George Whitefield

(1714-1770)
Mouthpiece of Methodism

"What does the boy mean? Prithee hold thy tongue!" This is how George Whitefield's mother, an innkeeper in Gloucester, greeted his announcement that while running an errand for her, a "very strong impression" was made upon his heart that he should preach. Whitefield pursued his calling anyway, eventually gaining even his mother's full support.

Whitefield began developing his preaching skills early. In school he developed a strong interest in plays and acted in several. Although he decried the theater in his later years, his journals demonstrated that his theater experience helped develop his vast oratorical gifts, which would later allow him to preach with ease to crowds of up to 10,000 during the Great Awakening.

Through an influential friend, Whitefield's mother was able to secure her son a work-study arrangement at Oxford. But before he left Gloucester, a friend named Gabriel Harris, the keeper of the city's best bookshop, showed him a new book, the second edition of William Law's A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life.

He looked at the book only briefly that day, but he read these words before returning it to his friend: "He therefore is the devout man who lives no longer to his own will, or the way and spirit of the world, but to the sole will of God." These words sparked a new fire and zeal in Whitefield.

At Oxford, Charles Wesley introduced Whitefield to the Holy Club and to his brother John. Upon meeting Whitefield, Charles noted that he was a "modest, pensive youth who mused alone." However, Charles quickly established a fondness for the young man and later remarked of that first encounter, "I saw, I loved, and clasped him to my heart."

After the Wesleys sailed to ...

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