Exit Whitefield Enter Wesley

Whitefield's Mobile - no, not a phone, a pulpit!
Whitefield's Mobile - no, not a phone, a pulpit!

‘I hope God will bless the Ministry of my friend, John Wesley’

At the beginning of April Whitefield was ready, as planned, to move on from Bristol. It had been an incredible few weeks which had seen multiplied thousands gather in the fields to hear him preach the gospel.

It was an amazing mark of Whitefield’s trust and humility that he was eager for his friend and companion John Wesley to come and take up the work after him, seeking to establish the new believers in the faith.

He writes in his journal (Mar 29), ‘I hope God will bless the ministry of my honoured friend Mr. John Wesley.’ (GW Journals, Banner of Truth edition, p. 240)

Tears for Whitefield as he announces his departure

The believers gathered in the society that now existed in Castle Street ‘wept aloud’ when Whitefield announced his departure. ‘Blessed be God, there is one coming after me who, I hope, will cherish the spark of divine love now kindled in their hearts, till it grows into a flame.’ (ibid p.241)

A couple of days later he was able to say, ‘I was much refreshed with the sight of my honoured friend, Mr. John Wesley, whom God’s providence has sent to Bristol.’ (p.242)

On the morning of April 2nd Whitefield spent time with friends and followers who crowded to his lodgings to say goodbye. ‘Floods of tears flowed plentifully, and my heart was so melted, that I prayed for them with strong cryings – and many tears…Crowds were waiting at the door to give me a last farewell, and near twenty friends accompanied me on horseback.’ (p.242)

Many good works accomplished

Summarising his few weeks there he notes that thousands of books had been distributed, great numbers had been converted, about £200 (a huge sum then) had been collected as a donation to build an Orphan House in America on his return there.

Finally he went back to Kingswood to lay the stone for a school for the children of the coal workers there.

Heroic humility to advance the work

Whitefield’s willingness to leave was not irresponsible. He trusted Wesley completely.

He wrote with characteristic humility, ‘My heart is so knit to Bristol people, that I could not with so much submission leave them, did I not know dear Mr. John Wesley was left behind to teach them the way of God more perfectly. Prosper, O Lord, the works of his hands upon him.’ (p.242)

This statement is not a concession to Wesley’s later Arminian emphases, nor was it somehow an expression of submission to Welsey’s ministerial oversight; after all, as Ministers, they were equals. This was pure, beautiful humility between brothers.

Although this, and other self-effacing statements of Whitefield’s have been misunderstood by those who prefer Wesley’s Arminianism rather than Whitefield’s Calvinism, the fact is Whitefield was simply being a godly, humble man.

Remember, nothing quite like this had been seen in England before. If Whitefield had not been humble he certainly could not have entrusted such an incredibly fruitful work to another leader.

Next time we’ll see what happened as Wesley stepped onto the evangelistic battlefield!

You can purchase Whitefield Resources here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

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