James Petigru Boyce: For Christ And His Church -- By: Thomas J. Nettles

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 13:1 (Spring 2009)
Article: James Petigru Boyce: For Christ And His Church
Author: Thomas J. Nettles

James Petigru Boyce:
For Christ And His Church

Thomas J. Nettles

Thomas J. Nettles is Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary He is widely regarded as one of the foremost Baptist historians in America. He previously taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Along with numerous journal articles, Dr. Nettles is the author or editor of several books, including By His Grace and for His Glory, Baptists and the Bible (co-authored with L. Russ Bush), Why I am a Baptist (co-edited with Russell D. Moore), and The Baptists (3 vols.).


James Petigru Boyce (1827-1888) fits well into the category suggested by Brooks Holifield called “Gentlemen Theologians.” In the list of Baptists that he included in this category, we find Boyce along with two of the teachers that partnered with Boyce on the first faculty at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—John A. Broadus and Basil Manly Jr. The fourth member of that first faculty, William Williams, also could have been mentioned using the announced criteria of Holifield. In addition, Holifield lists the pastors under whom Boyce sat for his first eighteen years of life, Basil Manly Sr. and William T. Brantly Sr.2

Boyce certainly was a gentleman, reared in a gentleman’s home, and found an urban setting and the developing culture of the cities of the South much to his liking. Far from being in the “middle class” of most of the men Holifield discussed, Boyce fit into the category of the wealthy, having real estate in 1860 worth over $120,000 and a personal estate worth over $330,000. Raised as a South Carolinian in Little London, Charleston, he absorbed the taste for exquisite culture fostered carefully by his predecessors and embraced gladly by him and his peers. His daughters bore testimony to his love of fashion, beautiful textiles, elegant book bindings, art, music, punctuality and his delight in trees, glaciers, flowers, quaint houses, social grace, and impeccable manners. They were quite amused and amazed that “Carpets, curtains, table linen, furniture, china and silver were purchased by him with no advice or assistance on the part of his family.” These tasks gave him the “greatest pleasure.” In considering how to please others, Boyce “always showed a remarkable faculty in the choice of beautiful and unique presents.” Giving culture to his children was a personal project, joining them in lessons in French and German, buying them “quantities of beautiful and expensive books and magazines to enhance the pleasu...

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