George Whitefield’s Love for Christ and Sinners
George Whitefield’s intense passion was kindled by his own deepening love for God and Jesus Christ, which in turn ignited his compassion for lost sinners. Biographer Joseph Belcher described Whitefield as being “fired with love, from being in habitual contact with the cross.” Whitefield’s affection for God was stoked by reflection upon the greatness of His character. Moreover, his heart of love was fueled by his personal communion with Jesus Christ. This intimate knowledge of Christ was the consistent theme that filled his soul and increased his affections. Belcher added that Whitefield was consumed with “a heart burning with love and zeal for his Lord and Master.”
Fervent love lay at the very center of Whitefield’s effectiveness as an evangelist. As he preached, his love for sinners seemed to overpower them. “In all his discourses,” John Gillies observes, “there was a fervent and melting charity, and earnestness of persuasion, an outpouring of redundant love.”
Whitefield often wept as he preached
Whitefield often wept as he preached. Marcus Loane wrote, “Few could withstand the sight. It woke up affections and touched the hidden strings of the heart as nothing else could ever do; men could not hate one who loved and wept for their souls.” He was so compelled by the love of Christ that he found it quite difficult to stop pleading for his listeners’ souls.
A deep compassion for unbelievers moved Whitefield in his preaching. He once declared, “The love of Jesus Christ constrains me to lift up my voice like a trumpet. My heart is now full; out of the abundance of the love which I have for your precious and immortal souls, my mouth now speaks; and I could now not only continue my discourse until midnight, but I could speak until I could speak no more.” He expended himself wholeheartedly in the pursuit of the lost, and they knew it, and were drawn to his sincere pleas.
The ruling principle of Whitefield’s heart was the love of Christ demonstrated at the cross. “The love of Jesus … is unfathomable,” he declared. “O the height, the depth, the length, and breadth, of this love, that brought the King of Glory from His throne, to die for such rebels as we are, when we had acted so unkindly against Him, and deserved nothing but eternal damnation.” This contagious affection for sinners flowed out of Whitefield’s conviction that Christ loves indiscriminately all those who come to Him in faith.
The ruling principle of Whitefield’s heart was the love of Christ demonstrated at the cross.
No matter the severity of sinners’ moral pollution, Whitefield proclaimed the love of Christ to pardon even the most vile and filthy of transgressors. Despite their wickedness, he extended passionate appeals to come to Christ for cleansing from sins. “Why fear ye that the Lord Jesus Christ will not accept you?” he asked. Whitefield desired to remove all hesitation in the unconverted that would prevent them from coming to Christ:
Your sins will be no hindrance, your unworthiness no hindrance; if your own corrupt hearts do not keep you back nothing will hinder Christ from receiving of you. He loves to see poor sinners coming to Him, He is pleased to see them lie at His feet pleading His promises; and if you thus come to Christ, He will not send you away without His Spirit; no, but will receive and bless you.
This excerpt is from Steven Lawson’s new title from Reformation Trust, The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield.