When George Whitefield attended Pembroke College, he fell in with John and Charles Wesley, and together they shook up the 18th century. Whitefield traveled to America, and in 1740 kicked off a revival thats effect was so widely felt that historians call it the “Great Awakening.”
Whitefield became known for his open-air preaching and evangelism style. He could spellbind the most unruly crowd. David Garrick, Britain's most acclaimed actor, once said, “I would give a hundred guineas if I could say 'Oh' like Mr. Whitefield." In Philadelphia, a town with a population of around 12,000 people, Whitefield audiences were known to number 8,000–12,000.
He is not well-known for being a great thinker or theologian. His fame was born from his singular drive and conviction to share the gospel as often as he could wherever he went. His life was one of constant travel. Consider this itinerary in a time when the journey from America to England took about two weeks:
- 1738: Travels from England to America and back
- 1739: He travels around America seven times preaching to crowds upward of 20,000 people. He sails to Scotland and tours the nation 15 times
- 1740: Establishes an orphanage in Georgia
- 1741: Travels from South Carolina to England
- 1744: Sails from England to New Hampshire
- 1748: Travels from America, to Bermuda, to England
- 1751: Travels from England to Georgia
- 1752: Sails back to England
- 1754: Travels back to South Carolina from England
- 1755: Sails back to England
- 1763: Sails from England to Virginia
- 1765:Travels back to England
- 1769: Sails from England to South Carolina
You don’t keep up that kind of crazy schedule unless you’re on a mission, and Whitefield was. This was a man who was known to say, “I would rather wear out than rust out.” He died in Newbury Port, Massachusetts in 1770.
Here are 10 quotes that sum up Whitefield’s views on evangelism and his constant sense of urgency to share the gospel.
1. "God forbid that I should travel with anybody a quarter of an hour without speaking of Christ to them."
2. "Whoever reads the gospel with a single eye, and sincere intentions, will find, that our blessed Lord took all opportunities of reminding his disciples that His Kingdom was not of this world; that His doctrine was a doctrine of the Cross; and that their professing themselves to be His followers, would call them to a constant state of voluntary suffering and self-denial."
3. “I believe I never was more acceptable to my Master than when I was standing to teach those hearers in the open fields. I now preach to ten times more people than I would if I had been confined to the churches."
4. "There is not a thing on the face of the earth that I abhor so much as idleness or idle people."
5. "A true faith in Jesus Christ will not suffer us to be idle. No, it is an active, lively, restless principle; it fills the heart, so that it cannot be easy 'til it is doing something for Jesus Christ."
6. "I am tired in the Lord's work, but not tired of it."
7. "And now let me address all of you, high and low, rich and poor, one with another, to accept of mercy and grace while it is offered to you; Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation; and will you not accept it, now it is offered unto you?"
8. "Other men may preach the gospel better than I, but no man can preach a better gospel."
9. "If your souls were not immortal, and you in danger of losing them, I would not thus speak unto you; but the love of your souls constrains me to speak: methinks this would constrain me to speak unto you forever."
10. "What! Get to heaven on your own strength? Why, you might as well try to climb to the moon on a rope of sand!"