Theology of George Whitefield (1714 - 1770)
Sherriff, Collin Bedford
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Several biographies of Whitefield have been written, chiefly in the nineteenth century, but none of them endeavours to reveal his theology in any extensive fashion. This thesis is an examination of the theological principles and emphases which guided this great preacher who, together with the two Wesleys, stands in the forefront of those men responsible for the Evangelical Revival of the eighteenth century. Throughout, an attempt has been made to reflect the theology of the Revivalists as a whole, to discover whether Whitefield's theology followed primarily the same lines as that theology, and, particularly, to set his theology over against the theological trends of the age and to trace his Calvinism as it touched the generally Arminian tendencies of the Wesleyan development of Methodism. It was inevitable that a fairly full account of the well-known controversy between John Wesley and Whitefield over the question of predestination and other allied doctrines, should be given (Chapter Three). In place of the usual "Summary and Conclusion" which, as the final chapter, would normally have recapitulated in a straightforward manner the doctrines dealt with in the previous pages and have entailed much repetition of conclusions already written into the main body of the thesis, it has been thought more profitable to disclose and compare assessments of Whitefield's theology made in his own and later times, and to base a conclusion on these, bearing in mind always the results of the present research. At all times an attempt has been made to let the preacher speak for himself. Hence the rather full and numerous quotations introduced from his own works. It should be noted that the volume of Whitefield's "Sermons" used throughout and quoted in the footnotes etc. is the one entitled "Sermons on Important Subjects by the Rev. George Whitefield, A.M., with the Character of the Author by the Rev. Joseph Smith" (printed London, 1825 - the same reprinted London, 1828). All quotations from Whitefield's works, it will be observed, have been edited as regards punctuation where it has been considered necessary to alter these for the sake of a more fluent and readable text. In doing this, the sense of the passages concerned has been carefully maintained. It is hoped that the first Appendix will be helpful for quick reference to the chronology of Whitefield, if need should arise.