Born: December 19, 1825, Edgefield County, South Carolina.
Died: January 31, 1892, Lowndes County, Alabama.
Buried: Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky.
Manly grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, where his father was pastor of the First Baptist Church. By the time he was 14, his father had become president of the University of Alabama.
Manly matriculated there, graduating in 1844. He then briefly attended the Newton Theological Institution, Newton Centre, Massachusetts, then Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating in 1847.
He was ordained a Baptist minister in 1848 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and began his ministry as pastor of three country churches, two in Sumter County, Alabama, and one in Noxubee County, Mississippi. Under the strains of three widely separated pastorates, his health became impaired, and he eventually withdrew from active ministry until September 1850.
In 1850, he helped establish the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. That same year, he was called to the First Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia, where he pastored four years. He then helped found and became president of the Richmond Female Institute.
In 1859, he wrote the Abstract of Principles (articles of faith) for the nascent Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, of which he was one of the four founding faculty members. He briefly taught Old Testament and Hebrew at the seminary, until it closed during the American civil war.
In 1871, he accepted the position of president of Georgetown College, Georgetown, Kentucky. In 1879, he returned to the faculty of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary when it reopened in Louisville, Kentucky. He served there as president for a number of years.
Manly wrote nearly 40 hymns. Some appeared in The Baptist Psalmody (Charleston, South Carolina: 1850), which he edited with his father.
For some years it has been apparent that the rage for novelties in singing…has been driving out the use of the old, precious, standard hymns. They are not memorized as of old. They are scarcely sung at all. They are not contained in the non-denominational song books, which in many churches have usurped the places of our old hymnbooks. We cannot afford to lose these old hymns…But the young people today are unfamiliar with them and will seldom hear any of them if the present tendency goes on untouched.
Basil Manly, Jr., The Choice: A Selection of Approved Hymns for Baptist Churches, 1899
Words are things of greatest worth,
Though often lightly spoken;
Thoughtless, fleeting words of mirth,
May wound the heart that’s broken;
Or words that pass forgotten by,
May prompt to deeds that cannot die.
Kind words quell the angry soul,
But bitter railings never;
Love can soothe with sweet control,
And kindle love for ever.
Watch well your words,
Both old and young,
For life and death hang on the tongue.
Basil Manly, Jr., 1866