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In Their Own Words

August 23, 1738

Death of a Deist Recorded Twice

George Whitefield, who would eventually became one of famous evangelists of his time in America, began his career ministering to Georgia colonists in Savannah. Even at this young age he took his calling very seriously, as evidence by today’s entry in his journal:

“A Necessity was laid on me to Day to express my Resentment against Infidelity by refusing to read the Burial Office over the most professed Unbeliever I ever yet met with.– God was pleased to visit him with a lingring [sic] Illness, in which Time I went to see him frequently. - Particularly about five Weeks agone, I asked him what Religion he was of, he answered, ‘Religion was divided into so many Sects he knew not which to chuse [sic].’ - Another time, I offer’d to pray with him, but he would not accept it, upon which I resolv’d to go see him no more; - But being told two Days before he dyed [sic], that he had an Inclination to see me, I went to him again, and after a little Conversation, I put to him the following Questions, ‘Do you believe Jesus Christ to be God, the one Mediator between God and Man?’ - He said, ‘I believe Christ was a good Man.’-‘Do you believe the Holy Scriptures?’ ‘I believe,’ replied he, ‘something of the Old Testament, the New I do not believe at all.’ - Do you believe, Sir, a Judgement to come?’ he turn’d himself about and replied, ‘I know not what to say to that.’ - ‘Alass’ [sic] said I, ‘Sir, if all these Things should be true’ - which Words I believe gave him Concern, for he seemed after to be very uneasy, grew delirious, and departed in a Day or two. - Unhappy Man, how quickly was he convinced that all I said was true. Now he and I are of one Mind: the Day after his Decease he was carried to the Ground, and I refuse to read the Office over him, but went to the Grave and told the People what had passed between him and me, warned them against Infidelity, and asked them whether I could safely say, ‘as our Hope is this our Brother doth,’ upon which I believe they were thoroughly satisfied that I had done right. - GOD grant this may be a warning to surviving Unbelievers.”

Source: [no author or editor cited], Our First Visit in America: Early Reports from the Colony of Georgia, 1732-1740 (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1974), pp. 295-296.

Like Whitefield, William Stephens, the Trustees’ secretary in Georgia, kept a journal. Both men’s journals for today dealt with the death of same colonist:

“Mr. William Aglionby, a Freeholder in this Town, died this Morning, and was buried in the Evening. His character was better forgot, than rememeber’d to his Infamy: But it may not be improper with Regard to the Colony, to touch upon it briefly… . [H]e had a little Smattering of the Law, he made Use of that Talent, in being a great Advisor among divers of our late Malecontents [sic]; most of whom had forsaken him, feeling their Error. He was so far from any Improvements, that he discouraged many others from it … and was a stirrer up of ill Blood: And as he was a great Devotee to Rum, it is said, that using it to Excess brought a Flux upon him, which … at length carried him off; wherein the Colony (I conceive) sustained no loss. During his sickness, Mr. Whitfield was divers Times to attend him, offering to do his Duty in Prayer, &c. but he refused such Assistance; and upon several Questions put to him properly at such a Season, he denied any Mediator, and died a confirmed Deist… . Mr. Whitfield … as soon as the Corpse was interred, before the Company dispersed, came to the Grave, and there made a very pathetick [sic] Exhortation to the People, to be stedfast to the principles of Christianity, and careful not to be seduced into damnable Errors. It is to be hoped we have not many of the like Stamp among us, the Generality of the People shewing [sic] a good Disposition; but I fear three or four yet remain, who are fond of the modern way of Freethinking… .”

Source: William Stephens, A Journal of the Proceeding in Georgia (no city cited: Readex Microprint Corporation, 1966), Vol. I, pp. 268-270.