Rev. Samuel Davies

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A repeat today, as I’m rather under the weather. Prayers appreciated.

An Ambassador for King Jesus

Samuel Davies was born in Delaware in 1723.  His Welsh mother had named him after the prophet Samuel. Ever afterwards, he considered himself to be a son of prayer, as the biblical name Samuel inferred. His early dedication to God induced him to devote himself to God personally.  Joining the church at age 15, he entered Samuel Blair’s classical and theological school at Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church, in Pennsylvania.  He was ordained as a Presbyterian  evangelist in February 1747 by the New Castle Presbytery.

On April 14, 1747, Samuel Davies stood before Governor Gooch and his council at Williamsburg, to ask permission to preach at four meeting houses in Hanover Country in Virginia.  Readers need to know that Virginia in the pre-revolutionary days was officially Anglican in religion.  Anyone outside of that denomination needed permission to minister. Later this law would be changed with a separation between church and state.  But at this time, permission had to be sought.  Receiving it, Davies preached faithfully and sacrificially at these four preaching points, some twelve miles north of Richmond, Virginia.

Suddenly, he wife was taken from him by illness which resulted in death.  It was said of him at the time that, despite his sorrow, he was determined to spend what little remained of his exhausted lifestyle to advance his Master’s glory to the good of countless souls in need of the gospel.  This dedication brought people from a wide circumference to hear the preaching of the Word of God, including a mother and her young son Patrick Henry.

On November 1, 1748, he returned to the Governor to ask that seven more places of preaching be granted to him.  While there was some opposition to the increased number, he presented his case with such clarity and forcefulness of argument, his request was granted.

For eleven more years, he preached the Word of God in the county of Hanover, as well as four other counties of Virginia. He was, as one put it, the ambassador of a mighty king.  All, upon hearing his weekly sermons, knew that king to be no one except King Jesus.

Words to Live By:  All believers are to be ambassadors of King Jesus, declaring the message by their lives and lips,  for  all to be reconciled to God.

Image source : Photograph found facing page 33 of Virginia Presbyterianism and Religious Liberty in Colonial and Revolutionary Times, by Thomas Cary Johnson. Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1907. Scan prepared by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

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This postscript on the Covenanter Sailing Ship “Eagle Wing” comes as an aftermath post to September 9, 1636. This author treated on that day the sad story of the 140 plus passengers who attempted the very first crossing of Irish-Scottish members of the Presbyterian church to the American colonies. It was a valiant but vain effort however, as terrible storms forced the ship to turn back to Ireland, where they arrived on This Day in Presbyterian History, November 3, 1636. Further information on that effort comes from an American author named William Henry Foote, who wrote Sketches of North Carolina, a history covering the period between 1794 and 1869. The whole book is on-line for your reading pleasure.

In it, Foote shares how the ship’s inhabitants anchored in Lockfergus, Northern Ireland, the place of their departure after an absence of eight weeks. The passengers were cast down under this providence of God, and anticipating hostility, ridicule, and suffering. They were to receive all three reactions from those who greeted them upon arrival. Indeed, having sold their effects in preparation for the voyage, and invested their monies in provision and stock of merchandize for their eventual landing in the American colonies, they experienced great financial loss in disposing of their cargo. Further, they had hired some to assist them in fishing industries and building of structures. These people now demanded their wages, even though the end result was not reached. They now had to pick up and as the song puts it, “start all over again.”

It would seem to be on the surface “a big bust,” but God had other plans for these hardy pioneers. The influence which they exhibited first on Ireland, then in Scotland, and finally in America, cannot be estimated for the power of their principled and godly lives. The Lord had brought them back to do His work in His timing, not theirs. When circumstances became too “hot” in Uster for the four Presbyterian ministers on the Eagle Wing, they simply sailed to Scotland and settled into Presbyterian churches there. They kept up their continued fellowship with members of their parishes back in Ulster, even as many of their Ulster members continued to enjoy their ministries, by making trips to Scotland for participation in the Lord’s Supper or for baptism of their covenant children.

Their presence back in Scotland brought renewed strength to the covenants of that land. In time, after the lapse of fifty plus years, boatloads after boatloads of Scot-Irish began to seek the American shores. Countless descendants of these hardy Presbyterians settled in Pennsylvania, Virginia, the Carolinas and elsewhere.

Words to Live By:
Our timing may not be God’s timing. That has been evidenced in this example as well as countless other instances. It would be a worthy discussion of God’s people to prayerfully discuss among themselves or within the church itself how to discern God’s timing for some action. But what is more important than that is how best to submit to God’s timing for their lives. That will bring the most satisfaction in the long run of seeking to live by God’s will for His glory.

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An Ambassador for King Jesus

Rev. Samuel Davies [3 November 1723 - 4 February 1761]Samuel Davies was born in Delaware in 1723. His Welsh mother had named him after the prophet Samuel. Ever afterwards, he considered himself to be a son of prayer, as the biblical name Samuel inferred. His early dedication to God induced him to devote himself to God personally.  Joining the church at age 15, he entered Samuel Blair’s classical and theological school at Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church, in Pennsylvania. He was ordained as a Presbyterian  evangelist in February 1747 by the New Castle Presbytery.

On April 14, 1747, Samuel Davies stood before Governor Gooch and his council at Williamsburg, to ask permission to preach at four meeting houses in Hanover Country in Virginia. Readers need to know that Virginia in the pre-revolutionary days was officially Anglican in religion. Anyone outside of that denomination needed permission to minister. Later this law would be changed with a separation between church and state. But at this time, permission had to be sought. Receiving it, Davies preached faithfully and sacrificially at these four preaching points, some twelve miles north of Richmond, Virginia.

Suddenly, he wife was taken from him by illness which resulted in death. It was said of him at the time that, despite his sorrow, he was determined to spend what little remained of his exhausted lifestyle to advance his Master’s glory to the good of countless souls in need of the gospel. This dedication brought people from a wide circumference to hear the preaching of the Word of God, including a mother and her young son Patrick Henry.

On November 1, 1748, he returned to the Governor to ask that seven more places of preaching be granted to him. While there was some opposition to the increased number, he presented his case with such clarity and forcefulness of argument, his request was granted.

For eleven more years, he preached the Word of God in the county of Hanover, as well as four other counties of Virginia. He was, as one put it, the ambassador of a mighty king.  All, upon hearing his weekly sermons, knew that king to be no one except King Jesus.

Words to Live By: All believers are to be ambassadors of King Jesus, declaring the message by their lives and lips, freely proclaiming the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ alone, calling for all to be reconciled to God.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

The Prayers of a Pious Mother

If this devotional began with a simple question, namely, to identify the greatest preacher ever produced in this land of America,   this writer is sure that he would receive a bevy of names, both from colonial days as well as modern times. The reader might be quick to offer the name of  your particular pastor, the one you hear every Lord’s Day. Or maybe it would be some preacher from your past, whom you consider the greatest expositor of the Word to your heart.

As famous as the great English pastor, Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, was, he was convinced that we Americans did not even know that the most eloquent preacher the American continent ever produced was Samuel Davies.  Some of you might respond with a “Who is Samuel Davies” question. But for the regular readers of this historical devotional, having made reference to Samuel Davies on April 14, July 6, July 25, and October 3,  he was the Apostle of Virginia. And it was on this day of November 3, 1723 that he was born near New Castle, Delaware.

His parents were deeply religious, both of Welsh descent. They were members of the Pancader Presbyterian Church in Delaware. Especially his mother was to make a deep spiritual impression on young Samuel.  Afterward he commented that he was a son of prayer, just as the biblical Samuel was a son of prayer. Further, he acknowledged that everything he accomplished for the Savior in his life and ministry, he looked upon as immediate answers to the prayers of a pious mother.

It was in his early teens that Samuel had a clear assurance of justification by faith.  He then joined the Presbyterian Church.  Educated at the famous Faggs Manor Presbyterian classical and theological school in Cochrinville, Pennsylvania, he received his spiritual marching orders to become the Apostle of Virginia in bringing the gospel to this part of the new world.

Words to live by: There is a general  promise in Proverbs 22:6 for parents to “train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (NIV)  Dads, Moms, are you praying for a son or a daughter who is now in the process of turning away from the faith of his or her parents?  Many are the sorrows of such an experience.  Our hearts grieve with you. We encourage you to continue to pray and by your example and exhortation (when the Lord presents an open door) to continue  to claim Proverbs 22:6.  Many have come back to Christ at a time of trouble or temptation. Be there when they do and give thanks to the God of providence at that time.

Through the Scriptures:   Luke 22 – 24

Through the Standards:  The number  of Christ-ordained sacraments

WCF 27:4
“There be only two sacraments ordained by Christ our Lord in the Gospel; that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord: neither of which may be dispensed by any, but by a minister of the Word lawfully ordained.”

WLC 164 — “How many sacraments has Christ instituted in his church under the New Testament?
A. Under the New Testament Christ has instituted in his church only two sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper.”

WSC 93 “Which are the sacraments of the New Testament?
A. The sacraments of the New Testament are, Baptism, and the Lord’s supper.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

An Apostle Becomes a President

We cannot say enough about Samuel Davies, the apostle to Virginia in the colony of Virginia since 1747.   Establishing preaching points with permission from the Anglican governor, Davies had preached with boldness God’s salvation through Christ alone to the people around each of these points.  Often, he had to take journeys of five hundred miles on horseback to minister to his many parishioners.  By 1755, churches had been established for a Hanover Presbytery to be organized.  This was the first Presbytery outside the northeast part of the colonies.  It was under the oversight of the New Side Presbyterians of New York!

In 1758, the third president of the College of New Jersey, Jonathan Edwards, died from smallpox.  The trustees asked Samuel Davies to assume his office.  The minister was not unknown by the college, since he had raised funds for it earlier in England.   But Davies refused the offer, citing his open door for effective service in Virginia.  They offered him the position a second, and third, and fourth time.  Finally, he yielded to the request, and in July 26, 1759, Samuel Davies was inaugurated as President of the College of New Jersey.  He was described by one trustee as a man, upon whom the Spirit of God had given uncommon gifts.

At the College, which later on became both Princeton Seminary and Princeton University, Samuel Davies worked with the same zeal which had characterized him in Virginia.  At age 38 however, he died of pneumonia in 1761.  His aged mother said of  him at his burial, citing the sovereign providence of God, “There is the will of God, and I am satisfied.”

Words to Live By: 
God makes no mistakes.  The Spirit of God led him to Virginia, to enter the open door of evangelism and church planting which was necessary for that future state.  (The site of his congregation, north of Richmond, Virginia,  burned during one of the battles of the War Between the States, and is now marked as a historical spot.)  Then God led him to the College of New Jersey.  Historic Biblical Presbyterianism was established in the hearts and minds of many Virginia’s spiritual sons and daughters, as well in the students of the College.  Pray for your faith, that it may be established in hearts and minds today, starting with yourself, your family, your neighbors, your work associates, and your church.

Through the Scriptures: Isaiah 58 – 60

Through the Standards:    The sins of equals

WLC 132  — “What are the sins of equals?
A.  The sins of equals are, besides the neglect of the duties required, the undervaluing of the worth, envying the gifts, grieving at the advancement or prosperity one of another; and usurping pre-eminence one over another.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

War Sermons of Samuel Davies

Samuel Davies was known as the apostle to Virginia, so effective was he in being the instrument to call a people out of darkness into light.  Beyond the evangelistic emphasis of his ministry there, he also often  had to challenge  his people to stand up and defend themselves against the Indians of that area.  This was especially needful as countless settlers were withdrawing to safer areas of the colonies, thus reducing the number of parishioners of the Presbyterian churches in the area.

On the Sabbath day of  July 25, 1755, in his home parish of Hanover, Virginia, the Rev. Samuel Davies spoke on this theme of standing up and fighting for your family, your church, and your country.  Listen to his words:

“Let me earnestly recommend to you to furnish yourselves with arms and put yourselves in a position of defense.  What is that religion good for that leaves men cowards on the appearance of danger?

“I am particularly solicitous of you that you should act with honor and spirit in this, as it becomes loyal subjects, lovers of your country, and courageous Christians.  I am determined to not leave my country while there is any prospect of defending it.  Certainly he does not deserve a place in any country who is ready to run from it upon every appearance of danger.

“Let us determine that if the cause should require it, we will courageously leave house and home and take the field.”

A voluntary company of riflemen was immediately formed as a result of this sermon by Samuel Davies.  In fact, during the progress of what later on became known as the French and Indian War, the war sermons of Samuel Davies persuaded more men to enter the field of battle as soldiers than any other means used.

Words to Live By: Samuel Davies was resolute about this issue.  His point was that the church of the Lord was being devastated by this danger, as more and more colonists returned closer to the safety of larger towns in the east.  Stand up and defend your home, your church, and your country, was his watchword.  There is a sacred right to defend oneself and the country to which you belong.  Let there be careful study that the cause is just, according to the Scripture.  Then with that basis, stand strong in the Lord.

Through the Scriptures: Isaiah 55 – 57

Through the Standards: The duties of equals

WLC 131 — “What are the duties of equals?
A.  The duties of equals are, to regard the dignity and worth of each other, in giving honor to go one before another; and to rejoice in each others’ gifts and advancement, as their own.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History: No Greater Service

The godly mother believed in taking advantage of all kinds of spiritual opportunities to instruct her second son in the things of the Lord, even if it meant  a long journey home from church by their horse-drawn buggy.  So she would quiz young Henry on the text and have the twelve-year-old summarize  the long sermon by the Rev. Samuel Davies.  And remember, the latter “Apostle to Virginia” usually preached an hour or two sermon at the Presbyterian meeting-house known as The Fork.  Later, when grown up and active in the affairs of the Colony and later state of Virginia,  Patrick Henry would remember those dozen early years under the ministry of Presbyterian pastor Samuel Davies.  He stated his appreciation for sitting under the greatest orator he had ever heard.

Now by no means are we inferring that Patrick Henry was a Presbyterian.  His mother Sarah was a Presbyterian and a member of the church of which Pastor Davies was a pastor.  Patrick’s father, an Anglican, had baptized young Patrick in the Anglican church, and to that early tradition, Patrick stayed faithful all of his life.  But he was especially friendly to the Presbyterians, who helped immensely the cause of liberty in those early days.

At the second political convention of delegates in Virginia, which began this day of March 20, 1775, in Richmond, Virginia, the issue was anything but clear what to do about the declaration of war by the patriots up in Massachusetts.  The question was, should the citizens of Virginia proceed on a similar war footing, or settle it in a more peaceful way.  The convention was divided.  At a key point in the week-long discussion, Patrick Henry made his famous “Give me liberty or death” speech.  With the Presbyterian delegates from the churches of the Valley backing him up, by a mere six vote majority, the convention voted to advance to a war footing, with arms and companies established.

After the final victory in the American Revolution, Patrick Henry would serve as governor of Virginia for five terms.  It can be said that throughout his long life, the emphasis of the Presbyterian faith taught in earlier times and enforced by his mother, had a great effect upon his life and actions.

Words to Live By:  There can be no greater spiritual service than that which takes place from godly parents, or a godly parent, in the things of the Lord.  Pray and labor much for spiritual instruction to be accomplished at that time.  Claim the general promise of Proverbs 22:6 upon your sons and daughters.

Through the Scriptures: Judges 5 – 8

Through the Standards: Christ’s Humiliation in his Life

WLC 48 — “How did Christ humble himself in his life?
A. Christ humbled himself in his life, by subjecting himself to the law, which he perfectly fulfilled; and by conflicting with the indignities of the world, the temptations of Satan, and infirmities in his flesh, whether common to the nature of man, or particularly accompanying that his low condition.”

Remembering Our Fathers and Brothers: The following PCA teaching elders entered their eternal reward on this day, March 20, in
1998 – Rev. William McKay Alling.  Born in 1907 and educated at the University of Rochester (B.S., 1929) and MIT (MS, 1930), Alling prepared for the ministry at Faith Theological Seminary, graduating there in 1950 and was ordained in 1953 by the Great Lakes Presbytery of the BPC to serve as pulpit supply for a circuit of churches in North Dakota and then pastored the BPC church in Canon City, Colorado, 1951-57 before taking a post as teacher at the Cono Christian School in Walker, Iowa, 1957-69. From 1970 until his honorable retirement in 1986, he was a teacher at the Westminster Christian Academy in Huntsville, Alabama and associate pastor at the Westminster Presbyterian Church of that same city.
2005 – Rev. Dr. Edmund Prosper Clowney. Born in Philadelphia in 1917, Edmund graduated from Wheaton College in 1939 and Westminster Theological Seminary in 1942. Rev. Clowney was ordained in the OPC upon graduation and installed as pastor of the OPC church in Hamden, Connecticut. After several other pastoral posts, he began his long association with Westminster Seminary in 1952, first as professor and then in 1966 as President of that institution. From 1984-1990, he was associate pastor of the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, and visiting professor at Westminster Seminary California, 1990-2000. After a few years teaching in Texas, Dr. Clowney returned at last to the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville as theologian in residence, where he served until his death.
For more on the legacy of Dr. Clowney’s ministry, click here.

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