« ÎnapoiContinuați »
respecting President Davies, and would be of little use to those who might desire to avail themselves of the aid which may be derived from the study of his writings, in qualifying themselves for the work of the ministry.
In preparing this Introductory Essay, I have been materially aided by the “Notes” on the life of President Davies in the Appendix to the Baccalaureate Discourses of the Rev. Dr. Green, delivered in Nassau Hall, and also by several interesting communications addressed to me by the Rev. William Hill, D.D., of Winchester, Virginia. In the communications which Dr. Hill had the kindness to make for this Introductory Essay — to whom I desire in this manner to make most grateful acknowledgments-he has presented views of the state of religion in Virginia before the time of Mr. Davies' settlement, and of the effects of his labors, of great interest. No man living has had better opportunities of being familiar with the character and effect of Mr. Davies' labors; and I am thankful that I am permitted to be the instrument in this manner of preserving so many valuable reminiscences of his life. The communications of Dr. Hill are preserved mainly in his own language.
The Reverend Samuel Davies was born on the third day of November, A.D. 1724, in the county of Newcastle, then in the province of Pennsylvania, but now in the state of Delaware. He is supposed to have been of Welsh descent, both by his father's and mother's side. His father was a fariner, who lived with great plainness and simplicity, and who supported the character of an honest and pious man. He died, says Dr. Hill, when Samuel was young. His mother survived him but a short time. She was a woman of eminent piety, and of very superior natural powers of mind; and the distinguished piety and usefulness of her son, is one among the many instances which have occurred where the prayers and example of a pious mother have been sige nally blessed.
He was an only son. By maternal feelings and vows he had been devoted to God; and the name Samuel was given to him by his mother, as an expression of the same feelings which had
* "He was a man of small property, of intellectual endowments rather below than above the common level, of unpolished manners, but of a blameless life."--DR. GREEN.
led to the bestowment of the name on the distinguished prophet. 1 Sam. i. 11. He remained with his parents until he was about ten years of age, and was taught by his mother, there being no school in the vicinity. His progress in these early years is spoken of as such as to attract attention, and as indicating uncommon promise. During this period of his life, it is not known that he had any impressions of special seriousness. He is described as a boy of uncommon sprightliness; as demeaning himself with propriety, and as making rapid progress in his studies.
At about ten years of age, he was sent to an English school at some distance from his father's, where he continued two years, and made great progress in learning. Away from his father's home, however, and lacking the counsel and example of his pious parents, his mind became more careless on the subject of religion. Yet he was then in the habit of secret prayer, particularly in the evening. The reason why he did this, as he stated in his diary, was that "he feared lest he should perhaps die before morning.” It is remarkable, also, in his prayers at that time that "he was more ardent in his supplications for being introduced into the gospel ministry, than for any other thing.”
The first twelve years of his life, however, he asterwards regarded as having been wasted in the most entire negligence of God and religion. At about this period of his life, it is probable, he was brought to see his need of a Savior, and to devote himself to the service of that God to whom he had been consecrated by the vows and prayers of his mother. Of the exercises of his mind at that time, little is now known. The influence of his mother's example and prayers, and of the fact that he had been early devoted by her to God, is known to have produced a deep impression on his own mind. In a letter addressed by him many years after to a friend in London, he says, “ That he was blessed with a mother whom he might account, without filial vanity or partiality, one of the most eminent saints he ever knew upon earth. And here,” says he, “I cannot but mention to my friend an anecdote known but to few, that is, that I am a son of prayer, like my namesake Samuel, the prophet; and my mother called me Samuel because, she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.' This early dedication to God has always been a strong inducement to me to devote myself to him as a personal act; and the
most important blessings of my life I have looked upon as immediate answers to the prayers of a pious mother.”
What was the immediate means by which his mind was awakened and which led to his conversion, and what were the mental exercises through which he then passed, are now unknown. No record that I have been able to find, has furnished any light on a question of so much interest. Dr. Green remarks of him that “ he was so deeply impressed with a rational sense of his danger as to make him habitually uneasy and restless, till he obtained satisfactory evidence of his interest in the forgiving love of God. Yet he was afterwards exercised with perplexing doubts, for a long season ; but at length, after years of impartial, repeated self-examination, he attained to a settled confidence in redeeming grace, which he retained to the end of life.” At what time he connected himself with the church is now unknown. It is supposed to have been when he was about fifteen years of age. His conversion was soon succeeded by a purpose to devote himself to the service of God in the ministry.
He was not favored with a liberal education at a Collegiate Institution, but his preparation for the ministry was made in a more private manner. A considerable part of his classical and theological education was acquired under the care of Rev. Samuel Blair, at f'og's Manor, in Chester county, Pennsylvania. Mr. Blair was an eminent preacher as well as scholar, and several distinguished men in the Church, besides President Davies, received their education under his instruction. His academy was designed mainly to train young men for the ministry, and the course of instruction embraced both the classical and theological departments. Mr. Davies was then probably somewhat less than fifteen years of age. It is supposed that his poverty prevented his remaining there for a longer period. It is an interesting fact that while there, he was supported, in part, as will be mentioned in another place, by sunds contributed by the very people of Virginia, among whom he was afterwards settled, but to whom he was at that time wholly unknown. Dr. Finley remarks of him, “His love to God, and tender concern for perishing sinners, excited his eager desire of being in a situation to serve mankind to the best advantage. With this view he engaged in the pursuit of learning, in which, amidst many obvious inconveniences, he
made surprising progress, and, sooner than could have been ex. pected, was found completely qualified for the ministerial office. He passed the usual previous trials with uncommon approbation ; having exceeded the raised expectations of his most intimate friends and admirers.” He was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of New Castle. His views and feelings, when he was licensed to preach the gospel, may be learned from a fact stated by Dr. Gibbons: “ When he was about entering the ministry,” says he,“ or had not long entered upon it, if I remember right, he was judged to be in a deep and irrecoverable consumption. Finding himself upon the borders of the grave, and without any hopes of recovery, he determined to spend the little remains of an almost exhausted life, as he apprehended it, in endeavoring to advance his Master's glory in the good of souls. Accordingly he removed from the place where he was, to another about an hundred miles distant that was then in want of a minister. Here he labored in season and out of season; and, as he told me, preached in the day, and had his hectic fever by night, and to such a degree as to be sometimes delirious, and to stand in need of persons to sit up with him.”
I will here insert an account of the early labors of Mr. Davies, in the words of Dr. Hill. “ From the commencement of Mr. Davies' labors, after his licen
sure, lo his settlement in Virginia, from 1745 10 1749.
"Mr. Davies was licensed to preach the gospel in 1745, when he was just twenty-one years of age. From the intense application he paid to his studies, his constitution, naturally vigorous, became much impaired, so that when he was licensed, he thought himself, and was thought by others, to be laboring under a pulmonary affection which would, in all likelihood, cut short his days. After licensure, Mr. Davies visited many vacancies, some in Pennsylvania, some in Jersey, but chiefly in Maryland. These ministerial visits took place just before and after his first visit to Virginia. The account he gives of them is this. (See Mr. Davies' letter to Bellamy, 1751.)
• In Maryland also, there has been a considerable revival, or shall I not rather call it a first plantation of religion in Baltimore County, where, I am informed, Mr. Whittlesey is likely to settle. In Kent County and Queen Anne's, a number of careless sinners
have been awakened and hopefully brought to Christ. The work was begun and chiefly carried on by the instrumentality of that favored man, Mr. Robinson, whose success, whenever I reflect upon it, astonishes me. Oh! he did much in a little time; and who would not choose such an expeditious pilgrimage through this world? There is in these places a considerable congregation, and they have made repeated essays to obtain a settled minister. There was a great stir about religion in Buckingham, a place on the sea shore, about four years ago, (i. e. in the year 1747, the time Mr. D. visited them,) which has since spread and issued in a hopeful conversion in many instances. They want a minister.—But the most glorious displays of divine grace in Maryland have been in and about Somerset County. It began, I think, in 1745, by the ministry of Mr. Robinson, and was afterwards carried on by several ministers that preached transiently there. I was there about two months, [i. e. in 1746 or 1747,] when the work was at its height, and I never saw such a deep and spreading concern: the assemblies were numerous, though in the extremity of a cold winter, and unwearied in attending the word preached ;-and frequently there were very few among them that did not give some plain indications of distress or joy. Oh! these were the happiest days that ever my eyes saw.' Again, says he, after I returned from Virginia, [i. e. in 1747,] I spent near a year under melancholy and consumptive languishment, expecting death. In the spring, 1748, I began slowly to recover, though I then looked upon it only as an intermission of a disorder that would finally prove mortal. But upon the arrival of a messenger from Hanover, I put my life in my hand, and determined to accept their call, hoping I might live to prepare the way for some more useful successor, and willing to expire under the fatigues of duty, rather than involuntary negligence.'
“ Thus was Mr. Davies employed, notwithstanding the very delicate and precarious state of his health, from the latter end of the year 1745, when he was licensed, till the spring of 1748, when he located himself permanently in Virginia. He was invited to settle in several other places, which offered advantages far superior to the one he selected, on many accounts. Hear him tell his own story to the Bishop of London upon this subject. “And I solemnly assure your Lordship that it was not the secret thirst of