Friday, November 30
Spitting In God's Face
When God breathed new life into a young George Whitefield, the world was about to change in dramatic fashion. A stale Church of England, filled with unsaved church members was soon to be turned on its ear as the praying, preaching, power and passion of an unknown boy took center stage, both in England and the Colonies.
There has yet to be a man like him behind a Christian pulpit. Here is an excerpt from a book by J.B. Wakeley written in 1870.
"This tract of land, in the suburbs of London, was a place for the rabble --- for wrestlers, boxers, mountebanks, and merry-andrews --- where fairs were held during the holidays, and where at all times the idle, the dissolute, and the reprobate resorted --- those who were pests of society, and those who were being trained up to succeed them in the ways of profligacy and wretchedness. It was one of Satan's strongholds, and Mr. Whitefield concluded to attack him there.
"He needed as much courage as did Luther at the Diet of Worms. He was warned of his danger, and told that if he attempted to preach there he would never come away alive. None of these things moved him; onward he went with the tread of a conqueror. Matters looked forbidding at first, and would have intimidated any but a stout heart. The table which had been placed for him [to stand on] was broken in pieces by the crowd, and he took his stand upon a wall that divided the upper and lower Moorfields, and there preached without interruption. This became his grand battle-ground, where he carried the war into the territories of the devil. . . ."
The Great Field Day
"He began with his praying people at six in the morning, before the enemy had mustered his strength. Not less than ten thousand persons were assembled, waiting for the sports; and, having nothing else to do, they for mere pastime flocked around his little field pulpit. 'Glad was I,' said he, 'to find that for once I had to the start of the devil.' Encouraged by the success of his morning preaching he ventured there again at noon, when, in his own words, 'The fields, the whole fields, seemed, in a bad sense of the word, all white; ready not for the Redeemer's but Beelzebub's harvest. All his agents were in full motion; drummers, trumpeters, merry-andrews, masters of puppet-shows, exhibitors of wild beasts, players, etc., etc., all busy in entertaining their respective auditors.' He estimated the crowd at from twenty to thirty thousand,and thinking that, like St. Paul, he should now in a metaphorical sense be called to fight with the wild beasts, he took for his text, 'Great is Diana of the Ephesians.' 'You may easily guess,' said he, 'that there was some noise among the craftsmen, and that I was honored with having a few stones, dirt, rotten eggs, and dead cats thrown at me while engaged in calling them from their favorite but lying vanities. My soul was indeed among lions; but far the greatest part of my congregation, which was very large, seemed for awhile to be turned into lambs.'
"Whitefield then gave notice he would preach there again at six in the evening. 'I came,' he says, 'I saw --- but what? Thousands upon thousands more, if possible, still more deeply engaged in their unhappy diversions, but some thousands among them waiting as earnestly to hear the Gospel. One of Satan's choicest servants was exhibiting, trumpeting on a large stage; but as soon as the people saw me in my black robes ascend the pulpit I think all to a man left him and ran to me. For awhile I was enabled to lift up my voice like a trumpet, and many heard the joyful sound. God's people kept praying, and the enemy's agents made a kind of roaring some distance from our camp. At length they approached nearer, and the merry-andrew, attended by others who complained they had taken many pounds less that day on account of my preaching, got upon a man's shoulders, and advancing near the pulpit, attempted several times to slash me with a long heavy whip, but always, from the violence of his motion, tumbled down.' Soon after they got a recruiting officer, with his drums, fifes and followers, to pass through the congregation.
"But Whitefield by his tactics baffled this maneuver; he ordered them to make way for the king's officers. The ranks opened, and when the party had marched closed again. When the uproar became, as it sometimes did, such as to overpower his single voice, he called the voices of all his people to his aid, and began singing; and thus, what with singing, praying, and preaching, he continued, by his own account, three hours upon the ground, till the darkness made it time to break up.
"So great was the impression which this wonderful man produced during this extraordinary scene that more than a thousand notes were handed up to him from persons who had been awakened that day, and three hundred and fifty persons joined his congregation. It was a splendid triumph, a stupendous victory, and that on the enemy's favorite ground . . . It is no wonder John Angell James, who was a great admirer of Mr. Whitefield, says, 'No such scenes since the Day of Pentecost under the sermon Peter preached as those of Whitefield's great field-day.' Never had he a grander day. Never did he exhibit greater heroism. It not only demonstrated his courage, but it exhibited his overwhelming eloquence . . . It was one of the most splendid days of his life."
Let me also add, for those readers who think Whitefield was like so many modern evangelists --- full of himself, that his humility exceeded his success. He said of himself, "Let the name of Whitefield perish." That prayer has been answered to a large degree. Few remember him and how God used him to change two countries. America was founded on the moral and spiritual legacy of the Great Awakening in the early 1700's. It's many blessings flowed from those early years of honoring God's Word and His Son. But, alas, the glory has departed, and she finds herself adrift on a sea of the bitter consequences of spitting in the face her Creator.