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Cornelius E. Swope.
Priest and Doctor

Born May 10, 1826, Died March 28, 1890.

Memorial Sermon Preached in Trinity Chapel, New York
on Low Sunday, April 13, 1890.

by Morgan Dix,
Rector of Trinity Church.

New York: E & J. B. Young, 1890.


NO day in the Kalendar of the Church could be more fitting than this for the work which it is proposed to do; that of presenting to you a brief memorial of the faithful priest who has lately passed away, after twenty-three years of service in this chapel and at yonder altar. It is Low Sunday, the Octave of Easter; and the message of immortal life, through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, is this day redoubled in our ears, with the force gathered up in the seven days preceding. It was on the first Easter Day that the Lord appeared to the ten Apostles in the upper room, coming suddenly into the midst without a sound or signal of His approach. It was on the eighth day thereafter, that He came again to those men, and to Thomas, who now was with them, and again stood there in the power and the strangeness of that new life, and said, "Peace be unto you!" To-day, then, may we mingle with the glorious thought of our own immortality, recollections of those who, having finished their course in faith do now rest from their labors; and, particularly, of him who has the infinite comfort of that blessing of peace, and is ever now with the Lord.

Let me tell you, as simply as possible, some things about him; they will be received, I know, by sympathetic hearts; nor would you deem the hackneyed words of oratorical eulogy at all in place, in this Presence, and in this, our communion with the departed. Much of what I have to say is familiar to you already; something may be added to your knowledge; but the simple story suffices, with the least possible art in the telling thereof; the heart of the speaker beats evenly with your own, while we trace, step by step, the pathway of that consecrated life.

Cornelius Edwin Swope, second son of Jacob and Eliza Swope, was born in Hagerstown, MD, May 10, A.D. 1826. There also he spent his boyhood and youth. There was at Hagerstown a school known as St. James' Hall. It afterward became a college, under that name. On the 26 of October, 1842, he entered the first Freshman Class of St. James' College, on the formal opening of that Institution on its advanced grade, and there he spent the next four years of his life. The Rector of the College of St. James was the Rev. John B. Kerfoot, a man well calculated to exert a powerful and beneficent influence over the young student, who thus came into an atmosphere of peculiarly holy and hallowing forces; for Kerfoot had himself been trained in that famous school at College Point, on Long Island, of which the Rev. William Augustus Muhlenberg, of blessed memory, was the head. The working of his mind, and his growing interest in the Church system are seen in the fact that on the I3th of July, 1845, at the end of the Junior year, our brother received the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, in the College Chapel, at the hands of the Rev. Mr. Kerfoot, he being then in his twentieth year. [1] In the same Chapel, twelve days later, on the Feast of St. James, Friday, July 25, 1845, he was confirmed by the Right Rev. William R. Whittingham, Bishop of Maryland. The hold of those great and noble-hearted men, the Bishop and the Rector, upon this ingenuous youth, is attested by the love and devotion to both which appears on record in his journals for long years after that day.

The first Commencement of the College of St. James was held Thursday, July 30, 1846. The graduating class consisted of two only: Cornelius Swope and George C. Morris. The outcome of that genial and churchly training is seen in his admission as a candidate for Holy Orders, in the Diocese of Maryland, December 17, 1846. Nearly four years of careful preparation for the Ministry followed.

They were spent partly at St. James' College, in which he served as Instructor until February 18, 1848, and partly in Burlington College, N. J., where he was Assistant Teacher of Classics forgone year (March 12, 1848, to March, 1849). On the first of October, 1849, we find him again at Hagerstown, as Rector of the Grammar School of the College of St. James. Once more our eyes turn to the Chapel where he had been baptized and confirmed. There, on the second Sunday in Lent--February 24, 1850, being the Feast of St. Matthias--he was ordained to the Diaconate, by his loving friend and father in God, Bishop Whittingham, and two months later he laid aside the Academic vesture and began that ministerial and pastoral work which he pursued with such zeal, such delight, and such indefatigable industry, until the day of his departure hence.

His first call was to Trinity Church, Chicago, April, 1850. He was there not quite a year, during which time we find him associated with other remarkable figures in the history of the American Church; for, on the second Sunday after Christmas--January 5, 1881--he was ordained to the Priesthood, together with the Rev. Robert H. Clarkson, then Rector of St. James' Church, Chicago. The august and solemn function was performed in the Chapel of Jubilee College, by the Right Rev. Philander Chase, Bishop of Illinois, a man whom no one that ever saw could forget, certainly one of the most striking figures in the American Episcopate. It is a pleasant thing to go through these records, and come on the names of so many good and holy men, with whose lives that of our dear brother was inwoven in official and personal relations, and of whom we may say, thankfully, "these all died in faith."

I said that he remained not quite a year in his first parish. Some one told me, in a recent conversation, that the atmosphere was not congenial; that there were uncomfortable and unsympathetic persons prominent in the congregation, who could not see what kind of a man they had among them, and misliked his ways and his work. However that may be, he left them, May, 1851, on the organization of a new parish, under the name of Grace Church, of which he was to be the head. There he remained till May, 1854, when he was called to the Associate Rectorship of Mount Calvary Church, Baltimore, of which Bishop Whittingham was, at that time, the Rector. About a month after, the Bishop withdrew, and Mr. Swope then came into the full charge of the parish. In that position he remained, passing through some very painful trials, to which I shall presently refer, until October, 1857, when he relinquished his charge, and sailed for Europe, with the intention of spending two years in foreign travel and study. Returning home in October, 1859, he received a call to Trinity Church, Pittsburgh, where he remained till 1867, and whence, as you know, he came to us. On the Feast of the Annunciation, in the year last mentioned, he was elected Assistant Minister of this parish, and on Saturday, May 4th, he commenced in this chapel the work which he has now finished with joy, entering into his everlasting reward.

This is the outline of the life of our departed friend.

I must now proceed to fill in a little here and there, and then speak of his career in our parish, before concluding this imperfect sketch.

Let me begin by stating, that, since his death, there have been found four or five closely written volumes, forming his private journal. They constitute, in the main, a statistical record of works and acts, with hardly anything that could let us see into the heart and inner life; but here and there words are found, few and touching, which bring him before us, as he was in God's sight and in his own. Here, for example, is the record of a great personal sorrow, in the early loss of a lovely and beloved wife. He was married, June 10, 1850, in St. John's Church, Charleston, Mass., to Miss Fannie C. Prentiss, daughter of the Rev. Joseph Prentiss, some time Rector of St, Luke's Church, Catskill, N. Y.

Her life was one of sickness and suffering; it ended, on Monday, September i, 1856. I find this touching record, the last of several relating to her long illness:

"At nine o'clock P.M. I knelt beside the couch of my darling, dying wife, and with bleeding heart and stricken spirit, commended her soul to God in prayer; received the blessed assurance of her acceptance with God, in her own sweet words of hope and faith and holy trust; closed her eyes in death, and resigned her to the Lord who gave her, in the joyful hope of a Resurrection to eternal life."

Thereafter I find this note in the Journal:

"Saturday, October 4th.--Returned to Baltimore, after an absence of four months, to commence my work alone, having left my darling wife in her last sweet resting-place, in Mount Auburn Cemetery. May God give me grace to do His work with undivided heart!"

Next, take an instance of his great ability in the councils of the Church. In the year 1865, while he was Rector of Trinity Church, Pittsburgh, the eastern part of the Diocese of Pennsylvania was set off as a separate Diocese. He took a leading part in the work of securing the erection of the new Diocese, organizing it, and baptizing it with a proper name. The Constitution and Canons were substantially his work. His exertions, on this occasion, were not only very great, but most disinterested, as he announced, in the beginning1, that under no circumstances would he stand as a candidate for the bishopric; in fact his heart was set on placing- his old preceptor and friend, Dr. Kerfoot, in that position. I read in the Journal:

"Wednesday, November 15, 1865.--Assisted in the organization of the Primary Convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

"Thursday, 16th.--Read prayers from the Creed at the opening of Convention. Cast my vote for the Rev. John B. Kerfoot, D.D., as Bishop of this Diocese, who was elected on the first ballot, by a vote of 19 to 9 of the clergy and of the laity. Made report to the Convention in favor of naming the new Diocese the 'Diocese of Pittsburgh.' Spoke in favor of the measure, and had the joy to see it decided in the affirmative."

And now let us come to the days which he spent with us, carrying1 on and finishing the work which God had given him to do. What shall I say of that work? All in praise, nothing in censure: it was laborious, self-denying, successful, acceptable to men. And so with what he did outside the parish; in the Diocesan Convention, in the General Convention in the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society; in the Board of Trustees of the General Theological Seminary, in many other boards and societies with which he was connected, and of which there is not time to speak particularly. But you, his special charge, knew him well, and whom he knew, are waiting for an estimate of the quality of his work, right here; and I say that it was the work a master-hand of a faithful minister and steward of the mysteries of Christ, and of a devout and humble-minded man; a man who sought not yours but you, and thought nothing great except to do the will of God.

He was most laborious in the performing of his duty; I may say that a large part of his life was psent inside the walls of churches. Glancing through his journals, and taking a month here and another month there, I find not a day without its record of some service. I have selected the following at random: March, 1855, every day at church, or ministering in some house of trial or sorrow; May, 1870, the same, on thirty days of the thirty-one; November, 1871, every day; February, 1872, twenty-four days out of the twenty-nine, but one day he was ill, and two days he was away at an ordination; May, 1877, November, 1881, February and May, 1885, every day; January, 1886, every day but one; March and April, 1887, every day. He seems to have lived his life in God's house, with the "Quam dilecta" always singing its sweet song in his heart. Then, again, in pastoral work, he never wearied; the pages are full of memoranda of visits to the sick and dying, and to the mourners over their dead. I find, in one month, the record of fourteen visits to one family, whose venerable head was passing away. No man could be more acceptable or more welcome in the sick room; for there his exquisite refinement, his quiet and gentle manners, his perfect tact and practical knowledge of men were at their best, under the stimulus of affection and tender sympathy with human grief. During all the illness of the late venerable and beloved Bishop of this diocese, he was with him as his spiritual helper and priest; and dear was he held by the household of the aged prelate for his filial devotion.

No one needs to be told what kind of a Churchman he was. That voice had in it no uncertain note; he knew what he had to say, and he said it clearly, plainly, and like a man. His sermons were carefully prepared and thoroughly studied. The Church of God was to him all in all, in this earthly order; the temple hallowing the earth by its presence. The subjects of his Lent Lectures attest what he had it on his conscience to declare; for instance, take the following memoranda:

In 1875 he lectured on "The Worship of the Church."

In 1876, on "Questions of the Day," all relating to the Church.

In 1877, on "The Priesthood in the Church."

In 1878, on "The Communion of the Saints, or the Church Militant and the Church at Rest."

In 1879, on "What is required of those who come to the Lord's Supper."

In 1880, on "Certain Aspects of the Holy Eucharist."

Every one saw that in these selections he made choice, not as one who aims at producing a sensation, or glorifying1 himself, or pleasing the multitude; but simply as one who has a burden laid on him, to preach one line of truth, perhaps unpopular, but on that very account the more necessary for these times. In this connection it is edifying to find the evidence of his single eye to the glory of the Lord, He began the record of one year thus:

"A new year and a new volume. May God give me grace to fill the one with works worthy of His acceptance, and the other with the record of a service to the glory of His Holy Name!"

And this is at the close of 1868:

"Here ended the labors of another year. Another year of care and labor over; another year still nearer to the end! God give me grace to work while it is day, and to finish my allotted task ere the night cometh, when no man can work."

When the hand penned these words the end was yet afar off; but the passing seasons wrought no change in his purposes, his will, his faith. Twenty-three years he served here; having the confidence of the authorities of the parish and the respect and love of the people. He had the entire charge of the work of this chapel, under my superintendence; and most conscientiously, methodically, and diligently did he carry it on. That was a striking testimony which we heard borne to him by one who was for fifteen years his junior associate here, that in all that time he never heard him speak one hasty, one unkind, one angry word, no matter what the provocation might have been, no matter how trying and complicated the circumstances. And I may say, as Rector of the parish, that I never observed in him aught inconsistent with his calling and exalted reputation. He was a courteous, chivalrous, high-toned soul; a man incapable of a mean action; one whose kindly and attractive qualities endeared him to many beyond the circle of his special charge.

If any should ask the cause of our dear friend's death, I should say that he was worn out by the duties of his ministerial office, and by some personal and domestic sorrows and anxieties in his life, such as few escape, such as tell on sensitive spirits like his. For two years, at least, we knew that he was losing the old elasticity and vigor; he grew weaker from month to month, till, at last, on Christmas Day, he was attacked in church by that fatal malady which has recently prevailed on both sides of the Atlantic, and could with difficulty regain his rooms after service. Then followed a three weeks' confinement to bed, a short journey southward, and a premature return at the beginning of Lent. The rest of the story has been told already in secular and religious journals; I need not repeat it here. But let our last thought be this: How sweet it was that his last celebration should have been on that Feast of the Annunciation, which was the twenty-third anniversary of his connection with this parish; that he should have entered into his eternal rest just as the Lenten-tide deepened into its final shadow, and that he should have been laid to rest in that Holy Week in which, ere-while, our Lord finished the work of our redemption, and when, throughout the world, there was silence before the solemn image of the Cross of Jesus Christ. So, surrounded by many a great sign, and many a wonder of grace, he passed away and went to God.

I have spoken to you to-day as one who mourns for a deep personal loss. Much more, very much more, might be said, but this is not a memoir; it is only a hasty and incomplete review of many things to which time does not permit us to do justice. But now, let me conclude, as one who, looking upon the passing world, and seeing before him the signs of change and decay, would speak earnestly to those who remain. Of the clergy who served in this parish--at Trinity, St. Paul's, St. John's, and this chapel--in 1855, the year in which I came into it, every one, except myself, is dead. The places of those deceased brethren were filled in time by a second instalment from the ranks of the Ministry, and of those, their immediate successors, one, and only one remains among us to-day. They who now serve as Assistants form the third company in this passing procession. It is a solemn thought for them, and it should remind the people of their duty; nay, it may give rise, here and there, to searchings of heart. Our Clergy--may God the Holy Ghost give them grace to make full proof of their ministry, and to do their work with fidelity, under a grave sense of responsibility, and in a spirit of loyal love for this ancient foundation on which we stand; and may there be in their hearts the same devotion to the Church, the same attachment to these visible shrines of the Divine Presence, the same ardent love of the pastoral work toward the souls of men, which characterized him of whom we have been thinking to-day. As for the people, let me express this earnest wish, that they may lay off, once for all, the spirit of criticism, of fault-finding, of comment on small matters, and esteem very highly those who labor among them, for their works' sake. It is often said: How little one knows about a man till he has gone! It ought not to be so. You should help, you should sustain, you should cheer and comfort these servants of Christ, while they need you, and not reserve your words of sympathy and admiration, of confidence and appreciation, till the day when the ear is dull and cold in death. I am certain that nothing deadens spiritual life, or kills grace, or hinders work, more effectually than the habit of fault-finding, of complaining, of judging, when it becomes the characteristic of a congregation. I would that we might feel, while men are alive and with us, as tenderly as we do when the end comes, and they lie before us insensible alike to praise or blame. Brethren, as head of the Clergy of this household, now mourners around a brother's bier, I ask you to reflect how fast the hour flies, how swiftly the scene changes, how small is time, how vast and how awful eternity; and may those reflections keep you all in a loving charity, and in the bond of peace, and make you helpful always, and never harmful, to those who are over you in the Lord. Yea, let us remember the lesson of this blessed day, that all live to Christ; that death hath no more dominion over Him, nor hold on us henceforth; how large, how free, how joyful must be that resurrection life in which we shall hereafter live delivered from infirmity, from ill, from fear. "Blessed be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away!" May the power of the Resurrection come upon us, and may each visitation of Divine Providence be the cause of renewed earnestness and of fresh efforts, to the glory of God and to the edifying of the Church, on the part of those who, knowing the time to be short, would make the most of it before they go hence to be seen here no more.

[1] The explanation of this late baptism is as follows: The grandparents were of the German Reformed faith, and their children and grandchildren were all baptized in infancy by a clergyman of that body. The parents, however, attended the Church whenever there were services in Hagerstown, and trained their children in that way. At the age of nineteen the young collegian expressed a wish to be rebaptized, and the whole family then formally entered our Church.

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