George Whitefield, the great revivalist preacher of the great awakening died this day in history in 1770.
Yesterday at the Expositors’ Conference Steve Lawson was scheduled to speak on two of the great preachers of the great awakening. He began with Jonathan Edwards and filled the entire hour with an exposition of his life and ministry. We were pleased and encouraged by this remembrance of this great American theologian/preacher.
The next session Dr Lawson was scheduled to share with us lessons from two preachers of the 19th century, however many requested that we hear about Whitfield. Steve Lawson agreed and said that really Whitfield was one of his favorites. The next hour Lawson painted a clear picture of this preacher from the Great Awakening. Whitfield was theologian committed to the sovereignty of God in all things. This theology was one of the driving forces that empowered him to preach the gospel to all men and call for repentance and faith. Whitefield knew that his pleadings were not the cause of faith but they were the instrumental witness used by the Holy Spirit to bring repentance and faith. For example, in his sermon about the conversion of Zaccheus Whitefield said,With what different emotions of heart may we suppose Zaccheus received this invitation? Think you not that he was surprised to hear Jesus Christ call him by name, and not only so, but invite himself to his house? Surely, thinks Zaccheus, I dream: it cannot be; how should he know me? I never saw him before: besides, I shall undergo much contempt, if I receive him under my rood. Thus, I say, we may suppose Zaccheus thought within himself. But what saith the scripture? "I will make a willing people in the day of my power." With this outward call, there went an efficacious power from God, which sweetly over-ruled his natural will: and therefore, verse 6, "He made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully;" not only into his house, but also into his heart.
Thus it is the great God brings home his children. He calls them by name, by his word or providence; he speaks to them also by his spirit. Hereby they are enabled to open their hearts, and are made willing to receive the King of glory. For Zaccheus's sake, let us not entirely condemn people that come under the word, out of no better principle than curiosity. Who knows but God may call them? It is good to be where the Lord is passing by. May all who are now present out of this principle, hear the voice of the Son of God speaking to their souls, and so hear that they may live! Not that men ought therefore to take encouragement to come out of curiosity.
For perhaps a thousand more, at other times, came to see Christ out of curiosity, as well as Zaccheus, who were not effectually called by his grace. I only mention this for the encouragement of my own soul, and the consolation of God's children, who are too apt to be angry with those who do not attend on the word out of love to God: but let them alone. Brethren, pray for them. How do you know but Jesus Christ may speak to their hearts! A few words from Christ, applied by his spirit, will save their souls. "Zaccheus, says Christ, make haste and come down. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully."
Biblical theology provides a solid foundation for Biblical passion or as Martin Lloyd Jones said, “preaching is theology on fire.”
An article published today in Christian History noted, “These were no ordinary sermons. He portrayed the lives of biblical characters with a realism no one had seen before. He cried, he danced, he screamed. Among the enthralled was David Garrick, then the most famous actor in Britain. "I would give a hundred guineas," he said, "if I could say 'Oh' like Mr. Whitefield."”
Well, we cannot hear Whitefield but we can read a number of his sermons. I think I will listen to Whitefield today.