‘I Had Rather Wear Out Than Rust’
Some people just keep going – no matter what!
George Whitefield was the greatest preacher of the 18th century and one of the best-known and best-loved individuals in America.
Born in England, Whitefield entered Oxford University in 1734. He devoted his entire life to preaching. When churches refused to let him use their pulpits, he preached outdoors. He traveled the English-speaking world making 14 trips to Scotland and 7 to America. He regularly delivered as many as 20 sermons a week.
On September 29, 1770, Whitefield preached his last sermon in the fields. Though feeling ill, he set out in the morning by horseback from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to preach at Newburyport, Massachusetts, the next day.
On the way he passed through Exeter, New Hampshire, not intending to stop. However, people were aware he would be passing through and had gathered, hoping they could hear him preach. They had even erected a platform for him in a field. The crowd was insistent, and Whitefield agreed to speak.
As Whitefield approached the platform, an elderly gentleman said to him, “Sir, you are more fit to go to bed than preach.”
“True, sir,” Whitefield replied, looking up to Heaven. Then he said, “Lord Jesus, I am weary in thy work, but not weary of it. I have not yet finished my course, let me go and speak for Thee once more on the fields, seal thy truth, and come home and die.”
Longing for Heaven
When Whitefield mounted the platform, he stood for several minutes unable to speak. An observer noted that his spirit was willing but his flesh was dying.
He finally said, “I will wait for the gracious assistance of God, and He will, I am certain, assist me once more to speak in His name.”
He then preached for 2 hours on the verse, “Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Toward the end of the message he said:
I go; I go to a rest prepared: my sun has given light to many,
but now it must set – no, to rise to the zenith of immortal glory.
I have outlived many on Earth, but they cannot outlive me in Heaven.
Many shall outlive me on Earth and live when this body is no more,
but there – oh, thought divine! I shall be in a world where time, age,
sickness, and sorrow are unknown. My body fails, but my spirit expands.
How willingly would I live forever to preach Christ. But I die to be with Him.
Many of his hearers said it was the best sermon Whitefield had ever delivered.
Finishing the Race
After he was through, the exhausted Whitefield rode off to the home of Reverend Jonathan Parsons, pastor of the Old South Presbyterian Church in Newburyport.
Arriving tired and sick, Whitefield ate early. As we was going up the stairs to bed with a candle in his hand, the front door was opened to let in a crowd that had gathered outside the house. They begged him to preach, and he did until the candle in his hand burned out.
A 2 a.m., Whitefield awoke panting for breath. The young man who was traveling with him gently chided him for preaching so often. Whitefield replied, “I had rather wear out than rust out.”
At 7 a.m. that Sunday morning, Whitefield entered the land for which he had been prepared by sovereign grace, the land to which he had pointed tens of thousands, and the land that would be his home for all eternity.
From “The One Year Book of Christian History” by E. Michael and Sharon Rusten. 
David Ettinger is the owner and editor of Ettinger Writing. He holds a BA and MA from New Mexico State. His publications include Lifeway publications, Single Parent magazine (Focus on the Family), Zion’s Fire magazine, and Real Life magazine. He has one grandson and currently lives in Winter Garden, Florida.
Photos used from David Ettinger Website