preacher of the awakenings in Great Britain and its 13 Colonies.
Born in Gloucester,
England, to a family of very modest means, Whitefield worked his way through
school and was early attracted to drama and theater. At Oxford he worked
with Charles and John Wesley in the early stages
of Methodism. In 1735 Whitefield
experienced a long period of despair, followed by conversion. Ordained
in the Church of England, Whitefield began to experiment with "open air
preaching." He would "itinerate" or go from place to place gathering large
crowds in fields, market squares, or mines, reaching many who were outside
of the traditional parish system of the Church of England. Beginning in
1740 Whitefield made several preaching tours in the American Colonies.
Jonathan Edwards welcomed Whitefield, the "Grand
Itinerant" whose emotional, dramatic preaching fanned the sparks of the
Great Awakening into flame.
Whitefield's message was the New Birth in Christ, and he aimed the message
for the "heart" or emotions of his hearers. His theology was firmly Calvinist--all
glory for the work of salvation goes to God. Whitefield pioneered modern
mass evangelism, using publicity, drama, and controversy to gather and
to move audiences. He also denounced the cruelties of slavery and gathered
funds for works of charity. Whitefield's style and strategy inspired many
imitators in his own day and continued to influence nineteenth-century