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Title: A Sketch of the Life and Labors of George Whitefield
Author: Ryle, John Charles
Language: English
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                                  A SKETCH
                                   OF THE
                               LIFE AND LABORS
                              GEORGE WHITEFIELD.

                                   BY THE
                            REV. J. C. RYLE, B.A.,

                Author of "A Call to Prayer," "Living or Dead,"
                      "Wheat and Chaff," "The Cross," &c.

                      ANSON D. F. RANDOLPH, 683 BROADWAY

                              GEORGE WHITEFIELD.

There are some men in the pages of history, whose greatness no person of
common sense thinks of disputing. They tower above the herd of mankind,
like the Pyramids, the Parthenon, and the Colosseum, among buildings.
Such men were Luther and Augustine, Gustavus Adolphus and George
Washington, Columbus and Sir Isaac Newton. He who questions _their_
greatness must be content to be thought very ignorant, very prejudiced,
or very eccentric. Public opinion has come to a conclusion about
them--they were great men.

But there are also great men whose reputation lies buried under a heap
of contemporary ill-will and misrepresentation. The world does not
appreciate them, because the world does not know their real worth. Their
characters have come down to us through poisoned channels. Their
portraits have been drawn by the ill-natured hand of enemies. Their
faults have been exaggerated. Their excellences have been maliciously
kept back and suppressed. Like the famous sculptures of Nineveh, they
need the hand of some literary Layard to clear away the rubbish that has
accumulated round their names, and show them to the world in their fair
proportions. Such men were Vigilantius and Wickliffe. Such men were
Oliver Cromwell and many of the Puritans. And such a man was George

There are few men whose characters have suffered so much from ignorance
and misrepresentation of the truth as Whitefield's.

That he was a famous Methodist, and ally of John Wesley, in the last
century; that he was much run after by ignorant people, for his
preaching; that many thought him an enthusiast and fanatic; all this is
about as much as most Englishmen know.

But that he was one of the principal champions of evangelical religion
in the eighteenth century in our own country; that he was one of the
most powerful and effective preachers that ever lived; that he was a man
of extraordinary singleness of eye, and devotedness to the interests of
true religion; that he was a regularly ordained clergyman of the Church
of England, and would always have worked in the Church, if the Church
had not, most unwisely, shut him out; all these are things, of which few
people seem aware. And yet, after calm examination of his life and
writings, I am satisfied this is the true account that ought to be given
of George Whitefield.

My chief desire is to assist in forming a just estimate of Whitefield's
worth. I wish to lend a helping hand towards raising his name from the
undeservedly low place which is commonly assigned to it. I wish to place
him before your eyes as a noble specimen of what the grace of God can
enable one man to do. I want you to treasure up his name in your
memories, as one of the brightest in that company of departed saints who
were, in their day, patterns of good works, and of whom the world was
not worthy.

I propose, therefore, without further preface, to give you a hasty
sketch of Whitefield's _times_, Whitefield's _life_, Whitefield's
_religion_, Whitefield's _preaching_, and Whitefield's _actual work on

       *       *       *       *       *

1. The story of Whitefield's times is one that should often be told.
Without it, no body is qualified to form an opinion either as to the man
or his acts. Conduct that in one kind of times may seem rash,
extravagant, and indiscreet, in another may be wise, prudent, and even
absolutely necessary. In forming your opinion of the comparative merits
of Christian men, never forget the old rule: "Distinguish between
times." Place yourself in each man's position. Do not judge what was a
right course of action in other times, by what seems a right course of
action in your own.

Now, the times when Whitefield lived were, unquestionably, the worst
times that have ever been known in this country, since the Protestant
Reformation. There never was a greater mistake than to talk of "the good
old times." The times of the eighteenth century, at any rate, were "bad
old times," unmistakably. Whitefield was born in 1714. He died in 1770.
It is not saying too much to assert, that this was precisely the darkest
age that England has passed through in the last three hundred years. Any
thing more deplorable than the condition of the country, as to religion,
morality, and high principle, from 1700 to about the era of the French
Revolution, it is very difficult to conceive.

The state of religion in the Established Church can only be compared to
that of a frozen or palsied carcass. _There_ were the time-honored
formularies which the wisdom of the Reformers had provided. _There_ were
the services and lessons from Scripture, just in the same order as we
have them now. But, as to preaching the gospel in the Established
Church, there was almost none. The distinguishing doctrines of
Christianity--the atonement, the work and office of Christ and the
Spirit--were comparatively lost sight of. The vast majority of sermons
were miserable moral essays, utterly devoid of any thing calculated to
awaken, convert, save, or sanctify souls. The curse of black
Bartholomew-day seemed to rest upon our Church. For at least a century
after casting out two thousand of the best ministers in England, our
Establishment never prospered.

There were some learned and conscientious bishops at this era, beyond
question. Such men were Secker, and Gibson, and Lowth, and Warburton,
and Butler, and Horne. But even the best of them sadly misunderstood the
requirements of the day they lived in. They spent their strength in
writing apologies for Christianity, and contending against infidels.
They could not see that, without the direct preaching of the essential
doctrines of Christ's gospel, their labors were all in vain. And, as to
the majority of the bishops, they were potent for negative evil, but
impotent for positive good; giants at stopping what they thought
disorder, but infants at devising any thing to promote real order;
mighty to repress over-zealous attempts at evangelization, but weak to
put in action any remedy for the evils of the age; eagle-eyed at
detecting any unhappy wight who trod on the toes of a rubric or canon,
but blind as bats to the flood of indolence and false doctrine with
which their dioceses were every where deluged.

That there were many well-read, respectable and honorable men among the
parochial clergy at this period, it would be wrong to deny. But few, it
is to be feared, out of the whole number, preached Christ crucified in
simplicity and sincerity. Many whose lives were decent and moral, were
notoriously Arians, if not Socinians. Many were totally engrossed in
secular pursuits; they neither did good themselves, nor liked any one
else to do it for them. They hunted; they shot; they drank; they swore;
they fiddled; they farmed; they toasted Church and King, and thought
little or nothing about saving souls. And as for the man who dared to
preach the doctrine of the Bible, the Articles, and the Homilies, he was
sure to be set down as an enthusiast and fanatic.

The state of religion among the Dissenters was only a few degrees better
than the state of the Church. The toleration which they enjoyed from
William the Third's time was certainly productive of a very bad
spiritual effect on them as a body. As soon as they ceased to be
persecuted, they appear to have gone to sleep. The Baptist and
Independent could still point to Gill, and Guyse, and Doddridge, and
Watts, and a few more like-minded men. But the English Presbyterians
were fast lapsing into Socinianism. And as to the great majority of
nonconformists, it is vain to deny that they were very different men
from Baxter, and Flavel, and Gurnall, and Traill. A generation of
preachers arose who were very orthodox, but painfully cold; very
conscientious, but very wanting in spirituality; very constant in their
objections to the Established Church, but very careless about spreading
vital Christianity.

I deeply feel the difficulty of conveying a correct impression of the
times when Whitefield lived. I dislike over-statement as much as any
one, but I am thoroughly persuaded it is not easy to make an
over-statement on this branch of my subject.

These were the times when the highest personages in the realm lived
openly in ways which were flatly contrary to the law of God, and no man
rebuked them. No courts, I suppose, can be imagined more diametrically
unlike than the courts of George I. and George II., and the court of
Queen Victoria.

These were the times when profligacy and irreligion were reputable and
respectable things. Judging from the description we have of men and
manners in those days, a gentleman might have been defined as a creature
who got drunk, gambled, swore, fought duels, and broke the seventh
commandment incessantly. And for all this, no one thought the worse of

These were the days when the men whom kings delighted to honor were
Bolingbroke, Chesterfield, Walpole, and Newcastle. To be an infidel or a
skeptic, to obtain power by intrigue, and to retain power by the
grossest and most notorious bribery, were considered no
disqualifications at this era. Such was the utter want of religion,
morality, and high principle in the land, that men such as these were
not only tolerated, but praised.

These were the days when Hume, the historian, put forth his work, became
famous, and got a pension. He was notoriously an infidel. These were the
days when Sterne and Swift wrote their clever, but most indecent
productions. Both were clergymen, and high in the Church; but the public
saw no harm. These were the days when Fielding and Smollet were the
popular authors, and the literary taste of high and low was suited by
Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, Joseph Andrews, and Tom Jones.

These were the days when Knox says, in his history of Christian
Philosophy: "Some of the most learned men--the most voluminous writers
on theological subjects--were _totally ignorant of Christianity_. They
were ingenious heathen philosophers, assuming the name of Christians,
and forcibly paganizing Christianity, for the sake of pleasing the
world." These were the days when Archbishop Drummond (1760) could talk
of "intricate and senseless questions, about the influence of the Spirit
the power of grace, predestination, imputed righteousness, justification
without works, and other opinions which have from the beginning
perplexed and perverted, debased, defiled, and wounded Christianity."
These were the days when Bishop Warburton considered the teaching office
of the Holy Ghost to be completed in the Holy Scriptures, and that his
sanctifying and comforting offices are chiefly confined to charity. Such
were the leading ministers. What must the mass of teachers have been!
Such were the _priests_ of Whitefield's time. What must have been the

These were the days when there was an utter dearth of sound theological
writing. The doctrines of the Reformers were trampled under foot by men
who sat in their chairs. The bread of the Church was eaten by men who
flatly contradicted her Articles. The appetite of religious people was
satisfied with "Tillotson's Sermons," and the "Whole Duty of Man." A
pension of two hundred pounds a year was actually given to Blair, of
Edinburgh, for writing his most unchristian sermons. Ask any theological
bookseller, and he will tell you that, generally speaking, no divinity
is so worthless as that of the eighteenth century.

In fine, these were the days when there was no Society for promoting the
increase of true religion, but the Christian Knowledge Society, and the
Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. And even their work was
comparatively trifling. Nothing was done for the Jew. Nothing was done
for the heathen. Nothing, almost, was done for the colonies. Nothing was
done for the destitute parts of our own country. Nothing was done for
education. The Church slept. The dissenters slept. The pulpit slept. The
religious press slept. The gates were left wide open. The walls were
left unguarded. Infidelity stalked in. The Devil sowed tares broadcast,
and walked to and fro. The gentry gloried in their shame, and no man
pointed out their wickedness. The people sinned with a high hand, and no
man taught them better. Ignorance, profligacy, irreligion, and
superstition, were to be seen every where. Such were the times when
Whitefield was raised up.

I know that this is a dreadful picture. I marvel God did not sweep away
the Church altogether. But I believe that the picture is not one whit
too highly colored. It is painful to expose such a state of things. But,
for Whitefield's sake, the truth ought to be known. Justice has not been
done to him, because the condition of the times he lived in is not
considered. The times he lived in were extraordinary times, and required
extraordinary means to be used. And whatever quiet men, sitting by their
fireside in our day, may say to the contrary, I am satisfied that
Whitefield was just the man for his times.

       *       *       *       *       *

2. The story of Whitefield's life, which forms the next part of our
subject, is one that is soon told. The facts and incidents of that life
are few and simple, and I shall not dwell upon them at any length.

Whitefield was born in 1714. Like many other great men, he was of very
humble origin. His father and mother kept the Bell Inn, in the city of
Gloucester. Whether there is such an inn now, I do not know. But,
judging from Whitefield's account of his circumstances, it must formerly
have been a very small concern.

Whitefield's early life seems to have been any thing but religious,
though he had occasional fits of devout feeling. He speaks of himself as
having been addicted to lying, filthy talking, and foolish jesting. He
confesses that he was a Sabbath-breaker, a theatre-goer, a card-player,
and a romance-reader. All this went on till he was twelve or fifteen
years old.

At the age of twelve he was placed at a grammar-school in Gloucester.
Little is known of his progress there, excepting the curious fact that
even then he was remarkable for his good elocution and memory, and was
selected to make speeches before the corporation, at their annual

At the age of fifteen he appears to have become tired of Latin and
Greek, and to have given up all hopes of ever becoming more than a
tradesman. He ceased to take lessons in any thing but writing. He began
to assist his mother in the public-house that she kept. "At length," he
says, "I put on my blue apron, washed mops, cleaned rooms, and, in one
word, became a professed common drawer for nigh a year and a half."

But God, who ordereth all things in heaven and earth, and called David
from keeping sheep to be a king, had provided some better thing for
Whitefield than the office of a pot-boy. Family disagreements interfered
with his prospects at the Bell Inn. An old schoolfellow stirred up again
within him the desire of going to the University. And at length, after
several providential circumstances had smoothed the way, he was
launched, at the age of eighteen, at Oxford, in a position at that time
much more humbling than it is now, as a servitor at Pembroke College.

Whitefield's Oxford career seems to have been the turning-point in his
life. According to his own journal, he had not been without religious
convictions for two or three years before he went to Oxford. From the
time of his entering Pembroke College, these convictions rapidly ripened
into decided Christianity. He became marked for his attendance on all
means of grace within his reach. He spent his leisure time in visiting
the city prisons and doing good. He formed an acquaintance with the
famous John Wesley and his brother Charles, which gave a color to the
whole of his subsequent life. At one time he seems to have had a narrow
escape from becoming a semi-papist, an ascetic, or a mystic. From this
he seems to have been delivered, partly by the advice of wiser and more
experienced Christians, and partly by reading such books as Scougal's
"Life of God in the Soul of Man," Law's "Serious Call," Baxter's "Call
to the Unconverted," and Alleine's "Alarm to Unconverted Sinners." At
length, in 1736, at the early age of twenty-two, he was ordained deacon
by Bishop Benson, of Gloucester, and began to run that ministerial race
in which he never drew breath till he was laid in the grave.

His first sermon was preached in St. Mary-le-Crypt, Gloucester. It was
said to have driven fifteen persons mad. Bishop Benson remarked, that he
only hoped the madness might continue. He next accepted temporary duty
at the Tower Chapel, London. While engaged there, he preached
continually in many of the London churches, and among others, in the
parish churches of Islington, Bishopsgate, St. Dunstan's, St. Margaret,
Westminster, and Bow, Cheapside. From the very beginning he attained a
degree of popularity such as no preacher, probably, before or since, has
ever reached. To say that the churches were crowded when he preached,
would be saying little. They were literally crammed to suffocation. An
eye-witness said, "You might have walked on the people's heads."

From London he removed for a few months to Dummer, a little rural parish
in Hampshire, near Basingstoke. From Dummer he sailed for the colony of
Georgia, in North America, after visiting Gloucester and Bristol, and
preaching in crowded churches in each place. The object of his voyage
was to assist the Wesleys in the care of an Orphan House which they had
established in Georgia for the children of colonists who died there. The
management of this Orphan House ultimately devolved entirely on
Whitefield, and entailed on him a world of responsibility and anxiety
all his life long. Though well meant, it seems to have been a design of
very questionable wisdom.[A]

  [A] This Orphan House at Savannah is now in a flourishing
      condition, and of great usefulness.

Whitefield returned from Georgia after about two years' absence, partly
to obtain priest's orders, which were conferred on him by Bishop Benson,
and partly on business connected with the Orphan House. And now we reach
the era in his life when he was obliged, by circumstances, to take up a
line of conduct as a minister which he probably at one time never
contemplated, but which was made absolutely necessary by the treatment
he received.

It appears that, on arriving in London after his first visit to
Georgia, he found the countenances of many of the clergy no longer
towards him as they were before. They had taken fright at some
expressions in his published letters, and some reports of his conduct in
America. They were scandalized at his preaching the doctrine of
regeneration in the way that he did, as a thing which many of their
parishioners needed. The pulpits of many churches were flatly refused to
him. Churchwardens, who had no eyes for heresy and drunkenness, were
filled with virtuous indignation about what they called breaches of
order. Bishops who could tolerate Arianism and Socinianism, got into a
state of excitement about a man who simply preached the gospel, and put
forth warnings against fanaticism and enthusiasm. In short, Whitefield's
field of usefulness within the Church was rapidly narrowed on every

The step which seems to have decided Whitefield's course of action at
this period of his life, was his adoption of open-air preaching. He had
gone to Islington, on a Sunday in April, 1739, to preach for the vicar,
his friend, Mr. Stonehouse. In the midst of the prayers, the
churchwarden came to him, and demanded his license for preaching in the
London diocese. This Whitefield, of course, had not got, any more than
any clergyman not regularly officiating in the diocese has at this day.
The upshot of the matter was, that being forbidden to preach in the
pulpit, he went outside, after the service, and preached in the
churchyard. From that day, he regularly took up the practice of open-air
preaching. Wherever there were large open fields around London; wherever
there were large bands of idle, church-despising, Sabbath-breaking
people gathered together--there went Whitefield and lifted up his voice.
The gospel so proclaimed was listened to, and greedily received by
hundreds who had never dreamed of visiting a place of worship. In
Moorfields, in Hackney Fields, in Mary-le-bone Fields, in May Fair, in
Smithfield, on Kennington Common, on Blackheath, Sunday after Sunday,
Whitefield preached to admiring masses. Ten thousand, fifteen thousand,
twenty thousand, thirty thousand, were computed sometimes to have heard
him at once. The cause of pure religion, beyond doubt, was advanced.
Souls were plucked from the hand of Satan, as brands from the burning.
But it was going much too fast for the Church of those days. The clergy,
with very few exceptions, would have nothing to do with this strange
preacher. In short, the ministrations of Whitefield in the pulpits of
the Establishment, with an occasional exception, from this time ceased.
He loved the Church. He gloried in her Articles and Formularies. He used
her Prayer Book with delight. But the Church did not love him, and so
lost the use of his services. The plain truth is, the Church of England
of that day was not ready for a man like Whitefield. The Church was too
much asleep to understand him.

From this date to the day of his death, a period of thirty-one
years, Whitefield's life was one uniform employment. From Sunday
morning to Saturday night--from the 1st of January to the 31st
of December--excepting when laid aside by illness, he was almost
incessantly preaching. There was hardly a considerable town in England,
Scotland, and Wales, that he did not visit. When churches were opened to
him, he gladly preached in churches. When chapels only were offered, he
cheerfully preached in chapels. When church and chapel alike were
closed, he was ready and willing to preach in the open air. For
thirty-four years he labored in this way, always proclaiming the same
glorious gospel, and always, as far as a man's eye can judge, with
immense effect. In one single Whitsuntide week, after he had been
preaching in Moorfields, he received one thousand letters from people
under spiritual concern, and admitted to the Lord's table three hundred
and fifty persons. In the thirty-four years of his ministry, it is
reckoned that he preached publicly eighteen thousand times.

His _journeyings_ were prodigious, when the roads and conveyances of his
times are considered. Fourteen times did he visit Scotland. Seven times
did he cross the Atlantic, backward and forward. Twice he went over to
Ireland. As to England and Wales, he traversed every county in them,
from the Isle of Wight to Berwick-on-Tweed, and from the Land's End to
the North Foreland.

His _regular ministerial work_ in London, when he was not journeying,
was prodigious. His weekly engagements at the Tabernacle in
Tottenham-court Road, which was built for him when the pulpits of the
Established Church were closed, were as follows:--Every Sunday morning
he administered the Lord's Supper to several hundred communicants, at
half-past six. After this he read prayers, and preached, both morning
and afternoon; preached again in the evening at half-past five; and
concluded, by addressing a large society of widows, married people,
young men and spinsters, all sitting separately in the area of the
Tabernacle, with exhortations suitable to their respective stations. On
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings, he preached regularly
at six. On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday evenings,
he delivered lectures. This you will observe made thirteen sermons a
week. And all this time he was carrying on a correspondence with people
in almost every part of the world.

That any human frame could so long endure the labor he went through,
does indeed seem wonderful. That his life was not shortened by violence,
is no less wonderful. Once he was nearly stoned to death by a Popish mob
in Dublin. Once he was nearly murdered in bed by an angry lieutenant of
the navy at Plymouth. Once he narrowly escaped being stabbed by the
sword of a rakish young gentleman in Moorfields; but he was immortal
till his work was done. He died at last at Newburyport, in North
America, from a fit of asthma, at the age of fifty-six. His last sermon
was preached only twenty-four hours before his death. It was an open-air
discourse two hours long. Like Bishop Jewell, he almost died preaching.
He left no children. He was once married, and the marriage does not seem
to have contributed much to his happiness. But he left a name far better
than that of sons and daughters. Never, I believe, was there a man of
whom it could be so truly said, that he spent and was spent for God.

       *       *       *       *       *

3. The story of _Whitefield's religion_ is the next part of the subject
that I proposed to take up, and unquestionably it is one of no little

What sort of doctrine did this wonderful man preach? an inquirer may
reasonably ask. What were the standards of faith to which he adhered
under the Bible? What were the peculiar essentials of this religious
teaching of his, which was so universally spoken against in his day?

The answer to all these questions is short and simple. Whitefield was a
real, genuine son of the Church of England. As such he was brought up in
early youth. As such he was educated at Oxford. As such he preached as
long as he was allowed to preach within the Establishment. As such he
preached when he was outside. References to the Prayer Book, Articles,
and Homilies, abound in all his writings and sermons. His constant reply
to his numerous opponents was, that HE at any rate was consistent with
the formularies of his own Church, and that THEY were not. It is not at
all too much to say, that when practically cast out of the
Establishment, Whitefield was an infinitely better churchman than ten
thousand of the men who received the tithes of the Church of England,
and remained comfortably behind.

Whitefield no doubt was not a churchman of the stamp of Archbishop Laud
and his school. He was not the man to put a Romish interpretation on our
excellent Formularies, and to place Church and sacraments before Christ.
He was not a churchman of the stamp of Tillotson and the school that
followed him. He did not lay aside justification by faith, and the need
of grace, for semi-heathen disquisitions about morality and duty, virtue
and vice. And he was quite right. Laud and his followers went infinitely
beyond the doctrines of our Church. Tillotson and his school fell
infinitely below.

But if a churchman is a man who reads the Articles, and Liturgy, and
Homilies, in the sense of the men who compiled them--if a churchman is a
man who sympathizes with Cranmer, and Latimer, and Hooper, and
Jewell--if a churchman is a man who honors doctrines and ordinances in
the order and proportion that the Thirty-nine Articles honor them--if
this be the true definition of a churchman, then Whitefield was the
highest style of churchman--as true a churchman as ever breathed. And
as for Whitefield's adversaries, they were little better than shams and
impostors. They had place and power on their side, but they scarcely
deserve to be called churchmen at all.

Perhaps no better test of Whitefield's religious opinions can be
supplied, than the list of authors in divinity which he wrote out for
the use of a college connected with his Orphan House in Georgia. Of
churchmen, this List includes the names of Archbishop Leighton, Bishop
Hall, and Burkitt; of Puritans, Pool, Owen, and Bunyan; of Dissenters,
Matthew Henry and Doddridge; of Scotch Presbyterians, Wilson and Boston.
All these are men whose praise is even now in all the churches. These,
let us understand, were the kind of men with whom he was of one mind in

As to the substance of Whitefield's theological teaching, the simplest
account I can give of it is, that it was purely _evangelical_. There
were four main things that he never lost sight of in his sermons. These
four were: man's complete ruin by sin, and consequent natural corruption
of heart; man's complete redemption by Christ, and complete
justification before God by faith in Christ; man's need of regeneration
by the Spirit, and entire renewal of heart and life; and man's utter
want of any title to be considered a living Christian, unless he is dead
to sin and lives a holy life.

Whitefield had no notion of flattering men, and speaking smooth things
to them, merely because they were baptized and called Christians, and
sometimes came to church. He only looked at one prominent feature in the
thousands he saw around him; and that was, the general character of
their lives. He saw the lives of these multitudes were utterly
contradictory to the Bible, and utterly at variance with the principles
of the Church to which they professed to belong. He waited for nothing
more. He looked for no further evidence. He judged of trees by their
fruits. He told these thousands at once that they were in danger of
being lost for ever--that they were in the broad way that leads to
destruction--that they were dead, and must be made alive again--that
they were lost, and must be found. He told them that if they loved life,
they must immediately repent--they must become new creatures--they must
be converted, they must be _born again_. And I believe the apostles
would have done just the same.

But Whitefield was just as full and explicit in setting forth the way to
heaven as he was in setting forth the way to hell. When he saw that
men's consciences were pricked and their fears aroused, he would open
the treasure-house of gospel mercy, and spread forth before a
congregation its unsearchable stores. He would unfold to them the
amazing love of God the Father to a fallen world--that love from which
he gave his only-begotten Son, and on account of which, while we were
yet sinners, Christ died for us. He would show them the amazing love of
God the Son in taking our nature on him, and suffering for us, the just
for the unjust. He would tell them of Jesus able to save to the
uttermost all that would come to God by him--Jesus and his everlasting
righteousness, in which the vilest sinners might stand complete and
perfect before the throne of God--Jesus and the blood of sprinkling,
which could wash the blackest sins away--Jesus, the High Priest, waiting
to receive all who would come to him, and not only mighty, but ready to
save. And all this glorious salvation, he would tell men, was close to
them. It was not far above them, like heaven. It was not deep beneath
them, like hell. It was near at hand. It was within their reach. He
would urge them at once to accept it. The man that felt his sins and
desired deliverance had only to believe and be saved, to ask and
receive, to wash and be clean. And was he not right to say so? I believe
the apostles would have said much the same.

But while Whitefield addressed the careless and ungodly masses in this
style, he never failed to urge on those who made a high profession of
religion their responsibility, and to stir them up to walk worthy of
their high calling. He never tolerated men who talked well about
religion, but lived inconsistent lives. Such men, no doubt, there were
about him, but it is pretty certain they got no quarter from him. On the
contrary, one of his biographers tells us that he was especially careful
to impress on all the members of his congregation the absolute necessity
of adorning the doctrine of God in all the relations of life. Masters
and servants, rich people and poor, old and young, married and single,
each and all were plainly exhorted to glorify God in their respective
positions. One day he would tell the young men of his congregation to
beware of being like one he heard of, whose uncle described him as such
a jumble of religion and business, that he was fit for neither. Another
day he would hold up the example of a widow, remarkable for her
confidence in God. Another day he would say to them, "God convert you
more and more every hour of the day; God convert you from lying in bed
in the morning; God convert you from lukewarmness; God convert you from
conformity to the world!" Another day he would warn young men against
leaving their religion behind them as they rose in the world. "Beware,"
he would say, "of being golden apprentices, silver journeymen, and
copper masters." In short, there never was a greater mistake than to
suppose there was any thing Antinomian or licentious in Whitefield's
teaching. It was discriminating, unquestionably. Sinners had their
portion; but saints had their portion too. And what was this but walking
in the very steps of the apostle Paul?

The crowning excellence of Whitefield's teaching was, that he just spoke
of men, things, and doctrines, in the way that the Bible speaks of them,
and the place that the Bible assigns to them. God, Christ, and the
Spirit--sin, justification, conversion, and sanctification--impenitent
sinners the most miserable of people--believing saints the most
privileged of people--the world a vain and empty thing--heaven the only
rest for an immortal soul--the Devil a tremendous and ever-watchful
foe--holiness the only true happiness--hell a real and certain portion
for the unconverted; these were the kind of subjects which filled
Whitefield's mind, and formed the staple of his ministry. To say that he
undervalued the sacraments would be simply false. His weekly communions
at the Tabernacle are an answer that speaks for itself. But he never put
the first things in Christianity second, and the second first. He never
put doctrine below sacraments, and sacraments above doctrine. And who
shall dare to blame him for this? He only followed the proportion of the

It is only fair to add, that Whitefield exemplified in his practice the
religion that he preached. He had faults, unquestionably. I have not
come here to make him out a perfect being. He often erred in judgment.
He was often hasty, both with his tongue and with his pen. He had no
business to say that Archbishop Tillotson knew no more of religion than
Mahomet. He was wrong to set down some people as the Lord's enemies, and
others as the Lord's friends, so precipitately as he sometimes did. He
was to blame for styling many of the clergy letter-learned Pharisees,
because they could not receive the doctrine of the new birth. But still,
after all this has been said, there can be no doubt that, in the main,
he was a holy, self-denying, and consistent man. Even his worst enemies
can say nothing to the contrary.

He was, to the very end, a man of _eminent self-denial_. His style of
living was most simple. He refused money when it was pressed upon him,
and once to the amount of £7000. He amassed no fortune. He founded no
wealthy family. The little money he left behind him at his death was
entirely from the legacies of friends.

He was a man of remarkable _disinterestedness_ and singleness of eye. He
seemed to live for only two objects--the glory of God, and the salvation
of immortal souls. He raised no party of followers who took his name. He
established no system, like Wesley, of which his own writings should be
cardinal elements. A frequent expression of his is most characteristic
of the man: "Let the name of George Whitefield perish, so long as Christ
only is exalted."

Last, but not least, he was a man of _extraordinary catholicity_ and
liberality in his religion. He knew nothing of that narrow-minded policy
which prompts a man to fancy that every thing must be barren outside his
own camp, and that his party has got a monopoly of truth and heaven. He
loved all who loved the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. He measured all
by the measure which the angels of God use--"did they possess
repentance towards God, faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ, holiness of
conversation?" If they did, they were as his brethren. His soul was with
such men, by whatever name they were called. Minor differences were
wood, hay, and stubble to him. The marks of the Lord Jesus were the only
marks he cared for. This catholicity is the more remarkable, when the
spirit of the times he lived in is considered. Even the Erskines, in
Scotland, wanted him to preach for no other denomination but their own,
viz., the Secession Church. He asked them, why only for them; and
received the notable answer, that they were the Lord's people. This was
more than Whitefield could stand. He asked if there were no other Lord's
people but themselves. He told them, if all others were the Devil's
people, they certainly had more need to be preached to. And he wound up
by informing them, that if the Pope himself would lend him his pulpit,
he would gladly proclaim the righteousness of Christ in it. To this
catholicity of spirit he adhered all his days. And nothing could be a
more weighty testimony against all narrowness of spirit among believers,
than his request shortly before his death, that when he did die, John
Wesley might be asked to preach his funeral sermon. Wesley and he had
long ceased to see eye to eye on Calvinistic points. But as Calvin
_said_ of Luther, so Whitefield was resolved to _think_ of Wesley. He
was determined to sink minor differences, and to know him only as a good
servant of Jesus Christ.

Such was George Whitefield's religion. Comment, I hope, is needless upon
it. Time, at any rate, forbids me to dwell on it a moment longer. But
surely I think I have shown enough to justify me in expressing a wish
that we had many living ministers in the Church of England like George

       *       *       *       *       *

4. The next part of the subject is one which I feel some difficulty in
handling,--I allude to _Whitefield's preaching_.

I find that this point is one on which much difference of opinion
prevails. I find many are disposed to think that part of Whitefield's
success is attributable to the novelty of gospel doctrines at the time
when he preached, and part to the extraordinary gifts of voice and
delivery with which he was endowed, and that the matter and style of his
sermons were in no wise remarkable. From this opinion I am inclined to
dissent altogether. After calm examination, I have come to the
conclusion that Whitefield was one of the most powerful and
extraordinary preachers the world has ever seen. My belief is, that
hitherto he has never been too highly estimated, and that, on the
contrary, he does not receive the credit he deserves.

One thing is abundantly clear and beyond dispute, and that is, that his
sermons were wonderfully effective. No preacher has ever succeeded in
arresting the attention of such enormous crowds of people as those he
addressed continually in the neighborhood of London. No preacher has
ever been so universally popular in every country he visited, England,
Scotland and America, as he was. No preacher has ever retained his hold
on his hearers so entirely as he did for thirty-four years. His
popularity never waned. It was as great at the end of his days as it was
at the beginning. This of itself is a great fact. To command the ear of
people for thirty-four long years, and be preaching incessantly the
whole time is something that the novelty of the gospel alone will not
account for. The theory that his preaching was popular, because new, to
my mind is utterly unsatisfactory.

Another thing is no less indisputable about his preaching, and that is,
that it produced a powerful effect on people in every rank of life. He
won the suffrages of high as well as low, of rich as well as poor, of
learned as well as unlearned. If his preaching had been popular with
none but the uneducated masses, we might have thought it possible there
was little in it except a striking delivery and a loud voice. But facts
are, unfortunately, against this theory too; and, under the pressure of
these facts, it will be found to break down.

It is a fact, that numbers of the nobility and gentry of Whitefield's
day were warm admirers of his preaching. The Marquis of Lothian, the
Earl of Leven, the Earl of Buchan, Lord Rae, Lord Dartmouth, Lord James
A. Gordon, might be named, among others, besides Lady Huntingdon and a
host of ladies.

It is a fact, that eminent statesmen, like Bolingbroke and Chesterfield,
were frequently his delighted hearers. Even the artificial Chesterfield
was known to warm under Whitefield's eloquence. Bolingbroke has placed
on record his opinion, and said, "He is the most extraordinary man in
our times. He has the most commanding eloquence I ever heard in any

It is a fact, that cool-headed men, like Hume the historian, and
Franklin the philosopher, spoke in no measured terms of his preaching
powers. Franklin has written a long account of the effect his sermons
produced at Philadelphia. Hume declared that it was worth going twenty
miles to hear him.

Now these are facts--simple, historical, and well-authenticated facts.
What shall we say to them? I say that these facts are quite enough to
prove that Whitefield's effectiveness was not owing entirely to delivery
and voice, as some men would have us believe. Bolingbroke and
Chesterfield, and Hume and Franklin, were not such weak men as to allow
their judgments to be biased by any mere external endowments. They were
no mean judges of eloquence. They were, probably, among the best
qualified critics of the day. And I say confidently, that their opinion
can only be explained by the fact, that Whitefield was indeed a most
powerful and extraordinary preacher.

But still, after all, the question remains to be answered, What was the
secret of Whitefield's unparalleled success as a preacher? How are we to
account for his sermons producing effects which no sermons, before or
after his time, have ever yet done? These are questions you have a right
to ask. But they are questions I find it very hard to answer. That his
sermons were not mere voice and rant, I think we have pretty clearly
proved. That he was a man of commanding intellect and grasp of mind, no
one has ever pretended to say. How then are we to account for the
effectiveness of his preaching?

The reader who turns for a solution of this question to the seventy-five
sermons published under his name, will probably be much disappointed. He
will not find in them many striking thoughts. He will not discover in
them any new exhibitions of gospel doctrine. The plain truth is, that by
far the greater part of them were taken down in short-hand by reporters,
without Whitefield's knowledge, and published without correction. No
intelligent reader, I think, can help discovering that these reporters
were, most unhappily, ignorant alike of stopping and paragraphing, of
grammar and of gospel. The consequence is, that many passages in these
sermons are what Latimer would call a "mingle-mangle," or what we should
call in this day "a complete mess."

Nevertheless, I am bold to say, that with all their faults, Whitefield's
printed sermons will repay a candid perusal. Let the reader only
remember what I have just said, that most of them are miserably
reported, paragraphed and stopped, and make allowance accordingly. Let
him remember also, that English for speaking and English for reading are
two different languages; and that sermons which preach well, always read
ill. Remember these two things, I say, and I do believe you will find
very much to admire in some of Whitefield's sermons. For myself, I can
only say, I believe I have learned much from them, and, however great a
heresy against taste it may appear, I should be ungrateful if I did not
praise them.

And now let me try to point out to you what seem to me to have been the
characteristic features of Whitefield's sermons. I may be wrong, but
they appear to me to present just such a combination of excellences as
is most likely to make an effective preacher.

First and foremost, you must remember, Whitefield preached _a singularly
pure gospel_. Few men ever gave their hearers so much wheat and so
little chaff. He did not get into his pulpit to talk about his party,
his cause, his interest, or his office. He was perpetually telling you
about your sins, your heart, and Jesus Christ, in the way that the Bible
speaks of them. "Oh! the righteousness of Jesus Christ!" he would
frequently say: "I must be excused if I mention it in almost all my
sermons." This, you may be sure, is the corner-stone of all preaching
that God honors. It must be preëminently a _manifestation of truth_.

For another thing, Whitefield's preaching was _singularly lucid and
simple_. You might not like his doctrine, perhaps; but at any rate you
could not fail to understand what he meant. His style was easy, plain,
and conversational. He seemed to abhor long and involved sentences. He
always saw his mark, and went direct at it. He seldom or never troubled
his hearers with long arguments and intricate reasonings. Simple Bible
statements, pertinent anecdotes, and apt illustrations, were the more
common weapons that he used. The consequence was, that his hearers
always understood him. He never shot above their heads. Never did man
seem to enter so thoroughly into the wisdom of Archbishop Usher's
saying, "To make easy things seem hard is easy, but to make hard things
easy is the office of a great preacher."

For another thing, Whitefield was a _singularly bold and direct
preacher_. He never used that indefinite expression, "we," which seems
so peculiar to English pulpit oratory, and which leaves a hearer's mind
in a state of misty confusion as to the preacher's meaning. He met men
face to face, like one who had a message from God to them--like an
ambassador with tidings from heaven; "I have come here to speak to you
about your soul." He never minced matters, and beat about the bush in
attacking prevailing sins. His great object seemed to be to discover the
dangers his hearers were most liable to, and then fire right at their
hearts. The result was, that hundreds of his hearers used always to
think that the sermons were specially addressed to themselves. He was
not content, like many, with sticking on a tailpiece of application at
the end of a long discourse. A constant vein of application run through
all his sermons. "This is for you: this is for you: and this is for
you." His hearers were never let alone. Nothing, however, was more
striking than his direct appeals to all classes of his congregation, as
he drew towards a conclusion. With all the fault of his printed sermons,
the conclusions of some of them are, to my mind, the most stirring and
heart-searching addresses to souls that are to be found in the English

Another striking feature in Whitefield's preaching was his _thundering
earnestness_. One poor, uneducated man said of him that he "preached
like a lion." Never, perhaps, did any preacher so thoroughly succeed in
showing people that he, at least, believed all he was saying, and that
his whole heart, and soul, and strength, were bent on making them
believe it too. No man could say that his sermons were like the morning
and evening gun at Portsmouth, a formal discharge, fired off as a matter
of course, that disturbs no body. They were all life. They were all
fire. There was no getting away from under them. Sleep was next to
impossible. You must listen, whether you liked it or not. There was a
holy violence about him. Your attention was taken by storm. You were
fairly carried off your legs by his energy, before you had time to
consider what you would do. An American gentleman once went to hear him,
for the first time, in consequence of the report he heard of his
preaching powers. The day was rainy, the congregation comparatively
thin, and the beginning of the sermon rather heavy. Our American friend
began to say to himself, "This man is no great wonder, after all." He
looked round, and saw the congregation as little interested as himself.
One old man, in front of the pulpit, had fallen asleep. But all at once
Whitefield stopped short. His countenance changed. And then he suddenly
broke forth in an altered tone: "If I had come to speak to you in my own
name, you might well rest your elbows on your knees, and your heads on
your hands, and sleep; and once in a while look up and say, What is this
babbler talking of? But I have not come to you in my own name. No! I
have come to you in the name of the Lord of Hosts," (here he brought
down his hand and foot with a force that made the building ring,) "and I
must and will be heard." The congregation started. The old man woke up
at once. "Ay, ay!" cried Whitefield, fixing his eyes on him, "I have
waked you up, have I? I meant to do it. I am not come here to preach to
stocks and stones: I have come to you in the name of the Lord God of
Hosts, and I must and will have an audience." The hearers were stripped
of their apathy at once. Every word of the sermon was attended to. And
the American gentleman never forgot it.

Another striking feature in Whitefield's preaching was his _singular
power of description_. The Arabians have a proverb which says, "He is
the best orator who can turn men's ears into eyes." If ever there was a
speaker who succeeded in doing this, it was Whitefield. He drew such
vivid pictures of the things he was dwelling upon, that his hearers
could believe they actually saw them all with their own eyes, and heard
them with their own ears. "On one occasion," says one of his
biographers, "Lord Chesterfield was among his hearers. The preacher, in
describing the miserable condition of a poor, benighted sinner,
illustrated the subject by describing a blind beggar. The night was
dark; the road dangerous and full of snares. The poor sightless
mendicant is deserted by his dog near the edge of a precipice, and has
nothing to grope his way with but his staff. But Whitefield so warmed
with his subject, and unfolded it with such graphic power, that the
whole auditory was kept in breathless silence over the movements of the
poor old man;" and, at length, when the beggar was about to take that
fatal step which would have hurled him down the precipice to certain
destruction, Lord Chesterfield actually made a rush forward to save him,
exclaiming aloud, "He is gone! he is gone!" The noble lord had been so
entirely carried away by the preacher, that he forgot the whole was a

One more feature in Whitefield's preaching deserves especial notice, and
that is, the immense amount of _pathos and feeling_ which it always
contained. It was no uncommon thing with him to weep profusely in the
pulpit. Cornelius Winter goes so far as to say that he hardly ever knew
him get through a sermon without tears. There seems to have been nothing
whatever of affectation in this. He felt intensely for the souls before
him, and his feeling found a vent in tears. Of all the ingredients of
his preaching, nothing, I suspect, was so powerful as this. It awakened
sympathies, and touched secret springs in men, which no amount of
intellect could have moved. It melted down the prejudices which many had
conceived against him. They could not hate the man who wept so much over
their souls. They were often so affected as to shed floods of tears
themselves. "I came to hear you," said one man, "intending to break your
head; but your sermon got the better of me--it broke my heart." Once
become satisfied that a man loves you, and you will listen gladly to
any thing he has got to say. And this was just one grand secret of
Whitefield's success.

And now I will only ask you to add to this feeble sketch, that
Whitefield's _action_ was perfect--so perfect that Garrick, the famous
actor, gave it unqualified praise--that his _voice_ was as wonderful as
his action--so powerful, that he could make thirty thousand people hear
him at once; so musical and well-attuned, that men said he could raise
tears by his pronunciation of the word "Mesopotamia:" that his _fluency_
and command of extemporaneous language were of the highest order,
prompting him always to use the right word and to put it in the right
place. Add, I say, these gifts to those already mentioned, and then
judge for yourselves whether there is not sufficient, and more than
sufficient, in our hands, to account for his power as a preacher.

For my part, I say, unhesitatingly, that I believe no living preacher
ever possessed such a combination of excellences as Whitefield. Some, no
doubt, have surpassed him in some of his gifts; others, perhaps, have
been his equals in others. But, for a combination of pure doctrine,
simple and lucid style, boldness and directness, earnestness and fervor,
descriptiveness and picture-drawing, pathos and feeling--united with a
perfect voice, perfect delivery, and perfect command of words,
Whitefield, I repeat, stands alone. No man, dead or alive, I believe,
ever came alongside of him. And I believe you will always find, that
just in proportion as preachers have approached that curious combination
of excellences which Whitefield possessed, just in that very proportion
have they attained what Clarendon defines true eloquence to be, viz.,
"a strange power of making themselves believed."

       *       *       *       *       *

5. And now, there only remains one more point connected with Whitefield
to which I wish to advert. I fear that I shall have exhausted your
attention already. But the point is one of such importance, that it
cannot be passed over in silence. The point I mean is, the actual
_amount of real good_ that Whitefield did.

You will, I hope, understand me, when I say, that the materials for
forming an opinion on this point in a history like his, must necessarily
be scanty. He founded no denomination among whom his name was embalmed,
and his every act recorded, as did John Wesley. He headed no mighty
movement against a Church which openly professed false doctrines, as
Luther did against Rome. He wrote no books which were to be the
religious classics of the million, like John Bunyan. He was a simple,
guileless man, who lived for one thing only, and that was to preach
Christ. If he succeeded in doing that effectually, he cared for nothing
else. He did nothing to preserve the memory of his usefulness. He left
his work with the Lord.

Of course, there are many people who can see in Whitefield nothing but a
fanatic and enthusiast, There is a generation that loathes every thing
like zeal in religion. There are never wanting men of a cautious,
cold-blooded, Erasmus-like temper, who pass through the world doing no
good, because they are so dreadfully afraid of doing harm. I do not
expect such men to admire Whitefield, or allow he did any good. I fear,
if they had lived eighteen hundred years ago, they would have had no
sympathy with St. Paul.

Again, there are other people who count schism a far greater crime than
either heresy or false doctrine. There is a generation of men who under
no circumstances will worship God out of their own parish: and as to
separation from the Church, they seem to think that nothing whatever can
justify it. I do not, of course, expect such men to admire Whitefield or
his work. His principle evidently was, that it was far better for men to
be uncanonically saved than canonically damned.

Whether by any other line of action Whitefield could have remained in
the Church, and retained his usefulness, is a question which, at this
distance of time, we are very incompetent to answer. That he erred in
temper and judgment in his dealings with the bishops and clergy, in many
instances, I have no doubt. That he raised up fresh bodies of
separatists from the Church of England, and made breaches which probably
will never be repaired, I have no doubt also. But still it must never be
forgotten, that the state of the Church was bad enough to provoke a holy
indignation. The old principle is most true, that "he is the schismatic
who causes the separation, and not he who separates." _If Whitefield did
harm_, the harm ought to be laid on the Church which compelled him to
act as he did, quite as much as on him. And when we come to strike the
balance, I believe the harm he may have done is outweighed by the good a

The truth, I believe, is, that the _direct good_ Whitefield did to
immortal souls was enormous. I will go farther. I believe it is
incalculable. In Scotland, in England, in America, credible witnesses
have recorded their testimony that he was the means of converting
thousands of souls.

Franklin, the philosopher, was a cold, calculating man, and not likely
to speak too highly of any minister's work. Yet even he confessed that
it "was wonderful to see the change soon made by his preaching in the
manners of the inhabitants of Philadelphia. From being thoughtless or
indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing

Maclaurin and Willison were Scotch ministers, whose names are well-known
to theological readers, and stand deservedly high. Both of them have
testified that Whitefield did an amazing work in Scotland. Willison, in
particular, says: "That God honored him with surprising success among
sinners of all ranks and persuasions."

Old Venn, in our own Church, was a man of strong common sense, as well
as great grace. His opinion was, that "if the greatness, extent,
success, and disinterestedness of a man's labors can give him
distinction among the children of Christ, then we are warranted to
affirm, that scarce any one has equalled Mr. Whitefield." Again, he
says, "It is a well-known fact, that the conversion of men's souls has
been the fruit of a single sermon from his lips, so eminently was he
made a fisher of men." And again, "Though we are allowed to sorrow that
we shall never see or hear him again, we must still rejoice that
millions have heard him so long, so often, and to such good effect; and
that out of this mass of people, multitudes are gone before him to hail
his entrance into the world of glory."

John Newton was a shrewd man, as well as an eminent minister of the
gospel. His testimony is, "I am not backward to say, that I have not
read or heard of any person, since the apostles' days, of whom it may
more emphatically he said, he was a burning and a shining light, than
the late Mr. Whitefield, whether we consider the warmth of his zeal, the
greatness of his ministerial talents, or the extensive usefulness with
which the Lord honored him."

These are not solitary testimonies. I might add many more if time
permitted. Romaine did not agree with him in many things, yet what does
he say of him? "We have none left to succeed him; none, of his gifts;
none, any thing like him in usefulness." Toplady was a tremendously high
Calvinist, and not disposed to overestimate the number of saved souls.
Yet he says, Whitefield's ministry was "attended with spiritual benefit
to tens of thousands;" and he styles him "the apostle of the British
empire, and the prince of preachers." Hervey was a quiet, literary man,
whose health seldom allowed him to quit the retirement of Weston Favell.
But he says of Whitefield, "I never beheld so fair a copy of our Lord,
such a living image of the Saviour. I cannot forbear applying the wise
man's encomiums of an illustrious woman to this eminent minister of the
everlasting gospel: 'Many sons have done virtuously, but thou excellest
them all.'"

But if the amount of direct good that Whitefield did in the world was
great, who shall tell us the amount of _good that he did indirectly_? I
believe it never can be reckoned up. I suspect it will never be fully
known until the last day.

Whitefield was among the first _who stirred up a zeal for the pure
gospel among the clergy and laity of our own Church_. His constant
assertion of pure Reformation principles--his repeated references to the
Articles, Prayer Book, and Homilies--his never-answered challenges to
his opponents to confute him out of the Formularies of their own
communion--all this must have produced an effect, and set many thinking.
I have no doubt whatever, that many a faithful minister, who became a
shining light in those days within the Church of England, first lighted
his candle at the lamp of a man outside.

Whitefield, again, was among the first to _show the right way to meet
infidels and skeptics_. He saw clearly that the most powerful weapon
against such men is not metaphysical reasoning and critical
disquisition; but preaching the whole gospel, living the whole gospel,
and spreading the whole gospel. It was not the writings of Leland, and
the younger Sherlock, and Waterland, and Leslie, that rolled back the
flood of infidelity one half so much as the preaching of Whitefield, and
Wesley, and Fletcher, and Romaine, and Berridge, and Venn. Had it not
been for them, I firmly believe we might have had a counterpart of the
French Revolution in our own land. They were the men who were the true
champions of Christianity. Infidels are seldom shaken by mere abstract
reasoning. The surest arguments against them are gospel truth and gospel

To crown all, Whitefield was the very first who seems thoroughly to have
understood what Chalmers has called the _aggressive system_. He did not
wait for souls to come to him, but he went after souls. He did not sit
tamely by his fireside, mourning over the wickedness of the land. He
went forth to beard the Devil in his high places. He attacked sin and
wickedness face to face, and gave them no peace. He dived into holes and
corners after sinners. He hunted up ignorance and vice, wherever it
could be found. He showed that he thoroughly realized the nature of the
ministerial office. Like a fisherman, he did not wait for the fish to
come to him. Like a fisherman, he used every kind of means to catch
souls. Men know a little more of this now than they did formerly. City
Missions and District Visiting Societies are evidences of clearer views.
But let us remember this was all comparatively new in Whitefield's time,
and let us give him the credit he deserves.

In short, I come to the conclusion that no man has ever done more good
in his day and generation than the man who is the subject of this
lecture. He was a true hero, and that in its highest and best sense. He
did a work that will stand the fire, and glorify God, when many other
works are forgotten. And for that work I believe that England owes a
debt to his character which England has never yet paid.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now, I hasten to a conclusion. I have set before you, to the best of
my ability, Whitefield's time, and life, and religion, and preaching,
and actual work. I have not extenuated his faults, to the best of my
knowledge. I have not exaggerated his good qualities, so far as I am
aware. It only remains for me to point out to you two great practical
lessons which the subject appears to me to teach.

Learn then, I beseech you, for one lesson, the _amazing power that one
single man possesses_, when he is determined to work for God, and has
got truth on his side.

Here is a man who starts in life with every thing, to all appearance,
against him. He has neither family, nor place, nor money, nor high
connections on his side. His views are flatly opposed to the customs and
prejudices of his time. He stands in direct opposition to the stream of
public taste, and the religion of the vast bulk of ministers around
him. He is as much isolated and alone, to all appearance, as Martin
Luther opposing the Pope, as Athanasius resisting the Arians, as Paul on
Mars' Hill. And yet this man stands his ground. He arrests public
attention. He gathers crowds around him who receive his teaching. He is
made a blessing to tens of thousands. He turns the world upside down.
How striking these facts are!

Here is your _encouragement_, if you stand alone. You have no reason to
be cast down and faint-hearted. You are not weak, though few, if God is
with you. There is nothing too great to be done by a little company, if
only they have Christ on their side. Away with the idea that numbers
alone have power! Cast away the old vulgar error that majorities alone
have strength. Get firm hold of the great truth that minorities always
move the world. Think of the little flock that our Lord left behind him,
and the one hundred and twenty names in that upper chamber in Jerusalem,
who went forth to assault the heathen world! Think of George Whitefield
assailing boldly the ungodliness which deluged all around him, and
winning victory after victory! Think of all this. Cast fear away. Lay
out your talents heartily and confidently for God.

Here also is your _example_, if you desire to do good to souls. Whether
you become ministers or missionaries or teachers, never forget you must
fight with Whitefield's weapons, if you wish to have any portion of
Whitefield's success. Never forget what John Wesley said was
Whitefield's theology--"Give God all the glory of whatever is good in
man: set Christ as high and man as low as possible, in the business of
salvation. All merit is in the blood of Christ, and all power is from
the Spirit of Christ."

Think not for a moment that earnestness alone will insure success. This
is a huge delusion. It will do nothing of the kind. All the earnestness
in the world will never enable a teacher of _German theology_ to show
you one Tinnevelly, or a teacher of _semi-Popery_ one Sierra Leone. Oh,
no! it must be the simple, pure, unadulterated gospel that you must
carry with you, if you are to do good. You must sow as Whitefield sowed,
or you will never reap as he reaped.

Learn, in the last place, _what abundant reasons we have for
thankfulness in the present condition of the Church of England_.

We are far too apt to look at the gloomy side of things around us, and
at that only. We are all prone to dwell on the faults of our condition,
and to forget to bless God for our mercies. There are many things we
could wish otherwise in our beloved Church, beyond all question. There
are defects we could wish to see remedied, and wounds we should gladly
see healed. But still, let us look behind us, and compare the Church of
our day with the Church of Whitefield's times. Look on this picture, and
on that, and I am sure, if you do so honestly and fairly, you will agree
with me that we have reason to be thankful.

We have _bishops_ on the bench now, who love the simple truth as it is
in Jesus, and are ready to help forward good works--bishops who are not
ashamed to come forward in Exeter Hall, and lend their aid to the
extension of Christ's gospel--bishops who would have welcomed a man like
Whitefield, and found full occupation for his marvellous gifts. Let us
thank God for this. It was not so a hundred years ago.

We have hundreds of _clergymen_ in our parishes now, who preach as full
a gospel as Whitefield did, though they may not do it with the same
power--clergymen who are not ashamed of the doctrine of regeneration,
and do not pronounce a minister a heretic, because he says to ungodly
people, "Ye must be born again." Let us thank God for this. A man need
not travel many miles now in order to find parishes where the gospel is
preached. When driven out of one parish church, he can find truth in
another. It was not so a hundred years ago.

We have thousands of _laymen_ now, who are fully alive to the duties and
responsibilities of members of a Protestant Church--laymen who rejoice
in holding up the hands of evangelical ministers, and are righteously
jealous for the maintenance and extension of evangelical truth. Let us
thank God for this. It was not so a hundred years ago.

We have _societies and agencies_ for evangelizing every dark corner of
the earth in connection with our Church. We have wide and effectual
doors of usefulness for all who are willing to labor in the Lord's
vineyard. The difficulty now is, not so much to find openings for doing
good, as to find men. Let us thank God for this. It was not so a hundred
years ago.

Young men of the Church of England, I ask you to gather up these facts,
and treasure them in your memories. They are facts. They cannot be
gainsaid. Treasure them up, I repeat. Look back a century, and then look
around you, and then judge for yourselves whether you ought not to be

Beware, I beseech you, of that tribe of men who would fain persuade you
to forsake the Church of England, and separate from her communion. There
is a generation of murmurers and complainers in the present day, who
seem to revel in picking holes--a generation that seems to forget that
fault-finding is the easiest task in all the world--a generation that
has no eyes to see the healthy parts in our body ecclesiastic, but has a
wonderfully quick and morbid scent for detecting its sores--a generation
that is mighty to scatter, but impotent to build--a generation that
would persuade churchmen to strain at gnats, but finds no difficulty
itself in swallowing camels--a generation that would have you pull the
old house down, but cannot offer you so much as a tent in its place: of
all such men, I say solemnly and affectionately--of all such men, I warn
you to beware. Listen not to them. Have no friendship with them. Avoid
them. Turn from them. Pass away.

Let us not leave the good old ship, the CHURCH OF ENGLAND, until we have
some better reason than can at present be seen. What though she be old
and weather-beaten! What though, in some respects, she may want repair!
What though some of the crew be not to be depended on! Still, with all
her faults, the old ship is in far better trim than she was a century
ago. Let us acknowledge her faults, and hope they may yet be amended.
But still, with all her faults, let us stick by the ship!

When the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England are repealed, and
the Prayer Book and Homilies so altered as to be unprotestantized--when
regeneration and justification by faith are forbidden to be preached in
her pulpits--when the Queen, Lords and Commons, and laity, have assented
to these changes--in short, when the Gospel is driven out of the
Establishment--then, and not till then, it will be time for you and me
to go out; but, till then, I say, LET US STICK BY THE CHURCH!

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Sketch of the Life and Labors of George Whitefield" ***

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