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ON THE DEATH OF THE REV. MR. GEORGE
Preached at the Chapel in Tottenham-Court-Road, and at the Tabernacle ncar
Moorfields, on Sunday, November 18, 1770.
“ Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be
like his .'” Num. xxiij. 10.
1. “Let my last end be like his ” How many of you join in this wish? Perhaps there are few of you who do not, even in this numerous congregation! And, O that this wish may rest upon your minds !--that it may not die away, till your souls also are lodged " where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest!”
2. An elaborate exposition of the text will not be expected on this occasion. It would detain you too long from the sadlypleasing thought of your beloved Brother, Friend, and Pastor ; yea, and Father too: for how many are here whom he hath
begotten in the Lord ? ” Will it not then be more suitable to your inclinations, as well as to this solemnity, directly to speak of this man of God, whom you have so often heard speaking in this place ?-lhe end of whose conversation ye know, “ Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” And may we not,
I. Observe a few particulars of his Life and Death ?
IU, Inquire how we may improve this awful Providence, his sudden removal from us?
1. ). We may, in the first place, observe a few particulars of his Life and Death. He was born at Gloucester, in December, 1714, and put to a Grammar-School there, when about twelve years old. When he was seventeen, he began to be seriously religious, and served God lo the best of his knowledge. About eighteen he removed to the University, and was admitted at Pembrokc College in Oxford; and about a year after, he became acquainted with the Methodists, (so called, whion from that time he loved as bis own soul.
2. By then he was convinced, that we “must be born again," or outward religion will profit us nothing. He joined with them in fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays; in visiting the sick and the prisoners; and in gathering up the very fragments of time, that no moment might be lost: and he changed the course of his studies ; reading chiefly such books as entered into the heart of religion, and led directly to an experimental knowledge of Jesus Christ, and him crucificd.
3. He was soon tried as with fire. Not only his reputation was lost, and some of his dearest friends forsook him ; but he was exercised with inward trials, and those of the severest ki:d. Many nights he lay sleepless upon his bed; many days, prostrate on the ground. But after he had groaned several months under the Spirit of bondage,” God was pleased to remove the heary load, by giving bim “the Spirit of Adoption;" enabling him, through a living faith, to lay bold on “the Son of his Love."
4. However, it was thought vecdful, for the recovery of his health, which was much impaired, that he should go into the country. He accordingly went to Gloucester, where God enabled bim to awaken several yomg persons. These soon formed themselves into a little society, and were some of the first fruits of lis labour. Shortly after, he began to read, twice or thrice a week, to some poor people in the town, and every day to read tv and pray with the prisoners in the county-gaol.
5. Being now about twenty-one years of age, be was solicited to enter into Holy Orders. Of this he was greatly afraid, being deeply sensible of his own iusuficiency. But the Bishop himself seuding for him, and telliurbim, “Though I had purpused to ordain none under tree and twenty, yet I will ordain you, whenever you come,''-—and several other providential circumstances concurring, he submitted, and was ordained on Trinity-Siunday, 17.6. The next Sunday he preached to a erowded auditory, in the Church wherein he was baptized. The week following lic returned to Oxford, and took his Bachelor's degree : and he was now fully employed, the care of the prisoners and the poor lying chiefly on bim.
6. But it was not loug before lie was invited to London, to serve the cure of a friend going into the country. He continued there 110 months, loudying in the Tower, reading prayers in the Chape iwice it werk, catciliising and preaching ouce, beside visiting the soldiers in the barracks and the infirmary. He also read prayers every evening at Wapping Chapel, and preached at Ludgate Prison every Tuesday. While he was here, letters came from his friends in Georgia, which niade 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, where several youths met daily at his room, to build up each other in their most holy faith.
7. But he was quickly called from hence again, to supply the cure of Dummer, in Hampshire. Here he read prayers twice a day, early in the morning, and in the evening, after the people came from work. He also daily catechised the children, and visited from house to house. 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, catechising, and visiting the people. Is there a more excellent way for a servant of Christ and his Church ? If not, who will “ go and do likewise ?"
8. Yet his mind still ran on going abroad; and being now fully convinced he was called of God thereto, he set all things in order, and, in January, 1737, 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 Stonehouse, in Bath, 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 ; beside reading prayers twice or thrice, and walking to and fro often ten or twelve miles,
9. On December 28, he left London. It was on the 29th that he first preached without notes. December 30, he went on board; but it was above, a month before they cleared the land. One happy effect of their very slow passage he mentions in April following:-“Blessed be God, we now live very comfortably in the great cabin. We talk of little else but God and Christ; and scarce a word is heard among us when together, but wbat has reference to our fall in the First, and our new birth in the Second Adam.". It seems, likewise, to have been a peculiar Providence, that he should spend a little time at Gibraltar; where both citizens and soldiers, high and low, young and old, acknowledged the day of their visitation.
10. From Sunday, May 7, 1738, till the latter end of August following, he “made full proof of his ministry” in Georgia, particularly at Savannah: he read prayers and expounded twice a day, and visited the sick daily. On Sunday he expounded at five in the morning; at ten read prayers and preached, and at three in the afternoon; and at seven in the evening expounded the Church-Catechism. How much easier is it for our brethren in the ministry, either in England, Scotland, or Ireland, to find fault with such a labourer in our Lord's vineyard, than to trcad in his steps !
11. It was now that he observed the deplorable condition of many Children here; and that God put into his heart the first thought of founding an Orphan-house, for wbich he determined to raise contributions in England, if God should give him a safe return thither. In December following, he did return to London; and on Sunday, January 14, 1739, he was ordained Priest at Christ-Church, Oxford. The next day he came to London again; and on Sunday the 21st preached twice. But though the Churches were large, and crowded exceedingly, yet many hundreds stood in the church-yard, 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 in Bristol, (beside 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. On Friday he preached there to four or five thousand; and on Sunday to, it was supposed, ten thousand! The pumber continually increased all the time he stayed at Bristol; and a flame of holy love was kindled, which will not easily be put out. The same was afterwards kindled in various parts of Wales, of Gloucestershire, and Worcestershire. Indeed, wherever he vent, God abundantly confirmed the word of his messenger.
12. On Sunday, April 29, he preached the first time in Moorfields, and on Kennington Common; and the thousands of hearers were as quiet as they could have been in a Church, Being again detained in England from month to month, he
made little excursions into several counties, and received the contributions of willing multitudes, for an Orphan-house in Georgia. The embargo which was now laid on the shipping, gave him leisure for more journeys through various parts of England, for which many will have reason to bless God to all eternity. At length, on August 14, he embarked : but he did pot land in Pennsylvania, till October 30. Afterwards he went through Pennsylvania, the Jerscys, New-York, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina; preaching all along to immense congregations, with full as great effect as in England. On January 10, 1740, he arrived at Sayannah.
13. January 29, he added three desolate orphans to near twenty which he had in his house before. The next day he laid out the ground for the house, about ten miles from Savannah. February 11, he took in four orphans more; and set out for Frederica, in order to fetch the orphans that were in the southern parts of the colony. In his return he fixed a School, both for children and grown persons, at Darien, and took four orphans thence. March 25, he laid the first stone of the Orphanhouse, to which, with great propriety, he gave the name of Bethesda; a work for which the children yet unborn shall praise the Lord. He had now about forty orphans, so that there were near a hundred inouths to be fed daily. But he was “ careful for nothing,” casting bis care on Him who feedeth the young ravens that call upon him.
14. In April he made another tour through Pennsylvania, the Jerseys, and New-York. Incredible multitudes flocked to hear, 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. In some places, thousands cried out aloud; many as in the agonies of death ; most were drowned in tears; some turned pale as death; others were wringing their hands; others lying on the ground; others sinking into the arms of their friends; almost all lifting up their eyes, and calling for mercy.
15. He returned to Savannah, June 5. The next evening, during the public service, the whole congregation, young and old, were dissolved in tears: after service, several of the parishioners, and all his family, particularly the little children, returned home crying along the street, and some could not help praying aloud. The groans and cries of the children continued all night, and great part of the next day.