The tension between two great evangelical ministers can never be profound yet graciously loving than the public and personal tensions between George Whitefield and John Wesley. On one front one would easily have had the impression that these two would never even share a drink at a communion table. The most surprising twist was that George Whitefield actually asked Mr Wesley to eulogize at his funeral. But did that bury the proverbial hatchet? Did Whitefield eventually roll over and accept defeat to Wesley? Far from it. Iain Murray in this article rightly summarises this unique conundrum:
The occasion and background of [Whitefield’s letter to Wesley] requires a few words of explanation. From the time of his conversion in 1735, Whitefield had been profoundly conscious of man’s entire depravity, his need of the new birth, and the fact that God can save and God alone. Describing an experience which occurred a few weeks after his conversion, he wrote: “About this time God was pleased to enlighten my soul, and bring me into the knowledge of His free grace . . .” Strengthened by his reading of the Scriptures, the Reformers and the Puritans, Whitefield gradually grasped the great related chain of truths revealed in the New Testament—the Father’s electing love, Christ’s substitutionary death on behalf of those whom the Father had given Him, and the Spirit’s infallible work in bringing to salvation those for whom it was appointed. These doctrines of “free grace” were the essential theology of his ministry from the very first and consequently the theology of the movement which began under his preaching in 1737. …There’s More!