Four Thousand Gather in an American Field
The same power, which attended George Whitefield’s evangelistic meetings in Britain, was also very evident in America.
Let’s take a closer look at the kind of excitement generated when it was announced that he would be preaching. There is little doubt that the description of the gathering we are about to enjoy is not exceptional but was rather typical of Great Awakening meetings certainly until 1745 in America.
On October 23 1740, during his second American visit, he preached at Middletown, Connecticut. Whitefield states in his Journal with unpretentious familiarity, ‘Preached to about four thousand people at eleven o’clock.’
Obviously, he felt there was nothing particularly unusual about the meeting. History has, however, preserved a spectator’s account of the same meeting, which makes fascinating reading.
Nathan Cole, one of the 4000 present, describes the scene when the news that Whitefield would preach was announced:
‘Now it pleased God to send Mr. Whitefield into this land and I longed to see and hear him.
‘Then one morning, all on a sudden, there came a messenger who said, ‘Mr. Whitefield is to preach at Middletown this morning at 10 O’clock.
‘I was in my field at work. I dropped my tool that I had in my hand and ran home and through the house and bade my wife to get ready quick to go and hear Mr. Whitefield preach.
‘I ran to my pasture for my horse with all my might, fearing that I should be too late to hear him and took up my wife and went forward as fast as I thought the horse could bear,
‘and when my horse began to be out of breath I would get down and put my wife on the saddle and bid her ride as fast as she could and not stop or slack for me except I told her.
‘And so I would run until I was almost out of breath and then mount my horse again.
‘We improved every moment to get along as though we were fleeing for our lives, fearing we should be too late to hear the sermon, for we had twelve miles to ride in little more than an hour.’
(Sources: Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield Vol.1, Banner of Truth, p541 and John Pollock, George Whitefield, Hodder, p164f)
To be continued…
Read Part Two here
© 2009 Lex Loizides