John Albert Broadus is the third cousin, six times removed, of my friend, Will James. Will is the Minister of Music at First Baptist Church in Irving, Texas. He related this interesting story about his famous and distant cousin.
In the 1850’s John Albert Broadus earned his Doctor of Divinity degree from the University of Virginia. He, along with three friends, James P Boyce, Basil Manly and William Williams, decided that the United States needed a Southern Baptist seminary and that they were the men God would use that would accomplish this.
They founded Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina in 1859 with 4 professors and just 26 students. SBTS now enrolls over 4000 students each year. These four founding professors were well-schooled and held various advanced degrees from Princeton, Harvard, Brown and the University of Virginia.
When the Civil War began in 1861, government representatives perused the campus of the young seminary and decided that many of the men must serve in the military. This action drained the school of students and funds and it was forced to close its doors.
But the result was that for the next four years, John Albert Broadus was the “preferred chaplain” for Robert E. Lee. He would preach to the Confederate soldiers before they entered the killing zones of the battle fields.
Much later in life he would remark to his son-in-law, A.T. Robertson (also a well-known scholar), that these were the most intense sermons he ever preached. He noticed that the men listened with the same intensity, realizing that some of them would surely not return.
When the war ended, these dedicated men knew they were to start the seminary’s work again and re-opened it in Greenville, South Carolina, where it would remain for the next decade. A group of wealthy Baptist businessmen, including John D. Rockefeller, enticed the leaders of the seminary to relocate to Louisville, Kentucky by underwriting the construction of a new campus. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was moved there in 1877 and is one of the world’s largest theological seminaries today.
James Petigru Boyce was the first president of this seminary, and John Broadus was the professor of New Testament Interpretation and Homiletics for thirty-six years and became the second president of SBTS for seven years after the death of Dr. Boyce.
Let’s quickly return to the 1850’s. John Albert Broadus completed his degree and became the Pastor at Charlottesville Baptist Church, which is today First Baptist Church Charlottesville. He would preach revivals at the University of Virginia, an all-boys school then, and at Albemarle Female Institute in Charlottesville. (No, it was simply an all-girls school, even though the name sounds like a government lockup.)
One particular girl prided herself in being a trouble maker. She was small, thin and well under five feet tall. But she harassed all her friends for being Christians. She was a heckler of her friends’ faith and she was proud of it. She only came to the revival meetings to get information in order to be able to harass her friends even more. (She would later write that she didn’t know how she had gotten to the point in her life that she didn’t believe in God.)
During one of the revival meetings she became under strong conviction and went home confused and miserable. She desperately wanted to sleep, but it would be a long sleepless night while a neighbor’s dog barked continuously. Early the next morning she arrived at John Albert Broadus’ office and prayed to receive Christ and a week later Pastor Broadus baptized her.
Pastor Broadus would say that she was the most educated woman in the South. She was certainly fearless, desiring to follow her sister’s example, and convinced the Foreign Mission Board to allow her to go to China as a missionary.
She was appointed in 1873 at thirty-three years of age. And for the next forty years, Lottie Moon would give her life for the Chinese people she loved so much. She faced wars, tragedy and famines while in China and would die from denying herself food in order for her friends to eat.
Lottie Moon is renowned in Baptist life. Every year there is a special missions offering collected that honors her life and work. Will said that his yearly contribution to the Lottie Moon Offering means so much more to him now since his distant cousin was so involved in her early Christian life.
If you are Baptist you, more than likely, have seen the hymnals in churches with the name Broadman. The Broadman Hymnal has been around since the 1930’s. It was named for two of these men who founded Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, John Broadus and Basil Manly.
They were such prominent figures in Baptist life and education and had written so much concerning Baptist doctrine it was decided to honor them with the naming of the Baptist publishing arm, the Broadman Press.
John Albert Broadus was a man that God used in many ways. From the seminary to the battlefields to the pastorate, he was a man that encouraged others and desired to see young people emerge as strong Christian leaders. His life is a great example for us all.