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Whitefield, George


Anglican clergyman, leader of the great awakening; b. Gloucester, England, Dec. 16, 1714; d. Newburyport, Massachusetts, Sept. 30, 1770. Whitefield's parents were innkeepers and, after grammar school studies, he worked in the inn. At the age of 18 he obtained a position as a servitor at Pembroke College, Oxford, working as a domestic to pay his lecture fees. Here he became acquainted with John and Charles Wesley and in 1735 experienced a religious conversion. He obtained his B.A. degree and became a deacon in 1736. After doing missionary work in Georgia, he returned to England and was ordained in 1739.

While on a preaching tour of England, Scotland, and Wales, Whitefield became aware that working people were not attending church services. He began field preaching in a coal-mining town in 1739, and open-air

preaching was his rule thereafter. Returning to America that year, he met William and Gilbert Tennent and Theodore Frelinghuysen, who were beginning a religious revival in the colonies. Whitefield's preaching tours (173941) began the Great Awakening in America. After another extended American visit (174448), he made four more colonial preaching tours (175152, 175455, 176365, 176970). Whitefield had the cooperation of many Congregationalist, Presbyterian, and Reformed clergymen, but was usually turned away by his Anglican colleagues. He supported many charitable causes, establishing (1740) his Savannah orphanage and a school for African-Americans in Georgia and helping to found (1769) Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, for the education of Native Americans.

In England Whitefield was closely associated with Howell Harris, and in 1743 he was chosen to be moderator for life of the Calvinistic Welsh Methodists. He remained on friendly terms with the Wesleys and attended Methodist Conferences as late as 1767. His Calvinistic theology differed from Wesley's Arminian views on unconditional election, irresistible grace, final perseverance, and nonreprobation. In 1765 he became chaplain to Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, whose followers shared his theological views.

Bibliography: t. robert, A Narrative of the Life of George Whitefield (London 1771). l. tyerman, The Life of the Rev. George Whitefield, 2 v. (New York 1877). s. c. henry, George Whitefield: Wayfaring Witness (Nashville 1957).

[r. k. macmaster]

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