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June 24 , 2013

Living on the Borders of Eternity: The Story of Samuel Davies and the Struggle for Religious Toleration in Colonial Virginia

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Living on the borders of eternity" were the words 'Samuel Davies employed to describe his feelings of being a physically sick man who didn't have long to live. Burdened since his youth with tuberculosis, a common cause of death among many in his generation, Davies at one point was advised by his physician to give up hope of continuing his ministry in Virginia. Though he expected his days to be numbered, he refused to give up at twenty-three years of age, and for eleven years made a remarkable impression on multitudes, leaving a legacy unmatched in his time, and by few since.

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We know how the story of the Roman Empire ended with the "triumph" of Christianity and the eventual Christianization of the Roman Mediterranean. But how would religious life have appeared to an observer at a time when the conversion of the emperor was only a Christian pipe dream? And how would it have appeared in one particular city, rather than…

One of the persistent myths in America is that from the beginning of the occupation of this land by Europeans, religious freedom was sought after and practiced here. The history of New England and Virginia clearly demonstrates the contrary. For most of the years between Jamestown 1607 until the Revolution, the government and the church were locked hand in hand. The beginning of the disengagement began in Hanover County, Virginia around 1740.

The truly exciting story of Samuel Davies and the struggle for religious toleration in Virginia is told in this book. It is a true story that needs to be told and deserves to be understood. Our ignorance of these events and people who brought us such important changes leaves us without full appreciation of the price paid for our liberty.

The pictorial image on the front of this ebook is the memorial that stands over the site of the Polegreen Church which was destroyed by artillery fire at the beginning of the battle of Cold Harbor in 1864 during the Civil War. The church was never rebuilt.

Archaeology was done at the site in 1991 and the original foundation discovered. Following much consideration and advice from highly competent historians and architects, the decision was made not to replicate the colonial wooden structure, but to create a symbol of what had been there.

Sketches of the old church had been drawn by a Union soldier who passed by in 1862 as he was making maps for General McClelland during the Peninsula Campaign. They were discovered in 1978 in Philadelphia. They were passed on to the Historic Polegreen Church Foundation in 1991.

The renowned architectural firm of Carlton Abbott and Partners of Williamsburg designed the present structure. The project was part of a body of work cited in 2004 by the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects for the annual award for preservation. The site is also on the United Slates Department of Interior National Register of Historic Places.

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