Whitefield’s “New Methodism”

The breach between the young methodists and older religious societies in England can be partially traced to Whitefield’s epistle sent November 1739. Though tensions existed with the established clergy in 1737-8, mainly for the publication of his sermon titled ‘The New Birth’, Whitefield’s visit to Kingswood (in the Bristol area) would leave an irreparable gap.

Inspired by the example of Howell Harris’ who already enjoyed outdoor rivals in South Wales, Whitefield’s first open-air sermon was given to a crowd of 200 miners, bereft of both school and church. As a popular and newly ordained priest in the Church of England, Whitefield imagined it not far to preach outside when crowds were already spilling-out into church-yards to hear his pulpit preaching.

The ‘new methodists’ differed somewhat in both structure and content. Not only was the lively experienced of conversion stressed, but new Methodists were willing to forgo the so-called ‘Woodwardian’ liturgy common to the older societies in exchange for extemporaneous prayer and sermons without notes. I’ve taken a bit of time to highlight some differences apparently arising with the older groups as Whitefield explains them. For example Whitefield says,

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