The Duty of Christians to Propagate their Religion among Heathens

Publication Year: 1758

Davies, Samuel. The Duty of Christians to Propagate their Religion among Heathens, Earnestly Recommended to the Masters of Negroe Slaves in Virginia, A Sermon Preached in Hanover, January 8, 1757 (London: Printed by J. Oliver, 1758).
PHS Call number: CR WW10 D28

Reading suggestions

See especially the first three pages (pp. 7-9). This document was printed using the "long s". The long s (ſ) is a form of the lower case letter “s” that was used by printers until the early 19th century. It was used in place of a single “s” at the beginning of a word or within a word, or as the first letter in a double s (e.g. "ſinfulneſs" for "sinfulness" and "ſelf defenſive war" for "self defensive war").

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Source note

Samuel Davies (1723-1761) was a Presbyterian minister whose religion was strongly influenced by the Great Awakening. Davies was a skilled orator whose sermons drew a large following, and he made a name for himself as a preacher on the Virginia frontier in Hanover County. In a paradox typical of his time, Davies owned two slaves while also serving as a missionary to enslaved African Americans in Virginia, and advocating for religious education for enslaved people. Davies left Virginia in 1759 to serve as president of Princeton University until his death in 1761.

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Reading questions

1.    Who is the author? Who is the intended audience for this document?

2.    According to Davies, in what way are humans similar to “angels or archangels”? What point is he making with this comparison (page 8)?

3.    What responsibility do slave owners have to their enslaved people, according to Davies (page 8)?

4.    What point does Davies illustrate by referring to Abraham, and the way that this biblical patriarch had control over his entire household, including slaves?

5.    What is traditional in Davies’s thinking about enslaved people? What is radical about it?

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Source type
History Topics
African American History
Presbyterian History
Time Period
Colonial Settlement (1600s-1763)