart of uniting with the Methodist Church. This purpose was known only to himself and his wife. When he was taken with what proved to be his last illness he sent for McFerrin, revealed the matter to him, and requested to be baptized and received into the Methodist Church. And then, by request of the dying statesman, the memorials of the death and passion of our Lord were administered to him according to the solemn ritual of the Church; and he died, we may trust, in full hope of heaven.
      >
      > His remains were taken to McKendree Church, where the funeral services took place. A great concourse of people were present, and listened to the sermon which was preached by McFerrin from the same text on which was preached the one under which he was awakened and formed the purpose of becoming a Christian in 1833. This sermon will make the next chapter, and some will invest it with a threefold value because of its historic interest, its illustration of McFerrin's modes of thinking and written style, and the solace it will convey to sorrowing hearts in view of death and the grave.
      >
      > (page 223)
      >
      > THE CHRISTIAN'S HOPE.
      >
      > A Sermon Delivered at the Funeral of ex-President James K. Polk, in the McKendree Church, Nashville, Tennessee, June 15, 1849 [- says the book, but the funeral actually took place on the 16th or 17th]
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      >
      > "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed at the last time." (1 Pet. 1 3-5)
      >
      >
      > ...
      > The spiritual part of the sermon, although worth reading, is left out
      > ...
      >
      >
      > And now we come to apply this subject to our friend and distinguished fellow-citizen whose remains lie before us incased and ready for interment.
      >
      >
      > Mr. Polk, as we have seen, seemed almost a man of destiny. His success in life was remarkable. He was modest, cultivated, high-toned in his morals, a man of untarnished reputation, and was loved and admired by all classes of his countrymen. Against his moral character no charge was ever brought. No man in the United States, filling the high offices that he has occupied, ever maintained a purer character for sound morality. His Christian principles were genuine; his belief in God and the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures was firm, unshaken. He always had the highest respect for the Christian religion, and always exhibited reverence for the house of God and the institutions of the gospel. He was a regular attendant at public worship, and observed the Christian Sabbath with great punctuality. In all his demeanor, during the time of his presidential administration, he maintained the character of a Christian gentleman and paid due respect to the institutions of our holy religion.
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      >
      > He was brought up by a Christian mother, who early trained him in the doctrines and duties of Christianity. She was a member of the Presbyterian Church. On one occasion she took her infant son to the church to have him dedicated to God in holy baptism, but through some misunderstanding between his father and the pastor in charge, in regard to the rules and regulations of the congregation, it was deferred, and he reached maturity without having received the ordinance of baptism.
      >
      >
      > He was a Wesleyan in sentiment, and believed in the doctrine and polity of the Methodist Episcopal Church. His wife, an intelligent Christian woman, was also a member of the Presbyterian Church; but it was understood by her, as well as by Mr. Polk himself, that he was a Methodist in his views, and from the year 1833 he determined that when he joined the Church he would connect himself with that organization.
      >
      >
      > On his return from Washington in 1849 he determined to make Nashville his permanent home, and for a time he was busily employed in fitting up his residence. His health was feeble, but he hoped that rest from political labors and the recreation of preparing his mansion for occupancy would soon restore him. But coming home through cholera atmosphere, he seemed to some extent affected by the poison of that malignant disease, and was soon brought to his room and to his bed. Early in his sickness he sent for Rev. Dr. Edgar — his wife's pastor, who had charge of the First Presbyterian Church in this city — and your speaker, and had a free religious conversation with them, and they joined him in prayer and supplication, and asked God in his providence to restore him to health; and in any event, whether for life or for death, that he might be taken under special guardianship of his heavenly Father and prepared for the great future, as well as for the responsibilities of the present life.
      >
      > Soon after, he sought a private interview with your speaker, and made known to him his desire and purpose to receive the ordinance of baptism, and to be admitted into the communion of the Methodist Episcopal Church, to receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper, and thus identify himself with the Church of his choice. He said: "My mother is a Presbyterian, and I love her and respect her pastor; my wife is a Presbyterian, for whom I have the fondest affection as a Christian, and her pastor is a man whom I respect, and I respect the Presbyterian Church; but I am a Methodist, and desire to identify myself with the Methodist Church, and I have sent for you as my old friend, with whom I have long been acquainted, and desire that you shall administer the ordinance of baptism and receive me into the Church and give me the emblems of the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ." In due time his wishes were met, and in the presence of his family, and of the pastor of his mother and his wife, and other friends, he was baptized, admitted into the Church, and received the holy communion.
      >
      > His faith was strong, his confidence unbounded, and he was brought into fellowship with the Church after strong assurances of his belief in the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. He said to his brother William: « I am now about to join the Church, a duty that I long since should have performed, and that long ago I made up my mind to perform, but in the hurry of the business of life and the political affairs of the country I postponed it till now. But I go forward in the name of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who I hope and believe has pardoned all my sins and washed me from all my iniquities." Upon this confession he was baptized and received into the Church, had his name en- rolled upon the Church Register, and thus died in full fellowship with the McKendree Church of this city.
      >
      > Such in brief is the religious life and experience of the Honorable James K. Polk — a man whom we all loved, and whose death we all mourn this day, and whose departure will be regretted throughout the length and breadth of this great land.
      >
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