The service for adult baptism had never been witnessed there before.
The circumstances made it an occasion of intense interest among the cadets.
Perceiving the intensity with which the mind of Cadet Polk
was occupied in preparation for it, and apprehensive that all sorts of rumors had gone to Washington
concerning what was going on at the academy—as if discipline and order and study were broken up by religion—and we had various noisy demonstrations of excitement in the chapel, rumors I need not say without the slightest appearance of foundation.
Apprehensive, I say, lest under some strength of emotion my young friend should afford the least excuse for such reports, I charged him to be on his guard, and he promised.
All went on quietly but with the deepest solemnity, till after the last words of the baptismal office, when I addressed a few words of exhortation to the two, ending with the sentence: ‘Pray your Master and Saviour to take you out of the world, rather than allow you to bring reproach on the cause you have now professed.’
Then he could hold no longer, and there came from the depth of his heart an Amen, which spoke to every other heart in the congregation and is remembered to this day.
That Amen was recently renewed in my recollection by a letter from a gentleman, a stranger to me. He had just heard of the death of Bishop Polk
, and he remembered spending a Sunday at West Point
in the spring of 1826, and attending service in the chapel, and that two cadets were baptized, and that I addressed them.
He remembered the very words as given above, and he said that one of the cadets responded to them with an Amen, so deep-toned and so uttered as if all his soul were in it, that it made a deep impression on him, and he had the sound of it yet in his ears, and he said he had an impression that one of the two was named Polk
In a few days
after the 4th of June the cadets were received to the communion of the Lord
's Supper with others of the corps—one professor, one instructor, and four inhabitants of the Point
It was not only their first communion, but it is not known that the Lord
's Supper had ever been administered there before.
I find in my record of that communion the name of the cadet who dropped the tract in the barracks in young Polk
He was then as much without any religious impressions as his friend, for they were intimate friends.
One night, at one of the meetings in my study, when the usual devotional exercises and exposition of Scripture had just been concluded, and we were sitting for the conversation which usually succeeded, Cadet Polk
said, with a manner of great emphasis: ‘I would give anything to know who it was that placed that tract in my room.’
‘Why,’ said I, ‘what would you do?’
‘I would not rest 'till by God's blessing he should know what I know,’ was his reply.
‘Well,’ I answered, ‘I will tell you; it was Parks
‘Why,’ he exclaimed, ‘he is my intimate friend.’
Then he thought for awhile and said: ‘He is officer-of-the-day to-morrow, between the sections going to recitation, and he will have a good deal of tedious time in the guard-room.
I will put on the mantel-piece a copy of Gregory
's Letters’ (he thought nobody could withstand that book); ‘he will look at it just to kill time, and we will see.’
The other's smiled at his confidence, but he did it, and all resulted as he expected.
His friend saw the book in the guard-room, but his state of mind, unknown to any one, was far more prepared to embrace the truth than even he himself was conscious of. He read, but did not afterwards remember what he had read, or that it had excited any other thought than that it was the very book that Polk
was said to have been so influenced by. Then the desire arose to go to his friend and disclose convictions of a concern for his soul which were now obtaining the mastery.
When he knocked at his friend's door the latter was on his knees praying for him, and when he arose and found who it was at the door, was not surprised, but well divined his errand.
The visitor entered, and began to ask our young Christian cadet, and to tell him how he felt, and how it was. But the conversation had proceeded but a few moments before the enquirer threw himself on his friend's neck in strong emotion, and the next thing was for both to go to the chaplain's study.
‘Here he is,’ said Polk
, as if he took it for granted I was expecting him. That cadet then disclosed a state of mind which had commenced about the time of his receiving the tracts which I gave
him in my study, which he had resisted, and which sometimes he supposed he had mastered, but which now asserted itself, though until that day it had never been communicated to any human being.