Samuel Davies, Master Speaker

Diana Severance, Ph.D. edited by Dan Graves, MSL

Samuel Davies, Master Speaker

The masterful sermons of what American preacher profoundly influenced Patrick Henry to become a great orator and patriot? What American minister succeeded Jonathan Edwards as President of Princeton University? The answer to both questions is Samuel Davies.

Samuel was born on this day, November 3, l723. Evidently, his Baptist mother had difficulty conceiving, for years later Samuel wrote, "I am a son of prayer, like my namesake Samuel the prophet; and my mother called me Samuel because, she said, 'I have asked him of the Lord...'" In that same letter, he remarked that "the most important blessings of my life I have looked upon as immediate answers to the prayers of a pious mother."

Davies was determined to make life count for God. In l740, although Virginia's colonial government discriminated against denominations other than the official Church of England, it gave Davies a license to preach as a Presbyterian minister in four counties, and he used it to promote tolerance for all denominations. The persuasive reasoning of Davies' eloquent sermons electrified his audiences by combining Scripture with practical teaching. The patriot orator, Patrick Henry frequently attended Davies' services, and learned some of his eloquence from him.

Davies also regularly invited three hundred slaves to his home on Saturday evenings--their only free time. He taught them to read and to sing hymns, many of which he wrote himself. His "Great God of Wonders" and other gospel songs are still found in hymn-books.

Realizing the importance of education, Davies helped found Princeton University, and was chosen its president after Jonathan Edward's sudden death. Yet Davies, too, soon died--at the early at age thirty-eight. Like the Old Testament prophet after whom he was named, this eighteenth century Samuel dedicated his life to serving his God and his country.


  1. Adapted from an earlier Christian History Institute story.
  2. Ninde, Edward S. The Story of the American Hymn. New York: Abingdon, 1921.
  3. Pilcher, George William. Samuel Davies; apostle of dissent in Colonial Virginia. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1971.
  4. Various encyclopedia and internet articles.

Last updated July, 2007.

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