Recently I’ve had the opportunity to have a bit of a holiday. After a Youth & Young Adult camp a few weeks ago I was able to spend some time with The Wife and also get to read a bit. I just randomly chucked in my bag the biography of George Whitefield by Arnold Dallimore (you can see it here). It is an extensive two-volume set that sets out the life and times of George Whitefield while also filling in various details about other significant Christian figures at the time.
While I haven’t quite finished it yet I have been struck on a number of fronts;
First, he was a man passionate about Jesus and only Jesus. From his teenage years, but more so after his conversion, Whitefield was consumed with proclaiming and showing Jesus in everything he did. While at university in Oxford he was a member of what was known as the Holy Club and made a conscious effort to always be upright in everything he did. As he grew in grace and a fuller understanding of the Gospel he pursued a passion for God’s glory and supremacy over all things.
Second, he was a man committed to preaching. Everywhere he went, from the age of 17 onwards, he preached consistently. At some stages in his life he would preach up to fifteen times per week. His ability and gift in preaching was beyond the average person but this still doesn’t negate the fact that he was always wanting to share the truth of the Gospel everywhere he went. Whether he was in America or in Britain Whitefield couldn’t help but preach and try to win souls to the Lord.
Third, he was a man who instigated change. His preaching practices were unorthodox for his time. He pushed the limits and received rejection for it, but the action to move from the church pulpit to open-air preaching changed the face of the preaching ministry. When not allowed to preach in the local church, due to the bishop’s or minister’s decree, he simply began preaching outside in the fields and parks of the city.
Fourth, he was a man who had the courage to persevere in his ministry despite ridicule and rejection. Whitefield’s Calvinistic convictions, zeal for the Lord and unorthodox preaching practices rubbed people up the wrong way. His fellow clergy and other lay-persons developed great dislike for Whitefield and so many articles, journals, letter and books were written against him and his beliefs. However, throughout he continued to trust in the Lord and pursue his ministry so the betterment of the kingdom. While hurt by many of his detractors Whitefield had the courage to stand and proclaim the Gospel.
Fifth, he was a man who sought unity rather than separation. At all times, particularly in his relationship with John Wesley, Whitefield sought to find common ground first rather than polarise people because of their belief or practice. In the end he had to separate from some relationships but not after he had pursued unity, support and friendship under the Gospel.
Whitefield’s biography and some of his writings have come at a perfect time. The way in which his life is portrayed and the writing style of Dallimore exposes the character and godliness of the man. I would highly recommend having a look at this book or other writings of Whitefield himself, it will do wonders for your soul.