« AnteriorContinuar »
stand ; and in agony of soul he was forced to cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner!" The preacher then, in melting language, proclaimed the free and superabounding grace of God in Christ, which was commanded to be preached; first of all to Jerusalem sinners, the very people who had murdered the Prince of life; and from which a gleam of hope beamed into his heart. Under this sermon, many other persons were convinced of sin, and brought to God. The next night Mr. Tanner heard Mr. Whitefield preach again : his subject was " Jacob's ladder.” From this discourse he obtained such views of the person, character, and love of the great Mediator, as enabled him to lay hold on the hope set before him, and to rejoice in Christ Jesus.
The advances which Mr. Tanner made in religious knowledge and experience, were exceedingly rapid. By reviewing his former state, he learned to pity the souls of his fellow men, whom he saw perishing for lack of knowledge. Having experienced the power of divine truth on his own heart, he became strongly inclined to the ministry of the gospel. In 1754, he hired a room, and soon began to preach. His labors were remarkably blessed, and he seemed never to preach one sermon in vain ! A circumstance now occurred, which perhaps deserves to be recorded :-A man, who lived in the court in which Mr. Tanner preached, was so very much exasperated at having a Methodist preaching room near him, that he determined to remove to another part of the city. He did SO;
but afterwards returned to the same house. Here he was taken ill; and was confined in a room so near the preaching place, as to be able to hear Mr. Tanner. He heard him pray
great fervor for the king, and all classes of men. His prejudices were overcome: he began to think well of him. Mr. Tanner, introduced some part of the articles and homilies of the Church of England, to prove that the doctrines which he taught were consistent with them. The next morning the man brought a bible with the articles, that he might judge of the truth of what he had heard. When he read, he said to those about him, “this is just as this man preaches.” He afterwards ventured to go into the room, where the Lord made the gospel “the power of God” unto his salvation. This man afterwards went into the neighboring villages to speak to his fellow sinners; and there is reason to believe that his attempts were blessed to many souls.
In 1769, Mr. Tanner built the Tabernacle in Exeter, where he labored for many years, preaching three times every Lord's day, and twice in the week, besides engaging in more private exercises.
Mr. Tanner did not confine his ministry to Exeter ; he
looked with compassion on its peculiarly dark neighborhood. At the request of the late Rev. Augustus Montague Toplady, he used to preach at Broad Hembury: he likewise labored in the towns of Moreton, Hampstead, Crediton, and Topham, and in various villages in the vicinity. In each of these places he met with great opposition; yet some in heaven, and others on their road thither bless God that they ever heard him.
Mr. Tanner's exertions continued unabated till within a short time of his death. His frequent petition was, that he might die in his Master's work. His petition was granted. For he was taken out of the pulpit, being unable to finish his sermon; and shortly after fell asleep in Jesus, March 30, 1805, aged eightysix. This is but one of the numberless instances showing Whitefield's marvelous instrumentality in forwarding the kingdom of his Master.
From his embarking for America in 1744, to his going to the Bermu
das, in the
1748. In the beginning of August 1744, as soon as the convoy came,* Mr. Whitefield embarked, though in a poor state of health ; and after a tedious passage of eleven weekst arrived at York in New England. Colonel Pepperell went with some friends in his own boat, to invite him to his house; but he declined the invitation, being so ill of a nervous cholic, that he was obliged immediately after his arrival to go to bed. His friends expressed much anxiety on his behalf. An eminent physician attended him, who had been a deist, but was awakened the last time he was in New England. For some time he was, indeed very weak: "yet," he writes, " in these three weeks, I was enabled to preach: but, imprudently going over the ferry to Portsmouth, I caught cold, immediately relapsed, and was taken, as every one thought, with death, in the house of my dear friend Mr. Sherburne. What concerned me was, that notice had been given of my coming to preach. While the
*"August 4. Our convoy is now come. I desire you all to bless God for what he is doing in these parts; for preaching in the Dock is now like preaching at the Tabernacle. Our morning lectures are very delightful. Oh the thousands that flock to the preaching of Christ's gospel !"
"P.S. I must tell you one thing more. There is a ferry over to Plymouth. The ferry-men
are now so much my friends, that they will iake multitudes that come to hear me preach; saying, God forbid that we should sell the word of God.'»
+ His letter to the clergy of the Diocese of Litchfield and Coventry is dated during this voyage.
doctor was preparing a medicine, feeling my pains abated, I on a sudden cried, “Doctor, my pains are suspended: by the help of God, I will go and preach, and then come home and die. In my own apprehension, and in all appearance to others, I was a dying man. I preached, the people heard me as such. The invisible realities of another world lay open to my view. Expecting to stretch into eternity, and to be with my Master before the morning, I spoke with peculiar energy. Such effects followed the word, I thought it was worth dying for a thousand times. Though wonderfully comforted within, at my return home I thought I was dying indeed. I was laid on a bed upon the ground, near the fire, and I heard my friends say, 'He is gone. But God was pleased to order it otherwise. I gradually recovered; and soon after, a poor negro woman would see me. She came, sat down upon the ground, and looked earnestly in my face, and then said, in broken language, ‘Master, you just go to heaven's gate, but Jesus Christ said, Get you down, you must not come here yet, but go first and call some more poor negroes. I prayed to the Lord, that if I was to live, this might be the event.
“ In about three weeks I was enabled, though in great weakness, to reach Boston ; and, every day, was more and more confirmed in what I had heard about a glorious work that had been begun and carried on there, and in almost all parts of New England, for two years together. Before my last embarkation from Georgia, Mr. Colman and Mr. Cooper wrote me word, that upon Mr. Tennent's going out as an itinerant, the awakening greatly increased in various places,* till, at length, the work so advanced every where, that many thought the latter day glory was indeed come, and that a nation was to be born in a day. But, as the same sun that lightens and warms the earth, gives life to noxious insects, so the same work, that for a while carried all before it, was sadly blemished, through the subtlety of Satan,f and the want of more experience in ministers and people, who had never seen such a scene before. Opposers, who waited for such an occasion, did all they could to aggravate every thing. One rode several hundred miles, to pick up all the accounts he could hear of what was wrong in what he called only 'a religious stir.' And God having been pleased to send me first, all was laid upon me. Testimonies signed by various ministers came out against me, I almost every day. And the disorders were also at the highest; so that for
See Prince's Christian History, Vol. II. page 304, where are attestations of above a hundred and twenty ministers to the goodness of the work.
+ Thus it was at the reformation in Germany.
a while my situation was rendered uncomfortable.* But amidst all this smoke, a blessed fire broke out. The awakened souls were as eager as ever to hear the word. Having heard that I had expounded early in Scotland, they begged I would do the same in Boston. I complied, and opened a lecture at six in the morning. I seldom preached to less than two thousand. It was delightful to see so many of both sexes, neatly dressed, flocking to hear the word, and returning home to family prayer and breakfast before the opposers were out of their beds. So that it was commonly said, that between early rising and tar water the physicians would have no business."
It was now spring, 1745, and at that time the first expedition was set on foot against Cape Breton. Colonel Pepperell, who was then at Boston, and constantly attended Mr. Whitefield's lecture, was pleased, the day before he accepted a commission to be general in that expedition, to ask Mr. Whitefield's opinion of the matter. He told him, with his usual frankness, “ That
* While some published testimonials against Mr. Whitefield, others published testimonials in his favor; as Mr. Hobby, Mr. Loring, fifteen ministers convened at Taunton, March 5, 1745. The following paragraph is in Prince's Christian History, No. XCIV:
“Saturday, November 24, 1744, the Rev. Mr. Whitefield was so far revived as to be able to set out from Portsmouth to Boston, whither he came in a very feeble state the Monday evening after; since which, he has been able to preach in several of our largest houses of public worship, particularly the Rev. Dr. Coleman's, Dr. Sewall's, Mr. Webb's, and Mr. Gee's, to crowded assemblies of people, and with great and growing acceptance. At Dr. Colman's desire, and with the consent of the church, on the Lord's day after his arrival he administered to them the holy communion. And last Lord's day he preached for Mr. Cheever of Chelsea, and administered the holy supper there. The next day he preached for the Rev. Mr. Emerson of Malden. Yesterday he set out to preach in some towns north, and purposes to return hither the next Wednesday evening, and after a few days to comply with the earnest invitations of several ministers to go and preach to their congregations in the southern parts of the province. He comes with the same extraordinary spirit of meekness, sweetness, and universal benevolence, as before. In opposition to the spirit of separation and bigotry, he is still for holding communion with all Protestant churches. In opposition to enthusiasm, he preaches a close adherence to the scriptures, the necessity of trying all impressions by them, and of rejecting whatever is not agreeable to them, as delusions. 'In opposition to Antinomianism, he preaches up all kinds of relative and religious duties, though to be performed in the strength of Christ ; and, in short, the doctrines of the Church of England, and of the first fathers of this country. As before, he first applies himself to the understandings of his hearers, and then to the affections. And the more he preaches, the more he convinces people of their mistakes about him, and increases their satisfaction."
" A man of good parts, ready wit, and lively imagination, who had made it his business, in order to furnish matter for preaching over a bottle, to come and hear, and then carry away scraps of my sermons, having one night got sufficient matter to work upon, as he thoughi, attempted to go out; but being pent in on every side, he fou his endeavors fruitless. Obliged thus to stay, and looking up to me, waiting for some fresh matter for ridicule, God was pleased to prick him to the heart. He came to Mr. P. full of horror, confessed his crimes, and longed to ask pardon.”