Slike strani

friend to religion, is an event that the friends of religion in America have great reason to rejoice in, by reason of the late revival of religion in that province, and the opposition that has been made against it, and the great endeavours to crush it, by many of the chief men of the province. Mr. Davies, in a letter I lately received from him, dated March 20, 1752, mentions the same thing. His words are—“We have a new Governor, who is a candid condescending gentleman. And as he has been educated in the Church of Scotland, he has a respect for the Presbyterians; which I hope is a happy omen.

“I was, in the latter part of last summer, applied to, with much earnestness and importunity, by some of the people in Virginia, to come and settle among them, in the work of the ministry, who subscribed handsomely for my encouragement and support, and sent a messenger to me with their request and subscriptions ; but I was installed at Stockbridge, before the messenger came.” He does not say what his feelings were about the call, or Virginia as a place of labour. Under a previous date, July 5th, 1750, Mr. Edwards says,-“As to my subscribing to the substance of the Westminster Confession, there would be no difficulty; and as to the Presbyterian government, I have long been perfectly out of conceit of our unsettled, independent, confused way of church government in this land; and the Presbyterian way has ever appeared to me most agreeable to the word of God, and the reason and nature of things."

Mr. Robert Henry, appointed by the Synod of 1752, to visit Virginia, was installed pastor of Cub Creek, in Charlotte, and Briery in Prince Edward. Mr. Todd performed the services. Mr. Todd took part of the congregations for whom Mr. Davies obtained licensed houses on his first visit and settlement. Mr. Henry took his position on the south-western frontier, and was not installed till June 4th, 1755, after Mr. Davies' visit to England.

Besides these personal labours to promote the extension of gospel truth in Virginia,—his multiplied preachings in his seven houses for public worship,—his numerous and fatiguing missionary excursions to the frontiers east of the Blue Ridge,-his particular attention to the coloured people,—his efforts to supply the vacancies around him with ministers from the northern Presbyteries,—Mr. Davies began early to rear up preachers of the gospel in Virginia. He did not desire to complete their education under his own eye, as appears from his communications with Mr. Pattillo on that subject. He looked to New Jersey College, then the favourite institution of the Synod of New York, as the proper place for the students to complete their studies. Mr. Davies was instrumental in bringing forward and aiding in different stages of their education, Mr. John Wright, a graduate of New Jersey College, in 1752; Mr. Pattillo, so favourably known in Carolina history; Mr. John Martin, the first licentiate of Hanover Presbytery; Mr. William Richardson, ordained in 1758, and intimately connected with North and South Carolina history; James Waddel, whose name fills a chapter in Virginia history; and Mr. James Hunt, a son of one of his elders, and a graduate of Princeton in 1759. Mr. Davies promoted classical schools, though his multiplied labours prevented his being the head of one in Virginia.

Mr. Davies endeavoured faithfully to perform the duties to which he was called, by the providence of God, in Hanover county, and on the frontiers of Virginia. His post was one of arduous labours. He was brought into intimate relations with all grades of society, from the African slave on the plantations, to the Governor and Council; and in all he was equal to his position. “He seems”-as one said of him, on seeing him pass through a courtyard—“as an embassador of some mighty king;” and as such sustained his Master's cause with dignity and success. By his apostolical labours he had been improved in strength of body, activity of mind, and ardour of piety. He had become accustomed to take large views of things, and to act on great principles, with confidence, in great emergencies. He had learned to govern himself, and by convincing and persuading to govern others. God gave him great success in his ministry; every thing to which he put his hand appeared to prosper; and as was said of the patriarch—“whatsoever they did there”—among the dissenters in Virginia—“ he was the doer of it." The eyes of the church, in America and England, had been turned upon the dissenters in Virginia, struggling for the rights of Christians and of freemen; and suddenly and unexpectedly, Davies found them turned upon himself, and heard the voice of his brethren calling him to new labours and self-denial, in another sphere.




THE Synod of New York met at Newark, New Jersey, September, 1751. On the first day of the session-"a petition was sent into the Synod, by the Trustees of the College of New Jersey, desiring that the Rev. Mr. Ebenezer Pemberton might be appointed to make a voyage to Europe, to solicit benefactions for said College; and likewise requesting that some members of the Synod might be appointed to go immediately to New York, to treat with Mr. Pemberton's congregation upon said affair. The Synod taking the matter into consideration, do appoint Messrs. Aaron Burr, Richard Treat, William Tennent, and Samuel Davies, to be a committee to go immediately to New York and treat with Mr. Pemberton's congregation upon said affair.” On the evening of the next day the committee returned and reported,—that their attempts were to no purpose in the affair of their mission." Mr. Jonathan Edwards, in a letter to Mr. Erskine, Scotland, July 7th, 1752, says,—“There was a design of Mr. Pemberton's going to England and Scotland. He was desired by the Trustees, and it was his settled purpose to have gone last year; but his people and his colleague Mr. Cummings, hindered it. His intention of going occasioned great uneasiness among his people, and created some dissatisfaction towards him, in the minds of some of them. Since that, President Burr has been desired to go, by the unanimous voice of the Trustees. Nevertheless, I believe there is little probability of his consenting to it; partly on account of his having lately entered into a married state.

In 1752, an application was made to the Synod by the Trustees, that a collection be taken up, in all the congregations, for the use of the College. The Synod agreed, and directed the collection to be made previously to the ensuing May. Many of the contributions, made in obedience to the recommendation of Synod, were generous; but the sum obtained was far from being sufficient to sustain a college. The Legislature had been applied to for patronage, repeatedly, and had as often refused all pecuniary aid. A mission to Great Britain was again talked of; and the eyes of the Trustees were now turned to Messrs. Davies and Tennent, as their messengers to the motherland.

On the 4th of October, 1753, the Synod of New York, holding its meeting in Philadelphia—"application was made to the Synod in behalf of the Trustees of the College of New Jersey, requesting the Synod to appoint two of their members, viz: Gilbert Tennent and Samuel Davies, to take a voyage to Europe on the important affairs of the said College: to which the Synod unanimously consent.'

At this time, the College of New Jersey existed only on paper, and in the hearts of the Synod of New York, and a few pious people. There were no permanent funds, library, philosophical apparatus, faculty, building, or “local habitation.” It had a noble President, and had been sending out graduates. Of the fifty young men who had received the degree of A. B., twenty-six had entered the ministry, of whom five went to Virginia, and one as a pioneer in North Carolina. Davies felt its importance. The instruction of youth in the classics and sciences, as well as theological and other professional studies, had, in all the country south of New England, with the exception of the College of William and Mary, in Virginia, been left to the enterprise and benevolence of individuals. Those who took the lead in the education of youth were clergymen, some from the spirit of their station, some from necessity, and some from both causes combined, as teaching in some of its forms is the minister's appropriate employment.

Rev. William Tennent, sen., who opened the famous school Neshaminy, commonly known as the “Log College," died in 1746. Rev. Samuel Blair, his pupil, towards the close of Tennent's life, opened a similar school at New Londonderry, from which came Davies and Rodgers, and many other preachers. Rev. Samuel Finley, afterwards President of Nassau Hall, opened a similar school at Nottingham, which, after the death of Mr. Blair, was the place of instruction patronised by Newcastle Presbytery; and the fame of Finley spread far and wide. In the meantime, Rev. Jonathan Dickinson, of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, was engaged in giving instruction, in the liberal studies, and became equally famous as a teacher and preacher. Sometime before his death, the members of the Synod of New York were impressed with the conviction of a permanent collegiate institution ; and applied to the Legislature for a charter for a a college, of which Mr. Dickenson

was expected to be the President. The charter was obtained October 22d, 1746, but not being satisfactory was never acted upon. Mr. Dickenson went on with his course of instruction, preparing young men for the bachelor's degree, till his death, October 17th, 1747. Governor Belcher, a man admired for the suavity of his manners, and venerated for his piety, obtained a new charter in September, 1748. About two months afterward, the first commencement of the College was held at New Brunswick; and six young gentlemen received their first degree. After the death of Mr. Dickenson, the students had been under the care of Rev. Aaron Burr of Newark, who, on this first commencement day was, by the unanimous vote of the Trustees, chosen President.

Some of the members of Synod were not pleased with the second charter; and though named in it as trustees, did not at first give the College their cordial support. The Rev. Jonathan Edwards, in a letter to Mr. Erskine of Scotland, May 20th, 1749, says,—“I have heard nothing new that is very remarkable, concerning the College in New Jersey. It is in its infancy. There has been considerable difficulty about settling their charter. Governor Belcher, who gave the charter, is willing to encourage and promote the College to his utmost; but differs in his opinion concerning the constitution, which will tend most to its prosperity, from some of the principal ministers that have been concerned in founding the society. He insists upon it that the Governor, for the time being, and four of his Majesty's Council for the province should always be of the Corporation of Trustees; and that the Governor should always be the President of the Corporation. The ministers are all very willing that the present Governor, who is a religious man, should be in this standing: but their difficulty is with respect to future governors, who, they suppose, are as likely to be men of no religion and Deists, as otherwise. However, so the matter is settled, to the great uneasiness of Mr. Gilbert Tennent in particular, who, it is feared, will have no further concern with the College on this account. Mr. Burr, the President of the College, is a man of religious and singular learning, and I hope the College will flourish under his care.”

Rev. Mr. Gilbert Tennent had not been active for the College as had been expected. By this appointment for the mission to Europe, this honest hearted man was compelled either to set himself in opposition to brethren whose judgment he respected, and whose esteem was dear, or embrace the College as the child of his affections, and the object of his labours. He chose the latter. Mr. Davies from his position was the most interesting minister in the Presbyterian Church. His name, at home, and abroad was associated with thrilling incidents and reminiscences. Many in England desired to see the young champion of toleration in Virginia. The friends of Mr. Tennent wished to secure the services of that able man; and desired his being sent on the mission as a relief from the pressure of some severe domestic bereavements.

While the Synod of New York was thus occupied in laying the foundation of the present flourishing College, Nassau Hall, the Synod of Philadelphia was not idle. In the year 1739, Rev. John Thompson, a leading man of the old-side, proposed to the Presbytery of Donegal the erecting a school to be under the mously approved the design,—“And in order to the accomplishing it did nominate Messrs. Pemberton, Dickenson, Cross and Anderson, two of which if they can be prevailed upon, to be sent home to Europe to prosecute this affair with proper directions. And in order to this, it is appointed that the commission of the Synod, with correspondents from every Presbytery, meet in Philadelphia, the third Wednesday of August next. And if it be found necessary that Mr. Pemberton should go to Boston pursuant to this design, it is ordered that the Presbytery of New

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PrejšnjaNaprej »