To Hear the Bridegroom's Voice
by Anthony Esolen
In September of 1770, George Whitefield, the Methodist preacher, was dying of congestive heart failure, but he prayed to God that he could preach one final sermon to the people of New England. That prayer was granted, which for Whitefield must have been quite a grace, given his passionate and animated style, and his utter conviction about the love of God. There was never anything Laodicean about that man. He suffered an attack of asthma the next day and died, a servant of God to the end.
He and the brothers Wesley had traveled the length and breadth of the colonies in the 1730s, prompting what was called the Great Awakening. During that time, Whitefield had made a fast friend of that semi-virtuous self-promoter, Ben Franklin, who never passed up the main chance when he saw it. Franklin published Whitefield's sermons, and Whitefield and the Wesleys gave to the colonies a renewed trust in the special providence of God. It would be interesting to determine how many copies of Methodist sermons were to be found in the libraries of the Founders, by comparison with copies of the social-contract dreamers Locke and Hobbes.
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Anthony Esolen is the author of over thirty books, including Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan, with a CD), Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery), and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Ignatius). He has also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House). He and his wife Debra publish a web magazine, Word and Song (anthonyesolen.substack.com), on poetry, hymnody, language, classic films, and music. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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