Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

Hervey, and was admitted to the little society of pious and devoted young men who, by way of ridicule, were called “ Methodists,” because of their systematic manner of living and doing good.

Whitfield, as well as the two Wesleys, after vainly striving for some time to find salvation by works, was led into the way of a simple penitent reliance on Christ, and was enabled to rejoice in a conscious assurance of the favour of God. He was now a new man, and burned with zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Believing himself divinely called to the work of the ministry, he prepared for it not only by hard study, but by fasting and prayer, and solemn and unreserved consecration to God. He had intended to prepare at least one hundred sermons before he began to preach; but at the time of his ordination he found himself with only one. That one, however, proved to be fruitful; for having lent it to a clergyman, to convince him how unfit he was for preaching, that gentleman divided the sermon into two short ones, preached them himself, and then returned the manuscript to Whitfield with a guinea for its use. With this same sermon, Whitfield himself ascended the pulpit of St. Mary's Church, Gloucester; and such an impression was made by this first effort, that a complaint was laid before the bishop that fifteen persons had been driven mad through Whitfield's preaching. The good bishop, however, replied that he hoped the madness would not be forgotten before next Sunday.

From this time Whitfield's popularity grew amazingly. He was invited to preach in various parts of the country, and everywhere the churches were crowded. His soul glowed with zeal, and, longing to preach the Gospel to the heathen abroad, he resolved to go forth on a mission to the Indians in America, where John and Charles Wesley were then labouring. In writing to his relatives and requesting their consent, he informed then his mind was already made up, and if they would promise not to dissuade him, he would visit them to take his farewell; but if not, he would embark without seeing them at all, for he knew his own weakness, and would not hazard the performance of his duty.

His mind was in a state of intense devotedness to God, and he was most rigid in the improvement of his time. He divided each day into three parts for their respective duties, assigning eight hours to study and devotion, eight hours to doing good, and eight hours to the requirements of nature. Sometimes, indeed, he allowed scarcely a single hour for sleep, and on one occasion be spent a wbole night among his disciples in prayer and praise. He dovoted himself to the study of the Scriptures, reading them upou his knees, and praying over ever; line and word, and he enjoyed close and habitual communion with God. He says, “Early in the morning, at noonday, evening, and midnight, nay, all the day long, did the Redeoner visit and refresh my heart. Could the trees of the wood speak, they would tell what sweet communion I and my Christian brethren have, under their shade, enjoyed with our God. Sometimes as I have been walking, my soul would make such sallies that I thought it would go out of the body. At other times I was so overpowered with a sense of God's infinite majesty, that I was constrained to throw my. self prostrate on the ground, and offer my soul as a blank in his hands, to write on it what he pleased. One night was a time never to be forgotten. It happened to lighten exceedingly. I had been expounding to many people, and some being afraid to go home, I thought it my duty to accompany them, and improve the occasion, to stir them up to prepare for the coming of the Son of Man. In my return to the parsonage, whilst others were rising from their beds, and frightened almost to death to see the lightping run upon the ground, and shine from one part of the heaven unto the other, I and another, a poor but pious countryman, were in the field praising, praying to, and exulting in our God, and longing for that time when Jesus shall be revealed from heaven in a flame of fire! Oh that my soul may be in a like frame when he shall actually come to call me!”

Before leaving he went again to Bristol, having received many and pressing invitations. Multitudes came out on foot to meet him, and some in coaches, a mile without the city; and the people saluted and blessed 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 make way along

the crowded aisles to the reading-desk. “Some hung upon the rails of the organ-loft, others climbed upon the leads of the church, and altogether 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 might see his face no more, high and low, young and old, burst into tears. Multitudes after the sermon followed him home weeping. The next day he was employed from seven in the morning till midnight in talking 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,

The same popularity attended him in London. He was invited to preach at Cripplegate, St. Anne's, and Foster Lane churches, at six on Sunday mornings, and to assist in administering the sacrament; so many attended, that they were obliged to consecrate fresh elements twice or thrice, and the stewards found it difficult to carry the offerings to the communion-table. Such an orator was soon applied to by the managers of various charities; and as his stay was to be so short, they obtained the use of the churches on week-days. It was necessary to place constables at the doors within and without, such multitudes assembled; and on Sunday mornings in the latter months of the year, long before day, you might see the streets filled with people going to hear him, with

[blocks in formation]

lanterns in their hands. Above a thousand pounds were collected for the charity children by his preaching in those days a prodigious sum-larger collections being made than had ever before been known on like occasions. A paragraph was published in one of the newspapers, speaking of his success and announcing where he was to preach next; he sent to the printer requesting that nothing of this kind might be inserted again. The fellow replied that he was paid for doing it, and that he would not lose two shillings for anybody. The nearer the time of his departure approached, the more eager were the people to hear him, and the more warmly they expressed their admiration and love for the preacher. They stopped him in the aisles and embraced him; they waited upon him at his lodgings to lay open their souls; they begged religious books of him, and entreated him to write their names with his own hand; and when he preached his farewell sermon here, as at Bristol, the whole congregation wept and sobbed aloud. At the end of the year he left London, and embarked at Gravesend for Georgia, in America.

When Whitfield had spent about three months in Georgia, he returned to England, and now began his wonderful career of openair preaching. Being at Bristol, he was moved with compaesion at the spiritual condition of the colliers at Kingswood, near that town, and on the afternoon of Saturday, February 17, 1739, he stood upon a mount and preached the Gospel to about two hundred; but soon the hundreds swelled to many thousands. Having once taken the field, he was soon encouraged to persevere in so promising a course. All the churches being now shut, and, as he says, if open not able to contain half that came to hear, he went again to Kingswood. His second audience consisted of some two thousand persons, his third from four to five thousand, and they went on increasing to ten, fourteen, and twenty thousand. " The sun shone very bright,” he says, "and the people standing in such an awful manner round the mount, in the profoundest silence, filled me with a holy admiration. Blessed be God for such a plentiful harvest! Lord, do thou send forth more labourers into thy harvest !” On another occasion he says, “The trees and hedges were full. All was hushed when I began: the sun shone bright, and God enabled me to preach for an hour with great power, and so loud that all, I was told, could hear me. Blessed be God, Mr.

spoke right: the fire is kindled in the country! To behold such crowds standing together in such an awful silence, and to hear the echo of their singing run from one end of them to the other, was very solemn and stiiking. How infinitely more solemn aud striking will the general asse:nbly of the spirits of just men made perfect be, when they join in singing the song of Moses and the Lamb in Heaven !”. Yet he says, " As the scene was new, and I had just begun to be au extempore preacher, it often occasioned many inward conflicts. Sometimes, when 20,000 people were

before me, I had not, in my own apprehension, a word to say either to God or to them. But I never was totally deserted, and frequently (for to deny it would be lying against God) so assisted, that I knew by happy experience what our Lord meant by saying, Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.'

(To be concluded in our next.)

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

SOLON THE ATHENIAN. SOLON was one of the greatest men of his day: he was accounted one of the Wise Men of Greece. Though a heathen, he was a man of strict integrity, and a true lover of his country, and one of its wisest legislators. His virtue, patriotism, and wisdom raised him to the highest position, and gave him the most potent influence in the State. He provided a new code of laws which advanced the education and virtue of the people, and raised the State to a higher condition of civilization and prosperity. He travelled in Egypt and Cyprus, and is said to have surveyed all Asia, and this for no other reason than the desire he had to increase his knowledge, which was so great and constant that it was his saying, “ By learning every day something, I am grown old.” And so intense was his thirst for knowledge, that even when he lay languishing upon his death-bed, he raised up his head to hearken to some friends who were discoursing at his bedside; and when they asked him to what purpose he did so, he gave this noble answer,

" That I may die the more learned."

He despised riches and worldly splendour. When Croesus, the rich King of Lydia, showed unto Solon his vast riches, and asked of him, " Whom he could esteem to be a happier man than he ?” Solop told him, " that riches were not be confided in; and that the state of a man in this life was so transitory and liable to alteration and change, that no certain judgment could be made of the felicity of any man till such time as he came to die." Cræsus thought himself contemned and despised by Solon, while he spake to him in this manner; and being in great prosperity at that time, he thought there was little in his speech to be regarded. But after. wards he had proof of his own folly and the wisdom of Solon; for being overthrown by King Cyrus in a battle, his city of Sardis taken, and himself made prisoner; and when he was bound and laid upon a pile of wood, to be publicly burnt to death in the sight of Cyrus and the Persians; he then began to see more deeply into the truth and wisdom of Solon's admonition, and the utter vanity of his conduct, and worthlessness of his boasted wealth and splendour. He cried out three times aloud from the stake, “O Solon, Solon, Solon!” Cyrus wondered at this exclamation, and demanded the reason. Cræsus told him what Solon had said to him about the frailty of man, and the change of condition he is subject to in this life. Cyrus, at the hearing of this, like a wise

[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »