Whitefield, George (DNB00)
WHITEFIELD, GEORGE (1714–1770), evangelist and leader of Calvinistic methodists, sixth son and youngest child of Thomas Whitefield (d. 27 Dec. 1716, aged 34), by his wife, Elizabeth Edwards (d. December 1751), was born at the Bell Inn, Gloucester, on 16 Dec. 1714. His earliest known ancestor was William Whytfeild, vicar of Mayfield, Sussex, 1605, whose son, Thomas Whitfeld, was vicar of Liddiard Melicent, Wiltshire, 1664–5, and subsequently rector of Rockhampton, Gloucestershire. Thomas was succeeded in 1683 as rector of Rockhampton by his son, Samuel Whitfeld, and Samuel, in 1728, by his son, Samuel Whitfield (Foster, Alumni Oxon. 1892, iv. 1621). Andrew, brother of the last named, had fourteen children, of whom the eldest, Thomas Whitefield, father of George, became a wine merchant in Bristol, and later kept the Bell Inn at Gloucester. The name is pronounced Whitfield. Of Whitefield's early years (to 1736) a self-accusing history was given by himself in ‘A Short Account,’ 1740, 12mo (abridged, 1756; Tyerman's Life incorporates the whole of the original). His well-known squint was the result of measles in childhood (Gillies, p. 279). He seems to have been a roguish lad, but with good impulses. His mother took pains with his education. She married, in 1724, one Longden, an impecunious ironmonger at Gloucester.
In 1726 George went to the St. Mary de Crypt school. He was fonder of the drama than of classical study, and, being a born actor, took part (‘in girl's clothes’) in school plays before the corporation. Before he was fifteen he persuaded his mother to remove him from school. Shortly afterwards, her circumstances being ‘on the decline,’ he assisted in the public-house, becoming at length ‘a common drawer for nigh a year and a half.’ During this period the inn was made over to one of his brothers; he then fell out with his sister-in-law and left the inn (the same inn was kept, from 1782, by the father of Henry Phillpotts [q. v.], bishop of Exeter). After visiting another brother, Andrew, at Bristol, he returned to his mother, who, on the report of one of his schoolfellows, induced him to prepare for Oxford. He went back to school, became a communicant on Christmas day 1731, and entered as a servitor at Pembroke College, Oxford, matriculating on 7 Nov. 1732. Among his contemporaries was William Shenstone the poet. He had pecuniary aid from Lady Elizabeth Hastings [q. v.], through whom probably began his connection with Selina Hastings, countess of Huntingdon [q. v.]
Before going to Oxford he ‘had heard of and loved’ the Oxford methodists. His introduction to Charles Wesley (1707–1788) [q. v.] was brought about by his sending Wesley notice of a case of attempted suicide. Charles Wesley lent him books; he first ‘knew what true religion was’ through reading ‘The Life of God in the Soul of Man’ (1677), by Henry Scougal [q. v.] He copied the methodist practices, but was not actually admitted to the ‘society’ till 1735, in which year he dates his conversion. At Gloucester, where he spent the latter half of that year, he formed ‘a little society’ on the methodist model. On 20 June 1736 he was ordained deacon at Gloucester by Martin Benson [q. v.], preached his first sermon at St. Mary de Crypt on 27 June, and graduated B.A. in July. The removal of the Wesleys gave him the lead of the few remaining Oxford methodists. During a visit to London he conceived the idea of joining the Wesleys in Georgia, but was dissuaded by friends. His first sermon in London was on 8 Aug. at St. Botolph's, Bishopsgate, where he captivated an audience inclined at first to sneer at his youthful looks. For a few weeks (November to December 1736) he officiated for Charles Kinchin (1711–1742) at Dummer, Hampshire, and had the offer of ‘a very profitable curacy in London,’ which he declined, though in debt, having made up his mind (21 Dec.) for Georgia (Charles Wesley, Journal, 1849, i. 59). James Hervey (1714–1758) [q. v.] succeeded him at Dummer. Bishop Benson, whom he consulted on New Year's day 1737, approved his design. It was not carried out for a year, spent in missionary preaching, chiefly in the west of England and London. For two months he was in charge of Stonehouse, Gloucestershire (his farewell sermon, 10 May 1737, was edited, 1842, by J. G. Dimock, from a manuscript discovered in that year). The popularity of his preaching was extraordinary; his first printed sermon ran through three editions in 1737. He was in constant request for charity sermons.
On 30 Dec. 1737 he went on board the Whitaker, which did not leave the Downs for Georgia till 2 Feb. 1738. John Wesley, who reached Deal the day before, would have stopped him, but did not use the opportunity of meeting him (see Wesley, John, and Whitefield's Works, 1771, iv. 56, for Wesley's recourse to lot on this occasion). He made a fortnight's stay at Gibraltar, where, after seeing high mass, he ‘needed no other argument against popery.’ The governor, Joseph Sabine (1662?–1739) [q. v.], showed him much attention. Among the garrison he found a religious society, known as ‘new lights;’ others, belonging to the church of Scotland, were known as ‘dark lanthorns.’ The journals of his voyage out, sent to James Hutton (1715–1795) [q. v.], were printed (1738) by T. Cooper. Hutton deprecated the publication as surreptitious; it is more close to the original than Hutton's own issue, which ran through four editions in the same year. Whitefield's journals were too egotistic for publication, and they prejudiced the methodist cause. Their issue set an example followed, with more judgment, by John Wesley, who began to publish his journals in 1740. Whitefield's Georgia mission had more apparent success than Wesley's; he was a younger man, much more eloquent, and unconcerned with disputes about churchmanship; moreover, he was provided with funds ‘for the poor of Georgia.’ He sympathised with the colonists, denied by the trustees ‘the use both of rum and slaves.’ But he bears emphatic testimony to the fact that ‘the good which Mr. John Wesley has done … is inexpressible’ (Journal). Whitefield struck out a line of his own by establishing schools and projecting an orphan house. To collect money for this scheme, and to obtain priest's orders, he left for England on 28 Aug. On his return he spent a fortnight in Ireland, well received by Bishops Burscough and Rundle and Archbishop Boulter. He was ordained at Christ Church, Oxford, on 14 Jan. 1739 by Martin Benson, acting for Secker, and on letters dimissory from Edmund Gibson [q. v.], bishop of London, who accepted as title Whitefield's appointment by the Georgia trustees as minister of Savannah. Lady Huntingdon interested herself in his ordination, and brought aristocratic hearers to his preaching, among them the famous Sarah, duchess of Marlborough.
Like Wesley, Whitefield attended the Moravian meetings in Fetter Lane; unlike Wesley, he paid visits to leading dissenters; Isaac Watts [q. v.] received him ‘most cordially.’ He got into trouble by preaching at St. Margaret's, Westminster, in the afternoon of Sunday, 4 Feb. 1739. Morgan, the Friendly Society's lecturer, being out of town, had engaged John James Majendie to supply his place. Not knowing this, the stewards had sent for Whitefield. Majendie was rudely superseded; of this Whitefield, who wished to retire in his favour, was innocent; but the matter gave rise to much angry writing against methodists, continued for some months by ‘Richard Hooker’ (i.e. William Webster [q. v.]) in the ‘Weekly Miscellany.’ A consequence was that at Bath and Bristol, where he wished to preach on behalf of the Georgia orphanage, his overtures were rejected. At Salisbury he visited Susanna Wesley, who asked him if her sons ‘were not making some innovations in the church;’ he assured her ‘they were so far from it that they endeavoured all they could to reconcile dissenters to our communion’ (Stevenson, Memorials of the Wesley Family, 1876, p. 216). He began open-air preaching at Rose Green, on Kingswood Hill, near Bristol, on 17 Feb. 1739. This service converted Thomas Maxfield, afterwards John Wesley's assistant. The pulpits of Bristol churches were now opened to him, but on 20 Feb. he was summoned to the chancellor's court and threatened with excommunication for preaching without license. Bishop Butler, to whom he applied, wrote him a favourable letter, promising a benefaction towards the orphanage; he gave five guineas on 30 May (Tyerman, i. 182, 233, 349). He was, however, excluded from churches, and even from preaching in the prison; only the ‘society’ rooms were open to him. Hence he threw himself into the work of outdoor preaching, always wearing his clerical robes.
Visiting Wales in March with William Seward (1702–1740), brother of Thomas Seward [q. v.], he first met Howel Harris [q. v.] On 2 April he laid the first stone of a school for the colliers at Kingswood, a work taken up by Wesley in the following June. At St. Mary de Crypt, Gloucester, he baptised (17 April) a quaker ‘about sixty years of age.’ At Oxford he received ‘a great shock’ on hearing that his old friend Kinchin had resigned his fellowship, and was reported to be on the point of leaving the church; he looked forward to ‘dreadful consequences’ from ‘a needless separation.’ No pulpit was open to him in Oxford. In London George Stonehouse, vicar of St. Mary's, Islington, invited him to preach, but the churchwarden interfered; accordingly he preached (27 April) in the churchyard, standing on a tombstone, ‘to a prodigious concourse of people.’ His first open-air sermon at Moorfields (then a wooded park) was on 29 April, before church time. At morning service the same day he heard a violent sermon against his movement by Joseph Trapp [q. v.] at Christ Church, Newgate, and remarks that ‘the preacher was not so calm as I wished him.’ Trapp was backed up by the ‘Weekly Miscellany;’ Whitefield by Robert Seagrave [q. v.] Doddridge heard Whitefield in May on Kennington Common, and thought him rash and enthusiastic, ‘a weak man, much too positive’ (Humphreys, Correspondence of Doddridge, 1829, iii. 381). Bishop Benson, disapproving of his itinerant labours, ‘affectionately admonished’ him to preach only where he was ‘lawfully appointed,’ a suggestion at which, replied Whitefield (9 July), ‘my blood runs chill.’ He had already (10 March) begun a correspondence with Ralph Erskine [q. v.], the Scottish seceder, whose sermons he had read. Whitefield wrote (23 July) ‘My tenderest affections await the associate presbytery’ (constituted 6 Dec. 1733). It has been said that in Whitefield's sermon (Gen. iii. 15) at Stoke Newington (31 July) ‘to about twenty thousand people,’ he gives prominence for the first time to the Calvinistic doctrine of election; but this sermon (‘The Serpent beguiling Eve,’ 1740, 8vo) has been confused with a later sermon (‘The Seed of the Woman,’ &c., 1742, 8vo) from the same text (Tyerman, i. 273). On 1 Aug. Bishop Gibson issued a pastoral in which ‘enthusiasm,’ as manifest in Whitefield's journals, is condemned; Whitefield, in reply, offered Gibson ‘the dilemma of either allowing my divine commission, or denying your own’ (Works, iv. 13).
On 14 Aug. 1739 he embarked for America in the Elizabeth, taking with him William Seward and Joseph Periam (an attorney's clerk, whose father, thinking him crazy, had put him into Bedlam for three weeks). They landed in America on 30 Oct. and visited Philadelphia on 2 Nov.; thence he visited New York. He left Pennsylvania on 29 Nov. to make his way through Maryland, Virginia, and Carolina, to Georgia. His preaching, welcomed by ‘all but his own church’ (Letter of Benjamin Colman, D.D.), was mainly in presbyterian meeting-houses and the open air. There is no better testimony to its power than that of Benjamin Franklin, who writes, ‘It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants’ (Memoirs, 1818, i. 85). He reached Savannah on 11 Jan. 1740, bringing with him 2,530l. (about half collected in America) towards the orphanage, for which the Georgia trustees had granted him five hundred acres of land. He at once hired a house, and on 25 March began a building, to be called Bethesda. For the remainder of his life the maintenance of this institution was an important factor in his work, compelling him to travel, and inspiring him to preach (Tyerman, i. 350). During thirty years of its management he expended on it, from his private resources, 3,299l. (ib. ii. 581). On a visit to Charleston, South Carolina, in March 1740, he got into an unwise controversy with the commissary, Alexander Garden (1685–1755) [see under Garden, Alexander], rector of St. Philip's, who preached against him, Whitefield retorting from a dissenting pulpit, and carrying the quarrel into print. He undertook to prove that Tillotson ‘knew no more about true Christianity than Mahomet,’ an expression which he fathered on Wesley, ‘if I mistake not.’ On 4 April he wrote an unavailing proposal of marriage to Elizabeth Delamotte of Blendon, Kent, sister of Charles Delamotte, Wesley's companion to Georgia (Tyerman, i. 369). Revisiting Philadelphia in April, he pleaded as usual for the orphan house. Franklin, whom he employed as printer, had advised him on economic grounds to build the house at Philadelphia, and refused to contribute to the Georgia scheme. But, hearing Whitefield preach, he ‘began to soften,’ and concluded to give copper; ‘another stroke’ decided him to give silver; at the finish he ‘emptied’ his ‘pocket into the collector's dish, gold and all.’ His followers in Philadelphia founded there (1743) a presbyterian congregation. Whitefield himself projected ‘a school for negroes in Pennsylvania;’ five thousand acres of land were bought for the purpose. Seward went to England to collect funds, but the plan ended with his untimely death.
Nominally the Anglican incumbent of Savannah, Whitefield was acting in effect as a minister at large, leaving James Habersham, the schoolmaster (a layman), to read prayers and sermons in his place. He himself discarded the surplice; always prayed, as well as preached, extempore; constantly officiated in dissenting meeting-houses, and several times put Tilly, a baptist minister, into his pulpit. Visiting Charleston in July 1740, he was cited (7 July) to appear on 15 July before the commissary to answer for certain irregularities, ‘chiefly for omitting to use the form of prayers prescribed in the communion book.’ He duly appeared. Garden and four other clergymen constituted the commissary's court. Five days (on each of which Whitefield preached twice to large audiences) were spent in arguing questions of jurisdiction; Whitefield appealed to chancery, and on 19 July was bound under oath to lodge his appeal within a twelvemonth, depositing 10l. as guarantee. The appeal was duly made; but as it did not come to a hearing within a year and a day, Garden again summoned Whitefield, and, in his absence, pronounced a decree of suspension. This is said to have been the first trial in any Anglican ecclesiastical court in a British colony.
Whitefield was invited to Boston (September 1740) by Benjamin Colman, D.D. (1673–1747), of Brattle Street congregation, a correspondent of Henry Winder [q. v.], and in close alliance with English dissent. He preached against the liberalism which was making its way into Harvard College; there is no doubt that his influence did much to stem the tide of doctrinal indifference among the congregationalists of New England. He gave new vitality to the Calvinistic position, and this reacted on his own teaching. Hence Wesley's ‘free grace’ sermon (of which Wesley had sent a copy to Garden) drew from Whitefield a ‘Letter’ of remonstrance (24 Dec. 1740). Its publication (March 1741), which Charles Wesley tried to avert, made the breach between the ‘two sorts of methodists’ (Wesley, Works, viii. 335). The personal alienation was shortlived; Wesley says the trouble ‘was not merely the difference of doctrine,’ but ‘rather Mr. Whitefield's manner’ (ib. xi. 463). It must be owned that there was ‘manner’ on both sides. The followers of Wesley and Whitefield henceforth formed rival parties.
Whitefield left Charleston on 16 Jan. and reached Falmouth on 11 March 1741. From this date he ceased to write journals; but narratives of his work from his own pen were supplied in the ‘Christian History’ (1740–7), the ‘Full Account,’ 1747, 12mo, and the ‘Further Account,’ 1747, 8vo. To provide a preaching place for him while in London, his friends procured a site a little to the north of Wesley's Foundery, and erected ‘a large temporary shed’ known as the tabernacle. This was opened about the middle of April 1741, and became the headquarters of Whitefield's London work. It was replaced by a brick building on the same site, opened on 10 June 1753. The Moorfields tabernacle suggested the Norwich tabernacle, erected for James Wheatley in 1751. Whitefield's Bristol tabernacle was opened on 25 Nov. 1756.
On 10 April 1741 Ralph Erskine wrote entreating Whitefield to visit Scotland. The members of the ‘associate presbytery’ had now (1740) been formally excluded from the ministry by the general assembly. Erskine, who wished Whitefield to cast in his lot entirely with the ‘associate presbytery,’ made it a condition that he should not preach in the pulpits of their ‘persecutors.’ Against this limit Whitefield wrote frankly to Ebenezer Erskine [q. v.] as well as to Ralph, desiring to be ‘neuter as to the particular reformation of church government.’ Ebenezer Erskine felt it ‘unreasonable’ to seek to identify Whitefield with the seceding organisation, and found a way out of the difficulty by suggesting that he might preach at the invitation not of ‘our corrupt clergy’ but of ‘the people.’ Whitefield arrived at Dunfermline on 30 July 1741 on a visit to Ralph Erskine, who at once tackled him on the subject of his episcopal ordination. Writing (31 July) to his brother, he affirms that Whitefield told him ‘he would not have it that way again for a thousand worlds;’ as for refusing invitations to preach, he would ‘embrace’ the offer of ‘a jesuit priest or a Mahomedan,’ in order to testify against them. He met and conferred with the ‘associate presbytery’ on 5 Aug. It was on this occasion that he gave his famous answer, when besought to preach only for ‘the Lord's people,’ that ‘the devil's people’ were in more need of preaching. Finding that he was resolved to be strictly neutral on ecclesiastical politics, the associate presbyters disavowed him. Adam Gib [q. v.] published ‘A Warning’ (1742, 12mo) against ‘this foreigner,’ to prove that Whitefield's ‘whole doctrine is, and his success must be, diabolical.’ The ‘associate presbytery’ in its act of 23 Dec. 1743 enumerates ‘the kind reception’ given to Whitefield among the sins of Scotland. His popularity was very great: in thirteen weeks he visited some thirty towns and had huge open-air audiences. His detractors observed that ‘he was inflexible about the article of gathering money’ (Wakeley, Anecdotes, 1872, p. 231); they forgot to add that this was necessary for his benevolent schemes. In October he was the guest at Melville House, Fifeshire, of Alexander, fifth earl of Leven and fourth earl of Melville (d. 1754), the royal commissioner to the general assembly.
Leaving Edinburgh on 29 Oct. 1741, he rode to Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, the residence of a widow, Elizabeth James (born Burnell), a friend of Wesley, who calls her ‘a woman of candour and humanity’ (Wesley, Works, i. 321). Whitefield married her on 14 Nov. 1741 at St. Martin's, Caerphilly, parish of Eglwsilan, Glamorganshire. He had made up his mind to marry (19 Oct. 1740); but no previous courtship of Mrs. James is known. She was ten years his senior, and had neither fortune nor beauty (his own account), but was a ‘tender nurse’ and a woman of strong mind, proved more than once in trying circumstances; she ‘set about making cartridges’ when the Wilmington, bound for Georgia, seemed in danger of attack by a Dutch fleet (Works, ii. 68); and on another occasion, as Whitefield noted in her funeral sermon, bade her husband ‘play the man’ (Christian Miscellany, 1856, p. 218). Unhappiness in his married life has been inferred from the language of John Berridge [q. v.], who unworthily calls the wives of Wesley and Whitefield ‘a brace of ferrets’ (Gledstone, p. 500); and from the testimony of Cornelius Winter (1742–1807), who was an inmate (1767–9) in Whitefield's house during his wife's declining days, but who does not lay all the fault on the lady (Jay, Memoirs of Winter, 1809, p. 80). She died on 9 Aug. 1768, and eight months after her death Whitefield writes (11 March 1769), ‘I feel the loss of my right hand daily.’ They had one child, John, born at Hoxton on 4 Oct. 1743, baptised publicly at the Moorfields tabernacle, buried at Gloucester on 8 Feb. 1744 (Register of St. Mary de Crypt).
Within a week after his marriage Whitefield started on a missionary tour in the west. At Gloucester and Painswick he preached in parish churches, after long exclusion. From London he embarked for Scotland on 26 May 1742, reaching Edinburgh on 3 June. His second visit to Scotland stimulated the famous revival at Cambuslang, Lanarkshire, just begun by William m'Culloch (1692–1771), the parish clergyman. The penitents were seized with hysteria and convulsion (Robe, Faithful Narrative, 1742; reprinted 1840), phenomena denounced by seceders as renewing the excesses of the Camisards (Fisher, Review, 1742). Correspondence with Wesley was resumed in October, and the personal relations of the two leaders were henceforth cordial. Whitefield was back in London on 6 Nov. He presided at the first conference of Calvinistic methodists held at Watford, near Caerphilly (Hughes, Life of H. Harris, 1892, p. 223), on 5 Jan. 1743, preceding Wesley's conference by a year and a half. It consisted of four clergymen, including Daniel Rowlands [q. v.], and ten laymen, including Harris, Humphreys, and Cennick, the latter two having deserted Wesley for Whitefield. At the second conference (6 April) Whitefield was ‘chosen, if in England, to be always moderator,’ Harris to be moderator in his absence (Gospel Magazine, 1771, p. 69; Hughes, p. 240). At a later conference in the same year it was agreed ‘not to separate from the established church’ (Works, ii. 38). Five years afterwards Whitefield admits in a letter to Wesley (1 Sept. 1748) that he must leave to others the formation of ‘societies,’ and give himself to general preaching (ib. ii. 169). Hence he put Harris in charge (27 April 1749) of the Moorfields tabernacle and other English societies. After his rupture with Rowlands (May 1750), Harris seceded to form an association of his own (Hughes, p. 364), Rowlands heading the main body.
In September 1743 Doddridge preached at the tabernacle, and was taken to task (20 Sept.) by Isaac Watts for ‘sinking the character of a minister, and especially a tutor, among the dissenters, so low thereby’ (Humphreys, Correspondence of Doddridge, 1829, iv. 254). Next month Doddridge opened his pulpit at Northampton to Whitefield, and was warmly censured by Nathaniel, son of Daniel Neal [q. v.], and by John Barker (1682–1762) [q. v.] (ib. pp. 275 sq.). They considered that any alliance with methodism would prejudice their relations with the established church. Others maintained that field-preaching was not protected by the Toleration Act. Richard Smalbroke [q. v.] had charged against methodists in 1743, having Whitefield especially in view. Taking his wife with him, Whitefield embarked for America at Plymouth on 10 Aug. 1744, and reached New York on 26 Oct. His stay in America lasted till 2 June 1748. His success was achieved in the face of opposition from New England ministers, many of whom wrote strongly respecting his irregular methods. Testimonies against him were issued by the faculties of Harvard (28 Dec. 1744) and Yale (25 Feb. 1745). Towards the support of his orphan house he purchased (March 1747) ‘a plantation and slaves’ in South Carolina, holding it ‘impossible for the inhabitants to subsist without the use of slaves’ (Christian History, 1747, p. 34), an opinion which he reiterated in a letter (6 Dec. 1748) to the Georgia trustees (Works, ii. 208). The ‘lawfulness of keeping slaves’ he defended (22 March 1751) on biblical grounds (ib. ii. 404).
Shortly after his return, Lady Huntingdon made him (August 1748) one of her domestic chaplains, following the course by which, before toleration, nonconforming clergy had been protected. Bolingbroke wrote to her that the king had ‘represented to his grace of Canterbury’ [Herring] ‘that Mr. Whitefield should be advanced to the bench, as the only means of putting an end to his preaching’ (Tyerman, ii. 194). During a visit of six weeks to Scotland (September-October 1748) the synods of Glasgow, Lothian, and Perth passed resolutions intended to exclude him from churches. In November he visited Watts on his deathbed. The attacks on methodism by George Lavington [q. v.], which began in 1749 (Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists compared, 1749–51, 3 pts.), were mainly directed against Whitefield. Lavington had been nettled by a sham ‘charge’ published in his name by some unknown person during 1748, and containing methodist sentiments. In the Grace Murray episode [see Wesley, John] Whitefield followed Charles Wesley's bidding, though he told John Wesley that in his judgment Grace Murray was his wife. He visited Ireland in May 1751, remaining till July, when he embarked from Belfast for Scotland. The impression he made in Ireland seems to have been very transitory. His fourth visit to America (October 1751–May 1752) was curtailed by his wish to gain from the Georgia trustees, before their charter expired, certain privileges for his orphan house. His hymn-book (1753), which in 1796 had passed through thirty-six editions, was compiled for the new-built tabernacle. During a visit to Scotland (July-August 1753) a playhouse at Glasgow against which he had declaimed was pulled down (Scots Magazine, 1753, p. 361). Detained a month at Lisbon, on his way to America, he wrote and published (1755) graphic accounts of the religious observances there. On this his fifth visit to America (May 1754–May 1755) the M.A. degree was conferred on him (September 1754) by New Jersey College.
The eight years from May 1755 to June 1763 were spent by Whitefield in the United Kingdom (excepting a trip to Holland in 1762). In a remarkable letter (2 July 1756) Franklin wrote: ‘I sometimes wish that you and I were jointly employed by the crown to settle a colony on the Ohio’ (Evangelical Magazine, 1803, p. 51). On 7 Nov. 1756 Whitefield opened the chapel in Tottenham Court Road (rebuilt 1899); at the laying of the foundation in the previous June he had the countenance of Benjamin Grosvenor, D.D. [q. v.], Thomas Gibbons [q. v.], and Andrew Gifford [q. v.], representing the three sections of protestant dissent. He constantly visited Scotland, and in 1757 heard the debates in the general assembly on the case of Alexander Carlyle, D.D. [q. v.], prosecuted for attending the representation of the tragedy of ‘Douglas’ by John Home [q. v.] In 1760 Whitefield (‘Dr. Squintum’) was burlesqued by Samuel Foote [q. v.] in the ‘Minor.’ The performance let loose a flood of discreditable lampoons and caricatures. Of numerous animadversions by Whitefield's friends, none were more effective than John Wesley's three letters to ‘Lloyd's Evening Post’ in November and December 1760. In the ‘Register Office’ (1761), by Joseph Reed [q. v.], Whitefield is introduced as ‘Mr. Watchlight;’ in the ‘Methodist’ (published 1761, but never acted) he figures again as ‘Squintum.’ These attacks, which were felt to be unworthy, raised Whitefield's repute instead of injuring it. He was seriously ill at the time, and for nearly a twelvemonth, from March 1671, was practically disabled from preaching. He felt, too, the pressure of financial obligations connected with his philanthropic undertakings. On 4 June 1763 he started from Greenock in the Fanny, for his sixth voyage to America. During his stay there of two years he exerted himself in procuring gifts of books for Harvard College library, lately burned (Works, iii. 307). His preaching powers were still limited, but his popularity showed no diminution. He reached England again on 7 July 1765 much enfeebled. On 6 Oct. he opened Lady Huntingdon's chapel at Bath. Wesley, who met him in London on 28 Oct., describes him as ‘an old, old man, fairly worn out … though he has hardly seen fifty years’ (Wesley, Journal). Yet he continued his missionary tours and his open-air preaching. From 17 June 1767 to 12 Feb. 1768 he corresponded with Secker respecting the conversion of his orphanage into a college. He was willing that the first master should be an Anglican clergyman, but refused to narrow the foundation by excluding others in the future, or by making the daily use of the common prayer-book a statutable obligation. On these points the governor and council of Georgia were with him. In August 1767 he attended Wesley's conference with Howel Harris. His wife, who died 9 Aug. 1768, was buried in Tottenham Court Road chapel. She left him 700l. He opened Lady Huntingdon's college at Trevecca on 24 Aug. 1768, and her chapel at Tunbridge Wells on 23 July 1769. His last sermons in England were preached at Ramsgate on 16 Sept., shortly before his final embarkation for America. His assistant, whom he left in charge of the London chapels, was Torial Joss (1731–1797), formerly a sea-captain.
His last public work was the settlement of a scheme for his ‘orphan house academy,’ or Bethesda College. He might probably have obtained for it a charter had he placed it under the direction of the state authorities, but he bequeathed the whole institution to Lady Huntingdon (the main building was destroyed by fire in June 1773, and never rebuilt). Leaving Savannah on 24 April 1770, he moved about Pennsylvania and New England, preaching nearly every day. His last letter was written on 23 Sept.; his last sermon, two hours in length and full of vigour, was given at Exeter, New Hampshire, on 29 Sept. That evening he reached the manse of Jonathan Parsons (1705–1776), presbyterian minister of Newburyport, Massachusetts, whom he had converted from Arminianism. He was to have preached next morning, and was going to bed tired, but was prevailed on to address, from the staircase, a gathered throng till his bed candle burned out. During the night he was seized with asthma, as he thought; it was probably angina pectoris (Tyerman). He died at six o'clock in the morning of 30 Sept. 1770, and was buried at his own desire in a vault beneath the pulpit of the presbyterian meeting-house, Federal Street, Newburyport. Among the pall-bearers was Edward Bass (1726–1803), rector of St. Paul's, Newburyport, afterwards (1797) first bishop of the protestant episcopal church in Massachusetts. The coffin was opened in 1784, when the body was found perfect; in 1801 it was again opened, the flesh was gone, but the ‘gown, cassock, and bands’ remained (Tyerman, ii. 602). Later, the ‘main bone of the right arm’ was stolen by an admirer and sent to England, but restored in 1837 (ib. p. 606). At Newburyport there is a monument, erected in 1828 (figured in HARSHA). An inscription to his memory was added to the marble monument erected to his wife in Tottenham Court Road chapel (Gillies, p. 277). This monument has since perished; the chapel, now  rebuilding, will contain a memorial. Funeral sermons were very numerous. The most important are those by Parsons and by Wesley; the latter was delivered both at the tabernacle and at Tottenham Court Road, in accordance with Whitefield's own request. His will is printed by Gillies, and reprinted by Philip; he died worth about 1,400l.
Whitefield's unrivalled effects as a preacher were due to his great power of realising his subject, and to his histrionic genius, aided by a fascinating voice of great compass and audible at immense distances (Franklin, Memoirs, 1818, i. 87). Lord Chesterfield, hearing him portray a blind beggar as he tottered over the edge of a precipice, bounded from his seat and exclaimed, ‘Good God! he's gone!’ (Wakeley, 1872, p. 197; for a vivid description of the potency of his rhetoric see Lecky, Hist. of England, ii. 562 sq.; for its effect on Hume, Gledstone, p. 378). His printed sermons by no means explain his reputation; it should be remembered that he preached over eighteen thousand sermons; only sixty-three were published by himself, forty-six of them before he was twenty-five years of age. Eighteen other sermons in print were published from shorthand notes, unrevised. The warmth of his expressions, and an incautious frankness of statement in his autobiographical writings, laid him open to ridicule and undeserved reproach. It was primarily against Whitefield that the more persistent attacks upon methodism were levelled. Apart from his evangelistic work he was in many ways a pioneer. With none of the administrative genius by which Wesley turned suggestions to account, he anticipated Wesley's lines of action to a remarkable extent. He preceded him in making Bristol a centre of methodist effort; he was beforehand with him in publishing journals, in founding schools, in practising open-air preaching, and in calling his preachers to a conference. His religious periodical, ‘The Christian History’ (begun in 1740), may be looked upon as a predecessor of the ‘Arminian Magazine’ (1778).
Whitefield's complexion was fair, his eyes dark blue and small; originally slender, he became corpulent from his fortieth year, though his diet was spare, and a cow-heel his favourite luxury. Like Wesley, he rose at four; his punctuality was rigid, his love of order extreme; ‘he did not think he should die easy, if he thought his gloves were out of their place’ (Winter, p. 82). He was ‘irritable, but soon appeased’ (ib. p. 81); his beneficence was the outcome of the generous glow of his affections.
The National Portrait Gallery has a portrait, painted about 1737 by John Woolaston, in which Whitefield is depicted as preaching from a pulpit; a female figure in front of the congregation is supposed to represent his wife. Other portraits are by Nathaniel Hone [q. v.], engraved by Picot; and (1768) by John Russell (1745–1806) [q. v.], engraved in mezzotint by Watson. A whole-length mezzotint (1743) by F. Kyte is said by Gillies to be the best likeness of him in his younger years. His effigy in wax was executed (during his lifetime) by Rachel Wells of Philadelphia, and was given to Bethesda College; another was by her sister, Mrs. Patience Wright of New York (Gillies, pp. 280, 358). Caricatures are very numerous.
Whitefield's ‘Works’ were edited, 1771–2, 6 vols. 8vo, by John Gillies, D.D. [q. v.] The collection contains letters, tracts, and sermons, with a few pieces previously unpublished. It does not contain the autobiographical pieces, the ‘Short Account’ (1740), the seven ‘Journals’ (issued between 1738 and 1741; none of them republished in full since 1744), the ‘Christian History’ (1740–7), the ‘Full Account’ (1747), and the ‘Further Account’ (1747). In 1756, 12mo, Whitefield published ‘The Two First Parts of his Life, with his Journals revised, corrected, and abridged.’ The fullest bibliography of original editions of Whitefield's publications will be found embedded in Tyerman's ‘Life.’ He wrote prefaces to several works; notably, a brief ‘recommendatory epistle’ to an ‘Abstract,’ 1739, 12mo (made by Wesley), of the ‘Life’ of Thomas Halyburton [q. v.]; and a preface to a folio edition, 1767, of the works of Bunyan. Julian does not include him in his ‘Dictionary’ as a hymn-writer, and it is doubtful whether any of the verses which he uses as the expression of his own feelings are strictly original. His alterations of the hymns of the Wesleys drew from John Wesley (who does not name him) the scornful remarks in the preface to his hymn-book of 1780.[The Short Account, Journals, Christian History, Full Account, Further Account, and Letters of Whitefield are the primary authorities for his biography. The Memoirs, 1772, by Gillies, is a careful piece of work, which has been often re-edited, but not always improved. The Life and Times, 1832, by Robert Philip [q. v.] (criticised by Sir James Stephen, Edinburgh Review, July 1838), is very full but discursive. The Life and Travels, 1871, by Gledstone, is the best for general use. The Life, 1876–7, 2 vols., by Tyerman, is a nearly exhaustive compendium of materials. Of biographies published in America, the Life, 1846, by D. Newell, and the Life, 1866, by D. A. Harsha, may be mentioned. A Faithful Narrative of the Life, 1739, is by a friend, but the Life … by an Impartial Hand, 1739, and Genuine and Secret Memoirs, 1742, are anonymous lampoons. See also Jay's Memoirs of Cornelius Winter, 1809, pp. 72 sq.; Life and Times of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, 1839, 2 vols.; Richardson's George Whitefield, Centenary Commemoration of Tottenham Court Chapel, 1857; Wakeley's Anecdotes of Whitefield, 1872; Macaulay's Whitefield Anecdotes, 1886; Stratford's Good and Great Men of Gloucestershire, 1867, pp. 231 sq.; Gloucestershire Notes and Queries, 1881, ii.; Winsor's Hist. of America, vol. v. passim; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1888, iv. 1541, 1892, iv. 1621; extract from register of St. Mary de Crypt, Gloucester, per Rev. W. Lloyd.]