Urgency Extinguishes Excuses

George-Whitefield2“Last night I was called to sacrifice my Isaac, I mean to bury my only child and son about four months old,” wrote George Whitefield in a letter to a friend. As one who has experienced the excruciating pain of losing a child, I can empathize with the late Whitefield. After recounting how his “flower was cut down,” Whitefield confesses to his friend his temptation to take a sabbatical from his very active evangelistic ministry. Whitefield was an open-air preacher. Haykin writes, “He would preach in fields and foundries, in ships, cemeteries, and pubs, atop horses and even a hangman’s scaffold, from stone walls and balconies, staircases and windmills.”[1]

In the 34 years between his conversion and his death, it is believed that Whitefield preached around 18,000 sermons.[2] Understandably, this man who made 13 transatlantic trips in hopes of seeing lost souls saved, wanted time to grieve. He did not, however, take that time. So gripped by the call to make disciples, Whitefield understood that every day he did not tarry to preach the good news was a day where someone may not hear the gospel.

He continued in his letter:

All joined in desiring that I could decline preaching ‘till the child was buried; but I remembered a saying of good Mr. [Matthew] Henry, “that weeping must not hinder sowing,” and therefore preached twice the next day, and also the day following, on the evening of which, just as I was closing my sermon, the bell struck out for the funeral. At first, I must acknowledge, it gave nature a little shake, but looking up I recovered strength, and then concluded with saying, that this text on which I had been preaching, namely “all things worked together for good to them that love God,” made me as willing to go out to my son’s funeral, as to hear of his birth.[3]

After the death of his son, Whitefield and his wife, Elizabeth James, mourned through four miscarriages, and yet he did not cease to preach the gospel.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest,” (Matthew 9:37-38).

[1] Michael A.G. Haykin, The Revived Puritan: The Spirituality of George Whitefield (Dundas, Ontario: Joshua Press, 2000), 30.

[2] Ibid., 32.

[3] Ibid., 169.