In my re-reading of Arnold Dallimore’s magnificent 2 volume biography of George Whitefield I have been struck by the qualities of a good biography. Dallimore doesn’t just tell us the story of Whitefield but he adds a wonderful description of the social and religious conditions in England in the C18th. Moreover, he also explores the foundations of the religious groups and societies at the time and assesses their impact on the lives of Whitefield and the Wesleys.
For example, the author describes the Moravians and their amazing impact on the Wesleys but he is not uncritical. Count Zinzendorf had a higher view of the Augsburg Confession than the Bible. This led to Scripture not being given the respect and study it deserved. It was often used in the “lucky dip” method when looking for a verse for guidance – open the Bible at random and place a finger on a verse. Yet the Moravians had a faith and passion that was missing in C18th England and had a deep and profound impact on the Wesley brothers, John and Charles.
The author paints a picture of the times and weighs the positives and negatives. We are reminded that God is always working with incomplete men and women in the development of His kingdom.
The biography is full of delightful digressions such as the a brief overview of the Welsh evangelist who encouraged Whitefield to become a field preacher, Howell Harris.
Lord willing, I will return to this biography on future occasions as I progress through the books. To this point, it has been a valuable insight into Church history.
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