It is hard to believe, but George Whitefield turns three hundred this year.
As a result, it looks like there are going to be some tremendous conferences and even books coming out which will be calling our attention to what God accomplished through him and what we can learn from him. I can’t wait!
But, since I have to, I thought I could go back to one of my absolute favorite books. It is a work by J.C. Ryle called, Christian Leaders of the 18th Century. I really think every pastor should own it, read it, and pray that God would help them live it.
To give you a taste of why this book is so impactful, let me highlight some of the reasons Ryle points out as to why Whitefield’s ministry is worth remembering and reflecting on.
1. He was a man of deep and unfeigned humility.
“Those that have most light and grace are always the humblest men.”
2. He was a man of burning love to our Lord Jesus Christ.
“He seems never weary of saying something about Jesus.”
3. He was a man of unwearied diligence and laboriousness about his Master’s business.
“The truth is, that in point of labour this extraordinary servant of God did as much in a few weeks as most of those who exert themselves are able to do in the space of a year.”
4. He was to the end a man of eminent self denial.
“He amassed no fortune, and founded no wealthy family. The little money he left behind him at his death arose entirely from the legacies of friends. The Pope’s coarse saying about Luther, ‘This German beast does not love gold,’ might have been equally applied to Whitefield.”
5. He was a man of remarkable disinterestedness and singleness of eye.
“He seemed to live only for two objects – the glory of God and the salvation of souls.”
6. He was a man of singularly happy and cheerful spirit.
“No one who ever saw him could ever doubt that he enjoyed his religion…He was eminently a rejoicing Christian, whose very demeanor recommended his Master’s service. A venerable lady of New York, after his death, when speaking of the influences by which the Spirit won her heart to God, used the remarkable words, -‘Mr. Whitefield was so cheerful that it tempted me to become a Christian.”
7. Last, but not least, he was a man of extraordinary charity, catholicity, and liberality in his religion.
“He loved all who loved the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. He measured all by the measure which the angels use – ‘Did they profess repentance towards God, faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, and holiness of conversation?’ If they did, they were as his brethren. His soul was with such men, by whatever name they were called.”