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burghers at Ebenezer. One Mr. Broughton behaved nobly on this occasion. Application being made to him to deny Mr. Whitefield his pulpit
, he answered, “Having got the lectureship of St. Helen's by Mr. Whitefield's influence, if he insists upon it, he shall have my pulpit.” Mr. Whitefield did insist upon it, but (Mr. Broughton loosing the lectureship) he afterwards blamed himself much for his conduct.
In Bristol he had the use of the churches for two or three Sundays, but soon found they would not be open very long. The dean was not at home : the chancellor threatened to silence and suspend him.* In about a fortnight, every door was shut, except Newgate, where he preached, and collected for the poor prisoners, and where people thronged, and were much impressed; but this place, also, was soon shut against him, by orders from the mayor.
One Sunday, when Whitefield was preaching at Bermondsey church, as he tells us, „ with great freedom in his heart, and clearness in his voice, to a crowded congregation, near a thousand people stood in the church-yard during the service, hundreds went away who could not find room, and he had a strong inclination to go out and preach to them from one of the tomb-stones. “This," he says, "put me first upon thinking of preaching without doors. I mentioned it to some friends, who looked upon it as a mad notion. However we knelt down and prayed that nothing might be done rashly. Hear and answer, O Lord, for thy name's sake!"
About a fortnight afterwards he went to Bristol. Near that city is a tract of country called Kingswood; formerly, as its name implies, it had been a royal chase, containing between three and four thousand acres, but it had been gradually appropriated by the several lords whose estates lay around about its borders: and their title, which for a long time was no better than what possession gave them, had been legalized. The
• When Whitefield arrived at Bristol, the chancellor of that diocese had told him that he would not prohibit any minister from lending him a church; but in the course of the week he sent for him, and told him he intended to stop his proceedings. He then asked him by what authority he preached in the diocese of Bristol without a license. "Whitefield replied, "I thought that custom was grown obsolete. And why, pray, sir, did not you ask the clergyman this question who preached for you last Thursday ? The chancellor then read to him those canons which forbade any minister from preaching in a private house. Whitefield answered, he apprehended they did not apply to professed ministers of the church of England. When he was informed of his mistake, he said, " There is also a canon, sir, forbidding all clergymen to frequent taverns and play at cards; why is not that put in execution ?" and he added, that notwithstanding those canons, he could not but speak the things which he knew, and that he was resolved to proceed as usual. The answer was written down, and the chancellor then said, “ I am resolved, sir, if you preach or expound any where in this diocese till you have a license, I will first suspend, and then excommunicate you."
deer had long since disappeared, and the greater part of the wood also; and coal mines having been discovered there, from which Bristol derives its chief supply of fuel, it was now inhabited by a race of people as lawless as the foresters their forefathers, but far more brutal, and differing as much from the people of the surrounding country in dialect as in appearance. They had at that time no place of worship, for Kingswood then belonged to the out-parish of St. Philip and Jacob; and if the colliers had been disposed to come from a distance of three and four miles, they would have found no room in the parish church of a populous suburb. When upon his last visit to Bristol, before his embarkation, Whitefield spoke of converting the savages, many of his friends said to him, “What need of going abroad for this? Have we not Indians enough at home? If you have a mind to convert Indians, there are colliers enough in Kingswood."
Toward these colliers, Whitefield, as he says, had long felt his bowels yearn, for they were very numerous, and yet as sheep having no shepherd. In truth, it was a matter of duty and of sound policy, (which is always duty,) that these people should not be left in a state of bestial ignorance; heathens, or worse than heathens, in the midst of a christian country, and brutal as savages, in the close vicinity of a city which was then in extent, wealth, population, and commercial importance, the second city in England. On the afternoon, therefore, of Saturday, Feb. 17, 1739, he stood upon a mound, in a place called Rose Green, his first field pulpit," and preached to as many as came to hear, attracted by the novelty of such an address. “I thought," says he, “it might be doing the service of my Creator, who had a mountain for his pulpit, and the heavens for a sounding board; and who, when his gospel was refused by the Jews, sent his servants into the highways and hedges." Not more than two hundred persons gathered around him, for there had been no previous notice of his intention ; and these perhaps being no way prepared for his exhortations, were more astonished than impressed by what they heard. But the first step was taken, and Whitefield was fully aware of its importance. “Blessed be God," he says in his Journal, “that the ice is now broke, and I have now taken the field. Some may censure me; but is there not a cause? Pulpits are denied and the poor colliers ready to perish for lack of knowledge."
At the second and third time the numbers greatly increased, till the congregation, at a moderate computation, amounted to near twenty thousand. But with what gladness and eagerness many of these despised outcasts, who had never been in a church in their lives, received the word, is above description.
" Having (as he writes) no righteousness of their own to renounce, they were glad to hear of a Jesus, who was a friend to publicans, and came not to call the righteous, but the sinners, to repentance. The first discovery of their being affected, was, to see the white gutters made by their tears, which plentifully fell down their black cheeks, as they came out of their coal pits. Hundreds and hundreds of them were soon brought under deep convictions, which (as the event proved) happily ended in a sound and thorough conversion. The change was visible to all, though numbers chose to impute it to any thing rather than to the finger of God. As the scene was quite new, and I had but just begun to be an extempore preacher, it often occasioned many inward conflicts. Sometimes, when twenty thousand people were before me, I had not in my own apprehension, a word to say, either to God or to them. But I was never totally deserted, and frequently (for to deny it would be lying against God) so assisted, that I knew by happy experience what our Lord meant by saying, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. The open firmament above me, the prospect of the adjacent fields, with the sight of thousands and thousands, some in coaches, some on horseback, and some in the trees, and at times all affected and drenched in tears together, to which sometimes was added the solemnity of the approaching evening, was almost too much for, and quite overcame me."
Besides the colliers, and thousands from neighboring villages, persons of all ranks flocked daily out of Bristol. And he was soon invited to preach, by some of the better sort, in a large bowling green in the city itself. Many indeed sneered to see a stripling, with a gown, mount a table, upon what they called unconsecrated ground. And for once or twice it excited the contempt and laughter of the higher ranks, who formerly were his admirers when he preached in the churches. But God enabled him to endure the laugh, and to preach the gospel of Christ with earnestness and constancy; and was pleased to attend it with his blessing. From all quarters people flocked, under great concern about their souls. Sometimes he was employed almost from morning to night, giving answers to those who came in great distress, crying out, " What shall we do to be saved ?" More assistance was wanted; he therefore wrote to Mr. John Wesley, who had never yet been at Bristol, and, having received a favorable answer, recommended him and his brother in the strongest manner to the people, and humbly prayed that the last might be first; for he was determined to pursue his scheme of the Orphanhouse, and return to his retreat in Georgia.
Mr. Wesley having come, he took an affectionate leave of his friends at Bristol, and made a second excursion to Wales, where an awakening had begun some years before, by the instrumentality of Rev. Griffith Jones, and was now carried on by the ministry of one Mr. Howel Harris, a layman. They met at Cardiff, and in company with many others went to Husk, Ponty-pool, Abergravenny, Comihoy, Carleon, Trelex, and Newport, and preached in all these places, Mr. Whitefield first in English, and Mr. Harris afterwards in Welch, to many thousands. The serious persons among them of the Free Grace Dissenters, rejoiced; but many of high-flying principles, and of another stamp, were equally enraged, and expressed their dislike by mockings and threats. All these, however, he was enabled to bear with patience, and without the least discouragement.
About the 8th of April, from Wales he went to Gloucester, the place of his birth, where a church was allowed him for once or twice, but no more. However, he preached frequently in Boothall (the place where the judges sit) and in his brother's field, to many thousands.* His concern for his countrymen, his fellow citizens, and his own relations, made him forget ali bodily weakness (to which, about this time, he was frequently subject, and he readily complied with invitations given to preach at Painswick, Chelterham, Evesham, Badsey, Stroud, Chafford, places abounding with inhabitants, and where there is ground to hope many received much spiritual benefit. To wander thus about from place to place; to stand at bowling greens, at market crosses, and in highways, especially in his own country, where, had he conferred with flesh and blood, he might have lived at ease; to be blamed by friends, and have every evil thing spoken against him by his enemies; was
At the time of Mr. Whitefield's preaching in Gloucester, old Mr. Cole, a dissenting minister, used to say, " These are the days of the Son of Man indeed." This Mr. Cole, Mr. Whitefield, when a boy, was taught to ridicule. Being asked once by one of his congregation, what business he would be of, he said, " A minister ; but he would take care never to tell stories in the pulpit like old Cole.” About twelve years afterwards, the old man hearing him preach, and tell some story to illustrate the subject he was upon, and having been informed what he had before said, made this remark to one of his elders : “I find that young Whitefield can now tell stories, as well as old Cole." He was much affected with Mr. Whitefield's preaching, and so humble, that he used to subscribe himself his curate; and went about preaching after him in the country from place to place. But one evening, while preaching, he was struck with death, and then asked for a chair to lean on, till he concluded his sermon, when he was carried up stairs and died. Mr. Whitefield's reflection upon this, is, “O blessed God ! if it be thy holy will, may my exit be like his !"
As to Mr.'Whitefield's telling stories in the pulpit, some perhaps may find fault; but, besides that he had an uncommon fund of passages, proper enough to be thus told, and a peculiar talent of telling them, it was certainly a means of drawing multitudes to hear him, who would not have attended to the truths of the gospel delivered in the ordinary manner.
(especially when his body was weak, and his spirits low) very trying : but still he was inwardly supported.
April 21, he again went to Oxford: and, after staying a few days with the Methodists there, came to London, where he attempted to preach in Islington church, the incumbent, Mr. Stonehouse, being a friend to the Methodists; but, in the midst of the prayers, the church warden came and demanded his license, and otherwise he forbid his preaching in that pulpit. He might, perhaps, have insisted on his right to preach, yet for peace's sake he declined ; and, after the communion service was over, he preached in the church yard.
Opportunities of preaching in a more regular way being now denied him, and his preaching in the fields being attended with a remarkable blessing, he judged it his duty to go on in this practice, and ventured the following Sunday into Moorfields. Public notice having been given, and the thing being new and singular, upon coming out of the coach, he found an incredible number of people assembled. Many had told him that he should never come again out of that place alive. He went in, however, between two of his friends; who, by the pressure of the crowd, were soon parted entirely from him, and were obliged to leave him to the mercy of the rabble. But these, instead of hurting him, formed a lane for him, and carried him along to the middle of the fields, (where a table had been placed, which was broken in pieces by the crowd,) and afterwards back again to the wall that then parted the upper and lower Moorfields ; from whence he preached without molestation, to an exceeding great multitude in the lower fields. Finding such encouragement, he went that evening to Kennington common, a large open place, almost three miles distant from London, where he preached to a vast multitude, who were all attention, and behaved with as much regularity and quietness as if they had been in a church.*
From his preaching in Moor fields, fc. to his laying the foundation
of the Orphan-house in Georgia, 1740. For several months after this, Moorfields, Kennington common, and Blackheath, were the chief scenes of action. At a moderate computation, the auditories often consisted of above twenty thousand. It is said, their singing could be heard two
*"Words cannot well express the glorious displays of Divine Grace which we saw, and heard of, and felt.” MS.