Selina, Countess of Huntingdon

A kid’s slot from all age church for infant children

Who can tell me what a superhero is?

Someone who does amazing things

Let’s look at some pretend superheroes. Who are they?

[Lara Croft, Elasti Girl, Xena, Buffy]

What do they have in common? They’re all women

We’re looking some of the favourite Christian superheroes at the moment. Christian superheroes are just ordinary people who did extraordinary things. This week we’re going to think about this woman [picture]. Does anyone know who she is?

She was born 300 years ago. She lived in England in the 18th Century and she was very posh. Her name is Selina and she was the Countess of Huntingdon.

Selina, Countess of Huntingdon is a hero because she lived her whole life for God.

1. she used her home for God

Because she was very rich she had lots of houses. Home is a very special place isn’t it? Homes are great for relaxing in. She could have used her house for herself and her family but she decided to use her house for God. And so she used her home as a place where she could invite people to come and hear about Jesus. She used to have lots of people round for tea and then invite someone really good at talking about Jesus from the Bible. One of the people she used to like to get in was someone we’ve heard about already, George Whitefield. We can be a bit like her when we talk to our friends about Jesus when they come round to our house for tea

2. she used her money for God

She had lots of money because she was born into a rich family and married into a rich family. She could have used it not to buy herself lots of things but she used her money for God. She used it so that other people could hear about Jesus. She built over 200 churches and she paid for colleges so that people could learn how to teach the Bible. There’s one story where she paid for a church building by selling her loveliest jewellery. We can be a bit like her when we use our pocket money so that other people can hear about Jesus.

3. she used her position for God

She knew almost all the important people in the country. She knew all the important leaders of churches and she knew all the important political leaders. She even knew the King and the Queen who thought that she was amazing. There’s one story where the Queen told an important Bishop that it was a shame she couldn’t be a Bishop because she was so much better than they were! She could have spent her time going to parties and getting her photo in all the newspapers but she decided to use her position for God. Instead she made sure that the people who ruled this country made it easy for church leaders to teach people about Jesus from the Bible. We can be a bit like her when we remind important people that they’re supposed to be looking after people who teach the truth from the Bible.

Additional Notes

She was born into the country’s aristocracy in 1707. Her childhood was marked by a reputation for being both sensitive and serious minded. At the age of 9 she was greatly unsettled by the sight of a funeral cortege in which the body of a girl her own age was taken to a grave. She listened in at the service and frequently went back into the churchyard to visit the child’s grave.

She was highly intelligent although her spelling, handwriting and punctuation were appalling! She doesn’t appear to have been one of nature’s stunners but possessed an innate charm and commanding appearance. Nevertheless in 1728 at the age of 21 the Earl of Huntingdon fell in love with her, proposed and they married. As a result she began to move in the highest circles of society and became a close acquaintance of the Prince of Wales who later become king.

She was a deeply religious woman who for many years was convinced that her good works brought her great credit before the judge of all souls at the heavenly bar. She was obviously mistaken, although the good that she did was considerable and the cause of great delight to those who benefited from it. Brought low by a serious illness she was unable to take comfort from her good deeds was convicted of her sin and grew increasingly despondent.

She was converted 10 years into her marriage through the witness of her sister in law, who was visibly transformed through the Methodist revival of the 18th Century. Inevitably she was shunned by many in court circles for religious enthusiasm and she became the source for much ridicule. Some urged her unconverted husband to restrain what they regarded as her excesses but such was his regard for her that although he disagreed he did nothing to interfere with her views.

She was no stranger to hardship. Her two youngest sons died in their teenage years, her husband died when she was 39, her other two sons died young, a daughter died in infancy, her 3rd daughter was the only one to share her faith and she died in her early 20s, another daughter Elizabeth was the only one to outlive her mother. It’s not often in Church History that women are set before us as example to imitate and that must be a mistake. But here is one from whom we can all learn. She was a quite extraordinary person.

There are three simple lessons we can learn from Selina Countess of Huntingdon

1. She used her home for the gospel

Her various houses became places where the gospel was heard and the Bible taught. She invited the leading evangelical preachers to her home so that they could address various groups of well connected women. George Whitefield, whom she favoured above all the gospel ministers of that period, was at one stage was preaching twice a week in her drawing room. It seems as though she was such good company that even those who disagreed with her began to welcome the opportunities to hear various speakers. In the face of much ridicule she persevered and succeeded in persuading many of her peers in her level of social class to hear the gospel. Inspired by her example many other titled ladies opened their homes for evangelistic gatherings. The evangelistic supper party was born.

2. She used her money for the gospel

She was an evangelistic entrepreneur who was always thinking of new ways for people to hear the gospel. In 1761 she built the first of her chapels. These were designed as places where the evangelical preachers of the day who had been expelled from the Church of England could preach the gospel. Over 200 were built at her expense. The first chapel in Brighton was financed by the sale of her own jewels. She financed the creation of a theological college in South Wales to train ministers for service in her chapels in this country and abroad. She sat light to her physical wealth, was prepared to forgo comfort in this life so that others might be wealthy in the life to come. Such was her self sacrifice that a tradesman who visited her on one occasion remarked afterwards: “What a lesson! Can a person of her noble birth, nursed in the lap of grandeur, live in such a house, so meanly furnished; and shall I, a tradesman, be surrounded with luxury and elegance! From this moment, I shall hate my house, my furniture and myself, for spending so little for God and so much in folly.”

3. She used her influence for the gospel

She was known by most of the well known figures of the day. Although many were not impressed by her emphasis on sin and the need for repentance few remained immune from her influence. For example, she defended the activities of dissenting Ministers to the king and won a hearing for the gospel because of her courage.

The story is told of a bishop who complained to the King about some of the Countess’ Ministers who had created something of a sensation in his diocese. His Majesty offered a solution—”Make bishops of them— make bishops of them.” The Bishop replied: “That might be done, but please your Majesty, we cannot make a bishop of Lady Huntingdon.” At that point the Queen interposed: “It would be a lucky circumstance if you could, for she puts you all to shame.”

There is a great story of her taking on Dr Cornwallis, Archbishop of Canterbury whose activities had become a discredit to the gospel. She confronted him directly about his behaviour but was met with indifference. Worse than that a vicious smear campaign was launched against her. Undaunted she took her case to the King. “Madam, the feelings you have discovered, and the conduct you have adopted on this occasion are highly creditable to you. The Archbishop’s behaviour has been slightly hinted to me already; but now that I have a certainty of his proceedings, and most ungracious conduct towards your Ladyship, after your trouble in remonstrating with him, I shall interpose my authority, and see what that will do towards reforming such indecent practices.’

Conclusion

The last word ought to go to the Countess herself ‘O that I may be more and more useful to the souls of my fellow creatures, I want to be every moment all life, all zeal, all activity for God, and ever on the stretch for closer communion with him’. Amen!

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