George Whitefield was born in Gloucester in 1714. At eighteen he entered Pembroke College, Oxford, and soon became a member of a religious group that included John Wesley and Charles Wesley. The group became became known as the Holy Club or the Oxford Methodists.
In 1735 John Wesley and Charles Wesley became missionaries in Georgia, America. Whitefield followed three years later and was appointed minister at Savannah. Whitefield and Wesley returned to England and settled in Bristol and gave sermons in the open-air. However, whereas Wesley built a Methodist Chapel in Bristol Whitefield decided to go back to Georgia where he made extensive preaching tours.
When he returned to England, the Countess of Huntington appointed him her chaplain and built and endowed many chapels for him. He made seven evangelistic visits to America and spent the rest of his life in preaching tours of Britain.
Whitefield made the last of his seven evangelistic visits to America in 1769. George Whitefield died near Boston in 1770.
Hail, happy saint! on thine immortal throne,
Possest of glory, life, and bliss unknown;
We hear no more the music of thy tongue;
Thy wonted auditories cease to throng.
Thy sermons in unequalled accents flowed,
And ev'ry bosom with devotion glowed;
Thou didst, in strains of eloquence refined,
Inflame the heart, and captivate the mind.
Unhappy, we the setting sun deplore,
So glorious once, but ah! it shines no more.
Behold the prophet in his towering flight!
He leaves the earth for heaven's unmeasured height,
And worlds unknown receive him from our sight.
There Whitefield wings with rapid course his way,
And sails to Zion through vast seas of day.
Thy prayers, great saint, and thine incessant cries,
Have pierced the bosom of they native skies.
Thou, moon, hast seen, and all the stars of light,
How he has wrestled with his God by night.
He prayed that grace in ev'ry heart might dwell;
He longed to see America excel;
He charged its youth that ev'ry grace divine
Should with full lustre in their conduct shine.
That Saviour, which his soul did first receive,
The greatest gift that ev'n a God can give,
He freely offered to the num'rous throng,
That on his lips with list'ning pleasure hung.
"Take him, ye wretched, for your only good,
"Take him, ye starving sinners, for your food;
"Ye thirsty, come to this life-giving stream,
"Ye preachers, take him for your joyful theme;
"Take him, my dear Americans, he said,
"Be your complaints on his kind bosom laid:
"Take him, ye Africans, he longs for you;
"Impartial Saviour is his title due:
"Washed in the fountain of redeeming blood,
"You shall be sons, and kings, and priests to God."
Great Countess, we Americans revere
Thy name, and mingle in thy grief sincere;
New England deeply feels, the orphans mourn,
Their more than father will no more return.
But though arrested by the hand of death,
Whitefield no more exerts his lab'ring breath,
Yet let us view him in the eternal skies,
Let ev'ry heart to this bright vision rise;
While the tomb, safe, retains its sacred trust,
Till life divine re-animates the dust.