enthral (verb) = to captivate, hold spellbound, by pleasing qualities. (OED)
When God plans to bless a region or nation with the Gospel, He seems to begin by calling and preparing His chosen instruments.
George Whitefield, along with the Wesley brothers and many others were key figures in a mighty, sweeping, nation-changing season of God’s blessing.
The effect of what took place in England following their preaching and church planting has been described by historian J.R. Green:
‘A religious revival burst forth…which changed in a few years the whole temper of English society.
The church was restored to life and activity. Religion carried to the hearts of the people a fresh spirit of moral zeal, while it purified our literature and our manners.
A new philanthropy reformed our prisons, infused clemency and wisdom into our penal laws, abolished the slave trade, and gave the first impulse to popular education.’ (Green, A short history of the English People, Harper, p. 736-7)
Breathtaking Service for God
Before we get into the details of Whitefield’s incredible life let me outline a few facts:
• he was a tireless preacher – estimates are that he preached/taught 30,000 times during his relatively short life (he died aged 56)
• during the summer of 1739 in England the outdoor crowds are estimated to have been up to 1 million – all without amplification, obviously
• he invested much of his time in America
• something like 80% of the American population heard him preach
• Whitefield became the prototype Evangelist
• he continually emphasised the need for the new birth
• he passionately appealed for people to come to Christ immediately
• it wasn’t unusual for him to stop in the middle of a sermon and join the crowd in weeping at the revelation of Christ’s love
• he often coughed up blood after preaching
• he became the first transatlantic ‘celebrity’ – and therefore was widely ridiculed in the papers!
• he was genuinely non-denominational, choosing to be buried in the crypt of the Presbyterian Church he had planted!
• he was able to effectively reach both poor and rich
• he was, by all accounts, a happy Calvinist!
It is difficult to read about Whitefield without becoming increasingly passionate for God, and passionate to see the gospel breaking into the lives of those around us.
To read more about Whitefield click here
© 2009 Lex Loizides