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James Quinter

Eld. James Quinter [Click for larger image]The earthly pilgrimage of Elder James Quinter began at Philadelphia, Pa., and ended in his never–to–be–forgotten death at North Manchester, Ind., at the Conference of 1888.  His parents knew the meaning of daily toil for the support of their family of three, James and his two sisters.  In 1824 the family moved to Phoenixville, Pa., where father and son found work in the iron mills in that city.  The latter, with donkey cart, gathered the finished work at the numerous benches and took it to the depository.  Five years of toil and the father, through exposure, was stricken down and died in 1829.  James, though but thirteen, manfully took up the burden of assisting in supporting the family.

In those days the poor had but scanty educational advantages, and those afforded James were interfered with by the demands made on his time in support of the family.  But such was his desire for an education that he overcame every obstacle and made rapid progress in his studies.  The Bible and the best standard authors were carefully and diligently read and studied, and these had a marked influence in moulding the strong Christian character of the young man.  His mother, sharing his ambition for higher education, secured work for him with Philip Rosenberger, near Freeland College, where he spent some time.  He made the best possible use of his opportunities and became one among the best educated men of his time.

After leaving school he began work in the store of Isaac Price, but it was soon found that the reserved, studious young man was not fitted for merchandizing.  Brother Price says of him: “I soon found that he was too reserved to make a good storekeeper and asked Brother Fitzwater to take him on the farm.”  In Brother Fitzwater’s home he found a blessed retreat and was brought under the influence of a good Christian family and was led to accept Christ.

In 1831 a series of meetings was held in the neighborhood in which Brother Quinter lived, and among those converted were Brethren Umstad, George and Isaac Price, Samuel Supplee and Brother Fitzwater.  These earnest men started meetings at the old Greentree schoolhouse, and here Brother James was brought under conviction.  He was deeply aroused and spent much time in prayer.  One day, while at work in the barn, in answer to his earnest prayer the Lord spoke peace to the penitent seeker.  He stopped work and cried out “I’ve got it—I’ve got it,” and running to the house told how he had received the peace of God.  He was baptized in his seventeenth year in the Coventry church.

In a letter written thirty years later he thus refers to those early days and experiences: “How distinctly do I remember the meetings in the old log schoolhouse . . . where the bow, `though drawn at venture,’ sent arrows of conviction to my poor heart, which produced pain and sorrow from which I could find no relief, until I found it in the healing stream which flowed from the pierced side of the dying Savior.  That same night, after the meeting alluded to, we stopped, as I well remember, at the Pilgrim’s Rest, the homestead of Brother Umstad.  Here we had further devotional services, for more besides myself felt very miserable on account of our sins, and the kind and zealous Christian friends knew it, and were willing to labor at a late hour of the night for our comfort and salvation.  How solemn was that night to me, when journeying homeward along the romantic Schuylkill, alone, ‘without Christ . . . having no hope and without God in the world.’  Lonely and lost I indeed felt.  And I regard it as a fortunate circumstance for me, and much to my advantage, that my home was in a Christian family, that of Brother Fitzwater . . .  Here we found, I humbly trust, peace in believing, and experienced the power of God unto salvation.

Green Tree church, Built in 1845, Remodeled 1887-1890 [Click for larger image]Green Tree church, Built in 1845, Remodeled 1887-1890.“And what blessed meetings we had in those days of the planting the church at Greentree!  How simple and how childlike were our exercises!  How warm our zeal!  How ardent our Christian love for one another!  How close were our hearts drawn together in Christian fellowship!  And how we loved God because he first loved us.  Those were happy times, oases, or green watered spots in the land of our pilgrimage.”

Very early in life Brother Quinter felt a strong call to preach the Gospel.  He was elected to the ministry in 1838.  Before this time the Brethren, recognizing the great gift in him, had invited him to preach, and this he did, but waited for the call to come through the church before taking up the work regularly.  He was ordained to the bishopric in 1856 by the advice of the elders assembled at Annual Conference.  He taught school for a number of years in different parts of his native State, and at one time was examiner of teachers for the public schools.

His unusual ability as a preacher brought him many calls from his own and adjoining States.  He was known as the boy preacher, and God so blessed his ministry that large numbers were added to the church through his efforts.  He accompanied Elder Umstad on a preaching tour through Pennsylvania, and their labors were abundantly blessed.  In 1842 he received an urgent call to locate in Georges Creek church, Fayette County, Pa., where the Brethren purchased and presented him with a small farm.  To this he brought his mother and widowed sister with her three boys.  By teaching and farming he was enabled to make a modest living.

His ministry in Fayette County was wonderfully blessed of God.  Some sixty persons were received into church fellowship during the first six months of his labors.  Among these was Brother John Wise, who was to become a prominent leader in the church.  He says of Brother Quinter, at that time in charge of the Ten Mile church: “On the 14th day of June I and my sister were baptized and between that date and October 18 there were fifty–two persons baptized in that congregation under his ministry.  He was also present when I was chosen to the ministry.  To his kindly care for me I owe much of my success in the ministry,”

He was united in marriage, Sept. 17, 1850, with Mary Ann Moser.  One daughter came to bless their home, Lydia Isabella, now the wife of Elder J. T. Myers, for many years pastor of the Greentree church, where Brother Quinter was converted.  Seven years later his companion died of consumption.

Desk of Eld James Quinter [Click for larger image]Desk of Eld. James Quinter.In 1855 Elder Henry Kurtz found in his assistant Writing Clerk at the Conference, Brother Quinter, the man he was looking for to become assistant editor of the Gospel Visitor.  He believed the finger of God had thus pointed out the one best fitted for the place.  He says: “Our dear Brother James Quinter was nominated our assistant in the clerkship, and performed the duties thereof acceptably.  From this we took courage to call him to our assistance in the editorship, as being pointed out by the finger of God.”

The appointment, coming to him unsolicited, was accepted, and in the spring of 1856 he moved from Pennsylvania to Poland, Ohio, much to the regret and sorrow of the congregation where he had labored for a number of years.  He began his editorial work at once, which was continued without break for thirty–two years, when the Lord called him home.  Of his work at this time he says: “It has been with considerable reluctance that I have consented to become assistant editor, but the hope that the relation I shall sustain to the Brotherhood, through the Gospel Visitor, may afford me increased facilities for rendering service to the church, and through the church to the Lord, has induced me to assume the responsibilities I have.”

Three and a half years after the death of his first wife he was united in marriage with Sister Fannie Studebaker.  Two daughters were born to them, Mary N., now laboring faithfully as a missionary in India, and Grace, married to Brother F. F. Holsopple, residing at Huntingdon, Pa.

The lack of educational advantages in the church and his own struggles to obtain an education awoke in Brother Quinter a desire to see a school established in the church where our young people might have the advantages denied them until that time.  Buildings erected at New Vienna, Ohio, for an academy were offered for sale and purchased by the Brethren as suitable for the proposed school.  It was opened in 1861 and continued for three years, when it was closed on account of business depression superinduced by the Civil War.  In Brother Quinter the cause of higher education found a warm friend and a zealous worker, and to him, in a large measure, we are indebted for the advanced position now held by the church on education.  For nine years preceding his death he was president of Juniata College.

In 1873 he became sole proprietor of the Gospel Visitor and the Christian Family Companion, and in 1876 these were consolidated with the Pilgrim and issued under the name of the Primitive Christian, published at Huntingdon.  In 1883 the Brethren at Work and the Primitive Christian were united and the Gospel Messenger was the result.  Brother Quinter was editor in chief of the consolidated papers until his earthly labors ended.

He was called upon a number of times to defend the doctrines of the Gospel, as held by the church, in public debates.  He conducted his debates with kindness and courtesy that always won for him in the end.  Two of his public discussions were published: the Quinter and McConnell and the debate held with Rev. P. S. Snyder.  These books had a large sale among our people.  In 1867 he completed the compilation of the “Brethren’s Hymn Book,” and in 1886 published the crowning work of his life, “Trine Immersion.”  It is an able defense of the apostolic form of Christian baptism and one of the standard works of the church on the subject.

Brother Quinter was easily the leading evangelist in the Church of the Brethren in his day.  His sermons were logical, the points clearly and forcibly made and free from the slightest attempt at sensationalism.  He was somewhat emotional, just enough to make his earnest appeals to sinners at times irresistible.  He had a large vocabulary and a fine use of English, and his preaching was much appreciated by all who heard him.  Under his preaching a greater number of conversions took place than under that of any other of our ministers up to his time.

His life was marked by a pervading piety, a deep religious feeling and a spirituality of the highest type.  He gave it freely and unreservedly to God, the church and to humanity.  It was a life crowned with ripened years and with the love and esteem of all who knew him best; a life of constant endeavor for the advancement of all that was good, and true, and beautiful; a life filled with a love and sympathy as broad as the human race; a life of righteousness, of such holy living and such purity of thought and purpose that it was at once an example and a blessing to all who came in touch with it.  God blessed him and made him a blessing to humanity.

Source:Daniel Long Miller & Galen Bernice Royer, Some Who Led, (Elgin, Ill.: Brethren Publishing House, 1912), pp. 97-102.
Image Credits:© 2013, A. Wayne Webb
Copyright:© 2013, A. Wayne Webb