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George WhitefieldLife, Context, and Legacy$
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Geordan Hammond and David Ceri Jones

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198747079

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198747079.001.0001

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Whitefield’s Personal Life and Character

Whitefield’s Personal Life and Character

(p.12) 1 Whitefield’s Personal Life and Character
George Whitefield

Boyd Stanley Schlenther

Oxford University Press

Whitefield is known as the most ‘sensational’ preacher of the eighteenth-century Anglophone world. However, his personal life and character have received decidedly muted attention. His early years in Gloucester and student life at Oxford reveal him as highly unsettled and set the pattern for his convoluted interpersonal relationships. This comes into sharp focus with his marriage—aspects of which are astonishing—and only his wife’s death would ‘set his mind much at liberty’. Whitefield was frequently challenged by both opponents and friends over his startling degree of self-promotion, a trait which often resulted in restless reneging on professional ministerial commitments. This militated against his wider usefulness to the Methodist movement, despite his renown as preacher. Due attention is paid to his fateful role as an outspoken defender and practitioner of black slavery. Overall, the portrait that emerges from this chapter is one of a highly complex and frequently perplexing personality.

Keywords:   Methodism, ‘Holy Club’, Pembroke College, Oxford, Bethesda orphanage, slavery, Whitefield’s personality

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