Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

Edinburgh and Cambridgeshire, he preached four times a day. For twenty eight days, he preached daily to audiences of ten thousand, clustered on the Calton Hill, or under the Salisbury Crags. In Cambuslang, under a fragrant thorn, he preached during great part of the day, resumed his preaching at nine at night, and continued, till two o'clock in the morning, to address weeping multitudes. When, reduced by illness in 1770, he was driven to relax, his stint (which he thought narrow) was two sermons on Sunday, and three in the week ; and his sick regimen, in 1757, was one sermon daily, and three sermons on Sunday.

The violent attacks made on him, show something of the spirit of his age, but more of his power. No wonder that the mountebanks of Moorfields, and the frequenters of the race-courses tried to put him down, and threw dirt, stones, and dead cats at him. They saw that he was putting them down. He had to bear a stormy ordeal. In Gloucestershire they used horns and bells to drown his voice. In Devonshire they turned loose on him a bull and dogs. In other places stones, mud, and yells were hurled at him. In Plymouth, a set of ruffians made a vow to put him to death. In London, in Long Acre, they beset his chapel, smashed the windows, and raised a high scaffold on which they placed a copper boiler, and, thundering on this, they added to the music the din of drums, bells, clappers and cleavers. The players, finding the theatres

thinned, were furious, and took to mimicking the preacher. Drury Lane rung to the laughter created by coarse jests in the Minor of Foote, and the Hypocrite of Isaac Bickerstaff. “ All hail such contempt!” his only remark.

Yet the orator's triumphs were as marked as his sufferings. He silenced the yells of Hackney and the catcalls of Moorfields, and, round his quivering pulpit groups of young children, who turned up their weeping eyes as stones, eggs, or dirt struck the preacher, attested, by their tearful interest, the triumphs of his eloquence.

Nor could age abate his power. He addressed as eager audiences, when, subdued by illness, he embarked for the last time at Gravesend, as when he mounted, with youthful steps, the pulpit at Gloucester. The crowds that gathered to hear him, on his visit, four years before his death, at Bath, were as large as those which greeted his second progress to Bristol. The multitudes, who flocked to him at New York on his last journey; the poor who crammed the chapels, the rich whose carriages blocked the street, and who, unsatiated, returned to his lodging to hear more; the men of Boston, who gathered, morning after morning, deserting their business, four thousand at a time, to hang on his lips; who wept (the highest tribute) silent tears; the citizens, who conjured him not to leave them, “ For Christ's sake, stay and preach the Gospel to us ;” the cities, which poured upon him such countless invita

tions, that he sent a bundle of these, his strange legacy, to England, these were the latest specimens of that marvellous ministry. With these in his hand, in the height of his fame he fell, as a minstrel would like to fall, hand and skill unimpaired, the instrument, which had long discoursed sweet strange music, still vibrating to the touch of the master hand.

“Sinners awakened, saints quickened, enemies made at peace with me." The Governor, council, and assembly of Georgia attended to hear him preach, and voted him the thanks of the province. But there was a more grateful reward. “O Bethesda," he says to the Orphan Home which his untiring energy had secured, “O Bethesda, my Bethel, never did I taste such domestic peace and comfort and joy; my happiness is inconceivable.”

But his spirit, strung to its work, could not endure even that grateful rest. “No resting on this side eternity. When thou seest me resting, in tender pity put a thorn in my nest, to prevent me from it. Give me, Lord, a pilgrim heart, for my pilgrim life.” “Every thing, I meet with, seems bearing this voice with it. Go thou, and preach the Gospel ; be a pilgrim on earth.”

And thus he continued to the end. His last journey was a ride, of fifteen miles, from Portsmouth to Exeter in America. He went there to preach. “Sir," said his anxious friend, “you are more fit to go to bed, than to preach.” “True, Sir," but turning aside and look

1

ing up, he clasped his hands together, “Lord Jesus, I am weary in thy work, but not of thy work. If I have not yet finished my course, let me go and speak for Thee, once more in the fields, seal thy truth, and come home and die."

His last prayer was granted. Once more the heath swarmed with thousands, and the well-known voice penetrated their hearts. Then the silver trumpet was broken. A short ride brought him, in the evening of the 29th of September 1770, to his journey's end. Wearied and weak, he went to bed. He awoke early, with a pang of pain, endured two hours of suffering, and, at day dawn, his spirit departed.

In this short life he had completed a great work. How great, human words do not convey to us.

From its very nature its traces are indistinct.

His thoughts were written, not in books, but on the hearts of the men whom he influenced, and the traces of his work have therefore disappeared, with the generation affected by it; passing from earth and its shadows, into the world of realities.

CHAPTER IV.

THE PREACHER, AND HIS POWER.

Ir now appears that many students in Scotland, and many ministers in America were impressed by the preaching of Whitefield. Among the English clergy who owed to him their religious convictions, was Hervey.* He exercised much influence on the more cultivated classes of this country, during the last century, and he has thus spoken of Whitefield :-“I never beheld so fair a copy of our Lord: such a living image of the Saviour; such exalted delight in God; such unbounded benevolence to man ; such steady faith in the divine promises; such fervent zeal for the divine glory—and all this without the least moroseness of humour, or extravagance of behaviour, but sweetened with the most engaging cheerfulness of temper, and regulated by all the sobriety of reason and wisdom of Scripture.” What deserves especially to be remarked is, that the

* Life, p. 348.

« VorigeDoorgaan »