24 Jun The New Birth, George Whitefield
“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel: not with the wisdom of words, lest the cross should be made of none effect.” 1 Corinthians 1:17 KJV
After returning to England from Savannah, Georgia, where he was helping with the orphanage set up for children of the colonists, George Whitefield was met with disdain from the Anglican clergy for preaching regeneration or the “New Birth” as a thing that many baptized persons greatly needed.
Many began to denounce him openly, and deny him pulpits. J. C. Ryle commented, “The plain truth is that the Church of England of that day was not ready for a man like Whitefield…too much asleep to understand him, and vexed at a man who would not keep still and leave the devil alone.”
The door to the Church of England ministry began to close, and Whitefield, seeing thousands out of church resolved in a “spirit of holy aggression” to go out into the highways and byways and compel them to come in.” His first attempt was among the Kingswood colliers near Bristol in February 1739. He began on a hill, to speak to about one or two hundred of these coal miners on Matthew 5:1-3. He said of them:
Having no righteousness of their own to renounce they were glad to hear of Jesus who was a friend to publicans and came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. The first discovery of their being affected was the sight of the white gutters made by their tears which fell plentifully sown their black cheeks as they came out of the coal-pits…
Sometimes when twenty thousand people were before me, I had not in my own apprehension a word to say either to God or them. But I was never totally deserted…The open heavens above me, the prospect of the adjacent fields with the sight of thousands: some in coaches, some on horseback, and some in the tress; and at all times affected and in tears was almost too much for me, and quite overcame me.
The word spread and his audiences grew from two thousand; and eventually up to thirty thousand listeners would gather at a time to hear him preach the gospel. From 1739 until his death in 1770, Whitefield’s ministry was of immense effect, his life was one uniform outreach; his vision of one thing—preach Christ, and entreat men to repent and be saved.
Resource: The Revival Study Bible