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Slave and Property Auction Block - Fredericksburg, Virginia

Andrew Johnson – Owning Slaves

Sandpaper Underwear

“And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord.” II Kings 19:1 KJV

Some things are just fun to purchase. If you buy a car or a house, now that’s an exciting purchase. If you have a hobby and you see something really special on eBay, that’s a thrilling bidding experience.

Some things you save for, or you pay over a long time, but you know, down the road they are worth it. College, an investment, or a retirement plan might fall into one of those categories.

Then there comes a time in your life when you are forced to make purchases that are, quite frankly, not all that fun to make. To me, an appliance falls into that category. I just can’t get real excited about buying a refrigerator, a dishwasher, or even a dryer. You usually buy those because you have to. Something breaks down and you just can’t live without it.

I usually use a formula to determine whether getting a new appliance or fixing the old one is the wisest choice. Of course, the exception to this is if you just can’t afford to buy a new one. My formula? If the repair cost a third or more of what a new one cost, then it is probably better to just bite the bullet and buy a new one.

My wife and I recently had one of those experiences. Our dryer started banging like there was a marching band playing inside our house. It was giving me a headache every time my wife would try to dry the clothes she had washed. She tried moving the clothes around inside the dryer, but that didn’t even work. We decided to call a repair person.

Before she called a repair person, she got online to check out the reviews the companies were getting. She found a few and she began to call. Most never returned the call. We finally found one and set up an appointment. They never showed up and we never heard from them again. This was becoming quite the ordeal.

My wife decided, until we found a solution to our dryer dilemma, she would just hang the clothes throughout the house. She also had one of those wooden dryer towers. You were never too far from the sight of drying clothes. This went on for a few weeks.

Finally, we able to set up another appointment with another repairman. We even called him the night before he was to come, just to make sure he was coming. He said he was and he showed up just like he said he would. The cost to fix it was over our third threshold, so we decided just to buy a new dryer. Like I said, buying a dryer isn’t fun.

I remember when I was really young. My Mom would sometimes dry some of the clothes outside. She said she liked the fresh smell. As a boy, I wondered if waiting so long for dry clothes was a pioneer feeling she missed from her childhood. Now I was experiencing those nightmares all over again. I honestly believe that I have been spoiled by some modern conveniences. The dryer is probably one of those on top of my list now.

The one thing I didn’t remember from my youth about fine-smelling, out in the wild nature-dried clothes is the side effects of that drying. For one thing, the clothes are more wrinkled. But the biggest effect, to me, is how rough some of the clothes feel. I wanted my soft underwear back.

One of the strangest things about this future President was that he was a slave owner. You might think, “Why would that be strange? Many of our early Presidents were slave owners.” It wasn’t so much the fact that he owned slaves, but as a child, his Mom was so poor she basically had to sell him out to an apprentice program.

Today, apprentice programs are a fine way for an individual to learn a trade. If you really excel in that trade you can make very good money. When I was younger I enrolled in a plumbing apprentice program. But back in this President’s day, selling your child into an apprentice program was like selling him into slavery. They no longer had any control over their life until they had “paid back” the master of their trade.

So, to me, it seems a little strange, that someone who knew how bad it was to live in slave conditions would ever consider it “right” to put someone into those same conditions. Yet, that’s exactly what this future President did.

When Lincoln was President, he tried as hard as he could to get the states that had seceded from the union to reconsider their decisions, but he didn’t have any luck. When that failed, his next task was to keep the states that were called border-states in the union.

For instance, it would have been really difficult if the border-state of Maryland seceded. Virginia had already seceded and if Maryland seceded too, then the nation’s capital, Washington DC, would be surrounded by the enemy. One of the tools Lincoln employed to keep these border-states in the Union happened when he issued his Emancipation Proclamation. The freeing of the slaves would not apply to those states.

After King Solomon died, his son couldn’t keep all the tribes together. The Jewish nation split into two kingdoms: Judah and Israel. The kingdom of Israel had mostly bad kings. The kingdom of Judah was a mix of good and bad kings.

Hezekiah was one of Judah’s good kings. The Bible says that Hezekiah put all his trust in God and there was no other king like him, before or after. That’s quite the compliment considering how many times David is talked about in the Bible.

While Hezekiah was king of Judah, Israel turned really bad and God allowed the Assyrians to attack and capture Israel and to take them into exile. The king of Assyria had his eyes on Judah next. The Assyrians captured all the outlying fortress cities of Judah and now they were headed straight toward Hezekiah.

Hezekiah apologized and sent word that he would pay whatever tribute the King of Assyria demanded. Hezekiah would invade the temple treasury and he would even strip the gold off the temple doors. Apparently it wasn’t enough, because the Assyrians kept coming.

When the Southern States seceded, all their Representatives and Senator’s resigned from Congress. That is, except one, this future President who was a Senator from Tennessee. As part of the deal, he too, was allowed to keep his slaves. But when Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, the future President didn’t believe it was right for him to keep his slaves any longer. He freed them.

As the Civil War started to turn the Union’s way, Tennessee was one of the first states the Union captured. Lincoln would need someone to oversee the captured territory. He would tap the lone Senator who didn’t resign when the rest of his fellow southern Congressmen did. Now the Tennessee Senator would be called the Military Governor of Tennessee.

There weren’t too many people from Tennessee who were any too happy with their traitor, Military Governor, Andrew Johnson. To them he was like that stiff, scratchy pair of underwear. They wanted their old Tennessee back.

Andrew Johnson must have been like a pair of stiff, scratchy underwear to a lot more people than just the Tennessee people, because he is one of those Presidents who failed to get elected on his own merit. Johnson become President when Lincoln died after he was assassinated. The unwanted Johnson wasn’t even invited by any major party to even run in the next election. Congress even impeached him and he missed being removed from office by one vote. I guess it was time to get a new dryer.

So if you are out-manned, out-muscled, mocked and see nothing but doom on the horizon, what do you do? Guess what Hezekiah, the King of Judah, did? He changed into stiff underwear and all the priests and his secretary did likewise. Actually it was called sackcloth or burlap. That sounds even worse than stiff underwear.

Then Hezekiah went into the temple and prayed. The Bible then says the Lord heard Hezekiah’s prayers and He went out and “smote” 185,000 of those Assyrian soldiers one night. When the rest of the Assyrians saw all those dead bodies, they ran back to Nineveh as fast as they could.

Hezekiah, and all Judah, could now take off their stiff underwear, sackcloth, burlap or whatever you want to call it, and put back on the soft kind. I guess God really knows you’re serious about listening to Him if you put on stiff underwear.

Sometimes, in life, we have those stiff underwear moments. Sure, they are clean and smell fresh, but they just aren’t that comfortable to wear. Maybe we have made an unpopular or bad decision, like Andrew Johnson trying to return “home” after he had been labeled a traitor. Sometimes, like Hezekiah, we use those tough, uncomfortable, moments to show that we are serious about our direction. Then, like deciding whether to buy a dryer or not, we have to make a decision as to what the wisest choice is for our situation.

God is the greatest architect. He designed us with many competing components that seem to come together in unison when the right decision needs to be made. He gave us self-will, where we can chose to do what we want. He gave us a heart that allows us to do what we feel. He gave us a brain to add logic and reason into our decisions. He gave us friends and family from whom to seek advice. He gave us the Bible to give us direction.

I believe we make the worst decisions or feel the unhappiest about our decisions when one of those components dominates our decision. When we only use our self-will, we only take ourselves into account. When we only use our feelings, we tend to become a little unstable. When we only use logic and reason, we tend to become rigid and legalistic. When we only listen to family and friends, we tend to let them make the decision for us. When we only use the Bible, we sometimes read what we want the verses say instead of what they actually do say or we might just pick the verses we want to look at.

So when the dryer breaks down, and you’re tired of the stiff underwear, and a decision has to be made, mix it up a little bit. Use all the components God has given you to help you come to a decision. You’ll be back in the soft underwear in no time.

Prayer: Dear Mighty Father, Oh, the troubles I sometimes see. When those troubles happen, please let me use all the tools You have given me to make great decisions. Also, thank you for the new dryer and the soft underwear. Amen.

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