The Hymns of Samuel Davies

Samuel Davies (1723-1761) was both a poet and an early American advocate of singing uninspired hymns in public worship - in fact, he was the first American-born hymn-writer. A minister who read and appreciated the The Psalms of David Imitated by Isaac Watts, he frequently gave away copies of Watt's hymnal to others. Davies himself composed a total of 18 hymns, two of which were variations on compositions produced by Philip Doddridge. The other sixteen were published in one volume, though scattered amongst other compositions, posthumously by his friend Thomas Gibbons in 1769, under the title Hymns Adapted to Divine Worship. We have extracted those hymns by Davies from that volume at Log College Press.

Louis FitzGerald Benson (1855-1930) also wrote two fascinating articles about Samuel Davies, the hymn-writer, in the Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society: "President Davies as a Hymn Writer;" and "The Hymns of President Davies." His analysis of the background of these hymns is extremely helpful to those concerned to know more about the context of these hymns, which were often written by Davies to accompany a particular sermon upon which he preached. The latter article reproduces not only the 16 original compositions by Davies, but also the 2 variations on Doddridge. 

If you wish to learn more about the compositions of "America's Isaac Watts," these primary and secondary sources will be of great help. 

America's Foremost Hymnologist

Widely described as America's "foremost hymnologist," Louis FitzGerald Benson (1855-1930) was born and died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His first venture in the practice of law, after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, lasted seven years; but later he studied at Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating in 1887. He was ordained for the ministry in 1888 and pastored a congregation in Germantown, Pennsylvania, until 1894. He later edited Presbyterian and Congregational hymnals, served as special lecturer in Liturgies at Auburn Seminary; served as Honorary Librarian at the Presbyterian Historical Society (1905-1923); and was thrice appointed to serve as the L.P. Stone Lecturer at Princeton Seminary (1906-1907, 1909-1910, 1925-1926). His personal library exceeded 9,000 volumes, and his collection of rare books was notable; many were donated to Princeton, and the Louis F. Benson Hymnology Collection is one of the gems of Princeton Theological Seminary’s Special Collections, being housed at Speer Library. "Among the numerous accolades received by Dr. Benson is a reference to him in the 1920 edition of Grove's Dictionary, as 'a foremost hymnologist.' Dr. Henry Jackson van Dyke called Louis Fitzgerald Benson the foremost hymnologist that America has produced" (Source).

His writings on the history of Psalmody in the Reformed Churches and the development of English hymnody are invaluable to the student of Reformed worship and liturgies. His study of William Shakespeare's use of the metrical Psalter makes for fascinating reading to students of both literature and church history. His Studies of Familiar Hymns gives valuable background information on how many particularly memorable hymns entered Presbyterian worship. He was also a composer of hymns and poems himself. If you have not had the opportunity to read Benson on the history of song in Reformed worship, be sure to look over the works we have added to his page at Log College Press. They represent the finest scholarship of his day on this topic, and have stood the test of time.