Inspiring Lines from Robert Philip’s Life of Whitefield

“Look where I would, most were drowned in tears. The word was sharper than a two-edged sword. Their bitter cries and tears were enough to pierce the hardest heart. Oh what different visages were then to be seen! Some were struck pale as death, others lying on the ground, others wringing their hands, others sinking into the arms of friends, and most lifting up their eyes to heaven, and crying out to God for mercy. I could think of nothing, when I looked at them, so much as the great day! They seemed like persons awakened by the last trump, and coming out of their graves to judgment!” Whitefield, 177

“The chief characteristics of this work [revival], at its commencement, were,—
“1. a melting down of all classes and ages in overwhelming solicitude about salvation;
“2. an absorbing sense of eternal realities, which banished all vain and useless conversation;
“3. a self-abasement and self-condemnation, which acquitted God of all severity, whatever he might do;
“4. a spirit of secret and social prayer, which redeemed time for itself under all circumstances; and
“5. a concern for the souls of others, which watched for all opportunities of doing good.” Philip, 149

“You might have seen thousands bathed in tears.” Whitefield in Scotland, 295

“Mr. Whitefield’s sermons were attended with much power; particularly on sabbath night about ten [pm].” M’Cullock, 296

“People sat unwearied till two in the morning.” Whitefield, 297

“If I trace myself from my cradle to my manhood, I can see nothing in me but a fitness to be damned.” Whitefield, 4

“He often makes me bold as a lion; but I believe there is not a person living more timorous by nature. I find a love of power intoxicates even God’s dear children. It is much easier for me to obey than govern. … I cannot well buy humility at too dear a rate.” Whitefield, 365

“It is nothing but this flesh of ours, and those cursed seeds of the proud apostate, which lie lurking within us, that make us think ourselves worthy of the air we breathe.” Whitefield, 378

“All that people do say of me, affects me but little; because I know worse of myself than they can say concerning me. My heart is desperately wicked. Was God to leave me I should be a remarkable sinner.” Whitefield, 384

“Oh, I am sick—I am sick—sick in body; but infinitely more so in mind, to see so much dross in my soul.” Whitefield, 456

In Ireland, “We sang, prayed, and preached without molestation; only now and then a few stones and clods of dirt were thrown at me. … Volleys of hard stones came from all quarters, and every step I took a fresh stone made me reel backwards and forwards, till I was almost breathless, and all over a gore of blood. … A christian surgeon was ready to dress our wounds, which being done, I went into the preaching-place, and [preached]… The next morning I set out for Port Arlington, and left my persecutors to His mercy, who out of persecutors hath often made preachers. That I may be thus revenged of them, is my hearty prayer.” Whitefield, 375-377

Lively Preaching
“Mr. Betterton’s [the actor] answer to a worthy prelate is worthy of a lasting regard. When asked ‘how it came to pass that the clergy, who spoke of things real, affected the people so little, and the players, who spoke of things barely imaginary, affected them so much,’ he said, ‘My Lord, I can assign but one reason; we players speak of things imaginary as though they were real, and too many of the clergy speak of things real as though they were imaginary.’” Letter of Whitefield, 556

“I wish whenever I go up into a pulpit, to look upon it as the last time I shall ever preach, or the last time the people may hear.” Whitefield 556

“Would ministers preach for eternity, they would then act the part of true christian orators, and not only calmly and coolly inform the understanding, but by persuasive, pathetic address, endeavor to move the affections and warm the heart. To act otherwise bespeaks a sad ignorance of human nature, and such an inexcusable indolence and indifference in the preacher, as must constrain the hearers to suspect, whether they will or not, that the preacher, let him be who he will,—only deals in the false commerce of unfelt truth.” Whitefield, 557

“Every accent of his voice spoke to the ear; every feature of his face, every motion of his hands, every gesture, spoke to the eye; so that the most dissipated and thoughtless found their attention involuntarily fixed.” Quoted from Gillies biography, 558

“Awkwardness in the pulpit is a sin—monotony a sin—dulness a sin—and all of them sins against the welfare of immortal souls.” Philip 560

Power in Preaching
“The real meaning of [the Bible] may be honestly given, and yet their true spirit neither caught nor conveyed.” Philip, 212

“[Preaching] will not be heard as His counsel or consolation, unless it is spoken with something of his own love and solemnity. He is the Spirit of power, and of grace, and of love, as well as the Spirit of truth and wisdom; and therefore He is but half copied in preaching, when only his meaning is given. That meaning lies in His mind, not merely as truth, nor as law, nor as wisdom, but also as sympathy, solicitude, and love for the souls it is addressed unto. … They can hardly be said to the words of the Holy Ghost, when they are uttered in a spiritless or lifeless mood.” Philip, 212

“A minister ought to be as much ashamed, and more afraid, of being unbaptized with the Holy Ghost and fire, as of being ignorant of the original languages of the Holy Scriptures.” Philip, 214

“No phrase occurs so often in his journals as, ‘preached with much power; with some power.’” Philip, 216

After listening to Gilbert Tennent preach, Whitefield wrote, “He convinced me more and more, that we can preach the gospel of Christ no further than we have experienced the power of it in our hearts. I found what a babe and novice I was in the sight of God.” 166

Preaching Without Notes
“I love study, and delight to meditate. Preaching without notes costs as much, if not more, close and solemn thought, as well as confidence in God, than with notes.” Whitefield, 330

Advice to Other Preachers
“Put them in mind of the freeness of God’s electing love, and be instant with them to lay hold on the perfect righteousness of Christ by faith.—Talk to them, O talk to them, even till midnight, of the riches of His all-sufficient grace. Tell them, O tell them, what he has done for their souls, and how earnestly he is now interceding for them in heaven. Show them, in the map of the word, the kingdoms of the upper world and the transcendent glories of them; and assure them all shall be theirs, if they believe on Jesus Christ with their whole heart. Press them to believe on Him immediately. Intersperse prayers with your exhortations, and thereby call down fire from heaven, even the fire of the Holy Ghost.” Whitefield to Howell Harris, 131

Political Preaching
Whitefield preached “thanksgiving sermons for the victories at Crevelt, Cape Breton, and on the defeat of the Russians.” Philip, 457

On the Preacher Speaking About Himself
“There is one peculiarity about Whitefield’s sermons… which I should like to commend, if I could do so wisely. I mean—his modest egotism in preaching. He is for ever speaking of himself when he touches any experimental point, or grapples with a difficulty. … He thinks aloud about himself, only to enable others to know what to think about their own perplexities, dilemmas, and temptations. He shows them his own soul, merely to prove that “no strange thing has befallen” their souls.

“The following is a fair specimen of his egotism. ‘I despair of no one, when I consider how God had mercy on such a wretch as I, who was running in a full career to hell. I was hasting thither; Jesus Christ passed by and stopped me. … I despair of none of you, when I consider, I say, what a wretch I was. I am not speaking now out of a false humility, or a pretended sanctity, as the Pharisees call it. …” Philip with Whitefield, 574

“Surely I shall appear against you at the judgment-seat of Christ; for these diversions [wrestling and other sports] keep people from true christianity, as much as paganism itself. And I doubt not, but it will require as much courage and power to divert people from these things, as the apostles had to exert in converting the heathen from dumb idols.” Whitefield, 109

“[After the sermon] we retired and sung a hymn; and some ladies having the curiosity to hear us I took that opportunity of dissuading them against balls and assemblies.” Whitefield, 130

An advertisement in the New York newspaper in the 1730’s: “We hear from Philadelphia, that since Mr. Whitefield’s preaching there the dancing school and concert room have been shut up, as inconsistent with the doctrines of the gospel; at which some gentlemen were so enraged, that they broke open the door. It is most extraordinary that such devilish diversions should be supported in that city, and by some of that very sect, whose first are an utter detestation of them.” 174

In 1753, “the owner of the play-house was made so uneasy by a sermon against theatrical amusements, that he pulled the roof off the building, to put an end to them so far as he was concerned.” Philip, 412

“The grand secret of Whitefield’s power was, as we have seen and felt, his devotional spirit. Had he been less prayerful, he would have been less powerful. … His face shone when he came down from the mount, because he had been long alone with God upon the mount.” Philip 565

“[Whitefield’s letters] are only surpassed by Luke’s ‘Acts of the Apostles.’” 566

Personal Character
“How do I pity those who complain that time hangs on their hands! Let them but love Christ, and spend their whole time in his service, and they will find but few melancholy hours.” Whitefield, 131

“I would fain die blazing.” 330

“Where was I on Saturday last? In hunger, cold, and thirsting; but now I enjoy fullness of bread, and all things convenient for me. God grant I may not, Jeshurun-like, wax fat, and kick! Perhaps it is more difficult to know how to abound, than how to want.” Whitefield, 373

“Nature loves ease; and as a blind zeal often prompts us to speak too much, so tepidity and lukewarmness often cause us to speak too little.” Whitefield, 386

“He was neat in the extreme in his person and every thing about him. … Not a paper might be out of its place, or put up irregularly. Each part of the furniture also must be in its place before we retired to rest. There was no rest after four in the morning, nor sitting up after ten in the evening. He was scrupulously exact to break up parties in time.” From Whitefield’s servant Cornelius Winter, 566

Robert Philip, The Life and Times of George Whitefield, 1837, reprint 2007 by Banner of Truth, 588 pages.

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2 Responses to Inspiring Lines from Robert Philip’s Life of Whitefield

  1. Renée Buchko says:

    Wow. He reminds me of my own unworthiness that I can sit and enjoy playing an online game for hours even when the training in the game is tedious and boring. I can do that to get more proficient at the game but less than half an hour of Bible study will find me snoozing?! Oh for shame!

  2. Freebies says:

    Have you ever thought about publishing an ebook or guest authoring on other sites? I have a blog based on the same subjects you discuss and would love to have you share some stories/information. I know my readers would enjoy your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e mail.

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