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upon a methodical plan of procuring and establishing health. These serious young men had no apprehension, however, of erecting a new sect under this or any other name; but, according to the practice of some of the first reformers in the church of England, they meant only to revive such usages of private devotion, as the indifference of the times to all religion, and the growing licentiousness among churchmen especially, had rendered not only obsolete, but (with concern it must be spoken) prodigious, ridiculous, or extravagant. He knows but little of the persons who brought in and supported the Reformation, who does not know, that no strictness of life nor rules of devotion exercised by these young men, could be more methodical and precise than those of the persons who either planted our English church, supported it against Popery, or watered it with their blood. These youths appeared indeed in a very unfavourable time; for, at that time, serious and practical Christianity in England was in a very low condition; scriptural, experimental religion, (which in the last century used to be the subject of the sermons and writmgs of the clergy) was become quite unfashionable; and the only thing insisted on was a defence of the out-works of Christianity against the objections of infidels. What was the
consequence? The writings of infidels multiplied every day, and infidelity made a rapid progress among persons of every rank, not because they were reasoned into it by the force of argument, but because they were kept strangers to Christ and the power of the
gospel. We have a most affecting description of this by Bishop Butler, whom none will suspect of exaggerating the fact: It is come, I know not how, to be taken for granted, by many persons, that Christianity is not so much a subject of inquiry, but that it is, now at length, discovered to be fictitious; and accordingly they treat it, as if, in the present age, this were an agreed point among all people of discernment, and nothing remained but to set it up as a principal subject of mirth and ridicule; as it were by way of reprisals, for its having so long interrupted the pleasures of the world." Such was the state of religion in England.
Mr. Whitefield soon fell in with the pious views and manners of these young men, among whom were the brothers, Messrs. John and Charles Wesley, and whom, from this early intercourse of heart, he continued to regard all his life, notwithstanding their future differences in opinion from himself, and departure in principle from the doctrines of the church of England. He even carried his method of life to such severity of abstinence, as to endanger his
health; but, by timely assistance, he was recovered in body, while his soul, being filled with all joy and peace in beliecing, contributed no doubt to his restoration. In retiring to Gloucester for the benefit of his native air, he was zealous to improve the time to the advantage of others, and employed himself among the poor and in the gaol, by incul. cating the principles and duties of the Christian religion.
Being now about 21 years of age, he was sent for by Doctor Benson, Bishop of Gloucester; who told bim, “That though he had purposed to ordain none under three-andtwenty, yet he should reckon it his duty to ordain him whenever he applied. Upon which, at the earnest persuasion of his friends, he prepared for taking orders. His behaviour on this occasion was very exemplary. He first studied the Thirty-nine Articles, that he might be satisfied of their being agreeable to Scripture. Then, he examined himself by the qualifications of a minister mentioned in the New Testament, and by the questions that he knew were to be put to him at his ordination. On the Saturday, he was much in prayer for himself and those who were to be ordained with him. On the morning of his ordination, (which was at Gloucester, Sunday, June 20, 1736) he rose early, and again read, with prayer, St. Paul's epistles to Timothy, and, after his ordination, went to the Lord's table,
On the Sunday afterwards he preached a sermon in the church where he was baptized, to a very crowded auditory, on the necessity and benefit of religious society. His own remark upon this was: “ Last Sunday, in the afternoon, I preached my first sermon in the church where I was baptized, and also first received the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Curiosity drew a large congregation together. The sight, at first, a little awed me. But I was comforted with a heart-felt sense of the divine presence : And soon found the advantage of having been accustomed to public speaking, when a boy at school ; and of exhorting and teaching the prisoners, and poor people at their private houses, whilst at the University. By these means, I was kept from being daunted over much. As I proceeded, I perceived the fire kindled, till at last, though so young, and amidst a crowd of those who knew me in my childish days, I trust, I was enabled to speak with some degree of Gospel authority. Some few mocked; but most for the present seemed struck: And I have since heard, that a complaint had been made to the Bishop, that I drove fifteen mad the first sermon. The worthy prelate, as I am informed, wished that the madness might not be forgotten before next Sunday,"
The week following, he returned to Oxford, and took his bachelor's degree. And here he found full employment in taking care of the prisoners and the poor. But it was not long before he was invited to London, to serve the cure of a friend going into the country. He continued there two months, lodging in the tower, reading prayers in the chapel twice a week, catechizing and preaching once, besides daily visiting the soldiers in the barracks and the infirmary. He also read prayers every evening at Wapping Chapel, and preached at Ludgate Prison every Tuesday. While he was here, letters came from the Messrs. Wesleys and Ingham in Georgia, which made him long to go and help them. But not seeing his call clear, at the appointed time he returned to his little charge at Oxford, where several youths met daily at his room, to build up each other in their most holy faith. But he was quickly called from hence again, to supply the cure of Dummer in Hampshire. Here he read prayers twice a-day, early in the morning, and in the evening, after the people came from work. He also daily catechized the children, and visited from house to house. He now divided the day into three parts, allotting eight hours for sleep and meals, eight for study and retirement, and eight for reading prayers, catechizing, and visiting the people. Yet his mind still ran on going abroad. And being now fully convinced he was called of God thereto, he set all things in order, and, in January 1737, went down to take leave of his friends in Gloucester. It was in this journey that God began to bless his ministry in an uncommon manner. Wherever he preached, amazing multitudes of hearers flocked together, in Gloucester, in Stonehouse, in Bath, in Bristol; so that the heat of the churches was scarce supportable : And the impressions made on the minds of many were no less extraordinary. After his return to London, while he was detained by General Oglethorpe, from week to week, and from month to month, it pleased God to bless his word still more. And he was indefatigable in his labour: Generally on Sunday he preached four times, to exceeding large auditories; besides reading prayers twice or thrice, and walking to and fro ten or twelve miles.
As his popularity increased, opposition increased proportionably. Some of the clergy became angry; two of them sent for him, and told him, they would not let him preach in their pulpits any more, unless he renounced that part of the preface of his sermon on Regeneration, (lately published) wherein he wished that his brethren would entertain their auditories oftener with discourses upon the new-birth.” Probably some of them were irritated the more, by his free conversation with many of the serious dissenters, who invited him to their houses, and repeatedly told him, " That if the doctrines of the new-birth, and justification by faith, were preached powerfully in the churches, there would be few dissenters in England.' Nor was he without opposition even from some of his friends. But under these discouragements, he had great comfort in meeting every evening with a band of religious intimates, to spend an hour in prayer, for the advancement of the Gospel, and for all their acquaintance, so far as they knew their circumstances. In this he had uncommon satisfaction: Once he spent a whole night with them in prayer and praise; and sometimes at midnight, after he had been quite wearied with the labours of the day, he found his strength renewed in this exercise, which made him compose his sermon upon Intercession. The nearer the time of his embarkation approached, the more affectionate and eager the people grew. Thousands anıl thousands of prayers were put up for him. They would run and stop him in the alleys of the churches, and follow him with wishful looks. But above all, it was hardest for him to part with his weeping friends at St. Dunstan's, where he helped to administer the sacrament to them, after spending the night before in prayer: This parting was to him almost insupportable.
On December the 28th, he left London. It was on the 29th that he first preached without notes. December the 30th he went on board ; but it was above a month before they cleared the land. One happy effect of their very slow passage, he mentions in April following: “Blessed be God, we now live very comfortably in the great cabin. We talk of little else but God and Christ: And scarce a word is heard among us when together, but what has reference to our fall in the first, and our new birth in the second Adam.” It seems likewise to have been a peculiar providence, that he should spend a little time at Gibraltar, where both citizens and soldiers, high and low, young and old, acknowledged the day of their visitation. He arrived at the parsonage-house at Savannah, May 7, 1738, about four months after his first embarkation at Deptford. Upon this voyage (many years after) he made the following reflection: “A long, and, I trust, not altogether unprofitable voyage. What shall I render to the Lord for all his mercies? Besides being strengthened to go through my public work, I was enabled to write letters,
and compose sermons, as though I had been on land. Even at this distance of time, the remembrance of the happy hours I enjoyed in religious exercises on the deck, is refreshing to my soul. And though nature sometimes relented at being taken from my friends, and little unusual inconveniences of a sea-life ; yet, a consciousness that I had in view the glory of God, and the good of souls, from time to time afforded me unspeakable satisfaction."
From Sunday, May 7, 1738, till the latter end of August following, he made full proof of his ministry in Georgia, particularly at Savannah: He read prayers and expounded twice a-day, and visited the sick daily. On Sunday he expounded at five in the morning; at ten read prayers and preached, and at three in the afternoon : And at seven in the evening expounded the church-catechism. How much easier is it for our brethren in the ministry, either in England, Scotland, or Ireland, to find fault with such a labourer in our Lord's vineyard, than to tread in his steps ? It was now that he observed the deplorable condition of many children here; and now the first thought entered his mind of founding an Orphan House, for which he determined to raise contributions in England, if God should give him a safe return thither. In December following, after a peril. ous passage by Ireland, he did return to London: And on Sunday, January the 14th, 1739, he was ordained priest by his friend Bishop Benson, at Christ Church, Oxford. The next day he came to London again; and on Sunday the 21st preached twice. But though the churches were large, and crowded exceedingly, yet many hundreds stood in the church-yards, and hundreds more returned home. This put him upon the first thought of preaching in the open air. But when he mentioned it to some of his friends, they judged it to be mere madness. So he did not carry it into execution, till after he had left London. It was on Wednesday, February 21, that finding all the church doors to be sbut against him in Bristol, (beside that no church was able to contain one half of the congregation) at three in the afternoon he went to Kingswood, and preached abroad, to near two thousand people. The colliers, he had heard, were very rude, and very numerous; so uncultivated, that no body cared to go among them; neither had they any place of worship; and often, when provoked, they were a terror to the whole city of Bristol. He therefore looked upon the civilizing of these people, and much more, the bringing of them to the profession and practice of Christianity, as a matter of great importance. “I