Monday, December 27, 2010

George Whitefield's Text--John 3:3

George Whitefield's (1714-1770) zeal for evangelization carried him across the Atlantic between Great Britain and America thirteen times. He passed back and forth between the two continents as though they were a pair of rural villages at a time when travel was a very dangerous undertaking.

It was at Oxford University when he was a young man of twenty-one that he was marvelously delivered from a life of debauchery and evil associations. This is what he has to say about that time: "God was pleased at length to remove my heavy load and to enable me, by a living faith, to lay hold on His dear Son. And oh! with what joy was I filled when the weight of sin left me and an abiding sense of the pardoning love of God broke in upon my disconsolate soul!" In his ecstasy he wrote to all his relatives: "I have found that there is such a thing as the new birth."

"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" was Whitefield's text on both sides of the Atlantic. In season and out of season, in public and in private, he ceaselessly proclaimed that message. He felt that he was sent into the world to call the attention of men to that one mandatory truth. He made the doctrine of the new birth his universal message because he found that it met a universal need, preaching more than three hundred times from this memorable and striking passage.

"Born again." What does it mean? It means, if it means anything, that the miracle of Creation's morning may be reenacted: a man may be made all over again. He may be changed root and branch; the very fiber and fabric of his manhood may be transfigured.

I cannot explain the creation of the universe; but, for all that, here is the universe! I cannot explain the mystery of birth; but what does it matter? here is the child! I cannot explain the truth that, darting like a flash of lightning into the soul of that Oxford student, transforms his whole life; but here is George Whitefield!

Whitefield's powerful, melodic voice is legendary. On one occasion he preached--without any means of amplification--to a crowd in Glasgow, Scotland, numbering nearly 100,000. His voice is said to have resembled an organ, a flute, and a harp all playing at the same time! His evangelistic ministry continued for more than thirty years resulting in revivals which swept England and America in the 1700's. He preached over 18,000 sermons to multitudes on village greens, street corners, fairs, festivals, in open fields and in churches that were so full he had difficulty reaching the pulpit. His message that men might be remade, regenerated, born again by faith in Christ, caused thousands, including eminent preachers, poets and philanthropists, to commit their lives to Christ.

"I am now fifty-five years of age," he said in one of his final addresses, "and I am more than ever convinced that the truth of the new birth is a revelation from God Himself, and that without it you can never be saved."

"Why, Mr. Whitefield," inquired a friend one day, "why do you so often preach on 'Ye must be born again?'"

"Because," replied Mr. Whitefield, looking solemnly into the face of his questioner, "Ye must be born again!"

--Adapted from Life Verses, Vol. 3, by F.W. Boreham

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