Martyn Lloyd Jones documentary on George Whitefield- England’s open air preacher, friend of Wesley

Fourteen minute documentary, narrated by Martyn Lloyd Jones:

George Whitefield –  (1714-1770), Methodist  Evangelist, among first to ignite Great Awakening in England’s 18th century

George Whitefield was born on December 16, 1714, in Gloucester, England. The youngest of seven children, he was born in the Bell Inn where his father, Thomas, was a wine merchant and innkeeper. His father died when George was two and his widowed mother Elizabeth struggled to provide for her family. Because he thought he would never make much use of his education, at about age 15 George persuaded his mother to let him leave school and work in the inn. However, sitting up late at night, George became a diligent student of the Bible. A visit to his Mother by an Oxford student who worked his way through college encouraged George to pursue a university education. He returned to grammar school to finish his preparation to enter Oxford, losing only about one year of school.

In 1732 at age 17, George entered Pembroke College at Oxford. He was

Whitefield preached in open air

gradually drawn into a group called the „Holy Club” where he met John and Charles Wesley. Charles Wesley loaned him the book, The Life of God in the Soul of Man. The reading of this book, after a long and painful struggle which even affected him physically, finally resulted in George’s conversion in 1735. He said many years later: „I know the place…. Whenever I go to Oxford, I cannot help running to the spot where Jesus Christ first revealed himself to me and gave me the new birth.”

Forced to leave school because of poor health, George returned home for nine months of recuperation. Far from idle, his activity attracted the attention of the bishop of Gloucester, who ordained Whitefield as a deacon, and later as a priest, in the Church of England. Whitefield finished his degree at Oxford and on June 20, 1736, Bishop Benson ordained him. The Bishop, placing his hands upon George’s head, resulted in George’s later declaration that „My heart was melted down and I offered my whole spirit, soul, and body to the service of God’s sanctuary.”

Whitefield was an astounding preacher from the beginning. Though he was slender in build, he stormed in the pulpit as if he were a giant. Within a year it was said that „his voice startled England like a trumpet blast.” At a time when London had a population of less than 700,000, he could hold spellbound 20,000 people at a time at Moorfields and Kennington Common. For thirty-four years his preaching resounded throughout England and America. In his preaching ministry he crossed the Atlantic thirteen times and became known as the ‘apostle of the British empire.’

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He was a firm Calvinist in his theology (but retained a deep friendship with John Wesley, none the less)yet unrivaled as an aggressive evangelist. Though a clergyman of the Church of England, he cooperated with and had a profound impact on people and churches of many traditions, including Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists. Whitefield, along with the Wesleys, inspired the movement that became known as the Methodists. Whitefield preached more than 18,000 sermons in his lifetime, an average of 500 a year or ten a week. Many of them were given over and over again. Fewer than 90 have survived in any form. (VIA). Click here – If you would like to read more on Whitefield.

George Whitefield’s impact in the U.S.A.

English evangelist, prominent figure in America’s Great Awakening, was born in Gloucester, England to an innkeeper’s family.  The family’s limited means led a family friend to step forward to provide Whitefield enough money to begin his education at Oxford University’s Pembroke College.  There Whitefield came into contact with a small band of pious students lampooned by their fellows as the “Holy Club.”  He was greatly influenced by the group’s leader, John Wesley, and eventually underwent a profound religious awakening that convinced him of his need to reach others with the necessity of the New Birth.  Although he would stay on friendly and supportive terms with Wesley, Whitefield remained a Calvinist on such issues as free will and predestination.

In 1737 he was ordained a preaching deacon in the Church of England and immediately took to the road as an itinerant evangelist.  What was particularly new about his methods was that he opted for preaching outside of ecclesiastical settings in the open air in town and countryside.  Another innovation was his effective use of newspapers, leaflets, and pamphlets to stimulate interest in his arrival.  And, unlike the clergy in the Anglican Church, Whitefield preached without the benefit of notes, believing that extemporaneous discourse made one more open to the Spirit’s promptings and was closer in preaching style to that used by the biblical prophets and apostles.  Observers marveled at his dramatic style and rhetorical flourish: the famous English actor David Garrick is reported to have exclaimed that he “would give a hundred guineas” if he could only “say ‘oh!’ like Mr. Whitefield.”

Whitefield took his first trip to America in 1738 and there founded his famed orphanage, “Bethesda,” just outside Savannah, Georgia–subsequent preaching tours would all raise funds for this enterprise over the years.  Whitefield’s second American preaching tour of 1739-1741 was a smash success, gaining strength as he travelled from the South northwards through Philadelphia.  As he toured the towns and cities of New England in 1740 he reaped the benefits of generations of Puritan preaching and Jonathan Edwards‘ recent revivals.  Crowds estimated at ten, twenty, and more thousand flocked from all over New England to hear him preach.

Over the next thirty years Whitefield made five more trips to America, as well as numerous excursions through the English countryside and into Wales and Scotland.  By the time of his death in 1770 Whitefield could be credited with establishing evangelical Protestantism on both sides of the Atlantic through the thousands of souls who experienced the “New Birth” under his preaching, and the legion of preachers he inspired to follow in his footsteps. (VIA)

see also

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