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Boyce, James Petigru (1827-1888) | Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Archives

Name: Boyce, James Petigru (1827-1888)

Historical Note:

James Petigru Boyce (1827-1888) was an accomplished Southern Baptist pastor and educator who served the Southern Baptist Convention in a variety of capacities during his lifetime.  He was the son of Kerr Boyce, an affluent Charleston, South Carolina merchant and banker, and Amanda Jane Caroline Johnston.  A variety of prominent individuals influenced James P. Boyce during his early life and college years.  His namesake was James L. Petigru, the distinguished South Carolina lawyer who opposed both nullification and secession.  Boyce's pastor was Basil Manly Sr., the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina, and a lifelong proponent of education in the South.  Two Baptist pastors most known for their debates over slavery also profoundly affected Boyce while he was at Brown University from 1845-1847.  Francis Wayland, Sr., was his professor, and Richard Furman was the preacher under whom he experienced conversion.

In November of 1847, the First Baptist Church of Charleston licensed James P. Boyce to preach. The following year, he married Lizzie Llewellyn Ficklen, the daughter of a Washington, Georgia doctor.  From November 1848 to May 1849, he edited The Southern Baptist, a Baptist newspaper published in Charleston.  The following September, he entered the Presbyterian Theological Seminary at Princeton, where he studied with both Archibald Alexander and Charles Hodge.  In May 1851, Boyce left Princeton without graduating and soon after began ministerial work.  He became the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Columbia, South Carolina the following October and remained there until October of 1855, when he left his pastorate to become an instructor in the theological department of Furman University at Greenville, South Carolina.  Boyce's inaugural address at Furman, "Three Changes in Theological Institutions," laid the ideological foundation for the institution that would become his life's work, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

James P. Boyce was not only instrumental in formulating an ideological foundation for the first common Seminary for Southern Baptists, he also worked on the committee that brought the school into being and helped raise funds for its establishment.  The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary opened its doors in 1859 in Greenville, South Carolina.  Its original faculty consisted of four members: Boyce, John A. Broadus, William Williams, and Basil Manly, Jr. Boyce served as Chairman of the Faculty and Professor of Systematic and of Polemic Theology.  During the Civil War, Boyce served in a variety of capacities unconnected to the seminary.  He was a chaplain for a Confederate regiment of volunteers from Greenville, a Representative to the South Carolina Legislature, and aide-de-amp to the governor of South Carolina.  Following the war, Boyce was a member of the Constitutional Convention of the State of South Carolina and proposed the article that officially illegalized slavery in South Carolina.

In October of 1865, operations at the Seminary resumed and Boyce began teaching again.  Support for the seminary was meager during Reconstruction, and Boyce spent much of his time trying to garner financial support for the fledgling institution.  Beginning in 1870, the seminary and its trustees began serious discussions about removing the seminary to a more financially stable area of the country, and Louisville, Kentucky became the favored location.  Boyce sacrificially gave up his teaching position for five years, 1872-1877, and moved to Louisville to raise funds for the Seminary.  In 1877, the seminary moved to Louisville, and he resumed teaching.  Boyce's only major publication, Abstract of Systematic Theology, appeared in 1887 and continued in use at the seminary until 1917.  In 1888, the faculty of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary changed Boyce's title from Chairman of the Faculty to President of the seminary.  Not only did Boyce serve the denomination as a seminary professor and president, but he was also president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1872 to 1879 and again in 1888.  After traveling to Europe during 1888 to recoup his health, James Petigru Boyce died in Pau, France on December 27, 1888.

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