29 September 1770 A.D. George Whitfield Preaches His Last Sermon
Dr. Rusten tells the story.
Rusten, E. Michael and Rusten, Sharon. The One Year Christian History. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2003. Available at: http://www.amazon.com/The-Year-Christian-History-Books/dp/0842355073/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1393302630&sr=8-1&keywords=rusten+church+history
Whitefield was born in Gloucester, England on 14 December 1714. He entered Oxford on 1734 and was, ultimately, ordained to the Church of England. Ultimately, he was refused in some parish churches. He preached outdoors and in open fields. He made 14 trips to Scotland and 7 trips to the USA. He preached sometimes 20 times per week. One wonders when and where he had time to study and reflect, but a reading list for a Savannah school indicate he was acquainted with some great divines of the Church of England. His sermons contain many references to the Thirty-nine Articles, Homilies and Book of Common Prayer.
He rode by horse from Portsmouth, NH, to Newburyport, MA. Passing through Exeter, NH, people wanted him to preach. He did. As Whitefield approached the platform, an elderly gentleman said to him, “Sir, you are more fit to go to bed than to preach.”
Whitfield replied, “True, sir.” Then, looking to heaven, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, I am weary in thy work but not weary of it. If I have not yet finished my course, let me go and speak for Thee once more on the fields, seal Thy truth, and come and die.”
Whitfield mounted the platform, stood for several minutes, and other took note. Whitefild said, “I will wait for the gracious assistance of God, for He will I am certain assist me once more to speak in His name.” He the preached for two hours on the verse “Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith.” Towards the end of the sermon, he said, “I go; I go to a rest prepared: my sun has give3n light to many, but now it must set—no, to rise to the zenith of immortal glory. I have outlived many on earth, but they cannot outlive me in heaven. Many shall outlive me on earth and likve when this body is no more, but there—oh, thought divine! I shall be in a world where time, age, sickness, and sorrow are unknown. My body fails, but my spirit expands. How willingly would I live forever to preach Christ. But I die to be with Him.”
Exhausted, he rode off to the parson of Rev. Jonathan Parson, pastor of the Old South Presbyterian Church in Newburyport, MA. Tired and sick, he took an early supper. A crowd gathered at the parsonage wishing to hear him. He again preached. He retired, but awoke at 2 A.M. with breathing difficulties. At 4 A.M., he awoke again, ambled to the window, claiming to an aide, “I can scarce breathe.” The aide went to get the doctor. By 7 A.M., a Sunday, the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield was dead.
1. We have J.C. Ryle’s entry filed, but what were Mr. Whitefield’s strengths?
2. What were his weaknesses?
3. Why was he excluded from Church of England parishes?
4. Has his name been tarnished by poisoned wells? Has he been unduly exalted by hagiographers? What was the true measure of the man?
5. What of his vision problem? Cause?
6. What were his doctrinal coordinates to the Reformed Articles, Homilies and Book of Common Prayer?
7. What was the theological tenor of the 18th century? In the churches and at OXBRIDGE?
8. What was the bibliography recommended by Mr. Whitefield for the Savannah charity? And for workers’ development?
9. Why did Rev. Charles Chauncey take issue with Mr. Whitefield?
10. Did Whitefield preach at Christ Church, New Bern, in 1742?
11. What of his marriage and what became of it?
12. Why did he never take a parish, live, preach, administer the sacraments and die with his people? Why the incessant need to itinerate?
Towns and Porter. The Ten Greatest Revivals Ever. 126-130.