You can have good preaching even with a poor sermon; it is a real possibility. ... There is the sermon, a sermon which he has prepared; and then there is the 'act' of delivering this sermon. Another way of stating it is this. A man came -- I think it was actually in Philadelphia -- on one occasion to the great George Whitefield and asked if he might print his sermons. Whitefield gave this reply; he said, 'Well, I have no inherent objection, if you like, but you will never be able to put on the printed page the lightning and the thunder.' That is the distinction -- the sermon, and the 'lightning and the thunder'. To Whitefield this was of very great importance, and it should be of very great importance to all preachers... You can put the sermon into print, but not the lightning and the thunder. That comes into the act of preaching and cannot be conveyed by cold print. Indeed it almost baffles the descriptive powers of the best reporters.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, pf 58.
George Whitefield, on this day, September 30, 1770, woke at 2am with an the beginning of breathing problems that he suffered from for some time and thought was asthma. He decided to take 2-3 days off of preaching to recover. Then soon after decided it would be better to preach that day. "A good pulpit sweat today may give me relief. I shall be better after preaching."
Richard Smith, his assistant, responded, "I wish you would not preach so often, sir."
Whitefield: "I would rather wear out than rust out."
He sat up in bed, praying. When finished, he went back to sleep for an hour and then awoke at 4am barely able to breathe. That morning George Whitefield died, fighting for each breath, until he met his Savior face to face.
- Come to hear them, not out of curiosity, but from a sincere desire to know and do your duty
- Give diligent heed to the things that are spoken from the Word of God
- Do not entertain even the least prejudice against the minister
- Be careful not to depend too much on a preacher, or think more highly of him than you ought to think
- Make particular application to your own hearts of everything that is delivered
- Pray to the Lord, before, during, and after every sermon
Read more of Whitefield's thoughts on listening to a sermon.
The Secret of George Whitefield's Success, five points (via)...
1. Natural eloquence -- a gift from God - used by the power of God's Holy Spirit.
2. Fellowship with God -- Whitefield gives us a glimpse in his Journal of his walk with God. 'Early in the morning, at noonday, evening and midnight, nay, all day long, did the blessed Jesus visit and refresh my soul. At other times I would be overpowered with a sense of God's Infinite Majesty'.
3. Godliness -- 'Above all he was a great saint, and Wesley and others bore tribute to this during his life and his death. This was the ultimate secret of his preaching power' (Lloyd-Jones).
4. Concern for the lost and the conviction that sinners are in danger of an everlasting hell
5. Wholehearted commitment to God -- 'If ever a man burnt himself out in the service of God, it was Whitefield. He was tireless and relentless in his efforts to win souls. Throughout his life he enjoyed the presence of God in his preaching. Even on his last day in this world he preached, though he was very ill. He was a man whose sole desire was to preach Christ crucified' (Nigel Clifford, Christian Preachers, Bryntirion Press).
Lee Gatiss has edited George Whitefield's original 57 published sermons into two large volumes (976 pgs, Crossway). You can get the hardcover set for $40+ from WTS or $33+ from Amazon...OR $9.99 FOR KINDLE! That's a deal! From Crossway...
Gatiss includes careful and extensive footnotes detailing the historical and theological background to Whitefield’s preaching, which puts the man and his messages into context for a new generation of readers. The text has also been updated for the twenty-first century with modern grammar, spelling, and punctuation - revised in a manner that leaves Whitefield’s distinct voice intact and coherent for today’s reader.
From George Whitefield's A Collection of Hymns for Social Worship...
A Hymn to the Holy Ghost
(Extracted from the Ordination-Office.)
COME HOLY GHOST, our Souls inspire,
And lighten with Celestial Fire.
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
Who dost the sev’nfold Gifts impart.
Thy blessed Unction from above
Is Comfort, Life, and Fire of Love,
Enable with perpetual Light
The Dullness of our blinded Sight.
Anoint and cheer our soiled Face,
With the Abundance of thy Grace.
Keep far our Foes, give Peace at Home!
Where thou art Guide no Ill can come.
Teach us to know the FATHER, SON,
And thee, of both to be, but One;
That through the Ages all along
This, this may be our endless Song;
Praise GOD, from whom all Blessings flow,
Praise Him all Creatures here below;
Praise Him above ye heavenly host,
Praise FATHER, SON, and HOLY GHOST.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that George Whitefield was "the most neglected man in the whole of church history. The ignorance concerning him is appalling" (pg 105 here). He's one of the great dead guys that I am spending some time studying. This page exists to bring together various Whitefield Resources: journals, sermons, letters, biographies, websites, etc. My hope is to create a resource page of every known good Whitefield resource for my readers. Thank you for sharing it through social media, linking to it on your website or blog, etc. If you find resources I'm missing, please email them to me so I can add them.
- See all my posts on Whitefield
- A Sketch of the Life & Labors of George Whitefield | J.C. Ryle
- The Works of George Whitefield | 6 Volumes - FREE as PDF, Mobi, ePub, Txt, or Internet Page
- Quinta Press - All works available via CD-ROM for $125
- A Collection of Hymns for Social Worship (collected by Whitefield)
- Anecdotes of George Whitefield | by Wakeley
- The Works of George Whitefield - Vol 5 Sermons
- The Works of George Whitefield - Vol 6 Sermons
- The Works of George Whitefield: Additional Sermons
- Sermons of George Whitefield (59, with Indexes) | CCEL
- Sermons of George Whitefield (59) | CRTA
- Sermons of George Whitefield (59) | Anglican Library
- For a list of all published sermons of Whitefield, Quinta Press has both title and text listed
- How to Listen to a Sermon (from sermon 28 in works)
- The Sermons of George Whitefield | 2 Vols, ed. Lee Gattis, footnoted, modern grammar
- Select Sermons of George Whitefield: With An Account of His Life | Banner of Truth
NEVER REPRINTED: Sermons of George Whitefield (via Quinta Press)
- Genesis 3:15, Serpents beguiling Eve
- Matthew 9:12, Christ the Physician of the Soul
- Matthew 16:26, The polite & Fashionable Diversions of the Age, destructive to Soul & Body
- Matthew 22:42, The Danger of man resulting from sin
- Mark 11:13f, The Barren Fig-Tree
- Numbers 6:25f, Aaron’s Blessing the Children of Israel
- John 20, The Unbeliever Convicted
- John 3:3, Jesus Christ the only Way to Salvation
- Matthew 5:4, The Happy Mourner Comforted
- Luke 4:29, The Spirit, Doctrines & Lives of our Modern Clergy
- Romans 12:2, The great Danger of Conformity to the World
- Isaiah 54:5, The Best Match
- Jeremiah 8:20–22, The Balm of Gilead Displayed
- Song of Solomon 5:16, Christ our Friend & 2 Kings 4, A Lecture
- Psalm 105:45, A Farewell Sermon
- Luke 15:11, The Prodigal Son
- 1 Corinthians 1:15, The Believer's Golden Chain
- Ephesians 4:24, Putting on the New Man a certain mark of the real Christian
- Philippians 1:27–28, The Faith of the Gospel
- Matthew 3:7, Flying from the Wrath to Come
- Mark 8:36f, The Invaluable Worth of a Soul
- John 11:36, The Amazing Love of Christ
- Luke 19:9–10, Exhortation to come and see Jesus
- John 1:35–36, The True Nature of Beholding the Lamb of God & Matthew 26:75, Peter’s denial of his Lord
- John 14:16, The Promise of the Spirit (final leaf of original is missing)
- Romans 8:30, A Farewell Parochial Sermon (Stonehouse)
- Matthew 25:13, Watching, the peculiar duty of a Christian
- Romans 4:16 (is this in fact by Whitefield, or is it by an Erskine?)
- The Works of George Whitefield: Journals
- Complete Journals PDF (via, not proof-read)
- Third Journal PDF (via, proof-read)
- The Works of George Whitefield: Letters 1735-1742
- The Works of George Whitefield: Letters 1742-1753
- The Works of George Whitefield: Letters 1753-1770
- The Works of George Whitefield: Additional Letters
- Wesley's sermon "Free Grace"
- A Letter from George Whitefield to the Rev. John Wesley
- Iain Murray on Whitefield & Wesley
- George Whitefield in 2 Volumes | Arnold Dallimore, Banner of Truth
- George Whitefield | Arnold Dallimore, 1 Vol (also Crossway edition)
- The Life & Times of George Whitefield | Robert Philip
- The Divine Dramatist | Harry Stout (NOT recommended, per John Piper)
FREE ONLINE BIOGRAPHIES
- A Sketch of the Life & Labors of George Whitefield | J.C. Ryle
- George Whitefield & His Ministry | J.C. Ryle
- George Whitefield: Portrait of a Revival Preacher | Leonard Ravenhill
- The Life & Times of the Rev. George Whitefield | Robert Philip
- Memoirs of the Life of the Rev. George Whitefield | John Gilles
- George Whitefield, M.A., Field Preacher | James Peterson Gledstone
- The Life of George Whitefield | J.R. Andrews
- Sensational Evangelist of England & America | Christian History
VARIOUS MEDIA | on WHITEFIELD
- Martyn Lloyd-Jones documentary on George Whitefield | video
- "I Will Not Be A Velvet-Mouthed Preacher!" | John Piper audio, text
- "George Whitefield, A Spur to the Minister" | Iain Murray audio
- "Whitefield Contrasted with Spurgeon" | Iain Murray audio
- "Whitefield & Catholicity" | Iain Murray audio via 9Marks
- "The Greatest Evangelist" | Banner of Truth
- "George Whitefield - Revival Preacher" | Banner of Truth article
- "George Whitefield" | Michael Haykin audio
- "The Power of God in George Whitefield's Life" | Steve Lawson video
- "The Preaching of George Whitefield" | Steve Lawson video
- "On the Death of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield" | John Wesley
BOOKS | ON WHITEFIELD
- The Revived Puritan | Michael Haykin
- The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield & The Wesleys | Mark Noll
- George Whitefield Daily Readings | Ed. Randall Pederson
BOOKS | THE GREAT AWAKENING
- The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America | Thomas S. Kidd
- The Great Awakening: A Brief History with Documents | Thomas S. Kidd
- The Great Awakening: Documents on the Revival of Religion, 1740-1745 | Richard Bushman
- Contested Boundaries: Itinerancy & the Reshaping of Colonial American Religious World | Timothy D. Hall
PICTURES, PLACES, THINGS
Tons of photos, sketches, artwork, locations, etc., from Quinta Press...
John Piper on George Whitefield again, on the acting of preaching as "real acting" (bold is mine)...
If a woman has a role in a movie, say, the mother of child in a burning house, and as the cameras are focused on her, she is screaming to the firemen and pointing to the window in the second floor, we all say she is acting. But if a house is on fire in your neighborhood, and you see a mother screaming to the firemen and pointing to the window in the second floor, nobody says she’s acting. Why not? They look exactly the same.
It’s because there really is a child up there in the fire. This woman really is the child’s mother. There is real danger that the child could die. Everything is real. And that’s the way it was for Whitefield. The new birth had opened his eyes to what was real, and to the magnitude of what was real: God, creation, humanity, sin, Satan, divine justice and wrath, heaven, hell, incarnation, the perfections of Christ, his death, atonement, redemption, propitiation, resurrection, the Holy Spirit, saving grace, forgiveness, justification, reconciliation with God, peace, sanctification, love, the second coming of Christ, the new heavens and the new earth, everlasting joy. These were real. Overwhelmingly real to him. He had been born again. He had eyes to see.
When he warned of wrath, and pleaded for people to escape, and lifted up Christ, he wasn’t play-acting. He was calling down the kind of emotions and actions that correspond with such realities. That’s what preaching does. It seeks to exalt Christ, and describe sin, and offer salvation, and persuade sinners with emotions and words and actions that correspond to the weight of these realities.
If you see these realities with the eyes of your heart, and if you feel the weight of them, you will know that such preaching is not play-acting. The house is burning. There are people trapped on the second floor. We love them. And there is a way of escape.
Read or listen to the rest of Piper's powerful talk on Whitefield. A great example and explanation of what preaching should be like. I don't think we do this well, not nearly well enough. Maybe this kind of preaching would change the face of Christianity in America and the western world today. Maybe it's not just the *how* of preaching but the *where* that would enact this change.
What do you think?
From J.C. Ryle's "George Whitefield & His Ministry" as a brief bio in the front of Select Sermons of George Whitefield (also found here), we get a picture of his open-air preaching and the church culture that pushed him toward it (bold in the text is mine)...
Two months after this Whitefield began the practice of open-air preaching in London, on April 27, 1739. The circumstances under which this happened were curious. He had gone to Islington to preach for the vicar, his friend Mr. Stonehouse. In the midst of the prayer the churchwardens came to him and demanded his licence for preaching in the diocese of London. Whitefield, of course, had not got this licence any more than any clergyman not regularly officiating in the diocese has at this day. The upshot of the matter was, that being forbidden by the churchwardens to preach in the pulpit, he went outside after the communion-service, and preached in the churchyard. ‘And,’ says he, ‘God was pleased to assist me in preaching, and so wonderfully to affect the hearers, that I believe we could have gone singing hymns to prison. Let not the adversaries say, I have thrust myself out of their synagogues. No; they have thrust me out.’
From that day forward he became a constant field-preacher, whenever weather and the season of the year made it possible. Two days afterwards on Sunday, April 29th, he records: ‘I preached in Moorfields to an exceeding great multitude. Being weakened by my morning’s preaching, I refreshed myself in the afternoon by a little sleep, and at five went and preached at Kennington Common, about two miles from London, when no less that thirty thousand people were supposed to be present.’ Henceforth, wherever there were large open spaces round London, wherever there were large bands of idle, godless, Sabbath-breaking people gathered together, in Hackney Fields, Mary-le-bonne Fields, May Fair, Smithfield, Blackheath, Moorfields, and Kennington Common, there went Whitefield and lifted up his voice for Christ.
FOOTNOTE: The reader will remember that all this happened when London was comparatively a small place. Most of the open places where Whitefield preached are now covered with buildings. Kennington Oval and Blackheath alone remain open at this day.
The gospel so proclaimed was listened to and greedily received by hundreds who never dreamed of going to a place of worship. The cause of pure religion was advanced, and souls were plucked from the hand of Satan, like brands from the burning. But it was going much too fast for the Church of those days. The clergy, with a few honourable exceptions, refused entirely to countenance this strange preacher. In the true spirit of the dog in the manger, they neither liked to go after the semi-heathen masses of population themselves, nor liked any one else to do the work for them. The consequence was, that the ministrations of Whitefield in the pulpits of the Church of England from this time almost entirely ceased. He loved the Church in which he had been ordained; he gloried in her Articles; he used her Prayer-book with pleasure. But the Church did not love him, and so lost the use of his services. The plain truth is, that the Church of England of that day was not ready for a man like Whitefield. The Church was too much asleep to understand him, and was vexed at a man who would not keep still and let the devil alone.
John Piper on George Whitefield and his dramatic preaching...
But the question is: Why was Whitefield “acting”? Why was he so full of action and drama? Was he, as Stout claims, “plying a religious trade”? Pursuing “spiritual fame”? Craving “respect and power”? Driven by “egotism”? Putting on “performances” and “integrating religious discourse into the emerging language of consumption”?
I think the most penetrating answer comes from something Whitefield himself said about acting in a sermon in London. In fact, I think it’s a key to understand the power of his preaching—and all preaching. James Lockington was present at this sermon and recorded this verbatim. Whitefield is speaking.
“I’ll tell you a story. The Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 1675 was acquainted with Mr. Butterton the [actor]. One day the Archbishop . . . said to Butterton . . . ‘pray inform me Mr. Butterton, what is the reason you actors on stage can affect your congregations with speaking of things imaginary, as if they were real, while we in church speak of things real, which our congregations only receive as if they were imaginary?’ ‘Why my Lord,’ says Butterton, ‘the reason is very plain. We actors on stage speak of things imaginary, as if they were real and you in the pulpit speak of things real as if they were imaginary.’”
“Therefore,” added Whitefield, ‘I will bawl [shout loudly], I will not be a velvet-mouthed preacher.”
This means that there are three ways to speak. First, you can speak of an unreal, imaginary world as if it were real—that is what actors do in a play. Second, you can speak about a real world as if it were unreal—that is what half-hearted pastors do when they preach about glorious things in a way that says they are not as terrifying and wonderful as they are. And third is: You can speak about a real spiritual world as if it were wonderfully, terrifyingly, magnificently real (because it is).
It was as blessed day when Methodists and others began to proclaim Jesus in the open air; then were the gates of hell shaken, and the captives of the devil set free by hundreds and by thousands.
Once recommenced, the fruitful agency of field-preaching was not allowed to cease. Amid jeering crowds and showers of rotten eggs and filth, the immediate followers of the two great Methodists [Whitefield & Wesley] continued to storm village after village and town after town. Very varied were their adventures, but their success was generally great. One smiles often when reading incidents in their labours. A string of packhorses is so driven as to break up a congregation, and a fire-engine is brought out and played over the throng to achieve the same purpose. Hand-bells, old kettles, marrow-bones and cleavers, trumpets, drums, and entire bands of music were engaged to drown the preachers' voices. In one case the parish bull was let loose, and in others dogs were set to fight. The preachers needed to have faces set like flints, and so indeed they had. John Furz says: "As soon as I began to preach, a man came straight forward, and presented a gun at my face; swearing that he would blow my brains out, if I spake another word. However, I continued speaking, and he continued swearing, sometimes putting the muzzle of the gun to my mouth, sometimes against my ear. While we were singing the last hymn, he got behind me, fired the gun, and burn off part of my hair." After this, my brethren, we ought never to speak of petty interruptions and annoyances. The proximity of a blunderbuss in the hands of a son of Belial is not very conducive to collected through and clear utterance, but the experience of Furz was probably no worse than that of John Nelson, who coolly says, "But when I was in the middle of my discourse, one at the outside of the congregation threw a stone, which cut me on the head : however, that made the people give greater attention, especially when they saw the blood running down my face; so that all was quiet till I had done, and was singing a hymn."
Lectures to My Students | Charles Spurgeon