He rose every morning at four, a practice which he continued till extreme old age. He made pilgrimages on foot to William Law to ask for spiritual advice. He abstained from the usual Edition: orig; Page: [ 39 ] fashion of having his hair dressed, in order that he might give the money so saved to the poor. He refused to return the visits of those who called on him, that he might avoid all idle conversation. His fasts were so severe that they seriously impaired his health, and extreme abstinence and gloomy views about religion are said to have contributed largely to hurry one of the closest of his college companions to an early and a clouded death.
The society hardly numbered more than fifteen members, and was the object of much ridicule at the university; but it included some men who afterwards played considerable parts in the world. Among them was Charles, the younger brother of John Wesley, whose hymns became the favourite poetry of the sect, and whose gentler, more submissive, and more amiable character, though less fitted than that of his brother for the great conflicts of public life, was very useful in moderating the movement, and in drawing converts to it by personal influence. Charles Wesley appears to have originated the society at Oxford; he brought Whitefield into its pale, and besides being the most popular poet he was one of the most persuasive preachers of the movement.
There, too, was James Hervey, who became, one of the earliest links connecting Methodism with general literature. During most of his short life he was a confirmed invalid. His affected language, his feeble, tremulous, and lymphatic nature formed a curious contrast to the robust energy of Wesley and Whitefield; but he was a great master of a kind of tumid and over-ornamented rhetoric which has an extraordinary attraction to half-educated minds. There, too, above all, was George Whitefield, in after years the greatest pulpit orator of England.
He was born in , in Gloucester, in the Bell Inn, of which his mother was proprietor, and where upon the decline of her fortunes he was for some time employed in servile functions. He had been a wild impulsive boy, alternately remarkable for many mischievous pranks, and for strange outbursts of religious zeal. He stole money from his mother, and he gave part of it to the poor. He early declared his intention one day to preach the Gospel, but he was the terror of the Dissenting minister of his neighbourhood, whose religious services he was accustomed to ridicule and interrupt.
His strongest natural bias was towards the stage. He indulged it on every possible occasion, and at school he wrote plays and acted in a Edition: orig; Page: [ 41 ] female part. Owing to the great poverty of his mother he could only go to Oxford as a servitor, and his career there was a very painful one. He was haunted with gloomy and superstitious fancies, and his religion assumed the darkest and most ascetic character. He always chose the worst food, fasted twice a week, wore woollen gloves, a patched gown, and dirty shoes, and was subject to paroxysms of a morbid devotion.
He remained for hours prostrate on the ground in Christ's Church Walk in the midst of the night, and continued his devotions till his hands grew black with cold. One Lent he carried his fasting to such a point that when Passion week arrived he had hardly sufficient strength to creep upstairs, and his memory was seriously impaired.
A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. III - Online Library of Liberty
In he came in contact with Charles Wesley, who brought him into the society. With the exception of a short period in which he was assisting his father at Epworth, John Wesley continued at Oxford till the death of his father in , when the society was dispersed, and the two Wesleys soon after accepted the invitation of General Oglethorpe, to accompany him to the new colony of Georgia.
It was on his voyage to that colony that the founder of Methodism first came in contact with the Moravians, who so deeply influenced his future life. He was surprised and somewhat humiliated at finding that they treated him as a mere novice in religion; their perfect Edition: orig; Page: [ 42 ] composure during a dangerous storm made a profound impression on his mind, and he employed himself while on board ship in learning German, in order that he might converse with them. On his arrival in the colony, he abandoned after a very slight attempt his first project of converting the Indians, and devoted himself wholly to the colonists at Savannah.
They were of many different nationalities, and it is a remarkable proof of the energy and accomplishments of Wesley, that in addition to his English services he officiated regularly in German, French, and Italian, and was at the same time engaged in learning Spanish, in order to converse with some Jewish parishioners. His character and opinions at this time may be briefly described. He was a man who had made religion the single aim and object of his life; who was prepared to encounter for it every form of danger, discomfort, and obloquy; who devoted exclusively to it an energy of will and a power of intellect that in worldly professions might have raised him to the highest positions of honour and wealth.
Of his sincerity, of his self-renunciation, of his deep and fervent piety, of his almost boundless activity, there can be no question. Yet with all these qualities he was not an amiable man. He was hard, punctilious, domineering, and in a certain sense even selfish. A short time before he left England, his father, who was then an old and dying man, and who dreaded above all things that the religious fervour which he had spent the greater part of his life in kindling in his parish should dwindle after his death, entreated his son in the most pathetic terms to remove to Epworth, in which case he would probably succeed to the living, and be able to maintain his mother in her old home.
Wesley peremptorily refused to leave Oxford, and the reason he assigned was very characteristic. I hope to learn the true sense of the Gospel of Christ by preaching it to the heathen. He was at this time a High Churchman of a very narrow type, full of exaggerated notions about Church discipline, extremely anxious to revive obsolete rubrics, and determined to force the strictest ritualistic observances upon rude colonists, for whom of all men they were least adapted.
He insisted upon adopting baptism by immersion, and refused to baptise a child whose parents objected to that form. He would not permit any non-communicant to be a sponsor; repelled one of the holiest men in the colony from the communion-table because he was a Dissenter; refused for the same reason to read the burial service over another; made it a special object of his teaching to prevent ladies of his congregation from wearing any gold ornament or any rich dress, and succeeded in inducing Oglethorpe to issue an order forbidding any colonist from throwing a line or firing a gun on Sunday.
His sermons, it was complained, were all satires on particular persons. He insisted upon weekly communions, desired to re-baptise Dissenters who abandoned their nonconformity, and exercised his pastoral duties in such a manner that he was accused of meddling in every quarrel, and prying into every family. As might have been expected, he soon became extremely unpopular in the colony, and a disgraceful episode terminated his stay.
A connection, which was at first purely religious, between himself and a young lady of his congregation, gradually led to feelings of a different order. Considerable approaches—according Edition: orig; Page: [ 44 ] to the lady's account they amounted to a distinct proposal—were made towards a marriage, but before finally deciding, he thought it necessary to consult the authorities of the Moravian Church, who ordered him to proceed no farther in the matter, and whose judgment he accepted as the command of God. The lady soon after married a Mr.
It was said among his followers that the lady had made the first overtures to Wesley and had feigned a greater devotion than was real to her in order to attract him; but the only specific charge alleged against her was that she had not communicated more than three times in three months, and had not intimated her intention to the clergyman before coming to the sacred table. Her husband was naturally and greatly incensed at the stigma thus publicly inflicted on his wife, and he brought an action against Wesley for defaming her character.
It is not surprising that the worst construction should have been put upon the motives of a clergyman who acted in such a manner. The grand jury were divided in their opinions, but the majority pronounced his conduct wholly unjustifiable, and took the opportunity of censuring the ritualistic innovations and severities which he had introduced. A trial was impending, but owing to different causes, and in spite of the ardent desire of Wesley, it was repeatedly and almost indefinitely postponed.
In the meantime, popular feeling ran violently against him. His position had become intolerable, and his usefulness was almost destroyed. Edition: orig; Page: [ 45 ] Under these circumstances, Wesley, by the advice of his friends, fled from Georgia, and arrived in England on February 1, A more unpropitious commencement for a great career could hardly be conceived. Wesley returned to England in bad health and low spirits. He redoubled his austerities and his zeal in teaching, and he was tortured by doubts about the reality of his faith.
From him Wesley for the first time learned that form of the doctrine of justification by faith which he afterwards regarded as the fundamental tenet of Christianity. He had long held that in order to be a real Christian it was necessary to live a life wholly differing from that of the world around him, and that such a renewal of life could only be effected by the operation of the Divine Spirit; and he does not appear to have had serious difficulties about the doctrine of imputed righteousness, although the ordinary Evangelical doctrine on this matter was emphatically repudiated and denounced by Law.
It cannot exist where there is not a sense of the pardon of all past and of freedom from all present sins. Such, as clearly as I can state it, was the fundamental doctrine which Wesley adopted from the Moravians. His mind was now thrown, through causes very susceptible of a natural explanation, into an exceedingly excited and abnormal condition, and he has himself chronicled with great minuteness in his journal the incidents that follow.
He preached to the criminals in the gaols. He addressed the passengers whom he met on the roads, or at the public tables in the inns. On one occasion, at Birmingham, he abstained from doing so, and he relates, with his usual imperturbable confidence, that a heavy hailstorm which he afterwards encountered, was a Divine judgment, sent to punish him for his neglect. This condition could not last long. At length, on May 24—a day which he ever after looked back upon as the most momentous in his life—the cloud was dispelled. Paul's Cathedral, and the anthem, to his highly wrought imagination, seemed a repetition of the same hope.
The sequel may be told in his own words. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed, I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me.
I then testified openly to all, what I now first felt in my heart. Pictures of this kind are not uncommon in the lives of religious enthusiasts, but they usually have a very limited interest and importance. It is, however, scarcely an exaggeration to say that the scene which took place at that humble meeting in Aldersgate Street forms an epoch in English history. The conviction which then flashed upon one of the most powerful and most active intellects in England is the true source of English Methodism.
It was no less characteristic of the indefatigable energy which formed another and a better side of his nature, that immediately after his change he started on a pilgrimage to Herrnhut, the head-quarters of Moravianism, in order that he might study to the best advantage what he now regarded as the purest type of a Christian Church. He returned objecting to many things, but more than ever convinced of his new doctrine, and more than ever resolved to spend his life in diffusing it.
In the course of the chief elements of the movement were already formed. Whitefield had returned from Georgia, Charles Wesley had begun to preach the doctrine with extraordinary effect to the criminals in Newgate and from every pulpit Edition: orig; Page: [ 49 ] into which he was admitted. Methodist societies had already sprung up under Moravian influence. They were in part a continuation of the society at Oxford, in part a revival of those religious societies that have been already noticed as so common after the Revolution.
The design of each was to be a church within a church, a seedplot of a more fervent piety, the centre of a stricter discipline and a more energetic propagandism than existed in religious communities at large. In these societies the old Christian custom of lovefeasts was revived. The members sometimes passed almost the whole night in the most passionate devotions, and voluntarily submitted to a spiritual tyranny that could hardly be surpassed in a Catholic monastery.
They were to meet every week, to make an open and particular confession of every frailty, to submit to be cross-examined on all their thoughts, words and deeds. What temptations have you met with? How were you delivered? What have you thought, said, or done of which you doubt whether it be sin or not? Have you nothing you desire to keep secret? Such rules could only have been accepted under the influence of an overpowering religious enthusiasm, and there was much truth in the judgment which the elder brother of John Wesley passed upon them in Will any man of common sense or spirit suffer any domestic to be in a band engaged to relate to five or ten people everything without reserve that concerns the person's conscience how much soever it may concern the family?
Ought any married persons to be there unless husband and wife be there together? From this time the leaders of the movement became the most active of missionaries. Without any fixed parishes they wandered from place to place, proclaiming their new doctrine in every pulpit to which they were admitted, and they speedily awoke a passionate enthusiasm and a bitter hostility in the Church. Nothing, indeed, could appear more irregular to the ordinary parochial clergyman than those itinerant ministers who broke away violently from the settled habits of their profession, who belonged to and worshipped in small religious societies that bore a suspicious resemblance to conventicles, and whose whole tone and manner of preaching were utterly unlike anything to which he was accustomed.
They taught, in language of the most vehement emphasis, as the cardinal tenet of Christianity, the doctrine of a new birth in a form which was altogether novel to their hearers. They were never weary of urging that all men are in a condition of damnation who have not experienced a sudden, violent, and supernatural change, or of inveighing against the clergy for their ignorance of the very essence of Christianity. It is not surprising that the clergy should have resented such a movement, and the manner of the missionary was as startling as his matter. The sermons of the time were, as I have said, Edition: orig; Page: [ 51 ] almost always written, and the prevailing taste was cold, polished, and fastidious.
The new preachers preached extempore, with the most intense fervour of language and gesture, and usually with a complete disregard of the conventionalities of their profession. Wesley frequently mounted the pulpit without even knowing from what text he would preach, believing that when he opened his Bible at random the Divine Spirit would guide him infallibly in his choice. The oratory of Whitefield was so impassioned that the preacher was sometimes scarcely able to proceed for his tears, while half the audience were convulsed with sobs.
The love of order, routine, and decorum, which was the strongest feeling in the clerical mind, was violently shocked. The regular congregation was displaced by an agitated throng, who had never before been seen within the precincts of the church. The usual quiet worship was disturbed by violent enthusiasm or violent opposition, by hysterical paroxysms of devotion or remorse, and when the preacher had left the parish he seldom failed to leave behind him the elements of agitation and division.
We may blame, but we can hardly, I think, wonder at the hostility all this aroused among the clergy. It is, indeed, certain that Wesley and Whitefield were at this time doing more than any other contemporary clergymen to kindle a living piety among the people. It is equally certain that they held the doctrines of the Articles and the Homilies with an earnestness very rare among their brother clergymen, that none of their peculiar doctrines were in conflict with those doctrines, and that Wesley at least was attached with an even superstitious reverence to ecclesiastical forms.
Yet before the end of the Methodist leaders were excluded from most of the pulpits of the Church, and were thus compelled, unless they consented to relinquish what Edition: orig; Page: [ 52 ] they considered a Divine mission, to take steps in the direction of separation. Two important measures of this nature were taken in One of them was the creation of Methodist chapels, which were intended not to oppose or replace, but to be supplemental and ancillary to, the churches, and to secure that the doctrine of the new birth should be faithfully taught to the people.
The other, and still more important event, was the institution by White-field of field-preaching. The idea had occurred to him in London, where he found congregations too numerous for the church in which he preached, but the first actual step was taken in the neighbourhood of Bristol. At a time when he was himself excluded from the pulpits at Bristol, and was thus deprived of the chief normal means of exercising his talents, his attention was called to the condition of the colliers of Kingswood.
He was filled with horror and compassion at finding in the heart of a Christian country, and in the immediate neighbourhood of a great city, a population of many thousands, sunk in the most brutal ignorance and vice, and entirely excluded from the ordinances of religion. Moved by such feelings, he resolved to address the colliers in their own haunts. The resolution was a bold one, for field-preaching was then utterly unknown in England, and it needed no common courage to brave all the obloquy and derision it must provoke, and to commence the experiment in the centre of a half-savage population.
Whitefield, however, had a just confidence in his cause and in his powers. Standing himself upon a hillside, he took for his text the first words of the sermon which was spoken from the Mount, and he addressed with his accustomed fire an astonished audience of some men. The fame of his eloquence spread far and wide.
On successive occasions, five, ten, fifteen, even twenty thousand were present. It was February but the Edition: orig; Page: [ 53 ] winter sun shone clear and bright. The lanes were filled with carriages of the more wealthy citizens, whom curiosity had drawn from Bristol. The trees and hedges were crowded with humbler listeners, and the fields were darkened by a compact mass. The voice of the great preacher pealed with a thrilling power to the very out-shirts of that mighty throng. The picturesque novelty of the occasion and of the scene, the contagious emotion of so great a multitude, a deep sense of the condition of his hearers and of the momentous importance of the step he was taking, gave an additional solemnity to his eloquence.
His rude auditors were electrified. They stood for a time in rapt and motionless attention. Soon tears might be seen forming white gutters down cheeks blackened from the coal-mine. Then sobs and groans told how hard hearts were melting at his words. A fire was kindled among the outcasts of Kingswood which burnt long and fiercely, and was destined in a few years to overspread the land. It was only with great difficulty that Whitefield could persuade the Wesleys to join him in this new phase of missionary labour.
The two brothers adopted their usual superstitious practice of opening their Bibles at random, under the belief that the texts on which their eyes first fell would guide them in their decision. The texts were ambiguous and somewhat ominous, relating for the most part to violent deaths; but on drawing lots the lot determined them to go. It was on this slender ground that they resolved to give the weight of their example Edition: orig; Page: [ 54 ] to this most important development of the movement.
They went to Bristol, from which Whitefield was speedily called, and continued the work among the Kingswood colliers, and among the people of the city; while Whitefield, after a preaching tour of some weeks in the country, reproduced on a still larger scale the triumphs of Kingswood by preaching with marvellous effect to immense throngs of the London rabble at Moorfields and on Kennington Common.
From this time field-preaching became one of the most conspicuous features of the revival. The character and genius of the great preacher to whom this most important development of Methodism was due demand a more extended notice than I have yet given them. Unlike Wesley, whose strongest enthusiasm was always curbed by a powerful will, and who manifested at all times and on all subjects an even exaggerated passion for reasoning, Whitefield was chiefly a creature of impulse and emotion. He had very little logical skill, no depth or range of knowledge, not much self-restraint, nothing of the commanding and organising talent, and it must be added, nothing of the arrogant and imperious spirit so conspicuous in his colleague.
At the same time a more zealous, a more single-minded, a more truly amiable, a more purely unselfish man it would be difficult to conceive. He lived perpetually in the sight of eternity, and a desire to save souls was the single passion of his life. Of his labours it is sufficient to say that it has been estimated that in the thirty-four years of his active career he preached 18, times, or on an average ten times a week, that these sermons were delivered with the utmost vehemence of voice and gesture, often in the open air, and to congregations of many thousands, and that he continued his exertions to the last, when his constitution was hopelessly shattered by disease.
During long Edition: orig; Page: [ 55 ] periods he preached forty hours, and sometimes as much as sixty hours, a week. In the prosecution of his missionary labours he visited almost every important district in England and Wales. At least twelve times he traversed Scotland, three times he preached in Ireland, thirteen times he crossed the Atlantic.
Very few men placed by circumstances at the head of a great religious movement have been so absolutely free from the spirit of sect. Very few men have passed through so much obloquy with a heart so entirely unsoured, and have retained amidst so much adulation so large a measure of deep and genuine humility. There was indeed not a trace of jealousy, ambition, or rancour in his nature. There is something singularly touching in the zeal with which he endeavoured to compose the differences between himself and Wesley, when so many of the followers of each leader were endeavouring to envenom them; in the profound respect he continually expressed for his colleague at the time of their separation; in the exuberant gratitude he always showed for the smallest act of kindness to himself; in the tenderness with which he guarded the interests of the inmates of that orphanage at Georgia around which his strongest earthly affections were entwined; in the almost childish simplicity with which he was always ready to make a public confession of his faults.
His failings were chiefly those of a somewhat weak nature, of overstrung nerves, and of a half-educated and very defective taste. He was a little irritable and occasionally a little vain. His theological opinions betrayed him into much narrowness of judgment, and his impulsive disposition into constant indiscretion and exaggeration of language. His letters, and indeed most of his writings, are intolerably tedious, and sometimes not a little repulsive. They are written for the most part with that exaggeration of sentiment, in that Edition: orig; Page: [ 56 ] maudlin, ecstatic, effusive, and meretricious style which is so common among his co-religionists, and which appears to most cultivated minds to denote much vulgarity, not only of taste, but of feeling.
It is a style crowded with ejaculations, interrogations, and quotations from Scripture, in which the simplest subject is expressed in strained Biblical language, in which the inmost and deepest feelings of the soul are ostentatiously paraded, and the most sacred subjects and the holiest names are treated with coarse familiarity. I am frequently at Calvary and frequently on Mount Tabor.
I feast on the fatted calf. In this respect Whitefield differed remarkably from Wesley, who was absolutely inaccessible to the fascinations of rank. His position with reference to the Church was a very singular one. He was an ordained clergyman cordially acknowledging all the Articles and sincerely attached to the liturgy of his Church, but at the same time altogether independent of ecclesiastical control. To Wesley's mind, the ecclesiastical aspect of things appeared always extremely important, and he was for much of his life greatly troubled about questions concerning the form of baptism, the propriety of rebaptising Dissenters, the functions and privileges of different orders of clergy, and the nature and danger of schism.
At no period of his development do such questions appear to have had any interest for Whitefield. His one object was to save souls by propagating what he regarded as the cardinal truths of the Gospel, and he looked upon the framework of churches as altogether unimportant, except as far as they gave him facilities for this work. Travelling from place to place, he pursued his course without the slightest control, and he had not the smallest scruple in preaching in Dissenting meeting-houses, in receiving the communion with Dissenters, or, when in Scotland, baptising children according to the Scotch form.
When an English bishop dilated upon the great and manifest irregularity of his proceedings, he answered with much force that he had never diverged on a single point from the doctrines of his Church, but had nevertheless been excluded from the great majority of its pulpits. Being thus excluded, and many thousands of ignorant souls, that perhaps would neither go to church nor meeting-houses, being very hungry after the Gospel, I thought myself bound in duty to deal out to them the bread of life. The position which Whitefield took on this subject is well worthy of attention, for it is typical of the whole course of the Methodist movement.
As time rolled on, there were many clergymen who followed his example, Edition: orig; Page: [ 59 ] and became at least virtually Dissenters, without having the smallest disposition to reject the doctrine or discard the liturgy of the Church. Their only objection to it was the severity of its discipline, which limited their powers for good.
Had the Church of England, like the Church of Rome, possessed a sufficient variety or elasticity of organisation to find a place for her more enthusiastic disciples, it may be safely asserted that the Methodist movement would never have resulted in a schism. The position of a roving evangelist was of all others that for which both the genius and the disposition of Whitefield were most suited.
Great as was the success of John Wesley in the career which he adopted, it is difficult to observe his extraordinary powers both of organisation and of reasoning, without reflecting upon what he might have been if circumstances had made him a statesman or a lawyer, while his brother was clearly more fitted for the quiet life of a country clergyman. Whitefield, beyond all other men, was adapted for the boisterous vicissitudes of the itinerant life.
To move the great masses of the populace by impassioned religious appeals, to travel from place to place, perpetually addressing new congregations and kindling to a flame the smouldering piety of the nation, was at once his peculiar talent and his supreme delight. As a popular preacher, indeed, he appears never to have been equalled in England, and the information we possess concerning him is sufficient to enable us to realise very fully the elements of his success.
His eloquence had nothing of that chaste and polished beauty which was displayed in the discourses of the great French preachers, and which in the present century has led so many men of fastidious taste to hang spell-bound around the pulpit of Robert Hall. It had none of that force of reasoning, that originality of thought, or that splendour Edition: orig; Page: [ 60 ] of language, which constituted the great charm of the sermons of Chalmers.
Yet, while exercising a power, which has probably never been equalled, on the most ignorant and the most vicious, Whitefield was quite capable of fascinating the most refined audiences in London, and he extorted the tribute of warm admiration from such critics as Hume and Franklin, from such orators as Bolingbroke and Chesterfield. His preaching combined almost the highest perfection of acting with the most burning fervour of conviction.
No man ever exhibited more wonderfully that strange power which great histrionic talent exercises over the human mind—investing words which are in truth the emptiest bombast with all the glow of the most majestic eloquence, and imparting, for a moment at least, to confident assertions more than the weight of the most convincing arguments.
His gestures were faultless in their beauty and propriety, while his voice was so powerful that Franklin, who was the most accurate of men, ascertained by experiment that it could be heard distinctly in the open air by 30, persons. Garrick is reported to have said, with a pardonable exaggeration, that Whitefield could pronounce the word Mesopotamia in such a way as to move an audience to tears. With the exception of a slight squint of one eye, which was much dwelt on by his satirists, his person was unusually graceful and imposing, and, like Chatham, the piercing glance of a singularly brilliant eye contributed in no small measure to the force of his appeals.
To these gifts we must add a large command of vivid, homely, and picturesque English, and an extraordinary measure of the tact which enables a practised Edition: orig; Page: [ 61 ] orator to adapt himself to the character and dispositions of his audience. We must add, above all, a contagious fervour of enthusiasm, which, like a resistless torrent, bore down every obstacle. His voice was sometimes choked with tears; he stamped vehemently on the pulpit floor; every nerve was strained; his whole frame was convulsed with passion.
It was their main object, by gesture, by look, by the constant use of the singular pronoun, to preach so that each member of the congregation might imagine the whole force of the denunciations or of the pleadings of the preacher was directed individually to himself. In this art Whitefield especially excelled, and he sometimes carried it to strange lengths, and employed it with strange effects.
He delighted in strokes of dramatic oratory, which with an ordinary man would have appeared simply ludicrous or intolerably tawdry, but to which his transcendent power of acting never failed to impart an extraordinary power. And shall he ascend and not bear with him the news of one sinner among all this multitude reclaimed from the error of his way? Sometimes he would visit a Court of Justice, and afterwards reproduce the condemnation scene in the pulpit.
Sinner, I must do it. I must pronounce sentence upon you. Hume describes almost the whole assembly as weeping, and though himself one of the most delicate of critics and one of the coldest and most sceptical of men, he pronounced Whitefield the most ingenious preacher he had ever heard, and declared that it was worth going twenty miles to hear him. The account which Franklin has given of the effects of the eloquence of Whitefield, though well known, is too characteristic to be omitted. Franklin, strongly disapproving Edition: orig; Page: [ 64 ] of the scheme of building an orphanage in Georgia, which was but thinly populated and where workmen and materials were scarce, instead of at Philadelphia, determined not to support it.
I had in my pocket a handful of copper money, three or four silver dollars, and five pistoles in gold. As he proceeded I began to soften, and concluded to give the copper. Another stroke of his oratory made me ashamed of that and determined me to give the silver; and he finished so admirably that I emptied my pocket wholly into the collector's dish, gold and all. At this sermon there was also one of our club, who being of my sentiments respecting the building in Georgia, and suspecting a collection might be intended, had by precaution emptied his pockets before he came from home.
Towards the conclusion of the discourse, however, he felt a strong inclination to give, and applied to a neighbour who stood near him to lend him some money for the purpose. The request was made to perhaps the only man in the company who had the firmness not to be affected by the preacher. The effect of this style of preaching was greatly enhanced by an extreme variety of gesture, intonation, and manner.
Considering the very small number of his ideas, it is a remarkable proof of the oratorical talents of Whitefield that his sermons were never charged with monotony. He frequently interspersed the more serious passages with anecdotes or illustrations. Edition: orig; Page: [ 65 ] He sometimes even relieved them by a jest.
Often, when the audience had been strung to the highest pitch of excitement, he would suddenly make a long, solemn and dramatic pause. He painted scenes as if they were visibly present to his eye, with all the fire and the animation of the most perfect actor. But what means this sudden lowering of the heavens, and that dark cloud arising from beneath the western horizon? Don't you see those flashes of lightning? There is a storm gathering!
Every man to his duty! How the waves arise and dash against the ship! The air is dark! Our masts are gone! The ship is on her beam-ends! What next? A very great part of his influence depended no doubt upon the matter of his discourses. He avoided all abstract reflections, all trains of reasoning, everything that could fatigue the attention, or rouse the intellect to question or oppose.
His preaching was based upon the most confident assertions, and it dealt almost exclusively with topics which, if firmly believed. Edition: orig; Page: [ 66 ] can hardly fail to have a deep influence upon men. The utter depravity of human nature—the eternal tortures which are the doom of every unconverted man—the free salvation by Christ—the imminence of death—the necessity to salvation of a complete, supernatural change of character and emotions, were the subjects upon which he continually dilated.
It is easy to understand that such topics, urged by a great orator, at a time when some of them were by no means familiar, should have exercised a far deeper influence than any dissertation upon the duties of man or the authority of revelation. Besides this, Whitefield was perpetually changing his audience. His style was never suffered to pall upon his hearers. The same sermon was again and again repeated, and at every repetition passages which appeared ineffective were retrenched, and a greater perfection of emphasis and intonation was acquired.
Garrick and Foote declared that he never reached his highest perfection till the fortieth repetition. The picturesque scenes and the striking contrasts which out-of-door preaching furnished added to the effect, and the great multitude who were attracted by his eloquence gave in turn to that eloquence an additional power. A contagion of excitement was aroused, and an irresistible wave of sympathetic feeling rolled through the mighty host. I have dwelt at some length upon the preaching of Whitefield, for it was of vital importance to the religious revival of the eighteenth century.
But for the simultaneous appearance of a great orator and a great statesman, Methodism would probably have smouldered and at last perished like the very similar religious societies of the preceding century. Whitefield was utterly destitute of the organising skill which could alone give a permanence to the movement, and no talent is naturally more ephemeral than popular oratory; while Edition: orig; Page: [ 67 ] Wesley, though a great and impressive preacher, could scarcely have kindled a general enthusiasm had he not been assisted by an orator who had an unrivalled power of moving the passions of the ignorant.
The institution of field-preaching by Whitefield in the February of carried the impulse through the great masses of the poor, while the foundation by Wesley, in the May of the same year, of the first Methodist chapel was the beginning of an organised body capable of securing and perpetuating the results that had been achieved. Dissensions, however, deep and lasting, speedily arose. In Methodism was merely an offshoot of Moravianism, but several causes combined to detach it from its parent stem.
Wesley revolted against the more than episcopal authority which Count Zinzendorf exercised over the Brethren, and the Moravian teachers refused to acknowledge the supernatural character of the hysterical convulsions that now continually accompanied the preaching of Wesley.
Are you sure?
An Alsatian enthusiast, named Molther, whose mind was very uncongenial to that of Wesley, obtained great popularity among the Moravians, and led the sect into the wildest extravagances of mysticism and Antinomianism. But there are only two such ministers in London, Bell and Molther. He preached openly against it, and taught that there were degrees of justifying faith. He protested against a kind of amorous, mystical, and sensuous language, Edition: orig; Page: [ 68 ] something like that which Catholics have frequently employed in the devotions of the Sacred Heart, which under the influence of Molther became common among the Moravians.
Above all, he protested strongly against the Antinomianism which was rapidly springing out of their doctrine that we are justified by faith alone, and that conversion is accomplished by an instantaneous supernatural process in which we have no part. For believers it was said the ordinances of religion were not a matter of duty, necessity, or injunction, but only of choice, while for those who were not believers in the Moravian sense of the word, it was criminal to partake in them.
These extravagances do not appear to have formed part of the original teaching of the Moravians, and a few years later they were greatly qualified, but in they were at their height, and they precipitated the inevitable division. Wesley preached strongly against them. He was excluded from the Moravian pulpit in Fetter Lane. He then, accompanied by eighteen or nineteen followers, seceded from the society which he had himself founded, and which had been the centre of the movement, and formed, at a place called the Foundery, a new society, in July A fortnight later he addressed a long letter to the Moravian leaders in Germany enumerating and protesting against the Edition: orig; Page: [ 69 ] extravagances of their followers.
From this time the breach between Methodism and Moravianism was complete. Shortly before this schism a Calvinist had, it is said, been excluded by order of Charles Wesley from the society meeting on account of his assertion of the doctrines of election and reprobation, and the differences between Wesley and Whitefield on this ground were rapidly deepening. The Calvinism of Whitefield was much strengthened by connections he formed in America, and he at the same time grew more and more hostile to the doctrine of perfection, to which Wesley appeared more and more attached.
Both Wesley and Whitefield appear to have sincerely desired to avoid a rupture, but each had many friends who urged them on, and neither of them was very capable of reticence or forbearance. Wesley, galled by an anonymous letter accusing him of withholding a portion of the Gospel in his sermons, submitted the question whether he should preach and print on election, to the decision of a lot, and the answer being in the affirmative he delivered and subsequently published that sermon on free grace which is probably the most powerful production of his pen.
Whitefield, though he had at one time promised not to preach on the contested point, thought that this resolution was a sinful one. He told Wesley that the Gospels they believed in were different ones, and he both wrote and preached in favour of his views. A subordinate, but zealous and devoted preacher named Cennick took a still more decided course, and Wesley, having discovered that he was introducing disputes into the society and continually accusing the Wesleys of mutilating the Gospel, expelled him from the society. About fifty seceded with him. The Calvinistic Methodists were subsequently organised chiefly under the influence of the Countess of Huntingdon, but after the Edition: orig; Page: [ 70 ] death of Whitefield they never occupied a position at all comparable to that of the rival section.
While Whitefield lived the rupture was never complete, and it was not until that a controversy broke out between the two sections, which was so virulent that it rendered reunion impossible. Whitefield to the last spoke of Wesley with a touching affection. These internal dissensions, however, had but little effect upon the immediate prospects of the movement. Its success depended upon the zeal and abilities of its leaders, upon the evangelical doctrines which they had revived and which were peculiarly fitted to exercise a deep influence upon the people, and upon the institution of field-preaching, which brought those doctrines before vast multitudes who had scarcely before come into any contact with religion.
The great difficulty was the small number of the teachers and the general hostility of the clergy, but this was remedied in the beginning of by the institution of lay preachers. Nelson and Maxfield were the two earliest. They had begun preaching in the preceding year without authorisation and apparently without concert, under the impulse of an overpowering missionary enthusiasm; and it was only very reluctantly, and chiefly in obedience to the Edition: orig; Page: [ 71 ] advice of his mother, that Wesley consented to sanction the step.
From the time of the institution of lay preachers Methodism became in a great degree independent of the Established Church. Its chapels multiplied in the great towns, and its itinerant missionaries penetrated to the most secluded districts. They were accustomed to preach in fields and gardens, in streets and lecture-rooms, in market-places and churchyards.
On one occasion we find Whitefield at a fair mounting a stage which had been erected for some wrestlers, and there denouncing the pleasures of the world; on another, preaching among the mountebanks at Moorfields; on a third, attracting around his pulpit 10, of the spectators at a racecourse; on a fourth, standing beside the gallows at an execution to speak of death and of eternity.
Wesley, when excluded from the pulpit of Epworth, delivered some of his most impressive sermons in the churchyard, standing on his father's tomb. In one of their preachers named Seward, after repeated ill-treatment in Wales, was at last struck on the head while preaching at Monmouth, and died of the blow. In a riot, while Wheatley was preaching at Norwich, a poor woman with child perished from the Edition: orig; Page: [ 72 ] kicks and blows of the mob. At Wednesbury—a little town in Staffordshire—then very famous for its cock-fights—numerous houses were wrecked; the Methodists were stoned, beaten with cudgels, or dragged through the public kennels.
Women were atrociously abused. The leaders of the mob declared their intention to destroy every Methodist in the county. Wesley himself appeared in the town, and the rioters speedily surrounded the house where he was staying. With the placid courage that never deserted him in danger, he descended alone and unarmed into their midst. His perfect calmness and his singularly venerable appearance quelled the most noisy, and he succeeded by a few well-chosen words in producing a sudden reaction.
His captors, however, insisted on his accompanying them to a neighbouring justice, who exhorted them to disperse in peace. The night had now fallen, and Wesley was actually returning to Wednesbury protected by a portion of the very crowd which had attacked him, when a new mob poured in from an adjoining village.
He was seized by the hair and dragged through the streets. Some struck at him with cudgels. Many cried to knock out his brains and kill him at once. A river was flowing near, and he imagined they would throw him into the water. Yet in that dreadful moment his self-possession never failed him. He uttered in loud and solemn tones a prayer to God.
He addressed those who were nearest him with all the skill that a consummate knowledge of the popular character could supply, and he speedily won over to his side some of the most powerful of the leaders.
Gradually the throng paused, wavered, divided; and Wesley returned almost uninjured to his house. To a similar courage he owed his life at Bolton, when the house where he was preaching was attacked, and at last burst open, by a furious crowd thirsting for his life. Again and again he preached, Edition: orig; Page: [ 73 ] like the other leaders of the movement, in the midst of showers of stones or tiles or rotten eggs. The fortunes of his brother were little different. At Cardiff, when he was preaching, women were kicked and their clothes set on fire by fireworks.
At St. Ives and in the neighbouring villages the congregation were attacked with cudgels, and everything in the room where they were assembled was shattered to atoms. At Devizes a water-engine played upon the house where he was staying. His horses were seized. The house of one of his supporters was ransacked, and bull-dogs were let loose upon him. At Dublin Whitefield was almost stoned to death. At Exeter he was stoned in the very presence of the bishop. At Plymouth he was violently assaulted and his life seriously threatened by a naval officer.
Scenes of this kind were of continual occurrence, and they were interspersed with other persecutions of a less dangerous description. Drums were beaten, horns blown, guns let off, and blacksmiths hired to ply their noisy trade in order to drown the voices of the preachers. Once, at the very moment when Whitefield announced his text, the belfry gave out a peal loud enough to make him inaudible.
A new edition is to be published by Taylor and Francis late Dublin: Dolmen Press, Michael Davitt , by John Devoy, , ed. London: Everyman, Oxford: Worlds Classics, Carolina : Wake Forest University Press, , pp. The Absentee, by Maria Edgeworth. With Kim Walker. Introduction by William Trevor. What is a Forgery or a Catalyst? Making Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, George Moore , the Fictions of a Wild Goose.
Dublin: Geography Publications, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, Paris: Garnier, Sweetnam eds. Dublin: Four Courts Press, Church, State, Childhood and Youth Yeats in Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Robert Emmet and Roger Casement. Oxford: Peter Lang, Laughter and After. Introduction to Bernard Shaw, Plays Pleasant. London: Penguin, Never Give All the Heart.
Dublin: University College Press, Dublin: Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, Gerrards Cross: Smythe, Haunted Realism: Beckett Through Fontane. Amsterdam: Rodopi, Joanne Shattock. Wilde and Parnell. Irish Gothic. The Handbook to Gothic Literature. London: Macmillan, London: Goldsmiths College, ISBN 0 — — — 34 -1] Prologomena to the Re-writing of J.
Modernism and Ireland: the Poetry of the s. Lecky, Mark Twain, and Literary History. Lecky; Historian and Politician. David Scott , London: Sothebys, New Hungarian Quarterly. Dublin: Lilliput Press, , pp. Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, French Revolution. Anglo-Irish Literature. The Case of Maria Edgeworth. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, Worsted in the Game; Losers in Irish History. Finnegans Wake and Irish Literary History. Eighteenth-Century Ireland vol 2 pp. Seeing Darkly: Notes on T. Adorno and Samuel Beckett. Hermathena no pp. Irish Slavonic Studies, no 5 pp With R.
Sons and Fathers: W. Yeats and a Problem in Modernism. Dutta ed.