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.
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