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1758); but how much more did Nassau Hall tremble when this pillar fell! Some of the Trustees, to my great surprise, had some thoughts of me upon the first vacancy that happened. But knowing the difficulty of my removal, and being very unwilling to leave my congregation, they made an attempt, upon President Edward's death, to furnish the College with another ; and therefore, chose the Rev. Mr. Lockwood, a gentleman of a worthy character in New England. But being disappointed as to him, they elected me on the 16th of last August, and were at the trouble and expense of sending two messengers to solicit the affair with me and the Presbytery. I can honestly say, never did anything cast me into such anxious perplexities. Never did I feel myself so much in need of Divine directions, and so destitute of it. My difficulty was not to find out my own inclination which was pre-engaged to Hanover, but the path of duty; and the fear of mistaking it, in so important a turn of my life, kept me uneasy night and day. I submitted the matter to the Presbytery, and gave them an honest representation of it, as far as it was known to me. As I was at an entire loss in my own mind to discover my duty, I could not, upon the authority of my own judgment, approve or regret their decision ; but I cheerfully acquiesced in it, and sent it, with my own negative answer, to the Board of Trustees, and expected never to hear any more about it. But the Trustees, to my still greater surprise, made a second application, requesting I would act as Vice-President during the winter, till the Synod should sit, when the judgment of the Presbytery might be referred to that higher judicature. After making all the inquiries in my power what was my duty in so perplexing a case, I thought I had certainly found out the will of God, and returned an absolute refusal in the strongest terms; transferring all my interest at the Board to another gentleman, (Dr. Finley) whom I looked upon as incomparably better qualified for the place, and of whose election I then had considerable hopes. Upon this I was as much settled in Hanover, in my own mind as ever; and, as many of you may remember, publicly congratulated you upon the pleasing prospect. But how was I surprised, and struck into a consternation, to receive a third application in more importunate terms than ever! This again unsettled my mind, and renewed my perplexities; though I was encouraged to hope, that when I had so sincerely committed my way unto the Lord, he would direct my path, and order things so, as that the result should discover my duty. This third application, as I informed the Trustees in my answer, constrained me only to admit a mere possibility of its being my duty to comply, but my mind was still almost established
in the contrary persuasion. It constrained me only to lay myself open to conviction, and no longer shut up the avenues of light; and, therefore, I came to this conclusion-To mention, at large, all my difficulties and objections,—to insist that my first election should be null, because my electors were not then apprised of my objections,and to leave it to the Trustees, after hearing all that could be said against it, whether to re-elect me at their next meeting. But even this was not all; I farther insisted, that in case they should re-elect me, it should be referred to the Synod of New York and Philadelphia, whether I should accept the place.
6 The result of the affair, when left upon this footing, has been, that I was re-chosen at the Board of Trustees by a much greater majority than at first; and that the Synod, consisting of an unusual number of ministers from various parts, after hearing at large what could be said upon both sides, not only consented to my acceptance of the proposal, but even dissolved my pastoral relation to my dear charge, and ordered my removal by an almost unanimous vote. This has brought the tedious, anxious affair to a final issue.
Mr. Davies immediately repaired to Princeton, and on Thursday the 26th of July, entered upon the duties of his office; and on Tuesday, 26th of September, was inaugurated as President of the College.
The greater part of the printed sermons of Mr. Davies were written under the pressure of his pastoral duties and evangelical labours in Virginia, which were incessant and excessive. They are the preparations he made for his continually recurring calls for pulpit labours. Many of them bear the date of their first delivery. His frequent and continued absences from home forbade extensive reading, or a very free use of a library; but were favourable to meditation and reflection, and lively mental action, as he journeyed through the silent forests. His constant collision with men of talent and influence, and the perpetual excitement on religion, formed and improved his mental habits, excited his warm and devotional feelings, and gave him a facility in his pulpit preparations he might never have attained in the full enjoyment of literary and theological treasures, in a congregation that permitted a sedentary life. The few hours he could spend in study, or with his pen, he was prepared to use to the greatest advantage on some angelic theme that had been the subject of his solitary meditations; or some point in morals or theology forced upon his attention by the necessities or passions of his fellow men. The spiritual wants of his flock dictated his sermons; and his ardent desires to do his hearers good, together with his simplicity of soul and fear of God, gave wonderful point to his arguments and illustrations. His power of sympathy was wonderful; he seemed at once to enter into the true condition of the people with whom he mingled, and to be able in his discourse to make them enter into his feelings about them, and partake of his emotions. He wrote his sermons with care, and carried them to the pulpit, and often read them, and often preached without reading, or omitted some of his preparations, or added to them, as circumstances and his own feelings prompted. In this way, his short time for preparation was amply sufficient, as the same sermon might be used repeatedly on one of his wide circuits; and the severe exercise on horseback promoted his bodily vigour, and enabled him to apply his mind with all its force, under strong excitement. He makes no parade of learning, but every where in his sermons it is evident that large stores were at his command; that he felt strongly, and thought clearly, and reasoned forcibly from great principles and important facts. At the twang of his silver bow the heart was pierced through and through; and with an angel's tenderness he was pouring in the balm of Gilead to the wounded spirit. And in all this the man was not seen; his message only was heard. Men
Men saw, and felt, and were excited, and convinced, and driven on to act, as by the moving of their own souls. They praised no set words of argument, admired no figures, lauded no flights of oratory, but felt themselves swept along to believe as he believed, and feel as he felt. When removed from the presence of the man, then they knew his charms must have been fascinating, and his power unresisted.
Sometimes as we read his Sermons, we begin to think, he is dealing too much in words; but, when we read again, and catch something of his spirit, his ardent heart seems pausing for a moment on truth rich in thought and feeling, -and then he hurries us along to take another view, to hear another statement, and to contemplate a kindred truth. Sometimes we think he is going to make a parade of learning, and theological lore, and philological treasures; but suddenly, he leads us off, under the conviction of truth, and with excited feelings, to the discussion of some subject in morals or religion in which we are ourselves deeply interested. Sometimes we wish there had been more argumentative discussion on some of the great and disputed doctrines of the Gospel; but, on second consideration, we do not see what could have been gained in a sermon addressed to a mixed audience, by more of the appearance of logic. He has stated the truth, he has illustrated it, and applied it, and made his hearers believe with him. Like a skilful pleader before a jury, he mingles principles, and facts, and feelings, with some apparent disorder, but resistless effect. He seems to have known for what he preached, and to whom he preached. There is a most wonderful congruity between the circumstances of the man, of the people, and the manner of his
preaching; and humanly speaking here was the secret of his
Always in earnest, he was always timely; nothing kept him back from declaring the truth he judged fitting the condition of things; and nothing could make him utter what he judged ill appropriate. That noble sense of propriety he always carried with him, was a special gift of God, cherished by education and guided by the Holy Ghost, on whom he fully relied for help and for all his success. In his devotion to his work and simplicity and timeliness of his address, he is worthy of all admiration. His care in preparing his sermons may be known by the declaration--"every sermon, I think worthy of the name, cost me four days hard study in the preparation.
Always earnest in his preaching, frequently excited, he was never boisterous. His subject excited him, his congregation excited him, his sense of responsibility impressed him, and his fervent spirit found vent in impassioned words. In his journal he tells us—that some sermons he had prepared and delivered under great excitement in America he could not deliver in England, without omitting parts, because he was not in proper frame to express such sentiments. He could not feign the
His outward man was excited in unison with his aroused spirit; yet he never seemed to make a gesture; he only uttered his sentiments with becoming motions of his body, and tones and modulations of his voice. He often preached to excited multitudes, but never forgot he was God's minister.
Virginia mourned his departure; and Nassau Hall rejoiced in his accession. The wonderful sympathy of the man is seen in the readiness with which he accommodated himself to his entirely new field of labour. He comprehended his situation. The change from the labours of an Evangelist in Virginia to the Presidency of a College, was complete, and perhaps too sudden for his physical strength. The historians of Nassau Hall all agree in awarding high praise to Mr. Davies for the wisdom of his plans, the energy of his efforts, and the success that attended his labours to advance the interests of the College. His whole heart and soul were in the work; he felt that all eyes were turned upon—that the friends of the College in Europe and America were kindly, yet anxiously observing his proceedings. He rose early and studied late; and to the last, appeared as in Virginia, to do the things, and preach the sermons befitting the occasion which called him forth. thou shalt die, (Jeremiah xxviii. 16,) was the subject of his newyear sermon, January 1st, 1761, at Nassau Hall. On the 4th of February he appeared before his Saviour in Paradise. His sickness was of short duration. On Saturday he was bled for a violent cold, and transcribed for the press his sermon on the
death of George II.; on Sabbath he preached twice in the College hall; on Monday morning at the breakfast table he was seized with chills, followed by an inflammatory fever, which greatly affected his brain. In his moments of the right exercise of reason he was composed, and referred to his condition affectionately and solemnly. During the wanderings of his mind, his imagination and inventive powers were busy in the contrivance of some plan of benevolent action, or the effecting of some good for his fellow men. During the ten days of his sickness, both in the wanderings of a diseased brain and in the clearer exercises of reason, he exhibited a truly Christian interest about the great work to which he had been called.
The father of Mr. Davies died August 11th, 1759, aged seventy-nine years, having lived with him in Hanover for years. His mother' survived him. When the corpse of her son was laid in the coffin, she stood over it, gazed at it intently for some minutes, -and exclaimed—“There is the son of my prayers and my hopes,—my only son,-my only earthly supporter. But there is the will of God, -and I am satisfied.”
Dr. Rodgers of New York, the early friend and companion of the son, like the beloved disciple, took the mother to his own home, from that hour, and ministered to her wants till the day of her death.
The family record, written in his own hand, in his Bible, preserved by his descendants, says he was born November 3, 1723. Accordingly, he was thirty-seven years and three months old on the day of his death. He died early, having lived fast and done much.
Makemie stands as the father of the Presbyterian Church in America; Davies as the apostle of Virginia. To no one man, in a religious point of view, does the State owe as much; no one can claim a more affectionate remembrance by Christian people. His residence in the State is an era in its history. To Virginia we look for the record and fruits of his labours. The Virginia Synod claims him as her spiritual father; and the Virginia creed in politics acknowledges his principles of religious freedom and civil liberty. His influence on politics was indirect, but not the less sure. The sole supremacy of Christ in the Church,—the authority of the Word of God,- the equality of the ministers of religion,—and individual rights of conscience,-principles for which he plead before the General Court, and in the defence of which he encountered such men as Pendleton, Wythe, Randolph, and the whole host of the aristocracy, are now a part and parcel of the religious and political creed of an overwhelming majority of the citizens of the " Ancient Dominion." He demonstrated the capability of