George Whitefield Biography & Facts
George Whitefield (; 27 December [O.S. 16 December] 1714 – 30 September 1770), also known as George Whitfield, was an Anglican cleric and evangelist who was one of the founders of Methodism and the evangelical movement.Born in Gloucester, he matriculated at Pembroke College at the University of Oxford in 1732. There he joined the "Holy Club" and was introduced to the Wesley brothers, John and Charles, with whom he would work closely in his later ministry. Whitefield was ordained after receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree. He immediately began preaching, but he did not settle as the minister of any parish. Rather he became an itinerant preacher and evangelist. In 1740, Whitefield traveled to North America, where he preached a series of revivals that became part of the "Great Awakening". His methods were controversial and he engaged in numerous debates and disputes with other clergymen.
Whitefield received widespread recognition during his ministry; he preached at least 18,000 times to perhaps 10 million listeners in Great Britain and her American colonies. Whitefield could enthrall large audiences through a potent combination of drama, religious rhetoric, and patriotism.
Whitefield was born on 27 December [O.S. 16 December] 1714 at the Bell Inn, Southgate Street, Gloucester in England. Whitefield was the fifth son (seventh and last child) of Thomas Whitefield and Elizabeth Edwards, who kept an inn at Gloucester.At an early age, he found that he had a passion and talent for acting in the theatre, a passion that he would carry on with the very theatrical re-enactments of Bible stories he told during his sermons. He was educated at The Crypt School, Gloucester, and Pembroke College, Oxford.
His father died when he was only two years old and he helped his mother with the inn.
Because business at the inn had diminished, Whitefield did not have the means to pay for his tuition. He therefore came up to the University of Oxford as a servitor, the lowest rank of undergraduates. Granted free tuition, he acted as a servant to Fellows and Fellow-commoners; duties including teaching them in the morning, helping them bathe, cleaning their rooms, carrying their books, and assisting them with work. He was a part of the "Holy Club" at the University with the Wesley brothers, John and Charles. An illness, as well as Henry Scougal's The Life of God in the Soul of Man, influenced him to turn to the Church. Following a religious conversion, he became passionate for preaching his new-found faith. The Bishop of Gloucester ordained him a deacon of the Church of England in 1736.
Whitefield preached his first sermon at St Mary de Crypt Church in his home town of Gloucester, a week after his ordination as Deacon. He had earlier become the leader of the Holy Club at Oxford when the Wesley brothers departed for Georgia.
In 1738 he went to Savannah, Georgia, in the American colonies, as parish priest of Christ Church. While there he decided that one of the great needs of the area was an orphan house. He decided this would be his life's work. He returned to England to raise funds, as well as to receive priest's orders. While preparing for his return, he preached to large congregations. At the suggestion of friends he preached to the miners of Kingswood, outside Bristol, in the open air. Because he was returning to Georgia he invited John Wesley to take over his Bristol congregations, and to preach in the open air for the first time at Kingswood and then at Blackheath, London.Whitefield, like many other 18th century Anglican Evangelicals such as Augustus Toplady, John Newton, and William Romaine, accepted a plain reading of Article 17, the Church of England's doctrine of predestination, and disagreed with the Wesley brothers' Arminian views on the doctrine of the atonement. However, Whitefield finally did what his friends hoped he would not do—hand over the entire ministry to John Wesley. Whitefield formed and was the president of the first Methodist conference, but he soon relinquished the position to concentrate on evangelical work.Three churches were established in England in his name—one in Penn Street, Bristol, and two in London, in Moorfields and in Tottenham Court Road—all three of which became known by the name of "Whitefield's Tabernacle". The society meeting at the second Kingswood School at Kingswood, a town on the eastern edge of Bristol, was eventually also named Whitefield's Tabernacle.
Whitefield acted as chaplain to Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, and some of his followers joined the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, whose chapels were built by Selina, where a form of Calvinistic Methodism similar to Whitefield's was taught. Many of Selina's chapels were built in the English and Welsh counties, and one, Spa Fields Chapel, was erected in London.In 1739, Whitefield returned to England to raise funds to establish the Bethesda Orphanage, now the Bethesda Academy. It is the oldest extant charity in North America.
Whitefield's endeavour to build an orphanage in Georgia was central to his preaching. The Bethesda Orphanage and his preaching comprised the "two-fold task" that occupied the rest of his life. On 25 March 1740, construction began. Whitefield wanted the orphanage to be a place of strong Gospel influence, with a wholesome atmosphere and strong discipline.Having raised the money by his preaching, Whitefield "insisted on sole control of the orphanage". He refused to give the Trustees a financial accounting. The Trustees also objected to Whitefield's using "a wrong Method" to control the children, who "are often kept praying and crying all the Night".On returning to North America in 1740, he preached a series of revivals that came to be known as the First Great Awakening. In 1740 he engaged Moravian Brethren from Georgia to build an orphanage for negro children on land he had bought in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. Following a theological disagreement, he dismissed them and was unable to complete the building, which the Moravians subsequently bought and completed. This now is the Whitefield House in the center of the Moravian settlement of Nazareth, Pennsylvania. The Whitefield House is owned by the Moravian Historical Society, and operates as the Society's museum and administrative offices.He preached nearly every day for months to large crowds of sometimes several thousand people as he travelled throughout the colonies, especially New England. His journey on horseback from New York City to Charleston, South Carolina, was at that time the longest in North America by a white man.Like his contemporary and acquaintance, Jonathan Edwards, Whitefield preached staunchly Calvinist theology that was in line with the "moderate Calvinism" of the Thirty-nine Articles. While explicitly affirming God's sole agency in salvation, Whitefield freely offered the Gospel, saying at the end of his sermons: "Come poor, lost, undone sinne.... Discover the George Whitefield popular books. Find the top 100 most popular George Whitefield books.