Stephen Nichols (SN): We are on location in Colonial Williamsburg. I’m here with a good friend of ours, Dr. Steve Lawson.
Steve Lawson (SL): Steven, it’s great to be with you. I can’t believe where we are right now.
SN: We find each other in great spots, don’t we?
SL: That’s right.
SN: Something happened here on December 16, 1739. What happened?
SL: The grand evangelist himself, the grand itinerant, George Whitefield, came to Bruton Parish Church and preached a powerful evangelistic message right here.
SN: What’s the significance of 1739 in the life of George Whitefield?
SL: It begins his first American tour. It will take him through all of 1740, and he will leave in January 1741.
SN: And he was a sensation. I think in his journal he mentions that people traveled on horseback fourteen miles?
SL: Yes, just to hear this one message. And they traveled even further in other places.
In fact, when Whitefield would come to preach, most cities would just shut down. They would cancel judicial hearings, shops would close, farmers would come out of the field. They would all come flocking to hear Whitefield preach.
SN: No one could compete with George Whitefield. What was the title of the sermon he gave here?
SL: The title of the sermon is “What Think Ye of Christ?” It’s drawn from Matthew 22:42, and it’s intentionally evangelistic because he understood this was a very religious place, but without regeneration and without the new birth. So he was intentionally probing the heart and the mind.
SN: We are standing in the churchyard of Bruton Parish Church, outside. We don’t know whether Whitefield was inside or outside. He was probably outside.
SN: So we are here with him in spirit centuries later. I thought you could read for us, in your great George Whitefield voice, a paragraph from this sermon.
SL: This is just one paragraph, and it’s early in the message. It shows how energized he was from the very beginning of this message. So here’s Whitefield.
Some, and I fear a multitude which no man can easily number, are among us who call themselves Christians, and yet, seldom or never seriously think of Jesus Christ at all.
Let me pause here. Whitefield is saying that the problem is, you don’t even think about Christ at all. Then he goes on to elaborate.
They think of their shops and their farms, their plays, their balls, their assemblies, and horse races. But as for Christ, the author and finisher of faith, the Lord who has bought poor sinners with his precious blood, and who is the only thing worthy thinking of, alas! he is not in all their thoughts. Or, at most, in very few of their thoughts.
But believe me, oh, you earthly, sensual, carnal-minded professors, however little you may think of Christ now, or however industriously you may strive to keep him out of your thoughts by pursuing the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, yet there is a time coming when you will wish you had thought of Christ more, and of your pleasures less.”
He is driving at the heart, that you must give Christ the place of preeminence.
SN: Earlier in the sermon, we get this great line from Whitefield: “He is unworthy of the name of minister who is unwilling to die for the truths of the Lord Jesus.” And Whitefield certainly was willing.
SL: He was. He was willing to die, and he was often attacked for preaching sermons like this. There were death threats on his life and actual real threats upon his life. Even as he would be sleeping in bed, people would break into the room and try to stab him to death.
SL: Whitefield was willing to die for the message, to seal it with his own blood, if necessary. And a preacher who’s not willing to die for his message is rarely powerful as he would live for the message.
SN: And he did all that for the sake of the gospel.