The Seminary Survives

John Broadus gave a moving account of the Seminary’s fight for viability under James Boyce in 1879:

“So it came to pass that in the third session at Louisville, when Dr. Manly had returned, and Dr. Boyce had been formally reappointed Professor of Systematic Theology, and the way seemed open for happy work and growing prosperity, it became apparent to his business eye that financially the Seminary was going to ruin. The salaries were inadequate, and could not possibly be lowered. The faculty had been cut down to four professors again after the death of Dr. Williams, and some of them were gravely burdened with their work. The agents were indispensable, and so much of the money coming in had to be used for expenses that there seemed no reasonable hope of investing an adequate endowment.

About the end of the year 1879 Dr. Boyce explained this situation to his colleagues. The Seminary could struggle on in that fashion for several years, but the generous donors would assuredly have a right to complain if their gifts were used up for current expenses. He saw no hope of effecting a permanent endowment unless some person could be found to give a new impetus to the whole movement by personally contributing $50,000 for the endowment of a chair. He definitely proposed that the professors should make special and frequent prayer that God would raise up some one able and willing to give the $50,000. At a meeting of the Missionary Society, which includes all the students, he asked them to join in this special prayer for what he represented as in his judgment the only thing that could provide for the Seminary’s permanent existence and large usefulness. He spoke with deep feeling: his heart was evidently set on the idea, and on the particular sum named. He sent a few lines to two or three Baptist papers, expressing the hope and prayer that God would put it into somebody’s heart to make this gift.

It can never be forgotten with what a radiant and yet tearful face he came a few weeks later into a colleague’s study, holding out an open letter, and saying, “Here is the answer to our prayer.” The letter was from Hon. Joseph E. Brown, of Georgia, ex-Governor and United States Senator. It stated that he had for some time been considering the propriety of making a large gift to some institution of higher education. He had wished that one of his sons might feel called into the ministry; and as that apparently could not be, he felt all the more moved to help educate the sons of others for that work.”

–From Broadus’s Memoir of James P. Boyce

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