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Rev. Wilson LEE,
In ihe 43d year of his age.
Hither come up, thy work is done! Let me die the death of the righteous ;—let my last end be like his." There have been other revivals of great interest in Montgomery, of which, however, my knowledge is too limited and unsatisfactory to be mentioned here; but there was one in 1775, 1780, 1783, 1788, 1790, 1793, and 1810; and especially one in Rockville, in the summer of 1835, under the labors of Jacob Larkin and Elijah Miller. Fifty or sixty embraced religion, but some have gone back into the world. We have now in society, according to the return at the last annual conference, 611 whites and 643 colored. Our congregations, at the Sab. bath appointments, are increasing in number, attention, and interest. We are looking and praying for the saving grace of God in behalf of the church and the people.
Art. X.—REVIEW OF THE LIFE AND TIMES OF GEORGE WHITEFIELD.
The name of “Robert Philip,” inscribed in the title-page of a book as its author, would, of itself, be sufficient to give it celebrity in both England and America. So, also, would the names of those “ burning and shining lights,” Messrs. Wesley and Whitefield, have a similar effect to secure to a volume an extensive circulation, let it only be understood that they occupy a considerable place in it. Both of these combined must render a publication exceedingly popular.
The reader will perceive by the following notice, taken from the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine, that such a work has just been issued from the English press. We are induced to republish this able review of Mr. Philip's production, for the reason that it will, no doubt, find its way into this country, and probably be reprinted by some of our friends of the school to which Mr. P. is attached. We cannot but regret that at this age, when the spirit of benevolence seems to have gained a decided triumph in regard to all matters of common interest among Christians, any thing like sourness or bigotry should be betrayed in so delicate a matter as that of writing “ The Life and Times of George Whitefield,” and especially by Mr. Philip. But our readers must judge for themselves. The following is the review which is taken of the subject by our English brethren.—ED.
From the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine. A GOOD Life of Whitefield has long been wanted ; and perhaps one reason why it has been wanting so long is, that, for such a work, a bio. grapher of peculiar qualifications is required. He must be able with
patient industry to collect the numerous and scattered facts which the 6 Life and Times” of such a man, living at such a period, will neces. sarily include. He must likewise be able to arrange them judiciously, and that in reference both to their principles and their comparative importance, so as that all may be blended into such a whole as shall make a just impression on the readers. His moral and intellectual qualifications should be those of a Christian philosopher; one to whom words are but the signs of things, and who, perceiving all things in the clear light of heavenly truth, judges of them by the standard which the God of truth has vouchsafed to bestow. His spirit, too, should be truly catholic ; incapable of mistaking the dry, sarcastic sneer of party complacency, for the benignant smile of evangelical love. George Whitefield was a man of a large spirit; his daily actings marked him as one who lived for mankind; and they can be described correctly, and con amore, only by one who, however strongly he may be attached to his own views of religious truth, and to those who are in these respects like minded with him, readily acknowledges that the föld of Christ has other compartments than that in which himself may be inclosed. And especially must the biographer of Whitefield be above the influence of party spirit in reference to the questions by which, in our own times, the religious public in England has been so violently agitated. Neither a high Churchman nor a low Dissenter would be able to do justice to the subject. Does any impartial man now believe that the sarcastic, biting descriptions which Anthony Wood gives of some of the Nonconformist ministers are correct por. traits? And yet there is little doubt that the biographer believed them to be so. And why were they so illiberal and untrue ? because he was a Churchman? He who should say this would be not less illiberal himself. It was because he was a mere partisan. Assuming all to be right with his own party, he had no difficulty in proving all others to be wrong. He who imbibes Anthony Wood's spirit, no matter what side he takes, will draw caricatures even where he thinks he is sketch. ing likenesses.
A good Life of Whitefield, we have said, has long been wanted'; and the volume before us has not supplied the desideratum. Even had Mr. Philip possessed all the other qualifications for the work, (and some of them he assuredly does not possess,) his evident partisanship would render him unfit for the task. We should as soon look to Mr. Newman, or Mr. Keble, or any other Oxford-tract man, as to Mr. Robert Philip. He is a Dissenting Anthony Wood, only upon a somewhat smaller scale. Among those who think with him, the volume will be popular. A Life of George Whitefield, written with any de. gree of honesty, cannot fail to excite interest, and impart pleasure, especially when it comes in the place of the pious and well-intended, but exceedingly imperfect and unsatisfactory, narrative of Dr. Gillies. And then, for a certain class of readers, there are other, and we fear they will be only too powerful, recommendations. The sarcastic hits at the Church, and at the Wesleys, have frequently reminded us of the unrelenting snappishness of the old Oxonian. O when will it be ac. knowledged that it is not the direction and object of this temper, but the temper itself, that is in fault! It will be long before the admirers of Augustus Toplady forgive John Wesley for having so established the truth of the evangelical Arminianism for which he contended, that now, whatever be the doctrines reserved for the church, Ar. minianism, as preached by Mr. Wesley, is all but universally acknow. ledged to be the doctrine for the pulpit. Whether it be true or not, sermons are composed and delivered as though it were. Since the days of Wesley and Fletcher, the ministry, it is seen, must be Ar. minianly exercised; and there are those who cannot forgive the men who were the principal instruments of establishing such a state of things. Whenever, therefore, an opportunity occurs for affixing any thing like a stigma on their characters, it is even eagerly embraced.
We are sorry that we must place Mr. Philip in this class. He has chosen to disfigure a book with maculæ which were altogether needless, and by which what might have been not only a very interesting, but a very useful volume, is made, in some parts of it, exceedingly offen. sive to a large class who would have been glad, otherwise, to have been its purchasers. We again say, that we are sorry for this. It was thus in the life-time of men who have long been united in the bonds of a perfect and eternal love. Attempts were made while they lived—and partially successful ones—to produce coolness and distance between them; and the attempts are now so far revived as that the memory of the one is to be exalted at the expense of the other. And the worst of this is, that it was not called for by any necessity im. posed on the biographer. To us they appear but as the expression of that dislike which Congregational Calvinists feel toward the man who was the instrument of establishing an Arminian connection. Per. haps, too, in some degree, they proceed from what we do not think is originally natural to Mr. Philip. There is in his style an occasional affectation of smartness and bluntness, which is sometimes more like flippancy than any thing else. He tells us in his preface, that “it is his own way of telling the facts of personal history.” It may be so; but he may rely upon it, it is not the best way; and, should his 6 Life and Times of Whitefield" come to a second edition, the entire omission of all marks of it would be a real improvement.
We shall not engage in a lengthened examination of the faults to which we have adverted. A few specimens will sufficiently illustrate their character, and show the spirit in which the work has been writ. ten. Neither shall we institute any comparison between men who were the honored instruments of one of the most extensive revivals of religion that ever took place. They were not rivals in life, though there were some who wished both to represent and to make them such ; and now that they have rested from their labors and been fol. lowed by their works, we will not speak of them as though they had been what they were not. In the destinations of Providence each had his peculiar work; and to the important effects, in which the churches of Christ both in Great Britain and America participated, each con. tributed his share. Mr. Philip says in his preface that 6 the time is not yet come for the philosophy of Whitefield's Life.” Perhaps not; and when it does come, an author of a very different and much higher order will be required for the task. A thoroughly orthodox, evan. gelical, and liberal Southey would be required to examine the peculiar and distinguishing characteristics of each ; and such a one, tracing those characteristics throughout their various operations, would be enabled to show the results. Wesley and Whitefield had one great object in view, and that object they equally labored to secure by
preaching “Christ crucified;" but in their subordinate plans the charac. teristic differences of the men are chiefly to be seen; and it is in the effects resulting from their employment that any inquiry as to the greater or less wisdom and fidelity of men who, in the main, were both of them wise and faithful, must find its proper reply. We agree with Mr. Philip, that the time for such philosophic inquiries is not yet come. There is too little calmness, and too much bitterness, abroad for such a task. We differ from him, however, when he supposes that “ it is fast approaching." He must have much brighter views of the proximate future than we have, to be able to suppose any such thing, To our view, though we shall be very glad to find ourselves mistaken, the “ coming events” are such as “ cast their shadows before.”
We shall call the reader's attention, in the first place, to some of Mr. Philip's ill-natured and uncandid remarks on Mr. Wesley's religion when at Oxford; while, in fact, leading “the godly club," as it was derisively termed, and to which the name of Methodist was first ap. plied. Perhaps the best way of preparing the reader for a just appre. ciation of Mr. Philip's account, will be to copy that which Mr. Wes. ley gave himself. He never left it for his biographers to discover that his views were at that time, as to some most important points, ex. ceedingly defective. Wherein the defect lay he was instructed by the wonderful providence of God; and by no one has it been more distinctly pointed out than by himself, when the whole plan of salva. tion was unfolded to him.
“In the year 1725, being in the twenty-third year of my age, I met with Bishop Taylor's · Rules and Exercises of Holy Living and Dying.' In reading several parts of this book, I was exceedingly affected with that part in particular which relates to purity of intention. Instantly I resolved to dedicate all my life to God; all my thoughts, and words, and actions ; being thoroughly convinced there was no medium; but that every part of my life (not some only) must either be a sacrifice to God, or to myself; that is, in effect, to the devil.
“ In the year 1726 I met with Kempis's Christian Pattern. The nature and extent of inward religion, the religion of the heart, now appeared to me in a stronger light than ever it had done before. I saw that giving even all my life to God, (supposing it possible to do this and go no farther,) would profit me nothing, unless I gave my heart, yea, all my heart, to him. I saw that “simplicity of intention and purity of affection, one design in all we speak or do, and one desire, ruling all our tempers, are indeed • the wings of the soul,' with. out which she can never ascend to the mount of God.
" A year or two after, Mr. Law's Christian Perfection' and · Se. rious Call' were put into my hands. These convinced me, more than ever, of the absolute impossibility of being half a Christian. And I determined, through his grace, (of the absolute necessity of which I was deeply sensible,) to be all devoted to God, to give him all my soul, my body, and my substance.
“ In the year 1729 I began not only to read, but to study the Bible, as the one, the only standard of truth, and the only model of pure religion. Hence I saw, in a clearer and clearer light, the indispensable necessity of having the mind which was in Christ, and of walking as Christ also walked ; even of having, not some part only, but all, the mind which was in him; and of walking as he walked, not only in
many or in most respects, but in all things. And this was the light wherein at this time I generally considered religion, as a uniform fol. lowing of Christ, an entire inward and outward conformity to our Master. Nor was I afraid of any thing more than of bending this rule to the experience of myself or of other men; of allowing myself in any the least disconformity to our grand Exemplar.”
Thus aiming at entire holiness, Christ formed in the heart, the image of God in the soul, he sought it, “ not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.” He tells, therefore,
" In 1730 I began visiting the prisons, assisting the poor and sick in turn, and doing what other good I could, by my presence or my little fortune, to the bodies and souls of all men. To this end I abridged myself of all superfluities, and many that are called the neces. saries of life. I soon became a by-word for so doing; and I rejoiced that my name was cast out as evil. The next spring I began ob. serving the Wednesday and Friday fasts, commonly observed in the ancient church; tasting no food till three in the afternoon. And now I knew not how to go any farther. I diligently strove against all sin. I omitted no sort of self-denial which I thought lawful. I carefully used, both in public and private, all the means of grace at all opportu. nities. I omitted no occasion of doing good; I for that reason suffered evil. And all this I knew to be nothing, unless as it were directed toward inward holiness. Accordingly this, the image of God, was what I aimed at in all, by doing his will, not my own.”
For a reason which will soon appear, we wish the sentences which we have put in Italics to be carefully noted. No one who understands what he subsequently discovered, 6 that holiness cometh by faith,” will be surprised at the language in which he proceeds to describe the inefficacy of the means he employed, excellent as in other respects they undoubtedly were. He immediately adds,
“Yet when, after continuing some years in this course, I appre. hended myself to be near death, I could not find that all this gave me any comfort, or any assurance of acceptance with God. At this I was then not a little surprised, not imagining I had been all this time building on the sand, nor considering that other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid' by God, even Christ Jesus.'»
One additional plan now remained, and that, in some measure, he tried; though he never so far admitted the principles of those who are properly regarded as religious Mystics, (as the admirers of Dr. Henry More in England, or of Madame Guion in France,—for the nonsense of Behmen he always regarded in its just light,) as either to despise human learning, or to become a morose and solitary recluse. He proceeds to describe this plan also, and its failure, like the rest :-:.
“ Soon after a contemplative man convinced me, still more than I was convinced before, that outward works are nothing, being alone'; and in several conversations instructed me how to pursue inward holi. ness, or a union of the soul with God. But even of his instructions (and I then received them as the words of God) I cannot but now ob. serve, 1. That he spoke so incautiously about trusting in outward works that he discouraged me from doing them at all. 2. That he re. commended (as it were to supply what was wanting in them) mental prayer, and the like exercises, as the most effectual means of purifying the soul, and uniting it with God. Now these were in truth as much