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“If faithful ministers are so soon removed from us, how should we prize them while we have them 1 0 let us never give ear to, much less be the means of promoting the malevolent whispers of slander; but esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake! Should it not be our constant care, and studious concern, through divine grace, to improve by every sermon we hear, that the end of all ordinances may be obtained, even an increase in love to Jesus, and fellowship with him That this desirable end may be answered, let us be earnest and frequent in our address to the throne of grace, for ministers and people, that God may be glorified by bringing home sinners to
himself, and in the edification of saints; that each stone in the
spiritual fabric may be edified and built up upon the foundation, Christ Jesus, till the top-stone is brought forth with shoutings, grace, grace, unto it ! “The clock strikes twelve, and tells me to conclude. But how can I do it, without commending you to that God, whose power alone is able to keep you from falling, and at last present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy 3 May he give you continual assurances of his grace, mercy and love, in his lower courts, thereby making them a heaven upon earth; and cause you at last to join the general assembly and church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven. This is the hearty, unfeigned, and constant prayer of him, who is with great esteem and affection, “Your's sincerely.”
The following is the substance of a letter addressed to the Rev. William Jay, of Bath, by the late venerable Cornelius Winter, minister of the gospel at Painswick in Gloucestershire. Mr. Winter was one of Whitefield's most faithful fellow laborers; he accompanied him several times to America, and regularly supplied the chapels in Whitefield's connection. On his first going to the Tabernacle, he was particularly struck with the largeness of the congregation; the solemnity that sat upon it; the melody of the singing; Whitefield's striking appearance, and his earnestness in preaching. From this time prejudice had no more place in his breast; and he embraced every opportunity to hear him. Yet he had no knowledge of the evil of sin, and the depravity of his nature. On the 9th of April, 1760, being Wednesday in Easter-week, and the close of the holiday, as he was playing at cards with some of his companions in iniquity; recollecting he might that evening hear Whitefield, he broke off in the midst of the game, which much discomposed and enraged his companions, who suspected where he was going. It was a night much to remembered. The scales of ignorance then fell from his eyes, a sense of his misery opened gradually to him, and he diligently inquired what he should do to be saved. He never more played a game afterwards. Whitefield's text was 1 Cor. xv. 51, 52. The introduction to the sermon, “Come my brethren, we have from Sunday till yesterday been meditating upon the resurrection of our Lord, it is now time that we should think about our own.” “Could I recite the whole sermon,” says Mr. Winter, “and it would read acceptably, it would want the energy, viva voce, which was so very peculiar to the preacher, that a resemblance is no where to be found. But it was God in the preacher that made the word efficacious; to him be the glory. It is a mercy he is not confined to the abilities of men whose talents are superior to those of their brethren. Much good was done at that time by the instrumentality of men whose gifts were very inconsiderable; and the Lord could have wrought upon my soul by an inferior preacher. It is ‘not by might, nor by power;' which is but to say, it is not by human eloquence, but by the spirit of the Lord, that work is wrought upon the soul which is essential to salvation.” “The time he set apart for preparation for the pulpit, during my connection with him, was not to be distinguished from the time he appropriated to other business. If he wanted to write a pamphlet upon any occasion, he was closeted; nor would he allow access to him, but on an emergency, while he was engaged in the work. But I never knew him o in the composition of a sermon until he was on board ship, when he employed himself partly in the composition of sermons, and reading very attentively the history of England, written by different authors. He had formed a design of writing the history of Methodism, but never entered upon it. He was never more in retirement on a Saturday than on another day; nor sequestered at any particular time for a longer period than he used for his ordinary devotions. I never met with any thing like the form of a skeleton of a sermon among his papers, with which I was permitted to be very familar, nor did he ever give me any idea of the importance of being habituated to the planning of a sermon. It is not injustice to his great character to say, I believe, he knew nothing about such a kind of exercise. “Usually for an hour or two before he went into the pulpit, he claimed retirement; and on a Sabbath day morning, more particularly, he was accustomed to have Clarke's Bible, Matthew Henry's Comment, and Cruden's Concordance within his reach; his frame at that time was more than ordinarily devotional. I say more than ordinarily, because, though there was a vast vein of pleasantry usually in him, the intervals of conversa
tion evidently appeared to be filled up with private ejaculation connected with praise. His rest was much interrupted, and his thoughts were much engaged with God in the night. He has often said at the close of a very warm address, ‘this sermon I got when most of you who now hear me were fast asleep.” He made very minute observations, and was much disposed to be conversant with life, from the lowest mechanic to the first characters in the land. He let nothing escape him, but turned all into gold that admitted of improvement, and, in one way or other, the occurrence of the week or the day, furnished him with matter for the pulpit. A specimen—when an extraordinary trial was going forward, he would be present; and on observing the formality of the judge putting on his black cap to pronounce sentence, I have known him avail himself of it in the close of a sermon." “He had a most peculiar art of speaking personally to you, in a congregation of four thousand people, when no one would suspect his object. The famous comedian, Shuter, who had a great partiality for Mr. Whitefield, showed him friendship, and often attended his ministry. At one period of his popularity, he was acting in a drama under the character of Ramble. During the run of the performance, he attended service on Sabbath mornings at Tottenham court chapel, and was seated in the pew exactly opposite to the pulpit, and while Mr. Whitefield was giving full sally to his soul, and in his energetic address, was inviting sinners to the Savior, he fixed himself full against Shuter, and with his eyes upon him, adding, to what he had previously said, ‘and thou, poor rambler, who hast long rambled from him, come you also. O end your ramblin by coming to Jesus.’ Shuter was exceedingly struck, j coming to Mr. Whitefield, said, ‘I thought I should have fainted, how could you serve me so?' It was truly impressive to see him ascend the pulpit. My intimate knowledge of him admits of my acquitting him of the charge of affectation. . “Professed orators might object to his hands being lifted up too high, and it is to be lamented that in that attitude, rather than in any other, he is represented in print. His own reflections upon that print were, when it was first put into his hands, ‘Sure I do not look such a sour creature as this sets me forth; if I thought I did, I should hate myself.’ It is necessary to remark, that the attitude was very transient, and always accompanied by some expressions which would justify it. “You may be sure, from what has been said, that when he treated upon the sufferings of our Savior, it was not without
great pathos. He was very ready at that kind of painting, which frequently answered the end of real scenery. As . Gethsemene were within sight, he would say, stretching out his hand—‘Look yonder. What is that I see It is my agonizing Lord!' And, as though it were no difficult matter to catch the sound of the Savior praying, he would exclaim, ‘Hark! Hark! Do you not hear him? You may suppose that as this occurred frequently, the efficacy of it was destroyed: but no; though we often knew what was coming, it was as new to us as though we had never heard it before. “That beautiful apostrophe, used by the prophet Jeremiah, “O earth, earth, earth, hear the words of the Lord, was very subservient to him, and never used impertinently. “He abounded with anecdotes, which, though not always recited verbatim, were very just as to the matter of them. One, for instance, I remember, tending to illustrate the efficacy of prayer, though I have not been able to meet with it in English history. It was the case of the London apprentices before Henry VIII., pleading his pardon of their insurrection. The monarch, moved by their sight, and their plea, ‘Mercy!!Mercy!' cried, ‘Take them away, I cannot bear it.’ The application, you may suppose, was, that if an earthly monarch of Henry's description, could be so moved, how forcible 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 II., subserved his design; who, unavoidably obliged to pass some of the troops, were conceiving of their danger, and meditating what method was to be adopted to come off safe. One proposed the wearing of a skull-cap; the other, supposing that would imply distrust of the providence of God, determined to proceed bare headed. The latter, being first laid hold of, and being interrogated, ‘Are you for the covenant P replied, ‘Yes;’ and being further asked, “What covenant P 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 skull-caps.' But here likewise the description upon paper, wanting the reality, as exemplified by him with voice and motion, conveys 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 a doctrinal mode of preaching on a Sabbath day morning, than perhaps at any other time; and sometimes made 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 toward 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 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 communicants, 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' zeal, and exemplified the power of divine grace in their sufferings, by quotations from the venerable Fox. Sinners were then closely plied, numbers of whom from 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. “Perhaps Mr. Whitefield never preached greater sermons 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.
* This society, consisting of several hundreds of widows, married people, young men, and spinsters, placed separately in the area of the Tabernacle, used, after sermon, to receive from M. Whitefield, 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.