George Whitefield

George WhitefieldGeorge Whitefield (1714-1770), was an English Puritan who helped spread the Great Awakening in Britain, and especially in the British North American colonies. He was one of the founders of Methodism and of the evangelical movement generally. He became perhaps the best-known preacher in Britain and America in the 18th century, and because he traveled through all of the American colonies and drew great crowds and media coverage, he was one of the most widely recognized public figures in colonial America. He is also known as ‘The Great Awakener’.

Whitfield was born at the Bell Inn, Southgate Street, Gloucester, in England. Whitfield was the 5th son (7th child) of Thomas Whitfield and Elizabeth Edwards who kept an inn at Gloucester. At an early age, he found that he had a passion and talent for acting in the theatre, a passion that he would carry on through the very theatrical re-enactments of Bible stories that he told during his sermons. He was educated at the Crypt School, Gloucester, and Pembroke College, Oxford. Because Whitfield came from a poor background, he did not have the means to pay for his tuition. He therefore entered Oxford as a servitor, the lowest rank of students at Oxford. In return for free tuition, he was assigned as a servant to a number of higher ranked students. His duties included waking them in the morning, polishing their shoes, carrying their books and even assisting with required written assignments. He was a part of the ‘Holy Club’ at Oxford University with the Wesley brothers, John and Charles. After reading Henry Scougal’s The Life of God in the Soul of Man he was converted and became passionate for preaching his new-found faith.

Whitfield preached his first sermon in St Mary de Crypt Church in his home town of Gloucester a week after his ordination. He had earlier become the leader of the Holy Club at Oxford when the Wesley brothers departed for Georgia. He adopted the practice of Howell Harris of preaching in the open-air at Hanham Mount, near Kingswood, Bristol. In 1738, before becoming parish pastor of Savannah, Georgia, in the American colonies, he invited John Wesley to preach in the open-air for the first time at Kingswood and then Blackheath, London. After a short stay in Georgia, he returned home the following year to receive orders and resumed his open-air evangelistic activities.

Whitfield accepted the Church of England’s doctrine of predestination but disagreed with the Wesley brothers’ views on slavery and the doctrine of Arminianism. As a result Whitfield did what his friends hoped he would not do—hand over the entire ministry over to John Wesley. Whitfield formed and was the president of the first Methodist conference. But he soon relinquished the position to concentrate on evangelical work.

In 1739, Whitfield returned to England to raise funds to establish the Bethesda Orphanage, which is the oldest extant charity in North America. On returning to North America in 1740, he preached a series of revivals that came to be known as the Great Awakening of 1740. He preached nearly every day for months to large crowds of sometimes several thousand people as he traveled throughout the colonies, especially New England. His journey on horseback from New York City to Charleston was the longest then undertaken in North America by a white man.

Like his contemporary and acquaintance, Jonathan Edwards, Whitfield preached staunchly Calvinist theology that was in line with the “moderate Calvinism” of the Thirty-nine Articles. While explicitly affirming God’s sole agency in salvation, Whitfield freely offered the Gospel, saying at the end of his sermons: “Come poor, lost, undone sinner, come just as you are to Christ.”

The Anglican Church did not assign him a pulpit, so he began preaching in parks and fields in England on his own, reaching out to people who normally did not attend church. Like Jonathan Edwards, he developed a style of preaching that elicited emotional responses from his audiences. But Whitfield had charisma, and his voice (which according to many accounts, could be heard over vast distances), his small stature, and even his cross-eyed appearance (which some people took as a mark of divine favor) all served to help make him one of the first celebrities in the American colonies. Thanks to widespread dissemination of print media, perhaps half of all colonists eventually heard about, read about, or read something written by Whitfield. He employed print systematically, sending advance men to put up broadsides and distribute handbills announcing his sermons. He also arranged to have his sermons published.

He first took to preaching in the open air on Hanham Mount, Kingswood, in southeast Bristol where a crowd of 20,000 people gathered to hear him. Even larger crowds—Whitfield estimated 30,000—met him in Cambuslang in 1742.

Whitfield is remembered as one of the first to preach to the enslaved. Phillis Wheatley wrote a poem in his memory after he died. In an age when crossing the Atlantic Ocean was a long and hazardous adventure, he visited America seven times, making thirteen Atlantic crossings in total. It is estimated that throughout his life, he preached more than 18,000 formal sermons, of which seventy-eight have been published In addition to his work in America and England, he made fifteen journeys to Scotland—most famously to the “Preaching Braes” of Cambuslang in 1742—two to Ireland, and one each to Bermuda, Gibraltar, and the Netherlands. He also came to America in 1738 following John Wesley’s departure to serve as chaplain to the Georgia colony at Savannah.

Whitfield died in the parsonage of Old South Presbyterian Church, Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770, and was buried, according to his wishes, in a crypt under the pulpit of this church. [More via Wikipedia]

The Works of George Whitefield:

The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield, Volume 1. (498 pages)
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This volume contains 497 letters written by Whitefield on various subjects.

The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield, Volume 2. (494 pages)
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This volume contains letters written by Whitefield on various subjects, numbered 498-964.

The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield, Volume 3. (524 pages)
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This volume contains:

  1. Letters written by Whitefield on various subjects, numbered 965-1465.
  2. Letters written to the people of Savannah.
  3. An Account of the Orphan-House in Georgia.

The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield, Volume 4. (506 pages)
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This volume contains:

  1. An Answer to the Bishop of London’s Last Pastoral Letter.
  2. A Letter to the Religious Societies of England.
  3. A Letter to the Inhabitants of Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina.
  4. A Letter to the Church Members of the Presbyterian Persuasion.
  5. A Letter to the Reverend Mr. John Wesley, in Answer to His Sermon Entitled “Free Grace”.
  6. A Vindication and Confirmation of the Remarkable Work of God in New-England.
  7. A Brief Account of the Occasion, Process, and Issue, of a Late Trial at the Assize held at Gloucester, March 3, 1743, Between Some of the People Called Methodists, Plaintiffs, and Certain Persons of the Town of Minchin-Hampton, in the Said County, Defendants.
  8. An Answer to the First Part of an Anonymous Pamphlet, entitled, “Observations upon the Conduct and Behaviour of a Certain Sect Usually Distinguished by the Name of Methodists”, in two parts.
  9. Some Remarks upon a late Charge Against Enthusiasm.
  10. A Letter to the Reverend the President, and Professors, Tutors, and Hebrew Instructor, of Harvard College in Cambridge, in Answer to a Testimony Published by them Against the Reverend Mr. George Whitefield, and his Conduct.
  11. Remarks on a Pamphlet Entitled, The Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists Compared.
  12. An Expostulatory Letter Addressed to Nicholas Lewis, Count Zinzendorff, and Lord Advocate of the Unitas Fratrum.
  13. A Short Address to Persons of all Denominations, Occasioned by the Alarm of an Intended Invasion, in the Year 1756.
  14. A Preface to the Serious Reader, on Behalf of the Reverend Samuel Clarke’s Edition of the Bible.
  15. Observations on Some Fatal Mistakes, in a Book Lately Published, and Entitled, “The Doctrine of Grace”.
  16. A Recommendatory Preface to the Works of Mr. John Bunyan.
  17. A Letter to the Reverend Dr. Durell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Occasioned by a late Expulsion of Six Students from Edmund Hall.
  18. Observations on Select Passages of Scripture Turned into Catechetical Questions.
  19. The Law Gospelized, or, An Address to All Christians Concerning Holiness of Heart and Life.
  20. A Preface to a New Edition of the Homilies.
  21. Prayers on Several Occasions.

The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield, Volume 5. (490 pages)
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This volume contains 31 sermons:

  1. The Seed of the Woman, and the Seed of the Serpent (Genesis 3:5) – pdf, 18 pp.
  2. Walking with God (Genesis 5:24) – pdf, 17 pp.
  3. Abraham’s Offering up his Son Isaac (Genesis 22:12) – pdf, 14 pp.
  4. The Great Duty of Family Religion (Joshua 24:15) – pdf, 13 pp.
  5. Christ the Best Husband, or, An Earnest Invitation to Young Women to Come and See Christ (Psalm 45:10-11) – pdf, 14 pp.
  6. Britain’s Mercies, and Britain’s Duty (Psalm 105:45) – pdf, 15 pp.
    Preached at Philadelphia on Sunday August 24, 1746, and occasioned by the suppression of the late unnatural rebellion.
  7. Thankfulness for Mercies Received, a Necessary Duty (Psalm 107:30-31) – pdf, 13 pp.
    A farewell sermon preached onboard the Whitaker, at anchor near Savannah, in Georgia, Sunday, May 17, 1738.
  8. The Necessity and Benefits of Religious Society (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) – pdf, 16 pp.
  9. The Folly and Danger of Not Being Righteous Enough (Ecclesiastes 7:16) – pdf, 18 pp.
  10. A Preservative against Unsettled Notions, and Want of Principles, in Regard to Righteousness and Christian Perfection (Ecclesiastes 7:16) – pdf, 18 pp.
  11. The Benefits of an Early Piety (Ecclesiastes 12:1) – pdf, 11 pp.
  12. Christ the Believer’s Husband (Isaiah 54:5) – pdf, 26 pp.
  13. The Potter and the Clay (Jeremiah 18:1-6) – pdf, 19 pp.
  14. The Lord Our Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6) – pdf, 19 pp.
  15. The Righteousness of Christ an Everlasting Righteousness (Daniel 9:24) – pdf, 16 pp.
  16. The Observation of the Birth of Christ, the Duty of all Christians; or, The True Way of Keeping Christmas (Matthew 1:21) – pdf, 11 pp.
  17. The Temptation of Christ (Matthew 4:1-11) – pdf, 14 pp.
  18. The Heinous Sin of Profane Cursing and Swearing (Matthew 5:34) – pdf, 11 pp.
  19. Christ the Support of the Tempted (Matthew 6:13) – pdf, 13 pp.
  20. Worldly Business No Plea for Neglect of Religion (Matthew 8:22) – pdf, 9 pp.
  21. Christ the Only Rest for the Weary and Heavy Laden (Matthew 11:28) – pdf, 11 pp.
  22. The Folly and Danger of Parting with Christ for the Pleasures and Profits of Life (Matthew 8:23-34) – pdf, 17 pp.
  23. Marks of a True Conversion (Matthew 18:3) – pdf, 17 pp.
  24. What Think Ye of Christ? (Matthew 22:42) – pdf, 20 pp.
  25. The Wise and Foolish Virgins (Matthew 25:13) – pdf, 19 pp.
  26. The Eternity of Hell-Torments (Matthew 25:46) – pdf, 12 pp.
  27. Blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:52) – pdf, 14 pp.
  28. Directions How to Hear Sermons (Luke 8:18) – pdf, 10 pp.
  29. The Extent and Reasonableness of Self-Denial (Luke 9:23) – pdf, 12 pp.
  30. Christ’s Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36) – pdf, 16 pp.
  31. The Care of the Soul Urged as the One Thing Needful (Luke 10:42) – pdf, 19 pp.

The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield, Volume 6. (446 pages)
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This volume contains another 26 sermons:

  1. A Penitent Heart, the Best New Year’s Gift (Luke 13:3) – pdf, 17 pp.
  2. The Gospel Supper (Luke 14:22-24) – pdf, 16 pp.
  3. The Pharisee and Publican (Luke 18:14) – pdf, 13 pp.
  4. The Conversion of Zaccheus (Luke 19:9-10) – pdf, 15 pp.
  5. The Marriage of Cana (John 2:11) – pdf, 15 pp.
  6. The Duty of Searching the Scriptures (John 5:39) – pdf, 10 pp.
  7. The Indwelling of the Spirit, the Common Privilege of all Believers (John 7:37-39) – pdf, 14 pp.
  8. The Resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:43-44) – pdf, 24 pp.
  9. The Holy Spirit Convincing the World of Sin, Righteousness, and Judgment (John 16:8) – pdf, 16 pp.
  10. Saul’s Conversion (Acts 9:22) – pdf, 18 pp.
  11. Marks of Having Received the Holy Ghost (Acts 19:2) – pdf, 13 pp.
  12. The Almost Christian (Acts 26:28) – pdf, 13 pp.
  13. Christ, the Believer’s Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30) – pdf, 16 pp.
  14. The Knowledge of Jesus Christ the Best Knowledge (1 Corinthians 2:2) – pdf, 11 pp.
  15. Of Justification by Christ (1 Corinthians 6:11) – pdf, 12 pp.
  16. The Great Duty of Charity Recommended (1 Corinthians 13:8) – pdf, 14 pp.
  17. Satan’s Devices (2 Corinthians 2:11) – pdf, 15 pp.
  18. On Regeneration (2 Corinthians 5:17) – pdf, 15 pp.
  19. Christians, Temples of the Living God (2 Corinthians 6:16) – pdf, 14 pp.
  20. Christ, The Only Preservative Against a Reprobate Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:5) – pdf, 15 pp.
  21. The Heinous Sin of Drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18) – pdf, 14 pp.
  22. The Power of Christ’s Resurrection (Philippians 3:10) – pdf, 13 pp.
  23. Intercession Every Christian’s Duty (1 Thessalonians 5:25) – pdf, 13 pp.
  24. Persecution Every Christian’s Lot (2 Timothy 3:12) – pdf, 16 pp.
  25. An Exhortation to the People of God Not to be Discouraged in their Way, by the Scoffs and Contempt of Wicked Men (Hebrews 4:9) – pdf, 7 pp.
  26. A Sermon Preached before the Governor and Council, and the House of Assembly, in Georgia, on January 28, 1770 (Zechariah 4:10) – pdf, 19 pp.