Benajah Carroll Wasn’t Beyond God’s Reach
Church History Timeline… 1801-1900
Never assume any heart is beyond God’s reach. On this day, December 27, 1843, Benajah Carroll was born in Carrollton, Mississippi, the seventh of twelve children of a Baptist minister. When Benajah was five, the family moved to Texas.
Almost from the day he learned to read, he was a devoted student, devouring whatever books were available on the frontier. He had an amazing memory and could recall at will material he had read years before–even to the point of giving the page locations! Eventually he was able to read 300 pages a day without neglecting his regular responsibilities (even claiming to read two lines at a time, anticipating “speed reading.”)
But despite his Christian upbringing, he became a fanatical atheist, authoring a book on his radical views. Although an unbeliever, he knew the Bible well, having read it through several times; few men dared debate with him on it. The young man joined the tough Texas Rangers at the start of the Civil War. It did not appear that he would be any friend of the church.
But with God all things are possible. Benajah was wounded in the war. Released from the army, he attended an old-fashioned, Methodist camp meeting in which the preacher challenged his audience to “make a practical, experimental test” of Christianity and to give Jesus Christ a fair trial. When he asked for those to come forward who were willing to make the test, Carroll went.
His action amazed and delighted his Christian friends, but he was careful to explain that he was not converted; he was simply acknowledging that he would give Christianity a fair hearing. As he rode home, he stopped in the woods, got down on his knees and “had it out with the Lord.” The Lord won!
Ordained in November 1866, Carroll assisted in camp meetings and revivals. Eventually, he was called to the First Baptist Church of Waco, Texas, where he ministered for 28 years. As a leader of the Baptists, Benajah engaged in almost every controversy that flitted across Texas, whether religious or political. And the confrontations could get lively. A debate between him and Roger Q. Mills before 7,000 spectators came close to turning into a brawl.
Carroll taught at Baylor Theological Seminary and authored An Interpretation of the English Bible, which grew out of his teaching and preaching. The completed work occupied 17 volumes. In 1908, at age 64, Benajah became president of Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary which he helped to found.
Dan Graves, MSL
- Various internet articles such as Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives. http://www.sbhla.org/bio_bhcarroll.htm
Last updated May, 2007.