James Petigru Bojce was born in Charleston, S. C., January 11, 1827. His father was a wealthy banker and planter; said to be the richest man in South Carolina.
James P. Boyce was an exception to the rule that rich men's sons never amount to much. There have been very few sons of poor men who have become the equals of James P. Boyce. The rich man's boy, as a rule, turns out bad, but God elected otherwise in this case, and few men have labored so unselfishly for the good of mankind and the glory of God.
His earliest religious impressions were received under the preaching of that excellent and powerful preacher, Basil Manly, Sr., the father of Dr. Basil Manly, so long connected with the Seminary, and for a number of years President of Georgetown College, Ky. Dr. Boyce's father never made a public profession of faith in Christ and died out of the church. He was never fully reconciled to his son's becoming a preacher, looking upon it as throwing himself away.
Under the preaching of that wonderful preacher, Richard Fuller, Boyce was converted, and on the 22d of April, 1846, he was baptized and became a member of the church in Charleston, S. C.
It means a great deal to a man to be brought under the influence of such a man as Richard Fuller at the very beginning of his religious life. It necessarily set before Boyce a high ideal and possibly inspired him with a lofty purpose. If we had more Fullers to preach we might have more Boyces converted.
He graduated at Brown University, September, 1847. Dr. Broadus, in his "Memoir of James P. Boyce," says:"It was a sad disappointment to Mr. Ker. Boyce when he found * * * that James was immovably resolved to be a minister. Besides a natural ambition that his son might become distinguished as a lawyer, and perhaps as a statesman — for both of which pursuits the father's insight discerned in him peculiar qualifications — he began already to hope * * * that James would be the man to take charge of his large estate and carry on his great business undertakings for the benefit of the whole family * * * it was hard for him to acquiesce in the youth's determination to 'throw away' all his practical powers and possibilities upon the work of a minister." On the 14th of September, 1847, he was authorized by the church in Charleston to preach the Gospel "wherever God in his providence might call him." He married Miss Lizzie L. Ficklen, December 20, 1848, and he at once settled in his native town, Charleston.
For about one year he was editor of the Southern
Baptist, and showed his ability in a number of excellent editorials. Dr. Broadus says of him: "For one so yonng, with little experience in preaching, and no regular study of theology, Mr. Boyce had done remarkably well as an editor. Had he thought proper to continue in this line of work, his great administrative talent, wide and eager reading, special interest in practical enterprises, * * * and rapidity of composition, would sooner or later have made his editorial life a marked success."
Dr. Boyce was a great theologian, and his work on Systematic Theology is one of the best books of its kind. An extract from this excellent work is published at the close of this sketch. His position on election and predestination is hyper-Calvinistic, and is somewhat extreme for a Baptist, yet no one will be willing to say that Dr. Boyce has not very ably defended that position, and, after all, how much difference is there between hyper-Calvinism and plain Calvinism?
For five years Dr. Boyce was pastor at Columbia, S. C. This was during the years of 1851-1855. During this pastorate a good, substantial church house was built, largely with Boyce's money. There was a steady growth in the membership during his pastorate. While in this work he gave a great deal of attention to the religious welfare of the negro slaves, and while all the North was agitated about the imaginary cruelty meted out to the black man of the South, such men as Broadus, Richard Fuller, Robert Ryland and Boyce were earnestly looking
after the negro's spiritual welfare. There were, no donbt, many evils connected with slavery, but the malicious misrepresentations found in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin are slanders too vile for even a wretch such as the slave owner was represented to be. Let us rejoice that the Union of States was preserved and that people of all sections of our great Republic willingly rally around one flag, yet, in the behalf of such men as Boyce, we demand that misrepresentation cease.
In November, 1854, he was elected Moderator of the historic Charleston Association, and after that he was frequently called on to preside at denominational gatherings. He was on several occasions elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention. His ability as a presiding officer was exceptional.
His first work as teacher of theology was in Furman University. This position he held until he succeeded in establishing the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which is a monument to his energy and zeal. For thirty years he bent every energy of his powerful life in establishing this great school and putting it on a solid basis.
Dr. Boyce undertook to establish a seminary for the reason, to use his own words, that "historians who have professed to write the history of the church have either utterly ignored the presence of those of our faith, or classed them among fanatics and heretics; or, if forced to acknowledge the prevalence of our principles and practice among the earliest
churches, have adopted such false theories as to church power and the development and growth of the truth and principles of Scripture, that by all, save their most discerning readers, our pretentious to an early origin and a continuous existence have been rejected."
The foregoing language is found in his address on "Three Changes In Theological Institutions." If this language means anything it means that Boyce believed in the "continuous existence" of Baptists from Christ, and that for this reason a seminary should be established to train men to defend the Baptist position. This is the more clearly brought out in the next few sentences of this same great address. He further says:"The Baptists in the past have been entirely too indifferent to the position they thus occupy. They have depended too much on the known strength of their principles. * * * We owe a change to ourselves — as Christians, bound to show an adequate reason for the differences between us and others; as men of even moderate scholarship, that it may appear that we have not made the gross errors in philology and criticism which we must have made if we bo not right; as the successors of a glorious spiritual ancestry, illustrated by heroic martyrdom, by profession of noble principles, by the maintenance of true doctrines; as a Church of Christ, which he has ever preserved as the witness for his truth, by which he has illustrated his wonderful ways, and shown that his promises are sure and steadfast."
His belief in the "continuous existence" of the Baptists from Christ to the present could not have been more unmistakably asserted. And this is one of the reasons why he wanted to establish a seminary, that men might be trained to defend that position. To this end he gave his noble life, and it would be enough to well-nigh cause the grand old man to turn over in his grave if he could know what efforts have been made, by those in authority, to destroy the very idea for which he gave his life, and to so change the purpose of the seminary as to make it stand for the exact opposite of what he intended.
Dr. Boyce, in numerous private conversations, asserted that he got these ideas, which he gave in this remarkable address, from Pres. Francis Wayland, of Brown University. (See Broadus' Memoir of Boyce, p. 142.) If this is true it follows that he was not alone in his orthodox Baptist position.
It has been charged that there are some things in the Abstract of Principles of the Seminary which are not altogether in harmony with these ideas. While this has not been satisfactorily shown, yet, if it be granted to be true, it does not follow that Dr. Boyce did not hold these avowed positions, since Dr. Manly wrote this Abstract of Principles, and inasmuch as it was written at a time when all Baptists believed in the "continued existence" of Baptists from Christ, it may not be as guarded in its statements on this point as it might be. While connected with the Seminary he was pastor at different times of small country churches, as was
his illustrious colleague, John A. Broadus. Although great in mental power and rich in purse, he was not above preaching the Gospel to the poor.
During the civil war Dr. Boyce was a chaplain in the Confederate army and preached to the soldiers. He was opposed to the South's seceding, but when his State seceded he went with his State and cast his lot with the Confederacy. His experience in the army greatly helped his preaching, as he was forced to speak extempore when his habit had been to stick closely to his manuscript, which does not comport with the best preaching.
At one time he was offered $10,000 per annum to accept the presidency of a South Carolina railroad; at another time he was offered the same amount to become president of a banking company. At any time he could have commanded a handsome salary at other employment, but he turned away from it all for Christ's sake. This is another answer to the slander that men go to preaching when they cannot succeed at anything else.
Dr. Boyce was opposed to alien immersion (immersion performed by others than Baptists), and had Dr. Williams removed from the chair of Church Government in the Seminary, and took the place himself, because Dr. Williams believed that Baptists might receive the immersions of other denominations as valid baptism. (Memoir, p. 226, by Broadus.) Besides this, he publicly opposed the reception of a candidate for membership in the Louisville Broadway Baptist Church, who wanted to come in on his
alien immersion, and his opposition was sufficient to keep the person from being received, although the pastor, Dr. J. L. Burrows, favored the reception of the candidate. (See Memoir, p. 284, by Broadus.)
Dr. Boyce was a sound Baptist, a pillar of orthodoxy, and he has left his impress on thousands who came under his influence. He went to his reward from Pau, France, whence he had gone in search of health, December 28, 1888. His body awaits the resurrection in Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Ky. ================[Ben M. Bogard, editor, Pillars of Orthodoxy, or Defenders of the Faith, 1900. - jrd]
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