A Wedding Poem by Samuel Doak

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It was on October 31, 1775 that Samuel Doak married Esther Houston Montgomery. The diary of this pioneer Presbyterian minister and educator records a poem that he wrote on this special occasion. It can be found in William Gunn Calhoun, Samuel Doak, 1748-1830: His Life, His Children, Washington College, pp. 25-26 (available at our Secondary Sources page).

The hour is come, we join our hands,
And bind ourselves in wedlock bands,
In presence of Almighty God to vows perpetual.
There we read: — ‘Tis past.
Then first of all we pray
That God may bind our souls to-day
In bonds of everlasting love;
Commenced below; improved above.
Then whilst our moments wing heavenward
And bear us to heaven the final day
O may each heart be true
In honor of our Saviour God
Nor accustom our unhallowed list
Nor glittering stores of worldly dust
Not all the tempting arts of man
Could then our hearts cement in one.
Great God, our witness, ‘Twas thou that joined
Our hearts and hands, and formed our mind
For social intercourse; then may
Our souls as one here — join to pray.

Pioneer Presbyterian Samuel Doak

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Samuel Doak (1749-1830) is known by many titles — "the Apostle of Learning and Religion in the West"; "the First Apostle of Presbyterianism in Tennessee"; "the Pioneer of Education in Tennessee”; and the “Pioneer Parson” whose prayer at Sycamore Shoals inspired the Patriot Overmountain Men before the Battle of King’s Mountain in 1780. He is also known for his stance on immediate abolition of slavery, a position which he took in 1818. But despite his importance as a leading pioneer Presbyterian and educator, we have little in the way of actual sermons or other published writings by him.

We have recently added to Log College Press Samuel Doak’s posthumously-published Lectures on Human Nature. This “Epitome” consists of a series of lectures (study questions were added after each lecture by the publisher) that Doak used to teach his students. Considering the scarcity of published writings from his hand, and considering that these lectures were born from his own studies under William Graham of Liberty Hall Academy and John Witherspoon of Princeton, as well as his teaching days at Hampden-Sydney and Washington College, they represent a valuable source of information as to what this noted educator taught his pupils about such topics as education, first principles, the will, common sense, memory, the state of mankind, etc. Two additional essays by his sons — who were also themselves Presbyterian ministers — were appended to this work (Samuel Witherspoon Doak on the Conscience and John Whitfield Doak on Life).

This interesting work is worthy of notice for the insight it gives us into early 19th century American Presbyterian education, and because it helps us to understand what a famous pioneer parson, who influenced so many around him in his day, believed about the nature of man.