PREACHER AND PIONEER OF AMERICAN EVANGELISM
George Whitefield was a slight young man of twenty one (with a squint in his eye) when be was ordained at Gloucester Cathedral. His voice was tremendously powerful and it could be heard from as for away as a mile, When he gave his first sermon at the little Gloucester Church of St Mary de Crypt complaints were made to the Bishop that he had driven fifteen people mad with his preaching. The Bishop dryly replied that he hoped the message would still be remembered the next Sunday.
At Oxford university George met the Wesley brothers. It was there that he experienced Christianity in anew way and became a Born Again Christian.
George had the energy and perseverance of ten men, He drove himself relentlessly, neglecting his health and personal needs in his ambition to tell as many as he could about Jesus Christ and how faith could change lives, Everywhere and anywhere he went he touched the emotions of people in an amazing way. The clarity and sincerity of his message affected everyone from the nobility to the miners at Bristol, who were feared by all.
The most important decision of his career was made when George decided to become a missionary- in Georgia. Others had been unable to endure the problems there and had returned home broken men. This was the challenge Whitefield needed he travelled on horseback, and then by sea across the Atlantic. The adventures he encountered would justify several epic movies He had many close encounters with death but remained fearless. He mace no fewer than thirteen voyages across the sea, each voyage taking at least three months. Everywhere he went his reputation went before him.
Homesteads were neglected and tasks postponed as folk travelled for miles hoping to catch a personal sighting of George Whitefield. His sermons began at six am and be preached in Churches or the open air. Some came to heckle or to throw missiles but this did not worry George and very often these were the ones he affected the most Many left with tears in their eyes and repentance m their heart.
The first Charitable Trust was established by Whitefield. This was a Children’s Home in Savannah and he took all the supplies for this from England. paying great attention to detail, and even taking some of the Gloucester cheeses with him.
The astute statesman. Benjamin Franklin, who became a firm friend of George Whitefield wrote “He is a good man and I love him” An uproar was caused in 1740 when George Whitefield wrote an open letter to Benjamin Franklin concerning the American Negro slaves. The letter was long and explicit and pulled no punches. George stated that he was appalled at the poverty misery, cruelty and suffering of the slaves. The letter wen on to say Go now you rich men, weep and howl for the miseries which shall come Upon you . The rich slave owners, whose wealth and prosperity depended on free labour, were furious and attempts and threats were made on the life of Whitefield. He was warned to stop but he cook no notice and many Negroes became friends and converts of the Evangelist. He saw only a man’s soul and the Negro spirituals were attributed to his inspiration
When fire destroyed alt the books at Harvard University, George Whitefield appealed to the people or England for replacements and a whole new library was established. It has been estimated that George Whitehall spoke to no fewer than six million people in an age where there were no media aids. He carried with him on his travels a portable folding up wooden pulpit This is now in the possession of The American Tract Society in New York
Finally, exhausted and sick, George gave his last sermon at the age of 56. My body fails but my spirit expands he said. The date was September 29th 1770. He went to bed at the house or the Reverend Jonathon Parsons in Newburyport, Massachusetts and crowds were still waiting hopefully in the streets to see him. He had a bad asthma attack, the Doctor was called for, but nothing could be done. At six a.m. George went home at last.
He was buried in the Church at Newburyport. A wonderful Cenotaph vats donated by a wealthy businesrnan named William Bartlett who bad been converted by Whitefield.
in Gloucester, England, the small schoolroom where George was educated can still be seen. It is attached to the church where he was christened and gave his first controversial sermon.
Whitefield was surely the greatest preacher ever to come from England.
See also The Old Bell Gloucester