« PreviousContinue »
people were taught better things than the ancient sages ever communicated to their disciples. The effect of this discipline remains to this day.”
The French and Indian war wasted the spirits and resources of the colonies. In the Spring of 1758, the work of raising recruits by voluntary enrolment went on heavily, and Mr. Davies was called once more to rouse the citizens of Hanover to becoming action. The influence of his war sermons appears to have been irresistible: and an examination of them might be advantageous to those who may be called to address soldiers. It will be seen that the prominent truths of the Gospel are held forth clearly; and man's dependence on God's providence and Christ's intercession forcibly inculcated as the very ground of hope for success. Dr. John H. Rice tells us, Magazine vol. 2d, pp. 359, 360—“We have conversed with aged friends, who remember well those times, and the despondency and consternation that pervaded the colony. They were themselves at the meetings of the people, when Davies preached these sermons; and they represent in lively terms the dejection and gloom depicted on every countenance, when every murmur of the western breeze seemed to be associated with the war-whoop of the savage, and the wail of the victims of French and Indian cruelty. And they say, that as the preacher poured forth the strains of his eloquence, his own spirit was transfused into his hearers: the cheek that was blanched with fear reddened, and the drooping eye kindled with martial fire, and at the conclusion, every voice was ready to say—“Let us march against the enemy-let us conquer or die.' Particularly we have been told, by eyewitnesses, that the effect of the following passage was most powerful. It was delivered on the 8th of May, 1758, at a general muster in Hanover county, for the purpose of raising a company for Captain Meredith; and is a part of Sermon sixty-third, in the printed volumes. About the middle of the sermon he exclaimed—“May I not reasonably insist upon it, that the company be made up this very day before we leave this place. Methinks your king, your country, nay your own interest command me: and therefore I insist upon it. Oh! for the all pervading force of Demosthenes' oratory—but I recall my wish that I may correct it,-Oh! for the influence of the Lord of armies, the God of battles, the Author of true courage, and every heroic virtue, to fire you into patriots and true sol adiers this moment! ye young and hardy men, whose very faces seem to speak that God and nature formed you for soldiers, who are free from the incumbrance of families depending upon you for subsistence, and who are perhaps but of little service to society while at home, may I not speak for you, and declare at your mouth,-here we are all ready to abandon our ease, and rush into the glorious dangers of the field, in defence of our country? ye that love your country, enlist; for honour will follow
in life or death in such a cause. You that love your religion, enlist; for your religion is in danger. Can Protestant Christianity expect quarters from heathen savages and French Papists. Sure in such an alliance the powers of hell make a third party. Ye that love your friends and relations, enlist; lest ye see them enslaved and butchered before your eyes.'
“After the close of the discourse we have been informed that a company was made up for Captain Meredith, in a few minutes,--and that more offered their names than the captain was authorized to command. Davies repaired from the muster ground to the tavern to order his horse; and the whole regiment followed him, and pressed round him to catch every word that dropped from his lips. On observing their desire, he stood in the tavern porch, and again addressed them until he was exhausted with speaking."
It is not a matter of surprise that Mr. Davies found himself quite unmolested, at this time, in performing his ministerial services wherever duty and convenience invited him. The Attorney General could scarcely venture to throw impediments in the path of the best recruiting officer in the province.
While Messrs. Davies and Tennent were in England, they had frequent opportunities for advice and consultation on the best method of removing the grievances of the dissenters in Virginia. It was the opinion of the leading dissenters that the General Court in Virginia had no right to limit the number of houses for public worship to be allowed dissenters,--neither had the Court a right to specify the persons to preach in particular houses ;—that all licensed ministers might preach in all licensed houses as far as the law was concerned;—that any number of families might demand the registering of their house,—and of course the people of New Kent were oppressed by the revoking of their license. This was Dr. Doddridge's opinion, sent to Mr. Davies in Virginia, shortly before his death, as is gathered from his letter, large fragments of which remain.
But as the General Court persisted in their course, the committee of the Deputation of Protestant Dissenters, resolved in February 1755, to bring the subject before the King in Council, not by petition for liberty of worship, but by appeal from the prosecution of the authorities in Virginia, in the way expressed in the two following papers, which were sent over to Mr. Davies, in reply to the petition referred to in his journal.
“Rev. Sir:-The committee of the Deputation of Protestant Dissenters have received your petition to the King in Council about licensing houses for religious worship; and after the most mature consideration and advice thereon, they find it will not be prudent to present it at present. And their advice to you is-that when any house or place for religious worship is wanted, that you apply first to the County Court for a license thereof,—if refused there, then apply for license to the Governor and Council,—if refused there, then apply to the Governor alone for a license,—and if he refuses, then use such house or place for religious worship, as if it had been licensed, -and if prosecuted for so doing acquaint the Committee therewith, and they will then send you further directions how to act. Signed by order of said committee, by Your most humble servant,
Secretary to the said Committee. 6 Ironmonger's Lane, 5th February, 1755.”
“Rev. Sir:-As a secret instruction to you which is not to be divulged until necessity requires it, I am by order of the said Committee to inform you that if any persons are prosecuted in your courts in Virginia for using such unlicensed houses or places for religious worship, after such application for license as in the other letter is directed—that then such person or persons so prosecuted should appeal to the King in Council here, and the Committee will take care to prosecute such appeal. Keep this advice in your own breast until a proper time of appeal comes. “Signed by order of the said Committee, by
Your most humble servant,
Secretary to the said Committee. No appeal ever went to England. The difficulty thrown in the way of dissenters was greatly lessened during Braddock’s
Still the labour and expense of a journey to Williamsburg were required to obtain license; and delays were thrown
Some ventured, as Mr. Wright in Cumberland, to use a house for worship during the ravages of the Indian wars, without license, and were unmolested. After the established clergy became involved in contentions with the Legislature about the payment of their stipend of sixteen thousand pounds of tobacco, whether it should be paid in kind, or at an estimated value set by the Legislature, less attention was paid to dissenters. While this contest waxed hotter and hotter, dissenters of different names multiplied; and the rigour of the courts relaxed. This unadvised proceeding of the clergy did more for the dissenters than all their appeals to natural or constitutional law had been able to accomplish.
in the way.
We come now to an event in the life of Mr. Davies which filled the people of Hanover with distress,—his removal to Princeton College, New Jersey. Of this Mr. Davies says, in his farewell sermon 6 both my first settlement here and my final removal were altogether unexpected.” On the death of the President of Nassau Hall, Mr. Burr, Rev. Jonathan Edwards was called to preside over that important institution. His presidency was limited to a few weeks; having been inaugurated, February 16th, 1758, he ended his days on the 22d of the following March. Rev. James Lockwood of Wethersfield, Connecticut, was, April 19th, chosen his successor. The want of unanimity in the election, with other circumstances, prevented his acceptance. The next election, August 16th, was in favour of Mr. Davies of Virginia ; and was by him immediately submitted to a called meeting of Presbytery. On the 13th of September, the Presbytery met in Hanover, and unanimously decided against his removal from Virginia. Mr. Davies used his influence to secure the election of his friend, Samuel Finley. The Trustees, looking over the whole subject, turned unanimously upon the man who had plead their cause to such advantage in England and Scotland, and stood up so nobly and successfully for the gospel in Virginia ; and not discouraged by the refusal of Presbytery, laid the subject before the Synod of New York and Philadelphia, at its meeting, in May, 1759. On Thursday 17th, “ An application to the Synod, from the Board of Trustees of the College of New Jersey, for the liberation of Mr. Davies from his pastoral charge, that he may accept the Presidency of the said College, to which they had elected him, was brought in and read. A supplication was also brought in from Mr. Davies' congregation, earnestly requesting his continuance with them. The Synod having seriously considered the congregation's supplication, and fully heard all the reasonings for and against Mr. Davies' liberation, after solemn prayer to God for direction, do, upon the whole, judge that the arguments in favour of said liberation do preponderate, and agree that Mr. Davies' pastoral relation to his congregation be dissolved in order to his removal to the College, and do accordingly hereby dissolve it.”
The sentiments and feelings of Mr. Davies, on the subject of his removal from Virginia, are best expressed in his own language, in Sermon 82), which he delivered, Sabbath, July 1st, 1759, in Hanover, on the words,—“Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect ; be of good comfort, be of one mind; live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you, 2 Cor. xiii. 11. In the introduction, he says,—“A few weeks before I made my first visit to Hanover, I had no more thoughts of it as my pastoral charge, than of the remotest corner of the world; but was preparing to settle in ease near my native place, till the more urgent necessity and importunity of the people here, constrained me to alter my resolution. It is known to no mortal but myself with what reluctance, fear, and trembling I accepted your call. The rawness and inexperience of my youth, and the formidable opposition then made both by Church and State, when a dissenter was stared at with horror, as a shocking and portentous phenomenon, were no small discouragements in my way. For some years I durst hardly venture to appear but in the pulpit or my study; lest, by a promiscuous conversation with the world at large, I should injure the cause of religion, by some instance of unguarded conduct. In short, my self-diffidence rose so high, that I often thought I had done a great exploit, when I had done no harm to this important interest, which I had a sincere desire, though little ability, to promote. When, after many an anxious conflict, I accepted your call, I fully expected I was settled among you for life; and whatever advantageous offers have been made to me on either side of the Atlantic, have not had the force of temptations. It was in my heart to live and die with you; and such of you as best know my circumstances, and how little I shall carry from Virginia after eleven years labour in it, must be convinced in your own conscience, and can assure others, that worldly interest was not the reason of my attachment. To satisfy you of the reason of my present removal I will give you a brief impartial account of the whole affair.
“ The College of New Jersey, though an infant institution, is of the utmost importance to the interests of religion and learning, in several extensive and populous colonies. From it both Church and State expect to be supplied with persons properly qualified for public stations; and it has already been very useful to both in this respect. Before the irreparable breach made in it, by the death of that excellent man, President Burr, its members were increased to near a hundred ; and there was no small prospect of considerable additions every year. But, alas! President Burr, its father, is no more. Upon his removal, the Trustees made choice of the Rev. Mr. Edwards to succeed him, the profoundest reasoner, and the greatest divine, in my opinion, that America ever produced. His advancement to the place gave the public sanguine expectations of the future fame and prosperity of the College. But alas ! how short is human foresight! how uncertain and blind are the highest expectations of mortals! He was seated in the President's chair but a few days, when he was taken sick and died, and left a bereaved society to lament the loss, and pine away under it. An earthquake spread a tremor through a great part of our solid continent on that melancholy day in which he died (March 22d,