John A. Broadus was famed as a preacher able to present the truths of the Bible so simply that the simplest listeners could understand them. In fact, the first person he led to Christ was a simple-minded man who ever afterward said to him, "Thankee, John" whenever he saw him.
Born in 1827, John became a Christian at sixteen when a friend urged him to claim Christ's promise "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me. And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." John did. Thereafter he witnessed, taught Sunday school, lived out his faith and gained what education he could.
He planned to become a doctor. However, a sermon on Christ's parable of the talents convinced him he should study to become a minister. He was a minister who did not pastor a great deal, however, concentrating more on seminary teaching, although at one church he baptized 241 converts, including a girl who later became famous as a missionary--Lottie Moon. Although he often filled pulpits, preached at conferences and to troops during the Civil War, his life's work was as a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in which he taught homiletics (the art of preaching). He often told his students, "If you forget everything else I have told you, don't forget to treat the Scripture in a commonsense way."
Just how conscientious he was is shown by the fact that he once revised his entire course notes for a single blind student. He studied the sermons of the most effective preachers of all time to learn how they should be put together. When it looked as if the seminary would go under because of the Civil War, John said to the other professors, "...perhaps the seminary may die, but let us resolve to die first."
John stressed the importance of preaching: "We know that preaching deserves the highest excellence since it is the chosen instrument of the Savior of the world, who himself came preaching." He worked hard on his own sermons, wearing a path into the grass near the school, pacing as he fixed key points in mind. He learned what many pastors never learn, to preach so as to persuade listeners to take spiritual action based on the truths presented.
As an example of his style, take these words from his sermon He Ever Liveth to Intercede: "Here then is hope for us. 'If any man sin,' much as he ought to deplore it, he need not despair. Our advocate with the Father ever liveth to make intercession for them that come unto God through him, and through him we may find mercy. And here is no encouragement to sin, but the very contrary. If we truly trust in, truly love our interceding Lord, we shall be supremely anxious for his dear sake to turn from sin, to live for him who died for us; yea who ever lives as our Savior."
On this day March 16, 1895 John Albert Broadus died. True to his word, he had done all in his power to keep the seminary alive and it lives today. His Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew is one of his better-known writings and his book On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons was widely used as a textbook for decades.
- Armitage, Thomas. A History of the Baptists; traced by their principles and practices, from the time of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to the present. New York: Bryan, Taylr and co., 1893.
- Broadus, John. "He Ever Liveth to Intercede," in Favorite Sermons of John A. Broadus. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1959.
- _________________. On the Peparation and Delivery of Sermons. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1944.
- __________________. Jesus of Nazareth. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1962.
- "Broadus, John Albert." Dictionary of American Biography.
- Fisk, Samuel. Forty Fascinating Conversion Stories. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel, 1993.
- "John A. Broadus." http://www.theBaptistPage.com
- Stanfield, Vernon Latrelle. Favorite Sermons of John A. Broadus. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1959.