Joseph Pope 1812 - 1884 Cumberland Presbyterian Minister We Need a Photograph!
IT is my duty, by request, to give this imperfect sketch of the life and labors of the good man whose name is at the head of this article, and which, in the mind of the writer, is almost a synonym with Cumberland Presbyterianism. In 1842, when a boy of twelve years, I went to Old Union Camp-ground, in Fayette County, Tenn. In the pulpit were the Revs. Reuben Burrow, senior and junior, J. S. Pickens, Sam'l Dennis, and Joseph Pope. All of these noble men and faithful laborers--all, except R. Burrow, jr., of Memphis Presbytery, have doubtless received a rich reward at the hands of the Master. O how happy the greetings of these co-laborers on the 4th of March, when the Rev. Joseph Pope was called to the "home of many mansions."
Brother Pope was born near Richmond, Va., in 1812, and removed in early life to Davidson County, Tenn. He professed religion at Condon's Camp-ground, eight miles south of Nashville, in 1833. The meeting was held by the Revs. Abner McDowel, A. N. Bryan, and others. We have heard him often tell that in the morning when he left home he had not decided whether he would go to the camp-meeting or to the race ground. But before coming to the point where the road to the camp-ground turned from the road leading to the races, he threw down his bridle reins and decided, let his horse take whichever road he might, he would follow it. The horse turned to the camp-ground. He said the horse had more sense than he. Another incident he often told to encourage Christians to labor in the altar was: That having approached the altar at night-service on Tuesday, he struggled and prayed. Others had been blessed, but his burden seemed to increase until past midnight. Many had retired, worn down with singing and exhortation. He was despairing, when some strange Christian woman passing by placed her hand upon his head, saying: "Young man, Jesus died to save sinners." He commenced to revolve these words in his mind: If Jesus died to save sinners, then I am a sinner, and Jesus died to save me. He was encouraged to press his suit, and soon realized the truth that Jesus not only died to save, but had power to forgive sins, of which glad fact he could now give testimony by experience.
Brother Pope was the first member of his family to unite with the Church, but mother, brother, and sisters soon followed his example. Thus he began his life-work, to lead others to Christ, and how many were led to the cross by his earnest, faithful labors as a minister of the gospel eternity alone will show. He said he never knew the good woman who under God led him to Christ, but believed that in heaven there would be given him power to know and acknowledge her as the instrument of his salvation.
We have failed to find out the date of his licensure and ordination. Soon after licensure, he had made arrangements to go to school and better prepare himself for the great work to which he had been called, but the Presbytery said to him (and at that time the voice of the Presbytery was the voice of authority to the candidates and licentiates, and commanded strict obedience), Certain Churches are destitute; you must take the circuits. He often expressed doubt as to the correctness of the orders of the Presbytery, but never a regret that he was obedient.
Brother Pope was first married to Miss Sarah Marshall, sister of the Rev. Jas. Marshall. The fruit of this marriage was five sons reared to manhood, and one daughter. His second marriage was to Miss Sophronia Estus, by whom he had one son and one daughter. All of his children except one are members of the Church. O that the father's mantle may fall upon some of his sons!
Prior to 1840 he moved to Madison County, Tenn., where he spent his life in laboring to build up the Church. For more than forty years he had charge of the Mt. Tabor, Ebenezer, and Greenwood congregations. The prosperity of these through a long series of years gives evidence of his fidelity and ability as a pastor. Many other points in this and adjoining counties shared in part his labors. His work as a minister, though not so widely known as others, has been a success, and many, many will be the stars of rejoicing in his crown. Yet in his last days he felt that he had done but little, but said he was ready to enlist for another fifty years, if the Lord so willed it.
He was a good presbyter--was rarely ever absent from the meetings of his Presbytery and Synod. For a number of times he represented his Presbytery in the General Assembly. He never suffered other interests, however important, to interfere with his duties to the Church. Was ever the ready counselor and helper of the candidates and licentiates, and many now in the ministry remember most tenderly this man's words of encouragement; among whom we take the privilege of naming the Rev. Joshua Fitzgerald, of Lebanon, Tenn.
Brother Pope's sermons were often doctrinal, but not offensive to those differing from him in faith. He was a man of decided convictions and uniform in his Christian life. Having known him intimately since boyhood, we can testify that he was the same Christian gentleman in the pulpit, in the home circle, and in all the relations of life. Hence the universal feeling with which he was held by his neighbors, calling forth the remark, "how can we get along without him!"
For several years past he was feeble in body, but his zeal and love for the Church increased as the time of labor was drawing to a close. He as fully committed himself to God's care and providence as any man I ever knew. Upon being urged by his beloved wife a few days before his death of the imprudence and danger upon attempting to attend the meeting of his Presbytery, in consequence of the state of the weather, he replied: "My life is in the hands of my God; it is mine the duty, it is his to take care of me, or to take me to himself when my work is done."
Going into his field in the evening in usual health and cheerfulness,
he was engaged in trimming up a bush, when he was heard to exclaim,
"O!" and sank to the ground. He was soon reached by
a nephew and son, but he was not, for God had taken him. Thus,
without a struggle, he passed away.
[Source: Cumberland Presbyterian, July 3, 1884, page 2]