« ZurückWeiter »
And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to
righteousness, as the stars, for ever and ever.-DANIEL xii. 3.
WHITMORE & BUCKINGHAM, AND H. MANSFIELD.
Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1834, by
WHITMORE & BUCKINGHAM AND H. MANSFIELD, in the Clerk's office of the District Court of Connecticut.
PRESS OF WHITMORE & BUCKINGHAM.
STEREOTYPED BY F. F. RIPLEY, NEW YORK.
For most men, the worth and influence of a book, other things being equal, is greatly modified by their estimation of its author. The circumstance of a personal acquaintance with, or knowledge of a man, especially when it combines itself with our most venerable and holy remembrances, imparts a lifelike freshness and reality to his recorded doings and sayings, the effect of which, when contrasted with the same things done and said by a person alien and unknown to us, may be fairly illustrated by the comparative power of oral and written discourse. No individual, in these latter days, has so identified himself with the growth and spread of practical religion, in England and America, as Whitefield. Divines and theologians there have been, and still are, not a few of far greater depth, acuteness and comprehension. They are burning and shining lights, and revolve with no rival or secondary glory in their appointed spheres. They have done well, and to them be awarded all due honor and praise. Whitefield cannot and would not measure strength with them here. It was appointed to him to PREACH ; and before a crowd of drowsy worldlings, be to him the honor of having no equal or rival in the service of his Master. To compare Whitefield with Edwards is impossible and absurd. It is like comparing Sir Isaac Newton with Milton, as intellectual giants, or the air with the earth, as the conditions of animal existence. Like his Master," who had a mountain for his pulpit, and the heavens for his sounding-board ; and who when his gospel was refused by the Jews, sent his servants into the high-ways and hedges;" he imprisoned not his voice within the bounds of ecclesiastical limitation, but going forth into a temple not made with hands, he bore the glad tidings of the gospel as far as the air would reverberate them, to as many of those speaking his vernacular tongue as the measure of his health, strength, and years would allow. Probably no one since Luther and Calvin has been such a chosen vessel for bearing the errands of mercy to the multitude ; no one has been so gifted with an almost inherent aptitude for converting his very adversities and afflictions into instruments, without which the very end which they were intended to frustrate would have been far less successfully accomplished. In this country especially, his name will be affectionately and reverently reverted to, as having struck an almost miraculous
life into a lethargic church, and as having put to shame the contemptuous indifference of unbelievers. Under God, he changed our steril religious wastes into verdant, heavenly pastures, and sowed on good ground those seeds of practical piety, whose fruits yet bless and ennoble us in the institutions and habits that have been handed down to us from the religion of the last generation. More than any other he is sacredly embalmed in the religious remembrances of this people. No apology, it is presumed, is needed, now that his life and writings are out of the market, and out of print, for publishing the present volume. The religious wants of our people demand it. And few books are so inwoven with those endearing affections and interests that lead to an earnest and profitable perusal.
The volume consists of a Memoir, and some of his published productions. So far as is known, no edition of his Memoirs has been published since the year 1812, when two editions appeared simultaneously; one, the original, unaltered narrative of Dr. Gillies, in New Haven; the other, the same narrative revised and considerably amplified by Mr. Seymour, in Philadelphia. The original work of Dr. Gillies is, for the most part, a mere compilation. It consists of bare details of incidents, so disposed as seldom to point us to those individual peculiarities in which they had their origin, or bear along with themselves the distinct features and lineaments of Whitefield's character. The style too, is dry and careless. It contains, however, the facts which must be the basis of all other Memoirs of this wonderful man. Mr. Seymour essentially improved it, by remodelling, to a great extent, the phraseology; by incorporating many newly discovered facts, anecdotes, and accounts of several active contemporary characters, tending to variegate the narrative, and throw light upon Whitefield's course; and finally, by many of his own reflections and suggestions, giving method to the whole work, and prominence and distinctness to the noticeable traits in Whitefield. In this latter respect, however, it remained too deficient and feeble: and in this view—the only end for which biography is desirable, it is believed that the present edition considerably surpasses all that have preceded it. The chapters at the beginning and close of the Memoirs will be found to be in the main new, and to elucidate his character beyond any former editions. In order to enhance the value of the book, and not his own reputation, the Editor has not scrupled to appropriate and imbody in the narrative, whatever came to his knowledge within the brief time allotted to him for the revisal, calculated to illustrate the character of its subject. He has frequently incorporated matter from other books, sometimes slightly modified, and sometimes altogether unchanged, as seemed most conducive to his purpose. To Southey's Life of Wesley, this volume is especially indebted. This general acknowledgment, he trusts, is sufficient, and
is inserted here on account of a reluctance to break the contiguity of the narration by particular quotations and references. Some slight emendations of phraseology are also peculiar to this edition. On the whole, it is believed that the Memoirs have received some important improvements.
The collection of Sermons and other writings which fill the latter half of the volume, have for the most part not been extensively circulated in this country. The only volume of his Works, with which the public at large is acquainted, is a small volume of extempore Sermons, taken in short-hand by Mr. Gurney. To say nothing of the circumstances that these were improperly transcribed, as Mr. Whitefield often complains, extemporary effusions excited by a transient impulse from the present feelings and passions of an assembly, lose all their point and force with the disappearance of the man and the occasion. It is often ficult to dis the greatness of speeches on paper, whose viva voce delivery held an audience fast bound, as it were, in a supernatural spell. Many find it hard to comprehend the excellence of Demosthenes' Orations, and the recorded speeches of the giants of the British Parliament, leave but faint traces of the mastery which moved at will a grave and obstinate assembly of legislators. The reason is, that the business of the orator is to kindle emotions from his own breast to the hearts of his auditors; and he knows little of the practical, or what philosophers call the "active and moral powers” in man, who has not learned that not mere logic or demonstration reaches the inmost springs of action, though it may be, and most often is the fittest medium or duct for conveying the vital warmth from soul to soul. The conviction of earnestness and seriousness in the speaker is the most indispensable element of powerful oratory. A pointed anecdote, or vivacious illustration, while it keeps alive attention by its variety and novelty, will oftentimes involve, and lead unschooled men to recognise and admit a truth, when a logical and profound analysis would be tame, dry, and far aloof from their apprehensions, and especially, their practical feelings. All who have had any successful experience in addressing public bodies, know this; and they soon learn that a scholar-like exhaustion of a topic, and the winning of an audience to the desired views in regard to it, are very different things. Hence the sense of disappointment felt by most speakers on their first appearance in public, at seeing their finely elaborated performances go off as dull and uninteresting, when the free and careless, yet hearty appeals of others stir and enchant the multitude. Hence too, a self-possessed man varies his mode of presenting a subject, from the form in which it lay in his mind after first analyzing it, as circumstances and his immediate aim demand. This variation is always in the way of simplifying and breaking up all those logical connections, which would have given it eclat before a society of scholars. Thus, a man may write and extemporize on the