George Whitefield enjoyed his greatest triumph during his month-long tour through New England (1739). Welcomed by ministers and officials of colonies and towns, he found shops closed and business suspended during his stays, thousands of people at his heels, and many following him to the next town. Whitefield’s Boston visit lasted 10 days. Met on the road by a committee of ministers and conducted into the town, he found all meetinghouses except King’s Chapel open to him. He preached in all of them and also on the Common, where thousands could assemble. The contemporary record was set down in superlatives. Benjamin Colman’s words are typical: “admired and followed beyond any man that ever was in America.” The following is an excerpt from a sermon by Whitefield:
[T]hat I may know him and the power of his resurrection. . . . (Philippians 3:10 ESV)
The devils themselves cannot but believe the doctrine of the resurrection, and tremble; but yet they continue devils, because the benefits of this resurrection have not been applied to them, nor have they received a renovating power from it, to change and put off their diabolical nature. And so, unless we not only profess to know, but also feel that Christ is risen indeed, by being born again from above, we shall be as far from the kingdom of God as they: our faith will be as ineffectual as the faith of devils.
Nothing has done more harm to the Christian world, nothing has rendered the cross of Christ of less effect, than a vain supposition, that religion is something without us. Whereas we should consider, that every thing that Christ did outwardly, must be done over again in our souls; or otherwise, the believing there was such a divine person once on earth, who triumphed over hell and the grave, will profit us no more, than believing there was once such a person as Alexander, who conquered the world.
As Christ was born of the Virgin’s womb, so must he be spiritually formed in our hearts. As he died for sin, so must we die to sin. And as he rose again from the dead, so must we also rise to a divine life.
None but those who have followed him in this regeneration, or new-birth, shall sit on thrones as approvers of his sentence, when he shall come in terrible majesty to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.
It is true, as for the outward work of our redemption, it was a transient act, and was certainly finished on the cross, but the application of that redemption to our hearts, is a work that will continue always, even unto the end of the world.
So long as there is an elect man breathing on the earth, who is naturally engendered of the offspring of the first Adam, so long must the quickening spirit, which was purchased by the resurrection of the second Adam, that Lord from heaven, be breathing upon his soul.
For though we may exist by Christ, yet we cannot be said to exist in him, till we are united to him by one spirit, and enter into a new state of things, as certainly as he entered into a new state of things, after that he rose from the dead.
We may throng and crowd about Christ, and call him “Lord, Lord,” when we come to worship before his footstool; but we have not effectually touched him, till by a lively faith in his resurrection, we perceive a divine virtue coming out of him, to renew and purify our souls. (“The Power of Christ’s Resurrection”)
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