Reminiscences of a Long Life
By James M. Pendleton
My pastorate at Bowling Green ended for a time with the end of the year 1849. I had promised my friend Rev. Alfred Taylor to aid him, as soon as I could, in a meeting with his church at Green River, Ohio County. I therefore complied with my promise early in January, 1850. Brother Taylor and I had been for many years on terms of intimate friendship. I regarded him one of the best men I ever knew. He was a sound evangelical preacher and great success attended his ministry. It is said that he baptized more young men who became preachers than any other minister in Kentucky.
In the meeting referred to I was required to do the preaching, and in three weeks I preached twenty-one sermons. The Lord was pleased to grant His blessing. The church was revived and sinners were converted. I do not remember how many were baptized, but the number was considerable.
After the meeting was over Brother Taylor told me of a compliment paid me by a plain farmer, which I have prized more than anything of the kind ever said about me. Men of learning and distinction have sometimes said favorable things concerning my preaching; but I have appreciated nothing so much as the remark of the farmer. He said, “Anyone who cannot understand that preaching will not be held accountable at the judgment.” However this may be, every preacher should make it a point to preach plainly as well as earnestly, faithfully and lovingly.
I cannot say certainly whether I ever saw Brother Taylor after this meeting. He died October 9, 1855, leaving three sons in the ministry. Happy man, to go up to heaven with three lineal and spiritual representatives to plead the cause of Christ on earth!
After the meeting at Green River Church I visited different parts of the State, but was thinking all the while about removing North of the Ohio River. Having this matter under consideration, friends at Russellville requested me to make no engagement, and in due time I was called to the pastorate there. I accepted the call and was settled the latter part of July. While at Russellville, that is to say, on the 25th of August, our third daughter, whose name is Lila, was born. She was a delicate child from her birth and for some years was a great sufferer, so that she could not enjoy the pleasures of other children. In consequence of the calamities of the war we could not send her to college, as we had done with our other daughters. She was therefore taught at home. She made very respectable proficiency in English under the instruction of her mother, while an older sister gave her lessons in French, and I took her through the Latin course. In the year 1868 she professed conversion and was baptized at Upland, Pennsylvania. By mingling in the best society she has overcome the disadvantages of her childhood and youth, and acts well her part in any circle in which she is called to move. On the 9th of November, 1876, she was united in marriage with Mr. Benjamin F. Procter, of Bowling Green, a prominent lawyer, who has been very successful in his profession. They are congenial spirits and enjoy as much domestic happiness as falls to the lot of mortals. Mr. Procter has served for several years as Superintendent of the Sunday-school of the First Baptist Church in Bowling Green, and Lila has been a zealous teacher. A Presbyterian preacher has pronounced her the best teacher he ever saw.
My sojourn at Russellville was pleasant, so far as the church and congregation were concerned, but the “parsonage” was not at all comfortable, and we were anxious to get some other house, but could not. It was while I was at Russellville that the Bethel Association decided on the establishment of a High School, which some years after became Bethel College. No one at the time thought of a college, and there are many now who think Georgetown the only Collegiate Institution needed by the Baptists of Kentucky. But Bethel has done, and is still doing a good work, and it is useless to talk, as some do, about transferring its endowment to Georgetown. This will not be done. All the time I was in Russellville the Church at Bowling Green was without a pastor, and my house there was not rented. In thinking of the discomforts of the “parsonage ” we naturally thought of the comforts of our home and wished to be in it again. While occupied with these thoughts, I was invited to resume my former place in Bowling Green, and accepted the invitation.
Everything went on in the ordinary style till February, 1852, when Rev. J. R. Graves, of Nashville, held a meeting with us. The prospect was, at first, by no means bright. The truth is, the church was not far from a state of Laodicean lukewarmness. Brother Graves at once saw this, and his sermons for the first week of the meeting, were addressed exclusively to the church. He said he “could not preach to impenitent sinners over a dead church.” Brethren and sisters were awakened from their spiritual apathy, and the spirit of prayer took possession of them. They called mightily on God, confessed their backslidings, and sought a restoration of the joy of Salvation. When this joy was restored, and not till then, they were prepared to labor for the salvation of sinners. This is in perfect accordance with the language of David: “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit. Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.” (Psalm li: 12, 13.) Brother Graves well understood the true philosophy of a revival of religion. By the time saints were revived, sinners were awakened and began to inquire, “What must we do to be saved?” There was a sense of guilt and danger. Inquirers felt that sin had proved their ruin that they were justly condemned, that they could not save themselves, and that, if saved, it must be by the grace of God. The way of salvation through Christ was presented and one anxious soul after another saw it and rejoiced in it. The seats of inquirers, vacated by happy converts, were filled again and again by anxious souls. Thus the meeting went on from day to day and from week to week until about seventy-five persons, young and old, were baptized and added to the church. Truly it was a, time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. Our old meeting-house was not large, but the members of the church now filled all the seats at the Lord’s Supper, and we began to plan for a new house of worship. It was not long before a lot was bought on Main Street at what now appears a marvelously cheap price (seven dollars a foot) and a building was erected, into which we entered in 1854. This house is still occupied.
I may say of Brother Graves that no man ever conducted a meeting more judiciously. His sermons were able and instructive, his exhortations were powerful, and his advice to inquirers and young converts just what it should be. There was considerable excitement among Pedobaptists on the subject of Baptism and several sermons were afterward preached by Methodist and Presbyterian ministers. Before the excitement subsided I was called on to preach a dedication sermon at Liberty Church, Logan County, and I gave my reasons for being a Baptist. These were afterward expanded into a little book styled “Three Reasons Why I Am a Baptist.” This book was published in 1853 and was my first attempt at authorship. It had a good circulation, and I subsequently sold the copyright and stereotype plates to Graves, Marks Co., of Nashville. After twenty-eight years, when the copyright had fully expired, I revised and enlarged the book, and it was published in the year 1882 by the American Baptist Publication Society, with the title, “Distinctive Principles of Baptists.” I wish my descendants and others to consider this volume as my testimony in favor of Baptist Principles. From the time of the meeting above referred to, I became a regular contributor to the Tennessee Baptist, a weekly sheet published in Nashville, J. R. Graves, editor. I wrote on various subjects and was requested to write several articles on this question: “Ought Baptists to Recognize Pedobaptist Preachers as Gospel Ministers?” I answered in the negative, and wrote four articles which were afterward published in pamphlet form under the title, “An Old Landmark Re-set.” Bro. Graves furnished the title, for he said the “Old Landmark” once stood, but had fallen, and needed to be re-set. So much for the name. This tract had a wide circulation, for the copy now before me has on the title page the words, “Fortieth Thousand.” The position I had taken was most earnestly controverted by a large number of brethren. Drs. Waller, Burrows, Lynd, Everts, and Prof. Farnam, among Baptists, took part in the discussion, and Drs. Cossitt and Hill, who were Presbyterians. I replied to them all in an Appendix to the “Landmark,” and after more than thirty years have passed away, I still think that I refuted their arguments. I do not wonder therefore, that Dr. N. M. Crawford, of Georgia, said that I had never been answered. The “Old Landmark” has been out of print for many years and it would be very difficult to obtain a copy, but the discussions connected with it have modified the views of many Baptists in the South, and of some in the North.
The controversy was and is a strange one: In one sense, all Roman Catholics and all Protestant Pedobaptists are on the side of the “Landmark.” That is to say, they believe, and their practice of infant baptism compels the belief, that baptism must precede the regular preaching of the gospel. This is just what Landmark Baptists say, and they say, in addition, that immersion alone is baptism, indispensable to entrance into a gospel church, and that from such a church must emanate authority, under God, to preach the gospel. All this is implied in the immemorial custom, among Baptist churches, of licensing and ordaining men to preach. But I will not enlarge: I have said this that my children and grandchildren may know what the “Old Landmark” was, and why I wrote it. Baptists can never protest effectually against the errors of Pedobaptists while the preachers of the latter are recognized as gospel ministers. This to me is very plain.
The birth of our second son, the last birth in our family, occurrred on the 24th of May, 1855. We called him Garnett that he might preserve the maiden name of his mother. He was a healthy, good child and soon became a favorite in the family. We of course took him with us when we removed to Tennessee in 1857, and to Ohio in 1862, and to Pennsylvania in 1865. An account of these removals will be given in future chapters. Garnett, like our other children, was taught by his mother for several years, and then went for a time to the academy of Mr. Aaron, at Mt. Holly, New Jersey. This was with a view to his preparation for college, but he was very imperfectly prepared. Before he left home, at a time of some religious interest, he made profession of his faith in Christ and was baptized with his sister Lila the 12th of January, 1868.
They both went down into the water together and it was a happy time for their father. It has so happened that I have baptized all my children and married them all, except the one who died unmarried. My exalted opinion of President M. B. Anderson decided me to send my son to the University of Rochester, New York. He was there four years, and though he did not take the “first honor,” so-called, he had a respectable standing in the graduating class of 1875. On his return home, he became a student of law in the office of E. Coppee Mitchell, of Philadelphia. Here he remained three years, attending, in the meantime, the Lectures in the Law School of Pennsylvania University and graduating at the expiration of that period. His purpose, at first, was to open an office in Philadelphia; but on due reflection he decided to settle in Chester, Pennsylvania, where he now lives (1891) and has a respectable practice. There is no lawyer of his age who prepares his cases more laboriously and exhaustively, and there is no one who has a better faculty of analysis, or can make a stronger logical argument.
Garnett was married in the First Baptist Church, Philadelphia, December 30, 1879, to Miss Helena Ward, daughter of Rev. William Ward, D. D., Missionary to Assam. She was born on the Island of St. Helena, and hence her name. One bright child, Emma, now six years old, whom her blind grandmother has taught to read, is the fruit of this marriage. Where the great Napoleon found a prison, and Mrs. Sarah B. Judson a grave, Helena first saw the light. Years afterward she saw in Philadelphia the light of salvation and was baptized by Rev. Mr. Rees, pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist Church.
There is nothing pertaining to Garnett that gratifies his parents more than the fact that he is a useful member of the Upland Baptist Church and the teacher of a Bible class of about seventy grown persons. He is highly appreciated as an expositor of the Sunday-school lessons. May there be long years of Christian usefulness before him! It will probably devolve on him to write at the end of these Reminiscences the date of the death of their author.