Updated: Jul 23
The Founding of Bethesda Academy and Legacy of George Whitefield
On March 25, 1740, just north of Pin Point Heritage Museum overlooking the Moon River, construction began at the oldest child caring institution in our country: The Bethesda Academy. Bethesda means “house of mercy.” There, one of the most prolific preachers of the Gospel of all time established a home and academy for orphaned young men. George Whitefield’s father died when George was two and he was inspired by this to demonstrate a love for the fatherless.
When we consider his life and influence, Savannah’s treasure becomes all the more remarkable.
Whitefield studied with John and Charles Wesley at Oxford University. After attempting to earn acceptance before a Holy God, Whitefield prayerfully pored over the Bible for a month. Upon realizing that forgiveness of sins from a Holy God came only by grace alone through faith alone in the perfect sacrifice of Christ alone, God changed his heart. Once ordained, his zeal and eloquence in proclaiming God’s Grace burst forth as fire. His bold and zealous preaching saw him scorned as a fanatic by Anglican Church leaders.
Whitefield took to the fields and preached to tens of thousands at a time. It was estimated he could be heard a mile away! Whitefield possessed a sensational voice and manner. Just as the Bible uses powerful imagery from nature, the pictures that he painted with words were mesmerizing. He truly illustrated an Arab proverb, of how a good orator can turn a man's ears into his heart. Once, when Whitefield described a storm at sea, a sailor in the audience leapt up and cried, “To the lifeboats!" His clear and earnest words were delivered with tears, truth, humility, and love.
From 1739 until the year he died upon preaching for two hours in 1770, his life was devoted to sharing the Good News. Despite many times being met with opposition, he persevered! There was hardly a considerable town in England, Scotland, or Wales he did not visit as an evangelist. He visited the Colonies seven times and Ireland twice. During Whitefield’s 34 years of ministry, he delivered 18,000 sermons (averaging roughly at 10 weekly) to 10 million souls, reaching 80% of the British colonists in North America! Whitefield continued to seek financial support and prayers for Bethesda. The spiritual revival of the Great Awakening united the Colonies with conviction and trust in Divine Providence, and laid the foundation for American independence.
https://gentlereformation.com/2019/07/02/enjoy-your-freedom-thank-a-presbyterian/ is a fascinating article that highlights the profound impact preachers of the Gospel had on the American Revolution. In the following flag inspired by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, we see the influence of the idea that even kings are subject to the Authority of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ. If earthly kings and governments go against God, Christians should resist. In considering the founding of Bethesda Academy, may we be inspired as we consider a life of Christian love and selfless devotion to God and man.
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