[PW] How many Americans did George Whitefield preach to

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com
Thu Mar 29 12:08:52 PDT 2018


The following claim about the size of George Whitehead's audience
appeared in the abstract of a 1947 PhD dissertation:

". . . Whitefield averaged about forty hours of preaching each week
and eventually delivered 18,000 sermons to some ten million auditors."

Here is a link to a webpage about the dissertation. The webpage has a
link that allows you to download the dissertation.

http://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/gradschool_disstheses/7908

Title: The Preaching of George Whitehead During the Great Awakening in America.
Author: Eugene Edmond White, Louisiana State University and
Agricultural & Mechanical College
Date of Award: 1947
Document Type: Dissertation
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Department: Speech Communication
Recommended Citation: White, Eugene Edmond, "The Preaching of George
Whitehead During the Great Awakening in America." (1947). LSU
Historical Dissertations and Theses. 7908.

https://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/gradschool_disstheses/7908

[Begin excerpt - double-check for errors]
ABSTRACT

For thirty-four years George Whitefield followed the Biblical dictum:
"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
Traveling by horseback, by schooner, and even by rowboat, he sought
converts in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Holland, Bermuda, and
Colonial America. The out-of-doors was often his chapel; and a mound,
tree stump, horse's back, or hogshead, served well as his pulpit. In
his itinerating, Whitefield averaged about forty hours of preaching
each week and eventually delivered 18,000 sermons to some ten million
auditors. An analysis of Whitefield's oratory during his entire
evangelical career from 1737 to 1770 would make a valuable
contribution to the history of American and English public address.
[End excerpt]

Garson O'Toole


On Thu, Mar 29, 2018 at 3:05 PM, Brett Spencer <legolasbow1212 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Thank you very much for researching this.  I just checked out the Packer
> "Spirit with the Word" book chapter but, alas, it also did not have the
> citation for these estimates.  A few sentences later in the essay, it does
> cite John Wesley as saying that Whitefield preached a lot, and I checked
> Wesley's work but no exact estimate there...
>
> Best,
> Brett
>
> On Thu, Mar 29, 2018 at 1:55 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole <
> adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
>
>> Here is an excerpt from a book that contains the assertion being
>> examined. The book contains a footnote that points to another book
>> containing the assertion.
>>
>> Year: 2012 (2011 Copyright)
>> Title: Men of One Book: A Comparison of Two Methodist Preachers,
>> John Wesley and George Whitefield
>> Author: Ian Maddock
>> Foreword by: Andrew T. B. McGowan
>> Publisher: The Lutterworth Press (Reprint edition)
>> Database: Google Books Preview
>>
>> [Begin excerpt]
>> Whitefield's preaching record was no less impressive. Throughout his
>> 35 year public ministry as a transatlantic evangelical revivalist, he
>> preached 18,000 formal sermons, often to audiences exceeding 20,000
>> people. As Packer observes, "Preaching the grace of God in Christ was
>> Whitefield's life, both metaphorically and literally." [9]
>> [End excerpt]
>>
>> [Begin footnote]
>> [9] Packer, "Spirit with the Word," 167. Packer continues, “It has
>> been estimated that during his ministry he preached to combined
>> audiences of over ten million, and that four-fifths of America's
>> colonists, from Georgia to New Hampshire, heard him at least
>> once—something that could be said of no other person." Packer, "Spirit
>> with the Word," 167-68.
>> [End footnote]
>>
>> The item below seems to be the reference that contains the claim. I
>> have not examined it, and the excerpt above used the phrase "It has
>> been estimated"; hence, the claim in the reference is also indirect.
>> Maybe there is a supporting citation within the reference? In any
>> case, it might be a useful lead for you.
>>
>> "The Spirit with the Word: The Reformational Revivalism of George
>> Whitefield", in The Bible, the Reformation and the Church: Essays in
>> Honour of James Atkinson, edited by William P. Stephens, 166-189,
>> Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995.
>>
>> Garson O'Toole
>>
>>
>> On Thu, Mar 29, 2018 at 10:21 AM, Brett Spencer
>> <legolasbow1212 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> > Hello,
>> >
>> > We are attempting to figure out how many Americans George Whitefield
>> > preached to during his lifetime.
>> >
>> > There is a widely-used statistic around the internet that Whitefield
>> > preached to about 80% (sometimes phrased as four-fifths) of the American
>> > colonists.  However, we can't find the original source of this estimate
>> or
>> > how it was compiled.  Can anyone offer suggestions?  Many thanks
>> >
>> > Best,
>> > Brett Spencer
>> > Reference Librarian
>> > Thun Library
>> > Penn State Berks
>> > Reading PA 19610
>> > 610-396-6261
>> > _______________________________________________
>> > Project Wombat - Project-wombat
>> > list at project-wombat.org
>> > http://www.project-wombat.org/
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