In chapter one of “George Whitefield: The life and times of the great evangelist of the 18th century revival” the author Arnold Dallimore sets forth the three points:
First, Whitefield was a tremendous figure in the 18th Century. Much beyond his apparent place according to historians until Mr. Dallimore’s book.
Second, the reason for Whitefield’s seeming obscurity.
Mr. Dallimore recounts in pages 6 – 14 the several reasons that Whitefield is unknown. They are Whitefield’s own lack of recording his works after the age of 25; several biographers such as Dr. John Gillies, Robert Southey, Robert Philip and Rev. Luke Tyerman for a variety of reasons were unable to capture Whitefield’s dominating ministry in print in a way that shaped people’s opinions long term; the records that were kept such as letters, etc. were lost by the Countess of Huntington’s nephew Aaron Seymour; and that John Wesley’s admirers worked diligently at writing history were Wesley was lifted up as a central leader.
But ultimately, it would appear his obscurity was his own desire, “…When I am dead I desire no epitaph but this: ‘Here lies G.W. What kind of man he was the great day will discover’.” [PG 6-7]
Third, Mr. Dallimore’s hope for his book.
One the first point, Mr. Dallimore makes the following statements: “Whitefield lived from 1714 to 1770, and throughout much of his adult life was as famous as any man in the English-speaking world. From the age of twenty-two till his death he was the foremost figure of the immense religious movement that held the attention of multitudes on both sides of the Atlantic”. [pg 5]
Dallimore quotes E.C. Dargan from his book, A History of Preaching [pg 307], “The history of preaching since the Apostles does not contain a greater or worthier name than that of George Whitefield”. And John Foster says in his book, Critical Essays [pg 63], “…if a list could be made from the experience of all nations and ages, of the twenty men that have produced the greatest effects, by means f their single personal influence, it is highly probable that the name of Whitefield must there hold a place”
Third, Mr. Dallimore writes the following describing his desire for his book on Whitefield, “..Yet this book is written in the desire–perhaps in a measure of inner certainty–that we shall see the great Head of the Church once more bring into being His special instruments of revival, that He will again raise up unto Himself certain young men whom He may use in this glorious employ.
And what manner of men will they be? Men might in the Scriptures, their lives dominated by a sense of the greatness, the majesty and holiness of God, and their minds and hearts aglow with the great truths of the doctrines of grace. They will be men who have learned what it is to die to self, to human aims and personal ambitions; men who are willing to be ‘fools for Christ’s sake’, who will bear much reproach and falsehood, who will labor and suffer, and whose supreme desire will be, not to gain earth’s accolades, but to win the Master’s approbation when they appear before His awesome judgement seat. They all be men who preach with broken hearts and tear filled-eyes, and upon whose ministries God will grant an extraordinary effusion of the Holy Spirit, and who will witness ‘signs and wonders following’ in the transformation of multitudes of human lives.
Indeed, this book goes forth with the ernest prayer that, amidst the rampant iniquity and glaring apostasy of the twentieth century God will use it toward the raising up of such men and toward the granting of a might revival such as was witnessed two hundred years ago.” [pg 16]