Thursday, January 4, 2018

YOU SHALL BE WITNESSES

After decades of ministry, I am more convinced than ever that it is not what we do as Christians but what we are that has the greatest impact for Christ. It is not the number of people with whom we have shared the gospel, how many conversions we can number, how many churches we have planted, or the average attendance at our services, that matters for eternity. It is the quality of our ministry that makes a lasting change in lives.

After his resurrection, just before ascending to heaven, Jesus commissioned his disciples with these words:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

Certainly there is a commission to do something. The disciples’ ministry was to extend “to the end of the earth.” (Compare Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 24:47). But the emphasis in this last statement of Jesus’ commission was on being. “You will be my witnesses.” The power of the disciples’ words would be evident from their life. When Peter and John were called before the Jewish council for preaching gospel of Jesus and his resurrection, the council noted:

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

I’m convinced that every Christian, especially those in full-time ministry, need to give more time and attention to being what God wants us to be. That means backing off from frenetic activity in the Lord’s name at the cost of neglecting  a deepening fellowship with the Lord Himself.

An example of quality over quantity comes to mind. I know a missionary whose ministry for many years was in a support capacity. He rarely preached in Sunday services, but he always made sure he got to know every individual and couple who attended. One Sunday, a couple visited from a distant town because they had heard about the church through a radio ministry, a ministry that “support” missionary had helped set up and run. That humble missionary and his wife invited the visitors to their home for dinner, and they spent the entire afternoon listening to them pour out their sorrows. The couple shared they had come to the point of divorce, but they agreed to visit this church as the last hope for their marriage. What they found was new life in Christ. Not long afterwards that couple was baptized and became the nucleus for a new ministry in their town. It was the quality of life of that missionary, his being, that made the crucial difference.

The story repeats itself across history. I think of the Scottish pastor whose humble ministry had not produced many converts, yet one of them was a boy named Robert Moffatt, the great missionary who opened the interior of Africa to the gospel. We probably will not know until heaven just how many lives we have touched for Christ just by being faithful and by deepening our communion with Christ.

Among the people who came to Jerusalem for the Passover the week Jesus was crucified were some Greeks. They came to Phillip with this simple request: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  That’s exactly what people need today! They need to see Jesus in the lives of his brethren, those born of the Spirit God. People need to take note, as did the Jewish council, that we have been with Jesus.



Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A DEADLY FAMINE

In an effort to understand what hunger feels like some folks have committed themselves to fasting for twenty-four hours. That this is a major challenge in our affluent culture says a lot in itself! Nevertheless, we can commend the effort to try and understand “what hunger feels like,” even though the uncomfortable feeling we get from missing a couple of meals is not really hunger.

There is a much more serious famine in our land, one with much greater consequences, deadly consequences, eternal consequences. That’s the famine the Prophet Amos spoke about:

"Behold, the days are coming," declares the Lord GOD, "when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it. (Amos 8:11-12)

Throughout the history of Israel and Judah, there were long periods of silence from God. Some of those periods of silence occurred during times of prosperity, as in the reign of King Uzziah of Judah. The people didn’t seem to care. They were prosperous, things were going well. As the two kingdoms sank deeper into idolatry and its consequent evil behavior, God sent prophets to call them to repentance. But time was running out for both Israel and Judah. After Amos, only one prophet, Hosea, would speak for God to the northern tribes. Then in 722 B.C. Shalmanezer, King of Assyria, would carry them away into exile. As for Judah, after the prophecy of Malachi, the people would languish over 400 years in spiritual famine until God sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for the promised Messiah.

Now we Christians live in the light of the New Covenant, with the full revelation of God in the Person of His Son (Hebrews 1:2) and the guidance of His Holy Spirit through His completed Word. So is there a famine of the Word of God today? Apparently there is. And as in ages past, it is self-induced. As the ancient Israelites rejected or carelessly neglected God’s Word, even so professing Christians today are neglecting the completed Bible.

Recent surveys have revealed that even regular church attenders spend very little time, if any, each week reading God’s Word. A small minority have actually read through the entire Bible even once. As for pastors, while most say they refer to the Bible in their sermons and include Bible reading in the worship service, it is evident that very few expound the Bible clearly in context and make practical application to their congregations. Alistair Begg gave several reasons for the decline in expository preaching:

I.                   A lack of confidence in the Bible.
II.                Fighting the wrong battles
III.             Using the wrong role models: e.g. business, psychology.
(From “What Happened to Expository Preaching?” The Pastor’s Study, Vol. II)

While few would admit it, many pastors lack faith in the Holy Spirit to change lives through God's Word. Expository preaching lets the Word of God speak for itself by drawing attention to the timeless principles God revealed and applied to His people down through the ages. The Holy Spirit uses “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17) to work where only God can work – in the heart!

F. B. Meyer (1847-1929) saw the same lack of expository preaching in his day, and he urged pastors to preach expositorily. His book Expository Preaching Plans and Methods is still well worth reading today, and it’s available in print or on Kindle.

One major reason the average Christian doesn’t read the Bible is because he or she has no idea of the richness of its progressive revelation and the practical wisdom revealed there. Creating a hunger for the Word is a large part of the pastor’s job.

 There certainly is a famine of hearing the words of the LORD today. And the effects of this famine are evident in the weakness of spiritually emaciated Christians in our churches.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A MAN NAMED CHRISTMAS

On December 25th, 1766, a son was born to shoemaker Samuel Evans and his wife, Joanna, in Llandysul, Ceredigion. The couple named the child Christmas. That boy would grow to be a tall, husky, bushy-haired preacher who would lead the spiritual revivals in late 18th- and early 19th-century Wales. But he had a hard road to the ministry he would pursue from Anglesey to Cardiff for over half a century.
            Evans’ father died when the boy was only eight or nine years old, leaving the family in poverty. Living with a drunken uncle, Evans received no schooling and by age fifteen, he still could not read or write. His illiteracy grieved him, and with dogged determination he set out to teach himself, plodding through Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress with the help of friends. They also studied the Welsh Bible together: “We bought Bibles and candles, and were accustomed to meet together in the evening in the barn of Penyrallt, and thus in about one month I was able to read the Bible in my mother tongue.”
           At 18 he was converted under the influence of Presbyterian pastor David Davies, and soon began preaching in cottage meetings, having memorized published sermons. Without financial means to further his education, Christmas Evans went to England to earn money in the harvest fields. But in England he began to despair of his prospects in the ministry and nearly lost interest in spiritual matters altogether. The turning point in his life came when he was attacked by a mob, apparently provoked by Evans’ objection to their ungodly activities, and was beaten unconscious. When he regained consciousness, he found that he was blind in his right eye. This crisis awakened his faith and his determination to serve God. At age 20 he was baptized in Aberdare by Baptist pastor Timothy Thomas and joined that congregation.
            At the Baptist Association meeting in 1790, Evans accepted a call to minister in Caernarvonshire. He was ordained at Lleyn to serve five small Baptist chapels in that area. It was there that he met and married Catherine Jones, a member of one of the chapels. Though his preaching was well received, the ministry there took a toll on his health. So after some months in Caernarvonshire, Evans took a vacation to Pembrokeshire. Since he could not afford a horse, he traveled on foot, preaching in every town along the way. Crowds followed him from town to town, spreading revival throughout western Wales.
            Refreshed by his coastal tour, Evans threw himself back into the ministry in Lleyn, walking twenty miles every Sabbath to preach in various chapels and open-air meetings. Yet in spite of the many converts from his ministry, Evans was not pleased with the level of spirituality on the peninsula, and in 1792 he accepted a call to the island of Anglesey, where, for a salary of 17 pounds a year, he was to be responsible for ten chapels. On Christmas Day – his 26th birthday – he and Catherine crossed the Menai Strait to take up residence in a dilapidated cottage with a ceiling so low the six-foot-tall preacher could not stand up in it! His ministry there prospered, however, and within two years he saw 600 converts, and the ten chapels had doubled to twenty.
            In 1823, Evans’ beloved spiritual companion Catherine died, and the same year he developed an eye problem which necessitated treatment in Aberystwyth. By 1826, the number of chapels in Anglesey had increased exponentially and Baptist preachers numbered twenty-eight. Evans then moved to Caerphilly where 140 more converts were added to the Baptist congregations. From there he ministered in Cardiff, then back to Caernarvon, “where he contended with great difficulties from church debts and dissension.” (Armitage, The History of the Baptists, 612)  On a trip to Swansea to raise funds for the Caernarvon chapels, he suddenly fell ill and died on July 19, 1838. His last message was, “I am leaving you. I have labored in the sanctuary fifty-three years, and this is my comfort, that I have never labored without blood in the basin,” a reference to Exodus 12:22. In his last breath he voiced the words to an old Welsh hymn and passed into eternity.
            Christmas Evans is reputed by some to be the most dynamic preacher of “the golden age of itinerant preachers” in Wales. Historian John Davies takes note of Evans, along with Calvinistic Methodist John Elias and Independent William Williams (William o’r Wern) as the prominent preachers in the revivals that swept Wales in the early 1800s. (The History of Wales, 359) It is estimated that between 1801 and 1851, a new chapel was built on average every eight days. Many of those chapels were the result of the tireless ministry of Christmas Evans.
           

 Copyright 2015 by Thomas L. Jones  First published in Ninnau, Nov-Dec 2015

Thursday, December 14, 2017

LET THE WEAK SAY, "I AM STRONG"?

Popular choruses and church benedictions seem to be magnets for verses out of context. One of the more recent ones is the popular chorus, Give Thanks. The verse, the only verse, is a simple expression of thanks to God for having given Jesus Christ, His Son. We can all sing that with enthusiasm. It’s the refrain that gives some of us pause. It is expressed as though it were a scriptural benediction: “And now, let . . .” The first problem is there is no such benediction in Scripture.

The second problem, the more important one, is that the first part of the sung “benediction” is wrenched out of Joel 3:10 –Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; Let the weak say, 'I am strong.' " (NIV, NKJV, KJV, emphasis added) A cursory reading of the context of Joel 3:1-16 reveals that the above quotation is not a benediction! It is a taunt to the pagan nations to muster all their armies, all their strength, and come to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, that is, the Valley of Decision, where they will be judged.

Now I can hear the explanations and objections: Didn’t the Apostle Paul say, God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong”? (1 Cor. 1:27) And, We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong (even less applicable!)? And there’s Paul’s own testimony, when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). Paul’s wish for the Corinthian Christians was that they be spiritually strong and “complete” in Christ: For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete.(2 Cor. 13:9)

The concept of spiritual strength versus fleshly weakness is scriptural, but in the popular chorus, we sense more than a whiff of charismatic doctrine, especially when we sing on: “Let the poor say I am rich”! But that’s another issue entirely. Christians certainly do possess spiritual riches because of what Christ has done for us. But there are thousands of professing Christians who believe the atonement of Christ entitles us to all manner of physical and material blessings. But the New Testament does not support such notions. New Testament benedictions always speak of spiritual blessings, holy living, and heavenly hope.

Misquoting Scripture can be embarrassing. A beautifully carved plaque in a memorial chapel displayed this verse: “. . . absent in body but present in spirit” – 1 Corinthians 5:3. In context, the Apostle Paul was urging the church in Corinth to discipline an immoral member. Here’s the complete verse: “For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present.” (1 Corinthians 5:3)

There was a time when liturgical churches closed services with the following portion of Genesis 31:49: The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.” Eventually some ministers discovered that in the context this was a malediction, not a benediction! Jacob and Laban didn’t trust each other, so they set up a heap of stones as a witness if either passed over it to harm the other. The ignorance still prevails: I saw an ad for a necklace with that very sentiment engraved on it! You might want to consider the context before you give it to your loved one for Christmas or your anniversary.

I can’t help thinking that behind all the misuse of Scripture verses is an appalling ignorance of the Bible as a whole, and the false idea that the Bible is a collection of aphorisms and benedictions. I’ve written before about the danger of bibliomancy, taking verses out of context for guidance and decision-making. The Bible is truly God’s unfolding drama of redemption. It is meant to be read in its entirety, and each book in its context. Only then will the Scriptures transform lives.


In the meantime, my voice will drop out whenever the congregation starts to sing, “And now let . . .” 

Monday, November 27, 2017

MOSES'S FUNERAL PSALM

It seems that Psalm 90, “A Psalm of Moses, the man of God,” is irresistible to ministers preparing a funeral message. After all, our minister’s handbooks all recommend it. The psalm does have some memorable verses on God’s eternality and man’s mortality:

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were born
Or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
You turn man back into dust
And say, Return, O children of men.
For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or as a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:1-4)

I always think of Isaac Watts’s great hymn, O God, Our Help in Ages Past, when I read those verses. Then there is that reality check about the nature of old age:

As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years,
Or if due to strength, eighty years,
Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow;
For soon it is gone and we fly away. (Psalm 90:10)

All of the above are quite appropriate at a funeral, when everyone is forced to reflect upon the relative brevity of life. But there is more to that psalm, and the diligent pastor is loath to take verses out of context. That’s when we run into verses that disturb the atmosphere of comfort:

For we have been consumed by Your anger
And by Your wrath we have been dismayed.
You have placed our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your presence.
For all our days have declined in Your fury;
We have finished our years like a sigh.
(Psalm 90:7-9)

Who understands the power of Your anger
And Your fury, according to the fear that is due You?
(Psalm 90:11)

Anger, wrath, fury? Hardly comforting to a grieving family! And what about the unbelievers who inevitably attend the funeral of a staunch Christian? Well, maybe they need to hear about God’s wrath, but is this the right venue?

While pondering this psalm and its dubious use in funerals, I thought of the historical context in which it was most likely written. It is regrettable that this psalm is rarely expounded in all its fullness.

The first thing that ought to raise a question is why Moses, of all people, a man who lived to be 120 years old, would declare that a man’s years are seventy or eighty? When did Moses witness great numbers of people dying by age seventy or eighty? The obvious answer is during Israel’s wandering in the Sinai wilderness.

Israel had come to the southern border of the Promised Land, but they were hesitant to enter. They wanted to send scouts, one from each tribe, to spy out the land (Deuteronomy 1:22). All of those scouts except two, Joshua and Caleb, brought back a bad report on the land God had promised to give them. The negative report prevailed and the adult population refused to enter the land. In consequence of this lack of faith and obedience, God’s sentence was passed:

'None of the men who came up from Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob; for they did not follow Me fully, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have followed the LORD fully.' "So the LORD'S anger burned against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the entire generation of those who had done evil in the sight of the LORD was destroyed. (Numbers 32:11-13)

The total number of men twenty years old and older at that time, minus Joshua and Caleb, was 603,548. That means that during the forty years of wandering in the Sinai wilderness, the nation would average over 1,200 funerals a day! And that was only the men. In addition to judgments for particular acts of rebellion, Moses witnessed the once hearty soldiers, all once fit for war, aging and weakening. He observed that by age 70 most were finished, but some were stronger and struggled on till 80, stooped and aching. And this end was the judgment for their disobedience, their failure to believe God. They were literally “consumed by (God’s) anger.”

Commentators have rightly seen a universal principle these verses: death is God’s judgment for man’s rebellion in Eden. Verse 3 clearly refers to Genesis 3:19 (though a different word for ‘dust’ is used): “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Moses’s witnessing of death in the wilderness caused him to reflect on that tragedy in the garden and its universal consequences.

 But the Bible makes a distinction in the case of God’s redeemed saints:

Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His godly ones. (Psalm 116:15)

Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord-- for we walk by faith, not by sight-- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:6-8)

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. (Philippians 1:21-23)

Derek Kidner observed: “In an age which was readier than our own to reflect on mortality and judgment, this psalm was an appointed reading (with 1 Cor. 15) at the burial of the dead: a rehearsal of the facts of death and life which, if it was harsh at such a moment, wounded to heal.”[1] Psalm 90 has been a part of both Jewish and Christian funerary liturgy for centuries. 

Still, Psalm 90, Moses’s Funeral Psalm, needs to be presented in its context. Though death is a universal result of sin having entered the world, it is not God’s wrath that ushers one of his beloved saints into heavenly fellowship with Him.





[1] Kidner, Derek. Psalms 73-150. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

THANKSGIVING: THE KEY TO MENTAL HEALTH

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Every age has had its share of anxiety ever since the tragedy in Eden. But everything is moving faster in our hi-tech era, and that increases anxiety. We feel as though we're always behind.

Medications and treatments for anxiety and depression are a big business, but people are as stressed out as ever. What's the cure? Well, before we can cure a disease, we need to properly diagnose it. The Scriptures make it clear that anxiety and depression are spiritual problems. So the cure for them must also be spiritual.

Jesus recognized our natural propensity to worry when he encouraged his disciples to give their anxieties to God and trust Him to provide for all their needs (Matthew 6:25-34). He also urged us not to "borrow trouble" from tomorrow: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matthew 6:34)

The Apostle Paul in the passage quoted above, specifically addresses the problem of anxiety, and he gives us a succinct prescription:  "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God."  First there is a request: Take your anxieties to God, let Him know what's troubling you and ask for His help. Then, and most importantly, thank Him for all that He has already done and for whatever He chooses to do in the present and future. It is a well-established fact that thankful people are less anxious than ingrates! 

We have so very much to be thankful for. As you read this, God has given us another day to enjoy our family and friends, to work and provide for our families, to enjoy our hobbies and recreation, to wonder at the beauty of His creation, to share His blessings and salvation with others. How thankful we should be!

When we follow God's prescription, God guarantees the results: "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.



Monday, October 30, 2017

THE EVANGELIST WHO INFLUENCED PATRICK HENRY

In a Presbyterian meeting house in Hanover County, Virginia, a bright young boy listened intently to the preacher, trying his best to absorb every word. He had too. For he knew that his mother and older sister would quiz him on the sermon during the carriage ride home. That boy would grow up to be the eloquent American patriot Patrick Henry, who would credit that influential preacher for much of his oratorical skill, as well as his view of liberty. That preacher was Samuel Davies, acclaimed as “the outstanding preacher of Colonial America” and “the animating soul of the whole dissenting interest in Virginia and North Carolina” (Sweet, 65).
            In the struggle for religious liberty in the American colonies, two Welshmen stand out: Roger Williams in New England (see Ninnau July-August 2015) and Samuel Davies in Virginia and North Carolina.
            Samuel Davies was born November 3, 1723, to David and Martha Davies, Welsh Baptists of New Castle County, Delaware. The Davieses were deeply religious, and Martha named her son after the prophet Samuel with the hope that he would enter the ministry. Yet when Samuel was of age, the Davieses lacked the finances for a university education, so they sent him to be tutored by the Rev. Samuel Blair in Blair’s academy in Faggs Manor, Pennsylvania. Blair’s institution was one of several disparagingly dubbed “log colleges.” The first so-called Log College was founded in 1735 by the Rev. William Tennent to educate his younger sons and other promising young men for the ministry, one of whom was Samuel Blair. After Blair assumed a pastorate in Chester County, Pennsylvania, he opened an academy similar to Tennent’s. Samuel Davies was to be his most renowned graduate and leader of The Great Awakening in the Southern Colonies, particularly in Virginia.
            The Anglican Church had held official status in Virginia since its founding, receiving tax support from the colonial legislature. Dissenting religious groups were tolerated, but their right to formal worship was effectively denied. In 1743, the colonial legislature of Virginia licensed Presbyterian “reading rooms” in Polegreen and three communities in and around Hanover County. Samuel Davies was commissioned as an evangelist to Virginia in February of 1747, and at age twenty-three he set out for the South with his bride of four months, Sarah (Kirkpatrick). Davies was determined to minister to folk of any denomination, preaching in dissenting communities and evangelizing wherever the opportunity arose.
            In September of 1747, tragedy struck: Sarah Davies died in childbirth only a month before their first anniversary. The loss hit Samuel so hard that he began to believe that he, too, always of frail health, might not have long to live. That thought drove Davies to redouble his evangelistic efforts. By 1748, Davies had set up his base of ministry in Hanover County, Virginia. In October of that year, he married Jane Holt from a prominent Williamsburg family. They would have six children together, one dying at birth.
            In the 1740’s, Davies was the only revivalistic – “New-light” or “New Side” – Presbyterian preacher in the county. There were, however, a few traditional – “Old Side” – Presbyterians, who presented little threat to the Established Church. Davies was determined to avoid conflict with the Established Church clergy, so his sermons were free of rancorous rhetoric or attacks on other denominations. He focused, instead, on careful exposition of Scripture and clear presentation of the Gospel. The strategy worked, much to the chagrin of the same Established clergy Davies had studiously avoided attacking. In 1752, Commissary William Dawson wrote the following to the Bishop of London:
The Dissenters were but an inconsiderable number before the late arrival of certain teachers from the northern colonies. . . . But since Mr. Davies has been allowed to officiate in so many places . . . there has been a great defection from our religious assemblies. The generality of his followers, I believe, were born and bred in our communion. (Cited in Sweet, 66)
            Davies would eventually establish seven Presbyterian congregations in five counties and win greater religious freedom for dissenters of all denominations.  Through his legal astuteness, he was able to secure in Virginia the application of England’s Toleration Act of 1689. His advocacy of the principles of the “free-born mind” or “liberty of conscience,” after the model of Roger Williams, eventually led to the establishment, after Davies’ death, of Virginia’s Declaration of Religious Rights (1776) and Statute for Religious Freedom (1786).
            Few colonialists, especially in the South, questioned the propriety of that “peculiar institution” of slavery, nor did Samuel Davies oppose it. He did, however, conduct a vigorous and extensive ministry to the slave population. Unlike the Baptist and Methodist missionaries who focused on a personal experience of salvation alone, Davies insisted that slaves be taught to read since an understanding and application of the Bible was essential to the Christian life. Davies himself estimated that he had ministered to over a thousand African slaves and had baptized hundreds. African converts were admitted into his congregations and were permitted to preach. He even wrote specific hymns for African ministry. The Negro spiritual, “Lord, I Want to Be a Christian in My Heart,” is believed to have been inspired, if not composed, by Samuel Davies.
            In 1753, Davies accompanied fellow Presbyterian minister Gilbert Tennent on an eleven-month fundraising tour of England and Scotland on behalf of the College of New Jersey, an outgrowth of Tennent’s Log College, during which Davies preached sixty-three times. The mission raised six thousand pounds, including a large contribution from the grandson of Oliver Cromwell.
            In 1759, Davies was offered the presidency of the College of New Jersey (which became Princeton University in 1898), succeeding Jonathan Edwards, who had died after only six weeks in office. At first Davies demurred, believing someone else more qualified, but he eventually accepted. Davies’s own tenure was also to be short. He died on February 4, 1761, at the age of 37.
            Few American ministers have had as much impact on the formation of the yet-to-be-founded United States of America as Samuel Davies. Davies influenced not only the eloquence, but also the principles of the noted orator and patriot Patrick Henry. Davies’ fight for religious liberty in the middle and southern colonies, formed the groundwork for the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
            As for Davies’ spiritual contribution, historian William Sweet sums it up well:
“Among the many prolific eighteenth-century preachers, few if any can be read more profitably today than Samuel Davies.” (Sweet, 70)

Resources
Sweet, William Warren. Revivalism in America. Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1965.


First published in Ninnau, Sept-Oct 2016. Copyright 2016 by Thomas L. Jones.