George Whitefield on the Word and the Spirit

George Whitefield preaching in 1749

During the whole period of the first Great Awakening in America and Europe the power of the Holy Spirit was an obvious feature.

A season of mighty power
The power of God was evidently touching those non-Christians who were attending the massive meetings. The power of God was also touching those who were repenting. And faithful believers were coming into a new experience of God’s love and guidance as a result of being filled with the Spirit.

Inevitably, and especially where those being influenced were new converts, this occasionally led to a lack of common sense and the usual application of wisdom.

George Whitefield, the great Evangelist of the movement was eager to provide counsel that would help those newly baptised into what appear to be essentially charismatic experiences.

Wise counsel from a man full of the Spirit
In a sermon based on Genesis 5:24 (‘And Enoch walked with God’) Whitefield, in seeking to explain how the child of God receives guidance, wrote the following:

‘In order to walk closely with God, his children must not only watch the motions of God’s providence without them, but the motions also of his blessed Spirit in their hearts.

‘As many as are the sons of God, are led by the Spirit of God’ (Romans 8:14), and give up themselves to be guided by the Holy Ghost, as a little child gives its hand to be led by a nurse or parent.

‘It is no doubt in this sense that we are to be converted, and become like little children. And though it is the quintessence of enthusiasm, to pretend to be guided by the Spirit without the written word; yet it is every Christian’s bounden duty to be guided by the Spirit in conjunction with the written word of God.

Led by the Spirit and guided by the Word
‘Watch, therefore, I pray you, O believers, the motions of God’s blessed Spirit in your souls, and always try the suggestions or impressions that you may at any time feel, by the unerring rule of God’s most holy word: and if they are not found to be agreeable to that, reject them as diabolical and delusive.

By observing this caution, you will steer a middle course between the two dangerous extremes many of this generation are in danger of running into; I mean, enthusiasm on the one hand, and…downright infidelity on the other.’
(George Whitefield, Walking with God, quoted by Iain Murray in Jonathan Edwards, Banner of Truth, p.248. The whole sermon is available here)

© 2009 Lex Loizides

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