James Buchanan was Secretary of State and Minister to England. The only President born in Pennsylvania and the only bachelor President, Buchanan was a Presbyterian by family background. All of his life, he worshiped regularly and gave to many different denominations. Yet, Buchanan did not join the Presbyterian Church until he retired to private life. Here is how it happened:
In August of 1860, Buchanan’s last year in the White House, he was vacationing at the Bedford Springs Hotel, a fashionable summer resort in the Pennsylvania mountains. There, the Rev. Dr. William M. Paxton, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of New York City, was a guest at the same time. Buchanan knew the pastor, and so one day he invited Paxton to the Presidential suite, where he opened his heart. The President confessed,
"I think I may say that for 12 years I have been in the habit of reading the Bible and praying daily. I have never had any one with whom I have felt disposed to converse, and now that I find you here I have thought you would understand my feelings, and that I would venture to open my mind to you upon this important subject, and ask for an explanation of some things I do not clearly understand."
The President then asked Dr. Paxton what a religious experience is, and how a man might know he was a Christian. The minister gave responses that led Buchanan to say,
"Well, sir, I thank you. My mind is now made up. I hope I am a Christian. I think I have had some of the experience which you describe, and as soon as I retire from my office as President, I will unite with the Presbyterian Church."
Soon thereafter, on the 4th of March, 1861, President Buchanan kept his promise and was received into membership at First Presbyterian Church of Lancaster.
Today, expect to find people in your life who want to know if they are a Christian, and who are eager to hear Jesus’ words of life, from YOU!
John A. Dalles, Pastor