Imágenes de páginas

is the sinner's plea in the ears of Jesus Christ. The case of two Scotchmen, in the convulsion of the state at the time of Charles the Second, subserved his design; who, unavoidably obliged to pass some of the troops, were conceiving of their dan yer, and meditating what method was to be adopted, to come off safe: one proposed the wearing of a scullcap; the other, supposing that would imply distrust of the providence of God, was determined to proceed bare-headed. The latter, being first laid hold of, and being interrogated, “ Are you for the covenant?" replied, “ Yes ;" and being further asked, " What covenant?" answered, “ The covenant of grace;" by which reply, eluding further inquiry, he was let pass; the other, not answering satisfactorily, received a blow with the sabre, which, penetrating through the cap, struck him dead. In the application, Mr. Whitefield, warning against vain confidence, cried, “Beware of your scull-caps.” But here likewise, the description upon paper, wanting the reality as exemplified by him with voice and motion, convey's but a very faint idea. However, it is a disadvantage which must be submitted to, especially as coming from my pen.

The difference of the times in which Mr. Whitefield made his public appearance, materially determined the matter of his sermons, and in some measure, the manner of his address. He dealt far more in the explanatory and doctrinal mode of preaching on a Sabbath-day morning, than perhaps, at any other time; and sometimes inade a little, but by no means improper, show of learning. If he had read upon astronomy in the course of the week, you would be sure to discover it. He knew how to convert the centripetal motion of the heavenly bodies to the disposition of the christian towards Vol. III. -No, I.


Christ; and the fatal attraction of the world would be very properly represented by a reference to the centrifugal. Whatever the world might think of him, he had his charms for the learned as well as for the unlearned ; and as he held himself to be a debtor both to the wise and to the unwise, each received his due at such times. The peer and the peasant alike went away satisfied.

As though he heard the voice of God ever sounding in his ears the important admonition, “ Work while it is called to-day,” this was his work in London at one period of his life :--After administering the Lord's supper to several hundred cominunicants, at half an hour after six in the morning; reading the first and second service in the desk, which he did with the greatest propriety, and preaching full an hour, he read prayers and preached in the afternoon, previous to the evening service, at half an hour after five; and afterwards addressed a large society in public. His afternoon sermon used to be more general and exhortatory. In the evening he drew his bow at a venture, vindicated the doctrines of grace, fenced them with articles and homilies, referred to the Martyrs' seal, and exemplified the power of divine grace in their sufferings, by quotations from the venerable Fox. Sinners were then closely plied, numbers of whom froin curiosity coming to hear a sentence or two, were often compelled to hear the whole sermon. How many in the judgment-day will rise to prove that they heard to the salvation of the soul. The society, which, after sermon was encircled in the area of the Tabernacle, consisted of widows, married people, young men and spinsters, placed separately; all of whom, when a considerable part of the congregation was resettled, (for hundreds used to stay upon the occasion,)

used to receive from him in the colloquial style, various exhortations, comprised in short sentences, and suitable to their various stations. The practice of christianity in all its branches was then usually inculcated, not without some pertinent anecdote of a character 'worthy to be held up for an example; and in whose conduct the hints recommended were exemplified. To the young men, for instance-A young man in the mercantile line, whose uncle described him as such a jumble of religion and business, that he was fit for neither. A widow would be held up to view, remarkable for her confidence in 'God. A young woman would be described, commendable for her chastity, prudence, and decorum-in a way that made it desirable for each description of characters to imitate them. Masters of households at these opportunities, parents and children, had their portion, but nothing enforced upon legal principles.

Perhaps, Mr. Whitefield never preached greater serions than at six in the morning, for at that hour he did preach winter and summer, on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. At these times his congregations were of the select description, and young men received admonitions similar with what were given in the society; and were cautioned, while they neglected the duty required from them under the bond of an indenture, not to anticipate the pleasures and advantages of future life, Beware of being golden apprentices, silver journeymen, and copper-masters, was one of the cautions I remember upon those occasions,

His style was now colloquial, with little use of motion; pertinent expositions, with suitable remarks ; and all comprehended within the hour. Christian experience principally made the subject of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening lectures ; when, frequently having funeral sermons to preach, the character and experience of the dead, helped to elucidate the subject, led to press diligence in the christian course, to reflect upon the blessing of faith on earth, and glory in heaven. Mr. Whitefield adopted the custom of the inhabitants of New-England in their best days, of beginning the Sabbath at six o'clock on Saturday evenings. The custom could not be observed by many, but it was convenient to a few—a few compared with the multitude; but abstractedly considered, a large and respectable company. Now ministers of every description found a peculiar pleasure in relaxing their minds from the fatigues of study, and were highly entertained by his peculiarly excellent subjects, which were so suitable to the auditory, that I believe it was seldom disappointed. It was an opportunity peculiarly suited to apprentices and journeymen in some businesses, which allowed of their leaving work sooner than on other days, and availing themselves at least of the sermon; from which I also occasionally obtained my blessings. Had my memory heen retentive, and I had studiously treasured up his rich remarks, how much more easily might I have met your wishes, and have answered the design of this letter! But though I have lost much of the letter of his sermons, the savour of them yet remains. The peculiar talents he possessed, subservi. ent to great usefulness, can be but faintly guessed from his serions in print; though, as formerly, God has made the reading of thein useful, I have no doubt but in future they will have their use. The eighteen taken in short band, and faithfully transcribed by Mr. Gurney, have been supposed to do discredit to his memory, and therefore they were

suppressed. But they who have been accustomed to hear him, may collect from them much of his genuine preaching. They were far from being the best specimens that might have been produced. He preached many of them when, in fact, he was almost incapable of preaching at all. His constitution, long before they were taken, had received its material shock, and they were all, except the two last, the production of a Wednesday evening; when, by the current business of the day, he was fatigued and worn out. The “Good Shepherd ” was sent him on board the ship. He was much disgusted with it, and expressed himself to me as in the 1440th letter of the third volume of his works It is not verbatim as I delivered it. In some places it makes me speak false concord, and even nonsense ; in others the sense and connexion is destroyed by the injudicious disjointed paragraphs, and the whole is entirely unfit for the public review.” His manuscript journal, as quoted by Dr. Gillies, notes—" September 15. This morning came a surreptitious copy of my Tabernacle farewell sermon, taken, as the short-hand writer professes, verbatiin as I spoke it; but surely he is mistaken. The whole is so injudiciously paragraphed, and so stretchedly unconnected, that I owe no thanks to the misguided, though it may be, well meant, zeal of the writer and publisher, be they whom they will. But such conduct is an unavoidable tax upon popularity.” He was then like an ascending Elijah, and many were eager to catch his dropping mantle. In the sermons referred to, there are certainly many jewels, though they may not be connected in a proper order.

Whatever fault criticisin may find with his sermons from the press, they were, in the delivery,

« AnteriorContinuar »