Subscribe now

The Life and Times of George Whitefield, M.A.

By Robert Philip
March 2008 | Review by Paul Cook
  • Publisher: Forgotten Books
  • ISBN: 978-0483128507
  • Pages: 558
  • Price: £4.75
Buy this book »

Book Review

When God purposes to do a work he prepares for it by raising up people to accomplish it. Such was notably the case before the Evangelical Revival of the eighteenth century which led to a transformation of our national life.

One such instrument was plucked out of the Bell Inn in Gloucester to become one of the greatest preachers in that spiritual awakening. Whereas John Wesley was the consolidator in the work, George Whitefield was in every sense the pioneer, opening up the way both in Britain and in America.

He crossed the Atlantic thirteen times and died in the New World at the age of fifty-five, having preached on over 18,000 occasions to vast crowds, usually in the open air. He was a most eloquent and moving preacher whose amazing oratory gripped every class of hearers.

The Countess of Huntingdon (converted early in the revival) made him one of her chaplains in 1748 and gave him the opportunity to preach in her drawing rooms to many of the nobility.

Whitefield knew how to distinguish between primary and secondary issues and refused to become sectarian, seeking to hold together those touched by the revival. Nevertheless, he did not hesitate to contend for essential truths – and knew how to suffer wrong without becoming resentful or bitter.

Preachers today have much to learn from him – above all, the need to blend the invitations of God’s grace with the inevitability of judgement, without which the gospel has no raison d’être.

One does question Whitefield’s wisdom in shouldering most of the responsibility for the orphanage he established in Georgia. It became something of a millstone which caused him unnecessary anxiety and distress, and led to some misrepresentation over fund-raising.

This biography by Robert Philip, first published in 1837, was one of the earliest to do justice to this humble, loving and courageous servant of God. The book is quite readable, though somewhat wordy, and provides an excellent insight into the character of this tireless evangelist.

Though the publishers gave us the excellent modern treatment of Whitefield’s life in two volumes by Arnold Dallimore (best for an introduction) this volume provides the bonus of further valuable insights and appraisals.

Book Reviews

Read our latest book reviews

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
The Christian and Technology
John V. Fesko

Even the most hardened Luddite will find himself using a satnav, mobile phone, or email on occasion. But John Fesko urges us not to reach for the latest gadget without thinking carefully about how it might shape our minds, relationships,…

See all book reviews
Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Christ Victorious: Selected Writings of Hugh Martin
Hugh Martin

Hugh Martin (1822–1885) was one of those 19th century Scottish theologians whose published works have stood the test of time. With good reason, for his works are consistently sound, reverent, edifying, and challenging to mind and heart. This is a…

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
God’s design for women in an age of gender confusion
Sharon James

Is our belief in male headship culturally outdated, and should we see alternative ideas of marriage as ‘progress’? Is it possible to be born into the wrong body, and is sexual freedom good for women? Does Scripture show us a…

Sexuality and Identity (trilogy)
Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Sexuality and Identity (trilogy)
Owen Strachan

These three punchy books address pressing issues: what the Bible teaches about lust (on desire), about homosexuality (on Biblical sexuality) and about transgenderism (on identity). The trilogy approach keeps each book short and focused while dovetailing effectively. Each book has…