In November 1738 the 24 year old George Whitefield returned to Great Britain from his first trip to America. It had been a great success.
When he arrived in London he records that he attended a meeting in Fetter Lane. On December 8th he records, ‘In the evening went to a truly Christian Society in Fetter Lane, and perceived God had greatly watered the seed sown by my ministry when last in London. The Lord increase it more and more.’ (GW Journal, Banner Edition, p.194)
Indeed the Awakening was moving forward quickly.
Christmas Day with George Whitefield
Whitefield preached very early that Christmas morning, 1738. ‘About four this morning, went and prayed and expounded to another Society in Redcross Street, consisting of near two or three hundred people and the room was exceedingly hot. I had been watching unto prayer all night, yet God vouchsafed so to fill me with His blessed Spirit that I spoke with as great power as ever I did in my life.’ (GW Journal, p.194)
But it was New Year’s Eve which was perhaps the most significant meeting for many of the leaders of the Awakening. Whitefield merely records it as another great time of prayer, but Wesley, who was ‘catching up’ somewhat with Whitefield’s spirituality, gives us more detail and was clearly impacted by what happened:
A famous New Year’s Party!
‘Mon. Jan. 1, 1739 – Mr. Hall, Kinchin, Ingham, Whitefield, Hutchins, and my brother Charles, were present at out love-feast in Fetter Lane, with about sixty of our brethren.
‘About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried our for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground.
‘As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of his Majesty, we broke out with one voice, ‘We praise thee, O God; we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.’ (John Wesley Journal, Baker edition, p.170)
Whitefield, writing of the same occasion, said, ‘O that our despisers were partakers of our joys!’ (GW Journal, p.196) And looking back on that brief season after returning from America, as friends gathered in London to pray, he wrote:
‘Sometimes whole nights were spent in prayer. Often have we been filled as with new wine. And often have we seen them overwhelmed with the divine presence and crying out, ‘Will God indeed dwell with men upon earth? How dreadful is this place! This is none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven!’ (John Gillies, Memoirs of the Life of George Whitefield, Dilly, p.34)
This amazing season of prayer, and this company of sixty, mainly young men would usher in a new day for the British Isles.
For a famous incident in Bristol, where the blackened faces of coal miners were whitened by their tears click here
© 2009 Lex Loizides