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President Andrew Jackson Learns to Forgive His Enemies

On July 8, 1838, the seventh president of the United States, General Andrew Jackson, informed his minister, the Reverend Dr. John Edgar, that he wanted to become a member of the Presbyterian Church and receive Communion. Dr. Edgar asked the president about his conversion and convictions, and gave his approving nod with each satisfactory answer. But Dr. Edgar felt the need to probe the president's soul more deeply. "General, there is one more question which it is my duty to ask you: Can you forgive all your enemies?"

The question stunned General Jackson. He stared at his minister for a moment while he gathered his thoughts. He then broke the silence: "My political enemies, I can freely forgive," Jackson confessed. "But as for those who abused me when I was serving my country in the field, and those who attacked me for serving my country—that is a different case."

This was an honest answer, but Dr. Edgar wasn't satisfied. Christians must forgive all, Edgar insisted to America's seventh president. President Jackson wasn't anticipating that he would be probed and questioned in this way. And yet when the time came for him to respond, he knew he had to embrace the claim of the gospel on his life. One of Jackson's biographers gives us his response:

There was a "considerable pause." Then Jackson spoke again. Upon reflection, he said he thought he could forgive all who had injured him, even those who reviled him for his services to his country on the battlefield. He was at long last prepared to grant amnesty to all the scoundrels and poltroons who had ever crossed his path.

On July 15, 1838, General Andrew Jackson, seventh president of the United States, was admitted into the Presbyterian Church. He was seventy years old when his battle-weathered soul and tired body knelt to receive Communion for the first time. And as he did, his biographer tells us, "tears of penitence and joy trickled down his careworn cheeks." Meekness had triumphed.

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