BOYCE AND BROADUS
by w. F. Bell
from the FREE GRACE BROADCASTER
March / April 1988 –
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.
While we may not understand or approve of all that Boyce did in his life, still his life and testimony bear witness to the 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 widely 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, p. 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 very 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 modernistic 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
James P. Boyce .was a large man physically
spiritually. He did not live a long life, however, dying just before
birthday on December 28, 1888. His mortal remains were laid to rest in
"0 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).
Life and Letters of John Albert Broadus was written by his son-in-law, A. T.
published in 1901 (reprinted by Sprinkle Publications, 1987). To read
is to feast on a life totally dedicated to Christ Jesus, learning from
teacher and preacher. Broadus was born in
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
marvelous projectile force and in the inspiring momentum' which he gave
pupils. His old pupils sought in vain among the teachers of
"And so it came to pass that in
"Before I became familiar with Dr. Broadus, I
only as a creed which seemed absolutely incomprehensible to me. I
mainly from the untold, unmerited misery, the agony of ages which
rulers and nations had entailed upon poor
As to his theology, he stood as one with
James Boyce and the
Calvinistic teachers of his day. His sermons and published works
his position, and here is what he himself wrote in 1891, while in
"The people who sneer at what is called
might as well sneer at
This excellent biography of Broadus reveals a Christian man 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
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
* * * *
To reveal the godly wisdom of both Boyce and Broadus, note these brief extracts from their pens:
"I do not in any sense think that we are to be governed by what is called 'baptistic,' but only by the New Testament rules, and that Baptist usages are only matters of convenience and opinion when universal, and not opposed to the Scriptures. I should always follow Baptist usages where the New Testament was not opposed to them. . . . All the advice I can give you is to go by the New Testament always, Baptist usage to the contrary notwithstanding. . ." (Memoir, p.303).
"Be absolutely truthful. . . . Let there be nothing in your life that you would not be willing your mother should know. . . . And, besides, when a man attempts to maintain practices or companionships he must conceal from those he loves, such concealment involves deception, and damages his character in its very foundations" (Life and Letters, p. 318).