In the late-eighteenth century George Whitefield's preaching in Britain and North America helped stoke the fires of the Great Awakening. Alongside John and Charles Wesley, his work led to the founding of the Methodist church. Even Benjamin Franklin was fascinated by Whitefield’s ministry and went to hear him preach.
This great expositor's booming voice preached to as many as tens of thousands of eager listeners at a time—often out in the fresh, open air rather than a more ecclesiastical setting. Known for his theatrical style of delivering sermons, he is arguably the most influential evangelist of the eighteenth century. In The Life and Works of George Whitefield (21 Vols.), hundreds of letters and journal entries illuminate Whitefield's character and his earnest desire to bring all he encountered to Christ. Five biographical works are included, each shedding a unique light on this traveling preacher who crossed the Atlantic ocean to America an astonishing number of times throughout his life. Whitefield's associations with the Wesley brothers, Charles and John, are also noted, particularly in an account of John Wesley and George Whitefield's dealings with the Church of Scotland, aptly titled John Wesley and George Whitefield in Scotland.
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George Whitefield was born in Gloucester, England in 1714. The son of a poor widow, he went on to study at Oxford, where he met Charles and John Wesley. The Wesley brothers were a part of what was referred to as the "Holy Club" on campus, which Whitefield joined and by which he was quite influenced, later becoming the president. His passion for theater and public speaking made him quite popular quickly as he became a traveling evangelist, and his projective voice allowed him to speak outdoors rather than in a church setting. He believed in preaching his sermons without notes in order to allow room for the Holy Spirit to guide his speaking, and was known for his theatrical delivery. In 1738, he came to America for the first of seven trips he would make across the ocean. During this first trip, he founded the orphanage Bethesda, just outside of Savannah, GA. Throughout his life, he toured all over New England, as well as England, Scotland, and Wales, preaching to crowds of up to tens of thousands at a time, greatly influencing the Great Awakening and the early Methodist Church. He died in 1770.