Southern Seminary co-founder John A. Broadus is best remembered for his instruction of men for the preaching ministry, but he also demonstrated concern for the health of the preacher’s body. Collected here are quotes from Broadus’ published and personal writings regarding the importance of maintaining a sound mind and body, with special applicability to one who is entrusted with teaching or preaching responsibilities:

“Whatever improves the general health will improve the voice, especially muscular exercise, and particularly such as develops the chest, and promotes an easy erectness of position.”1

“The higher ranks of intellectual workers in our cities, including the great business men, now comprise many who need to make a business of taking exercise; and if they only realized the need, and would make conscience of the matter and faithfully try experiments, every one might assuredly find means of regularly and amply exercising the muscles in some proportion to the exhausting and incessant strain he puts upon brain and nerves.”2

“We must all learn to take ample muscular exercise every day, and a little walking or driving is not enough. The hope for most city men of mentally laborious and anxious life is believed to lie in the use of exercising apparatus, at home or in a gymnasium. … The gymnasium of today does not propose feats of strength or agility, but moderate exercise for all the most important muscles.”3

“One must of course add to indoor exercise such walks and rides and excursions into the country—for which the electric cars are becoming a great convenience—as will give fresh air and change of scene.”4

“We should exercise more in the cold than the warm weather, in order to break down an abundance of muscular and fatty tissue, that it may be oxidized and keep the body warm.”5

“Better face a class very imperfectly prepared than violate the laws of health.”6

“I have kept alive, amid many infirmities, and I know it has been through persistent exercise and plenty of sleep.”7

Broadus warned of how poor bodily health aggravated by neglect of physical fitness had diminished the effectiveness and contributions of both Addison Alexander and James P. Boyce in their later years:

“Dr. [Charles] Hodge once said to Dr. J. W. Warder that Alexander had the finest mind he had ever known. It may be a useful warning to add that this admirable man presumed on his always vigorous health, and devoted himself to incessant reading and writing, with an almost total neglect of exercise; and so, at the age of fifty, there came a sudden collapse, and the world lost all those other noble works which he might have been expected to produce, and which some of us were so eagerly awaiting.”8

“[Boyce] also suffered, as did Addison Alexander and Count Cavour, and other famous men of full habit and great mental labors, from lack of bodily exercise. After removing to Louisville in 1872, he never kept a carriage, and so did not have the exercise of driving, by which he frequently profited at Greenville. He had not learned to ride on horseback in youth, and never attempted it after the brief term service as Chaplain, and as Aide to the Governor. He walked with remarkable ease and grace for so heavy a man; but it pretty soon fatigued him in those last years, and so he rarely walked except to lecture, or down street on business, or to market in the morning—an early task in which he took special pleasure. He never tried gymnastic apparatus. The frequent railway trips required by Seminary affairs and private business afforded his only considerable means of exercise, and sometimes returned him in manifestly improved health; though in the later years such a journey was often followed by an attack of gout.”9

It was a common sight to see Broadus admonish dedicated students for physical lethargy and encourage them to join a gymnasium. 8 During his years as seminary president, the annual catalogs began to note that two students were selected to give daily instruction in gymnastics throughout the school year. Although he himself never claimed to be a model of fitness, he strongly believed in responsible self-discipline in diet and physical activity as necessary to living a vibrant and productive life.

Those interested in learning more about the life and thought of Broadus can research his personal correspondence and manuscripts available in the Archives and Special Collections on the second floor of the James P. Boyce Centennial Library.


1 John A. Broadus, A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons (Louisville: The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2012), 409.

2 John A. Broadus, Memoir of James P.
(Louisville: Baptist Book
Concern, 1893), 315.

3 Ibid., 316.

4 Ibid.

5 John A. Broadus to Alice Broadus Mitchell, 15 January 1893, Mitchell Family Papers, series 1, box 1, Archives and Special Collections, James P. Boyce Centennial Library, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Broadus, Memoir of James P. Boyce, 72.

9 Ibid., 315.

10 A. T. Robertson, ed. Life and Letters of John A. Broadus (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1901), 442.