N.B. Hardeman



            I would like to begin by saying there was little doubt in my mind as to who I would write this paper on from the beginning.  I cannot think of a preacher, past or present, who has had the impact not only on the church but on the world around us as much as Nicholas Brodie Hardeman did during his entire lifetime.  He was well respected by all.  The church was in much disarray during his lifetime and he rose to the occasion to defend his faith and contend for the truth.  In his lifetime he made an impact upon and influenced thousands of young men who were planning a lifetime of preaching the gospel.  His legacy lives on today from those young men he influenced and taught.

Brother Hardeman was a great preacher, distinguished educator, and accomplished debater.         I will attempt to show the accomplishments of this great gospel preacher in the following pages.  It is my hope to show the traits of the man that made him a man to admire and an example to follow.












N.B. Hardeman was born May 18, 1874 in a small log cabin near the town Milledgeville, located in western Tennessee.  His parents were Dr. John B. and Nancy Hardeman.  He was born into a family that already had two girls and a boy.  Dr. Hardeman had a very productive medical practice which extended miles in every direction from Milledgeville. He also had farms on which he raised and sold produce.  It would have appeared to anyone everything was great in the Hardeman household.  Yet, there was one thing that bothered Dr. Hardeman, he was a little uneasy about the doctrine of the Methodist church of which he was a member and the words he read in the New Testament.  This attitude eventually led him to obey the gospel along with his wife and the three older children somewhere between 1891 and 1892.  Nicholas was attending West Tennessee Christian College in Henderson beginning in 1890.  It was in this environment that he obeyed the gospel.  This is the beginning of the life of Brother N.B. Hardeman the preacher, educator, and debater.  Many other facts could be related to because of great interest in the life of this great man, however, space and time will not allow for that.

It was not his intention from the beginning to preach the gospel.   He was in school with the intent of either entering the medical profession or becoming an educator.  His father wanted him to become a doctor, but he struggled with Anatomy and Theory of Medicine till he gave up and drifted into preaching with some help from A.G. Freed.[1]  He was sent to Juno, Tennessee in June of 1897 to fill in for A.G. Freed who was scheduled in a meeting there.  It is said the people were quite disturbed that such a young man had come to preach until he got up to preach and then they were glad he came.  He had preached his first sermon just a couple months earlier in April of that year in Enville, Tennessee.  Not only was this the first place that he spoke, he spoke there a great bit in his early days of preaching.  His first sermon was on Romans 1:16, 17.   He kept a detailed ledger noting the sermons he preached by date and how much he received for his services.  He would also list by name all those who were baptized. 

It is interesting to note the subject matter of his sermons and also the amount he was paid.  His subject matter was always Bible centered material with such titles as Talking about Christ, Repentance, Faith, Baptism and Examples of Conversion.  I realize it was just before the turn of the century but the amount of money he received was somewhat minimal.  His ledger shows he received anywhere from just a little more than a dollar to as much as nineteen dollars, four of which was in hay.  The most important thing to note here is the experience he was getting and the reputation he was gaining.

Brother Hardeman would at times while listing those who obeyed the gospel would also include something of interest about that particular person.   He returned to Enville several times for meetings.  In 1898, he recorded the names of those baptized of which John McDonald was listed.  Brother Hardeman makes this comment about McDonald:

“Mr. McDonald was a delightful Irishman who later moved to Henderson and was a faithful member of the church there until his death in the mid-forties. On the occasion of his baptism, in the creek at Enville, he asked to be allowed to make a speech beforehand.  The request was granted, and the speech was thus: ‘Look a-here, fellers. I been hearing preaching all my life and now I know Brodie Hardeman is telling it straight.  I’m going to do what I know I ought to do, and I’d advise all you fellers to do the same’.”[2]


This shows the detail with which he recorded the events of the meetings which he held in these early years.  It was this care that he displayed and the notoriety he was developing that fueled his reputation throughout Western Tennessee, Kentucky, and Northern Mississippi.  In June of 1902 he preached a two week meeting and was paid one hundred dollars, which was unheard of in that day.  There were thirty-two baptisms during this meeting among them a prisoner in jail who heard every sermon from his jail cell and desired to obey the gospel. 

            A.G. Freed said it was dangerous to go face the judgment from Henderson if one had not done his duty-for he had so little excuse. Few places on earth have been blessed with so much and so powerful preaching as has that small town.[3]  Brother Hardeman was completely committed to preaching the gospel not only in Henderson but also everywhere he had opportunity.  From the turn of the century till the 1920’s he preached in congregations throughout the country.

            By 1920, there were more than fifty congregations of the Lord’s people in Nashville.  There was a desire among members of the church to have a cooperative meeting at a central location in the city.  C.M. Pullias seemed to be the right choice at first to be selected as speaker for he was very well known in the Nashville area.  Brother Hardeman’s name was put forth by a man by the name of G.W.Sweeney and was readily accepted by the group to be the speaker.  Brother Pullias would be the song-leader.  Brother Hardeman had never spoken in Nashville. 

            The first Tabernacle meetings began on March 28, 1922 and were a great success.  Brother Hardeman delivered twenty-two sermons all emphasizing “First Principles.” 

The first sermon preached was entitled “The Bible.”  This was a very fitting beginning for this series of meetings.  In this sermon, Brother Hardeman introduced the Bible to the audience in a way that not even the youngest listener in the audience would have had a problem understanding the message.  He established it as the word of God and showed the audience the unchanging nature of God’s word and how it applied to all.  His ability to use words to paint the picture his sermon portrayed was masterful to say the least.  The closing remarks in this first sermon are but a fragment of this great message:

“It is indeed the mariner’s north star.  It is the compass of every Christian to guide his frail bark across the tempestuous sea of life and finally induct him into those scenes that we expect to burst upon our enraptured visions over there.  It is indeed, a lamp to our feet and a light unto our path.  It lives and abides forever, and this is the word by which the gospel is preached unto you.  If you believe it and obey it, the promises are yours.”[4]


This was most assuredly a fitting end for this first sermon.  He continued to bring the message with twenty one more sermons equally as effective as this one was. 

The final sermon was entitled “Theory and Practice”.  The introduction for this sermon is noteworthy and is just as valid today as it was in 1922:

“In the final reduction of the complexities of our existence, there are but two things that ought to challenge and interest mankind.  I suggest them for your consideration.  One is the proper conception, the right theory; the other, the correct practice.  It is unfortunate that people launch out into activities of life, conscious of their responsibility unto God, without having thoroughly studied the principles and the theory of our existence among men.  When that has been mastered and thoroughly comprehended, there is but one other duty, and that is to fill our obligations, to carry the correct theory into practice, and thereby discharge the duties binding upon us.”[5]


I am confident when this introduction to this lesson was given; every ear was attuned to him for the rest of the sermon.   He truly was a master orator.

There was a portable baptistery brought into the Ryman Auditorium for the meetings.  During the three week series of meetings, more than two-hundred people

were baptized into Christ.  There were also twenty-five or thirty restored back into fellowship.[6]

            In the biography of his life, the writer makes a short summary of the five Tabernacle meetings that took place.  They are as follows:

Number One: To Get the Church Before the People.

            Number Two: The Musical Instrument Crisis (followed by the debate with Ira M.


            Number Three:  History of the Catholic Reformation and the Restoration.

            Number Four:  Anti-Premillenialism.

            Number Five:  Spiritual Revival in Time of War.[7]


The Tabernacle meetings took place over a span of twenty years and were all extremely effective in proclaiming the message of God’s word.  Just a portion of what Guy N. Woods wrote in the March 26, 1959 edition of the Advocate sums up what I have tried to say in regard to the Tabernacle meetings:

            “As long as the world stands, they will never be surpassed for their amazing simplicity of style, striking clarity of diction, and widest possible inclusion of basic and fundamental truth.”[8]


Truly this great preacher and orator brought honor and glory to the cause of Christ not only in the Nashville area, but also to the whole world.  The effects of those great Tabernacle meetings are in many ways still felt today because the manner in which Brother Hardeman delivered his sermons is to be imitated by all ministers of the gospel.

            I believe it is also fitting to Identify with Brother Hardeman’s ability to debate.

As you read the debates he was involved with, you see a man with great diction, the mastery of the English language, a quick mind and the necessary will to seriously contend for the faith.  The records of his debates with men like Ira M. Boswell and Ben M. Bogard are great pieces of literature by Brother Hardeman on how to debate with false teaching and hold fast to what the scriptures say.  I will give a brief overview of these two discussions and how he conducted himself during these debates.

            The Hardeman-Boswell Debate took place in the Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, Tennessee, May 31, to June 5, 1923.  The subject under consideration for the debate was instrumental music in the worship.  Ira M. Boswell was chosen by the Council on Unity to represent the Christian Churches of Tennessee.  There were five, two-hour sessions allocated for the debate.  There were six to seven thousand people present at each session. 

            The week of the debate began with a great deal of newspaper coverage and excitement.  There was much excitement in the Nashville area about the coming discussion over this very divisive subject.  The subject to be discussed in this debate had been one of the major causes of the split resulting in the Christian church who used musical instruments in worship and the church of Christ who did not. 

            Ira M. Boswell was sitting at his table with his moderator, John B. Cowden when the debate began.  They had many reference books on the table for their use during the debate.  Brother Hardeman sat behind his table with his moderator, F.G.Srygley.  The only written material he had was a thin pocket edition of the New Testament.  Boswell opened the debate making the point that the word psallo authorized a Christian to sing with or without musical instruments and labored hard to prove this point. [9] After Boswell finished speaking it was Brother Hardeman’s turn.  He began by handing Boswell a list of questions to be answered during the discussion.  The questions were very direct and to the point, such as “Do you believe that instrumental music is demanded, commanded, or authorized in Christian worship?” or “Is the use of the instrument in worship to please God or man?”[10]  With questions like these and ten others, Brother Hardeman presented an invincible argument on this subject.  More than twenty years later, he met up with Boswell and asked him if it was true that Dr. Carey Morgan and J.J. Walker stayed up nearly all night after the first session of the debate as he had heard.  Boswell told him it was true, they were trying to answer Hardeman’s argument and revamp their own arguments.[11]

            This debate was just an example of the talent Brother Hardeman had for debating the truth. His reputation as a debater grew far and wide.  Another of his more well-known debates took place in 1938 with Ben M. Bogard, then dean of the Missionary Baptist Institute and one of the most experienced debaters of his time.  Brother Hardeman was now the president of Freed-Hardeman College in Henderson, TN. Although Brother Hardeman might not have had as much experience, he made up for it in talent.   The subjects discussed during this debate were: “The Work of the Holy Spirit; The Necessity of Baptism; The Establishment of the Church; and, The Possibility of Apostasy.  

            The cause of Christ and the church were always well represented by Brother N.B.Hardeman.  He was a man among men as is seen in just a few of the stories of events that took place in his life.  We certainly still need men like Brother Hardeman in the brotherhood today.  His legacy lives on in the lives of his former students still with us and with those who have been affected by their teaching.  I am thankful to have had the opportunity to read about this great man who had such an impact on the church in his lifetime.     





















Boswell, Ira M. and Hardeman, N.B. Boswell Hardeman Discussion on Instrumental

           Music in the Worship, Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company, 1957.


Hardeman, N.B. and Bogard, Ben M. Hardeman-Bogard Debate, Nashville, TN: Gospel

           Advocate Company, 1938.


Hardeman, N.B.  Hardeman’s Tabernacle Sermons, Volume I, Second Edition.

           Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company, 1953.


Hardeman, N.B.  Hardeman’s Tabernacle Sermons, Volume II, Nashville, TN: Gospel

           Advocate Company, 1958.


Hardeman, N.B.  Hardeman’s Tabernacle Sermons, Volume III, Nashville, TN: Gospel

           Advocate Company, 1960.


Hardeman, N.B.  Hardeman’s Tabernacle Sermons, Volume IV, Nashville, TN: Gospel

           Advocate Company, 1975.


Hardeman, N.B.  Hardeman’s Tabernacle Sermons, Volume V, Nashville, TN: Gospel

           Advocate Company, 1976.


Lambert, Gussie. Nicholas Brodie Hardeman, from "In Memoriam" Shreveport, La., 1988. http://www.therestorationmovement.com/hardeman,nb.htm


Powell, James Marvin and Powers, Mary Nelle Hardeman.  N.B.H., A Biography of

           Nicholas Brodie Hardeman.  Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company, 1964.



[1]Powell, James Marvin and Powers, Mary Nelle Hardeman.  N.B.H., A Biography of Nicholas Brodie Hardeman.  (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company, 1964), 155.

[2]Powell, James Marvin and Powers, Mary Nelle Hardeman.  N.B.H., A Biography of Nicholas Brodie Hardeman.  (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company, 1964), 158.

[3]Powell, James Marvin and Powers, Mary Nelle Hardeman.  N.B.H., A Biography of Nicholas Brodie Hardeman.  (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company, 1964), 164.

[4]Hardeman, N.B. Hardeman’s Tabernacle Sermons, Volume I, Second Edition.  (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company, 1953), 26.

[5]Ibid. 275-276.

[6]Powell, James Marvin and Powers, Mary Nelle Hardeman.  N.B.H., A Biography of Nicholas Brodie Hardeman.  (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company, 1964), 173.

[7]Ibid. 183.

[8]Ibid. 182.

[9]Powell, James Marvin and Powers, Mary Nelle Hardeman.  N.B.H., A Biography of Nicholas Brodie Hardeman, (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company, 1964), 189.

[10]Boswell, Ira M. and Hardeman, N.B. Boswell-Hardeman Discussion on Instrumental Music in the Worship (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company, 1957), 38, 39.

[11]Powell, James Marvin and Powers, Mary Nelle Hardeman.  N.B.H., A Biography of Nicholas Brodie Hardeman.  (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company, 1964), 195.