George Whitefield: The Necessary Interdependence Of Preaching Style And Sermon Content To Effect Revival -- By: Marion D. Aldridge

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 23:1 (Mar 1980)
Article: George Whitefield: The Necessary Interdependence Of Preaching Style And Sermon Content To Effect Revival
Author: Marion D. Aldridge


George Whitefield: The Necessary Interdependence Of
Preaching Style And Sermon Content To Effect Revival

Marion D. Aldridge*

I. Biographical Sketch

George Whitefield was born on December 14, 1717, in the Bell Inn in Gloucester, England. The youngest of seven children, he was only two when his father died. One source comments, “He came of good stock; but his parents had met with the sorry fruits of bad fortune.” Eight years later, Whitefield’s mother married a second time. Hard times forced young Whitefield to leave school for a short period to serve as a “commondrawer” at the bar of the Bell Inn and to assist in duties there. During his years at the Free Grammar School of Gloucester he had “won a name for himself through his prowess in elocution and recitation.” Whitefield therefore, as a youth of some ability, was not to be kept from his education. In 1733 he entered Pembroke College, Oxford, as a servitor and graduated in 1736. At about the age of seventeen “he paid a visit to an elder brother in Bristol, when he heard the sermon which first awoke his soul to serious thought for God.”1

During his years at Oxford, Whitefield met Charles and John Wesley and was exposed to their seriousness of commitment. He was particularly moved by a small book loaned to him by Charles Wesley entitled The Life of God in the Soul of Man, written by Henry Scougal. While reading it he realized that union with God “meant that he must be a new creature.”2 But it was not until he read a book by Joseph Hall entitled Contemplations on the New Testament that he experienced in his own life that keynote message of his later preaching—that is, that man is justified before God not by works but by faith.3 These days were the beginnings of a lifetime relationship between the Wesleys and Whitefield. One writer says:

The history of the relationship between John Wesley and George Whitefield is a long and complicated one. For more than 35 years the two men knew and worked with each other in the general service of spreading the Christian gospel.

She goes on to add that their relationship “was always loving, even in the face of a doctrinal conflict which caused estrangement lasting a year and a half.”4 Belden

*Marion Aidridge is pastor of First Baptist Church in Batesburg, South Carolina.

compares the two in their later service: “We may describe Whitefield as the pioneer evangelist of the great revival and Wesley as the ...

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