Samuel Davies

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A Waystation for the Progress of the Gospel

Up to the middle of the eighteenth century, what presbyteries existed were all in the northern part of the American colonies. But after the division of the New Side–Old Side Presbyterians in 1741 (see May 17, 1741), the New Side evangelists set their spiritual eyes on advancing the gospel both south and west of Philadelphia. Especially was there an encouragement due to the expansion of the Scot-Irish Presbyterians in those  directions who still worshiped in the manner of their Scotch forefathers.

An important waystation for  the progress of the gospel was the establishment of Hanover Presbytery in Virginia on October 3, 1755. Constituting this regional church governing unit were the following: Samuel Davies, of Hanover Presbyterian Church, of Hanover County; Robert Henry, pastor of Cub Creek Church in Charlotte County and Briery Church in Prince Edward County; John Brown, of Timber Ridge and New Providence Presbyterian churches in Rockbridge County; and John Todd, assistant to Samuel Davies and pastor of Louisa County. Various ruling elders also attended, such as Samuel Morris, Alexander Joice, and John Molley.  Also part of the presbytery but unable to attend were Alexander Craighead, pastor of Windy Cove Church in Augusta County, and John Wright, pastor of the church in Cumberland County, near Farmville, Virginia.

At the first meeting of the Presbytery, after the sermon by John Todd, the first action taken was to appoint a day of fasting and prayer on January 1, 1757. The last act was to repeat the fasting and prayer on June of the same year. In both cases, the purpose was to ask God for His help against the physical dangers occasioned by the war in their land as well as to ask God to bless the preaching of the Word of God in the area.

Words to live by:  Lest we respond with a yawn about the topic of today’s devotional, let us remember that to attend church in these early days was to put your life and that of your family in danger. First, there was the distance travelled to the meeting-house, usually a log building, or sometimes outside  under a huge tree. Transportation there was by horseback, or in buggies pulled by horses.  The worshiping family carried their Bibles, hymns, and rifles with powder horns, for protection. The services themselves lasted for two hours.  And at the end, there would be communal meals, with another worship hour before they left for their homes. Colonial worship was not for the lukewarm, but for the God-fearing, Bible-believing men and women of the Presbyterian faith.

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Waylaid by a stomach flu this weekend, I will take the liberty of revisiting a post from two years ago, but one well worth re-reading. As you read about these forefathers in the faith, pray that we would today have that same fire in our bones to see the Gospel preached far and wide, and the Kingdom of Christ extended from shore to shore.

“Our Presbyterian Heritage in Eastern Virginia”
A sermon delivered in Schauffler Hall on February 3, 1924, by the Rev. Edward Mack, D. D., LL.D.,
Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at the Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, VA
[excerpted from The Union Seminary Review, July, 1924].

“Freely ye have received, freely give.”

Rev. Samuel Davies [3 November 1723 - 4 February 1761]Tomorrow, February 4th, is the anniversary of the death of Samuel Davies. One hundred and sixty-three years ago he died at Princeton at the age of thirty-six. His dust rests in the old Princeton Cemetery, by the side of his predecessor, Jonathan Edwards. The elaborate and merited inscription on his tomb tells the passerby of the grasp and range of his great intellect, his power as a preacher of the gospel, and his distinguished success as the head of Princeton College.

About ten mile[s] northeast of Richmond, at Pole Green, in the depths of the country, there stood at one time an old meeting-house which was the heart and center of Samuel Davies’ greatest work. This old meeting-house was called “Morris’ Reading House.” On or near its site, in Hanover County, was built the first church for the ministry of Samuel Davies; and after its destruction the church was rebuilt on its present site, now known as Salem Church, one of the three in the group known as the Samuel Davies Group of Churches.

But why was it that Samuel Davies and his immediate predecessor, William Robinson, came to Hanover County? Those early Presbyterians were not Scotch-Irish from the North, or from over the Blue Ridge. Whence came they? This is one of the stirring stories of early Virginia, which must now be told in a few hurried chapters.

The first chapter carries us back to 1611, when Sir Thomas Dale came to the Virginia Colony to set that house in order.

In the early years loose government, ill health, fearful death rate and bad morals had demoralized the colony. That staunch Puritan, Dale, came to save the experiment on these western shores from apparent doom. It was his firm hand and sound principles that saved early Virginia to the Virginia Company and to us.

With Dale came “the Apostle of Virginia,” Alexander Whitaker, a Puritan minister. Whitaker left a comfortable and lucrative parish in Northern England to evangelize the Indians in Virginia, and to shepherd the scattered and straying colonists. His parish included Bermuda Hundred, on the south bank of the James River, about fifteen miles below Richmond, and Henrico, on the north bank, within nine or ten miles of Richmond. He was a man of deep piety and great learning. He organized his church on the Presbyterian plan, with minister and four elders. He held prayer meetings, and had theological exercises in the Governor’s house. He discarded the surplice, and emphasized not the sacramentarian element in the ministry, but preaching and teaching. He sent an appeal back to England for non-conformist ministers to come to Virginia, where conformity to the ritual of the Church of England was not required. In those early days perhaps half of the ministers in Virginia were Puritans or non-conformists.

One of Whitaker’s holy ambitions was the founding of a college in Virginia, where the children of colonists might be educated, and Indian boys also trained to evangelize America. Whitaker met a heroic and sacrificial death by drowning in 1617, and so failed to realize his dream. But by 1620 thousands of dollars had been collected for the college, a president appointed, and mechanics and farmers enlisted to build and till on these college lands. However, the Indian massacre of 1622 blasted these well-matured plans, and the college in Virginia was not realized until seventy years later at Williamsburg.

It is of greatest interest to us to know that this first American college was destined for our Henrico County, to be located about ten miles from Richmond, near Curl’s Neck, a Puritan College with Whitaker as its prophet and Patrick Copeland, a dissenting minister, as its first president. So was Henrico County anointed and consecrated with Presbyterian oil more than three hundred years ago.

The second chapter in our Presbyterian heritage in Virginia brings us down to 1641.

The southern bank of the James River was the special territory assigned to Puritans and non-conformists. Isle of Wight and Nansemond Counties were full of them. In 1641 Nansemond County was divided into three parishes, and a messenger was sent to New England, not old England, mark you, to secure three ministers. These three Puritan ministers, without orders from the Church of England, arrived in Nansemond in 1643. But meanwhile Sir William Berkeley had become the Royalist Governor of Virginia, and non-conformity was under the ban. Nevertheless, the three ministers taught and preached in private homes, and a great revival resulted, in which a multitude of Virginians were converted, and united with the Puritan, or Presbyterian body, among them such prominent men as Richard Bennett, first Commonwealth Governor of Virginia, under Cromwell, and General Daniel Gookin, to whose memory a tablet has been erected in the restored church at Jamestown. But the most remarkable of these converts was Thomas Harrison, the chaplain of Berkeley. And after the expulsion of the three New England ministers, Harrison became the pastor of their persecuted flock, afterwards going with them into exile. Harrison, fleeing from Berkeley into New England, said there were a thousand Puritan members in Virginia.

During the government of Cromwell these Puritans in Isle of Wight, Nansemond and Norfolk Counties must have enjoyed freedom of worship. For in the Norfolk court records there is found a call issued in 1656 by a dissenting church to a New England minister, Mr. Moore by name, in very much the same terms as the formula for the call of a minister in our Book of Church Order. But after the restoration of Charles II in 1662 and the return of Berkeley, our Puritan Presbyterians were harried and driven out of Virginia. Only [6] a goodly seed survived in Norfolk County. For this Puritan flock there were four licensed preaching stations in and around what is now the city of Norfolk. When Francis Makemie arrived in Virginia in 1684 he found that the non-conformist minister of this flock had died in the preceding year.

Francis Makemie on trial before Lord CornburyWith Francis Makemie we come to our third chapter in early Presbyterianism in Virginia.

He gathered the scattered Puritans of Norfolk County into a parish, which he served for a year, afterwards putting them into the hands of another Scotch-Irishman, Josias Mackie, who shepherded them until his death in 1716.  But Makemie’s work was larger and wider than this. He organized Presbyterian churches in Accomac County and in the lower counties of Maryland, gathering into these churches the surviving and heroic Puritans of early Virginia days. He evangelized Delaware, and organized in Philadelphia in 1705 the first Presbytery in America. His name shines as an equal in that group of first magnitude stars: Whitaker, Bennett, Harrison.

We must pass hurriedly on to our fourth chapter in early Virginia Presbytery: the coming of Samuel Davies to Hanover County.

The Presbyterian revival in Hanover County in 1741 is a strange story. It did not come through Scotch settlers, nor through the Scotch-Irish who had begun to filter into the Valley of Virginia; but from within the communion of the Church of England. Since the days of tyrannical Governor Berkeley true piety had declined in the Virginia churches. Ministers were a sorry lot, often in contempt for ignorance and bad living. They were the tools of officials and rich land owners. In 1671 Governor Berkeley wrote; “We have forty-eight parishes and our ministers are well paid, and by my count would be better if they would pray oftener and preach less. But, as of all commodities, so, of this, the worst are sent to us, and we had few that we would boast of, since the persecution of Cromwell’s tyranny drove divers worthy “men hither. But I thank God that there are no free schools nor [7] printing, and I hope we shall not have these hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them and libels against the government.”

The dissatisfied and hungry souls of all Virginia, particularly of Hanover County, absented themselves from such services. In Hanover they began to gather at the home of Joshua Morris to read among themselves what gospel literature they could procure, sermons for instance, such as Whitefield’s, and writings of Martin Luther. They willingly paid the fines assessed against them for absence from church services, if only they might together read and learn of Christ. Soon the home of Morris was too small for these seeking Hanoverians. Then he built at Pole Green “Morris’ Reading House,” where the great and growing company could meet for religious reading.

This growing outburst of dissent stirred the opposition of churchmen; Morris and other leaders were summoned to appear before the Governor and his council in Williamsburg. On the way to the capital the providence of God put a copy of the Westminster Confession of Faith into the hands of one member of the party. When they read it they found that it expressed with accuracy the views of God’s Word at which they in their meetings had already arrived. When the Governor asked them the name of the sect to which they belonged, their leader replied they did not know, but handing him the Confession of Faith, he said, “This book contains our faith.” Governor Gooch, a Scotchman, recognized the book as a Scotch edition of the Confession. “Why,” said he, “you men are Presbyterians. Now return to your homes and conduct yourselves properly, and no man shall molest you.”

The first Presbyterian preacher who came to this Hanover flock was William Robinson, whose four days of preaching in 1743 bore fruit in earnest throngs and many converts. Being a man of means, Robinson refused money for these days of preaching. But discovering a large roll of bills slipped into his saddle-bags without his knowledge, he dedicated it to the education of a young man for the ministry, in the hope that [8] he might come to Virginia. So it was that a poor, struggling young man, Samuel Davies, became the beneficiary of Virginia’s first gift for Ministerial Education, and after a few years, in 1747, this same Samuel Davies, at the age of twenty-three, came to these Presbyterians of Hanover as their first regular minister.

He was of poor and humble family. His educational opportunities were meager. From early life the grip of deadly tuberculosis was upon him. But his eleven years in Virginia mark the brightest period of equal extent of years in Virginia Presbyterianism. He was a lawyer, and won in the courts tolerance for his churches. He was a man of consuming missionary spirit, and preached regularly in six or seven counties. Byrd Church in Goochland and Olivet in New Kent grew up from his ministry. He was a great student of the Word and fed his flock from its pages. He was a wise organizer, and his work remains to this day. He was orator and poet and master of beautiful English, so that his sermons are read to this day as masterpieces of sublime thought and noble expression.

EdwardsJonathanOn the death in 1758 of Jonathan Edwards, that mastermind of all American thinkers, Samuel Davies was elected to succeed him as President of Princeton College. In his two brief years as President he gave to that institution such literary and scholastic prestige as neither Edwards nor Burr had won for it. In 1761 this brief but wonderful life ceased on earth, and Samuel Davies entered into service on high.

This great Virginia Presbyterian challenges us, who live so near to the scene of his mighty labors, to follow in his train. Here is the model of a great preacher. Nothing less should satisfy us. Let me speak now to our rising ministry, here in such force within earshot almost of Samuel Davies’ majestic and surpassing sermons. How can we dare to be dull, drab, mediocre! How can we lift our faces to God and fellowmen if craven indolence consume our days! I have called to mind that the founders and leaders of our Virginia Presbyterianism were great scholars and great minds as well as noble souls. You dare be nothing less. There is a lazy notion abroad that any kind of an uneducated man may be a preacher, that mere fervor of spirit has abrogated the might of moral intelligence. But it is a sad mistake. Once indeed God used the jawbone of an ass to overwhelm a thousand men. But it is too much to require of Him a repetition of this miracle every day. When Samuel Davies was asked why, with all his wide learning and power of ready extemporaneous speech, he never entered the pulpit without a carefully prepared and written sermon, he replied that he could not ask God to bless a sermon which had not cost him the utmost labor of which he was capable. If a man has ventured to enter the ministry of souls without mental preparation, he must, like Samuel Davies, recoup his loss with the gain that is earned only by a life of unremitting mental toil.

Our last chapter tells of the after fruits of Samuel Davies’ life in Virginia. He was a patriot. While he was living in Hanover County, Braddock’s defeat in 1755 at Pittsburgh spread terror through Virginia. It was proposed to abandon all territory beyond the mountains to the French and the Indians. In this panic of souls it was Samuel Davies who counseled calm and courage. His sermon to them cheered the volunteers who went to the front from Hanover. Patrick Henry was under his ministry for eleven years, his family being members of the church. The younger statesman revered the preacher as the noblest orator of that time. When the great statesman found his country halting between two opinions, and stood like a Joshua in St. John’s Church calling for decision, as he said, “Choose ye chains and easy slavery if you will, but as for me, give me liberty or death,” while the lips of Henry moved, was it not the voice and soul of Davies that thrilled the ears of men and moved their hearts?

James Waddell, the missionary of the foothills of Virginia, lighted his torch from the fires that burned in the soul of Samuel Davies. I suppose the most notable instance in the life of this disciple of Samuel Davies is that which William Wirt records of Waddell. Wirt was passing the church near Gordonsville in which Waddell was preaching. Out of curiosity he stopped, entered and listened. It was a communion service. The aged blind preacher stood by the Lord’s table, melting to tears the hearts of his hearers with his eloquence, in his appeal uttering these immortal words: “Socrates died like a man; Jesus Christ died like a God.”

alexanderArchibald01The son-in-law of Waddell, Archibald Alexander, went from Virginia to found and build Princeton Seminary. Winstons, Henrys, Lacys, Rices in Hanover County became Presbyterians under the preaching of Samuel Davies. But what need I say more of our heritage and right as Presbyterians in Eastern Virginia! The question is not what Whitaker, Makemie and Davies did, but what shall we do about it?

Today a turning of Virginians to our faith has begun such as has never been known before at any one period. We do not watch a receding wave; the tide of opportunity is waxing to its flood. Six churches organized within eight months, and as many more in view, if we only have consecrated men to serve and consecrated means to equip! Some of these churches have risen where not a Presbyterian was supposed to be. Every county in Eastern Virginia is ready and waiting for us, if only we are ready to go and give to them. New highways are making new centers which have no churches. We have the men, we have the automobiles, the highways are building slowly. Let us fulfill and rewrite Isaiah’s words, “How beautiful upon the highways are the cars of those who preach good tidings, who publish peace, who say to our Zion in Virginia: ‘Behold your God.’ ” The heroic past challenges us, the needy present pleads with us, the awful future warns us that we deny not our faith nor fail in our trust.

Freely ye have received, freely give!

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None Excelled Him on Two Continents

blairgravestone02Samuel Blair was born in Ireland in 1712 and emigrated to America at a young age.  Educated at the Log College by William Tennent, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Philadelphia on November 9, 1733.  Called to two congregations first in New Jersey, he ministered the Word of grace for six years. But it was at Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church in Cochranville, Pennsylvania where he came to have his greatest influence upon colonial America.

Installed there in April of 1740, he began a classical and theological college for pastoral training, similar to what he had received at the Log College. The new school would later produce for the kingdom of grace men like Samuel Davies, apostle to Virginia, John Rodgers, first moderator of the General Assembly, John McMillan, Apostle to western Pennsylvania, Charles Cummings, Robert Smith, Hugh Henry and many others who would make a mark for Christ’s kingdom.

In 1740, a great reawakening came upon the colonies from Massachusetts to Georgia, including Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church. Blair took as his initial text that of our Lord’s words in Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.”  That priority in the things of the Lord brought a spiritual awakening and revival to the people of that 1730 congregation. Soon, Pastor Blair was engaged in preaching tours all over New England. All of this revival emphasis, plus the question of education for the ministry brought about a schism in the Presbyterian Church in 1741.

blairSamuel_graveIn his doctrinal views, Samuel Blair was thoroughly Calvinistic. A spiritual awakening is of the Lord. Period! He did not hesitate to preach on predestination to his people. His pulpit manner was such that Samuel Davies believed no one was more excellent than he was in exposition of the Word of God. When the latter took a trip to England to raise funds for the College of New Jersey, and heard many a fine preacher, he still concluded that none held a candle to Samuel Blair.

Over his grave in the cemetery, at what is now called Manor Presbyterian Church, there is found the following inscription. It says “Here lieth the body of THE REV. SAMUEL BLAIR, Who departed this life The Fifth Day of July, 1751, Aged Thirty-nine Years and Twenty-one Days. In yonder sacred house I spent my breath; Now silent, mouldering, her I lie in death; These lips shall wake, and yet declare A dread Amen to truths they published there.”

Words to live by:  Thirty nine years plus!  Not a large amount of life on this earth was spent by the Rev. Samuel Blair. But his life was not to be measured by the shortness of his life, but rather by what the Holy Spirit accomplished through Him for the sake of the gospel. And when we look at that, Samuel Blair lived a full life for the increase of the kingdom and the edification of the elect. Only one life will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.

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God Will Surely Provide

Rev. Samuel Davies [3 November 1723 - 4 February 1761]It was on this day, September 26th, in 1759, that the Rev. Samuel Davies was installed as President of the College of New Jersey. [It was upon the occasion of its sesquicentennial celebrations in 1896, that the school’s name was changed to Princeton University.]  How did the Lord prepare Samuel Davies for such an important position? One part of that story is told on the early pages of his Memoir:—

During the first part of the eighteenth century, religion was, perhaps, in a lower state of declension, throughout the British dominions, than at any other period since the reformation. The concurrent testimony of churchmen and dissenters establishes this fact. Many clergymen of various denominations had become very lukewarm, and in many instances exceedingly corrupt; and the people were ready enough to follow the steps of their spiritual guides. It was in this season of darkness that several men were born, who, afterwards, were burning and shining lights in the world. The names of Tennent, Blair, Edwards, Davies, and Whitefield, may suffice to illustrate this remark. Since their day, vital piety has gradually increased, and the spiritual condition of the church of Christ has become more prosperous. The subject of this memoir was powerfully instrumental in producing the happy change.

Samuel Davies was born in the county of Newcastle, Delaware, November 3, 1724. The Christian names of his parents are unknown to us; nor can we say anything of the origin of the family, or trace it beyond the immediate progenitors. The father is represented to have been a plain farmer, in very moderate circumstances; the mother a very sensible and judicious woman; both were pious. Their son was a child of prayer; and was from the birth devoted to God by the name of Samuel.

It is known that the religious declension, of which mention was made above, extended to Virginia. About the year 1740, some individuals in the county of Hanover were awakened to a deep concern for their eternal interests in a very extraordinary manner. A few leaves of Boston’s Fourfold State fell into the hands of a wealthy planter, and made so deep an impression on his mind, that he never rested until he procured a copy of the work. This book it is believed, was instrumental in affording light to his mind, and peace to his heart. Another gentleman, Mr. Samuel Morris, derived similar advantages from Luther on the Galatians. The books that had been so useful to these persons were read to others, and produced very great and happy effects. So deep was the sensation, that multitudes were accustomed to assemble for the purpose of hearing Morris read. His house was in a short time too small to contain them; and a meeting-house was built for the purpose, long known by the name of Morris’s reading room. In this state of things, the Rev. William Robinson, a member of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, was sent on a mission to the frontier settlements. On his tour, he entered Virginia, and preached with great acceptance among the Scotch and Irish, who had made settlements in the counties of Prince Edward, Charlotte, and Campbell.

At Cub Creek, in the county of Charlotte, he was heard by some of the young people from Hanover who had gone to visit their friends, and who soon sent back word what manner of man was among them. On receiving this intelligence, two messengers were immediately dispatched from Hanover for Mr. Robinson. He had left the place, but they followed in his tract and at length overtook him. He was prevailed on to consent to visit Hanover, and at the appointed time he came. For four days he continued among them, preaching to the crowds that had assembled at the reading room. This is described as a very remarkable season.

On Mr. Robinson’s taking leave, some of the gentlemen presented him with a considerable sum of money, not merely as a compensation for his faithful labors among them, but principally as an expression of that gratitude they felt towards Mr. Robinson, as the honored instrument of so much good to them. But he modestly declined their liberality, assigning for the reason of his refusal, not only the delicacy of his and their situation–that the enemies of the cause of religion might, should he receive it, endeavor to represent him as a mere mercenary, and thus wound and injure the infant flock; but chiefly because he did not need it, the Lord having blessed him with independence as to fortune; and being thus able, he wished to labor without being burdensome to those among whom he went preaching the gospel. These reasons, though strong and unanswerable, could not silence the pleadings of their heart-felt gratitude–a gratitude which found no other way of exercising itself towards its object but by some offering of this kind. They therefore repeatedly urged its acceptance, but he constantly and firmly declined the offer.

Seeing no hope of his receding from the determination he had taken not to receive their money, the committee entrusted with it put it into the hands of the gentleman with whom he was to lodge the last night of his stay in the county, with directions to convey it privately into his saddle-bags, not doubting but when, after his departure, he should find himself in possession of the money, he would appropriate it to his own use. This was accordingly done. And in the morning Mr. Robinson, having taken an affectionate leave of his kind friends, took his saddle-bags to depart; but he found them much more ponderous than when he came there. Searching for the cause, like Joseph’s brethren of old, he found the money in the sack’s mouth. Pleased with the benevolent artifice, he smiling said, “I see you are resolved I shall have your money. I will take it. But, as I have before told you, I do not need it. I have enough. Nor will I appropriate it to my own use. But there is a young man of my acquaintance, of promising talents and piety, who is now studying with a view to the ministry; but his circumstances are embarrassing; he has not funds to support and carry him on without much difficulty. This money will relieve him from his pecuniary difficulties. I will take charge of it and appropriate it to his use. And so soon as he is licensed, we will send him to visit you. And if you should be pleased with him, and he should be pleased with you, it may be that you may now, by your liberality, be educating a minister for yourselves.” The proposition was immediately accepted, and the money faithfully appropriated to the benefit of young Davies while pursuing his theological studies.

“And that is the reason,” said a pious old lady who communicated this, “that Mr. Davies came to Hanover; for he often used to say that he was inclined to settle in another place; but that he felt under obligation to the people of Hanover.” — This anecdote is not only told by aged persons who were cotemporary with Davies, but is handed down by tradition, and related in terms of the same import with those used above, by the grandchildren of some of Mr. Davies’s people.

Words to Live By:
It is delightful, from the present time, to look back to an occurrence apparently so trivial as the discovery of a few leaves in an old book, and trace the many important events connected with it; to see the workings of Providence accomplishing his purposes, and carrying on his great designs of mercy in our favored land. It is delightful to think on the ways of the Almighty, and contemplate the dealings and dispensations of the God of our Fathers.

“Search backward into all the performances of Providence throughout your lives. So did Asaph: ‘I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings’ (Psalm 77:11, 12). He laboured to recover and revive the ancient providences of God’s mercies many years past, and suck a fresh sweetness out of them by new reviews of them. Ah, sirs, let me tell you, there is not such a pleasant history for you to read in all the world as the history of your own lives, if you would but sit down and record from the beginning hitherto what God has been to you, and done for you; what signal manifestations and outbreakings of His mercy, faithfulness and love there have been in all the conditions you have passed through. If your hearts do not melt before you have gone half through that history, they are hard hearts indeed. ‘My Father, thou art the guide of my youth’ (Jeremiah 3:4).”—excerpted from chapter nine of The Mystery of Providence, by John Flavel.

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Laboring Outside the Limelight

Charles Tennent, the fourth son of the Rev. William Tennent, Sr., was born at Coleraine, in the county of Down, on May 3d, 1711. There he was baptized by the Rev. Richard Donnell. When his father gathered the family and immigrated to the American colonies from Ireland. Charles would have been just seven years old. Like his older brothers, he received his education from his father, and in particular, his education for the ministry was gained in the famous Log College run by the Rev. Tennent, Sr.  The Tennents and the Log College figured prominently in the Old Side/New Side split of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. It could even be said that they were the principal cause of the split, which began in 1741 and which was finally mended in 1758.

While Charles appears to have been less distinguished than his brothers, he nonetheless was a respectable pastor and preacher of the Gospel. The Presbytery of New Castle licensed Charles to preach, on September 20, 1736, and he was soon settled in place to serve the Presbyterian congregation at Whiteclay Creek, Delaware, in 1737. In 1739, the great revival under the preaching of George Whitefield began, greatly affecting this particular congregation. During this remarkable season of God’s presence, Rev. Whitefield spent a number of days ministering with Charles Tennent, and assisted him in the administration of the Lord’s Supper, preaching to a great multitude of people every day during that communion season, which, according to the custom of the times, continued for four days.

Some years before his death, Rev. Charles Tennent resigned his pulpit at Whiteclay Creek and withdrew to Buckingham Church, in Maryland. It was there that he ended his days, passing away in 1771. It is presumed that his mortal remains were buried there. Regarding those final years, and the circumstances of his death, there are no confirmed accounts.

Words to Live By:
Most pastors conduct their ministries without fanfare, attention or great crowds. They may labor in the shadow of better known contemporaries. Their congregations may be relatively small. But the joys of a faithful ministry have an eye to eternity, and don’t depend upon numbers or other worldly reward.

Also on this Day:
On this day, May 3d, in 1895, Cornelius Van Til was born.

 

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When God Prepares a Vessel

Charles Hodge wrote one of the first major histories of the Presbyterian Church in America, which was published in 1851. A year later, the Presbyterian Historical Society was established, and the first major publication of that organization was another major work, this time by Richard Webster, issued in 1857. Where Hodge was more interested in the polity of the Church, alongside its history, Webster devoted a substantial portion of his work to biographical accounts of notable pastors.  The text of today’s post is excerpted from Webster’s work,  A HISTORY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN AMERICA, pp. 549-550—

Rev. Samuel Davies [3 November 1723 - 4 February 1761]Samuel Davies was born near Summit Bridge,  in the Welsh Tract, in New-castle county, Delaware, November 3, 1723.  His father, David Davies, was a Welshman, a plain, pious planter.  His mother was an eminent saint; and having, like Hannah, asked a son of the Lord, and having in her heart dedicated him to the ministry, she named him Samuel.  She was his only instructor for the first ten years, and early imbued him with her prevailing desire that he might be a minister.  Though otherwise careless of divine things, he was mindful of his nearness to death, and daily prayed to be spared to preach the gospel.  He was sent to receive the rudiments of classical learning, under the Rev. Abel Morgan, afterwards the Baptist minister at Middletown, New Jersey.  Away from home-influences, he became more estranged from God; but, at the age of twelve, he was awakened to see his guilt, vileness, and ruin.  After much and long-continued distress, he obtained peace in believing.  This great event took place in 1736, probably under the preaching of Gilbert Tennent, whom he called his spiritual father.  It was a day of great deadness; but God was then preparing many wonderful men for the good day that was at hand.

He commenced keeping a diary, which, after his death, was examined by President Finley:  it is a record of great distress relieved by large measures of heavenly comfort.

“About sixteen years ago,” he said, in 1757, “in the northern colonies, when all religious concern was much out of fashion, and the generality lay in a dead sleep of sin, having at best but the form of godliness and nothing of the power,—when the country was in peace and prosperity, free from the calamities of war and epidemic sickness,—when, in short, there were no external calls to repentance,—suddenly a deep general concern about eternal things spread through the country; sinners started from their slumbers, broke off from their sins, began to inquire the way of salvation, and made it the great business of their life to prepare for the world to come.  Then the gospel seemed almighty, and carried all before it.  It pierced the very hearts of men.  I have seen thousands at once melted down under it, all eager to hear as for life, and scarcely a dry eye to be seen among them.  Thousands still remain shining monuments of the power of divine grace in that glorious day.”

Amid such animating scenes, under the preaching of Whitefield, Blair, Robinson, Tennent, and Rowland, Davies pursued his studies.  There were obstacles in his way, but his uncommon application was followed by surprising progress.  Robinson supplied his wants.  Blair taught him, not only by his words, but by his holy example, as a man and his inimitable excellencies as a preacher.  He was licensed by Newcastle Presbytery, July 30, 1746, at the age of twenty-three, and ordained an evangelist, February 19, 1747.  He was desired by all the vacant congregations.  He was manly and graceful; he had a venerable presence, commanding voice, emphatic delivery; his disposition sweet, dispassionate, tender.

Words to Live By:
Real revival brings lasting change. May the Gospel again in our day be seen as almighty; may it again carry all before it, to the piercing of the hearts of men. Pray that the power of divine grace would again melt sinful hearts, to His greater glory.

For Further Study:
The original publishing of Richard Webster’s A History of the Presbyterian Church in America was an inexpensive production and not many copies have survived in good condition. Thankfully, the work was reprinted just a few years ago by Tentmaker Publications in England, and copies may still be available.

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This Lord’s Day we will take the liberty of presenting a bit longer post, in hopes that you will take the time to read this. We trust you will find it edifying.  As you read about these forefathers in the faith, pray that we would today have that same fire in our bones to see the Gospel preached far and wide, and the Kingdom of Christ extended from shore to shore.

“Our Presbyterian Heritage in Eastern Virginia”
A sermon delivered in Schauffler Hall on February 3, 1924, by the Rev. Edward Mack, D. D., LL.D.,
Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at the Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, VA
[excerpted from The Union Seminary Review, July, 1924].

“Freely ye have received, freely give.”

Rev. Samuel Davies [3 November 1723 - 4 February 1761]Tomorrow, February 4th, is the anniversary of the death of Samuel Davies. One hundred and sixty-three years ago he died at Princeton at the age of thirty-six. His dust rests in the old Princeton Cemetery, by the side of his predecessor, Jonathan Edwards. The elaborate and merited inscription on his tomb tells the passerby of the grasp and range of his great intellect, his power as a preacher of the gospel, and his distinguished success as the head of Princeton College.

About ten mile[s] northeast of Richmond, at Pole Green, in the depths of the country, there stood at one time an old meeting-house which was the heart and center of Samuel Davies’ greatest work. This old meeting-house was called “Morris’ Reading House.” On or near its site, in Hanover County, was built the first church for the ministry of Samuel Davies; and after its destruction the church was rebuilt on its present site, now known as Salem Church, one of the three in the group known as the Samuel Davies Group of Churches.

But why was it that Samuel Davies and his immediate predecessor, William Robinson, came to Hanover County? Those early Presbyterians were not Scotch-Irish from the North, or from over the Blue Ridge. Whence came they? This is one of the stirring stories of early Virginia, which must now be told in a few hurried chapters.

The first chapter carries us back to 1611, when Sir Thomas Dale came to the Virginia Colony to set that house in order.

In the early years loose government, ill health, fearful death rate and bad morals had demoralized the colony. That staunch Puritan, Dale, came to save the experiment on these western shores from apparent doom. It was his firm hand and sound principles that saved early Virginia to the Virginia Company and to us.

With Dale came “the Apostle of Virginia,” Alexander Whitaker, a Puritan minister. Whitaker left a comfortable and lucrative parish in Northern England to evangelize the Indians in Virginia, and to shepherd the scattered and straying colonists. His parish included Bermuda Hundred, on the south bank of the James River, about fifteen miles below Richmond, and Henrico, on the north bank, within nine or ten miles of Richmond. He was a man of deep piety and great learning. He organized his church on the Presbyterian plan, with minister and four elders. He held prayer meetings, and had theological exercises in the Governor’s house. He discarded the surplice, and emphasized not the sacramentarian element in the ministry, but preaching and teaching. He sent an appeal back to England for non-conformist ministers to come to Virginia, where conformity to the ritual of the Church of England was not required. In those early days perhaps half of the ministers in Virginia were Puritans or non-conformists.

One of Whitaker’s holy ambitions was the founding of a college in Virginia, where the children of colonists might be educated, and Indian boys also trained to evangelize America. Whitaker met a heroic and sacrificial death by drowning in 1617, and so failed to realize his dream. But by 1620 thousands of dollars had been collected for the college, a president appointed, and mechanics and farmers enlisted to build and till on these college lands. However, the Indian massacre of 1622 blasted these well-matured plans, and the college in Virginia was not realized until seventy years later at Williamsburg.

It is of greatest interest to us to know that this first American college was destined for our Henrico County, to be located about ten miles from Richmond, near Curl’s Neck, a Puritan College with Whitaker as its prophet and Patrick Copeland, a dissenting minister, as its first president. So was Henrico County anointed and consecrated with Presbyterian oil more than three hundred years ago.

The second chapter in our Presbyterian heritage in Virginia brings us down to 1641.

The southern bank of the James River was the special territory assigned to Puritans and non-conformists. Isle of Wight and Nansemond Counties were full of them. In 1641 Nansemond County was divided into three parishes, and a messenger was sent to New England, not old England, mark you, to secure three ministers. These three Puritan ministers, without orders from the Church of England, arrived in Nansemond in 1643. But meanwhile Sir William Berkeley had become the Royalist Governor of Virginia, and non-conformity was under the ban. Nevertheless, the three ministers taught and preached in private homes, and a great revival resulted, in which a multitude of Virginians were converted, and united with the Puritan, or Presbyterian body, among them such prominent men as Richard Bennett, first Commonwealth Governor of Virginia, under Cromwell, and General Daniel Gookin, to whose memory a tablet has been erected in the restored church at Jamestown. But the most remarkable of these converts was Thomas Harrison, the chaplain of Berkeley. And after the expulsion of the three New England ministers, Harrison became the pastor of their persecuted flock, afterwards going with them into exile. Harrison, fleeing from Berkeley into New England, said there were a thousand Puritan members in Virginia.

During the government of Cromwell these Puritans in Isle of Wight, Nansemond and Norfolk Counties must have enjoyed freedom of worship. For in the Norfolk court records there is found a call issued in 1656 by a dissenting church to a New England minister, Mr. Moore by name, in very much the same terms as the formula for the call of a minister in our Book of Church Order. But after the restoration of Charles II in 1662 and the return of Berkeley, our Puritan Presbyterians were harried and driven out of Virginia. Only [6] a goodly seed survived in Norfolk County. For this Puritan flock there were four licensed preaching stations in and around what is now the city of Norfolk. When Francis Makemie arrived in Virginia in 1684 he found that the non-conformist minister of this flock had died in the preceding year.

Francis Makemie on trial before Lord CornburyWith Francis Makemie we come to our third chapter in early Presbyterianism in Virginia.

He gathered the scattered Puritans of Norfolk County into a parish, which he served for a year, afterwards putting them into the hands of another Scotch-Irishman, Josias Mackie, who shepherded them until his death in 1716.  But Makemie’s work was larger and wider than this. He organized Presbyterian churches in Accomac County and in the lower counties of Maryland, gathering into these churches the surviving and heroic Puritans of early Virginia days. He evangelized Delaware, and organized in Philadelphia in 1705 the first Presbytery in America. His name shines as an equal in that group of first magnitude stars: Whitaker, Bennett, Harrison.

We must pass hurriedly on to our fourth chapter in early Virginia Presbytery: the coming of Samuel Davies to Hanover County.

The Presbyterian revival in Hanover County in 1741 is a strange story. It did not come through Scotch settlers, nor through the Scotch-Irish who had begun to filter into the Valley of Virginia; but from within the communion of the Church of England. Since the days of tyrannical Governor Berkeley true piety had declined in the Virginia churches. Ministers were a sorry lot, often in contempt for ignorance and bad living. They were the tools of officials and rich land owners. In 1671 Governor Berkeley wrote; “We have forty-eight parishes and our ministers are well paid, and by my count would be better if they would pray oftener and preach less. But, as of all commodities, so, of this, the worst are sent to us, and we had few that we would boast of, since the persecution of Cromwell’s tyranny drove divers worthy “men hither. But I thank God that there are no free schools nor [7] printing, and I hope we shall not have these hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them and libels against the government.”

The dissatisfied and hungry souls of all Virginia, particularly of Hanover County, absented themselves from such services. In Hanover they began to gather at the home of Joshua Morris to read among themselves what gospel literature they could procure, sermons for instance, such as Whitefield’s, and writings of Martin Luther. They willingly paid the fines assessed against them for absence from church services, if only they might together read and learn of Christ. Soon the home of Morris was too small for these seeking Hanoverians. Then he built at Pole Green “Morris’ Reading House,” where the great and growing company could meet for religious reading.

This growing outburst of dissent stirred the opposition of churchmen; Morris and other leaders were summoned to appear before the Governor and his council in Williamsburg. On the way to the capital the providence of God put a copy of the Westminster Confession of Faith into the hands of one member of the party. When they read it they found that it expressed with accuracy the views of God’s Word at which they in their meetings had already arrived. When the Governor asked them the name of the sect to which they belonged, their leader replied they did not know, but handing him the Confession of Faith, he said, “This book contains our faith.” Governor Gooch, a Scotchman, recognized the book as a Scotch edition of the Confession. “Why,” said he, “you men are Presbyterians. Now return to your homes and conduct yourselves properly, and no man shall molest you.”

The first Presbyterian preacher who came to this Hanover flock was William Robinson, whose four days of preaching in 1743 bore fruit in earnest throngs and many converts. Being a man of means, Robinson refused money for these days of preaching. But discovering a large roll of bills slipped into his saddle-bags without his knowledge, he dedicated it to the education of a young man for the ministry, in the hope that [8] he might come to Virginia. So it was that a poor, struggling young man, Samuel Davies, became the beneficiary of Virginia’s first gift for Ministerial Education, and after a few years, in 1747, this same Samuel Davies, at the age of twenty-three, came to these Presbyterians of Hanover as their first regular minister.

He was of poor and humble family. His educational opportunities were meager. From early life the grip of deadly tuberculosis was upon him. But his eleven years in Virginia mark the brightest period of equal extent of years in Virginia Presbyterianism. He was a lawyer, and won in the courts tolerance for his churches. He was a man of consuming missionary spirit, and preached regularly in six or seven counties. Byrd Church in Goochland and Olivet in New Kent grew up from his ministry. He was a great student of the Word and fed his flock from its pages. He was a wise organizer, and his work remains to this day. He was orator and poet and master of beautiful English, so that his sermons are read to this day as masterpieces of sublime thought and noble expression.

EdwardsJonathanOn the death in 1758 of Jonathan Edwards, that mastermind of all American thinkers, Samuel Davies was elected to succeed him as President of Princeton College. In his two brief years as President he gave to that institution such literary and scholastic prestige as neither Edwards nor Burr had won for it. In 1761 this brief but wonderful life ceased on earth, and Samuel Davies entered into service on high.

This great Virginia Presbyterian challenges us, who live so near to the scene of his mighty labors, to follow in his train. Here is the model of a great preacher. Nothing less should satisfy us. Let me speak now to our rising ministry, here in such force within earshot almost of Samuel Davies’ majestic and surpassing sermons. How can we dare to be dull, drab, mediocre! How can we lift our faces to God and fellowmen if craven indolence consume our days! I have called to mind that the founders and leaders of our Virginia Presbyterianism were great scholars and great minds as well as noble souls. You dare be nothing less. There is a lazy notion abroad that any kind of an uneducated man may be a preacher, that mere fervor of spirit has abrogated the might of moral intelligence. But it is a sad mistake. Once indeed God used the jawbone of an ass to overwhelm a thousand men. But it is too much to require of Him a repetition of this miracle every day. When Samuel Davies was asked why, with all his wide learning and power of ready extemporaneous speech, he never entered the pulpit without a carefully prepared and written sermon, he replied that he could not ask God to bless a sermon which had not cost him the utmost labor of which he was capable. If a man has ventured to enter the ministry of souls without mental preparation, he must, like Samuel Davies, recoup his loss with the gain that is earned only by a life of unremitting mental toil.

Our last chapter tells of the after fruits of Samuel Davies’ life in Virginia. He was a patriot. While he was living in Hanover County, Braddock’s defeat in 1755 at Pittsburgh spread terror through Virginia. It was proposed to abandon all territory beyond the mountains to the French and the Indians. In this panic of souls it was Samuel Davies who counseled calm and courage. His sermon to them cheered the volunteers who went to the front from Hanover. Patrick Henry was under his ministry for eleven years, his family being members of the church. The younger statesman revered the preacher as the noblest orator of that time. When the great statesman found his country halting between two opinions, and stood like a Joshua in St. John’s Church calling for decision, as he said, “Choose ye chains and easy slavery if you will, but as for me, give me liberty or death,” while the lips of Henry moved, was it not the voice and soul of Davies that thrilled the ears of men and moved their hearts?

James Waddell, the missionary of the foothills of Virginia, lighted his torch from the fires that burned in the soul of Samuel Davies. I suppose the most notable instance in the life of this disciple of Samuel Davies is that which William Wirt records of Waddell. Wirt was passing the church near Gordonsville in which Waddell was preaching. Out of curiosity he stopped, entered and listened. It was a communion service. The aged blind preacher stood by the Lord’s table, melting to tears the hearts of his hearers with his eloquence, in his appeal uttering these immortal words: “Socrates died like a man; Jesus Christ died like a God.”

AlexanderArchibaldThe son-in-law of Waddell, Archibald Alexander, went from Virginia to found and build Princeton Seminary. Winstons, Henrys, Lacys, Rices in Hanover County became Presbyterians under the preaching of Samuel Davies. But what need I say more of our heritage and right as Presbyterians in Eastern Virginia! The question is not what Whitaker, Makemie and Davies did, but what shall we do about it?

Today a turning of Virginians to our faith has begun such as has never been known before at any one period. We do not watch a receding wave; the tide of opportunity is waxing to its flood. Six churches organized within eight months, and as many more in view, if we only have consecrated men to serve and consecrated means to equip! Some of these churches have risen where not a Presbyterian was supposed to be. Every county in Eastern Virginia is ready and waiting for us, if only we are ready to go and give to them. New highways are making new centers which have no churches. We have the men, we have the automobiles, the highways are building slowly. Let us fulfill and rewrite Isaiah’s words, “How beautiful upon the highways are the cars of those who preach good tidings, who publish peace, who say to our Zion in Virginia: ‘Behold your God.’ ” The heroic past challenges us, the needy present pleads with us, the awful future warns us that we deny not our faith nor fail in our trust.

Freely ye have received, freely give!

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

None Excelled Him on Two Continents

Samuel Blair was born in Ireland in 1712 and emigrated to America at a young age.  Educated at the Log College by William Tennent, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Philadelphia on November 9, 1733.  Called to two congregations first in New Jersey, he ministered the Word of grace for six years. But it was at Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church in Cochranville, Pennsylvania where he came to have his greatest influence upon colonial America.

Installed there in April of 1740, he began a classical and theological college for pastoral training, similar to what he had received at the Log College. The new school would later produce for the kingdom of grace men like Samuel Davies, apostle to Virginia, John Rodgers, first moderator of the General Assembly, John McMillan, Apostle to western Pennsylvania, Charles Cummings, Robert Smith, Hugh Henry and many others who would make a mark for Christ’s kingdom.

In 1740, a great reawakening came upon the colonies from Massachusetts to Georgia, including Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church. Blair took as his initial text that of our Lord’s words in Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.”  That priority in the things of the Lord brought a spiritual awakening and revival to the people of that 1730 congregation. Soon, Pastor Blair was engaged in preaching tours all over New England. All of this revival emphasis, plus the question of education for the ministry brought about a schism in the Presbyterian Church in 1741.

In his doctrinal views, Samuel Blair was thoroughly Calvinistic. A spiritual awakening is of the Lord. Period! He did not hesitate to preach on predestination to his people. His pulpit manner was such that Samuel Davies believed no one was more excellent than he was in exposition of the Word of God. When the latter took a trip to England to raise funds for the College of New Jersey, and heard many a fine preacher, he still concluded that none held a candle to Samuel Blair.

Over his grave in the cemetery, at what is now called Manor Presbyterian Church, there is found the following inscription. It says “Here lieth the body of THE REV. SAMUEL BLAIR, Who departed this life The Fifth Day of July, 1751, Aged Thirty-nine Years and Twenty-one Days. In yonder sacred house I spent my breath; Now silent, mouldering, her I lie in death; These lips shall wake, and yet declare A dread Amen to truths they published there.”

Words to live by:  Thirty nine years plus!  Not a large amount of life on this earth was spent by the Rev. Samuel Blair. But his life was not to be measured by the shortness of his life, but rather by what the Holy Spirit accomplished through Him for the sake of the gospel. And when we look at that, Samuel Blair lived a full life for the increase of the kingdom and the edification of the elect. Only one life will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Through the Scriptures:  John 18 – 21

Through the Standards:  Elements and means of baptism

WCF 28:2
“The outward element to be used in this sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the God, lawfully called thereunto.”

Images from The History of Faggs Manor United Presbyterian Church, 1730-1980, pages 12 and 14, respectively.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Waystation for the Progress of the Gospel

Up to the middle of the eighteenth century, what presbyteries existed were all in the northern part of the American colonies.  But after the division of the New Side – Old Side Presbyterians in 1741 (see May 17, 1741), the New Side evangelists set their spiritual eyes on advancing the gospel both south and west of Philadelphia.   Especially was there an encouragement due to the expansion of the Scot-Irish Presbyterians in those  directions who still worshiped in the manner of their Scotch forefathers.

An important waystation for  the progress of the gospel was the establishment of Hanover Presbytery in Virginia on October 3, 1775.  Constituting this regional church governing unit were the following: Samuel Davies, of Hanover Presbyterian Church, of Hanover County; Robert Henry, pastor of Cub Creek Church in Charlotte County and Briery Church in Prince Edward County ; John Brown, of Timber Ridge and New Providence Presbyterian churches in Rockbridge County;  and John Todd, assistant to Samuel Davies and pastor of Louisa County.  Various ruling elders also attended, such as Samuel Morris, Alexander Joice, and John Molley.  Also part of the presbytery but unable to attend were Alexander Craighead, pastor of Windy Cove Church in Augusta County, and John Wright, pastor of the church in Cumberland County, near Farmville, Virginia.

At the first meeting of the Presbytery, after the sermon by John Todd, the first action taken was to appoint a day of fasting and prayer on January 1, 1777.   The last act was to repeat the fasting and prayer on June of the same year.  In both cases, the purpose was to ask God for His help against the physical dangers occasioned by the war in their land as well as to ask God to bless the preaching of the Word of God in the area.

Words to live by:  Lest we respond with a yawn about the topic of today’s devotional, let us remember that to attend church in these early days was to put your life and that of your family in danger.  First, there was the distance travelled to the meeting-house, usually a log building, or sometimes outside  under a huge tree.  Transportation there was by horseback, or in buggies pulled by horses.  The worshiping family carried their Bibles, hymns, and rifles with power horns, for protection.  The services themselves lasted for two hours.  And at the end, there would be communal meals, with another worship hour before they left for their homes.  Colonial worship was not for the lukewarm, but for the God-fearing, Bible-believing men and women of the Presbyterian faith.

Through the Scriptures:  Ezra 1 – 4

Through the Standards: The duties of government to the church

WCF 23:3
“Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or, in the least, interfere in the matter of faith.  Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the Church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger.  And, as Jesus Christ has appointed a regular government and discipline in his Church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief.  It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretence of religion or infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

His Success Astonished Many

Enter an English Quaker into the celebrated Log College in the seventeen hundreds, and what comes out?  The answer is a Presbyterian evangelist.

His name was William Robinson.  We don’t know much about his early days, but coming to America, he settled in Hopewell, New Jersey as a school teacher. While doing teaching, he began to study at William Tennent’s Log College, where he was recruited to  Presbyterianism. Ordained as an evangelist by the Presbytery of New Castle, he was sent into Hanover County, Virginia.  It was on July 6, 1743 that his voice became the first Presbyterian voice to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ in that district.  He continued to North Carolina, where he spent the winter season that year.  Everywhere he went, he enjoyed great success with his spiritual gift of evangelism.

Returning to the eastern parts of the colonies, he arrived at the eastern shore of Maryland where, by the preaching of the Word of God, a great revival occurred under his ministry.  The Synod of New York of the Presbyterian Church desired that he come their way, but he desired to go to St. George’s, Delaware, where a previous revival had occurred under his ministry.  It was there that the Lord of providence took him home on August 1, 1746.

He left his ministerial library to Samuel Davies, urging that this latter preacher take up the work in Virginia.  He did, and became known as the Apostle of Virginia.  But it was William Robinson, who prepared the way with his ringing declarations of the gospel to Virginians.  No wonder Samuel Davies said “That favored man, Mr. Robinson, whose success, whenever I reflect upon it, astonishes me.”

Words to Live By: 
God always prepares the way for a great work of grace.  We may not know who the person was all the time, but God knows, and will bring great blessings upon both he who prepares and they who follow their ministry.  Indeed, some are called to simply prepare the way. Never think that you are unimportant in the great work of the gospel.  God sovereignly uses whom He will to do His work. Think of who prepared you for any work of grace in your heart, and thank the Lord for them now. Indeed, if you can, thank them in person.

Through the Scriptures: 2 Kings 18, 19

Through the Standards: The Third commandment: Reasons annexed

WLC 114 — “What reasons are annexed to the third commandment?
A.  The reasons annexed to the third commandment, in these words, [The Lord thy God,] and, [For the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain,] are. because he is the Lord and our God, therefore his name is not to be profaned, or any way abused by us; especially because he will be so far from acquitting and sparing the transgressors of this commandment, as that he will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment; albeit many such escape the censures and punishments of men.”

WSC 56 — “What is the reason annexed to the third commandment?
A.  The reason annexed to the third commandment is, Th at however the breakers of this commandment may escape punishment from men, yet the Lord our God will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment.

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