Prof. Finney was a strong and true man. He was a young lawyer when converted, and at once was endowed with such power from on high, that he became mighty to persuade men to be reconciled to God. The Presbyterian church at that time stood in great need of reformation, and God elected him to lead in the work. The whole ministry soon felt his influence; even those who objected to his measures became more spiritual through the effects of his labors. He always attributed his success to the power of the Holy Spirit which dwelt within him, and contended that the same gift was available to all, if they would only consecrate their all to Christ, and believe with an unwavering faith. Sometimes, he himself became complacent, self-reliant, as if the strength came from his own endowments. Then he would argue with great skill, wield a tremendous logic, but no one was moved; his words were sounding brass. The reason was obvious, he often mentioned it; there was too much of Finney, and the Spirit was quenched. When Finney went down, self-trust yielded to consecration, and the whole soul was opened to the "King of Glory," then the power returned, his words cut with marvelous sharpness, and the strongest unbelievers submitted to Christ.
He believed in the power of a consecrated church. His theory was that a saved church would soon result in a converted world. Hence his first effort in all places was to get the church right. He would often preach for weeks to Christians to prepare the way for saving sinners, and with wonderful skill probe every conscience, expose false hopes, tear away refuges of lies, search out the hiding places of worldly professors, bring the proud, selfish, and disobedient to the confessional, force wrong doers to make restitution of goods, rectify wrongs, confess injuries, reconcile difficulties, do justice. He "searched Israel as with a lighted candle," "broke up the fallow ground," brought men to their faces before the Lord in self-abnegation and brokenness of heart, and then followed a tremendous attack upon the unconverted, and sweeping harvests of souls. No preacher, since John the Baptist, so quickened the conscience, and laid bare the enormities of sin, as did Mr. Finney. He made people feel that the word of God is, indeed, "quick, and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword."
The whole church of Christ has been benefited by his labors. Ministers and churches have clearer and higher ideas of Christian responsibilities and privileges than prevailed before. He opened up certain lines of thought which had been too much neglected, and changed the whole style of preaching in the Calvinistic denominations. Instead of perpetually hammering upon decrees, secret purposes, election, and the unknown, the practical truths of the Gospel were brought to notice, and piety began to improve. This was the beginning of a new era of spiritual life.
Mr. Finney's theory of sanctification was intensely metaphysical, and depended upon, revolved around, and exalted the human will above any other system of theology ever promulgated. He magnified man's ability to choose, his duty to choose, the great value of choice, the absolute purity of a right choice and absolute iniquity of a wrong one, and made choice the pivot of salvation. He was most emphatically a "freewiller," and imposed tremendous responsibility upon man to fix and hold his will in absolute loyalty to Christ. We always felt that this point was pressed so hard as to mar the concord of his teachings, and lead to a phase of legalism not quite consonant with the scheme of grace. Yet, when he opened up the helpful side of the Gospel, as he often did, Christ, as our refuge and keeper, was set forth with great fullness and force. He was mighty in the Scriptures, and contributed largely to the spiritual strength of the saints. He lived as he preached, and fully ripe, was gathered to his Lord.
Baptist Union, quoted in Friends' Review: A Religious, Literary and Miscellaneous Journal, Volume 29, edited by Samuel Rhoads, Enoch Lewis, (Philadelphia: Culbertson & Bache Printers, 1875-1876), pp. 91-92.