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prepared for taking orders. His behaviour on this occasion was very exemplary. He first studied the thirty-nine articles, that he might be satisfied of their being agreeable to scripture. Then, he examined himself by the qualifications of a minister mention. ed in the New Testament, and by the questions that he knew were to be put to him at his ordination. On the Saturday, he was much in prayer for himself and those who were to be ordained with him. On the morning of his ordination, (which was at Gloucester, Sunday, June 20, 1736) he rose early, and again read, with prayer, St. Paul's epistles to Timothy, and, after his ordination, went to the Lord's table.
On the Sunday afterward she preached a sermon in the church, where he was baptized, to a very crowded auditory, on the neces. sity and benefit of religious society. His own remark upon this was; “Last Sunday in the afternoon, I preached my first sermon in the church where I was baptized, and also first received the sacrament of the Lord's supper. Curiosity drew a large congregation together. The sight, at first, a little awed me. But I was comforted with a heart-felt sense of the divine presence: and soon found the advantage of having been accustomed to public 'speaking, when a boy at school; and of exhorting and teaching the prisoners, and poor people at their private houses, whilst at the university. By these means, I was kept from being daunted over much. As I proceeded, I perceived the fire kindled, till at last, though so young, and amidst a crowd of those who knew me in my childish days, I trust, I was enabled to speak with
ust. Somas fenabled to speak mot some degree of gospel authority. Some few mocked; but most for the present seemed struck: and I have since heard, that a complint had been made to the bishop, that I drove fifteen mad, the first sermon. The worthy prelate, as I am informed, wished that the madness might not be forgotten, before next Sunday."
The week following, he returned to Oxford, and took his bachelor's degree. And here he found full employment in taking care of the prisoners and the poor. But it was not long before he was invited to London. While he remained here letters came from the Messrs. Wesleys and Ingham, in Georgia, which made him long to go and help them. But not seeing his call clear, at the appointed time he returned to his little charge at Oxford. He now divided the day into three parts, allotting eight hours for sleep and meals, eight for study and retirement, and eight for reading prayers, catechizing, and visiting the people. Yet his mind still ran on going abroad. And now, in January, 1737, being fully convinced he was called of God thereto, he set all things in order, and went down to take leave of his friends in Gloucester. It was in this journey that God began to bless his ministry in an uncommon manner. Wherever he preached, amazing multitudes of hearers flocked together, in Gloucester, in Stone-house, in Bath, and in Bristol; so that the heat of the churches was scarce supportable. And the impressions made on the minds of many were no less extraordinary. After his return to London, while he was detained by general Oglethorpe, from week to week, and from month to month, it pleased God to bless his word still more. And he was indefatigable in his labour: generally on Sunday he preached four times, to exceeding large auditories; besides reading prayers twice or thrice, and walking to and fro ten or twelve miles.
As his popularity increased, opposition increased proportionably. Nor was he without opposition even from some of his friends. But under these discouragements, he had great comfort in meeting every evening with a band of religious intimates, to spend an hour in prayer, for the advancement of the gospel, and for all their acquaintance, so far as they knew their circumstances. In this he had uncommon satisfaction. Once he spent a whole night with them in prayer and praise; and sometimes at midnight, after he had been quite wearied with the labours of the day, he found his strength renewed in this excercise, which made him compose his sermon upon intercession. The nearer the time of his embarkation approached, the more affectionate and eager the people grew. Thousands and thousands of prayers were put up for him. They would run and stop him in the alleys of the churches, and follow him with wishful looks. But above all, it was hardest for him to part with his weeping friends at St. Dunstan’s, where he helped to administer the sacrament to them, after spending the night before in prayer: this parting was to him almost insupportable.
On December the 28th, he left London, and from Sunday, May 7th, 1738, till the latter end of August following, he made full proof of his ministry in Georgia, particularly at Savannah. It was now that he observed the deplorable condition of many children here; and now the first thought entered his mind of founding an orphan-house; for which he determined to raise contributions in England, if God should give him a safe return thither. In December following after a perilous passage by Ireland he cid return to London: and on Sunday, January the '14th, 1739, he was ordained priest by his friend bishop Benson at ChristChurch, Oxford. The next day he came to London again; and on Sunday the 21st preached twice. But though the churches
put himen he mentioned so he did not Wednesday, !
were large, and crouded exceedingly, yet many hundreds stood in the church-yards, and hundreds more returned home. This put him upon the first thought of preaching in the open air. But when he mentioned it to some of his friends, they judged it to be mere madness. So he did not carry it into execution, till after he had left London. It was on Wednesday, February 21, that, finding all the church doors to be shut against him in Bristol, (besides that no church was able to contain one half of the congregation) at three in the afternoon, he went to Kingswood, and preached abroad, to near two thousand people. The colliers, he had heard, were very rude, and very numerous; so uncultivated, that nobody cared to go among them; neither had they any place of worship; and often, when provoked, they were a terror to the whole city of Bristol. He therefore looked upon the civilizing of these people, and much more, the bringing of them to the profession and practice of christianity, as a matter of great importance. “ I thought (says he) it might be doing the service of my Creator, who had a mountain for his pulpit, and the heavens for his sounding board; and who, when his gospel was refused by the Jews, sent his servants into the highways and hedges.” After much prayer, and many struggles with himself, he one day went to Hannam Mount, and, standing upon a hill, began to preach to about a hundred colliers, upon Matth. v. 1, 2, 3. This soon took air. At the second and third time the numbers greatly increased, till the congregation, at a moderate computation, amounted to near twenty thousand. But with what gladness and eagerness, many of these despised outcasts, who had never been in a church in their lives, received the word, is above description. “ Having (as he writes) no righteousness of their own to renounce, they were glad to hear of a Jesus who was a friend to publicans, and came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. The first discovery of their being affected, was to see the white gutters made by their tears, which plentifully fell down their black cheeks, as they came out of their coal pits. Hundreds and hundreds of them were soon brought under deep convictions, which (as the event proved) happily ended in a sound and thorough conversion. The change was visible to all, though numbers chose to impute it to any thing, rather than the finger of God. As the scene was quite new, and I had just began to be an extempore preacher, it often occasioned many inward conflicts. Sometimes, when twenty thousand people were before me, I had not, in my own apprehension, a word to say, either to God or them. But I was never totally de
serted, and frequently (for to deny it would be lying against God) so assisted, that I knew by happy experience, what our Lord meant by saying, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. The open firmament above me, the prospect of the adjacent fields with the sight of thousands and thousands, some in coaches, some on horseback, and some in the trees, and at times all affected and drenched in tears together, to which sometimes was added the solemnity of the approaching evening, was almost too much for, and quite overcame me.”
Besides the colliers, and thousands from neighbouring villages, persons of all ranks flocked daily out of Bristol. And he was soon invited to preach, by some of the better sort, in a large bowling-green in the city itself. Many indeed sneered, to see a stripling, with a gown, mount a table, upon what they called unconsecrated ground. And for once, or twice, it excited the contempt and laughter of the higher rank, who formerly were his admirers, when he preached in the churches. But God enabled him to stand the laugh, and to preach the gospel of Christ with earnestness and constancy; and was pleased to attend it with his blessing.
On Sunday, April 29, he preached the first time in Moore fields, and on Kennington-Common. Opportunities of preaching in a more regular way being now denied him, and his preaching in the fields being attended with a remarkable blessing, he judged it his duty to go on in this practice, and ventured the following Sunday into Moorfields. Public notice having been given, and the thing being new and singular, upon coming out of the coach, he found an incredible number of people assembled. Many had told him, that he should never come again out of that place alive. He went in, however, between two of his friends, who by the pressure of the crowd, were soon parted entirely from him, and were obliged to leave him to the mercy of the rabble. But these, instead of hurting him, formed a lane for him, and carried him along to the middle of the fields, (where a table had been placed, which was broken in pieces by the crowd) and afterwards back again to the wall that then parted the upper and lower Moorfields; from whence he preached without molestation, to an exceeding great multitude in the lower fields. Finding such encouragement, he went that same evening to Kennington-Common, a large open place, near three miles distant from London, where, he preached to a vast multitude, who were all attention, and behaved with as much regularity and quietness, as if they had been in a church.
At length, on August the 14th, 1739, he embarked for America, where he spent sixteen months, during which time he travelled through a great part of the country, every where preaching to incredible multitudes, who flocked to hear him, among whom were abundance of negroes. In all places the greater part of the hearers were affected to an amazing degree. Many were deeply convinced of their lost state; many truly converted to God.
Of his travels from Rhode Island, and through a part of the state of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New-York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, through Philadelphia, Maryland and the Carolinas, Mr. Whitefield remarks, “ It is now the 75th day, since I arrived at Rhode-Island. My body was then weak, but the Lord has much renewed its strength. I have been enabled to preach, I think, an hundred and seventy-five times in public, besides exhorting frequently in private. I have travelled upwards of eight hundred miles, and gotten upwards of seven hundred pounds sterling in goods, provisions, and money, for the Georgia orphans. Never did I perform my journeys with so little fatigue, or see such a continuance of the divine presence in the congregations to whom I have preached. Praise the Lord, O my soul.”
On the 16th of January, 1741, Mr. Whitefield again sailed for England. He soon after visited Scotland and continued preaching there about three months. At length, after having gone through evil report and good report he left Edinburgh in October, 1741, and travelled to Abergavenny in Wales, where, in consequence of a former resolution, he married Mrs. James, a widow lady of that place. From thence he went to Bristol where he preached twice a day with his usual success. After various excursions into the country, he went to London in the spring of the year 1742, and now ventured to take a very extraordinary step. It had been the custom for many years past, in the holiday seasons, to erects booths in Moorfields, for mountebanks, players, puppet-shows, &c. which were attended from morning till night, by innumerable multitudes of the lower sort of people. He formed a resolution to preach the gospel among them; and executed it.
On Whitmonday, at six o'clock in the morning, attended by a large congregation of praying people, he began. Thousands, who were waiting there, gaping for their usual diversions, all flocked round him. His text was John iii. 14. They gazed, they listened, they wept: and many seemed to be stung with deep conviction for their past sins. All was hushed and solemn.