Andrew Jackson’s Faith on His Deathbed
I’m a big fan of American history, US Presidents, and how faith intersects with historical figures (American Studies was my undergrad major). One of my goals is to read a major biography of every U.S. President. A few months ago, I posted about the conversion of Gen. Andrew Jackson, late in his life. Surprisingly, it’s become one of my most popular posts. I guess there’s a lot of high school students out there doing papers on Jackson. But I love the story, because it tells of how the man who would bend to no one finally bent the knee to Jesus Christ. By all accounts, it appears his conversion was genuine and lasting.
In Robert Remini’s biography of Jackson, he also describes Jackson’s last days, and his evident faith on his deathbed. (One thing I like about Remini is that he does not steer clear of the faith of his subject, unlike say, David McCullough in his John Adams bio).
Bloated and failing, Jackson began to take visitors who wanted to wish him well and say that they had met him:
“Sir,” the dying man croaked to one visitor, “I am in the hands of a merciful God. I have full confidence in his goodness and mercy…The Bible is true….I have tried to conform to its spirit as near as possible. Upon that sacred volume I rest my hope for eternal salvation, through the merits and blood of our blessed Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
The Hero closed his eyes for a long moment after receiving Communion. When at last he opened them again he stared at his visitors most intently. “When I have suffered sufficiently,” he said very slowly and deliberately, “the Lord will then take me to himself–but what are all my suffering compared to those of the blessed Saviour, who died upon that cursed tree for me, mine are nothing.” With that Old Hickory began praying. The Hero of New Orleans, the terror of Indians, Spaniards, British soldiers, politicians, and other assorted “villains,” lay on his deathbed praying with fervor and deep conviction. From that moment on, said his son, Andrew Jackson never again mentioned his suffering, “not a murmur was ever heard from him–all was borne with amazing fortitude–he spent much of his time in secret prayer, as was evident from the movement of his lips & hands.”
[At one point, Jackson fainted and everyone thought he had died. The doctor even pronounced him dead. Then he revived and began speaking to the family, calling for the grandchildren to come around him. Old Hickory would not go easily!]
Finally he said goodbye to his grandchildren and then the children of Mrs. Adams. One by one he took them by the hand, kissed them, and blessed them. He told them that they had good parents and that they must all be obedient children. They must all “keep holy the Sabboth [sic] day and read the New Testament.”
With such an audience, all in tears, he could not resist lecturing them, both family and servants. He delivered, said Dr. Esselman, “one of the most impressive lectures on the subject of religion that I have ever heard.” He spoke “with calmness, with strength, and, indeed, with animation” He confessed his implicit faith in the Christian religion, the hope of salvation as revealed in the Bible, his great anxiety that they should all “look to Christ as their only Saviour.”
“Where is my Daughter and Marion,” he asked. When he saw them he spoke again. “God will take care of you for me. I am my God’s. I belong to him, I go but a short time before you, and I want to meet you all in heaven, both white and black.” Everyone in the room burst into tears. The servants standing outside on the porch also cried out and wrung their hands. Jackson seemed startled by the sobbing. “What is the matter with my Dear Children,” he said, “have I alarmed you? Oh, do not cry–be good children & we will all meet in heaven.”
Those were Jackson’s last words.
The Life of Andrew Jackson, Robert Remini, p. 356-358
May we all have deathbed scenes like this!