Knowing God From The Heart: Samuel Davies On The Means Of Grace -- By: Joseph C. Harrod

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 06:2 (Jul 2014)
Article: Knowing God From The Heart: Samuel Davies On The Means Of Grace
Author: Joseph C. Harrod


Knowing God From The Heart: Samuel Davies On The Means Of Grace

Joseph C. Harrod

Now the ordinances of the gospel are, as it were, the places of interview, where God and his people meet, and where they indulge those sacred freedoms [of communion]. It is in prayer, in meditation, in reading or hearing his word, in communicating at his table; it is in these and like exercises that God communicates, and, as it were, unbosoms himself to those that love him.1

In the tradition of Reformed piety, genuine Christian spirituality is rooted in a monergistic work of God who graciously rescues sinners. Yet the Christian life after conversion also involves various means of grace in the pursuit of personal holiness and divine communion. This article considers the thinking of a prominent Presbyterian, Samuel Davies (1723-1761), of Virginia, on the exercise of the means of grace. Davies is remembered as the reluctant fourth president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton), a champion for religious toleration and civil rights for dissenters in Virginia, and a poet whose verses constitute some of the earliest North American hymnody. He was also a pioneer missionary to African slaves and a New Side Presbyterian revivalist whom D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has described as “the greatest preacher” America ever produced. Yet a decade into the twenty-first century, Davies remains relatively unnoticed by American Evangelicals.2 Davies’s relative absence from contemporary discussions of early

Evangelicalism is indeed lamentable, for in his day, and for the better part of a century thereafter, Davies was recalled as a gifted herald of divine truth. This article helps to bring Davies into wider appreciation, especially with regard to his understanding of the vehicles God has designed to enable Christians to live lives to His glory.

The Means Of Grace In The Puritan And Early Evangelical Traditions

Samuel Davies placed himself within the Puritan tradition with regard to his doctrine of conversion, and his insistence upon certain means of grace also indicates his reliance upon this tradition for devotional expressions of Christian spirituality.3 According to Simon Chan’s excellent work on the discipline of meditation, the Puritan doctrine of the means of grace states that “God does not work directly in the world but chooses to operate at the natural and human level. Thus if he regenerates a soul, it is by a process that could be easily discovered via faculty psychology, namely, from the understanding to the affections and will....

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