The Humble Beginnings of England’s Greatest Evangelist

Gloucester in 1725
Gloucester in 1725

George Whitefield’s Birthplace
England’s greatest Evangelist had humble beginnings. Whitefield was born at the Bell Inn, Gloucester, where his father was the landlord.

Tragically, when George was only two, his father died. His mother struggled to keep the Inn going. She re-married, but things didn’t go well. At one point George missed a year of school to help his mother run the Inn.

She was determined to get George a good education, put him back into school and discovered a means of getting him to Oxford University, to prepare him for a clerical position. As biographer John Pollock puts it, ‘his mother wormed an Oxford servitorship out of an influential friend.’ (John Pollock, George Whitefield and the Great Awakening, Lion, p.6)

A servitorship enabled a poorer student to study at Oxford University by working as a servant to fee paying students.

Once Whitefield got to Oxford he became aware of an eccentric group of students who went by the nick-name of ‘The Holy Club’. They were also mocked as ‘methodists’ because of their strict lifestyle. Whitefield knew that they were trying to save their souls by being good and by doing good.

He was afraid to approach them, feeling his inferiority as a servitor. Yet he was drawn to them. They seemed serious and courageous.

The closest he dare come to them was to attend a midweek church service, which was considered unusual for any except the most devout.

One of the notorious ‘Holy Club’ men, the tender hearted Charles Wesley noticed him and invited him to breakfast. Whitefield was overjoyed and returned from the breakfast with a small collection of books. But more importantly, he had received a precious invitation to the next meeting of the Holy Club.

To read more about Whitefield click here

To read the first part of the life of Whitefield click here

© 2009 Lex Loizides


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