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“I love those that thunder out the Word,” said George Whitefield. “The Christian World is in a dead sleep. Nothing but a loud voice can awaken them out of it.” Whitefield was almost certainly the greatest evangelist of the eighteenth century. He preached throughout the British Isles and the British colonies in North America. Although Whitefield’s reputation has been overshadowed by Wesley’s, his contribution to the revivals of the eighteenth century is almost as great.

George Whitefield, the famous evangelist, became friends with Benjamin Franklin, the famous printer and philosophe, while he was visiting Philadelphia on a preaching tour. This essay takes excerpts from the correspondence between two remarkable men of the eighteenth century.

Jonathan Edwards is probably the best-known figure associated with the Great Awakening. He has often been caricatured, however, simply as the “fire-and-brimstone” preacher of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Indeed, some secular writers, embarrassed by this distortion, have even attempted to reverse that picture completely, portraying a brilliant New England thinker who was only incidentally religious. The truth is that Edwards was a multifaceted man—certainly brilliant and undeniably a keen logician, but also an intensely religious man of deep and reverent piety. It is Jonathan Edwards, perhaps, not philosopher Baruch Spinoza, who deserves the description “the God-intoxicated man.”

Most accounts of the Great Awakening focus predominantly on the revivals in the middle colonies and particularly in New England. The South was the scene of revival too, however. Whitefield preached in southern cities, and Presbyterian Samuel Davies led a notable awakening in Virginia. Even farther south, in the Carolinas, was another phase of the Great Awakening, the Sandy Creek Revival.

Next to Jonathan Edwards, the leading American preacher of the Great Awakening was Gilbert Tennent of Pennsylvania. Tennent was a man of unusual abilities, but part of the credit for his accomplishments—humanly speaking—must go to the unusual education that he, his brothers, and several others received from Gilbert’s father, William Tennent, Sr. Their “log college” may not have been an Ivy League school, but it certainly was—as George Whitefield called it—a “school of the prophets.”

In this document, the Presbyterian minister Samuel Davies describes the congregations that he preached to in Virginia. Davies tells how he traveled to widely scattered congregations of believers in the back country of the Southern Colonies.

This letter from Samuel Davies, a minister in Virigina, describes the religious meetings that Samuel Morris held in his house.

This article in The New England Weekly Journal, a newspaper, describes how George Whitefield preached while he was in New York.

Benjamin Franklin became acquainted with the evangelist George Whitefield when Whitefield was preaching in Philadelphia. Franklin mentions Whitefield in this excerpt from his Autobiography.

George Whitefield preached his sermon "The Marriage of Cana" in Philadelphia, among other places. Notice the Whitefield's call to repentance at the end of this excerpt.
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