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For many of those who are even familiar with his name, George Whitfield is thought of as a preacher, a man connected with the Great Awakening in the 1700s. While this is true, it is only part of the story. As a student at Oxford University, he experienced a spiritual awakening under the influence of John Wesley's Methodists and immediately began tending to prisoners, caring for the poor, and preaching the Christian gospel. He met with astounding success, in time speaking to larger crowds than had ever gathered in...
For many of those who are even familiar with his name, George Whitfield is thought of as a preacher, a man connected with the Great Awakening in the 1700s. While this is true, it is only part of the story. As a student at Oxford University, he experienced a spiritual awakening under the influence of John Wesley's Methodists and immediately began tending to prisoners, caring for the poor, and preaching the Christian gospel. He met with astounding success, in time speaking to larger crowds than had ever gathered in the history of England. Whitefield became the most famous man of his age. His impact upon the American colonies, however, may have been his most lasting gift. In seven tours of the colonies, Whitfield preached from Georgia to Maine, calling the colonists to spiritual conversion and challenging them in their sense of national destiny. He befriended men like Benjamin Franklin, converted men like Patrick Henry, and inspired men like George Washington. Furthermore, when he learned that England intended to tighten her control over the colonies, Whitefield warmed his American friends in sermon after sermon and even accompanied Benjamin Franklin to make the American case in the Court of Saint James. Many of the colonists considered him the father of their revolution. Forgotten Founding Father captures the early struggles and international successes of this amazing leader. The result is a portrait of a gifted but flawed human who yielded himself as a tool in the hands of a sovereign God. Also portrayed is how important Whitfield was to the American cause and how much Americans today owe to him — a story that will inspire a new generation with a past vividly and truthfully retold.
Posted October 2, 2006
It might surpise some readers of this review to learn that the words in the headline were those of Whitefield himself. History seems to have rendered them prophetic, since Whitefield is absent in most history books where names like Luther and Wesley are at least mentioned. Few today (outside of evangelical circles) have even heard of him. Yet it was Whitefield's wish that the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ would be the purpose of his life and legacy, not his own accomplishments (many though they were). His obscurity as a historical figure has not diminished the number of biographies written about him, however. This book, Forgotten Founding Father (aptly titled), is recommended because it draws on the information from previous biographies (such as Pollock and Dallimore, perhaps the best ever written) but also goes beyond mere chronology (the life of Whitefield is covered in the early part of the book) to take the reader in depth into Whitefield's thought, work and life by dividing it up into various topics that were relevant to him and his ministry. This allows the author to expand on material covered in the biographical data and present some very interesting perspectives on the man and his beliefs. The book is a good introduction to Whitefield for anyone who knows nothing of him, and those who seek to dig deeper into Whitefield will be primed for more detailed study such as Pollock's biography or even Dallimore's entire 2-volume work. And of course nothing is better for the Whitefield student than the Journals and Sermons. As a student of the lives of Luther and Wesley, it is interesting how much Whitefield draws from the teaching of both, though he perhaps broke more with traditional boundaries than either of them as far as what was thought 'proper.' Wesley himself drew much from Whitefield's example, particularly with field preaching. Like Luther and Wesley, Whitefield's concern was for the souls of those who heard him, not his own career. Many biographies often paint the opposite picture, presenting Whitefield as a selfish opportunist and egoist. After reading this book, one should be led to re-consider such a negative appraisal. Whether a person agrees or disagrees with Whitefield's doctrines, his life is worth a closer look than history gives. No less than Benjamin Franklin himself (who did not share Whitefield's faith) thought so. This book is a great place to start looking.
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