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Broadus, John Albert (1827-1895) | Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Archives

Name: Broadus, John Albert (1827-1895)


Historical Note:

John Albert Broadus was born in Culpeper County, Virginia on January 24, 1827 to Major Edmund and Nancy (Simms) Broadus. He was the youngest of four children. He received much of his early education at home from his parents and tutors, including his uncle, Albert G. Simms. Broadus' intellectual acumen was evident in an example from his early life. One day he returned home from Mr. Simms' school along with his belongings. His father feared that something had gone wrong and asked for an explanation. Broadus informed his father that Mr. Simms had no further use for him. Unable to get any more information from the young man, Edmund Broadus visited Mr. Simms to inquire what may have happened. Mr. Simms, while laughing, told him, "John had learned all that he could teach him."

At the age of sixteen Broadus surrendered his life to Christ during a revival meeting at Mount Poney Baptist Church. While Broadus was under conviction, a friend quoted John 6:37, "all that the Father giveth me shall come to me. And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out," and repeated the phrase, "in no wise cast out," several times. With this word, God moved in Broadus' heart to bring him to Christ and from this point forward, he began to grow in the Christian faith.

From 1844 to 1846, Broadus continued his education by teaching in a small school and engaging in disciplined independent study, which included the study of Greek. In 1846, upon entering the University of Virginia, Broadus considered becoming a preacher but opted instead for the study of medicine. In August of that year, before he entered his University studies, his vocational plans completely changed. At an associational meeting, God called Broadus to be a minister through the preaching of S. M. Poindexter. Convicted by God's Spirit and word, Broadus sought out his pastor and told him, "I must try to be a preacher."

In the fall of 1846, he entered the University of Virginia as he had planned, and he eventually earned the M.A. degree in 1850. The following year he taught in a private school in Fluvanna County, Virginia, preached in several small churches, and diligently studied church history, theology, and the Bible. Two very important events occurred during this year as well. The first was his ordination on August 12, 1850. The second, on November 13, 1850 was his marriage to Maria Harrison, the daughter of Gessner Harrison, professor of ancient languages at the University of Virginia.

In 1851 Broadus accepted the post as tutor in Latin and Greek at the University of Virginia as well as the pastorate position at Charlottesville Baptist Church. However, after one year he resigned his position at the University in order to give full devotion to his pastorate. He did this with the exception of two years when he was given a leave of absence to serve as chaplain at the University of Virginia.

In 1858 he was asked to become a member of the faculty of the new Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. At first he declined the offer because of his love of preaching and pastoral work. However, after months of struggle over the decision, he agreed to become a member of the first faculty when the seminary opened in Greenville, South Carolina, in 1859. He served for the next thirty-six years as professor of New Testament Interpretation and Homiletics.

In 1861 the Civil War caused the Seminary to close its doors. During this time Broadus preached in small churches and spent some time as chaplain in Lee's army in northern Virginia. Although the Seminary reopened fully in 1865, it was a difficult time for the fledgling institution as it struggled for its existence. It remained open largely because of the efforts of Broadus and James Petigru Boyce. During one faculty discussion over the direction of the seminary, Broadus revealed his passion and commitment to the institution by urging, "Suppose we quietly agree that the Seminary may die, but we'll die first."

Throughout the course of his teaching career, Broadus excelled as a writer, publishing numerous pamphlets, tracts, and articles on a variety of subjects. He also produced a number of books in the fields of homiletics and New Testament. In 1870 he published On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, a classic in the field of homiletics. He also wrote Lectures on the History of Preaching (1876), Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (1886), Sermons and Addresses (1886), Jesus of Nazareth (1890), Memoir of James Petigru Boyce (1893), and Harmony of the Gospels (1893). Broadus' national recognition as a pastor and teacher also garnered for him numerous offers for many influential pastorates and professorships. In 1889, he gave the Lyman Beecher Lectures on Preaching at Yale University, and was, at the time, the only Southern Baptist to ever be accorded this honor.

After the death of his colleague James Petigru Boyce in 1888, Broadus became the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. During his presidential tenure, he established a periodical at the seminary entitled, The Seminary Magazine. Broadus served as president of the institution until his death on March 16, 1895. He was buried in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky. Broadus dedicated his life to teaching Southern Baptist ministers, how to have a passion for biblical, doctrinal, and vibrant preaching in order to bring glory to the name of Christ.

Note Author: Jason Fowler





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