The first brick for what Whitefield called Bethesda, the orphanage in Georgia 10 miles from Savannah, was laid on 25 March 1740. He insisted on sole control of the orphanage, yet spoilt the relationships with the trustees and refused to submit financial accounts for them to check. “Whitefield took an energetic line with children”, evidenced his contemporaries (in Boyd, 2004). “During 1740 he even kidnapped children and laid claim to their personal possessions. This brought him into sharp conflict with Georgia’s founder, who had them removed from Bethesda” (Boyd, 2004).
Because of that orphanage Whitefield was tied by hands and feet with huge debts till the end of his life and several times was even at the brink of being prosecuted for those debts. In American colonies Whitefield had a chance to demonstrate the care for the deprived Natives and African slaves. In 1740 Whitefield issued a criticism of slaves’ treatment in the southern colonies and preached to slaves on occasion. However, in 1747 he was glad to become the proprietor of Providence Plantation in South Carolina with the large stock of black slaves.
Whitefield wrote about the “lawfulness of keeping slaves” and blessed God “for the increase of the negroes” (Boyd, 2004), showing himself as “perhaps the most energetic, and conspicuous, evangelical defender and practitioner of slavery” (Boyd, 2004). Being a controversial figure, Whitefield also raised collections for Indian education in New England. He also contributed much to the Boston reconstruction after a Great fire in 1760 so far as he eagerly collected funds for the Bostonians in England.
Another famous preacher Nathaniel Whitaker from Salem stated about Whitefield: “He was a warm friend to religious liberty, […] no less a friend to the civil liberties of mankind. He was a patriot, not in shew, but reality, and an enemy to tyranny. He abhorred episcopal oppression” (Noll, 2002: 77). His innovative preaching style “broke traditional rules; it called for direct, immediate response; it encouraged the laity to perform Christian services that were the historical preserve of the clergy” (Noll, 2002: 76), his manner is still affecting the contemporary school of preachers both in Great Britain and in America.
In sum, material, economic, and political conditions in the eighteenth century led to an unprecedented level of movement of people, goods, and ideas. The most important implication of this for evangelical revival is that this sort of exchange dislocated people and exposed them to differences, and to new opportunities and threats, while also underlining their sense of insecurity in the modern world. Religious experience became, therefore, far more voluntary and self-conscious, and far less a matter of custom or givenness, as women and men were presented with alternatives.
(Hindmarsh, 2005: 80) In the contemporary world, when the tradition of charity for education and social purposes is also acute, the practice of George Whitefield’ fundraising is surely valuable. Besides, his relation to the world of mass-media and the mastery in the genre of spiritual autobiography and conversion narrative allowed for the emergence of a public sphere, where as Jurgen Habermas puts it “private people come together as a public” (qtd. in Hindmarsh, 2005: 80).
All the aforesaid let the modern auditorium assess the valuable contribution of George Whitefield to the contemporary surroundings.
List of References
Bennett, D. H. (1988). The Party of Fear: From Nativist Movements to the New Right in American History. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. Boyd, S. S. (2004). Whitefield, George (1714-1770) in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press. Oxford Scholarship Online.
Retrieved July 7, 2005, from http://www. oxforddnb. com/view/article/29281. Haynes, C. A. (1998). Divine Destiny: Gender and Race in Nineteenth-Century Protestantism. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi. Hindmarsh, B. D. (2005). The Evangelical Conversion Narrative. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Noll, M. A. (2002). America’s God. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Prest, W. (1998). Albion Ascendant: English History, 1660-1815. Oxford: Oxford University Press.