Images de page
PDF
ePub

can call heaven and earth to wit- has long since been my judgment, ness, that when the Bishop laid his that it would be best for many of hand upon me, I gave myself up to the present preachers to have a tu. be a martyr for Him who hung upon tor and retire for a while, and be the cross for me. I have thrown content with preaching now and myself blindfold, and, I trust, withthen, till they were a little more imout reserve, into his Almighty proved. Otherwise I fear that mahands; only, I would have you ob- ny who now make a temporary fig. serve, that until you hear of my ure, for want of a proper foundadying for or in my work, you will tion, will run themselves out of not be apprised of all the prefer- breath, will grow weary of the work ment that is expected by G. W." and leave it."

His recent biographer subjoins, In regard to himself he said, “I “ Perhaps no mind, since the apos- am sure I never prayed so much tolic age, has been more deeply af- against my infirmities, as against fected, or suitably exercised, by going into holy orders too soon. the laying on of hands' than White. However some may come to preach field was.

A supernatural unction here and there, I have prayed hunfrom the Holy One, could hardly dreds of times that God would not have produced greater moral effects. let me go too soon. I remember

That high sense of responsibility, once at Gloucester-I know the that singleness of heart, that entire room, and I can not help looking and intense devotedness of soul, up at the window when I am there body, and spirit, which character. and going by; I know the bedside, ized the first embassadors of Christ, I know the floor, on which I have seems revived in him. According been prostrate for weeks together, ly, after reading the narrative of crying, I can not go; I am a novice; his ordination, we naturally expect I shall fall into the condemnation of from Whitefield a sort of apostolic the devil. Yet I wanted to be at career. After witnessing at the al- Oxford ; I wanted to stay there three tar a spirit wound up to the highest or four years, that I might make pitch of ardor, throbbing and thrill. one hundred and fifty sermons at ing with strong emotions, and, like least, for I wished to set up with a a renovated eagle, impatient to burst stock in trade. I remember wrestoff, we naturally look for a corre. ling, praying, groaning, striving sponding swiftness of flight and with God; and I said, “I am unwidth of sweep, and feel that we done, unfit to speak in thy name; shall not be surprised by any thing my God, send me not.' After I that follows. His unbosomings of had written to all my friends to pray himself disclose in his heart a “se- against the bishop's solicitation, these cret place of thunder,' and 'a foun- words came into my mind — My tain of tears,' from which we ex. sheep hear my voice, and none shall pect alternate bursts of terror and pluck them out of my hand.' Then tenderness—bolts of Sinai and dew I said, “Lord, I will go : send me of Hermon; and we shall not be when thou wilt.'' disappointed.”

Most deeply did he feel that “if This feeling of responsibility and any man desire the office of bishop, deep sense of the magnitude of his he desireth a good work," and a work followed Whitefield through great work; and it was his constant the whole course of his ministry. care to “magnify his office,” whenHence he was wont to express him. ever and wherever he was called to self in the following caustic manner exercise his ministry. “Believing in reference to such as Paul would himself to be the messenger of God, probably have styled novices. “It commissioned to call sinners to repentance, he spoke as one conscious and man, and contemplate Whiteof his high credentials, with author- field overwhelmed in view of the ity and power.” Had he imagined magnitude of his calling, and yieldthat this office could rightly be as. ing for life all his powers and atsumed, the principal intent being the tainments to its solemn duties. Look obtainment of a living, had he en. at him especially as he enters “the tered upon this work merely be. pulpit,” which cause he must be employed somewhere and somehow, had he adopt

“Must stand acknowledged while the world

shall stand, ed this calling because he was arn

The most important and effectual guard, bitious to enter upon one of the Support

, and ornament, of virtue's cause.

There stands the messenger of truth; there learned professions, or had he be- stands come a minister in the church be. The legate of the skies !–His theme divine,

His office sacred, his credentials clear. cause he thought he should have By him the violated law speaks out more leisure in this profession for its thunders ; and by him, in strains as sweet literary pursuits, or for pursuing the

As angels use, the Gospel whispers peace.” chase and following the giddy pleas- “ Mutatis mutandis, et de te fabuures and fashionable frivolities of la narratur.' high life,-he would never have Another element of power in the been, now the son of thunder and preaching of Whitefield, was a pracnow the messenger of consolation” tical sagacity which he had in an that he was. But feeling that God eminent degree-a talent of nice had called him to a great work, that selection and wise adaptation, which it was sufficient to put in requisition enabled him “rightly to divide the all his talents and resources, that it word of truth and give to each one involved vast responsibilities, and his portion in due season." When took deep hold upon eternity, he he read prayers and expounded the preached as a dying man to dying Scriptures to the poor, he knew men, and concentrated all his ener. what was needed, and with consumgies for the accomplishment of one mate skill adapted himself to the glorious object,--and that to win the wants and capacities of his hearers. greatest possible number of souls to When he went between decks and Christ. Neither place nor power, preached to the sailors and soldiers neither love nor money, neither fear during his voyages across the Atlannor favor,-could have induced him tic, he so preached that the profane to impair the dignity or detract from learnt to speak with reverence the the magnitude of his office by be- name of God, and the scoffer becoming a school teacher to augment came serious and prayerful. Why? his income, or to descend from the Because he had sagacity to perceive exalted sphere of an embassador of what was needed in their case, wis. Christ to stand for a seat in Parlia- dom to make the right application ment, or go on a mission to some of truth, and the Holy Spirit crownforeign court. To all applications ed with success labors thus directfor such a descent, whether from ed. When he told the story of the friend or foe, his prompt and em- cross to multitudes made up of nearphatic reply would have been, “I ly all classes, he had a word for the am doing a great work, so that I wise, another for the unwise. “To can not come down to you. Why the Jew, he became a Jew, that he should the work cease, while I leave might gain the Jew; to the Roit to come down ?" Draw near, ye man, a Roman, that he might gain who make merchandise of the sa- him.” When he preached before cred office, or imagine that no pe- lords and philosophers, he was wise culiar responsibility attaches to the to adapt himself to their particuwork of negotiating between God lar wants and circumstances, and, Vol. III.

5

men.

though some smiled and scoffed, and difference of the times in which
would have no part nor lot in the Whitefield made his public appear.
great salvation ; how hardly shall ance, materially determined the mat-
they that are rich enter the king. ter of his sermons, and in some
dom! not many wise, not many no- measure, the manner of his address.
ble are called ;-yet he always pro- Whatever the vorld might think of
duced effect, and was instrumental him, he had his charms for the
in bringing some to the knowledge learned as well as for the unlearned;
of the truth as it is in Jesus. So and as he held himself to be a debtor
attractive was his preaching to ma- both to the wise and the unwise,
ny in high life, that at Bath, in La- each received his due at such times.
dy Huntingdon's new chapel, there The peer and the peasant alike went
was a seat with curtains specially away satisfied.”
provided for bishops. It was often
occupied too. With peculiar sig. Our course of thought leads us to
nificance this seat with vails was inquire in the next place, what use
styled the Nicodemite corner. Whitefield made of the imagination,

David Hume pronounced White- in producing such remarkable effield the most ingenious preacher fecis upon the minds of his fellow he ever heard ; and said, it was It was stated near the beginworth going twenty miles to hear ning of this article, that George him. An ignorant man, being ask- Whitefield was endowed by his Creed what he thought of the preach- ator with intellectual faculties of a ing of Whitefield, replied, that he high order. Perhaps for no power preached like a lion; “no unapt of mind was he so much distinguishnotion,” says Dr. Southey, “ of the ed as the one now brought into par. force, and vehemence, and passion ticular notice. It was this element of that oratory which awed the hear. in his mental constitution, which ers, and made them tremble like induced him to contract in early life Felix before the Apostle." No one so great a fondness for dramatic can read the life or the imperfect writers. It was this which enabled sermons that remain of Whitefield, him to present such vivid pictures without according to him a large before the mental eye of his audimeasure of that practical sagacity tors, that all seemed for the hour to and nice discrimination, which ena- be amid scenes of enchantment. It bled the preacher so to adapt him- was this which gave him wings to self to the ever varying condition soar into eternity, and dwell now and wants of his hearers, as always amid the radiant verities of an eterto produce effect. He felt that the nal weight of glory, and now in the Gospel contains something fitted to soul's great charnel-house, amid the meet all classes of men, all states of dread realities of the second death. mind, and all shades of character; It was this wbich infused so abun. and hence, he studied to be perti- dantly into all his sermons the elenent, to put right things in right pla- ments of the dramatic. Hear him ces, to say what he ought to say and descanting upon Peter's request to when he ought to say it. He would Christ on the mount of transfiguranot cause the nail to start back by tion. “ Peter, when he had drank giving it a single blow after it was a little of Christ's new wine, speaks driven home, any more than he like a person intoxicated; he was would leave it where it would do no overpowered by the brightness of execution.

the manifestations. Let us make The accuracy of this representa. three tabernacles; one for thee, and tion is shown by the following testi- one for Moses, and one for Elias.' mony of Cornelius Winter. "The It is well added, not knowing what

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

he said.' That he should cry out, minds of his hearers. How does he * Master it is good for us to be here,' attempt it? By expatiating upon in such good company, and in so his condescension in permitting his glorious a condition, is no wonder; disciples to contemplate him in this which of us all would not have been touching posture? By calling upon apt to do the same? But to talk of all, with great parade of words and building tabernacles, and one for assumed pathos, to draw near that Christ, and one for Moses, and one they may behold the greatest wonder for Elias, was surely something for that the universe ever saw? Nothwhich Peter himself must stand re. ing like it. “ Hark, hark! do you proved. Surely, Peter, thou wast not hear him ?” not quite awake! Thou talkest like “I have known him," says Win. one in a dream. If thy Lord had ter, "avail himself of the formality taken thee at thy word, what a poor of the judge putting on his black cap, tabernacle thou wouldst have had to pronounce sentence. With his in comparison with that house not eyes full of tears, and his heart al. made with hands, eternal in the most too big to admit of speech, he heavens, in which thou hast long would say, after a momentary pause, since dwelt, now the earthly house “I am now going to put on my conof the tabernacle of thy body is dis- demning cap. Sinner, I must do it! solved. What! build tabernacles be. I must pronounce sentence! Then low, and have the crown before in a strain of tremendous eloquence, thou hast borne the cross ? O Pe. he would repeat our Lord's words, ter, Peter! • Master, spare thyself,' Depart ye cursed !' and not with: sticks too, too closely to thee. And out a very powerful description of why so selfish, Peter ? Carest thou the nature of that curse." not for thy fellow disciples that are One other example must suffice. below, who came not up with thee It is thus related by an eye-witness. to the mount? Carest thou not for “ Once, after a solemn pause, he the precious souls that are as sheep thus addressed his audience : The having no shepherd, and must per. attendant angel is just about to leave ish forever unless thy master de. the threshold of this sanctuary, and scends from the mount, to teach and ascend to heaven. And shall he to die for them? Wouldst thou thus ascend, and not bear with him the eat thy spiritual morsels alone? news of one sinner, among all this Besides, if thou art for building tab- multitude, reclaimed from the error ernacles, why must there be three of his ways?' To give the greater of them; one for Christ, one for effect to this exclamation, WhiteMoses, and one for Elias ? Are field stamped with his foot, listed up Christ and the prophets divided ? his hands and eyes to heaven, and Do they not sweetly harmonize and cried aloud, 'Stop, Gabriel, stop, ere agree in one? Did they not proph. you enter the sacred portals, and esy concerning the sufferings of thy yet carry with you the news of one Lord, as well as of the glory that sinner converted to God.' This adshould follow ? Alas! how unlike dress was accompanied with such is their conversation to thine. Mo. animated yet natural action, that it ses and Elias came down to talk of surpassed any thing I ever saw or suffering; and thou art dreaming of heard in any other preacher." building I know not what taberna- These examples may show us cles. Surely, Peter, thou art so that one of the commanding and high upon the mount, that thy head prominent elements of Whitefield's seems giddy."

power as a preacher, was a vivid, He would bring the Savior in the almost creative, yet on the whole attitude of prayer vividly before the chastened and sanctified imagina

tion. This would not allow him to descend so low in dramatizing his speak coldly, to deal in dry abstrac- themes as Bunyan, for instance, in tions, to dress up a body without the following passage. “They that a soul for a sermon. Every thing will have heaven must run for it, he touched was imbued with life; because the devil, the law, sin, death his pictures were bold in outline, and hell follow them. There is graphic in the filling up, colored never a poor soul that is going to to the life, and placed before the heaven, but the devil, the law, sin, mind's eye, not as mere paintings, death and hell make after that soul. but living, acting beings. He made And I will assure you the devil is his hearers feel that God and Christ, nimble, he can run apace, he is and heaven and hell, are all solemn light of foot; he hath overtaken realities; and while he aimed first many; he hath turned up their heels, of all and more than all, to commend and hath given them an everlasting himself to every man's conscience fall. Also the law; that can shoot in the sight of God, he did not deem

a great way; have a care that thou it hostile to his object, to transform keep out of the reach of those great the abstract into the concrete, to guns, the ten commandments. Hell have his skeletons rounded out in also hath a wide mouth, and can all their parts into the beauty of fair stretch itself farther than you are proportions, and to breathe into them

aware of. If this were well considthe breath of life. The dramatic ered, then thou, as well as I, wouldst element was so strong in him, that say, they that will have heaven, he presented to the beholder only must run for it.” He was careful those scenes in which he had lived to avoid what might beget lightness and moved himself; and thus pre- in such presentations; and his scenes senting them, he made all who be- were always touching and power. held, feel, not merely that important ful, because there was so much of scenes were passing before them, solemnity, such deep pathos in his but that they themselves were pass- whole aspect. In this respect, he ing with them, nay, were actually a nearly resembled our own Bellapart of them. His theory harmo- my, an admirable divine, at once nized with that so beautifully ex. deeply metaphysical and distinguish. pressed by one of the most accom- ed for the dramatic element. Did plished of our modern writers. he wish to bring God's law home to “ Logic forms an excellent body for the conscience of the sinnermit was a discourse; we assent to it, we ap- not by presenting a series of frigid prove it, it is good, all good, but it abstractions that he accomplished awakens no admiration. It is not his aim. He took his audience with till rhetoric sends its warm life-blood him to Mount Ebal and Mount Ge. to mantle on the cold cheek of logic, rizim; brought them into the midst and clothes its angular form in the of the twelve tribes of Israel ; made garments of taste, that we begin to them hear the Levites read the curses admire the discourse.” This the pronounced against the law-breaker, ory he reduced to practice when- and all the thousands of Jacob utter ever he prepared a discourse for the their loud Amen. “Cursed is he pulpit. By a vivid imagination, he that confirmeth not all the words of was able to clothe with life the great the law to do them; and all the peothemes on which he treated ; and ple shall say, Amen." Having thus he awakened attention, elicited shown how heinous is the transgresadmiration, roused the conscience, sion of the holy law, and what a and by the attendant energies of the tremendous doom awaits the sinner, Spirit, subdued the will and trans- he brought the objector upon the formed the man. He did not often stage to state his exceptions to what

« PrécédentContinuer »