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  Countess of
Huntingdon

 

 

 
 

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Lady Selina Shirley
Countess of Huntingdon

Lady Selina Shirley was chr. Aug 13, 1707, died June 17, 1791. She was the daughter of Washington Shirley, second First Earl Ferrers. Selina married the Earl of Huntingdon. After his death in 1741, Selina devoted her remaining forty give years to the establishment of the Methodist Church. Appointing Rev. George Whitefield as one of her chaplains, she established sixty-four meeting houses in England and provided seminaries for the education of ministers to supply them.

In Lady Huntingdon's day, there was a spiritual barreness in England which vigorous itinerant preachers began to correct by preaching to large crowds the indifferent clergy had failed to reach. One Benjamin Ingram, of powerful pursuation, had influenced and married Margaret, Lady Huntingdon's sister-in-law. Because of Margaret, she found the way to Salvation through complete trust in the Lord and dedicated her life to His work.

Expressing her deep interst to the Wesley brothers, then in England, she went often to hear them preach.

While the Wesleys, Whitefield and other powerful preachers were reaching the proleteriat, Selina worked valiantly to save the souls of the nobility. Sometimes her letters received indignant replies. The Duchess of Buckingham wrote: "I thank your Ladyship for information on the Methodist preaching. Their doctrines are stongly tinctured with impertinence toward their superiors... It is monstrous to be told you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches who crawl the earth."

The Duchess of Marlborough replied: "Your concern for my improvement and religious knowledge is very obliging and I hope I shall be the better for your excellent advice...women of wit, beauty and quality connot bear too many home truths... I am forced to the society of those I detest and abhor. There is Lady Sanderson's great rout tomorrow night-I do hate the woman as much as I hate a physician, but I must go if only to mortify and spite her...I confess my little peccadillos to you; your goodness will lead you to mild and forgiving."

 

 

Lady Huntingdon was forgiving but her religious wrath matched her moral indignation and courage when she remonstrated with the Archbishop of Canterbury for the worldly behavior unbecoming to his position as church leader. When he laughed her to scorn, Selina arranged an audience with Queen Charlotte and King George II who sharply rebuked the Bishop.

George Whitefield founded Bethesda in Georgia about 1740. It is the countries oldest home for boys. Selina inherited Bethesda and upon receipt of it, set aside a day of prayer and fasting, then began long range plans for making Bethesda the launching base for a great missionary movement among the settlers and Indians, using missionaries from Trevecka College in Wales which she had already established for educating ministers.

Selina wrote Washing of her plans and appointed William Piercy of St. Pauls Charleston, Bethesda's president, and sent over her own housekeeper. Before the missionaries set sail, she laid down strict rules for prayers and services during the crossing to America. Upon arrival, the missionaries dispersed and began preaching.

Wishing to prove faithful to Whitefield, she obtained advice from Governor Jams Wright of Georgia, who told her to give full power to the law firm of Tattnall and Hall, and to call the resident at Bethesda to account, which she did. Lady Huntingdon never received a penny from her Georgia estates; instead she spent thousands of pounds of her own paying bills rendered by Mr. Habersham, Mr. Piercy and the law firm. She rejoiced that no lives wer lost in a Bethesda fire caused by lightning, and sold her jewelry for funds to help restore the buildings. Then the American Revolution interrupted her good works; also the sad discovery that Mr. Piercy had been dishones, cheating her and Bethesda out of a large sum.

When this noble English Lady died, the orphanage was reclaimed by the State legislature and the management committed to a board of trustees.

FROM THE SAVANNAH NEWSPRESS JUNE 1975

Sent by Sue Henderson years ago.

   


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