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never have gone to Rome." If George Whitefield had been made a Bishop there might have been no such thing as Methodism. If, as Mr. Disraeli says, Churchmen had but existed “ equal to the occasion,” how different the prospects of the Anglican Establishment might have been now!
His mother and friends were sorely opposed to the American project, but at that time he implicitly listened to John Wesley. At Gloucester and Bristol, where he went to say “good-bye” to his friends, great congregations came to hear him preach. The Mayor of Bristol asked him to preach before the Corporation—Quakers and Baptists, men of all denominations, flocked to church to hear him on week-days as well as Sundays. “The whole city,” he said, “seemed to be alarmed," and he himself was in a state of exultation. Though preaching five times a week, he could not satisfy the eager crowds. It was difficult to make way for him to the pulpit. Some climbed up to the roof of the church, others hung upon the rails of the organ-loft, and the air was so filled with the steam of the numerous breaths that the moisture ran down the pillars like drops of rain.
His passage to America was long. The ship's company, includ. ing, beside the crew, soldiers and emigrants, were very immoral ; but he preached, read prayers, catechised the children, and ministered to the sick with such zeal that before Georgia was reached the whole aspect of his floating congregation was changed. He remained in the colony only about four months. A brief residence
among the Indians, and an unsuccessful attempt to frame a grammar of their language, seem to have satisfied him that his work was not amongst them. But he found many orphan children among the colonists, and projected an asylum for them on a German model, and resolved to collect money for the scheme to which he continued faithful through his whole life. He embarked again for England in September, 1738, having priest's orders also in view.
On landing he naturally made his way to John Wesley, but the association with the Methodists excluded him from the pulpits of the City churches, to which formerly he had been so eagerly invited. It was not that they were heretical, or their style rude and eccentric, but they were too much in earnest; the intensity of their appeals discomposed the self-complacency of the decorous frequenters of the pews. Whitefield tried to get collections for his projected orphanhouse, but he could only find two or three churches open to him. Preaching in one of these,“ with great freedom of heart and clearness of voice," while nearly 1,000 people stood outside, and hundreds had gone away for want of room, the thought occurred to him that he ought to proclaim the Gospel, as Christ did, in the open air.
He mentioned it to some friends, who rebuked the notion as highly improper and wholly fanatical. “However," he writes, “we knelt down and prayed that nothing may be done rashly. Hear, and answer, O Lord! for Thy name's sake." About a fortnight afterwards he went on a visit to his friends at Bristol, and there at first the churches were open to him as aforetime, but the enthusiasm kindled by his preaching so scandalised the clergy that in a very short time he was politely elbowed out of them all. And now his thoughts reverted to the colliers of Kingswood, of whom a friend, trying to dissuade him from voyaging to America, had said, “If you have a mind to convert Indians, there are colliers enough at Kingswood.” In the wild district on the southern side of Bristol coal had been discovered, and the men engaged in getting it formed a separate clan, differing from the people of the neighbourhood in dialect and appearance. They were uncouth and brutal. No man cared for their souls. They were left without a church or any means of instruction. They were heathens, and fast becoming savages. To them Whitefield says he had long felt his bowels yearn, and one fine Saturday afternoon in February he walked out to look at them. A number having gathered round him, he went up on a hillock and began to address them. It was the first Methodist field sermon. The Rubicon was passed—from that day Methodism as a separate religious denomination takes its date. His first outdoor congregation was composed of about 200 colliers, and they were more astonished than impressed by what they heard. Whitefield writes in his journal, “Blessed be God that the ice is now broke, and I have taken the field. Some may censure me, but is there not a cause ? Pulpits were denied, and the poor colliers ready to perish for lack of knowledge.” The chancellor of the diocese sent for him, and asked him by what authority he had preached in that diocese at all without a licence. Whitefield replied that he thought the custom of obtaining a new licence on going from one diocese to another was grown obsolete. The chancellor then read him the canon which forbids any minister from preaching in a private house. “There is a canon," answered Whitefield," forbidding clergymen to frequent taverns and play at cards : why is that not put in execution? I cannot but speak the things which I have seen and heard, whatever the canons may say.” This answer was written down, and the chancellor then said: “I am resolved, sir, if you preach or espound anywhere in this diocese till you have a licence I will first suspend and then excommunicate you."
So war was declared. The Church with its "order" had made a complete breach with the Methodists and the Spirit. He went immediately to preach again at Kingswood, and this time he had not
200, but 2,000 listeners, many of whom, however, came armed with stones to throw at this babbler with his strange jargon. But as they listened they dropped the stones, and soon unwonted tears made for themselves white gutters down the blackened faces. His congregations went on increasing to ten, fourteen, twenty thousand.
The trees and hedges were full. The sun shone bright, and God enabled me to preach for an hour with great power. The fire is kindled in the country. 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 sweetness was added the solemnity of the approaching evening, was almost too much for me, and quite overcame me.” At Whitefield's urgent solicitation, John Wesley joined him at Bristol. His brother Charles and most of his friends were entirely opposed ; but though the auguries drawn from texts, which presented themselves on opening the Bible at random were also all adverse, the " lot” was drawn in favour of his setting out, and this supposed intimation of the Divine will determined him to go. Wesley could hardly reconcile himself at first to this strange business of preaching out of doors, but soon became not only reconciled to it, but enthusiastic, and was quite ready to carry on the work while Whitefield took a journey into Wales. On taking leave of the Kingswood colliers, he preached to them on the desirability of establishing a school for their children. They snatched at the idea, and the cheerfulness with which they subscribed for it was surprising. They begged him at once to lay the first stone of the building. But where should it be? It was very doubtful whether the lord of the manor would grant them a site, but a person present said he would give the ground, and Whitefield forthwith laid a stone. Then, kneeling on it, he prayed that the gates of hell might not prevail against the design. And all the colliers said, Amen! It was the beginning of the great modern movement for the education of the poor.
After a tour in South Wales, where Griffith Jones and Howell Harris were already stirring up the people, he returned to London, preaching at the market crosses and village greens on his way through the provinces. Arrived in town, he asked the Vicar of Islington for the use of his pulpit, and it was granted; but, as he was opening the service, the churchwardens interrupted, and, unless he could produce a licence, forbade him to preach. He came down from the pulpit, and was preparing to leave, but the people pressing round him as he went through the churchyard, he took his stand on a tombstone, and preached to them there. “Tomorrow," he writes in his diary, “I am to repeat that mad trick, and on Sunday to go out into Moorfields. The Word of the Lord runs and is glorified; people's hearts seem quite broken ; God strengthens me exceedingly; I preach till I sweat through and through.” Moorfields was then the scene of a great fair, where the mountebanks and rabble generally held their court. To preach in the midst of the riotous and dissolute crowds that regarded that open space as their peculium, Whitefield called attacking Satan in his stronghold; but as the appearance of the field preacher was then only a strange and curious novelty, and not yet an offence, he was not assailed by the mob. They made way for him, and, taking his stand on a wall, he spoke with great freedom, and obtained great attention. On the evening of the same day he went to Kennington Common and addressed a vast multitude. This was his favourite preaching place. Scores of carriages, hundreds of horsemen, and thirty or forty thousand on foot, thronged around him. Their singing could be heard two miles off, and his own voice a mile. Such crowds came by water that the watermen were obliged to put 'a number of additional boats on Sundays, and even then they ran the risk of prosecution for carrying more than their legal fare. Waggons and scaffolds were hired to the throng that they might the better hear and see the wonderful preacher. The genuine popular heart recog. nised him as a true apostle, though disowned by the national hierarchy, and the collection made at the close of his sermon for his Orphan Asylum was so abundant that he was wearied of receiving the half-pence, and a single man could not carry home the amount for him. Little short of ten thousand pieces of copper were dropped into the hats and boxes held to receive them, and as he drove away his carriage was still crowded round by people throwing their mites in at the windows.
Thus laden with money for the benevolent project which lay nearest his heart, he embarked again for America, and landing in September, 1739, at Philadelphia, began preaching throughout the States with effects scarcely less astonishing than those which had followed his addresses in the old country. In December he reached Savannah, having in seventy-five days preached 170 sermons, and collected upwards of 7001.—a mighty collection” for those days, for his orphans.
It was during this visit to the United States that the difference between Whitefield and Wesley on the doctrines of predestination and perfection broke out, which at first threatened to develop into an acrimonious quarrel, and did, in fact, cause the distinction between the Calvinistic and the Arminian Methodists. These, however, are matters of very minor importance in the measure and review of Whitefield's career. But now began that wonderful series
of itineraries, or“ Gospel ranges," as Whitefield called them, which occupied the greater part of the remaining thirty years of his life, in which he repeatedly traversed England and Wales, several times visited Scotland and Ireland, and five times went through the length and breadth of the British Colonies in America, from Savannah to Cape Cod, and even through the Bermudas. They were triumphal progresses. Everywhere the people flocked to hear him by thousands, and the whole district was moved. Sometimes he was mobbed, but those who came to mock remained to pray. At Tavistock a bull and dogs were brought into the midst of his congregation, but the riot was quieted. At Exeter a man came with his pocket full of stones to throw at him ; he stood with one in his hand waiting for a convenient moment, but meanwhile he was himself struck by the word of the preacher so that he dropped his stone and, making his way to him, said, “Sir, I came here to break your head, but God has broken my heart.” At Moorfields, in the Whitsun holidays, stones, dirt, rotten eggs, and dead cats were thrown at him. “My soul,” says he,
was among lions ; he proceeded the immense multitude were presently turned into lambs. In the evening thousands more were gathered, and now a harlequin complaining that his company had taken many pounds less than usual because of the preaching, got upon a man's shoulders and, advancing towards the pulpit, endeavoured several times to strike the preacher with a long heavy whip, but was always dismounted by his own violence. A recruiting sergeant next marched through the crowd with his fifer, but Whitefield called upon them to make way for the king's officer. The drummer making a great noise, Whitefield addressed him, “Friend, you and I serve the two greatest masters on earth, but in different callings; you may beat up for King George, I for the Lord Jesus Christ. In God's name, therefore, don't let us interrupt one another; the world is wide enough for us both, and we may both get recruits in abundance.” The drummer was silenced. Sometimes the tumult was overpowering, and drowned his voice, and then he would call upon his friends to sing. He would not be beaten; preaching, praying, singing, he kept his ground till nightfall, and then he made off to the tabernacle with the spoils of his victory. Hundreds followed him there to pray and cry, “What must we do to be saved ?" In Ireland alone does he ever seem to have been driven from the field. At Dublin he was once hit on the head by the stones which flew about in all directions, and had to take shelter in a house. In one of his English “ranges” he travelled 1,200 miles in three months, and preached 180 times to hundreds of thousands of hearers.
In many towns tabernacles were erected by his followers, and in