Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Poem: AN ELEGY ON THE DEATH OF THE REV. MR. GEORGE WHITEFIELD.

From their days together at Oxford and throughout their earthly ministries, Charles Wesley and George Whitefield remained friends That friendship was tested at times due to their strong doctrinal differences and some of the actions of Charles’ brother, John, but by the two men remained friends and even saw that friendship grow much deeper in later life.
Wesley wrote a hymn concerning Whitefield and this following “elegy.” It is a long poem that essentially tells the life of the great evangelist. I will post the first part today with more to come!

AN ELEGY ON THE DEATH OF THE REV. MR. GEORGE WHITEFIELD.
And is my Whitefield entered into rest,
With sudden death, with sudden glory blest?
Left for a few sad moments here behind,
I bear his image on my faithful mind;
To future times the fair example tell
Of one who lived, of one who died, so well,
Pay the last office of fraternal love,
And then embrace my happier friend above.
O thou who didst, in our degenerate days,
This chosen vessel for thy glory raise, 10
My heart with my companion’s zeal inspire,
And touch my lips with the celestial fire,
That while thy servant’s labours I record,
Sinners may see, and magnify his Lord,
Bow to the saving name, and thankful own
The good on earth performed is wrought by God alone.

His sovereign grace vouchsafed a worm to choose,
The vessel fitting for the Master’s use:
God from the womb set for himself apart
A pastor fashioned after his own heart; 20
Infused the infant-wish, the warm desire,
To minister like that angelic choir,
And bade his simple soul to heaven aspire.
Awed, and delighted with a God unknown,
By glimpses of his face led gently on,
The powerful, sweet attraction he pursued,
And feared the crowd, and sighed for solitude;
His sins and wants in secret to declare,
Or wait for blessings in the house of prayer,
Devotion by the altar-fire to raise, 30
And join the first-born church in solemn songs of praise.
But now the Lord, who sends by whom he will,
Ready his own great purpose to fulfil,
Inclined the creature’s heart as passive clay,
And pointed out his providential way
To learning’s seats, for piety designed,
For knowledge sound, with pure religion joined,
Schools of the prophets’ sons, and well employed,
When training servants for the courts of God.
’Twas there he dared his father’s God pursue, 40
Associating with the derided few,
(Who, newly started in the Christian race,
Were blindly following after righteousness,
Outcasts of men, and fools for Jesus’ sake!)
He longed their glorious scandal to partake,
Courageously took up the shameful cross,
And suffering all things in the Saviour’s cause,
Vowed to renounce the world, himself deny,
And following on with them, with them to live and die.
Can I the memorable day forget, 50
When first we by divine appointment met?
Where undisturbed the thoughtful student roves,
In search of truth, through academic groves,
A modest, pensive youth, who mused alone,
Industrious the frequented path to shun,
An Israelite without disguise or art
I saw, I loved, and clasped him to my heart,
A stranger as my bosom-friend caressed,
And unawares received an angel-guest.
Marked for an angel of the church below, 60
Must he not first severe temptation know,
Fly from the flaming mount with guilty awe,
And quake to hear the thunders of the law,
Th’ accuser’s cruel buffetings sustain,
Still of unconquerable sin complain,
With cries, and tears that seemed to flow in vain?
Long in the fire, long in the desert tried,
He daily languished, and he daily died,
Long by the spirit of fear in prison bound,
Groaned for relief, yet no deliverance found; 70
Till quite forsaken both of man and God,
And fainting underneath corruption’s load,
His fastings, prayers, and struggles he gave o’er,
Sunk in despair, and gasped for help no more.

Then in the last extreme of hopeless grief,
Jesus appeared! And helped his unbelief,
Infused the faith which did his sins remove,
Assured his heart of God’s forgiving love,
And filled with glorious joy, the joy of saints above.
Who but the souls that savingly believe, 80
The raptures of a faithful soul conceive?
The joy unspeakable, the love unknown,
The peace he felt is understood by none,
By none but those who know their sins forgiven
Through God the Holy Ghost come down from heaven.
Born of the Spirit now, divinely led,
He hastes in his dear Saviour’s steps to tread,
Eager his faith’s sincerity to prove
By all the works of piety and love;
Fruits of repentance first, and legal fear, 90
They now the genuine marks of grace appear,
Their own superior principle maintain,
And justify his faith to God and man;
While list’ning to forlorn affliction’s cries,
Swift to assist on wings of love he flies,
Help to the sick, and needy prisoners gives,
And more than their external wants relieves;
Alarms the souls that sleep secure in sin,
Till urged the one great business they begin,
Instructs them how to ’scape the judgment nigh, 100
“Ye must be born again, or dead forever die!”
Nor let the scrup’lous sons of Levi fear
He thus invades the sacred character:
Thus every candidate should first be tried,
In doing good, in Jesus’ steps abide,
Then exercise aright the deacon’s powers,
Son to his church, as Whitefield was to ours.
Moved by the Holy Ghost to minister,
And serve his altar, in the house of prayer,
Though long resolved for God alone to live, 110
The outward call he trembled to receive,
Shrunk from the awful charge, so well prepared,
The gift by apostolic hands conferred,
And cried, with deep unfeigned humility,
“Send, Lord, by whom thou wilt, but send not me.”

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