Stray Recollections, Short Articles and Public Orations of James P. Boyce by Thomas J. Nettles

Nettles, Thomas J. Stray Recollections, Short Articles and Public Orations of James P. Boyce. Cape Coral: Founder’s Press, 2009. 185 pp. $14.95. Purchase at Amazon.

Introduction

The year 2009 will be remembered in Southern Baptist history as the year of the sesquicentennial of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the year that the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force was initiated, and, I hope, the year that her history came to life on the pages of many books.

Added to the long list of books published about the history of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is Tom Nettles somewhat companion to James Petigru Boyce-A Southern Baptist Statesman entitled Stray Recollections, Short Articles and Public Orations of James P. Boyce (Stray Recollections).

Review

Stray Recollections is a unique look “behind the scenes” at the man many would argue is solely responsible for the founding and sustaining of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Nettles introduces Boyce through his daugher, Lizzie, who was asked by John Broadus to write what she could remember about her dad shortly after his death.  It is always interesting to read what the children say about the great figures in history.

We next are treated to a collection of Boyce’s letters as the editor of The Southern Baptist, a position he held from November 1848-May 1849.  His article entitled I Blot Out a Day, written 20 December 1848, struck a chord in my heart, personally and I am sure would get anyone reflecting on what they did the previous day.

Parts IV, V, and VI look primarily at Boyce as an educator, pastor and ambassador for theological education.  It is fascinating to see the man grow into the statesman (as described by Tom Nettles) for which he now most remembered.  I do want to quote a specific section to show that “there is nothing new under the sun” especially in Southern Baptist life.

There was a write-up in The Broadway Baptist Magazine in 1887 of a question and answer session with Boyce at a Minister’s Conference.  Here is one question with Boyce’s answer:

Question: What is your opinion as to the character of the wind used at the Lord’s Supper?
Answer: The scholarship of the world is in favor of fermented wine on that occasion, though it may have been greatly diluted. If others prefer to use unfermented wine, there is no objection to it, unless their attempt in so doing be to bind the consciences of their bretheren who believe otherwise. The main thing is to have the juice of the grape.

I include this quote simply because of all the rhetoric blasting through the blogosphere and papers regarding alcohol. Many of those who blast the mere drinking of alcohol might be surprised to read what Boyce has to say. Then again, they may not even care. At any rate, it is safe to say that the debate rages on as it has for at least 160+ years. With that being said, you ought to read what he says about the use of benedictions.

Included in this book is the complete address entitled Three Changes in Theological Institutions given at the Furman University’s commencement in July 1856. This is the foundation upon which the movement for a Southern Baptist Seminary would be laid.

Recommendation

I recommend Stray Recollections as it offers a unique look at one of the great saints of the faith. The reader will learn firsthand what made James P. Boyce tick. Having his daughter’s thoughts increases the “realness” of the man as both a father and minister and educator. It is very easy to look back on the life of a man after 150 years and “forget” the negatives. It is another to look afresh at the life of a man from his own writings after 150 years. Dr. Nettles offers us the man as he was in the late 1800’s and for that we shall always be thankful.

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