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by prayer into a settled resolution, which he knew could never be carried into effect if he “ conferred with flesh and blood,” he wrote to his relations at Gloucester, telling them his design, and saying, that if they would promise not to dissuade him, he would visit them to take his leave; but otherwise he would embark without seeing them, for he knew his own weakness.
Herein he acted wisely, but the promise which he extorted was not strictly observed : his aged mother wept sorely; and others, who had no such cause to justify their interference, represented to him what “pretty preferment” he might have if he would stay at home. The Bishop approved his determination, received him like a father, as he always did, and doubted not but that God would bless him, and that he would do much good abroad. From Gloucester he went to bid his friends at Bristol farewell. Here he was held in high honour: the mayor appointed him to preach before the corporation ; Quakers, Baptists, Presbyterians, people of all denominations, flocked to hear him; the churches were as full on week days as they used to be on Sundays; and on Sundays crowds were obliged to go away for want of room. « The whole city,” he said, “ seemed to be alarmed.” But though he says that “the Word was sharper than a two-edged sword, and that the doctrine of the New Birth made its way like lightning into the hearers' consciences,” the doctrine had not yet assumed a fanatic tone, and produced no extravagance in public.
He himself, however, was in a state of high enthusiasm. Having been accepted by General Oglethorpe and the trustees, and presented to the Bishop of London and the Primate, and finding that it would be some months before the vessel in which he was to embark would be ready, he went for a while to serve the church of one of his friends at Stonehouse, in his native county; and there he describes the habitual exaltation of his mind in glowing language. Uncommon manifestations, he says, were granted him from above. Early in the morning, at noon-day, evening, and midnight, —nay, all the day long, did the Redeemer visit and refresh his heart. Could the trees of the wood speak, they would tell what sweet communion he and his Christian brethren had under their shade enjoyed with their God. « Sometimes as I have been walking,” he continues, “ my soul would make such sallies, that I thought it would go out of the body. At other times I would be so overpowered with a sense of God's infinite majesty, that I would be constrained to throw myself prostrate on the ground, and offer my soul as a blank in his hands, to write on it what he pleased. One night was a time never to be forgotten. It happened to lighten exceedingly. I had been expounding to many people, and some being afraid to go home, I thought it my duty to accompany them, and improve the occasion, to stir them up to prepare for the coming of the Son of Mæn. In my return to the parsonage, whilst others were rising from their beds, and frightened almost to death to
see the lightning run upon the ground, and shine from one part of the heaven unto the other, I and another, a poor but pious countryman, were in the field, praising, praying to, and exulting in our God, and longing for that time when Jesus shall be revealed from heaven in a flame of fire! Oh that my soul may be in a like frame when he shall actually come to call me!"
From hence he went again to Bristol, having received many and pressing invitations. Multitudes came out on foot to meet him, and some in coaches, a mile without the city; and the people saluted and blest him as he passed along the street. He preached about five times a week to such congregations, that it was with great difficulty he could make way along the crowded aisles to the readingdesk. “ Some hung upon the rails of the organloft, 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, young and old, burst into tears. Multitudes after the sermon followed him home weeping: the next day he was employed from seven in the morning till 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.
The man who produced this extraordinary effect had many natural advantages. He was something above the middle stature, well proportioned, though at that time slender, and remarkable for a native gracefulness of manner. His complexion was very fair, his features regular, his eyes small and lively, of a dark blue colour : 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 rememberable, 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. An ignorant man described his eloquence oddly but strikingly, when he said, that Mr. Whitefield preached like a lion. So strange a comparison conveyed no unapt a notion of the force and vehemence and passion of that oratory which awed the hearers, and made them tremble like Felix before the apostle. For believing himself to be the messenger of God, commissioned to call sinners to repentance, he spoke as one conscious of his high credentials, with authority and power ; yet in all his discourses there was a fervent and melting charity, an earnestness of persuasion, an outpouring of redundant love, partaking the virtue of that faith from which it flowed, inasmuch as it seemed to enter the heart which it pierced, and to heal it as with balm.
The same flood of popularity followed him in London. He was invited to preach at Cripplegate, St. Anpe's, and Foster-Lane churches, at six on Sunday mornings, and to assist in administering the sacrament: so many attended, that they were obliged to consecrate fresh elements twice or thrice, and the stewards found it difficult to carry the offerings to the communion-table. Such an orator was soon applied to by the managers of various charities; and as his stay was to be so short, they obtained the use of the churches on week days. It was necessary to place constables at the doors within and without, such multitudes assembled ; and on Sunday mornings in the latter months of the year, long before day, you might see the streets filled with people going to hear him, with lanthorns in their hands. Above a thousand pounds were collected for the charity children by his preaching, -in those days a prodigious sum, larger collections being made than had ever before been known on like occasions. A paragraph was published in one of the newspapers, speaking of his success, and announcing where he was to preach next: he sent to the printer, requesting that nothing of this kind might be inserted again ; the fellow replied, that he was paid for doing it, and that he would not lose two shillings for any body. The nearer the time of his departure approached, the more eager were the people to hear him, and the more warmly they expressed their admiration and love for the preacher. They stopt him in the aisles and embraced him; they waited upon him at