Posts Tagged ‘George Whitefield’
I have been reading the excellent book, Killing Calvinism, in which the author states from John Piper that the Calvinist should make George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon your examples for Calvinistic ministries and not John Calvin. Piper said that the reason for this is that Whitefield and Spurgeon were known for soul winning but Calvin was not. A great point. I will have a review coming of this book soon.
I do agree. I love the ministries of Whitefield and Spurgeon. While I don’t agree fully with their Calvinism and I believe they were not consistent with their Calvinistic theology in regard to preaching the gospel to the lost, I do admire them greatly. In fact, I named my second born son after Charles Spurgeon. I named him Haddon Spurgeon. I would love for my Haddon to be a man of God who also preaches with fire to the lost. Oh that he would be a great man of prayer! Oh that my little boy would grow to be a godly disciple of the Lord Jesus!
In my own life, it is men of God such as Whitefield, Spurgeon, Wesley, or Leonard Ravenhill who capture my heart more than any theologian. I appreciate great theologians and their labors for the kingdom. I have no doubt that the Church needs great theologians but I love when theology and fire mix together. Wesley was such a man. He would ride on his horse and would read from theology books. Wesley could read in both Greek and Latin. He would often spend hours reading from various Latin works. His journals reflect a deep thinker yet they show his heart for the lost. John Wesley was a deep man of faith, a man of intense prayer. He and George Whitefield would pray for hours. They would converse together about their ministries and yes they did debate theology but they loved Christ and loved His kingdom. Later John Wesley would preach the funeral of his great friend, Whitefield, and if you read his sermon, it is a heart-moving praise of the great saint of God.
Sadly, theologians often are not know for soul winning. Soul winners are often men of fire but sometimes they are not known for their theology. I would love to see God raise up both in one. We need to be soul winners who love the Word of God, who long to see the lost saved but who also love the precious doctrines of Scripture. We need to do both, set apart Christ as Lord but also to be able to answer all those who question our faith (1 Peter 3:15). We need to watch both our life and doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16). Doctrine and life go hand in hand. We need both the mind of a theologian and a heart of an evangelist. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us to be witnesses for Christ both in our lives and in our words (Acts 1:8).
John Piper is absolutely correct: make great soul winners your model. Make Spurgeon, Whitefield, Wesley, and even great saints such as J. Edwin Orr as models of men of God who loved the Word of God and loved souls. We need to learn, as they did, that we should glorify God with our hearts and with our passions. God can greatly use this for His glory and I pray that He does.
John Wesley brought with him the rise of evangelical Arminianism and he helped found the Methodist Church (though Wesley never left the Anglican Church). Wesley was a scholar but even more he was passionate to preach the gospel. He would preach anywhere and everywhere. Wesley was encouraged by his Calvinist friend George Whitefield to preach in the open air and so he did on April 2, 1739 for the first time. Wesley described it this way:
Monday, 2.—At four in the afternoon, I submitted to be more vile and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation, speaking from a little eminence in a ground adjoining to the city, to about three thousand people. The Scripture on which I spoke was this (is it possible anyone should be ignorant that it is fulfilled in every true minister of Christ?): “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord”
Wesley called it “vile” because he had been raised and trained to preach only in the church buildings and not in the open air. From here on, Wesley would write in his journal about preaching to thousands upon thousands of people in the open air. This led to the founding of the Methodist Church as Wesley and his companions were often kicked out of churches and even physically assaulted by the crowds for their preaching.
One Methodist historian describes the early Methodists like this:
During its early years in England and in America, Methodism was a despised sect.
Methodists were enthusiasts (too excitable); their camp meetings were out of control; their preachers were uneducated. They sang “ditties” instead of stately hymns. They offended people by talking to them about their souls. They opposed “worldliness,” which included Sabbath breaking, dancing, card playing, gambling, alcohol, and fancy dress.
For the first 75 years of their presence in America, Methodists would never have won any popularity polls. But Methodism grew. From 1784 to 1850, a period known generally as the Second Great Awakening, Methodism grew from 3 percent of America’s religious population, to 33 percent. It was in part because Methodism during this period thought it better to be despised for the gospel than to be respectable in the world.
Notice that the early Methodists loved the gospel and loved souls and desired to preach the truth of the gospel above being popular with the world. This led to their growth. They were “other” minded people, focused on eternity (2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Philippians 3:17-20). They did not care about being friends with this world (James 4:4) and they lived and died with a focus on the glory of God (Philippians 1:20-21). Amazing, faithful people!
But along with a zeal for the gospel, they had great men of God who were both solid theologians and solid evangelists at the same time. Consider men such as Adam Clarke or Richard Watson or John Fletcher. All three men were men of God who were known for their zeal, for their prayer lives, for their personal holiness but they also loved the Word of God and expounded the Word of God. All three men were to be found teaching the early Methodists sound doctrine in their Bible classes but they were turn around and open air preach or lead their students back to their studies to pray. They could on the one hand study the Greek New Testament and on the other they could spend all night in prayer. John Wesley himself was a student of the Word. He would often ride his horse and read a book as he traveled. I own his Works and they are full of Greek, French, and Latin references. Yet Wesley would rise up at 4 AM each day to pray and read his Bible. He loved knowledge but he feared God as well.
Where is that today? Where are the theologians who are known not just for their knowledge of the Word of God (such as Adam Clarke) but also their preaching, their zeal, their open air preaching, their hunger for souls. Oh God give us men such as Paul the Apostle who could expound on the riches of justification in Romans 5 and pray to the Lord with much passion in Romans 10:1-2 for his own race to be saved! We need both the scholar and the evangelist. We need men of God who both love the Word, study theology, etc. but also love souls, love to pray, love to worship, and love to apply theology. We often are educated beyond our level of obedience (James 2:14-26) and I fear that we have much knowledge about God but we know little of this God in a real and personal way (John 17:3; Philippians 3:8-11). I want to know much about God but oh to have a zeal for Him where I take His Word and go out into the highways as Wesley did proclaiming the truth of His Word (Acts 5:20).
Mark Noll has written a book by the title of my post. I have not read his work but assume he is speaking of the same subject as my own concerning the theological nature of the American Civil War. The roots of the Civil War lie as far back as the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776. Even then the seeds were planted for division between the States as some of the founding fathers wanted a strong Federal Government while others wanted a Union among individual and yet equally powerful States. The issue of slavery was not settled with the signing of the Bill of Rights and this moral issue would tear at the nation for nearly 100 years before the Civil War would erupt in 1861 after the election of abolitionist President Lincoln (who actually only favored forbidding slavery in the West and did not wish to end the practice in the South) and the session of South Carolina from the Union in December of 1860.
What goes unnoticed is the theological crisis that culminated with the Civil War. This issue was slavery. For the Church, States’ rights was not the issue. It was the evil practice (according to the abolitionist) of slavery or the fact that the Bible did not forbid slavery from the pro-slavery point of view. There were passionate evangelicals on both sides. For instance, George Whitefield stood before the Georgia State Assembly during his trip to America in the 18th century and asked the Georgia Assembly to continue the practice of slavery. Whitefield justified slavery for two main reasons. First he said that this gave the slaves from Africa the opportunity to hear the gospel and be saved and then secondly, the fact that the Africans could work the harsh lands of Georgia and were use to the heat. John Wesley opposed Whitefield over this issue and Wesley encouraged William Wilberforce in his fight to end slavery in England. It would be the last letter Wesley would ever write.
Jonathan Edwards owned slaves. Edwards felt that slavery was not forbidden in Scripture, like Whitefield, and he argued that God could use slavery to save souls (such as the case with Paul in the epistle to Philemon). Edwards also felt that it was the duty of the Christian to not be harsh to slaves, to preach the gospel to them, and to be good to them.
Charles Finney opposed slavery in all forms. He believed it went against the Word of God that says that we are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). How could another human enslave another human made in God’s image?
E.M. Bounds, the great prayer warrior from the state of Georgia, fought along side the Confederates and was their chaplain. He was captured and put in prison in Tennessee. Bounds would there learn to pray for as much as 9 hours a day. Bounds opposed slavery but because he was a Southerner, he supported States’ Rights and believed his duty to serve his country during the War. He returned to his home in Washington, Georgia where he lived out his days in peace, praying and preaching the gospel in Methodist churches.
Henry Ward Beecher was the most famous preacher during this era. Beecher was known for his powerful speaking ability and pastored a church in New York City (one of the largest in America at that time if not the largest). He even was invited to London, England to preach alongside of Charles Spurgeon but Surgeon declined because Beecher was known for his adultery (which he committed several times during his ministry). Beecher was the first “seeker sensitive” preacher as he learned early on not to preach on any subjects his crowds did not enjoy. Beecher was also very outspoken against slavery. His sister wrote the famous book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and it was Henry Ward Beecher who would preach at the dedication of Fort Sumter in Charleston, SC back to the Federal Government following the end of the Civil War. Beecher was loved and adored by slaves for his passionate preaching against slavery.
Even among the military, there were men on both sides who argued from the Bible. Robert E. Lee, the general of the Confederate military, was deeply religious. He would spend hours reading his Bible and praying. Lee did not favor slavery but he did own slaves whom he released after the start of the Civil War. Lee felt the South would never win the war so long as slavery was not banned in the South. To Lee, it was a moral issue and one that the North would win unless the South followed suit.
General Stonewall Jackson was likewise deeply religious. Jackson was known for his encouragement to his men to pray and read their Bibles. Jackson opposed allowing his soldiers to invite prostitutes into the camp, opposed gambling, opposed drinking. Jackson would spend hours on his knees in his tent before going to battle praying. Jackson, however, loved war. He loved to fight. He found glory in commanding an army and he was a very good commander. Jackson also believed, like Edwards and Whitefield before him, that slavery could be used to further the kingdom of God. How else could the Africans hear the gospel? Who would dare venture into the dark continent of Africa to preach the gospel (that would be the great David Livingston)?
In the North, President Lincoln wrestled with the “African problem” of slavery. Lincoln is hard to pinpoint theologically. He never attended church very much. Never joined a church. He did pray and he did read the Bible. From the time he was a boy he would memorize from the book of Psalms. His second inaugural address is filled with Bible references. Lincoln, at the beginning of the Civil War, did not want to end slavery in the South. He merely wanted to contain it and not allow it in the Western states. The South knew that if this happened, the “free” States would force their rule upon the South and end slavery. They would rather secede then try to fight that battle in Washington. Lincoln realized that the North needed a moral reason to fight. During his re-election campaign in 1864 we begin to see Lincoln’s anti-slavery position begin to take root. Lincoln knew that the North would not want to continue to fight the South unless they could see that their battle was a moral battle and not just a battle for land. This issue, wrote Lincoln of the South’s secession, was not about the Federal Government but whether men would be allowed to be free. Was our Bill of Rights wrong to say that all men are created equal and deserve liberty? How can this be when 4 million African slaves were in bondage? Lincoln believed their fight was a fight to free people from bondage. Their mission was much like Christ’s, to free people from bondage. I am not sure where Lincoln stood regarding salvation but he used the Bible often to back his belief that slavery was wrong.
More thoughts about this issue are coming….
I was reading through John Wesley’s journal a bit today and noticed this:
Monday, January 1, 1739.
My brother Charles and Whitefield (George Whitefield) were present at our love feast in Feterlane, with about sixty of our brethren. About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, inasmuch that many cried out for exceeding joy and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of His Majesty, we broke out with one voice, “We praise Thee, O God: we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.”
What a mighty prayer meeting that must have been! John and Charles Wesley along with George Whitefield and sixty other brethren all seeking God fervently. I would love to have seen this prayer meeting.
I want to clarify that I was not posting my article on Augustus Toplady to establish his salvation or not. I quoted 1 John 3:15 but a brother pointed out that it seemed that I was questioning Toplady’s salvation by referencing this verse. I was quoting this verse to establish that I do believe no disciple of Jesus can harbor hate toward a fellow disciple. Jesus said in John 13:34-35 that the greatest mark of us being His disciples is that we love one another. John Wesley and George Whitefield demonstrated this with their love for each other even while being different theologically. John Wesley and Augustus Toplady did not demonstrate this.
Toplady wrote many wonderful hymns. None can deny this. It was Augustus Toplady who penned these lines:
Not the labors of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears for ever flow,
These for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring;
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
Sadly, Toplady failed to see that John Wesley would agree with that 100%. Wesley consistently preached justification by faith. Whitefield never doubted Wesley’s salvation nor his commitment to preaching justification. Their debate was not over the gospel of Jesus Christ but over secondary issues that would not keep a person from being saved in Jesus. Salvation is a work of God and not men (John 1:12-13; Titus 3:5-7) and God alone saves those who repent of their sins through His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).
My prayer is that Arminians and Calvinists would learn to demonstrate godliness in all that we say and do (Colossians 3:12-13). A dying world is watching.