"From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seem'd as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk thro' the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street."
Benjamin Franklin on Whitefield's impact in America
Whitefield and the Colonies
Whitefield loved America. He made thirteen Atlantic crossings, journeyed the east coast tirelessly from New York to Charleston, preached over 18,000 sermons in his lifetime to gatherings of thousands. He was a remarkable man by any standards. Together with Jonathan Edwards and later Francis Asbury he was instrumental in the religious revival of the 18th century known as The Great Awakening.
One of the first true 'celebrities' of colonial America, Whitefield
used the media of the day to good effect, announcing his
sermons in newspapers and sending messengers ahead to
spread word of his coming. He made enemies galore,
particularly in the Church, where his 'enthusiasm' was
condemned. In an age when most sermons were strong on
intellectual argument but left emotions unmoved, Whitefield's delivery was passionate and irresistible. People flocked in their
thousands to hear him; they melted into tears, sobbing, screaming and fainting in response to his words. He may have
been a showman, but he spoke from the heart.
"A prejudiced person, I know, might say that this is all theatrical artifice and display; but not so will anyone think who has seen and known him. He is a very devout and godly man, and his only aim seems to be to reach and influence men the best way. He speaks from the heart all aglow with love, and pours out a torrent of eloquence which is almost irresistible.”
Sarah Edwards, wife of Jonathan Edwards
Whitefield's mission was to bring Jesus to everybody, regardless of colour or social status. By preaching outdoors in the fields and towns, on hilltops and commons, he was able to reach those who might never enter a church. He lived his faith through deeds as well as words, founding the Bethesda Orphanage, the oldest extant charity in North America, and fundraising throughout his life to maintain it.
"In our days, to be a true Christian, is really to become a scandal."
To find out more about Whitefield’s travels in the Colonies see our