Whitefield, George

Whitefield, George,

1714–70, English evangelistic preacher, leader of the Calvinistic Methodist ChurchCalvinistic Methodist Church,
Protestant Christian denomination, closely allied to Presbyterianism. It originated in Wales (1735–36) with the evangelistic preaching of Howell Harris, Daniel Rowlands, and others.
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. At Oxford, which he entered in 1732, he joined the Methodist group led by John WesleyWesley, John,
1703–91, English evangelical preacher, founder of Methodism, b. Epworth, Lincolnshire. Early Life

Wesley was ordained a deacon in the Church of England in 1725, elected a fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, in 1726, and ordained a priest in 1728.
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 and Charles WesleyWesley, Charles,
1707–88, English Methodist preacher and hymn writer. As a student at Oxford he devoted himself to systematic study and to the regular practice of religious duties; he and companions whom he persuaded to adopt the same orderly course were taunted as
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. Ordained (1736) a deacon in the Church of England, Whitefield soon demonstrated his power as a preacher. The first of his seven trips to America was made in 1738, when he spent a short time in Georgia in the mission post vacated by John Wesley. He returned to England to seek funds for an orphanage in Georgia and to take orders as an Anglican priest, but his connection with the Wesleys and the evangelical character of his preaching led to his exclusion from most of the pulpits of the Church of England. He then began a series of open-air meetings in Bristol and elsewhere, to which huge audiences were attracted. He persuaded John Wesley to carry on the work while he again visited (1739–41) America; there he was an influential figure in the Great AwakeningGreat Awakening,
series of religious revivals that swept over the American colonies about the middle of the 18th cent. It resulted in doctrinal changes and influenced social and political thought. In New England it was started (1734) by the rousing preaching of Jonathan Edwards.
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, preaching to congregations in the large settlements from Georgia to New England.

About 1741 Whitefield adopted Calvinistic views, especially in regard to predestination. Breaking away from the Wesleys, he became the leader of the Calvinistic Methodists, whose greatest numbers were in Wales. However, Whitefield's personal friendship with John Wesley continued. In London his work was centered in the Moorfields Tabernacle, near Wesley's church. Returning to England after another evangelistic tour (1744–48) in America, he was appointed a chaplain in the Connexion, the Methodist association sponsored by the countess of HuntingdonHuntingdon, Selina Hastings, countess of,
1707–91, English religious leader, patron of the Calvinistic Methodists. She was closely associated with the Wesleys and George Whitefield. When they split, she took the side of Whitefield, whom she made one of her chaplains.
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. Whitefield's evangelistic tours in Great Britain and America continued to draw throngs; in 1756 the noted Tottenham Court Chapel, London, was opened for him. His last sermon was delivered in the open air at Exeter, Mass., the day before he died in Newburyport, where he is buried.


See his works (6 vol., 1771–72); biographies by L. Tyerman (2 vol., 1876), S. C. Henry (1957), and H. S. Stout (1991); studies by A. A. Dallimore (1970) and J. C. Pollock (1972).

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Whitefield, George

(1714–70) Protestant evangelist; born in Gloucester, England. An innkeeper's son, he entered Oxford in 1732, came under the influence of John Wesley, and turned to evangelism after an intense religious experience in 1735. A powerful preacher, he ran afoul of English ecclesiastical authorities and sailed for Georgia, U.S.A., in 1737 to assist the Wesleys in their mission there. In that and subsequent visits he helped touch off the Great Awakening religious revivial. He continued to evangelize in England and America until his death, which came at Newburyport, Mass., while he was on a preaching tour.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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