April 14 : Rev. Samuel Davies

This Day in Presbyterian History:  

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.

Through the Scriptures: Psalm 10 – 12

Through the Standards: Definition of effectual calling

 WCF 10:1
“All those whom God has predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by His word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.”

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.


  1. Vaughn Edward Hathaway Jr’s avatar

    The proper word is denote. Samuel denotes prayer.
    – A speaker or writer implies, a hearer or reader infers;
    – to connote is to imply; to denote is to define exactly. Connote is like giving a hint, but denote refers to something outright.

    An article on Davies without referencing his hymn “Great God of Wonders” is an ice cream cone without the ice cream. The same might be said for his connections to New Side/Old Side and New School/Old School.

  2. archivist’s avatar

    I’m sorry, Vaughn, but I don’t see either “denote” or “connote” used in this entry, though I perfectly agree with your definitions. But you’re right, those are important points to touch on in regard to Samuel Davies. Hopefully we will return to talk about Davies later in the year. These posts are kept intentionally short, knowing that a lot of folks just aren’t going to spend too much time reading. “Small doses of Presbyterian history, dispensed daily, until the patient shows improvement and can tolerate increased activity.”

    Look for a post on the New Side/Old Side Schism on May 27, 1741 and one of the 1758 healing of that rift, on May 25.

    Also, two more dates pending on Samuel Davies–his War Sermons will be treated on July 25 and on July 26, his inauguration at the College of New Jersey.


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