Limerick born Dr. Thomas Mackern of Blackheath, South East London, visited the West Indies in 1866, to preach the gospel and to promote the literature work of the Plymouth Brethren in the islands. He met numerous Christians who had then recently broken with their denominational associations. He wrote, ‘They had begun ‘amidst much opposition from professing Christians’ to gather 'simply to the name of the Lord Jesus' - which meant that Brethren assemblies were functioning. The one chiefly responsible for this development was the young schoolmaster, C. J. Davis who for some time had been a local preacher among the Wesleyans.’
By 1866 he had sailed to Britain to study medicine with the intention to return to practise medicine in the West Indies. In London he settled in the north London suburb of Stoke Newington in the home of a Mr Holland. He became one of the House Physicians at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, where in the first year of study, he gained the examiner’s prize for proficiency in practical anatomy, and a junior scholarship in anatomy, physiology and chemistry.
He was an able and earnest evangelist. He preached to large congregations with much accompanying blessing in many parts of the British Isles. He records in his gospel tracts some of the locations he visited; these include Margate, Woolwich and Sheffield in England, Dunoon and Aberdeen in Scotland. In Aberdeen he pursued his medical studies where he completed his degree of MD.
He cut a very striking figure and quickly drew crowds when preaching in the open air. A contemporary friend, a Harley Street doctor, A. T. Schofield, wrote that he was, 'a tall and distinguished looking man.' He used to preach from a kitchen table in Union Street, Aberdeen, the result of which was the establishment of a very large assembly of brethren in that city. In Aberdeen he delivered a series of lectures which were published the year of his death as ‘Aids to Believers’. This volume went through many editions. He also wrote a tract on ‘The Lord’s Coming,’ and an evangelistic book, the ‘Grace of God’.
His 'Aids to Believers' ran through at least 18 editions in the first half of the 20 Century. Its is still in print with Present Truth Publishers, USA (2007). His final evangelistic narrative, The Teachers Taught is in print with a number of publishers and accessible on the Internet BibleCentre and Baptistsonline, etc.
For this special war-work Mr and Mrs Chrimes of Moorgate , Rotherham, England, made the young physician almoner of a thousand pounds for the poor and sick among whom he laboured. Dr Davis also ran an ambulance, which was regarded as the finest one in the neighbourhood.
He also took care of several hundred wounded Bavarians in dire need of aid. It was in this final benevolent service in war-torn Europe that he assumed the honourable nickname, ‘The Good Black Doctor.’
‘But his enthusiasm,’ said a medical journal, ‘carried him beyond his strength’. Returning in an exhausted condition from a short visit to England where he had been to procure further funds for his charitable work, he was attacked by smallpox from which he died on 28th November 1870, at the age of 28. Davis was greatly loved for his impartial service upon his death was given a military funeral which was followed by troops of both armies, headed by the Mayor of Sedan. His tombstone records the high esteem in which he was held. He was buried in the quite graveyard of Fond de Givonne, just outside Sedan.
In one of his tracts, the ‘Grace Appearing and reigning; Glory to Appear’, he wrote, ‘go out and visit the sick—feed the hungry; and if you have the gift, explain the word of life to the poor and ignorant . . . All can do good in some way; with time or worldly goods. . . this is our time to do as receivers of grace. In health or sickness to adorn the doctrine of Christ our Saviour.’