By J.C. Ryle
The Life and Labors of George Whitefield
There are some men in the pages of history, whose greatness no person of common sense thinks of disputing. They tower above the herd of mankind, like the Pyramids, the Parthenon, and the Colosseum, among buildings. Such men were Luther and Augustine, Gustavus Adolphus and George Washington, Columbus and Sir Isaac Newton. He who questions their greatness must be content to be thought very ignorant, very prejudiced, or very eccentric. Public opinion has come to a conclusion about them—they were great men.
But there are also great men whose reputation lies buried under a heap of contemporary ill-will and misrepresentation. The world does not appreciate them, because the world does not know their real worth. Their characters have come down to us through poisoned channels. Their portraits have been drawn by the ill-natured hand of enemies.
Their faults have been exaggerated. Their excellences have been maliciously kept back and suppressed. Like the famous sculptures of Nineveh, they need the hand of some literary Layard to clear away the rubbish that has accumulated round their names, and show them to the world in their fair proportions. Such men were Vigilantius and Wickliffe. Such men were Oliver Cromwell and many of the Puritans. And such a man was George Whitefield.