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Living on the Borders of Eternity Hardcover – 2004
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The Story of Samuel Davies and the Struggle for Religious Toleration in Colonial Virginia
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The Presbyterians who came before us have set high standards of service and sacrifice, of faithfulness and of fearlessness. They have shown us what it is to be open to the leading of God's Spirit both in terms of where we live and serve and how our faith changes and grows.
There is so much "lost" Presbyterian history, that one could spend one's entire discretionary reading delving into the people who have made our denomination so great. Here is an excellent example. "Living on the Boarders of Eternity" is essentially a biographical novel. It take history and helps flesh it out, so that we become intimately acquainted with one of our America Presbyterian forbears, and one we all should know. The man was Samuel Davies-born in New Castle County, Pennsylvania on November 3, 1732. "So what?" you may ask.
The rest of the story is that he not only was the first Presbyterian minister to serve a congregation in the Colony of Virginia, he also became the fourth president of the College of New Jersey, now known to us as the Ivy League institution named Princeton University. (Not to be confused with Princeton Theological Seminary, a much younger institution, not having been founded until the relatively late date of 1812, long after other Presbyterian seminaries such as Pittsburgh Theological Seminary had educated several generations of Presbyterian pastors).
But back to Samuel Davies, whose life reads like a historical thriller, complete with romance, disease and disaster, with love and laughter complete with conflict with authorities both secular and religious. Davies was a friend of the Henry family (yes, as in Patrick Henry of "Give me liberty or give me death!" fame) and he was also a hymn writer.
In 1747, Davies went to the Colonial Capital in Williamsburg, Virginia, to petition for the first license ever granted to anyone in Virginia who was not of the Anglican / Episcopal established religion of that colony, to preach. He was granted the privilege, to the joy of his fledgling congregations and the consternation of the Anglican clergy of the colony. He did so in four Presbyterian meetinghouses, three in Henrico and one in Hanover County, Virginia.
The churches where he labored exist to this day. Davies lived as a man who knew the touch of God's Spirit upon his heart and life. He ventured into unknown places and served far from his native land and family. He gave his best efforts of Christian witness despite poor health and personal loss. To say more would spoil the unfolding drama of the book. No person of faith can fail to be inspired by the life of Rev. Davies.
*(They are all Presbyterians)