The author of this article watched an episode of “American Experience” on Public Television. It concerned the life of President James Garfield, one of our martyred Presidents. The program reported not a word on the fact that Garfield was not only a dedicated Christian but, for several years a teacher/preacher in our churches of Christ. We here append some paragraphs concerning Bro. Garfield that might correct your image of him. They are lifted from “Christians Only” by James DeForest Murch, pp 197, 198.
Before he became President
James A. Garfield. He was born in Orange, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, in 1831. Although of excellent New England stock, his parents were poor. When he was two years old, his father died, leaving the widow with four small children. Garfield grew to young manhood as the chief supporter of the family. The Restoration plea challenged him under the preaching of W. A. Lilly. He was immersed shortly before he entered Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (later Hiram College) in 1851. He further pursued his education at Williams College, graduating with high honors in 1856. He began to preach while a student in Hiram, and soon became one of the outstanding ministers of the brotherhood.
From 1857 to 1861 Garfield was principal of the Western Reserve Institute. He distinguished himself both as a teacher and an administrator. The principles of the new Republican Party appealed to him, particularly its stance on the slavery question, and he was in demand as a speaker in its behalf. In 1859, he was elected to the Senate of Ohio, but at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, entered the army as colonel of the Forty-second Regiment Ohio Volunteers.
Here his abilities took him rapidly to the top echelons of service, and when he resigned in 1863, Garfield was a general, chief of staff to General Rosencrans, of the Army of the Cumberland. He was nine times chosen as a representative of the Nineteenth Ohio Congressional District and became known by the high moral tone of his addresses on current issues. His name will ever be associated with legislation creating the civil service in opposition to the political doctrine “to the victor belongs the spoils of office.” Legislation dealing with the army, reconstruction, the currency, the tariff, and resumption of specie payments bore the mark of Garfield’s wise counsel.
In 1880 he was elected to the United States Senate from Ohio, and in the same year was nominated and elected to the Presidency of the United States, being the only minister of the gospel ever to occupy this high office. The great expectations of the people for his administration were, however, shockingly dashed by Garfield’s assassination by a disappointed office seeker. Thus he became a martyr to his ideals of clean government and the civil service. During his meteoric rise in the public esteem, he was loyal to his commitment to the Restoration movement.
In Washington, against the wishes of his political advisers, he regularly attended divine worship in the humble clapboard chapel of the Christian church on a side street. Because of the many inquiries about the religious views of the Disciples, he wrote that classic statement, “What We Stand For.”
1. We call ourselves Christians or Disciples of Christ.
2. We believe in God the Father.
3. We believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and our Saviour. We regard the divinity of Christ as the fundamental truth of the Christian system.
4. We believe in the Holy Spirit, both as to his agency in conversion and as indwelling in the heart of the Christian.
5. We accept both the Old and the New Testament Scriptures as the inspired Word of God.
6. We believe in the future punishment of the wicked and the future reward of the righteous.
7. We believe that the Deity is a prayer-hearing and a prayer-answering God.
8. We observe the institution of the Lord’s Supper on the Lord’s Day. To this table we neither invite nor debar; we say it is the Lord’s Supper for all of the Lord’s children.
9. We plead for the union of God’s people on the Bible and the Bible alone.
10. The Christ is our only creed.
11. We maintain that all the ordinances should be observed as they were in the days of the Apostles.