The Preaching Of Samuel Davies -- By: Gerald M. Bilkes
RAR 9:1 (Winter 2000) p. 119
The Preaching Of Samuel Davies
I have been solicitously thinking in what way my life, redeemed from the grave, may be of most service to my dear people ... If I knew what subject has the most direct tendency to save your souls, that is the subject to which my heart would cling with peculiar endearment....
A Pennsylvania publisher (Pittsburgh: Soli Deo Gloria, 1993–96) has done English-speaking Christianity an immense service by republishing the extraordinary sermons of Samuel Davies. For two-and-a-half centuries these sermons have been hailed as impressive and even unsurpassed. Archibald Alexander acclaimed Davies as “first of American preachers” and augments his observations with these words:
[Davies] was so distinguished for dignity and solemnity in the pulpit, that one of the most excellent laymen I ever knew, told me, that he went to hear Mr. Davies preach, when he was just grown up, and that the sight of the man, and the mere utterance of his text “Martha, Martha, [thou art careful and troubled about many things, but one thing is needful]” made a deeper impression on him, than all the sermons he had ever heard before.”2
Samuel Davies was born in 1723 and died in 1761 at
RAR 9:1 (Winter 2000) p. 120
the young age of 37 years.3 He received his theological training from Samuel Blair at Fagg’s College in Pennsylvania. Blair modeled Fagg’s College after the Log College of New Jersey, from which he had graduated. Davies was later president of the Log College in New Jersey from 1759 until his death in 1761, a brief eighteen months.
Most of Davies’ ministerial life was devoted to Hanover County, Virginia, in the wake of the revivals throughout the colonies. Virginia had been almost exclusively Anglican in religion, with only a few dissenters of Puritan persuasion. They were congregating unofficially in small numbers until Samuel Davies took up the ministry of the Word there. During his stay in Hanover County, interrupted by a three-year tour of England, the congregation grew swiftly. After five years it numbered between 500 and 600 souls, including a number of African slaves.4 His hearers urged Davies to prepare his sermons for publication.
As long as sermons such as those of Davies are still available, preachers will have an excellent model for preaching, and believers a high standard for their preachers. I will formulate some characteristics of Davie...
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