LIFE AND TIMES




                                  OF THE REVEREND




                         GEORGE WHITEFIELD, M. A.




                                                ROBERT PHILIP








                   Thou art permitted to speak for thyself."— Acts.

                           "That seraphic man!" — Reed.















                             JOSHUA WILSON, ESQ.


                                     THIS WORK,




                     THE FOUNDER AND TREASURER




                               HIGHBURY COLLEGE,






                                     IS INSCRIBED,


                                                                BY HIS OLD FRIEND,


                                                                                 THE AUTHOR.


                                                                                 Newington Green,

                                                                                 May 10, 1837.









This Work is chiefly from Whitefield's own pen. So

far as it is mine, it is in his own spirit. It will, there-

fore, help all that is good, and expose not a little of what

is wrong, in all churches; and thus, like his actual life,

tell upon both. At least, if it fail to do this, my object

will be defeated. Should its honest catholicity commend

it, it may be followed by similar “Annals and Illus-

trations of Evangelical Preaching,”  from the dawn of

the Reformation to the close of the last century.


In regard to the style of this Work I have nothing to

say; except that it is my own way of telling the facts of

personal history. The time is not yet come, for the

philosophy of Whitefield's Life. It is, however, fast

approaching: and, therefore, my mass of facts will soon

be turned to good account by myself, or by someone.

In the meantime, Whitefield will be known to the

public; which he was not until now.


                                                                            R. P.









                                        CHAPTER I.                                                         PAGE


 Whitefield's early life, education, and ordination                                            1


                                         CHAPTER II.


Whitefield's introduction to LONDON                                                           47


                                           CHAPTER III.


 Whitefield's first voyage AND VISIT TO GEORGIA                                   55


                                           CHAPTER IV.


Whitefield's first GREAT MEASURES IN LONDON, 1739                         73


                                             CHAPTER V.


Whitefield's FIRST VISITS TO THE COUNTRY                                        97


                                            CHAPTER VI.


Whitefield in Wales                                                                                       110


                                            CHAPTER VII.


Whitefield in America                                                                                   136


                                           CHAPTER VIII.


Whitefield's breach with Wesley                                                                  195


                                           CHAPTER IX.


 Whitefield in Scotland, 1741                                                                       218


                                           CHAPTER X.


Whitefield and the Dissenters                                                                      252



X                                         CONTENTS.                                                 PAGE



                                            CHAPTER XI.

Whitefield’s Domestic Life                                                                        264


                                             CHAPTER XII.

Whitefield at Cambuslang                                                                          291


                                            CHAPTER XIII.

Whitefield Itinerating                                                                                 306


                                            CHAPTER XIV.

Whitefield Itinerating in America, 1744                                                    319


                                            CHAPTER XV.

Whitefield in Bermudas .                                                                           334


                                            CHAPTER XVI.

Whitefield Ranging                                                                                    346


                                            CHAPTER XVII.

Whitefield in Ireland                                                                                  371


                                           CHAPTER XVIII.

Whitefield's characteristic sayings, 1734 TO 1745                                    378


                                              CHAPTER XIX.

Whitefield Revisiting                                                                                  398


                                              CHAPTER XX.

 Whitefield in Lisbon, 1754                                                                        417


                                             CHAPTER XXI.

 Whitefield and the London Moravians                                                      432


                                            CHAPTER XXII.

Whitefield’s Influence in America. First Part                                             441


                                           CHAPTER XXIII.

Whitefield’s Public Spirit                                                                           446



                                     CONTENTS.                                                         XI


                                  CHAPTER XXIV.

Whitefield's influence in America. Second Part                                        467


                                   CHAPTER XXV.

Whitefield and the Bishops                                                                        473


                                   CHAPTER XXVI.

Whitefield’s Last Labours at Home                                                          484


                                 CHAPTER XXVII. 

Whitefield and Edmund-Hall                                                                    491 


                                CHAPTER XXVIII.

Whitefield’s Last Voyage                                                                         497


                                  CHAPTER XXIX.

Whitefield and the Nobility                                                                     507


                                  CHAPTER XXX.

Whitefield’s Last Itineracy                                                                      520


                                  CHAPTER XXXI.

Whitefield’s Funeral                                                                                535


                                 CHAPTER XXXII. 

Whitefield’s Characteristics                                                                    552


                                CHAPTER XXXIII.

Whitfield Preaching                                                                                 573



                       WHITEFIELD'S LIFE AND TIMES.




                                        CHAPTER I.




"I WAS born in Gloucestershire, in the month of December,

1714. My father and mother kept the Bell Inn" In this un-

assuming manner Whitefield commences a brief memoir of

himself. It will not, however, be uninteresting to add some

particulars respecting his family. His great-grandfather, the

Rev. Samuel Whitefield, born at Wantage, in Berkshire, was

rector of North Ledyard, in Wiltshire, and afterwards of Rock-

hampton. In the latter charge he was succeeded by his son,

Samuel, who died without issue. Two of his daughters were

married to clergymen. Andrew, Whitefield's grandfather, was

a private gentleman, and lived retired upon his estate. He had

fourteen children; Thomas, the eldest, was the father of the

Rev. George Whitefield. Mr. Thomas Whitefield was bred to

the business of a wine merchant, in Bristol, but afterwards kept

an inn in the city of Gloucester. While in Bristol he married

Miss Elizabeth Edwards, a lady related to the families of Black-

well and Dinmour, of that city. He had six sons, of whom

George was the youngest, and one daughter.


Concerning his father and mother, Whitefield writes: "The

former died when I was two years old; the latter is now alive.





2     Whitefield's life and times.


(she died in December, 1751, in the 71st year of her age,) and

has often told me how she endured fourteen weeks' sickness,

after she brought me into the world; but was used to say, even

when I was an infant, that she expected more comfort from me

than from any other of her children. This, with the circum-

stance of my being born in an inn, has been often of service to

me, in exciting my endeavours to make good my mother's ex-

pectations, and so follow the example of my dear Saviour, who

was born in a manger belonging to an inn."


This amiable solicitude to realize his mother's "expectations,"

is the more worthy of notice, because, whatever she was as a

mother, she was not distinguished as a Christian. This seems

more than implied in the following lamentation, extracted from

one of his letters: "Why is my honoured mother so solicitous

about a few paltry things, that will quickly perish? Why will

she not come and see her youngest son, who will endeavour to

be a Joseph to her, before she dies?"  Such was his suspense in

regard to the spiritual state of his parent; and yet he gratefully

owns the salutary influence of her maternal hopes upon his mind,

and, while afar off on the Atlantic, commemorates her tender-

ness. "My mother was very careful of my education, and

always kept me, in my tender years, (for which I never can suf-

ficiently thank her,) from intermeddling in the least with the

tavern business." (This paragraph was written on board the

Elizabeth, during the voyage to Philadelphia.) Now these ac-

knowledgments were penned during the heat of his zeal and the

height of his popularity; at a period when recent converts are

prone to speak with harshness of their unconverted relatives,

and to sink the child in the champion towards them. This is

so common, and, to say nothing of its cruelty, so unwise, that I

could not record this pleasing exception, without holding it up

to general imitation. "The servant of the Lord must not

strive; but be gentle towards all, — apt to teach, — patient; in

meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God,

peradventure, will give them repentance to the acknowledging

of the truth."


Whitefield's humiliating recollections of his own early and

inveterate opposition to "the truth," contributed, no doubt, to


                                              Whitefield's life and times.             3


moderate his natural impatience towards others. The following

is his own narrative of that period.


"My infant years must necessarily not be mentioned; yet I

can remember such early stirrings of corruption in my heart, as

abundantly convince me that I was conceived and born in sin;

that in me dwelleth no good thing by nature; and that, if God

had not freely prevented me by his grace, I must have been for

ever banished from his presence. I was so brutish as to hate

instruction; and used, purposely, to shun all opportunities of

receiving it. I soon gave pregnant proofs of an impudent

temper. Lying, filthy talking, and foolish jesting, I was much

addicted to, even when very young. Sometimes I used to curse,

if not swear. Stealing from my mother I thought no theft at

all, and used to make no scruple of taking money out of her

pockets before she was up. I have frequently betrayed my

trust, and have more than once spent money I took in the house,

in buying fruit, tarts, &c. to satisfy my sensual appetite.

Numbers of sabbaths have I broken, and generally used to be-

have myself very irreverently in God's sanctuary. Much money

have I spent in plays, and in the common amusements of the

age. Cards, and reading romances, were my heart's delight.

Often have I joined with others in playing roguish tricks; but

was generally, if not always, happily detected: for this I have

often since, and do now, bless and praise God."


This enumeration of youthful vices and follies, is certainly

minute, and, in one sense, gratuitous; but, when the spirit and

design of the confessions are duly weighed, no man will venture

to laugh at them, except those who regard sin as a “light mat-

ter.”  Every candid mind must be conscious of seeing itself in

young Whitefield, “as in a glass;” and every spiritual mind

will not fail to deplore these early exhibitions of depravity, nor

to mark this modern exemplification of an ancient truth, "Thou

makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth." (Job xiii. 26.)

Were these acknowledgments written in the spirit, or for the

same purpose, as Rousseau's unblushing "Confessions," I should

despise myself, as well as insult the public, were I inclined to

transcribe them. Were they even calculated to suggest the

bare idea of uncommon sins, I should not have hesitated to



4       Whitefield's life and times.


merge the particulars in some general charge of corruption:

but, besides carrying their antidote along with them, in their

penitential tone and spirit, they are but too common, however

melancholy. Bishop Lavington, indeed, affects great horror

and disgust at them, and compares them with the confessions

of "the wild and fanatical Theresa" in his treatise "On the En-

thusiasm of Methodists and Papists;" — a book, to which his own

description of Whitefield's confessions is far more applicable;

"so ludicrous, filthy, and shameless, as quite defiles paper, and

is shocking to decency and modesty." Such a "perfect Jakes"

of ribaldry never issued from the episcopal bench; and yet it

found an editor in the vicar of Manaccan, in 1820!


I shall have occasion, more than once, to refer to both the

bishop and the vicar. In the meantime, I cannot but allow

Whitefield to speak for himself, on the subject of his early life.

“It would be endless to recount the sins and offences of my

younger days.” They are more in number than the hairs of my

head! My heart would fail me at the remembrance of them,

was I not assured that my Redeemer liveth to make interces-

sion for me! However the young man in the gospel might

boast, that he had kept the commandments from his 'youth

up,' with shame and confusion of face I confess that I have

broken them all from my youth. Whatever foreseen fitness for

salvation others may talk of and glory in, I disclaim any such

thing: if I trace myself from my cradle to my manhood, I can

see nothing in me but a fitness to be damned.  ‘I speak the

truth in Christ: I lie not I' If the Almighty had not prevented

me by his grace, and wrought most powerfully on my soul —

quickening me by his free Spirit, when dead in trespasses and

sins, 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. But such

was the free grace of God to me, that though corruption worked

so strongly in my soul, and produced such early and bitter

fruits, — yet I can recollect, very early, movings of the blessed

Spirit upon my heart. I had, early, some convictions of sin.

Once, I remember, when some persons (as they frequently did)

made it their business to tease me, I immediately retired to


                                              Whitefield's life and times.                      5  


my room, and kneeling down, with many tears, prayed over the

118th Psalm."


It appears from the narrative, that, on this occasion, the mind

of young Whitefleld fastened chiefly upon the words, “In the

name of the Lord will I destroy them.” This, of course, he ap-

plied to his teasing enemies, who had "compassed him about

like bees:" a coincidence likely to be noticed by an irritated

boy, of quick perceptions. Even men are but too prone, when

injured, to appropriate the Messiah's weapons to their own war-

fare; — as if revenge could be sanctified by the use of sacred

language. But what is pitiable in the boy, is contemptible in

the man. This happened when Whitefield was only ten years

old; but the following hint will account for the facility with

which he turned to a psalm suited to his purpose. "I was

always fond of being a clergyman, and used frequently to imitate

the minister's reading prayers, &c."  Such being his favourite

habit at the time, he was sure to be familiar with the impre-

catory psalms of which so many occur in the book of Common



We have seen that he was addicted to petty thefts. The

manner in which he seems to have reconciled his conscience to

them, is not peculiar to boys. "Part of the money I used to

steal from my mother I gave to the poor, and some books I pri-

vately took from others (for which I have since restored four-

fold) I remember were books of devotion.''


"When I was about twelve, I was placed at a school, called

St. Mary De Crypt, in Gloucester: the last grammar school I

ever went to. Having a good elocution and memory, I was

remarked for making speeches before the corporation, at their

annual visitation. During the time of my being at school, I

was very fond of reading plays, and have kept from school for

days together, to prepare myself for acting them. My master,

seeing how mine and my schoolfellows' vein ran, composed

something of this kind for us himself, and caused me to dress

myself in girls' clothes, (which I had often done,) to act a part

before the corporation." Thus he contracted that taste for

theatrical amusements, which gave rise to the well-known in-

sinuation, that he learned his peculiar style of oratory upon the


6      Whitefield's life and times.


stage. This, however, is not the fact: his acting was confined

to the boards of St. Mary De Crypt, and to his own chamber.

But his fondness for this species of amusement was not left at

school. When seventeen years of age, he was not weaned from

this folly. Even while at college he says, "I was not fully

satisfied of the sin of reading plays, until God, upon a fast day,

was pleased to convince me. Taking a play, to read a passage

out of it to a friend, God struck my heart with such power, that

I was obliged to lay it down again."


How deeply he deplored the cause and consequences of this

habit, appears from the following remarks. "I cannot but

observe here, with much concern of mind, how this way of

training up youth has a natural tendency to debauch the mind,

to raise ill passions, and to stuff the memory with things as

contrary to the gospel of Christ, as darkness to light — “hell to

heaven.” This fatal "tendency" was but too fully exempli-

fied when at school. "I got acquainted with such a set of de-

bauched, abandoned, atheistical youths, that if God, by his free,

unmerited, and special grace, had not delivered me out of their

hands, I should have sat in the scorners' chair, and made a

mock at sin. By keeping company with them, my thoughts of

religion grew more and more like theirs. I went to public

service only to make sport, and walk about. I took plea-

sure in their lewd conversation. I began to reason as they did,

and to ask, why God had given me passions, and not permitted

me to gratify them? In short, I soon made great proficiency

in the school of the devil. I affected to look rakish, and was in

a fair way of being as infamous as the worst of them." This,

not oratory, was what young Whitefield learned from plays and

acting. He fell into sins, of which he says, — "their dismal ef-

fects I have felt and groaned under ever since."


Of course, this progress in vice was gradual. During his

first two years at school, he bought, and read with much atten-

tion. Kens Manual for Winchester Scholars: a book com-

mended to him by the use made of it by his mother in her

afflictions. He was also a diligent scholar, and for some time

made considerable progress in the Latin classics. But the

amusements which alienated his heart from virtue, gradually


                                              Whitefield's life and times.          7


impaired his taste for education. "Before I was fifteen, hav-

ing, as I thought, made sufficient progress in the classics, and,

at the bottom, longing to be set at liberty from the confine-

ment of a school, I one day told my mother, — that since her

circumstances would not permit her to give me a University

education, more learning, I thought, would spoil me for a

tradesman, and therefore I judged it best not to learn Latin

any longer. She at first refused to consent, but my corruptions

soon got the better of her good nature. Hereupon for some

time I went to learn to write only. But my mother's circum-

stances being much on the decline; and, being tractable that

way, I began to assist her occasionally in the public-house, till

at length I put on my blue apron and my snuffers — washed

mops — cleaned rooms, and in one word, became professed and

common drawer for nigh a year and a half."


Thus he exchanged the confinement of a school for the im-

prisonment of an inn; and, as might be expected in such a

place, he was twice or thrice intoxicated. It does not appear,

however, that he was addicted to drinking. — "He who was

with David when he was 'following the ewes Big with young,’

was with me here. For, notwithstanding I was thus employed

in a common inn, and had sometimes the care of the whole

house upon my hands, yet I composed two or three sermons,

and dedicated one of them, in particular, to my elder brother.

One time, I remember, I was much pressed to self-examination,

but found myself very unwilling to look into my heart. Fre-

quently I read the Bible, while sitting up at night. Seeing the

boys go by to school, has often cut me to the heart. And a

dear youth would often come, entreating me, whilst serving at

the bar, to go to Oxford. My general answer was, — I wish I



"After I had continued about a year in servile employment,

my mother was obliged to leave the inn. My brother, who had

been bred up for the business, married; whereupon all was made

over to him; and I being accustomed to the house, it was agreed

that I should continue there as an assistant. But God's thoughts

were not as our thoughts. By his good providence it happened,

that my sister-in-law and I could by no means agree; and, at


8          Whitefield's life and times.


length, the resentment grew to such a height, that my proud

heart would scarce suffer me to speak to her for three weeks

together. But, notwithstanding I was much to blame, yet I

used to retire and weep before the Lord, as Hagar when flying

from Sarah: little thinking that God, by this means, was forcing

me out of the public business, and calling me from drawing wine

for drunkards, to draw water from the wells of salvation for the

refreshment of his spiritual Israel. After continuing for a long

time under this burden of mind, I at length resolved (thinking

my absence would make all things easy) to go away. Accord-

ingly, by the advice of my brother and consent of my mother,

I went to see my elder brother, then settled in Bristol."


During a residence of two months in Bristol, Whitefield ex-

perienced some awakenings of conscience. Once, in St. John's

church, he was so affected by the sermon, that he resolved to

prepare himself for the sacrament, and decided against returning

to the inn. This latter resolution he communicated by letter

to his mother; and the former was so strong, that, during his

stay in Bristol, reading Thomas a Kempis was his chief delight.

“And I was always impatient till the bell rung to call me to

tread the courts of the Lord's house. But in the midst of these

illuminations, something surely whispered, — this would not last

And, indeed, it so happened. For (oh that I could write it in

tears of blood!) when I left Bristol and returned to Gloucester,

I changed my devotion with my place. Alas, all my fervour went

off. I had no inclination to go to church, or draw nigh to God.

In short, my heart was far from him. However, I had so much

religion left, as to persist in my resolution not to live in the inn;

and, therefore, my mother gave me leave, though she had but a

little income, to have a bed on the ground, and live at her

house, till Providence should point out a place for me.


"Having now, as I thought, nothing to do, it was a proper

season for Satan to tempt me. Much of my time I spent in

reading plays, and in sauntering from place to place. I was

careful to adorn my body, but took little pains to deck and

beautify my soul. Evil communications with my old school-

fellows, soon corrupted my good manners. By seeing their evil

practices, the sense of the divine presence, I had vouchsafed


                                              Whitefield's life and times.          9


unto me, insensibly wore off my mind. But God would let no-

thing pluck me out of his hands, though I was continually doing

despite to the Spirit of grace. He even gave me some foresight

of his providing for me. One morning as I was reading a play

to my sister, said I, 'Sister, God intends something for me,

which we know not of. As I have been diligent in business, I

believe many would gladly have me for an apprentice, but every

way seems to be barred up; so that I think God will provide

for me some way or other, that we cannot apprehend.'


"Having thus lived with my mother for some considerable

time, a young student, who was once my schoolfellow, and then

a servitor of Pembroke College, Oxford, came to pay my mother

a visit. Amongst other conversation, he told her, how he had

discharged all college expenses that quarter, and saved a penny.

Upon that my mother immediately cried out, 'This will do for

my son,' Then turning to me, she said, 'Will you go to Ox-

ford George?  I replied, ‘With all my heart.’  Whereupon,

having the same friends that this young student had, my mother,

without delay, waited on them. They promised their interest,

to get me a servitor's place in the same college. She then

applied to my old master, who much approved of my coming to

school again. In about a week, I went and re-entered myself;

and being grown much in stature, my master addressed me thus:

'I see, George, you are advanced in stature, but your better part

must needs have gone backward.’ This made me blush. He

set me something to translate into Latin, and though I had

made no application to my classics for so long a time, yet I had

but one inconsiderable fault in my exercises. This, I believe,

somewhat surprised my master.


"Being re-settled at school, I spared no pains to go forward

in my book. I learned much faster than I did before." But,

whilst thus assiduously preparing himself for college, it does

not appear that he began to study, with an express view to the

ministry: if, however, this was his object at the time, and if he

never, altogether, relinquished the design, which the composition

of sermons betrayed, then the following events furnish a melan-

choly insight, not only into the presumption of his own heart,

but into the prevailing maxims of that age — upon the subject of


10       Whitefield's life and times.


the Christian ministry. These must have been low and lax in

the extreme, if they allowed such a young man to anticipate

office in the church. He was, indeed, diligent in studying the

classics, but he was, at the same time, living in the indulgence

of secret and open profligacy. "I got acquainted with a set of

debauched, abandoned, and atheistical youths — I took pleasure

in their lewd conversation — I affected to look rakish, and was

in a fair way of being as infamous as the worst of them." It is

hardly possible to conceive that, while in this state, he should

have contemplated the ministry as his object; and yet there is

reason to fear that the tone of public feeling, at the time, was

such as to impose little check upon the morals of ministerial

candidates. Even now holy character is not indispensable,

either in college halls, or at national altars; and they as we

shall see, it was still less so. Certain it is, that Whitefield's

reformation was neither suggested nor enforced, in the first in-

stance, by anything moral or religious which the general prac-

tice of the church insisted upon. Whatever the letter of her

requirements calls for in candidates, the spirit of them was, in

a great measure, evaporated in that age.


I have, already, said that Whitefield is silent upon the subject

of his express design in preparing himself for the University;

but, there being no evidence that he ever contemplated any

other profession than the ministerial, and it being the only one

for which he had evinced the shadow of a partiality, or was

likely to succeed in, under his circumstances, — we must con-

clude, that he had it in view from the beginning. Such, in all

probability, being the fact, it might be expected, that the bare

idea of becoming a minister would, of itself, have imposed a

restraint upon his passions; — “but neither its own solemnity,

nor the tone of ecclesiastical feeling at the time, had any moral

influence upon him.”  “I went," he says, "to public service only

to make sport and walk about." At this time he was nearly

seventeen years of age: a period of life when he must have been

capable of understanding what is expected from a clergyman.

And yet, nothing which he saw or heard on this subject seems

to have suggested the necessity of reformation. "God stopped

me when running on in a full career of vice. For, just as I


                                              Whitefield's life and times.           11


was upon the brink of ruin. He gave me such a distaste of their

(his companions) principles and practices, that I discovered

them to my master, who soon put a stop to their proceedings."


I have been the more minute in recording this event, because

without clear and correct ideas of the prevailing tone of public

and ecclesiastical feeling, at the time, no fair estimate can be

formed of the spirit in which methodism originated at Oxford.


The breaking up of that vicious combination which existed

in the school of St. Mary de Crypt produced an important

change in the morals of Whitefield. "Being thus delivered

out of the snare of the devil, I began to be more and more

serious, and felt God at different times working powerfully and

convincingly upon my soul." This improvement of character

was so evident, that his friends did not fail to welcome it. It

was, however, but external at first. "One day as I was coming

down-stairs, and overheard my friends speaking well of me, God

deeply convicted me of hypocrisy." This timely discovery

fixed his attention upon the state of his heart, and gave to his

reformation a more religious character.


"Being now near the seventeenth year of my age, I was re-

solved to prepare myself for the holy sacrament; which I receiv-

ed on Christmas day. I began now to be more watchful over

my thoughts, words, and actions. I kept the following Lent,

fasting Wednesday and Friday, thirty- six hours together. My

evenings, when I had done waiting upon my mother, were gene-

rally spent in acts of devotion, reading Drelincourt 'upon Death,'

and other practical books, and I constantly went to public worship

twice a day. Being now upper boy, I made some reformation

amongst my schoolfellows. I was very diligent in reading and

learning the classics, and in studying my Greek Testament;

but I was not yet convinced of the absolute unlawfulness of play-

ing at cards, and of reading and seeing plays; though I began

to have some scruples about it. Near this time, I dreamed

that I was to see God on mount Sinai; but was afraid to meet

him. This made a great impression upon me, and a gentle-

woman to whom I told it, said, 'George, this is a call from God."


Whatever may be thought of the dream, or of the interpretation,

such hints have more frequently determined the character and


12       Whitefield's life and times.


pursuits of young men, than more rational means. There is, to

a susceptible mind, a peculiar fascination in these mysterious

oracles; and, after all that has been said of their folly and fal-

lacy, they continue to govern the choice of many, and are still

followed as leading stars, — whilst sober advice is regarded as a

dull finger-post on the road of life. In the present instance

the imaginary omens were not useless. "I grew more serious

after my dream; but yet hypocrisy crept into every action.

As once I affected to look more rakish, I now strove to look

more grave, than I really was. However, an uncommon con-

cern and alteration was visible in my behaviour, and I often

used to find fault with the lightness of others.  One night as I

was going on an errand for my mother, an unaccountable but

very strong impression was made upon my heart, that I should

preach quickly. When I came home, I innocently told my

mother what had befallen me; but she (like Joseph's parents,

when he told them his dream) turned short upon me, crying out,

'What does the boy mean? Prithee, hold thy tongue!'


"For a twelvemonth I went on in a round of duties, receiv-

ing the sacrament monthly, fasting frequently, attending con-

stantly on public worship, and praying, often more than twice

a day, in private. One of my brothers used to tell me, he fear-

ed this would not hold long, and that I should forget all when

I went to Oxford. This caution did me much service; for it

set me on praying for perseverance. Being now near eighteen

years old, it was judged proper for me to go to the University. God

had sweetly prepared my way. The friends before applied to,

recommended me to the master of Pembroke College. An-

other friend took up ten pounds upon bond (which I have since

repaid) to defray the first expense of entering; and the master,

contrary to all expectation, admitted me servitor immediately."


When Whitefield entered the University of Oxford, that seat

of learning had not shaken off the moral lethargy which followed

the ejectment of the 2000 nonconformists. The Bartholomew

Bushel, under which those burning and shining lights were

placed, proved an extinguisher to the zeal of the luminaries that

struck into the orbit of uniformity. Those of them who retain-

ed their light lost their heat. During the seventy years, which


                                              Whitefield's life and times.                13


had elapsed since the expulsion of the nonconformists, the Isis

had been changing into a Dead sea, upon the banks of which

the tree of life shrivelled into a tree of mere human knowledge;

and, in the adjacent halls, the doctrines of the Reformation were

superseded, in a great measure, by high church principles.

Even irreligion and infidelity were so prevalent at both Univer-

sities, that when the statue of the age was chiselled by that

moral Phidias, Butler, they seem to have furnished the model.

"It is come, I know not how, to be taken for granted by many

persons, that Christianity is not so much as a subject of inquiry,

but that it is now at length discovered to be fictitious; and, ac-

cordingly, they treat it as if, in the present age, this were an

agreed point among all people of discernment; and nothing re-

mained but to set it up as a principal subject of mirth and ridi-

cule, as it were by way of reprisals for its having so long inter-

rupted the pleasures of the world." Bishop Butlers Analogy,


So much was this the character of the after-dinner conversa-

tions at Oxford, that the recent change from gross ribaldry

to decorum, used to be appealed to with triumph, by Coleridge,

and other modern advocates: a fact, which betrays the former

state of things. Even the defences of Christianity, which issued

from the University press during that age, betray the fatal

secret, that they were as much wanted for the gownsmen, as for

the public. Bishop Butler says of this state of things, "It is

come, I know not how;" but he might have known soon, if he

had studied the ''analogy" between it and the discipline of the

colleges. What else could be expected from a nation or a uni-

versity, after seeing the brightest ornaments of the church sacri-

ficed to rites and ceremonies; after seeing talents, learning, and

piety reckoned "as the small dust in the balance," when weigh-

ed against robes and forms? After witnessing diocesan and

state patronage withdrawn, and exchanged for penalties on such

grounds, it was not likely that Christianity would be better

treated by the nation, than its faithful ministers were by the

government." From that time, down to the year 1734, when

Whitefield entered at Pembroke College, the motto of the Uni-

versity might have been, "We care less for character than for





14  Whitefield's life and times.



               ‘A dissolution of all bonds ensued;

               The curbs invented for the mulish mouth

               Of headstrong youth were broken; bolts and bars

               Grew rusty by disuse; and massy gates

               Forgot their office, opening with a touch;

               Till gowns at length are found mere masquerade;

               The tasselled cap, and the spruce band, a jest,

               A mockery of the world!’ Cowper.


Such Whitefield found the general character of the Oxford

students to be. "I was quickly solicited to join in their excess

of riot, by several who lay in the same room. Once in particu-

lar, it being cold, my limbs were so benumbed by sitting alone

in my study, because I would not go out amongst them, that I

could scarce sleep all night. I had no sooner received the sa-

crament publicly on a week day, at St. Mary's, but I was set up

as a mark for all the polite students, that knew me, to shoot at;

for though there is a sacrament at the beginning of every term,

at which all, especially the seniors, are by statute obliged to be

present; yet, so dreadfully has that once faithful city played

the harlot, that very few masters, no graduates, (but the me-

thodists,) attended upon it."


I quote the latter part of this extract, not to deplore the fall-

ing off in attendance, as Whitefield does: the sacrament was


"More honoured in the breach, than the observance"

of the statute, by such men; but the breach illustrates both the

state of discipline and of religion at the time. There were,

however, some lilies among the rank thorns of Oxford. Of

these solitary exceptions, the Wesleys and their associates were

the most exemplary. This little band had then existed during

five years, and were called, in derision, methodists. Their re-

gular habits and rigid virtue, were proverbial throughout the

University and the city. They were the friends of the poor,

and the patrons of the serious. But, with all these excellences

of character, the Wesleys united much enthusiasm, and an

almost incredible degree of ignorance in regard to the gospel.

Their avowed object, in all their voluntary privations and zeal-

ous efforts, was, to save their souls, and to live wholly to the glory



                                              Whitefield's life and times.          15


of God: a noble enterprise certainly; but undertaken by them

from erroneous motives, and upon wrong principles. For any

relief which their consciences seem to have obtained from the

death of the Son of God, and the free salvation proclaimed in

virtue of it, the gospel might have been altogether untrue or

unknown; so grossly ignorant were the whole band at one time.

And yet, at this period, Mr. John Wesley was a fellow of Lin-

coln College, and teaching others. Nine years before, he had

been ordained by Dr. Potter, who was afterwards archbishop of



This fact reveals one of two things: either, that the young

men were very inattentive to the theological lectures delivered

from the divinity chair, or that the lectures themselves were

very unscriptural. Perhaps the fault lay partly on both sides;

for it is highly probable, that such young men would underrate

the cold, systematic lectures of a professor. I am led to form

this opinion, because the celebrated mystic, William Law, was,

at the time, their oracle. They imitated his ascetic habits, and

imbibed his spirit of quietism. He had said to John Wesley,

who was likely to circulate the notion, 'You would have a phi-

losophical religion, but there can be no such thing. Religion

is the most simple thing: it is only, We love Him because he

first loved us." Such indefinite maxims assimilated, but too

readily, with the mystic temper of the persons they were ad-

dressed to; and silent contemplation, in solitude, being the

very spirit of Law's system, Wesley and his associates were not

likely to relish argumentative theology, however excellent.


The following account of their devotional habits, will illustrate

the true character of their religious sentiments, at the time of

Whitefield's arrival from Gloucester.  "They interrogate them-

selves whether they have been simple and recollected; whether

they have prayed with fervour, Monday, Wednesday, Friday,

and on Saturday noon; if they have used a collect at nine,

twelve, and three o'clock; duly meditated on Sunday, from

three to four, on Thomas a Kempis; or mused on Wednesday

and Friday, from twelve to one, on the Passion." Thus were

they monks in almost everything except the name.


It was necessary to delineate thus minutely the original cha-


16         Whitefield's life and times.


racter of methodism, that its natural influence upon the suscep-

tible mind of Whitefield may be anticipated. Suffering and

smarting, as he did, from vicious indulgence, and now seriously

bent upon the ministry, he was not likely to associate with the

profligate or the profane in the University. He did not. "God

gave me grace to withstand, when they solicited me to join in

their excess of riot. When they perceived they could not pre-

vail, they let me alone, as a singular, odd fellow." He did not,

however, join himself to the methodists at once. "The young

men, so called, were then much talked of at Oxford. I heard

of and loved them before I came to the University; and so

strenuously defended them, when I heard them reviled by

the students, that they began to think that I also, in time,

should be one of them. For above a twelvemonth, my soul

longed to be acquainted with some of them, and I was strongly

pressed to follow their good example, when I saw them go

through a ridiculing crowds to receive the holy eucharist at St.



How much he was prepared to enter into their peculiar spirit

when he did join them, will appear also from the following hint.

"Before I went to the University, I met with Mr. Law's ' Seri-

ous Call to Devout Life,' but had not money to purchase it.

Soon after my coming up to the University, seeing a small

edition of it in a friend's hand, I soon procured it. God worked

powerfully upon my soul by that excellent treatise." Thus, like

two drops of water, they were quite prepared to unite whenever

they came in contact. And this soon occurred. "It happened

that a poor woman, in one of the workhouses, had attempted to

cut her throat, but was happily prevented. Upon hearing of

this, and knowing that the two Mr. Wesleys were ready to every

good work, I sent a poor aged apple-woman of our college, to

inform Mr. Charles Wesley of it; charging her not to discover

who sent her. She went; but, contrary to my orders, told my

name. He having heard of my coming to the castle, and to a

parish church sacrament, and having met me frequently walking

by myself, followed the woman when she was gone away, and

sent an invitation to me by her, to come to breakfast with him

the next morning. I thankfully embraced the opportunity. My


                                              Whitefield's life and times.            17


soul, at that time, was athirst for some spiritual friends to lift

up my hands when hung down, and to strengthen my feeble

knees. He soon discovered it, and, like a wise winner of souls,

made all his discourses tend that way. And when he put into

my hands Professor Frank's 'Treatise against the Fear of Man,'

and 'The Country Parson's Advice to his Parishioners,' I took

my leave.


“In a short time he let me have another book, entitled,  'The

Life of God in the Soul of Man;' and though I had fasted,

watched, and prayed, and received the sacrament so long, yet I

never knew what true religion was, till God sent me that excel-

lent treatise, by the hands of my never-to-be-forgotten friend.

At my first reading it, I wondered what the author meant by

saying,  ‘That some falsely placed religion in going to church,

doing hurt to no one, being constant in the duties of the closet,

and now and then reaching out their hands to give alms to their

poor neighbours.' Alas! thought I, if this be not religion, what

is? God soon showed me, for in reading a few lines further,

'that true religion was a union of the soul with God, and

Christ formed within us, a ray of divine light was instanta-

neously darted in upon my soul, and from that moment, but not

till then, did I know that I must be a new creature."


This was an important era in Whitefield's experience; and,

if he had been left to the guidance of the book that suggested

the necessity of regeneration, his feet might soon have stood

upon the Rock of ages. He was now in the right track to

Calvary; and, with his anxiety to "be born again," would have

held on, until he had discovered that, "to as many as received

Him, Christ gave power to become the sons of God; even to

them that believe on his name." But, unhappily, Whitefield

was not left to follow out his own convictions : Charles Wesley

— ''ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish

his own righteousness” — interfered with the young convert,

and inoculated him with the virus of legality and quietism.

Before Whitefield had time to acquire from the gospel the

relief which his heavy-laden conscience longed for, he was

introduced to the methodists; from kind motives on the part

of his zealous friend, no doubt; but unhappily for himself.


18       Whitefield’s life and times.  


The intimacy well-nigh proved fatal to his life, and to his



"From time to time, Mr. Wesley permitted me to come unto

him, and instructed me as I was able to bear it. By degrees he

introduced me to the rest of his Christian brethren. I now

began, like them, to live by rule, and to pick up every fragment

of my time, that not a moment of it might be lost. Like them,

having no weekly sacrament (although the Rubrick required it)

at our own college, I received every Sunday at Christ-Church.

I joined with them in keeping the stations, by fasting Wednes-

days and Fridays, and left no means unused which I thought

would lead me nearer to Jesus Christ. By degrees I began to

leave off eating fruits and such like, and gave the money I

usually spent in that way to the poor. Afterward I always

chose the worst sort of food, though my place furnished me with

variety. My apparel was mean. I thought it unbecoming a

penitent to have his hair powdered. I wore woollen gloves, a

patched gown, and dirty shoes; and though I was then con-

vinced that the kingdom of God did not consist in meats and

drinks, yet I resolutely persisted in these voluntary acts of self-

denial, because I found them great promoters of the spiritual

life. It was now suggested to me, that Jesus Christ was

amongst the wild beasts when he was tempted, and that I ought

to follow his example; and being willing, as I thought, to imi-

tate Jesus Christ, after supper I went into Christ-Church walk,

near our college, and continued in silent prayer nearly two

hours; sometimes lying flat on my face, sometimes kneeling

upon my knees. The night being stormy, it gave me awful

thoughts of the day of judgment. The next night I repeated

the same exercise at the same place. Soon after this, the holy

season of Lent came on, which our friends kept very strictly;

eating no flesh during the six weeks, except on Saturdays and

Sundays. I abstained frequently on Saturdays also, and ate

nothing on the other days (except Sunday) but sage-tea without

sugar, and coarse bread. I constantly walked out in the cold

mornings, till part of one of my hands was quite black. This,

with my continued abstinence, and inward conflicts, at length

so emaciated my body, that, at Passion-week, finding I could


                                              Whitefield's life and times.             19


scarce creep up-stairs, I was obliged to inform my kind tutor of

my condition, who immediately sent for a physician to me."


While it is impossible to read this catalogue of extravagances,

without pitying the wretched sufferer and his superstitious

friends, it is equally impossible to refrain from smiling and

frowning, alternately, at the gross absurdities of quietism, and

the foolish requirements of the Rubrick. Many of both are

equal outrages upon common sense; to say nothing of their

being unscriptural. But these were not the only baneful effects

of Whitefield's intimacy with the methodists.  “The course of

my studies I soon entirely changed: whereas, before, I was

busied in studying the dry sciences, and books that went no

farther than the surface, I now resolved to read only such as

entered into the heart of religion. Meeting with Castanza's

'Spiritual Combat,' in which he says, that ‘he that is employed

in mortifying his will, was as well employed as though he was

converting the Indians,' Satan so imposed upon my understand-

ing, that he persuaded me to shut myself up in my study, till I

could do good with a single eye; lest in endeavouring to save

others, I should, at last, by pride and self-complacence, lose

myself. When Castanza advised to talk but little, Satan said,

I must not talk at all; so that I, who used to be the most for-

ward in exhorting my companions, have sat whole nights with-

out speaking at all. Again, when Castanza advised to endea-

vour after a silent recollection, and waiting upon God, Satan told

me, I must leave all forms, and not use my voice in prayer at

all." These habits soon affected his college exercises also.

"Whenever I endeavoured to compose my theme, I had no

power to write a word, nor so much as to tell my Christian

friends of my inability to do it. All power of meditating, or

even thinking, was taken from me. My memory quite failed

me. And I could fancy myself to be like nothing so much as a

man locked up in iron armour."


Having twice neglected to produce the weekly theme, his

tutor called him into the common room, after fining him, and

kindly inquired whether any calamity had befallen him, or

what was the reason of his neglect? "I burst into tears, and

assured him, that it was not out of contempt of authority, but


20        Whitefield's life and times.


that I could not act otherwise. Then, at length, he said, he

believed I could not; and, when he left me, told a friend (as he

very well might) that he took me to be really mad. This friend,

hearing what had happened from my tutor, came to me, urging

the command in Scripture, 'to be subject to the higher powers.'

I answered. Yes; but I had a new revelation. Lord, what is



During the progress of this direful malady, the Wesleys were

not wanting, either in attention or tenderness, to their unhappy

friend; and if, like Job's friends, they were miserable comfort-

ers, still, their motives claim the highest respect. They would

have brought him "water from the well of Bethlehem" at any

expense; but, like Hagar weeping over her fainting child in the

wilderness, their own eyes were not then opened to see that well.

It is only bare justice to make this acknowledgment. I have

exposed and censured, freely, the ignorance, mysticism, and su-

perstition of the Wesleys; I have deplored, in strong terms, the

intimacy which Whitefield formed with the Oxford methodists 

and traced to their maxims and habits, as the direct cause, a

great part of his extravagances; but, in all this, I have been

actuated by no prejudice against his friends, nor do my remarks

upon methodism embrace the system as it now exists: they are,

hitherto, entirely confined to its character at Oxford. Then,

its influence, according to Mr. John Wesley's own acknowledg-

ment, was that "of leading him into the desert to be tempted

and humbled, and shown what was in his heart." Even Dr.

Coke says of him, it is certain that he was then very little ac-

quainted with true experimental religion. This is very obvious

from the advice which he gave to Whitefield, when his case was

so pitiable, that Charles Wesley was afraid to prescribe. "He

advised me to resume all my externals, though not to depend on

them in the least." Now, however wise the latter clause of this

rule may be, the former part is pitiable: "all" Whitefield's

"externals" included many of the very habits which had un-

hinged his mind, and ruined his health. He did, however,

"resume" them, and the result was, "a fit of sickness which

continued during seven weeks." His tutor seems to have been

the only person about him who acted wisely. Charles Wesley


                                              Whitefield's life and times.            21


referred him to chapters in A Kempis: John, to the maxims of

quietism. "My tutor lent me books, gave me money, visited

me, and furnished me with a physician: in short, he behaved in

all respects like a father."


The reader must not suppose, however, that Whitefield him-

self arraigns the imprudence of his young friends; or that he

contrasts, as I have ventured to do, their measures with those of

his tutor: no, indeed; he records both with equal gratitude,

and uniformly pronounces benedictions upon the authors. Even

when he became the opponent of John Wesley, on the subject

of "free grace," and might have pointed his arguments by an

appeal to the early errors of his rival, he does not so much as

hint at them, but prefaces his letter by declaring, "Was nature

to speak, I had rather die than write against you.” I, however,

have no such scruples on this head: but, while I shall avoid

doing injustice to the Wesleys, I shall canvass as freely their

influence upon Whitefield, as that of any other persons with

whom he came in contact. The formation of his character

must be shown, without regard to the light in which it may

exhibit the forces that determined it.


The seven weeks of sickness, already mentioned, Whitefield

calls, "a glorious visitation." "The blessed Spirit was all this

time purifying my soul. All my former gross, notorious, and

even my heart sins also, were now set home upon me; of which

I wrote down some remembrances immediately, and confessed

them before God morning and evening." This exercise, al-

though more humiliating and mortifying than even his fasts and

austerities, was infinitely more useful. While they led him only

to Castanza and A Kempis — this led him direct to the gospel,

and to the throne of grace. Unable to sustain such views of the

evil of sin, and having failed, in all his former efforts, to remove

a sense of guilt by a series of observances, he was now shut up

to the faith. "Though weak, I often spent two hours in my

evening retirements, and prayed over my Greek Testament, and

Bishop Hall's most excellent ‘Contemplations.'" While thus

engaged in searching the Scriptures, he discovered the true

grounds of a sinner's hope and justification. The testimony of

God concerning his Son became “power unto salvation.”

22        Whitefield's life and times.


found and felt in myself, that I was delivered from the burden

that had so heavily oppressed me. The spirit of mourning was

taken from me, and I knew what it was truly to rejoice in God

my Saviour. For some time I could not avoid singing psalms

wherever I was; but my joy became gradually more settled.

Thus were the days of my mourning ended: after a long night

of desertion and temptation, the star, which I had seen at a dis-

tance before, began to appear again: the day-star arose in my



Such is the history of Whitefield's conversion: in this manner

was he rescued from the malignant snares of the devil, and from

the blind guidance of friends who were unconsciously strength-

ening these snares, and unintentionally enabling the arch-de-

ceiver to keep this brand in the burning. This, I am aware, is

strong language; and, by many, will be considered unwarrant-

able: but, as Whitefield will ever be a grand object of attention

in the church of Christ; and as myriads, yet unborn, will study

his character or hear of his conversion; it shall not be my fault,

if that conversion is misunderstood by posterity, or any thing

gathered from it in behalf of such methodism as he was

led into then.


I duly appreciate the benevolence, the zeal, and the sincerity

of the Wesleys; but, in this instance, and at that time, those

virtues rank no higher in them, than the same virtues in Ma-

homedans or Hindoos; — amount to no more at Oxford than

they would at Mecca or Benares.  Now if, instead of the Wes-

leys, the same number of Wahabees had been about Whitefield,

inculcating their simplified Islamism; who would have ascribed

to them, or to it, any usefulness? Both would have been

arraigned, as diverting him from the gospel of Christ; nor would

the sincerity of the Wahabees, or the self-denying character of

their habits, have shielded either from severe reprehension. The

only apology that anyone would have thought of offering for

them, would have been, "wot that through ignorance ye did

it.”  In like manner I am quite ready to say of the Wesleys,

"I bear them record, that they had a zeal of God; but not ac-

cording to knowledge:”  a fact, which neutralizes their Oxford

piety into well-meant superstition. Such explanations are


                                              Whitefield's life and times.            23


wanted, now that devotion apart from faith, and penitential feel-

ing apart from the knowledge of “the truth” are often hailed

as conversion to God. This is a sore evil under the sun; and

one not easily touched, without seeming to slight symptoms of

piety. I must, however, attempt to unmask this plausible

“form of godliness," whatever suspicions my freedom may



Whitefield, in the simplicity of his heart, calls the events of

this period "the dealings of God" with him, and records

them as the gradual steps by which he was led to believe in

Christ for righteousness. And, so far as they were made in-

strumental in discovering to him his own weakness, and in

weaning him from sin and vanity, they were "the dealings of

God;" but, so far as his maxims and habits were superstitious

and unscriptural, God must not be identified with them, nor

even implicated in the least. All the hand He had in this

part of the transaction was, that he made these austerities and

superstitions their own punishment, and prevented them from

ruining an ignorant young man. So far as their own natural

influence went, it increased the spirit of bondage, and diverted

the sinner from God's appointed remedy. We have seen from

Whitefield's own acknowledgments, and Wesley's too, that the

further such measures were pursued, the further the methodists

were from solid relief. Now, it cannot be supposed for a mo-

ment, that God's dealings with the soul divert it from the

Saviour; nor that anything is the work of His Spirit on the

heart, which leads to absurdities and extravagance. And if

this be granted, then a great part of those things in the expe-

rience of Whitefield, which strike the mind so forcibly, lose all

their importance, except as facts. As feelings, motives, or

maxims in religion, they have no weight; but were, while they

continued, the actual rivals of faith and evangelical repent-

ance. For anything, therefore, which appears to the contrary,

his conversion would not have been less genuine, if he had

never gone through the exercise of mind produced by these

causes. The horror, the depression, the despair, which pre-

ceded his being born again, were neither elementary nor neces-

sary parts of regeneration. Humanly speaking, a clear exhi-


24            Whitefield's life and times.


bition of the plan of salvation, if presented to him when he

entered Oxford, would have relieved his mind at once, and in-

troduced him into the liberty of the sons of God. He was not,

indeed, so fully prepared to prize the gospel then, as when he

did believe it with the heart; but, although less humble, less

in earnest, at the time of his arrival, even then he was

awakened to a sense of his guilt and danger. Now, the ques-

tion is, would not the gospel itself, if it had been preached to

him at this time, have effected a change of heart? Would not

the glad tidings of a finished salvation, addressed to him, as

he was, have melted, humbled, and converted him, without

the preliminary process he went through? The only thing

valuable in that process is, the humbling effect of it; but if

the same kind and degree of humility would result from believ-

ing the gospel, then, faith in Christ ought to be the first step

pressed upon an awakened sinner.


I have been induced to throw out these hints, because so

many persons imagine that they have no warrant for believing

in Christ, until they experience such convictions, and possess

such feelings, as converts like Whitefield did. The conse-

quence is, that they live on, looking for what they call "a day

of power," which shall qualify them for the exercise of faith.

This false and fatal maxim must not be allowed to shelter itself

in the example of Whitefield; and that it may not intrench

itself there, I have felt it my duty to expose the true character

of his preliminary experience. It was useful; but how? Not

by its own direct influence; that was injurious in every sense;

but its usefulness in humbling, and in emptying him of self-

dependence, arose from its being overruled for good by the

Spirit of God. This being the fact, let no one quote White-

field's experience in proof of the necessity of going through

such a process of awakening as he underwent. The gospel itself

is "power unto salvation to everyone that believeth;" and no-

thing is religion, which precedes the belief of it, except such

exercises as naturally lead to faith.


Though I have grouped, into one view, the mental aberra-

tions and bodily sufferings of Whitefield whilst at Oxford, there

were, during the period it embraces, calm and lucid intervals.


                                              Whitefield's life and times.              25


in which he combined with his studies, efforts to do good in the

city. Like his friends, he was the friend of the poor; but not

without giving offence to his superiors.


"I incurred the displeasure of the master of the college, who

frequently chide, and once threatened to expel me, if I ever

visited the poor again. Being surprised by this treatment, and

overawed by his authority, I spake unadvisedly with my lips,

and said, if it displeased him, I would not. My conscience

soon smote me for this sinful compliance. I immediately re-

pented, and visited the poor the first opportunity, and told my

companions, if ever I was called to a stake for Christ's sake, I

would serve my tongue as Archbishop Cranmer served his

hand, — make that hum first.”  Nor were his efforts confined

to private houses: he constantly visited the town gaol to read

and pray with the prisoners. One instance of this is too re-

markable to be passed over.


"As I was walking along, I met with a poor woman whose

husband was then in bocardo, Oxford town gaol. Seeing her

much discomposed, I inquired the cause. She told me, that not

being able to bear the crying of her children, and having no-

thing to relieve them, she had been to drown herself; but was

mercifully prevented; and said, she was coming to my room to

inform me of it. I gave her some immediate relief, and desired

her to meet me at the prison with her husband in the after-

noon. She came; and there God visited them both by his

free grace. She was powerfully quickened; and when I had

done reading, he came to me like the trembling jailer, and

grasping my hand, cried out, 'I am upon the brink of hell! '

From this time forward both of them grew in grace. God, by

his providence, soon delivered him from his confinement.

Though notorious offenders against God and one another before,

yet now they became helps meet for each other in the great

work of their salvation."


In the same spirit he also exerted himself on behalf of his

relations and friends at Gloucester. His discovery of the ne-

cessity of regeneration, like Melancthon's discovery of the

truth, led him to imagine, that no one could resist the evi-

dence which convinced his own mind. "Upon this, like the


26           Whitefield's life and times.


woman of Samaria when Christ revealed himself to her at the

well, I had no rest in my soul, till I wrote letters to my rela-

tions, telling them there was such a thing as the new birth. I

imagined they would have gladly received it; but alas! my

words seemed to them as idle tales. They thought I was

going beside myself."


I have not been able to obtain any of the letters on this sub-

ject, which he addressed to his own family; but the following

extract from one to a friend, will be a sufficient specimen of

their character.


"Lest you should imagine that true religion consists in any

thing besides an entire renewal of our nature into the image of

God, I have sent you a book entitled, "The Life of God in the

Soul of Man," written by a young, but an eminent Christian; —

which will inform you what true religion is, and how you may

attain it; as, likewise, how wretchedly most people err in their

sentiments about it, who suppose it to be nothing else (as he

tells us, page 3) but a mere model of outward performances;

without ever considering, that all our corrupt passions must be

subdued, and a complex habit of virtues — such as meekness, low-

liness, faith, hope, and the love of God and of man — be implant-

ed in their room, before we can have the least title to enter into

the kingdom of God. Our divine Master having expressly

told us, that unless we "renounce ourselves, and take up our

cross daily, we cannot be his disciples." And again, "unless

we have the spirit of Christ, we are none of his."


This advice met, we are informed, "with a cold reception,"

and was an ungrateful subject to his friend at first; and yet, even

while it was so, such were his own confused notions of religion, that

he urges his friend to receive "the holy communion" frequently;

assuring him that "nothing so much bedwarfs us in religion, as

staying away from the heavenly banquet." As if a man who had

no relish for the doctrine of regeneration, could have any religion!


Having thus noticed the line of conduct which, notwith-

standing all his crude notions, he pursued at Oxford, — I pro-

ceed now to record the means by which he was supported

during his stay at the University. It will be recollected that

his chief dependence was upon the emoluments of servitorship.


                                              Whitefield's life and times.            27


"Soon after my acceptance I went and resided, and found my

having been used to a public-house was now of service to me.

For, many of the servitors being sick, at my first coming up,

by my diligent and steady attendance, I ingratiated myself into

the gentlemen's favour so far, that many who had it in their

power chose me to be their servitor. This much lessened my

expense; and, indeed, God was so gracious, that with the pro-

fits of my place, and some little presents made me by my kind

tutor, for almost the first three years I did not put all my rela-

tions together to above £24 expense." When he joined himself

to the methodists, the profits of his place were, as might be

expected, diminished: a number "took away their pay from

me;" but other sources of supply were soon opened for him.

Some of the methodists having left Oxford about this time, and

being solicitous to keep up the society, wrote to Sir John

Philips of London, commending Whitefield to his patronage,

“as a proper person" to stay and encourage their friends in fight-

ing the good fight of faith. "Accordingly he immediately offered

me an annuity of twenty pounds. To show his disinterestedness,

he has promised me that whether I continue here or not; and

if I resolve to stay at Oxon, he'll give me thirty pounds a year.

If that will not do, I may have more." In this manner was he

provided for, when his original resources failed.


The state of his health, however, compelled him to quit, for

a time, his "sweet retirement" at Oxford. So long as he

could, he resisted all the persuasions of his tutor and physician,

and all the invitations of his mother to visit Gloucester. Their

urgency at length prevailed, and he returned home. "My

friends were surprised to see me look and behave so cheerfully,

after the many reports they had heard concerning me."


"However, I soon found myself to be as a sheep sent forth

amongst wolves in sheep's clothing; for they immediately en-

deavoured to dissuade me from a constant use of the means of

grace; especially from weekly abstinence, and receiving the

blessed sacrament. But God enabled me to resist them, sted-

fast in the faith; and, “by keeping close to him in his holy ordi-

nances, I was made to triumph over all."


"Being unaccustomed for some time to live without spiritual


28        Whitefield's life and times.


companions, and finding none that would heartily join me — ‘no,

not one — I watched unto prayer all the day long; beseeching

God to raise me some religious associates in his own way and

time. 'I will endeavour either to find or make a friend’ had

been my resolution now for some time, and therefore after im-

portunate prayer one day, I resolved to go to the house of one

Mrs. W , to whom I had formerly read plays. Spectators,

Pope's Homer, and such-like trifling books; hoping the altera-

tion she now would find in my sentiments, might, under God,

influence her soul. God was pleased to bless the visit with the

desired effect: she received the word gladly: she wanted to

be taught the way of God more perfectly, and soon became ‘a

fool for Christ's sake.' Not long after, God made me instru-

mental to awaken several young persons, who soon formed them-

selves into a little society, and had quickly the honour of being

despised at Gloucester, as we had been before them at Oxford.

Thus, all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer perse-



As his efforts and usefulness, during the period of this visit

to Gloucester, may be viewed as the dawn of his fixture zeal and

success, it will be proper, before enumerating more instances, to

record, distinctly, the manner in which he prepared himself for

doing good to others.


"My mind being now more open and enlarged, I began to

read the holy Scriptures upon my knees; laying aside all

other books, and praying over, if possible, every line and

word. This proved meat indeed, and drink indeed, to my soul.

I daily received fresh life, light, and power from above. I got

more true knowledge from reading the book of God, in one

month, than I could ever have acquired from all the writings of

men. In one word, I found it profitable for reproof, for cor-

rection, for instruction; every way sufficient to make the man

of God perfect, throughly furnished for every good work and

word. About this time God was pleased to enlighten my soul,

and bring me into the knowledge of his free grace — and the

necessity of being justified in His sight by faith only. This

was more extraordinary, because my friends at Oxford had

rather inclined to the mystic divinity. Burkitt's and Henry's


                               Whitefield's life and times.                    29


Expositions were of admirable use, to lead me into this and all

other gospel truths. It is the good old doctrine of the church

of England; it is what the holy martyrs, in Queen Mary's

time, sealed with their blood." To these habits of reading,

Whitefield added much secret prayer. "Oh, what sweet com-

munion had I daily vouchsafed with God in prayer after my

coming to Gloucester! How often have I been carried out

beyond myself, when meditating in the fields! How assuredly

I felt that Christ dwelt in me and I in Him, and how daily did

I walk in the comforts of the Holy Ghost, and was edified and

refreshed in the multitude of peace!"


Such were Whitefield's private habits while attempting to be

useful in public. His zeal and success will now be understood.


"I always observed that as my inward strength increased, so

my outward sphere of action increased proportionably. In a

short time, therefore, I began to read to some poor people twice

or thrice a week. I likewise visited two other little societies be-

sides my own. Occasionally as business and opportunity per-

mitted, I generally visited one or two sick persons every day;

and though silver and gold I had little of my own, yet in imita-

tion of my Lord's disciples, who entreated in behalf of the

fainting multitude, I used to pray unto Him; and he, from

time to time, inclined several that were rich in this world, to

give me money; so that I generally had a little stock for the

poor always in my hand. One of the poor, whom I visited in

this manner, was called effectually by God at the eleventh hour:

she was a woman above threescore years old; and I really be-

lieve, died in the true faith of Jesus Christ."


"At my first coming to Gloucester, being used to visit the

prisoners at Oxford, I prayed most earnestly that God would

open a door for me to visit the prisoners here also. Quickly

after, I dreamed that one of the prisoners came to be instructed

by me: it was much impressed upon my heart. In the morn-

ing I went to the door of the county gaol; — I knocked, but

nobody came to open it. I waited still upon God in prayer;

and in some months after, came a letter from a friend at Ox-

ford, desiring me to go to one Pehworth, who had broken out

of Oxford gaol, and was retaken at Gloucester. As soon as I


30        Whitefield's life and times.


read this letter, it appeared to me that my prayer was now

answered. Immediately I went to the prison: I met with the

person, and finding him and some others willing to hear the

word of God, (having gained leave of the keeper and two ordi-

naries,) I constantly read to and prayed with them, every day

I was in town. I also begged money for them, whereby I was

enabled to release some of them, and cause provision to be dis-

tributed weekly among them; as also to put such books into

their hands as I judged most proper. I cannot say that any

one of the prisoners was effectually wrought upon; however,

much evil was prevented, many were convinced, and my own

soul was much edified and strengthened in the love of God and



“During my stay here, God enabled me to give a public tes-

timony of my repentance, — as to seeing and acting plays; for,

hearing the strollers had come to town, and knowing what an

egregious offender I had been, I was stirred up to extract Mr.

Law's excellent treatise, entitled ‘The Absolute Unlawfulness

of the Stage Entertainment.'  The printer at my request put

a little of it in the news, for six weeks successively; and God

was pleased to give it his blessing." In this manner White-

field employed himself during nine months; and one effect of

pursuing such plans was, that " the partition-wall of bigotry

and sect religion was soon broken down" in his heart.  "I

loved all, of whatever denomination, that loved the Lord Jesus

in sincerity." This acknowledgment stands, in his diary, con-

nected with an account of the benefit he derived from studying

the works of the nonconformists. Baxter's "Call" and Allein's

"Alarm," accorded so with his own ideas of fidelity and unction,

that wherever he recognised their spirit he acknowledged "a

brother beloved."


Upon this portion of his history, the mind dwells with almost

unmixed delight: the only drawback is, the undue importance

attached by him to dreams; and even those, considered as an

index to his waking thoughts, are interesting; revealing, as

they do, his deep solicitude on behalf of souls. His zeal was

now according to knowledge; — his object, at once, definite

and scriptural; — ‘his measures direct and rational, — and his mo-


                                              Whitefield's life and times.             31


tives truly evangelical. Drawing his own hope and consolation

immediately from the oracles of God, he led others direct

to the same source; shutting up to the faith those he asso-

ciated with. In this respect Whitefield presents a striking

contrast to Wesley, at the commencement of his public exer-

tions. The latter, although equally conscientious, was so

crazed with the crude notions of the mystics, that when he left

Oxford to visit Georgia, Law's "Christian Perfection" was

almost his text-book, while instructing his fellow-passengers.

Accordingly the success of the two, at the time, was as different

as the means which they severally adopted. While Whitefield

won souls by reading the Scriptures, Wesley, by inculcating

the austerities of the ascetics, laboured in vain; he was long

"esteemed an Ishmael; for his hand was against every man,

and every man's hand was against him."


During the latter part of Whitefield's residence in Gloucester,

although "despised" by many, his friends multiplied in spite of

all the odium which his opinions and practice called forth.

They became urgent for his immediate ordination, and solicit-

ous to see him in a sphere worthy of his talents and zeal. But

such were, now, his views of the ministry, that he put a decided

negative upon all their applications; intrenching his refusal in

a resolution of the diocesans, "not to ordain any under twenty-

three years of age." He was not yet twenty-one. This ap-

parently insurmountable objection was, however, soon removed.

He obtained, about this time, an introduction to Lady Selwyn,

who had marked her approbation of him by a handsome present

of money, and by an immediate application to the bishop on his

behalf. The character she seems to have given of him had its

due weight with Dr. Benson. "As I was coming from the

cathedral prayers, thinking of no such thing, one of the vergers

called after me, and said, the bishop desired to speak with me.

I immediately turned back, considering within myself, what I

had done to deserve his Lordship's displeasure. When I came

to the top of the palace stairs, the bishop took me by the hand,

told me he was glad to see me, and bid me wait a little, till he

had put off his habit, and he would return to me again. This

gave me an opportunity of praying to God for his assistance.


32          Whitefield's life and times.


and adoring him for his providence over me. At his coming

again into the room, the bishop told me that he had heard of

my character, liked my behaviour at church; and, inquiring my

age, said, 'notwithstanding I have declared I would not ordain

anyone under three and twenty, yet I shall think it my duty to

ordain you, whenever you come for holy orders. “He then made

me a present of five guineas to buy me a book." Thus was the

chief external hinderance removed at once; and with it, his hesi-

tation vanished. “From the time I first entered the University,

especially from the time I knew what was true and undefiled

Christianity, I entertained high thoughts of the importance of

the ministerial office, and was not solicitous what place should be

prepared for me, but how I should be prepared for a place. That

saying of the apostle, 'Not a novice, lest being puffed up with

pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil;’ and that first

question of our excellent ordination office, ‘Do you trust that

you are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon you this

office and administration?' used even to make me tremble,

whenever I thought of entering into the ministry. The shyness

of Moses and some other prophets, when God sent them out in

a public capacity, I thought was sufficient to teach me, not to

run until I was called. He who knoweth the hearts of men, is

witness that I never prayed more earnestly against anything,

than I did against entering into this service of the church, so

soon. Oftentimes I have been in an agony in prayer, when

under convictions of my insufficiency for so great a work; — with

strong cries and tears, I have frequently said, ‘Lord, I am a

youth of uncircumcised lips: Lord, send me not into thy vineyard

yet!’ And sometimes I had reason to think God was angry

with me for resisting his will. However, I was resolved to pray

thus as long as I could. If God did not grant my request in

keeping me out of it, I knew his grace would be sufficient to

support and strengthen me whenever he sent me into the



"To my prayers I added my endeavours, and wrote letters

to my friends at Oxford, beseeching them to pray to God to

disappoint my country friends, who were for my taking orders

as soon as possible. Their answer was,  ‘Pray we the Lord of


                                              Whitefield's life and times.         33


the harvest to send thee and many more labourers into his har-

vest.' Another old and worthy minister of Christ, when I

wrote to him about the meaning of the word novice, answered,

it meant a novice in grace, and not in years; and he was pleased

to add — if St. Paul were then at Gloucester, he believed St.

Paul would ordain me. All this did not satisfy me: I still con-

tinued instant in prayer against going into holy orders, and was

not thoroughly convinced it was the divine will, till God by his

providence brought me acquainted with the bishop of Glou-

cester." "Before I came home, the news had reached my

friends, who being fond of my having such a great man's favour,

were very solicitous to know the event of my visit. Many

things I hid from them; but when they pressed me hard, I was

obliged to tell them how the bishop, of his own accord, had

offered to give me holy orders whenever I would. On which

they, knowing how I had depended on the declaration his Lord-

ship had made some time ago, said, and I then began to think

myself, that, if I held out any longer, I should fight against

God. At length I came to a resolution, by God's leave, to

offer myself for holy orders the next Ember-days."


Having thus surmounted his difficulties, he proceeded at

once to prepare himself for ordination. He had, before, satis-

fied himself of the truth of the Thirty-nine Articles, by com-

paring them with the Scriptures; but it does not appear that

the Prayer Book, as a whole, was submitted to the same test:

he seems to have taken its truth for granted. This is the more

remarkable, because in every thing else he was conscientious.


"I strictly examined myself by the qualifications required

for a minister, in St. Paul's Epistle to Timothy, and also by

every question that I knew would be put to me at the time of

my ordination. This latter, I drew out in writing at large, and

sealed my approbation of it every Sunday at the blessed sacra-

ment. At length, Trinity Sunday being near at hand, and

having my testimonials from the college, I went, a fortnight

beforehand, to Gloucester, intending to compose some sermons,

and to give myself more particularly to prayer. When I came

to Gloucester, notwithstanding I strove and prayed for several

days, and had matter enough in my heart, yet I was so restrain-


34         Whitefield's life and times.


ed, that I could not compose anything at all. I mentioned my

case to a clergyman: he said, I was an enthusiast. I wrote to

another, who was experienced in the divine life: he gave me

some reasons, why God might deal with me in that manner;

and, withal, promised me his prayers. The remainder of the

fortnight I spent in reading the several missions of the pro-

phets and apostles, and wrestled with God to give me grace to

follow their good examples.


“About three days before the time appointed for ordination,

the bishop came to town. The next evening I sent his Lord-

ship an abstract of my private examination upon these two

questions: ‘Do you trust that you are inwardly moved by the

Holy Ghost, to take upon you this office and administration?'

And,  'Are you called according to the will of our Lord Jesus

Christ and the laws of this realm?' The next morning I waited

upon the bishop. He received me with much love; telling me,

he was glad I was come, and that he was satisfied with the

preparation I had made. Upon this I took my leave; abashed

with God's goodness to such a wretch, but, withal, exceedingly

rejoiced, that, in every circumstance, he made my way into the

ministry so very plain before my face! This, I think, was on

Friday. The day following I continued in abstinence and

prayer. In the evening, I retired to a hill near the town, and

prayed fervently, for about two hours, on behalf of myself and

those that were to be ordained with me. On Sunday morning

I rose early, and prayed over St. Paul's Epistle to Timothy, and

more particularly over that precept, “Let no one despise thy

youth.'' When I went up to the altar, I could think of nothing

but Samuel’s standing a little child before the Lord, with a

linen ephod. When the bishop laid his hands upon my head,

my heart was melted down, and I offered up my whole spirit,

soul, and body, to the service of God's sanctuary. I read the

gospel, at the bishop's command, with power, and afterward

sealed the good confession I had made before many witnesses,

by partaking of the holy sacrament."


His feelings and views upon this solemn occasion, are re-

corded, still more forcibly, in two letters to a friend. The first is

so excellent, that no apology is required for inserting it here entire.


                                              Whitefield's life and times.          35


"Gloucester, June 20th, 1736.

"My dear friend.


This is a day much to be remembered, O, my soul! for, about

noon, I was solemnly admitted by good Bishop Benson, before

many witnesses, into holy orders; and was, blessed be God!

kept composed both before and after imposition of hands. I

endeavoured to behave with unaffected devotion; but not suit-

able enough to the greatness of the office I was to undertake.

At the same time, I trust, I answered to every question from

the bottom of my heart, and heartily prayed that God might

say, Amen. I hope the good of souls will be my only principle

of action. Let come what will — life or death, depth or height —

I shall henceforward live like one who this day, in the presence

of men and angels, took the holy sacrament, upon the profession

of being inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon me

that ministration in the church. This I began with reading

prayers to the prisoners in the county gaol. Whether I myself

shall ever have the honour of styling myself — ‘a prisoner of the

Lord,' I know not; but indeed, my dear friend, I can call hea-

ven and earth to witness, that when the bishop laid his hand

upon me, I gave myself up to be a martyr for Him who hung

upon the cross for me. Known unto Him are all future events

and contingencies. I have thrown myself blindfold, and, I trust,

without reserve, into his almighty hands; only I would have

you observe — that till you hear of my dying for or in my work,

you will not he apprized of all the preferment that is expected by


                                                                                    G. W."




"June 23.

"Dear friend,


Never a poor creature set up with so small a stock. 

My intention was, to make at least a hundred sermons,

with which to begin the ministry; but this is so far from being

the case, that I have not a single one by me, except that which

I made for a small Christian society, and which I sent to a

neighbouring clergyman, to convince him how unfit I was to

take upon me the important work of preaching. He kept it for


36         Whitefield's life and times


a fortnight, and then sent it back, with a guinea for the loan of

it; telling me, he had divided it into two, and had preached it

morning and evening to his congregation. With this sermon I

intend to begin, God willing, next Sunday. * * * * Help,

help me, my dear friend, with your warmest addresses to the

throne of grace, that I may not only find mercy, but grace to

help in time of need. * * * * O, cease not; for I must

again repeat it, cease not to pray for

                                                                              G. W.”


The intense energy of these appeals to God and man, forms

a striking contrast to his first views of the ministry, and leads

the mind to expect a corresponding energy in his preaching.


"Being restrained from writing, I could not preach in the

afternoon, though much solicited thereto. But I read prayers

to the poor prisoners; being willing to let the first act of my

ministerial office be an act of charity. The next morning,

waiting upon God in prayer, to know what he would have me to

do, these words, 'Speak out, Paul,’ came with great power to

my soul. Immediately my heart was enlarged; and I preached

on the Sunday following to a very crowded audience, with as

much freedom as though I had been a preacher for some years."


The following letter illustrates the truth of this statement,

and excites curiosity about the sermon itself.


"My dear friend.

Glory! glory! glory! be ascribed to an Almighty Triune

God. Last Sunday, in the afternoon, I preached my first ser-

mon in the church of St. Mary De Crypt, where I was baptized,

and also first received the sacrament of the Lord's supper.

Curiosity, as you may easily guess, drew a large congregation

together on the occasion. The sight, at first, a little awed me;

but I was comforted by a heartfelt sense of the divine presence,

and soon found the unspeakable advantage of having been accus-

tomed to public speaking when a boy at school; and of exhort-

ing and teaching the prisoners, and poor people at their private

houses, whilst at the University. By these means I was kept

from being daunted overmuch. As I proceeded, I perceived the


                                              Whitefield's life and times.          37


fire kindled, till at last, though so young, and amidst a crowd

of those who knew me in my infant, childish days, I trust I was

enabled to speak with some degree of gospel authority. Some

few mocked, but most, for the present, seemed struck; and I

have since heard, that a complaint had been made to the bishop,

that I drove fifteen mad by the first sermon. The worthy pre-

late, as I am informed, wished that the madness might not be

forgotten before next Sunday. Before then, I hope my sermon

upon 'He that is in Christ is a new creature,' will be completed.

Blessed be God, I now find freedom in writing. Glorious



               ‘Unloose my stammering tongue to tell

               Thy love immense, unsearchable! *


Being thus engaged, I must hasten to subscribe myself

                                                                             G. W."


The sermon was on "The Necessity and Benefits of Religious

Society," from Eccles. iv. 9 — 12, "Two are better than one,"

&c. That Whitefield should have chosen to commence his

public ministry with such a subject, can only be accounted for

by a reference to his peculiar circumstances. The social re-

ligion of the Oxford methodists, and of the society he had

formed in Gloucester, was a new thing, the principles of which

required to be explained and defended. He had to leave, that

week, the little flock collected during his visit. They were to

be as sheep without a shepherd; and that they might not dis-

perse on his departure, he wisely vindicated the object of such

meetings, and removed some of the odium attached to them.

In this point of view, the subject was well chosen, and quite

consistent with his determination to know nothing among men,

save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. The sermon will be

found in the fifth volume of his works; but as it is not printed

from his own manuscript, it would be unfair to quote from it

any specimens, of his style. And yet, even in its present form,

it breathes, in no ordinary degree, that freshness and warmth

which characterize all his writings. It is not rolled from that

"secret place of thunder'' which the foregoing letters disclose


38         Whitefield's life and times.


in his bosom, and which afterward pealed like the cloud on

Sinai; but it contains earnests of his future energy.


It is not generally known, and this is not the place to explain

it, but it is the fact, that whilst Whitefield never lost sight of

his ordination vows, his views of the form of episcopal ordina-

tion underwent such a change, that he declared to Ralph Er-

skine, of his own accord, "I knew of no other way then; but I

would not have it in that way again, for a thousand worlds."

The letter containing this acknowledgment, will be found in

the Scotch part of his history.


Perhaps no mind, since the apostolic age, has been more

deeply affected, or suitably exercised, by "the laying on of

hands," than Whitefield's was. A supernatural unction from the

Holy One, could hardly have produced greater moral effects.

That high sense of responsibility, that singleness of heart, that

entire and intense devotedness of soul, body, and spirit, which

characterized the first ambassadors of Christ, seems revived in

him. Accordingly, after reading the narrative of his ordination,

we naturally expect from Whitefield a sort of apostolic career.

This would be anticipated, were we utterly ignorant of the re-

sult. After witnessing at the altar, a spirit wound up to the

highest pitch of ardour, throbbing and thrilling with strong

emotions, and, like a renovated eagle, impatient to burst off, we

naturally look for a corresponding swiftness of flight and width

of sweep; and feel that we shall not be surprised by any thing

which follows. His unbosomings of himself disclose in his

heart a "secret place of thunder," and "a fountain of tears,"

from which we expect alternate bursts of terror and tenderness

— bolts of Sinai, and dew of Hermon; and we shall not be dis-

appointed. Agreeably to his engagement with Sir John Philips,

Whitefield returned to Oxford, and took out his bachelor's de-

gree. During his residence, he resumed the care of the me-

thodist society, and of the poor. His stay at Oxford was, how-

ever, but short. He received and accepted an invitation to

officiate for a time in the chapel of the Tower of London.

His first sermon in the metropolis was, however, preached in

Bishopsgate church. On entering the pulpit, his juvenile aspect

excited a general sneer of contempt; but he had not spoken


                                              Whitefield's life and times.            39


long, when the sneer gave place to universal symptoms of won-

der and pleasure. The sermon stamped his character at once;

and from that time his popularity in London continued to in-

crease. During his stay, which only extended to two months,

he maintained his usual habits of visiting the prisoners and the



About this time, letters were received from the Wesleys and

Ingham, then in Georgia. Their descriptions of the moral con-

dition of the British colonies in America, affected his heart

powerfully, and awakened in him a strong desire to preach the

gospel abroad. It was an undertaking suited to his energetic and

enterprising character; and therefore sunk deeply amongst his

thoughts. He could not, however, come to a final determination

then, and therefore he returned to Oxford again. There,

Whitefield devoted the chief part of his time to the study of

Henry's Commentary; which seems to have been a favourite

book amongst his associates in the University. "God," says he,

"works by him (Henry) greatly here." How highly he prized

his own copy, may be judged from his gratitude when he was

able to pay for it. To the friend who furnished it, he writes,

“Herewith I send you seven pounds to pay for Mr. Henry's

Commentary. Dear Esqr. Thorold made me a present of ten

guineas, so that now (for ever blessed be divine goodness!)  I

can send you more than I thought for." In a former letter he

had said, "I hope to send you, in a short time, two guineas to-

wards paying for Henry's Exposition."


The study of this invaluable work was soon interrupted, by

an invitation to officiate for a short time at Dummer in Hamp-

shire. This was a very different sphere to any he had been ac-

customed. The people were equally poor and illiterate; but he

was soon reconciled to them, and acknowledged that during his

stay he had "reaped much spiritual benefit." While he con-

tinued at Dummer, he adhered rigidly to his system of econo-

mizing time; dividing the day into three equal parts; eight

hours for sleep and meals; eight for public prayers, catechising,

and visiting; and eight for study and devotional retirement.


While thus occupied in obscurity, he was not forgotten in

London: a profitable curacy in the metropolis was offered to


40           Whitefield's life and times.


him; but the chord touched by the spiritual wants of Georgia,

had not ceased to vibrate in his inmost soul. From the moment

it was struck, Oxford had no magnet, Hampshire no charms,

the metropolis no fascination, for the young evangelist. He

promptly and decidedly declined the lucrative and attractive

curacy, being intent on going abroad. And an opportunity of

gratifying his truly missionary spirit soon presented itself.

"He received letters," says Dr. Gillies, "containing what he

thought to be an invitation to go to Georgia, from Mr. John

Wesley, whose brother came over about this time to procure

more labourers." The doctor might have said "letters containing

what was an invitation:" for although, at a future period, it

was insinuated that Whitefield had intruded himself upon the

sphere of the Wesleys in America, the imputation is unwarrant-

ed. Charles Wesley both urged and encouraged him to leave

England. The following extracts are from a poem addressed

to Whitefield by Charles Wesley, at the time.



"Servant of God, the summons hear;

Thy Master calls — arise, obey!

The tokens of his will appear,

His providence points out the way.


"Champion of God, thy Lord proclaim;

Jesus alone resolve to know;

Tread down thy foes in Jesus' name;

Go! conquering and to conquer, go.


"Through racks and fires pursue thy way;

Be mindful of a dying God;

Finish thy course, and win the day;

Look up — and seal the truth with blood!"


This impassioned adjuration to proceed to America, proves

that Whitefield did not intrude himself on the mission, nor run

unsent. Had Dr. Southey observed those lines, he would not

have said, that "Charles did not invite him to the undertak-

ing." The truth is, both brothers appealed to him in the form

most likely to win his consent; making the call appear to be


                                              Whitefield's life and times.          41


from God. "Only Mr. Delamotte is with me,” says John, "un-

til God shall stir up the hearts of some of his servants to come

over and help us. What if thou art the man, Mr. Whitefield?

Do you ask me what you shall have? Food to eat, and raiment

to put on; a house to lay your head in, such as your Lord had

not; and a crown of glory that fadeth not away." This is a real

invitation, or mockery; and precisely in that spirit which White-

field could not resist. Accordingly, on reading it, "his heart,"

he says, "leaped within him, and, as it were, echoed to the call."

A concurrence of favourable circumstances at the time, enabled

him, thus promptly, to embrace the proposal, and embark in

the undertaking. Mr. Kinchin, the minister of Dummer, had

been chosen dean of Corpus Christi College, and was willing to

take upon him the charge of the prisoners at Oxford; Harvey

undertook to supply his place in the curacy; and in Georgia,

the novel sphere of usefulness, and the warm friendship of Wes-

ley, were equally attractive, as inducements to leave England.

The resolution thus formed, he solemnly confirmed by prayer;

and, that it might not be shaken by his relations at Gloucester,

he wrote to assure them, that unless they would promise not to

dissuade him, he would embark without seeing them. This

promise they gave; but they forgot it when he arrived. His

aged mother, as might be expected, wept sorely; and others,

as Dr. Southey observes, who had no such cause to justify their

interference, represented to him what "pretty preferment" he

might have if he would stay at home. But, none of these things

moved him: their influence was defeated by his own prayers,

and by the weight of the bishop's opinion; who, as usual, re-

ceived him like a father, approved of his determination, and

expressed his confidence that God would enable him to do much

good abroad. From Gloucester he went to take leave of his

friends at Bristol. During this visit, the mayor appointed him

to preach before the corporation: even the quakers thronged

to hear him. But the effect of his farewell sermons will be best

told in his own words. "What shall I say? Methinks it

would be almost sinful to leave Bristol at this critical juncture.

The whole city seems to be alarmed. Churches are as full on

week-days, as they use to be on Sundays, and on Sundays so


42           Whitefield's life and times.


full, that many, very many are obliged to go away because they

cannot come in. Oh that God would keep me always humble,

and fully convinced that I am nothing without him; and that

all the good done upon earth, God himself doth it." — “The word

was sharper than a two-edged sword; the doctrine of the new

birth made its way like lightning into the hearers' consciences.

Sanctify it. Holy Father! to thine own glory and thy people's



Similar impressions were made in Bath and Gloucester and

unprecedented collections obtained for charitable objects. His

stay was, however, short : he was called up to London to appear

before General Oglethorpe, and the trustees of Georgia. Hav-

ing been accepted by them, he was presented to the bishop and

primate, who both highly approved of his mission. But his

departure from England was delayed for some months, owing to

the vessel in which he was to sail not being ready at the time

expected. He therefore undertook to serve, for a while, the

church of one of his friends at Stonehouse. In this retirement

his communion with God was, at once, intimate and habitual.

Could the trees of the wood speak, he says, they would tell

what sweet communion he and his Christian brethren had, un-

der their shade, enjoyed with their God. "Sometimes as I

have been walking," he continues, "my soul would make such

sallies, that I thought it would go out of the body. At other

times I would be so overpowered with a sense of God's infinite

majesty, that I would be constrained to throw myself 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 oc-

casion, 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 light-

ning run upon the ground, 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 re-

vealed from heaven 'in flaming fire.' Oh that my soul may


                                              Whitefield's life and times.             43


be in a like frame when he shall actually come to call me!"

He refers to this scene in one of his letters. "Honest James

and I were out in the midst of the lightnings and never were

more delighted in our lives. May we be as well pleased “when

the Son of God cometh to judgment."


He came glowing from this mount of communion to Bristol

again, prepared to preach the gospel with new energy; and the

people were prepared to hear it with new interest; for such was

the impatience for his return, that multitudes on foot, and some

in coaches, were waiting to meet him, a mile from the city; and

a still greater number welcomed him, as he passed along the

streets. And if the city was alarmed during his former visit, it

was now electrified: persons of all ranks and denominations

crowded to hear him; and such was the pressure in every church,

that he could hardly make his way 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. Multi-

tudes followed him home with tears, and many with entreaties

that he would remain in England; but he was firm to his pur-

pose, and merely consented to spend the next day in speaking

with those who had been awakened under his ministry. This

he did from seven in the morning until midnight, when he stole

away secretly to avoid the parade of a public escort.


After some brief intermediate visits, he arrived again in Lon-

don. Here invitations to preach and administer the sacrament

poured in upon him from so many churches, and were so promptly

accepted by him, that his friends were afraid for his health;

the crowds at each church being so overwhelming. But his

answer was, "I find by experience that the more I do, the more

I may do, for God." This was said when he was in the habit

of preaching four times on the sabbath, and had often to walk

ten or twelve miles in going from one church to another, and

to preach five times in the week besides. Such unprecedented

labours might well be, as they were, called “mighty deeds" by


44           Whitefield's life and times


the newspapers; but, this kind of notice hurt his feelings. In

a letter to a friend he expresses himself on the subject thus:

"I suppose you have heard of my mighty deeds, falsely so called

by the newspapers; for I find some hack-friend has published

abroad my preaching four times in a day; but I beseech Mr.

Raikes, the printer, never to put me in his news again upon any

such account, for it is quite contrary to my inclinations and

positive orders." To his friends, however, he was not reserved

in communicating either the extent of his labours, or the symp-

toms of their success. In another letter to the same person he

writes, "Last week, save one, I preached ten times in different

churches; and the last week, seven; and yesterday four times,

and read prayers twice, though I slept not an hour the night

before, which was spent in religious conversation, &c. God

still works more and more by my unworthy ministry. Many

youths here sincerely love our Lord Jesus Christ; and thou-

sands, I hope, are quickened, strengthened, and confirmed by

the word preached. Last Sunday (in St. Dunstan's) at six in

the morning, when I gave my farewell, the whole church was

drowned in tears: they wept and cried aloud, as a mother weep-

eth for her first-born. Since that, there is no end of persons

coming and weeping, telling me what God has done for their

souls: others again beg little books, and desire me to write

their names in them. The time would fail me, were I to relate

how many have been awakened, and how many pray for me.

The great day will discover all!" This will be more minutely

detailed in the next chapter.


Having thus traced the amazing effects of Whitefield's first

sermons, it will now be interesting to examine their general

character, and to ascertain what were the truths which thus

arrested and aroused the public mind. Three of these success-

ful sermons can, happily, be identified with these "times of re-

freshing;" and they may be depended on, as specimens of both the

letter and the spirit of his preaching, because they were printed

from his own manuscripts: that "On Early Piety" that "On

Regeneration;'' and that ''On Intercession'' Whoever will

read these appeals, realizing the circumstances under which they

were made, will hardly wonder at the effect produced by them;


                                              Whitefield's life and times.             45


the topics of the second and third, and the tone of all the three,

are so different from the matter and manner of sermonizing, to

which the public had been long accustomed. They do not sur-

prise us at all; because, happily, neither the topics nor the tone

of them are "strange things to our ears." Both were, however,

novelties, even in the metropolis, at that time. When — where

had an appeal like the following been made in London? "I

beseech you, in love and compassion, to come to Jesus. Indeed,

all I say is in love to your souls. And if I could be but an in-

strument of bringing you to Jesus, I should not envy but rejoice

in your happiness, however much you were exalted. If I was to

make up the last of the train of the companions of the blessed

Jesus, it would rejoice me to see you above me in glory. I

would willingly go to prison or to death for you, so I could but

bring one soul from the devil's strong holds, into the salvation

which is by Christ Jesus. Come then to Christ, every one that

hears me this night. Come, come, my guilty brethren: I be-

seech you for your immortal souls' sake, for Christ's sake, come

to Christ! Methinks I could speak till midnight unto you;

I am full of love towards you. Would you have me go and tell

my Master, that you will not come, and that I have spent my

strength in vain? I cannot bear to carry such a message to

him! I would not, indeed I would not, be a swift witness against

you at the great day of account: but if you will refuse these

gracious invitations, I must do it."


In this spirit (not very prevalent even now) Whitefield began

his ministry. And there is a fascination as well as fervour in

some of his early sermons. How bold and beautiful is the

peroration of that on Intercession! Referring to the holy im-

patience of "the souls under the altar," for the coming of the

kingdom of God, he exclaims, “And shall not we who are on

earth, be often exercised in this divine employ with the glo-

rious company of the spirits of just men made perfect? Since

our happiness is so much to consist in the communion of saints,

in the church triumphant above, shall we not frequently inter-

cede for the church militant below; and earnestly beg, that

we may be all one? To provoke you to this work and labour

of love, remember, that it is the never-ceasing employment of


46        Whitefield's life and times.


the holy and highly exalted Jesus himself: so that he who is

constantly interceding for others, is doing that on earth, which

the eternal Son of God is always doing in heaven. Imagine,

therefore, when you are lifting up holy hands for one another,

that you see the heavens opened, and the Son of God in all his

glory, as the great High Priest of your salvation, pleading for

you the all-sufficient merit of his sacrifice before the throne.

Join your intercessions with His! The imagination will

strengthen your faith, and excite a holy earnestness in your








                                   CHAPTER II.




Whitefield's ministry in London began at the Tower — an un-

likely quarter for attraction or effect. The curate of the

Tower who had been his friend at college, having occasion to

officiate in Hampshire for a season, invited him to supply

during his absence. Sir John Philips also sanctioned the re-

quest, and joined in it. Little did either of these good men,

and still less did Whitefield himself, foresee the remote, or

even the immediate, consequences of this invitation. And it is

well they did not!  For had they foreseen Whitefield's splen-

did irregularities in Moorfields and Blackheath, or his spacious

tabernacles in London, or even his moderate Calvinism, they

would not have countenanced him. He himself, notwithstand-

ing all his constitutional bravery and conscientious simplicity,

would not have hazarded the experiment, had he suspected the



How little he did so, will be best told in his own words.

“On Wednesday, August 4th, 1737, with fear and trembling I

obeyed the summons, and went in the stage coach to London;

and the Sunday following, in the afternoon, preached at Bi-

shopsgate church. As I went up the pulpit stairs, almost all

seemed to sneer at me, on account of my youth. But they

soon grew serious in the time of my preaching; and after I

came down, showed me great tokens of respect, blessed me as

I passed, and made great inquiry who I was. The question no

one could answer; for I was quite a stranger: and, by passing

speedily through the crowd, returned to the Tower without

having my name discovered."




48           Whitefield's life and times.


"Here (at the Tower) I continued for the space of two

months, reading prayers twice a week, catechising and preach-

ing once, besides visiting the soldiers in the infirmary and bar-

racks daily. I also read prayers every evening in Wapping

chapel." (It was, no doubt, in going between the Tower and

Wapping chapel, that his well-known expression, “Wapping

sinners,” was first forced upon him.) "I preached at Ludgate

prison every Tuesday." (This also, together with his visits to

the castle at Oxford, will account for the frequency of the forms

of judicial trial and condemnation, in his sermons to the un-

godly.)  "God was pleased to give me favour in the eyes of

the inhabitants of the Tower. The chapel was crowded on

Lord's days. Religious friends from various parts of the town

attended the word, and several young men on Lord's-day morn-

ing, under serious impressions “came to converse with me on the

new birth."


So far all is pleasing; but there was nothing surprising

marked Whitefield's first visit to London. That it made no

great impression on himself, is evident from the perfect simpli-

city with which he records its close:  "Having staid in London

until Mr. B. came out of the country, I returned to my little

charge at Oxford, and waited on my deaconship according to

the measure of grace imparted to me." Even when he was

invited to "a very profitable curacy" in London, and urged to

accept it, he says, "I had no inclination to accept it. At

Dummer I soon began to be as much delighted with the artless

conversation of the poor illiterate people, as I had been formerly

with the company of my Oxford friends; and frequently learnt

as much by an afternoon's visit, as by a week's study."


It was therefore for the sake of Georgia, solely, that he came

back to London. The metropolis was to Whitefield, then,

merely the way to America. Accordingly, he did not seek for

engagements, nor volunteer his services, on his arrival from

Oxford. Indeed, he does not seem to have contemplated

preaching. "I followed my usual practice of reading and

praying over the word of God on my knees. Sweet was this

retirement to my soul — but it was not of long continuance. In-

vitations were given me to preach at several places." Not,


                                              Whitefield's life and times.             49


however, that he was unwilling to preach. All I want to show

is, that he had no designs upon London, and no idea of creating

a sensation in it. He could not, however, be hid long. His

former visit was not forgotten, and his fame in Bristol had

reached the metropolis. "The stewards and members of the

religious societies" found him out, and forced him out, on be-

half of their charity schools: a work which their successors

carry on, with great fidelity and perseverance, to this hour!

I mean no reflection upon stewards. They thus call out minis-

ters, who would otherwise shrink from publicity; and extend

over London the influence of talents and piety, which must

otherwise have been confined to a corner. It is not their fault,

if another Whitefield has not been found out. Had there been

another in the empire since, the nets of religious societies would

have caught him: and, whenever there is another, they are sure

to bring him into full notice and employment! Whitefield says,

with great simplicity, "The stewards of religious societies were

very fond of hearing me." No wonder: he collected upwards of

a thousand pounds for the schools alone; "in those days," says

Dr. Southey, "a prodigious sum; larger collections being made

than had ever before been known on like occasions."


Whitefield himself has drawn a distinction between the feel-

ings with which he accepted invitations from societies, and the

feelings with which he assisted clergymen on the sabbath.  "I

embraced the invitations to preach and assist in administering

the sacrament." "With great reluctance I was prevailed on to

preach a charity sermon at Wapping chapel." On both occa-

sions he was, however, equally successful. "So many came"

to the sacrament at Cripplegate, St. Anne's, and Foster Lane,

"that sometimes we were obliged to consecrate fresh elements

twice or thrice, and the stewards found it somewhat difficult to

carry the offerings to the communion table." In like manner,

"more was collected at Wapping chapel, for the charity, than

had been for many years." At St. Swithin's also, instead of

ten shillings, as formerly, "eight pounds were collected."


This was too great a novelty then to be concealed. “Next

morning as I was at breakfast with a friend at the Tower, I read

in one of the newspapers, that there was a young gentleman going


50           Whitefield's life and times.


volunteer to Georgia, had preached at St. Swithin's, and col-

lected eight pounds, instead of ten shillings; three pounds of

which were in halfpence; and that he would preach next Wed-

nesday before the societies, at their general quarterly meeting.

This advertisement chagrined me very much. I immediately

sent to the printer, desiring he would put me in his paper no

more. His answer was, that he was paid for doing it, and

would not lose two shillings for anybody. By this means peo-

ple's curiosity was stirred up more and more. On Wednesday

evening Bow church, in Cheapside, was crowded exceedingly.

I preached my sermon on Early Piety; and at the request of

the societies printed it. Henceforward, for nearly three months

successively, there was no end of people's flocking to hear the

word of God. Sometimes constables were obliged to be

placed at the doors, without and within. One might, as it were,

walk upon the people's heads. Thousands went away from the

largest churches for want of room. I now preached generally

nine times a-week. The people were all attention, as hearing

for eternity! The early sacraments were exceedingly awful!

Oh how often at Cripplegate, St. Anne's, and Foster-lane,

have we seen Jesus Christ crucified and evidently set forth be-

fore us! On Sunday mornings, long before day, you might see

streets filled with people going to church, with their lanthorns

in their hands; and hear them conversing about the things of



By thus specifying the spot where Whitefield preached his

first published sermon. Bow church will be reconsecrated, in the

estimation of many, and Bow bells sound more sweetly. Such

is the force of association. Its laws, like those of nature, can

neither be set aside nor weakened. Only hallowed men can

make hallowed ground; and no minister becomes hallowed to

posterity, but "he that winneth souls." Accordingly, Bow

bells remind us of no one but Whitefield. His one sermon in-

vests that church with more sacredness than its consecration,

and with more interest than the whole series of its corporation



There is neither venom nor vapouring in this remark. Visitors

from the country, and from America, pause even in Cheapside


                                              Whitefield's life and times.             51


to gaze at the spire under which George Whitefield preached.

They remember no one else. Why? Because no one else has

"so preached" there, "that many believed." Thus it is only

the salvation of immortal souls that stamps religious immor-

tality upon "solemn temples." Accordingly, not all the talent

and piety which graced the pulpit at Whitehall during the Pro-

tectorate, nor all the rank which has been in it and around it

since, can awaken one spiritual emotion or recollection. Even

Baxter, Owen, and Howe, can hardly be realized there, as

ministers of the glorious gospel. A barn where either of them

had preached Christ to the poor and the perishing, would make

our hearts burn within us; but in the chapel-royal, they are

remembered only as great men. Had Simeon of Cambridge,

that "Paul the aged," preached there but once, before singing

his Nunc dimittis, he would have been more remembered by

posterity, than all his late predecessors put together. It is ut-

terly in vain to sneer or reason against this law of association.

Nothing gains or retains a hallowed hold upon the sympathies of

the pious, but usefulness. Mere talent and heartless orthodoxy

can no more endear or dignify a church now, than relics from

Rome or Jerusalem.


But, to return. Whitefield had soon to pay the usual price

of popularity. "As my popularity and usefulness increased,

opposition increased proportionably. At first, many of the

clergy were my hearers and admirers; but some soon grew angry,

and complaints were made that there was no room for the

parishioners, and that the pews were spoiled. Some called me

a spiritual pickpocket; and others thought I made use of a

charm to get the people's money. A report was spread abroad

that the bishop of London, upon the complaint of the clergy,

intended to silence me. I immediately waited upon his Lord-

ship, and inquired whether any complaint of this nature had

been lodged against me. He answered. No. I asked his Lord-

ship whether any objection could be made against my doc-

trine? He said, ‘No: for he knew a clergyman who heard

me preach a plain scriptural sermon.' I asked his Lordship

whether he would grant me a license? He said, ‘I needed

none, as I was going to Georgia.' I replied — ‘Then your Lord-


52     Whitefield's life and times.


ship would not forbid me.'  He gave me a satisfactory answer

— and I took my leave.”


Why has Dr. Southey stripped the bishop's courtesy of all

its grace? He says of the bishop, "Evidently he thought this

(Georgia) a happy destination for one whose fervent spirit was

likely to lead him into extravagances of doctrine as well as of

life." This is no compliment to his Lordship's wisdom, what-

ever it be to his policy. Even his policy was bad, if this be

true; for what could be worse in principle or policy, than let-

ting loose upon an infant colony an extravagant chaplain?

Thus Dr. Southey has imputed to the bishop, unwittingly, a

heartless, if not reckless, indifference to the religious interests

of Georgia; for if Whitefield was dangerous even in London,

where he could easily be counteracted, if not controlled, how

much more dangerous he must have been in a distant colony!

This inference is inevitable, if there was any real danger to be

apprehended from Whitefield's doctrine or example. It is easy

to say, that "the whole force of his enthusiasm might safely

expend itself" in Georgia; but Dr. Southey should not have

said this; for he had just said before, of the disorders raised in

the colony, that Charles Wesley had, "in truth, been the occa-

sion of them, by his injudicious zeal." But, enough of this.

Southey is no doubt right in saying, that the bishop was glad,

and that some of the clergy rejoiced "in Whitefield's de-

parture," as a happy riddance. He guessed well, although he

reasons ill, in this instance.  Accordingly, the bishop's "satis-

factory answer" to Whitefield did not prevent some of the

London clergy from shutting their pulpits against him. "Soon

after this, two clergymen sent for me, and told me they would

not let me preach in their pulpits any more, unless I renounced

that part of the preface of my sermon on Regeneration,

wherein I wished, that my brethren would entertain their audi-

tories oftener with discourses on the new birth. This I had

not freedom to do — and so they continued my opposers."


"What, I believe, irritated some of my enemies the more,

was my free conversation with many of the serious dissenters,

who invited me to their houses; and told me repeatedly, 'that

if the doctrine of the new birth and justification by faith was


                                              Whitefield's life and times.            53


preached powerfully in the church, there would be but few dis-

senters in England.' Who the dissenters were that said this,

cannot now be ascertained; but, certainly, they were not serious

dissenters, nor sound reasoners, however serious they may have

been as Christians; for wherever these doctrines are powerfully

preached in the church, there are many dissenters. The pro-

gress of both dissent and methodism keeps pace with the

progress of evangelical sentiment in the church, and ever must

do whilst they continue evangelical. Whitefield was, however,

simple enough to believe what he wished, and honest enough to

act accordingly, in this instance. "My practice in visiting and

associating with (these dissenters) I thought was quite agree-

able to the word of God. Their conversation was savoury; and

I judged, ('rightly,' says Dr. Southey,) that the best way to

bring them over, was not by bigotry and railing, but by mo-

deration and love, and undissembled holiness of life."


"But these reasons were of no avail. One minister called

me a pragmatical rascal, and vehemently inveighed against me

and the whole body of dissenters together." Dr. Southey ex-

plains the "serious offence" thus taken by the clergy, by say-

ing, — "for the evils which puritanism had brought on this

kingdom were at that time neither forgotten nor forgiven."

No thanks to the Doctor, if ever they should be so! He has

done all he could to perpetuate their memory. It will not,

however, live long. The accidental evils of puritanism, like

those of the Reformation, will soon be forgiven, and forgotten

too, in the enjoyment of the truth and liberty which the puri-

tans bought and sealed with their blood. Wycliffe and Baxter,

Latimer and Owen, Cranmer and Howe, will be associated and

enshrined names in the temple of Christianity, when all who

have hindered their identification will be nameless, or named

only to be pitied and wondered at forever.


Whitefield found pulpits in London, until he embarked for

America. Not many, indeed, seem to have been shut against

him. "I have been wearied almost to death," he says, "in

preaching." "The nearer the time of my embarkation ap-

proached, the more affectionate and eager people grew. All

ranks gave vent to their passion. Thousands and thousands of


54      Whitefield's life and times.


prayers were put up for me. The people would run and stop

me in the alleys of the churches, hug me in their arms, and fol-

low me with wishful looks. Such a sacrament I never saw be-

fore, as at St. Dunstan's. The tears of the communicants

mingled with the cup: and had not Jesus given us some of his

‘new wine,’ our parting would have been insupportable.


"At length having preached in a good part of the London

churches, collected about a thousand pounds for the charity

schools, and got upwards of three hundred pounds for the poor

in Georgia, I left London on Dec. 28th, 1737, in the twenty-

third year of my age, and went in the strength of God, as a poor

pilgrim, on board the Whitaker."






                                    CHAPTER III.






The settlement of Georgia was begun in 1733, by a number of

English people, who were brought over by General Oglethorpe.

On the first of February of that year. General Oglethorpe and

his colony entered the Savannah river, and the same night the

tents were first pitched where the city of Savannah now stands.

For several days the people were employed in erecting a fortifi-

cation, and in felling the woods, while the general marked out

the town. The first house was begun on the ninth; and the

town, after the Indian name of the river which ran by it, was

called Savannah. The fort being completed, the guns mounted,

and the colony put into a state of safety, the next object of

Oglethorpe's attention was, to treat with the Indians for a share

of their possessions.


In his intercourse with the Indians, he was greatly assisted

by an Indian woman, whom he found in Savannah, of the

name of Mary Musgrove. She had resided among the English,

in another part of the country, and was well acquainted with

their language. She was of great use, therefore, to General

Oglethorpe, in interpreting what he said to the Indians, and

what they said to him. For this service he gave her a hundred

pounds a year.


"Among those who came over with General Oglethorpe was

a man named Thomas Bosomworth, who was the chaplain, or

minister, of the colony. Soon after his arrival he married the

above-mentioned Indian woman, Mary Musgrove. Unhappily,

Bosomworth was, at heart, a bad man, although by profession

he was a minister of the gospel. He was distinguished for his



56       Whitefield's life and times.


pride, and love of riches and influence. At the same time, he

was very artful. Yet, on account of his profession, he was, for

a time, much respected by the Indians.


"At one of the great councils of the Indians, this artful man

induced some of the chiefs to crown Malatche, one of the

greatest among them, and to declare him prince and emperor

of all the Creeks. After this, he made his wife call herself the

eldest sister of Malatche and she told the Indians that one of

her grandfathers had been made king, by the Great Spirit, over

all the Creeks. The Indians believed what Mary told them;

for, since General Oglethorpe had been so kind to her, they had

become very proud of her. They called a great meeting of the

chiefs together, and Mary made them a long talk. She told

them that they had been injured by the whites — that they were

getting away the lands of the Indians, and would soon drive

them from all their possessions. She said, ‘We must assert

our rights — we must arm ourselves against them — we must

drive them from our territories. Let us call forth our warriors

— I will head them. Stand by me, and the houses which they

have erected shall smoke in ruins.'

               "The spirit of Queen Mary was contagious. Every chief

present declared himself ready to defend her to the last drop of

his blood.


"After due preparation, the warriors were called forth. They

had painted themselves afresh, and sharpened anew their toma-

hawks for the battle. The march was now commenced. Queen

Mary, attended by her infamous and wicked husband, the real

author of all their discontent, headed the savage throng.


"Before they reached Savannah, their approach was an-

nounced. The people were justly alarmed — they were few in

number, and though they had a fortification and cannon, they

had no good reason to hope that they should be able to ward off

the deadly blow which was aimed against them.


"By this time the savages were in sight of Savannah. At

this critical moment an Englishman, by the name of Noble

Jones, a bold and daring man, rode forth, with a few spirited

men on horseback, to meet them. As he approached them,

he exclaimed in a voice like thunder: ‘Ground your arms!


                                              Whitefield's life and times.           57


ground your arms! not an armed Indian shall set his foot in

this town.'


"Awe-struck by his lofty tone, and perceiving him and his

companions ready to dash in among them, they paused, and

soon after laid down their arms. Bosomworth and his queen

were now summoned to march into the city, and it was per-

mitted the chiefs and other Indians to follow, but without their



"On reaching the parade ground, the thunder of fifteen can-

non fired at the same moment, told them what they might expect

should they persist in their hostile designs. The Indians were

now marched to the house of the president of the council, in

Savannah. Bosomworth was required to leave the Indians while

the president had a friendly talk with them.


"In his address to them he assured them of the kindness of

the English, and demanded what they meant by coming in this

warlike manner.


"In reply, they told the president 'that they heard that Mary

was to be sent over the great waters, and they had come to learn

why they were to lose their queen.'


"Finding that the Indians had been deceived, and that Bosomworth
was the author of all the trouble — that he had even intended to get
possession of the magazine, and to destroy the whites, the council
directed him to be seized, and to be thrown into prison.


"This step Mary resented with great spirit. Rushing forth

among the Indians, she openly cursed General Oglethorpe,

although he had raised her from poverty and distress, and de-

clared that the whole world should know that the ground she

trod upon was her own.

"The warlike spirit of the Indians being thus likely to be re-

newed, it was thought advisable to imprison Mary also. This

was accordingly carried into effect. At the same time, to ap-

pease the Indians, a sumptuous feast was made for the chiefs

by the president, who during the better state of feeling, which

seemed to prevail, took occasion to explain to them the wicked-

ness of Bosomworth, and how by falsehood and cunning he had

led them to believe that Mary was really their queen — ‘a de-

58    Whitefield's life and times.


scendant of one of their great chiefs.'  ‘Brothers,’ said he,

‘it is no such thing. Queen Mary is no other than Mary

Musgrove, whom I found poor, and who has been made the

dupe of the artful Bosomworth; and you, brothers, the dupes

of both.'


"The aspect of things was now pleasant. The Indians were

beginning to be satisfied of the villany of Bosomworth, and of

the real character of Mary. But at this moment the door was

thrown open, and, to the surprise of all, Mary burst into the

room. She had made her escape from prison; and, learning

what was going on, she rushed forward with the fury of a

tigress, exclaiming as she entered, 'Seize your arms! seize your

arms! Remember your promise, and defend your queen.'


"The sight of their queen seemed, in a moment, to bring back

all the original ardour of the enterprise. In an instant, every

chief had seized his tomahawk, and sprung from the ground to

rally at the call of their queen.


"At this moment Captain Jones, who was present, perceiv-

ing the danger of the president, and the other whites, drew his

sword and demanded peace. The majesty of his countenance,

the fire of his eye, and the glittering of his sword, told Queen

Mary what she might expect, should she attempt to raise any

higher the feverish spirit of her subjects.


''The Indians cast an eye towards Mary, as if to inquire what

they should do. Her countenance fell. Perceiving his advan-

tage. Captain Jones stepped forward, and in the presence of

the Indians, standing round, again conducted Mary back to prison.


"A short imprisonment so far humbled both Bosomworth

and Mary, that each wrote a letter, in which they confessed the

wrong they had done, and promised, if released, that they would

conduct themselves with more propriety in future. The people

kindly forgave both, and they left the city.

"But they did not perform their promise. Again Bosomworth

tried to make Mary queen, and to get possession of three large

islands, called Ossalaw, Sapelo, and St. Catharine's. He pre-

tended that they had been given to him by the Indians. Being,

however, unable to make himself master of them, he went over


                                              Whitefield's life and times.            59


to England with Mary, where he instituted a law-suit for their

recovery. At length, having obtained St. Catharine's island

by a judgment of the court, he returned with his wife, and

took up his residence upon that island. There Mary died.

Some time after, Bosomworth married one of his own servants,

who did not survive him. At length, he finished his own inglo-

rious life, and was buried between his two wives, upon the island

which had given him so much trouble."


Such (it is said in America) was the first specimen of a

chaplain, which the Indians and colonists at Savannah had be-

fore their eyes. No wonder Oglethorpe and the trustees of

Georgia turned their eyes upon another kind of men! The

Oxford methodists were, accordingly, fixed upon, "as men who

appeared to possess the habits and qualities requisite" for

preaching the gospel to settlers and the Indians. Dr. Butler,

of Corpus Christi College, sounded the Wesleys on the subject,

and introduced them to Oglethorpe. This was going to the

opposite extreme. Accordingly, on their arrival in the colony,

they soon proved their unfitness for the religious management

of an infant settlement. They certainly meant well, and were

shamefully treated: but it is equally true, that they were both

very imprudent. Dr. Southey, however, implicates Charles

Wesley too deeply in the mutinies of the period: for he ought

to have known, that Oglethorpe acquitted him of this charge,

and offered to build him a house, and to allow him a deputy, if

he would return to the colony. This is just as true, and was

as easily ascertained, as that Oglethorpe, who had been "brutal

enough to give away from under" Charles, the old bedstead on

which he lay in a fever, afterwards "embraced and kissed him

with cordial affection." The Doctor even says, "that the expla-

nation then given so satisfied the general, that his feelings

were entirely changed: all his old love and confidence return-

ed:" and yet, he says that Charles "had in truth been the oc-

casion of the disorders by his injudicious zeal." On the other

hand, however, Watson has admitted into his answer to

Southey, a vindication of Charles Wesley, from the pen of his

daughter, somewhat inconsistent with the acknowledgment, that

the Wesleys "held the reins of ecclesiastical discipline with a



60              Whitefield's life and times.


tightness unsuitable to infant colonists especially, and which

tended to provoke resistance."


But the character of neither brother should be judged of

from their career in Georgia. I quite agree with Watson, that

"their integrity of heart, and the purity of their intentions,

came forth without a stain:" for although I have heard reports,

and been told of letters, which implicate John in more than

imprudence, I have found no one to authenticate the reports, or

to produce the letters. Besides, Whitefield returned from

Georgia unchanged in his love or esteem for Wesley: a con-

clusive proof that he found nothing to justify the fama clamosa.

Nothing in his journals, letters, or diary, indicates a suspicion.

(I have learnt, since I wrote this paragraph, that Wesley's pri-

vate journals of the Causton affair have been discovered by

the Conference, and that they justify my argument.)


It was to this new colony, then in danger from the Spaniards,

and irritated by the Wesleys, that Whitefield went forth so

cheerfully, although solemnly. He does not, indeed, say that

he knew the distracted state of the people: but it is quite evi-

dent from the way in which he prepared for his work, and from

the spirit in which he began his labours, that Oglethorpe, or

some of the trustees, had apprized him of the rocks on which

his predecessors had split. Both his hopes and his fears prove

that he was not ignorant of what he had to do, nor of what he

had to undo. All his conduct, and especially his utter disregard

of Wesley's oracular "Let him return to London" shows clearly

that his heart was set upon healing the breaches in the colony;

that thus the benevolent and pure designs of its founders might

be carried into effect.


In this spirit, and for this purpose, Whitefield embarked for

Georgia, in the latter end of December, 1737. It was, how-

ever, the end of January, 1738, before the vessel was fairly on

her way; owing to contrary winds. His reception on board

was, as might be expected from a motley group of soldiers and

sailors, of a mixed kind. The captains of both, with the sur-

geon and cadet, treated him, for a time, as an impostor; and,

to mark their contempt for him, turned the vessel into a gam-

bling-house, during the whole first sabbath. The fact is, he


                                              Whitefield's life and times.         61


had begun, the day before, to read prayers on deck: but he

added to this a short sermon on the text, "I am determined to

know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him cruci-

fied." This gave offence. The officers and soldiers "attended

with decency and reverence" to the prayers: but when he told

them in the sermon what his "future conduct would be," they

were indignant; and, to prove it, began the sabbath with the

hautboy, and spent it in card-playing and blasphemy.


He seems to have foreseen this burst of opposition; and he

wisely escaped from it. "Sunday, Jan. 1. Rose early in the

morning, and retired to an adjacent hill with my friends to

prayer." That day, however, he also preached three times

(once extempore; for he had only taken two Sermons with him)

in the church at Gravesend. This was not cowardice. He

himself was unwilling to leave his "own flock in the ship," and

he did not leave them without reading prayers again on the

Saturday evening. He yielded, however, to the urgency of his

friends; and very properly.


This does not appear from his journals, because he would not

leave a reflection upon a crew which afterwards treated him

respectfully: but it appears from his private diary. Dr. Gil-

lies says truly, "It is worthwhile to observe, with what pru-

dence he was helped to behave, and how God was pleased to

bless his patient and persevering endeavours to do good."

This retreat from a premeditated storm, was one of his pru-

dent steps.


In the same spirit, he began his usual work on board, on

Monday, without upbraiding. Wherever there was sickness in

the ship, he visited, counselled, and prayed. When he could

not assemble the crew to prayers on deck, he read prayers and

expounded anywhere between decks. When the soldiers could

not or would not attend, he devoted himself to the religious

education of their children. When he could say nothing to

the swearing officers, he turned a look upon them which they

understood. Thus he was never idle, nor unamiable.


Whilst thus employed, a heavy gale sprung up at the Nore,

which created some alarm and more sickness. Even the offi-

cers felt thankful that the vessel was at the Nore, and not in


62          Whitefield's life and times.


the Downs, (for she had "dragged her anchor two miles,”)

which they had been trying to reach. Accordingly, they re-

quested Whitefield to read prayers to them in the grand cabin

on Sunday, in addition to the service on deck. What a dif-

ferent aspect the ship wore on the preceding sabbath! But he

had endeared himself during the week by courtesy and kind-

ness, and had spent the whole morning of this sabbath in going

from hammock to hammock amongst the sea-sick, administer-

ing sage-tea to them, as well as good advice.


He availed himself of this favourable turn of feeling, to ob-

tain for himself more accommodation in the ship; for, hitherto,

he had no place of retirement for prayer or study. He seems,

however, to have been somewhat afraid of a refusal; for he

offered the captain money for the occasional use of his cabin.

This was not in good taste, but the captain overlooked that, and

politely granted his request.


The military captain also (whom Whitefield dreaded most)

sent him an invitation to take coffee in his cabin. He went;

and took the opportunity of saying to him, "that he thought it

a little odd to pray and preach to the servants, and not to the

master!" This good-humoured hint he followed up by pro-

posing to read "a collect now and then to him and the other

gentlemen, in the great cabin." At first the captain shook his

head; but, after a pause, he said, "I think we may, when we

have nothing else to do."


When the ship reached Margate, another storm arose at

midnight, accompanied by vivid lightning, which seemed to set

the sea on fire. The long-boat was lost, and many of the sol-

diers taken very ill. Whitefield became, literally, the nurse of

his "red-coated parishioners," as he called the soldiers. He

superintended the making of sage-tea and broth, and distri-

buted them amongst the sick with his own hands.


Whilst thus employed he gained the esteem of the surgeon;

and so ingratiated himself with the wives of the soldiers, that

fifteen of them agreed to meet, to hear him explain the Cate-

chism. Even the captains again requested him to read prayers

in the state cabin, and expressed "their approbation" of his



                                              Whitefield's life and times.          63


Whilst the vessel was lying in the Downs, he ventured one

day to remove "The Independent Whig" from the captain's

pillow, and replace it with a book called "The Self-Deceiver.”

Next morning the captain came to him smiling, and asked who

had made the exchange? Whitefield confessed the charge,

and begged his acceptance of the book. It produced a visible

change. The military captain also, without being again asked,

requested that "they might have public service and expounding

twice a day in the great cabin."


In this manner, with occasional preaching on shore, he spent

the month, during which the ship was waiting for a fair wind;

and in that time, not a few of both the soldiers and sailors be-

came very serious, and the ship's company at large orderly.

At length the wind changed, and sailing orders were given. In

the hurry of this movement, Whitefield fell down the stairs of

the steerage; but received "little or no hurt." In a few days

after, the vessel had a very narrow escape. "The men upon

deck not keeping a good look-out, an East Indiaman ran so

very near, that had not Captain Whiting been upon deck, and

beseeched them to tack about, the ships must inevitably have

split one against another."


Altogether it was a perilous voyage to Gibraltar: but al-

though the scene was new, and the labour trying, Whitefield's

patience never failed. The following sketch is very charac-

teristic. "Feb. 14th. May I never forget this day's mercies,

since the Lord has dealt so lovingly with me! About twelve

at night a fresh gale arose, which increased so very much by

four in the morning, that the waves raged horribly indeed, and

broke in like a great river on many of the poor soldiers, who

lay near the main hatchway. Friend Habersham and I knew

nothing of it; but perceived ourselves very restless, and could

not sleep at all. I arose, and called on God for myself and all

that sailed with me, absent friends, and all mankind. After

this I went on deck — ‘but surely a more noble and awful sight

my eyes never beheld; for the waves rose more than mountain

high, and sometimes came on the quarter-deck. I endeavoured

all the while to magnify God for making his ‘power to be

known!' And then, creeping on my knees — 'for I knew not


64          Whitefield's life and times.


how else to go— I went between decks, and sung psalms, and

comforted the poor wet people. After this I read prayers in

the great cabin. Then, I laid myself across a chair reading.

But God was so good, that though things were tumbling, the

ship rocking, persons falling down around me, I was never more

cheerful in my life. I also finished a sermon before I went to

bed, though in the midst of company."


On his arrival at Gibraltar, he was courteously received and

hospitably entertained by the governor first, and then by Major

Sabine and General Columbine. Gillies reverses the order of

this reception. Sabine did not seek out Whitefield, until some

days after he had visited the governor. But whilst all these

attentions gratified him, he was most interested by a little

group of pious soldiers, who, for twelve years, had been the

methodists of Gibraltar. At first, they had assembled secretly

in dens and caves of the rock, for prayer and conversation.

The character and spirit of the venerable governor, soon led

them, however, to apply for permission to build a house of

prayer for themselves. But instead of granting this, he gave

them the free use of the church; and there they statedly met

for worship three times a day. They seem to have been non-

conformists; and thus were called "new lights:" whilst another

society of the Scotch church were called "dark lanthorns."


Besides visiting the popish chapel, and preaching frequently

in the protestant church, he attended the Jewish synagogue,

and was agreeably surprised when one of the rulers showed

him into the chief seat. The rabbi had heard him preach the

day before against swearing, and now thanked him for his ser-

mon. Whitefield remained in the synagogue during the whole

service, engaged, he says, "in secret prayer, that the veil might

be taken from the heart of the Jews, and they grafted again

into their own olive tree."


His success at Gibraltar was remarkable. He says quaintly,

"Samson's riddle was fulfilled there: out of the strong came

forth sweetness. Who more unlikely to be wrought upon than

soldiers! And yet, amongst any set of people I have not been

where God has made his power more known. Many that were

quite stark blind have received their sight; many that had


                                              Whitefield's life and times.               65


fallen back, have repented and turned to the Lord again; many

that were ashamed to own Christ openly, have waxen bold;

and many saints had their hearts filled with joy unspeakable

and full of glory."


When the journal of this revival was first published in Eng-

land, it called forth an answer from some T. G. even more

foolish than anything Tristram Land, M. A. had written.

Taking the words,  “many that were quite stark blind have re-

ceived their sight," literally, he says with all gravity, — "This

being a thing so seldom heard of, it seems likely to be a falsity;

and, that he inserted it here, to have the world think that God

worked this miracle on his account!"  Straws show how the

wind blows; and, therefore, I will add a few specimens of this

first commentary on Whitefield's first journal. Because he

had lamented the want of the divine presence, on one occasion;

and had rejoiced on its return; T. G. says, "What he means

will puzzle any one; for by God's being with him at one time,

and not at another, seems to infer as if he denied the omni-

presence of the Deity!"  When Whitefield says, that he "was

enlarged in intercession," T. G. remarks, "An odd expression

this, and inexplicable; but it frequently occurs! "Whitefield

says of a dying christian, " His soul seems full of God;" T. G.

observes, "An odd expression this, and needs explanation."

T. G. concludes by recommending, in the words of Sylvester,

"That we should go to our baptism for the date of our rege-

neration." What must have been the state of popular senti-

ment and feeling, when such nonsense could obtain readers?

And yet, the authorship of this anonymous pamphlet was

ascribed to an ex-fellow of a college; who, although he dis-

claimed it, did not object to its principles or spirit. ‘Land's

Letter to the Religious Societies,’ 1739.


Early in March the vessels left Gibraltar, and proceeded on

their voyage: and being soon in the trade-winds, they often

joined at the hours of public worship. On one occasion. Cap-

tain Mackay, after Whitefield had preached against drunken-

ness, urged the men to attend to the things that had been

spoken; telling them, that he had been a notorious swearer

until he had done so; and beseeching them, for Christ's sake.


66          Whitefield's life and times.


to give up their sins. On another occasion, whilst marrying a

couple on deck, Whitefield suddenly shut the prayer book in

the midst of the ceremony, because the bridegroom had be-

haved with levity: and not until the laughter was turned into

weeping, would he proceed.  At the close, he gave the bride

a Bible.


The ships were now almost as orderly as churches, when the

weather allowed of worship. The drum summoned them to

morning and evening prayers. The captains vied in kindness

and attention to the chaplain. Cards and profane books were

thrown overboard, in exchange for religious books. The women,

in the Whitaker, exclaimed, "What a change in our captain."

An oath became a strange thing. The soldiers began to learn

to read and write, and the children to repeat their prayers re-

gularly. This general impression was deepened by the preva-

lence of a fever on board; during which. Captain Whiting

accompanied Whitefield in crawling between decks, to admi-

nister medicine and cordials to the sailors.


One of the sufferers, a negro boy, had never been baptized.

Whiting pledged Whitefield to instruct and baptize him, in the

event of his recovery. The poor lad, however, died, and was

buried without the service being read over him. The chaplain

was afraid to venture upon such a canonical irregularity, al-

though he was no believer in baptismal regeneration. The

drum, however, was beaten on the occasion, and an address

given to the whole ship's crew, calling on them to prepare for

the time when the sea shall give up its dead.


Many little traits of Whitefield's character may be traced

in his journals of this voyage. I only mention another; — his

tact in turning every incident into a lesson for himself or others.

When a shark was caught, with five pilot-fish clinging to its

fins, he says, "Go to the pilot-fish, thou that forsakest a friend in

adversity; consider his ways, and be abashed." When a dol-

phin was caught, the change of its hues from lovely to livid, re-

minds him, that "just so is man; he flourishes for a little, but

when death cometh, how quickly his beauty is gone! A chris-

tian may learn instruction from everything he meets with."

When darkness came on whilst he was preaching, on Good


                                              Whitefield's life and times.         67


Friday, he says, "It put me in mind of that darkness which

overwhelmed the world, when the God of nature suffered."


The fever, which only three or four in the ship escaped, at

length laid hold upon Whitefield, and confined him to his bed

for a week. The attack, though short, must have been severe;

for besides blisters and vomit, he was bled three times. During

his illness the captain gave up his own bed to him; Habersham

watched him day and night; and (which delighted him most)

the sick between decks, whom he had perilled his life to con-

sole, prayed fervently for him. He soon recovered, and repaid

the kindness of all.


At length, on May 5th, they came in sight of Savannah

river, and sent off for a pilot; and such was the joy of all when

they came to anchor at Tyby island, that he could not help ex-

claiming, "How infinitely more joyful will the children of God

be, when, having passed through the waves of this troublesome

world, they arrive at the haven of everlasting rest." Though

still weak, he preached a farewell sermon to his "red-coated

and blue-jacketed parishioners," as he called his military and

naval congregation. It was heard with floods of tears.


“Upon this voyage," says Gillies, "he made the following

reflections many years after." — "Even at this distance of time,

the remembrance of the happy hours I enjoyed in religious ex-

ercises on deck, is refreshing to my soul; and although nature

sometimes relented at being taken from my friends, and I was

little accustomed to the inconvenience of a sea life, yet, a con-

sciousness that I had the glory of God and the good of souls in

view, afforded me, from time to time, unspeakable satisfaction."


Whitefield was cordially welcomed at Savannah by Delamotte

and other friends of Wesley. The magistrates also offered to

wait upon him, to pay their respects. This he declined, and

waited on them; when they agreed to build him a tabernacle

and house at Frederica, and to accept his services at Savannah

as long as he pleased. He was soon laid aside again, however,

by a return of his fever, which terminated in ague. This

attack brought him so low for a few days, and made such an

alteration in his person, that he says, "Had my friends seen

me at that hour, they might have learnt not to have any man's


68         Whitefield's life and times.


person in admiration, and not to think more highly of me than

they ought to think.”


The first thing he did after his recovery was to visit Tomo-

Chichi, the Indian king, then on his death-bed. This was the

micoe, or king, whom Oglethorpe brought to England in 1734,

and introduced to George II. He was accompanied by his

wife and son, and seven other Indians of the Creek nation. His

eloquent speech to the king and queen is well known; and

was so well received at court, that he was loaded with presents,

and even sent in one of the royal carriages to Gravesend when

he had to embark again.


He now lay, says Whitefield, "on a blanket, thin and

meagre; little else but skin and bones. Senanki, his wife, sat

by, fanning him with Indian feathers. There was no one could

talk English, so I could only shake hands with him and leave

him." A few days after Whitefield went again to visit Tomo-

Chichi, and found that his nephew, Tooanoowee, could speak

English. "I desired him to ask his uncle, whether he thought

he should die; who answered, I cannot tell. I then asked,

where he thought he should go after death? He replied, to

heaven. But, alas, how can a drunkard enter there! I then

exhorted Tooanoowee (who is a tall, proper youth) not to get

drunk; telling him, that he understood English, and therefore

would be punished the more, if he did not live better. I then

asked him, whether he believed a heaven? He said. Yes. I

then asked, whether he believed a hell? and described it by

pointing to the fire. He replied. No. From whence we may

easily gather, how natural it is to all mankind to believe there

is a place of happiness, because they wish it to be so; and on

the contrary, how averse they are to believe a place of torment,

because they wish it may not be so. But God is just and true;

and as surely as the righteous shall go away into everlasting

happiness, so the impenitently wicked shall go into everlasting



Dr. Southey has quoted part of this paragraph in a note, and

prefaced it thus:  "Whitefield was not so likely (as Wesley) to

have led these Indians into the right way, if we may judge from

his conference with poor Tomo-Chichi, when that chief was at


                                              Whitefield's life and times.           69


the point of death." If the Doctor mean, that Whitefield should

have shown a dying drunkard how pardon might be obtained,

instead of exclaiming, "Alas, how shall a drunkard enter

heaven!" I quite agree with him. He mistakes, however, if he

supposes that this exclamation was addressed to the chief. It

is Whitefield's own private reflection on the case, when he wrote

an account of it; and distinguished, like all his private reflec-

tions of a solemn kind, by italics. Besides, it is highly impro-

bable that Whitefield, the man who had just been teaching

soldiers and sailors the way to heaven, would have thus abrupt-

ly shut the door on a dying Indian! He who warned the young

nephew, would not forget to woo the old uncle; although the

result only, and not the process, appears in his journal.


When Whitefield was sufficiently recovered to survey the

colony, the state of the children affected him deeply. The idea

of an orphan-house in Georgia had been suggested to him by

Charles Wesley, "before he himself had any thought of going

abroad;" and now that he saw the condition of the colonists,

he said, "nothing but an orphan-house can effect" the educa-

tion of the children. From this moment he set his heart upon

founding one, as soon as he could raise funds. In the mean

time, he did what he could: he opened a school for the villages

of Highgate and Hampstead; and one for girls at Savannah.

He then visited the Saltzburghers' orphan school at Ebenezer;

and if anything was wanting to perfect his own design, or to

inflame his zeal, he found it there. The Saltzburghers them-

selves were exiles for conscience' sake, and eminent for piety

and industry. Their ministers, Grenaw and Boltzius, were

truly evangelical. Their asylum, which they had been enabled

to found by English benevolence, for widows and orphans, was

flourishing. Whitefield was so delighted with the order and

harmony of Ebenezer, that he gave a share of his own "poor's-

store" to Boltzius, for his orphans. Then came the scene —

which completed Whitefield's purpose. Boltzius "called all

the children before him: catechised and exhorted them to give

God thanks for his good providence towards them; then pray-

ed with them, and made them pray after him: then sung a

psalm. Afterwards, the little lambs came and shook me by the


70        Whitefield's life and times.


hand one by one; and so we parted!” From this moment

Whitefield made his purpose his fate.


After spending a few weeks at Savannah, labouring as hard

as his health would permit, he went to Frederica, where he was

gladly received; the people having "had a famine of the word

for a long season." They had no sanctuary: and therefore he

had to preach under a tree, or in Habersham's house. This

visit, although short, endeared him to all the people; and he

had the satisfaction before he left, to see them "sawing timber

for a commodious place of worship, until a church could be



His return to Savannah was hastened by a circumstance

which Gillies overlooked. One of his friends (he does not say

which) had lost himself in the woods, and was missing from

Tuesday to Friday. The great guns had been fired in vain to

direct the wanderer. Some of the people had searched day

and night for him, without success. This report was sent to

Whitefield, and it hurried him away from Frederica. He had

the pleasure, however, on his arrival at Savannah, to find his

"lost sheep."


Here an instance of refusing to read the burial service oc-

curred, which is more creditable to him than its omission in

the case of the poor negro boy. It will be best told in his own

words. "I was obliged to-day to express my resentment

against infidelity, by refusing to read the Burial Office over the

most professed unbeliever I ever yet met with. God was

pleased to visit him with lingering illness; during which I went

to see him frequently. About five weeks ago, I asked him,

what religion he was of?  He answered, ‘Religion was of so

many sects, he knew not which to choose.' Another time, I

offered to pray with him; but he would not accept it. Upon

which I resolved to go to see him no more. But being told,

two days before he died, that he had an inclination to see me, I

went again, and after a little conversation, put the following

questions to him:  'Do you believe Jesus Christ to be God,

and the one Mediator between God and man? 'He said,' I

believe Jesus Christ was a good man.'  ‘Do you believe the

holy Scriptures?'  ‘I believe something of the Old Testa-


                                              Whitefield's life and times.        71


ment: the New, I do not believe at all.'  ‘Do you believe,

sir, a judgment to come?' He turned himself about, and re-

plied, 'I know not what to say to that.'  'Alas, sir,' said I —

‘if all these things should be true, what — ?' which words,

I believe, gave him great concern; for he seemed after to be

very uneasy, grew delirious, and in a day or two departed. Un-

happy man — how quickly he was convinced! The day after

his decease he was carried to the ground, and I refused to read

the office over him; — but I went to the grave, and told the

people what had passed between him and me: and, warning all

against infidelity, I asked them, whether I could safely say, —

'As our hope is, this our brother doth?'  Upon which, I be-

lieve, they were thoroughly satisfied that I had done right."

This was equally creditable to the preacher and the people!


A few days after this event, Whitefield preached his farewell

sermon at Savannah; it being necessary for him to return to

England. How much he loved and was beloved, although only

"as a wayfaring man turning aside to tarry for a night," may

be judged from his own account. "I preached my farewell

sermon, to the great grief of my dear parishioners, whose hearts

were full as well as mine, which we all showed by many tears.

But a sensible alteration appeared in their countenances, when

I promised them solemnly, before God, to return as soon as



Next day he went to Charleston, in South Carolina, to em-

bark for England. Gillies says, that Commissary Garden en-

treated him to preach in the church. This is true: but Gar-

den was the ecclesiastical, not the civil, commissary. I mention

this, because his kindness to Whitefield was great at first. It

is thus recorded in the revised journals:  "The bishop of Lon-

don's commissary, the Rev. Mr. G. received me very cour-

teously, and offered me a lodging. How does God raise up

friends wherever I go!"  Gillies's account will now be better

appreciated: "Mr. G. thanked him most cordially, (he had

preached twice in the church,) and assured him that he would

defend him with his life and property, should the same arbitrary

proceedings commence against him, which Mr. Wesley met

within Georgia. He also said something about the colony


72        Whitefield's life and times.


of Georgia, which much encouraged Whitefield; as if he

thought its flourishing not far off;" and instanced Charleston

"as now fifteen times bigger than when he came there." This

"life and fortune" friend put on a new face afterwards!


Gillies sums up Whitefield's labours in Georgia thus:  "It

had been his practice to read prayers and expound (besides

visiting the sick) twice a day. On Sunday, he expounded at

five in the morning; at ten, read prayers and preached; and at

three in the afternoon; and at seven in the evening, he expounded

the Church Catechism. How much easier it is for the clergy

in England, Scotland, and Ireland, to find fault with such a

faithful brother in the ministry, than to follow his example!"


The following note from Whitefield's diary will explain, in

some measure, how he bore the hardships of his perilous voyage

home. "During my stay (in Georgia) the weather was most

intensely hot, burning me almost through my shoes. Seeing

others do it, who were as unable, I determined to inure myself

to hardships, by lying constantly on the ground; which, by use,

I found to be so far from being a hardship, that afterwards it

became so to lie on a bed.''  It was well it did: for all the way

home, he had no bed, until he reached Ireland. Nor was this

his only privation on the voyage. At the outset they were

tossed from "bar to bar," for nearly a fortnight, by contrary

winds. Their provision began to fail before they had accom-

plished a third of the passage: and when they reached Ireland,

they were so worn out by famine and fatigue, that Whitefield

says, "they were weak and hollow-eyed," even in the great cabin.

On landing, however, he soon rallied, and preached with great

power at Limerick and Dublin for some days. The account of

his reception and success will be found in the chapter, "White-

field in Ireland."





                                  CHAPTER IV.






These had so much influence upon his subsequent character and

career, that I shall not interrupt their narrative, by his occa-

sional excursions into the country, until his position in the me-

tropolis is fully understood. That was, indeed, influenced by

his proceedings in Bristol and Wales: but he would have be-

come a field preacher, even if he had not begun at Bristol.


He arrived in London again at the close of 1738, after a

perilous voyage. This sudden return was forced upon him;

not sought by him. "I was really happy in my little foreign

cure, and could have cheerfully remained among them, had I

not been obliged to return to England, to receive priest's orders,

and make a beginning towards laying the foundation of the

orphan-house. And thus — the place where I intended to hide

myself in, became, through my being obliged to return for these

purposes, a mean of increasing that popularity which was already

begun; — “but which by me was absolutely unforeseen, and abso-

lutely undesigned."


His diary at sea, written amidst hurricanes and famine, illus-

trates the truth of this explanation. "Had I my own will, I

could wish myself a speedy passage, that I might return the

sooner to those few sheep I have left in Savannah."  It was thus

with a single eye and a simple purpose, that Whitefield returned

to London.


The first thing he did on his arrival, was, to wait on the

archbishop of Canterbury, and the bishop of London. Dr. Gil-

lies says, "he was coldly received by them."  Whitefield him-

self says, "I met with a favourable reception from both; but



74      Whitefield's life and times.


was not so civilly treated by some of the clergy; for five churches

have been already (in two days) denied me. However, I had an

opportunity of preaching at St. Helen's and at Islington, to

large congregations indeed; and in the evening (of that first

sabbath) I went to a society in Fetter Lane, where we had,

what might not be improperly called, a love feast ; eating a

little bread and water, and spending two hours in singing and



It was now Christmas, and he spent almost every evening in

expounding to, and praying with, societies of this kind. On

Christmas eve, he continued the exercise until four in the morn-

ing. "At six," he says, with his characteristic simplicity, "I

went to another in Crutched Friars, and expounded as well as I

could; — but (no wonder !) perceived myself a little oppressed

with drowsiness.”  He had been from four till six o'clock that

morning in a large meeting in Red Cross Street; which is me-

morable from the fact, that there, for the first time in his life, he

ventured to pray extempore, "before many witnesses." He

mentions this fact in a note of his diary. "Dec. 25. The first

time I ever prayed extempore, before such a number." Extem-

pore preaching soon followed this prayer!


On new-year's day he writes thus: “Received the holy

sacrament, preached twice, and expounded twice; and found

this the happiest new-year's day that I ever saw. Afterwards

spent the whole night in close prayer, psalms, and thanksgivings,

with the Fetter Lane society." Well might Dr. Gillies say, of

Whitefield and his friends, "religious exercises seemed to be

their meat and drink."


As might be expected, work of this kind offended many. It

was shared, however, for a time, by some of the clergy. "Jan.

5th. Held a conference at Islington, concerning many things of

importance, with seven ministers of Jesus Christ, despised me-

thodists, whom God in his providence brought together. We

continued in fasting and prayer till three o'clock; and then

parted with a full conviction that God was about to do great

things amongst us. Oh that we may be in any way instrumental

to his glory! Oh that he would make the vessels pure and holy;

meet for such a dear Master's use.'"



                                              Whitefield's life and times.               75


Such were Whitefield^s habits, and such the state of his mind,

when he went to Oxford to be ordained a priest. "He was

ordained,” says Gillies, "by his good friend Bishop Benson."

Benson deserved this epithet from Whitefield's biographer. It

is well known, however, that he afterwards repented, for a time,

of having "ever laid his hands upon George Whitefield:" but

he repented of this repentance; and sent, from his dying bed to

Whitefield, a present, with a kind request to be remembered in

his prayers.


The ordinary explanation of all this seems to be warranted

by fact. Benson had been tutor to Lord Huntingdon, and was

thus naturally sent for to reason with the countess, when she

became a methodist. Her Ladyship, however, reasoned with the

bishop; and so plied him with articles and homilies in favour of

her creed, and with the solemn responsibilities of his own office,

that she offended him. "He rose up in haste (says my autho-

rity) to depart, bitterly lamenting that he had ever laid hands

on George Whitefield, to whom he imputed, though without

cause, the change wrought on her Ladyship. She called him

back: ‘My Lord,' said she, 'mark my words: when you come

to your dying bed, that will be one of the few ordinations you

will reflect upon with complacency.'"


As before, Whitefield was deeply affected by his ordination.

He went from the altar to the pulpit that very day, "to begin

to make proof "of his ministry; and preached twice in Oxford,

and expounded at Carfax in the evening, and attended a prayer-

meeting at night.


On his return to London, he was alternately in the pulpit,

and at these private meetings: and it is difficult to say which

of the two spheres of labour had most influence upon his mind

and movements at this time. It was certainly the crowding at

church, that first suggested to him the idea of preaching in the

open air. "When I was informed that nearly a thousand people

stood out in the churchyard, and that hundreds returned home,

this put me first upon thinking of preaching without-doors. I

mentioned it to some friends, who looked upon it as a mad

motion. However, we kneeled down and prayed, that nothing

might be done rashly. Hear and answer, O Lord, for thy


76         Whitefield's life and times.


name's sake." It is evident from this prayer, that Whitefield

himself did not think his design "a mad motion." But still, al-

though a crowded church suggested it, crowded prayer-meetings

produced the spirit of the enterprise.  It was by expounding

and praying extempore, that he discovered his own power over

himself and others; and found out that the divine presence

might be calculated upon, whenever the divine glory was con-

sulted. These Pentecostal seasons in private made him feel

through all his soul, that he ought to do everything to win souls,

and that he could do anything he might attempt.


The influence of these meetings upon Whitefield has never

been fully appreciated. They were to him, however, what the

wilderness was to John the Baptist; the school of his spirit.

There he caught the holy and heroic impulse, which prepared

him to challenge the scribes and Pharisees anywhere, and de-

termined him to warn them, in common with publicans and

sinners, everywhere, to "flee from the wrath to come." I might

go further, and without extravagance say, that prayer-meetings

were to Whitefield what the "third heavens" were to Paul; the

finishing school of his ministerial education. He was as much

indebted to them for his unction and enterprise, as to Pembroke

Hall for his learning; or as to the Oxford methodists for his

piety; or as to Benson for his ordination to the priesthood; (for

what other bishop would have laid his hands on him then?)

Wesley also caught the primitive flame of evangelization, in one

of these private societies at Bristol: for until he saw how “the

Spirit moved on the face" of these meetings, he was so tena-

cious of everything relating to clerical order and decorum, that

he would have counted it "almost a sin to save souls out of a

church." Watson, without seeming at all struck by the coinci-

dence, says, "Mr. Wesley first expounded to a little society in

Nicholas Street, — and next day he overcame his scruples, and

preached abroad, on an eminence near Bristol, to more than two

thousand persons!  "In all this, indeed, he was only following

the example of Whitefield, who had just preceded him, as well

as proved both the safety and the success of the experiment:

but still if these things encouraged Wesley, it was the social

meeting that convinced and determined him. "I have since''


                                              Whitefield's life and times.          77


he says, "seen abundant reason to adore the wise providence

of God herein, in thus making a way for myriads of people, who

never troubled any church, or were likely to do so, to hear that

word which they soon found the power of God unto salvation."

These facts are as instructive as they are interesting. Private

devotional meetings were thus the cradle of field preaching, as

surely as field preaching was the morning star of England's

second reformation! How often, in grace as in nature, God

hangs the greatest weights on the smallest wires! I mean, on

wires accounted the smallest by the wisdom of this world, and

by the folly of the church: for social prayer-meetings are the

strongest wires in all the machinery of the moral universe. God

hung upon them all the weighty gifts, and all the weightier

grace and glory, of Pentecost! God hung upon them all that

is great and good in the American revivals, and all that is

amazing in the success of foreign missions. It was when the

British churches were as the heart of one man in prayer, that

African slavery was abolished throughout the British domi-

nions. The spiritual destiny of America now hangs on her



It is not a misnomer to call the religious societies, which

Whitefield and Wesley found in London and Bristol, prayer-

meetings. Whitefield often mentions the prayers he united in

before he ventured to pray extempore. Bishop Hopkins and

Dr. Horneck were the authors of them. The members met,

however, for other purposes. They were bound by their rules

to meet weekly, "for good discourse; for the promotion of

schools and catechising; for the relief of the poor; and to dis-

course only on subjects tending to practical holiness, and to

avoid all controversy."


These societies originated in 1667, in consequence of the suc-

cess of Dr. Horneck's ministry, and the morning lectures in

Cornhill; which brought many young men to a very affecting

sense of their sins, and to a very serious way of treating religion.

The meetings were so well conducted, and their influence on

public morals so beneficial, that on the accession of William and

Mary, they were patronized by the queen and a few of the

bishops. They gradually, however, fell into decay. Instead of


78       Whitefield's life and times.


forty in London, which was their number at the beginning of

the eighteenth century, I can only trace about ten in White-

field's journals, in vigorous or healthy action. In these, how-

ever, there was evidently much vital godliness, when Whitefield

began to expound and pray in them. Even his devotional spirit

was improved by them, as well as appreciated in them. They

not only sympathized in all the fervency of his first love, but

also fanned it into the blaze of apostolic zeal. Could there be

better proof of their spiritual health or discernment? How

vividly and fondly he remembered the "times of refreshing from

the presence of the Lord," vouchsafed in these little sanctuaries,

may be judged from the following note in his diary:  "Often

have we been filled as with new wine. Often have I seen them

overwhelmed with the divine presence; and crying out. Will

God indeed dwell with men upon earth? How dreadful is this

place! This is no other than the house of God, and the gate of

heaven." He also published a letter to them. Whilst thus

engaged and affected in London, persecution began to assail

him. One clergyman attacked him by a scurrilous pamphlet,

(of which Whitefield merely says, "Thou shalt answer for me,

my Lord and my God,") and others from the pulpit. Gillies

says, "Pulpits rung with invectives against him, and the parish

priests threatened some of their parishioners with prosecutions,

for letting him expound and pray in their houses." Whitefield

himself, however, records only one instance of threatened pro-

secution, in his corrected journals. " Jan. 30th. Expounded

twice on Dowgate Hill, where the people pressed mightily to

come in. The minister of the parish threatens the master of

the house with a prosecution. But, blessed be God, we breathe

in “free air!"


I quote this memorandum for the sake of the closing excla-

mation. He had seen enough of bigotry and intolerance in the

course of one month in London, to turn his attention to the

shields of liberty. Besides, during that month, Whitefield had

visited "some dissenting Christian brethren;" and only a week

before writing his thanksgiving for the "free air" of religious

liberty, he had enjoyed an interview with Dr. Watts, at Stoke

Newington.  "Jan. 24. Went to Newington to see Dr. Watts,


                                              Whitefield's life and times.             79


who received me most cordially." This record does not, indeed,

imply that anything passed between him and the dissenters, on

the subject of freedom; but still the coincidence is remarkable,

because none of his former visits with dissenters drew forth any

apostrophe to liberty. Then, however, he was only personally

assailed; but now that his converts were threatened with prose-

cutions, nothing was more likely to lead his thoughts to the

subject, than a visit to Dr. Watts, even if nothing was said on

the subject. For Whitefield could not but see that he must

soon need for himself and his adherents, the whole panoply of

toleration, if he preached in the open air: and that, he had

made up his mind to do, two days before he penned his apos-

trophe. "Jan. 28th, Sunday. Received the sacrament at

Crooked Lane church: afterwards went and preached at Iron-

monger's Alms-houses — not doubting, but there would be hun-

dreds more than the chapel would hold. I took two written

sermons with me — one for within — and the other for without.

But to my surprise (he might have said disappointment, for he

wished to get out!) found no more than could conveniently hear

me from the pulpit." In the course of a few days, he also ex-

horted the society at Dowgate Hill, particularly, "not to forsake

the assembling of themselves together, notwithstanding the

people of the house had been threatened with a prosecution."

Thus, wherever Whitefield caught the love of religious liberty,

he soon both cherished and spread the sacred flame, when into-

lerance menaced his friends.


In the space of a fortnight from this time, Whitefield was

preaching to the Bristol colliers, on Hannam Mount, at Rose

Green; and on the twenty-seventh of April, he preached in

Islington churchyard. The churchwarden of Islington had de-

manded him to produce his licence, although he went there by

the vicar's appointment, to officiate. "For peace' sake, I de-

clined preaching in the church; and after the communion,

preached in the churchyard; being assured my Master now

called me out here, as well as at Bristol." Next day he writes

thus:  "Preached again in Islington churchyard, to a congre-

gation nearly as large again as yesterday. The second lesson

was very applicable; being Acts xxv. I can say with St. Paul,


80        Whitefield's life and times.


‘Neither against the temple, nor against Caesar, have I done any

thing;' and yet I am cast out and reviled as an evil-doer: but

the Scriptures must be fulfilled — 'If they have persecuted Me,

they will also persecute you.'" The people must have been

struck by this coincidence: for they had given Whitefield a

collection for his orphan-house, amounting to £22, only a few

weeks before; and nothing had happened in the interval to dis-

qualify him for the pulpit, but field preaching; and that had

not startled the vicar. The fact is, Stonehouse, the vicar, was

friendly to the methodists, and disliked by the heads of the

parish. I have seen some of his sermons, the fidelity of which

is almost ferocious.


At this time, too, all London was ringing with the announce-

ment, that Whitefield would preach next day (Sunday) in Moor-

fields. "The thing being new and singular," says Gillies,

"he found, on coming out of the coach, an incredible number

of people assembled. Many had told him that he should never

come out of that place alive. He went in, however, between

two friends, who by the pressure of the crowd were soon parted

from him entirely, and obliged to leave him to the mercy of the

rabble. But these, instead of hurting him, formed a lane for

him, and carried him along to the middle of the fields, where a

table had been placed, (which was broken in pieces by the

crowd,) and afterwards back again to the wall that then parted

the upper and lower Moorfields; from which he preached with-

out molestation, to an exceeding great multitude, in the lower



This is not too oratorically told for the greatness of the occa-

sion. That was worthy of a more graphic and glowing pen,

than has yet tried to depict the scene. Whitefield himself, how-

ever, summed up the whole matter, in his corrected journals,

thus:  "Sunday, April 29. Begun to be yet more vile this day;

for I preached at Moorfields to an exceeding great multitude:

and, at five in the evening, went and preached at Kennington

Common, where upwards of twenty thousand people were sup-

posed to be present. The wind being for me, it carried my voice

to the extremest part of the audience. All stood attentive, and

joined in the psalm and the Lord's prayer so regularly, that I


                                              Whitefield's life and times.         81


scarce ever preached with more quietness in a church. Many

were much affected.


               For this — let men revile my name,

               I'd shun no cross, I'd fear no shame,

               All hail, reproach, and welcome, pain!

               Only thy terrors, Lord, restrain."


Such was his own bulletin of this "great field day,” when he

wrote for posterity: — for this is part of his autobiography.

When he wrote for his public journals, he merely said, "Preach-

ed in the morning at Moorfields to an exceeding great multi-

tude." Then, as if he had done no great thing, he adds,

"Went to Christ Church, and heard Dr. Trapp preach most

virulently against me and my friends, from these words,

‘Be not righteous over-much.' God gave me great serenity

of mind; but, alas, the preacher was not so calm as I wished



It is remarkable that none of his letters, at this time, refer to

the enterprise. Two days before it, he wrote to a friend, "To-

day my Master, by his providence and Spirit, compelled me to

preach in the churchyard of Islington. To-morrow I am to

repeat that mad trick, and on Sunday to go out into Moorfields.

I preach until I sweat through and through." Even his diary

contains nothing on the subject, but the following simple note:

"Words cannot well express the glorious displays of divine

grace, which we saw, and heard of, and felt," this day. He

had, however, a decided opinion upon both the measure and its

success. "All agreed," he says, "that it was never seen on

this ways before. I hope a good inroad has been made into the

devil's kingdom this day. Lord, not unto me, but unto thy

name be all the glory." Journals.


Even all this, with all the prospects which it must have

opened of London as a sphere for vast usefulness, did not divert

nor divide Whitefield's heart from his "poor orphans or his

little flock" in the colony; for on the very day after, he refused

to preach at all, that he might devote himself to their interests.

"April 30. Received letters from Georgia this evening, telling

me of the affairs of the colony. They have a melancholy aspect


82          Whitefield's life and times.


at present; but our extremity is God's opportunity. Lord, thou

callest me: lo, I come!"


"For several months after this," says Gillies, "Moorfields,

Kennington Common, and Blackheath, were the chief scenes of

action. At a moderate computation, the auditories often con-

sisted of above twenty thousand. It is said their singing could

be heard two miles off, and his voice nearly a mile. Sometimes

there were upwards of a hundred coaches, besides waggons,

scaffolds, and other contrivances, which persons let out for the

convenience of the audience." The rising ground on Black-

heath, from which Whitefield preached, is still known as

"Whitefield's Mount." After his death, one of his noble friends

(I believe) planted it with fir-trees. Many spots in the coun-

try, also, are thus hallowed by his name; and of these, none is

more hallowed than a field at Gornal in Staffordshire. When

I visited that "hill of Zion," Whitefield's park was the first

object pointed out to me, although the hill of Gornal is crown-

ed with the most complete establishment for religious instruc-

tion I have ever seen in a rural district. The reason was ob-

vious: Whitefield had laid the foundation of that establishment.

And Gornal is just the spot that was sure to arrest him! He

could not have looked down from that mount, into the vast cup

of the surrounding valley, without weeping over the population.

He must have wished his mighty voice mightier, that he might

cry down to them all! He did what he could; — set a lamp upon

the hill.


But to return to the metropolis. He was much disappointed

and grieved to find that, notwithstanding all the money he had

formerly obtained for the London charities, he was not allowed

to collect for Georgia, except in a few churches. He had,

therefore, to carry his "begging case" into the fields with him.

Gillies says, "Having no other method to take, he was obliged

to collect for the orphan-house in the fields, or not at all, which

was humbling to himself, and to the friends who assisted him

in that work; but the readiness with which the people gave,

and the prayers they put up while throwing in their mites, were

very encouraging."  They were so: for he thus obtained up-

wards of a thousand pounds for his orphan-house. He himself


                                              Whitefield's life and times.             83


says, "The readiness with which the people gave is inexpressi-

ble: for I think they could not have expressed more earnest-

ness, or taken more pains, had they all been to have received

an alms. One sign this, I hope, that the word of God has

taken hold of their hearts."


On one occasion he collected in Moorfields, £52 19s. 6d.,

"of which, above twenty pounds was in halfpence." On an-

other, at Kennington, sixteen, of £47, was in copper. He

says, "I was one of the collectors; and methinks it would

have delighted almost anyone to have seen with what eager-

ness the people came up both sides of the eminence on which I

stood, and afterwards to the coach doors, to throw in their

mites! "He saw, however, how all this would seem to the

Pharisees, and anticipated them thus, in his public journal:

"Preached to nearly sixty thousand people in Moorfields, and

collected £29 175. 5d. and came home deeply humbled with a

sense of what God had done for my soul. I doubt not but

many self-righteous bigots, when they see me spreading out my

hands to offer Jesus Christ freely to all, are ready to cry out, —

'How glorious did the Reverend Mr. Whitefield look to-day,

when, neglecting the dignity of a clergyman, he stood venting

his enthusiastic ravings in a gown and cassock, and collecting

mites from the poor people!' But if this be vile. Lord, grant

that I may be more vile! Ye scoffers, mock on: I rejoice, yea,

and will rejoice." (He calls them "Pharisees," in his public

journal; but in his Life, he calls them bigots and scoffers.)


On this memorable day, he received the first letter from

Ralph Erskine, "a field preacher of the Scots church, and a

noble soldier of the Lord Jesus Christ," as he calls him then.

He had added to this record, in his public journal, "Oh that

all that are truly zealous knew one another! It must greatly

strengthen each other's hands." Whitefield, however, did not

find all he expected from this mutual knowledge; and therefore

excluded the whole record from his revised journals, in 1756.

By that time, he knew more about the Erskines; and though

he still venerated their Christian character highly, he was too

honest to compliment their spirit.


Amongst other coincidences in this memorable week, none


84              Whitefield's life and times.


gratified him more than the grant of five hundred acres of land

to himself and his successors forever, for the use of the orphan-

house, by the honourable trustees for Georgia. "They re-

ceived me with the utmost civility, and agreed to everything I

asked." This, be it remembered, was done at the very time

when all the city was moved by his "mad trick" in the fields;

and he returned the compliment to the Honourable Board, by

leaving them, to preach that evening to twenty thousand people

at Kennington, where (judging from the collection after the

sermon) he seems to have mentioned the grant made to him in

the morning. "At night," he says, "my heart was so full,

that I could not well speak. I could only pour it out in awful

silence. Oh the happiness of communion with God!"


It was also at the height and heat of this crisis, that he en-

gaged a passage for himself and eleven others, on board the

Elizabeth, to Pennsylvania; that he might preach the gospel

and provide for the orphan-house, on his way to Georgia: — so

little was Whitefield's original purpose affected by his popu-

larity. In fact, he never lost sight of it for a moment; for the

delay in sailing arose from an embargo.


A singular incident occurred at this time, which Whitefield

has recorded at considerable length in his journals. A young

man, Joseph Periam, who had read his sermon on Regenera-

tion, and been impressed by it, prayed so loud, and fasted so

long, and sold ''all he had" so literally, that his family sent

him to Bethlehem mad-house. There he was treated as metho-

distically mad, and as "one of Whitefield's gang." The keepers

threw him down, and thrust a key into his mouth, that they

might drench him with medicine. He was then placed in a

cold room, without windows, and with a damp cellar under it.


Periam, however, found some way of conveying a letter to

Whitefield, requesting both advice and a visit. Both were

promptly given. Whitefield soon discovered that Periam was

not mad; and, taking Mr. Seward and some other friends with

him, he went before the committee of the hospital to explain

the case. Seward seems to have been the chief speaker; and

he so astounded the committee by quoting Scripture, that they

pronounced him as mad as the young man! It must have been


                                              Whitefield's life and times.         85


a ludicrous scene. The doctors told the whole deputation

frankly, that, in their opinion, Whitefield and his followers were

"really beside themselves." It was, however, agreed that if

Whitefield would take Periam out to Georgia, a release would

be granted. Thus the conference ended; and the young man

went out as a schoolmaster at the orphan-house. There he

was useful and exemplary to the last; and when he died, two of

his sons were received into the school.


Whilst the embargo continued, Whitefield made some run-

ning excursions into the country, with great success. Before

leaving London, however, he went to St. Paul's, with the Fet-

ter Lane society, and received the sacrament as "a testimony,"

he says, "that we adhered to the church of England." He was

perfectly sincere in this; but many churchmen thought it a

strange adherence, when he went from St. Paul's to Moorfields

and Kennington Common, and preached to 30,000 people! This

was adherence to Christ and Paul only.


After spending a week about Northamptonshire, where Dod-

dridge received him "most courteously," he returned to London,

and added Hackney Fields to the list of his preaching stations.

There he made that tremendous attack upon "the impiety of

the letter-learned teachers, who count the doctrine of the new

birth enthusiasm," which drew upon him the wrath of the

clergy. "I could not help," he says, "exposing the impiety of

these vile teachers, who say we are not now to receive the Holy

Ghost. Out of your own mouths I will condemn you, ye blind

guides! Did you not, at the time of ordination, tell the bishop

that you — were inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost, to take

upon you the administration of the church? Surely at that

time you acted the part of Ananias and Sapphira over again.

Surely, says Bishop Burnet, you lied not only unto man but

unto God."


This is the revised form of the charge. As he first published

it, he did not quote Burnet, nor use the word "vile." That

word he substituted for the epithet "letter-learned," because

Warburton and others represented him as a despiser of learning.


The first answer given to his sermon on Regeneration, was

by Tristram Land, A. M. curate of St. James's, Garlickhithe.