History of Old South Church

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Biography of George Whitefield :: Virtual Tour :: For Further Reference

George WhitefieldA Brief Biography of George Whitefield

Rev. George Whitefield, Calvinistic Evangelist, was born in the Bell Inn, at Gloucester, England on the sixteenth day of December, 1714. The circumstances of his early life were not favorable to his becoming a righteous man. He had a fondness for elocution and acting. This, he practiced to a considerable extent.

With the money he received, he used to buy books, which were of great use to his soul. He went to Oxford at the age of eighteen, and became associated with John and Charles Wesley, and others, in what was known as the "Holy Club." Their austerities and charitable endeavors among the poor attracted general attention.

In response to an urgent appeal from John Wesley, he came to Georgia as a missionary. The United States, then a line of English colonies, became for him a land of opportunity and fruitful labor.

He arrived in Newburyport in September, 1740. The revival that followed his labors, brought into existence Old South. He crossed the Atlantic thirteen times, and preached more than 18,000 sermons. His audiences often numbered as many as 15,000 people.

All did not take kindly to his words, for on one occasion a stone was hurled, which nearly struck the Bible from his hand. His reply reveals the greatness of his spirit.

"I have a warrant from God to preach. His seal, (holding up the Bible), is in my hand, and I stand in the King's highway."

Benjamin Franklin, after hearing him preach, made this comment:

"His integrity, disinterestedness, and indefatigable zeal, in promoting every good work, I ha' never seen equaled, and shall never see excelled."

His activities continued to the evening before his death. In response to the appeal of the people gathered on School Street, outside of the home of Parsons, he preached to them from the staircase, "until the candle, which he still held, burned away, and went out in its socket."

At six o'clock on Sunday morning, September 30, 1770, he passed into eternal glory 30 years to the day after his first visit to Newburyport.

Today he rests eternally, according to his wishes, in a crypt under the pulpit of this Church that he helped found.

Help Old South preserve its historical meeting house and the final resting place of George Whitefield by donating to Old South's Historical Restoration Fund. Thank you.


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