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Georgia, (among whom were many of the liberal, warmhearted and republican sons of Ireland — so eminently devoted to the cause of liberty in the subsequent history of our country,) and became permanent settlers and inhabitants of the colony. The names of many of these sound familiarly and daily upon our ears in the persons of their descendants. Such were the primary and original materials for the settle-ment of the colony of Georgia.
We have also, from an early date, claimed a connection with our New England countrymen, more endearing than the ties of fellowship which bind the inhabitants of a common country; while the colony was yet under the care of the Trustees, about the year 1752,* a large emigration of descendants from our New England brethren, who had previously removed to South Carolina, arrived in Georgia and settled at Medway, in the parish of St. John, now county of Liberty, having received a grant for thirty-two thousand acres of land. They brought with them that devotion to religious principle, and observance of its duties which had characterized, and all the patriotism and love of liberty which warmed the bosoms of their New England ancestors.
Their noble example has not been lost upon the county in which they settled, but is conspicuous to this day in the excellent police, exemplary order, fervent piety and devotion to country, which now as ever distinguished the county of Liberty. A fair name, won by the spirited determination of her inhabitants, at the breaking out of the Revolution, to send delegates to congress before the rest of the province had agreed to acquiesce in that measure.
A plan, devised in mercy to mitigate the sorrows of suffering humanity, has subjected Georgia to the ungracious taunt of having been peopled from the prisons of England and the outcasts of London. So thought not the sweet Poet of England in his beautiful description —
"Lo! swarming southward on rejoicing suns
* By the records of Medway Church it appears, that a few persons were sent in May, 1752, in search of lands; and the first settlement was commenced on the 6th of December, 1752.
1 Thompson's Liberty. Part V.
Those, who in the stupidity of folly have ventured to indulge the contumely, have overlooked the distinction between misfortune and vice, and have forgotten, that while we are responsible for the latter as the offspring of our own moral deformities, the innocent and virtuous, alike with the vicious, are obnoxious to the former. It is not the prison which degrades, but the offence which consigns us there. When Socrates, after the iniquitous sentence of the Athenian judges, was conducted to his prison, Seneca remarked, “it ceased to be a prison and henceforth became the abode of virtue and habitation of probity.” *
We may not compare this class of our settlers with the great philosopher of the ancients, the subject of this beautiful and just sentiment of the moralist; but the sentiment itself may be justly applied to honesty and virtue in the humblest circumstances. It is no more possible for the dungeon to obscure the lustre of virtue and innocence, than for the earth to destroy the brilliant qualities of the gem which lies imbedded in its bosom.
While we yet linger around the scenes of this early period, permit me to conduct you in imagination to a neighboring spot of interesting reminiscence. What are these mouldering walls, these venerable ruins that here strike our view ? Behold here the remains of what was once devoted to youthful piety and learning — to the care and protection of the orphan — this was the orphan house. These ruins speak to us of Whitefield and Huntingdon. Of Whitefield, a faithful servant of the most high God. A man whose zeal in the cause of his divine Master, and whose intense interest for the salvation of souls, in despite the ties of kindred and of home, urged him across the Atlantic to divide his labors of love between the old and new world.
He was the founder of a new sect; and a reformer in life, in manners and doctrine. Deeply impressed with the declining state of religion, and mourning over the skepticism and want of practical piety which characterized the age, he united with the Wesleys and became a Methodist.
Unable to acquiesce in the doctrine of human perfection, as maintained by his great coadjutor, he embraced the principles of Calvin, contended for the doctrine of election and final perseverance, and established Calvinistic Methodism.
• He introduced, it is true, no new doctrine when he insisted upon the necessity of regeneration and the new birth as essential to salvation; but he gave to it its appropriate place and importance in the pulpit. Ye must be born again, was the great lesson constantly taught and enforced by him. He introduced a new style of preaching, and infused into the pulpit the ardor and zeal of a mind awakened to the momentous interests of an endless future.
Remarkable for his eloquence and power of extemporaneous speaking, he exerted a resistless control over the minds and passions of his hearers; and both the sinner trembled and the believer rejoiced as he painted the terrors of the law and reasoned of a judgment to come, or discoursed upon the melting mercies of redeeming grace and á Saviour's love. Fancy the impression, if you can, as amidst the passing storm he exhorted the sinner by all his hopes of happiness to repent, and avert the wrath of God from being awakened. And as a gleam of lightning played on the corner of his pulpit, he continued, “'Tis a glance from the angry eye of Jehovah !” and as the thunder broke above him, “Hark, it was the voice of the Almighty as he passed by in his anger!” and as the storm passed away, “Look,” said he, “upon the rainbow, and praise him that made it ; very beautiful it is in the brightness thereof. It compasseth the heavens about with glory; and the hands of the most high have bended it." *
When the churches of England were closed upon him as an agitator and a fanatic, he established a church in the open air, the only one in all England large enough to accommodate the vast multitudes of his anxious listeners; and thus he became emphatically the great field preacher. A practice followed by Wesley, and to which may be traced the camp meetings of the present day.
His name stands identified with the great religious events and revivals in our country at that period. He went among all denominations, and he preached for all. He was hailed in New York and Philadelphia as a messenger from heaven; and his zeal, pathos and fervor of preaching was soon introduced into many of their pulpits.
The result of his example and connection with these
* Description of Whitefield's preaching, by Miss Francis. .
England iry powers in the wider field for the
churches was a schism in the Presbyterian church, and the establishment of a new Presbytery. The Whitfieldians maintained the doctrine of man's natural ability and moral inability; and, that he had power to perform the duties enjoined by God, provided he but wills to perform them. Their opponents contended for man's total inability, as the doctrine taught in the Scriptures ; and insisted that nothing was gained by the distinction between natural and moral ability. It will at once be perceived, that the doctrine of Whitefield opened a much wider field for the exercise of his declamatory powers in the pulpit. The ministers of New England invited him there, complaining in strong terms of the general declension of the power and life of godliness in their congregations.* Similar results followed his preaching and example in New England, and the Presbyterian church was divided into parties. The Rev. Jonathan Edwards, a man of great learning and sound and well disciplined intellect, from his former didactic manner, became a most passionate pulpit declaimer, and, during a great revival, was so much excited as to indulge the belief that the millennial glory of the church was suddenly about to burst upon a benighted world. It was owing to this circumstance, that in the calm of subsequent tranquillity and reflection, that this gentleman was led to a careful examination of the heart, which produced that invaluable work entitled “Edwards on the Affections."
Struck, from his arrival in Georgia, with the destitute condition of orphan children in the infant colony, Mr. Whitefield immediately conceived the plan of raising funds from charity for erecting and maintaining an institution for the support and education of orphans. This plan had previously been cherished by General Oglethorpe, and an example of its successful experiment furnished by Professor Frank of Germany. Animated by a purely Christian benevolence, the perseverance of Whitefield in this laudable undertaking vanquished all impediments and discouragements. He erected a monument more durable than the marble, which, when accident and time have now left scarcely a vestige to mark the spot consecrated by his benevolence, will yet disclose his motives and his objects, and perpetuate his memory
* Backus's History of New England.
with respect, whilst Georgia has an historian to record or a citizen to read the story of his virtues. · Upon the annunciation of his death, the legislature of Georgia unanimously appropriated a sum of money for the removal of his remains, to be interred at the Orphan House. This design was relinquished only, because the inhabitants of Newbury Port, where he died, refused to part with them. The property of this institution was in 1808, by act of the legislature, ordered to be sold; one fifth of the net proceeds were applied to the uses of the Savannah Poor House and Hospital Society; and the remainder equally divided between the Union Society in Savannah and the Chatham Academy, upon the condition, that the latter institution support and educate at least five orphan children from its funds.*
But this spot reminds us also of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon — of that excellent lady the friend and patroness of Whitefield. Her best eulogium will be pronounced in a brief reference to some of the prominent acts of her life. By her munificent contributions she essentially aided Mr. Whitefield in the establishment of his Orphan House, — to which she bequeathed a large donation at her death. She built and endowed a college in Wales for the education of pious young men for the ministry. She threw open her house in London for the preaching of the gospel of Christ
- she erected chapels for that purpose in different parts of the kingdom — and she was estimated to have appropriated during her christian life, for the propagation of the gospel and to institutions for the relief of the poor, near half a million of dollars. A full-sized portrait of this memorable lady, originally the property of the Orphan House, but now of the Chatham Academy, is preserved in remembrance of her. But what is that portrait of the person and the features, in comparison with that fine picture of the heart — of benevolence and piety and virtue presented to our minds by a reference to her life and actions? When every trace of the pencil shall have been obliterated, and the canvass itself shall have mouldered into dust, these will commend her name to the respect and veneration of posterity wherever christian benevolence is esteemed a virtue, or christian piety has a votary.
* See Clayton's Digest, page 463.