George Whitefield, 1717-1770, London.
The Essential George Whitefield
Graduated Oxford (London) in 1737.
Staunch Calivinist, fervent evangelist.
Considered to be one of the greatest evangelists of all time.
He preached to 20,000 people at a time, when the population of London was just 700,000. Amazing for his day.
Sparked the Great Awakening, which actually took place in America under Jonathan Edwards.
George Whitefield founded Methodism. Spurgeon (a hundred years later) called him his role model.
The tone of Whitefield's sermons focussed on seperating what he called nominal christians from true christians, and a call to repentance for the nominal ones. He focussed less on hell than did his peer Jonathan Edwards, but the message was essentially the same, only those true to Christ in their lives and character - the manifest proof of a true conversion - will go to heaven.
Whitefield also coined a phrase in reference to the nominal Christian, he called it the "Almost Christian". He repeated this phrase many times throughout his sermons. Calling them tares, he unambiguously repeated his call to repentance by saying no nominal or almost Christian would ever see heaven.
How different from today, where all are accepted who profess the name of Jesus regardless of anything else in their lives or character. Then as now, Whitefield said the almost Christians have a tendency to persecute the true Christians as foolish, over zealous, and over righteous.
The things he calls sins are interesting, they include adultery and fornication, but he also mentiones cards and dice, a reference to gambling. He warns one cannot serve God and mammon in reference to gambling.
He also repeatedly warned about spending life in idleness and pleasure-seeking. Only a life of self-denial he said was evidence of a true conversion. He gave examples of rising in prayer in the morning, and Bible study in the evening, over other more worldy persuits. He condemned idleness repeatedly.
As Jonathan Edwards focusses on graciousness as the primary evidence of conversion, Whitefield focusses on self-denial, stressing industry over idleness, prayer and bible study over empty pleasure-seeking.
In his sermon on how to celebrate Christmas correctly, he agreed that the good things of this life can be enjoyed by Christians, but they cannot be taken to excess. He was referring to eating and drinking. Even those he said could be taken to excess, and a Christian festival he said was no excuse to do so, and was the sign of a false believer.
He stresses that we shall give an account of our lives. The unrepentant who continue to commit the sins of adultery, fornication, or theft, regardless of professing Christ, he says, shall not see heaven as the Bible is quite clear on this.
He rightly called Rome the whore of Babylon and the mother of harlots, and enumerated some of her many heresies in his sermon "Britain's mercies, and Britain's duty" (preached nominally about the subject of Britain suppressing the rebellion of Scottland in 1746).
Whitefield is a very satisfying preacher to listen to. He is totally uncompromising of God's righteous judgement, yet the grace and mercy of God shines through his teachings. I find him particularly balanced in this way. He also speaks clearly and understably to all.
Whitefield was the teacher and mentor of John Wesley, Whitefield went to America for a year to take part in the Great Awakening there, and essentially left Wesley in charge of his Methodist church. When he returned John Wesley was essentially preaching Arminianism. This was distressing to Whitefield and the disagreement was never resolved as neither man ever changed their viewpoint until their deaths. And Wesley prevailed over the Methodist church, as it has been Arminian in its theology from then till now.