One of the greatest Southern Baptist forebears is John A. Broadus, who with James P. Boyce, William Williams and Basil Manly Jr., founded The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1859. The fledgling seminary closed during the Civil War and restarted afterwards with only seven students, and four faculty who took no salary.

Only one student enrolled in Broadus’ homiletics course. The student was blind and was very sick and actually died within two years of graduation. Broadus was one of the brightest, best-trained minds of his time, and he was also devoted to doctrine. In fact he loved it so much he couldn’t be slack in teaching even one blind, sickly student. Broadus prepared so well that afterward he collected his lectures and they were published in a book called On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons. That book has been used to train thousands of preachers. This godly man was so committed to teaching truth that he did it well even with one blind, sickly student. Broadus paid attention to his life and his doctrine.

Years later, when Broadus delivered the last words he ever said in the classroom, he knew his death was approaching. He was completing a course in New Testament and, after reviewing the lesson, he turned to his students, “Young gentlemen,” he said, “if this were the last time I should ever be permitted to address you, I would feel amply repaid for consuming the hour and endeavoring to impress upon you these two things: true piety and, like Apollos, to be men mighty in the Scriptures.”

The student who recorded it said that Broadus, after a pause, stood for a moment with his piercing eyes fixed upon his students and repeated over and over again, “Mighty in the Scriptures. Mighty in the Scriptures,” until the whole class seemed to be lifted through him and into a sacred nearness to the Master. True piety – pay attention to your life. Mighty in the Scriptures – pay attention to your doctrine.

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Donald S. Whitney serves as associate professor of biblical spirituality and also as senior associate dean of the School of Theology at Southern Seminary.  He is the author of six books, including Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian LifeYou can connect with Whitney on TwitterFacebook and through his website The Center for Biblical Spirituality. This post originally appeared in Don Whitney’s chapter in A Guide to Expository Ministry.