Speaking without notes
In 1739, George Whitefield was himself new to open air preaching, and had probably not imagined speaking to such multitudes as he now regularly addressed.
Speaking of those early days of revival power he wrote,
‘As the scene was new and I had just begun to be an extempore preacher [ie, preaching without notes], it often occasioned many inward conflicts.
‘Sometimes when twenty thousand people were before me, I had not, in my own apprehension, a word to say either to God or them.
‘But I never was totally deserted, and frequently so assisted, that I knew by happy experience what our Lord meant by saying, ‘Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water’.’
And now, here is one of my all time favourite quotes of any preacher and certainly of Whitefield himself. This statement is full of feeling, beautifully worded and straight from the experience of seeing the impact of the cross of Christ. What a description of gospel preaching! He writes,
Thousands and thousands drenched in tears
‘The open firmament above me, the prospect of the adjacent fields, with the sight of thousands and thousands, some in coaches, some on horseback, and some in the trees, and at times all affected and drenched in tears together, to which sometimes was added the solemnity of the approaching evening, was almost too much for, and quite overcame me.’
It is surely a delight to know that such sights are not confined to the past but are happening today.
Such multitudes, and even larger, are being regularly seen in Africa, India, South America and many other parts of the world. But let’s not only rejoice in what God has done in the past or in what God is doing in other places – let’s cry out to God for our cities, towns and rural regions, that He would ‘rend the heavens and come down’ (Isaiah 64:1), revealing the truth of the cross of Christ in our world.
(All quotes from Gillies Memoirs of George Whitefield, p.38, quoted by in A Dallimore, George Whitefield, Vol 1, Banner of Truth, p.268)
For more on the amazing life of George Whitefield click here
© 2009 Lex Loizides