Whitefield in London
When the Evangelist George Whitefield returned to London after his triumphant open air meetings in Bristol in 1739, he was not warmly received.
He returned to St. Mary’s Church, Islington, but was not allowed to preach there even though he had been invited to. So he immediately went out and preached in the churchyard.
‘God was pleased so to assist me in preaching’ he wrote later, ‘and so wonderfully to affect the hearers, that I believe we could have gone singing hymns to prison.
‘Let not the adversaries say I have thrust myself out. No! They have thrust me out.
‘And since the self-righteous men of this generation count themselves unworthy, I go out to the highways and hedges, and compel harlots, publicans and sinners to come in, that my Master’s house may be filled. They who are sincere will follow after me to hear the word of God.’ (GW Journals, Banner of Truth edition, p.259)
19th Century Biographer, John Gillies describes Whitefield’s courage in the face of possible violence. This encounter was merely menacing. The crowd were still restrained, but, as we will see later, this restraint soon gave way to actual violence.
‘Public notice having been given, upon coming out of the coach he found an incredible number of people assembled. Many had told him that he [would] never come again out of that place alive.
‘He went in, however, between two of his friends, who by the pressure of the crowd were soon parted entirely from him and were obliged to leave him to the mercy of the rabble.
‘But these, instead of hurting him, formed a lane for him, and carried him along to the middle of the fields (where a table had been placed [but] which was broken into pieces by the crowd).
‘[then he was taken] back again to the wall that parted the upper and lower Moorfields, from whence he preached without molestation to an exceedingly great multitude.’ (John Gillies, Memoir of the Rev. George Whitefield, 1839, p.42)
Whitefield, in his journal, merely writes, ‘Preached in the morning at Moorfields, to an exceeding great multitude. At ten, went to Christ Church and heard Dr. Trapp preach most virulently against me and my friends’ (GW Journal p.260)
The growing resistance to the success of the gospel was now not only being voiced by churchmen but was being stirred by the far less predictable mob.
© 2009 Lex Loizides