VIDEO: Dr. Burke on the 2 Great Awakening and George Whitfield TRT: 9:35
In this four-part series, we learned that General Benjamin Franklin Butler refused to remand the fugitive slaves to General Mallory in Virginia in 1861. Virginia was, at that time, in General Butler’s mind considered to be a foreign entity, having chosen to secede from the Union. To understand the contributions of the New Light Separatist Free Wills that came to the help and aid of General Butler through and with the American Missionary Association during the time when Butler would have had this property dispute with the fugitive slaves and General Mallory, the American Missionary Association came to the valley to help General Butler with the mass exodus of slaves. The slaves were coming overnight and so General Butler really needed some help with clean water, with helping house slaves, and provide food and sustenance for them. But in order to understand how it was the Free Will Baptist viewed the circumstances at that time, we need to understand the larger theological discourse that was associated with that period in time.
The Great Awakening, as it was called or the First Great Awakening, with the implication that there would be a Second Awakening as there was, but the First Great Awakening was really a movement to arouse people from their states of complacency. You see, on the Baptist continent, the Age of Enlightenment and Age of . .Reason were the back wave of that was flowing across the Atlantic ocean to colonial America. Among Baptist and American colonial protestants then there was an awakening movement ongoing. This awakening was really steeped in revivalism. Revivalism was understood in the context of what had happened in prior centuries, meaning that early monks who would have had duties and church responsibilities, they were on a mission to encourage and build physical structures, such as churches whereby congregations could be organized. Some of the characteristics of the Great Awakening would have been a detachment from church polity, a detachment from church – I guess, more or less, what I want to say is a detachment from the formalities that, up until that time, had been associated with church. Also, there was an interest in self-introspection (that) was incorporated at this time. So, we have the old Revivalist and the new Revivalist, much like the old Lights and new Lights and just as Newton’s third law predicts one is an equal and opposite reaction or response to the other. So this theological evolutionary process is ongoing as a result of the Age of Enlightenment on the Baptist continent where it started; but then was brought across the Atlantic ocean.
An Anglican minister had arrived on the scene in colonial America. This Anglican minister was most recognized for his speaking abilities. He was very persuasive. This preacher’s name was George Whitefield.
George Whitefield was quite persuasive. Even his own biographer, Arnold Dallimore, says that in his hometown Whitefield is a British citizen and he comes to colonial America to bring this these notions of enlightenment through this Great Awakening to arouse people from their complacency.
But Arnold Dallimore says that when London’s population was nearing 700,000, that Whitefield himself had the capacity to keep spellbound 20,000 people in a single audience. Well, George Whitefield was one of the first itinerant ministers. Now, what I mean by itinerant is Whitefield believed that all the world was his parish house. Now during this – Whitefield’s kind of a bridge character between the First Awakening and the Second Awakening and during the First Awakening, the concentration was with forming a church membership inside the church. They were building within. But when the Second Awakening comes along, they’re moving outside of the church, to work toward non-members to convert people who may not have had the ability to make it to a formal church structure, to belong to a certain religious sect. So, Whitefield as an itinerant minister preacher he is able to move from town-to-town, from village-to-village and he does not have to acquire the approval of the church officials. He doesn’t have to ask their permission. So, Whitefield is quite popular. He was perhaps the most recognized by name and understood to be the most elite of these itinerant ministers. He was in today’s terms he was truly a celebrity.
Whitefield was known for his theological elocution and discourse. He over-enunciated and was quite charismatic. It’s interesting – a sidebar here if I may – Whitefield, too, as we heard in the first segment: General Butler was cross-eyed. So is George Whitefield and Whitefield has such a capacity to imbue an audience with such spirituality that what he would do, prior to speaking in any town or village, Whitefield would send men in advance to disseminate broadsides.
Even his own sermons were published in local newspapers. He was quite popular, even our own Benjamin Franklin for whom I might say that Benjamin Franklin Butler was named.
Franklin being on the Baptist continent, having been ambassador to France, was aware of this enlightenment and this idea of critical reasoning and logical applications and critical questioning.
Benjamin Franklin was quite the skeptic when he heard that George Whitefield was arriving in Philadelphia. Nonetheless, Franklin gathered himself together and went downtown to the where Whitefield was speaking in order to make his own observations, to scrutinize this media event.
As Franklin was standing there, it is interesting historians report that Franklin came up with a mathematical theory, whereby he could calculate the number of people standing in a square foot and then project the audience population where Whitefield was speaking.
Franklin was most impressed by George Whitefield. I would imagine it would have been quite hard to impress Dr. Franklin.
So, Whitefield is moving around through the American colonies. He crossed the Atlantic 13 times with seven of those trips, specifically designated for colonial America. During one of those Atlantic crossings, he headed toward New Hampshire. While Whitefield is speaking in New Hampshire, there is a young gentleman standing in the audience who, too, was a skeptic of Whitefield, but was quite captivated by Whitefield’s even state of presence, as Whitefield stood atop a tree stump to speak to this audience. That young gentleman’s name was Benjamin Randall. Benjamin Randall is a part of this New Light Separatist development that is ongoing. However, Randall has issue with the idea of infant baptism and then additionally with predestination. So Randall confronts and challenges the idea of predestination. 1139 words
Dallimore, Arnold A. (1980). George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the Eighteenth-Century Revival. Vol. II. Edinburgh or Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust.
Dallimore, Arnold A. (2010) . George Whitefield: God’s Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Enlightened Century. Westchester, Illinois: Crossway Books.