2359) Grover Cleveland’s Pastor

Grover Cleveland | Biography & Facts | Britannica

Grover Cleveland  (1837-1908)

22nd and 24th President of the United States  (1885-1889 and 1893-1897)


By Marvin Olasky, editor of World news magazine ( http://www.wng.org ), posted June 6, 2020.  This brief excerpt is from a speech given at a conference hosted by the Jonathan Edwards Institute on July 6, 1999.  The speech described and contrasted the faith of two Presbyterian presidents, Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson.  The entire speech can be read at:



     The criticism of Biblical evangelicals is that we are always looking for perfect people to become presidential candidates.  Actually, however, we know that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and Cleveland shows the process of sin and redemption.

     In 1874, 10 years before he ran for president, Cleveland fathered a son out of wedlock.  He made some restitution, giving the child his last name, financially supporting the mother, and then arranging for adoption.  But his past became an issue after he received the Democratic presidential nomination in 1884.  Republicans chanted, “Ma, ma, where’s my pa?  Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha.”

     Cleveland made sure the facts got out, but he never attacked his critics.  Perhaps he showed awareness of a good journalistic rule, “Never spit when on a roller coaster.”  Cleveland won the election, and during his presidency you see him minimizing his own importance.  One journalist, Frank Carpenter, noted that “The hall and the stairs that brought us to the President’s office are covered with an old piece of carpet which was good once, but which has been patched, sewed, and resewed.  It would not bring fifty cents at an auction.”

     Cleveland worked hard to glorify the country by sticking by the Constitution and vetoing special interest bills.  You also see him glorifying God in many ways.  He showed his need to listen with his choice of churches. 

     Washington residents expected Cleveland to attend the famed and fashionable New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.  Instead, he attended the First Presbyterian Church, even though—no, because—its fiery old Pastor Sunderland had opposed Cleveland’s election, saying he was morally unfit for the White House. 

     Cleveland knew that he needed to hear not preaching that would tickle his ears, but that would discipline him when he needed it.


The Bible contains many admonitions against listening to only what you want to hear of God’s Word, and ignoring the rest.    Sometimes people will leave a church because the pastor is preaching a part of God’s Word that they do not like.  Grover Cleveland did not do that.  Rather, he chose a church where he knew the pastor would faithfully, honestly, and courageously proclaim all of God’s Word, even those parts that made him uncomfortable.  He knew he needed to hear that.


Luke 6:26a  —  (Jesus said), “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you.”

II Timothy 4:2-4  —  Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.  For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Zechariah 7:11-12  —  They refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears.  They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets.

Jeremiah 5:30-31  —  A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land:  The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way.  But what will you do in the end?

Jeremiah 6:10  —  To whom can I speak and give warning?  Who will listen to me?  Their ears are closed so they cannot hear.  The word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it.

Romans 3:23-24  —  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 10:17  —  Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.


Keep fresh before me the moments of my high resolve, Lord, that in fair weather or foul, in good times or in tempests, in the days when the darkness and the foe are nameless or familiar, may I not forget that to which my life is committed.  Amen.

–Howard Thurman  (1899-1981)