A poet at heart, Davies continued to write poems throughout his ministry, both for his personal use and the encouragement of others. Some were turned into hymns, making him the earliest colonial hymn-writer. As other pastors at that time, he wrote some of these hymns to accompany his sermons. One of these, “Great God of Wonders,” is still sung today.
Most parents share mixed feelings of excitement, wonder, and anxiety at the birth of a child. Samuel Davies, one of the main preachers of the Great Awakening, was no exception. In fact, his profound knowledge of Scriptures and of God’s staggering work of creation and redemption served to amplify these feelings. To Davies, his son John Rodgers was more than what we would call “a bundle of joy.” He was “fearfully and wondrously made” for eternity, with all the implications of that weighty thought. Davies expressed these feelings in a poem.
Thou little wond’rous miniature of man,
Form’d by unerring Wisdom’s perfect plan;
Thou little stranger, from eternal night
Emerging into life’s immortal light;
Thou heir of worlds unknown, thou candidate
For an important everlasting state,
Where this young embryo shall its pow’rs expand,
Enlarging, rip’ning still, and never stand.
Davies knew that John was born in a difficult world. Davies’s first wife and first son had died six years earlier in childbirth. Later, one of Davies’s daughters died in infancy. The brevity of life was an ever-present reality. Davies couldn’t promise John a long life, nor an easy one.
Now thou art born into an anxious state
Of dubious trial for thy future fate:
Now thou art listed in the war of life,
The prize immense, and O! severe the strife.
Davies reserved his greatest fear for the last lines of his poem. Knowing by experience that not every child who was brought up in a Christian home preserved the faith that was taught in the home, he closed his poem with an anguished prayer that John would not go astray.
Maker of souls! Avert so dire a doom,
Or snatch her back to native nothing’s gloom!