« ÎnapoiContinuă »
same text, and his two performances will be likely to be very different, so that while his spoken discourse is superior for present effect, his written one is no less so for the judgment of after critics. From the transcripts of Whitefield's extempore sermons taken by Mr. Gurney, his sermons have been judged to be of so low an order as not to justify his great celebrity. They are a motley compound of anecdotes and fragmentary bursts of passion, and no way indicate depth, comprehensiveness, or sustained energy and brilliancy. But it should be remembered, that Whitefield habitually had all ranks for hearers; and that his lively and playful trivialities even, might have been entertaining and exhilarating to a mob, which would have retired from the massive sermons of Howe or Edwards. He was engaged mainly in calling sinners to repentance; and a very different manner may be suited to the business of first urging on men attention to religion, from what is fitted to instruct them in its duties and doctrines when they have become attentive. Discourses will be likely to suffer in the judgment of after times, greatly in proportion as they have been so diluted and adapted as to lay hold of and interest an unthinking crowd. Whoever will look through Mr. Gurney's volume, while he sees no great and far-reaching thoughts will see no contemptible degree of intellect in the preacher's avoidance of them, and his exquisite skill and tact in shaping his matter to the purpose before him. Some sermons have been inserted from it, in order to exhibit Whitefield's incomparable power of commanding circumstances, and interesting whatever was before him.
The collection, however, will be chiefly from sermons written and published by himself. It is believed that they will verify the preceding hints, and set forth their author in a far more advantageous light, than that in which those of his works most extensively known to the public have placed him. Their merit is not in their theological depth and subtlety, but in that higher demonstration of the Spirit, the unction, the life, the fervency, which marked the man in word and deed. It is believed, that if read with the true end of sermonizing in view, they will bear a favorable comparison with any sermons of this age, especially if we consider the demands of his hearers. A polemical tract is also inserted, in order to show his temper and power in this field.
The publication of this book was imperiously called for, both on account of its scarcity in the market, and the rich unction, which its circulation will be likely to breathe through the religious community. That it may awaken sinners and quicken saints, is the prayer of its Editor; who, with thanks to his friends for their kind suggestions, presents the book to the public as a worthy, and he hopes, an acceptable offering; not doubting, that it may avail to the stirring up of the pure minds of some, by way of remembrance.
CHAP. XI. From his arrival in London, in the year 1742, to his embark-
REV. GEORGE WHITEFIELD.
Comprehending the period from his birth to his becoming a member of the University of Oxford.
THAT eminent and singularly gifted man of God, whose life, services and character are now to be delineated, has left few memorials important to be recorded in a chapter confined to the above mentioned, period of his life. Whitefield's giftsespecially those which he did not possess in common with other men-were, in an extraordinary degree, the peculiar endowments of the Preacher and of the Preacher merely. Of course, whatever was characteristic in him, or excited an interest not felt concerning ordinary men, did not appear with great power or distinctness in any other sphere or relation. Of Whitefield, the scholar, the philosopher, the theologian, little can be said, which might not as fitly be said of a common clergyman. That portion of his life, therefore, which was not passed in the ministry, or in preparation for it, contains nothing entitled to more than a brief notice. Nor does much lie open to us respecting his genealogy or family relations, that is worthy to swell the chapter.
GEORGE WHITEFIELD was born at Bell Inn, in the city of Gloucester, on the 16th day of December, O. S. 1714. His great grandfather was born at Wantage, in Berkshire, and was Rector of North Ledyard in Wiltshire. Of his seven children two were sons; Samuel, who succeeded his father in the cure of Rockhampton, whither he had removed from North Ledyard: and Andrew, who retired upon his estate, as a private gentleman. He had fourteen children, of whom Thomas, the
eldest, was the father of the subject of these memoirs. He was first bred to the employment of a wine merchant in Bristol, but afterwards kept an inn in the city of Gloucester. In Bristol he married Mrs. Elizabeth Edwards, by whom he had six sons and one daughter. Of these George was the youngest. Being bereft of his father at the helpless age of two years, he was regarded by his mother with peculiar tenderness, and educated with more than ordinary care.
In a character so unparalleled for the intensity of its religious fervor, energy and decision, it would be a satisfaction to know how far its earlier instincts and feelings corresponded with, or guided it towards its after career. Of Whitefield, little has reached the light in regard to this matter, save from his own subsequent confessions. Judged by the terrible scrutiny of his own severe standard of self-examination in after life, he was pre-eminently debased, and proved his native depravity of disposition by a series of most wantonly wicked actions; yet, his conscience was, at this time, tender enough to excite remorse and penitence for his youthful freaks, and to render him easy to be affected by religious truth. He describes himself as froward from his mother's womb; so brutish as to hate instruction; stealing from his mother's pocket, and frequently appropriating to his own use the money that he took in the house. "IfI trace myself," he says, "from my cradle to my manhood, I can see nothing in me but a fitness to be damned: and if the Almighty had not prevented me by his grace, I had now either been sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, or condemned, as the due reward of my crimes, to be forever lifting up my eyes in torments." Yet Whitefield could trace early movings of his heart, which satisfied him in after life, that "God loved him with an everlasting love, and had separated him even from his mother's womb, for the work to which He afterwards was pleased to call him." He had a devout disposition and a tender heart, so far as these terms can fitly characterize unregenerate men. When he was about ten years old, his mother made a second marriage: it proved an unhappy one. During the affliction to which this led, his brother used to read aloud Bishop Ken's Manuel for Winchester scholars. This book affected George Whitefield greatly; and when the corporation, at their annual visitation of St. Mary de Crypt's school, where he was educated, gave him, according to custom, money for the speeches which he was chosen to deliver, he purchased the book, and found it, he says, a great benefit to his soul.
Between the years of twelve and fifteen, he made good progress in the Latin classics, at this public school; and his native powers of eloquence began to be developed, even at that early