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Book Cover for: Oliver Hart and the Rise of Baptist America, Eric C. Smith

Oliver Hart and the Rise of Baptist America

Eric C. Smith

Baptists in America began the eighteenth century a small, scattered, often harassed sect in a vast sea of religious options. By the early nineteenth century, they were a unified, powerful, and rapidly-growing denomination, poised to send missionaries to the other side of the world. One of the most influential yet neglected leaders in that transformation was Oliver Hart, longtime pastor of the Charleston Baptist Church. Oliver Hart and the Rise of Baptist America is the first modern biography of Hart, arguably the most important evangelical leader in the pre-Revolutionary South.

During his thirty years in Charleston, Hart emerged as the region's most important Baptist denominational architect. His outspoken patriotism forced him to flee Charleston when the British army invaded Charleston in 1780, but he left behind a southern Baptist people forever changed by his energetic ministry. Hart's accommodating stance toward slavery enabled him and the white Baptists who followed him to reach the center of southern society, but also eventually doomed the national Baptist denomination of Hart's dreams.

More than a biography, Oliver Hart and the Rise of Baptist America seamlessly intertwines Hart's story with that of eighteenth-century American Baptists, providing one of the most thorough accounts to date of this important and understudied religious group's development. This book makes a significant contribution to the study of Baptist life and evangelicalism in the pre-Revolutionary South and beyond.

Book Details

  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publish Date: Dec 22nd, 2023
  • Pages: 352
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 8.90in - 6.30in - 1.40in - 1.10lb
  • EAN: 9780197769836
  • Categories: Christian Church - HistoryGeneralUnited States - State & Local - South (AL,AR,FL,GA,KY,LA,MS,

About the Author

Eric C. Smith is Senior Pastor of Sharon Baptist Church in Savannah, Tennessee, and Associate Professor of Church History at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is also the author of John Leland: A Jeffersonian Baptist in Early America (OUP, 2022).
Praise for this book
"Smith has done an exemplary job of demonstrating Hart's seminal role in American Baptist development in the eighteenth century. One hopes for similar fresh studies of figures such as Edwards and Gano, as well as younger contemporaries such as Richard Furman, Thomas Baldwin, and John Leland. Embedded in their overlapping stories is the larger story of how Baptists in America evolved from backwater sectarians in 1715 to a national evangelical denomination by 1815." -- Nathan A. Finn, Southeastern Theological Review "Smith has written a highly readable, elegantly presented, and well researched biography of a colonial pastor who likely deserves more attention than he has hitherto received. Even more commendable is Smith's ability to weave Hart's life into the context of colonial American society." -- D. G. Hart, Church History"Smith's well-researched and lucidly-written work fills a major lacuna in Baptist studies by providing a focused history of eighteenth-century American Baptist development. Furthermore, by focusing on the life and ministry of Oliver Hart and his promotion of the "Baptist interest," Smith tells a multi-faceted story that captures both the denominational history as well as the realities of everyday existence as lived by one leading exponent. Oliver Hart and the Rise of Baptist America deserves a wide reading among historians of the period as well as those who maintain some affnity with the denomination." -- Dustin Bruce, Journal of Andrew Fuller Studies"Smith tells a multi-faceted story that captures both the denominational history as well as the realities of everyday existence as lived by one leading exponent. Oliver Hart and the Rise of Baptist America deserves a wide reading among historians of the period as well as those who maintain some affinity with the denomination." -- Dustin Bruce, Journal for Andrew Fuller Studies