The “Apostle of Virginia” — Samuel Davies — was born at Summit Ridge in New Castle County, Delaware, on November 3, 1723. His parents were Thomas and Martha Davies, at the time Baptists of Welsh heritage. As the time of Samuel’s birth drew near, “his mother…had special occasion for the exercise of her faith, in waiting for the answer to her petition” (Appendix, Sermons on Important Subjects, Vol. 1, p. xxxi).
Samuel later told his friend Thomas Gibbons (as reported in Gibbons’ “Divine Conduct Vindicated,” ibid, p. 22): “That he was blessed with a mother whom he might account, without filial vanity or partiality, one of the most eminent saints he knew upon earth. And here, says he, I cannot but mention to my friend an anecdote known but to few; that is, that I am a son of prayer, like my name-sake Samuel the prophet; and my mother called me Samuel because, she said, I have asked him of the Lord, 1 Sam. i.20. This early dedication to God has always been a strong inducement to me to devote myself by my own personal act; and the most important blessing of my life I have looked upon as immediate as immediate answers to the prayer of a pious mother. But, alas! What a degenerate plant am I! How unworthy am I of such a parent and such a birth!”
Samuel Davies would go on to be noted as “the first Presbyterian minister east of the Shenandoah and Appalachian mountains to be lawfully licensed in Virginia…active in promoting the flames of revival throughout Virginia for over a decade…one of the first American ministers to actively labor among the African slaves…he started a mission to the Overhill Cherokees along the western borders of North Carolina and South Carolina…his sermons were among the most popular in print for nearly a century after his death…[and] he was the fourth President of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton College or Princeton University)” (Dewey Roberts, Samuel Davies: Apostle to Virginia, pp. 21-22).
We remember his birth, life, work and legacy on this day, as a man who was indeed a “son of prayer.”