« PreviousContinue »
his efforts to benefit others, for here, as at Oxford, he made it his practice to visit the prisoners and poor people, conversing and prayng with them. lo the serinons above quoted, he says :
'I remember when God touched my heart, and sent me down to see my friends in the country, I prayed God to bless me to those by whom I was called to dance and play at cards; and, blessed be God, he did w to all of them before I was twenty years of age ; and after that, he sent me to a prison, and I there preached to a murderer, and some others; and
, blessed be God, they came to Jesus Christ, and one of them went cí most triumphantly.'
Whitefield's exertions soon attracted the notice of Dr. Benson, then bishop of Gloucester, who sent for him, and told him that he was willing to ordain him, although but twenty-one years old ; in this case making an exception from the rule he had previously adopted, to ordain no applicant till he was at least twenty-three years of age.
Whitefield appears to have been very reluctant to avail himself of the permission thus urged upon hiin, from a humble diffidence as to his qualifications at that time. His repugnance to the measure is mentioned in one of his sermons before alluded to. Thus he
says : I never prayed against any corruption I bad, in my life, so much as I did against going into holy orders, so soon as my friends were for having me go ; and bishop Benson was pleased to honor me with peculiar friendship, so as to offer me preferment, or to do any thing for me. My friends wished me to mount the church betimes ; they wanted me to kvock iny head against the pulpit too young. Some young men stand
here and there and preach. " I know not how it may be to them; but God knows how deep a concern entering into the ministry and preaching was to me. I have prayed, a thousand times, till the sweat has dropped from my face like rain, that God of his infinite mercy would not let me enter the church before he called me, and thrust me into his work. I remember once at Gloucester ; I know the room ; I look up to the window, when I am there and walk along the street'; I know the window, the bedside, and the floor upon which I have lain prostrate : I said, “Lord, I cannot go, I shall be puffed up with pride, and fall into the condemnation of the devil : Lord, do not let me go yet.” I pleaded to be at Oxford two or three years more.
I intended to make an hundred and fisty sermons ; and thought I would set up with a good stock in trade however
. I remember praying, wrestling and striving with God. I said
, “I am undone, I am unfit to preach in thy great name : send me not, pray Lord, send me not yet."" I wrote to all my friends in town and in the country, to pray against the bishop's solicitation, but they insisted I should go into orders before I was twenty-two.
Alter all their solicitation, these words came into my mind : “nothing shall pluck you out of my hand;" then, and not till then, I said, “ Lord, I will go, send me when thou wilt.”' ?
In the foregoing extract, imperfect as the report of his language doubtless is, who does not recognize a strong conscientiousness, mingled with an admirably ingenuous spirit, the very temper which characterizes one who longs to do right, and who fears lest he may do wrong? We are at no loss to perceive here, such a preparation of soul, as was qualifying him to be a successful minister of the gospel to others; and we would take the liberty to point out this struggle of reluctant feelings, so expressive of a deep sense of the greatness of the work, and the necessity of thorough and appropriate qualifications, to every one having in view the sacred office. It is to be feared, that there sometimes is found among us too little of the spirit of humble diffidence here manifested; and that, from too eager a desire to take upon them the office of a preacher, zealous young men often impair their own usefulness, and eventually do injury to the church of Christ. To such, we would earnestly recommend the humble, prayerful efforts of Whitefield to be clearly assured that the pressing obligations of present duty required him to forego the advantages of further mental and moral culture, before he could be willing to avail himself of the privilege of publicly preaching the gospel to others. The same high estimate of ministerial responsibility was cherished by him through life.
Whitefield now prepared himself for ordination, by solemn seasons of fasting and prayer; and in reference to the transaction itself,
6“And when the bishop laid his hands upon my head, if my vile heart doth not deceive me, I offered up my whole spirit, soul and body, to the service of God's sanctuary.” “Let come what will, life or death, depth or highth, I shall henceforwards live like one who this day, in the presence of men and angels, took the holy sacrament, upon the profession of being inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon me that ministration in the church. I can call heaven and earth to witness, that when the bishop laid his hand upon me, I gave myself up to be a martyr for Him who hung upon the cross for me. Known unto him are all future events and contingencies; I have thrown myself blindfold, and I trust without reserve, into His Almighty hands."
His first appearance as a preacher was in his native place; and it seemed an earnest of the power which the truth of God, through his instrumentality, was afterwards to exert over the consciences of men ; for, sustained by the divine presence, he produced so strong an impression on his audience, that a complaint was made to the bishop, that fifteen persons had been driven mad by his first
Having taken bis degree at Oxford, he was invited, soon after, to preach at Tower Chapel, London, and in a few days multitudes there were crowding to hear him. Greater triumphs, however, awaited him.
* From hence he went again to Bristol, having received many and pressing invitations. Multitudes came out on foot to meet him, and vne in coaches, a mile without the city ; and the people saluted and blest him as he passed along the street. He preached about five times a week to such congregations, that it was with great difficulty he could wake way along the crowded aisles to the reading-desk. “Some hung spon the rails of the organ-loft, others climbed upon the leads of the charch, and all together made the church so hot with their breath, that the steam would fall from the pillars like drops of rain.” When he preached his farewell sermon, and said to the people that perhaps they night see his face no more, high and low, young and old, burst into tears. Multitudes after the sermon followed him home weeping. The sert day he was employed from seven in the morning till midnight, in taiking and giving spiritual advice to awakened hearers; and he left Bristol secretly in the middle of the night, to avoid the ceremony of being escorted by horsemen and coaches out of the town.' pp. 23, 24.
From this period to the close of his remarkable life, in 1770, a space of more than thirty-four years, with the exception of an interval or two, continued success accompanied his labors. Thousands and tens of thousands hung with breathless attention upon bis preaching; and in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and America, crowds assembled, for miles around, at the place where he was to officiate. By a career of the most unexampled activity, he evinced how much his heart was in the work into which he had, as it were, been compelled ; and almost till the very last hour of his extraordinary life, he was permitted to continue his labor for his divine Master. Probably no man ever preached so many times, especially at such an expense of feeling and strength, or addressed so many persons in the course of a similar period. From a little femorandum-book, in which he noted the times and places of his ministerial labors, it appears that he had preached eighteen thousand sermons ; making an average, besides his other labors, of about ten sermons for every week of his whole ministry. As a specimen of his labors, we quote the following extract from his journals, which abound with similar notices. “ It is now the seventy-fifth day since I arrived at Rhode Island. My body was then Teak, but the Lord has much renewed its strength. I have been enabled to preach I think one hundred and seventy-five times, besides exhorting frequently in private." Nor was this all : he traTeled thousands and thousands of miles; crossed the ocean thirteen times; raised large sums of money, and superintended the affairs of the orphan-house in Georgia; projected a college, and secured the building of a number of places of public worship. If ever it could be said of any man at death, it was true of him, that he rested from his labors.” We cannot go much into detail ; but we
present our readers with a few extracts, illustrating his success VOL. VI.
in different places, and during different periods of his life. Kingswood, among the colliers, he took his station upon a mou in a place called Rose Green,“ his first field-pulpit.” At fi but few gathered around him, not having had any notice of his tention to preach. The numbers, however, soon increased, till a moderate computation, not less than fifteen or twenty thousa persons collected.
Having (as he writes) no righteousness of their own to renoun they were glad to hear of a Jesus, who was a friend to publicans, a came not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. The fi discovery of their being alfected, was, to see the white gutters made their tears, which plentifully fell down their black cheeks, as they car out of their coal-pits. Hundreds and hundreds of them were soon broug under deep convictions, which (as the event proved) happily ended in sound and thorough conversion. The change was visible to all, thou; numbers chose to impute it to any thing rather than to the finger of Go As the scene was quite new, and I had but just begun to be an exter pore preacher, it often occasioned many inward conflicts. Sometime when twenty thousand people were before me, I had not, in my ow apprehension, a word to say, either to God or to them. But I was ne ver totally deserted, and frequently for to deny it would be lying again: God,) so assisted, that I knew by happy experience what our Lord mear by saying, “ Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” Th open firmament above
prospect of the adjacent fields, with th sight of thousands and thousands, some in coaches, some on horseback and some in the trees, and at times all affected and drenched in tear together, to which sometimes was added the solemnity of the approach ing evening, was almost too much for, and quite overcame me.
Besides the colliers, and thousands from neighboring villages, persons of all ranks flocked daily out of Bristol. And he was soon invited to preach, by some of the better sort, in a large bowling-green in the city itself
. Many indeed sneered to see a stripling, with a gown, mount a table, upon what they called unconsecrated ground. And for once or twice it excited the contempt and laughter of the higher rank, who formerly were his admirers when he preached in the churches. But God enabled him to endure the laugh, and to preach the gospel of Christ with earnestness and constancy, and was pleased to attend it with his blessing. From all quarters people flocked, under great concern about their souls Sometimes he was employed almost from morning to night, giving answers to those who came in great distress, crying out, " What shall we do to be saved ?") pp. 40, 41.
At Leeds, and other places, audiences of at least ten or twelve thousand attended upon his preaching. In Scotland also, a similar desire to receive the benefit of his labors was manifested, and he appears to have been eminently successful. Thus it is said:
• At Edinborgh he preached twice a day, as usual, in the Hospital park, where a number of seats and shades, in the form of an amphithe
wer, were erected for the accommodation of his hearers. And in conSequence of earnest invitations, he went to the west country, particufarly to Cambuslang, where he preached three times, upon the very day # his arrival, to a vast body of people, although he had preached that time morning at Glasgow. The last of these exercises began at nine at night, continuing till eleven, when he said he observed such a comDotion among the people as he had never seen in America. Mr. Mc Cdloch preached after him, till half past one in the morning, and even then could hardly persuade the people to depart. All night in the fields sught be heard the voice of prayer and praise. As Mr. Whitefield was frequently at Cambuslang during this season, a description of what he ebserved there at different times, will be best given in his own words : ** Persons from all parts flocked to see,
many, from many parts, went wae convinced and converted unto God. Abrae, or hill, near the Danse at Cambuslang, seemed to be formed by Providence for containing a large congregation. People sat unwearied till two in the mornog, to hear sermons, disregarding the weather. You could scarce walk a yard, but you must tread npon some, either rejoicing in God, for merGes received, or crying out for more. Thousands and thousands have I seen, before it was possible to catch it by sympathy, melted down under the word and power of God. At the celebration of the holy communion, their joy was so great, that, at the desire of many, both ministers and people, in imitation of Hezekiah's passover, they had, a month of two afterwards, a second, which was a general rendezvous of the people of God." i
Not less marked was the effect of his preaching in this country. Wherever he appeared, the power of the Holy Spirit seemed also to accompany the truths he proclaimed. Many interesting facts might be quoted in evidence, but we must refer our readers to the volume before us. At his farewell sermon, on Boston common, it was computed that more than twenty thousand persons were present. Many of the most respectable people, and among them Governor Belcher, followed him for miles on his departure. In Philadelphia, also, multitudes heard the truth from his lips. Thus it is observed in a note :
pp. 96, 97.
The effects produced in Philadelphia at this time by the preaching of Mr. Whitefield, were truly astonishing. Numbers of almost all religious denominations, and many who had no connection with any denomination, were brought to inquire with the utmost earnestness, what they should do to be saved. Such was the earnestness of the multitude to listen to spiritual instruction, that there was public worship regularly twice a day for a year; and on the Lord's day it was celebrated generally three
, and frequently four times. An aged man, deeply interested in the scenes which were then witnessed, has informed the writer, that the city (not then probably a third so large as it now is,) contained TWENTY-SIX societies for social prayer and religious conferences; and probably there were others not known to him. Memoirs of Mrs. Hanrah Hodge, published at Philadelphia, 1806.