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The Life and Writings of Rev. Andrew Broaddus 1
Christian Repository, 1852
By Rev. James M. Pendleton
Bowling Green, KY

      The name of Andrew Broaddus, has been familiar to the Baptists of the United States, for about fifty years. He was pronounced by many, in his palmiest days, the most accomplished pulpit orator in America, and it is among the traditions concerning him, that, happening to be in Washington, about the year 1812, he was prevailed on to preach in Congress Hall, and was declared to be the most eloquent man that ever spoke within the walls of the Capitol. This looks very much like exhausting eulogy. We have often listened with the deepest interest to the accounts Virginians have given, of this remarkable man. Indeed it lights up the countenances of Virginia Baptists especially, for his name to be mentioned, and for them to have the privilege of referring to some sermon they may have heard him deliver at an Association, thirty or forty years ago. To preach like Andrew Broaddus, is with them, the ne plus ultra. They never trouble themselves, to imagine how any one could be a better preacher. If it comes within the limits of possibility, they are not anxious to know it. They see no necessity for ministerial qualifications and excellencies, superior to those exemplified in their favorite. We do not write in the language of censure - we rather admire the Virginia peculiarity as referred to. It shows how tenaciously the affections cling to a loved object.

     The thousands who knew Broaddus will rejoice that his Life and Writings have been published, and thousands who never knew him will be glad of an opportunity to learn something of one of whom they have heard to preach.

     The Memoir, written by Dr. Jeter, is decidedly the best thing we have seen from his pen. It possesses the merit of general, if not perfect fidelity. We are disposed to demur somewhat to Dr. J's remarks of Mr. Broaddus as a preacher. He thinks his preaching had too little to do with the consciences of the hearers, and that his want of success was owing to this defect. It is certainly true of many preachers, and this may have been true of some of the discourses of Mr. B., but of others we think it could not be justly said. How the consciences of his auditors could remain undisturbed under some of his sermons, we are utterly at a loss to conceive. It is assumed, too, by Dr. J. that Mr. B. was not a successful preacher. There were doubtless many of contemporaries whose ministry was apparently more successful than his, but we think the memoir does him injustice in its failure to ascribe greater efficiency to his labors. These are the only exceptions we make to the biographical sketch in the volume before us, and they perhaps ought not to have been made till we had given an account of the birth, conversion, &c., of Mr. B., and his entrance upon the work of the ministry. However, we are not anxious to have every thing in due form.

     Andrew Broaddus was born in Caroline County, Va., November 4th, 1770. His father was of Welsh descent - a man of strong mind - a zealous Episcopalian, and almost rancorous in his hostility to all dissenters from the Established Church. He was engaged in the revolutionary war, having previously married "a Miss Pryor, said to be a lineal descendant of Pocahontas, whose blood flows in the veins of so many distinguished families of Virginia." How it is that such flowing diffusiveness is often predicated of the blood of Pocahontas, we confess our inability to explain, but we cheerfully accord to Miss Pryor a lineal connection to her.

     Andrew was the youngest son of his parents, and was distinguished even in childhood by a "thirst for knowledge and an aptitude to acquire it." Dr. J. remarks, "The story would be full of interest and instruction could we record the steps by which this child of genius, in an age and a region of comparative darkness, encompassed by difficulties, without instructors, without books, without money, or any substitute for it, without literary friends, and without even models to guide his aims and inspire his zeal, attained to intellectual maturity. This intellectual progress however, can be but imperfectly traced. Young Andrew received in all but nine months' schooling. Of the manner of that schooling we have no knowledge; but judging from the systems of instruction then almost universal in Virginia, we may reasonably conclude that it was most imperfect. But God had endowed this boy with an uncommon intellect. He felt in his bosom the kindlings of genius. He thirsted for knowledge, as the hunted hart for the water brook; and knowledge he resolved to obtain. And what cannot be accomplished by a mind, instinct with energy, and firmly resolved? Andrew educated himself, as, indeed, every really great man, with more or fewer facilities for the work, does. Often, in that day, when the light of candles was a luxury rarely enjoyed by persons in the middle class of society, did this aspiring boy lie flat on his breast upon the floor, poring over his book by the dim light of a pine-knot on the hearth." (pp. 4-5) Our hope is that many an "aspiring boy," will read this portion of the Memoir and "take courage." We would for the benefit of every such boy, be willing to pay liberally if we could get a picture of Andrew Broaddus "lying on his breast and poring over his book by the dim light of a pine-knot." There are many young men in the Churches who sometimes think of engaging in the ministry of the Gospel, and are deterred from it, in part at least, by their want of literary advantages. - There are others already consecrated to the work who spend many sleepless hours in deploying their educational deficiencies. To all such we would say, "YOUNG ANDREW RECEIVED IN ALL BUT NINE MONTHS' SCHOOLING." Let such young men, aye and old men too, commit the declaration to memory. Andrew Broaddus went to school nine months, and yet he was one of the best philologists in Virginia. Who that ever heard him preach did not admire the purity, the cogency, and the rhetorical beauty of his language! His sentences were often like a string of pearls. By the way, we are indebted to him for this simile. For preaching on one occasion from the Beatitudes (Matthew v.) he said, "They are a string of pearl fit for the adornment of the bride, the Lamb's wife."

     Elder Theodoric Noel, the father of the late Dr. S. M. Noel, of Ky., was the honored instrument of Andrew Broaddus' conversion. The evidences of his conversion were, however, for a time, unsatisfactory to himself. He was troubled with doubts as to his acceptance with God, and suffered much mental disquietude. Eventually the clouds were dispersed from his moral sky, and he enjoyed the enlivening beams of the Sun of Righteousness.

     In joining the Baptist Church, young Broaddus had serious difficulties to encounter. His father was strongly attached to the Episcopalian Church and had special antipathy to the Baptists. He went so far as to order his son not to attend Baptist meetings. Whether he became convinced of the unreasonableness of his course and permitted his son to act freely, cannot now be ascertained. Andrew was, however, baptized by Elder Noel, May 28th, 1789. In a short time after he united with the Church he began to exhort, and his first sermon was preached the 24th of December, 1789. - His earliest efforts in the ministry gave promise of his future usefulness and though his path was beset with difficulties he trusted in God and went forward. But at this point we shall let his biographer speak:

     "Mr. Broaddus commenced preaching the gospel without a diploma - without a library - without theological instruction; but he had what was better than all these - a deep and experimental sense of the truth, power, and preciousness of the gospel - a heart glowing with zeal in the cause of Christ - a mind for thirsting for truth, patient in searching for it, quick in discerning it, and ready in appropriating and using it, and an elocution natural, graceful and impressive. With such advantages he began his ministry. With these, it is not surprising that he should have attained, among the plain people of the country, an early and extended popularity. To this result several causes, beside his real merit, contributed. The preachers of that day seldom aimed at method in sermonizing. Their discourses were mostly unpremeditated and discursive, but earnest and impressive exhortations, delivered in solemn tones, and accompanied by violent gesticulations. The sermons of young Broaddus were methodical, clear, chaste in style, and uttered in a natural and forcible manner. His youthful appearance, too, added to the admiration with which delighted audiences hung on his lips." (pp. 14-15)

     The ordination of Mr. Broaddus to the work of the Ministry took place at Upper King and Queen Meeting House, October, 16th 1791. Elders Noel and Semple constituted the Presbytery, the latter of whom was for many years Mr. B.'s faithful friend and fellow-laborer in the gospel. Seldom do two such men live at the same time in the same region of country. And there are many persons now living who consider, as an epoch in their lives, the day when they heard Semple and Broaddus preach together. Venerable men! Lovely and pleasant in their lives - divided for a short time by death, but now reunited by ties which can never be severed!

     The labors of Mr. B., were confined chiefly to the counties of Caroline, King and Queen, and King William. Several churches in those counties enjoyed his ministrations and were edified in the Lord. There is great monotony in a country Pastor's life - especially when three or four churches share in his labors. The history of one year constitutes substantially the history of every year. There is a monthly visit to each church - the preparation for the pulpit - the solemnization of marriages - the preaching of funerals, &c. &c. Occasionally a revival delightfully diversified the scene and then the Pastor 'thanks God and takes courage.' The monotony referred to is our reason for not entering into a detailed account of Mr. B's. pastoral labors for almost a half a century.

     Mr. B. was married four times, and seven children survive him, as does also his last wife. His third marriage was very unfortunate, and to his deep and bitter mortification he learned that he had Scriptural authority for "putting away" her who at the marriage altar had pledged to him her unswerving fidelity. He separated from her in 1822, and did not marry the fourth time until 1843 - after the death of the third Mrs. B. This is enough to say on a subject so delicate.

     Some idea may be formed of the popularity of Mr. B. as a minister from the following extract from the memoir.

     "Few ministers received more flattering offers to settle abroad than did Elder Broaddus. If he remained in his native Caroline, it was not because fields wide, pleasing, and full of promise were not opened to him. He was invited to accept the pastoral charge, or was corresponded with on the subject of accepting it, by the following churches: - the First Church, Boston, in 1811 and 1812, to supply the vacancy occasioned by the death of Dr. Stillman; the First Church, Philadelphia, in 1811, to supply the place of Dr. Staughton; the First Church, Baltimore, in 1819; the New Market Street Church, Philadelphia, in 1819; The Sansom Street Church, Philadelphia, in 1824; the First Church, Philadelphia again, in 1825; the Norfolk Church in, 1826; the First Church, city of New York, in 1832; the First Church, Richmond, 1833, not to mention other calls of minor importance. These invitations to settle in cities and towns, in prominent positions, with wealthy and flourishing churches, paying the pastors generous salaries, he deemed it his duty to decline, partly because he was averse to change, and reluctant to leave his old and tried friends, but mainly because of an unfortunate nervous sensitiveness, which rendered him timid among strangers, and in a great measure, disqualified him for laboring in new and exiting circumstances." (pp. 17-18)

     As another proof of the high estimation in which Elder Broaddus was held by his brethren, it may be mentioned that the Dover Association in 1833 (probably at that time the largest in the world) passed a resolution earnestly requesting him to write a Commentary on the Scriptures. With this request he never complied, and we deeply regret that he did not. - Had he yielded to the wishes of his brethren we suppose he would have furnished such a work as he describes in his letter to Rev. Robert Ryland on page 280 of the volume before us: He says,

"A Commentary, or rather an illustration of the Bible - such as I should choose, would probably be, in bulk, not more than one-sixth, perhaps not more than one-tenth the size of Gill. It should exhibit critical remarks, rather than theological points; throw light on ancient customs, where alluded to in the Bible, should reconcile apparent discrepancies in the relation of facts, not of doctrines, and leave me and all other readers of the sacred word to form our views from the original source of truth. Such a work would be a help to the Bible student."

     These remarks exhibit a great deal of common sense - an article which many Commentators have possessed in a very moderate degree. Who, in wishing to get information in regard to some passage of Scripture, has not been disgusted when the Commentator began his exposition by saying, "It does not mean this thing - it does mean that thing - it does not mean another thing." Then probably we have something like this: "Bishop _______ thought it meant" so and so, "but the context forbids this view." "Dr. ______ gave this exposition, but there are insuperable objections to his interpretation" &c. &c. Now we ask, who wants to know what a passage does not mean? Who cares for the views of the Archbishop of Canterbury provided they are incorrect? We insist - and if it be considered a disparagement of almost the entire tribe of Commentators, so let it be - that such a work as the one described by Elder B. is a great desideratum. There is a vacuum in the religious world which it would fill. Of Elder B's. competency to produce such a work, the reader may judge from the following remarks of Dr. Jeter:

"We have enjoyed frequent opportunities of hearing many of the best preachers of most of the Evangelical denominations of this country, and occasionally some of the distinguished ministers of Great Britain, and we can confidently say, that in his happiest efforts, none of them equaled him in the exposition of the Scriptures. Excelled he might have been, and perhaps was, in sublimity of thought, strength of language, and studied accuracy of method; but in clearness, aptness of illustration, spontaneous beauty, touching pathos, and Scriptural instruction, he had no superior." (p. 55)

     Dr. J. could not as a faithful biographer, fail to mention the part Elder Broaddus acted in reference to the Reformation advocated by the distinguished Alexander Campbell of Bethany, Va. We quote from the memoir:

"Mr. Broaddus was one of the last to relinquish the hope of reclaiming Mr. Campbell from what he deemed the path of error. Long did he continue to fraternize with him, and endeavor, by kid and faithful arguments, to convince him; but the appearance of the Millennial Harbinger Extra, in which his peculiar and objectionable views were more fully disclosed, put an end to all his hopes. He had been willing to tolerate many differences of opinion on minor points, and the utmost freedom of inquiry and discussion, and to bear with much in the spirit and manner of Mr. Campbell, which he disapproved; but when the gospel schemes of a sinner's justification was set aside, and the influence of the Holy Spirit before baptism was denied, or treated in an equivocal and unsatisfactory manner, he felt that the time of forbearance and fraternization had passed. He owed a duty to truth, to the Baptist denomination, to the christian world, and to himself, and he hesitated not to perform it." (p. 28)

      We have ever regarded Elder Broaddus' Examination of Mr. Campell's Extra on Remission of Sins as one of the best specimens of sound argument and courteous discussion we have ever seen. Mr. C. contended for the real, actual remission of sins in baptism. Mr. B. proved conclusively that the real, actual remission of sins takes place when the sinner embraces Jesus Christ by faith, and that there is only a formal remission or washing away of sins in baptism. Mr. C. had said that a man might be "impregnated with the word" and "begotten of the Spirit" - (we suggest to Dr. Jeter that to this extent he admitted the influence of the Spirit before baptism -) but that he could not be "born of the Spirit till born of the water" or baptized. He said that if a person was "born of the water" without being previously "begotten of the Spirit," it was "a still birth!" Many of Mr. Campbell's admirers thought his explanation of the regenerating process superior to any thing that the world had seen or heard, and they began to philophize [sic] on spiritual 'impregnation,' 'begetting,' 'being born,' &c. Well, Elder Broaddus looked into the matter and saw the strange 'medley of figures.' In violation of an analogy established ever since Adam begat Cain, Mr. C. represented the person to be born - the spiritual fetus - as impregnated! And, he said that was a 'still birth' in baptism if there was not a previous 'begetting of the Spirit,' thus exciting the obstetrical wonder of the curious throughout Christendom how there could be any sort of 'birth' without 'begetting!' Mr. B. employed his delicate satire so effectually that Mr. C. in subsequent editions of his Extra, left out several things which are to be found in the first edition. We doubt not Mr. C. is much more Scriptural in his views now than he was then (1830). Indeed in his Lexington Debate we think him just as orthodox on the influence of the Holy Spirit, as Dr. Rice. Perhaps we cannot give impartial judgment; for we confess we are a little impatient in thinking how pertinacious Dr. R. was in his purpose to apply the terms 'conversion' and 'sanctification' to infants when there was no more reference to them in the proposition than to the man in the moon. But enough of this.

     The Columbian College in 1843 conferred on Elder Broaddus the degree of Doctor of Divinity. He showed his good sense in declining to accept it. With his views of ministerial parity he could not consistently receive it. His brethren had so much respect for his wishes that they never called him Doctor. Such men as Andrew Fuller, Robert Hall, and Andrew Broaddus had not need of D. D. to their names to swell them into consequence. Those who deserve the doctorate (if indeed any do) are the men who do not need it. We would be glad for the title of D.D. to be dispensed with altogether. We think of some denominations - the Methodists particularly - became a little more liberal in bestowing it, the day will come when it will be considered an evidence of literary and theological mediocrity

     The volume before us contains copious notes of a Sermon on Baptism and also a Review of a Discourse delivered by a distinguished Episcopal Minister on 'Infant Baptism.' Let all those who wish to see how easily sophistry can be exposed, and truth can be presented in a clear light, read what is said on these topics. We make an extract from the Review: "It was remarked (by the minister) that there is no controversy as to believers' baptism. It is infant baptism that is the object of controversy. This is an easy way of getting clear of a formidable impediment! No controversy as to believers' baptism? Nay, my good sir, but this is by no means an adequate statement of the case. If it be admitted that every believer ought to be baptized, there will then indeed be no controversy; but Pedo-Baptism say that no believer ought to be baptized, who has been officially sprinkled infancy! Pedo-Baptism, therefore, as far as it prevails, annihilates believers' baptism; yea, and if it prevailed as some of its advocates desire, believers' baptism would be disappear from Christendom. And thus an institution so obviously enjoined, and so frequently exemplified in the New Testament, would be utterly supplanted by a practice for which one can find neither precept nor example in any part of the sacred record. Is there no danger here of making void the Commandment of God by human tradition? No controversy as to believer's baptism? There is none indeed, as to its occupying a conspicuous place in the New Testament, but when we insist that baptism is obviously a personal, not a parental duty and accordingly, that every believer owes it to his Master and to himself to be baptized, we are met with the plea, that we ought to accept of the sprinkling of the infant, instead of the baptism of the believer." (pp. 391-392)

     How manifest it is in the view of the foregoing quotation that Pedo-Baptists are obnoxious to the charge of the most transparent sophistry, when they insist that they are in favor of believers' baptism. Who does not see that the universal prevalence of infant baptism would be the annihilation of the baptism of believers? How candid Pedo-Baptists can say that they are as much in favor of believers' baptism as Baptists, is to us utterly incomprehensible. This however is not the place to expatiate on this point.

     It will be gratifying to the reader to see the comparison which Dr. Jeter institutes between the preaching of Broaddus, Semple, Rice and Staughton. He says,

"In order that our readers may have a still clearer conception of the preaching of the subject of this memoir, we will compare it with that of Semple, Rice, and Staughton. Semple was a sound, practical preacher: anxious mainly for the result of his ministry, he was careless in his manner, bungling in his style, and frequently loose in his arrangement. Rice possessed a masculine intellect, and sometimes preached with great power and sublimity; but his migratory manner of living precluded the possibility of a careful preparation for the pulpit, and consequently his sermons were, for the most part, dry, tame, and greatly wanting in variety. He possessed the unimproved, or perhaps, more properly the unemployed elements of a mighty preacher. Staughton, judging from his reputation, for we never enjoyed the pleasure of hearing him, was fervent, rapid in delivery, abounding in excellent matter, not well digested nor well arranged. Now Broaddus was, as a preacher less practical than Semple, less sublime than Rice, and less impassionate than Staughton; but he was more methodical, more accurate, more elegant, more attractive, and far more safe as an expositor of Scripture, than any of them. They all excelled in certain strongly developed qualities, which rendered them eminent and acceptable preachers; but Broaddus possessed a combination of noble qualities, a well beloved, and richly furnished intellect, with all the personal endowments requisite for the most pleasing delivery of his sermons." (pp. 54-55)

     The warmest admirers and most devoted friends of Eld. Broaddus could not wish a higher encomium pronounced on his preaching than is contained in the forgoing extract. To place a man, as a preacher, above R. B. Semple, Luther Rice, and William Staughton, looks very much like putting him on the summit of ministerial excellency.

     In 1845 Elder Broaddus, though a member of the Rappahannock, attended the Dover Association, and by request delivered a valedictory Address. From this Address, we cannot resist our inclination to make a few extracts. The venerable man said, "Brother Moderator: You see in me the oldest surviving minister belonging to the old Dover Association. I am now far advanced in my 75th year. But have I not reason to fear, that I must adopt the language of the old Patriarch concerning 'the days of the years of my pilgrimage,' when, shaking his hoary locks, he replied to a question of the Egyptian monarch, 'Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been.'

     "I remember, sir, the patriarchal times of this Association: - the times when the white headed Ford, with his sweet and venerable countenance; the grave and sociable Webber, with his plain and homely manner; the pious and primitive Greenwood, with his meek and affectionate deportment; the energetic and majestic Lunsford, with his lofty flights of heart-thrilling eloquence - these with others that might be named, beside several nearer your own times and within your own recollection - the strong-minded, laborious and beloved Semple; the gifted and zealous Staughton, and others of their day: - all these come within the range of my recollection, and pass in review before my mind's eye. Where are they now? Gone, sir! Gone from this mortal stage! Gone to receive the rich reward of their labors on earth, and as well the triumphs of the redeemed throng in the world of bliss!

     Yes, sir they are gone - all gone! And here am I yet, with only here and there a coeval of former times, 'few and far between;' here am I still 'lingering around these mortal shores,' and yes left to speak to you, once more, a parting word.

     But though these laborers of former years have changed this mortal for an immortal state, having taken their place in the world of spirits, it is [is it - jrd] quite certain, brethren, that they are cut off from all knowledge of the affairs of the church militant, or have ceased to feel an interest in the concerns of our common Redeemer's kingdom here on earth? Nay, is not the contrary probable rather? When the apostle speaks, Heb. xii.1, of the 'great cloud of witnesses' with which the christian racers were surrounded, he alludes, obviously, to the faithful departed, mentioned in the foregoing chapter, to that bright roll of Old Testament worthies in whom was exemplified the power of a living faith. These, he seems to represent as bending from their thrones of light in the skies, ardent and interested spectators of the christian race. This is surely an animating reflection, that those who were once engaged in the same struggles, and have triumphantly finished their course, present themselves to us as witnesses at once of the power of faith, and our progress in the same heavenly race.

     Most of you, brethren, are either in the younger stage of life, or not past middle age. Since the former times to which I have made allusion, the field of labor, both at home and abroad, has been greatly enlarged; and now, with an extended vision, we see that 'there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.' Let me hope, dear brethren, that so far from having your spirits crushed by the increasing responsibility which attends the opening and enlarging of the field, you will rather feel animated by the prospect: - that your courage will rise and keep pace with the growing views; and that, strong in the strength which God supplies, you will cheerfully say, with faithful Caleb, 'Let us go up at once and possess the land, for we are able to overcome it.'

     In conclusion, brethren, let me point your attention to the end of the race: let me invite you to anticipate the victory which awaits you at the close of the warfare. See, held out in the hand of your great Captain, the unfading diadem, with which the brow of the conqueror shall be encircled; ond [and] hear his encouraging voice, 'Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.'

     Brethren, "grace, mercy and peace be with you all!"

     These were the last words he ever addressed to the Dover Association, and they made an impression which will not be easily effaced from the memories of those who heard them.

     Dr. Jeter well remarks, "the death of this venerable father was an appropriate termination of a life so pure, so faithful, so useful as his had been. When asked, as his death-struggle approached, what was the state of his mind, 'Calmly relying on Christ,' was his reply. On another occasion, after he had been silently musing, characteristically remarked, 'The angels are instructing me how to conduct myself in glory.' The last words he was heard to whisper, were, 'Happy! Happy! Happy!' He fell asleep in Christ on the 1st day of December 1848." Who would not die such a death? Who would not calmly rely on Christ when the last hour calms? Who would not be 'happy! happy! happy!' amid the agonies of dissolution? Infidelities would, in the dying chamber of Andrew Broaddus, have trembled, turned pale, and rendered a reluctant tribute to the majesty of the religion of Jesus. Glorious religion indeed which can fill the soul with sublimest joy when the body begins to crumble into its native dust.

     The biographer informs us that "the body of Elder Broaddus was buried in the yard of Salem Meeting House, where, for so many years, he had fed the flock of Christ. A plain marble slab marks the hallowed spot in which it reposes; on which the pious pilgrim that visits his grave, may read an inscription, simple, significant, and eminently descriptive of the man whose memory it is intended to perpetuate, and whose heartfelt need of a Saviour's mercy gave it utterance. - A SINNER TRUSTING FOR REDEMPTON IN CHRIST ALONE."

     This inscription was put on the slab incompliance with a request made by Elder Broaddus some years before his death, and it is so intensely, so sublimely comprehensive that all theology is condensed into it.

     It remains to be said that the memoir in the volume before us contains 64 pages - 'Sermons' 107 pages - 'Notes on select texts of Scripture' 94 pages - 'Letters' 74 pages - 'Essays' 192 pages - Poetry and Appendix 24 pages.



1 The sermons and other writings of the Rev. Andrew Broaddus, with a memoir of his life, by J. B. Jeter, D.D., edited by A. Broaddus, son of the author, and Minister of the Gospel; 1852, 557 pages.

[From Samuel H. Ford, Christian Repository, June, 1852, pp. 338-348. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

A Sermon by Rev. Andrew Broaddus: The Remedy for Heart-Troubles - From The Baptist Preacher, 1845.

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