tunity permitted, I generally visited one or two sick persons
every day ; and though silver and gold I had little of my own,
yet in imitation of my Lord's disciples, who entreated in behalf
of the fainting multitude, I used to pray unto Him; and He
from time to time inclined several that were rich in this world,
to give me money; so that I generally had a little stock for the
poor always in my hand. One of the poor, whom I visited in
this manner, was called effectually by God at the eleventh hour :
she was a woman above three-score years old, and I really be-
lieve died in the true faith of Jesus Christ."
With a heart full of sympathy and compassion, Whitefield
cared much for the poor and distressed. Being accustomed to
visit the prisoners at Oxford, on his return home he earnestly
prayed that God would open the way for him to visit them
there. And having dreamed one night that a prisoner came to
him for instruction, he went next morning and knocked at the
door of the county jail â€” but as no one answered, he prayed
again, and some months after he received word that an Oxford
prisoner had escaped, and had been recaptured and lodged in
the Gloucester jail. His name was Pebworth. He went again
HIS ORDINATION. 39
and found him ; and finding him and others willing to hear the
Word of God, he read and prayed with them every day he was
in town. He also begged money and had some of them re-
leased, and supplied others with food and books. Having spent
some nine months in this good work and labor of love, and in
studying the works of the non-conformists, such as Baxter's
Call and Allein's Alarm, he found that the partition wall of
bigotry and sect-religion was so much broken down in his heart,
that he said, " I love all that love the Lord Jesus in sincerity."
He was now so intent on winning souls, that he earnestly
labored for it by day, and dreamed of it by night.
During these nine months of earnest effort, although uncon-
scious of the fact, Whitefield was preparing himself for ordina-
tion. And by this time his numerous friends in Gloucester
were very anxious to have him ordained immediately. But
with his exalted views of the sanctity and importance of the
ministerial office, he directly refused, grounding his refusal upon
the diocesan resolution, " not to ordain any under twenty-three
years of age ;" and he was not yet quite twenty-one. But
this apparently insurmountable difficulty was soon removed.
Whitefield, by his known zeal and success in doing good, had
already won the confidence and esteem of Bishop Benson.
Besides, he had about this time made the acquaintance of Lady
Selwyn, who kindly befriended him with a little pecuniary aid,
and highly recommended him to Bishop Benson as a proper
subject for ordination. The project succeeded. The Bishop soon
sent for Whitefield. He went to see him and was very kindly
received. Whitefield says : " The Bishop told me that he had
heard of my character ; that he liked my behavior at church ;
and, inquiring my age, said, ' Notwithstanding I have declared I
would not ordain any one under three-and-twenty, yet I shall
think it my duty to ordain you whenever you come for holy
40 LIFE OF WHITEFIELD.
orders.' He then made me a present of five guineas to buy me
a book." Although the chief external hindrance was thus re-
moved, yet, with his exalted views of the dignity and impor-
tance of the ministerial office, Whitefield so dreaded its respon-
sibilities, that it made him tremble whenever he thought of
undertaking it. And it was not without a hard struggle that
he got the consent of his heart to do it.
Says he, " I never prayed against any corruption I had in my
life so much as I prayed against going into holy orders so soon.
Bishop Benson was pleased to honor me with peculiar friend-
ship, so as to offer me preferment, or to do any thing for me."
Whitefield's friends were now for pushing him into the ministry,
but feeling the awful responsibility of the office, he prayed with
all his might to be kept out of it. He says, " I prayed a thous-
and times, till the sweat has dropt from my face like rain, that
God of His infinite mercy would not let me enter the pulpit till
He called me and thrust me forth in His work. I remember
once in Gloucester â€” I know the room ; I look up to the window
when I am there and walk along the street â€” I said, ' Lord, I
cannot go. I shall be puffed up with pride, and fall into the
condemnation of the devil. Lord, do not let me go yet! I
pleaded to be at Oxford two or three years more. I intended
to make one hundred and fifty sermons, and thought I would
set up with a good stock in trade. Oftentimes I have been in
an agony in prayer, when under convictions of my insuffi-
ciency for so great a work. I remember praying, wrestling,
and striving with God. I said, 'I am undone, I am unfit to
preach in Thy great name. Send me not. Lord, send me not
yet! I wrote to all my friends in town and in the countiy to
pray against the bishop's solicitations; but they insisted I
should go into orders before I was twenty-two. An aged,
worthy minister to whom I wrote for advice on the subject,
HIS ORDINATION. 4 1
replied, ' If Saint Paul were in Gloucester to-day, I believe he
would ordain you.' After all their solicitations, these words
came into my mind : ' Nothing shall pluck you out of my
hands ;' they came warm to my heart. Then, and not till then,
I said, ' Lord, I will go. Send me when Thou wilt' "
Having at last decided upon ordination, like the Saviour, in
all his public acts, he made special preparation by prayer and
self-examination. After satisfying himself of the truth of the
"Thirty-nine Articles," by closely comparing them with
the Scriptures, he says, " I strictly examined myself by the
qualifications required for a minister, in St. Paul's Epistle to
Timothy, and also by every question that I knew would be put
to me at the time of my ordination;" the latter of which he
reduced to writing.
Trinity Sunday, June 20, 1736, was set apart for his ordina-
tion at Gloucester. About two weeks before the time he went
there to compose some sermons and give himself more especially
to prayer. But he says, " When I came to Gloucester, notwith-
standing I strove and prayed for several days, and had matter
enough in my heart, yet I was so restrained, that I could not
compose anything at all. The remainder of the fortnight I
spent in reading the several missions of the prophets and apos-
tles, and wrestled with God to give me grace to follow their
"About three days before the time appointed, the bishop came
to town. The next evening I sent his lordship an abstract
of my private examination upon these two questions : ' Do you
trust that you are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take
upon you this office and administration ?' And 'Are you called
according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the laws of
this realm ?' The next morning I waited upon the bishop. He
received me with much love, telling me he was glad I was
42 LIFE OF WHITEFIELD.
come, and that he was satisfied with the preparation I had
made. Upon this I took my leave ; abashed with God's good-
ness to such a wretch, but, withal, exceedingly rejoiced that, in
every circumstance, He had made my way into the ministry so
very plain before my face. This, I think, was on Friday. The
day following I continued in abstinence and prayer. In the
evening I retired to a hill near the town, and prayed fervently
for about two hours on behalf of myself and those that were
to be ordained with me. On Sunday morning I rose early, and
prayed over St. Paul's Epistle to Timothy, and more particu-
larly over that precept, 'Let no one despise thy youth! When I
went up to the altar,- 1 could think of nothing but Samuel's
standing, a little child, before the Lord, with a linen ephod."
Touching his examination, he said, " I trust I answered every
question from the bottom of my heart ; and heartily prayed
that God might say amen. And when the- bishop laid his
hands upon my head, if my vile heart doth not deceive me, I
offered up my whole spirit, soul and body, to the service of
God's sanctuary. Let come what will, life or death, depth or
height, I shall henceforward live like one who this day, in the
presence of men and angels, took the holy sacrament, upon the
profession of being inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take
upon me that ministration in the church. I can call heaven and
earth to witness, that when the bishop laid his hand upon me,
" I gave myself up to be a martyr for Him
Who hung upon the cross for me.
Known unto Him are all future events and contingencies; I
have thrown myself blindfold, and I trust without reserve, into
His Almighty hands." These are wonderful words, and spoken
with all the sincerity of a heart glowing with zeal, and love ;
filled and fired with the Holy Ghost, they reveal a spirit of self-
denial, determination, and consecration, unequaled since the
HIS ORDINATION. 43
days of the apostles. And although uttered over 130 years
ago, they still seem as warm and fresh as though spoken but
yesterday. Uttered by one when standing in the threshold of
the sacred desk, whose matchless eloquence and unparalleled
success has since astonished the world, they ought to inspire a
Whitefieldian zeal and self-denial in every minister's heart.
As a mark of respect, the bishop made him another present
of five guineas, "a great supply," said Whitefield, " for one who
had not a guinea in the world."
The following interesting letter, written on the day of his
ordination, expresses more fully the views and feelings of the
young deacon upon the solemn occasion :
Gloucester, June 20, 1736.
My Dear Friend : â€” This is a day much to be remembered, O my soul ! for
about noon, I was solemnly admitted by good Bishop Benson, before many wit-
nesses, into holy orders, and was, blessed be God, kept composed both before and
after imposition of hands. I endeavored to behave with unaffected devotion; but
not suitable enough to the greatness of the office I was to undertake. At the same
time, I trust, I answered to every question from the bottom of my heart, and
heartily prayed that God might say amen. " I hope the good of souls will be my
only principle of action. Let come what will, life or death, depth or height, I
shall henceforward live like one who this day, in the presence of men and angels,
took the sacrament, upon the profession of being inwardly moved by the Holy
Ghost to take upon me that ministration in the church. This I began with read-
ing prayers to the prisoners in the county jail. Whether I myself shall ever have the
honor of styling myself a prisoner of the Lord, I know not; but indeed, my dear
friend, I call heaven and earth to witness, that when the bishop laid his hands
upon me, I gave myself up to be a martyr for Him, who hung upon the cross for
me. Known unto Him are all future events and contingencies ; I have thrown
myself blindfold, and I trust without reserve, into His almighty hands ; only I
would have you observe, that till you hear of my dying for, or in my work, you
will not be apprised of all the preferment that is expected by
Yours &c, . G. W.
HIS FIRST SERMON.
HITEFIELD'S open-hearted unbosoming of
himself in his ordination, revealed in His
heart "a secret place of thunder," and "a
fountain of tears," and pent up desires from
which great things might naturally be ex-
pected. Although he " set up with so small a
stock " of sermons, yet armed with the pan-
oply of heaven, and wrought up to the high-
est pitch of ardor with the inspiration of the occasion and the
importance of the work, his first sermon was a complete suc-
cess. The effect ,was wonderful. Commencing his ministry
with a deep sense of his own weakness, with his Christ-
like devotion and firm reliance upon God for help, he
was made eminently successful. Although he commenced
preaching with an unfinished education, yet being taught
of God, and endowed with power from on high, he
seemed to have no lack. Reviving and preaching the great
doctrines of Regeneration and Justification by Faith, he so
deeply stirred the souls and probed the consciences of his
hearers, that sinners were soon converted by hundreds and
He had intended to prepare a hundred sermons before
beginning, but being pushed into the pulpit, he commenced
with only one ; and that, he says, " I sent to a neighboring
clergyman to convince him how unfit I was to take upon me
HIS FIRST SERMON. 45
the important work of preaching. He kept the sermon two
weeks, divided it into two, preached it morning and evening to
his congregation, and then returned it with a guinea for the use
In a letter to a friend, dated Gloucester, June 23, 1736, he
says, " With this sermon I intend to begin, God willing, next
Sunday, not doubting, but that He, who increased a little lad's
loaves and fishes for the feeding of a great multitude, will, from
time to time, in the proper use of the appointed means, supply
me with spiritual food for whatever congregation He, in His all-
wise providence, shall be pleased to call me to. Help, help me,
my dear friend, with your warmest addresses to the throne of
grace, that I may not only find mercy, but grace to help me in
time of need. At present this is the language of my heart,
A guilty, weak and helpless worm, into Thy arms I fall,
Be Thou my strength, my righteousness , my Jesus, and my all.
cease not, for I must again repeat it, cease not to pray for
me. Yours, &c, G. W."
The sermon was on " The Necessity and Benefits of Religions
Society I' from Eccl. iv. 9-12, "Two are better than one," etc.;
and for originality, systematic arrangement, strength of argu-
ment, forcible illustrations, and for pungency, pathos, power
and effectiveness, it is but seldom, if ever equaled in one's first
effort. The following graphic letter, glowing with praise and
gratitude to God, describes the circumstances and effects of its
delivery. It was written to his friend, Mr. Hervey.
Gloucester, June 30, 1736.
My Dear Friend : â€” Glory ! glory ! glory ! be ascribed to an Almighty
Triune God. Last Sunday, in the afternoon, I preached my first sermon in the
church of St. Mary de Crypt, where I was baptized and also first received the
sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Curiosity, as you may easily guess, drew a large
congregation together upon the occasion. The sight, at first, a little awed me;
but I was comforted with a heartfelt sense of the divine presence, and soon found
46 LIFE OF WHITEFIELD.
the unspeakable advantage of having been accustomed to public speaking when a
boy at school, and of exhorting and teaching the prisoners and poor people at their
private houses while at the University. By these means I was kept from being
daunted overmuch. As I proceeded, I perceived the fire kindled, till at last,
though so young, and amidst a crowd of those who knew me in my infant, child-
ish days, I trust I was enabled to speak with some degree of gospel authority.
Some few mocked, but most, for the present, seemed struck ; and I have since
heard that a complaint had been made to the bishop, that I drove fifteen mad the
first sermon. The worthy prelate, as I have been informed, wished that the madness
might not be forgotten before next Sunday. Before then, I hope, my sermon upon
"He that is in Christ is a new creature," will be completed. Blessed be God, I
now find freedom in writing. Glorious Jesus,
Unloose my stammering tongue to tell
Thy love immense, unsearchable.
Being thus engaged, I must hasten to subscribe myself, my dear Sir,
Yours, etc., G. W.
Mr. Whitefleld was induced to choose the above subject for
his first sermon, in order to defend and encourage social relig-
ious meetings among the Oxford Methodists, and in the little
flock he had collected at Gloucester, which then so much
needed every encouragement. It was therefore appropriate to
This sermon was preached June 27th, and is found in the
fifth volume of " Whitefield's Works," but not being an exact
copy of the original manuscript, it would be unfair to give it as
a sample of his style.
Mr. Whitefield had been urged to preach on the afternoon
of the same day he was ordained, but having been restrained
from writing, he was not prepared. Therefore, he says, " I
read prayers to the poor prisoners ; being willing to let the
first act of my ministerial office be an act of charity. The next
morning, waiting upon God in prayer, to know what He would
have me to do, these words, 'Speak out, Paul,' came with great
power to my soul. Immediately my heart was enlarged; and
HIS FIRST SERMON. 47
I preached on the following Sunday to a very crowded audi-
ence, with as much freedom as though I had been a preacher
for some years."
Encouraged with his first pulpit performances, he returned
the same week to Oxford, where he was received with great
joy by his religious friends ; and in his twenty-second year,
after having spent three years and nine months in the Univer-
sity, he took his degree of Bachelor of Arts, resumed his visits
to the prisoners, and took the oversight of two or three char-
ity Methodist schools. Satisfied with his position now, he
thought of remaining some years at the University, to com-
plete his education, and do what good he could among the
gownsmen ; but Providence ordered otherwise, and he was
soon invited away to preach.
HIS FIRST LABORS IN LONDON AND ENGLAND.
AVING already " given himself a martyr for
^ Jesus," and having now received power to
preach the gospel ; with a vast field, " white
already to harvest," lying before him, he earn-
estly longed to "thrust in the sickle and reap."
Although he would have been contented to
remain a little longer in " his sweet retirement "
at Oxford, yet, with a wider sphere of useful-
ness opening before him, he accepted, with fear and trembling,
an invitation from a friend to officiate as curate at the Tower
Chapel, in London.
Taking the coach, he reached London August 4, 1736, and
preached his first sermon there in Bishopsgate church the fol-
lowing Sabbath. Although the congregation was disposed to
sneer at his youthful appearance as he ascended the pulpit, yet,
astonished and impressed with his eloquence and power, they
were ready to admire, praise and bless him as he came down.
Being " carried away " with his sermon, every one inquired who
he was. â€¢ The impression was fine, and it established his charac-
ter at once. He was so much admired that many came out of
their shops to see him as he passed along the street; and his
hearing one of them say, " There goes a boy parson" so morti-
fied his pride, that it led him to pray, " Let no man despise thy
youth." From this time on, his fame and popularity continued
to increase until his congregations were so large that they had
to place constables both inside and outside of the church' to
HIS FIRST LABORS IN LONDON AND ENGLAND. 49
preserve the peace. " Here," he says, " I continued for the
space of two months, reading prayers twice a week, catechising
and preaching once, visiting the soldiers in the infirmary and
barracks daily. I also read prayers every evening at Wapping
chapel, and preached at Ludgate prison every Tuesday." The
chapel was crowded every Sabbath, and many young people
came in the morning to hear him discourse about the new birth,
and to inquire what to do to be saved.
About this time, while he was still in London, the glowing
accounts he received of the missionary work in Georgia,
America, from the Wesleys and Mr. Ingham, made him long
to go over and help them ; but his friends opposing his going,
and not being fully persuaded in his own mind, he deferred the
Having thus made his debut in London, he returned to
Oxford, and resumed labors in his former charge with more
encouraging prospects. Here he spent considerable time in
studying Henry's Commentary, which was a great favorite with
him and his associates in the University. "God," he says,
" works greatly by Henry here." A friend gave him seven
pounds to buy it, for which he was very thankful.
In the following November, at the request of an old friend,
he accepted another invitation to officiate as curate, for a short
time, at Dummer in Hampshire. Here, with a different class
of people, Mr. Whitefield found the tone of society less conge-
nial, and he began to get lonely. In the language of Dr.
Gillies, " Whitefield found himself among a poor and illiterate
people," and " his proud heart," he says, " could not, at first
brook the change ; and he would have given the world for one
of his Oxford friends," and "mourned for the want of them like
a dove." But he says, " I soon began to be as much delighted
with the artless conversation of the poor, illiterate people, as I
50 LIFE OF WHITEFIELD.
had been formerly with the company of my Oxford friends ;
and frequently learned as much by an afternoon's visit, as by a
week's study." To accomplish more while here, he rigidly
adhered to his system of economizing time ; and divided " the
day into three equal parts ; eight hours for sleep and meals,
eight for public prayers, catechising and visiting, and eight for
study and devotional retirement."
While thus laboring in obscurity in Dummer, he received a
call to a lucrative and attractive curacy in London ; but with
the chord touched by the spiritual wants of Georgia still vibrat-
ing in his soul, he promptly declined it. And now, with a
strong desire to go to America, Oxford, Hampshire, and Lon-
don had no longer but little attraction for the young evangelist.
Having before besought the Lord to direct his steps, touching
his going to Georgia, He now opens the way for him to go.
"About this time," says Dr. Stevens, "he received several
letters from the Wesleys, calling him thither." Besides, Charles
Wesley had now returned from Georgia, and reached London
in search of more laborers for that promising mission. " In a
few days," says Whitefield, "another letter came from Mr. John
Wesley, who, after giving a graphic description of that encour-
ing field, said, ' Only Mr. Delamotte is with me, till God shall
stir up the hearts of some of his servants, who, putting their
lives in His hands, shall come over and help us where the har-
verst is so great, and the laborers so few. What if thou art the
man, Mr. Whitefield ? Do you ask me what you shall have ?
Food to eat, and raiment to put on ; a house to lay your head
in, such as your Lord had not; and a crown of glory that
fadeth not away.' Upon reading this," says Whitefield, "my
heart leaped within me, and as it were, echoed to the call."
The die is cast: " I will go â€” The Lord help me" doubtless ut-
tered his expanding heart; and he solemnly sealed the resolution
with a word of prayer, beseeching God for help and direction.
HIS FIRST LABORS IN LONDON AND ENGLAND. 5 1
Many things conspired to make his way clear in this noble
enterprise. Mr. Kinchin, Dean elect of Corpus Christi Col-
lege, agreed to take his work at Oxford, and Mr. Hervey, of the
Oxford Club, would fill his place in Hampshire ; and " Mr.
Wesley," he says, " was my dear friend ; Georgia was an infant
colony ; the government seemed to have its welfare at heart,
and I heard many Indians were near it. ..... A voyage to sea
would, in all probability, not do my constitution much hurt.
These things being thoroughly weighed and prayed over, I re-
solved to embark for Georgia : and knowing I should never
put my resolutions into practice if I conferred with flesh and
blood, I wrote to my relatives to inform them of my design."
He told his friends in Gloucester, that unless they would pro-
mise not to dissuade him from going, he would embark without
seeing them. They made the promise, but when he went to
bid them good-bye they broke it, and did what they could to
keep him at home.
The following stirring words composed and sent him about
this time, by his highly esteemed friend, Mr. Charles Wesley,
" Servant of God, the summons hear;
Thy Master calls â€” arise, obey !
The tokens of His will appear;
His providence points out the way.
" Fight the good fight, and stand secure,
In faith's impenetrable shield ;
Hell's Prince shall tremble at its power;
With all his fiery darts repelled.
" Champion of God, the Lord proclaim,
Jesus alone resolve to know ;
Tread down thy foes in Jesu's name ;
Go â€” conquering and to conquer, go.
" Through racks and fires pursue thy way ;