The New Student's Reference Work/Whitefield, George

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Whitefield (whīt′fēld), George, an English preacher and reformer, was born at Gloucester, Dec. 16, 1714. While at Pembroke College, Oxford, he became associated with Wesley (q. v.) and his band of followers, who already were known as Methodists, and even among them was remarkable for his zeal, as shown in his labors in the jails. He preached his first sermon at Gloucester Cathedral, where the earnestness and eloquence of his oratory produced a great impression. Five persons are said to have gone crazy with excitement, but when complaint was made to the bishop he said that he hoped that "the madness would last till next Sunday." The same excitement attended his preaching in London, where the streets were filled in the early morning with persons carrying lanterns on their way to hear him preach, hours before the time of service. The clergy of the English church were offended at Whitefield's open-air preaching, which he soon used almost entirely, owing to their unwillingness to open their churches to him. He and Wesley separated on doctrinal points, and Whitefield's supporters, led by Lady Huntingdon, built him a large shed called The Tabernacle, where immense crowds gathered. He paid seven visits to America, some of them lasting two or three years, where he preached to as large crowds as in England and Scotland, 20,000 persons hearing him at one time on Boston Common. His health failing, he put himself on what he called a short allowance—one sermon a day and three on Sunday. He died on his last visit to America, at Newburyport, Mass., Sept. 30, 1770. Consult Life by Tyerman; Life and Times by Philip; and Lecky's History of England, Vol. II.