- Whitefield, George
- (1714-1770)popular evangelist in Britain and AmericaGeorge Whitefield was born in Gloucester, England, on December 16, 1714. Feeling a call to preach, at the age of 17 he finished his grammar school education and in 1732 entered Pembroke College, Oxford. There, in 1733, he met John and Charles WESLEY, and underwent a conversion in 1735. He finished his decree after serving for a period as an ordained deacon in the Church of England.In 1738, at the urging of John Wesley, then in Georgia, Whitefield made the first of many trips to the American colonies, where he founded a school for girls in Savannah. Back in London, he was ordained an Anglican priest in 1739. When he preached, overflow crowds attended. Finding many doors closed because of his identification with the Wesleys, he began to preach in the open air.In 1839, before leaving for America again, he introduced John Wesley to field preaching outside of Bristol, which led to a major expansion of the Methodist movement. Meanwhile, Whitefield landed in Philadelphia, and after a stop in New York, he worked his way south. In Charleston, South Carolina, he founded an orphanage with money he had raised in England. He completed his trip with a stop in New England, where he preached to thousands in Boston and, on four occasions, at Jonathan Edwards's church in Northampton, Massachusetts (October 17-20). His stay started a wave of revival that lasted more than a year.Back in England in 1741, he found that while he had been drifting toward Calvinism, Wesley had become an exponent of Arminianism. The two men separated amicably. Whitefield made his headquarters at a London edifice named the Moorfields Tabernacle and emerged as the leader of the Calvinist wing of the Evangelical Awakening. He continued to travel through Great Britain for the next few years and in 1743 became moderator for the Calvinist Methodists in Wales, a position he retained for many years.Whitefield's third trip to America, starting in 1744, lasted four years. What became known as the Great Awakening had spread from New England to the middle and southern colonies. Crowds attended Whitefield's sermons everywhere he went; he became one of the first persons widely known in all the very different British colonies. He returned several times during his life and is credited with helping to bring a sense of unity to the future United states.Back in England in 1752, Whitefield was appointed a chaplain to the Countess of Huntingdon Connexion, a Calvinist Methodist fellowship. in 1756, he opened the Whitefield Congregational Chapel on Tottenham Court Road in central London. When in London, he would preach there as well at the Moorsfield Tabernacle.He preached his last sermon at Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1770, and died the following day. His death was widely mourned on both sides of the Atlantic.One of the great orators of his century, Whitefield is known to have preached on literally thousands of occasions, using a fairly small repertoire of sermons. The several groups to which he was attached survive today as component parts of the United Reformed Church in the United Kingdom.See also revivalism.Further reading:■ Arnold A. Dallimore, George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the Eighteenth Century, 2 vols (Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 1989)■ John Gillies, ed., Memoirs of Rev. George Whitefield: An Extensive Collection of His Sermons and Other Writings (Middletown, Conn.: Hunt & Noyes, 1838)■ J. B. Wakely, The Prince of Pulpit Orators: a Portraiture of Rev. George Whitefield, M. A. (New York: Nelson & Phillips, 1871)■ George Whitefield, George Whitefield's Journals [1714-1745] (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1960).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.