George Whitefield

Franklin and Whitefield

Every so often we come across a friendship that is truly unique. The affection that Benjamin Franklin, scientist and humanist, and George Whitefield, evangelical Anglican preacher and evangelist, had for each other, was one of these.




Sadly, they did not meet at a level of faith. Whitefield constantly challenged Franklin to believe in Christ but the rational scientist resisted. However they met at the level of human respect. Franklin respected Whitefield’s intelligence and desire to improve the world in which he lived. In one letter Franklin suggested that they move to Ohio together (in 1756), away from the constraints of the East Coast and set up a new society there – “A strong body of religious and industrious people.” Dallimore Vol. 2 p448.

Franklin was amazed by Whitefield’s oratory and ability to speak to huge crowds. On one occasion he estimated that Whitefield was speaking to a crowd of 30,000.

Even though Franklin disagreed with the siting of Whitefield’s orphanage in Georgia, in time he came to support the project both financially and through his newspaper.

Whitefield also admired Franklin as a thinker and man of action. Aside from faith, he recognised in Franklin a kindred spirit. Both were prepared to be scorned and ridiculed rather than compromise their values. Franklin, in reply to his sister who was concerned for his reputation, said that when, from a distance, you see boys throwing stones at a tree, you can be assured it is laden with fruit. In other words, receiving slander, libel and ridicule are evidence that the recipient is holding onto treasures.

In 1763 Whitefield even wrote to Franklin of his concerns regarding the growing tension in the relationship between the U.K. and the American colonies. It is clear that they were open with each other on all topics, from faith to politics.

These friendships in public life seem to be rare today. Wouldn’t it be a breath of fresh air to see an agnostic evolutionist scientist have a respectful and lasting friendship with a conservative evangelical. This would certainly be an example of how discussions and debates could be held – without the vitriol and character assassination which is all too prevalent from both sides.


Arnold Dallimore’s two volume biography of George Whitefield.
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Great Preaching

This long weekend, being hot, and therefore not conducive to physical work, gave me an excellent opportunity to read some old sermons. I read through sermons by George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon. It was a great way to while away the hours. While reading the works of these great men a number of thoughts struck me:



1. All the sermons I read were crammed with Biblical quotes and examples. These preachers used the Bible as their primary source. It was the well they constantly drew from; their first port of call. Even though they used the topics of their day, it was God’s Word that they stood on. There were no examples of pop psychology and glib jokes. They spoke on God’s behalf. Their aim was not to tickle ears.
2. The overarching story of Christ, promised in the Old Testament and delivered in the New was always central to their message. I found the cross constantly placed before me. I couldn’t dodge and weave. The Bible was a grand story not a series of fairy tales or even worse, a source of trite examples.
3. Finally, these sermons struck at my heart. They were passionate and didn’t allow me to simply listen for information, feel entertained or do some psychological self examination. Each preacher demanded that I consider my relationship with God and my place in His Kingdom. I was confronted by my brokenness and offered a solution to my condition. Whitefield, in particular, confronted fellow clergy as well.

I am not saying this style of preaching doesn’t occur today. It does, but it is in short supply. I have been to many different churches over the last 30 months. Psychology, information and a lack of passion is easy to find. I have also found passion without content. But Biblical passion, anchored in Biblical teaching seeking souls and declaring a Kingdom are, sadly, in short supply. Any person who feels called by God to preach could do well to go to these preachers of yesteryear and learn a thing or two. Even though I haven’t preached for a while, I felt convicted by these servants of God.

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The Morning Star of the C18th Welsh Revival

It is amazing the way that God works. Forces are arrayed against His plans only to be outwitted time and again.

This occurred (once again) in the years leading up to the Methodist Revival in Wales in the C18th. An Anglican minister, Griffith Jones, sometimes referred to as the “morning Light of the Welsh Revival” was often in trouble with his superiors for his unorthodox approaches. Dallimore references him in his biography of Whitefield. For example, Jones preached outdoors when the crowds became too large. This was not the “done thing.” In all, he was too enthusiastic for his times. So the authorities restricted his ability to preach. Now, this could seem like a defeat. However, Jones, undeterred, commenced a series of circulating schools (schools that would remain in an area for a while and then move on). Many thousands of people learned to read and were presented with the gospel through his work. It also provided a wonderful foundation for the revival to come – a wonderful picture of God’s sovereignty.

Griffith Jones is an example of one who sees obstacles as opportunities. Once again, there is a lesson in that for me.

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The Beauty of a Well Written Biography

whitefieldIn 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.

Categories: Book Review, christian, Christianity, George Whitefield, Reflections | 1 Comment

The Supporter

“Behind every great man,” so the joke goes, “stands a surprised mother-in-law.” For George Whitefield and the Wesley brothers, John and Charles, it wasn’t a mother-in-law, but an amazing lady, Selina the Countess of Huntingdon. The countess used her position and wealth to support and encourage the evangelical revival in Britain in the C18th.

In an era when the established Anglican church was largely moribund, other means were found to bring hope to the poor in the mining towns and emerging industrial cities. As one could only preach in an established church and evangelicals were prevented from preaching in them, the wily countess used her privileged position to establish chapels. She was allowed to do this as the aristocracy moved around the country to their various estates. She was permitted to set up six chapels. She obviously couldn’t count as she established 64 evangelical chapels and supported many others in which people such as the Wesleys and Whitefield could bring a message of hope.

Ultimately she was forced to disassociate herself from the established church and throw her lot in with the dissenters. After the expulsion of a number of Methodist students from an Oxford college she set up her own training college in Wales – Trevecka.

The countess also encouraged the spread of the gospel among the slave and Indian populations in the American colonies.

If you read any biography of Whitefield (such as Arnold Dallimore’s excellent two volume edition) or the Wesleys, Selina Countess of Huntingdon emerges as stalwart and incredible supporter of the spread of the gospel. She is evidence of the amazing variation of talents and gifts  in the body of Christ. The task the Lord had for her was to enable the light of the  C18th revival to burn far brighter.

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George Whitefield – the Great Evangelist

George Whitefield an Anglican Minister, lived from 1714 to 1770 and preached in Britain and the American colonies. He was a prolific preacher and spoke to thousands and affected


many lives with the Gospel.

Some quotes:

Nothing is more generally known than our duties which belong to Christianity; and yet, how amazing is it, nothing
is less practiced?
If your souls were not immortal, and you in danger of losing them, I would not thus speak unto you; but the love of your souls constrains me to speak: methinks this would constrain me to speak unto you forever.
Although believers by nature, are far from God, and children of wrath, even as others, yet it is amazing to think how nigh they are brought to him again by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Among the many reasons assignable for the sad decay of true Christianity, perhaps the neglecting to assemble ourselves together, in religious societies, may not be one of the least.

More qu0tes can be found at such sites as “Brainy Quotes”.

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