Sunday, May 6, 2012

Fifth Sunday of Easter: The most compendious way to true learning

Opening Sentence
On this day the Lord has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

Collect of the Day
Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalter: Psalm 24, 29

Lessons: Leviticus 8:1-13, 30-36; Hebrews 12:1-14; Luke 4:16-30

Dear Gentlemen:

With unspeakable pleasure have I heard that there seems to be a general concern among you about the things of God. It was no small grief to me that I was obliged to say of your college that "your light has become darkness"--yet are ye now become light in the Lord.

I heartily thank God, even the Father of our glorious Redeemer, for sending dear Mr. T [Gilbert Tennent, later to become one of the leaders of the Great Awakening in America] among you. What great things may we not not expect to see in New England, since it has pleased God to work so remarkably among the sons of the prophets? Now we may expect a reformation indeed, since it is beginning at the house of God. A dead ministry will always make a dead people, whereas if ministers are warmed with the love of God themselves, they cannot but be instruments of diffusing that love among others. This, this is the best preparation for the work whereunto you are to be called. Learning without piety will only make you more capable of promoting the kingdom of Satan. Henceforward, therefore, I hope you will enter into your studies not to get a parish, nor to be polite preachers, but to be great saints.

This, indeed, is the most compendious way to true learning, for an understanding enlightened by the Spirit of God is more open to divine truths and, I am certain, will prove most useful to mankind. The more holy you are, the more will God delight to honor you.

I hope the good old divinity will now be precious to your souls, and you will think it an honor to tread in the steps of your pious forefathers. They were acquainted with their own hearts. They knew what it was to be tempted themselves, and therefore from their own experience knew how to give help to others. O may you follow them, as they followed Christ. Then great, very great will be your reward in heaven. I am sure you can never serve a better Master than Jesus Christ, or be engaged in a higher employment than in calling home souls to Him.

I trust, dear gentlemen, you will not be offended at me for sending you these few lines. I write out of the fulness of my heart. I make mention of you always in my prayers. Forget me not in yours. I am a poor weak worm. I am the chief of sinners, and yet, O stupendous love!, the Lord's work still prospers in my unworthy hands. Fail not to give thanks, as well as to pray for

Your affectionate brother and servant in our common Lord,

George Whitefield
Addressed to the divinity students at the colleges of Cambridge (Harvard) and New Haven (Yale)

Sanctify (Come, Holy Spirit)