George Whitefield (1714–1770)

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George Whitefield (1714–1770)

Calvinistic Methodist; born in Gloucester, England, Dec. 27, 1714; died in Newburyport, Massachusetts, Sept. 30, 1770. He was the son of an innkeeper. At the age of twelve he was placed in the school of St. Mary de Crypt at Gloucester, and in 1732, after a year's intermission of his studies so that he might be drawer of liquor in the inn (kept by his mother since his father's death in 1716), he entered Pembroke College, Oxford. The religious impressions which he had felt on different occasions had been deepened while he was at school the second time, and at Oxford he fell in with the Wesleys, joined the "Holy Club," and observed its rules rigorously, being the first of the Oxford "Methodists" to profess conversion (1735). His health being impaired, he left Oxford for a year, returning in March, 1736.

On June 20, 1736, Bishop Benson ordained him. Whitefield preached his first sermon the following Sunday. It was at the ancient Church of Saint Mary de Crypt, the church where he had grown up as a boy and was consequently well known.

He described this occasion later:

“...Some few mocked, but most for the present, seemed struck, and I have since heard that a complaint was made to the bishop, that I drove fifteen people mad, the first sermon.”

He took his B.A. in the same year. He spent much time among the prisoners in Oxford, preached in London and elsewhere and speedily rose to great prominence as a pulpit orator. He continued in active service until the end, preaching for two hours at Exeter, Mass., the day before his death, while it was his regular custom to preach every day in the week, often two and four times daily.

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