‘Church History’ Category

Samuel Davies on Reading Scripture

March 17th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians

By Joe Harrod

Although Samuel Davies (1723­–1761) defended Scripture’s divine authority from various eighteenth century detractors, notably the Deists, his devotion to Scripture as God’s word was greater than a series of doctrinal propositions and interpretive strategies. He found Scripture of matchless spiritual value: “The word of Christ has been the treasure, the support, and the joy of believers in all ages.”[1] When instructing congregants in using various means to pursue holiness, Davies’ frequently mentioned personal disciplines which involved Scripture.[2]

Hearing the Bible read and proclaimed was part of congregational spiritual exercises and domestic responsibilities, but public piety was only part of the Christian’s duty, for genuine spirituality thrived in a believer’s “secret” or personal duties. For Davies, reading the Bible was a necessary and vital way of pursuing personal holiness.[3] He exhorted congregants to “read the word of God and other good books, with diligence, attention, and self-application.”[4] As his people read Scripture, God would meet with them.[5] Reading might also stir the affections, as Davies recalled from his own reading of 1 Thessalonians 2: “I can remember the time, when the reading of [this chapter] has drawn tears even from [a] heart so hard as mine.”[6] On the other hand, the neglect of reading Scripture often contributes to “cooling in religion.”[7] The diligent reading of Scripture may also convince the unsaved sinner of their need for Christ.[8] Hearing and reading Scripture are a delight for Christians, because through these disciplines they enjoy filial and communal fellowship with God.[9]


[1]Samuel Davies, “Christ Precious to all True Believers,” in Sermons by the Rev. Samuel Davies, A.M. President of the College of New Jersey, vol. 1 (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1854, repr. 1993), 384. Cited henceforth as Sermons.

[2]See Samuel Davies, “A Sermon on the New Year,” in Sermons, 2:207; idem., “Tender Anxieties,” in Sermons, 2:424; idem., “The Nature of Love to God and Christ Opened and Enforced,” in Sermons, 2:464–65; and idem., “Christians Solemnly Reminded,” in Sermons, 3:608.

[3]Samuel Davies, “A Sermon on the New Year,” in Sermons, 2:207.

[4]Samuel Davies, “The Connection between Present Holiness and Future Felicity,” in Sermons, 1:281.

[5]Davies, “Nature of Love to God,” in Sermons, 2:464–65.

[6]Davies, “Love of Souls,” in Sermons, 3:501.

[7]Davies, “Christians Solemnly Reminded,” in Sermons, 3:608.

[8]Davies, “Tender Anxieties,” in Sermons, 2:424.

[9]Davies, “Nature of Love to God,” in Sermons, 2:464–65.

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jch_cropJoe Harrod serves as Director for Institutional Assessment at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he is a doctoral candidate in the areas of Biblical Spirituality and Church History. He and his wife, Tracy, have three sons.

Reclaiming St. Patrick’s Day

March 17th, 2014 Posted in Ancient Church: 4th & 5th Centuries, Biblical Spirituality, Books, Church Fathers, Church History, Eminent Christians, Missions

By Steve Weaver
Patrick Cover

Michael Haykin’s new biography of Patrick. See below for a free giveaway opportunity.

We are blessed in our society today to have holidays such as Easter, Christmas, St. Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day which are filled with Christian significance. Unfortunately, almost all of the Christian meaning for these important markers on the Christian calendar has been forgotten. As much as we Christians like to blame the nebulous society around us, I don’t think it is the “world’s” fault that these holidays have not retained their Christian meaning. Instead, I fault Christians who are either unaware of their heritage or just plain derelict in their duty to educate their children. We shouldn’t expect unbelievers to celebrate Christianity, but we should expect Christians to seek to pass their heritage on to the next generation.

Hopefully you do use the holidays of Christmas and Easter as opportunities to talk to your children about the birth and resurrection of Christ respectively. However, days like St. Valentine’s Day and especially St. Patrick’s Day are often missed opportunities in evangelical homes. Perhaps we’re frightened away by the fact that these individuals are often associated with the Roman Catholic Church. But there is no need to fear Patrick for in him evangelicals have not a foe but a friend.

Patrick was a courageous Christian missionary to Ireland in the 5th century. His story of being kidnapped as a boy in Britain to become a slave in Ireland, his escape back to Britain, and his call as a missionary to return is a fascinating tale of God’s providence and grace. His dedication to the doctrine of the Trinity is both admirable and worthy of emulation. Talking to your children about how Patrick taught the Trinity to the pagans of his day provides a tremendous opportunity to explain this difficult biblical teaching to them. This is an opportunity that should not be missed. Likewise, Patrick’s commitment to take the gospel to unreached peoples (Ireland at the time would have been considered the “end of the world.”) is another important teachable aspect of this remarkable life for our children. Read, in Patrick’s own words, his commitment to take the gospel to Ireland:

I came to the people of Ireland to preach the Gospel, and to suffer insult from the unbelievers, bearing the reproach of my going abroad and many persecutions even unto bonds, and to give my free birth for the benefit of others; and, should I be worthy, I am prepared to give even my life without hesitation and most gladly for his name, and it is there that I wish to spend it until I die, if the Lord would grant it to me. (Confession 37)

In short, St. Patrick should be introduced to our children as a courageous missionary hero who believed and taught the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.

Many legends are attached to the story of Patrick and though I believe most are grounded in some true events, the discerning reader must be aware of the mixture of legend and history on this early Christian figure. However, we are not dependent merely on legends to know about the life of Patrick. His autobiographical Confession has survived the centuries and is a fascinating recounting of his life.

For those interested in learning more, there is a helpful modern biography of Patrick by Philip Freeman. For parents wanting a good introduction that can be ready by or to their children, I highly recommend Patrick: Saint of Ireland by Joyce Denham. In addition, a new biography of Patrick has been penned by Michael Haykin, which is already available in the UK and is available for pre-order in the US. We are going to give away a free copy of this book today. Enter the contest below!

A few short, but very helpful articles about Patrick’s modern-day relevance are available online.

This post originally appeared on March 17, 2012 on pastorhistorian.com. It has been lightly edited and reposted today on that blog in honor of St. Patrick’s Day 2014.

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Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and a fellow of the Center. He also serves as senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. Steve and his wife Gretta have six children.

Historiae ecclesiasticae collecta: a weekly roundup of blogs, articles, books, and more

March 14th, 2014 Posted in Books, Church History, Historians

By Dustin Bruce

Blogs

  1. John Fea continues a helpful series on “How to be a Public Scholar” with a session on blogging at his blog, The Way of Improvement Leads Home.
  2. Over at The Scriptorium Daily, Fred Sanders has linked to a talk he gave in Biola’s chapel on The Fundamentals (1910–1915).
  3. Over at Reformatiom 21, Carl Trueman highlights the recent release of some Reformed base packages by Logos Bible Software. These packages were created with students and scholars of the Reformation in mind.
  4. Tim Challies has released his recent post in a series highlighting “The History of Christianity in 25 Objects.” This time he is looking at Billy Graham’s Prayer Wheel.
  5. Thomas Kidd presents a helpful history of “the Sinner’s Prayer” over at The Anxious Bench.
  6. R. Scott Clark has compiled a section of “Calvin Studies” on the Heidelblog. His newest edition features audio of Scott Manetsch teaching “On Calvin In His Context and Ours.
  7. The Fuller Center’s own Steve Weaver has suggested “Seven Podcasts for a Pastor-Historian” on his blog, Thoughts of a Pastor-Historian.
  8. Speaking of podcasts, on the Beeson Podcast, Timothy George has posted an excellent lecture on “The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards,” given at Beeson by George Marsden. Last week, on another excellent edition, George interviewed John L. Thompson on the subject of the history of exegesis and Calvin’s hermeneutic.
  9. In light of the coming holiday, Timothy Paul Jones asks, “What Happened to the Real St. Patrick?”
  10. Over at The Junto: a Group Blog on Early American History, Jonathan Wilson reminds us that Jonathan Edwards began pastoring, not in Connecticut or Massachusetts, but in New York in “Looking for “a World of Love”: Jonathan Edwards in the Big City.”
  11. Philip Jenkins points to the use of art in telling the history of missions.
  12. Last, but not least, the Confessing Baptist features an interview with Ian Clary and Steve Weaver on the Festschrift they edited in honor of Michael Haykin, The Pure Flame of Devotion.

Recent Book Releases

  1. A Cultural History of Childhood and Family in the Middle Ages (The Cultural Histories Series) by Louise J. Wilkinson.Bloomsbury Academic. 9781472554758. $34.00.
  2. An Able and Faithful Ministry: Samuel Miller and the Pastoral Office by James M. Garreston. Reformation Heritage Books. 9781601782984. $35.00.
  3. Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation: Volume 4, 1600–1693 edited by James T. Dennison Jr. Reformation Heritage Books. 9781601782809. $50.00.
  4. A Will to Believe: Shakespeare and Religion (Oxford Wells Shakespeare Lectures) by David Scott Kastan. Oxford University Press. 9780199572892. $40.00.
  5. Holy Warriors: The Religious Ideology of Chivalry (The Middle Ages Series) by Richard W. Kaeuper. University of Pennsylvania Press. 9780812222975. $29.95.
  6. Kierkegaard on the Philosophy of History by Georgios Patios. Palgrave Macmillan. 9781137383273. $95.00.

From the Fuller Center

  1. Contributor Evan Burns highlights the Prince of Preachers in “Spurgeon’s Missiology: Go and Teach Them.
  2. Contributor Steve Weaver points to a new series edited by Michael Haykin on the early church fathers.

What did I miss this week?  Share in the comments or on Twitter: @AFCBS or @dustinbruce. 

Note: Inclusion of an article, book, or any other form of media on the Historiae ecclesiasticae collecta does not constitute a theological endorsement by the compiler, Michael Haykin, the Andrew Fuller Center or Southern Seminary.

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Dustin Bruce lives in Louisville, KY where he is pursuing a PhD in Biblical Spirituality at Southern Seminary. He is a graduate of Auburn University and Southwestern Seminary. Dustin and his wife, Whitney, originally hail from Alabama.

New Series on Early Church Fathers Edited by Michael Haykin

March 14th, 2014 Posted in Ancient Church: 4th & 5th Centuries, Books, Church Fathers, Church History, Eminent Christians, Historians

By Steve Weaver

A new series of books featuring biographies of the early church fathers is being published by Christian Focus Publications of the United Kingdom. Noted Patristic scholar Michael A.G. Haykin is serving as the series editor. According to the publisher’s website:  ”this series relates the magnificent impact that these fathers of the early church made for our world today. They encountered challenges similar to ones that we face in our postmodern world, and they met them with extraordinary values that will encourage and inspire us today.”

Basil CoverThe first volume, authored by Marvin Jones, focuses on Basil of Caesarea. The publisher’s website provides the following description:

Basil of Caesarea (329-379 AD) was a Greek Bishop in what is now Turkey. A thoughtful theologian, he was instrumental in the formation of the Nicene Creed. He fought a growing heresy, Arianism, that had found converts, including those in high positions of state. In the face of such a threat he showed courage, wisdom and complete confidence in God that we would do well to emulate today.

Patrick CoverThe second volume in the series was authored by Haykin and is an exploration of the life and impact of Patrick of Ireland. The publisher’s website provides this description:

Patrick ministered to kings and slaves alike in the culture that had enslaved him. Patrick’s faith and his commitment to the Word of God through hard times is a true example of the way that God calls us to grow and to bless those around us through our suffering. Michael Haykin’s masterful biography of Patrick’s life and faith will show you how you can follow God’s call in your life.

Both these books are available in the UK. They will not be available in the US until May, but are available for pre-order now on Amazon:

Other books scheduled in the series include:

  • Athanasius by Carl Trueman
  • Cyril of Alexandria by Steve McKinion
  • Augustine by Brad Green
  • Irenaeus of Lyons by Ligon Duncan
  • Tertullian by David Robinson

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Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and a fellow of the Center. He also serves as senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. Steve and his wife Gretta have six children.

 

Historiae ecclesiasticae collecta: a weekly roundup of blogs, articles, books, and more

March 7th, 2014 Posted in Books, Church History, Historians

By Dustin Bruce

Blogs

  1. In a helpful post for PhD students on The Anxious Bench, Thomas Kidd offers advice on “What to Publish, and When?”.
  2. Kidd also reviews Marsden’s The Twilight of the American Enlightenment  on The Gospel Coalition. John Fea has done the work of compiling the reviews of Marsden’s latest work.
  3. Brian Renshaw of NT Exegesis pontificates on two surprisingly connected loves in “Baseball and Church History.”
  4. Jason Duesing reflects on “W.O. Carver, Southern Seminary, and the Significance of Adoniram Judson” on his personal blog.
  5. Over at the Founder’s Blog, Jeff Robinson asks, “Is Calvin Guilty of the Popular Charges Against Him?
  6. Also at Founders, Jon English Lee continues in a series on the Sabbath with, “Where is the Sabbath in the Early Church? (Part 2)
  7. R. Albert Mohler rolls out his 2014 list of “Ten Books Every Preacher Should Read” in Preaching Magazine. Included in this is Tom Nettles, Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Mentor, 2013), Michael J. Kruger, The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2013), and John Elliot Gardiner, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven (Knopf, 2013). The SBTS Campus Lifeway has the books from Dr. Mohler’s list on sale at a 40% discount.
  8. On The Anxious Bench, Phillip Jenkins explores “Welsh Roots” in an insightful post for St. David’s Day and then follows up with “Welsh America, American Wales.”
  9. Jenkins also discusses “The 160-Year Christian History Behind What’s Happening in Ukraine” on Christianity Today.
  10. At Between the Times, Nathan Finn looks at historic Baptist roots in “On the Baptist Confession of 1689.”
  11. The Confessing Baptist interviewed the Fuller Center’s own Steve Weaver on his and Michael Haykin’s recent release of An Orthodox Catechism by Hercules Collins.
  12. Joel Beeke discusses “The Puritan Art of Godly Meditation” in a brief video on his blog, Doctrine for Life.

Major Discussion: Should Evangelicals Practice Lent?

Debate stirred this week around the practice of Lent and specifically Ash Wednesday, with low-church Evangelicals falling on both sides. Some helpful interlocutors were:

  1. Nathan Finn on Christian Thought and Tradition with “Why One Baptist Chooses to Observe Lent.”
  2. R. Scott Clark with “Lent: Of Good Intentions, Spiritual Disciplines, and Christian Freedom” on the Heidelblog.
  3. Keith Miller calls upon the historical heroes of the Reformed in “Reformed Homeboys on Lenten Fasting” on Mere Orthodoxy.

Recent Book Releases

  1. The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield by Steven Lawson. Reformation Trust Publishing. 9781567693638. Hardback. $16.00.
  2. Gratitude: An Intellectual History byPeter Leithart. Baylor University Press. 9781602584495. $49.95.
  3. John Knox (Christian Biographies for Young Readers) by Simonetta Carr. Reformation Heritage Books. 9781601782892. $18.00.
  4. Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity (3 vols.) edited by Angelo Di Beradino. IVP Academic. 9780830829439. $450.00.
  5. The Oxford Movement: Europe and the Wider World 1830–1930 edited by Stewart Brown and Peter Nockles. Cambridge University Press. 9781107680272. $26.46.
  6. The Urban Pulpit: New York City and the Fate of Liberal Evangelicalism by Matthew Bowman. Oxford University Press. 9780199977604. $62.15.
  7. A People’s History of Christianity, Vol 1: From the Early Church to the Reformation (Student Edition) edited by Dennis R. Janz. Fortress Press. 9781451470246. $39.00.  Volume 2: From the Reformation to the 21st Century.
  8. Abraham in the Works of John Chrysostom (Emerging Scholars) by Demetrios E. Tonias. Fortress Press. 9781451473056. $49.96.
  9. The Life of  Saint Helia: Critical Edition, Translation, Introduction, and Commentary (Oxford Early Christian Texts) edited by Virginia Burrus and Marco Conti. Oxford University Press. 9780199672639. $150.00.
  10. The Search for Authority in Reformation Europe (St Andrews Studies in Reformation History) edited by Helen Parish, Elaine Fulton, and Peter Webster. Ashgate. 9781409408543. $119.95.

From the Fuller Center

  1. Evan Burns posts on “Fuller Reading the Scriptures.”
  2. Joe Harrod discusses “Samuel Davies on the Nature of the Spiritual Life.”
  3. Burns follows up the AFC mini-conference on Adoniram Judson with “Judson’s Farewell Hymn.”

What did I miss this week?  Share in the comments or on Twitter: @AFCBS or @dustinbruce.

Note: Inclusion of an article, book, or any other form of media on the Historiae ecclesiasticae collecta does not constitute a theological endorsement by the compiler, Michael Haykin, the Andrew Fuller Center or Southern Seminary.

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Dustin Bruce lives in Louisville, KY where he is pursuing a PhD in Biblical Spirituality at Southern Seminary. He is a graduate of Auburn University and Southwestern Seminary. Dustin and his wife, Whitney, originally hail from Alabama.

Judson’s Farewell Hymn

March 6th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Eminent Christians, Hymnody, Poetry

By Evan D. Burns

Yesterday, at the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, a mini-conference was held on Adoniram Judson (1788-1850).  In honor of Judson, below is a portion of the farewell hymn written by Mrs. A. M. O. Edmond in 1846 for his final commissioning back to Burma.  Here is part of the hymn sung by the assembly in Boston:[1]

Fare ye well, O friends beloved!
Speed ye on your mission high;
Give to lands of gloomy error
Living truths that never die.
Tell, O tell them,
Their redemption draweth nigh.

Bear abroad the gospel standard,
Till its folds triumphant wave,
And the hosts of sin and darkness
Find forevermore a grave:
Till, victorious,
Jesus reigns, who died to save.

Fearless ride the stormy billows,
Fearless every danger dare;
Onward! in your steadfast purpose,
We will follow you with prayer.
Glorious mission!
‘Tis the Cross of Christ ye bear.

Though our parting waken sadness,
‘Tis not all the grief of woe;
There are tears of Christian gladness
Mingling with the drops that flow.
‘Tis for Jesus
That we freely bid you go.

 Man of God! once more departing
Hence, to preach a Saviour slain,
With a full, warm heart we give thee
To the glorious work again.
Faithful servant,
Thou with Christ shall rest and reign.


[1]John Dowling, The Judson Offering, 287-288;  Robert T. Middleditch, Burmah’s Great Missionary, 400-401.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

Samuel Davies on the Nature of the Spiritual Life

March 4th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians, Revivals

By Joe Harrod

Samuel Davies (1723–1761) used the language of communion or fellowship when describing the nature of spiritual life: “If you love God and the Lord Jesus Christ, you delight in communion with them.”[1] True friends seized every opportunity for fellowship and a dear companion’s “absence is tedious and painful to them.”[2] God was such a friend to believers. Davies balanced God’s transcendence and immanence:

Though God be a spirit, and infinitely above all sensible converse with the sons of men, yet he does not keep himself at a distance from his people. He has access to their spirits, and allows them to carry on a spiritual commerce with him, which is the greatest happiness of their lives.[3]

Jesus had promised this communion (c.f. John 14:21–23) and it was a “mystical fellowship” that believers enjoyed, which sinners knew not.[4] Just as friends experienced communion through mutual exchanges, so God drew near to his people as a father might approach his child, showering grace, kindling love, and fostering assurance of his closeness. For their part, Christians had freedom to approach God through acts of devotion, especially prayer:

And oh! how divinely sweet in some happy hours of sacred intimacy! This indeed is heaven upon earth: and, might it but continue without interruption, the life of a lover of God would be a constant series of pure, unmingled happiness.[5]

Contrary to the opinion of some detractors, religion provided “a happiness more pure, more noble, and more durable than all the world can give.”[6] Such happiness was the believer’s present joy, and consisted of “the pleasures of a peaceful, approving conscience, of communion with God, the supreme good, of the most noble dispositions and most delightful contemplations.”[7] These blessings were gospel fruits and it was through Christ that believers had “sweet communion” with God, “the reviving communications of divine love, to sweeten the affections of life; and the constant assistance of divine grace to bear us up under every burden, and to enable us to persevere in the midst of many temptations to apostacy [sic], deliverance from hell, and all the consequences of sin.”[8]

Occasionally the believer’s experience of God did not seem so intimate, for “at times their Beloved withdraws himself, and goes from them, and then they languish, and pine away, and mourn.”[9] He recognized that the deep communion with God that he described was foreign to many, and he anticipated objections that such talk was “enthusiasm, fanaticism, or heated imagination.”[10] He appealed to more than a  half-dozen passages of Scripture (James 4:8; Hebrews 7:19 and 10:22; Psalms 69:18 and 73:28; Lamentations 3:57; and 1 John 1:3) which promised such intimacy, but replied that such communion was indeed true of God’s friends and if some critics questioned the possibility of such a close relationship, then their distance from God testified to their alienation.[11]


[1]Davies, “Nature of Love to God and Christ Opened and Enforced,” in Sermons by the Rev. Samuel Davies, A.M. President of the College of New Jersey, vol. 2 (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1854, repr. 1993), 463. Cited henceforth as Sermons.

[2]Davies, “Nature of Love to God,” in Sermons, 2:463.

[3]Davies, “Nature of Love to God,” in Sermons, 2:463.

[4]Davies, “Nature of Love to God,” in Sermons, 2:463.

[5]Davies, “Nature of Love to God,” in Sermons, 2:464.

[6]Samuel Davies, “The Ways of Sin Hard and Difficult,” in Sermons, 2:549.

[7]Davies, “Ways of Sin,” in Sermons, 2:549.

[8]Samuel Davies, “The Gospel Invitation,” in Sermons, 2:631.

[9]Davies, “Nature of Love to God,” in Sermons, 2:464.

[10]Davies, “Nature of Love to God,” in Sermons, 2:464.

[11]Davies, “Nature of Love to God,” in Sermons, 2:463–64.

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jch_cropJoe Harrod serves as Director for Institutional Assessment at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he is a doctoral candidate in the areas of Biblical Spirituality and Church History. He and his wife, Tracy, have three sons.

Introducing Samuel Davies

February 25th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, Church History, Eminent Christians, Revivals

By Joe Harrod

In November, 1752, Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) wrote a Scottish correspondent describing a young minister with whom he had recently spent an afternoon’s conversation: “He seems to be very solid and discreet, and of a very civil, genteel behavior, as well as fervent and zealous in religion.”[1] Nearly four years before the aforementioned meeting, Edwards had called the same young preacher “a very ingenious and pious young man.”[2] For all that he knew of this godly young man in 1752, Jonathan Edwards could never have known that within a decade their bodies would be buried just yards apart, about a half mile north of the yellow clapboard house in which both men had lived and died. Samuel Davies (1723­–1761), the minister whose character Edwards described, was the reluctant fourth president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton), a champion for religious toleration and civil rights for dissenters in Virginia, and a poet whose verses constitute some of the earliest North American hymnody. Davies was a husband and father who had lost both wife and children, a pioneer missionary to African slaves, and a New Side Presbyterian revivalist whom D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has described as “the greatest preacher” America ever produced. Yet a decade into the twenty-first century, Davies remains relatively unnoticed among American Evangelicals.[3]

Moreover, for all of his remarkable public accomplishments, those who knew Davies most closely esteemed his personal holiness. Upon learning of Samuel Davies’ death, his long-time friend and London correspondent Thomas Gibbons (d. 1785) remarked,

what crowned all, or advanced his distinction as a man and a scholar into the highest value and lustre, was, that his pious character appeared not at all inferior to his great intellect and acquired accomplishments…His pious character as much surpassed all else that was remarkable in him, as the sparkling eye in the countenance of a great genius does all the other features of the face.[4]

Samuel Finley (1715–1766), Davies’ successor as president at the college, noted that “from twelve or fourteen years of age, [Davies] had continually maintained the strictest watch over his thoughts and actions, and daily lived under a deep sense of his own unworthiness,” and “of the transcendent excellency of the Christian religion.”[5] In reading Davies’ sermons, treatises, hymns, correspondence, and diary, one gains a sense of what his friends knew personally: Samuel Davies articulated a warm and Evangelical piety, rooted in theological reflection upon Scripture.

For the past two and a half years, I have become increasingly familiar with Davies’ works during my doctoral thesis research. In the weeks ahead, I hope to share a portion of the fruit of this research with readers of this blog. Though I don’t follow Davies’ theology on every point, I think his reflections on divinity and piety commend wider appreciation among contemporary Evangelicals.


[1]Jonathan Edwards, letter to William McCulloch, November 24, 1752, in Letters and Personal Writings, ed. George S. Claghorn, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 16 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 544.

[2]Jonathan Edwards, letter to James Robe, May 23, 1749, in Letters and Personal Writings, ed. Claghorn, Works 16:276.

[3]D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Knowing the Times: Addresses Delivered on Various Occasions 1942–1977 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1989), 263.

[4]Thomas Gibbons, “A Portion of Two Discourses, Preached at Haberdashers-Hall, London, March 29, A.D. 1761, occasioned by the Decease of the Rev. Samuel Davies, A. M., Late President of the College of Nassau Hall, in New Jersey,” in Sermons by the Rev. Samuel Davies, A.M. President of the College of New Jersey, vol. 1 (New York: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1854; repr., Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1993), 56.

[5]Samuel Finley, “The Disinterested Christian: A Sermon, Preached at Nassau-Hall, Princeton, May 28, 1761. Occasioned by the Death of the Rev. Samuel Davies, A. M. Late President of the College of New Jersey,” Sermons, 1:53.

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jch_cropJoe Harrod serves as Director for Institutional Assessment at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he is a doctoral candidate in the areas of Biblical Spirituality and Church History. He and his wife, Tracy, have three sons.

Answering My Great Question about “The Great Question Answered”

February 19th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Books, Church History, Eminent Christians, Historians

By Nathan A. Finn

You may or may not know that Andrew Fuller wrote a wildly popular gospel tract titled The Great Question Answered. It was republished numerous times by multiple publishers and remained enormously popular in both Britain and the USA into the mid-nineteenth century. It is available in volume three of the “Sprinkle Edition” of The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller (pp. 540–549). The tract is also available on several websites on the internet, but be careful not to confuse it with the pro-slavery treatise by James Sloan, which was published in 1857 and is also widely available online.

I am editing the volume on Strictures on Sandemanianism for the forthcoming critical edition of The Works of Andrew Fuller. Several months ago, I began trying to locate the first publication of The Great Question Answered because it briefly references the Sandemanian view of faith. I knew it was published during the decade between 1801, when Fuller included an appendix on Sandemanianism in the revised edition of The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, and before the publication of Strictures on Sandemanianism in 1810. But the tract “went viral” so quickly and was republished so often it was difficult to find the original publication. I talked to Michael Haykin about my quest, and though he did not know the answer to my query, he helped me think through ways to track down the first publication. Last week, my quest came to an end. I have found the Holy Grail. Let me tell you how it happened.

In his memoir of his father, found in volume one of the Sprinkle Edition, Andrew Gunton Fuller suggested the tract was first published in 1806 (p. 91). But I knew that could not be the case because an extensive library holdings search last fall revealed that several libraries in both England and North America owned copies of the tract from multiple publishers dating to 1805. In his book The Forgotten Heritage: The Great Lineage of Baptist Preaching (Mercer University Press, 1986), Thomas McKibben cited an edition of The Great Question Answered published in London by William Button and Sons in 1803 (p. 49). That was the earliest date I could find.

In 1818, John Ryland Jr. published a biography of his close friend Fuller titled The Work of Faith, the Labour of Love, and the Patience of Hope, illustrated; In the Life and Death of the Rev. Andrew Fuller. In the biography, Ryland provided a list of Fuller’s published works, including magazine articles. Ryland dated the initial publication of The Great Question Answered to 1803 in The Missionary Magazine (p. 133). I had previously seen one reference to the tract appearing in the “Edinburgh Missionary Magazine,” but could not find anything. Ryland was a great help because the periodical, though published in Edinburgh, was simply titled The Missionary Magazine—I had been sniffing down the wrong trail. In God’s providence, some volumes of The Missionary Magazine are available via Google Books—including the 1803 volume.

As it turns out, The Great Question Answered was indeed published first in The Missionary Magazine in two parts. Part One appeared in the February 21, 1803 issue, on pages 59–65. Part Two was published the following month in the March 21, 1803 issue, on pages 110–16. The two parts were then combined into a single tract that was likely first published in one part by William Button and Sons in London later in 1803. From there, it was first published in America in both Boston and Maine as early as 1805.

I do know a bit about the reception history after 1805, though there are many stones left to un-turn. As early as 1811, a Gaelic edition was published in Edinburgh. The Great Question Answered was included in the different collected editions of Fuller’s published works that began appearing as early as 1820. Also by 1820, The Great Question Answered was being published by the Baptist General Tract Society in England. In 1821, a certain Dr. Henderson translated the tract into Swedish and Russian and began distributing it through tract societies formed for those nations. In 1838, the tract was included in The Baptist Manual published by the American Baptist Publication Society. The American Tract Society was publishing the tract by 1850. Throughout the American Civil War, The Great Question Answered was distributed to Confederate soldiers by a publisher in Raleigh, North Carolina.

As this brief survey makes clear, The Great Question Answered was a popular gospel tract during the first two-thirds of the nineteenth century. During the years between 1803 and 1865, it was published on at least two different continents in at least four different languages—probably more. But the initial publication was in two parts in The Missionary Magazine in February and March of 1803. While there is still much I do not know about the reception history of this tract, my great question has been answered about The Great Question Answered. All is now right with the world.

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Nathan A. Finn is associate professor of historical theology and Baptist Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also an elder at First Baptist Church of Durham, NC and a fellow of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies.

An Orthodox Catechism: New Book Edited by Michael Haykin and Steve Weaver

February 17th, 2014 Posted in 16th Century, 17th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Books, Church History, Puritans, Reformation

By Steve Weaver

Michael A.G. Haykin and I have edited Hercules Collins’ An Orthodox Catechism (1680). This catechism was itself a revision of the 1563 Heidelberg Catechism loved and used by Protestants world-wide. This edition by Collins edits the section on baptism in a way suitable to a seventeenth-century Baptist. Dr. Haykin and I have edited this historic catechism for a modern audience. We have also authored a historical introduction that explains the significance of the catechism along with Collins’ rationale for his edits.

Reformed Baptist Academic Press is now accepting pre-orders of quantities of 10 or more of An Orthodox Catechism

The product page for the book is up on the RBAP website, but you will have to wait until the book is in stock to order individual copies (should be available this week). The book retails for $12.00, but is available at a special price of $9.00 directly from the publisher. However, for churches or individuals who order 10 or more copies, the price is only $6.00 per copy. You pay shipping and $1.50 handling. These pre-orders must be paid via check. RBAP will invoice you via email. You need to contact RBAP directly to receive this offer.

The book is also available on Amazon for $10.80. Please note that the Kindle edition listed is not our edition, but a transcription of the unedited original.

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Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and a fellow of the Center. He also serves as senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. Steve and his wife Gretta have six children between the ages of 3 and 14.