September 30: George Whitefield

This Day in Presbyterian History:

There is None to Replace Him

It was so thought by John Wesley, co-founder of  Methodism.  The person Wesley referred to in the quotation of our title was George Whitefield.  And it was strange that John Wesley thought this, considering that he as an Arminian Methodist differed greatly from George Whitefield, who was a Calvinist Methodist.  The occasion of the above quote was the death of George Whitefield on September 30, 1770 in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

You say, wait a moment, isn’t this devotional website given over to Presbyterian persons, places, and things?  Yes it is, and George Whitefield was an Anglican, not a Presbyterian.  But he died at the parsonage of a Presbyterian minister by the name of Jonathan Parsons, who was the pastor of Old South Presbyterian Church, which church had been founded by George Whitefield after one of his revivals.  Confused?  Don’t be!  Whitefield worked with all the denominations in the American Colonies, especially with those who were involved in the First Great Awakening.  And the Rev. George Parsons was a Presbyterian evangelist in that Great Awakening which shook the colonies in the 1740’s.

George Whitfield was “The Apostle of the British Empire.”  He made for the gospel sake some 13 Atlantic Ocean crossings to many of the countries of the empire, including seven trips to the American colonies.  It is estimated that he preached some 18,000 sermons, or 500 per year, which translated out to ten per week.  The crowds at these meetings could top thirty thousand, all of which could hear the preacher.

On his way to Massachusetts in 1770, preaching as he traveled, George Whitefield on the day before he died, prayed a prayer which said, “Lord Jesus, I am weary in Thy work, but not of Thy work.  If I have not yet finished my course, let me go and speak for Thee once more in the fields, seal Thy truth, and come home and die.”  That last sermon was on the steps of George Parson’s home, to thousands who clamored for him to preach the Word to them the evening before he died. He did so for two hours until the candle burned down in its socket to nothing, and he stopped.  The next morning at 6:00 a.m., he went to be with his Savior.

On October 2nd, Anglican George Whitefield was buried in the crypt beneath the pulpit in the Old South Presbyterian Church, in Newburyport, Massachusetts, where it can be seen today.  There is a steady stream of visitors to the memorial site two centuries later.

Words to live by:  Being weary in the work, but not being weary of the work of Christ’s church.  That is the testimony of every faithful minister of the gospel in our evangelical and Reformed churches.  So, church member, you must be mindful that your pastor has a day off each week, a four-week vacation away from the ministry  (and no calling up at his vacation cabin to ask him where the communion cups are found, which happened to this retired pastor once!), and a Sabbatical every number of years for a longer time of rest and relaxation.  We who have been called for the sacred task of ministry will never weary of the work, but will frequently be weary in the work.

Through the Scriptures:  Esther 1 – 3

Through the Standards: Proof Texts of Lawful Oaths and Vows

Deuteronomy 6:13  “It is the LORD your God you shall fear.  Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.” (ESV)

Matthew 5:34 – 37 “But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.  Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (ESV)

James 5:12 “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” (ESV)

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