Redes Sociais

Charles G. Finney

(29/08/1792 - 16/8/1875)


The Life Story of Charles Grandison Finney
A Dramatic Biography
Richard Ellsworth Day




THESE mountains of western Connecticut have a pleasant seat. It seems strange that one who has spent a life time in the Sierras should find an equal place of affection for them. Go where you will-north from Danbury, west from Hartford, south from Monterey, there they are, greeting you with all the grace of home folks. And this is quite certain, it is only a rude heart that can laugh at the love-name one of them bears, "The Above All Mountain." Lo, God has sprouted some mighty cedars on it's slopes. --Sketch Book

WHEN the anniversaries of Christian Great Hearts draw near, it is good for men with inkhorns by their sides to report the matter, in the hope that the younger generation may ask "What mean ye by this service?" A goodly Book commends a cunning answer to this question: "Thou art to behold how the Lord showed signs and wonders through these men; and it shall be our righteousness if we observe to do even as they did." Full many a time in the economy of God, this has resulted in a fresh visitation from on high.

That is why in the year 1942 the eyes of Christendom look upon the little village of Warren in western Connecticut, lying on the north slope of "The Above All Mountain, elevation 1456 feet." For there, August 29, 1792, Charles Grandison Finney was born.

In a score of ways, the life and times of Finney open up a writer's wonderland. Everything is there for making pretty splashes of color , particularly the pioneer scene so highly relished by the American mind. But the purpose of this book compels it, though familiar with this treasury of materials, to present such matters only as contribute to a ruling purpose. It must have been trying for Habakkuk, whose ruling purpose, to point out the hiding of power, required him to condense an ancient theophany into one short sentence, "God's glory covered the heavens and the earth was full of His praise." The sentences of this book likewise are under the tension of being written in full view of the life of Finney, but required to serve the unfolding of a single thesis, namely,

"A conventional man, using conventional means is God's conventional method for bringing a fresh impulse toward Heaven."

The humble village of Warren on the edge of The Above All State Park of Connecticut, with a child cradled in a Pioneer Home, constitute a perfect proscenium for the major purpose and philosophy of Finney's life, namely,--

Revivals of religion are gifts which God is always desirous of sending upon a thirsty earth, and He needs nothing save sons of men to deliver them from His hand. Furthermore, there is no necessity that these servants possess angelic quality. God's visitations appear not as a result of the towering excellence of men, but rather as an inflexible, sequence of their humble obedience.

"Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the rain brought forth her fruit" (James 5:17-18.)

Let us go Colonial and divide this text after the manner of the men in Broad Brims, who lived at the Back Yard of Finney's day:

My brethren, thou art called upon

1. To observe herein an ordinary fellow, one indeed after thine own fashion. His refinements were of no special interest, and often the same company of swine that trouble thee did grunt through his Rose Garden. "Elias was a man of like passion as we are." But,

2. Thou art to observe that this common fellow had the uncommon good sense, to use God's appointed means for negativing his first Adam, "He prayed earnestly." And,

3. Be pleased to note how by his prayer, his like-passions were modified in such a fashion that God could answer, "the heaven gave rain." Moreover and supremely,

4. Rejoice in the April wonder of it all, and apply it to thine own encouragement, "the earth brought forth her fruit."

* * * * *

The boyhood and youth of Finney frame with rustic excellence the major premise before us. Sylvester Finney, Charles Grandison's father, a soldier of the Revolution at fifteen, settled down with his wife after the war in the wilds at Warren. In 1794, two years after Charles was born, the ox train creaked, and the family moved into the midst of the Oneida Indians at Hanover, New York. Here Charles received several years of frontier schooling, two of which were spent in the Indian Institute. The ox-train creaked again, and the family made a two weeks' journey of reaching Henderson, on Henderson Bay, eighty-seven miles north-west in the virgin wilderness of Lake Ontario. The community was so primitive that the seventeen-year-old boy was "advanced far enough to be supposed capable of teaching a school himself, as common schools were then conducted."



The man who determines to remove all traces of the Bible from the world, would wreck the nations in doing it. The best in poetry, art and music would disappear, for these are, by the large, Bible-based. Even government would collapse. Civil law is a by-product of the gospel. Our Baruch in Buckskins found this out. He was in a fair way to make a great name for himself, but was suddenly brought face to face with the word of God by the pages of Blackstone I From an amazing quarter he was challenged to answer a tremendous question: "Choose you this day whom you will serve." --Sketch Book.

THESE pages take note of Finney, young school master of the log house out on the Adams Road, because the period shares the wholesome common place of everything about his early days. Nothing outstanding, you know. Just an over-sized boy, and a handsome one at that, who alternated the Three R's by outrunning, out-jumping and out-wrestling all his students.

By the time he was twenty-one he felt the need of more study, so he packed his carpet bag, boarded the early Conestogas, and set out for Warren! Why Warren? Well, that's where he was born; and after all, Sylvester, his father, had told him some 'rousing tales of big game in the Above All Mountain. He could alternate study with the muzzle-loader.

Two years in the Warren Academy, (high school to you) brought him an invitation to teach in New Jersey. Surely the ways of life were good! This meant he must first go into New York City'! He was confident New York had no perils for him. His cheek still felt the kiss of his pioneer mother, and his ears remembered with warm gratitude what she said, "I've no fear for you, lad. You've always been a clean boy!" And it was just as thrilling to him, crossing the Hudson to New Jersey on a tiny square sail, as it is for Young America today, riding on a stubby ferry to the Hoboken Terminal.

In his twenty-sixth year the health of his mother brought him back to Henderson. Yet, not quite back. Strange ideas were moving in his heart. The young lawyers of New York City certainly seemed to be a favored lot. He liked New York City . . .

Therefore, he entered, as a student, in his twenty-sixth year, the law office of "Judge" Benjamin Wright, over at Adams. It was only ten miles through the woods; he and "Dash" could gallop over in an hour.

* * * *

The Judge was a short, thick man with a head like Daniel Webster. He spoke habitually in the Albany orotund, even if he wanted a window closed. He cherished secret ambitions that he would some day go up to the legislature, which alas, were never realized. But in keeping with his dreams, he purchased at considerable cost, the five volumes of William Blackstone's Commentaries, the first edition to be published in America. This edition was "bound in sheep," and kept in a prominent place. Prospective clients could not help being impressed with the grand manner of such an attorney.

Young Finney hitched "Dash" and walked into the law office, every inch a Baruch in Buckskins. The older man at once struck the pose of Success dealing with Hopeful Youth. "I am pleased," he said, "to have you begin reading law in my office. It is the obligation of men who deal in the law to perpetuate their profession by passing on their know ledge to the younger generation." They made a strange pair, the heavy old jurist and the tall young frontiersman.

"And here," he said, as if coming into a congressional peroration, "here is the final authority in all matters of law throughout the English-speaking world. (His finger pointed to Blackstone in calf.) These books were printed in Philadelphia a few years ago in the shop of Mr. Robert Carr. William Young and Abraham Small edited the opus for American jurisprudence. No man can hope to make a success at law in this rising young Republic without mastering these volumes."

The judge, despite his stilted speech, was more accurate than he realized. In Great Britain, Blackstone never received the highest favor. English critics said, "He writes well, but his understanding of the deeper points of the law is very superficial." In the newly formed United States, however, Blackstone became overnight the lawyer's Bible. The first edition of Blackstone, in four priceless volumes, came off the London presses in 1769. Within a remarkably brief time, two thousand five hundred sets (ten thousand volumes) were ordered by lawyers in the thirteen colonies, and shipped to America on slow moving sailboats. The English edition and the Philadelphia edition of 1803 brought the number of sets owned in America up to a practical parity with sets sold in Great Britain. It was the chief diet of New England attorneys, and the one accepted authority everywhere. For almost a century the United States "was raised on Blackstone."

"Read these assiduously, young man! (the older lawyer was now in full flight of oratory). Put more time upon these great volumes than you put into your boarding house. I know there's a great future for you."

* * * *

Finney needed but one admonition. What he saw of the legal profession in New York City filled him with a feverish ambition. Night after night a light burned in Wright's Law Office. People noted and began to say, "That young Finney is a coming man," Within a year he had a small consulting clientele; within two years he had a fair-sized regular practice. But also, within that same period a circumstance arose which was destined to remove him from the practice of law forever. This circumstance first appeared within a week of his beginning to read Blackstone: he noted continuous references to "the holy scriptures."

On page 39 of Volume I, he found the first extended reference:

"Considering the creator only as a being infinite in power, he was able unquestionably to have prescribed whatever laws he pleased to his creature man, however unjust or severe. But the creator is a being not only of infinite power, and wisdom, but of infinite goodness. Therefore, in compassion to the frailty, the imperfection, and the blindness of human reason, he hath made an immediate and direct revelation. The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed, or divine law, and are found only in the holy scriptures."

This was a sample of the multiplied references. Whatever the pages might be discussing from King Alfred to Picadilly property rights, the finger of Blackstone would indicate the Bible as the highest authority.

These continued references moved Finney within three months to buy a copy of the Bible. Not that he was getting religious: not at all. He never had known or cared a thing about religion. He had gone to Church to be sure, but nothing came of it. When he was a boy in Oneida County he was amazed at the ignorance of the frontier preachers, and joined in the irrepressible laughter over their mistakes.

In Warren, where he attended academy, the preacher in the big, white, colonial Presbyterian Church on the skimpy main street was an educated preacher; but he spoiled his sermons by holding his Bible against his chest and using eight of his fingers as book marks. "When his fingers were read out, he was near the end of his sermon."

In New Jersey, he didn't go half a dozen times in three years: the preaching was all in German. And in Adams, Rev. Geo. W. Gale, a Princeton graduate, "took it for granted that his hearers were theologians, and his sermons left Finney perplexed rather than edified." The result of all this was, to be perfectly candid, "Finney was as innocent of religion as a heathen ... brought up mostly in the woods ... no definite knowledge of religious truth."

Finney, however, was a regular attendant upon Pastor Gale's services: he had to be,--he was the leader of Gale's choir!

* * * *

But the old law-authors, as Finney called them, roused his first deep interest in the Scriptures. He was soon reading the Bible more than Blackstone. His attendance upon church services increased. He began to be a regular attendant at the mid-week prayer service. But he became depressed as he noted the vitality on the sacred page, and the powerlessness of the local church. Curiously, this did not prove a stumbling-block. He saw the fault was a decadent church, not the Bible. And the result was that by the end of the second year in the law office, he secretly held the view that "the Bible was the true word of God."

Furthermore, old fashioned conviction began to seize his heart. With every passing day, his burden increased: "He should either accept Christ as presented in the Gospels, or, pursue a worldly life." And finally he felt convinced he must not "long hesitate between the two courses of life presented to him."

After a number of days, he came to his conclusion. On Sunday evening, October 7, 1821, he made up his mind that he would settle the question of his soul's salvation at once, and if it were possible, he would make his peace with God. That night before he went to bed, he cried out, "0 God, I promise that I am going to give my heart to Thee."



"Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, at midday, 0 King, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me . . . And I said, Who art Thou, Lord? And He said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise ... for I have appeared unto thee to make thee a minister and a witness .. to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light ... Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision." --Record of Revivals

ON Monday morning, October 8, he left his boarding house early, and hurried to the office. The sky was overcast, the air cold, and the forest trees mostly leafless, save the Oaks and Shell Barks. He walked briskly to the office, and decided to spend the day, except when clients came in, by reading the Bible. Curiously, he was not much occupied with business all day long, so he read his Bible and engaged in prayer most of the time. On Tuesday, October 9, the conditions were the same uninterrupted opportunity to read and pray. The judge had said, "We are going to move Wednesday afternoon, so take it easy until then."

By noon on Tuesday, his emotions were deeply stirred, and he knelt to cry aloud for salvation. He prayed but a few words, then rose and stuffed the keyhole to the door for fear someone would spy upon him. When he returned to prayer, he found he could only whisper. Once in the afternoon a client came down the hall. Finney quickly jumped to his feet and before opening the door, threw the five volumes of Blackstone on the Bible so it could not be seen. After the visitor retired, he pulled the Book out again.

By Tuesday night he was "very nervous." Sleep was denied him. "He knew that if he died he would sink down into hell: but he quieted himself as best he could until morning."

Wednesday, October 10, was a rare Fall day, cloudless from the outset. So, down he started to the office. On the way, an inner voice said, "Did you not promise Sunday night to give your heart to God? What are you waiting for? a righteousness of your own?"

Right then, he said, on his way to the office "he saw the plan of salvation." He did not need any righteousness of his own to commend him to God; he had but to submit himself to the righteousness of God through Christ. His emotions were so roused that he stopped dead still in the street, and the Voice said "Will you accept salvation now, today?"

"Yes," he cried. "I will accept it today or die in the attempt."

Swiftly he turned about and instead of going to the office, walked north of Adams on the country road to a favorite tract of timber. The branches stood gaunt and naked against the fall sky, but he knew he could be alone. He confessed that he was so possessed with the fear of man that he skulked along the fence in order to be out of sight of the village, and penetrated into the woodland a quarter of a mile before he stopped. Every step he took he kept saying, "I will give my heart to God before I ever come out again."

At last he found a place where some large trees had fallen across each other, leaving an open space between. He knelt down to pray. But "his heart was dead to God." He just couldn't pray. He began to think of his rash promise to give his heart to God, and was overwhelmed with his inability to do it.

At this point, a gust of wind blew the coppered leaves about with a loud rustling, and he thought, "Someone is coming!" Up he jumped in a panic. Of course there was, no one. But he was overwhelmed with a sense of his wickedness in being ashamed to have- a human being see him on his knees before God. He broke down utterly and "began to cry at the top of his voice for mercy."

* * * *

At this point, another classic of the Twice Born was written. God gave him a text. "Then shall ye go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. Then shall ye seek me and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." Afterwards he found this was Jeremiah 28:12-13, but he did not know it then. In fact he did not think he had ever read it. But he knew it was God's word, and he cried with all his might: "Lord I take Thee at Thy Word!"

At once a cavalcade of redemption texts like a company of angels marched through his soul. Hours passed over the kneeling form of the young man, until at last his soul "became so full he leaped to his feet, ran up the hill through the woods to the road: and walked to the village." And 10, the whole of the Autumn morning of October 10 had passed away: it was noon.

* * * *

He found himself so perfectly quiet in his mind that it seemed as if all nature listened. All sense of sin, all consciousness of guilt had departed: his repose of mind was unspeakably great. He went to the boarding house for dinner, but having no appetite, returned to the office. The Judge had gone to dinner, so Finney took down his bass-viol to play and sing some pieces of sacred music. But he couldn't. "His heart was all liquid; he couldn't suppress his tears, s6 he put up the instrument."

After a while the judge came in, and the two moved the office furniture to the new location, as they had planned. By evening they got the books and furniture adjusted. A sharp cold wind was blowing in from the Lake, so Finney built a fire in the fireplace. Just at dark, the Judge went home for the night.

At once the young man's love toward God with glory flamed anew. His heart again seemed liquid. He rushed into the back room where there was no fire and no light. Nevertheless it appeared to him to be perfectly lighted. As he went in and shut the door, it seemed as if he met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. Jesus looked at him in such a manner that he wept like a child, and bathed His feet with his tears.

* * * *

After a long time he arose and returned to the front office and found the large oak logs he had put on the fire were burned out! Several hours had passed! And just at that instant, the Holy Spirit descended on him like a wave of electricity: "like waves of liquid love" he could feel the Spirit go through him, body and soul. It was like the breath of God. It seemed to fan him like immense wings.

* * * *

After a while he left the office, and went to his room in the boarding house. He soon fell asleep, but was almost as soon awake again from a great flow of the love of God in his heart. This continued over and over, waking and sleeping, until far into the night, when at last he fell into sound repose.

* * * *

It was late in the morning of October 11 when he awoke. The autumn sun was shining through his bedroom window, and pouring clear light into the room. This had a curious effect upon him. The glories of the night before immediately swept over him anew. He arose on his knees in bed, the room bright with autumn sunshine and poured out his soul to God.

Finally the Voice spoke again. This time He said, "Will you doubt? Can you doubt?"

The young man cried out, "No dear Lord. I will not doubt, I cannot doubt. I can never again doubt that by Thy grace I have given myself to Thee, and that Thou hast taken possession of my soul."

He dressed almost tremblingly by reason of the sustained flow of the love of Christ within him. At last he was ready. He put his hand on the latch to leave the room when suddenly the Voice spoke again: "Did you not promise something to Me in the forest yesterday?"

He dropped his hand from the latch. He remembered having said over and over in the travail of his soul on Wednesday, "If I am ever saved, I will preach the gospel." He now faced a supreme crisis: should he leave the legal profession? He remembered the days and hours of the past three years in which he had taken pains and spent much time in study. He noted how much success was attending his labors; clients were coming to the brilliant young attorney from every direction. He had already pleaded some spectacular cases with success. Should he now leave it all?

To his great surprise, he found he had no longer any desire to practice law: "everything in that direction seemed shut up." His whole mind was taken up with Jesus and His salvation. No labor could be put in competition with the worth of souls. No employment could be so sweet, no labor so exalted as that of holding up Christ to a dying world.

He therefore crossed the room to the bed, fell on his knees, and cried, "O Lord Jesus from this time on I am Thine, and Thine alone in the ministry of the Gospel. I accept Thy retainer to plead Thy cause from this time forth so long as life shall last."

He kneeled in prayer at mid-morning; it was nearly noon before he stepped into the street.



It rarely happens that the Servants of God experience salvation and enduement with power at one and the same time. A gripping volume was once published telling how for long time men serve their King, not in the Power of the Spirit, but by Animal Heat. This book then sets forth how these men were given " a dreadful overhauling, and filled with the Spirit."

But now and then it comes to pass that there is a servant who receives both gifts together. It was so with the Heir of the Puritans. And it was so with our Man of Like Passions. On the very day of his salvation, there fell upon him a Baptism of glory, and his labors began at once with ten league strides. --Sketch Book.

LATE on the morning of Thursday, October 11, shortly after young Mr. Finney came to his office, his Senior Partner Wright arrived. (The firm was now "Wright and Finney.") With a glowing heart "Finney said a few words to Judge Wright on the subject of his salvation. Wright looked with astonishment.. made no reply; left the office. The remarks pierced him like a sword, and he did not recover until he was converted."

A few minutes after the Judge went out, Deacon So-and-so came in.

"Mr. Finney, (he said) my case is to be tried this morning. Are you ready?"

Finney said, "I have a retainer from the Lord Jesus Christ to plead His cause and I cannot plead yours." He then told the Deacon how he was saved, and his decision to become a minister, and repeated: "I cannot plead your cause; you must go and get somebody else."

The Deacon dropped his head, went out and stood in the middle of the road for half an hour, "lost in deep meditation." He then hurried away, found his opponent, settled the case out of court, "betook himself to prayer, and soon got into a much higher state than he had ever been in before."

These specimen incidents of the next few hours after Finney's salvation and infilling with the Spirit, set forth the power he exerted over individuals and congregations in the nine golden years which followed.

Many will read these pages with annoyance; the brethren who sidestep the necessity of a deeper experience by using a phraseological husk. Such will say upon every mention of empowerment for service, "That's all wrong! You get all you're going to get at once when you're converted. The entire gift of the Spirit is implicate with salvation." These Poor Strugglers may easily be accounted for in the language of Finney's Lydia, "I have not yet heard that they are dead, but I have never Heard of any revivals starting with them."

* * * *

You will read the Autobiography with the same sense of romance that the writer had when he read the copy borrowed from Walter Edgar Woodbury. Dr. Woodbury had marked the book profusely. You can read this copy and see the high points by reading the underscoring. After Finney looked at the old deacon rooted in the road, he closed the office door behind him, and went up and down the village street, "like a merchant, like a salesman searching for customers, conversing with any with whom he might meet."

Similar results took place in every interview. The "slain of the Lord" fell as if machine-gunned on the village streets. Pious frauds, young Unitarian smart alecs, booze-makers, the unsaved and the scoffers--it made no difference who they were, "a few words, spoken to an individual, would stick in his heart like an arrow."

* * * *

The burden of this little chapter is to portray the limited education of Finney for the ministry. During the three years which followed his deeper experience, he took theological studies under the pastor of the Adams First Presbyterian Church, Rev. George W. Gale. The Presbyterian officials made the arrangements in the Spring of 1822. But the work he did to prepare himself for the ministry was as elementary as his legal studies.

In the years that followed, he was continuously affirming that his enablement to preach did not come from man, but from God Himself. And furthermore, he discovered this enablement was given to mind and heart, immediately, when he was baptized with the Holy Ghost; like full grown palm trees transplanted to beautify a world's fair site. His wisdom was from above, and not communicated by an earthly teacher. He could truly say "the winning of souls he learned from Jesus, and not from man." He warmly affirmed that the power to preach a sermon from a given verse of the Bible, was given him directly while he was on his knees, by the Holy Spirit, and not from a course in Homiletics.

Furthermore, he came to his conclusions as to the laws of sermon building when he was learning how to make a speech for a jury. A famous old supreme court judge once said to him, "Charlie, you win a legal case by telling it simply; repeating as many times as there are men in the box. Tell it simply. And never read it! Have it so well in hand that you can look the jury in the eye, and see if you are moving them. If you are not, you will have to change your tactics so that you will move them."

Consequently, he seemed, like the character in mythology, to spring forth full grown from the outset, in the science of the preparation and delivery of sermons. He did not believe in writing his sermons, and even less writing and memorizing. He disdained all illustrations that were not homespun, stories of farm and forge. He esteemed classic references just a little short of folly. His practice was to meditate for hours upon a text and the best way of applying it, "until at last it went through him like a bolt of lightning." He made outlines, but never before he preached. He made the outlines after he preached, so that he would not forget the Spirit's revelation on a particular text the next time he used it.

The rank and file of Presbyterian ministers were shocked at his new methods. They said, "You will have to write. You will have to use classical illustrations. If you do not, your crowds will melt away."

Strangely, that never happened. Finney's "new methods which were simple Apostolic practices brought out and tried again" filled the largest buildings and kept them filled. And sometimes when Finney's "innovations" were competitive with meetings where old school preaching was in progress, the old school auditoriums were empty and Finney was preaching to S. R. O. There was the case of a three day mission in Andover, Mass., during the time the seminary was having commencement. The Seminary had to call off its exercises. "Only thirty people gathered to hear Dr. Justin Edwards and they were adjourned." Over at Finney's meeting there were already nearly three hundred preachers alone when the Andover handful came in.

He swiftly learned Common Sense in the School of Experience. The furious pace with which he began his soul winning, "was maintained for many days, until at last he found he must rest and sleep, or he should go insane." From that point, he was "more cautious in his labors, he ate regularly and slept as much as he could." This "holy gumption" as they call it in Dixie Land, marked Finney until August, 1875, when he died. Folks said, "Bro. Finney eats regular, and sleeps good." He began to appear at the law office again, but not for the practice of law. The office was a shooting lodge, and the game came in to him.

* * * *

There is no point, whatever, in going to great lengths about his studies under Pastor Gale. Whatever gain came to him, was chiefly by way of counter-irritation. Like the old woman who said, "She got good Gospel out of modernistic preaching. She always said 'Tain't so' whenever the minister made a statement, and it worked out just right." His studies under Mr. Gale "were little else than controversy."

* * * *

On December 30, 1823, he was grudgingly licensed to preach. On July 11, 1824, he was ordained at Evans Mills. But we must candidly add, "not without qualms on the part of the Presbytery, who eyed him as did the brethren of Joseph."

In broad brush strokes, he is thus brought to his first labors at Evans Mills, in his thirty-second year, 1824, very much of a raw pilgrim by almost any standard.

No one understood better than he the sharp limitations upon him. He could only hope, he wrote, in view of his lack of early training,

"to go into new settlements and preach in school houses, and barns and groves, as best I could. Accordingly, soon after being licensed to preach, for the sake of being introduced to the regions where I proposed to labor, I took a commission for six months, from a female missionary society located in Oneida County. I went into the northern part of Jefferson County, and began my labors at Evans Mills, in the town of Le Roy."

It is easy, therefore, to sustain that the exploits in Finney's life which justify a sesquicentennial celebration were "done" when he was fresh from the Pioneer Rack, a Baruch in Buckskins. O, he was a man's man, his six-foot-two streamlined on the Apollos' model until his fifties, then broadened into the Atlas' lines for the burdens of later life. And that is not all. One who travels the Finney trail will find his emotions moved in the best Heigh-Ho Silver! manner. You listen to the ring of his axe in pioneer forests, watch him gracefully managing the sails of Ontario wind-jammers, hear the crack of his flint lock as he followed after Nimrod.

And what a way he had with ladies! Did not wedding bells ring in his life three times? The last occasion being in his seventy-second year when he married lithesome young Rebecca Rayl, "who survived him thirty years."

These pages, moreover, are sensitive to the high noon and evening glories of the last forty-three years of his life. Go to Oberlin; talk with the man in the street. You will hear about Finney the Builder, Finney the Executive, Finney the President, Finney the Pastor, Finney the Theologian. As a matter of fact, most of the speakers and writers will present the Christian Statesman who replaced the Pioneer Preacher, the final figure who by solid attainment held and deepened the prestige he earlier gained.

But the later excellencies do not furnish the primary theme for this book, nor the reason for Finney's high place in history. His splendor is derived from the Nine Mighty Years, 1824-1832, when he, as a Backwoods Promethius, brought down the Fires of God, and crashed the very gates of hell. It is amazing--as well as suggestive--that under the ministry of this man whose ordination would today be questioned, one of the greatest forward movements since Pentecost was achieved.



Now Deborah discretely let it be known that she wished to go to the city of Oberlin. "I have been everywhere with thee, save where once stood the Forest of Lorain." Thy servant replied, "Lo, it is one thousand miles out of the way." And she said, "How good it is not two thousand." So it came to pass on July 4, 1942, thy servant came again to Oberlin.

The matter was of Providence. There in an old file, a precious document was found which is herewith printed for the first time:

"We the Committee of Missions for the Female Missionary Society of the Western District of New York appoint Mr. Charles G. Finney a Missionary to labor in the Northern part of the County of Jefferson, and such other destitute places in that vicinity as his discretion shall dictate, and we hereby recommend him to the kind cordiality of those for whose spiritual interests he undertakes this service of love.

This commission may extend to three months and perhaps we may then be able to give Mr. Finney another commission for a longer time as shall be judged proper.

Sarah Kirkland
(Signed) Electa King
Nestor Seymour
Dated Utica, March 17, 1824."

BY the end of February, 1824, Finney had made up his mind as to the places he would begin his Gospel labors. In the law office he had often heard of Evans Mills, twenty-five miles northwest of Adams. This frontier village was notorious for godlessness and opposition to religion. In Antwerp, conditions were so bad that men called it "Hell's Acres." All religious services had been abandoned, the enmity against preachers was so great that they even took the wheels off their carriages. By the year 1823, "all meetings were relinquished."

These facts determined Finney. In early March therefore, he bade farewell to Judge Wright.

"I am going first," he said, "to Utica to get my missionary commission; then I'll ride the short way through the forests from Utica to Evans Mills and Antwerp." The next week, after receiving his commission in the home of Mrs. Kirkland, he rode northwest toward his first missionary labor. He was in a state of strange elation. In Utica, he met Miss Lydia Andrews, and he couldn't get her off his mind. Of that, this book will have much more to say in Chapter XVI.

It is a most favorable time at this point to note what kind of a man the young missionary was. Dr. R. V. Bingham of the Sudan Interior Mission kindly loaned a description of Finney by one of Finney's grandsons, William C. Cochran. Here comes Finney now, riding Dash through the forests. "He has a large head, symmetrically developed, and crowned with abundant light brown hair; his nose strongly aquiline. His eyes are large and blue, at times mild as an April sky, and at others as cold as polished steel." Your heart, though, is gripped by his run-down appearance. Three years of intensive reading of law, and three years of study in theology, have impaired his health. Now and then, as he rides, he coughs, and spits blood. It looks very serious, for him to begin work in those "destitute places."

Back in Adams, his friends are saying, "He can't live but a short time." And yet, a miracle of grace was soon to be experienced, of which more will be written in a few paragraphs.

* * * *

On the evening of March 22, 1824, the lone horseman arrived in Evans Mills. Someone facetiously said, "Evans Mills was the kind of a town where the train would have whistled had there been a railroad." Finney found there two churches, worshipping alternately in a large stone schoolhouse. One was a pastorless Congregational Church, the other a Baptist Church with a minister who preached every other Sunday. On the last Sunday in March, therefore, Finney preached at Evans Mills, and on the first Sunday in April at Antwerp. The second Sunday in April he was back in Evans Mills, and the third Sunday at Antwerp. He made the sixteen mile ride horseback each Saturday afternoon. By the fourth Sunday in April a powerful revival had broken J out in Evans Mills, and the revival came upon Antwerp the first Sunday in May.

* * * *

We must take a bit of time to see how these revivals started. On the alternate Sundays of March 27 and April 10, Finney preached in Evans Mills. "The people liked him and flattered his sermonizing." But on April 24, "his eyes swept the crowd like searchlights and his voice clear and strong could be heard rods beyond the schoolhouse." They made no response to his sermon-end invitation, whatever. 'Therefore, he shouted, "Then you are committed. You have taken your stand. You have rejected Christ and His Gospel."

The crowd stood up angrily and started en masse for the door. Finney stopped speaking under the stomp of boot-heels. When he stopped speaking for a moment, the crowd stopped walking. This gave him opportunity for a parting shot:

"I am sorry for you; and will preach for you once more, the Lord willing, tomorrow night."

The next day the town buzzed with profanity against Finney. They talked of tar and feathers, riding him on a rail. But the next night when Finney reached the schoolhouse, it was packed to suffocation. He began to preach as soon as he reached the teacher's desk, "without even an opening song! The Spirit of God came upon him with such power that it was like opening a battery upon them. He did not call for any reversal of action. He took it for granted that they were committed against the Lord." But he did appoint another meeting. The crowd was tremendously moved.

After the meeting he accepted an invitation to lodge with a family in the country, and, throughout the night, people under conviction rushed to the house where they thought he was, under "awful distress of mind." On Tuesday night the crowd jammed the schoolhouse again and the slain of the Lord were everywhere. He left Saturday afternoon to ride up to Antwerp and the citizens of Evans Mill were in an avalanche of revival power.

* * * *

When he preached his third Sunday in Antwerp, May 1, 1824, the events at Evans Mills were repeated.

He said to the crowd, "I have a kind of awful feeling when I come here, just as if I were on the borders of hell. The very atmosphere is poison. Everywhere I go there is nothing but the sound of men cursing and swearing and damning each other." Then he repeated the Evans Mills strategy. "Will you take Jesus?" (NO response). "Then you are committed. You have taken your stand. You have rejected Christ and His Gospel." He lifted his finger and pointed to certain prominent men and shouted. "Those men howl blasphemy on the streets like hell hounds. I heard you yesterday calling on God to damn each other. But I am sorry for you, and will preach for you once more, the Lord willing, this afternoon."

The afternoon meeting was not held in the schoolhouse but, in order to accommodate the crowd, in a big brick church which had been abandoned. It was packed. Finney wrote to Lydia, "Dear Miss Andrews, . . . the Lord let me loose upon them in a wonderful manner. It seemed as if I could rain hail and love upon them at the same time; or in other words, I could rain upon them hail, in love."

Lydia had occasion to note this phenomenon in future years. Once, after a service, she drew close to him and said, "O my dear, though I know you love, me, yet you are terrifying when the power of God comes upon you. You stand there like a mighty angel, shouting the Gospel and wielding the flashing sword of judgment."

* * * *

When the Nine Glorious Years began with the revivals at Evans Mills and Antwerp, he spent many hours each day calling on people under conviction, riding Dash from one town to the other, in ever widening circles through the forests to other communities, preaching night after night and often times afternoons. In many places where he preached during May and June, the people had never before sung religious hymns; they were destitute places indeed. When songs were announced "each one present bawled out in his own way: their horrible discords distressed him so much he had to put his hands over his ears."

The fires of revival spread in every direction. On July 11, the Presbytery grudgingly ordained him in the schoolhouse at Evans Mills. Throughout July, August and September, "he went from house to house, attended prayer meetings, preached and labored every day and night, preached, on an average, of nearly, or quite two hours, each time."

At the close of September he wrote to Lydia: "Dearest Lydia, I will see you October 9."

* * * *

When he arrived in Whitesboro, October 9, Lydia held him off arms' length. Then she wept, and convulsively threw her arms about him; drew down his face and kissed him.

"O Charles," she cried, "I've worried so much about you. But thanks be to God you're well!"

She held him off at arms' length again. There he was entirely restored in health, his lungs sound, able to preach twice every day for two hours, without the least exhaustion. Throughout the Nine Glorious Years after they were married, 1824-1832, she saw him in the midst of Continuous Pentecost, engaged in labors that would destroy men. But he like the Bush of the Desert was not consumed. The whole of Eastern United States was swept in the tempest of his power, and he never seemed fatigued.

Often she said to him as they went about from place to place, "O Charles, I used to be so distressed. I was afraid your labors would destroy you. But you seem to be refreshed in your work. It's an eternal mystery to me, for which I have but one explanation,

Thy bow abides in strength, and the arms of thy hands are made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob."


Now as we cruised about in Queen Elizabeth from Patrician Bar Harbor, wrapped in February ermine, to Back Bay, with lilacs in her hair, people kept saying, "Behold, Elias was here I Right in that very church.!"

Yea, we found some, ancient of days, who remembered him, and had heard his voice. There was one, who, forsaking the City of Cameras, abode in a cottage beneath the Cocos Plumosa of Pasadena. This Honored Saint, of the family called Strong, bore the given name, "Augustus Hopkins." (For many years, his Great Green Volume has been thy servant's final authority.) And, as if speaking of an ancient glory, the Saint of Rochester said, "O that men today might know the tales of that Mighty Saga, 1824-1832. Behold, Jesus came into my heart under Finney's Voice. The few who are offended at Solomon's Song have never influenced me. I esteem the book inspired of God, ever since as a youth, I heard Finney say, 'This Song has wedded my soul to Jesus,' " --Sketch Book.

THY servant is betimes impatient with that part of The Lex Scribendi wherein men with ink horns are enjoined from over-attention to fascinating detail. Only one consideration holds him back from the stark rebellion of filling a basket full of pages with literary angle shots,-Folks will not read such a book. Happily, though, a sensible dash of incident is always in order; just enough, even a suspicion of too little, aids mightily in fixing a warm impression that the hero, after all, Was a very grand person. Therefore, the Book of Finney's Pentecost shall furnish a discreet sprinkle of pages, like Browning's spurt of acid, to fix the gold.

* * * *

Take the case of one Theodore Dwight Weld. He was "a parsonage son," born in the Green Mountain home of Rev. Ludocius Weld, November 23, 1803. Now, Theodore was a Finney man. Not at the first, however. Young Weld, twenty-one, was a Hamilton College student when Finney brought the fires of revival to Utica. "Weld's opposition was greatly aroused and he became outrageous in his talk."

One Sunday he brought some student friends down to Utica to show that Finney could not move him; he was a Christian, but not of the harum-scarum Finney brood . . .

When he got into the pew of the church, his Aunt got in right after, and every time Finney became "too hot" for Weld, his Aunt leaned over to pray. So he could not escape. The next day he gave Finney a tongue lashing on the street; and later in the evening, when his Aunt asked him to pray, he spouted a blasphemous prayer against Finney, "until the lamp went out."

But the prayer did for him. His Aunt found him prone on the bed-room floor next morning, calling himself "a thousand fools." That day, he made a humble, earnest, broken-hearted confession. And here was the beginning of another John the Baptist, Abolitionist, Tee-tot-lar, and Soul Winner. Men in his day said, "He is as eloquent as an angel, and as powerful as thunder." One night he visited the pretentious "country" home of Arthur Tappan in the Upper Twenties of New York City. (Just about the location of the big building where Walter E. Woodbury takes an elevator to his high-up office.) They stood looking in silence at Spencer's portrait of Finney. At last Tappan said, "Weld, he loves you, and you're a trophy of his ministry. The portrait is yours." And thus we have today, our young Isaiah of the book jacket.

* * * *

Then, there is the story of John Jay Shipherd, co-founder of Oberlin College, born May 28, 1802, at Granville, New York, and "departing this life a young man, September 16, 1844." He had all the mysticism of Nathaniel, and spent much time beneath the same shielding Fig Tree. When he was seventeen, he said to Zebulon R. Shipherd, a famous attorney, "Father, I have set my heart to be a Gospel minister." The elder Shipherd made no other response than to embrace him, for he was a strange lad.

Later, when Finney was holding a revival in Stephentown, New York, in full sight of the Taconics, the elder Shipherd took the younger up from Albany to attend the meetings. In these meetings, men were so overpowered with conviction that they could not leave their seats. But the most deeply impressed was the sensitive young man, John Shipherd. He and his friend of Pawlet Academy days in Vermont, Philo Stewart, made missionary vows similar to those of the Hay Stack group.

They set their faces West. When they rode horseback through Rochester in 1830, Finney was in a great revival. They sat through a service, and that night in Finney's room, their hearts burned within them as the great man gave his blessing to their dreams. Within three years, Shipherd and Stewart had secured a tract of virgin forest in Lorain County, Ohio, "to found a Christian colony and manual labor school far from the polluting influences of established communities." And they called the place "Oberlin," after the great Alsatian Mystic whom they loved.

It is likely, now, you will better understand when you see the Historic Elm on the southeast corner of the Oberlin Campus. The text on the iron fence by the tree is as follows:

Historic Elm
Near This Tree
The Logs
Were Laid for the
First Dwelling in
April 16, 1833

A few months later, when the rebel students were leaving Lane Seminary in Cincinnati, Shipherd rushed by the fastest means at his disposal,--sailboat and stage coach, to New York City to get "Brother Finney to come to Oberlin, take these students and start a seminary."

* * * *

Then (please just one more) the case of the Tappan boys, Arthur and Lewis: wealthy pioneer silk-jobbers, born just a little after the Revolutionary War. Lewis was a Unitarian and conducted business in Boston; Arthur was a "very earnest, orthodox, New York layman." When Finney began his Nine Year Stride, the Unitarians of Boston "got excited for once in their lives," and branded Finney a half crazed fanatic. One day Lewis went down to New York, and among other subjects, talked over with Arthur, was Finney. Lewis said, "He's sure the crack-pot: over in Boston he is saying, 'I am Christ's brigadier general.'"

Arthur said, "Nonsense: I don't believe it."

"My own pastor told me," Lewis replied, "and I'll bet you five hundred dollars it's true."

"I never bet," said Arthur, "but, I'll give you five hundred dollars to pay the expenses of proving it."

Lewis contacted Rev. Whatta Head, pastor First Unitarian Church of Trenton Falls, New York, and authorized him to spend five hundred dollars to get the evidence. Poor Brother Head got no more than an ache out of his labor; one statement published in a Buffalo Universalist paper was his only evidence; so the case flattened.

This took the fire from Lewis' opposition; so much so that he was converted, and later shared with his brother in putting Lyman Beecher at the head of Lane Seminary in Cincinnati, and later still in herding the Lane theological rebels up to Oberlin, "so they could be under Brother Finney." The pair put thousands of dollars into early evangelical faith.

* * * *

Time fails to tell of powerful Finney meetings all over Eastern United States in those Nine Great Years. The world turned upside down, indeed, and American cities flared up like fire points. Gouveneur! Rome! Utica! Auburn! Troy! Wilmington and Philadelphia!

Then--Boston! Yes sir, believe it or not, Boston! Some Hub Cityman well said, "The of tier their elevation, the greater the violence f their deflation." So, the City of the Cabots flocked down to the Park Street Church, just two hundred feet from where J. Elwin Wright has his office. Wright would be glad to tell more of this story. And so would like-minded young Elder H. J. Ockenga, who now shepherds the Park Street Flock.

* * * *

Finally--New York! Finney, you must remember always liked New York. There was such interest in Gotham that the big crowd which gathered in an old rented church building, formed a church of their own, and bought a Brown Stone near Broadway where a Universalist Congregation had gone Ichabod. Yes, he liked New York.

* * * *

We must close the book of Finney's Pentecost, a regrettable haste in dealing with a movement wherein one man, under God, brought five hundred thousand souls to Light! But if you are displeased with this Aberdeen Review, get the book itself,-- The Autobiography.

Just at the close of the Nine Glorious Years, 1830-1831, Finney conducted an epoch-making revival in Rochester, N. Y. President Augustus H. Strong, whose father was saved in this revival, as was he himself in a later Finney revival, wrote:

"The place was shaken to its foundations; 1200 persons united with the churches of the Rochester Presbytery; all the leading lawyers, physicians, and business men became Christians; forty of the converts entered the ministry; the whole character of the town was changed."

As a result of Rochester, revivals broke out in 1500 towns and villages. The ten years that followed are the greatest in the history of the several denominations. We should recognize of course that Finney's revivals were a part of the Great Revival from 1797 to 1842. But Finney was the chief figure in these mighty movements.

Before his time, there was a general break-down in Christian faith. The Methodists in three years, 1793-1795, lost 11,600 members. It looked so bad for the churches that Thomas Paine, whom American Presidents sometimes quote, wrote his "Infidel's Bible," declaring that he would tear down in a single generation what it took the Church eighteen centuries to build up.

Did the Infidel make good in his boast? Well, hardly. He overlooked the power of God in the Gospel preaching of the Great Revival. From 1800 to 1830 the Presbyterian Church increased from 40,000 to 173,329, or fourfold; the Baptist Churches increased from 100,000 to 313,138, or threefold; the Methodist Church from 64,000 to 476,153 or fourfold; and other churches in the same ratio. By 1850, the Presbyterian had increased to 487,691, Baptists to 815,212, Methodists to 1,323,631.

In the midst of these years, also, great religious organizations were born; foreign and home societies, Bible and tract societies, organized Sunday school movements, young people's societies, war nursing, laymen in missions, and a deeper interest in holy living.

Instead of the Church failing as blatant Paine predicted, it entered its most aggressive period since Pentecost. And our Man of Like Passions, Charles Grandison Finney, not only belonged to this victorious movement, but he was facile princeps.




THE years of our lives confirm so repeatedly certain things that at last entire areas are condensed into simple convictions. For instance, we find ourselves, or those whom we know, often times in peril of want; but nothing really comes of it. At last we smile and say, "I have been young but now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." Likewise, storms we once feared, we now meet with an umbrella and a good pair of rubbers.

Similarly, we are brought to see that the movements of Him with Whom we have to do, are not boxed up in limited spaces, or times. The same moral sanctions that are set for Washington were meant for Tokio. And the precise course which crowned young Daniel two thousand years ago, is the one ordained to bless young chaps of the Junior Colleges today.

It is no matter of surprise, then, to note that a thousand and one demonstrations, brought to the man of Warren a cherished list of final conclusions.

IN the vast detail of those Nine Great Years, 1824-1832, Finney observed underlying principles running throughout. Separate incidents were of the widest possible variety, but all, like the stars in their courses, served to indicate established laws. One by one, simple conclusions began to take permanent hold upon his heart. When he announced these conclusions, they appeared debatable. But such unfortunates as did resort to debate were met by the fiery affirmations of a man who was not guessing, or even hoping. He knew. He knew whom he believed, and was persuaded God would forever continue to act in accordance with the same irrefragable rules that Finney observed in the Nine Years.

* * * *

For one thing, he noted that he was not a trained man when he began: but the Fire burned. He gradually became a polished shaft, for which he was glad; and the Fire burned.

The glory of God therefore does not halt because of one's early limitations, nor does it continue by reason of his later growth. Give God the glory I power belongeth unto Him!

It all sounded like his cherished text, "Elias was a man of like passions, but .. !"

* * * *

His soul stood amazed, moreover, at the swift changes which revivals wrought upon communities wherein "both church and sinners were dead." When the power of God descended, Spring came with it. And that, too, reminded him, "The heaven gave rain, and--the earth brought forth her fruit." Hereupon another entry was written into his revival creed,

When the Power falls, the earth cannot help itself. Lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, and His pleasant fruits appear! Where now is the sense of trying to reform a naughty age? Just bring a revival: and a revival produces on eagle's wings what man's striving always misses.

* * * *

Furthermore, evidence in point appeared so abundantly that a sterling conclusion was justified;

Heaven is always ready, yea anxious, to send revivals. There is no need for fallow years. Let Elias pray again, and the heaven gives rain,--AGAIN.

* * * *

But the feature which was Bitter-Sweet in his own heart came repeatedly in those Nine Years. If the power of God slackened a bit, he suspected it was his own fault. Thereupon in tears of penitence and self-abasement he searched his heart for sin; and every time he did so the Flame revived. This made his eyes open and attent unto the prayer made in this place. Turn from thy wicked way! God will hear from heaven! The land will be healed! This put another item into his revival creed,--

The chief enemy against a revival, is sin in the heart of Elias.

It is well therefore for Elias to keep humble, pray without ceasing over his like passions; for "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

* * * *

Then suddenly, in the midst of this revival glory, ill health struck at the mantle of Elias upon his shoulders, and it did not appear he could ever put it on again. These are times of which few men ever make a record: and most of the few who do, never confide the pages save to a limited group, under choice circumstances. So, there is little record of Finney's heart-break to be found. His working faith esteemed his own disappointments, in view of the eternal glory, as lighter than the dust of the balance. But those of us who have walked through the same Little Red Hell can fill in the story. It is the same story with all of us. You catch the sob of it in the historian whose hand stopped at the third chapter, "0 God, my book! my book!" And in the night watches, Finney wept. A great door was behind him, not opening, but closing.



"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient shall be thy supply:
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine." Rippon.

IN the City of Boston, he realized that the chariot wheels were off; "he was utterly fatigued: nine years seemed to have burned him to a cinder." Here he was, less than forty years of age, broken and set aside. Right at this point a man's Deborah always exhibits her full glory. She is cherished as a companion, adored by reason of her loveliness; but when the heavy shadows fall, she seems altogether an angel. And thus one day as he sat with bowed head, he felt the hand of Lydia upon his shoulder and heard her voice, "My dear, He will never leave us nor forsake us: and my heart bears witness that your best is yet to come." A great burden fell from his shoulders. He had come to put more stock in Lydia's affirmations than in his own deliberate opinions.

With a sense of release he therefore accepted the invitation of a Boston Church to become their "stated supply." It did seem to be a come-down after those Great Nine Years: but the words of Lydia held him up, "Your best is yet to come!"

* * * *

A short time later, he was called to the pastorate of the Second Free Presbyterian Church in New York City. Yes, he liked New York. The official board of the Church had secured an old theatre on Chatham Street, remodeled it while the closing shows were in progress, and Finney began his Knickerbocker pastorate, April 29, 1832. Little Old New York at once went Finney, the three galleries and orchestra of the theatre thronged with worshippers.

* * * *

Soon after he began in New York, two important considerations arose. In the first place a group of men decided "to build a tabernacle in Broadway and invite Finney to be pastor." He was ready for this. The theatre was a miserable building: he wanted a church of his own. But he did not care for an edifice like so many of them, -- monuments to architects; buildings very fine but for two exceptions, --you couldn't see and you couldn't hear. He therefore sketched a design for the new auditorium "to be most commodious, and comfortable to speak in."

Mr. Archi Tect, Cathedral Builder, violently objected: "It will never look well! It will ruin my reputation as an architect!" And Mr. Finney, who had a way with architects from New York to Oberlin said, "That's how it's going to be: and if you will not build it that way, we'll find another man." Finney naively adds, "It was finally built in accordance with my ideas."

* * * *

In the second place, these men "wanted the new Church formed, Congregational." On that point he was also quite ready. The Third Presbytery of New York had so overlorded the management of the Chatham Street Church, that when the Tabernacle was completed, Finney took his dismission from the Presbytery to become a Congregational pastor, not because he sought the warmth of Congregational orthodoxy, but because he craved the elbow room of Congregational democracy.

* * * *

But even the comparative ease of a city pastorate did not permit Finney to escape his breakdown. In the dead of winter, January, 1834, he was compelled to lay down the work, and take an ocean voyage. He left New York harbor on a small brig, Europe bound. For six months he cruised about the Mediterranean, going ashore at times for several weeks at such places as Malta and Sicily.

The vacation, however, was a failure: "He was very uncomfortable on the whole, and not much helped." The trip was filled with rough incident, the flavor of which is specimened herein: Once in Mare Nostrum, the ship captain was so drunk that Finney's early skill in sailing Ontario wind jammers came into use, the preacher had to run the boat all day!

By June 1, he had enough of it. Mauling depressions overwhelmed him: his own bodily weariness, the unusually severe sea-winter, the church at home. The tiny brig, therefore was headed west again, through the Straits of Gibraltar and past the gray Azores. One July day in mid-Atlantic the full fury of soul-storm blew upon him. Nothing in nature ever matches that, as all of us know, who have sailed those black waters.

In his anguish he paced his stateroom and the deck. His heart sobbed out, "O God, my God, revival power is dying in America. Who is to lead in another awakening?" He remembered the days in which his own voice had broken men's hearts like a sledge hammer. But reason said, "Your time for this has passed." He wept; "his own health was quite broken down."

For hours he thus paced deck and stateroom, mid-summer sun and lobelia blue Atlantic seeming darker than February gales. In the midst of his heart-break came a deeper anguish, --his own sense of sinfulness.

What had he been doing? Not a thing so far as human standards would indicate. A sense of sin for a life like his would cause most men to sneer. However, the Esaus of the earth are not troubled by sin unless it is raw and red: while the Pauls tremble at mere shadows. Yet, in the mystery of God, the Pauls of the Church, sobbing over personal sins that seem light as gossimer, are at last Enabled to move empires off their hinges and set them in better eras.

As the day of his anguish was ending, the sun-down red went off the ocean, the stars appeared, and the Spirit of prayer came upon him. A Voice said, "Thou art to prevail despite all thy sinfulness!"

The whole subject cleared in his mind! The Spirit led him to see all would come out right! The Lord would go forward in His work; revivals were never to cease. God had always used them in His dealings with men. And it was too near age-end for Him to change His way. There would be no difficulty as the years went by in finding men. All He needed was others of a kind with like-passioned Elias.

For this sweet assurance his heart wept for joy. God be praised: there would always be men! God need not be handicapped by the breakdown of His servants,-not even Finney. "This brought to him a quiet rest." Then just as resignation settled upon him, the strangest revelation of all came; it was that he, Finney, was yet to have a part in revivals, as God desired.

But how was he to have a part? He could never again recover the seven league stride of the Nine Golden Years. How could he take a part? But his soul rested in quiet faith. He had not the least idea what that part was to be: but he was certain there was a part. And Lydia, whose voice had a singular way of getting mixed up with the voice of God said, "My dear, your best is yet to come." How do these women God giveth receive such certain intimations of His purpose? It may be that here is the high reason for the companionship which He established at Eden; wives and mothers seem to listen best when men in anguish can no longer hear.

  Back to Charles Finney