Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Vision (9/8/11): A Visit to Providence

Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8).

A group of CRBC friends enjoyed a field trip yesterday afternoon to the Providence Presbyterian meetinghouse in Louisa County, Virginia. It is one of the oldest houses of worship in the United States. The plain and simple building stands in a clearing off Three Chopt Road in Gum Spring. From a distance it looks more like a house or a barn. The meetinghouse was built c. 1747. The interior still reflects the simplicity of a Reformed worship space, though later generations have added an organ and piano and a cross on the wall behind the pulpit that would not have been there in colonial times. The heartwood pine pulpit, benches, floorboards, ceiling, and gallery (as well as the hand-made nails that hold them together) are all original, though they have been re-planed with padding added to the benches and some carpet to parts of the floor. The building was only wired for electricity c. 1948.

This is one of the places where the famed Samuel Davies (1723-1761) preached. He had charge over fourteen separate meeting houses in six counties in this area, where he ministered the word. I commend to you an excellent biographical message by T. T. Ellis on the life of Samuel Davies on sermonaudio that came from a 1983 Banner of Truth Conference. You can also read articles drawn from the manuscript of this lecture.

Davies was the first "dissenting" minister (i.e., outside the Church of England) to be granted a license to preach by the colony of Virginia. His pioneer work in preaching the gospel led to his being called "The Apostle of Virginia." Davies left Virginia in 1759 to become President of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), filling the vacancy created by the death of Jonathan Edwards. He only lived for another eighteen months after arriving at Princeton, however, and died in only his 37th year. Davies was succeeded in his pastoral charge in Virginia by Rev. John Todd who opened a classical school in which both James Monroe and James Madison studied. Providence church was also the congregation in which Reformed theologian R. L. Dabney (1820-1898) grew up. About a hundred years after Davies had filled Providence’s pulpit, Dabney served his home church as supply minister, giving him his first experience in pastoral ministry.

As I reflected on our visit to this meeting house, I was struck by at least two things:

1. Awe and gratitude at the way the Lord raised up ministers and churches to preach the gospel in days of old.

2. Challenge and exhortation that we would be faithful in preaching the good news in our generation.

May we be found faithful.

Grace and truth, Pastor Jeff Riddle

More photos:

Images:  Monuments to Davies and Todd.

Image:  Interior view from the gallery.

Image:  Pulpit area.

Image:  Silver common cup and bread plate for the Lord's Supper dating from the early days of the church.

Image:  Pine ceiling.

Image:  Graffiti in the gallery.

Image:  Some CRBCers outside the Providence Meetinghouse.

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