John Albert Broadus was born in Culpeper county, Virginia, January 24, 1827. He was of Welch descent, and the name was once spelled Broadhurst, and later Broaddus, and with John A. it began to be spelled in its present form.
His father was a member of the Virginia Legislature for a number of years, and was held in high esteem among his people.
John A. Broadus was educated at the University of Virginia, and that institution conferred on him the degree of Master of Arts in 1850. He was, in some respects, the best scholar in the South, and his knowledge of Greek was as thorough as that of any man who has lived since the language was a spoken language.
In 1851 he was elected Assistant Professor of Latin and Greek in the University of Virginia, which position he held for two years. He was during the same time pastor of the church in Charlottesville, Va., and continued as pastor of that church until 1855, when he was elected Chaplain of the University, which position he held two years, and then returned to the pastorate of the Charlottesville church. He continued in that capacity for two years, making seven years as pastor of the church and two years as Chaplain of the University, and nine years in all of public religious work in that town.
In 1859 he was elected Professor of Homiletics and New Testament Interpretation in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which position he held until his death, except for two years during the civil war, when he preached, as missionary in General Robert E. Lee's army, with great success.
Dr. Broadus was one of the truest and safest of men. His judgment was mature, and his advice was eagerly sought. It was the confidence the people had in Drs. Broadus and Boyce that gave the Seminary its standing and influence. Orthodox, safe and sensible, the people relied on him.
He was a Baptist in the true sense. He was opposed to alien immersion (immersions performed by others than Baptists), and so expressed himself in a letter written to a brother who had asked for advice, and this letter was widely published in the denominational papers. In a lecture to his class on one occasion, at least (perhaps on other occasions also), he announced that he was not in favor of pulpit affiliation (inviting preachers of other denominations into Baptist pulpits). This lecture was quoted and the quotations published in the denominational papers.
However, he was not offensive in the advocacy of liis Baptist views. He never engaged in debate; perhaps he was not by nature a debater, but he did teach sound Baptist doctrine to the students who sat under him in the Seminary.
Dr. Broadus was a preacher of the front rank. Wherever he preached the house was packed, frequently hundreds being turned away at the doors. Only one other man in his day could draw so large crowds as he, and that was that prince of theologians and orator, J. R. Graves. His language was simple, so simple that a child could readily understand; his thought was deep, so deep that a wise man would need to think - a strange and rare combination. His sermons, like the words of Scripture, were so simple that the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein, and yet there was depth sufficient for the most thoughtful.
During his connection with the Seminary he was at different times pastor of several small country churches near Louisville, Ky., and he took as much delight in preaching the gospel to those plain country people as he would when standing before a great audience in Louisville, New York or Boston.
At one time when the Southern Baptist Convention met near his boyhood home, he was appointed to preach in one of the large city churches, but declined in order to have the pleasure of going out into the country to his childhood home and preaching to the plain farmers, many of whom knew him when he was a boy. The brother who went with him to that country church declared that it was the greatest sermon that Dr. Broadus ever preached.
Dr. Broadus wrote a number of helpful books. He published a volume of sermons, and wrote a Commentary on Matthew, which have had a wide circulation. He wrote the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, which has had the widest circulation of any book of the kind ever published. It is used as a text-book in nearly all the Baptist theological schools, and is adopted by the Methodists and its study made compulsory on all Methodist preachers. It is used as a text book by the Campbellites in their theological school at Lexington, Ky. It is an able, clear and helpful book. It is a sacred rhetoric and would be helpful to literary students of whatever class. He has also published a number of smaller books, viz: History of Preaching, Shall Women Speak in Mixed Religious Assemblies? Immersion Is Christian Baptism, Glad Giving, etc. We publish his tract on Glad Giving at the close of this sketch. He also wrote a Memoir of J. P. Boyce.
Giving is a Baptist doctrine, and it is announced as a Baptist doctrine in our Confessions of Faith and Church Covenants, and no other man has made so plain a statement of that Baptist doctrine as Dr. Broadus. For that reason we publish it in this connection.
Dr. Broadus died of pneumonia in Louisville, Ky., March 16, 1895. His mantle did not seem to fall on any other man. There was only one of him, and until we shall see him in Heaven we do not expect to look upon his like[ness] again.
The picture published in this connection is as good as any he ever had. He did not take a good picture. Yet this picture gives an idea of how he appeared in his strongest days.
Dr. Broadus was "gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth." 2 Timothy 2:24-25.
The Louisville Times said of him as he lay at the point of death:"As gentle Izaak Walton said of the strawberry, it may truthfully be said of Dr. John A. Broadus, who is now being gathered as one of Reaper Death's richest sheaves, that the good Lord might in His omnipotence have made a better, greater man, but it is by no means assured that he ever did. Meek as Moses, wise as Solomon, patient as Job, dauntless and eloquent as Saul of Tarsus, lovable as John, the beloved disciple, upon him every god doth seem to have his seal to give the world assurance of a man. After he shall have been gathered to his fathers it will be long before his church, his city, his country shall again look upon his like. Gentler than a woman, braver than a lion, more learned than Erasmus, he walked the straight path with head bent in humble obeisance to his God, but lowered his crest to no mortal man. That a light so luminous, so radiant, so mellifluous must go out in the deepening of the shadows of Time, and be swallowed up in the effulgence of Eternity, can but overwhelm the finite mind with questions to which come no replies, with sorrows for which there is no earthly solace."
================[Ben M. Bogard, editor, Pillars of Orthodoxy, or Defenders of the Faith, 1900 . Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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