Reported 280 Years Ago (June 2 1739): Methodist preacher tells of his struggle with temptations

From the Belfast News Letter of May 22 1739 (June 2 in the modern calendar):

By The Newsroom
Monday, 3rd June 2019, 5:30 pm
The front page of the Belfast News Letter of May 22 1739 (which is June 2 in the modern calendar)
The front page of the Belfast News Letter of May 22 1739 (which is June 2 in the modern calendar)

A copy of a private conversation of Mr. Whitfield’s [sic] taken down in writing after his leaving the room and brought to him by the rev. Mr. T-ck-r [sic], minister of All-Saints in Bristol, author of the Queries in the last week’s miscellany, and at his request, sign’d by Mr. Whitefield himself.

BEFORE I went to the university, I led, as I thought, a very religious life, I constantly attended the publick service of the church, received the sacrament, gave alms, fasted frequently six and thirty hours, and in short, practised every moral and christian duty, insomuch that all that knew me look’d upon me as a saint.

I then went to the university, where I began my studies in the usual manner, applying myself to mathematicks, and classical learning; and as God had given me a fruitful genius, a ready wit, and great sagacity, the college conceived great hopes of my making a pretty scholar, I also dedicated proper seasons to the reading of the sermons of our best divines, Sharp, South, Calamy, and some of Tillotson’s I have read since; M. Vesley has read him more; but his worksI now look on only as a system of moral ethicks; but think he knew no more of true christianity than Mahomet.

During this time I knew nothing of true christianity, nor was I inform’d what it was, till I had read a book, entitled, the life of God in the soul of man, a book worth its weight in gold.

I now began to see the Necessity of new birth, and immediately changed my manner of Life; and as I had before made the dry sciences the chief of my study, I now applied myself wholly to the scriptures, and read other books only by the bye: the college seeing my course of life thus changed, began to dispair of me as a person disordered in my senses.

For two years I underwent a series of temptations, and continual buffetings of the devil, which have in a high degree qualified me for the Ministerial office, in that I have experimentally tried all things, and having suffered every sort of temptations, can suit my advice to the different states and conditions of other peoples souls, not to mention my being better qualified than other people for the composing of sermons, for I Have never preach’d any thing but what I have experimentally felt; and whereas other people are forced to plod and rack their brains whole weeks in compiling a discourse, I am enabled to compile as fast as I can write.

Mr. Whitefield farther affirms, that the Holy Ghost first appeals to the understanding, then over-rules the will, that its experiences are not to be described to an unregenerate person, any more than clours to a man born blind.

G. WHITEFIELD. [Whitefield helped found Methodism]


We are assur’d, that a few weeks ago a pigg [sic], about four months old, at Dunleer, followed a noble man’s coach coming from Dublin, for several miles, before the proprietors could overtake it.

A Gentlewoman, then in the coach, being informed of the creatures so doing, out of curiosity, paid the owner for, and suffer’d it to follow, which it did unto Moyra, where it still remains following the coach wherever it’s driven, attempts to get into church, but being prevented by the sexton, lies like a dog among the wheels of the coach. Strange behaviour in a Pig!

[As in many reports at the time, it is unclear who makes that comment at the end]

To be LETT,

FROM Allsaints next, by Robert Armstrong, the House he lately dwelt in at Buller’s Entry, accommodated with a close Back-side, Office-Houses, a good Stable, with Hay-Loft, and a Garden well walled. [The ad does not specify but Buller’s Entry seems to be in Belfast]

DUBLIN, May 19.

We hear from Lurgan Green, that as they were digging in the strand near that place, they discovered a ship that had been cast away, as supposed, in the year 1692, in which, among other things they found three casks of king William and queen Mary’s halfpence, coined in Ireland. They were very fresh, and the impressions very plain, they were sold for old mattal, which to above 30l. [£30 is about £7,000 in today’s money. Lurgan Green is south of Dundalk near the Co Louth coast]

Last Thursday died the famous Mrs. Smart, at Ringsend, of a mortification under one of her breasts, remarkable for keeping a very good house of entertainment which was much frequented by persons of great distinction.

Rome, April 14, O.S.

Tuesday last there was a vast number of people in the parish church of St. Saviour upon the mountains to see a marriage celebrated between a man of 98 years (who was converted 70 years ago from the Jewish religion) and a woman of 85 years of age. The duke de Carpineto Pamsili not only gave them their wedding clothes and dinner, but sent his coach and two footmen to attend them to and from church.