"How few have we known of so kind a temper, of such large and flowing affections. Was it not principally by this that the hearts of others were drawn and knit to him? Can anything but love beget love? This shone in his very countenance and continually breathed in his words whether in public or in private."
On Whitefield's death - and at his request - John Wesley preached his memorial sermon, paying a warm tribute to him as a man and Christian:
"Do you think we shall see Mr Whitefield in heaven?" asked a follower of John Wesley.
"No, sir," replied Wesley, "I fear not. Mr Whitefield will be so near the Throne and we at such a distance we shall hardly get a sight of him."
George Whitefield, as one of the founders of Methodism, is among the most significant characters associated with Gloucester, and yet one of the least known. No "velvet-mouthed preacher", he swept through England with the energy and power of a "trumpet blast", becoming the most celebrated preacher of his day. He preached over 18,000 times to over 10 million people across two continents. Thousands flocked to hear him, melted into tears and lived new lives as a result of his words. Yet had John Wesley not organised and formalised their practices and beliefs, then Methodism would have died with Whitefield. He himself confessed that his followers were "like a rope of sand".
Sometimes lives interact to create something extraordinary. Such was the case with George Whitefield and John Wesley. Their stories are woven together and though their doctrinal differences took them in very different directions, one could also say that a stream divided waters more ground. While the Wesleys established Methodism in Britain, Whitefield found fertile ground for his message up and down the east coast of America, becoming instrumental in a revival of faith known as The Great Awakening. Without Whitefield lighting the flame with his impassioned preaching, and opening the door to America, would the Wesleys have reached and changed the lives of as many as they did? And without Wesley’s inspiration would Whitefield ever have made the journey to America, hazardous and uncertain as it was?
On Friday 19th January 1750 George Whitefield and John Wesley together administered the Sacrament to 1200 people in Wesley's Chapel in London. Wesley read the prayers and Whitefield preached; the following Sunday they swapped roles. It was a happy resolution of many years of misunderstandings and distress. Though doctrinal differences remained and Wesley could not accept the doctrine of 'free grace' that was so fundamental to Whitefield's faith, there was mutual respect for the way in which each followed the calling sent to him.
Whitefield first met John and Charles Wesley at Oxford when he joined their "Holy Club".
The guidance offered by the Wesleys and their kindness laid the foundation of a mutual affection and respect that survived despite the stormy waters through which their relationship later moved.
It was Whitefield who persuaded the Wesleys to engage in the 'mad notion' of outdoor preaching. He firmly believed that field preaching was necessary to bring Jesus to those who would never step inside a church.In fact he came to believe that it was even preferable:
"The Lord I am persuaded would have his gospel preached in the fields, and building a church would,
I fear, imperceptibly lead the people into bigotry and make them place the church again, as they have done for a long time, in the church walls."