Only the judgement morning will reveal who the converts really are
George Whitefield was an evangelist in the eighteenth century. He was converted in his early adulthood and then he became an ordained Anglican minister.
Whitefield held to the 5 Solas of the Reformation:
- Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.
- Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
- Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
- Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
- Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.
But in Whitefield’s day there are many ordained ministers in the Anglican church who did not truly believe those doctrines, let alone preach and practice them. The Anglican communion around the world is still in that condition today: there are many within it who do not fully believe the 5 Solas of the Reformation.
The majority of Anglican ministers refused to let Whitefield preach in their churches because he was emphasizing the necessity of the New Birth and saying that many ordained ministers were not born again and were preaching a false gospel.
Whitefield often preached in the open air because ministers would not let him use their pulpits. What is more, the crowds who flocked to hear Whitefield were too big to fit into most bricks and mortar churches. So Whitefield resorted to preaching in the open air. He often preached to many thousands of people at once. In those days there were no p.a. systems to electronically amplify sound, but God had gifted Whitefield with a powerful voice and the crowds who listened to him were often so silently attentive that his voice could be heard at long distances.
I want to share with you a passage from the biography of Whitefield written by Arnold Dallimore. As you read this passage, think about how it contrasts with evangelists like Billy Graham who call people to come to the front and verbalise “the sinner’s prayer”.
It must be explained that Whitefield made no appeal for people to make a public profession of salvation at his services. His practice…was one of making powerful application of the Gospel as he preached and of therewith leaving the Word to become operative in the heart by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He looked for the Spirit’s work in arousing the sinner to a deep, and even overwhelming, sense of his need, but this work he called, not conversion, but awakening.¹
Many of these awakened ones sought him out in private, that they might ask his further counsel and beg a place in his prayers. So large were the numbers of those who came that he found it necessary, both in his early ministry and throughout all his later life, to announce certain hours at which he would be available for this purpose. In these interviews he taught that the illumination of the mind and the implanting of faith in the heart are entirely the work of the Holy Spirit. He urged the seeker to go directly to the Lord, entreating that this saving work might be done within him. He directed the needy soul to the Gospel promises and told him to plead them before God, and, on the basis of them, to seek assurance that this Divine work was accomplished within his heart.
Yet Whitefield gave no seeker reason to believe that such an interview was essential to, or necessarily productive of, salvation. His emphasis was ever that salvation is a Divine work, a matter between the human soul and the Lord, and many left his presence to continue to seek – some for days and even weeks – and to entreat God to make them the objects of His mercy. But numerous persons came again to Whitefield, and many others wrote to him, telling him, often with abounding joy and deep assurance, that this work had indeed been accomplished within them. Yet, even then, he still refused to count converts. He chose to wait until conversion had been manifested by months of a transformed life, and his attitude is well expressed in his words, “Only the judgement morning will reveal who the converts really are”.
¹ One of the 1739 editions of Whitefield’s sermon on The New Birth contained also ‘A Prayer for One Desiring to be Awakened to an Experience of the New Birth, and another for One Newly Awakened to a Sense of the Divine Life.’
— George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the Eighteenth-Century Revival, by Arnold A Dallimore (The Banner of Truth Trust: Edinburgh UK, Carlisle PA USA, 1970; vol 1, p 137).
I invite you to listen to this sermon from Ps Sam Powell: You must be born again.
Other posts that mention George Whitefield
Standing Against Abuse Requires the Making of Enemies – a paragraph from that post:
All of us, if we are going to follow Christ and do battle for him against evil, are going to have to come to the same realization that George Whitefield did when he said, “I am fully convinced there is a fundamental difference between us and them. They believe only an outward Christ, we further believe that He must be inwardly formed in our hearts also.” There is no middle ground. Either we stand for truth or we don’t. Either we are born again or we are dead in our sins. Either we see evil for what it is and expose it no matter what, or we compromise with it and join it.