George Whitefield, Divine Matchmaker

The revivalist preached, ‘Come and be married to Christ’—and sparked the Great Awakening. /

Editor’s note: What do you get when a charismatic thespian bumps into the Wesley brothers in college? “The marvel of the age,” according to the papers. And the Great Awakening, according to history. George Whitefield was among the most influential Christians of the 18th century, who sparked an evangelical revival as he traveled to preach to perhaps 10 million hearers.In George Whitefield: America’s Founding Father, Thomas S. Kidd tells the story of a Whitefield’s visit to a Scottish town between trips to America.

Whitefield returned to Cambuslang to help with an outdoor sacramental occasion. Over a long weekend, throngs gathered in a natural amphitheater setting on a hillside the Scots called a brae, near pastor William McCulloch’s church. (McCulloch had laid the groundwork for the revival meetings and played a long-term pastoral role there, but was what Scots called an “ale-minister,” meaning that when he got up to preach, some in the audience headed for the pub.) Congregants built two wood-framed preaching tents and set up communion tables in the fields. Whitefield attempted to help serve the communicants (an estimated 1,700 out of 20,000 attendees), but as he moved down the line, people got out of their seats and pressed around him, thanking him for coming and sharing prayer requests. Rather than become a distraction, he left the tables and allowed the other ministers to finish.

Once everyone had been served, the whole assembly gathered before a tent, where Whitefield preached on Isaiah 54:5, “Thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name.” Ralph Erskine published a frequently reprinted 1708 poem on this verse, which was also a favorite of the ...

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Also in this Issue

Issue 16 / February 19, 2015
  1. Editors’ Note
  2. Are Butterflies a New Creation After All?

    Their metamorphosis has inspired spiritual metaphors and biological debate for centuries. /

  3. Thy Maker is thy Husband

    The 18th-century poem on union with Christ that became George Whitefield’s favorite metaphor. /

  4. If C.S. Lewis Met E.T.

    Scientists and theologians on the possibility of extraterrestrial life. /

  5. Wonder on the Web

    Links to amazing stuff /

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