This post barely skims the surface of the life of this man of God. In short, George Whitefield was one of the greatest evangelists or "revivalists" since the Reformation. Born in England in 1714, ordained & preached his first official sermon at 22, he later described that sermon rather comically, saying:
“Some few mocked, but most for the present, seemed struck, and I have since heard that a complaint was made to the bishop, that I drove fifteen people mad, the first sermon”. The bishop responded with the wish that the madness would not wear off before the next Sunday.On another occasion, Whitefield said:
"I will not be a velvet-mouthed preacher".In his younger years, Whitefield was part of the Holy Club at Oxford in England with John and Charles Wesley. Whitefield crossed the Atlantic 13 times in his life—an odd number (not even) because he died and was buried in America, not in England. The trips across the Atlantic took 8-10 weeks each.
He was directly involved, along with Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, and others in America's first "Great Awakening", which also impacted England, and it is estimated that over Whitfield's lifetime 80% of all American Colonists heard him preach at least once. Thousands upon thousands were saved under his preaching. Benjamin Franklin, a friend of Whitefield's, once calculated how many people could hear him speak in his "Open-Air Preaching" gatherings to be thirty thousand people. It is said by other sources that his voice could be heard a mile away, and his open-air preaching reached as many as 100,000 in one gathering! Pretty amazing with no microphones.
Whitefield once said:
“I know no other reason why Jesus has put me into the ministry, than because I am the chief of sinners, and therefore fittest to preach free grace to a world lying in the wicked one."
If you are still interested, here's one more tidbit from the following website:
After a visit to America in 1738, Whitefield returned to England to find closed Anglican pulpits because of his powerful Spirit-anointed preaching. J. C. Ryle, the first Bishop of Liverpool wrote, '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'. The pulpit ban became a blessing in disguise when Whitefield took to open-air preaching. The evangelist described his first open-air preaching in his Journal: 'I hastened to Kingswood [Bristol]. There were about 10,000 people to hear me. The trees and hedges were full. All was hush when I began; the sun shone bright and God enabled me to preach for an hour with great power, and so loudly that all, I was told, could hear me. The fire is kindled in this country and I know all the devils in hell shall not be able to quench it'. Miners, just up from the mines, listened and the tears flowed making white gutters down their coal-black faces. Whitefield's preaching gave birth to the 18th century Evangelical Revival.