Samuel Davies: One Of America’s Greatest Revival Preachers -- By: John E. Skidmore

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 02:1 (Jan 2010)
Article: Samuel Davies: One Of America’s Greatest Revival Preachers
Author: John E. Skidmore


Samuel Davies: One Of America’s Greatest Revival Preachers

John E. Skidmore

Samuel Davies was one of America’s greatest preachers. That assessment was made by the late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones to students at Westminster Theological Seminary in 1967.1 Lloyd-Jones was astounded that so great a preacher as Davies was unknown in the country where he ministered. Ashbel Green, a President of Princeton College after Davies, wrote of him, “President Davies was probably the most accomplished preacher that our country has produced.”2 These statements about Davies are even more remarkable considering that he died at the age of thirty-seven. During his short ministry in Virginia in the 1740s and 1750s, he regularly preached to seven congregations scattered over a three-county area. Under his ministry, the number of people gathering to hear the Word of God preached grew from tens to hundreds. His sermons were well received by both gentlemen farmers and slaves. His persuasiveness as an orator gained him and the dissenters to whom he ministered the favor of the governor of the colony, and his winsome demeanor and eloquence enabled him to have an influence on many people, including King George of England. His preaching style also influenced the oratory of the legendary leader of the American Revolution, Patrick Henry.3

During his short ministry of a dozen years in Colonial Virginia, Davies saw the church grow from several clusters of people hungry for God’s Word to seven congregations of hundreds of people who

experienced the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. Davies’s sermons were published individually in America and Great Britain during his lifetime and several editions of his collected sermons were printed in the nineteenth century. His sermons were studied by ministers for a hundred years after his death, enabling his ministry of the Word to long outlive his short life.4 Interestingly, in his diary, Davies expressed the desire to publish his sermons so that he might “be of service in places far remote from the sphere of my usual labours.”5

The first part of this article will briefly sketch the life and ministry of Samuel Davies and the historic context in which he served; the second will present Davies’s theology of revival as it emerges from some of his sermons. Davies believed that sound doctrine is essential to a revival of religion. In his sermons, he emphasized doctrines that he identified as essential...

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