Chapter #1 is intended to provide us with an understanding of Whitefield’s ancestry which would lead to us to see that the fruit of his ministry, that he was able to minister to the rich and the poor, was in part based on his family heritage. The quotes are brief and provide insight into Dallimore’s views on this topic. The concluding paragraph sums up the idea that Whitefield was uniquely gifted for the role he played in the 18th Century Revival.
For instance Dallimore writes, “Hudleston’s findings, amplified by information from the Alumni Oxoniensis, show that Whitefield’s family had long sustained a relationship with Oxford University and with the priesthood of the Church of England….seven of the Whitefield men attended Oxford and two of the Whitefield woman married Oxford men….All of these men devoted their lives to the service of the Church and their combined ministries amounted to approximately three hundred years….This lengthy relationship indicates that attendance at England’s great seat of learning and a life in the ministry were something of a tradition in the family and suggests that in some measure, Oxonian culture and ecclesiastical acumen had undoubtedly found their way into the Whitefield blood. ” 1
“But the life of trade and the holding of civic office also marked George Whitefield’s background. His paternal grandfather, Andrew Whitefield, is said by Gillies [Whitefield biographer] to have been ‘a private gentleman and lived retired upon his estate’.” 2
“The faculty of youthful enterprise which is thus suggested in Andrew is still more evident in his son Thomas [Whitefield’s father]. After having been ‘bred to the employment of a wine merchant in bristol’. Thomas appears to have been too ambitious to remain in the service of another, for he soon made plans to enter into business for himself. First he took unto himself a wife and, although but nineteen years old, launched into a weighty commercial undertaking – the proprietorship of the Bell Inn at Gloucester.” 3
Thomas’ bride, Elizabeth Edwards [Whitefield’s mother], was a Bristol girl of approximately the same age as her husband. She also came from a background of good quality. A Bristol historian says she ‘was related to (two) reputable civic families’, and Hudleston [Whitefield biographer] shows that three of her Uncles and four other relatives were burgesses and that another held the offices of alderman and mayor. Elizabeth’s father, Richard Edwards, was also a burgess and was in the trade of manufacturing cutlery.” 4
“With these generations of Oxford graduates and priests of the Church, and these successful business people and civic servants, the background was obviously above the commonplace. A knowledge of this lineage will prove important, for when we come to the study of Whitefield’s ministry, and witness his extraordinary array of natural gifts, we shall not need to regard them as a mystery, but may have some understanding as to their source. It was manifestly by means of this ancestry that God prepared the man whom He was raising up as a prime instrument in the eighteen-century Revival.” 5
1 Arnold Dallimore. George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the 18th Century. [East Peoria, IL: Versa Press, 2009], 38.
5 Ibid, pg 41.