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This Sunday in Baptist History

November 18

William Cathcart was born on this day in 1826. Despite his parents’ Scottish ancestry, his birth place was in Ireland. He was raised in Presbyterianism. He was converted to Christ at an early age, and at nineteen, when he was convinced of believer’s baptism, he was immersed and received into the Baptist church at Tubbermore.

A few years later, William felt the call of God into the ministry. He attended the University of Glasgow and Rawdon Baptist College in Yorkshire. Then he was ordained in 1850, becoming the pastor of a church near Sheffield, England. Soon after that he married Eliza Caldwell.

In 1853 the Cathcarts emigrated to America, arriving on this day in 1853. So this is a double anniversary for the Cathcarts. The following month William began a ministry in Groton, Connecticut, before being called to the Second Baptist Church in Philadelphia. He ministered there for twenty-seven years.

Elder Cathcart was a staunch Baptist, holding to a literal interpretation and application of the Bible. He was no stranger to controversy, but it stemmed from his firm faith and not from any adversarial attitude in his character. He also loved history, compiling information on God’s preachers both from the past and those whom he personally knew. Much of that collected information was edited and eventually placed into his monumental work, “The Baptist Encyclopedia.” It was first published in 1881 and has remained in print ever since. It ought to be found in every pastor’s library.

In 1875 in honor of the centennial of the Colonies freedom from England, Cathcart put some of his research into a smaller work called “The Baptists and the American Revolution.”

Due to ill-health Cathcart retired from the pastorate in 1884, but he continued to travel when he could, encouraging God’s younger ministers. He died on July 8, 1908 at the age of eighty-one.

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