The GOSPEL TRUTH
An Easy to Read
Short Life of Charles G. Finney
[Edited by William Allen]
This short autobiography of Charles Grandison Finney is intended to illustrate all that is taught in these booklets on revival; especially the fact that revivals of religion can be promoted by fulfilling the necessary laws: they are not events which have no relation to cause and effect.
After reading this booklet, every keen Christian will ask, "Can I be a revivalist like Finney?" The answer is, yes! If you will fulfill the following conditions as he fulfilled them.
At his conversion Finney felt the call to Christian service. He vowed, "If I am ever converted, I will preach the Gospel." This willingness to obey the call opened the way for God to pour His Spirit upon him in the wonderful manner recorded.
In the strength of that baptism of the Holy Spirit Finney found that his words were endued with a penetrating power that wounded sinners like a sword. God had imparted to him one of the gifts mentioned in Eph. 4:8, 11, 12.
"When He ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." The word, "prophet" means, "a revealer of God's will to men," one who speaks with special inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
But in order to retain this power Finney found that it was necessary to live continually in the spirit of prayer. Without this vital communion with God he was as powerless as any other man. Through long experience he learned that the strength and fervour of a revival is only equal to the strength of desire for it that is sent up in agonizing prayer to God.
Other conditions of Finney's success as a revivalist were his understanding of the Gospel, and his method of dealing with anxious sinners. He continually sought the teaching of the Holy Spirit on these subjects; they were his constant study.
With those that are to follow, this series of booklets on revival will cover adequately the whole field of revival work. Every Christian who will faithfully follow the instructions given will naturally be a power for revival in whatever sphere he is placed.
W.E. ALLEN September, 1948.
EARLY LIFE AND CONVERSION TO CHRIST
It has pleased God in some measure to connect my name and labours with an extensive movement of the church of Christ, regarded by some as a new era in its progress, especially in relation to revivals of religion. I have been particularly importuned, for a number of years, by the friends of those revivals with which my name and labours have been connected, to write a history of them.
I was born in Warren, Litchfield county, Connecticut, August 29, 1792. When I was about two years old, my father removed to Oneida county, New York, which was, at that time, to a great extent, a wilderness. No religious privilege were enjoyed by the people.
In the neighbourhood of my father's residence we had just erected a meeting house and settled a minister, when my father was induced to remove again into the wilderness skirting the southern shore of Lake Ontario, a little south of Sackett's Harbor. Here again I lived for several years, enjoying no better religious privileges than I had in Oneida county.
Thus when I went to Adams to study law, I was almost as ignorant of religion as a heathen. I had been brought up mostly in the woods. I had very little regard to the Sabbath, and had no definite knowledge of religious truth.
At Adams, for the first time, I sat statedly, for a length of time, under an educated ministry. Rev. George W. Gale, from Princeton, New Jersey, became, soon after I went there, pastor of the Presbyterian Church in that place.
In studying elementary law, I found the old authors frequently quoting the Scriptures, and referring especially to Mosaic Institutes, as authority for many of the great principles of common law. This excited my curiosity so much that I went and purchased a Bible, the first I had ever owned; and whenever I found a reference by the law authors to the Bible, I turned to the passage and consulted it in its connection. This soon led to my taking a new interest in the Bible, and I read and meditated on it much more than I had ever done before in my life. However, much of it I did not understand.
But as I read my Bible and attended the prayer meetings, heard Mr. Gale preach, and conversed with him, with the elders of the church, and with others from time to time, I became very restless. A little consideration convinced me that I was by no means in a state of mind to go to heaven if I should die.
On a Sabbath evening in the autumn of 1821, I made up my mind that I would settle the question of my soul's salvation at once. During Monday and Tuesday my convictions increased; but still it seemed as if my heart grew harder.
Tuesday night I had become very nervous; and in the night a strange feeling came over me as if I was about to die. I knew that if I did I should sink down to hell; but I quieted myself as best I could until morning.
At an early hour I started for the office. But just before I arrived at the office, something seemed to confront me with questions like these: indeed, it seemed as if the inquiry was within myself, as if an inward voice said to me, "What are you waiting for? And what are you trying to do? Are you endeavoring to work out a righteousness of your own?"
Just at this point the whole question of Gospel salvation opened to my mind in a manner most marvelous to me at the time. I think I then saw, as clearly as I ever have in my life, the reality and fullness of the atonement of Christ. After this distinct revelation had stood for some little time before my mind, the question seemed to be put, "Will you accept it now, to-day?" I replied, "Yes: I will accept it to-day, or I will die in the attempt." Instead of going to the office, I turned and bent my course towards the woods, feeling that I must be alone and away from all human eyes and ears, so that I could pour out my prayer to God.
But when I attempted to pray I found that my heart would not pray. I would hear a rustling in the leaves, as I thought, and would stop and look up to see if somebody were not coming. Right there the revelation of my pride of heart, as the great difficulty that stood in the way, was distinctly shown to me. An overwhelming sense of my wickedness in being ashamed to have a human being see me on my knees before God, took such powerful possession of me, that I cried at the top of my voice, and exclaimed that I would not leave that place if all the men on earth and all the devils in hell surrounded me.
Just at that point this passage of Scripture seemed to drop into my mind with a flood of light; "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." I instantly seized hold of this with my heart. I was as conscious as I was of my existence, of trusting at that moment in God's veracity.
He then gave me many other promises, both from the Old and the New Testament, especially some most precious promises respecting our Lord Jesus Christ. I prayed till my mind became so full that, before I was aware of it, I was on my feet and tripping up the ascent toward the road. The question of my being converted, had not so much as arisen to my thought; but as I went up, brushing through the leaves and bushes, I recollect saying with great emphasis, "If I am ever converted, I will preach the Gospel."
I walked quietly towards the village; and so perfectly quiet was my mind that it seemed as if all nature listened. After dinner we were engaged in removing our books and furniture to another office. My mind, however, remained in that profoundly tranquil state.
By evening we got the books and furniture adjusted; and I made up, in the open fire-place, a good fire, hoping to spend the evening alone. Just at dark Squire W-----, seeing that everything was adjusted, bade me good-night and went to his home. I had accompanied him to the door; and as I closed the door and turned around, my heart seemed to be liquid within me. All my feelings seemed to rise and flow out; and the utterance of my heart was, "I want to pour my whole soul out to God." The rising of my soul was so great that I rushed into the room back of the front office to pray.
There was no fire, and no light, in the room; nevertheless it appeared to me as if it were perfectly light. As I went in and shut the door after me, it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. It seemed to me that I saw Him as I would see any other man. He said nothing, but looked at me in such a manner as to break me right down at His feet.
As soon as my mind became calm enough to break off from the interview, I returned to the front office, and found that the fire that I had made of large wood was nearly burnt out. But as I turned and was about to take a seat by the fire, I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love; for I could not express it in any other way. It seemed like the very breath of God. I can recollect distinctly that it seemed to fan me, like immense wings.
No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. I wept aloud with joy and love; and I do not know but I should say, I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushing of my heart.
When I awoke in the morning the sun had risen, and was pouring a clear light into my room. Words cannot express the impression that this sunlight made upon me. Instantly the baptism that I had received the night before, returned to me in the same manner.
FIRST REVIVAL AND CALL TO THE MINISTRY
This morning I went down into the office, and there I was having the renewal of these mighty waves of love and salvation blowing over me, when Squire W---- came into the office. I said a few words to him on the subject of his salvation. I thought no more of it then, but afterward found that the remark I made pierced him like a sword; and he did not recover from it till he was converted.
I soon sallied forth from the office to converse with those whom I should meet about their souls. I had the impression, which has never left my mind, that God wanted me to preach the Gospel, and that I must begin immediately.
I spoke with many persons that day, and I believe the Spirit of God made lasting impressions upon every one of them. I cannot remember one whom I spoke with, who was not soon after converted.
In the course of the day, a good deal of excitement was created in the village by its being reported what the Lord had done for my soul. Some thought one thing, and some another. At evening, without any appointment having been made that I could learn, I observed that the people were going to the place where they usually held their conference and prayer meetings.
I went there myself. The minister was there, and nearly all the principal people in the village. No one seemed ready to open the meeting; but the house was packed to its utmost capacity. I did not wait for anybody, but arose and began by saying that I then knew that religion was from God. I went on and told such parts of my experience as it seemed important for me to tell. We had a wonderful meeting that evening; and, from that day, we had a meeting every evening for a long time.
The work spread among all classes; and extended itself, not only through the village, but out of the village in every direction. My heart was so full that, for more than a week, I did not feel at all inclined to sleep or eat. I went on in this way for a good many days, until I found that I must rest and sleep, or I should become insane. From that point I was more cautious in my labours; and I ate regularly, and slept as much as I could.
The word of God had wonderful power; and I was every day surprised to find that a few words, spoken to an individual, would stick in his heart like an arrow.
I used to have, when I was a young Christian, many seasons of communing with God which cannot be described in words. And not infrequently those seasons would end in an impression on my mind like this: "Go, see that thou tell no man."
I used to spend a great deal of time in prayer; sometimes, I thought, literally praying "without ceasing." I also found it very profitable, and felt very much inclined to hold frequent days of private fastings. I found I could not live without enjoying the presence of God; and if at any time a cloud came over me, I could not rest, I could not study, I could not attend to anything with the least satisfaction or benefit, until the medium was again cleared between my soul and God.
The Lord taught me, in those early days of my Christian experience, many very important truths in regard to the spirit of prayer. At first I did not understand what this experience of mind that I had passed through, was. But shortly after in relating it to a Christian brother he said to me, "Why, that was the travail of your soul." A few minutes' conversation, and pointing me to certain Scriptures, gave me to understand what it was.
In the Spring of this year, 1822, I put myself under the care of the Presbytery as a candidate for the Gospel ministry. Some of the ministers urged me to go to Princeton to study theology, but I declined. They appointed my pastor to superintend my studies. He offered me the use of his library, and said he would give what attention I needed to my theological studies.
The presbytery was finally called together at Adams to examine me; and, if they could agree to do so, to license me to preach the Gospel. When they had examined me, they voted unanimously to license me to preach. At this meeting of the presbytery I first saw Rev. Daniel Nash, who is generally known as "Father Nash."
REVIVALS IN EVANS' MILLS, ANTWERP, AND GOUVERNEUR.
Having had no regular training for the ministry I did not expect or desire to labor in large towns or cities, or minister to cultivated congregations. I intended to go into the new settlements and preach in school-houses, and barns, and groves, as best I could.
I began to preach in the stone school-house at Evans' Mills. The people were very much interested, and thronged the place to hear me preach. They extolled my preaching; but still no general conviction appeared upon the public mind.
I was very much dissatisfied with this state of things; and at one of my evening services I said to them, "You admit that what I preach is the Gospel. You profess to believe it. Now will you receive it? Do you mean to receive it, or do you intend to reject it?"
After making this plain, so that I knew that they understood it, I then said: "You who are willing to pledge to me and to Christ, that you will immediately make your peace with God, please rise up." They looked at one another and at me, and all sat still, just as I had expected.
After looking around upon them for a few moments, I said, "Then you are committed. You have taken your stand. You have rejected Christ and His Gospel; and ye are witnesses one against the other, and God is witness against you all."
When I thus pressed them they began to look angry, and arose and started for the door. When they began to move, I paused. As soon as I stopped speaking they turned to see why I did not go on. I said, "I am sorry for you; and will preach to you once more, the Lord willing, to-morrow night."
They all left the house except Deacon McC----, who was a deacon of the Baptist church in that place. I saw that the Congregationalists were confounded. This was no more than I expected.
In the afternoon Deacon McC---- and I went into the grove together, and spent the whole afternoon in prayer. Just at evening the Lord gave us great enlargement, and promise of victory. Both of us felt assured that we had prevailed with God; and that, that night, the power of God would be revealed among the people.
As the time came for meeting, we left the woods and went to the village. The people were already thronging to the place of worship, and packed the house to its utmost capacity.
I had not taken a thought with regard to what I should preach; indeed, this was common with me at that time. The Holy Spirit was upon me, and I felt confident that when the time came for action I should know what to preach. As soon as I found the house packed, so that no more could get in, I arose, and I think, without any formal introduction of singing, opened upon them with these words: "Say ye to the righteous that it shall be well with him; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him."
The Spirit of God came upon me with such power, that it was like opening a battery upon them. For more than an hour and a half, the word of God came through me to them in a manner that I could see was carrying all before it. It was a fire and a hammer breaking the rock; and as the sword that was piercing to the dividing of soul and spirit. I saw that a general conviction was spreading over the whole congregation. Then I appointed another meeting, and dismissed the congregation.
That evening, instead of going to my usual lodging, I accepted an invitation, and went home with a family where I had not before stopped over night. Early in the morning I found that I had been sent for to the place where I was supposed to be, several times during the night, to visit families where there were persons under awful distress of mind. This led me to sally forth among the people, and everywhere I found a state of wonderful conviction of sin and alarm for their souls.
A little way from the village Evans' Mills, was a settlement of Germans, where there was a German church with several elders, and a considerable membership, but no minister, and no regular religious meetings. Mingling, as they did more or less, in the scenes that passed in the village, they requested me to go out there and preach. I consented; and the first time I preached I took this text: "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
The settlement turned out, and the school-house where they worshipped was filled to its utmost capacity. In a very few days it was found that the whole settlement was under conviction; elders of the church and all were in the greatest consternation, feeling that they had no holiness. At their request I appointed a meeting for inquiry, to give instruction to inquirers.
The revival among the Germans resulted in the conversion of the whole church, I believe, and of nearly the whole community of Germans. It was one of the most interesting revivals that I ever witnessed.
While I was laboring in this place, the Presbytery were called together to ordain me, which they did. Both churches were so strengthened, and their numbers so greatly increased, that they soon went forward and built each of them a commodious meeting-house, and I believe have had a healthy state of religion there since that time. I have not been there for many years.
The doctrines preached were those which I have always preached as the Gospel of Christ. I insisted upon the voluntary total moral depravity of the unregenerate; and the unalterable necessity of a radical change of heart by the Holy Ghost, and by means of the truth.
I laid great stress upon prayer as a indispensable condition of promoting the revival. The atonement of Jesus Christ, His divinity, His divine mission, His perfect life, His vicarious death, His resurrection, repentance, faith, justification by faith, and all the kindred doctrines, were discussed and manifestly made efficacious by the power of the Holy Ghost.
The means used were simply preaching, prayer and conference meetings, much private prayer, much personal conversation, and meetings for the instruction of earnest inquirers.
I have spoken of the doctrines preached. I should add, that I was obliged to take much pains in giving instruction to inquirers. I tried to make them understand that God was using the means with them, and not they with Him; that God was willing, and they were unwilling; that God was ready and they were not ready. In short, I tried to shut them up to present faith and repentance, as the thing which God required of them: present and instant submission to His will; present and instant acceptance of Christ.
During the whole six months that I labored in that region, I rode on horseback from town to town, and from settlement to settlement, in various directions, and preached the Gospel as I had opportunity. When I left Adams my health had run down a good deal. I had coughed blood; and at the time I was licensed, my friends thought that I could live but a short time. Mr. Gale charged me, when I left Adams, not to attempt to preach more than once a week, and then to be sure not to speak more than half and hour at a time.
But instead of this, I visited from house to house, attended prayer meetings, and preached and labored every day, and almost every night, through the whole season. Before the six months were completed my health was entirely restored, my lungs were sound, and I could preach two hours, and two hours and a half, and longer, without feeling the least fatigue. I think my sermons generally averaged nearly or quite two hours. I preached out of doors; I preached in barns; I preached in school-houses; and a glorious revival spread all over that new region of country.
All through the earlier part of my ministry especially, I used to meet from ministers a great many rebuffs and reproofs, particularly in respect to my manner of preaching. The fact is, their education had been so entirely different from mine, that they disapproved of my manner of preaching, every much. They would reprove me for illustrating my ideas by reference to the common affairs of men of different pursuits around me, as I was in the habit of doing. Among farmers and mechanics, and other classes of men, I borrowed my illustrations from their various occupations. I tried also to use such language as they would understand. I addressed them in the language of the common people. I sought to express all my ideas in few words, and in words that were in common use.
Before I was converted I had a different tendency. In writing and speaking I had sometimes allowed myself to use ornate language. But when I came to preach the Gospel, my mind was so anxious to be thoroughly understood, that I studied in the most earnest manner, on the one hand to avoid what was vulgar, and on the other to express my thoughts with the greatest simplicity of language.
The more experience I had, the more I saw the results of my method of preaching, the more I conversed with all classes, high and low, educated and uneducated, the more was I confirmed in the fact that God had led me, had taught me, had given me right conceptions in regard to the best manner of winning souls. I say that God taught me; and I know it must have been so; for surely I never had obtained these notions from man. And I have often thought that I could say with perfect truth as Paul said, that I was not taught the Gospel by man, but by the Spirit of Christ Himself. And I was taught it by the Spirit of the Lord in a manner so clear and forcible, that no argument of my ministerial brethren, with which I was plied so often and so long; had the least weight with me.
I mention this as a matter of duty. For I am still solemnly impressed with the conviction, that the schools are to a great extent spoiling the ministers. Ministers in these days have great facilities for obtaining information on all theological questions; and are vastly more learned, so far as theological, historical, and Biblical learning is concerned, than they perhaps ever have been in any age of the world. Yet with all their learning, they do not know how to use it. They are after all, to a great extent, like David in Saul's armour.
My habit has always been to study the Gospel, and the best application of it, all the time. I do not confine myself to hours and days of writing my sermons; but my mind is always pondering the truths of the Gospel, and the best ways of using them. I go among the people and learn their wants. Then, in the light of the Holy Spirit, I take a subject that I think will meet their present necessities. I think intensely on it, and pray much over the subject on Sabbath morning, for example, and get my mind full of it, and then go and pour it out to the people.
I almost always get my subjects on my knees in prayer; and it has been a common experience with me, upon receiving a subject from the Holy Spirit, to have it make so strong an impression on my mind as to make me tremble, so that I could with difficulty write. When subjects are thus given me that seem to go through me, body and soul, I can in a few moments make out a skeleton that shall enable me to retain the view presented by the Spirit; and I find that such sermons always fell with great power upon the people.
And let mo man say that is claiming a higher inspiration than is promised to ministers, or than ministers have a right to expect. For I believe that all ministers, called by Christ to preach the Gospel, ought to be, and may be, in such a sense inspired, as to "preach the Gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven." All ministers may be, and ought to be, so filled with the Holy Spirit that all who hear them shall be impressed with the conviction that "God is in them of a truth."
I must now give some account of my labors, and their result, at Antwerp, a village north of Evans' Mills. I arrived there, the first time, in April, and found that no religious services, of any kind, were held in the town.
In passing around the village I heard a vast amount of profanity. The very atmosphere seemed to me to be poison; and a kind of terror took possession of me.
I gave myself to prayer on Saturday, and finally urged my petition till the answer came: "Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not they peace; for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee. For I have much people in this city." This completely relieved me of all fear.
Sabbath morning I arose and left my lodgings in the hotel; and in order to get alone, where I could let out my voice as well as my heart, I went up into the woods at some distance from the village, and continued for a considerable time in prayer. However, I did not get relief, and went up a second time; but the load upon my mind increased, and I did not find relief. I went up a third time; and then the answer came.
I found that it was time for meeting, and went immediately to the school-house. I found it packed to its utmost capacity. I had my pocket Bible in my hand, and read to them this text: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him might not perish but have everlasting life." The subject affected my own mind very much; and I preached and poured out my soul and my tears together.
The labors of this day were effectual to the conviction of the great mass of the population. From that day, appoint a meeting when and where I would, anywhere round about, and the people would throng to hear. The word immediately commenced and went forward with great power.
The revival soon spread in the direction of Brownville, a considerable village several miles, I think, in a south-western direction from that place. Finally, under the pressing invitation of the minister and church at Brownville, I went there and spent the winter.
While I was at Brownville, God revealed to me, all at once, in a most unexpected manner, the fact that He was going to pour out His Spirit at Gouverneur, and that I must go there and preach. I had not thought of the place, that I know of, for months; but in prayer the thing was all shown to me, as clear as light, that I must go and preach in Gouverneur, and that God would pour out His Spirit there.
God seemed to say to me, "Go to Gouverneur; the time has come." Brother Nash had come a few days before this, and was spending some time with me. I said therefore to Brother Nash, "You must go to Gouverneur and see what is there, and come back and make your report."
He started the next morning, and after he had been gone two or three days, returned saying, that he had found a good many professors of religion, under considerable exercise of mind, and that he was confident that there was a good deal of the Spirit of the Lord among the people. I requested Brother Nash to return immediately, informing the people that they might expect me on a certain day that week.
Brother Nash accordingly returned the next day, and made the appointment as I desired. When the hour arrived, the house was filled. The people had heard enough, for and against me, to have their curiosity excited, and there was a general turning out. The Lord gave me a text, and I went into the pulpit and let my heart out to the people. The word took powerful effect. That was very manifest to everybody I think.
As soon as the revival broke out, and attracted general attention, the Baptist brethren began to oppose it. This encouraged a set of young men to join hand in hand, to strengthen each other in opposition to the work. Those young men seemed to stand like a bulwark in the way of the progress of the work.
Brother Nash addressed them very earnestly, and pointed out the guilt and danger of the course they were taking. Toward the close of his address, he waxed exceeding warm, and said to them, "Now, mark me, young men! God will break your ranks in less than one week, either by converting some of you, or by sending some of you to hell. He will do this as certainly as the Lord is my God!"
On Tuesday morning of the same week, the leader of these young men came to me, in the greatest distress of mind. He was all prepared to submit; and as soon as I came to press him he broke down like a child, confessed, and manifestly gave himself to Christ. Then he said, "What shall I do, Mr. Finney?" I replied, "Go immediately to all your young companions, and pray with them, and exhort them, at once to turn to the Lord." He did so; and before the week was out, nearly if not all of that class of young men, were hoping in Christ.
I do not know the number of those converted in that revival. It was a large farming town, settled by well-to-do inhabitants. The great majority of them, I am confident, were, in that revival, converted to Christ.
REVIVALS IN DE KALB, WESTERN, ROME, UTICA, AND AUBURN
From Gouverneur I went to De Kalb, another village still further north, some sixteen miles, I think. A revival commenced immediately, and went forward with a good deal of power, for a place where the inhabitants were so much scattered.
The revival took a very strong hold of the church in this place; and among others, one of the elders of the church, by the name of B----, was thoroughly broken down, and became quite another man. The impression deepened on the public mind from day to day.
In reflecting upon what I have said of the revivals of religion, in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, I am not quite sure that I have laid as much stress as I intended upon the manifest agency of the Holy Spirit, in those revivals. I wish to be distinctly understood, in all that I shall say, in my narrative of the revivals that I have witnessed, that I always in my own mind, and practically, laid the utmost stress upon this fact, underlying, directing, and giving efficiency to the means, without which nothing would be accomplished.
I have said, more than once, that the spirit of prayer that prevailed in those revivals was a very marked feature of them. It was common for young converts to be greatly exercised in prayer; and in some instances, so much so, that they were constrained to pray whole nights, and until their bodily strength was quite exhausted, for the conversion of souls around them. There was a great pressure of the Holy Spirit upon the minds of the Christians; and they seemed to bear about with them the burden of immortal souls. They manifested the greatest solemnity of mind, and the greatest watchfulness in all their words and actions. It was very common to find Christians, whenever they met in any place, instead of engaging in conversation, to fall on their knees in prayer.
In regard to my own experience, I will say that unless I had the spirit of prayer I could do nothing. If even for a day or an hour I lost the spirit of grace and supplication, I found myself unable to preach with power and efficiency, or to win souls by personal conversation. In this respect my experience was what it had always been.
For several weeks before I left De Kalb, I was very strongly exercised in prayer, and had an experience that was somewhat new to me. I found myself so much exercised, and so borne down with the weight of immortal souls, that I was constrained to pray without ceasing.
Some of my experience, indeed, alarmed me. A spirit of importunity sometimes came upon me so that I would say to God that He had made a promise to answer prayer and I could not, and would not, be denied. I felt so certain that He would hear me, and that faithfulness to His promises, and to Himself, rendered it impossible that He should not hear and answer, that frequently I found myself saying to Him, "I hope Thou doest not think that I can be denied. I come with Thy faithful promises in my hand, and I cannot be denied."
I cannot tell how absurd unbelief looked to me, and how certain it was, in my mind, that God would answer prayer &endash; those prayers that, from day to day, and from hour to hour, I found myself offering in such agony and faith. I had no idea of the shape the answer would take, the locality in which the prayers would be answered, or the exact time of the answer. My impression was that the answer was near, even at the door; and I felt myself strengthened in the divine life, put on the harness for a mighty conflict with the powers of darkness, and expected soon to see a far more powerful outpouring of the Spirit of God, in that new country where I had been laboring.
Mr. Gale had settled upon a farm in Western; and was employing some young men, in helping to cultivate the farm, and was engaged in teaching them, and endeavouring to regain his health. I went to his house, and for several weeks was his guest. We arrived there Thursday, I think, and that afternoon there was a stated prayer-meetings, in the school-house, near the church.
In the afternoon, Mr. Gale invited me to go to the prayer-meeting, and I went. The meeting was opened by one of the elders, who read a chapter in the Bible, then a hymn, which they sung. After this he made a long prayer, or perhaps I should say an exhortation, or gave a narrative -- I hardly know what to call it. He told the Lord how many years they had been holding that prayer-meeting weekly, and that no answer had been given to their prayers. He made such statements and confessions as greatly shocked me. After he had done, another elder took up the same theme.
They had got through, and were about to dismiss the meeting. But one of the elders asked me if I would not make a remark, before they dismissed. I arose and took their statements and confessions for a text; and it seemed to me, at the time, that God inspired me to give them a terrible searching.
I followed them up on the track of their prayers and confessions, until the elder, who was the principal man among them, and opened the meeting, bursting into tears, exclaimed, "Brother Finney, it is all true!" He fell upon his knees and wept aloud. This was the signal for a general breaking down. Every man and woman went down upon their knees.
As soon as they recovered themselves somewhat, they besought me to remain and preach to them on the Sabbath. I regarded it as the voice of the Lord, and consented to do so. It was manifest to everybody that the work of grace had begun. I made appointments to preach in different parts of the town, in school-houses, and at the centre, during the week; and the work increased from day to day.
In the meantime my own mind was much exercised in prayer; and I found that the spirit of prayer was prevailing, especially among the female members of the church. Mrs. B----- and Mrs. H-----, the wives of two of the elders of the church, I found, were, almost immediately, greatly exercised in prayer.
The work went on, spread, and prevailed, until it began to exhibit unmistakable indications of the direction in which the Spirit of God was leading from that place. The distance to Rome was nine miles, I believe. About half way, was a small village, called Elmer's Hill. There was a large school-house, where I held a weekly lecture; and it soon became manifest that the work was spreading in the direction of Rome and Utica.
At this time Rev. Moses Gillet, pastor of the Congregational Church in Rome, hearing what the Lord was doing in Western, came to see the work that was going on.
Soon after this, and when the revival was in its full strength at Western, Mr. Gillet persuaded me to exchange a day with him. I went to Rome and preached three times on the Sabbath. To me it was perfectly manifest that the word took great effect.
I waited on Monday morning, till Mr. Gillet returned from Western. I told him what my impressions were in respect to the state of the people. He did not seem to realize that the work was beginning with such power as I supposed. But he wanted to call for inquirers, if there were any in the congregation, and wished me to be present at that meeting. The meeting was called at the house of one of his deacons. When we arrived, we found the large sitting-room crowded to its utmost capacity. I pointed them to Christ, as the Saviour of the world; and kept on in this strain as long as they could well endure it, which, indeed, was but a few moments.
The next morning, as soon as it was fairly day, people began to call at Mr. Gillet's, to have us go and visit members of their families, whom they represented as being under the greatest conviction. We found a most extraordinary state of things. Convictions were so deep and universal, that we would sometimes go into a house, and find some in a kneeling posture, and some prostate on the floor.
Ministers came in from neighbouring towns, and expressed great astonishment at what they saw and heard, as well they might. Conversions multiplied so rapidly, that we had no way of learning who were converted. Therefore every evening, at the close of my sermon, I requested all who had been converted that day, to come forward and report themselves in front of the pulpit, that we might have a little conversation with them. We were every night surprised by the number and the class of persons that came forward.
As the work proceeded, it gathered in nearly the whole population. Nearly every one of the lawyers, merchants and physicians, and almost all the principal men, and indeed, nearly all the adult population of the village, were brought in, especially those who belonged to Mr. Gillet's congregation. Mr. Gillet afterward reported that, during the twenty days that I spent at Rome, there were five hundred conversions in that town.
The state of things in the village, and in the neighbourhood round about, was such that no one could come into the village, without feeling awe-stricken with the impression that God was there, in a peculiar and wonderful manner.
The town was full of prayer. Go where you would, you heard the voice of prayer. Pass along the street, and if two or three Christians happened to be together, they were praying. Wherever they met they prayed. Wherever they was a sinner unconverted, especially if he manifested any opposition, you would find some two or three brethren or sisters agreeing to make him a particular subject of prayer.
When I had been at Rome about twenty days, one of the elders of Mr. Aiken's church in Utica, a very prominent and a very useful man, died; and I went down to attend his funeral. Mr. Aiken conducted the funeral exercises; and I learned from him that the spirit of prayer was already manifest in his congregation, and in that city. He told me that one of his principal women had literal travail of soul, to such an extent that when her strength was exhausted, she could not endure the burden of her mind, unless somebody was engaged in prayer with her, upon whose prayer she could lean &endash; some one who could express her desires to God.
I understood this, and told Mr. Aiken that the work had already begun in her heart. He recognized it, of course; and wished me to commence labor with him and his people immediately. I soon did so, and, be sure, the work began at once. The word took immediate effect, and the place became filled with the manifested influence of the Holy Spirit. Our meetings were crowded every night, and the work spread and went on powerfully.
It was in the midst of the revival at Utica, that we first heard of the opposition to those revivals, that was springing up in the East. The work, however, went on with great power, converting all classes, until Mr. Aiken reported the hopeful conversion of five hundred, in the course of a few weeks, most of them, I believe, belonging to his own congregation.
While making my home in Utica, I preached frequently in New Hartford, a village four miles south of Utica. There was a precious and powerful work of grace, a Mr. Coe being at the time pastor of the Presbyterian Church. I preached also at Whitesboro, another beautiful village, four miles west of Utica; where also was a powerful revival. The pastor, Mr. John Frost, was a most efficient laborer in the work.
This revival occurred in the winter and spring of 1826. When the converts had been received into the churches throughout the county, Rev. John Frost, pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Whitesboro, published a pamphlet giving some account of the revival, and stated, if I remember right, that within the bounds of that presbytery, the converts numbered three thousand.
Dr. Lansing, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church at Auburn, came to Utica, to witness the revival there, and urged me to go out and labor for a time with him. In the summer of 1826, I complied with his request, and went there and labored with him for a season.
The Lord soon revived His work in Auburn. Mr. Lansing had a large congregation, and a very intelligent one. The revival soon took effect among the people, and became powerful.
While at Auburn, I preached more or less in the neighboring churches round about; and the revival spread in various directions, to Cayuga, and to Skeneateles. This was in the summer and autumn of 1826.
REVIVALS IN TROY, NEW LEBANON, STEPHENTOWN,
PHILADELPHIA AND READING.
Early in the autumn of this year, 1826, I accepted an invitation from the Rev. Dr. Beman and his session to labor with them in Troy, for the revival of religion. At Troy, I spent the fall and winter, and the revival was powerful in that city.
Before I left Troy, a young lady, a Miss S----, from New Lebanon, in Columbia county, who was an only daughter of one of the deacons or elders of the church in New Lebanon, came to Troy. As soon as her eyes were opened, and her peace was made with God, she went immediately home, and began her labors for a revival in that place. Religion in New Lebanon, at that time, was in a very low state. The young people were nearly all unconverted; and the old members of the church were in a very cold and inefficient state.
In the course of a week or two, there was so much interest excited that Miss S---- came out herself to Troy, to beg me to go there to preach. She was requested to do so by the pastor and by members of the church. I went out and preached. The Spirit of the Lord was poured out, and the revival went forward with great power. Very interesting incidents occurred almost every day. Striking conversions were multiplied, and a great and blessed change came over the religious aspect of the whole place.
About this time, a proposition was made by somebody, I know not who, to hold a convention or consultation of the subject of conducting revivals. Correspondence was entered into between the Western brethren who had been engaged in those revivals, and the Eastern brethren who had been opposing them. It was finally agreed to hold the convention on a certain day, I think in July, 1827, in New Lebanon, where I had been laboring.
After this convention I heard no more of the opposition of Dr. Beecher and Mr. Nettleton. Opposition in that form had spent itself. The results of the revivals were such as to shut the mouths of gainsayers, and convince everybody that they were indeed pure and glorious revivals of religion, and as far from anything objectionable as any revivals that ever were witnessed in this world.
Soon after the adjournment of the convention, on the Sabbath, as I came out of the pulpit, a young lady by the name of S----, from Stephentown, was introduced to me. She asked me if I could not go up to their town and preach. I replied that my hands were full, and that I did not see that I could.
On the next Sabbath, Miss S---- met me again, as I came out of the pulpit, and begged me to go up there and preach. I finally told her that if the elders of the church desired me to come, she might have a notice given out that I would come up, the Lord willing, and preach in their church, the next Sabbath at five o'clock in the afternoon. This would allow me to preach twice in New Lebanon, after which I could ride up to Stephentown and preach at five o'clock. This seemed to light up her countenance and lift the load from her heart. She went home and had the notice given.
At the third service the Spirit of God was poured out on the congregation. The state of things in Stephentown, now demanded that I should leave New Lebanon and take up my quarters there. I did so. The spirit of prayer in the mean time had come powerfully upon me, as had been the case for some time with Miss S----. The praying power so manifestly spreading and increasing, the work soon took on a very powerful type; so much so that the word of the Lord would cut the strongest men down, and render them entirely helpless. I could name many cases of this kind.
As elsewhere, the striking characteristics of this revival, were a mighty spirit of prevailing prayer; overwhelming conviction of sin; sudden and powerful conversions to Christ; great love and abounding joy of the converts, and their great earnestness, activity and usefulness in their prayers and labors for others. This revival occurred in the town adjoining New Lebanon, and immediately after the convention.
While I was laboring at New Lebanon, the preceding summer, Rev. Mr. Gilbert of Wilmington, Delaware whose father resided in New Lebanon, came there on a visit. He heard me preach in New Lebanon, and saw the results; and he was very earnest that I should come and aid him in Wilmington. As soon as I could see my way clear to leave Stephentown, therefore, I went to Wilmington, and engaged in labors with Mr. Gilbert.
In the meantime I had been induced to go up and preach for Mr. Patterson, at Philadelphia, twice each week. The word took so much effect in Philadelphia as to convince me it was my duty to leave Mr. Gilbert to carry on the work in Wilmington, while I gave my whole time to labor in Philadelphia.
The revival took such hold in Mr. Patterson's congregation as greatly to interest him; and as he saw that God was blessing the word as I presented it, he stood firmly by me, and never, in any case, objected to anything that I advanced.
The interest became so great that our congregations were packed at every meeting. The ministers nearly all received me to their pulpits.
The revival spread, and took a powerful hold. All our meetings for preaching, for prayer, and for inquiry, were crowded. There were a great many more inquirers than we could well attend to. It was late in the fall when I took my lodgings in Philadelphia, and I continued to labor there without any intermission until the following August, 1828. I do not recollect exact dates, but I think that in all, I labored in Philadelphia about a year and a half. In all this time there was no abatement of the revival, that I could see.
In the spring of 1829, when the Delaware was high, the lumbermen came down with their rafts from the region of the high land, where they had been getting the lumber out, during the winter. At that time there was a large tract of country, along the northern region of Pennsylvania, called by many, "the lumber region," that extended up toward the headwaters of the Delaware river. Many persons were engaged in getting out lumber there, summer and winter. Much of this lumber was floated down in the spring of the year, when the water was high, to Philadelphia.
These men that came down with lumber, attended our meetings and quite a number of them were hopefully converted. They went back into the wilderness, and began to pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and to tell the people around them what they had seen in Philadelphia, and to exhort them to attend to their salvation. Their efforts were immediately blessed, and the revival began to take hold, and to spread among those lumbermen. It went on in a most powerful and remarkable manner. It spread to such an extent that in many cases persons would be convicted and converted, who had not attended any meetings, and who were almost as ignorant as heathen. Men who were getting out lumber, and were living in little shanties alone, or where two or three or more were together, would be seized with such conviction that it would lead them to wander off and inquire what they should do; and they would be converted, and thus the revival spread. There was the greatest simplicity manifested by the converts.
I have said that this work began in the spring of 1829. In the spring of 1831, I was at Auburn again. Two or three men from this lumber region, came there to see me, and to inquire how they could get some ministers to go in there. They said that not less than five thousand people had been converted in that lumber region; that the revival had extended itself along for eighty miles, and there was not a single minister of the Gospel there.
I found Mr. Patterson to be one of the truest and holiest men that I have ever labored with. He was a tall man, of striking figure and powerful voice. He would preach with the tears rolling down his cheeks, and with an earnestness and pathos that were striking. It was impossible to hear him preach without being impressed with a sense of his intense earnestness and his great honesty.
He always used to have a revival of religion every winter; and at the time when I labored with him, I think he told me he had had a revival for fourteen winters in succession. He had a praying people.
From Philadelphia, in the winter of 1829-1830, I went to Reading, a city about forty miles west of Philadelphia. In Reading there were several German churches, and one Presbyterian Church. The pastor of the latter was the Rev. Dr. Greer. At his request, and that of the elders of the church, I went out to labor there for a time.
I soon found, however, the neither Dr. Greer, nor any of his people, had any just idea what they needed, or what a revival really was. However, on the third Sabbath, I think, I gave notice that a meeting for inquiry would be held in the lecture room, in the basement of the church, on Monday evening.
Monday was rather a snowy, cold day. I think I observed that conviction was taking hold of the congregation; yet I felt doubtful how many would attend a meeting of inquirers. However, when evening came, I went to the meeting. Dr. Greer came in, and behold; the lecture room, a large one -- I think nearly as large as the body of the church above, was full.
After praying with them I called on those that felt prepared to submit, and who were willing then and there to pledge themselves to live wholly for God, who were willing to commit themselves to the sovereign mercy of God in Christ Jesus, who were willing to give up all sin, and to renounce it forever, to kneel down, and while I prayed, to commit themselves to Christ, and inwardly to do what I exhorted them to do.
As soon as I saw that they thoroughly understood me, I called on them to kneel, and knelt myself. There was an awful solemnity pervading the congregation, and the stillness of death, with the exception of my own voice in prayer, and the sobs, and the sighs, and weeping that were heard more or less throughout the congregation.
After spreading the case before God we rose from our knees, and without saying anything farther I pronounced the blessing and dismissed them. Dr. Greer took me cordially by the hand, and smiling said, "I will see you in the morning." He went his way, and I went to my lodgings. At about eleven o'clock, I should judge, a messenger came running over to my lodgings, and called me, and said that Dr. Greer was dead. I inquired what it meant. He said that he had just retired, and was taken with a fit of apoplexy, and died immediately.
From day to day, I had my hands, my head, and my heart entirely full. There was no pastor to help me, and the work spread on every hand. The revival made a thorough sweep in the families of those members of the church that entered into the work.
From Reading I went to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, at that time and until his death, the home of the late President Buchanan. I remained at Lancaster but a very short time. However, the work of God was immediately revived, the Spirit of God being poured out almost at once upon the people.
REVIVALS IN COLUMBIA, NEW YORK, ROCHESTER,
AUBURN, AND BOSTON.
From Lancaster, about mid-summer, 1830, I returned to Oneida county, New York, an spent a short time at my father-in-law's. A messenger came from the town of Columbia, in Herkimer County, requesting me to go down and assist in a work of grace there, which was already commenced. Their pastor was a young man by the name of H----. He was of German descent, and from Pennsylvania.
Mr. H---- labored with all his might. He visited, and preached, and prayed, and held meetings, and the interest increased. Thus the work had been going on for some time, when he heard that I was in Oneida county, and sent the messenger for me. I found him a warm-hearted young convert. He listened to my preaching with almost irrepressible joy. I found the congregation large and interested; and so far as I could judge, the work was in a very prosperous, healthful state. That revival continued to spread until it reached and converted nearly all the inhabitants of the town.
After I returned to Whitestown, I was invited to visit the city of New York. Anson G. Phelps, since well-known as a great contributor, by will, to the leading benevolent institutions of our country, hearing that I had not been invited to the pulpits of that city, hired a vacant church in Vandewater Street, and sent me an urgent request to come there and preach. I did so, and there we had a powerful revival.
From Vandewater Street, we went to Prince Street, and there formed a church, mostly of persons that had been converted during our meetings in Vandewater Street. I continued my labors in Prince Street for some months, I think until quite the latter part of summer.
This revival prepared the way, in New York, for the organization of the Free Presbyterian churches in the city. Those churches were composed afterward, largely, of the converts of that revival. Many of them had belonged to the church in Prince Street.
Leaving New York I spent a few weeks in Whitestown; and, as was common, being pressed to go in many directions, I was greatly at a loss what was my duty. But among others, an urgent invitation was received from the Third Presbyterian church in Rochester to go there and supply them for a season.
I had never, I believe, except in rare instances, until I went to Rochester, used as a means of promoting revivals, what has since been called "the anxious seat." I had sometimes asked persons in the congregation to stand up; but this I had not frequently done. However, I had felt for some time, that something more was necessary to bring them out from among the mass of the ungodly, to a public renunciation of their sinful ways, and a public committal of themselves to God.
The three churches, and indeed Christians of every denomination generally, seemed to make common cause, and went to work with a will, to pull sinners out of the fire. We were obliged to hold meetings almost continually. I preached nearly every night, and three times on the Sabbath. We held our meetings of inquiry, after the work took on such a powerful type, very frequently in the morning.
This revival made a great change in the moral state and subsequent history of Rochester. The great majority of the leading men and women in the city, were converted. A great number of very striking incidents occurred, that I shall not soon forget.
I have not said much, as yet, of the spirit of prayer that prevailed in this revival, which I must not omit to mention. The spirit of prayer was poured out powerfully, so much so, that some persons stayed away from the public services to pray, being unable to restrain their feelings under preaching.
And here I must introduce the name of Mr. Abel Clary. He was the son of a very excellent man, and an elder of the church were I was converted. He was converted in the same revival in which I was. He had been licensed to preach; but his spirit of prayer was such, he was so burdened with the souls of men, that he was not able to preach much, his whole time and strength being given to prayer. The burden of his soul would frequently be so great that he was unable to stand, and he would writhe and groan in agony. I was well acquainted with him and knew something of the wonderful spirit of prayer that was upon him. He was a very silent man, as almost all are who have that powerful spirit of prayer.
I knew at the time a considerable number of men who were exercised in the same way. A Deacon P----, of Camden, Oneida county; a Deacon T----, of Rodman, Jefferson county; a Deacon B----, of Adams, in the same county; this Mr. Clary, and many others among the men, and a large number of women, partook of the same spirit, and spent a great part of their time in prayer. Father Nash, as we called him, who in several of my fields of labor came to me and aided me, was another of those men that had such a powerful spirit of prevailing prayer.
The greatness of the work at Rochester, at that time, attracted so much of the attention of ministers and Christians throughout the State of New York, throughout New England, and in many parts of the United States, that the very fame of it was an efficient instrument in the hands of the Spirit of God in promoting the greatest revival of religion throughout the land, that this country had then ever witnessed.
Years after this, in conversing with Dr. Beecher about this powerful revival and its results, he remarked: "That was the greatest work of God, and the greatest revival of religion, that the world had ever seen, in so short a time. One hundred thousand," he remarked, "were reported as having connected themselves with churches, as the result of that great revival. This," he said, "is unparalleled in the history of the Church, and of the progress of religion." He spoke of this having been done in one year; and said that in no year during the Christian era, had we any account of so great a revival of religion.
During the latter part of the time that I was at Rochester, my health was poor. In the meantime, I was invited to many fields; and among others, I was urged by Dr. Nott, president of Union College, of Schenectady, to go and labour with him, and if possible secure the conversion of his numerous students. I made up my mind to comply with his request.
In company with Dr. Wisner and Josiah Bissell, I started in the stage, in the spring of the year 1831, when the going was exceedingly bad. Sometimes we could not get on more than two miles an hour, and we had been two or three days in going from Rochester to Auburn. As I had many dear friends in Auburn, and was very much fatigued, I made up my mind to stop there, and rest till the next stage.
In the morning after sleeping quietly at Mr. S----'s, I had risen, and was preparing to take the stage, which was to arrive in the early part of the day, when a gentleman came in with a request for me to remain -- a request in writing. The pastor and the members of his church pressed me with all their influence, to remain and preach, and comply with the request of these men. I told the pastor and his elders that I was very much fatigued, and nearly worn out; but that upon certain conditions I would remain. I would preach twice upon the Sabbath, and two evening during the week; but that they should take all the rest of the labor upon their own hands.
The word took immediate effect. On the first or second Sabbath evening that I preached, I saw that the word was taking such powerful hold that at the close I called for those whose minds were made up, to come forward, publicly renounce their sins, and give themselves to Christ. Much to my own surprise and very much to the surprise of the pastor and many members of the church, the first man that I observed as coming forward and leading the way, was the man that had led, and exerted more influence than any other man, in the opposition to the former revival. He came forward promptly, followed by a large number of the persons who had signed that paper; and that evening there was such a demonstration made as to produce a general interest throughout the place.
The pastor told me afterward, that he found that in the six weeks that I was there, five hundred souls had been converted. Near the close of my labors here, a messenger arrived from Buffalo, with an earnest request that I should visit that city. I spent but about one month, I think, at Buffalo; during which time a large number of persons were hopefully converted.
From Buffalo I went, in June, I think, to my father-in-law's, in Whitestown. I spent a part of the summer in journeying for recreation, and for the restoration of my health and strength.
Early in the autumn of 1831, I accepted an invitation to hold what was then called "a protracted meeting," or a series of meetings, in Providence. I labored mostly in the church of which Rev. Dr. Wilson was at that time pastor. The Lord poured out His Spirit immediately upon the people, and the work of grace commenced and went forward in a most interesting manner.
While I was at Providence, the question of my going to Boston was agitated by the ministers and deacons of the several Congregational churches of that city. I was not myself aware of what they were doing there; but Dr. Wisner, then pastor of the Old South church, came over to Providence and attended our meetings. I afterwards learned that he was sent over by the ministers, "to spy out the land and bring back a report."
After Dr. Wisner returned to Boston, I soon received a request from the Congregational ministers and churches to go to that city and labor. I began my labors by preaching around in the different churches on the Sabbath, and on week evenings I preached in Park Street. I soon saw that the word of God was taking effect and that the interest was increasing from day to day. But I perceived also that there needed to be a great searching among professed Christians. I could not learn that there was among them anything like the spirit of prayer that had prevailed in the revivals at the West and in New York city.
After I had spend some weeks, in preaching about in the different congregations, I consented to supply Mr. Green's church in Essex Street statedly, for a time. I therefore concentrated my labors upon that field. We had a blessed work of grace; and a large number of persons were converted in different parts of the city.
Some earnest brethren wrote to me from New York, proposing to lease a theatre, and fit it up for a church, upon condition that I would come there and preach. They proposed to get what was called the "Chatham Street theatre," in the heart of the most irreligious population of New York. It was owned by men who were willing to have it transformed into a church. At this time we had three children, and I could not well take my family with me, while laboring as an evangelist. My strength, too, had become a good deal exhausted; and on praying and looking the matter over, I concluded that I would accept the call from the Second Free church, and labor, for a time at least, in New York.
REVIVALS IN NEW YORK, OBERLIN, AND BOSTON.
Mr. Lewis Tappan, with other Christian brethren, leased the Chatham Street theatre, and fitted it up for a church, and as a suitable place to accommodate the various charitable societies, in holding their anniversaries. They called me, and I accepted the pastorate of the Second Free Presbyterian church. I left Boston in April, 1832, and commenced labors in that theatre, at that time. The Spirit of the Lord was immediately poured out upon us, and we had an extensive revival that spring and summer.
The work continued to go forward, in a very interesting manner. We held meetings of inquiry once or twice a week, a goodly number of conversions were reported. The church were a praying, working people. They were thoroughly united, were well trained in regard to labors for the conversion of sinners, and were a most devoted and efficient church of Christ. They would go out into the highways and hedges, and bring people to hear preaching, whenever they were called upon to do so. Both men and women would undertake this work.
I wanted to secure the conversion of the ungodly, to the utmost possible extent. We therefore gave ourselves to labor for that class of persons, and by the blessing of God, with good success. Conversions were multiplied so much that our church would soon become so large that we would send off a colony; and when I left New York, I think, we had seven free churches, whose members were laboring with all their might to secure the salvation of souls.
In January, 1834, I was obliged to leave on account of my health, and take a sea voyage. I went up the Mediterranean, therefore, on a small brig, in the midst of winter. We had a very stormy passage. My state room was small, and I was on the whole, very uncomfortable; and the voyage did not much improve my health. I spend some weeks at Malta, and also in Sicily.
On my homeward passage my mind became exceedingly exercised on the question of revivals. I feared that they would decline throughout the country. I feared that the opposition that had been made to them, had grieved the Holy Spirit. My own health, it appeared to me, had nearly or quite broken down; and I knew of no other evangelist that would take the field, and aid pastors in revival work.
This view of the subject distressed me so much that one day I found myself unable to rest. My soul was in utter agony. I spend almost the entire day in prayer in my state room, or walking the deck in intense agony, in view of the state of things. In fact I felt crushed with the burden that was on my soul. There was no one on board to whom I could open my mind, or say a word.
It was the spirit of prayer that was upon me; that which I had often before experienced in kind but perhaps never before to such a degree, for so long a time. I besought the Lord to go on with His work, and to provide Himself with such instrumentalities as were necessary. It was a long summer day in the early part of July.
After a day of unspeakable wrestling and agony in my soul, just at night, the subject cleared up to my mind. The Spirit led me to believe that all would come out right, and that God had yet a work for me to do; that I might be at rest; that the Lord would go forward with His work, and give me strength to take any part in it that He desired. But I had not the least idea what the course of His providence would be.
On my return to New York, in the fall, Mr. Leavitt came to me and said, "Brother Finney, I have ruined the Evangelist, unless you can do something to bring the paper back to public favor again."
I told him my health was such that I did not know what I could do; but I would make it a subject of prayer. He said if I could write a series of articles on revivals, he had no doubt it would restore the paper immediately to public favor. After considering it a day or two, I proposed to preach a course of lectures to my people, on revivals of religion, which he might report for his paper. He caught at this at once. Says he, "That is the very thing"; and in the next number of his paper he advertised the course of lectures. This had the effect he desired, and he soon after told me that the subscription list was very rapidly increasing.
I began the course of lectures immediately, and continued them through the winter, preaching one each week. These lectures were afterward published in a book, and called, "Finney's Lectures on Revivals."
These revival lectures, meager as was the report of them, and feeble as they were in themselves, have been instrumental, as I have learned, in promoting revivals in England, and Scotland, and Wales, in Europe in various places, in Canada East and West, in Nova Scotia and in some of the islands of the sea. When they were first published in the New York Evangelist, the reading of them resulted in revivals of religion in multitudes of places throughout this country.
But this was not of man's wisdom. Let the reader remember that long day of agony and prayer at sea, that God would do something to forward the work of revivals, and enable me, if He desired to do it, to take such a course as to help forward the work. I felt certain then that my prayers would be answered; and I have regarded all that I have since been able to accomplish, as, in a very important sense, an answer to the prayers of that day.
Soon after I returned to New York, I commenced my labors in the Tabernacle. The Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon us, and we had a precious revival, as long as I continued to be pastor of that church.
In January, 1835, Rev. John Jay Shipherd, of Oberlin, and Rev. Asa Mahan, of Cincinnati, arrived in New York, to persuade me to go to Oberlin, as professor of theology. Mr. Shipherd had founded a colony, and organized a school at Oberlin, about a year before this time, and had obtained a charter broad enough for a university.
We had several consultations on the subject. The brethren in New York who were interested in the question, offered, if I would go and spend half of each year in Oberlin, to endow the institution, so far as the professorships were concerned, and to do it immediately.
I had never thought of having my labors at Oberlin interfere with my revival labors and preaching. It was therefore agreed between myself and the church, that I should spend my winters in New York, and my summers at Oberlin; and that the church would be at the expense of my going and coming. When this was arranged, I took my family and arrived in Oberlin at the beginning of summer, 1835.
Agreeably to my arrangement in New York, I spend my summers at Oberlin, and my winters at New York, for two or three years. We had a blessed reviving, whenever I returned to preach there. We also had a revival here continually. Very few students came here then without being converted. But my health soon became such that I found, I must relinquish one of these fields of labor. But the interests connected with the college, seemed to forbid utterly that I should leave it. I therefore took a dismission from my church in New York, and the winter months which I was to have spent in New York, I spent laboring in various places, to promote revivals of religion.
In the meantime, the excitement on the subject of slavery was greatly agitating the eastern cities, as well as the West and the South. Our friend, Mr. Willard Sears, of Boston, was braving a tempest of opposition there. In 1842, I was strongly urged to go and occupy the Marlborough chapel and preach for a few months. I went and began my labors, and preached with all my might for two months. The Spirit of the Lord was immediately poured out, and there was a general agitation among the dry bones. I was visited at my room almost constantly, during every day of the week, by inquirers from all parts of the city, and many were obtaining hopes from day to day.
At this time Elder Knapp, the well-known Baptist revivalist, was laboring in Providence, and under much opposition. He was invited by the Baptist brethren at Boston to come and labor there. He therefore left Providence and came to Boston. At the same time, Mr. Josiah Chapin and many others, were insisting very strongly upon my coming and holding meetings in Providence. It was a great trial for me to leave Boston, at this time. However, after seeing brother Knapp and informing him of the state of things, I left and went to Providence. This was the time of the great revival in Boston.
In the meantime, I commenced my labors in Providence. The work began almost immediately, and the interest visibly increased from day to day. There was a very large Sabbath-school room in the basement of the church. The number of inquirers had become too large, and the congregation too much crowded, to call the inquirers forward, as I had done in some places; and I therefore requested them to go down, after the blessing was pronounced, to the lecture-room below.
From night to night, after preaching, that room would be filled with rejoicing young converts, and trembling, inquiring sinners. This state of things continued for two months. I was then, as I thought, completely tired out; having labored incessantly for four months, two in Boston and two in Providence. Beside, the time of year had come, or nearly come, for the opening of our spring term in Oberlin. I therefore took my leave of Providence, and started for home.
After resting a day or two in Boston, I left for home. Being very weary with labor and travels, I called on a friend at Rochester, to take a day's rest before proceeding farther. As soon as it was known that I was in Rochester, Judge G---- called on me and with much earnestness, requested me to stop and preach. Some of the ministers also, insisted upon my stopping, and preaching for them. I finally consented to stop, and preach a sermon or two, and did so.
In the meantime, Judge G---- had united with others members of the bar in a written request to me to preach a course of sermons to lawyers, adapted to their ways of thinking. A large number of the lawyers were converted, Judge G----, I might say, at their head, as he had taken the lead in coming out on the side of Christ.
I remained there, at that time, two months. The revival became wonderfully interesting and powerful, and resulted in the conversion of great numbers.
In the fall of 1843, I was called again to Boston. During this winter, the Lord gave my own soul a very thorough overhauling, and a fresh baptism of His Spirit.
I gave myself to a great deal of prayer. After my evening services, I would retire as early as I well could; but rose at four o'clock in the morning, because I could sleep no longer, and immediately went to the study, and engaged in prayer. And so deeply was my mind exercised, and so absorbed in prayer, that I frequently continued from the time I arose, at four o'clock, till the gong called to breakfast, at eight o'clock.
My days were spent, so far as I could get time, in searching the Scriptures. I read nothing else all that winter but my Bible; and a great deal of it seemed new to me. Again the Lord took me, as it were, from Genesis to Revelation. He led me to see the connection of things, the promises, threatenings, the prophecies and their fulfillment; and indeed, the whole Scripture seemed to me all ablaze with light, and not only light, but it seemed as if God's word was instinct with the very life of God.
At this time it seemed as if my soul was wedded to Christ, in a sense in which I had never had any thought or conception before. I not only had all the freshness of my first love, but a vast accession to it. Indeed the Lord lifted me so much above anything that I had experienced before, and taught me so much of the meaning of the Bible, of Christ's relations, and power, and willingness, that I often found myself saying to Him, "I had not known or conceived that any such thing was true." I then realized what is meant by the saying that He "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think."
FIRST VISIT TO ENGLAND.
Having had repeated and urgent invitations to visit England, and labor for the promotion of revivals in that country, I embarked with my wife, in the autumn of 1849, and after a stormy passage, we arrived at Southampton, early in November. There we met the pastor of the church in Houghton, a village situated midway between the market towns of Huntingdon and Saint Ives. A Mr. Potto Brown, a very benevolent man, of whom I shall have occasion to speak frequently, had sent Mr. James Harcourt, his pastor, to meet us at Southampton.
When we arrived there, and had rested a few days, I began my labors in the village chapel. I soon found that Mr. Brown was altogether a remarkable man. Although brought up a Quaker, he was entirely catholic in his views, and was laboring, in an independent way, directly for the salvation of the people around him.
A revival immediately commenced, and spread among the people. The work spread among those that came from the neighboring villages. They heard and gladly received the word. And so extensive and thorough was the work among Mr. Brown's particular friends, whose conversion he had been longing and praying for, that before I left, he said that every one of them was converted, that the Lord had not left one of them out, for whom he had felt anxiety, and for whose conversion he had been praying.
I did not remain in Houghton at this time; several weeks, however. Among the brethren who had written, urging me to come to England, was a Mr. Roe, a Baptist minister of Birmingham. As soon as he was informed that I was in England, he came to Houghton, and spent several days, attending the meetings and witnessing the results.
About the middle of December we left Houghton, and went to Birmingham, to labor in the congregation of Mr. Roe. For some weeks I confined my labors to Mr. Roe's congregation, and there was a powerful revival, such a movement as they had never seen. The revival swept through the congregation with great power, and a very large proportion of the impenitent were turned to Christ. Mr. Roe entered heart and soul into the work.
From Birmingham I went to Worcester, I think, about the middle of March, to labor with Dr. Redford. Dr. Redford was greatly affected by the work in Worcester; and at the May anniversaries in London, he addressed the Congregational Union of England and Wales, and gave a very interesting account of this work. I attended those May meetings, being about to commence labor with Dr. John Campbell, in London.
I had accepted Dr. Campbell's cordial invitation to supply his pulpit for a time, and accordingly, after the May meetings I put in, in earnest, for a revival. Our congregations were very large; and always on Sabbath, and Sabbath evenings, the house was crowded.
After preaching for several weeks, in the manner that I have described, I knew it was time to call for inquirers. On the Sabbath morning I said to Dr. Campbell, "You have a communion service tonight, and I must have a meeting of inquiry at the same time. Have you any room, anywhere on the premises, to which I can invite inquirers after preaching?" "Why, yes," he said, "there is the British school-room. But that will hold fifteen or sixteen hundred; of course you don't want that." "Yes," said I, "that is the very room."
I preached a short sermon and then informed the people what I desired. I was determined not to have the mass of people go into the room; and furthermore, that those who did go, should go with the express understanding that they were inquiring sinners. I therefore proceeded very particularly to point out the class of persons whom I wished to attend, and the manner in which they would find the place. I then dismissed the meeting, and the congregation retired.
When I entered I found the room packed. I addressed them for a short time, on the question of immediate duty; and endeavoured, as I always do, to make them understand that God required of them then to yield themselves entirely to His will, to ground their weapons of rebellion, make their submission to Him as their rightful sovereign, and accept Jesus as their only Redeemer.
After this I held similar meetings, with similar results, frequently on Sabbath evening, while I remained with that congregation, which was in all nine months. The interest rose and extended so far, that the inquirers could not be accommodated in that large British school-room; and frequently when I saw that the impression on the congregation was very general and deep, after giving them suitable instructions, and bringing them face to face with the question of unqualified and present surrender of all to Christ, I would call on those that were prepared in mind to do this, to stand up on their places, while we offered them to God in prayer.
Frequently when I made these calls, for people to arise and offer themselves while we offered them in prayer, many hundreds would arise; and on some occasions, if the house seated as many as was supposed, not less than two thousand people sometimes arose, when an appeal was made.
The interest was so great, that a place of worship that would hold many thousands, would have been just as full as the Tabernacle. Whence they all came, Dr. Campbell did not know, and no one could tell; but that hundreds and thousands of them were converted, there is no reason to doubt. Indeed, I saw and conversed with vast numbers, and labored in this way to the full limit of my strength.
My mind was greatly exercised about the state of London. I was scarcely ever more drawn out in prayer for any city or place than I was for London. Sometimes, when I prayed, in public especially, it seemed, with the multitudes before me, as if I could not stop praying, and that the spirit of prayer would almost draw me out of myself, in pleadings for the people, and for the city at large.
I left England with great reluctance. On the day that we sailed, a multitude of people who had been interested in our labors, gathered upon the wharf. A great majority of them were young converts. Thus closed our labors in England, on our first visit there.
REVIALS IN HARTFORD, WESTERN, ROCHESTER AND BOSTON.
We arrived in Oberlin in May, 1851, and after the usual labors of the Summer, we left in the autumn to go to Hartford, and hold a series of meetings. I was invited by Rev. William W. Patton, who was then pastor of one of the Congregational churches of that city.
Very soon after I began my labors there, a powerful revival influence was manifested among the people. In this revival there was a great deal of praying. The young converts especially, gave themselves to very much prayer. A very interesting state of things spring up at this time in the public schools. One morning a large number of lads, as I was told, when they came together, were so affected that they could not study, and asked their teacher to pray for them. This brought a severe pressure upon him. But it resulted, I believe, in his giving his own heart to God, and in his taking measures for the conversion of the school.
The next winter we left Oberlin at the usual season and started east to go to the city of Syracuse to labor. I preached one Sabbath, and learned so much about the state of things as to be induced to remain another Sabbath. Soon I began to perceive a movement among the dry bones. The interest continued to increase and to spread. The Lord removed the obstacles, and brought Christian people nearer together.
After I left, the churches all secured pastors. I have been informed that the revival resulted in great and permanent good. The Congregational church built them a larger house of worship; and have been, I believe, ever since a healthy church and congregation. The Presbyterian churches, and I believe the Baptist churches, were much strengthened in faith and increased in numbers.
The next winter, at Christmas time, we went again to Western, Oneida county, where as I have already related, I commenced my labors in the autumn of 1825. The people were at this time again without a minister; and we spent several weeks there in very interesting labor, and with very marked results.
The revival was of a very interesting character; and there was a goodly number of souls born of God. These two seasons of my being in Western were about thirty years apart. Another generation had come to live in that place from that which lived there in the first revival in which I labored there. I found, however, a few of the old members there. But the congregation was mostly new, and composed principally of younger people who had grown up after the first revival.
The state of religion in Western has, I believe, been very much improved since this last revival. The ordinances of the Gospel have been maintained, and I believe considerable progress has been made in the right direction.
In the autumn of 1855, we were called again to the city of Rochester to labor for souls. We commenced our labors there, and it was very soon apparent that the Spirit of God was working among the people. We held daily noon prayer-meetings, which were largely attended, and in which a most excellent spirit prevailed.
What was quite remarkable in the three revivals that I have witnessed in Rochester, they all commenced and made their first progress among the higher classes of society. This was very favorable to the general spread of the work, and to the overcoming of opposition.
The blessed work of grace extended and increased until it seemed as if the whole city would be converted. As in the former revivals, the work spread from this centre to the surrounding towns and villages. It has been quite remarkable that revivals in Rochester have had so great an influence upon other cities and villages far and near.
The next summer we accepted an invitation to labor again in Boston. We began our labors at Park Street and the Spirit of God immediately manifested His willingness to save souls.
The work was quite extensive that Winter in Boston, and many very striking cases of conversion occurred. We laboured there until Spring, and then thought it necessary to return to our labors at home. But it was very manifest that the work in that city was by no means done; and we left with the promise that, the Lord willing, we would return and labor there the next Winter. Accordingly the next Summer we returned to Boston.
This Winter of 1857-58 will be remembered as the time when a great revival prevailed throughout all the Northern states. It swept over the land with such power, that for a time it was estimated that not less than fifty thousand conversion occurred in a single week. This revival had some peculiarly interesting features. It was carried on to a large extent through lay influence, so much so as to almost throw the ministers into the shade.
One of our daily prayer-meetings was held at Park Street church, which would be full whenever it was open for prayer; and this was the case with many other meetings in different parts of the city. The population, large as it was, seemed to be moved throughout. The revival became too general to keep any account at all of the number of conversions, or to allow of any estimate being made that would approximate the truth. All classes of people were enquiring everywhere. A divine influence seemed to pervade the whole land. It was estimated that during this revival not less than five hundred thousand souls were converted in this country.
The answers to prayer were constant, and so striking as to arrest the attention of the people generally throughout the land. It was evident that in answer to prayer the windows of heaven were opened and the Spirit of God poured out like a flood. The New York Tribune at that time published several extras, filled with accounts of the progress of the revival in different parts of the United States.
The church and ministry in this country had become so very extensively engaged in promoting the revival, and such was the blessing of God attending the exertions of laymen as well as of ministers, that I made up my mind to return and spend another season in England, and see if the same influence would not pervade that country.
SECOND VISIT TO ENGLAND, AND LAST DAYS AT HOME.
We sailed for Liverpool in the steamer Persia, in December, 1858. Our friend Brown came to Liverpool to meet us, to induce us to labor in Houghton for a season, before we committed ourselves to any other field. Immediately on our arrival, I received a great number of letters from different parts of England, expressing great joy at our return and inviting us to come and labor in many different fields. However I spent several weeks labouring in Houghton, and St. Ives, where we saw precious revivals. In St. Ives they had never had a revival before.
Mr. Harcourt, the former pastor at Houghton, had proved himself a very successful minister, and had been called to London, to Borough Road Chapel. As soon as we could leave St. Ives we went to London, to see what could be done in his church and congregation. It was very soon perceptible that the Spirit of God was poured out, and that the church was very generally in a state of great conviction. The work deepened and spread till it reached, I believe, every household belonging to that congregation.
After I had finished my labors at Borough Road Chapel, we left London and rested for a few weeks at Houghton. Such was the state of my health that I thought I must return home. But Dr. F----, an excellent Christian man living in Huntingdon, urged us very much to go to his house and finish our rest, and let him do what he could for me as a physician. We accepted his invitation and went to his house.
After remaining at the Doctor's two or three weeks, without medicine, my health became such that I began to preach. There never had been a revival in Huntingdon, and they really had no conception of what a revival would be. I occupied what they called "Temperance Hall," the only large hall in the town. It was immediately filled, and the Spirit of the Lord was soon poured out on the people.
The revival took a very general hold of the church, and of professors of religion in that town, and spread extensively among the unconverted; and greatly changed the religious aspect of the town.
From Huntingdon we returned to London, and labored for several weeks in the north-eastern part of the city, in several chapels occupied by a branch of the Methodist Church. One of the places of worship was in Spitalsfield, the house having been originally built, I think, by the Huguenots. It was a commodious place of worship, and we had a glorious work of grace there, which continued till late in the summer.
While I was at this time in London, I was invited very urgently to visit Edinburgh in Scotland; and about the middle of August we left London and took passage by steam up the coast, through the German ocean, to Edinburgh. I had been urged to go there by the Rev. Dr. Kirk, of Edinburgh, who belonged to the portion of the church in Scotland called the Evangelical Union church.
I remained three months in Edinburgh, preaching mostly in Dr. Kirk's church, which was one of the largest places of worship in Edinburgh. We had a very interesting revival in that place, and many souls were converted. Church members were greatly blessed, and Mr. Kirk's hands were full, day and night, of labors among inquirers.
After remaining in Edinburgh three months, and seeing there a blessed work of grace, we accepted an invitation to go to Aberdeen. We were invited there by a Mr. Ferguson. At first I could not get a hearing except with his own people. The work in Mr. Ferguson's congregation had begun, and was getting into a very interesting state. Numbers had been converted, and a very interesting change was manifestly coming over his congregation and over that city. But in the meantime I had so committed myself to go to Bolton that I found I must go; and we left Aberdeen just before the Christmas holidays and went to Bolton.
Bolton is a city of about thirty thousand inhabitants lying a few miles from Manchester. It is in the heart of the great manufacturing district of England. Our first meeting was in the chapel occupied by Mr. Davison who had sent for me to come to Bolton. Through the whole of that week the spirit of prayer seemed to be increasing, and our meetings had greater and greater power. About the third or fourth day of our meetings, I should think, it fell to the turn of a Mr. Best, also a Congregational minister at Bolton, to have the meeting in his chapel. There, for the first time, I called for inquirers. After addressing the congregation for some time, in a strain calculated to lead to that point, I called for inquirers, and his vestry was thronged with them. We had an impressive meeting with them, and many of them I trust submitted to God.
There was a temperance hall in the city, which would accommodate more people than any of the chapels. After this week of prayer, the brethren secured the hall for preaching; and I began to preach there twice on the Sabbath, and four evenings in the week. Soon the interest became very general. The hall would be crowded every night, so that not another person could get so much as within the door. The Spirit of God was poured out copiously.
I then recommended to the brethren to canvass the whole city; to go two and two, and visit every house; and if permitted, to pray in every house in the city. They immediately and courageously rallied to perform this work.
Of course in such a state of things as this, the work would spread rapidly among the unconverted. All classes of persons, high and low, rich and poor, male and female became interested. I was in the habit, every evening I preached, of calling upon inquires to come forward and take seats in the front of the stand. Great numbers would come forward, crowding as best they could through the dense masses that filled every nook and corner of the house. The hall was not only large on its ground floor, but had a gallery, which was always thronged. After the inquirers had come forward, we engaged in a prayer-meeting, having several prayers in succession while the inquirers knelt before the Lord.
The fame of this work spread abroad, and soon persons began to come in large numbers from Manchester to Bolton to attend our meetings; and this, as was always the case, created a considerable excitement in that city, and a desire to have me come thither as soon as I could. However I remained in Bolton I think about three months, perhaps more. The work became so powerful that it broke in upon all classes, and every description of persons.
My wife and myself were both of us a good deal exhausted by these labors. But in April we went to Manchester. We continued in Manchester till about the first of August; and the revival continued to increase and spread up to that time.
On the second of August, 1860, we left Manchester and went down to Liverpool. A goodly number of our friends went down with us, and remained over night. On the morning of the third, we left in the Persia for New York.
We had had very little rest in England for a year and a half. Indeed we arrived a good deal exhausted. I was myself hardly able to preach at all. However the state of things was such, and the time of year such, that I could not, as I supposed, afford to rest.
We held daily prayer-meetings in the church, which were largely attended. Besides preaching twice on Sabbath, and holding a meeting of inquiry in the evening of every Sabbath, I preached several evenings during the week. The revival became very general through the place, and seemed to bid fair to make a clean sweep of the unconverted in the place.
Since 1860, although continually pressed by churches, east and west, to come and labor as an evangelist, I have not dared to comply with their request. I have been able, by the blessing of God, to perform a good deal of labor here; but I have felt inadequate to the exposure and labor of attempting to secure revivals abroad.
Those who have read the preceding pages, will naturally inquire in reference to the closing years of a life so full of labor and of usefulness. The narrative, completed with the beginning of 1868, leaves Mr. Finney still pastor of the First church in Oberlin, and lecturer in the seminary.
His last day on earth was a quiet Sabbath, which he enjoyed in the midst of his family, walking out with his wife at sunset, to listen to the music, at the opening of the evening service in the church near by. Upon retiring he was seized with pains, which seemed to indicate some affection of the heart; and after a few hours of suffering, as the morning dawned, he died. August 16th, 1875, lacking two weeks of having completed his eighty-third year.
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