Reminiscences of a Long Life
By James M. Pendleton
As intimated in the preceding chapter, my desire and purpose to go West were not carried into effect. I therefore directed my attention to the East, hoping there to find a suitable field of labor. This led me to attend the Philadelphia Association, which met October, 1865, with the Fifth Church on Eighteenth and Spring Garden Streets.
At that time Rev. William Wilder had resigned the pastorate of the Upland Baptist Church, which he had filled for eleven years, and Dr. Griffith arranged for pulpit supplies. He invited me to preach and I did so on the first Sunday in October, attending the Association during the week. On the second Sunday I preached in Camden, New Jersey, and on the third, at Upland again. The church, at the evening service, was requested to remain after the congregation was dismissed. I of course did not remain, though I did not know what business would come before the church. That night, as I retired, the venerable John P. Crozer put a letter in my hands informing me that I had been called to the pastorate. I remember well kneeling down and thanking God that in His gracious providence He had indicated that there was still work for me to do. As there was something peculiar about this call, I may explain. Mr. Crozer was not in favor of electing a pastor at that time, but wished to wait till his eldest son, Samuel A., reached home from Europe; for he, next to his father, was the most influential member of the church. Mrs. Crozer said to her husband (this she told me years after) that it would be necessary to act at once if my services were secured. Her favorable opinion of my preaching led her to believe that some other church would give me a call, and that with the Upland Church it was now or never. She carried her point with her husband, and thus I was indirectly indebted to her for the eighteen happy years of my pastorate at Upland. My opinion of Mrs. Sallie L. Crozer I need not here express; for in the dedication of my “Christian Doctrines” to her, I have told the public the estimation in which she was held by me.
Her husband, John P. Crozer, was a remarkable man. He had risen from comparative obscurity and poverty to prominence and wealth. He had great energy and was the architect of his own fortune. His life, as written by J. Wheaton Smith, J. D., shows what he was from his boyhood till his death. At fourteen years of age he heard a funeral sermon, preached by the celebrated Dr. William Staughton, and was led to see himself a sinner in need of salvation. After his conversion he united with the Marcus Hook Baptist Church, of which he remained a member till the Upland Church was constituted in 1852. A house of worship was indispensable and one was built at his expense and afterward enlarged. He was very successful in his business, which was the manufacture of “cotton goods,” and he early learned to give as the Lord prospered him. His contributions for Missions, Education, the American Baptist Publication Society and kindred benevolent objects were large, and his hospitality knew no limit. He was Superintendent of the Sunday-school, filled his place in the prayer-meeting, and was in the sanctuary on the Lord’s day. It is a fact worthy of notice that he and his gardener, Mr. John Pretty, were for years the only deacons of the church. They acted in harmony, and their last interview, when Mr. Crozer was on his dying bed, was very affecting. Mr. Pretty often spoke of it with deep feeling.
Mr. Crozer lived but a few months after I first knew him in 1865, for he died in March, 1866. His death created a deep sensation, not only in Upland, but in Philadelphia and the surrounding country. The general feeling was that a benefactor of his race had been taken away. His funeral was largely attended and was very solemn and impressive. It devolved on me to preach the sermon, and the text was II Timothy iv:7, 8: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course; I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.” Appropriate remarks were made by Bishop Lee, of Delaware, and Dr. J. Wheaton Smith, of Philadelphia. The body was buried in the Upland Cemetery to await the resurrection of the last day.
Mr. Crozer, at his death, left seven children, four sons and three daughters. The names of the sons who still live (1891) are Samuel A., J. Lewis, George K. and Robert H. His daughters were Margaret (Mrs. Bucknell), Elizabeth (Mrs. Griffith) and Emma, who afterward became Mrs. Gustavus W. Knowles. Mrs. Bucknell died a few years after her father and was buried near him. The children now living are worthy representatives of their father and mother, and though the inheritors of wealth, it is to be said to their credit that they never assume airs which some rich people take on themselves. They do not boast of their wealth, but they use it to promote benevolent objects. This reminds me that after Mr. Crozer’s death, his family, by a donation of fifty thousand dollars to the American Baptist Publication Society, established what is called “The Crozer Memorial Fund,” in honor of the husband and father. The interest on this fund is used year by year to promote the religious welfare of the colored people of the South, and the good it is doing will not be fully known till it is disclosed by the revelations of eternity.
In the year 1868 “Crozer Theological Seminary” was established. The large building which it occupies had been put up by Mr. Crozer for school purposes, but for some reason those purposes had not been satisfactorily carried out. The best thing to do with the structure was not determined on till there was a family consultation. Then it was decided to make the building the seat of a theological school. To endow it Mrs. Crozer and her seven children gave twenty-five thousand dollars each, and Mr. Bucknell added twenty-five thousand dollars. This endowment was ample at the beginning, for the faculty consisted of only three instructors, Henry G. Weston, D.D., President, and Drs. Howard Osgood and G. D. B. Pepper, Professors. In the course of human events changes have taken place, and Dr. Weston is the only man who has been identified continuously with the institution till now (1891). The faculty has been enlarged, so that it now consists of the President, George R. Bliss, J. C. Long, E. H. Johnson, J. M. Stifler, B. C. Taylor and M. G. Evans. Something has been added to the original endowment, but it needs to be augmented, and I have reason to know that this will be done while some of its founders live, or when their wills are executed.
As I have been for a number of years one of the Trustees of the Seminary, it would not be in good taste for me to be profuse in its praise. I may say, however, that it has done, and is still doing a good work. The members of the faculty are men of God, sound in faith, and apt to teach. The number of students is increasing year by year, and many of its graduates are filling important places in this country and some are Missionaries in Foreign lands. The Crozer Seminary is in friendly relations with other Seminaries, and while it does not ask to be compared with them, it does not recoil from a comparison. Its motto is ONWARD, UPWARD; onward to larger attainments in the knowledge of the Bible; upward to brighter heights in spirituality.
The location of the Seminary is all that can be desired, fourteen miles from Philadelphia, one mile from Chester, on the Baltimore Ohio Railroad. Thus it escapes the severity of Northern winters and the enervating effects of Southern climes. In the year 1873 it became necessary to enlarge the meeting-house in Upland, and an addition of thirty feet was made to it at an expense of fourteen thousand dollars. A new baptistery was constructed and everything was made attractive. It was gratifying to see that the house, though enlarged, was not too large for the congregation. By the end of the year there was an increase of interest in the services of the sanctuary, and early in the year 1874, there were promising indications of a revival. These indications were first seen in cottage prayer-meetings held in different parts of the village. The spirit of prayer came upon the church, parents became interested for the conversion of their children, and meetings were commenced in the Sunday-school chapel. These meetings were held every night of the week except Saturday night and continued about two months. They were chiefly devoted to prayer and exhortation, and a few sermons only were preached, though there was regular preaching on the Lord’s day. Soon many were inquiring, “What must we do to be saved?” They were the old, the middle-aged, and the young. They were convicted of sin, they felt their lost condition, and earnestly cried to God for mercy. It was not long before anxious inquirers became rejoicing converts, telling what the Lord had done for their souls. Thus the meeting went on for weeks, and wintry weather, at times severe, did not keep the people away. An opportunity was given each week for persons who had found peace with God to unite with the church. Old-fashioned “experiences” of the grace of God were related, and some of them were very affecting. The ordinance of baptism was administered nine consecutive Sunday nights, and the additions to the church were about two hundred. In my long life I have never seen a revival equal to this, I do not claim that I had any special agency in it. My preaching was as it had been for years, though more earnest. The same gospel was preached. The revival was God’s work, in answer to the prayers of brethren and sisters. It is prayer that brings down the blessing of heaven. The keynote of the meeting was, perhaps, struck in the beginning by the pastor’s remarks on the words of Jesus, “Father, glorify Thy name.” The glory of God was referred to as the supremely important thing to be aimed at during the meeting, and the salvation of souls was to be sought as promotive of that glory. I never saw church members more forgetful of everything not immediately connected with the glory of God. Of the number baptized a hundred and twenty were over twenty years old, eighty were thirty years of age, twenty-five over forty, twelve over fifty, nine above sixty, and two above seventy. The remainder were between ten and twenty years old with the exception of one who was nine. Twenty-five husbands and wives were baptized, twelve husbands whose wives were members before, and six wives whose husbands were members before. I have never heard of a revival in which so large a portion of the converts were over twenty years of age. This meeting modified my views as to what are called “Protracted Meetings” and “Evangelists.” I think there should never be a “protracted meeting” until there is a spiritual interest in a church and congregation, that calls for it. To appoint such a meeting “in cold blood,” as the saying is, cannot be justified. I may say also, that where a church has regular preaching every Sunday, and prayer-meeting during the week, a protracted meeting is unnecessary. Nor has such a church need of the labors of an “evangelist.” It is better to look for the blessing of God on the ordinary means of grace. As to “evangelists,” it is their special business to labor where there are no churches, with a view to build up churches. This seems to be forgotten by most of them.
Though I shall refer to Upland church again, I may take occasion here to say that it has an honorable history. During my connection with it there went forth two colonies which became churches, namely, South Chester and Village Green. At an earlier date it furnished constituent members for the First Church, Chester, which sent out as her daughter, North Chester Church, so that the latter is the grand-daughter of Upland. All this is an honor not to be despised.
Upland’s liberality is known far and near. It is impossible to ascertain certainly what sums of money the Crozers give away, for they do not tell. For the first ten years of my pastorate I tried to find out the amount of their pecuniary gifts, but I made only an approximate estimate. I decided that they gave a hundred thousand dollars a year, making a million for the ten years. It is a great thing to have money to give, but, as I once heard Mr. Samuel Crozer say, “It is a greater thing to have the disposition to give it.”