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Charles G. Finney

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





A BIOGRAPHY OF
CHARLES GRANDISON FINNEY.
G. FREDERICK WRIGHT, D.D., LL.D.
Professor in Oberlin Theological Seminary, OHIO
1891

PREFACE.

I COUNT myself fortunate in the subject of this Memoir. The life of President Finney fell in times well adapted for the development of the remarkable natural abilities with which he was endowed. He was made for an active career, and abundant opportunities for action were opened before him by Providence at every step. He came suddenly to the notice of the Christian public, but his ardor never showed signs of abatement. His success, though constant, seemed always to be a surprise to himself. While he had his full share of conflict, and attained the full tale of years allotted by the Psalmist, his spirit mellowed with age, and his end was peace. If the story of his life and work fails either to interest or to instruct the reader, the fault is certainly in the writer, and not in the subject he has undertaken to present.

G. FREDERICK WRIGHT.

OBERLIN, OHIO, March 21, 1891.

 

CHARLES GRANDISON FINNEY





CHAPTER I.

CONVERSION AND THEOLOGICAL PREPARATION.

IN the public records of Warren, Litchfield County, Connecticut, "Josiah Finney" appears as the name of one of the earliest settlers, and we are told that the organization of the Congregational Church of the town in 1756 was effected at his residence, and that he purchased and gave to the ecclesiastical society the ground upon which the first "meeting-house" was built. Josiah Finney's wife was Sarah Curtiss, a sister of Major Eleazer Curtiss of Revolutionary fame. Their first child, Sylvester, who was born March 15, 1759, became a soldier in the Revolutionary army, and in 1779 married Rebecca Rice of Kent. The seventh child of this couple, born in Warren, August 29, 1792, was made to reflect the literary fashion of his time by receiving the baptismal name of "Charles Grandison," after one of the characters of Richardson's creation.

Josiah Finney, the grandfather of Charles, was, (as the genealogical tables pretty surely indicate) the grandson of John Finney, second, who was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1638, and whose father (John), together with his mother and brother Robert, was among the early settlers of Plymouth. John Finney, second, the probable grandfather of Josiah and great-great-grandfather of Charles G., married in 1664 Mary Rogers, a granddaughter of Thomas Rogers, who came over in the Mayflower. Through his mother, Rebecca Rice, Charles was connected with a large and prominent family of that name appearing in the early records of New London and Norwich, Connecticut. Through his grandmother, Sarah Curtiss, he was probably descended in 1641 from Francis Curtiss of Plymouth, or perhaps from William Curtiss of Roxbury, Massachusetts, a brother of the wife of John Eliot. The Curtiss family was originally from Nasing, England. Thus it appears that, like so many other prominent men of later times, the subject of our biography was descended from some of the best families of the earliest New England emigration.

When Charles was about two years old, his parents, following the prevalent tide of emigration, removed to the wilderness of Central New York, and found a temporary resting-place for the family at Brothertown, Oneida County, but soon sought a permanent home in Hanover, now Kirkland, then a part Paris. Here they remained, amid the privations of pioneer life common to those days, until Charles was sixteen years old. It was the days of the stage-coach and post-horse. The Erie Canal with its marvelous transformations had not even been projected. The country was covered with a dense forest in which clearings were made by slow and painful effort. There were but few churches and fewer ministers; so that Finney in his boyhood heard very little preaching, and that mostly by uneducated and ignorant men, whose mistakes in grammar so impressed themselves upon his mind that they were the subjects of merriment to him to his dying day. Books likewise were few. Yet, true to the New England instincts, this most advanced wave of emigration bore with it the schoolhouse, and young Finney was a regular attendant upon the summer and winter district schools, taught by persons who had received creditable education in New England. About 1808 the family moved to Henderson, Jefferson County, on the shore of Lake Ontario, not far from Sackett's Harbor. Here for a portion of the time Charles was engaged in teaching a district school, but there was no improvement in his religious opportunities.

Quite naturally he was led in due time to go back for further education to his native town in Connecticut, where we find him in 1812, attending the high school, or academy, of the place. When he expressed a desire to take a college course, his teacher, though a graduate of Yale College, opposed the plan, assuring him that at the rate of progress he was making he could by private study pass over the whole curriculum in two years. While at Warren, Finney came under the influence of the stated ordinances of the church for the first time, and listened to the preaching of Rev. Peter Starr, who was pastor there from 1771 to 1822. But the regulation style of preaching in those days was not particularly attractive to the aspiring youth, and he seems to have been unfavorably impressed by it.

In pursuance of the advice of his teacher to content himself with going over the curriculum of the college course privately, Finney arranged to go South to teach and carry on his studies; but for two years taught school in New Jersey. Here there was no preaching, except in the German language, and, as that was unintelligible to him, he was again shut off from positive religious influences. After a four years' absence from home, he returned for a visit, intending still to complete his plan of further teaching and private study at the South. But in view of his mother's ill health, he was led to remain within reach of her, and so began the study of law in the office of Benjamin Wright, in the town of Adams, a few miles away; there in due time he was admitted to the bar, and entered upon the work of his profession.

The Presbyterian pastor in Adams was Rev. George W. Gale, a young man who had recently graduated from Princeton, and who was thoroughly imbued with the form of Calvinistic theology there taught. During this period, Finney for the first time lived within reach of a regular prayer-meeting, one being held in the church near his office. This he made it his practice to attend as often as business permitted. He was also the leader of the choir, and his influence over the young people was very marked, and, from all accounts, very prejudicial to the church; for he was a most unsparing critic of both the practice and the profession of its members. Mr. Gale had many private but apparently fruitless discussions with Finney respecting the truths of religion, but at last became so completely discouraged that, when some one proposed in church meeting to make Finney a subject of prayer, Mr. Gale remarked that it was of no use; that he did not believe that Finney would ever be converted, since he had already sinned against so much light that his heart was hopelessly hardened; adding, also, that the choir was so much under Finney's influence that it was doubtful if they could be converted while their leader remained in Adams.

Thus matters went on until the autumn of 1821, when Finney was twenty-nine years of age. Up to about this time he had not owned a copy of the Bible. But the frequent quotation of the Mosaic Institutes by his law authorities had led him recently to purchase one as a work of reference, and while thus using it he had become deeply interested in the volume. Under these combined influences he was becoming very restless, and was led to feel that he needed a great change in his inward state to prepare him for the happiness of heaven. According to his own account, also, he was much perplexed at this time by the apparent failure of the church to obtain answers to their prayers. Still, after a short struggle, he became fully convinced that the Bible was indeed the true Word of God,(1) and its solemn commands pressed upon his conscience with ever-increasing weight.

Finney's conversion belongs to the same class as that of the apostle Paul, in which the inward change of character is necessarily connected with a complete transformation of the outward conduct. The salient points of it can easily be given. Fully to interpret it, however, requires a consideration of his whole subsequent career. The difficulty of such an interpretation is also somewhat increased by the fact that, in the Memoirs written by himself, Finney has accompanied his narrative by numerous doctrinal disquisitions, in which those familiar with the controversies of the time readily detect the result of subsequent years of reflection interjecting their later theology in the narrative of early experience. While, however, it is extremely improbable that the theological system defended in his later life burst upon his mind at the outset in such complete form as his own narrative would imply, it cannot be doubted that the deep struggles of mind through which he was initiated into the Christian life exerted a marked influence not only upon all his subsequent practical labors for the conversion of men, but ultimately upon the formulation of his theological system. It is therefore important to detail at considerable length the events connected with and closely following his conversion.

The convictions of religious duty which had been slowly ripening in Finney's mind for two or three years culminated in a crisis of unusual violence. Being brought face to face with the question whether he was willing to surrender all his worldly plans and submit his will without reservation to Christ, he became more and more agitated, and, to suppress his rising emotion, resorted to the favorite device of avoiding his pastor and other religious people as much as possible. As a natural result, at the end of two or three days he became extremely nervous, and was depressed with the presentiment that he was soon to die, - which, in his present state of mind, he felt, would surely involve the eternal loss of his soul. In the midst of these forebodings he made various resolutions to serve God, and to make himself fit in character for the kingdom of heaven. But for some reason all these were ineffectual, and brought no peace to his mind.

From his own account it would seem that the primary reason for this darkness and depression of feeling was that his resolutions were superficial, and that he had not really humbled himself in the presence of God, but was seeking a righteousness of his own, based upon works, and not upon divine grace. The idea of trusting God for the forgiveness of his sins had not yet dawned upon his mind, or at any rate not with such clearness that he was brought to act upon the thought in the entire self-surrender of his soul. But at this point the gospel scheme of salvation, as a gift of God bestowed upon all believers through the atonement of Christ, came before him with great clearness. In Finney's own opinion, this vision of gospel truth was in a large degree the result of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon his mind. But probably he would not deny that in its essential elements the material of the truth had already filtered into his mind through natural agencies. The main facts of the gospel, though in unattractive form, had without doubt been brought within his survey by the faithful pastors in Warren and in Adams, and perhaps even by those unlettered itinerants to whom he had listened in earlier days; while. his own resistance to the manifold claims of duty had wrought up to the highest degree within him that sense of the need of divine grace which is the starting-point of all true religious faith. Upon these elements of truth the illuminating Spirit now descended, as in a lightning stroke, and helped him to see the broad and reasonable basis upon which the Christian rests his hope of life and immortality. In the busy street, and in the light of day, there came to him a vision of Christ, transfixing him to the spot where he stood, and arresting his whole train of worldly thought. For a considerable time he stood motionless where the vision met him, until at last he yielded to the summons, and resolved that he would accept Christ that day or "die in the attempt."

Still it would appear that he had not yet fully surrendered his pride and given up his self-righteousness; for the severest struggle of all was yet before him. Instead of making an immediate surrender to God, he had only resolved that he would surrender some time during the day. To carry out this purpose of the future, he turned his back upon his office, and sought the seclusion of a neighboring forest, which he had been accustomed to frequent for pleasure and recreation. Although people had often seen him wending his way toward this spot, so that there was really nothing in this to excite inquiry, he was now strangely impressed with the feeling that everybody was observing him, and that every one could divine the object of his movements. This thought so touched his pride that, to use his own words, he "skulked along under the fence," to keep out of sight, and when he reached the woods went to the farthest extremity of them, so as to avoid all possibility of being discovered. Here in a tangle of fallen trees, which was made to serve as a closet, he began the proposed operation of giving his heart to God.

Some will think it an instructive commentary upon his later views of regeneration, in which he holds that sinners are bound "to make to themselves new hearts," that now, at this crisis in his own experience, Finney was, for the time, unable to carry out the resolutions with which he entered the forest. When he opened his lips to pray, he found that he "had nothing to say to God." Even his heart, he says, refused to pray. Every rustling of the leaves attracted his attention, and startled him with the apprehension that somebody had found him out, and was coming to interrupt him.

If called upon, however, to explain the depressing experience, he would doubtless have said that the real difficulty at that time was that he had not completely humbled himself before God, and surrendered his will. When, a little later, this was really done, the darkness passed away. But an additional horror then came over him in view of the apparent fact that he had broken his promise to God, since he had promised to give Him his whole heart before he returned to his office. But he was still without feeling, and without the formation of any effective resolution. With overwhelming force, the apprehension was borne in upon his mind that he had perhaps committed the unpardonable sin.

All this was necessary to bring him down to the point of complete humility before God, and he came to see that the feelings which had prompted him to be so careful in avoiding the presence of his fellow-men arose from pride of heart, and that it was supremely wicked in him to be ashamed to confess before men his sense of sin and need, and he cried at the top of his voice that he would not leave the place in which he had prostrated himself, though all the men on earth and all the devils in hell should surround him. At this juncture, the passage of Scripture was suggested to him, which runs: "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." Finney confidently thought that he had never read this passage. This is doubtless a mistake. But at any rate, at that supreme moment of spiritual agony, he recognized in these words the voice of God; and one of those visions of divine mercy which ever characterized his later life, and gave such effectiveness to his preaching, burst upon his soul in its resplendent glory. He found himself no longer trusting alone in the efficacy of his own resolution, but in the supreme mercy of a Heavenly Father. Under the impulse of this experience, his memory was so quickened that a long list of promises from the Bible came thronging in upon his mind, and, to use his own words, he "seized hold of them, appropriated them, and fastened upon them with the grasp of a drowning man."

His lips were now unsealed, and he continued some time in audible prayer. How long he was thus engaged, he was unable to tell. Nor could he recall the exact moment at which he rose from his knees and started to return to his office; but could only remember that, before he was fairly aware of it, he was on his feet with a light heart, and was "brushing through the leaves and bushes toward the open field." The real crisis in his experience is doubtless found in the sentence which involuntarily fell from his lips as he started on his return, "If I am ever converted, I will preach the gospel." The question whether or not he was converted did not at that time, however, arise for consideration.

On returning to the town, he found that the whole forenoon had passed away. But he had no appetite for dinner, and, instead of going to his boarding-house, went to his office, where in the quiet of the noontide hour he took down his bass viol, and began to play and sing some of the hymns with which in his impenitence he had so often led the worship of the congregation. Every note brought tears to his eyes. And, after making several ineffectual attempts to suppress his feelings, he put aside his music, and devoted himself during the afternoon to readjusting the books and furniture of the office, having little conversation with any of the various persons who came in.

In the evening he had the office to himself, and, after building a fire in the open fireplace, he retired to the back room to renew the devotions which in the earlier part of the day he had commenced at his familiar haunt in the forest. Here it seemed to him that he had a vision of the Lord, and that Christ met him face to face. So complete was the illusion, that it was some time before it was dispelled. It seemed to him, he says, that he saw Christ as he would see any other man, and that beneath his benignant gaze he was melted to tears, and he wept aloud like a child. On being aroused from this rapt vision, he returned to his seat by the fireplace in the main room of the office, and as he sat down by the fire he received what he describes as "a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost." This was an experience for which he was not looking, and of which he did not remember ever to have heard before. It seemed to him as if there was a positive force like electricity entering and penetrating his whole system. He "wept aloud with joy and love," and, to use his own words, "literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings" of his heart. So overwhelming were these waves of feeling, that he cried out, "Lord, I cannot bear any more; I shall die if these continue."

This train of experiences was interrupted late in the evening by a visit from a member of the choir, who was alarmed at Finney's loud weeping, and supposed that he was suffering from pain, but was somewhat confused at Finney's reply that he was not in pain, but so happy that he could not live.

Notwithstanding this exalted experience and these transports of joy, Finney retired to his bed without definite assurance in his own mind that his sins had been forgiven, or that he had been fully accepted by God, and he passed a nearly sleepless night. But when he arose in the morning and the sun was pouring its clear rays into his room, these became to him an emblem of the brighter light that had arisen upon his soul, and there was a repetition of the scene of the previous evening. He wept aloud for joy, and in this second baptism received a gentle reproof for having doubted the readiness of God to have mercy upon him. He now saw that the sweet relief from condemnation, which had come to his mind at the supreme moment of decision upon the previous forenoon, was closely connected with the divine act of justification, and that the peace which he had since enjoyed was that which God had provided for sinners through the gracious sufferings of Christ. He felt that his sins were blotted out from God's book of remembrance, and that, by a divine act, his guilt had been removed.

From this time on, a single purpose dominated Finney's mind. He felt that God wanted him to preach the gospel, and that he must begin immediately. He had been retained to attend a suit that morning as attorney, but when his client came to remind him of the case, Finney said that he had enlisted in the cause of Christ, that he had a retainer from the Lord Jesus to plead his cause, and that some one else must attend to the suit. But instead of seeking another lawyer, the man, who was a deacon of the church, immediately settled his suit, and betook himself to prayer and more direct labor for the salvation of men. Finney went out at once from his office to converse upon religion with his friends and associates wherever he might meet them. During the day, he spoke with many persons, nearly every one of whom received lasting impressions, and entered at once upon an active Christian life. At evening, without appointment, the people gathered by general consent at the place where they usually met for prayer. The house was packed, but no one seemed ready to open the meeting. Without waiting to be called upon, Finney proceeded to tell them the story of his conversion. No sooner had he closed his narrative than Rev. Mr. Gale arose and confessed that he had sinned in limiting the power of God, and in discouraging the people from prayer. He, like many others that day, among them a prominent lawyer, had said, when the rumor of Finney's conversion became current, that it could not be true, that Finney was simply trying to see what he could make Christian people believe. But now all doubt was removed.

From this time on, daily meetings were held in the church for many weeks, and Finney devoted himself with such success to securing the conversion of the young people whose minds he had prejudiced against religion, that in a short time but one of their number was left unconverted. Soon after this he went to Henderson to visit his father and mother, neither of whom had heretofore made profession of religion. They were both converted, and a very powerful revival spread throughout the whole community, while, with Adams as a centre, similar awakenings occurred in nearly all the towns of the county.

During this period, Finney was in the habit while in Adams, of going to the meeting-house early in the morning for a protracted season of prayer. After a little he persuaded a considerable number of church members, together with the pastor, to join in these early morning devotions. Whenever they became remiss in attendance he would go around to their houses and wake them up, and remind them of their privilege and their duty. Nevertheless, attendance became less and less, until, upon one morning, only Mr. Gale was found at his side. At this time another vision, similar in many respects to that which marked his experience on the evening of the day of his conversion, broke in upon his soul, and prostrated him on the ground. He was overwhelmed with the thought that, while all nature was vocal with the praises of God, man, the object of heaven's supremest love, was unmoved and dumb. In connection with this thought a light seemed to surround him which was, he says, like the brightness of the sun in every direction. . . . I think," he goes on to say, "I knew something then, by actual experience, of the light which prostrated Paul on his way to Damascus. It was surely a light such as I could not have endured long." Upon this he broke out into loud weeping, much to the astonishment of Mr. Gale, who had seen no such light. But so deep were Finney's feelings, and so exalted his momentary conceptions of truth, that words did not seem adequate to their expression, and he made but brief reply to his pastor's inquiries as to the cause of his tumultuous feeling. He simply continued to weep until the vision passed away, when a great calm settled over his mind. This is related by Finney as a type of frequent experiences through which he passed in the years immediately following his conversion, - experiences so vivid and deep that he always shrank from relating them to others.

During these early months of his Christian life, Finney was in an almost constant attitude of devotion, and observed many days of private fasting and prayer, when he would sequester himself entirely from his fellows, and seek a closer communion with God. These days of fasting and prayer were not all of them equally profitable. He soon learned that his motives could not be purified, and his faith exalted, by mere self-examination. But rather he was brought into darkness by this process, and his feelings were made to subside. Only as he turned his thoughts towards Christ and his Work were his affections kindled and his pious resolutions strengthened. So deep was his longing after God that, if anything interrupted his sense of the divine presence, he found that it was impossible to rest, or to study, or to derive the least satisfaction from anything to which he was attending. At all times he was impelled by an overwhelming impulse of feeling to seek a reconciliation with God as an indispensable preparation for his daily work.

Such, in brief, is the account given by Finney of his conversion. One not familiar with his subsequent labors, and with the final outcome of his life, can scarcely refrain from trembling at the apparent hazard of the course upon which he was entering. To an unsympathetic observer, the liability to self-deception seems so great that the whole experience would be set down at the outset as of problematical value; and certainly, in view of the frailties of human nature, a career with such a beginning is invested with little less than tragic interest until the end is finally reached.

Though somewhat deficient at this time in the preparatory education of the schools, Finney was the possessor of many valuable qualifications which served an important purpose in his future career. Nature had endowed him with a fine physical frame, exceptional grace of movement, and a commanding appearance. He had a voice of rare clearness, compass, and flexibility, and he was passionately fond of music. In Warren, after a lapse of seventy-five years, the memory of his music classes is still fresh in the minds of some who enjoyed his instruction. In his own old age he was accustomed to enliven the gatherings at his house with solos, sung with pleasing effect to the accompaniment of the piano. As a speaker he was entirely without mannerism; his intonations and emphasis were perfect, and the hearer never felt, till near the close, that he was listening to a powerful sermon, but rather that he was being personally addressed with much earnestness upon matters that were of great mutual concern.

During the years of his pioneer life. Finney had also successfully secured the several manly acquirements needed to round out the well-developed character. He was an expert horseman. riding with grace and driving with skill. He was an accurate marksman, and hunting was a favorite diversion when he was long past his middle life. While living upon the shores of Lake Ontario he had become familiar with the management of sailing vessels, an experience which gave great pertinency and force to the illustrations from maritime life often introduced into his sermons. His taste for literature was also strongly marked and of a high order. Shakespeare was a favorite author, and even in his later years few amateurs could more successfully take a part in reading the plays of the great dramatist. Besides the limited education obtained during his four years' absence from home in Connecticut and New Jersey, he now had obtained that discipline of mind and that broad knowledge of general principles which preparation for the legal profession imparts.

About as much mystery hangs over the first year and a half of Finney's life subsequent to his conversion as that which shrouds the corresponding period of the apostle Paul's renewed life. In his memoirs, Finney speaks of visiting his parents, and of their conversion, and of a revival in their neighborhood, also of revivals in the outlying districts near Adams, as all occurring soon after. But what his relation to these revivals was, and what was his attitude meanwhile towards the Presbytery, cannot be ascertained. It was not till the 25th of June, 1823, that he was formally taken under care of the Presbytery with reference to entering the ministry.

On being advised by members of the Presbytery to attend Princeton Theological Seminary, he declined to do so, for the reason that he did not wish to be subjected to such influences as they had been under during their education. Such was the earnestness and sincerity of his spirit, however, that the Presbytery seemed to take no umbrage at his remark, but appointed his pastor, Rev. Mr. Gale, and Rev. Mr. Boardman to superintend his studies. From the first Finney's relation to both these advisers was frank as well as cordial, and of the most interesting character. But he was not inclined to accept some of the doctrines regarded as of great importance by Mr. Gale. Hence, according to his own representations, his studies consisted of little else than controversy, in which, as a natural result of his legal habits of reasoning, he was led to demand a kind and degreee of proof for the various doctrines defended by the young minister which the latter was scarcely prepared to furnish. Mr. Gale attempted to persuade Finney of the truth of a system of theology which involved the sinfulness of human nature at birth, and of a theory of the atonement in which Christ was represented as making a literal payment of the legal debt of the elect, and as securing their forgiveness, after the manner of a commercial transaction, by setting down to their credit his own righteousness. Naturally Mr. Gale experienced much difficulty in defending this theory of the atonement from Finney's charges of unreasonableness and absurdity. Being unable to present satisfactory reasons to the inquiring mind of his pupil, Mr. Gale urged upon him the impropriety of maintaining views in opposition to those of the learned theologians who, after long thought and discussion, had elaborated this system as the most adequate expression of Christian truth. But Finney did not find it easy to surrender his judgment so completely to mere human authority.

As related by Finney in his memoirs, his contentions with Mr. Gale accorded closely with those current at the time of the disruption in 1837 between the Old School and New School parties in the Presbyterian Church. According to Finney, however, he himself, at this stage of his inquiries, was not familiar at all with the preliminary discussions upon the New School side which led up to this division, since he had access to no theological books whatever except those in Mr. Gale's library. But the so-called governmental theory of the atonement, which he publicly defended very soon after this, and used with such great power in controversy with the Universalists, was to all appearance independently suggested to his mind as he studied the Bible in the light of his experience and legal training. According to his own account, the main outline of his subsequent theological system was sketched in an effort to answer a Universalist minister who maintained that the doctrine of universal salvation was a corollary to the doctrines of Calvinism. The Universalists of that day magnified the atonement, and, having proved from the Bible that its provisions were ample for the whole human race, they contended that, as the debt of all mankind had been paid, the electing love of God must include all men and secure their salvation.

Under stress of this line of argument as urged by the Universalist minister in his parish, and on account of temporary illness, Mr. Gale for the time turned over the public defense of the orthodox doctrine of eternal punishment to Finney, who conducted it on the theory that the atonement was indeed general in its provisions, but was designed simply to satisfy "public justice"(2) by honoring the law both in Christ's obedience and in his death; thus rendering it safe for God to pardon sin, to pardon the sins of any man, and of all men, who would repent and believe in Him."(3) But the reality of its actual application to all men was shown to depend upon the success of the means employed to secure their repentance and faith. With this presentation Finney silenced the Universalist, and carried with him the convictions of the whole community. The success of this effort surprised Mr. Gale, but did not immediately convince him of the soundness of the positions taken.

The vote for Finney's licensure was unanimous, but it was pretty evident that the Presbytery was actuated more from general considerations of policy, and from fear of being found fighting against God, than from hearty personal approval of the candidate. On this occasion, according to the prescribed custom, he presented to the Presbytery two written sermons, which probably, with a single exception, were the only ones he ever prepared. This exception occurred a few months later, when, at one of his missionary stations, he was somewhat embarrassed by a report which got into circulation to the effect that he did not have the necessary ability to compose a creditably written sermon. Stung by these suspicions, he attempted to demonstrate their injustice by preparing a sermon after the regulation style. But, as the motives inducing him to take this course were not of the most exalted nature, his carefully prepared effort was likely to prove an ignominious failure in the delivery. He was quick to discern the danger, however, and, taking time by the forelock, seized the notes that were impeding his eloquence and flung them under the pulpit out of sight, and then launched forth with his accustomed freedom in extemporaneous argument and exhortation. Finney was ever after an ardent advocate of extemporaneous speaking.

Upon the Sabbath after his licensure, Finney was invited by Mr. Gale to preach before his congregation in the regular service. But his style was so diverse from that which had become fixed in the custom of the times, that it was an occasion of much chagrin to his pastor and teacher, and he told Finney that he should be ashamed to have him known as one of his theological pupils. It is not strange that, at this, Finney "held down his head and felt discouraged." In after years, Mr. Gale had abundant occasion to retract this premature judgment. Eventually he himself became an ardent advocate of the New School Calvinistic party among the Presbyterians; and two or three years later, after having retired from ministerial labor on account of ill health, he was instrumental in opening the way for Finney to engage in the remarkable revivals which spread over Oneida County, of which an account will be given in a subsequent chapter. Mr. Gale afterwards devoted his strength to educational work, beginning his career in this direction by establishing and bringing to a high degree of temporary success the Oneida Institute, an educational enterprise which proved to be an important forerunner of Oberlin. Still later, he removed to Illinois, and perpetuated his name in the college town of Galesburg.

It is difficult to determine the extent of Mr. Gale's influence upon Finney's views. Nor have we been able to ascertain just what books Finney found in Mr. Gale's library. But, according to Finney's own recollection in his declining years, there were few points of agreement, at that time, between him and his pastor and teacher, and the Bible was his own chief theological text-book. This, he says, he read by the hour upon his knees, praying the Lord to help him in his understanding of it. In his later preaching, and in his theological writings, there is clear evidence of the influence of the younger Edwards and of Dr. N. W. Taylor. It certainly was not till some time after this that he came into possession of the writings of the elder Edwards. There need be no question, therefore, that at this period of his development he went for light exclusively, as he says, to the "Bible, and to the philosophy or workings of his own mind, as revealed in consciousness," and especially in the marvelous experiences through which he was passing at the time.





CHAPTER II.
EARLY REVIVAL LABORS.

SOON after he had been licensed by the Presbytery, Finney was commissioned by the Female Missionary Society of the Western District of New York to preach for three months in the northern part of Jefferson County.(4) During this time he divided his labors between Evans Mills and Antwerp, villas about thirteen miles apart, spending the alternate Sabbaths at Antwerp. In both of these towns, churches were already established, and for the first few weeks Finney contented himself with preaching in the ordinary way upon the Sabbaths, with a few extra meetings on intervening days.

At Evans Mills the Congregationalists had no house of worship, but held union services with the Baptists in a large stone school-building. Unusual audiences gathered upon the Sabbaths in which Finney conducted the services, and much general interest was expressed in his preaching.

The religious condition of Evans Mills, as described by Finney in the letter just referred to, was such as is often found in frontier towns. The church "were disheartened," he says, "and had hung their harps upon the willows. The dear Zion of God was robed in mourning and sat desolate as a widow. . . . Rebellion against the blessed God, under almost every form, and in every shocking degree, stalked abroad with unblushing front, in defiance of Almighty authority, and in the heedless and impious rejection of proffered grace and mercy. The streets resounded with impious oaths; the mouths of the multitude were filled with cursing and bitterness, and it was but too obvious that destruction and misery were in their ways. In view of this state of things, my soul was sick, and I commenced my labors amongst them with plain dealing, and denounced the terrors of the Almighty against them for their impious wickedness, and ruinous rejection of the gospel of God's dear Son."

The adherents of the Congregational Church were much encouraged by the signs of prosperity exhibited in the increased attendance upon the preaching of their new minister. But Finney could not be content with this, and hence with much emotion told them, at the close of one of his Sabbath services, that he was not satisfied with the results of his preaching; that he was convinced from appearances that they were not being really benefited; and that he could not spend any more time with them except they were going really to receive and act upon the gospel which he preached. Then, after due explanation of what he meant, he informed them that whether he remained there to preach any longer depended upon whether they were going to become Christians and enlist in the service of the Saviour." With that discernment of the state of the congregation for which he was ever after so remarkable, Finney called at once, and in very specific terms, for an expression of sentiment, asking those who would immediately "make their peace with God" to stand up, adding that he should understand that those who sat still expressed a determination to remain in their present attitude, and not to accept Christ.

As he expected, not a person rose. Looking around over the audience for a brief interval, he impressed upon them, in a few additional words, the solemnity of the position they were in, and the significance of refusing to act according to their convictions and of allowing themselves to be publicly committed against the Saviour. This naturally roused their anger, and the whole audience rose and started for the door. Finney stopped speaking, and the audience of course halted and looked around. He took the occasion to recall his previous statement, and to announce his willingness to preach to them once more on the following night.

All left the house with the exception of a Baptist deacon, who remained to let the preacher know that he believed the proper course had been taken to bring the people face to face with their short-comings. These two then arranged to spend the following day in fasting and prayer, separately in the morning and together in the afternoon." Meanwhile there was much indignation among the people at what they called the unfair advantage Finney had taken of them. And, if one looks upon the situation without knowing the man, he will indeed with good reason set the transaction down as extremely rash and foolish. But the result so well illustrates the real spirit and power of Finney that it sheds a flood of light upon his subsequent career.

The key to much of Finney's success lay in the fact that he possessed both great natural and great acquired abilities, of which he himself was never fully conscious. He was always characterized by such a frank and childlike spirit that criticism was disarmed in his presence. He believed also that nothing could be effected in promoting a revival of religion except through prayer, and by the special aid of the Spirit. His first aim, therefore, was always to secure united prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Rev. Mr. Cross, who, when a lad, was converted in the meetings held in what was called Sodom, of which we shall presently speak, and who for fifty years has been an influential pastor in that region, says he well remembers the circumstances connected with Finney's first visit when beginning a series of meetings in one of the neighboring towns. Young Cross was at the house of the deacon of the church upon Finney's arrival. As soon as he had taken off his overcoat, he asked what praying persons there were in the neighborhood. He was informed that there were very few. Two or three women in humble circumstances were mentioned, however, who were of recognized piety. His instant reply was, "I must see them," and he immediately put on his overcoat and set out to look them up. This will illustrate what was his universal practice in subsequent years.

On the occasion of the crisis now under consideration in the work at Evans Mills, Finney and the Baptist deacon retired together to a neighboring grove, and spent the whole afternoon in prayer, going directly from there to the place appointed for the evening meeting, which they found packed with a deeply convicted and excited audience. Finney preached for an hour and a half upon the blessedness of the righteous, and upon the fearfulness of the award in store for the wicked; but he called for no expression of feeling, and dismissed the congregation with the announcement that he would preach again on the next evening.

This sermon, as was intended, greatly increased the conviction of sin throughout the community. So deep was the feeling, that Finney was sought for several times during the night to counsel and pray with those who had been brought into distress of mind. But, as he was not staying at his usual lodging-place, he could not be found. The following day, however, he spent the whole time in visiting from house to house, finding that the anger and indignation of the previous evening were almost everywhere changed to deep conviction of sin. In the course of a few weeks almost the entire community was converted, and the whole moral and religious character of the place was changed. The lowest tavern of the village, which had been the favorite resort of revelry and blasphemy, became, through the conversion of the bartender himself, a regular place of assembly for prayer and praise, and the surrounding neighborhoods caught the spirit and passed through a like moral revolution.

During these first three months of Finney's work under the auspices of the Female Missionary Society, the most of the time intervening between the Sabbaths was spent at Evans Mills. But at Antwerp hopeful conversions were also occurring from time to time, and in the letter already quoted Finney expresses hope that "God designs to visit this people with the outpouring of his Holy Spirit," modestly adding: that as it is one object of your society to build up and strengthen feeble churches, - to unite their strength in the establishing of the gospel among them, - this object, I have strong hopes, will be effected at the two places where I have principally labored."

On the 1st of July, 1824, the St. Lawrence Presbytery convened at Evans Mills, and, among other business, considered the propriety of ordaining Finney. One afternoon, while he was in attendance upon the meeting where a large audience had assembled, the Presbytery, without any premonition, called upon him to preach. Finney thinks this was from a desire of some of the ministers to see what he could do on a moment's notice. But more probably it was regarded by them as a part of their examination of him with reference to his fitness to receive full ordination. At any rate the invitation was thus unceremoniously given. Though Finney accepted the invitation, he refused to go into the high box-pulpit with which this church, like all others of that day, was provided. Instead, he stepped out into the broad-aisle, and preached a powerful extemporaneous sermon from the text, "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." The effect upon the audience is said to have been marked, but the ministers, in the line of their supposed duty, annoyed Finney somewhat by criticising the style and manner of his address, complaining that he was letting down the dignity of the pulpit; that he condescended to talk to the people in a colloquial manner, like a lawyer at the bar; that his exhortations were too vehement; that he spoke in too strong terms of the hazard of life, and too severely blamed the people for their sin. At the close of the sermon, one of the ministers patronizingly said to Finney that, while he would not like to have him preach in his church, he should be very glad, if it ever came in his way, to invite him to preach in some of the schoolhouses in the out-districts of his parish. Nevertheless, the Presbytery proceeded to the ordination services, which took place that evening in the Methodist meeting-house, - Rev. A. W. Platt presiding, and Rev. J. Clinton preaching the sermon. His commission by the Female Society seems to have been renewed for another three months, during which he devoted the greater part of his strength to the work at Antwerp.

Antwerp contained a small Presbyterian church, but the religious people were few, as at Evans Mills, and were completely overawed by the violent opposition of the irreligious element. One of the elders, upon whom they depended to maintain the services, and who lived five miles away, had for some time found it almost impossible to attend the regular meetings of the church on account of the opposition of his neighbors. The people of one of the intervening districts would even go to the extent of taking the wheels off his carriage as he was passing upon the Sabbath. Allusion has already been made to a neighborhood called "Sodom." This was in the outskirts of Antwerp, and was so named because of its resemblance in character to the Sodom of old; and the comparison was completed by the residence in it of a solitary pious man, who was duly nicknamed Lot. Very early in his work at Antwerp, Finney was invited to hold an afternoon service in this neighborhood. Without knowing the circumstances, and so, of course, without any premeditation, he chose the text, "Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city," vividly describing the condition of Sodom, and the urgency with which Lot was commanded to escape. Naturally enough, the faces of the audience became gloomy, and the rough men looked at each other with expressions of intense anger. When he had finished the exposition of the narrative connected with the text, he appealed to them with great earnestness and feeling to put away their sins, taking it for granted, as he told them, that since, as he had been informed, they had never had a religious meeting in the place, he could properly infer that they were a very ungodly people. Instantly their anger was turned into deep conviction of sin, and so intense did their solicitude for themselves become, that nearly the whole congregation almost simultaneously fell upon their knees or prostrate upon the floor, each one who was able to speak engaging in audible prayer for himself. This of course brought the sermon to an end, as Finney could no longer get the attention of the audience. The man who was known as Lot was called upon to pray, but even his stentorian voice was unable to attract the attention of the agonized people.

As Finney had an evening appointment in the village, he could not linger with them long. But such time as he could, he employed in giving instruction to various individuals within his reach. One after another of these believed, became calm and quiet, and then began to pray for others. On leaving, Finney asked the so-called Lot to take charge of the meeting. Such was the interest that the audience could not be dismissed. Many of the people remained all night, and in the morning those who had failed to find peace were carried away to a private house, to make room for the school. That this was not a mere outburst of temporary feeling is evident from the subsequent history of the neighborhood. This deep conviction of sin was but a just recognition of the real condition of the hearts of the people, and was, with nearly all of them, the beginning of a new life which permanently transformed their characters.

The revival in "Sodom" is an illustration of a work that spread throughout all the neighborhoods surrounding Antwerp, and resulted in the gathering of a strong church at the centre of the town. When the six months of Finney's commission had expired, he procured for them a pastor, who was settled, and the church has remained prosperous to the present time.

We cannot understand the success of Finney's labors in these towns without keeping in mind the intensity of his religious convictions and the great tenderness of his heart. His first sermon in the neighborhood where the elder resided who met with such opposition in going to church, was from the text, "Ye generation of vipers, bow can ye escape the damnation of hell?" The scene was similar to that in "Sodom." Conviction fell upon the whole assembly; but the words of rebuke were not those of one who loved denunciation: they were rather like the faithful probing of the surgeon who knows full well the gravity of the case. When his words of rebuke had accomplished their design, he then with tears set forth the promises of Christ. Rev. Mr. Cross, who has already been mentioned as one of the converts at the first meeting in "Sodom," describes Finney's preaching at this time as essentially the same as that which he heard thirty years later at Syracuse. As befitted the circumstances, the solemnity of the speaker was intense, and entirely without affectation. As his piercing blue eyes swept over the congregation, the great themes of the gospel were held up and explained, and pressed upon the audience with overwhelming effect. Thirty years later he was the same man, animated by the same overpowering desire to lead men into a better life, but of course somewhat polished by his long contact with city audiences.

It has been necessary to dwell thus minutely upon these earliest labors of Finney, in order to understand his later career. It is interesting also to observe, in passing, the extent to which, according to his own account, his preaching was what would he called "doctrinal." The larger part of every sermon was spent in expounding some great truth of the Bible. At this time, as always, he felt called upon to present in his preaching the whole body of the so-called Calvinistic system of divinity; one of his most effective sermons in Antwerp being upon the doctrine of election, in which he showed that it was a truth both of the Bible and of reason; that to deny it was "to deny the very attributes of God; " that it opposed no obstacles in the way of the non-elect; while it is the only ground of hope that anybody will be saved.

At the end of his commission for the second three months of labor in the two churches mentioned, Finney encouraged the people at Evans Mills that he would settle with them for the year. He took advantage of this prospect to obtain a few days' respite from his labor, and fulfill his engagement to be married to Miss Lydia Andrews, a young lady of the highest personal qualities, whose home was in Whitestown, Oneida County, and who had been deeply interested in praying for Finney's conversion in the days of his impenitence. The marriage took place in October, 1824, and after an interval of two or three days, leaving his wife to make some additional preparations for housekeeping, Finney went back to Evans Mills for the purpose of obtaining conveyance for their household goods. It was his intention to return for Mrs. Finney after spending one Sabbath at Evans Mills, but revival interest was developing in so many places in the neighborhood that he was prevailed upon to remain and preach from night to night until the week had worn away. Such were the demands of the work, indeed, that his plans for housekeeping had to be deferred, and with the full consent of his wife he decided to put off sending for her until "God seemed to open the way." The whole winter passed in these engrossing labors, and early spring arrived before the way seemed clear for him to carry out the plans with which he had left his wife in October. At the first interval of rest, and before sleighing broke up, he set out with a horse and cutter upon his pleasant errand. But as the road was slippery and the horse smooth-shod, and Oneida County a hundred miles away, he was compelled to stop at the neighboring town of Le Rayville to have the horse's shoes reset and sharpened. It was about noon, and no sooner did the people of the place learn that Finney was at the blacksmith shop than they began to crowd around him, and urge him to preach in the schoolhouse at one o'clock. This he did in compliance with their importunate desire. The interest at the meeting was so great that he felt constrained to spend the night there, and made an appointment for the evening. In the evening he made another appointment for the morning, and then yet another for the following evening. So marked was the interest that he could not feel warranted in leaving the place without doing all that he could to foster it and bring it to its proper fruition. He consequently engaged another person to proceed on the journey for Mrs. Finney, while he went on preaching, from day to day and night to night, responding meanwhile as far as possible to invitations to preach in other places.

It would be doing the keenest injustice to Finney to attribute this long separation from his wife, so soon after their marriage, to any indifference of feeling. It is to be taken purely as an index of the strength of his devotion to the ministerial work to which he felt himself called. For, throughout his life, he was passionately devoted to his family, and was never separated from them except upon occasion of necessity, and then with much self-sacrifice and solicitude.

About this time, Finney passed through an experience which became characteristic of his later life whenever he was about to enter upon untried fields of labor. While preaching at Antwerp there had been much opposition to him in the neighboring town of Gouverneur; and now, from some source, of which he could give no account except that it was by direct revelation of God, during a season of prayer, he became impressed with an irresistible conviction that there was to be a great revival in this present centre of opposition to his work, and that he must go there to preach. Not long after this he met one of the members of the church, and made known to him his convictions, with the result of being regarded by his auditor as one who was beside himself. Nevertheless, he charged the man both to assure the people of Gouverneur that he was coming to visit them, and to urge them to prepare "for the outpouring of the Lord's Spirit." Improbable as all of this seemed at the time, it was speedily accomplished; for he very soon went to the place, and witnessed there a repetition of scenes similar to those already described.

At Gouverneur there came into greater prominence than before the celebrated "Father Nash," a Presbyterian clergyman somewhat advanced in life, who felt moved for some years afterwards to accompany Finney for the purpose of sustaining him with his prayers. It should have been mentioned that, in some of the places in which Finney had already preached, Father Nash had been present a part of the time, and was accustomed on such occasions to make out a list of persons and pray for them one by one in secret. Later on, Father Nash became a marked subject of attack from those who opposed the so-called "new measures" of Finney, and much fault was found with him because of the loudness of his voice in prayer. On account of this, so his detractors averred, it was impossible for him to pray in secret, even though he shut the door of his closet or retired into the depths of the forest, since "they could hear him pray half a mile off." The sincerity and Christian spirit of the man, however, could not be successfully challenged, and that the answers to his prayers were often remarkable could not well be denied. But his present and subsequent devotion was a late development. When Finney first met him, he had not advanced in his experience beyond that cold and formal state of mind in which he could pray before a great audience without shutting his eyes. A touching tribute was paid to his memory in the "New York Evangelist" when he died, a few years later, in which was divulged the fact that a large number of most discriminating and pungent articles in that paper had been written by him. On the occasion now spoken of, Father Nash preceded Finney at Gouverneur to prepare the way for him.

A characteristic of Finney's preaching is well illustrated by some events at Gouverneur. His uniform plan of discourse was slowly and carefully to lay down and discuss the fundamental proposition upon which action was to be based, so that whatever movement of feeling there was should be well grounded in a perception of the truth. He always took pains to understand the position occupied by those he was endeavoring to persuade, and was careful not to proceed with his argument till he was sure he had found a common ground of agreement respecting facts and principles. Thus the intense feeling habitually following his preaching was the result of his exposition of truth, and not of any general attempt to produce excitement.

At Gouverneur the progress of the revival was checked, after a while, by an attempt of the Baptists in the place to proselyte converts, and induce them to unite with the Baptist church. This so diverted the attention that for six weeks, according to Finney, there was not a single conversion, as all were discussing the subject of baptism. Finney resolved to overcome the obstacle by a frank and open discussion of the subject himself. Consequently he invited the people to come together upon Wednesday afternoon, and bring Bibles and pencils with them to mark the passages to which he should refer. At this meeting he went over all the passages bearing on the mode of baptism, explaining how they were understood by the Baptists and how by the Presbyterians. So fair was he to the Baptists, that they had no complaint to make. On the next afternoon, all came together in the same manner to study the teachings of the Bible as to the subject of baptism. He began with the Abrahamic covenant, and went through with everything in the Old Testament bearing on the relation of families and children to that covenant. Then the passages in the New Testament were taken up. Under his presentation, it is said, the "congregation was much moved. . . . and the tears flowed very freely when he held up that covenant as still the covenant which God makes with parents and their households." In these tears some of the oldest and most confirmed of the Baptists were constrained to join. The question of baptism ceased to be the subject of conversation, and all parties united in promoting the revival, which at once began to spread again with increasing power, and continued until a great majority of the people in the town were converted.

The character of Father Nash's work is illustrated by a single anecdote current concerning him at Gouverneur. He was in the habit of rising at a very early hour and going to a grove, about fifty rods away from the road, to begin the day in prayer alone. One morning his voice in the distance was heard on the clear, still air by a bitter opponent of the revival. He could not understand a word that was said in the prayer, but he somehow knew what it was, and surmised that it was being offered for him. The thought pierced his heart, and he found no relief till he had acknowledged Christ.

From Gouverneur the work extended to the neighboring town of De Kalb, where the ordinary course of events was interrupted by a bitter feud between the Presbyterians and the Methodists, growing out of unkind criticisms upon certain physical manifestations connected with a previous revival, in which many Methodists had fallen under "the power," as it was called, and had lain for a time in a state of helpless prostration; the Presbyterians were accused of having opposed the revival because of undue fear of this excitement. But Finney had not been preaching long before one of the principal members of the Presbyterian church fell helpless to the floor, in a manner precisely like that of the converts in the former Methodist meetings, and during the series of meetings there were several other similar cases. But, singularly enough, all those who now "fell under the power" were Presbyterians, and the Methodists, though equally interested in the revival, were none of them affected in that manner. On the last afternoon that Finney spent at De Kalb, he was intending to preach, but a prominent elder of the church, who had that very afternoon passed through a most subduing religious experience, came forward to the pulpit as Finney was reading the hymn, and, after embracing him, begged the privilege of telling the people what joy had come to his soul on merely humbling himself before God. The whole congregation was melted to tears. Finney did not attempt to preach, but says that he "sat still and saw the salvation of God." Conversions continued to occur in every part of the congregation during the whole afternoon.

In commenting upon these revivals in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, Finney lays great stress upon the efficiency given to the other means of grace by the spirit of prayer which prevailed in connection with all the meetings. It was not uncommon, he says, for the young converts to spend whole nights praying for the conversion of the souls about them. The deepest solemnity prevailed at all times, and there was the greatest solicitude lest injury should be done by inconsiderate words and actions. Private meetings for prayer took the place of social parties, and all were prompted to spend much time in secret devotions. Finney himself bears testimony to his own absolute dependence, at this as at all other times, upon maintaining the spirit of prayer in his own heart. If he parted with this even for an hour, he says, he lost for the time all his persuasive power over men.

Toward the close of this period, also, a special burden came upon him, in his private devotions, with reference to the work of the future. He had a strange presentiment, he tells us, that untried fields were before him, and that unlooked-for difficulties would have to be overcome. So intense were some of these experiences that he was alarmed lest his physical system should break down; but faith lifted him at length above all fear, until he felt an assurance that he was "soon to see a far more powerful outpouring of the Spirit of God in all that new country." This, like similar experiences in later life, proved to be the precursor of a great and unexpected enlargement in the work immediately before him.

Up to this time, Finney's labors had attracted local attention only, and he had no plans looking forward to any wider sphere than was opening in the frontier towns of northern New York. So far, also, he had not been the subject of serious criticism. He had relied upon the regular methods of presenting the truth, and had uniformly worked with and through the church. The main peculiarity of his manner was the urgency with which he called upon men to respond to present obvious promptings of duty. As we have seen, it was his habit to portray with great vividness those truths which reveal the sinfulness of man, and to call upon men everywhere and always to repent under their present light, and expect the fulfillment of all the divine promises with reference to further light and help. The good results attending his ministry could not be denied. So far, also, he had not marked out a way for himself, but had followed in a line of evident providential preparation and appointment.

Equally marked was the providence which now transferred his labors from the northern to the central counties of New York. In October, 1826, he went to Utica to attend the meeting of the synod. On setting out to return to St. Lawrence County, he was met on the way by Rev. Mr. Gale, whose health had broken down, and who was now residing on a farm in the town of Western, Oneida County. Mr. Gale greeted Finney with great cordiality, and persuaded him after much importunity to turn aside to his house for a personal conference. They were just in time also for the Thursday afternoon prayer-meeting. This the two attended together, and, as the people had no minister in charge, Finney was urged to remain and preach on the Sabbath. Finney relates that during the whole of Friday his mind was greatly exercised, and that he went frequently alone to the church to engage in prayer, "and had a mighty bold upon God." The church was crowded on the Sabbath, and the interest was so marked that appointments were made in schoolhouses in different parts of the town during the week. Almost immediately there were reported here scenes similar to those already described in the more northern counties of the State. From Western, which was a country parish, the work spread in the direction of Rome, the shire town of Oneida County, and soon there came from Rev. Moses Gillett, then pastor there, a proposition to exchange upon the Sabbath. To this Finney consented with reluctance, fearing that it might interrupt the work at Western. During the Sabbath, however, it became evident that the interest was such as to make it his duty to remain at Rome. An inquiry meeting was appointed for Monday evening by the pastor, without any announcement of Finney's expected presence. Mr. Gillett had stipulated privately, however, that Finney should be there to aid him, as he himself was unaccustomed to the conduct of such a service. The meeting was largely attended by the most intelligent and influential members of the congregation. The feeling was so intense that there was danger of an uncontrollable outburst, an occurrence which Finney was determined to avoid. After addressing them, therefore, for a few minutes, in a quiet manner, and praying, as he affirms, in a low and unimpassioned voice, that Christ would interpose His blood to save them from their sins, he dismissed the meeting at once, exhorting them to keep silent, and to restrain their expressions of feeling. At this moment, however, one of the prominent young men of the place was overcome by his feelings and fainted, and there seemed danger that the whole company would faint in the same way. Fearing this, Finney ordered the door to be opened wide, and requested the audience to retire immediately. Thus all shrieking was avoided, but the sobbing and sighing of those who felt convicted of their sins were almost universal, and could be heard till they reached the street.

On the following morning, Mr. Gillett and Finney were overwhelmed with messages asking them to visit families where one or more members were under deep conviction of sin, and as they went from house to house the people would follow them, and rush in unbidden and fill the rooms, wherever they were. We found," says Finney, "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 prostrate on the floor." The diningroom of the principal hotel of the town was offered for a meeting of inquiry at one o'clock. Notice of this meeting was circulated after the hour of noon, and the room was crowded to overflowing, and could not be dismissed till nearly night. The conviction of sin was intense, and a great number were converted. Finney preached again in the evening, and an inquiry meeting was appointed, on the morning of the following day, in the court house, where there was a larger room. This also was crowded, and nearly the whole of the day was spent in presenting the promises and work of Christ to the convicted multitudes. He preached again upon the next evening, and so great was the number interested that the inquiry meeting of the following day was appointed to be in the church. On the following evening, there was an appointment in a large schoolhouse in one of the outlying districts, but it became evident that the intensity of feeling was such that it would result in undesirable outbursts, and Finney dismissed the meeting without preaching, - exhorting each one to go privately to his room and consecrate himself to God in prayer. After this, for twenty nights in succession and twice upon each Sabbath, Finney continued to preach at Rome, and prayer and inquiry meetings were held each day.

The effect of this revival was pervasive and permanent. In some of the outlying settlements almost all the people were converted. For many months a sunrise prayer-meeting was maintained, and was largely attended. Open immorality was banished from the community. "The moral state of the people," according to Mr. Gillett, "was so greatly changed that it did not seem like the same place."

When the work at Rome had been in progress about a month, Finney was called to Utica to attend the funeral of a prominent elder of Rev. Mr. Aiken's church. Aiken urged him to remain and give him assistance, as there were signs of a revival in his congregation. An unusual spirit of devotion was beginning to manifest itself among the people, one of the principal women being so deeply burdened that she had remained for two days and nights in almost incessant prayer, until her strength was exhausted, and she could now have no peace unless some one was praying with her for the conversion of her neighbors and friends. As soon as it was possible, therefore, Finney transferred his preaching to Utica, where, as at Rome, crowds gathered from night to night, and conversions multiplied on every side, many of them most remarkable in their character. So great was the interest that the principal hotel became a centre of religious influence, and many of the passengers in the stages who stopped there for dinner or to spend the night were converted before they could leave the town. Conversions were numerous, also, in many places for a considerable distance around upon the mere hearing of the progress of the work. After going to a manufacturing town nearby to preach in a schoolhouse one evening, Finney was invited in the morning to look through the factory. As he entered the building, the operatives became so agitated that they burst into tears, and the owner of the establishment, himself an unconverted man, ordered the mill to be stopped and the largest room to be cleared, that the operatives might assemble in it for a religious service. In the course of a few days nearly all were converted.

From Rome and Utica as centres Finney went out and preached more or less in all the Presbyterian churches of the county. In the report to the Presbytery the following summer, the number of converts was estimated at about three thousand.

During the following summer, Finney was invited to preach at Auburn, where the theological seminary had lately been established. But during the winter there had begun to appear in various quarters a pronounced and bitter opposition both to him personally and to the revivals in which he was engaged. It will be in place in a subsequent chapter to speak more fully of the character of this opposition. Its immediate result upon Finney's own mind was to induce a brief period of despondency. At first, he says, it seemed to him that he was to lose the sympathy of the whole Christian world outside of the limited field where he was already personally known, and that probably all the pulpits of the land would be closed against him. A momentary darkness came over his mind. But without saying anything to his friends concerning his feelings, he gave himself at once to prayer. While praying, the Lord seemed to give him a vision of what was before him, and, as he says, drew so near to him that his flesh literally trembled on his bones, and he shook from head to foot, under a full sense of the presence of God. . . . After a season of great humiliation before Him, there came a great lifting up," and God assured him that He would be with him and uphold him.(5) This led him into a state of perfect peace, in which he was able to keep himself from any feeling of bitterness or distrust, and he spent no waking hours over the matter afterwards.

The revival at Auburn, though hindered and somewhat modified by the outside opposition just referred to, extended to all the surrounding towns, and was in most respects as remarkable as that in any of the other places in which Finney had been. The antagonism to him in Auburn, however, was so violent that a large number of influential men who were attendants upon the church of Dr. Lansing, whom Finney was assisting, withdrew from the congregation. The most of these belonged to the unconverted class. But they were men of good reputation, and their opposition went so far that another Presbyterian church was founded, with them as chief supporters. But such was the genuineness of Finney's character, and so great the real respect felt for him, that these very persons, five or six years later, and while still unconverted, united in urging Finney to come and preach to them. This was soon after the remarkable revival of 1831 in Rochester, when Finney was on his way from that place to Schenectady, where President Nott, of Union College, had invited him to labor. But on reaching Auburn he was so ill and exhausted by the journey that he stopped over a day with friends to rest. No sooner, however, was it rumored that Finney was in town, than the deputation referred to came to him with an urgent request that, overlooking their former opposition to him, he would remain and preach to them for a while. In response to this request, he preached for six weeks, during which time almost every one of those who on the former occasion had opposed him so bitterly was converted.

During this first season of labor at Auburn, in the summer of 1826, Finney was invited by Dr. N. S. S. Beman to come to Troy to assist in revival efforts in that city. Dr. Beman was a man of marked ability, who, like Finney, had turned away from flattering prospects in the practice of law to preach the gospel. Though a native of Hampton, N. Y., he had lived at the South, and through marriage there had become the owner of slaves. Four years before this time he had come to the Presbyterian church in Troy, and was already making himself felt throughout the whole Presbyterian Church by his able discussions of the fundamental doctrines of their belief. In 1825 he had published four sermons upon the atonement, which exerted a marked influence in supporting and spreading the views of the New School Calvinists. His power as an advocate on the floor of the General Assembly had also much to do in strengthening and solidifying this party. The whole remaining portion of his life was spent with the church at Troy.

At the time of which we are speaking, Beman was in full sympathy with the revival spirit which had been so wonderfully manifested in central New York, and consequently urged Finney to come to Troy and assist him in a revival effort. This was in the early autumn of 1826, when the opposition to Finney was taking on more and more formidable proportions. Dr. Beman, however, instead of being daunted, was rather stimulated to greater zeal by this attack, for he saw that the opposition was largely based upon misapprehension, and upon loose rumors which had no good foundation. The reports which had been sent throughout New England so grossly exaggerated the irregularities and infelicities attending the revivals at Western, Utica, Rome, and Auburn that Dr. Asahel Nettleton, now getting somewhat advanced in years, and whose career as a revivalist had been most remarkable, was greatly troubled by them, as was also Dr. Lyman Beecher, then in the height of his career in Boston. To stem the tide of what was supposed to be an ill-regulated and harmful excitement, Dr. Nettleton had been called at this time to assist in revival meetings at Albany. Whether Dr. Beman had a definite design in securing Finney's assistance at Troy at the same time is not certain. But whatever were the intentions of men, these two distinguished revivalists were now laboring in prominent adjoining fields. Finney had a profound reverence for Nettleton, and made haste to call upon him in Albany. At that time the two were not known to disagree in their doctrinal views, and Finney says that Nettleton did not then make any criticism of his mode of conducting revivals. But for some reason he was unwilling to have Finney attend the meeting at which he was to preach that evening. Hence Finney returned to Troy, and did not see Nettleton again until the assembling of the celebrated convention at New Lebanon the following summer, of which we shall speak presently.

The work at Troy was interrupted to some extent by a vexatious ecclesiastical trial to which Dr. Beman was subjected. Charges were preferred against him by certain disaffected members of his church, and the Presbytery was assembled to investigate both them and the revival methods which Dr. Beman had come fully to indorse and advocate. No charge of heresy or immorality was brought against him, but the specifications related mostly to infelicities of conduct connected with and growing out of the urgency used in trying to persuade men to consider their lost condition and accept the gospel. Dr. Beman's domestic life also was not the most happy, his wife being a notorious vixen; and among the charges against him was that, when his original call to Troy was pending, he did not unfold to his future parish the uncomfortable side of his wife's character. This perplexing trial, as we have said, was thrust right into the midst of the revival; and Dr. Beman was even charged with having introduced Finney and his revival methods for the sake of a diversion, and with the express purpose of silencing opposition to himself. The sessions of the Presbytery were long and tedious, but resulted in the complete acquittal of Beman.

Meanwhile Finney had been left to labor alone with the church in the midst of these disturbing forces. The misapprehensions of Nettleton and Beecher added also to the adverse influences. They thought they were doing God service in trying to keep Finney's influence from extending any farther east than the Hudson, and in this they represented the pretty general sentiment of New England pastors. But none of these things hindered the work in the end, and the revival in Troy was very extensive and powerful.

From Troy Finney went by invitation to the country village of New Lebanon, about twenty miles to the east, bordering the Massachusetts line, and on the main road from Albany to Springfield and Boston. Here he preached for some months, away from the distracting controversies that had disturbed him at Troy. The revival attending his preaching was similar in most respects to those in central New York. Towards the close of his labors in this place, the opposition to his methods led to the assembling of the celebrated New Lebanon Convention, which we must now pause to consider in all its bearings.





CHAPTER III.
THE NEW LEBANON CONVENTION.

IN the narrative thus far, several references have been made to the opposition which Finney met in central New York, and to the general suspicion of his methods and work which prevailed beyond his immediate field of labor. All this culminated in a convention of representative ministers which assembled at New Lebanon, N. Y., in July, 1827. To understand the outcome of this convention, it is necessary to consider more in detail the actual characteristics of Finney and his work, as well as the nature and source of the criticisms to which he was subjected.

So long as Finney's labors were limited to Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, New York, they met with no concerted criticism. The towns in which he labored were so manifestly transformed by his preaching that all local opposition was turned to admiration and praise. Even his personality, strong as it was, did not impress the public so much as did the wonderful spiritual results of the work. Indeed, the reports of those revivals which were sent to Eastern papers made no mention of Finney whatever. There were reports of the revival in Gouverneur in the "Puritan Recorder and Telegraph," of Boston, on July 29, 1825, and again in September, as also of the revival at De Kalb, but Finney's name does not occur in them. Again, in the report of the Presbytery, as found in the same paper for February 24, 1826, the revivals in Rome and Western are mentioned, but Finney's name is conspicuous for its absence. It is significant also that these revivals are spoken of as characterized "by no instance of the use of artifice to excite mere human feeling, or to inflame the passions. . . . The word has been generally presented," it says, "in plain and pointed language. Boisterous speaking and loud declamation have been studiously avoided." On February 3d, a correspondent in the same paper, referring to the revival at Rome, says that it "exceeds anything of the kind of which I have ever heard, except the day of Pentecost. . . . Every store has been converted into a house of prayer." On the 17th of March following, the same correspondent writes that all the professional men in Rome but one or two have been converted, and on the 31st he adds that nearly two hundred have united with the church. But it is not until the 21st of April that Finney is referred to, when, in describing the progress of the work, the correspondent says: "A Mr. Finney came to help the pastor. . . . After he came, the Spirit of God was shed down with such power that nothing seemed able to resist it. . . . The revival is remarkable for its solemnity and deep heart-searching."

The next reference we find to Finney is in a letter from a young lady from Connecticut, who was at Utica during the progress of the revival in that city, and who wrote on June 4th: "Such a revival of religion I have never before seen, and all has evidently been in answer to the fervent, persevering prayer of faith. . . . In every village around us God is pouring out his Spirit. A powerful work of grace has just commenced at Clinton, under the ministry of Mr. Finney."

To Finney's work in Utica, Thomas W. Seward, Esq., in an address upon the history of the city, refers in the following language: -

The spring of the year 1826 was signalized, in the history of the First Presbyterian Church at Utica, by the advent of Rev. Charles G. Finney, then in the dawn of his career as a revivalist. It was in Rome that his remarkable career commenced, and his intellectual force attracted many citizens who would not have listened to a less gifted expounder of the divine law. His exposition of that law was original and bold. Its novel character and its extraordinary fruits soon became the universal themes either of admiration or criticism. For months the revival eclipsed all other interests, and in no other season of religious inquiry was a whole community known to have been so entirely absorbed in the great pursuit. Mr. Finney's treatment of religious quietude was as merciless as his dealings with the wicked conscience, and in the religious world he inaugurated a brief reign of terror. His stern methods were oftentimes as necessary as they were wholesome; but it was a singular fact, that among those whose hearts most failed them for fear were found many who had adorned years of religious profession by lives unspotted from the world.

The scenes in the crowded church [First Utica] on these occasions were solemn beyond description. No unworthy accessories to heighten the interest or deepen the impression were ever employed. Beyond some unaffected yet striking peculiarities of voice and manner in the speaker, there was nothing to attract curiosity, or offend even the most fastidious or carping sense of propriety. It is an inadequate tribute of praise to say of his preaching that, whether it was distinguished most for intellectual subtlety, strong denunciation of sin, or fearful portrayal of the wrath to come, it had its reward in uncounted accessions to the Christian ranks and renewed vigor of religious life. As a pulpit orator his place among the foremost of his time was long ago assured.(6)

Reference has already been made to the testimony of Rev. Mr. Cross, one of Finney's converts at Antwerp, who says that Finney's style of preaching in the revival there was dignified, his manners urbane, and his spirit childlike, and that rarely were any persons repelled by his remarks to them. If a work is to be judged by its fruits, it is sufficient to note that the transforming effect of these earlier revivals was for a long time clearly discernible in the places where they occurred. Six years after the revival at Gouverneur, Mr. Cross resided for some time in the place, and found it so deeply penetrated by religious feeling that it was impossible to organize a dancing party, and it was unprofitable to have a circus.

Rev. P. H. Fowler, D.D., the historian of the Synod of central New York, who was by no means in full agreement with Finney in his doctrinal views, is still constrained to speak in the highest terms of Finney's ability, piety, spirit, and success during this period. Even Finney's exaggerated views of the errors of Calvinism, as Fowler regards them, are said to have aided him in demolishing many prevalent fallacies. "His imperfect education permitted rashness for the destruction inevitable in reforms." Force is, indeed, said to have been his factor; and "breaking down," his process. Nevertheless, Fowler thinks this was evidently the natural outgrowth of Finney's conceptions of wickedness and human obligation, and while characterizing Finney's views as those of the extreme New School party, he admits that they were for the most part "explanations of conceded facts, and not denials of them," adding that "on the whole, and for substance of doctrine, he preached the Calvinistic scheme." The same writer also makes note of the fact that the Oneida Presbytery, in 1826, saw nothing in Finney's doctrine of the prayer of faith essentially different from that found in Edwards's sermon on the "Most High, a prayer-hearing God," or in Calvin's works, or in Paul's prayer concerning "the thorn in the flesh."

The report of the Oneida Presbytery covering the year 1826 represents Finney's work in the most favorable light. According to Rev. Moses Gillett, pastor at Rome, the great. instrument in the revival had been prayer, and the truths preached were "such as had been generally termed the doctrines of grace." The divine law had been highly exalted, and its penalties forcibly presented, while the ability and duty of all men to repent and exercise faith had been constantly affirmed. The plea often made, that we cannot change our own heart, was met by the scriptural command, "Make you a new heart and a new spirit." The duty of immediate compliance with the will of God was urged everywhere. Up to this time, Finney had not invited inquirers forward to the "anxious bench." Special meetings of inquiry were held, however, which, though largely attended, were characterized by no culpable irregularities. In these meetings the attendants were conversed with individually, and were given such instruction as their cases seemed to require; special care was taken not to protract the meetings to undue length. It is important to notice, also, that Mr. Gillett speaks of the converts as appearing "as well as, if not better than in former revivals," and, instead of having to refer to dissensions among the people, he says that "the church is blessed with peace and harmony."

Reporting upon the work in Utica, Rev. Mr. Aiken refers to Finney's plain, pungent, and faithful preaching as attended with wonderful success, and makes special mention of the fact that the meetings were not characterized by noise and confusion, but, on the contrary, by great solemnity and stillness. He says, however, that there had been noise, and "no small stir about these things," but all this was made by the enemies of the revivals. He reckons the converts in Utica as upwards of five hundred, and says that after the lapse of eight months there had not been a single case of apostasy among them. Mr. Aiken makes honorable mention of Rev. Mr. Nash as Finney's assistant. For the sake of correcting misrepresentations, he adds that the means employed were essentially the same as those used by Whitefleld, Edwards, and Brainerd in the revivals in which they were engaged. Among the doctrines prominently preached, he enumerates the authority of the Bible, the enmity of the human heart towards God and its need of regeneration, the love and sovereignty of God, and "justification by faith alone. These truths were preached constantly, and immediate repentance urged." He closes his report by saying that, though "some few individuals may have differed as to measures," the large church, as a body, was most happily and constantly united throughout the entire work. Rev. S. W. Brace, pastor of the Second Church in Utica, is equally emphatic in his expressions of satisfaction with the results of Finney's work in the city.

Rev. John Frost, of Whitesborough, reports about three hundred conversions, with only one instance of backsliding. In answer to current misrepresentations, he says that "peculiar care had been taken to have all meetings closed at a seasonable hour," and that "the whole strain of preaching had been far from what is usually denominated 'declamatory' or 'oratorical.'" Within the bounds of the Presbytery, fifteen hundred persons had united that year with Congregational or Presbyterian churches, and Mr. Frost expresses himself as confident that ministers and churches had exhibited as much wisdom and discretion as had been exhibited in any revival of which he had had knowledge.

The committee add in a note that "the labors of Rev. Mr. Finney have been pre-eminently blessed in promoting this revival," and bear their testimony that "his Christian character since he made a profession of religion has been irreproachable." They further describe him as possessing "a discriminating and well-balanced mind," as having "a good share of courage and decision," as being naturally of a good temper, "frank and magnanimous in his deportment, ardent and persevering in the performance of the duties of his office," and as exhibiting "as much discretion and judgment as those who may think him deficient in those qualities would do, did they possess his zeal and activity;" adding that they believe him to be, "on the whole, as well calculated to be extensively useful in promoting revivals as any man of whom they have any knowledge."

Dr. Nevin, in his celebrated "Tract for the Times on the Anxious Bench," printed fifteen or sixteen years after these revivals, referring to the "great religious movement over which Finney presided" at this time, says that "years of faithful pastoral service on the part of a different class of ministers, working in a wholly different style, have hardly yet sufficed to restore to something like spiritual fruitfulness and beauty the field in northern New York over which the system passed, as a wasting fire, in the fullness of its strength."(7) But such is not the testimony of those best informed upon the subject. On the contrary, Dr. Fowler, to whose work we have already referred, says of the revivals that, so far from their leaving the region unfruitful and barren in after years, so as to be worthy of being called a burnt district, "central New York has since been the land of revival. The dews of heaven and its copious showers have seemed to fall continuously upon it," so that all the institutions of religion have flourished. According to the same authority, also, Dr. Aiken wrote, in 1871, "After forty years I am persuaded that it was the work of God;" and in 1856, Dr. Lansing bore testimony that the influence of the revivals had continued to that time for good in every respect.(8)

It is not surprising that so great a movement presented special difficulties to the contemporary historian; for it was necessarily connected with considerable incidental evil, and local observers were not so well prepared to gauge the relative amount of this as is the historian of a later date. In the case under review apprehensions were raised as to the ultimate influence of the innovations made by Finney in the mode of conducting revival meetings among the Presbyterian and Congregational churches. There was doubt, also, as to the full significance of his doctrinal innovations. Rev. William R. Weeks, pastor of the Congregational church at Paris Hill, was specially prominent in criticism. Mr. Weeks was an ardent defender of the theological scheme of Emmons, and at this stage of Finney's course naturally failed to see the points of resemblance between his fundamental ideas and those of the great New England leader. The points of difference, however, were apparent enough, and were magnified beyond all proper proportions. Mr. Weeks seems to have kept up a pretty busy correspondence with the religious leaders of New England, besides maintaining a good degree of activity in the publication of pamphlets and newspaper articles. The grave apprehensions of so prominent and able a man naturally made a considerable impression upon the outside world, with which Finney had the misfortune of being unacquainted, while in his antecedent history there was nothing of itself to command their favorable judgment.

As will have been perceived, many of the scenes in connection with Finney's labors were extraordinary, and easily invited misunderstanding; and though in general they were justified by the attendant circumstances, and especially by the remarkable gifts and graces of the preacher, these circumstances could not be fully understood except by those who were on the ground, and it was a very easy matter for unfriendly hands to caricature the man and his work, and thus create a false impression. In addition to this hazard, there was also the liability of confusing in one view the work of Finney and that of his weak imitators; and this was not altogether unfair, since it is true that, to a certain extent, a leader in social, religious, and doctrinal changes is responsible for the extravagances and misunderstandings of his followers. Time alone can fully test the wisdom of a reformer's action. His measures are not fully tested until they have gone to seed in his disciples.

At the same time, while the evangelical party was alarmed in view of the unmeasured forces which were being set at liberty in the Presbyterian and Congregational churches, there was a still more bitter opposition on the part of those belonging to unsympathetic communions, and on the part of many irreligious people who were opposed to all revivals. An instance of this has already been related in connection with Finney's labors at Auburn, when a most influential portion of the community withdrew in a body from the church where he was preaching, and united in the support of a new Presbyterian church in which the preaching should be less pungent and the exhortations less urgent. Yet, as we have related, these protestants united in a body, a few years later, to urge Finney to stop and preach to them, and, almost to a man, were converted under his preaching.

Among other things, Finney was charged with advertising his meetings by sensational handbills, on one of which, it was claimed, there was a fearful picture of the judgment day. It is needless to say that this was entirely without foundation. About that time, and somewhere in that neighborhood, an ill-balanced Methodist minister had inserted such a picture in his own advertisement. That was all. It had no connection, direct or indirect, with Finney. It was generally reported, also, that it was the custom in Oneida County to whip children to make them Christians. This report obtained wide circulation through the ill-guarded remark of President Davis, of Hamilton College, who had in some letter referred to an isolated case of such punishment, adding, however, the ominous remark that he did not think there was any church "a majority of whose members would not oppose it."(9) On making inquiry, the Presbytery found that one misguided woman had been guilty of such an unseemly act, but that she had immediately repented of it and most grievously bemoaned it. There was no other basis for the report.

About this time, also, a much-quoted pamphlet was issued by a prominent member of the Unitarian church of Trenton, New York, entitled "A 'Bunker Hill' Contest, A. D. 1826, between the Holy Alliance for the Establishment of Hierarchy and Ecclesiastical Dominion over the Human Mind, on the one side; and the Asserters of Free Inquiry, Bible Religion, Christian Freedom, and Civil Liberty, on the other. The Rev. Charles Finney, 'Home Missionary' and High Priest of the Expeditions of the Alliance in the Interior of New York. Head Quarters, County of Oneida."

In the letters that went thick and fast to the leaders of religious thought in New England, as well as in the pamphlets and newspaper articles published at the time, it was freely charged that Finney was given to holding meetings at unseasonable hours; that he was harsh and rude in his treatment of settled pastors who did not heartily support him; that he encouraged the habit of praying for people by name in public assemblies without their consent; that, as indispensable to the promotion of a revival, he encouraged the practice of women praying in promiscuous assemblies; and that he himself was irreverent in his prayers, and reckless in the use of whatever means would produce immediate results.

As illustrating the extent to which the personal sentiments and sympathies of the reporter affect his account of a discourse, it is interesting to compare the report of one of Finney's sermons as given by Mr. Brockway, a disaffected member of Dr. Beman's church in Troy,(10) and a report of the same sermon as given by Professor Park, of Andover. Among Mr. Brockway's complaints against Beman was that he had "introduced into his pulpit the notorious Charles G. Finney, whose shocking blasphemies, novel and repulsive sentiments, and theatrical and frantic gesticulations struck horror into those who entertained any reverence either for religion or decency." He complained, likewise, that Finney, in preaching on the text, "One mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. ii. 5), "after describing the language of the redeemed in heaven as being 'Not unto us, but unto thy name be the glory,'" burst out with the following objectionable language: "We shall see the Restorationists come smoking and fuming out of hell to the gates of heaven, which being opened, they will say, I Stand away, you old saints of God! We have paid our own debt! We have a better right here than you! And you too, Jesus Christ, stand one side! Get out of our way! No thanks to you, our being here: we came here on our merits.' . . . Why, sinner, I tell you, if you could climb to heaven, you would hurl God from his throne! Yes, hurl God from his throne! Oh, yes, if you could but get there, you would cut God's throat! Yes, you would cut God's throat!" By the time the report reached Dr. Nettleton, it was embellished with the statement that Finney said that the sinner would climb to heaven "on a streak of lightning" to hurl God from his throne.

The following is the account of substantially the same discourse as written out for me by Professor Park, who heard the sermon three or four years later at Andover: -

"The exercises at the Anniversary of Andover Theological Seminary in the year 1831 were seriously interrupted by the fact that Rev. Mr. Finney preached in the village church on the evenings of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, the evenings devoted to some of the main exercises of the theological students in the Seminary Chapel. There was a decided opposition to Mr. Finney among the professors and the students of the Seminary, but his fame was so great that we were compelled to give up our exercises on those evenings. We regarded it as certain that he would draw away our auditors. Forty-two orations had been committed to memory by the class, but, in consequence of Mr. Finney's sudden invasion, nearly half of them were necessarily given up. On the last evening of our anniversary exercises, the Rev. Justin Edwards, D.D., then a favorite preacher in New England, was to deliver a discourse before, the alumni of the Seminary. Only thirty persons assembled in our chapel to hear him. His expected auditors had gone down to hear Mr. Finney at the village church. That church was thronged. In the midst of the crowd were between two and three hundred men who were already, or were soon to be, preachers of the gospel. In addressing this large and unique multitude Mr. Finney was more highly excited than I had ever seen him before, or have ever seen him since. His discourse was one which could never be printed, and could not easily be forgotten. The eloquence of it cannot be appreciated by those who did not hear it. His text was 1 Timothy ii. 5, 'One mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.' His sermon was just one hundred minutes long. It held the unremitting attention of his hearers, even of those who had opposed his interference with our Seminary exercises. It abounded with sterling argument and with startling transitions. It was too earnest to be called theatrical, but in the best sense of the word it was called dramatic. Some of his rhetorical utterances are indescribable. I will allude to one of them, but I know that my allusion to it will give no adequate idea of it.

"He was illustrating the folly of men who expect to be saved on the ground of justice; who think that they may, perhaps, be punished after death, but when they have endured all the penalty which they deserve they will be admitted to heaven. He was appealing to the uniform testimony of the Bible that the men who are saved at all are saved by grace, they are pardoned, their heaven consists in glorifying the vicarious atonement by which their sins were washed away. He was describing the jar which the songs of the saints would receive if any intruder should claim that he had already endured the penalty of the divine law. The tones of the preacher then became sweet and musical as he repeated the words of the 'ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a great voice, Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might, and honor, and glory, and blessing.' No sooner had he uttered the word 'blessing' than he started back, turned his face from the mass of the audience before him, fixed his glaring eyes upon the gallery at his right hand, and gave all the signs of a man who was frightened by a sudden interruption of the divine worship. With a stentorian voice he cried out: 'What is that I see? What means that rabble-rout of men coming up here? Hark! Hear them shout? Hear their words: "Thanks to hell-fire! We have served out our time. Thanks! Thanks! WE HAVE SERVED OUT OUR TIME. THANKS TO HELL-FIRE!"' Then the preacher turned his face from the side gallery, looked again upon the mass of the audience, and after a lengthened pause, during which a fearful stillness pervaded the house, he said in gentle tones: Is this the spirit of the saints? Is this the music of the upper world? "And every created thing which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and on the sea, and all things that are in them, heard I saying, Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the dominion, for ever and ever. And the four living creatures said, Amen."' During this dramatic scene five or six men were sitting on a board which had been extemporaneously brought into the aisle and extended from one chair to another. I was sitting with them. The board actually shook beneath us. Every one of the men was trembling with excitement. The power of the whole sermon was compressed into that vehement utterance. It is more than fifty-eight years since I listened to that discourse. I remember it well. I can recall the impression of it as distinctly as I could a half-century ago; but if every word of it were on the printed page, it would not be the identical sermon of the living preacher."

Upon Lyman Beecher and Asahel Nettleton, as the most prominent leaders in the revival efforts which had been so successful in New England, was thrown the responsibility of endeavoring to check the evils threatening to attend the spread of what were supposed to be Finney's ideas and methods of revival work. Mr. Beecher was at this time at the height of his influence in Boston, where his labors had for some years been accompanied with an almost continuous revival. Mr. Nettleton was everywhere held in the highest esteem, and was equally honored for the evangelical character of his doctrines, the conservatism of his methods, and the good results following his preaching. But, though he was still in the prime of life, his health had been so shattered two or three years before by typhus fever that he was at that time, and ever after, unable to bear the strain of continuous and severe work. In this sensitive condition of his nerves, he was unduly affected, as it would seem, by the reports which came to him concerning the irregularities attending Finney's labors, and felt called upon to do his utmost to restrict their spread and influence.

In pursuance of this end, as already related, it was arranged that he should come to Albany in the winter of 1826-27, and there devote what strength he could to the promotion of a revival according to his own approved methods. While here be prepared a letter, addressed to the Rev. Dr. Aiken, of Utica, recounting the evil reports which he had heard concerning the revivals connected with Finney's preaching in central New York. This letter was not published at that time, but, as he afterwards admitted, it was shown to about twenty leading ministers, and had their private approval. A copy of it was then forwarded to Dr. Aiken in Utica, and to how many others is not known. As was expected, Dr. Aiken's copy was shown to Finney at the time referred to in the preceding narrative. In this letter it is stated that -

"The spirit of denunciation which has grown out of the mode of conducting the revivals of the West is truly alarming! The church at H- has been in a complete turmoil all summer long, occasioned by a student in divinity who had heard Mr. Finney." (In a note, however, Nettleton admits that he is not sure the student had heard Finney. But that was surmised.) "He went about trying to raise a party to 'break down the pastor,' as he called it. A desperate attempt to introduce the practice of females praying with males raised an angry dispute which lasted all summer. And they had a revival of anger in the church, but no more conversions. This account I had from the lips of the minister of the place, his wife, and session. The evil is running in all directions. A number of churches have experienced a revival of anger, wrath, malice, envy, and evil-speaking, without the knowledge of a single conversion, - merely in consequence of a desperate attempt to introduce these new measures. . . . The friends of brother Finney are certainly doing him and the cause of Christ great mischief. They seem more anxious to convert ministers and Christians to their peculiarities than to convert souls to Christ. . . . They dared not attempt to correct any of their irregularities for fear of doing mischief, and of being denounced as enemies of revivals. This I know to be the fact.

"Brother Finney himself has been scarcely three years in the ministry, and has had no time to look at the consequences. He has gone, with all the zeal of a young convert, without a friend to check or guide him. And I have no doubt that he begins with astonishment to look at the evils which are running before him. . . . He has got ministers to agree with him only by 'crushing' or 'breaking them down.' . . . An elder writes: 'I have been fairly skinned by the demonstrations of these men, and have ceased to oppose them, to get rid of their noise.' The phrases 'blistered,' 'skinned,' and 'broken down,' and 'crushed,' were coined and are current only among the friends of the new measures. This language I took from their own lips. . . . They do cultivate and awaken in others what very much resembles the passion of anger, wrath, malice, envy, and evil-speaking. This is the inevitable consequence of their style of preaching. As Dr. Griffin observed, it sounds like the accredited language of profanity, or, as a pious woman of color in Troy expressed it, 'I do wonder what has got into all the ministers to swear so in the pulpit.'

"Now these means are very simple, and just such as everybody can use, male and female. Who cannot call his minister stupid and dead, and pray for him by name as such? and if be gets mad, and all the church too, no matter for that. The more opposition the better. This is certainly the way to have a revival, for it is Mr. Finney's method, and he has the sanction of such men as Mr. Lansing and Aiken and others. They did not believe in such methods at first, but they have been broken down. . . . Some students of divinity and others, in their attempts to imitate brother Finney, have reminded us of the conduct and success of the seven sons of Sceva, who undertook to imitate Paul in Acts xix.

"The practice of females praying in promiscuous assemblies is considered as absolutely indispensable, so that nothing can be done without it. I am sorry to say that some young men have been considered as acting amorously foolish on this subject. Some of my brethren have been absolutely insulted by females on this subject.

"In the language of Dr. Griffin [then President of Williams College], 'It [the new Western measures] is complete radicalism. The means which it is said have been so successful at the West have been so caricatured by the ignobile vulgus in religion, running before brother Finney into every city and town, far and near, that I am sure he must labor under prodigious disadvantage in all these places, without shifting the entire mode of his attack."' "Whoever," Nettleton goes on to say, "introduces the practice of females praying in promiscuous assemblies, let the practice once become general, will early find to his sorrow that he has made an inlet to other denominations, and entailed an everlasting quarrel on those churches generally."

From many pastors at the West there is said to come up the cry, "Brother Nettleton, do come into this region and help us, for many things are becoming current among us which I cannot approve. And I can do nothing to correct them, but I am immediately shamed out of it by being denounced as an enemy of revivals.'

"So," he continues, "the bad must be defended with the good. This sentiment adopted will certainly ruin revivals. It is the language of a novice; it is just as the Devil would have it. If the friends of revivals dare not correct their own faults, who will do it for them? I know no such policy. I would no more dare to defend in the gross than condemn in the gross.

"Irregularities are prevailing so fast, and assuming such a character in our churches, as infinitely to overbalance the good that is left. The practice of praying for people by name. . . . as it now exists in many places, has become, in the eye of the Christian community at large, an engine of public slander in the worst form. For Zion's sake, I wish to save brother Finney from a course which I am confident will greatly retard his usefulness before he knows it. It is no reflection on his talents or piety that in his zeal to save souls he should adopt every measure which promises present success, regardless of consequences, nor, after a fair experiment in so noble a cause, to say, 'I have pushed some things beyond what they will bear.' The most useful lessons are learned by experience."

Such was the alarm felt by a large portion of the best Christian people in New England.

At this juncture Finney issued his first printed sermon, which added no little fuel to the flame. This was upon the text, "How can two walk together except they be agreed?" (Amos ii. 3.) It was originally preached in Utica, but was afterwards repeated in the Presbyterian church, Troy, March 4, 1827, and was published by request of the session.

The sermon is not doctrinal, but is based on the theory of Edwards, that virtue consists in a movement of the affections, and that its degree is to be measured by the strength of the affections. It was directed against those who were "at ease in Zion," and the preacher both assumed and asserted that the opposition to the revival arose from a low state of the religious affection on the part of the opponents. In defending this position, Finney argued that it is impossible to be interested in the words of a speaker whose "tone of feeling" on the subject under consideration is lower than our own, and, on the other hand, if the speaker's own feelings are aroused to a more exalted pitch than those of his hearers, they equally fail to be interested in his words. The hearers then set it down as enthusiasm, and are displeased with the warmth of expression "in which their own affections refuse to participate. Present to the ardent politician his favorite subject in his favorite light," he says, "and, when it has engaged his affections, touch it with the fire of eloquence, cause it to burn and blaze before his mind, and you delight him greatly. But change your style and tone, let down your fire and feeling, turn the subject over, present it in a drier light, he at once loses nearly all his interest, and becomes uneasy at the descent. Now change the subject, introduce death and solemn judgment, he is shocked and stunned; press him with them, he is disgusted and offended."(11)

Dr. Nettleton refers to this sermon with a good deal of feeling, accepting the theory that it was prepared with reference to him, and to the opposition to new measures of which he had become the representative; and a perusal of the sermon, in the light of the criticisms which Finney and his measures were then undergoing, does, indeed, make it probable that it was designed for a defense of himself and of his work against various forms of opposition, but there are no personal allusions in it. Nettleton objected to the sermon on the ground that Finney makes no distinction between true and false zeal, and that therefore the view encou