A Countess Who Devoted Her Fortune to Christ

Author Melinda Penner Published on 11/07/2014

Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, was a remarkable woman in her time. She was born in 1707 to aristocracy, suffered loss, family disputes, and bad health. She married the ninth earl of Huntingdon, descended from kings, and was part of royal social circles. Her early traditional life gave no indication of her extraordinary activities later in life.

She was raised in the Church of England, but had not experienced personally God’s grace. Revival came to England in the 1730s with preaching from John Wesley and George Whitefield. The Countess heard their message and experienced conversion. She became an evangelist herself, engaging anyone she met—high or lowly standing—about the Gospel. She invited preachers to her house to teach her guests. She became passionate. And she examined her beliefs and actions to live out her Christian convictions.

She believed that generosity and charity were not individual actions, but a way of living. She visited debtor’s prison and personally paid off what was owed by inmates, freeing them. She reached out to coal miners, offering them help. Through the chaplains she sponsored, she helped needy people, giving away today’s equivalent of millions of dollars. She practiced what she read: “When I gave myself up to the Lord, I likewise devoted to Him all my fortune.”

Decades before William Wilberforce and his circle made abolition of the slave trade a national cause, Selina opposed slavery. She sponsored black authors and activists.

She helped found a college called Trevecca for training preachers that was eventually incorporated into Westminster Collge, Cambridge University. The students didn’t pay anything to attend. Many were poor. The Countess paid their expenses from her own pocket and raised support for their education. Trevecca graduates became some of the most influential pastors of their time. She sponsored 64 chapels in England. The school also produced missionaries. The Countess sponsored missionaries to the East Indies, Africa, America, and the South Pacific.

She corresponded with George Washington about founding a college in America for Native Americans. She used property she inherited to found the Bethesda Home for Boys in Georgia.

Selina’s conversion transformed her; God transformed her life. And she lived out the grace she received as thoroughly and generously as she could.

(Source: Mere Believers by Marc Baer)