[PW] How many Americans did George Whitefield preach to

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com
Thu Mar 29 13:47:31 PDT 2018


Here is a further exploration of the provenance of the "ten millions"
audience estimate. I have not yet seen this estimate in a work penned
by Whitefield. Here is a rather late and indirect instance of the
claim.

In 1877 Rev. L. Tyerman published a biography of George Whitefield
which cited a news report published in 1876 about a portable pulpit
used by Whitefield. The news report asserted that Whitefield "once
remarked that the gospel had been preached from it to more than ten
millions of people."

Year: 1877
Book: The Life of the Rev. George Whitefield
Author: Rev. L. Tyerman
Volume 1 of 2
Publisher Anson D. F. Randolph & Company, New York
Quote Page 555 (Footnote 2)
Database: Google Books Full View

https://books.google.com/books?id=MVdIAAAAYAAJ&q=millions#v=snippet&

[Begin excerpt]
Whitefield's "field-pulpit" was in existence, at the Tabernacle
Moorfields, as recently as 1839. (See "Services at the Centenary of
Whitefield's Apostolic Labours, 1839," p. 22.) It so happens, however,
that, in this very year 1876, another pulpit, or perhaps the same, is
on view in the great Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia. The
following is taken from the London Watchman and Wesleyan Advertiser,
of June 14, 1876: "The portable pulpit of George Whitefield, which
belongs to the American Tract Society, is on view at the Centennial
Exhibition. It is made of pine wood, and is so contrived that it can
be easily taken apart and put together. The great preacher delivered
more than two thousand sermons from this pulpit in the fields of
England, Wales, and America; and he once remarked that the gospel had
been preached from it to more than ten millions of people."
[End excerpt]

Chambers's Encyclopaedia in 1892 offered the audience estimate of "ten
millions of people".

Year: 1892
Book: Chambers's Encyclopaedia: A Dictionary of Universal Knowledge
Volume: 10
Publisher: William & Robert Chambers, London
Entry: George Whitefield
Start Page 641, Quote Page 642
Database: Google Books Full View

https://books.google.com/books?id=v2gWAAAAYAAJ&q=+%22ten+millions%22#v=snippet&

[Begin excerpt]
Whitefield made no fewer than seven evangelistic visits to America,
and the rest of his life was spent in preaching tours through England,
Scotland, and Wales. In these he preached more than 18,000 sermons to
ten millions of people.
[End excerpt]

Garson O'Toole


On Thu, Mar 29, 2018 at 3:48 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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
>>>> > _______________________________________________
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