COUNTESS OF HUNTINGDON PATRONESS OF REVIVAL By Patricia R. Chadwick
During a time when women didn’t have many opportunities to publicly serve the Lord, Selina Hastings shines forth as an example of how God can accomplish His work by using a woman who is totally devoted to Himself. While many people have at least some knowledge of the great “Methodist Revival” that took place under the Wesley’s and George Whitefield in 18th century England, not many are aware that the fires of revival were spread due, in part, to the diligent efforts and financial backing of one woman: Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon.
Selina was born in England in 1707, the daughter of Washington Shirley, Earl of Ferrars. She lived her young life among the aristocracy and at age 21 she was married to Theophilus Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon. Though she was raised to fear God, it wasn’t until after the death of her four young children and her own severe illness that she began to see her need for a relationship with God and began to seek Him. Selina’s conversion experience came at a time when revival was coming to England and from the beginning of her Christian walk she was ready to help the cause of Christ with her faithful witness, financial support, and influence.
Soon after her conversion, Selina developed friendships with both John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield. Selina had power and influence and did not hesitate to use it for the good of revival. Being in her company opened many doors for these men, including opportunities to preach to the aristocracy and to gain financial backing for their work.
While her husband was a religious man, it doesn’t appear that he was a Christian. Yet, he never interfered with Selina’s new-found faith. It appears that he was sympathetic to the Christian cause and didn’t hinder her work. However, it wasn’t until after her husband’s untimely death in 1746 that Selina was able to give herself fully to the work of the Lord and turn her full attention toward revival. She spoke of revival to everyone she had contact with and her witness spread widely, especially among the nobility. Lady Huntingdon was held in high regard, even by the King himself.
Selina not only devoted herself, her time, and her influence to God, but she also gave her incredible fortune to further the Lord’s work. Her husband had left his vast fortune in her control and it is estimated that she gave many millions of dollars in her lifetime to furthering the spread of the Gospel. The Countess lived simply and sacrificially, selling her country homes, jewelry, and other trappings of the aristocracy, giving the proceeds of these sales to Christian work.
Lady Huntigdon humbly served the Lord by simply touching the lives of those with whom she came in contact with, giving of her time and her resources. Even at her death she thought of the welfare of others, bequeathing her entire estate to support Christian work. She gave herself to her Lord in both life and in death. Her last words were, “My work is done; I have nothing to do but go to my Father”.