Thomas Meredith (Baptist leader)
July 7, 1795|
Bucks County, Pennsylvania, USA
|Died||November 13, 1850
Raleigh, North Carolina
|Known for||Founder and editor of the Biblical Recorder newspaper|
Thomas Meredith (July 7, 1795 – November 13, 1850) was an influential Baptist pastor, one of the founders of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) in the United States, and the founder and editor of the Biblical Recorder newspaper.
Meredith was born in Warwick Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the son of a prosperous farmer. He attended Doylestown Academy, a famous classical school, and then the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in January 1816. He had originally planned to become a lawyer, but while at university he became a Baptist, and in 1817 he went to North Carolina as a missionary after a year of theological training. In 1819 Meredith married Georgia Sears, and the couple eventually had eleven children. Between 1819 and 1837 Meredith was pastor of churches in New Bern (1819–1821), Savannah (1822–1825), Edenton (1825–1835), and again New Bern (1835–1838) rising steadily in stature within the North Carolina church.
Meridith was in demand as a speaker. William Carey Crane, an eminent theologian, said his sermons "did not sway men so much by touching appeals as by presenting the truth to them with irresistible power." Meredith was one of the founders of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention in 1830, the author of its constitution and of a letter to Baptists in the state that explained the organization’s purpose and importance. Later he became secretary, vice president and President of the convention.
Meredith felt the education of young people was of great importance, and the second article of the BSCNC constitution defined one of the main purposes of the Convention as "the education of young men called of God to the ministry." He was a strong supporter of Wake Forest Institute (now Wake Forest University), launched in 1834, and the first president of its board of trustees. He was invited to become a professor of mathematics and moral philosophy at Wake Forest, but declined. Unusually for the time, he supported the higher education of women, and called for the Convention to establish "a female seminary of high order." Nothing was done at the time, but eventually the Baptist Female University was opened in 1891, renamed in 1909 Meredith College in his honor.
In January 1833 Meredith issued the first number of the monthly Baptist Interpreter, and two years later replaced it by the weekly Biblical Recorder. In 1838 Meredith resigned as pastor of his church in New Bern and moved to Raleigh to work full-time for the Recorder. Despite poor health and lack of money, Meredith persevered, writing clear and principled editorials on issues of the day such as slavery, which he strongly opposed, "Campbellism", which threatened to cause a split in the Baptist movement, temperance, and the troubled relationship with the Triennial Convention. At that time, many Baptist preachers had limited formal education. Religious periodicals such as the Recorder were of great importance to pastors in furthering their theological education and staying connected to other Baptists. Meredith often published multi-issue expositions of key doctrines or defenses of traditional evangelical theological convictions, always providing a rigorously orthodox view.
Thomas Meredith died on 13 November 1850 in Raleigh. In 1898, Dr. Thomas E. Skinner, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Raleigh, said "The Rev. Thomas Meredith was undoubtedly the ablest man who has yet appeared among us".
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- Mary Lynch Johnson (1996). "Meredith, Thomas". In William Stevens Powell. Dictionary of North Carolina biography 4. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-1918-2. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
- Nathan A. Finn. ""The Ablest Man Who Has Yet Appeared Among Us" Remembering Thomas Meredith (1795–1850)". Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
- William Cathcart (1881). "The Baptists of North Carolina". The Baptist Encyclopedia. Baptist History Series 2 (reprinted by The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc. 2001 ed.). Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts. p. 854. ISBN 1-57978-910-2.
- Ted Waller. "Thomas Meredith (1795-1850): A Biographical Sketch". Meredith College. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
- "Thomas Meredith's Biblical Recorder, 1834-1850". Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
- Bernard H. Cochran (2005). "Thomas Meredith". In Samuel S. Hill, Charles H. Lippy, and Charles Reagan Wilson. Encyclopedia of religion in the South (2nd ed.). Mercer University Press. p. 494. ISBN 978-0-86554-758-2.
- William Cathcart (1881). "Rev. Thomas Meredith". The Baptist Encyclopedia. Baptist History Series 2 (reprinted by The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc. 2001 ed.). Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts. p. 785. ISBN 978-1-57978-910-7.