George Whitefield, Principled Calvinist 1: Froward From My Mother's Womb by Thomas Kidd
February 17, 2015
At the outset of the Anglican baptismal liturgy, an eighteenth-century rector would say "Dearly beloved, for as much as all men are conceived and born in sin. . .I beseech you to call upon God." Ask God, he urged, to show the infant mercy, and to make him part of the divine kingdom. Here the minister identified the fundamental problem with humanity, even with the seemingly innocent baby before him: all people were tainted with sin - original sin, the sin of Adam - which separated them from their Creator.
George Whitefield, who would go on to become the greatest Anglo-American evangelist of the eighteenth century, received baptism in that Anglican ritual three hundred years ago in Gloucester, England. Whitefield came to recognize the truth about his own sinful nature as a young man. In the best-selling account of his life, Whitefield opened the narrative by describing the corruption of his heart, in language directly repeating the rector's prayer. "I can remember such early stirrings of corruption in my heart, as abundantly convinces me that I was conceived and born in sin; that in me dwelleth no good thing by nature, and that if God had not freely prevented me by his grace, I must have been for ever banished from his divine presence."
Thomas Kidd (Ph.D. University of Notre Dame) is Professor of History at Baylor University and is Senior Fellow at Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion. His books include George Whitefield: America's Spiritual Founding Father (Yale University Press, 2014), Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots, and God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution.