“One of the most remarkable experiences of Mr. Finney’s evangelistic work occurred in a district in New York that was so ungodly that it was nicknamed “Sodom.” There was only one godly man in the place and they called him “Lot.” This man invited Mr. Finney to preach in a schoolhouse in the community but said nothing to him about the place being called, “Sodom.” When Mr. Finney arrived on the scene the building was filled to overflowing. The evangelist cried to God to give him the message that would make the deepest impression upon the hearts of the people that were present. The Lord, by his Spirit, gave him a strong suggestion that he should speak on the wickedness of Sodom. The evangelist obeyed the leading of the Lord and began to speak. He had not been speaking long until he noticed a strange commotion among the people. He tells of his experience as follows:
“I had not spoken to them more than a quarter of an hour, when all at once an awful solemnity seemed to settle down upon them; the congregation began to fall from their seats in every direction, and cried for mercy. If I had had a sword in each hand, I could not have cut them off their seats as fast as they fell. Indeed nearly the whole congregation were either on their knees or prostrate, I should think, in less than two minutes from this ﬁrst shock that fell upon them. Every one prayed for himself, who was able to speak at all.
“Of course I was obliged to stop preaching; for they no longer paid any attention. I saw the old man who had invited me there to preach, sitting about in the middle of the house, and looking around with utter amazement. I raised my voice almost to a scream, to make him hear, and pointing to him said, ‘Can’t you pray?’ He instantly fell upon his knees, and with a stentorian voice poured himself out to God; but he did not at all get the attention of the people. I then spake as loudly as I could, and tried to make them attend to me. I said to them, ‘You are not in hell yet; and now let me direct you to Christ.’ For a few moments I tried to hold forth the Gospel to them; but scarcely any of them paid any attention. My heart was so overflowing with joy at such a scene that I could hardly contain myself. It was with much difﬁculty that I refrained from shouting, and giving glory to God.
“As soon as I could sufﬁciently control my feelings I turned to a young man who was close to me, and was engaged in praying for himself, laid my hand on his shoulder, thus getting his attention, and preached in his ear Jesus. As soon as I got his attention to the cross of Christ, he believed, was calm and quiet for a minute or two, and then broke out in praying for others. I then turned to another, and took the same course with him, with the same result; and then another, and another.
“There was too much interest, and there were too many wounded souls, to dismiss the meeting; and so it was held all night. In the morning there were still those there that could not get away; and they were carried to a private house in the neighborhood, to make room for the school. In the afternoon they sent for me to come down there, as they could not yet break up the meeting.” Sometimes the Spirit of God seemed to hover, in a very remarkable manner, over the community where many souls were being convicted and saved. In speaking of his revival meetings at Utica, New York, Mr. Finney says: “Our meetings were crowded every night, and the work went on powerfully. The place became filled with the manifest influence of the Holy Spirit.”
George Davis, When the Fire Fell