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paradox, may be able to understand at the same time the real character and conduct of the late Mr. Whitefield.
This pious and extraordinary minister was born at Gloucester, Dec. 16, 1714. His father, who was bred to the wine trade at Bristol, removed from thence to Gloucester, and kept an inn. He had six sons and one daughter. Of the sons, George was the youngest, who was only two years old when his father died, and he was brought up with great tenderness by his mother.
The world is indebted for a well-drawn life of this excellent man to the Reverend Dr. Gillies of Scotland. We cannot enter into all the particulars so minutely or exactly as that candid and valuable Biographer; and yet we wish to give as much of so important and remarkable a life, as can consist with a plan of so much generality as that of our volumes. We shall be excused then if we extract or abridge those parts of that excellent performance, which comport the most with our design, or which may most edify and inform our pious readers.
It appears, that Mr. Whitefield was very early under serious impressions; but be acknowledged with compunction, what every body must feel whether they acknowledge it or not, that the bent of our carnal nature is turned directly from God, and inclined only to nothing but evil.
When he was between twelve and fifteen, he had made some progress in classical learning; and, we are told, that even then his eloquence began to appear in some puerile compositions, written for the amusement of his school-fellows. But his rising genius was deprived of the usual means of improvement, through the decrease of his mother's trade ; and he was obliged to assist her in carrying on the business of the inn. His turn of mind, however, though depressed, could not be extinguished ; and in this very unfavourable situation, we are told, that he composed several sermons, and that the impressions of religion were very strong upon him. When he was about seventeen, he received the sacrament, and employed as much of his time as he could in prayer and reading, in fasting and meditation, and in all those devout exercises, which are the food and the delight at once of every religious mind.
About eighteen, he entered at Pembroke College in Oxford, and soon became acquainted with some serious young men, who, from certain rules and methods of life which they prescribed themselves, received in ridicule the name of methodists-an appellation, once honourably bestowed upon some ancient physicians who acted also in their way
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 me. thodical and preeise 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 writ. ings 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 reprisaks, 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 believing, 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 him, 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 re. mark upon this was: * Last Sunday, in the afternoon, I preached my first sermon in the church where I was baptiz. ed, 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 speak. ing, 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, thougheo 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.”