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On the Death of the Rev. Mr. George WHITEFIELD :
Preached at the Chapel in Tottenham-Court-Road, and at the Tabernacle, near Moorfields, on Sunday, Nov. 18, 1770.
NUMBERS Xxiii. 10.
“ Let me die the death of the Righteous, and let my last end
be like his."
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 ex. pected on this occasion. It would detain you too long from the sadly-pleasing 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? The end of whose conversation ye know, “ Jesus Christ, the same yes. terday, to-day, and for ever." VOL. IX.
And may we not,
I. Observe a few particulars of his Life and Death.
III. Enquire how we may improve this awful Providence, his sudden removal from us.
I. 1. We may, in the first place, observe a few particu- . lars 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 to the best of his knowledge. About eighteen he removed to the University, and was admitted at Pembroke College in Oxford : and about a year after, he became acquainted with the Methodists, (so called,) whom from that time, he loved as his own soul.
2. By them 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 crucified.
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 kind. Many nights he lay sleepless on 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 heavy load, by giving him “ the Spirit of Adoption,” enabling him, through a living faith, to lay hold on the Son of his Love."
4. However, it was thought needful, for the recovery his health, which was much impaired, that he should go into the country. He accordingly went to Gloucester, where God enabled him to awaken several young persons. These soon formed themselves into a little society, and were some
of the first fruits of his labour. Shortly after, he began to read twice or thrice a week to some poor people in the town, and every day to read to and pray with, the prisoners in the county jail.
5. Being now about twenty-one years of age, he was solicited to enter into Holy Orders. Of this he was greatly afraid, being deeply sensible of his own insufficiency. But the Bishop himself sending for him, and telling him, “ Though I had purposed to ordain none under three and twenty, yet I will ordain you whenever you come ;” and several other providential circumstances concurring, he submitted, and was ordained on Trinity-Sunday, 1736. The next Sunday he preached to a crowded auditory, in the church wherein he was baptized. The week following, he 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 him.
6. But it was not long before he was invited to London, to serve the cure of a friend going into the country. He continued there'two months, lodging in the Tower, reading prayers in the chapel twice a week, catechising and preaching once, beside daily 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 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, 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, catechizing, 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, and in Bristol; so that the heat of the churches was scarcely 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 exceedingly large auditories; beside reading prayers twice or thrice, and walking to and fro 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 scarcely a word is heard among us when together, but what 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 chatechism.