Nexorably evil

According to this doctrine, since the time of Adam’s fall, all humans have been utterly and inexorably evil, undeserving of grace or forgiveness. […] Moreover, individuals can do nothing to incur God’s favor or their own salvation. Indeed, the only way to salvation is through an all-powerful, majestic God who possesses the ability to save all beings but chooses to do so only for an elect few. Thus, God’s grace, rather than human will or good works, represents the only path to salvation. (Haynes, 1998: 4)

The point caused the painful split between Whitefield and John Wesley, who preached savagely against predestination, stating that “believing it ‘made God worse than a devil’” (Thomas, qtd. in Boyd, 2004). “The theological divide publicly opened was never bridged and, especially in this formative period of Methodism, seriously damaged their personal relationship” (Boyd, 2004). Ann Douglas comments on the point, that the Calvinist God’s “capricious use of atonement ‘operated as a model of majesty […]” ( Haynes, 1998: 6).

To concentrate further on the deistic concepts of the Calvinism, which Whitfield stuck to, there were what Michel Foucault calls “subjectification” and “dividing practices” in “segregating with swift finality the regenerates from the reprobates, the godly behavior from the ungodly, good morals from bad, and in inducing the replication of those divisions within the individual consciousness” (Haynes, 1998: 7).

Moreover, John Stachniewski supported the idea noting: “The sense of divine rejection was often related to feelings about fathers, father-surrogates, or the social hierarchy” (Persecutory: 95, qtd. in Haynes, 1998: 8). Haynes concluded that “the Calvinist subject was able to maintain a strong fear and respect of this vengeful God and of this stern binary form of existence because these feelings often intermingled with a fearful respect for all masculine authority figures”.

The aforesaid insights “help to illuminate why individuals, like the young […] Whitefield, who did not enjoy positions of authority or elite social standing might nevertheless be attracted to Calvinism” (Haynes, 1998: 8). […] Whitefield lacked a certain future role. Thus, in a rigidly hierarchical culture […] Calvinism provided those same subordinated individuals two recognizable subject positions: that of the saved or the damned.

Although the reprobate position was not ideal, it, along with the saved one, nevertheless lent its subjects an identifiable social and psychological role. Moreover, while far from a loving, all-accepting, and nurturing parent, the Calvinist divinity did recognize everyone, was worthy of respect given its commanding power, and offered its subjects at least some chance for victory – which was better than most could hope for in an unforgiving eighteenth century Anglo-American world. (Haynes, 1998: 8-9)

Whitefield was acknowledged as a fierce denunciator of those, who did not share his position, both in his private and God’s house. Partly it was due to his temperament as on the evidence from Cornelius Winter, who lived with the Whitefields (George and his wife), in general personal relationships Whitefield “was impatient of contradiction” (Boyd, 2004). In the church life of the 18th century Whitefield powerfully demonstrated the holy peevishness of His warrior, castigating “fellow clerics for presenting only ‘the shell and shadow of religion’” (Tyerman, Boyd, 2004).

Once George Whitefield sustained the welcoming relationships with the colleagues, especially of a higher rank. Gradually, however, Whitefield’s outspoken criticisms of clergymen increased. His invectives against the clerical community caused negative reports from the authorities and made the doors of many churches close in Whitefield’s face. The latter however played the Whitefield’s game, as he started practicing the “field preaching”, in which he “easily topped the bill” (Prest, 1998: 141).

Looking at him in front of 80,000 people (Whitefield’s own calculations, yet the evidences of nearly 50,000 Londoners present at his sermon-meetings on Kennington Common and Moorfields, see Prest, 1998: 141), and knowing about 5 people being trampled to death at the attempt to penetrate into the Bostonian church during the Whitefield’s sermon, who would believe that shortly after receiving the BA degree at Oxford, when Whitefield was assigned to perform his pastoral duties at the Tower of London, he “walked through the streets in his gown and cassock, with people crying out, ‘There’s a boy parson’” (George Whitefield’s Journals: 77, Boyd, 2004).

It suits here to describe the preaching style of George Whitefield. He preached on approximately 18,000 occasions, and by constant repetition excelled his skills of conducting sermons to the highest degree. He never used notes or plans, never stumbled at a word, ornamenting his emotional conversation with the parish with “anecdotes (at which he excelled), and even humour,” “gestures and vivid part-playing,” utilizing “his arresting voice and oratorical skills” (Boyd, 2004).

Towards the close of a sermon he occasionally donned a black cap after the manner of a condemning judge, proclaiming, ‘sinner, I must do it; I must pronounce sentence upon you’. He would then, ‘in a tremendous strain of eloquence, recite our Lord’s words, “Go ye cursed,” not without a very powerful description of the nature of the curse’ (Jay, 24). When describing Peter’s bitter weeping, Whitefield would catch a fold of his gown to wipe away tears. (Boyd, 2004)