페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

thing by nature; and that, if God and began to rejoice in the freedom had not freely prevented me by his wherewith Christ makes free, his grace, I must have been forever ban. feelings were strong and decided ished from his presence. I was so indeed, and he was in raptures.- “I brutish as to hate instruction ; and found and felt in myself that I was used purposely to shun all opportu. delivered from the burden that had nities of receiving it. I soon gave so heavily oppressed me. The spirit pregnant proofs of an impudent of mourning was taken from me, temper. Lying, filthy talking, and and I knew what it was truly to refoolish jesting, I was much addicted joice in God my Savior. For some to, even when very young. Some time I could not avoid singing psalms times I used to curse, if not to swear. wherever I was; but my joy became Stealing from my mother I thought gradually more settled.” But he no theft at all, and used to make no had much to learn after that turnscruple about taking money out of ing point in his history; and in the her pockets before she was up. I study of himself, he was no unapt have frequently betrayed my trust. or dull scholar. Few perhaps have Numbers of Sabbaths have I broken, excelled him in the science of selfand generally used to behave my. knowledge. Few have more tho. self very irreverently in God's sanc- roughly sounded the depths of the tuary. Much money have I spent human heart, or more skillfully anin plays and in the common amuse. alyzed its multiform and mysterious ments of the age. Cards and read- workings. ing romances were my heart's de. With this deep experience of what light. It would be endless to re- was in himself, he was so situated count the sins and offenses of my as to have opportunity to learn huyounger days. They are more man nature, as exhibited by others, in number than the hairs of my in a great variety of forms. Born head.' My heart would fail me at in an inn, he there saw man in an the remembrance of them, were I attitude which he seldom presents not assured that my Redeemer liv. elsewhere. Removing from place eth to make intercession for me. to place in the course of his preWhatever foreseen fitness for salva. paratory education, he came in con. tion others may talk of and glory tact with mind in a great diversity in, I disclaim any such thing; if I of circumstances.

When he began trace myself from my cradle to my to preach, he commenced anew the manhood, I can see nothing in me great study of man; and thus, what but a fitness to be damned. "I with studying himself and others speak the truth in Christ, I lie not."" and various reading, he came to

As he increased in years his con- have an unusual knowledge of huceptions of the enormity and odious- man nature. ness of sin, and of the moral cor. This gave him great power as a ruption of the natural heart, became preacher of the gospel. Knowing clearer and more affecting. The so well what was in himself, and Spirit often and powerfully strove "as in water face answereth to face, with him, and sent him to his closet so the heart of man 10 man," also weeping. For a considerable peri- what was in other men, he could adod before his conversion, he was dress himself to others with a skill the subject of various and peculiar sure as instinci-a searching power exercises of mind, and was led in a which otherwise would not have way which presented him with a been possible to him. This enabled great diversity of views of the hu- him to speak from his own heart to man heart. When he was intro- other hearts from his own con. duced into the kingdom of grace science to other consciences--from his own experience to the varying himself and how he obtained the conditions of other minds. The mastery over it? “ He thinks aloud abasing yet elevating, painful yet about himself, only to enable others joyful, simple yet sublime truths of to know what to think about their the Gospel, had all been authenti- own perplexities, dilemmas, and cated in the humblings and eleva temptations. He shows them his tions, the conflicts and triumphs of own soul, merely to prove that no his own breast. “He spoke what he strange thing has befallen' their knew, and testified what he had souls. Let the following passage seen and felt." His preaching was serve as a specimen of this clerical not made up of dry abstractions and egotism. “Do not say that I preach cold technicalities and vague gener despair. I despair of no one, when alities; but it contained living real. I consider how God had mercy on ities drawn fresh and glowing from such a wretch as I, who was running the heart. Its staple was not of the in a full career to hell. I was hastletter which killeth, but of the spiriting thither ; but Jesus Christ passed that giveth life. His pictures were by and stopped me. Jesus Christ not mere copies, but originals, con- passed by while I was in my blood, ceived at first in his own soul, and and bid me live. Thus I am a monthen sketched boldly with a master's ument of God's free grace; and, hand and held up to the view of dy: therefore, my brethren, I despair of ing men, instinct with life and full

none of you, when I consider, I say, of power,

Was the sinfulness of what a wretch I was. Looking man's heart the theme of discourse? upon one who was openly profane, his words were sharp and his preach- grossly vicious and who gloried in ing authoritative, because he had his shame, he exclaimed with irrefelt the bitterness of sin and been pressible emotion," but for the grace chained to its cruel servitude. Did of God, there goes George Whitehe persuade sinners to become re- field !” conciled to God? his persuasion Let one more specimen suffice. was almost resistless, because he “My friends, I trust I feel somewhat knew in his own experience the rea- of a sense of God's distinguishing sonableness and joys of reconcilia. love upon my heart; therefore I tion. When he portrayed the con- must divert a little from congratusequences of continued unbelief, lating believers, to invite poor Christand pointed to a coming judgment less sinners to come to him, and acand the retributions of eternity, it cept his righteousness, that they was with the earnestness, the melt- may have life. Alas, my heart aling pathos of one who had often most bleeds ! What a multitude of made that judgment a reality in his precious souls are now before me! own vivid imagination, and looked How shortly must all be ushered into the “ lake that burneth." into eternity! and yet, О cutting

This may account for a species thought, was God now to require all of egotism-modest but not unpleas. your souls, how few, comparatively ant—which we find running through speaking, could really say, “The nearly all his sermons. He touches Lord our righteousness.' a point in Christian experience. “And think you, O sinners, that How natural to illustrate it by what you will be able to stand in the day his own heart has taught him. He of judgment, if Christ be not your grapples with some difficulty that righteousness! No, that alone is causes the young Christian to stum- the wedding garment in which you ble and despair. What more effec- must appear.

O Christless sinners, tive mode to dispose of it can he I am distressed for you! the desires employ, than to tell how it troubled of my soul are enlarged. O that this may be an accepted time! little impression upon the minds of That the Lord may be your right- others. Without this, he could not eousness! for whither would you have exhibited that wonderful skill, flee, if death should find you naked? that almost miraculous sagacity, Indeed there is no hiding yourselves which enabled him so powerfully from his presence. The pitiful fig. to affect alike the rich and the poor, leaves of your own righteousness the philosopher and the collier. will not cover your nakedness, when Without this the name of George God shall call you to stand before Whitefield had never been interhim. O think of death! O think changeable with “prince of preachof judgment! Yet a little while, ers.” But while he was thus re. and time shall be no more ; and markable for his acquaintance with then what will become of you, if the complex and mysterious work. the Lord be not your righteous- ings of the human heart, he under. ness?"

stood also with unusual clearness While thus speaking, says his bi- the nature of the means with which ographer," his face was a language, he was to reach and mould that and his intonation music, and his heart. In other words, action passion." Could he have He was "mighty in the Scripspoken ihus, and held multitudes in tures.” Before he took orders as a breathless silence hour after hour, preacher of righteousness, he was had he not declared what he had accustomed to spend much time in seen and testified what he had felt? perusing the word of God and those Surely nothing short of this utter- books which illustrated divine truth. ance of the heart, this disclosure of On one occasion he says, “ Though the realities of his own deep experi- weak, I often spent two hours in my ence, could have packed the houses evening retirements, and prayed where he preached to suffocation, over my Greek Testament and Bish. and caused "multitudes to follow op Hall's most excellent Contem. him home weeping.” Though his plations.” “ While thus engaged sermons were elaborated in the in searching the Scriptures, he dishead, they must have been “carri. covered the true grounds of a sined through the heart," or they could ner's hope and justification. The not have penetrated so many other testimony of God concerning his hearts. His own experience, his Son became power unto salvation." large knowledge of human nature, Again he says, “My mind being enabled him to adapt himself to all now more open and enlarged, I beclasses of mind and to the varying gan to read the Holy Scriptures conditions of those whom he ad- upon my knees, laying aside all dressed. He knew, as by intuition, other books, and praying over, if when to construct the chain of possible, every line and word. This elaborate argument, when to lead proved meat indeed and drink incaptive the imagination, when to deed to my soul. I daily received urge the claims of law and duty up- fresh life, light, and power from on the conscience, and when to ap- above. I got more true knowledge ply all his power of entreaty, per- from reading the book of God in suasion and pathos directly to the one month than I could ever have heart. He had in an eminent de. acquired from all the writings of gree this quality of an effective In one word, I found it profitpreacher of the Gospel; a knowl- able for reproof, for correction, for edge of the nature of the material instruction, every way sufficient to he had to work upon. Without this, make the man of God perfect, thohe might have had uncommon pow. roughly furnished for every good ers of intellect, and yet made but work and word. About this time, God was pleased to enlighten my intellectual and moral philosophy, soul and bring me into the know and been perfectly at home in all ledge of his free grace, and the ne- the arts of the dialectician and the cessity of being justified in his sight rhetorician; and yet, deficient in by faith alone. Burkitt's and Hen- respect to a knowledge of the word ry's Expositions were of admirable of God, he could not have excelled use to lead me into this and all oth- as he did as a preacher of the everer Gospel truths.” After his ordi- lasting Gospel. His sermons might nation and his first 'appearance in have been carefully elaborated and London, he returned to Oxford, and full of historical and classical althere he “devoted the chief part of lusions; they might have containhis time to the study of Henry's ed ingenious essays on morality, Commentary.” How highly he val. subtle disquisitions on the nature ued this work may be seen from the and advantages of virtue, and the manner in which he expressed his disadvantages of vice ; they might gratitude to God for being unex- withal have been pronounced in the pectedly enabled to pay for the most finished style of elocution ; copy which had been furnished him. yet, had they not exhibited a pro. “Forever blessed be divine good- found and familiar knowledge of the ness !” Most heartily did he re- word of God, and been shaped and spond to the sublime eulogy pro- characterized by the demands of nounced by the psalmist on God's God's own truth, he never could word: “The law of God is perfect, have produced such effects as he converting the soul.” “ How love did upon the diversified classes of I thy law! it is my meditation all hearers whose minds were brought the day.” Thy word have I hid into contact with his ministrations. in my heart."

men.

To be mighty in human science, No one can read the life of White. in philosophy, in literature, is one field, or peruse those sermons of thing; to be “mighty in the Scriphis, which, imperfect as they are, tures," is quite another and alto. have been preserved, without per gether a superior thing. This pow. ceiving his uncommon familiarity er is indeed indispensable to the efwith the word of God. In almost fective preacher.

If a man preevery paragraph of his discourses sents himself before a company you find either a direct quotation, of immortal beings, professedly to or obvious allusion, or brief para- teach them how to escape the conphrase, which shows you clearly sequences of sin, and how to render that his whole soul was imbued with their immortality blessed and glorithe spirit of the Gospel, and his ous, he does little more than perpetrains of thought suggested and car- trate an absurdity, at least an imried forward by “the words in which pertinence, if he leave out of his the Holy Ghost spoke to holy men ministrations the instructions of the of old.”

Holy Spirit on those subjects which Now it can not be questioned that constitute the essence of the Gospel. this extensive and intimate acquaint- No matter what else he preaches, if ance with the truths and language his sermons are not imbued with of revelation gave him great power the spirit of Gospel truth, if he dein proclaiming the unsearchable pend not on this for his groundwork, riches of Christ. He might have superstructure, finish and effect, he been vastly more profound than he preaches to very little purpose. His was in the exact sciences, and much declamations, and soarings, and more learned in the literature of the fancies, will be as powerless as a ancients and the moderns; he might pageant, if the mind be not illuminhave explored the whole circle of ed by divine light, and the deep

[ocr errors]

fountains of his soul moved by the me more intelligence in the things solemn realities of God's word. His of God, more conviction of what is trumpet gives an uncertain sound, truth, more confidence in preaching so fights he as one that beateth the the Gospel, more elevation above air. An intimate acquaintance with the atmosphere of vapors, and hobthe words and facts—the biography, bies and isms, more rich and varie history, prophecy, poetry, doctrines ous furniture for the sacred desk, and precepts of the Bible, will ena- more stability in religious vision, ble him to speak with authority, and more joy and peace in believing, , to produce an effect, to which the and more vigor and equability of transient results of mere secular faith, and so has done me more subeloquence are tame and insignifi. stantial good, probably,--than all cant.

other ways and means, with the use George Whitefield spoke not so of all other books in my library." much in the words which man's Doubtless Whitefield would have re. wisdom teacheth as in those which corded his experience on this point, the Holy Ghost teacheth—words in language equally strong. Cowfitly chosen and fitly spoken, like per never could have applied to him apples of gold in pictures of silver; the remonstrance, which, when apand hence he went to the thronged plied, cut with so keen an edge. churches in the metropolis of Great “If true, then why resort at every turn, Britain, and to the ten thousands in To Athens or to Rome for wisdom short Moorfields and the gathering multi- of men's

occasions, when in Him reside

Grace, knowledge, comfort, an unfathomed tudes in America, “in demonstra. store? tion of the Spirit and in power."

How oft, when Paul hath served us with a text, He had studied the Bible for him.

Hath Epictetus, Plato, Tully, preached !" self, had obtained clear perceptions In continuing our estimate of of its great and majestic truths, Whitefield's power as a preacher, knew that they would be mighty we must not omit to mention that he through God to the pulling down of had a deep sense of the magnitude strong holds, and used them with and importance of his office. Wrigreat confidence and boldness as ting to a dear friend, June 20, 1736, weapons drawn fresh from the ar. he says, “ This is a day much to be mory of heaven to contend with remembered, O my soul! for about spiritual wickedness in high places noon I was solemnly admitted by and in low places. “He uttered good Bishop Benson, before many his message in freeness and fervor, witnesses, into holy orders. I en. with the belief that there is an im- deavored to behave with unaffected portance, a dignity, a worth attach- devotion ; but not suitable enough ed to it, which the most reckless to the greatness of the office I was must respect, and a power inherent to undertake. At the same time, I which the most obdurate must feel. trust, I answered to every question His deep-felt confidence in his from the bottom of my heart, and weapon, his bold relief of doctrine, heartily prayed that God might say, often arrested attention, and by the Amen. I hope the good of souls Spirit's aid subdued the heart, when will be my only principle of action. a doubtful and faltering utterance Let come what will — life or death, would have been met with the most depth or height, I shall henceforth vacant indifference, if not with pos- live like one, who, this day, in the itive scorn.” A distinguished mod. presence of men and angels, took ern divine has recorded his own ex- the holy sacrament upon the properience of an intelligent study of fession of being inwardly moved by the divine word, in the following the Holy Ghost to take upon me graphic language: “It has given that ministration in the church. I

« 이전계속 »