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To the Life of Whitefield, containing some additional documents of
interest concerning his life, character, and death.
The following extract of a letter appeared in the Georgia Gazette, soon after Mr. Whitefield's death : “The consideration of public calamities is never out of season; and if properly attended to, as they ought to be, will afford matter of great improvement to the mind, that views them as happening by the permission of an unerring divine Providence. And as the loss of eminent and public spirited persons, who have signally distinguished themselves by serving their country in a free, disinterested, and generous manner, is none of the least, so it deserveth a particular regard.
"In this light, I look upon the very much lamented death of the late Rev. George Whitefield, especially in respect to Georgia ; for which he has demonstrated, by every means in his power, a most uncommonly warm, affectionate, and unabating regard, for near thirty-three years past ; I say, by every means in his power, because it is well known that, until within a few years past, he has been constantly loaded with a heavy debt to support and carry on his benevolent institution, the Orphan-house, which he frequently felt so severely, that had not that God, whom he faithfully served, supported him, he must have sunk under the burden : notwithstanding he was at the same time maligned, traduced, and persecuted with unreJenting virulence, as a cheat, an impostor, and a public robber, who, under the specious pretence of promoting a charitable design, was amassing great wealth to himself; all which he bore with an uncommon degree of patience; and never to my knowledge said more, at these unmerited reproaches, than that the great day would show his accusers their mistake.
“ When he was the stated minister of this parish, which was before the Orphan-house was settled, his liberal heart devised liberal things; and the then inhabitants of Savannah, of the villages of Highgate and Hampstead, and of the other adjacent places; the Saltzburghers of Ebenezer, the inhabitants of Darien and Frederica, who were at that time not inconsiderable in number, all partook of his unbounded bounty to a very large amount; although he then almost denied him
self the necessaries of life, with which I was intimately acquainted. In short, it was his whole study, in imitation of his great Master, to do good to the bodies, as well as to the souls, of all about him.
“He constantly performed divine service publicly very early every morning, and at the close of the day every evening, throughout the year, that he might not interrupt the new colonists in their labor in the day time, when he always expounded part of the first or second lesson. Every Sunday he administered the holy communion, and had public service four times, and his congregations were very numerous, in comparison of the number of people in his parish; for though there were many dissenters, there were few absentees; besides, he made it his daily practice to visit in rotation from house to house, without any regard to religious denominations, or party distinctions, which he often told me, he thought a very important and indispensable part of a minister's duty, as by that means he had an opportunity of frequently dropping a word in season, as well as of being better acquainted with the spiritual and temporal circumstances of his parishioners; and thereby, as far as in his power, of assisting them in both. Thus he acted as a parish minister, considering himself as the steward of God, and accountable for every moment of time, which he had solemnly dedicated to his service. And it is no wonder, when, by a series of divine providences, his sphere of action became more enlarged and unconfined, that his zeal and activity were proportioned.
“These facts, of which there are some now living, besides myself, who can witness to the truth of them, I think it my honor and indispensable duty to communicate to the public, in memory of my very dear deceased friend.
“ I could with great truth say much more, but I purposely confine my observations to his conduct in Georgia, where his memory appears to be deeply engraven on the hearts of its grateful inhabitants.
“ The very honorable and truly respectful notice the legislature have publicly shown to it, by causing the parish church in this town to be so decently and handsomely hung in mourning, and their attending as a body last Sunday on divine service, strongly mark their real concern for their loss. The rector, the Rev. Samuel Frink, gave a very suitable discourse in the morning, from Philippians i. 23, 24; and the Rev. Edward Ellington, another in the afternoon, from Hebrews ii. 26. Both of them affectionately remarked the many amiable qualifications of the deceased, as a christian, a divine, and a gentleman; and especially his liberality to this province; as likewise
did the Rev. Mr. Zubly, in his meeting, which was also in mourning, from Daniel xii. 3.
“An old and real friend to the deceased,
and to Georgia."
The following extract of a letter was published in the Gospel Magazine, for February, 1771:
6 MY VERY DEAR SIR,
“A great man is fallen in our Israel --the Rev. Mr. Whitefield is no more! he has left his charge, his flock, and gone to mansions of blessedness.
"I may safely say, a great man, a great christian, a humble follower of the divine Redeemer, and a zealous defender of the doctrines of grace died, when Whitefield closed his eyes. That voice which was lifted up like a trumpet, and flew around the sacred roof, proclaiming salvation through the dying Jesus, teaching a sinful world the Savior's name, is now lost in perpetual silence! That man, whose labors in the cause of God, have been so abundant, has ceased from his work. That eminent minister of the New Testament, that son of thunder to the careless and secure, that cheering son of consolation to the weary and heavy laden, who has been distinguished as the happy instrument of bringing strayed sheep to the fold of God, is gone to experience the truth of his doctrine; and will one day appear, with all those who have been savingly brought to the knowledge of Jesus by his means, at the right hand of God, to give an account of the ministry he received from him; and in the presence of a surrounding world, say, 'Lord, here am I, and the children thou hast given me.'
"It is an afflictive, awful, and alarming providence to the church of God. A great light extinguished, a bright star set, and a numerous people deprived of their pastor. Who shall supply his place? Who shall, with that pathetic language, strength of argument, and force of persuasion, compel sinners to partake of the gospel feast? Who shall animate our associations, and diffuse a spirit of candor, charity, and moderation, throughout our assemblies? Who shall declare the glories, the riches, the freeness, the fulness of that complete salvation which Messiah finished? Who shall exhort, by precept and example, to that steady, uniform, constant character, which adorns the profession of the gospel ? Who shall recommend a life of fellowship and communion with the Father, Son, and Spirit, as the most desirable blessing, and build up the saints in their most holy faith? Who shall !-I am stopped by the mouth of him who says, "Shall I not do what I will with my
own? Is it not my prerogative to take and leave as seemeth me good? I demand the liberty of disposing my servants at my own pleasure-he has not slept as others do-it is your's to wait and trust, mine to dispose and govern-on me be the care of ministers and churches--with me is the residue of the spirit -I set my laborers to work, and when I please, I take them to the rest I have appointed for them-my power is not diminished, my arm not shortened, my love not abated, and my faithfulness still the same—I know my sheep, and they shall not stray into forbidden pastures, for want of a shepherd to feed them with knowledge and understanding.'
“ With these thoughts my passions subside, my mind is softened and satisfied. But now for the wings of faith and divine contemplation, to view him among the celestial throng, partaking of the happiness, sharing the joys of yonder blissful regions--ascribing salvation to him who loved and washed him in his blood-having on that perfect robe of immaculate righteousness, wrought out by the dear Redeemer-having on his head a crown of never fading glory, and palms of eternal victory in his hands-drinking at the fountain head of blessedness, and refreshing himself continually at that river which flows in sweet murmurs from the right hand of the Majesty on high-forever out of the reach of scandal and reproachwhere calumny can never penetrate, and the wicked cease from troubling-where God, even his own God, wipes away all tears from his eyes—where he will for ever bask in the boundless fruition of eternal love, continually receiving out of the divine fulness, fresh supplies of glory for glory, from which on earth, he had communication of grace for grace—sees the King in his beauty, rejoices in the beatific vision, follows the Lamb wheresoever he goes—and with those who are redeemed from among men, rests in the closest embraces of his Lord.
And now his voice is lost in death,
Praise will employ his noblest pow'rs,
Or immortality endures !'
“Here we must take our leave of the dear departed saint, till the happy time takes place, when we shall put off this body, and enter the confines of unmolested joy. And O! in what elevation of happiness, and refinement of felicity, shall we awake up in the likeness and express image of that God, who has loved us, and called us with a holy calling. Yet let us be persuaded of this, that when the important period commences, when the surprising signs, and descending inhabitants of heaven proclaim the second coming of our glorious Im
manuel—when the heavens open and disclose his radiant glory, the archangel's trump shall sound, the Lord himself descend with a shout, and the dead in Christ arise glorious and immortal-leave corruption, weakness, and dishonor behind them—we shall with him, and all the ransomed race, ascend to mansions of glory, bliss, and immortality, and join that universal chorus:
"Say, live forever, glorious King !
Born to redeem, and strong to save:
And where's thy victory boasting grave ?'
“But my dear sir, this awful dispensation demands a suitable improvement. The death of ministers, and mankind in general, are so many mementos; be ye also ready, is their solemn language. Come then, O my soul, examine with impartiality thy state. Nothing but an interest in the perfectly finished, infinitely glorious, and everlastingly sufficient, salvation of Jehovah Jesus, can be of any avail, can be any
real ground of consolation, when the grim tyrant stares thee in the face. May thy evidence be clear, thy faith strong, and thy hope on tiptoe; that when the bridegroom comes, and summons thy attendance, thou mayest with joy answer, Lord, I come.
“Should not the death of one and another of God's people, give fresh wings to our souls, make life less pleasant, and heaven more desirable ; wean our affections from the beggarly enjoyments of time and sense, and make us long to dwell where Jesus reveals his beauties, glories, and matchless excellence, face to face ? Here on earth we have some faint glimmerings, and O! how ought we to prize them, as they are drops from the ocean ! but the ravishing blaze is reserved for the upper and better world.
'O glorious hour, O bless'd abode!
“Though our interviews in the church militant are very sweet, yet they are very short. The world's ten thousand baits, the devil's ensnaring wiles, but above all, the flesh with its legions of corruptions, enslave the soul, and deaden our relish for divine things. O happy day! O blessed hour! when Christ shall have all enemies under his feet, and death itself be swallowed up of life; when we shall get within the enclosures of the New Jerusalem, and go out no more for ever!