A Short Recounting of George Whitefield’s Conversion

Before Lifeway, there was the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. In the Mid-20th Century, this board put out a series of studies for churches to use with their parishioners. One such study was called Soul-Winning Doctrines by J. Clyde Turner (1943). In his section on regeneration, he gives a short recounting of George Whitefield’s conversion that I thought our readers might be encouraged by. Read Turner’s explanation below:

“It is said that George Whitefield, the great evangelist, preached on this text, ‘Ye must be born again’ more than three thousand times. One day a friend said to him, ‘Mr. Whitefield, why do you preach so often on that text?’ Mr. Whitefield replied, ‘Because ye must be born again.’ But there was another reason why he used it so often. It was because of the influence that text had on his own life.

As a young man, he and his companions went deep into sin. Then one day there came to him a realization of his condition. He saw his own heart in all of its blackness. But he did not know what to do to be saved. he tried a life of self-denial. He denied himself every luxury, he wore ragged clothes, he ate only the coarsest food, he fasted twice a week, he gave his money to the poor, and spent whole nights in prayer. It was all in vain. He felt that something was wrong in his own heart which all his efforts could not change.

It was then that he met Charles Wesely. Wesley gave him a book to read, called The Life of God in the Soul.* He read it and became convinced that he must become a new creature in Christ. The book brought him face to face with the challenge of Christ, ‘Ye must be born again.’ Then one day there at Oxford University, where he was a student, he laid hold of Jesus Christ by faith, and the Spirit of God came into his heart and wrought that might change.

He sat down and wrote to his relatives and told them he had at last found out by experience that there was such a thing as a new birth. And so, wherever he went, that was the truth which he proclaimed. Whether he was preaching to the Indians in the forests of America, or [people] in the Bermudas, or to the miners in the hills of Scotland, or to the select group in the drawing room of Lady Huntingdon, his one insistent message was, ‘Ye must be born again.'” (p. 19)


*Free Grace Press has a deal on The Life of God in the Soul of Man – 10 copies for $5 each.

1 thought on “A Short Recounting of George Whitefield’s Conversion”

  1. I have been trying to discover whether Whitefield or Wesley first produced documented evidence that divorced the phrase ‘born again’ from baptism. Luther , Calvin and the entire ancient church, East & West, all saw born again as meaning baptism. What Wesley and Whitefield considered born again, the ancient church, I believe, would call ‘conversion’. To me, and in my own personal experience, I would describe this conversion experience as a Road to Damascus experience whereas, born again aka born from above has always referred to baptism which is what Jesus told Nicodemus must occur for one enter the Kingdom of Heaven. My conversion occurred years after Baptist but I would think that conversion, by means of prevenient grace, can obviously occur prior to baptism as in Paul’s case.


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