Excerpt from History of Christian Churches and Sects, From the Earliest Ages of Christianity, Vol. 2 of 2
Whitfield was assisted occasionally at the Tabernacle both by eminent dissenting ministers and by several clergymen. His popularity was astonishing. The meanest beggar he... ard him with profit; the greatest orators, the wisest and the most thoughtful'men - the elder Fox and Pitt, Soame J enyns, and the accomplished Chesterfield - listened with admiration and delight. The theatre lampooned the Methodists in vain in a ridiculous farce called The Minor and Garrick was not ashamed to sanction the miserable piece of buffoonery but this only increased Whitfield's popularity. Hundreds who had enjoyed the farce at Drury-lane paid a visit to Tottenham-court chapel, in the hope of further entertainment: they returned sad and silent, or sought relief in the vestry, throwing themselves at the preacher's feet and asking his forgivenees. The subscriptions after several of Whitfield's sermons disclose both the extent of his popularity and the wealth of his audience. For the French Protestants in Prussia he once collected 1,500l. Had vanity been predominant in Whitfield's character, here was an ample field for its indulgence. But when he had provided for the duties Of his chapels at home, he withdrew to America to super intend an orphan house and do the work of a missionary to the colonists; and there he died in 1770. The characteristic of his eloquence seems to have been intense and vehement simplicity. That his preaching should have produced such astonishing efi'ects on the illiterate is not surprising. Its in¿uence with the higher classes is only fully explained when we call to mind their pro found ignorance, at this period, upon the whole subject of religion. His voice and manner were probably those of a more perfect orator than the pulpit of England has produced in any second instance. Still his boundless popularity remains in some measure unexplained. The depth and fervour of their piety alone redeem his printed sermons from utter neglect; and the same remark applies, with equal truth, to his correspondence. We look in vain for the flashes of genius, for force or grace of language, or for originality of thought.
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