First Shoots of the Great Awakening in England Come Through

The Young George Whitefield Preaching
The Young George Whitefield Preaching

A shift was taking place: Whitefield had personally experienced the new birth, and now he was boldly declaring it to others.

In 1736 George Whitefield was officially ordained as an Anglican Minister and set about preaching. Outwardly unimpressive, yet inwardly fervent in his love for God and people, Whitefield began preaching.

‘I preached’, he tells us in his Journals, ‘as usual about five times a week…it was wonderful to see how the people hung upon the rails of the organ loft, climbed upon the leads of the church, and made the church itself so hot with their breath that the steam would fall from the pillars like drops of rain.’

‘Sometimes almost as many would go away from want of room as came in, and it was with great difficulty that I got into the [pulpit].’ (GW Journals, Banner of Truth edition, p.84-85)

As Whitefield’s popularity grew and more and more were experiencing the new birth, it became evident that something bigger than the stir caused by a young preacher was taking place.  Scenes of religious excitement that had never been witnessed before now began to take place daily.

Increasing conversions, increasing interest
A little later, and still a year before the Wesleys brothers’ conversion, George was able to write:
‘The sight of the congregations was [awesome].  One might as it were, walk upon the people’s heads…They were all attention, and heard like people hearing for eternity.’

‘I now preached generally nine times a week.  The early sacraments were exceeding [awesome]…how often have we seen Jesus Christ, evidently set forth before us, crucified!’

‘On Sunday mornings, long before day, you might see streets filled with people going to church, with their lanterns in their hands, and hear them conversing about the things of God…[the people] were so deeply affected that they were like persons mourning for a first born child.’  (Arnold Dallimore, Life of George Whitefield, Vol 1, p.30-31)

Whitefield senses his destiny and prays courageously
Whitefield sensed he was on the edge of a powerful breakthrough and on December 30 1737 prayed, ‘God give me a deep humility, a well-guided zeal, a burning love and a single eye, and then let men or devils do their worst!’

To read more about Whitefield click here
To read the first part of Whitefield’s story click here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

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4 thoughts on “First Shoots of the Great Awakening in England Come Through

  1. churchmouse July 1, 2009 / 6:26 pm

    Thanks for your post — enlightening. We in England could use someone like him now.

  2. nathan the alien July 1, 2009 / 10:20 pm

    What a prayer at the end there! Humility, zeal, love, focus and boldness – great combination.

  3. Dr. James Willingham July 5, 2010 / 6:10 pm

    It has been my lot in life to have studied the Awakenings in my Bachelor’s, Master’s (in American Social and Intellectual History), M.Div. program, and in church history research and to write a thesis for my M.A. on a doctrine (ministerial qualifications) and how it effected human behavior over a 100 year period which encompassed the First and Second Great Awakenings (1750-1850). I have also had the privilege of knowing descendants of at least two branches of a family whose ancestors were converted under George Whitefield circa 1746-47. One branch is Baptist and the other Presbyterian. I have also pastored in an association (Sandy Creek) which was founded by two men who were converted under George Whitefield (Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall). The latter minister would found the first Baptist Church in Georgia (Kiokee) which still exists. And one of my ancestors could have been one of the two officers appointed by the court to execute his will. It is amazing to consider how Whitefield impacted and influenced the United States and the Christian Faith. In fact, he along with Jonathan Edwards might well have been the key persons who brought about a vital transformation of the Protestant Reformation, changing it from a contentious, combative, gospel recovery effort into an out-going, winsome,seeking to win the world by persuasion missionary movement. Quite an accomplishment, No?

  4. A.F March 31, 2013 / 9:59 pm

    George Whitefield was a prominent leader in the First Great Awakening as evidenced by the tremendous impact he left on the Protestant scene. He stressed the importance God’s love for humanity. In doing so thousands flocked to wherever he would preach yet many also left him. Whilst the movement was still gaining some ground in America it was already in full swing in Europe; especially Britain. His teaching style attracted the attention of the media who were in the 18th century only the printing press. As the crowds grew so did the number of sermons he preached. He originally preached only five times a week but this later increased to nine times a week. His dedication to the message of the Word was truly remarkable. Despite the media attention he received, he prayed for “humility…and zeal” to continue the Lord’s work selflessly. Benjamin Franklin at one point in time heard Whitefield’s sermon and thought it inspiring. The two went on to develop a lasting relationship.

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