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the different accidents and carelessnesses by which houses were set on fire, with cautions against them, and means proposed of avoiding them. This was spoken of as an useful piece, and gave rise to a project, which soon followed it, of forming a company for the more ready extinguishing of fires, and mutual assistance in removing and securing of goods when in danger. Associates in this scheme were presently found, amounting to thirty. Our articles of agreement obliged every member to keep always in good order and fit for use, a certain number of leathern buckets, with strong bags and baskets, (for packing and transporting of goods) which were to be brought to every fire; and we agreed about once a month to spend a social evening together, in discoursing and communicating such ideas as occurred to us upon the subject of fires, as might be useful in our conduct on such occasions. The utility of this institution soon appeared, and many more desiring to be admitted than we thought convenient for one company, they were advised to form another, which was accordingly done; and thus went on one new company after another, till they became so numerous as to include most of the inhabitants who were men of property; and now at the time of my writing this, (though upwards of fifty years since its establishment,) that which I first formed, called the Union Fire Company, still subsists; though the first members are all deceased but one, who is older by a
than I am. The fines that have been paid by members for absence at the monthly meetings, have been applied to the purchase of fire-engines, ladders, fire-hooks, and other useful implements for each company; so that I question whether there is a city in the world better provided with the means of putting a stop to beginning conflagrations; and in fact, since these institutions the city has never lost by fire more than one or two houses at a time, and the flames have often been extinguished before the house in which they began has been half consumed.
In 1739, arrived among us from Ireland, the Reverend Mr. Whitfield, who had made himself remarkable there as an itinerant preacher. He was at first permitted to preach in some of our churches; but the clergy taking a dislike to him, soon refused him their pulpits, and he was obliged to preach in the fields. The multitude of all sects and denominations that attended his sermons were enormous, and it was a matter of speculation to me, (who was one of the number,) to observe the extraordinary influence of his oratory on his hearers, and how much they admired and respected him, notwithstanding his common abuse of them, by assuring them, they were naturally half beasts and half devils. It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious,
so that one could not walk through the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street. And it being found inconvenient to assemble in the open air, subject to its inclemencies, the building of a house to meet in, was no sooner proposed, and persons appointed to receive contributions, but sufficient sums were soon received to procure the ground, and erect the building, which was 100 feet long and 70 broad; and the work was carried on with such spirit as to be finished in a much shorter time than could have been expected. Both house and ground were vested in trustees, expressly for the use of any preacher of any religious persuasion, who might desire to say something to the people at Philadelphia. The design in building not being to accommodate any particular sect, but the inhabitants in general; so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mahometanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.
Mr. Whitfield, on leaving us, went preaching all the way through the colonies to Georgia. The settlement of that province had lately been begun, but instead of being made with hardy industrious husbandmen accustomed to labor, the only people fit for such an enterprise, it was with families of broken shop-keepers, and other insolvent debtors; many of indolent and idle habits, taken out of the jails, who being set down in the woods, unqualified for clearing land, and unable to endure the hardships of a new settlement, perished in numbers, leaving many helpless children unprovided for. The sight of their miserable situation inspired the benevolent heart of Mr. Whitfield, with the idea of building an orphan-house there, in which they might be supported and educated. Returning northward, he preached up this charity, and made large collections : for his eloquence had a wonderful power over the hearts and purses of his hearers, of which I myself was an instance. I did not disapprove of the design, but as Georgia was then destitute of materials and workmen, and it was proposed to send them from Philadelphia at a great expense, I thought it would have been better to have built the house at Philadelphia, and brought the children to it. This I advised; but he was resolute in his first project, rejected my counsel, and I therefore refused to contribute. I happened soon after to attend one of his sermons, in the course of which, I perceived he intended to finish with a collection, and I silently resolved he should get nothing from me: I had in my pocket a handful of copper-money, three or four silver dollars, and five pistoles in gold; as he proceeded I began to soften, and concluded to give the copper. Another stroke of his oratory made me ashamed of that, and determined me to give the silver; and he finished so admirably, that I emptied my pocket wholly into the collector's dish, gold and all! At this sermon there was also one of our club, who being of my sentiments respecting the building in Georgia, and suspecting a collection might be intended, had by precaution emptied his pockets before he came from home: towards the conclusion of the discourse, however, he felt a strong inclination to give, and applied to a neighbor who stood near him, to lend him some money for the purpose. The request was fortunately made to perhaps the only man in the company who had the firmness not to be affected by the preacher. His answer was, “ At any other time, friend Hopkinson, I would lend to thee freely ; but not now ; for thee seems to me to be out of thy right senses.”
Some of Mr. Whitfield's enemies affected to suppose, that he would apply these collections to his own private emolument; but I, who was intimately acquainted with him (being employed in printing his sermons, journals, &c.), never had the least suspicion of his integrity; but am to this day decidedly of opinion, that he was in all his conduct a perfectly honest man; and methinks my testimony in his favor ought to have the more weight, as we had no religious connexion. He used indeed sometimes to pray for my conversion, but never had the satisfaction of believing that his prayers were heard. Ours was a mere civil friendship, sincere on both sides, and lasted to his death. The following instance will show the terms on which we stood. Upon one of his arrivals from England at Boston, he wrote to me that he should come soon