What Is a Conservative?

A conservative tends to look to the past for wisdom rather than the present. The accumulated grace of God revealed throughout the ages is a mine in which he finds the resources to continue work in his own era. He does not despise the insight of the church fathers as if they were spiritual children. He thinks well of history and tradition because he would rather not tear down a fence until, at the least, he knows why it was built.

The dangerous waves of false teaching are usually recapitulations of past errors. A conservative wants the answers that helped the church in the previous chapters of her history. Reinventing and rebranding do not enter his mind—though reformation might.

His vocabulary of profanity includes words like fad, trend, and cool. He has no business with being “intentional” or “missional” because he sees the church as terrible as an army with banners. His models include the rough-edged apostle Peter and the weeping Jeremiah rather than the Fortune 500 executive. As David Gordon points out, “How can we worship the Ancient of Days while chasing the latest gimmick?”

A conservative strives for goodness, truth, and beauty. He seeks for orthodoxy, dies for orthopraxy, and covets earnestly orthopathy. To guard against novelty he checks his own interpretations and practices against the standards that have endured through the early persecuted church, the medieval church, the reformation, and the missionary movement. He pays extra attention to those men of God who have been specially chosen to lead thousands to Christ.

Through exegesis he has arrived at first principles, which he believes represent the unchanging mind of God. Make no mistake a conservative philosophy flows explicitly and implicitly from Scripture. It is implicit like the Scriptural proof for God’s existence. It is explicit in texts like Phil. 1:9-11; Rom. 12:1-2; Heb. 5:14; and even OT passages like Deut. 7:1-5.

Someone may say, “At the reformation, Luther was looking to the present against those who were looking to the past.” Not really. Luther looked right back to the beginning of the Christian church by mastering the Greek and Hebrew texts. He founded his most essential arguments on Scripture, which is the ultimate act of conservation. (And in his debate with Eck, he proved that the church fathers were often on his side as well.) In Samuel’s day it was written, “Word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.” Conservatives want the scarce resource of revelation to be carefully preserved for all believers of all times.

Because he sees a low view of God’s dignity and majesty as a bag with holes that will eventually—though not necessarily immediately—allow the gems of grace to be quietly lost, a conservative does not merely love the gospel. Therefore, he values Tozer and Lloyd-Jones in the 20thcentury. He could gladly be one of Spurgeon’s church members in the 19thcentury. He would happily fellowship with Charles or John Wesley from the 18thcentury. He would be spoiled for choice among the Puritans of the 17thcentury. If you would not fit smoothly in the church culture of these men, then you may not be a conservative.

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A Call for Aragorn Rather Than Captain America

The soul is a river that always moves onward. Heroes that are on our own level or lower form a kind of dam where the water can stagnate. Did not Paul say, “I press on” precisely because he had not arrived? Was he not even concerned lest he should be a castaway? It may be exhausting to swim against the current, but it sure beats drowning.

Lacking vice though still better than promoting vice, is not the same thing as modeling virtue. The things we give our minds to and the food on which our children’s souls feed should obviously be free from those vices that ensnare the imagination, but that diet should also possess the gracious nutrients that will form our character like the Lord Jesus. The best heroes do that, and the average modern hero works against that.

When a hero gives in repeatedly to anger or pride or some other vice and then is defended with the question, “Aren’t we all sinners?”, the right response is, “Aren’t we supposed to aspire to be saints?”

  1. Why We Need Virtuous Heroes
  2. Two Kinds of Sin
  3. Objection: What About David?
  4. Good Presentations of Total Depravity
  5. Four Reasons We Need Virtuous Heroes
  6. A Call for Aragorn Rather Than Captain America

 

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Four Reasons We Need Virtuous Heroes

1. The books and tales which have consistently been asked for over the centuries are those stories that highlight virtue.

The word classic means that which has been approved over time by a wide section of men and women. We need virtuous heroes because some deep, primordial desire wants them inside of us. No one will be watching today’s Marvel movies in 100 years, but people will still be reading Sherlock Holmes and Shakespeare’s plays. Classics speak to our hearts’ most basic needs therefore we need the kinds of heroes that are found in that canon of literature.

2. Our imaginations need to be informed by virtue rather than a range from mediocrity to vice.

Though philosophy departments may deny it, and liberal Christianity ignores it, the natural sinfulness of man is a truth so universally attested to in history that those who do not believe in it are further proof of it. In short, we need no help with vice. Our imaginations need to have holy ideals set before them.

Do we have so many perfect—complete, mature—people around us that we have no need of reading about one more? Who needs a mediocre example? Am I not a sufficient example of that for myself? The law of entropy ensures that I will always be spiraling downward unless an opposite force of greater power pulls me up. An imagination is not so much like a shelf where ideas can be stored and only one good example is needed for us to continually refer back to. Rather, the imagination is a garden pestered by birds and monkeys and erratic rainfall and a painfully apathetic farmer. It stands in need of good seeds all the time because it naturally brings weeds. Let writers and speakers give us those seeds that have the greatest tendency to inspire our minds to reflect much on the beauty of Christian character.

John Bunyan does this with characters like Hopeful and Faithful in The Pilgrim’s Progress. Church history does this with colorful men like John Huss (15thcentury preacher), John Knox (16thcentury Reformer), and John Eliot (17thcentury missionary). Classic literature raises the imagination with Jean Valjean in Les Miserables or Sir Percy Blakeney in The Scarlet Pimpernel or Mr. Knightley in Emma. None of these heroes is sinless, but all of these heroes lived a life characterized by the traits you would like to see in your children. Paul urges us to dwell on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8).

3. The character of a hero speaks to the soul differently from the propositions of a syllogism.

 

Souls are complex creations that do not respond merely to facts. Give us examples that attract our sympathy and so the complex heartwork of the affections moves forward. If truth was enough, why do we need to watch parents for our first 20 years? The NT assumes this because Jesus took flesh and tells us to follow Him. He did not start the disciples with a catechism, but an internship. Love “as I have loved you” (John 13:34). Husbands would not know the right way to maintain their marriage without looking at His example (Eph. 5:25). The OT is filled with examples for us so that our desires would be correctly calibrated (1 Cor. 10:6). People persuade people with an intangible influence spreading out from an attractive life. Solomon told us that God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecc. 3:11) which at the least means we have great spiritual capacity and desires even if we are not able to reach all our aspirations. Good heroes cast our imagination a little further in the right direction. We need no help going the wrong direction, so why would a writer not offer us a lead character that can move us nearer to God? Perhaps, the writer’s mind is not interested in drawing nigh to God. If that is the case, then why are we interested in that writer’s work? We need virtuous heroes because when a person enters our imagination he begins to exert more influence than we may have thought possible in ways that we had not anticipated. “The prudent man gives thought to his steps (Pro. 14:15).”

4. Men who are above us draw us magnetically upward.

All of these reasons are so connected to each other that they strengthen each other like branches from a similar trunk. Perhaps, they are all the same and their only differences lie in perspective. We need virtuous heroes for the same reason that a sinking man needs a life vest. Mortimer Adler in How to Read a Book encourages us to read book by authors that can raise us up. Some authors, he tells us can only raise us once, and then we will be at their level making the book unnecessary for us in the future. But owing to the nature of inborn foolishness, virtuous models need to keep visiting us like friends. Why do we go to church each week? Seeing those other Christians has a vital impact on our godliness.

It may be that movie heroes are not usually enduring examples of virtue because it is a little uncomfortable to stand in the presence of a mature person. In this age of come-as-you-are relaxation, who wants to feel the pinch of a moral superior? He may make judgments that differ from mine, and isn’t that a microaggression or something? Oh, the silliness of a generation that cannot even bear the existence of a moral standard above ourselves! This is why we must not glut ourselves on heroes with no moral high ground, and thus unwittingly through the seeming innocuous means of entertainment and relaxation form an imagination that works against our best principles of personal responsibility and self-improvement.

  1. Why We Need Virtuous Heroes
  2. Two Kinds of Sin
  3. Objection: What About David?
  4. Good Presentations of Total Depravity
  5. Four Reasons We Need Virtuous Heroes
  6. A Call for Aragorn Rather Than Captain America

 

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Good Presentations of Total Depravity

Another objection might say that the Bible is full of sins and sinners. In the closing chapters of the book of Judges the history shows violent murder, rampant theft, and animalistic fornication. Throughout the OT, crass and vile episodes are recorded by divine inspiration for our instruction. Does that mean that when we read books or entertain ourselves we should have heroes who are obviously flawed?

The correct frame to put around the picture of sin always makes it appear immediately and enduringly odious. No one thinks of Jezebel as a heroine. Only an insane mind would choose Judas as the hero in the gospels. Satan is found in Job, but no readers cheer for him. The men of Sodom, king Herod, and Haman all picture total depravity, but none of the accounts of these sinners gives wickedness a charming quality. Nor are any of these men heroes. Virtue happily allows the ice of depravity to showcase itself knowing that it will only melt in the minds of men if it is exposed by the light of the Sun of Righteousness. If we do not come away from a picture of depravity hating and even being sickened by the presence of sin, then it was not a good picture.

Perhaps this is why Melville’s Moby Dick resonates with its readers. This novel has a wicked man as the main character and an unknowable animal as the hero. Ahab is depraved in the most devious way. Rather than chasing after superficial lusts like fornication, the captain of the Pequod directs all his powers and intellect to demonstrating his resentment of the White Whale. The power of the story rests in the terror that a good reader has of Ahab’s unflinching will to hate and exterminate the mysterious, “ubiquitous” Being who harvested Ahab’s leg as he “blindly [sought] with a six inch blade to reach the fathom-deep life of the whale”.

  1. Why We Need Virtuous Heroes
  2. Two Kinds of Sin
  3. Objection: What About David?
  4. Good Presentations of Total Depravity
  5. Four Reasons We Need Virtuous Heroes
  6. A Call for Aragorn Rather Than Captain America

 

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Wasn’t David a Raw, Broken, Messy Hero?

David broke God’s law with a high hand for a prolonged period of time, yet he is a hero of the faith. One of the remarkable traits of Scriptural history is its portrayal of the terrible sins of the patriarchs. Does this disprove the thesis that heroes should be models of virtue? No, for three reasons.

  1. David’s life was marked by godliness.

He fell to adultery with Bathsheba after decades of living wisely and in obedience to the law. For nearly 10 years Saul persecuted him, and he “behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul (1 Sam. 18:30).” He refused to kill Saul though David was anointed to be king, and the death of Saul would have been self-defense (1 Sam. 24:6; 26:9). He showed mercy to the suffering men who needed a leader while he was on the run (1 Sam. 22:2; 30:22-23). He showed mercy to Mephibosheth (2 Sam. 9:7). He encouraged himself in the Lord (1 Sam. 30:6).

He sinned terribly, but this was a relatively small amount of the Biblical data (2 chapters out of 58) appearing after years of faithfulness and before continued decades of obedience, as well as humble repentance seen in both Psalms 51 and 32.

  1. David lived without the benefit of the Holy Spirit.

Living a life of character must be fantastically difficult because so few do it. However, David did for decades live as a model without the constant indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. His sin is not so remarkable as his many years of good example.

  1. David is only a minor character, and he is not the real Hero.

Who is supposed to captivate our minds, but the shadowy Promise that David wrote about in Psalm 2? “I have installed my King.” He is the true Prophet, Priest, and King. Further, He is the righteous Judge and Lawgiver surpassing Samuel and Moses. Of course, sidekicks and ancillary characters have flaws, but the real Hero does not.

So, if modern authors patterned their heroes after David’s example, they would be placing great men before our eyes. The patriarchs of Scripture are examples of faith, resilience, and self-control. Their sins are sometimes recorded, but evil does not dominate their lives. Yet even when it does, they are still in Scripture to keep us longing for One who plays the man at all times.

  1. Why We Need Virtuous Heroes
  2. Two Kinds of Sin
  3. Objection: What About David?
  4. Good Presentations of Total Depravity
  5. Four Reasons We Need Virtuous Heroes
  6. A Call for Aragorn Rather Than Captain America

 

 

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Two Kinds of Sin

Every man is a sinner, but not the same kind of sinner. When Paul writes to the church at Corinth he calls this struggling, immature body “the church of God … those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling.” In this same letter, he warns that certain kinds of sinful lifestyles exclude you from the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10). Believers cannot sin in this kind of way or else they are not believers. John makes this even more plain in 1 John 3:8-9.

The one who practices sin is of the devil… No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

The standard for true Christianity is a lifestyle. Those who lack an ongoing practice of holiness and discipline should fear that their profession is false. They know very little of spiritual maturity.

Another kind of sinning exists whereby truly converted people fall into sin. All believers are in this category because we sin more often than we know. We cannot know our own hearts (Jer. 17:9-10) because of the remaining corruptions in them. But even while we can sin, John says that no believers are in the previous group of people who “keep on sinning.” One group of sinners are those who have a lifestyle or a character marked by sin. The second group sometimes sins, but their lives cannot fairly be characterized as sinful.

Heroes should be taken from the second group. They should be models of virtue whose lifestyle shows them to be worthy subjects for our imaginations to consider even though they are still sinners. This is why Paul wrote a list of requirements for pastors (1 Tim. 3:1-7) so that even though church leaders will be chosen from among a group of redeemed sinners, the church will be watching the best models of holiness from within their local church.

  1. Why We Need Virtuous Heroes
  2. Two Kinds of Sin
  3. Objection: What About David?
  4. Good Presentations of Total Depravity
  5. Four Reasons We Need Virtuous Heroes
  6. A Call for Aragorn Rather Than Captain America

 

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Why We Need Virtuous Heroes

The modern hero is usually unusually handsome and in that way distances himself from the average man. His rugged features must show well on the screen because that is the preferred medium today. But writers know that their audience must relate to their protagonist. A strange thing happens then in modern stories. In order to find some common ground with the average person watching the movie or reading the book, today’s heroes are messy, angry, and broken in the name of realism.

The argument goes something like this: Since we are all sinners, then the key characters of our stories should be as well. Anything else is unrealistic and unbelievable. Life is raw and anything less would be smarmy hypocrisy.

Here are a few examples.

In C. S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian, Peter is a young hero following a virtuous path. The wisdom and humility he displays are found from his elders, so even though he is young, Lewis’ was not propping up a nascent youth culture. The same character in the 2008 movie walks onto the screen as an angry teenager with “issues”.

Tolkien’s Faramir in The Two Towers is a model for my sons of justice, restraint, and discernment. Peter Jackson’s Faramir in the movie of the same name is a petulant, self-aggrandizing post-modern. What model of virtue is impoverished more than he? Only Jackson’s version of Frodo who—can you believe it?—rejects Sam in favor of Gollum. (Incidentally, Tolkien wrote Frodo as a 50-year old wealthy hobbit who nevertheless condescends with friendship to his faithful, lower-class, 35-year old servant. The cultural Marxists had to cut that dynamic as well when they rewrote the story.)

What would these kinds of writers do to Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy if they could? What would they do to the apostle Paul who lived from his conversion as a model of Christian piety (Acts 24:16)? We want our heroes exciting, but not convicting. They’ve got to be mostly like us except with superpowers or else they will not make it to market.

Here is the rest of the series.

  1. Why We Need Virtuous Heroes
  2. Two Kinds of Sin
  3. Objection: What About David?
  4. Good Presentations of Total Depravity
  5. Four Reasons We Need Virtuous Heroes
  6. A Call for Aragorn Rather Than Captain America

 

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Keep Studies in Their Place

Richard Baxter inThe Reformed Pastor urged pastors to spend time in evangelism, especially in instructing their own people to be sure not to lose one of their own church members. He then answered a number of objections that people may bring up.

Objection 3: This course of evangelism will take up so much time, that a man will have no opportunity to follow his studies. Most of us are young and inexperienced, and have need of much time to improve our own abilities, and to increase our own knowledge, which this course will entirely prevent.

Answer 1: I highly value common knowledge, and would not encourage any to set light by it; but I value the saving of souls more. That work which is our great end must be done, whatever be left undone. Men’s souls may be saved without knowing whether God did predetermine the creature in all its acts; whether the understanding necessarily determines the will; whether God works grace in a physical or in a moral way of causation; what freewill is; and a hundred similar questions, which are probably the things you would be studying when you should be saving souls. Get well to Heaven, and help your people thither, and you shall know all these things in a moment, and a thousand more, which now, by all your studies, you can never know; and is not this the most expeditious and certain way to knowledge?

Answer 2: You may have competent time for both evangelism and personal studies. Lose no time upon vain recreations and employments; consume it not in needless sleep; trifle not away a minute. Do what you do with all your might; and then see whether you have not competent time for these other pursuits.

Answer 3: If you must choose one duty above another, I there were such a case of necessity, that we could not carry on further studies, and instruct the ignorant too, I would throw aside all the libraries in the world, rather than be guilty of the perdition of one soul; or at least, I know that this would be my duty.

*These paragraphs are abridged from pages 213-215 in The Reformed Pastor by Banner of Truth.

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Were Africans Savages Before the Gospel Came?

Some books on missions and biographies of missionaries from 100-150 years ago referred to people in Papua New Guinea, South America, Africa, and India as “savages.” That kind of talk is so offensive today that some believers do not even want to read books about church history in Africa if it is present.

Arguments from History

The facts of history however are not primed to our modern sensitivities. One of the most striking features of Susan Bauer’s excellent volumes on history (We are still waiting for the final two volumes to be published.), is the recurring barbarism from all cultures worldwide. The Egyptian dynasties compelled slave labor to build enormous tombs. A Chinese king orders scores of people to be murdered at his death and buried with him. In ancient Europe, fans would commonly murder fans of the opposing team. Alvin Schmidt writing in How Christianity Changed the World describes the sorry state that women lived in for thousands of years in nearly all nations of the world. Many cultures from Africa to India murdered one or both babies when twins were born. Julius Caesar’s journals (cited by Bauer), record that the first Romans to arrive in Britain found the warriors replacing their clothes with blue paint in order to enter battle invincible.

Last night I read chapter one of Jean Merle D’Aubigne’s acclaimed The Reformation in England (Banner of Truth, 2015). He begins the tale just 150 years after Jesus ascended. How do the earliest sources describe the great grandfathers of modern England? What was life like on the island that just a few generations ago stretched its power and culture over the whole world? D’Aubigne records the “shores of Britain” were “savage” (page 4). The Scots, described as “savage,” “rushing from their heathen homes, were devestating the country, spreading terror on all sides, and reducing the people to slavery…” (page 6). The Irish fare no better since they are called “pagan” and allowed both pirates and slavery.

As D’Aubigne summarizes the first 500 years of England’s Christian history, he uses the words cruel, wretched, barbarians, savages, heathens, and pagans thirteen times to describe the condition of white people before the gospel came to them. “While [some] gradually laid aside their savage manners, the barbarous customs of the Saxons prevailed unmoderated throughout the kingdoms” (page 8). Not surprisingly then, he writes, “the gospel has exalted the British isles.”

This whole process took many centuries however. By 590 (after 400 years of Christian missionaries), the white Britains are still slaves under the white Saxons who care nothing for the new religion of their slaves (page 13). It is an indisputable fact that slavery was common in the ancient world and that the Christian missionaries spent most of their time evangelizing rather than trying to change the political structure–even though it was savage, cruel, and pagan.

Scripture Speaks to This Question in Two Ways

Does the Bible teach that “apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 5:5)? Did the Holy Spirit tell us certainly that there are none righteous, not even one (Rom. 3:10)? Are the minds and consciences of unbelievers generally, as a stereotype “defiled” (Tit. 1:15)? When Jesus speaks to large audiences did he broad-brush them as “evil” people (Matt. 7:11) without explaining Himself or offering disclaimers? Does a promised future judgment in the Lake of Fire tell us what we all are really like? If we believe in Total Depravity, then should we not oppose multiculturalism?

More than that, there are historical examples. Saul was ordered to destroy the Amalekites because they opposed Israel. But why were the women, children, and animals annihilated? The entire society of the Amalekites was so infiltrated with sin, that God hated it all. He wanted nothing to do with them as he told Jeremiah hundreds of years later, “Do not learn the way of the nations.” When the Israelites entered Canaan, they were commanded to “utterly destroy seven nations” showing them no mercy (Deut. 7:1-3). If these nations were fit to be utterly removed from the earth, then could we not deduce that their citizens were savages whose sins had risen to God? Because of the way they acted, Ammonites and Moabites lost any chance to have peace, help, or marriages with Israel (Deut. 23:3-6).

Without divine intervention, all societies are savage. That is the clear teaching of Scripture. We should not be surprised that a society is bad, but rather that there are any good, true, and beautiful traits among the nations of the world–and every nation does have marks of grace. Further, we should expect that unbelievers–since they are naturally so proud–would rebel against this clear evidence from history and Scripture. What is shocking is that Christian ministers balk at this truth while some unconverted, conservative writers see the essence of it.

How should a Christian respond to a sinner in this condition? Love him. Seek his good. Count him as a man made in God’s image but degraded by centuries of demonic filth. Evangelize him. Receive him as a full brother when he is born again.

What is the Answer to the title Question?

If Europe has produced anything honorable in world affairs, it is owing to the power of the Christian religion slowly permeating their culture and bringing about a change over centuries from their useless way of life received from their forefathers. On their own and as testified by the historians, the whites were and are savages. Only a racist would say that the Africans were any better before the gospel arrived.

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Inspiring Lines from Robert Philip’s Life of Whitefield

Revival
“Look where I would, most were drowned in tears. The word was sharper than a two-edged sword. Their bitter cries and tears were enough to pierce the hardest heart. Oh what different visages were then to be seen! Some were struck pale as death, others lying on the ground, others wringing their hands, others sinking into the arms of friends, and most lifting up their eyes to heaven, and crying out to God for mercy. I could think of nothing, when I looked at them, so much as the great day! They seemed like persons awakened by the last trump, and coming out of their graves to judgment!” Whitefield, 177

“The chief characteristics of this work [revival], at its commencement, were,—
“1. a melting down of all classes and ages in overwhelming solicitude about salvation;
“2. an absorbing sense of eternal realities, which banished all vain and useless conversation;
“3. a self-abasement and self-condemnation, which acquitted God of all severity, whatever he might do;
“4. a spirit of secret and social prayer, which redeemed time for itself under all circumstances; and
“5. a concern for the souls of others, which watched for all opportunities of doing good.” Philip, 149

“You might have seen thousands bathed in tears.” Whitefield in Scotland, 295

“Mr. Whitefield’s sermons were attended with much power; particularly on sabbath night about ten [pm].” M’Cullock, 296

“People sat unwearied till two in the morning.” Whitefield, 297

Humility
“If I trace myself from my cradle to my manhood, I can see nothing in me but a fitness to be damned.” Whitefield, 4

“He often makes me bold as a lion; but I believe there is not a person living more timorous by nature. I find a love of power intoxicates even God’s dear children. It is much easier for me to obey than govern. … I cannot well buy humility at too dear a rate.” Whitefield, 365

“It is nothing but this flesh of ours, and those cursed seeds of the proud apostate, which lie lurking within us, that make us think ourselves worthy of the air we breathe.” Whitefield, 378

“All that people do say of me, affects me but little; because I know worse of myself than they can say concerning me. My heart is desperately wicked. Was God to leave me I should be a remarkable sinner.” Whitefield, 384

“Oh, I am sick—I am sick—sick in body; but infinitely more so in mind, to see so much dross in my soul.” Whitefield, 456

Persecution
In Ireland, “We sang, prayed, and preached without molestation; only now and then a few stones and clods of dirt were thrown at me. … Volleys of hard stones came from all quarters, and every step I took a fresh stone made me reel backwards and forwards, till I was almost breathless, and all over a gore of blood. … A christian surgeon was ready to dress our wounds, which being done, I went into the preaching-place, and [preached]… The next morning I set out for Port Arlington, and left my persecutors to His mercy, who out of persecutors hath often made preachers. That I may be thus revenged of them, is my hearty prayer.” Whitefield, 375-377

Lively Preaching
“Mr. Betterton’s [the actor] answer to a worthy prelate is worthy of a lasting regard. When asked ‘how it came to pass that the clergy, who spoke of things real, affected the people so little, and the players, who spoke of things barely imaginary, affected them so much,’ he said, ‘My Lord, I can assign but one reason; we players speak of things imaginary as though they were real, and too many of the clergy speak of things real as though they were imaginary.’” Letter of Whitefield, 556

“I wish whenever I go up into a pulpit, to look upon it as the last time I shall ever preach, or the last time the people may hear.” Whitefield 556

“Would ministers preach for eternity, they would then act the part of true christian orators, and not only calmly and coolly inform the understanding, but by persuasive, pathetic address, endeavor to move the affections and warm the heart. To act otherwise bespeaks a sad ignorance of human nature, and such an inexcusable indolence and indifference in the preacher, as must constrain the hearers to suspect, whether they will or not, that the preacher, let him be who he will,—only deals in the false commerce of unfelt truth.” Whitefield, 557

“Every accent of his voice spoke to the ear; every feature of his face, every motion of his hands, every gesture, spoke to the eye; so that the most dissipated and thoughtless found their attention involuntarily fixed.” Quoted from Gillies biography, 558

“Awkwardness in the pulpit is a sin—monotony a sin—dulness a sin—and all of them sins against the welfare of immortal souls.” Philip 560

Power in Preaching
“The real meaning of [the Bible] may be honestly given, and yet their true spirit neither caught nor conveyed.” Philip, 212

“[Preaching] will not be heard as His counsel or consolation, unless it is spoken with something of his own love and solemnity. He is the Spirit of power, and of grace, and of love, as well as the Spirit of truth and wisdom; and therefore He is but half copied in preaching, when only his meaning is given. That meaning lies in His mind, not merely as truth, nor as law, nor as wisdom, but also as sympathy, solicitude, and love for the souls it is addressed unto. … They can hardly be said to the words of the Holy Ghost, when they are uttered in a spiritless or lifeless mood.” Philip, 212

“A minister ought to be as much ashamed, and more afraid, of being unbaptized with the Holy Ghost and fire, as of being ignorant of the original languages of the Holy Scriptures.” Philip, 214

“No phrase occurs so often in his journals as, ‘preached with much power; with some power.’” Philip, 216

After listening to Gilbert Tennent preach, Whitefield wrote, “He convinced me more and more, that we can preach the gospel of Christ no further than we have experienced the power of it in our hearts. I found what a babe and novice I was in the sight of God.” 166

Preaching Without Notes
“I love study, and delight to meditate. Preaching without notes costs as much, if not more, close and solemn thought, as well as confidence in God, than with notes.” Whitefield, 330

Advice to Other Preachers
“Put them in mind of the freeness of God’s electing love, and be instant with them to lay hold on the perfect righteousness of Christ by faith.—Talk to them, O talk to them, even till midnight, of the riches of His all-sufficient grace. Tell them, O tell them, what he has done for their souls, and how earnestly he is now interceding for them in heaven. Show them, in the map of the word, the kingdoms of the upper world and the transcendent glories of them; and assure them all shall be theirs, if they believe on Jesus Christ with their whole heart. Press them to believe on Him immediately. Intersperse prayers with your exhortations, and thereby call down fire from heaven, even the fire of the Holy Ghost.” Whitefield to Howell Harris, 131

Political Preaching
Whitefield preached “thanksgiving sermons for the victories at Crevelt, Cape Breton, and on the defeat of the Russians.” Philip, 457

On the Preacher Speaking About Himself
“There is one peculiarity about Whitefield’s sermons… which I should like to commend, if I could do so wisely. I mean—his modest egotism in preaching. He is for ever speaking of himself when he touches any experimental point, or grapples with a difficulty. … He thinks aloud about himself, only to enable others to know what to think about their own perplexities, dilemmas, and temptations. He shows them his own soul, merely to prove that “no strange thing has befallen” their souls.

“The following is a fair specimen of his egotism. ‘I despair of no one, when I consider how God had mercy on such a wretch as I, who was running in a full career to hell. I was hasting thither; Jesus Christ passed by and stopped me. … I despair of none of you, when I consider, I say, what a wretch I was. I am not speaking now out of a false humility, or a pretended sanctity, as the Pharisees call it. …” Philip with Whitefield, 574

Entertainment
“Surely I shall appear against you at the judgment-seat of Christ; for these diversions [wrestling and other sports] keep people from true christianity, as much as paganism itself. And I doubt not, but it will require as much courage and power to divert people from these things, as the apostles had to exert in converting the heathen from dumb idols.” Whitefield, 109

“[After the sermon] we retired and sung a hymn; and some ladies having the curiosity to hear us I took that opportunity of dissuading them against balls and assemblies.” Whitefield, 130

An advertisement in the New York newspaper in the 1730’s: “We hear from Philadelphia, that since Mr. Whitefield’s preaching there the dancing school and concert room have been shut up, as inconsistent with the doctrines of the gospel; at which some gentlemen were so enraged, that they broke open the door. It is most extraordinary that such devilish diversions should be supported in that city, and by some of that very sect, whose first are an utter detestation of them.” 174

In 1753, “the owner of the play-house was made so uneasy by a sermon against theatrical amusements, that he pulled the roof off the building, to put an end to them so far as he was concerned.” Philip, 412

Prayer
“The grand secret of Whitefield’s power was, as we have seen and felt, his devotional spirit. Had he been less prayerful, he would have been less powerful. … His face shone when he came down from the mount, because he had been long alone with God upon the mount.” Philip 565

“[Whitefield’s letters] are only surpassed by Luke’s ‘Acts of the Apostles.’” 566

Personal Character
“How do I pity those who complain that time hangs on their hands! Let them but love Christ, and spend their whole time in his service, and they will find but few melancholy hours.” Whitefield, 131

“I would fain die blazing.” 330

“Where was I on Saturday last? In hunger, cold, and thirsting; but now I enjoy fullness of bread, and all things convenient for me. God grant I may not, Jeshurun-like, wax fat, and kick! Perhaps it is more difficult to know how to abound, than how to want.” Whitefield, 373

“Nature loves ease; and as a blind zeal often prompts us to speak too much, so tepidity and lukewarmness often cause us to speak too little.” Whitefield, 386

“He was neat in the extreme in his person and every thing about him. … Not a paper might be out of its place, or put up irregularly. Each part of the furniture also must be in its place before we retired to rest. There was no rest after four in the morning, nor sitting up after ten in the evening. He was scrupulously exact to break up parties in time.” From Whitefield’s servant Cornelius Winter, 566

Robert Philip, The Life and Times of George Whitefield, 1837, reprint 2007 by Banner of Truth, 588 pages.

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