JAMES MADISON PENDLETON, D.D.
[This paper was written and read by Rev. T. T. Eaton, D.D., LL.D., before the Kentucky Baptist Historical Society, at Campbellsville, June 14th, 1904.]
[William Makepeace] THACKERY says that it takes three generatiom to make a gentleman. So we begin with Henry Pendleton, grand-father of the subject of our sketch. We find him on July 7, 1774, presiding over a meeting in Culpepper, Va., called "to consider the most effective method to preserve the rights and liberties of America." Of course he became a soldier in the War of the Revolution, and his letters home, which have been preserved, prove him to have been a man of piety. One of these letters from the army to his wife says: "I hope the Lord has heard your prayers for me."
Henry Pendleton had four children - Mary, Benjamin, Henry and John. The last was the father of James Madison Pendleton, and his record shows he was worthy of his father. John
Pendleton studied under Andrew Broaddus, of Caroline county, Va., and at the close of his course taught school. In 1806 he married Miss Frances J. Thompson, an aunt of the Hon. Richard J. Thompson, Secretary of the U. S. Navy, under President Hayes. After his marriage John Pendleton engaged in mercantile pursuits, renting "Twyman's Store," in Spotsylvania county, and carrying on a general trade. He, too, was an earnest Christian man.
Of such lineage James Madison Pendleton was born in Spotsylvania county, Va., November 20, 1811. He was named after the then President Madison as a token of the regard cherished for him by the Pendleton family. James had two sisters, Mary and Frances, older than himself. In 1812 the family moved to Kentucky and settled on a 300-acre farm in Christian county. There the boy grew up. At nine years of age he started to school, and was initiated into the mysteries of Webster's Spelling Book and Murray's Grammar. His father was the teacher. He said of himself: "My temper was bad in my boyhood, and when mad the appearance of my face, as I once happened to see it in a glass, was frightful. It was sometimes necessary for my father to whip me, though I believe he never did so in school,"
adding with characteristic modesty, "I richly deserved every whipping I got."
His childhood was spent in a little section three by six miles, in which Jefferson Davis and Roger Q. Mills grew up. He was not a very strong boy, having frequently to take doses of "nauseous medicine," but he was fond of play and fun, and was a leader of the boys in their sports. While the subject of many serious impressions, especially under his mother's prayers, he did not make [a] profession of faith in Christ till he was seventeen years of age. He had a striking experience of grace, being converted, after a season of deep penitence, while praying in the forest under a tree. He was baptized April14, 1829, by Elder John S. Willson. In February following, to his surprise, the church licensed him to preach, though he did not preach a regular sermon for a year and a half. Next year he took charge of a neighborhood school, which he soon gave up because some of the patrons were displeased that he taught only six or seven hours a day.
His first sermon was at West Union church, ten miles west of Hopkinsville, on the fourth Sunday in September, 1831, the text being "God commandeth all men everywhere to repent." Not long after he preached his second sermon,
taking for his text "So Great Salvation." Writing of this years afterwards, he says: "I had exhausted my scanty store of theology and could think of no other subject on which I could say anything." He studied with Robert T. Anderson at Russellville, and presently taught at a salary of $15 a month. In 1833 he became pastor of Bethel and Hopkinsville churches, giving two Sundays a month to each. His salary was $100 a year from each church, though Bethel soon made her salary $150 a year. He now lived in Hopkinsville and studied with Prof. J. D. Rumsey.
On the 1st of January, 1837, he entered on his pastorate at Bowling Green, where he became eminent, and where he received the unheard-of salary of $400 a year. In October he went to Louisville to aid in organizing the General Association of the Baptists of Kentucky, which body he served for five years as clerk. When the jubilee meeting of the Association was held in Walnut Street Church, Louisville, October, 1887, Dr. Pendleton was one of the six survivors of the original body. These have now all gone home. He made one of the jubilee addresses, telling of the condition of the denomination in Kentucky in 1837.
It was in August, 1837, that a new coloring
was given to his life. In company with John L. Waller, he started to an Association. They stopped in Glasgow and spent the night with Richard Garnett, Esq., whose daughter Catherine, then for the first time met our hero. He says he was not favorably impressed at first. How she was impressed is not on record. Next day Miss Catherine, her brother, and these two preachers rode thirty miles to the Association, and that ride completed her conquest. It was not till October, however, that the young preacher declared his love, and in response she "said nothing." Near the close of the year she consented, and in March, 1838, Miss Catherine Stockton Garnett became Mrs. James Madison Pendleton. A more happily mated pair it has not been my good fortune to know.
Their bridal tour was taken after they had visited friends in Bowling Green and relatives in Christian county. The said bridal tour was on horseback to Louisville and return, an interesting account of which he gives in his Reminiscences. Recollections of this bridal tour were ever fresh in his mind, and he often took pleasure in relating incidents connected with it.
In 1844 he took a trip to Philadelphia to attend the Triennial Convention. Of this trip he kept a diary, which I wish to reproduce in the
Western Recorder, and so it can be passed over here. It is thoroughly characteristic of the man. His impressions and his estimates of the then leading men in the denomination are of great interest.
He remained pastor of Bowling Green till 1849, when he was persuaded to accept the call to Russellville, where he had a hand in founding Bethel College. He returned to Bowling Green, however, after a year's absence. Here he remained till the close of 1856, when he removed to Murfreesboro, Tenn., to become pastor of the Baptist church and Professor of Theology in Union University, of which my father was President. I remember my father's great anxiety and his vigorous efforts to bring Dr. Pendleton to Murfeesboro, as well as his great joy in securing him. At my father's death, January 12, 1859 - whose funeral sermon he preached from Acts 7:59, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" - Dr. Pendleton became chairman of the faculty and was acting President. He also became associate editor of The Tennessee Baptist and the Southwestern Baptist Review. All this time he cultivated a farm adjoining town.
When the war came on, Dr. Pendleton, who had all along favored the gradual emancipation
of the Negroes, took a decided stand for the Union. And though the community almost unanimously favored secession and the excitement was intense, such was the respect he commanded that no insult was offered him. He was never in personal danger, although he apprehended that he was so, all unconscious of the profound regard everybody had for him.
He continued as pastor and in cultivating his farm, though the University was broken up, until 1862, when he turned his face northward, and made his way to Ohio, stopping to visit friends in Kentucky on the way and narrowly missed seeing his oldest son, who was in Bragg's army, then on its Kentucky campaign. This son's death in the battle of Perryville was a great sorrow to the whole family. John M. Pendleton was his name, and his body lies in Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville. He was a noble man.
Dr. Pendleton settled first in Hamilton, Ohio, whence he removed in 1865 to Upland, Pennsylvania, where he had a most happy pastorate of eighteen years, and where he laid down pastoral work forever. He became one of the active managers of the American Baptist Publication Society, and aided in founding Crozer Theological Seminary. On the completion of
fifty years in the ministry, he presented a paper on the subject to the Baptist Ministers' Conference in Philadelphia, that awakened very great interest and called forth many compliments.
In 1883 he laid down his pastoral work. Under his ministry the church at Upland greatly prospered and sent forth two flourishing colonies. It cost him a severe pang to lay down work he so loved, and with people who so loved him; but he felt the time had come for him to retire from the active ministry, though he remained useful to the last, dying as was said of Plato, with his pen in his hand.
After resigning at Upland, he and Mrs. Pendleton divided their time between their four children - Mrs. Waters, at Murfreesboro; Mrs. Waggener, at Austin, Texas; Mrs. Procter, at Bowling Green, and Garnett Pendleton, Esq., in Philadelphia - children in every way worthy of their parentage.
On March 13, 1888, was celebrated their golden wedding in the church at Bowling Green, and in the home of the Hon. and Mrs. B. F. Procter. It was a tenderly interesting occasion. It was my privilege to be present and to take part. The proceedings were broken up in a most unique way, of which I will speak later.
It was on the 25th of January, 1891, in the church in Bowling Green that he preached his last sermon. His first sermon was on repentance and his last on sin. At noon on March 4, 1891, he "fell asleep" and went to his reward. It was my fortune to do for him what he had done for both my father and my mother, viz.: to conduct his funeral. Of course my text was 2 Timothy 4:7, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.""Ne'er to those mansions where the weary rest,Such is a brief sketch of the life of this great and good man. Let us now consider the man. Some incidents in his life that show his character were not mentioned in the sketch, but were reserved for illustrating what manner of man Dr. Pendleton was.
Since their foundation came a worthier guest;
Nor e'er was to the bowers of bliss conveyed,
A fairer spirit, a more welcome shade."
He was not what we would call a handsome man, but he rose higher. He had a classic head and erect stature, with an easy grace of movement. There was something regal in the flash
of his eye, and the expression of his face showed rare benevolence. He attracted all who saw him, and there was a subtle magnetism that held them. His countenance was open, and one felt no risk of being repelled in approaching him, and age did not mar his appearance. It brought no stoop to his shoulders and no cloud to his brow. That he was a born and bred gentleman was manifest to all beholders. Of medium size, he had a commanding presence, and would have been a marked man in earth's proudest assembly. There was no peculiarity of dress or manner. He did nothing to attract attention, and never seemed to be self-conscious.
He had perfect self-command. In an intimate acquaintance covering many years, I never knew him to manifest excitement or to be flurried. He seemed to be master of every situation. And he showed wisdom in dealing with others as well as with himself. When he became pastor in Hamilton, Ohio, there were two factions of long standing in the church. Neither side would make any advances toward the other. Yet Dr. Pendleton effectually brought them together and healed the breach.
After laboring with them he announced a church meeting, and that certain seats were reserved for those members of either faction who were willing to be reconciled. Their taking these seats meant that they retracted everything they had said offensive to others and asked forgiveness. When the meeting opened these seats were all filled with those who had been at variance, and the breach was healed without anybody's saying a word about it. That was a master stroke. Well did the Baptist Ministers' Conference of Philadelphia, in formal resolution, declare that Dr. Pendleton had "wisdom, ripened experience and good taste."
Another mark of his wisdom was that he grew old sweetly and gracefully. He did not resent the present in his recollections of the past. The Persian proverb was not fulfilled in his case - "The tendency of age is to sharpen the thorns and wither the flowers of life." He was mellowed by age without being soured or withered. His only regret at getting old was that his power for usefulness was diminished. When in his last illness the doctors told him he could not live, he replied: "Well, gentlemen, you may be right, but I do not feel like a dying man." What Coleridge said of Channing
was true of Dr. Pendleton, "He had the love of wisdom and the wisdom of love."
In early life he was diffident, and while he overcame that largely, there was always a residuum of it that added to his modesty. He was a brave man and never shrank from responsibility, but he combined with high courage true modesty - a very rare combination. He could talk about himself without either self-depreciation on the one hand, or boasting on the other. He would tell of his achievements as if he were a sympathetic observer rather than the doer of the deeds described. Note his letter of resignation to the church at Upland and his book of Reminiscences, his last and his sweetest book, written for his childrens' sake and not at all for his own. As Canon Liddon said of Dean Mansell, Dr. Pendleton was "like all really great men, so homelike, so simple, so unpresuming, so perfectly indifferent to the opinions which might be formed about him - not through any contempt of other men, but through a lowly estimate of himself - that they who saw him only on matters of ordinary business had no real opportunity of taking his true moral and intellectual measure."
Depreciating remarks and bitter words against him did not rankle in his heart. He would look at a bitter remark made about him as complacently as he would view a compliment. There was no vanity to breed and nourish resentment. As Wordsworth said of James Watt: "He never sought display, but was content to work in that quietness and humility in which alone all that is truly great and good was ever done."
As a preacher, he was clear, strong and impressive. Never impassioned, he was always logical and tender. The hearer was sure the preacher knew what he was talking about, and ever felt that he had great reserved power behind all that he said. He was mighty in the Scriptures, holding with unyielding grasp to "the faith once for all delivered to the saints." While he never dazed or dazzled a congregation, he never failed to edify and uplift them. His preaching never wore out. It was always fresh and nourishing. That was a great meeting he held at Upland, when he did all the preaching, and from night to night unfolded the way of life, until there were more than two
hundred additions to the church, including twenty-seven married couples. That is preaching. He did not so much impress himself as the truth. His hearers seldom thought to ask whether he was a great preacher or not, so completely did he hide himself behind the great truths he held forth. He was always accurate, yet never dry; always logical, yet never heavy; always strong, yet never dull. Each sermon was complete, and so easy to remember. I can remember now sermons I heard him preach when I was but a child. There was an evenness in his preaching seldom seen. He used no thunderbolts and no platitudes. Always intensely in earnest, he cared little for ornamentation in speech, and never attempted to soar. He rose with the greatness of his theme, and never by flights of oratory. His style was simple, clear, and strong, and he made no failures. As Nordi said of Savonarola, "He was always equal to himself." His style was what Justin McCarthy claimed for Dr. Barry, "at once strong and graceful, it penetrated with ease to the inner meaning of every question it touched, and illumined every point by some flash of artistic or poetic fancy."
As a writer, he took strong hold of the reader. His style was clear and strong in writing
as in preaching. He never wrote anything a second time, holding that this habit fostered carelessness in the writing. He first knew what he wished to say, and then wrote it carefully, and let it stand.
His first book was "Three Reasons Why I am a Baptist," and was the outcome of sermons he preached at Liberty church. This book has had a wide circulation on both sides of the Atlantic, and has been translated into Swedish. While associate editor of the Tennessee Baptist he wrote the articles which were put into a book that has had a marked influence in Southern Baptist history - "An Old Landmark Reset." This book called forth many replies, and was a factor in a famous controversy. No one can deny the wonderful strength of the book. After thirty years' discussion, Dr. N. M. Crawford, of Georgia, once President of Georgetown College, said that this book had never been answered.
Dr. Pendleton's first written controversy was with Alexander Campbell, a foeman worthy of his steel. Mr. Campbell did not always treat opponents with marked courtesy, but he so treated Dr. Pendleton. The question debated was the priority of repentance to faith.
As associate editor of the Southern Baptist Review, he wrote a number of solid and scholarly articles. He knew the New Testament, making it a rule to study it through in the Greek once every year. He wielded a Damascus blade in debate. Take an example - Dr. T. O. Summers, of Nashville, a famous Methodist divine, published a book on baptism, in which he said: "So numerous are the works on baptism, so worthless are most of them, so humble are the claims of the author of the following treatise, that he has not been without some unpleasant apprehension in regard to its fate, if committed to the press." Again: "Many of the works on baptism which teem from the press are utterly worthless." Dr. Pendleton, quoting his language, says: "The worthless books referred to are, we suppose, Pedobaptist works, for the author certainly does not feel under obligation to supply any vacancy in the theological literature of Baptists." Dr. Summers argued that eis in connection with baptism does not mean into. After answering this argument, Dr. Pendleton concludes: "What a strange word this little eis is, if what the Pedo-baptists say of it is true. It will take a man into a house, into a ship, into a country, into a city, into heaven, into hell - into any place
in the universe except the water! Poor word! afflicted, it seems, with hydrophobia."
In 1868 he wrote his Church Manual, which is a recognized standard among our churches. A little later he wrote a capital treatise on the Atonement, and a clearer or more satisfactory discussion of that great subject, in such short compass, does not exist. In 1878 he wrote "Christian Doctrines," which many regard as the best book on the subject. In 1881 he edited and published the "Life and Times of Reuben Ross," by James Ross. In 1884 he published his "Notes on the New Testament," a book of great practical value. Then two years later came his "Notes of Sermons," a valuable addition to our homiletical literature, which was highly praised by Chas. H. Spurgeon, who said, "These 'Notes' are sound, searching, savory. They instruct and interest, edify and stimulate." In 1890, at the urgent request of his children, he wrote his last work, "Reminiscenses of a Long Life." He devoted two months to this book, which is most delightful, not only for its facts, but for its observations and opinions as well.
Dr. Pendleton was a man of profound piety. He had the highest sense of honor and the
strongest sense of duty. The first thing he ever bought was a Bible. At the age of seventeen he had an old-fashioned Holy Spirit conversion. With a heart broken on account of his sins, he read Samuel Davies' sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:22, 24, and while kneeling under a tree in the forest he found the Saviour and enlisted in Christ's service, in which he so long showed himself a faithful soldier. He impressed his friends with his thorough conscientiousness, and he never flinched in his advocacy of truth, and so aroused antagonisms, some of them bitter and lasting. Never did he stop to count noses before taking his stand on any question that arose, nor did he calculate who would stand with him and who would be arrayed against him. He asked only - what is true and right? As was said of John Bright, "he was ever ready to lay his popularity on the altar of duty." He was willing to make just as many and just as bitter enemies as faithfulness to truth required. He was a hero of the highest type - a hero of truth. Several times did he say to me, what he repeated just before dying: "My grand purpose has been the establishment of truth." Well did Dr. Martin B. Anderson write of him: "Your fidelity to your convictions, whether moral, religious, or political, has won for you
the profoundest respect wherever you are known.""He had no enemies, you say!James Russell Lowell says: "You can never know a man's moral genuineness until you know what he will do for a principle." Dr. Pendleton loved Chrtst and His truth above all else, and, while his devotion to truth, as he saw it, made him bitter enemies, he was never bitter at them in return. He had what John Knox called "the spunk of Godliness," along with tender gentleness and broad charity. "When he was reviled, he reviled not again." Just before dying he said with a peculiar tenderness: "I have never attempted to disparage any other brother."
My friend, your boast is poor;
He who hath mingled in the fray
Of duty, that the brave endure,
Must have made foes. If he has none,
Small is the work that he has done.
He has hit no traitor on the hip,
He has cast no cup from tempted lip;
He has never turned the wrong to right,
He has been a coward in the fight."
At the Anniversaries in Washington in 1888, Dr. Pendleton was called on to lead in prayer.
A reporter of a daily paper remarked : "That man prays as if he was used to it." Ah! how we need such men to-day! We can say of Pendleton as Wordsworth said of Milton:
""Thy soul was like a star, and dwelt apart;
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea,
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free;
So didst thou travel On life's common way
To cheerful godliness, and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on itself did lay."
Any account of Dr. Pendleton would be sadly incomplete which did not tell of the noble woman who for so many years was a true help-meet for him, and who so richly blessed his life. He ever felt his great obligation to her, and ever treated her with the greatest respect and the tenderest devotion. In his trials she was his chief earthly comfort. Always cheerful, she overcame in him any tendency to despondency in sorrow and trial. Her ready tact smoothed his path, and her intelligent love strengthened him for his great work. She was his chief earthly dependence, and she had a large share in his achievements. He said of her:
"She has been more than all the world to me. In times of prosperity and times of adversity, in days of joy and days of sorrow, I have ever heard her voice encouraging and blessing me." At the Jubilee meeting in Louisville she was present, though blind from the effects of cataract, and in his address there he said: "She, the wife of my young manhood, of my middle-age, and of my old age, is here to enjoy these exercises. Deprived of sight, she can only hear your voices. How glad she would be to see your faces, especially the face of the Walnut street pastor, whose father and mother she so much admired and loved thirty years ago. But it cannot be. Still, there is comfort unspeakable in the thought that there is in reserve what the 'old theologians' called the 'beatific vision.' The saints are to 'see His face.' They are to behoid the Lamb in the midst of the throne."Never in her blindness did Mrs. Pendleton utter the slightest complaint. With her remarkable energy she continued to teach her Sunday School class, though she could not see them, and her happy cheerfulness brightened all who came into her presence.
At the golden wedding in the church at Bowling Green, Mrs. Pendleton sat in front, beside her honored husband. After I had tried
to speak according to appointment, and found myself, in the flood of tender memories, unable to say what I had intended, Dr. Pendleton arose to respond. Speaking of God's blessing upon the marriage whose fiftieth anniversary we were there to celebrate, he spoke of his indebtedness to his wife, and turning to her said: "Now, dearest one, it is fitting that I speak a word or two to you. There is no earthly object so dear to my heart. You are not as you were fifty years ago to-night. Then, with elastic step, you walked with me to the marriage altar, and we pledged to each other our vows of loyalty and love. I do not recognize that elastic step now. Then your face was fresh and blooming; now the freshness and the bloom are gone, and wrinkles have taken their place, while gray hairs adorn your head. Then, and for forty-six years afterward, the expression of your mild blue eyes was always a benediction; now that expression is no longer seen, for blindness has taken the place of sight. But, with these changes in you, my love has not changed. Bodily affliction has not eclipsed the intellectual and spiritual excellencies of your character. You are the same to me, and no kiss during half a century has been more deeply expressive of my love than the one I now give you."
Then he stooped over and kissed her upturned face. They had arranged for singing, but no one there could sing, and the meeting closed in tears.
[From T. T. Eaton, THE FIRST ANNUAL MEETING OF THE KENTUCKY BAPTIST HISTORICAL SOCIETY held in Campbellsville, Kentucky, June 14th, 1904; document via SBTS Archives; Adam Winters, Archivist. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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