Rev. J. M. C. Breaker, D. D.
Baptist Pastor and Writer
By Joseph C. Maple
Religious Activity in Missouri - 1870s
It is no easy task to gather from obituaries written for the weekly papers, the facts of any man's life. Such notices are generally written by intimate friends of the deceased, and are more in the form of eulogies than good judgment permits this series of biographies to become.
It is the desire of the Missouri Baptist Historical Society to preserve the facts of the lives of the Lord's servants, and to let their works proclaim their great and good characteristics.
The two obituaries, of Dr. Breaker, furnished me, are admirably written and contain many facts connected with his life and work.
From these two obituaries, written by his intimate friends, the following sketch is gleaned:
He was born in Camden, South Carolina, in 1824.
"He was the youngest son of L. F. Breaker, of Camden, South Carolina, who was both a merchant and a planter, and one of the most faithful Baptist deacons of the state."
It would, no doubt, be both interesting and helpful, if we could know how large a percent of ministers are sons of faithful deacons. It seems to me that there is here a fulfillment of the words of the Apostle, "They that have used the office of a deacon will purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus."
When the youngest son was not yet five years of age, the father moved to Key West, Florida. The surroundings at the place were not favorable to the development of the character desired in the son; he was therefore sent back to Camden and given a home with his cousin, Rev. C. M. Breaker. Here better educational advantages were offered and the influences of a Christian community would environ him. June 4th, 1840, he was baptized by his cousin into the fellowship of the Camden Baptist church. There soon came into his brain and heart a conviction that he must preach the gospel.
The Furman Institute had been established at Winsboro, South Carolina, and here he began his literary and theological training. In 1846 he completed the studies, at that school, required for graduation, and began work as assistant pastor in Chesterville.
He was ordained by a Presbytery consisting of Rev. J. C. Furman, Rev. E. Grant, and Rev. W. Nolan. In a short time he was called to the pastoral care of the church in Greenville, South Carolina.
This church, was then, and still remains, one of the most prominent in the state. For a number of
years the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was located in Greenville. It has from early days been known as a place of refinement and culture. The people demanded and always secured the very best talent for their pulpit.
In 1848, while pastor at Greenville, he was married to Miss Emma J. Juhan. She belonged to those heroic families of the French Huguenots who fled to America, from Romish persecution. Mrs. Breaker was a near relative of Dr. W. B. Johnson of Edgefield, S. C., who was the first president of the Southern Baptist Convention. In every way she proved a helper to her distinguished husband, in all his long and varied career as a gospel minister.
In 1849 Dr. Breaker became pastor at Newbern, North Carolina. After two years' service in this pastorate, he accepted the presidency of the Newbern Female Seminary. Giving two years to educational work he became pastor for one year at Grahamville, in the same state.
He then accepted a call given by the church at Beaufort, South Carolina. Here Dr. Richard Fuller, the most eloquent Baptist of his day in North America, had been for some years pastor and was succeeded by his nephew, Rev. Robert Fuller. J. M. C. Breaker was able to sustain himself, and the reputation of that pulpit did not suffer by his ministrations. There was a great revival among the people while he was pastor. I remember well reading in the Baptist papers, many years ago, of one occasion, when he baptized 225 converts in a single day.
Though he made no undue haste in administering this sacred ordinance, he averaged two baptisms every minute and thereby proved that the twelve apostles
could easily have baptized the three thousand converts in one day if it can be shown that all those who were converted on the day of Pentecost were on that same day baptized.
Among the many others who entered upon the Christian life under his ministry in this city, was Rev. A. W. Lamar, who was an eminent Baptist minister and at one time pastor of the First Baptist church in Galveston, Texas.
In 1859 Dr. Breaker became pastor in Columbia, South Carolina. And after the close of the civil war he located in Spartensburg, in the same state. Dr. Breaker began work in Missouri as pastor of the Park Avenue church, St. Louis. After a short pastorate here he moved to Liberty, Missouri, where he became pastor in this college town, in January, 1870, at a salary of fifteen hundred dollars. The church membership was at that time 197. William Jewell College was not then as great a school as it is now, (1911) but the faculty was made up of men who had made the highest attainments in scholarship, and the pastor was not inferior to any of them. He was progressive and strongly favored the use of the organ in the services of the church. He had not been on this field long when the first Church at St. Joseph, Missouri, desiring the "best gifts," persuaded him to locate in that growing city.
After a few years of effective work here, he found that the winter winds, sweeping over the treeless plains, to the north and west, were too cold for his body, which had been accustomed to the weather in the mild climate of the Carolinas.
The Baptist church, in Houston, Texas, was seeking a pastor, who could bring harmony among the
membership and lead them out of lethargy, and aid them into the aggressiveness needed in that growing eity. They were directed, no doubt, by the Lord of the harvest, in choosing Dr. Breaker.
I have written of him as Doctor, through this brief sketch, but will here mention the fact that it was during his pastorate at Saint Joseph that the degree of D.D. was conferred upon him. This honor he merited by his learning, his great sermons, and his distinguished ability as a writer.
When, some years before this, a prize was offered for the best essay on the Communion question, he wrote upon the subject and his production was by competent judges decided to be the best out of many articles presented. He wrote upon other themes, but none of the fruits of his pen are now at hand and cannot be mentioned.
The church at Houston was increased in members and efficiency. "Among other important achievements he succeeded in building a most beautiful and commodious house of worship which stands today as a monument of his skill, perseverance, and self-sacrificing spirit."
Having closed his labors in Houston, he went to California, but soon learning that he preferred Texas as his home, returned to the Lone Star state and located in Marshall.
Here again it was found necessary to build a larger and better house of worship. But his zeal was consuming the strength of his vigorous body and his health gave way under the constant strain. Hoping to regain his health, he went to San Antonio. But even here, the pure air and the best skill of the learned
medical fraternity were vain. He had not rested soon enough to recuperate.
The time of his departure had come. The long years of toil must end. Surrounded by numerous friends and attended by his loving family, he heeded the Master's call, and went to the home above for rest.
The best service that J. M. C. Breaker rendered to Missouri Baptists was in the gift of his son, Manly J. Breaker. This noble son of a distinguished sire, having been trained by a mother, as true and great as her husband and son, deserves to be honored by all those who were helped to a better life by the two Breakers.
After the death of Dr. Breaker, Dr. J. H. Luther, then living, wrote of him: "I never knew a man who was more loyal to his convictions, more tenderly thoughtful of his churches, more studious in his preparation for the pulpit, and more exemplary in all the relations of life. The nobility of his manhood was seen in the well rounded character which good men recognized as the image of his Master."
His body rests in the beautiful Glenwood cemetery at Houston, Texas. The Buffalo Bayou runs through this cemetery. And in its waters Dr. Breaker "buried in baptism" many who thus proclaimed their faith in the "buried but risen" Christ.
[From J. C. Maple and R. P. Rider, Missouri Baptist Biography, 1912, pp. 65-70. The book was located in the St. Louis Public Library. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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