First printed in 1853 this book covers a wide range of historic and biographical revival material concerning the Great Awakening in England in the 18th century.
Selina Hastings, the Countess of Huntingdon, (1707-91) was converted in early 1739 and became a member of the famed Fetter Lane Society. Although she had very close links with the Wesley brothers and used Methodist preachers to evangelise in her residences, she broke with the Wesley’s in 1740.
She developed strong Calvinistic leanings and appointed her favourite preacher, the Calvinistic George Whitefield, as her personal chaplain, employing him, and others, to preach to her aristocratic friends. She built chapels in the south from 1761, in Bath in 1765 and in other places in England in the 1770’s. These chapels, built to provide an evangelical witness where there was none, eventually became the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion. In 1768 she got Trevecca College from Howell Harris and she had her ministers trained there.
Clearly she was a very influential lady and had contact with many of the evangelical giant’s of the day. This particular book does a superb job of describing the evangelical revival in Britain and it’s principal labourers – although it confines itself to the more Calvinistic elements of the day.
We have included 5 of the 20 chapters.
A LITTLE girl is following her playmate to the grave; the funeral badges, the solemn pomp of the procession, the falling of the turf upon the coffin, with the mournful echo, “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” fill her with profound awe. Death and life seem strangely blended; the great hereafter rises before her amazed and startled vision. Her young heart is bowed. “Oh God, be my God, when my hour shall come!” is her anxious though unuttered cry. The impressions of this hour were never lost; neither the bright promises which dawned upon her girlhood, nor their brighter realization in a brilliant and happy marriage, could ever lull the unrest of her awakened spirit, or silence the cravings of her famished soul. She felt herself in a far country, a wanderer from her Father’s house, and she began to be in want.
This child, called SELINA SHIRLEY, second daughter of Earl Ferrars, was born in Chartley, August 24, 1707 almost from infancy, an uncommon seriousness shaded the natural gladness of her childhood; in the clear depths of her penetrating eye, and in the curve of her thin lip, were traces of earnest thought, and thought inspired not so much by the sweet solitude and breezy melodies of the grand old trees around her father’s mansion, or the old ruins of Chartley castle, or the storied associations of her own ancestral history, as by other and far deeper things. She loved to visit the grass-grown grave of her departed friend, and would often stray to a little closet in her own room, where, screened from the notice of her sisters, she poured out her heart in supplication to the Author of her being. Without any positive religious instruction, for none knew the inward sorrows of this little girl, nor were there any around her who could have led her to the balm there is in Gilead, Selina devoutly and diligently searched the Scriptures, if haply she might find that precious something which her soul craved. That there was a higher good, a purer joy, a loftier love, she was well assured, for her religious instincts kept climbing upward for light and warmth; but where could they be found?
At the age of twenty-one, she was married to Theophilus, Earl of Huntington, a man of high and exemplary character, and by this connection became allied to a family whose tastes and principles happily coincided with her own.
Both by birth and by marriage Lady Huntington was introduced to all the splendours and excitements of high English life at the residence of her aunt, Lady Fanny Shirley, at Twickenham, which formed one of the literary centres of that day, and whose mistress was a reigning beauty of the court of George II, she mingled freely with the wits, poets, and authors, then distinguished in the walks of English literature among her friends might be numbered the famous Duchess of Marlborough, whose talents were only equal to her temper; Lady Mary Wortley Montague, whose intimacy and quarrels with Pope, as well as her eccentricities, have sent her name down to posterity; Margaret, daughter of the Earl of Oxford, a patroness of literature and friend of Miss Robinson, afterwards the beautiful and accomplished Mrs. Montague.
The gifts and graces of the young Lady Huntington fitted her to shine in the most elegant circles of England; but whatever she might have been as a leader of fashion, or an actor in political intrigues, or the friend of literary merit, her life comes down to us linked with the Redeemer’s cause, and her name is enrolled among those who have loved and labored for their Lord.
During the first years of her married life, Lady Huntington’s chief endeavor, amid the shifting scenes of town and country life, was to maintain a Conscience void of offence. She strove to fulfil the various duties of her position with scrupulous exactness; she was sincere, just, and upright; she prayed, fasted, and gave alms; she was courteous, considerate, and charitable; at Donnington Park, Ashby de la Zouch, in Leicestershire, the elegant summer residence of the Earl, she was the Lady Bountiful of the neighborhood; she struggled against infirmities within and temptations from without and strove to model her outward and inward life after the divine pattern — yet, was Lady Huntington happy? The consciousness of seeking to live a virtuous and God-fearing life braced her moral powers and quickened her intellect; but where was the faith that could emancipate her soul from the fear of God’s inquisition? “I have done virtuously,” was the complacent suggestion of self-love; “but how can I tell when I have done enough?” was the doubtful inquiry of conscience.
Se passed the early years of Lady Huntington’s life; children were born, mingling their lights and shadows in the stately household; no earthly good was with-holden, nor were earthly blessings abused by riot or excess; dignity, sobriety, and refinement presided over the homes and halls of the Earl. Among the women of her day it might have been said of his wife, “She excelled them all,” yet her heart knew its own sorrows; it was laden with its own hidden burdens.
Lord Huntington had several sisters whose thoughtful cast of mind made them particularly welcome to his house in them, Lady Huntington had found kindred spirits; but now came Lady Margaret from Ledstone Hall, bearing a new and rich experience. She was the same Margaret of old, and yet another.
Yorkshire and Ledstone, among other towns in Yorkshire, had been blessed by the labors of a mighty man of God. He preached the great doctrines of the cross under a profound and thrilling sense of their value. He went from town to town, from hamlet to hamlet, and house to house, preaching “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” Men paused and listened to his messages; the clergy were waked from their spiritual slumbers, some to receive a new quickening from his words, others to upbraid and drive him from their churches. The sisters of Ledstone Hall heard of his fame, and hungered for the living manna. Mr. Ingham was invited to the Ledstone church. The preacher’s words fell upon good ground. His simple yet searching appeals alarmed the conscience and melted the heart. Margaret Hastings embraced the truth as it is in Jesus: it was no longer the Christianity of creed and ritual, but a now birth into Christ’s spiritual family, with the conscious heir-ship to a heavenly inheritance.
With this fresh life in her soul, she visited the house of the Earl. What a new world of hopes, of aims, of privileges could she unfold to Lady Huntington — pardon through a crucified Saviour — peace such as the world could neither give nor take away; and as she spoke one day, those words fell from her lips: “Since I have known and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, I have been as happy as an angel.” A believer’s blessed testimony, but it found no response in Lady Huntington’s heart. Margaret’s language was like an unknown tongue.
It was the report of a strange land. There was no answering tone. She felt herself an utter stranger to those sweet assurances which had hushed the disquiet of her sister’s soul, and admitted to the groping spirit a gleam of light from the heavenly world.
Lady Huntington was alarmed. Could she, religious from her youth up, be really ignorant of the true way of acceptance with God? Had she not always been doing, struggling? Yet in spite of all, a conviction of short-coming pressed upon her; and she added austerities and rigors to subdue her sense of indwelling sin.
Alas, she felt only more keenly, that every attempt to make her life answer to the requirements of God’s righteous laws, only widened the breach between herself and the Lawgiver. She beheld herself more and more a spiritual outcast. Thus harassed by inward conflicts, Lady Huntington was thrown upon a sick-bed, and after many days and nights seemed hastening to the grave. The fear of death fell terribly upon her.
“It was to no purpose,” says one of her at this period, “that; she reminded herself of the morality of her conduct in vain did she recall the many encomiums passed upon her early piety. Her best righteousness, so far from justifying her before God, appeared only to increase her condemnation.”
There she lay, with every alleviation which the best skill and the tenderest nursing could impart, but there was a malady of the soul which these could not reach. Was there no balm in Gilead, and no Physician there? Then it was that the words of Lady Margaret came laden with wonderful meaning. “I too will wholly cast myself on Jesus Christ for life and salvation,” was her last refuge; and from her bed she lifted up her heart to God for pardon and mercy through the blood of his Son. With streaming eyes she cast herself on her Saviour: “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” immediately the scales fell from her eyes; doubt and distress vanished; joy and peace filled her bosom. With appropriating faith, she exclaimed, “My Lord, and my God” From that moment her disease took a favorable turn; she was restored to health, and what was better, to “newness of life.”
Exemplary as Lady Huntington had been as a wife and mother, and free from the corruptions of fashionable society, no one could fail to see the transforming influence which grace had wrought in her. Love and self-abasement mellowed the sterner traits of her character; the strong sympathies of her heart gushed out towards the people of God, and henceforth, “My God, I give myself to thee,” became the watchword of her life.
At the period of Lady Huntington’s marriage, there was a little band of students in the bosom of Oxford University who, by prayer and fasting and a rigid self-denial, had laid hold upon the great doctrines of the gospel, and were wrestling with them, like one of old, for a heavenly benediction. Shocked by the scoffing tone and degraded aims of their fellows, and disgusted with the prevailing shallow, piety of the pulpit and the church, they asked, “Is there not something holier and loftier than this in the gospel of Jesus Christ?” “Can it not redeem from sin and exalt by the power of an endless life?” Profoundly earnest, they accepted the Bible in its integrity, without abatement or addition, as the charter of their liberties and a missive charged with terrible meaning from God to a fallen world. They gave themselves to the service of the Lord with their whole hearts; nor is it strange, in that period of scepticism and levity, that their devout and steadfast adherence to religious convictions provoked the frowns of their masters, and the ridicule of their companions; but taunts and revilings could not daunt the spirit of such men as Whitefield, the Wesleys, and their more immediate co-partners. Rich in that grace which the Father of our spirits vouchsafes to the waiting and believing followers of his Son, the time came when every comer of England thrilled with the fervid eloquence of their preaching.
After leaving Oxford, Whitefield at Bristol, Ingham in Yorkshire, and Wesley at London, began those fearless and awakening appeals which quickened the vitality of English Christianity, reasserting its demands upon the moral consciousness of the nation.
The Wesleys with Ingham went to Georgia, where, after laboring two years with success ill-proportioned to their zeal, they returned to England. On the voyage and during their stay, having been thrown into the society of some Moravian missionaries, whose simple piety won their confidence and love, they lost no time on their arrival at London in visiting the Moravian chapel at Fetter’s-lane, where Wesley’s career properly begins, but whence he not long after withdrew to lay, as it seemed, not only the foundations of a new encampment in the great Christian army, but to give urgency and a name to that religious renovation which the church needed, both to maintain her supremacy, and to quicken her onward march in the conquest of the world.
As Margaret Hastings, from whose lips she first heard the joyful language of a saving faith, was a disciple of Ingham, no wonder that when Lady Huntington experienced its blessed effects in her own soul, she turned from the more frigid and formal teaching of former spiritual guides with a yearning heart towards the new. On her recovery, she sent for John and Charles Wesley, then in London, to come and visit her, expressing a warm interest in their labors, and bidding them God speed in the great and glorious work of urging men to repentance and to heaven. This was in the year 1739, and Lady Huntington was at the age of thirty-two.
In Lady Huntington they found an ardent friend, and a fearless advocate of their new movements. To her, new movements were no portentous look when the church was sleeping at her post, and the world around was sinking to ruin. The vigorous itinerant preaching which constituted the then new, though revised instrumentality for meeting the wants of the time, whether among the colliers of Kingswood, the London rabble on Kennington common, or the farmers of the Yorkshire dales, strongly contrasted with, and boldly rebuked the stagnant ministrations of the sporting clergy, the grave decorum of their more serious brethren, and the utter indifference generally felt about providing suitable means of moral culture for the great masses of half-savage workmen living in the principal cities of the kingdom.
Both the Earl and his wife became frequent attendants upon the ministry of Wesley; and while Lady Huntington took great delight in the society of her new Christian friends, she did not neglect to urge upon her former associates the claims of that gospel which she had found so precious to her own soul. The rebuffs which she sometimes met with on these occasions form a curious page in the chapter of human pride.
“The doctrines of these preachers are most repulsive,” writes the proud Duchess of Buckingham, “and strongly tinctured with impertinence and disrespect towards their superiors, in perpetually endeavoring to level all ranks and do away with all distinctions it is monstrous to be told that you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl upon the earth. This is highly offensive and insulting, and I cannot but wonder that your ladyship should relish any sentiments so much at variance with high rank and good breeding.”
“Your concern for my religious improvement is very obliging,” thus discourses the unhappy Lady Marlborough; “God knows we all need friending, and none more than myself. I have lived to see great changes in the world — have acted a conspicuous part myself — and now hope in my old age to obtain mercy from God, as I never expect any at the hands of my fellow-creatures. good, alas, I do want; but where among the corrupt sons of Adam am I to find it? Your ladyship must direct me. But women of wit, beauty, and quality cannot bear too many humiliating truths — they shock our pride. Yet we must die — we must converse with earth and worms I have no comfort in my own family, and when alone my reflections almost kill me, so that I am forced to fly to the society of those whom I detest and abhor. Now there is Lady Frances Sanderson’s great rout to-morrow night; all the world will be there, and I must go I do hate that woman as much as I hate a physician; but I must go, if for no other purpose but to mortify and spite her. This is very wicked, I know, but I confess my little peccadilloes to you; your goodness will lead you to be mild and forgiving.”
This, then, is the bitter experience of one who had been the companion of princesses and the ornament of courts; “vanity and vexation of spirit.” It tears away the trappings of wealth and station, and startles us by a sight of the bad passions which he cankering beneath. Let it be contrasted with the freshness and beauty of the believer’s life.
“What blessed effects does the love of God produce in the hearts of those who abide in him,” writes Lady Huntington to Charles Wesley. “How solid is the peace and how divine the joy that springs from an assurance that we are united to the Saviour by a living faith. Blessed be his name I have an abiding sense of his presence with me, notwithstanding the weakness and unworthiness I feel, and an intense desire that he may be glorified in the salvation of souls, especially those who he nearest my heart after the poor labors of the day are over, my heart still cries, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’ I am deeply sensible that daily, hourly, and momentarily I stand in need of the sprinkling of my Saviour’s blood. Thanks be to God, the fountain is always open; O what an anchor is this to my soul!”
AMONG Lady Huntington’s friends and guests we find dear familiar and honored names. Behold that little feeble old man, shy in manner, yet rich in speech: bodily infirmity has long beset his path, and driven him from public and stirring life to the retirement which he dearly prized. For him the country had manifold charms, and thus he sings:
“I search the crowded court, the busy street,
Run through the villages, trace every road.
In vain I search; for every heart I meet
Is laden with the world, and empty of its God.
How shall I bear with men to spend my days?
Dear feathered innocents, you please me best;
My God has formed your voices for his praise,
His high designs are answered by your tuneful breast.”
Wherever he goes, he is regarded with veneration and love, for his mind is stored with knowledge and his heart is alive with tender sympathies. He is the author of many a learned treatise, a father in the ranks of non-conformity, and has a fame both in the old world and the new; yet we know and love him best author of the sweet cradle-song, “Hush, my dear, he still and slumber,” which lulled us to sleep in the nursery, and of those psalms and hymns which are destined to shape the experience and lead the worship of millions, when the fame of his learning shall no more be remembered.
This is Dr. Watts, the venerable pastor at Stoke Newington. He was born in the stormiest days of non-conformity, and we find him nursed in the arms of his sorrowing mother on a stone by the prison walls which confine his father, a “godly man and a deacon,” willing to suffer constraint and persecution for conscience’ sake. He is without the endearing treasures of wife and children, for he was never married; “yet his lines have fallen to him in pleasant places and he has a goodly heritage,” for he is the beloved and honored member of a family “which, for piety, harmony, order, and every virtue, was a house of God;” here were “the retired grace, the fragrant bower, the spreading lawn, the flowery garden,” with comfort, elegance, friendship, and books.
“I came to the house of this my good friend Sir Thomas Abney, intending to spend a single week beneath his roof,” said Dr. Watts one day, “and I have extended my visit to thirty years.”
“I consider your visit, my dear sir,” responded Lady Abney, “as the shortest my family ever received.”
Sir Thomas, Alderman of London, a pious and exemplary man, whose dignities did not seduce his heart from his God, died in 1722, eight years after Watts had come under his hospitable roof. The mournful occasion was commemorated by an elegiac from the poet-pastor; closing with a note of praise, always so congenial to his spirit:
“Great God, to thee we raise our song —
Thine were graces that enriched his mind;
We bless thee that he shone so long,
And left so fair a track of pious life behind.”
After Sir Thomas’ death, he still remained in the family an honored and cherished member of the fireside circle.
Dr. Watts was settled at Stoke Newington in 1702: the extreme delicacy of his health prompted his people the next year to associate with him Rev. Samuel Price. The love he bore to his charge, and the high estimate he entertained of the relation which bound him to it, is thus touchingly expressed: “I pronounce it with the greatest sincerity,”, said he, “that there is no place or company or employment this side of heaven, which can give me such a relish of delight as when I stand ministering holy things in the midst of you.” Nor was it from the pulpit that his influence was chiefly exercised: whenever his health permitted, his pastoral visits from house to house were kind, instructive, and edifying; while a fifth, or as some say, a third part of his income was spent in charities.
There were then no associations, as now, to circulate the word of life at home and abroad. Bible, Missionary, and Tract societies were the growth of a later day, nay, the product of that very renovation of English Christianity which was then in progress. “I sometimes regret foolishly enough,” said Hannah More, “while assisting in the formation and watching the growth of the religious institutions which have so distinctly marked the present century, that some of my earliest and dearest friends did not live to promote and rejoice in them.” Nor can we help thinking how both Watts and Doddridge would have rejoiced in those things which we now see and hear, when the knowledge of the Lord is so fast filling the earth.
“I have long been in pain,” wrote Colonel Gardiner to Doddridge, “lest that excellent person, Dr. Watts, should be called to heaven before I had an opportunity of letting him know how much his works have been blest to me, and of course of returning to him my hearty thanks I must beg the favor of you to let him know that I intended to have waited on him in the beginning of last May, when I was in London; but was informed, and that to my great sorrow, that he was extremely ill, and therefore that I did not think a visit would be seasonable I am well acquainted with his works, especially with his psalms, hymns, and lyrics. How often, by singing some of these to myself on horseback and elsewhere, has the evil spirit been made to flee away:
“Where o’er my heart in tune was found,
Like David’s harp or solemn sound.
“I desire to bless God for the good news of his recovery; and entreat you to tell him, that although I cannot keep pace with him here in celebrating the high praises of our glorious Redeemer, which is the great grief of my heart, yet I am persuaded, when I join the glorious company above, where there will be no drawbacks, that none will out-sing me there, because I shall not find any that has been more indebted to the wonderful riches of divine grace than I.
Give me a place at thy saints’ feet,
On some fallen angel’s vacant seat,
I’ll strive to sing as loud as they
Who sit above in brighter day.’”
Lady Huntington had the pleasure of introducing these two men to each other; and we can almost see the tall and stately figure of the colonel, dressed in his regimentals, bending with love and veneration before the feeble and palsied poet, seemingly more attenuated by his closely fitting breeches and skull cap. What a whole-souled heartiness in the soldier’s grasp! How affectionate and sympathizing is the answering pressure of the old man’s hand!
Colonel and Lady Frances Gardiner were frequent guests of Lord Huntington, during their visits in London.
“And I cannot express,” exclaimed Lady Huntington, “how much I esteem that most excellent man Colonel Gardiner. What love and mercy has God shown in snatching him as a brand from the burning! He is truly alive to God, and pleads nothing but the pled of the publican, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’ What a monument of his mercy, grace, and love! To glorify God and serve him with all his ransomed powers is now his only aim.”
Behold another one whom Dr. Watts tenderly loves: he is a young man of tall and slender make, whose sincerity and sweetness of manner win our confidence and bespeak affection. You hear him talk, and every thing he says bears the aroma of deep and genuine piety; nothing dogmatic or uncharitable or censorious falls from his lips; his spirit is not fettered by denominational barriers, but he recognizes his Master’s image and embraces his Master’s followers, as well within the pale of the stately English church, and among the rude tenants of Moorfields, as among the stern believers belonging to his own household of faith He is the popular preacher, and successful teacher, Philip Doddridge of Northampton.
When it was proposed to establish a college among the dissenters, Doddridge, then quite young, was requested to express his views upon the best method of preparing young men for the ministry. He drew up a paper, which was sent to Dr. Watts for his opinion. Much pleased with the breadth and soundness of the article, the doctor immediately opened a correspondence with the young author, expressing a hope that he might one day be able to carry his admirable plan into execution.
He was already a favourite and rising preacher: soon after completing his studies, he received an urgent call to settle over a large dissenting congregation in London; this, with other flattering invitations, he refused, preferring the humble parish of Kibworth, with less hurry and more leisure for study and self-improvement To some of his friends, who seemed to pity his obscure fortunes, he thus beautifully replies:
“Here I stick close to those delightful studies which a favourable Providence has made the business of my life. One day passeth away after another, and I only know it passes pleasantly with me. I live like a tortoise shut up in its shell, almost always in the same town, the same house, and the same chamber, yet I live like a prince — not indeed in the pomp of greatness, but the pride of liberty — master of my books, master of my time, and I hope I may add, master of myself I can willingly give up the charms of London, the luxury, the company, and the popularity of it, for the secret pleasures of rational employment and sell-approbation, retired from applause or reproach, from envy and contempt, and the destructive baits of avarice and ambition; so that instead of lamenting it as my misfortune, you should congratulate me upon it as my happiness, that I am confined to an obscure village, seeing it gives me so many valuable advantages to the most important purposes of devotion and philosophy, and I hope I may add, usefulness too.”
Behold the sweet contentment of the village pastor, at rest with himself and happy in his God: no ambitious cravings, no secret repinings, no envious comparisons, no feverish excitements, disturb the peaceful flow of his devout and useful life. But at Kibworth, Doddridge was not destined to remain; the Lord had other work for his servant. Unknown to himself, he was preparing a fame wide as the Christian world.
In 1729, he received a pressing call to an important dissenting congregation at Castle Hill, Northampton. Various circumstances conspired, which caused his best friends to urge his accepting it. He did so; and in addition to his pastoral and pulpit duties, he established an academy for young men upon the plan already mapped out which had received the universal approbation of his ministerial brethren. Doddridge is now twenty-eight years old.
A life-work was before him, and he entered upon it with an elastic and bounding spirit — more than that, with systematic and steady diligence at the beginning of every year he laid out an exact plan of business, as also for every month, week, and day, so that the work of to-day should not clash with that of tomorrow; and he continued to have a few hours every week, to which no particular business was allotted. These he set apart as a sort of surplus capital, out of which he might repair his accidental, losses, or be enabled to meet, now and then, some unexpected call.
“It seems to me,” he says, “that activity and cheerfulness are so nearly allied, that we can hardly take a more effectual method to secure the latter, than to cultivate the former, especially where it is employed to sow the seed of an immortal harvest.”
Yet with all his weightier cares, the humblest of his flock found access to him, and he could turn away pleasantly from his most favorite studies to hear their sorrows, to comfort, and to counsel them in short, his life abounded with those “sweet courtesies” which his kindly nature no doubt rendered easy to him, but which he never ceased to cultivate in himself or commend in others. “I know that these things are mere trifles in themselves,” saith he, “but they are the out-guards of humanity and friendship, and effectually prevent many a rude attack, which, though small, might end in fatal consequences.”
“And as a husband,” he says, “may I particularly avoid every thing which has the appearance of pettishness, to which, amidst my various cares and labors, I may in some unguarded moment be liable. May it be my daily care to keep up the spirit of religion in conversation with my wife, to recommend her to the divine blessing, and to manifest an obliging and tender disposition towards her; and as a father, may it be my care to intercede for my children daily, to endeavor to bring them early to communion with the church, and to study to oblige them and secure their affections.”
But busy as the preacher, the pastor, and the father must now be, Dr. Watts singled him out to do a work which it had long been one of his own chief desires to execute, but which his increasing infirmities now warned him to relinquish it was to prepare a small volume upon practical and experimental religion for popular use.
“In the doctrines of divinity and the gospel of Christ, I know not any man of greater skill than himself” says the doctor of his friend and favorite, “or hardly sufficient to be his second, as he hath a most exact acquaintance with the things of God and our holy religion, and he hath a most happy manner of teaching those who are younger. He is a most affectionate preacher and pathetic writer; and in a word, since I am now advanced in age, beyond my seventieth year, if there were any person to whom Providence would suffer me to commit a second part of my life and usefulness, Doddridge would be the man; besides all this, he possesseth a spirit of so much charity, love, and goodness towards his fellow-Christians who may fall into some lesser differences of opinion, as becometh a follower of the blessed Jesus.”
Doddridge declined the work on account of his manifold duties, until he dared no longer to resist the urgency of his venerable friend. He consented to undertake it, and in 1745 the book was issued, dedicated to Dr. Watts, and called, “The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul.” the gratified doctor pronounced it a most excellent performance, “its dedication being the only thing he felt disposed to find fault with,” the little book has preached all over Christendom to-day: it is telling the story of the cross in ten thousand homes, and multitudes, we may well suppose, like Wilberforce and Stonehouse, have reason to bless God for its searching appeals.
At the advent of Wesley and Whitefield, the interests of genuine piety seem to have been at as few an ebb among the dissenting churches as among the Episcopal, though in each there were beacon-lights on the black shores of indifference and scepticism if Burnet could grievously exclaim, “When I see the gross ignorance of those who apply for ordination, and the want of piety and scriptural knowledge in those already in the sacred office, these things pierce my soul and make me cry out, ‘Oh, that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away and be at rest.’ What are we like to grow to? How are we to deal with adversaries, or in any way promote the honor of God and carry on the great concerns of the gospel, when, in the fundamentals of religion, those who ought to teach others need to be themselves taught the first principles of the oracles of God.” No less mournful utterances come up from the bosom of dissent. Hear its voice of lament. “The dissenting interest is not like itself I hardly know it it used to be famous for faith, holiness, and love I knew the time when I had no doubt, into whatever place of worship I went among dissenters, but that my heart would be warmed and edified, and my edification promoted. Now I hear prayers and sermons which I neither relish nor understand. Evangelical truth and duty are quite old-fashioned things; many pulpits are not so much as chaste; one’s ears are so dinned with ‘reason,’ ‘the great law of reason,’ and ‘the eternal law of reason,’ that it is enough to put one out of conceit with the chief excellency of our nature, because it is idolized, and even deified. How prone are men to extremes. O for the purity of our fountains, the wisdom and diligence of our tutors, the humility, piety, and teachableness of our youth.”
Such were the voices of those crying like Ishmael in the wilderness, because the fountains were dried up. The causes which had produced so general a decay in vital piety, it hardly falls within our province to describe. We regard it as one of the signs of the times, and descry in it the Lord near at hand, mighty to save. How did the true Israel of God sit solitary, weeping sore in the night. How did the ways of Zion mourn, because none came to her solemn feasts.
Hark! in the distance the heralds cry, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord,” and the voice of promise comes richly laden: “Thy light shall break forth as the morning, and thy health shall spring forth speedily. The glory of God shall be thy reward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here am I and if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul, then shall thy light arise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday; and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters fail not and they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, “The repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.”
Thus do the glorious fore-shadowings of holy writ adapt themselves to every period of Zion’s enlargement: they come forth now to meet and make strong the chosen instruments of this great awakening.
How did the dissenting churches of England receive the new preachers? Did they rejoice and say, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth salvation?” Some stood aloof, caring for none of these things; others spoke bitterly. Others asked, “Whereunto will this grow?” Others laid all to the charge of enthusiasm, and thought themselves doing God service. “I cannot but think,” saith Doddridge, “that by the success of some of these despised men, God is rebuking the madness of those who think themselves the only wise men, and in a remarkable manner laying bare his mighty arm.” “There may indeed be, and often is, a tincture of enthusiasm in some extraordinary conversions; but having weighed the matter diligently, I think a man had better be a sober, honest, chaste, industrious enthusiast, than live without any regard to God and religion at all I think it infinitely better for a man to be a religious Methodist, than an adulterer, a thief, a swearer, a drunkard, or a rebel to his parents, as I knew, some actually were who have been wrought upon and reformed by these preachers.”
Doddridge was severely censured by his brethren for his ready recognition of Whitefield and Wesley, as true reapers in the Lord’s harvest angry and threatening letters were sent to him from various quarters, and fears were entertained lest his catholicity might prove ruinous to the institution under his charge; for he not only grasped them by the hand and bade them God speed on their glorious mission, but on coming to London he appeared in their pulpits.
“I am sorry to have had many questions asked me about your preaching in the Tabernacle,” wrote Dr. Watts anxiously, yet tenderly, “and sinking the character of a clergyman, and especially a tutor among the dissenters, so few thereby I find, many of our friends entertain this idea; but I give no answer, not knowing how much you may have been engaged there I pray God to guard us from every temptation.”
Not long afterwards, ‘Lady Huntington, Lady Frances Gardiner, Doddridge, and Mr. Price were dining with Lady Abney. The conversation naturally turned upon the remarkable religious movements of the day, when they were candidly discussed, and all, from their separate points of observation, related what their eyes had seen and their ears had heard.
“Such are the fruits,” exclaimed the doctor, his small grey eyes brightening with the intensity of his interest, “that will ever follow the faithful proclamation of divine mercy. The Lord our God will crown his message with success, and give it an abundant entrance into the hearts of men it is a blessing such men have been raised up.” Doddridge probably did not receive another reproof. Dr. Watts afterwards became acquainted with Whitefield, who received his almost dying benediction, having paid him a visit a few hours before his death in 1749.
“The nation hath been much alarmed of late with reports concerning the growth and increase of Methodism,” said one of the church of England. “Would we put a stop to the further progress of it? There is one way by which it may be done, and let us of the established church join heart and hand in the work, namely, to live more holily, pray more fervently, preach more heavenly, and labor more diligently than the Methodist ministers appear to do. Then shall we soon hear that field-preaching is at an end, and people will flock to the churches to hear us, as they now flock to the fields to hear them.”
To this Doddridge heartily responded, “And let us of the dissenting churches go and do likewise.” His earnest prayer was for greater union and harmony among Protestant Christians. “O for that happy time,” sighed this healer of breaches, “when the question shall be, not how much we may lawfully dispute, but on the one side, what may we waive, and on the other, what may we acquiesce in, from a principle of mutual tenderness and respect, without displeasing our common Lord, and injuring that great cause of original Christianity which he hath appointed us to guard. But,” he adds, “the darkness of our minds, the narrowness of our hearts, and our attachment to private interest, will put the day, I fear, afar off.”
A hundred years later, and we descry not yet its dawn.
Lady Huntington took a warm and active interest in promoting the Redeemer’s kingdom; she not only lent her money and her name, but she gave herself in personal efforts to seek and to save them which were lost. “For a fortnight past,” she writes to Charles Wesley, “I have found that instruction, and some short exhortations to the weak, have been of great use, especially among my work people, with whom I spend a part of every day I find much comfort in this myself, and am rarely if ever out of the presence of God. He is a pillar of light before me.”
Always intent upon seizing opportunities for speaking to her dependents, she once addressed a laborer at work on the garden wall; pressing him with affectionate earnestness to consider eternal things. Some time after, speaking to another upon the same subject, she said, “Thomas, I fear you never pray, or look to Christ for salvation.
“Your ladyship is mistaken,” replied the man; “I heard what passed between you and James at the garden wall, and the word you meant for him took effect on me.”
“How did you hear it?” she asked.
“I heard it,” Thomas answered, “on the other side of the garden, through a hole in the wall, and I shall never forget the impression I received.”
In this one little incident we mark the germ of that which constituted the main, element of that spiritual awakening CONQUEST, and conquest in the true line of Christian aggression an unfledged hope, the quiet possession of spiritual immunities, a merely christened profession, did not satisfy her. She must not only be fed with the bread of life, but she must also feed others; she must not sit down herself at the Master’s table, but go out and compel others to come in at all times and everywhere, men were to be rescued from sin and its terrible penalties; in all the glare, the activity, the interlaced and interlacing interests of the present and outward life, only two things concerned her — redemption, and retribution; they stood out bald and significant, charged with immortal issues: and all her purposes, all her inducements were shaped and carried forward under the urgency of motives grand and solemn, as eternity itself. The folding of the hands, a sweet retirement into unworldly places, a graceful withdrawal from forbidden things, was not her testimony to the exceeding sinfulness of sin. She went from the altar and the mercy-seat warmed with holy zeal; her presence aroused the moral consciousness of the most dormant; her whole life was a constant exhortation, “Turn ye, turn ye; for why will ye die?”
In 1744, the earl’s family was afflicted by the less of two beautiful boys, George and Fernando, who died of small-pox, then prevailing at London.
With domestic sorrow then mingled public anxiety, the whole country being agitated by the last desperate effort of the exiled Stuarts to regain the throne of England. The nation was filled with alarms and rumors in many of the larger towns riots occurred, in which the Methodist preachers were sometimes rudely attacked and grossly insulted.
On one occasion Charles Wesley was summoned before the magistrates of Wakefield to answer for treasonable words let fall in prayer, wherein he besought the Lord to recall his “banished” ones, which was construed to mean the Pretender.
“I had no thought of the Pretender,” said the accused to the official,” but of those who confess themselves strangers and pilgrims on the earth, who seek a country, knowing this is not their home. The scripture speaks of us as captive exiles, who are not at home until we reach heaven.” the judges wisely accepted the spiritual interpretation, and let the prisoner go.
In the struggle which followed, Col. Gardiner lost his life. On parting with his wife and eldest daughter at Stirling castle, previous to the fatal engagement at Prestonpans, Lady Frances was more than ordinarily affected: instead of offering his accustomed consolations, and inspiring hope by his own cheerfulness, he only said, “We have an eternity to spend together.”
The fall of this excellent man not only bereaved a large and fond family, but spread sorrow over a wide circle of friends, and sadness through the nation. Heavy are the costs of war — “and heavy is this affliction to Lady Frances and the children,” exclaimed Lady Huntington; “but he has gone to the great Captain of his salvation, to sing the wonders of that love which hath redeemed him, and made him meet for the saints in light.” so does “hope in Christ” point heavenward. Doddridge preached an impressive sermon upon the occasion, which was afterwards published, and a hundred copies sent to Lady Huntington for circulation at a later date appeared his well-known memoir, which has been read and reread all over the world.
Within less than a year, Lady Frances Gardiner was called to reciprocate the sympathies of her friend. Earl Huntington died of apoplexy on the 13th of October, 1746, at his mansion in Downing-street, Westminster, aged fifty, leaving his wife at the ago of thirty-nine in the sole charge of his family and fortune. He was a man of unblemished character, and though not a believer in the distinctive theology of his wife, he courteously entertained her religious friends, and listened with admiration to the eloquent preachers of that day. “The morality of the Bible I admire,” he says, “but the doctrine of the atonement I cannot understand.”
His sisters were eminent for their piety, and Margaret became the wife of Rev. Benjamin Ingham, whose preaching first led her to the Saviour. After the earl’s death, the family retired to Donnington Park, where the countess spent in privacy the first six months of her widowhood. Some extracts from her letters to Doddridge admit us to the inner sanctuary of her heart.
“I hope you will never care about the ceremony of time in your letters to me, but just when attended with greatest ease to yourself, for we both agree that the one thing worth living for must be proclaiming the love of God to man in Christ Jesus as for me, I want no holiness he does not give me; I can wish for no liberty but what he likes for me, and I am satisfied with every misery he does not redeem me from, that in all things I may feel, ‘without him I can do nothing.’
“My family consists of two sons and as many daughters; for all of them I have nothing to do but to praise God. The children of so many prayers and tears, I doubt not shall one day be blest, your prayers for us all helping. The hint you gave me is great matter of joy to me; my soul longeth for grace.
“May the Lord give us all such love, to live and to die to him, and for him alone I am, with most kind respects for Mrs. Doddridge, your most sincere, but weak and unworthy friend,
Again she writes, “Some important time is coming. Oh, might I hope it is that time when all things shall be swallowed up by the enlightening and comforting displays of our glorious Redeemer’s kingdom. My hopes are not only full of immortality, but of this. Your works are blessed, and God is making you a polished shaft in his quiver I want every body to pray with you and for you, that you may wax stronger and stronger I have had a letter from Lord Bolingbroke, who says, ‘I desire my complements and thanks to Dr. Doddridge, and I hope I shall continue to deserve his good opinion.’”
During the lifetime of the earl, Lady Huntington’s time was necessarily engrossed by many cares, which withheld her from the friends and the interests which lay nearest to her heart as mistress of his princely mansions, she had duties to general society which could not be slighted; respect and affection for him controlled her private preferences, and without making her disloyal to her religious convictions, blended her interests with his own. The tie is now broken: she meekly bears the chastisement; more than ever she feels herself a stranger and a pilgrim in the present and outward world; more than ever she feels herself a subject of that spiritual kingdom which Christ came to set up; and henceforth we find unfolding that lofty energy of character, which has identified her name with the revived Christianity of her day.
Returning again to society, Lady Huntington may be seen journeying through Wales. The party is large, composed of her two daughters, her sisters Anne and Frances Hastings, several clergymen, and other religious friends is it a jaunt of pleasure? a tour of aimless excitement? a seeing of new things for the sake of killing time?
Let us first pause and look around on the moral wastes of this English soil. “While there was little zeal in the great body of the clergy,” says Southey, “many causes combined which rendered this want of zeal more and more injurious. The population had doubled since the settlement of the church under Elizabeth, yet no provision had been made for increasing proportionally the means of moral and religious instruction, which in the beginning had been insufficient in reality, though the temporal advantages of Christianity extended to all classes, the great majority of the populace knew nothing more of religion than its forms. They had been Papists formerly, and now were Protestants, but they had never been Christians. The Reformation had taken away the ceremonies to which they were attached, and substituted nothing in their stead. There was the Bible indeed, but to the great body of the laboring people, the Bible was even in the letter a sealed book.”
There then was the rudeness of the peasantry, the brutality of the town populace, the prevalence of drunkenness, the growth of impiety, a general deadness to religion; and it was this brutish ignorance, this stiff-necked degradation, this famine of the word of God and all means of moral elevation, which at once demanded the labors of such men as Whitefield, Wesley, and their coadjutors, and inspired them with that resistless zeal which made their preaching like the fire and the hammer upon the flinty rock. Everywhere, on all sides, was spiritual want; it was not only seen among the abandoned, but felt in the general indifference to religion among the middling classes, in the skeptical spirit which pervaded the higher, and the almost total lack of earnestness in professed Christians, both among the clergy and laity.
What a demand for laborers on this harvest-field. The single and uppermost thought of those raised up of God and sent to these famishing multitudes was, “To the rescue.” Their simple and heartfelt message was, “Repent, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” This was not only the pervading element of the preachers, but also of private Christians as Christ came to seek and to save them which were lost, so must his disciples go forth bearing his invitations of mercy, leading men from sin and shame to those ways which are pleasantness, and to those paths which are peace.
Se felt Lady Huntington. The party set out from Bath, and in its journey through Wales travelled slowly, stopping at the, towns and villages on the route, in order to give the preachers an opportunity of addressing the people whenever a congregation could be gathered. Multitudes flocked to hear them.
Indeed, the preachers knew something of their hearers: one of them was GRIFFITH JONES of Abercowyn, author of a plan for instructing his countrymen, known as the “Welsh circulating schools.” the ignorance and Heathenism of the peasantry he had deeply deplored. On his first settlement in 1711, before he admitted communicants, he began by carefully examining them in Christian doctrine; but he soon found that those who most needed the instruction, men grown up in ignorance, were unwilling to attend, because unable to answer the questions put to them. He then fixed upon Saturday before the communion for distributing to the poor their supply of bread, bought with the money collected at the previous communion. These he gathered into a class, and by his great kindness of manner won their confidence and love, until he at last encouraged them to learn short lessons from the Bible. Thus it became a custom among his poor parishioners to repeat a verse of Scripture on receiving their monthly allowance of bread. By this direct and personal intercourse with the poor, he learned how vague and imperfect were their notions of Christianity, and how little the Sabbath service could effect, without the aid of other means of instruction. With this data he resolved to act and his first school was established in 1730 in one of his parishes, Llanddowror another soon followed; and these were attended with results so obviously good, that he soon received the cooperation of several efficient persons, and a generous donation of Bibles and other books from the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
In ten years, one hundred and twenty-eight schools were in operation, with nearly eight thousand persons taught to read the Scriptures in the Welsh language, catechized, instructed in psalmody, and under the general supervision of Christian schoolmasters, trying in various ways to promote their best good. Griffith Jones was a popular as well as a faithful preacher; his greatest excellence was “gavaelgar ar y gydwybed,” or a grasp on the conscience; and accustomed as he had been to preaching-tours, and gray as he had grown in the service of his hardy countrymen, his very presence was like the ringing of the Sabbath bells for the people to come and hear.
Beside him is a younger brother, a Welsh Boanerges, HOWEL HARRIS; Greet him and cherish him, for he deserves well of those who love the Lord. Though destined for the church, he received no serious impressions until twenty-one, when this passage from a sermon, “If you are unfit to visit the table of the Lord, you are unfit to visit the church, you are unfit to live and unfit to die,” fastened powerfully upon his conscience. On his way from church, meeting a person whom he had wronged, he instantly confessed his fault and begged to be forgiven; and though fears and remorse for a long time darkened his soul, he stoutly determined to give himself to the service of God, and began to warn his neighbors to flee from the wrath to come in 1735 he returned to Oxford to complete his studies, but the immoralities of the university disgusted him, and he returned home. He betook himself henceforth to the poor of his native land in the cottage and the field he is preaching the doctrines of the cross. so many came to him for instruction, that at the close of the year he formed them into societies. “In the formation of these,” he tells us, “I followed the rules of Dr. Woodward, in a book written by him on the subject. Previously to this, no societies of the kind had been founded either in England or Wales. The English Methodists had not become famous as yet, although, as I afterwards learned, several of them in Oxford were at that time under strong religious influences.”
They were not organized either as Methodist or dissenting congregations nor indeed with any view of their ever separating from the church. The revival of religion in the church was his avowed purpose at first, and his proposed object through life.
In 1739 Whitefield and Harris met for the first time in the town-hall of Cardiff, where the former, fresh from the glowing scenes of Bristol, poured forth his impassioned eloquence to his Welsh auditory, among whom was Howel Harris. Of the mutual delight afforded by the interview, which immediately afterwards took place, Whitefield said characteristically, “I doubt not Satan envied our happiness; but I hope by the help of God we shall make his kingdom shake.’’
Such then were the men attached to Lady Huntington’s party. On arriving at Treveeca, Brecknockshire, the birthplace of Howel Harris, they remained several days, the preachers addressing, four or five times a day, immense crowds, who came from all the country round about. Twenty years afterwards, Trevecca was one of the principal centres of the countess’ influence.
“On a review of all that I have seen and heard,” exclaimed she, on their return home, “I am constrained to cry, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.’ the sermons contained the most solemn and awful truths, such as the utter ruin of man by the fall and his redemption by the Lord Jesus Christ, the energetic declaration of which produced quite a sensible effect on many, who, there is reason to believe, were brought from nature’s darkness to the marvellous light of the all-glorious gospel. My earnest prayer to God for them is, that they may continue in his grace and truth.”
Of a journey thus conducted, we cannot but regret that the only memorials are the brief sketches of a hastily penned journal by Lady Frances Hastings. Though undertaken for the countess’ health, it seems really to have been a home missionary tour; a rare union, we may venture to assert, in those days as well as our own, when travelling, even among professing Christians, is too often a time for “casting off fear and restraining prayer.”
Not long after the countess’ return, Doddridge paid a visit to London. During his stay he thus writes to his wife: “I can conclude by telling you that I am at the close of one of the most pleasant days I shall ever spend without you after an hour’s charming conversation with Lady Huntington and Mrs. Edwin, I preached in her family by express desire, and met Colonel Grumley, who is really a second Colonel Gardiner after dinner the ladies entertained us with their voices and harpsichord, with which I was highly delighted; and I have stolen a hymn which I believe to have been written by good Lady Huntington, and which I shall not fail to communicate to you. She is quite a mother to the poor; she visits them and prays with them in sickness, and they leave their children to her for a legacy when they die; and she takes care of them I was really astonished at the traces of religion which I discovered in her and Mrs. Edwin, and cannot but glorify God for them. More cheerfulness I never saw mingled with so much devotion. Lady Frances Gardiner sets out on Monday next I have taken my leave of her.”
IN 1728 there was a young man struggling through Oxford, paying his way as servitor at Pembroke college. “At first he was rendered uncomfortable by the society into which he was thrown: he had several chamber-fellows, who would fain have made him join in their riotous mode of life; and as he could only escape from their persecutions by sitting alone in his study, he was sometimes benumbed with cold; but, when they perceived the strength as well as the singularity of his character, they suffered him to take his own way in peace.”
Before he came to Oxford, he had heard of the young men there “who lived by rule and method,” and were therefore called Methodists. They were now much talked of, and generally despised. He, however, was drawn towards them by kindred feelings, defended them strenuously when he heard them reviled, and when he saw them go through a jeering crowd to receive the Lord’s supper at St. Mary’s, was strongly inclined to follow their example. For more then a year he yearned to be acquainted with them, but it seems that a sense of his inferior condition kept him back at length the great object of his desires was effected a pauper had attempted suicide, and he sent a poor woman to inform Charles Wesley, that he might visit the person and administer spiritual medicine; the messenger was charged not to say who sent her; contrary to these orders she told his name, and Charles Wesley, who had seen him frequently walking by himself, and heard something of his character, invited him to breakfast the next morning. An introduction to this little fellowship soon followed, and he also, like them, “began to live by rule, and pick up the very fragments of his time, that not a moment of it might be lost.’
This young man was George Whitefield, and thus has the graphic pen of Wesley’s biographer described his first introduction to that little society, whose members afterwards stamped their influence so broadly on that and subsequent time.
After leaving Oxford and taking deacon’s orders, he began to preach at Bristol, and exhibit that impassioned eloquence which moved and melted both the old world and the new. He preached about five times a week to such congregations that it was with great difficulty that he could make his way along the crowded aisles to the reading-desk. “Some hung upon the rails of the organ-loft others climbed upon the leads of the church, and all together made the church so hot with their breath, that the steam would fall from the pillars like drops of rain.” When he preached his farewell-sermon, and said to the people that perhaps they might see his face no more, high and low, old and young, burst into tears. Multitudes, after the sermon, followed him home weeping; the next day he was employed from seven in the morning until midnight in talking and giving spiritual advice to awakened hearers; and he left Bristol secretly in the middle of the night, to avoid the ceremony of being escorted by horsemen and coaches out of the town.
While at London it was necessary to place constables at the doors, both within and without, such multitudes assembled; and on Sunday mornings in the latter months of the year, long before day, you might have seen the streets filled with people going to hear him, with lanterns in their hands.
“The man who produced such extraordinary effect,” says Southey, “had many natural advantages. He was something above the middle stature, well proportioned, though at this time slender, and remarkable for a native gracefulness of manner. His complexion was very fair, his eyes small and lively, of a dark blue color; in recovering from the measles, he had contracted a squint with one of them, but this peculiarity rather rendered the expression of his countenance more remarkable, than in any degree lessened the effect of its uncommon sweetness. His voice excelled both in melody and compass, and its fine modulations were happily accompanied by that grace of action which he possessed in an eminent degree, and which has been said to be the chief requisite of an orator.” Garrick said he could make men weep or tremble at his varied utterance of the word Mesopotamia.
To these natural gifts and graces was added a deep conviction of the greatness and the grandeur of his calling, as a messenger of God. His maxim was to preach as Apelles painted, for eternity. When a young man, Dr. Delany once remarked in his hearing, “I wish, whenever I go into the pulpit, to look upon it as the last time that I may ever preach, or the last time the people may hear.” This, Whitefield never forgot. He often said, “Would ministers preach for eternity, they would act the part of true Christian orators, for then they would endeavor to move the affections and warm the heart, and not constrain their hearers to suspect that they dealt in the false commerce of unfelt truth.”
Whitefield broke away from the popularity thus strongly flowing in upon him, to follow his beloved college companions the Wesleys to the new world; but not, as he expected, to labor with them in Georgia, for the ship which carried him sailed from the Downs only a few hours before that which brought Wesley home anchored on the English coast.
He remained a year in Georgia, where he seems not to have experienced any of those peculiar trials which hindered the usefulness of Wesley. He returned to England in 1739, in order to receive deacon’s orders and to raise contributions for the establishment of an orphan-house at Bethesda, twelve miles from Savannah, after the famous model of Professor Franke’s in Halle; the history and success of which seems to have created a profound interest among the Christians of that day, when charitable institutions of any magnitude scarcely existed, and long before the great religious associations of our time had been conceived.
Among the news of this period, the celebrated Countess of Hereford thus writes to a friend on the continent: “I do not know whether you have heard of a new sect, who call themselves Methodists. There is one Whitefield at the head of them, a young man of five and twenty, who has for some months gone about preaching in the fields and market-places in the country, and in London at May-fair and Moorfields, to ten or twelve thousand people at a time. He went to Georgia with General Oglethorpe, and returned to take priest’s orders, which he did; and I believe since that time hardly a day has passed that he has not preached once, and generally twice at first, he and some of his brethren seemed only to aim at restoring the practice of the primitive Christians as to daily sacraments, stated fasts, frequent prayers, relieving prisoners, visiting the sick, and giving alms to the poor; but upon sound men refusing these men their pulpits, they have betaken themselves to preaching in the fields, and they have such crowds of followers, that they have set in a flame all the clergy in the kingdom, who represent them as hypocrites and enthusiasts as to the latter epithet, some passages in Mr. Whitefield’s latest journals seem to countenance the accusation; but I think their manner of living has not afforded any grounds to suspect them of hypocrisy. The Bishop of London, however, has thought it necessary to write a pastoral letter to warn the people of his diocese against being led away by them; and Dr. Trapp has published a sermon upon ‘the great folly and danger of being righteous overmuch,’ a doctrine which does not seem absolutely necessary to be preached to the people of the present age.”
It was not until his second visit to America and return to England, that difference of theological views began to cloud the friendship which had subsisted between the two distinguished preachers, Whitefield and John Wesley. We should approach the rupture with sadness, only as such things “must needs be” in our present state of imperfect knowledge and feeble grace.
While the storm was brewing, “My honored friend and brother,” wrote Whitefield to Wesley, “for once hearken to a child, who is willing to wash your feet I beseech you, by the mercies of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, if you would have my love confirmed towards you, write no more to me about the misrepresentations wherein we differ. Why should we dispute, when there is no possibility of convincing? Will it not in the end destroy brotherly love, and insensibly take from us that cordial union and sweetness of soul, which I pray God may always subsist between us? How glad would the enemies of the Lord be to see us divided. How would the cause of our common Master every way suffer by our raising disputes about particular points of doctrine. Honored sir, let us offer salvation freely to all by the blood of Jesus, and whatever light God has communicated to us, let us freely communicate to others.”
Happy were it for the Christian world, if the admirable temper of this letter could govern its divided friends and clashing sects; but admirable as it was and however it might have conciliated the resolute and uncompromising spirit of Wesley, the breach widened, for on both sides there were friends and followers who fanned the flame, and Whitefield afterwards wrote in an altered and recriminating tone.
With such questions at issue, involving points of doctrine which no human intellect has ever mastered, a rupture became inevitable. When Whitefield returned to the scene of his early triumphs, “he came to his own, and his own received him not.” His Kingswood school was in the hands of Wesley; and at London a temporary shed, called the Tabernacle, served to shelter his spiritual children since their exodus from the foundry at this period Whitefield says sadly, “The world is angry with me, and numbers of my own spiritual children. Some say, that God will destroy me in a fortnight, and that my fall will be as great as Peter’s. Scarce one comes to see me from morning till night, and on Kensington common I have not above a hundred to hear me I am much embarrassed in my circumstances a thousand pounds I owe for the orphan-house I am threatened to be arrested for two hundred pounds more. My travelling expenses also are to be defrayed a family of one hundred to be daily maintained, four thousand miles off, in the dearest place of the king’s dominion — all my work is to begin again.”
Their counsels divided and their ranks broken, there seemed to be a weak betrayal of their Master’s cause. Were the Apolloses and Cephases thus to come in and assert their shallow claims, and plunder the church of her men and means? It was not so to be.
In spite of the dissents and jarrings which must needs come, the leaders of that day more truly comprehended their mission; their spiritual gains were not to be scattered, nor their spiritual strength wasted in a bitter household squabble: there was a worthier work for them. Whitefield and Wesley loved each other, and the soul of each glowed with the warm charities of the gospel; they loved a common Master, whose cause lay nearest their hearts, and while each proclaimed its great normal principle, salvation by a crucified Redeemer, with a loving earnestness, each linked with it his own peculiar system of doctrines.
When we see the chafing and champing of worldly and sometimes even religious men at the ebbing of their popularity, it is encouraging to turn to one who not only knew the solidity of his own principles, but could steadily anchor on them and calmly take the surges and the spray.
“What is a little scourge of the tongue?” says Whitefield. “What is a thrusting out of the synagogue? The time of temptation will be when we are thrust into an inner prison and feel the iron entering into our souls. God’s people may be permitted to forsake us for a while, but the Lord Jesus can stand by us and if thou, O dearest Redeemer, wilt strengthen me in my inward man, let enemies plunge me into a fiery furnace, or throw me into a den of lions. Let us suffer for Jesus with a cheerful heart. His love will sweeten every cup, though never so bitter. May all disputing SOON cease, and each of us talk of nothing but Him crucified: this is my resolution.”
And his life corresponded to it, in adversity as well as in prosperity. Herein was the singleness of Whitefield’s piety: one aim governed and sustained him through a long and laborious career — and it was preaching Christ.
At what time Lady Huntington first became acquainted with Whitefield does not appear. On her return from Wales, he was expected in England from his third visit to America. When he landed at Deal, she immediately sent Howel Harris to bring him to her own house in Chelsea, where he preached to large circles of the gay world, who thronged this fashionable watering-place. For the benefit of this class of hearers, she soon after removed to London, appointed Whitefield her chaplain, and during the winter of 1748 and ‘49 opened her splendid mansion in Park-street for the ministrations of the gospel.
“Good Lady Huntington,” writes he, “has come to town, and I am to preach twice a week at her house to the great and noble. O that some of them might be effectually called to taste the riches of redeeming love.” On the day appointed, Chesterfield, Bolingbroke, and a circle of the nobility attended; and having heard him once, they desired to come again. “Lord Chesterfield thanked me,” he says. “Lord Bolingbroke was moved, and asked me to come and see him the next morning. My hands have been full of work, and I have been among great company all accepted my sermons. Thus the world turns round: ‘In all time of my wealth, good Lord, deliver me’”
Although Whitefield used the current compliments of address common to that period, more fulsome then, than now in England, and at either time sounding oddly enough to us on this side of the Atlantic, he never betrayed his office as the minister of God, but warned, rebuked, and exhorted men with all fidelity, as well as with all affection.
“As for praying in your family, I entreat you not to neglect it,” he said to the old Scotch Marquis of Lothian, who would fain have been like Nicodemus, a Christian in the dark. “You are bound to do it apply to Christ to overcome your present fears; they are the effects of pride or infidelity, or both.”
The death-bed of Lord St. John, who was one of the hearers of this parlor preaching, exhibited scenes unusual in the circle where he moved: the Bible was read to him, and his cry was, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” “My Lord Bolingbroke,” wrote Lady Huntington to Whitefield, “was much struck with his brother’s language in his last moments. O that his eyes might be opened by the illuminating influence of divine truth. He is a singularly awful character; and I am fearfully alarmed, lest the gospel which he so heartily despises, yet affects to reverence, should prove the savor of death unto death to him. Some, I trust, are savingly awakened, while many are inquiring; thus the great Lord of the harvest hath put honor on your ministry, and hath given my heart an encouraging token of the utility of our feeble efforts.”
Under her auspices, a prayer-meeting was established for those females who, from the circles of rank and fashion, became the followers of the Lord among these were Lady Frances Gardiner, Lady Mary Hamilton, daughter of the Marquis of Lothian, who had attended the ministry of Whitefield in Scotland, Lady Gertrude Hotham and Countess Delitz, sisters of Lady Chesterfield, Lady Chesterfield herself, and Lady Fanny Shirley, of whom Horace Walpole wrote in his scoffing way to a friend on the continent, “If you ever think of returning to England, you must prepare yourself with Methodism: this sect increases as fast as ever almost any other religious nonsense did. Lady Fanny Shirley has chosen this way of bestowing the dregs of her beauty, and Mr. Lyttleton is very near making the same sacrifice of the dregs of all those various characters that he has worn. The Methodists love your big sinners, and indeed they have a plentiful harvest.”
“There needed,” said one, “strong consolation in order to resist the strong temptations presented by a frivolous court, a witty peerage, and a learned bench in favor of a formal religion. Nothing but the ‘joy of the Lord’ could have sustained them in such a sphere. Happiness in religion was the best security for their holiness. They could not be laughed out of a good hope through grace. with or banter may make persisting a weakness or a fancy, but they cannot make hope, peace, and joy appear absurd. Neither the severe denunciations of Warburton, or the polished sarcasm of Chesterfield, could touch the consciousness of peace in believing, or of enjoyment in secret prayer, in the hearts of those peeresses who had found at the cross and the mercy-seat the happiness they had sought in vain from the world.”
“Religion was never so much the subject of conversation as now,” writes Lady Huntington to Doddridge. “Some of the great ones hear with me the gospel patiently, and thus much seed is sown by Mr. Whitefield’s preaching. O that it may fall on good ground, and bring forth abundantly.
“I had the pleasure, yesterday, of Mr. Gibbon’s and Mr. Crittenden’s company to dine with me. Lord Lothian and Lady Frances Gardiner gave them the meeting, and we had truly a most primitive and heavenly day; our hearts and voices praised the Lord, prayed to him, and talked of him I had another lady present, whose face, since I saw you last, is turned Zion-ward. Of the ‘honorable women,’ I trust there are not a few; patience shall have its proper work: and if we love our Lord, we must be tender over his lambs I trust He will assist us to keep fanning the flame in every heart; this, my friend, is our joyful task for the best Master we can serve, either in time or eternity. Do not let our hands hang down; we must wrestle for ourselves and for all dead in their sins, till the day break and the shadows of time flee away.”
While thus solicitous for the spiritual welfare of those of her on rank, no less interested is she in her humbler neighbors; to them her house was constantly opened, that they also might be enriched by “that faith which comes by hearing.” On week-days her kitchen was filled by the poor of the flock, whom she supplied with all the means of religious profit which lay in her power.
Meanwhile good and evil tidings come from Wales. The winter campaign of Howel Harris is attended with stormy weather. The gentry frown, the magistrates bristle, while the poor people, who hunger for his “Good words,” are sorely oppressed, nay, grievously tormented. On one excursion he did not take off his clothes for seven days and nights, being obliged to meet his little congregation in solitary places at midnight, or by daylight in ravine or cleft, in order to avoid the persecuting vigilance of their enemies. “One man,” says Harris, “was obliged to pay Sir Watkins Wynn twenty shillings, several of my poor hearers five shillings, and one who paid the same sum before, was fined seven shillings more; and this is the third time my poor sheep of this fold have been thus served.”
When the matter came to Lady Huntington’s knowledge, indignant at the injustice and bigotry of Sir Watkins Wynn, with characteristic energy she instantly made a representation to the government of his infringement of the Act of Toleration; the magistrates were rebuked by the higher law, and Sir Watkins was ordered to return the fines to the pockets of the sufferers.
Honorable exceptions, however, were there among the Welsh magistrates. Harris having made an appointment to meet the peasantry near Garth, in Breconshire, the residence of Sir Marmaduke Gwynne, that gentleman, frightened by the reports concerning him, resolved on the occasion to do his duty as a magistrate, and stop proceedings of so disorderly and mobbish a character. Regarding the missionary as neither more nor less than a firebrand to church and state, Mr. Magistrate Gwynne prepared for a resolute attack, but wisely enough said to his family on going out, “I’m first hear the man myself before I commit him.” Accordingly he mingled with the congregation, lying in wait to pounce upon the preacher at every next word. “Why, he’s neither more nor less than an apostle,” cried Gwynne inwardly, his stout heart melting under the manner and earnest language of the man of God. The riot act lay asleep in his pocket, and at the end of the discourse he marched up to the rude platform, shook the preacher warmly by the hand, confessed his intention, asked his pardon, bade him preach while he lived, and took him back to Garth to supper. Henceforth the countenance of the Gwynne family smiled on the new movements. Regardless of public or private censure, Sir Marmaduke stood stoutly up for the evangelists, and used all his influence for promoting the spread of the gospel in the regions round about. One of his daughters afterwards married Charles Wesley.
In February, 1749, Whitefield left London a short time to recruit amid scenes less exciting, for rest he never knew. Lady Huntington goes to Clifton. Her oldest son has become of age, and as Earl Huntington, takes possession of Bennington park, Ledstone hall, with other patrimony belonging to his title. He then set out upon the fashionable continental tour at Paris he is warmly greeted by the most distinguished English residents, particularly introduced as he is by Lord Chesterfield, who pronounces him “one of the first peers of England, with merit and talents equal to his birth.”
Lady Elizabeth Hastings, the countess’ eldest daughter, much admired for her grace, vivacity, and abilities, in March of this year was appointed “lady of the bed chamber” to the princesses Amelia and Caroline, sisters of George III. She remained in office but a few months in relation to it Horace Walpole said, “ the queen of the Methodists got her daughter named for lady of the bedchamber to the princesses; but it is all off again, as she will not let her play cards on Sunday.”
HERE comes one with quick, elastic step; his eye is keen; his thin, yet strongly lined face is surmounted by a gray wig somewhat smitten by the hand of time; his plain, and certainly not polished manners, are perhaps in keeping with the blue suit and coarse blue yarn stockings, in which he is usually seen; He cannot stop for all the elaborate courtesies of life, for manifold cares and duties eat up his time, which he is bent on using wisely, as one who must give account. Behold Rev. William Romaine, curate of St. Dunstans and St. Georges, Hanover-square, London, whose searching and appeals were at once the scorn and the delight of multitudes, and whose “Walk of Faith” hold a prominent place on the bookshelves of our fathers fifty years ago.
He was at Oxford with Whitefield and the Wesleys, whom on account of their religious strictness and singularity he then avoided and despised. Whatever might have been his literary hopes or ambitious longings, he was the child of prayer, and trained by believing parents for the service of God. Thoroughly instructed in the doctrines of the cross, he at length cordially embraced them, and the unfeigned faith which dwelt in his parents now became a living principle within his own bosom.
Having taken orders, he occasionally preached, but for seven years his time had been chiefly occupied in preparing for the press a new edition of the Hebrew Concordance and Lexicon of Marius do Calasio; and it was to further its progress with the printers that we find him in London in 1747 then thirty-three years of age. Having completed his arrangements, he determined to return to the north of England, where his friends resided, and where he was best known. His trunk was on shipboard, and he was hurriedly threading his way through the bustle of Cheapside on his route to the quay, when a stranger suddenly stopped. him and asked if his name were not Romaine. “That is my name,” answered the astonished young man. “I knew your father, and I saw at once the father’s look in the son,” continued the gentleman. The two stood and talked. Before parting the stranger spoke of his interest in the vacant parishes of St. George and St. Botolph, and offered to exert it in his behalf; and thus, on this chance and abrupt meeting, did the young preacher pause and make choice of his destiny for life.
“Had not Mr. Romaine met this stranger — had not the stranger been instantly struck with the son’s resemblance to his father — had he not accosted him with a curiosity for which probably he himself could no reason — had he passed a moment sooner or later. — had the lectureship not been vacant — had not the conversation led to the cause of Mr. Romaine’s leaving — in short,” says Dr. Haweis, “if a thousand unforeseen circumstances had not concurred just at that critical moment, the labors of that great reviver of evangelical truth in the churches of London, humanly speaking, had been lost to the metropolis, and with it all the blessed consequences of his ministry, which thousands have experienced, and for which they will bless God to all eternity.”
Thus doeth He who holds the thread of every circumstance: we are the web of his own great purposes.
A general alarm prevailed in London at this time, 1749, for fear of coming judgments. The universal corruption of morals, the mocking spirit of irreligion, and the heartlessness and hollowness of society on one side, the bold rebukes, the searching appeals, the fearless denunciations of the new preachers on the other, united with the report of earthquakes desolating and destroying on the continent, conspired to kindle in the public mind a consciousness of deserved wrath, and a fearful apprehension of approaching calamities. There are times when whole communities are thus startled into a sense of God, and great fears lay hold upon them. The shocks of earthquake were now more sensibly felt in London than for many years. Houses were shaken, chimneys were thrown down, multitudes left the city, while crowds fled for safety to the open fields. Towerhill, Kennington-common, and Moorfields were thronged with men, women, and children. Places of worship became crowded. The Wesleys preached incessantly, and Whitefield went out one time at midnight to address a dismayed and affrighted multitude in Hyde-park.
Romaine also was intent upon improving these solemn opportunities in addition to his forcible appeals from the pulpit, and his faithful conversations in private, he published “An Alarm to the Careless World,” which might speak where his voice could never reach. A sermon also appeared from the pen of Dr. Doddridge, entitled, “the Guilt and Doom of Capernaum seriously recommended to the inhabitants of London.”
“You have now, sirs,” he says in the preface, “very lately had repeated and surprising demonstrations of the almighty power of that infinite and adorable Being, whom in the midst of your hurries and amusements you are so ready to forget his hand hath once and again, within these five weeks, lifted up your mighty city from its basis, and shook its million of inhabitants in their dwellings. The palaces of the great, nay, even of the greatest, have not been exempted, that the princes of the land might be wise, and its judges and lawgivers might receive instruction and is not the voice of this earthquake like that of the angel in the Apocalypse, flying in the midst of heaven, and having the everlasting gospel, saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God, and give glory to him, and worship him that made heaven and earth?’
“I suppose what you have so lately felt, to be the result of natural causes; but remember, they were causes disposed by Him who, from the day in which he founded our island and laid the foundations of the earth, knew every circumstance of their operation with infinitely more certainty than the most skilful engineer the disposition and success of a mine which he hath prepared and directed, and which he fires in the appointed moment and do not your hearts meditate terror? Especially when you consider how much London hath done, and even you yourselves have done, to provoke the eyes of his holiness and awaken the vengeance of his almighty arm? The second shock, it seems, was more dreadful than the first; and may not the third be yet more dreadful than the second? So that this last may seem as a merciful signal to prepare for what may with the most terrible propriety be called an untimely grave indeed — a grave that shall receive the living with the dead. Think what you have lately felt; and think whether in that amazing moment you could have done any thing material to prepare for another world, if eternity had depended upon that momentary preparation. A shriek of wild consternation, a cry as you were sinking, ‘The Lord have mercy on us!’ would probably have been of very little significance to those that have so long despised mercy, and would not have thought of asking it but in the last extremity.”
“Oh London, London,” cries the preacher in his sermon, “dear city of my birth and education, seat of so many of my friends, seat of our princes and senators, centre of our commune, heart of our island which must feel and languish and tremble and die with thee, how art thou lifted up to heaven; how high do thy glories rise, and how bright do they shine! How great is thy magnificence; how extensive thy commerce; how numerous, how free, how happy thin inhabitants; how happy, above all, in their religious opportunities; how happy in the uncorrupted gospel, so long and so faithfully preached in thy synagogues! But while we survey these heights of elevation, must we not tremble lest thou shouldst fall so much the lower, lest thou should plunge so much the deeper in ruin?
“My situation, sirs, is not such as renders me most capable of judging concerning the moral character of this our celebrated metropolis. But who can hear what seem the most credible reports of it, and not take an alarm? Whose spirit must not like that of Paul at Athens, be stirred, when he sees the city so abandoned to profaneness, luxury, and vanity? Is it indeed false, all that we hear? Is it indeed accidental, all that we see? Is London wronged, when it is said that great licentiousness reigns among most of its inhabitants, and great indolence and indifference. To religion, even among those who are not licentious? That assemblies for divine worship are much neglected, or frequented with little appearance of seriousness or solemnity, while assemblies for pleasure are thronged, and attended with such eagerness that all the heart and soul scorns to be given to them rather than to God; that the Sabbath, instead of being religiously observed, is given to jaunts of pleasure into neighboring villages, or wasted on beds of sloth, or at tables of excess; That men of every rank are ambitious of appearing to be something more than they are, grasping at business they cannot manage, entering into engagements they cannot answer, and so, after a vain and contemptible blaze, drawing bankruptcy upon themselves and others? That the poorer sort are grossly ignorant, wretchedly depraved, and abandoned to the most brutal sensualities and infirmities; while those who would exert any remarkable zeal to remedy these evils, by introducing a deep and warm sense of religion into the minds of others, are suspected and censured as whimsical and enthusiastical, if not designing men? In a word, that the religion of our divine Master is by multitudes of the great and the vulgar openly renounced and blasphemed? Men and brethren, are these things indeed so? I take not upon me to answer absolutely that they are; but I will venture to say, that if they are indeed thus, London, as rich and grand and glorious as it is, has reason to tremble, and to tremble so much the more for its abused riches, grandeur, and glory.”
While some of the preachers were thus careful to improve the general alarm by a vigorous enforcement of divine truth, there were multitudes of the people no less anxious for spiritual instruction. St. Georges, where Romaine preached, was thronged; and of this, some of the regular parishioners grievously complained. The old Earl of Northampton reminded them that they bore the greater crowd of a ballroom, an assembly, and a playhouse, without inconvenience or complaint; “and if,” said he, “the power to attract be imputed as a matter of admiration to Garrick, why should it be urged as a crime against Romaine? Shall excellence be exceptionable only in divine things?”
But the thing was not to be borne if the parishioners could bear the preaching of the curate, the rector would not. Zeal in the preacher was at that time looked upon, in certain quarters, as one of the unpardonable sins of the pulpit; for it reflected discredit upon a large body of the clergy, and whether he meant it or not, was a rebuke upon the dead and formal ministry of his brethren. Romaine was therefore summarily dismissed from his curacy. Turned out of St. Georges, but reluctant to part from many of his parishioners, he ventured to meet them at the house of one of their number; for which alleged irregularity he was threatened with prosecution from the ecclesiastical court. On learning this, Lady Huntington immediately invited him to her house in Parkstreet, offered him her scarf, and made him her chaplain. Thus shielded by a peeress of the realm, he continued his labors, more vigorously than ever, for the spiritual good of his fellows. Romaine was at this time thirty-five years of age.
“God has been terribly shaking the metropolis,” wrote Whitefield to Lady Huntington. “I hope it is an earnest of his giving a shock to secure sinners, and making them to cry out, ‘What shall we do to be saved?’ I trust, honored madam, you have been brought to believe on the Lord Jesus. What a mercy is this: to be plucked as a brand from the burning, to be one of those few mighty and noble that are called effectually by the grace of God. What can shake a soul whose hopes are fixed on the Rock of ages? Winds may blow, rains may and will descend even upon persons in the most exalted stations, but they that trust in the Lord never shall, never can be totally confounded.”
As the season advances, we turn from the exciting scenes of the metropolis, from its din and depravity, to the green lawns and hawthorn hedges of the country. We hear the lark,
“ — Blithe spirit,
Pouring its full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art;”
we cross the Ouso, perhaps at Olney, and see “displayed its lilies newly blown;” and following Whitefield, find him at Northampton in the hospitable home of Dr. Doddridge. The famous and somewhat unquiet visitor cannot disturb the sweet accord of the minister’s family, though the children gather around him, drawn by the tender warmth of his love for them. How vividly he tells the story of his London labors, and of the good countess whom their father loves; or perhaps he recounts his travels among the wild forests and the tall red men of the new world, to which they listen with eager interest; or perhaps he discourses with the parents upon the marvellous works of God, or urges upon the young men of the academy the glorious gospel of his blessed Lord. But private ministrations are not for him. On a Tuesday morning we find him preaching to Doddridge’s family, and in the afternoon to above two thousand people in the neighboring field.
Hervey comes to welcome him, James Hervey, one of the Oxford band, now curate in the little village of Western Flavel, so near Northampton that he and Doddridge may often thread the green lanes to each other’s houses and take sweet counsel in heavenly things. Hervey is pale and attenuated, but great men find their way to his retired church, for his works are admired among the literary circles of the land. On this side of the waters he is best known as the author of “Meditations in a Graveyard,” once a popular little volume, but now cast in the shade less for the serious tone of it, than for its airy flights of style. Harvey’s heart glows while Whitefield talks.
“Surely, I never spent a more delightful evening,” exclaimed he, “or saw one that seemed to make nearer approaches to the felicity of heaven. A gentleman of great worth and rank invited us to his house and gave us an elegant treat; but how mean was his provision, how coarse his delicacies, compared with the fruit of my friend’s lips. They dropped as a honeycomb, and were a well of life.”
Dr. Stonehouse is also of the company, once Doddridge’s beloved family physician, now a physician of souls an avowed infidel when he first came to Northampton, the preaching, conversation, writings, and counsels both of Doddridge and Hervey led him to reconsider the ground upon which he stood, discover his perilous condition, and flee to Jesus Christ for refuge from the wrath to come. He afterwards settled at Great and Little Cheveril, Wilts, where he became the spiritual guide of Hannah More, and the “Mr. Johnson” of her admirable and far-famed tract, “the Shepherd of Salisbury Plain.” After the death of his wife he married Miss Ekins, a tenderly beloved ward of Dr. Doddridge, “whose account of her expenses and estate was so just,” says the husband on receiving the property of his bride, “that he really did not do justice to himself, in consequence of which he made his widow a handsome present for his undercharges.”
Meanwhile Lady Huntington is at Ashby de is Zouch, in Leicestershire, one of the manors belonging to Lord Huntington’s family, a day’s journey from Northampton, if the lumbering vehicles of a hundred years ago could make fifty miles a day. Here were the ladies Hastings, Frances, Anne, and Betty. After a while, Doddridge pays her a visit. On Sabbath forenoon he preached, while her domestic chaplain read. The service; in the evening the order was reversed, Doddridge prayed and the chaplain preached. “This is a true catholic spirit,” exclaims the countess, “that wishes well to the cause of Christ in every denomination. I wish all the dissenting ministers were like-minded, less attached to little punctilios, and more determined to publish the glorious gospel wherever men are assembled to hear, whether in a church, a meeting-house, a field, or a barn — less anxious to convince their brethren in errors of discipline, and more solicitous to gather souls to Christ.”
Whitefield in his rounds at length halts at Ashby. “And Ashby-place is like a Bethel,” he exclaims; “we have the sacrament every morning, heavenly conversation all day, and preaching at night This is “to live at court indeed.” Does not this picture remind us of the primitive Christians, when they continued daily with one accord in the temple, breaking bread from house to house, eating their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, and praising God?
But the spirit and the preaching of Ashby-placa did not suit the humor of the neighborhood. Riotous proceedings took place on various occasions, inflamed, it was said, by the dissenters; perhaps Whitefield comes nearer the truth when he exclaims, “Alas, how great and irreconcilable is the enmity of the serpent.” the countess’ house is threatened with ruin, and some persons on their way home narrowly escaped being murdered. “Ungrateful Ashby,” cries Whitefield, “O that thou knewest the day of thy visitation. I shall be glad to hear what becomes of the rioters. O that your ladyship may live to see many of those Ashby stones become children to Abraham.”
To Lady Gertrude Hotham, one of his London converts, he wrote, “Good Lady Huntington is weak in body, but strong in grace. Thousands and thousands flock to hear the word twice every day, and the power of God has attended it in a glorious manner. But the good people of Ashby were so kind as to mob round her ladyship’s door while the gospel was preaching. Ashby is not worthy of so rich a pearl. You and Lady Fanny were constantly remembered at Ashby at the holy table.”
Whitefield staid here a fortnight, continuing instant in season and out of season in his Master’s work, when he took leave and pushed on towards the north as mails were not carried by coaches in England until nearly thirty years after this time, we may suppose there was little public accommodation for travellers. People went in their own conveyances. Let us take a look at Whitefield, as his carriage drives out of Ashby on the road to Nottingham, drawn by a favorite pair of handsome black horses, doing credit to their keeping at the Ashby stables. It was on this journey, while he was preaching at Kendal, surrounded by a listening multitude, that some of the baser sort, honoring the preacher in their own way, entered the barn where his carriage was housed, hacked the leather, abused the trimmings, and cut off the horses’ tails. “Still,” he observes, “God vouchsafes to prosper the gospel plough. Such an entrance has been made at Kendal as could not have been expected. The people are importunate that I should return again, and the power of the Lord has been wonderfully displayed.”
At Nottingham, he was attended by great multitudes, who thronged every avenue to the place appointed for him to preach in; in some places, “Satan rallied,” he says, “giving notice of me by calling the people to a bear-baiting: a drum is beat, and men are called to the market-place; but the arrows of the Lord can disperse them.” It was at Rotherham that several young men met at a tavern, and undertook on a wager to see who could best mimic him; each in turn mounted the table, and opening a Bible, entertained his companions at the expense of every thing sacred. A youth by the name of Thorpe was to close the scene; and he exclaimed, on taking his stand, “I shall beat you all.” Opening the Bible, his eye fell on the solemn sentence, “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.” It pierced the young man’s soul. The truth mastered him. He spoke, but it was like a dying man to dying men. A profound seriousness spread over the company, and those who came to scoff went away to weep. He afterwards became a preacher, and for many years faithfully ministered in holy things; and his son, Rev. William Thorpe, was for a long time one of the stated supplies of the Whitefield chapel in London.
Whitefield visited Aberford, the residence of Ingham and Lady Margaret, where Ingham and Grimshaw joined him on his tour in Yorkshire. From Leeds he writes to Lady Huntington, “Last night I preached to many, many thousands, and this morning also at five o’clock. Methinks I am now got into another climate it must be a warm one, where there are so many of God’s people. Our Pentecost is to be kept at Mr. Grimshaw’s. While at Haworth, Mr. Grimshaw’s curacy, the Lord’s supper was frequently administered not only to the stated communicants, but to hundreds from other quarters, who resorted hither on these solemn occasions, when it seemed emphatically, that the “Spirit was poured out from on high.” “Pen,” he writes to Hervey, “can-not well describe what glorious scenes have opened in Yorkshire. Since I was in Ashby, perhaps seventy or eighty thousand have attended the word preached in divers places. At Haworth, on Whit-Sunday, the church was thrice filled with communicants it was a precious season.”
After travelling through different parts of Lancashire, Westmoreland, and Cumberland, accompanied by Ingham and one or two other kindred spirits, he departs for Scotland; while we return to Ashby, and find Hervey there, among other guests. How feeble is he. Dr. Stonehouse can administer nothing for his relief, but advises him to go to London by easy stages, and try the effect of change of air; and Lady Huntington urges it. The next winter finds him lodged not with “his brother after the flesh,” but with “the brother of his heart,” Mr. Whitefield, at his house near Moorfields. Lady Huntington commends the invalid to the kind notice of her female friends; at the house of Lady Fanny Shirley and Lady Gertrude Hotham, he preaches as often as his strength admits, and it was to the former that he dedicates his new volume, “Theron and Aspasio.”
Early in the month of October, Whitefield comes back to Ashby, after long ranging about as he says, to see who would believe the gospel report.
“Your kind letter,” he answers Doddridge, “finds me happy at our good Lady Huntington’s, whose path shines brighter and brighter till the perfect day. Gladly shall I call upon you again, if the Lord spares my life; but in the meanwhile, I shall not fail to pray that the work of our common Lord may more and more prosper in your hand I thank you a thousand times for your kindness to the chief of sinners, and assure you, reverend sir, the affection is reciprocal I go with regret from Lady Huntington. Do come and see her soon.”
There were five clergymen now beneath her hospitable roof, “and it is a time of refreshing from the presence of our God,” she writes to her aunt, Lady Fanny. “Several of our little circle have been wonderfully filled with the love of God, and have had joy unspeakable and full of glory. It is impossible to conceive more real happiness than Lady Frances enjoys. Dear Mr. Whitefield’s sermons and conversation are close , searching, experimental, awful, and awakening. Surely God is wonderfully with him.”
Whitefield now returned to London. Lady Huntington remained with her family at Ashby-place her health is delicate: Dr. Stonehouse still administers to her in bodily things, though he has just taken the cure of souls. He is thrown much into the society of those who are movers and actors in the great religions movements of the day, some of whom are among his choicest friends; yet he seems to have felt a strong repugnance to the term ‘Methodist,’ and perhaps it was in reference to his timid conservatism upon this point, that Lady Huntington urges, ‘Go forth boldly, fear not the reproach of men, and preach the inestimable gift of God to impotent sinners.’”
“For Christ’s sake, dear Mr. Hervey,” wrote Whitefield, “exhort Dr. Stonehouse, now that he hath taken the gown, to ‘play the man;”’ and to the doctor himself he says, “I have thought of you and prayed for you much, since we parted at Northampton. How wonderfully doth the Lord Jesus watch over you. How sweetly doth he lead you out of temptation. O follow his leadings, my dear friend, and let every, even the most beloved Isaac, be immediately sacrificed for God. God’s law is our rule’, and God will have all the heart or none. Agars will plead, but they must be hewn in places. May you quit yourself like a man, and in every respect behave like a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
“Allow me to express my heartfelt gratitude for the very faithful manner in which you have placed my serious duties before me,” he courteously replies to Lady Huntington, “duties high and honorable, but arduous indeed. What holy and excellent examples have I in the exalted piety and ministerial fidelity of Doddridge, Hervey, and Hartley, and the undaunted zeal of that great apostle, Mr. Whitefield. May I be a follower of them as they are of Christ, and whatever little differences may exist between us, may we all finally meet before the throne of God and the Lamb.”
Dr. Stonehouse is said to have become one of the most elegant preachers of the kingdom, and for the grace of propriety perhaps he was mainly indebted to Garrick, whose famous criticism will bear repeating.
Being once engaged to read prayers and preach at a church in London, he prevailed upon Garrick to go with him after the service, the actor asked the preacher what particular business he had to do when the duty was over.
“None,” said the other.
“I thought you had,” said Garrick, “on seeing you enter the reading-desk in such a hurry. Nothing can be more indecent than to see a clergyman set about sacred business as if he were a tradesman, and go into church as if he wanted to get out of it as soon as possible.” he next asked the doctor what books he had before him.
“Only the Bible and Prayer-book.”
Only the Bible and Prayer-book?” replied the player; “why, you tossed them backwards and forwards, and turned the leaves as carelessly, as if they were those of a daybook and ledger.”
The doctor acknowledged the force of the criticism by henceforth avoiding the faults it was designed to correct. Might not many a young preacher of our own day wisely profit by the same?
Chapter 1.Natural and Spiritual Birth of Lady Huntington
Chapter 2. A Glance at Familiar Faces — Watts — Lady Abney — Col. Gardiner — Doddridge
Chapter 3. Doing and Suffering
Chapter 4. Whitefield
Chapter 5. Romaine — Alarms — Gospel Ranging
Chapter 6. Doddridge
Chapter 7. The Tabernacle — Venn — Preaching Tours
Chapter 8. Family Matters — Chapels — Berridge
Chapter 9. The Valley of Baca
Chapter 10. Blackfriars — Chapel at Bath — Lady Glenorchy
Chapter 11. Indian preacher — Dartmouth — Lord Buchan
Chapter 12. Trevecca
Chapter 13. A Fresh Recruit — Tunbridge Wells
Chapter 14. The Breach
Chapter 15. Death of Whitefield
Chapter 16. Venn leaves Huddersfield — Labors of Lady Huntington — Death of Howell Harris and Lord Chesterfield
Chapter 17. The Rectory of Yelling
Chapter 18. Rowland Hill
Chapter 19. The Secession
Chapter 20. Harvest Home