George Whitefield and African American Christianity – 2

Phillis Wheatley, poet, aged 17

We’ve been looking at George Whitefield’s efforts to bring the Christian message to 18th century America.

Preaching amongst the black population
In 18th century America, the African population were almost all slaves. That they were slaves in the first place is an outrage, but we’re told the white population looked upon them as little better than animals, not only as inferior in intelligence, but not even having souls.

Whitefield rejected this completely and insisted on telling slaves that they were made in the image of God, and that they were so important to God that Christ died on the cross for them.

He had written to the whites, ‘Think you, your children are in any way better by nature [than black children]? No! In no wise! Blacks are just as much, and no more, conceived and born in sin as white men are, and both, I am persuaded, are naturally as capable of the same improvement.’[i]

Whitefield was committed to preaching that all are equal in the sight of God. This was offensive to many whites – but he insisted that all are made in the image of God.

Many African slaves were converted to Christ and the earliest spiritual songs were heard amongst those to whom Whitefield had preached.

The Poem for whitefield, published

An African Tribute to George Whitefield
Whitefield was genuinely loved and appreciated by those who came to Christ through his preaching.

Phillis Wheatley a former slave with a superb literary gift, wrote a poem of appreciation about Whitefield after his death.

Wheatley herself is a marvel of intellectual ability, having been in America only 9 years she had mastered the language superbly. Her brilliance is evident in many of her published poems. She was the first African American poet to be published in America. She later wrote a poem for George Washington. He was so impressed with her poetic skill he said it would be a privilege to meet her.

Of Whitefield’s preaching she writes,
‘Thou didst, in Strains of Eloquence refin’d,
Inflame the Soul and captivate the Mind.’

Of his praying she writes,
‘He pray’d that Grace in every Heart might dwell:
He long’d to see America excel;
He charg’d its Youth to let the Grace Divine
Arise, and in their future Actions shine.’

Using his style of preaching she exhorts her readers:
‘Take HIM, ye wretched, for your only Good;
Take HIM, ye starving Souls, to be your Food.
Ye Thirsty, come to this Life-giving Stream:
Ye Preachers, take him for your joyful Theme:
Take HIM, “my dear Americans,” he said;
Be your Complaints in his kind Bosom laid:
Take HIM, ye Africans, he longs for you;
Impartial SAVIOUR, is his Title due;
If you will choose to walk in Grace’s Road,
You shall be Sons, and Kings, and Priests to GOD.’

Whitefield’s contribution to the development of African American Christianity was imperfect, but it was significant.

Whitefield loved America, sought to build America, rebuke its wrongs and try and reach those it wronged, by proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

To read of Whitefield’s failure to oppose slavery click here
To read of Wesley’s encouragement to Wilberforce to fight slavery click here

[i]  Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, Vol 1, p.494

© 2010 Lex Loizides

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Violence Seems to Triumph – The First Methodist Martyr

(Methodism and the Mob Part 6)

The Mob Reacts – The Death of William Seward

How do you respond when you hear that a Christian missionary is in trouble for distributing Christian literature, or for some other attempt to communicate the Christian faith?

Maybe your first response is to assume that the believer lacked wisdom. You may be right, of course. Christians can get carried away as they try and verbalise how wonderful they think Jesus Christ is. Each incident needs to be assessed separately.

But on the other hand, we’ve got to a slightly strange place when our assumption is that a follower of Christ trying to share their faith is automatically over-zealous or unwise.

Don’t misunderstand me: the Christian needs to communicate his faith with respect, wisdom and grace, with an ability to listen to others’ objections and beliefs. (see Col 4:4-6)

But the idea that a negative response to an honest attempt at presenting the gospel is always a correction, or, worse, a sign of God’s disapproval, merely reveals our evangelistic immaturity. Jesus made it clear that there would be times when the message would be rejected. Even He was rejected (see John 15:20-21).

And it’s difficult to think of how the Christian Faith advanced from its earliest days apart from believers courageously communicating the gospel to those who didn’t respect the Christian ideals of tolerance and debate.

Another thought before we re-join the 18th century battlefield: put yourself in the position of the hapless ‘missionary’ who is in jail for trying to share the Christian faith. It’s quite likely that you would be your own harshest critic as you retrace the decisions or statements that got you into trouble. My guess is that you’d want folk to pray for you.

The First Methodist Martyr
In October 1740,William Seward and Howell Harris were out again preaching the gospel in Wales. This time, they visited Hay-on-Wye.

Suddenly, someone from the crowd took aim and Seward was hit with a large stone and lay unconscious on the ground.

Dallimore writes, ‘he was carried from the scene unconscious. For a few days he hovered between life and death, but sank steadily lower till on October 22, 1740, his spirit passed away.’ (Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, Vol 1, Banner of Truth, p.584)

Seward’s death, at age 38, was a blow to the young movement. But it did not stop their passionate preaching. Undeterred, they continued to present the gospel to the masses in Britain.

It was a personal blow to Whitefield, both in terms of friendship and financial support. Seward was helping fund Whitefield’s Orphan House in Georgia and Whitefield now carried that financial burden alone. Tragically, Seward had not made a will (ibid, p.585)

Trusting in God’s Sovereignty

John Wesley wrote in his journal for Mon Oct 27th, ‘The surprising news of poor Mr Seward’s death was confirmed. Surely God will maintain his own cause! Righteous art thou O Lord!’

Wesley’s trust in God’s sovereignty is totally appropriate. Is there any individual, or people too hard for God to reach by His grace? No! ‘The earth is the Lord’s and its fullness.’

We might question Seward’s enthusiasm, especially when he had been a target for violence before; the sin, however, was not his, but the one who threw the stone.

And the message of forgiveness of all sins through Jesus Christ continued to be preached throughout Britain during the 1740’s.

See Methodism and the Mob Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

To see more on how John Wesley handled a mob situation click here
© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Passion of the Evangelist: Whitefield Preaches in America

George Whitefield, the Evangelist
George Whitefield, the Evangelist

(Part Three – see Part One and Two)
Nathan Cole and his wife had heard that the famous Evangelist George Whitefield would be preaching in Middletown, just 12 miles from their farm.

They immediately stopped what they were doing, saddled the horse and rode as fast as they could to get to the meeting place.

Cole describes how, as they approached Middletown, a great fog or cloud appeared. As they got nearer, it was clear that the fog was created by the hundreds of  horses and carriages, and the thousands of people rushing and racing to get to the meeting place.

Finally, the young couple find a place among the four thousand gathered and wait until Whitefield appears.

Whitefield gets up to preach
He writes, ‘When I saw Mr Whitefield come up upon the scaffold he looked almost angelic.

‘A young, slim, slender youth before thousands of people and with a bold, undaunted countenance and my hearing how God was with him everywhere he went solemnized my mind and put me in a trembling fear before he began to preach.

‘For he looked as if he was clothed with authority from the great God.’

Whitefield preached passionately and powerfully. He spoke of how Jesus paid the price in full for our sins, how forgiveness is available through the cross, how a person can truly find peace with God through faith in Christ and receive His free righteousness. He told the people how God has made a way to forgive sins and bring us to heaven.

What the Evangelist Said
A short segment of his often preached sermon, ‘The Lord our Righteousness’ gives us an idea of what he would have said on this occasion. He has already preached the gospel and is now making his appeal for the people to respond to the message:

‘Alas, my heart almost bleeds! What a multitude of precious souls are now before me! How shortly must all be ushered into eternity! And yet, O cutting thought! Was God now to require all your souls, how few, comparatively speaking, could really say, ‘the Lord our righteousness!’

‘…You need not fear the greatness or number of your sins. For are you sinners? So am I. Are you the chief of sinners? So am I. Are you backsliding sinners? So am I. And yet the Lord (for ever adored be his rich, free and sovereign grace) the Lord is my righteousness.

Come then, O young man, who (as I acted once myself) are playing the prodigal, and wandering away afar off from your heavenly Father’s house, come home, come home, and leave your swine’s trough. Feed no longer on the husks of sensual delights: for Christ’s sake arise, and come home!

‘Your heavenly Father now calls you. See yonder the best robe, even the righteousness of his dear Son, awaits you. See it, view it again and again.

‘Consider at how dear a rate it was purchased, even by the blood of God. Consider what great need you have of it. You are lost, undone, damned for ever, without it. Come then, poor, guilty prodigals, come home…’

A Broad Appeal to All
During this evangelistic appeal, he is eager that no-one be left out. He speaks specifically to young women, to young men, to merchants, to the slaves listening, to those ‘of middle age’, to the children, to those in their later years:

‘Alas, you have one foot already in the grave, your glass is just run out, your sun is just going down, and it will set and leave you in an eternal darkness, unless the Lord be your righteousness! Flee then, O flee for your lives!’

Nathan Cole, standing with his wife, in the midst of thousands, listening to Whitefield, said this:

‘My hearing him preach gave me a heart wound and by God’s blessing my old foundation was broken up and I saw that my righteousness would not save me.’

Cole did finally come to Christ and was changed forever.
(Sources: Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield Vol.1, Banner of Truth, p541 and John Pollock, George Whitefield, Hodder, p164f)

What about us?
Where do you stand with God today? These truths are not only for yesterday but for today. You can come to Christ today.

Perhaps you are already a follower of Christ. Do you know something of this passion to communicate the gospel to others? Are you eager to see those you work with come to Christ?

Wherever you are, in whatever circumstance, you can appeal to God for mercy because of what Jesus has done for you. He came, He died, He rose again and He will hear your prayer and help you come into a genuine relationship with Him. Sins can be washed away, life can be transformed and you can become a part of God’s great purpose in the earth.

If you don’t know what to do there may be a church near you listed here or try here for more help.

‘The Lord our Righteousness’ is published in ‘The Select Sermons of George Whitefield’ (Banner of Truth). You can order it here.

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Gospel in the Great City

18th Century London
18th Century London

In a future post we’ll look at the experience of someone in the midst of the crowd of thousands listening to Evangelist George Whitefield.

We’ll get an idea of the excitement on hearing that he was to preach, the growing expectation as Whitefield arrives at the venue and then the power of the preaching as lives are changed.

But before we get there it will be instructive for us to hear Whitefield’s inner thoughts and excitement as he enjoyed regular scenes of crowds in excess of 10,000. A nation was being transformed by gospel preaching and Whitefield had the privilege of spearheading the movement.

Londoners Love Whitefield!
Of various London open-air meetings in mid-1739 he writes:

‘Preached this morning at Moorfields, to about twenty thousand, and God manifested Himself still more and more. My discourse was near two hours long.

‘My heart was full of love, and people were so melted down on every side…’

‘Great numbers were in tears…’

‘Preached at Kennington…with much sweetness and power…’

London is a City of Huge Congregations
It is at this point, when the massive crowds were so regular in their attendance that Whitefield calls the gatherings in Kennington, ‘my usual congregation’!

It was not until the 20th century when Christian ministers could rightly refer to normal church gatherings of ten or twenty thousand as their ‘regular congregations’.

Londoners Love Preaching!
London was in the midst of a full-on move of God. Whitefield describes preaching in Mayfair, ‘near Hyde Park Corner’ to a congregation that was estimated at being nearly 80,000 people!

Where you live in the world right now probably determines your response to that number. If you’re reading this in Nigeria, or in South America where much larger crowds have gathered in the open air to hear a visiting Evangelist you’re probably knowingly celebrating. But if you’re in Europe your tendency might be to question the estimate and want to bring it down by at least 50%. OK! Let’s bring it down by 50% – now let’s imagine 40,000 Londoners gathering to hear about Jesus!

Whatever the precise size, Whitefield wrote, ‘It was by far the largest I ever preached to yet. A high and very commodious scaffold was erected for me to stand upon…’

He preached with mighty power and passion, and finishes his description of that meeting by saying, ‘All love, all glory, be to God through Christ.’

Blackheath, Hampstead Heath, Chatham, Shadwell were on the periphery of London (‘Blessed be God!’, said GW, ‘We begin to surround this great city!’) Kennington Common, Moorfields, Mayfair, Bexley, Hackney and many other boroughs and suburbs – Londoners were suddenly craving the gospel. The foremost city of the 18th Century world was waking up and turning to Christ.

‘I have seen the Kingdom of God come with power!’

‘Oh what marvellous great kindness has God shown me in this great city!’ Whitefield wrote in his journal, ‘Indeed, I have seen the kingdom of God come with power!’

Oh London, London! Why don’t you spend a few moments praying for the gospel to have great success once again in that great city.

(Quotations from Whitefield’s Journal, quoted by Arnold Dallimore, Vol 1 p.292-294)
© 2009 Lex Loizides

A Brave Day for England – The Gift of the Evangelist released!

George Whitefield
George Whitefield

‘The Devil in Hell is in you all!’

Resistance to Whitefield’s preaching was growing. One member of the clergy wrote, ‘I believe the devil in hell is in you all. Whitefield has set the town on fire, and now he is gone to kindle a flame in the country.’

The friend who reported these words to Whitefield adds, ‘Shocking language for one who calls himself a minister of the gospel…

‘I am persuaded, it is not a fire of the Devil’s kindling, but a holy fire that has proceeded from the Holy and Blessed Spirit. Oh, that such a fire may be kindled, but blow up into a flame all England, and all the world over!’ (George Whitefield Journals, Banner of Truth edition, p. 213-214)

Churches closed but the people need to hear the gospel

Whitefield, ever willing to serve the people by preaching the good news to them, found himself not only criticised privately but opposed publicly. While not all clergy were hostile, increasing numbers were, and, even where permission to preach in certain Anglican churches was granted, the local vicars were not always willing to let him in.

A coincidental by-product of this hostility was that people would go to him wherever he was. This gradually compelled him to preach in places he never would have before.

Preaching in a Pub

Describing one evening in February 1739, he writes, ‘afterwards [I] was agreeably surprised by several who came uninvited to see me. After a little conversation, I perceived they were desirous to hear the Word of God, and being in a large dining room in the public house, I gave notice I would expound to as many as would come.

‘In a short time I had above a hundred very attentive hearers, to whom I expounded for above an hour…

‘Blessed be God for his opportunity! I hope I shall learn more and more every day, that no place is amiss for preaching the gospel.

‘God forbid that the Word of God should be bound because some, out of a misguided zeal, deny the use of their churches…

‘The more I am bidden to hold my peace, the more earnestly will I lift up my voice like a trumpet.’ (p.208-209)

A growing sense of destiny

Feb 11, 1739 – ‘There are many promises to be fulfilled in me, many souls to be called, many sufferings to be endured, before I go hence.’ (p.211)

Into the fields – the coal workers in Bristol (1st sermon)

Saturday Feb 17, 1739 – ‘About one in the afternoon, I went with my brother Seward and another friend, to Kingswood…[I] have long since yearned [for] the poor colliers, who are very numerous and as sheep having no shepherd.

‘After dinner, therefore, I went upon a mount, and [spoke] to as many people as came unto me. They were upwards of two hundred.

‘Blessed be God that I have now broken the ice! I believe I never was more acceptable to my Master than when I was standing to teach those hearers in the open fields.’ (p.216)

The great C.H Spurgeon, preaching a century after Whitefield, said ‘It was a brave day for England when Whitefield began field preaching.’ (Quoted by Dallimore, George Whitefield, Vol 1, Banner of Truth, p.248)

The work in Bristol proved to be a major turning point in the history of 18th century Christianity. What followed there was truly breathtaking and is very moving to read.

God, in His mercy, was seeking to reach a generation far from Himself. And so He raised up the gift of the Evangelist. We’ll see what the Evangelist did, and what God did through him, next time!

You can purchase George Whitefield resources here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

First Shoots of the Great Awakening in England Come Through

The Young George Whitefield Preaching
The Young George Whitefield Preaching

A shift was taking place: Whitefield had personally experienced the new birth, and now he was boldly declaring it to others.

In 1736 George Whitefield was officially ordained as an Anglican Minister and set about preaching. Outwardly unimpressive, yet inwardly fervent in his love for God and people, Whitefield began preaching.

‘I preached’, he tells us in his Journals, ‘as usual about five times a week…it was wonderful to see how the people hung upon the rails of the organ loft, climbed upon the leads of the church, and made the church itself so hot with their breath that the steam would fall from the pillars like drops of rain.’

‘Sometimes almost as many would go away from want of room as came in, and it was with great difficulty that I got into the [pulpit].’ (GW Journals, Banner of Truth edition, p.84-85)

As Whitefield’s popularity grew and more and more were experiencing the new birth, it became evident that something bigger than the stir caused by a young preacher was taking place.  Scenes of religious excitement that had never been witnessed before now began to take place daily.

Increasing conversions, increasing interest
A little later, and still a year before the Wesleys brothers’ conversion, George was able to write:
‘The sight of the congregations was [awesome].  One might as it were, walk upon the people’s heads…They were all attention, and heard like people hearing for eternity.’

‘I now preached generally nine times a week.  The early sacraments were exceeding [awesome]…how often have we seen Jesus Christ, evidently set forth before us, crucified!’

‘On Sunday mornings, long before day, you might see streets filled with people going to church, with their lanterns in their hands, and hear them conversing about the things of God…[the people] were so deeply affected that they were like persons mourning for a first born child.’  (Arnold Dallimore, Life of George Whitefield, Vol 1, p.30-31)

Whitefield senses his destiny and prays courageously
Whitefield sensed he was on the edge of a powerful breakthrough and on December 30 1737 prayed, ‘God give me a deep humility, a well-guided zeal, a burning love and a single eye, and then let men or devils do their worst!’

To read more about Whitefield click here
To read the first part of Whitefield’s story click here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Law Cannot Produce Life – Only the Gospel Can

So George Whitefield, merely months before becoming one of England’s youngest and most popular preachers, discovers that he needs to be born again in order to get right with God. He discovers that spiritual life is imparted by God through faith.

But strangely, he then acts in the opposite direction – throwing himself into a round of even more exacting religious exercises and good works, desperately trying to appease God.

The young Charles Wesley
The young Charles Wesley

Self-denial, satanic oppression, sickness and scaring Charles Wesley!
He increases his fasts, he stops eating fruit, giving the money he would have spent to the poor, he goes outside in rain and storm to cry out to God and confess his sinfulness.

Rather than finding relief from any of these exercises he becomes even more disconsolate, fearful and insecure. Feeling himself to be horribly oppressed by the devil he finally decides to ‘forsake’ all, including his new friends and stays in his study for days on end. He becomes physically ill and his tutor sends a physician.

His gloomy, depressed demeanour, the terrible loss of weight, all of this alarms the other students.

Charles Wesley is way out of his depth, doesn’t know what to do, and so refers him to his older brother John (already in his thirties, clearly the leader by this time, but not yet converted).

John painstakingly talks George down from the extremity of legalism in which he is bound and gives him Thomas a Kempis to read. Perhaps John realises even at this point that the strictness of the lifestyle he is promoting, the intensity of examination of every moment, is not working.

Locked in the second half of Romans 7

George seemed to have been caged in experience into what Paul merely illustrates in Romans 7:7-25.

There, Paul illustrates the inability of the Law to produce freedom from sin. Life is in the Gospel not in the Law. George Whitefield, having been awakened to the rightness of God’s Commands, then went on to try and justify himself through religious duty to fulfill those Commands. But Paul clearly demonstrates that the Law cannot produce life – only Christ can.

But, as in Paul’s illustration, so in real life, and as Whitefield was about to experience – the bondage of the cycle of sin and death is broken only by the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Finally the breakthrough
Whitefield had come to that great pre-conversion cry, ‘Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me?’ (Rom 7:24)

In his Journal he records, ‘God was pleased to set me free in the following manner. One day, perceiving an uncommon drought and a disagreeable clamminess in my mouth and using things to allay my thirst, but in vain, it was suggested to me, that when Jesus Christ cried out, ‘I thirst!’ His sufferings were near at an end. Upon which I cast myself down on the bed, crying out, ‘I thirst! I thirst!’’

From Mourning to Dancing
Although it seems a small thing – to be desperately thirsty, and to somehow see that when Christ cried out that He thirsted, it was near the end of His anguish – yet, here’s the point, when George Whitefield cried out to God, God intervened and heard him.

‘Soon after this’, writes George, ‘I found and felt in myself that I was delivered from the burden that had so heavily oppressed me. The spirit of mourning was taken from me and I knew what it was truly to rejoice in God my Saviour; and, for some time, could not avoid singing psalms wherever I was…’

‘Thus were the days of my mourning ended. After a long night of desertion and temptation, the Star, which I had seen at a distance before [referring to the doctrine of the New Birth in Scougal’s book], began to appear again, and the Day Star arose in my heart.

Now did the Spirit of God take possession of my soul, and, as I humbly hope, seal me unto the day of redemption.’ (GW Journals, Banner of Truth, p.58)

Well, he had wrestled and struggled and, at last, discovered God’s free and Sovereign grace. Being now certain of the new birth in his own experience he began to proclaim the message of it to the English speaking world.

To read more about Whitefield click here
To read the first part of Whitefield’s story click here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Enthralling, Inspiring Life of George Whitefield

George Whitefield
George Whitefield

enthral (verb) = to captivate, hold spellbound, by pleasing qualities. (OED)

When God plans to bless a region or nation with the Gospel, He seems to begin by calling and preparing His chosen instruments.

George Whitefield, along with the Wesley brothers and many others were key figures in a mighty, sweeping, nation-changing season of God’s blessing.

Changing Society
The effect of what took place in England following their preaching and church planting has been described by historian J.R. Green:

‘A religious revival burst forth…which changed in a few years the whole temper of English society.

The church was restored to life and activity.  Religion carried to the hearts of the people a fresh spirit of moral zeal, while it purified our literature and our manners.

A new philanthropy reformed our prisons, infused clemency and wisdom into our penal laws, abolished the slave trade, and gave the first impulse to popular education.’  (Green, A short history of the English People, Harper, p. 736-7)

Breathtaking Service for God
Before we get into the details of Whitefield’s incredible life let me outline a few facts:

•    he was a tireless preacher – estimates are that he preached/taught 30,000 times during his relatively short life (he died aged 56)
•    during the summer of 1739 in England the outdoor crowds are estimated to have been up to 1 million – all without amplification, obviously
•    he invested much of his time in America
•    something like 80% of the American population heard him preach
•    Whitefield became the prototype Evangelist
•    he continually emphasised the need for the new birth
•    he passionately appealed for people to come to Christ immediately
•    it wasn’t unusual for him to stop in the middle of a sermon and join the crowd in weeping at the revelation of Christ’s love
•    he often coughed up blood after preaching
•    he became the first transatlantic ‘celebrity’ – and therefore was widely ridiculed in the papers!
•    he was genuinely non-denominational, choosing to be buried in the crypt of the Presbyterian Church he had planted!
•    he was able to effectively reach both poor and rich
•    he was, by all accounts, a happy Calvinist!

It is difficult to read about Whitefield without becoming increasingly passionate for God, and passionate to see the gospel breaking into the lives of those around us.

To read more about Whitefield click here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

A Great Awakening in Great Britain

Can a nation be born in a day?
Low church attendance, binge drinking, poor housing, violent crime, limited Christian impact. It looked like Christianity was in trouble.

At the beginning of 18th Century Britain, confidence in the old faith was in serious decline.

John Toland's 'Christianity Not Mysterious'
John Toland's 'Christianity Not Mysterious'

‘God is not Great’ circa 1700
Amongst scholars belief in the miraculous elements of the Christian faith were considered superstitious. ‘Christianity Not Mysterious’ (1696) by John Toland, a leading Deist, represented the only serious intellectual position of that period. Perhaps mild by today’s standards, at the time it represented a new departure.

It is interesting to note that such publications seem to precede a sudden, sweeping and unexpected moves of God’s grace. Could it be that God Himself seeks to vindicate His own glory? Can God be provoked?

Now that we’ve had ‘The God Delusion’ (Richard Dawkins) and ‘God is not Great’ (Christopher Hitchens), could we also suddenly find ourselves in a fresh era of power and Christian influence, where God’s Spirit seems to be poured out more effectively, more powerfully and with greater impact than we’ve seen before?

Church Influence and Attendance in Decline
As Deist and Rationalist ideas gained ground across the leadership of the church in the early 1700’s both the spiritual and moral impact of Christianity began to wane.
Church attendance began to fall rapidly and churches began to be reorganised and scaled down.

Binge Drinking
The infamous ‘Gin Craze’, spurred on by the prohibition of imported liquor, swept the nation as multitudes took to making their own gin and created a genuine national crisis.  Alcoholism was common.

Social and Economic Crisis – Poverty and Violent Crime
The former restraints of the Puritan era were being thrown off with relative ease.  Living conditions for many were squalid.  The slums were a breeding ground for disease as well as violent crime and the meagre efforts of churches, religious organisations and Parliament made very little impact.

The general view of the Christian faith was summed up by Bishop Butler who, in 1738 asserted that Christianity was treated as though ‘it was now discovered to be fictitious…and nothing remained but to set it up as the subject of mirth and ridicule (Quoted by Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, vol 1, Banner of Truth, p.31)

A Brand Plucked from the Fire!
What the good Bishop failed to take into account was that three years previously a young man called George Whitefield had been born again. He had begun preaching the gospel with a fervency that hadn’t been heard since the days of John Bunyan.

Also, in the very year in which Butler lamented the loss of Christian influence in England, two brothers had finally humbled themselves, followed in Whitefield’s footsteps, and given their lives to Christ, John and Charles Wesley.

You can purchase Dallimore’s biography of Whitefield here

© 2009 Lex Loizides