There were lots of reasons the famous Texan, Sam Houston, was referred to as “Big Drunk.” He was larger than life, and he was rough around the edges. He was a life-long brawler that could handle himself in a fight, whether it was a political one, a military one, or even a marital one.
Then he met Jesus and was baptized…and everything changed.
In many ways, this brawler was personally responsible for the reality and grandiose that is modern day Texas (which is why the state’s largest city is named after him). Even though his legacy centers on Texas, he experienced many other accolades in life outside of the Lone Star State. He was a soldier who victoriously fought against the English and the Mexicans. He was an accomplished politician, remembered today as the only man to serve as governor of two different states. But he was also a keen target of newspapers; his marriage to Eliza Allen ended in a scandalous and highly public divorce.
Fortunately for Houston, his second marriage was to Margaret Lea, a devout Baptist woman from Alabama who would end up changing his life and his eternity. For years, she prayed for her husband, talked with him about his need of salvation, and even asked others to speak with him about his faith.
Finally, after 61 years of fighting the English, Mexicans, fellow politicians, and his own sin, he turned his life over to Christ.
His baptism was scheduled for November 19, 1854, and since it was such a huge occasion, people came from all over Independence (his home) and as far away as Austin. There were three pastors present for the baptismal service: Baines, Burleson, and Morrell, each of which had played a role in his conversion and each of which had a specific task in the service.
Ummm…how big of a sinner were you if you require three different pastors at your baptism!?!?
Rev. Burleson was chosen to be the one to baptize the famous politician, but on the morning of the service, the pastor discovered that some mischievous boys had pranked the occasion by filling the baptismal pool with sticks and mud. Quickly, the baptism was relocated to the “Baptizing Hole” in Rocky Creek, about a mile from the church. Throngs gathered on the banks of the river as the cold northeastern wind cut through the assembly.
As Houston walked down to the water’s edge, Rev. Burleson noted that Houston still had his watch on his hip. He pointed it out to Houston, and the politician handed it to a friend. “You’d better hand him your wallet, too,” remarked the well-intentioned pastor.
“No, I believe not pastor. I’m afraid it needs baptizing, too,” responded Houston.
After he was baptized in the freezing cold conditions, he was congratulated by his friends. “Well, General, all your sins have been washed away.”
“If that be the case,” replied Houston, “God help the fish down below.”
From that time forward, Houston became a stout supporter of Christ’s cause. He paid half of the pastor’s salary, and even gave generously to Baylor University. His life was totally changed.
But that’s what’s supposed to happen when a big drunk meets a big Savior.
The Star of Destiny: The Private Life of Sam and Margaret Houston by Madge Thornall Roberts. University of North Texas Press, 2001, Page 252.
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)