Tuesday, June 06, 2006

George Whitefield, speaking the truth in love

It seems that some Evangelicals are willing to accept the principle that if someone claims to be a Christian, then they must be accepted as such. In a recent case, Tom Wright said he believed that this friend, the Liberal scholar Marcus Borg was a Christian. Borg does not believe in the deity of Christ, his virgin birth, substitutionary death on the cross, or bodily resurrection from the dead. See here .
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The great 18th Century Evangelist, George Whitefield had an altogether different approach. This (lightly edited) letter to a friend is full of compassionately honest spiritual counsel.
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Dear Sir,
Philadelphia Nov. 10 1739
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Gratitude and love call upon me to write a letter of acknowledgement for favours received when lately at ___ . The Lord remember them at that day! You have confessed his servants before men, he has promised to confess such, before his angels in heaven. The principles which I maintain, are purely scriptural, and every way agreeable to the church of England articles.
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What I have been chiefly concerned about is, lest any should rest in bare speculative knowledge, and not experience the power of them in their hearts. - What avails it, Sir, if I am a patron for the righteousness of JESUS CHRIST in behalf of another, if at the same time I am self-righteous myself? I am thus jealous, I trust with a godly jealousy, because I see so many self-deceivers among my acquaintance.
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There is one particular (whom I love, and for whom I most heartily pray) who approves of my doctrine, and has heard it preached many years past, but I could never hear him tell of his experiences, or of what God has done for his soul. He has excellent good desires and intentions, but I think he wants something more: Lord, for your mercy's sake, grant he may know himself even as he is known! I need not tell Mr. D ____, who this dear friend is - you are immediately acquainted with him, you love him as your own heart; you are never out of his company. Oh, dear Sir, be not angry. Methinks I hear you, by this time, making application, and saying, "Then I am the man." True, dear Sir I confess you are. But love, love for your better part, sour soul, your precious soul, this love constrains me to use this freedom. You are more noble than to take it ill at my hands; I could not bear even to suspect that you deceived yourself, dear Sir, and not tell you such suspicion was in my heart.
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That God may powerfully convince you of self-righteousness, and clothe you with the righteousness of his dear Son; that he may fill you with his grace, and thereby fit you for, and at last translate you to, his glory, is the hearty prayer of, dear Sir,
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Your most obliged and affectionate friend and humble servant,
G.W.
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Letter CXVI, George Whitefield's Letters, A Facsimile of Whitefield's Works, Volume One, 1771, With Suppliments 1737-1742, p. 111, Banner of Truth Trust, 1976.

1 comment:

pilgrim said...

Whitefield is an excellent read, and his letters show his pastoral heart. I highly recommend reading his letters (And actually di on my blog.)
I like seeing himn recommended-God used him and continues to use him to encourage, exhort & correct.