[PW] How many Americans did George Whitefield preach to

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com
Thu Mar 29 12:48:54 PDT 2018


Here is some pertinent text from Eugene Edmond White's 1947 Ph.D.
thesis. He cites a 1938 work by Edwin N. Hardy and suggests that the
audience estimate was provided by the preacher Whitefield himself.

[Begin excerpt]
Whitefield averaged about forty hours of preaching each week and
eventually delivered eighteen thousand sermons 1 to some ten million
auditors. 2

1 This is the number of sermons usually attributed to Whitefield by
historians. The evangelist's cenotaph in the Old South Church of
Newburyport, Massachusetts, records this number also.

2 Edwin N. Hardy, George Whitefield The Matchless Soul Winner (New
York: American Tract Society, 1938), 255. On several occasions
Whitefield stated that he had preached to more than ten million
persons during his ministry.
[End excerpt]

The thesis above mentions a cenotaph. Below is a link to an 1854 book
that described the cenotaph and states that cenotaph does record an
estimate for the number of sermons preached by Whitefield: "in a
ministry of 34 years, he crossed the Atlantic 13 times, and preached
more than 18,000 sermons."

Year: 1854
Book: A Gazetteer of the United States of America: Comprising a Concise

https://books.google.com/books?id=NQQ_AQAAMAAJ&q=%2213+times%22#v=snippet&

[Begin excerpt]
The celebrated George Whitefield died in this town, September 21,
1770. His remains repose under the pulpit of the First Presbyterian
Church, and a beautiful marble cenotaph, erected within the church to
his memory, by Hon. William Bartlet,—another of the munificent
benefactors of the Andover Seminary from Newburyport,—records, among
other things, that, "in a ministry of 34 years, he crossed the
Atlantic 13 times, and preached more than 18,000 sermons."
[End excerpt]

Garson O'Toole

On Thu, Mar 29, 2018 at 3:08 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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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