Baptist History Homepage

by W. F. Bell

James P. Boyce

     Readers of this magazine know that I am a great lover of Christian biographies. It is now my happy duty to tell you of two more, which must rank right among those of Whitefield, Spurgeon, Thornwell, Lloyd-Jones, etc. The biographies I have recently read are of two Southern Baptist giants of the nineteenth century: James P. Boyce and John A. Broadus.

     Both Boyce and Broadus were born in 1827, just thirteen days apart in the month of January. But the two men did not meet each other until 1855. From that date their ties of friendship became stronger and stronger, until Boyce's death in 1888. The story of these two God-fearing men deserves wide circulation, especially among our modern Baptists. Ignorance of our rich heritage is one of the alarming maladies of today's Baptist people.

     Memoir of James Petigru Boyce was written by John A. Broadus, and published in 1893. It was truly fitting that Boyce's biographer be Broadus, for Broadus knew and loved Boyce as perhaps no other person. The book is filled with historical data about the South of the mid-nineteenth century, giving glimpses of religious, social, and political thought that make for interesting reading. For instance, I had often heard of James Boyce as the founder of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and had even had his book, Abstract of Systematic Theology, for many years, but did not know until I read this biography that Boyce was such an astute businessman all his life, and that he took an active part in the political affairs of his day.

     Boyce was born in Charleston, South Carolina, and loved and revered his native state all his life. He came under deep conviction of sin at the young age of 19, was mightily moved of God under the anointed preaching of Richard Fuller, and feeling himself "a ruined sinner, . . . had to look to the merits of Christ alone for salvation" in 1846 (Memoir, p. 45). As with all great men of God, this sound conversion to Christ was the foundation of a life lived to God's glory and in service to man.

     While we may not understand or approve of all that Boyce did in his life, still his life and testimony bear witness to thr fact that he was a true and thorough Christian in all his endeavors. Let Broadus and others speak here of Boyce:

"He was a strong and deep thinker. Very rarely do you find a man so acquainted and actively occupied with practical affairs, yet so delighting in the profoundest thought. He really loved to follow out a close-linked and vigorous line of argument. He took pleasure for its own sake in the elaborate analysis, exposition, and vindication of some great theological theme" (Memoir,, 349).

"He had every reason to be self-exalted; and yet, with learning, and wealth, and social position, and everything desirable in life, as the world views it, he had the simplicity and humility of a child, the tenderness of a woman, and the strength of a giant" (Memoir, p. 368).

"As a theologian Dr. Boyce is not afraid to be found in the 'old paths.' He is conservative, and eminently Scriptural. He treats with great fairness those whose views upon various points discussed he declines to accept, yet in his own teaching is decidedly Calvinistic, after the model of 'the old divines.'. . . We take pleasure in expressing our very high appreciation in all respects of this able work. . ." (extracts from an article commending Boyce's theology book: Memoir, pp. 308-309).

     Let the above be carefully noted! While modern Baptists (especially Southern Baptists) may be aware of Boyce as an able preacher and professor, they have most definitely forgotten and rejected his "decidedly Calvinistic" stand in doctrinal matters. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (founded by Boyce and Broadus, along with Basil Manly, Jr. and William Williams at Greenville, South Carolina in 1859; later moved to Louisville, Kentucky) has long been known as a hot-bed for modernist views on the Bible, and views totally at variance with its founding fathers. This Seminary was once the center for teaching cardinal Bible doctrines such as inspiration of the Scriptures, man's depravity, God's sovereignty in salvation, unconditional election, particular redemption, etc. Today these doctrines have been relegated to the ash heap, with names such as Boyce and Broadus bywords!

     This poison has spread to all "seminaries" (with few exceptions), and from the classrooms to the pulpits of America and the world. Yet, we rejoice that God is raising up courageous men and women who are returning to "the old paths" (Jeremiah 6:16), and even this magazine is a witness for the very truths that Boyce gave his life for.

     James P. Boyce was a large man physically and spiritually. He did not live a long life, however, dying just before his sixty-second birthday on December 28, 1888. His mortal remains were laid to rest in Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky, after funeral services at the Broadway Baptist Church (his home church). I once saw a grave marker in an old cemetery in middle Georgia that read, "He lived respected, and died lamented" (referring to a man named Greene), and I am sure this epitaph could easily be given of Boyce. Here is the eulogy of John A. Broadus, as he closed his biography of James P. Boyce:

"O Brother beloved, true yokefellow through years of toil, best and dearest friend, sweet shall be thy memory till we meet again! And may the men be always ready, as the years come and go, to carry on, with widening reach and heightened power, the work we sought to do, and did begin!" (Memoir, p. 371].

     Read Dr. Boyce's The Doctrine of the Suffering Christ, The Baptist Quarterly, 1870.

John A. Broadus

     Life and Letters of John Albert Broadus was written by his son-in-law, A. T. Robertson, and published in 1901 (reprint by Sprinkle Publications, 1987). To read this book is to feast on a life totally dedicated to Christ Jesus, learning from a master teacher and preacher. Broadus was born in Culpeper, Virginia, January 24, 1827, being just a few days youner than James Boyce. His family line was enriched with true godliness, his father being the renowned Major Edmund Broadus, and his relative, the celebrated Baptist orator, Andrew Broaddus (spelled with two d's). As a testimony to this family's grace, a Mrs. Cana once told A. T. Robertson: "The Broaduses are mighty good people. If all this country were Broaduses, it would have been better than it is" (referring to the area around Culpeper, Virginia; (Life and Letters, p. 16, footnote).

     The life of John Broadus can only be summarized by two things: true piety, and mighty in the Scriptures (the very things he urged of his students in seminary,( Life and Letters, p. 430). If a man is truly godly he must of necessity be also mighty in God's Word! These two things certainly characterized John Broadus as no other man of his time.

     When writing of his friend, James Boyce, Broadus would have us believe that no man stood equal with Boyce. Isn't this a true mark of humility on Broadus's part? As Paul said, "In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves (Philippians 2:3). It certainly speaks of Broadus's greatness to always be extolling others! Yet, Broadus, in reality had no equals himself. Testimony after testimony is given in his biography of how other men felt about him, and here are a few extracts:

     "Dr. Broadus was the greatest teacher of his time. No one in this country could equal him in the marvelous projectile force and in the inspiring momentum which he gave to his pupils. His old pupils sought in vain among the teachers of Germany for his equal. With one accord they all pronounce him the greatest of teachers" (Life and Letters, p. 338).

     "And so it came to pass that in Louisville, wherever he preached, the place was thronged, and among all the thousands of his brethren he stood without a peer. Not without good reason did Dr. W. C. Wilkinson, some years ago, single out this teacher as among the foremost preachers of the age. And I have seen it stated that Spurgeon himself pronounced him the greatest of living preachers" (J. H. Farmer, 1895; Life and Letters, p. 356).

     "Before I became familiar with Dr. Broadus, I knew Christianity only as a creed which seemed absolutely incomprehensible to me. I judged it mainly from the untold, unmerited misery, the agony of ages which Christian rulers and nations had entailed upon poor Israel under the impulse given by Christian priests and teachers. But when I learned to know and revere in Broadus a Christian, my conception of Christianity and my attitude toward it undewent a complete change. Broadus was the precious fruit by which I learned to judge of the tree of Christianity. . . . He greeted the most ordinary persons with gracious cordiality and utmost respect. Ah, it was his delight to honor and love men, and to inspire them with self-respect and moral courage. The central warmth of his great heart diffused itself as a genial influence in glance and smile, in clasp and word, on his family, his friends, his disciples. Broadus was an ideal American gentleman. He was perhaps the most amiable and lovable Southerner of his time" (part of a remarkable tribute to Broadus by Rabbi Moses, of Louisville; (Life and Letters, pp. 438-439).

     As to his theology, he stood as one with James Boyce and the Calvinistic teachers of his day. His sermons and published works clearly reveal his position, and here is what he himself wrote in 1891, while in Switzerland:

"The people who sneer at what is called Calvinism might as well sneer at Mont Blanc. We are not in the least bound to defend all of Calvin's opinions or actions, but I do not see how any one who really understands the Greek of the Apostle Paul or the Latin of Calvin and Turretin can fail to see that these latter did but interpret and formulate substantially what the former teaches. . . . Whatever the inspired writers meant to teach is authoritative, the truth of God" (Life and Letters, pp. 396-397).

     This excellent biography of Broadus reveals a Christian of depth, of true scholarship, of personal holiness, with profound reverence for the Scriptures. His published commentary on Matthew is regarded as one of the best. His other books include On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, A Harmony of the Gospels, and Sermons and Addresses. These writings abound with simple language that teach gospel truth in ways any reader can benefit from. This sparing of technical language (from a true scholar) wins admiration for Broadus from all quarters. Would that the "scholars" of our day could emulate dear Broadus!

     Broadus was pastor in Charlottesville, Virginia in the 1850s, then felt called of God to help begin the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1859. He was a mighty preacher of Christ's gospel to the Confederate soldiers during the summer of 1863, and J. William Jones says, "Again and again would the vast congregations be melted down under the power of the great preacher, and men 'unused to the melting mood' would sob with uncontrollable emotion" (Life and Letters, p. 208). A fascinating chapter describing Civil War days, "The Shock of War," should be read by all students of American history.

      Dr. Broadus was sickly much of his life, yet was ever cautious to adore the unerring providence which led him. This is what true Christianity is all about: an acknowledgement of God's will in our lives, no matter what the cost to our personal fortunes or circumstances, with a surrendering of our wills to God's. In this Broadus was a true example for all to follow.

      In March, 1895, with much lamenting and sorrow, Dr. Broadus was laid to rest in the same Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, where earlier James Boyce and Basil Manly were buried. Referring to the biblical account of David lamenting the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, A. T. Robertson touchingly says, "They (Boyce, Manly, Broadus) were lovely and pleasant in their lives and in their death they were not divided" (Life and Letters, p. 436). And it is only fitting to add, "The memory of the just is blessed" (Proverbs 10:7), and "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" (Psalm 116:15). Amen.


[From Free Grace Broadcaster, W. F. Bell, editor, March-April, 1988, Issue 124, pp. 10-14. jrd]

B. H. Carroll on John A. Braodus
     "I heard Dr. Broadus say once, looking, it seemed to me, more solemn than I ever saw him at any other time: 'Brethren, we must preach the doctrines; we must emphasize the doctrines; we must go back to the doctrines. I fear,' said the old man, 'that the new generation does not know the doctrines as our fathers knew them.'" [From B. H. Carroll, The Faith That Saves, pp. 110.]

Read The Duty of Baptists to Teach Their Distinctive Views, By John A. Broadus, D. D., 1880

Read Broadus' Paramount and Permanent Authority of the Bible

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