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should we also rejoice that, as a Church, we had one so gifted and so good to lose; no, not to lose, but to give back unto God, who gave him unto us. And in this also should we rejoice, that, though prematurely removed, he may be said, in an eminent sense, to have finished the work which God gave him to do; and that, having glorified Him on the earth, he has been removed to serve and glorify Him in heaven. And now a fairer, a richer, and more glorious inheritance than Hebron, which Joshua gave to Caleb, is his; because, like him, "he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel.”
WESLEY AND WHITEFIELD CONTRASTED.
(FROM THE NORTH BRITISH REVIEW.)
NEVER has century risen on Christian England so void of soul and faith as that which opened with Queen Anne, and which reached its misty noon beneath the second George,- -a dewless night succeeded by a sunless dawn. There was no freshness in the past, and no promise in the future. The memory of Baxter and Usher possessed no spell, and calls to revival or reform fell dead on the echo. Confessions of sin, and national covenants, and all projects towards a public and visible acknowledgment of the Most High were voted obsolete, and the golden dreams of Westminster worthies only lived in Hudibras. The Puritans were buried, and the Methodists were not born. The philosopher of the age was Bolingbroke, the moralist was Addison, the minstrel was Pope, and the preacher was Atterbury. The world had the idle, discontented look of the morning after some mad holiday; and like rocket-sticks and the singed paper from last night's squibs, the spent jokes of Charles and Rochester lay all about, and people yawned to look at them. It was a listless, joyless morning, when the slip-shod citizens were cross, and even the merry-Andrew joined the incurious public, and, forbearing his ineffectual pranks, sat down to wonder at the vacancy. The reign of buffoonery was past; but the reign of faith and earnestness had not commenced. During the first forty years of that century, the eye that seeks for spiritual life can hardly find it; least of all that hopeful and diffusive life which is the harbinger of more. "It was taken for granted that Christianity was not so much as a subject for inquiry, but was at length discovered to be fictitious. And men treated it as if this were an agreed point among all people of discernment.”* Doubtless there were divines, like Beveridge and Watts and Doddridge, men of profound devotion and desirous of doing good; but the little which they accomplished only shows how adverse was the time. And their appearance was no presage. They were not the Ararats of an emerging economy. The zone of piety grew no wider, and they saw no symptoms of a new world appearing. But like the Coral Islands of the Southern Pacific, slowly descending, they were the dwindling peaks of an older dispensation, and felt the water deepening round them. In their devout but sequestered walk, and in their faithful but mournful appeals to their congregations and country, they were the pensive mementoes of a glory departed, not the hopeful precursors of a glory to come. Remembrance and regret are feeble reformers; and the story of godly ancestors has seldom shamed into repentance their lax and
* Bishop Butler.
VOL. III.-FOURTH SERIES.
irreverent sons. The power which startles or melts a people is zeal freshwarmed in the furnace of Scripture, and baptized with the fire of Heaven, —that fervour which, incandescent with hope and confidence, bursts in flame at the sight of a glorious future.
Of this power the splendid example was WHITEFIELD.* The son of a Gloucester innkeeper, and sent to Pembroke College, his mind became so burdened with the great realities, that he had little heart for study. God and eternity, holiness and sin, were thoughts which haunted every moment, and compelled him to live for the salvation of his soul; but, except his tutor Wesley and a few gownsmen, he met with none who shared his earnestness. And though earnest, they were all in error. Among the influential minds of the University there was no one to lead them into the knowledge of the Gospel, and they had no religious guides except the genius of the place and books of their own choosing. The genius of the place was an ascetic quietism. Its libraries full of clasped schoolmen and tall Fathers, its cloisters so solemn that a hearty laugh or hurried step seemed sinful, and its halls lit with medieval sunshine, perpetually invited their inmates to meditation and silent recollection; whilst the early tinkle of the chapel-bell and the frosty routine of winter matins, the Rubric and the founder's rules, proclaimed the religious benefits of bodily exercise. The Romish postern had not then been re-opened; but with no devotional models, save the marble Bernards and de Wykehams, and no spiritual illumination except what came in by the north windows of the past, it is not surprising that ardent but reverential spirits should in such a place have unwittingly groped into a Romish pietism. With an awakened conscience and a resolute will, young Whitefield went through the sanatory specifics of A-Kempis, Castanza, and William Law; and in his anxiety to exceed all that is required by the Rubric, he would fast during Lent on black bread and sugarless tea, and stand in the cold till his nose was red and his fingers blue, whilst in the hope of temptation and wild beasts he would wander through Christ-Church meadows over-dark. It was whilst pursuing this course of self-righteous fanaticism that he was seized with alarming illness. It sent him to his Bible; and whilst praying and yearning over his Greek Testament, the " open secret" flashed upon his view. The discovery of a completed and gratuitous salvation filled with ecstasy a spirit prepared to appreciate it; and from their great deep breaking, his affections thenceforward flowed, impetuous and uninterrupted, in the one channel of love to the Saviour. The Bishop of Gloucester ordained him, and on the day of his ordination he wrote to a friend, "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 heaven 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 be apprized of all the preferment that is expected by George Whitefield." In this rapture of self-devotion he traversed England, Scotland, and Ireland, for fourand-thirty years, and crossed the Atlantic thirteen times, proclaiming the love of God and His great gift to man. A bright and exulting view of the atonement's sufficiency was his theology; delight in God and rejoicing in
* Born, 1714. Died, 1770.
Christ Jesus were his piety; and a compassionate solicitude for the souls of men, often rising to a fearful agony, was his ruling passion; and strong in the oneness of his aim and the intensity of his feelings, he soon burst the regular bounds, and began to preach on commons and village-greens, and even to the rabble at London fairs. He was the Prince of English Preachers. Many have surpassed him as sermon-makers; but none have approached him as a pulpit-orator. Many have outshone him in the clearness of their logic, the grandeur of their conceptions, and the sparkling beauty of single sentences; but in the power of darting the Gospel direct into the conscience he eclipsed them all. With a full and beaming countenance, and the frank and easy port which the English people love,-for it is the symbol of honest purpose and friendly assurance,-he combined a voice of rich compass, which could equally thrill over Moorfields in musical thunder, or whisper its terrible secret in every private ear: and to this gainly aspect and tuneful voice he added a most expressive and eloquent action. Improved by conscientious practice, and instinct with his earnest nature, this elocution was the acted sermon, and by its pantomimic portrait enabled the eye to anticipate each rapid utterance, and helped the memory to treasure up the palpable ideas. None ever used so boldly, nor with more success, the highest styles of impersonation. His "Hark! hark!" could conjure up Gethsemane with its faltering moon, and awake again the cry of horror-stricken innocence; and an apostrophe to Peter on the holy Mount would light up another Tabor, and drown it in glory from the opening heaven. His thoughts were possessions, and his feelings were transformations; and if he spake because he felt, his hearers understood because they saw. They were not only enthusiastic amateurs, like Garrick, who ran to weep and tremble at his bursts of passion; but even the colder critics of the Walpole school were surprised into momentary sympathy and reluctant wonder. Lord Chesterfield was listening in Lady Huntingdon's pew when Whitefield was comparing the benighted sinner to a blind beggar on a dangerous road. His little dog gets away from him when skirting the edge of a precipice, and he is left to explore the path with his iron-shod staff. On the very verge of the cliff this blind guide slips through his fingers, and skims away down the abyss. All unconscious, its owner stoops down to regain it, and stumbling forward, -“Good God! he is gone!" shouted Chesterfield, who had been watching with breathless alarm the blind man's movements, and who jumped from his seat to save the catastrophe. But the glory of Whitefield's preaching was its heart-kindled and heart-melting Gospel. But for this all his bold strokes and brilliant surprises might have been no better than the rhetorical triumphs of Kirwan and other pulpit dramatists. He was an orator; but he only sought to be an Evangelist. Like a volcano where gold and gems may be darted forth as well as common things, but where gold and molten granite flow all alike in fiery fusion, bright thoughts and splendid images might be projected from his flaming pulpit; but all were merged in the stream which bore along the Gospel and himself in blended fervour. Indeed, so simple was his nature, that glory to God and goodwill to man having filled it, there was room for little more. Having no church to found, no family to enrich, and no memory to immortalize, he was the mere ambassador of God; and inspired with its genial, piteous spirit, so full of heaven reconciled and humanity restored,—he soon himself became a living Gospel. Radiant with its benignity, and trembling with its tenderness, by a sort of spiritual induction a vast audience would speedily be brought into a frame of mind, the transfusion of his own; and the white furrows on their sooty
faces told that Kingswood colliers were weeping, or the quivering of an ostrich-plume bespoke its elegant wearer's deep emotion. And coming to his work direct from communion with his Master, and in all the strength of accepted prayer, there was an elevation in his mien which often paralyzed hostility, and a self-possession which only made him, amid uproar and fury, the more sublime. With an electric bolt he would bring the jester in his fool's cap from his perch on the tree, or galvanize the brick-bat from the skulking miscreant's grasp, or sweep down in crouching submission and shame-faced silence the whole of Bartholomew fair; whilst a revealing flash of sententious doctrine or vivified Scripture would disclose to awestruck hundreds the forgotten verities of another world, or the unsuspected arcana of their inner man. "I came to break your head, but, through you, God has broken my heart," was a sort of confession with which he was familiar; and to see the deaf old gentlewoman, who used to mutter imprecations at him as he passed along the street, clambering up the pulpit-stairs to catch his angelic words, was a sort of spectacle which the triumphant Gospel often witnessed in his day. And when it is known that his voice could be heard by twenty thousand, and that, ranging all the empire, as well as America, he would often preach thrice on a working-day, and that he has received in one week as many as a thousand letters, from persons awakened by his sermons; if no estimate can be formed of the results of his ministry, some idea may be suggested of its vast extent and singular effectiveness.
The following codicil was added to Whitefield's will:-" N.B. I also leave a mourning ring to my honoured and dear friends, the Rev. John and Charles Wesley, in token of my indissoluble union with them, in heart and Christian affection, not withstanding our difference in judgment about some particular points of doctrine."
The "points of doctrine" were chiefly the extent of the atonement and the perseverance of the saints; the "indissoluble union" was occasioned by their all-absorbing love to the same Saviour, and untiring efforts to make his riches known. They quarrelled a little, but they loved a great deal more. Few characters could be more completely the converse, and, in the church's exigencies, more happily the supplement, of one another, than were those of George Whitefield and JOHN WESLEY ;* and had their views been identical, and their labours all along coincident, their large services to the Gospel might have repeated Paul and Barnabas. Whitefield was soul, and Wesley was system. Whitefield was a summer-cloud which burst at morning or noon in fragrant exhilaration over an ample tract, and took the rest of the day to gather again; Wesley was the polished conduit in the midst of the garden, through which the living water glided in pearly brightness and perennial music, the same vivid stream from day to day. After a preaching paroxysm, Whitefield lay panting on his couch, spent, breathless, and death-like: after his morning sermon in the Foundry, Wesley would mount his pony, and trot and chat and gather simples, till he reached some country hamlet, where he would bait his charger, and talk through a little sermon with the villagers, and re-mount his pony and trot away again. In his aërial poise, Whitefield's eagle eye drank lustre from the source of light, and loved to look down on men in assembled myriads : Wesley's falcon glance did not sweep so far, but it searched more keenly and marked more minutely where it pierced. A master of assemblies, Whitefield was no match for the isolated man: seldom coping with the multitude, but strong in astute sagacity and personal ascendancy, Wesley
*Born, 1703. Died, 1791.
could conquer any number one by one. All force and impetus, Whitefield was the powder-blast in the quarry, and by one explosive sermon would shake a district, and detach materials for other men's long work: deft, neat, and painstaking, Wesley loved to split and trim each fragment into uniform plinths and polished stones. Or, taken otherwise, Whitefield was the bargeman or the waggoner who brought the timber of the house, and Wesley was the architect who set it up. Whitefield had no patience for ecclesiastical polity, no aptitude for pastoral details: with a beaver-like propensity for building, Wesley was always constructing societies, and, with a King-like craft of ruling, was most at home when presiding over a class or a Conference. It was their infelicity that they did not always work together; it was the happiness of the age and the furtherance of the Gospel that they lived alongside of one another. Ten years older than his pupil, Wesley was a year or two later of attaining the joy and freedom of Gospel forgiveness. It was whilst listening to Luther's Preface to the Romans, where he describes the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, that he felt his own heart strangely warmed; and finding that he trusted in Christ alone for salvation, "an assurance was given him that Christ had taken away his sins, and saved him from the law of sin and death." And though in his subsequent piety a subtle analyst may detect a trace of that mysticism which was his first religion; even as to his second religion, Moravianism, he was indebted for some details of his eventual church-order ;-no candid reader will deny that "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost," had now become the religion of the Methodist; and for the half century of his ubiquitous career, his piety retained this truly evangelic type. A cool observer, who met him towards the close, records, "So fine an old man I never saw. The happiness of his mind beamed forth in his countenance. Every look showed how fully he enjoyed the gay remembrance of a life well spent ;' and wherever he went, he diffused a portion of his own felicity. Easy and affable in his demeanour, he accommodated himself to every sort of company, and showed how happily the most finished courtesy may be blended with the most perfect piety. In his conversation, we might be at a loss whether to admire most, his fine classical taste, his extensive knowledge of men and things, or his overflowing goodness of heart. While the grave and serious were charmed with his wisdom, his sportive sallies of innocent mirth delighted even the young and thoughtless; and both saw, in his uninterrupted cheerfulness, the excellency of true religion."* To a degree scarcely paralleled, his piety had supplanted those strong instincts, the love of worldly distinction, the love of money, and the love of ease. The answer which he gave to his brother, when refusing to vindicate himself from a newspaper calumny, "Brother, when I devoted to God my ease, my time, my life, did I except my reputation?" was no casual sally, but the system of his conduct. From the moment that the Fellow of Lincoln went out into the highways and hedges, and commenced itinerant Preacher, he bade farewell to earthly fame. And perhaps no Englishman, since the days of Bernard Gilpin, has given so much away. When his income was thirty pounds a year, he lived on twenty-eight, and saved two for charity. Next year he had sixty pounds; and, still living on twenty-eight, he had thirty-two to spend. A fourth year raised his income to a hundred and twenty pounds; and, steadfast to his plan, the poor got ninety-two. In the year 1775, the Accountant-General sent him a copy of the Excise order for a return of
* Alexander Knox.