President Finney of Oberlin

John Muir of Liverpool


John Muir believed in the ministry of Charles Finney, though wasn't a complete fan of Finney, nor should anyone be. Finney was an innovator, called people to repentence in ways that other pastors did not feel comfortable doing, had his own views on the Atonement, and possibly saw his own revival work in more glowing terms that was sometimes warranted. He wasn't shy about criticizing what he felt were deficits in the ministry of other pastors. As a result, he was admired and reviled. However, the results of his revival work were real and enduring and made a significant difference in churches of many denominations—few if any denied the work that went on.. His Lectures on Revival book were also extremely helpful and also one of the more important books to read on revival. Accordingly this short sketch of his life and ministry fills in many helpful details.—Dan

President Finney of Oberlin

His Early Years

Charles G. Finney was born in Connecticut in 1792.  Till he was twenty-six years of age, he seems to have enjoyed no religious advantages. At that time, however, he went to the town of Adams, Jefferson County, New York, and entered the law-office of a Squire W.

His Conversion

The preaching of the Rev. George W. Gale, a Presbyterian minister who had been educated at Princeton, brought Finney to face the question of his religious state. He attended the prayer-meeting. He bought a Bible, his first, to look out references to it which he found in law-books. He opposed the doctrines preached by Mr. Gale, and criticized his sermons. But Mr. Gale was evidently a singularly good and humble soul, and frequently conversed with Finney. The elders of the church conversed with him. He continued to read his Bible. He became thoroughly restless. In one of the prayer-meetings, he was asked if he did not desire to be prayed for. He said “No.” He did not see that God ever answered their prayers, therefore what would be the use of their praying for him?

He came, however, to the conclusion that the Bible was the “Word of God.” He was deeply moved. He must settle the question whether he would choose Christ or the world; he must settle it soon.

An inward voice seemed to ask him in his misery: “What are you waiting for? Did you not promise to give your heart to God? And what are you trying to do? Are you endeavouring to work out a righteousness of your own?”

Just at that point the reality and fulness of the atonement broke upon his mind. He saw that, instead of having to do anything himself, he had to submit himself to the righteousness of God in Christ. “Gospel salvation seemed to me to be an offer of something to be accepted, and that it was full and complete, and that all that was necessary on my part was to get my own consent to give up my sins and accept Christ.”

He had stopped in the street during the time “this distinct revelation had stood before his mind.” The question came to him: Would he accept this offer of salvation to-day? He replied: “Yes; I will accept it, or I will die in the attempt.”

Encountering God in the Woods and the Office

He went to a wood. He was tortured, not by the belief that it was rash in him to have made any such vow, but by the discovery of his pride; for he felt afraid lest some one should come upon him and find him on his knees. Then a passage of Scripture came to his mind— “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.” Promise after promise came to him, and he continued praying and taking the promises to himself till he found his mind free of anxiety about his salvation. He feared that he might have grieved away the Spirit, and committed the unpardonable sin.

In the evening of the same day he was alone in the office. He felt a great need upon him. “All my feeling seemed to rise and flow out, and the utterance of my heart was: I want to pour out my soul to God. The rising of my soul was so great that I rushed into the room behind the front office to pray. There was no fire and no light in the room, nevertheless it appeared to me as if it were perfectly light. I went in, and shut the door after me, it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. It did not occur to me then, nor did it for some time afterward, that it was wholly a mental state. On the contrary, it seemed to me that I saw him as I would see any other man. He said nothing, but looked at me in such a manner as to break me right down at his feet.”

Finney found that a considerable time had passed, for when he went back into the front office, the large fire he had made had nearly burned out. As he turned to sit down by the fire “the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed, it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love, for I could not express it in any other way. It seemed like the very breath of God. I can recollect distinctly that it seamed to fan me like immense wings.” He felt that he was unable to bear more, and that, if this continued, he should die. The same experience was repeated the next morning.

Called to Gospel Ministry

Previously, when he had thought of becoming a Christian, he felt that he could not give up his profession. Now, he felt that he could do nothing but preach the gospel.

Finney began at once to speak to men. Such was the force of the man that his conversion moved all [everyone] about him. For a long time there was a prayer-meeting every night; and when the Christian people began to be remiss in attending a morning prayer-meeting, Finney used to go round to the most likely and knock them up, getting them to the meeting-house before there was light enough to read. The Rev. Mr. Gale attended these morning meetings.

Having refused to go to Princeton, Finney was permitted by the Presbytery of the bounds to carry on his theological studies under the care of Mr. Gale; and in 1824 he was licensed to preach the gospel.

A Life Sketch

It may be well, at this point, to give an outline of Finney's life. In this way we shall be left free to describe his modes of work, which naturally furnish the chief matter of interest.

Revival Work

Down to the year 1832 Mr. Finney laboured as an evangelist, visiting various parts of the country,—such as Antwerp, Gouverneur, Rome, Utica, Auburn, Troy, New Lebanon, Wilmington, Philadelphia, New York, Rochester, Buffalo, Providence, Boston. At these places he laboured for longer or shorter periods—sometimes a few weeks, sometimes for several months. In 1832 he became pastor of the Second Free Presbyterian Church in New York, one of several congregations which were formed of people who did not attend the other churches. In 1834, apparently, the Tabernacle in Broadway was built. Those who built it wished it to be a Congregational place of worship, and offered the pastorate to Mr. Finney; who thereupon handed his resignation to his Presbytery, and they accepted it. It is worth noting that during the building of the Tabernacle a report got abroad that it was to be an “amalgamation church”—that is, that black as well as white members were to be admitted. This produced great excitement, and the building was set on fire.

It was in the winter before he joined the Congregational body that Finney gave his well-known lectures on revivals. They were preached and reported to resuscitate the New York Evangelist, at that time in very low water because of the side it took on the Slavery question. These lectures were largely printed and sold in this country [England],  both in English and Welsh. They were also widely circulated in Europe and the British Colonies. They have naturally fallen somewhat out of sight, but they will doubtless, in connection with the Autobiography, anew attract the attention they so well deserve. In fact, for freshness, straight speaking, and deep conviction, there is little religious reading to compare with Finney's lectures. They are worth having for the style alone.

Oberlin College

While he was at work in New York, he had many applications from young men to give them regular training in theology. About the same time Lane Seminary was broken up by the action of the trustees; who, without regard to the authority of the Faculty, prohibited the discussion of the Slavery question. A deputation waited on Finney—who had at the time in his hands an invitation to be professor of theology in another college—to ask him to go to Oberlin and act there as professor of theology, taking the Lane students, who had promised to go to Oberlin provided Finney accepted the call to the professorship. 

Finney agreed to go on two conditions: the first was, that the trustees should not be allowed to interfere with the internal management of the school, but should leave that to the Faculty; the second was, that coloured students should be admitted as well as white. These conditions were agreed to; and Mr. Finney, proposing to spend his winters in New York with his congregation, and his summers at Oberlin, went thither in 1835.

This arrangement lasted a few years, when Finney was forced, by the effect his incessant toil had on his health, to resign the pastorate of Broadway Tabernacle.

It was at Oberlin that Finney, with his fellow professor, Rev. Asa Mahan, adopted the views of the “higher Christian life,” which have recently attracted so much attention in this country. But they seem to have entered very little into his regular work.

Visits to England

He visited England in 1849. He seems to have laboured chiefly among the Congregationalists. It is worth noting—in contrast to the policy of a greater American evangelist—that he missed the opportunity of extending his influence, by refusing an offer made of a large movable place of worship to hold five or six thousand people. He might thus have gone from place to place identifying himself with no one section of English Christians. Though he visited England a second time—in 1858—it is remarkable how little his name or repute is known even among outstanding Christian people. This second visit lasted till August 1860. He even went to Scotland; but soon left it again, as he found that his fortuitous association with the small body known as the Evangelical Union excluded him from general labours.

After 1860 Mr. Finney was unable for itinerary evangelistic labour. He toiled on at Oberlin as professor, and pastor of the First Church, seeking to secure the conversion as well as the theological instruction of the students. He resigned his pastorate in 1872; but completed his last course of lectures only a few days before his death, which occurred at Oberlin in August 1875, when he was almost eighty-three.

Fitness For and Methods of Working

Enough has been said to show that Finney brought a comparatively mature mind to bear on such orderly theological training as he enjoyed. For another, for a younger man, it might not have done much; but Finney's was a keen, highly irritable mind—to use a word in the sense in which it is applied to living tissues—and though he lacked university training, his argumentative pupilage to Mr. Gale seems to have done a good deal for him. If his original and independent spirit might have been the better of regular and ordinary discipline, it is a question whether it would have submitted to it.

Spiritual Intensity

His great fitness for the work he did was in the intensity of his spiritual emotion. He was capable, as is shown by the account of his conversion already given, of that utter absorption in God, examples of which are found in the experiences of Edwards, Flavel, and the Mystics. The Spirit of God comes upon him. He agonizes in prayer. As he prays, God gives him a conviction that he will convert this soul or powerfully revive this place. It is sometimes more than a conviction— it is a “revelation.” He has no further doubt, and he “takes hold of the work.” He will even send a message to prepare the brethren for what is coming.

The Spirit of Prayer

As the spirit of prayer is characteristic of Finney, we must quote a passage here which reminded us of a pamphlet a friend once showed the present writer. It was an account of the trial of the Rev. William Burns before the Presbytery of Aberdeen. Among the evidence was a report from a newspaper of one of Burns' prayers. A great part of this prayer was sublimity itself, and yet to the reporter it had obviously appeared ludicrous.

Finney says: “For several weeks before I left De Kalb to go to the synod, I was very strongly exercised in prayer, and had an experience that was somewhat new to me. I found myself so much exercised, and so borne down with the weight of immortal souls, that I was constrained to pray without ceasing. Some of my experiences, indeed, alarmed me. A spirit of importunity sometimes came upon me, so that I would say to God that he had made a promise to answer prayer, and I could not and would not be denied. I felt so certain that he would hear me, and that faithfulness to his promises and to himself rendered it impossible that he should not hear and answer, that frequently I found myself saying to Him: 'I hope thou dost not think I can be denied; I come with thy faithful promises in my hand, and I will not be denied.' I cannot tell how absurd unbelief looked to me, and how certain it was in my mind that God would answer prayer—those prayers that from day to day and hour to hour I found myself offering in such agony and faith. I had no idea of the shape the answer would take, the locality in which the prayers would be answered, or the exact time of the answer. My impression was that the answer is near, even at the door, and I felt myself strengthened in the divine life, put on the harness for a mighty conflict with the powers of darkness, and expected soon to see a far more powerful outpouring of the Spirit of God in that country where I was labouring.” At another part of the book he says: “The spirit of prayer came upon me as a sovereign grace, bestowed upon me without the least merit, and in despite of all my sinfulness. He preserved my soul in prayer until I was enabled to prevail, and through infinite riches of grace in Christ Jesus I have been many years witnessing the wonderful results of that day of wrestling with God. In answer to that day's agony, he has continued to give me the spirit of prayer.”

At another time he is “greatly drawn out in prayer” for Boston. His mind is “exercised” on the question of personal holiness, the want in the Church of power with God, the weakness of the faith and helplessness of the Church in a community like Boston, pervaded by Unitarianism and Universalism. He is deeply affected by the fact that so little progress is being made against these errors.

He gets up at four, and often continues praying till eight. He spends his days in reading his Bible. The whole Bible seems ablaze with light, and instinct with the life of God.

A man so moved by the thought of the sin of man against God—a man with such longing for the conversion of souls, with such power and aptness of inner life, would have preached impressively even without the natural gifts which Finney possessed.

Impressive Preaching

That his preaching was impressive in the highest degree is beyond all doubt. He had to the full that divine possession which must be present in all preaching of any worth. The Word of God was as a fire in his bones. It was a relief to him to speak. He drew all kinds of men to hear, and he had great success among the class to which he may be said to have originally belonged—lawyers.

There appear to have been certain doctrines which he wielded with special power. These were the awful guilt of sin against God, and the danger in which sinners stood of eternal damnation. He was also in the habit of preaching the duty of confession to those who had wronged others, and of restitution. This preaching was often accompanied by most surprising effects. In so far as the conversion of sinners was concerned, his grand doctrine was the duty of an immediate surrender of the soul to God, the possibility and the urgency of what has been called “a present” salvation.

Thoughts on His Theology

How far Finney's account of the state of theology and preaching among the “Old School” Presbyterians of America in his youth may be correct we cannot say, but it is necessary to give some idea of it.

According to Finney, the ministers of the time, holding the doctrine of man's natural and moral inability, left the impression on the people that they must wait God's time. If they were elect, in due time the Spirit would convert them; if they were non-elect, nothing they could do for themselves, or that anybody else could do for them, would ever savingly benefit them. The sinner being utterly passive, there was no connection between the means used for his conversion and the end to be attained—in fact, that there were properly no “means,” as conversion was a physical re-creation of the soul by the Holy Ghost; and, as a consequence, Finney could not see in the sermons he was accustomed to hear as a youth any tendency to convert anybody.

On the other hand, Finney held that moral depravity is a voluntary attitude of the mind— that it consists in the committal of the will to the gratification of the lusts of the flesh as opposed to the requirements of the law of God. The work of the Spirit is to convict and to convert the sinner by divine teaching and persuasion.

“I held also that there are means of regeneration, and that the truths of the Bible are in their nature calculated to lead the sinner to abandon his wickedness and turn to God. I held also that there must be in adaptation of means to the end to be secured; that is, that the intelligence must be enlightened, the unreasonableness of moral depravity must be set before the sinner, and its wickedness and ill desert clearly revealed to him; that, when this was done, the mission of Christ could be strongly presented, and could be understood by him; that taking this course with the sinner has a tendency to convert him to Christ; and that when this was faithfully and prayerfully done, we had a right to expect the Holy Spirit to co-operate with us, giving effect to our feeble effort.”

Instant Surrender

As we have said, Finney in his preaching pressed the duty of instant surrender to God. He told his hearers that the Spirit was striving to induce them to enter on a life of devotion to Christ. He taught them that “everything they did or said before they had submitted, believed, given their hearts to God, was all sin—was not that which God required them to do, but was simply deferring repentance, and resisting the Holy Ghost.” He opposed the common idea that the longer the soul remains under the conviction of sin, the more true and sound the conversion; and taught that men in this state were in danger of grieving away the Spirit of God, or of becoming self-righteous at thought of all they had done and suffered to persuade God to save them. And he asserts that many of those who, within the range of his long experience, were “suddenly” converted, have been most influential and consistent Christians. It should be remarked, in connection with the subject of his preaching, that his very common custom was to begin work in a place by aiming at a revival in the “Church,” by reconciling differences by the spirit of prayer; and then, when he had surrounded himself by praying Christian men, to advance upon “the world.”

Cornering Men

His talent as an evangelist lay a good deal in cornering men. He had in many places rough people to deal with, and he adopted rough methods. On one occasion, very early in his career, he produced a profound impression by getting a village to commit itself against Christ. It was in this way. He had preached at the place for two or three weeks, with no apparent result, except pleasing his audience. He thus told them that something either in him or is them was wrong, and that he had come not to please them, but to get them to receive the gospel. If they did not intend to turn to Christ, he wanted to know it, in order that he might go his way, and work for his Master somewhere else. He quoted the words of Eliezer: “Now will you deal kindly and truly with my master? If you will, tell me; and if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.” He asked those who intended to accept Christ to stand up, and those who intended to reject Christ to sit still. No one moved.

“After looking around upon them for a few moments, I said: ‘Then you are committed. You have taken your stand. You have rejected Christ and his gospel; and ye are witnesses one against the other, and God is witness against you all. This is explicit, and you may remember as long as you live that you have thus publicly committed yourselves against the Saviour, and said, We will not have this man to rule over us.’” The angry people got up and started for the door. Finney said that he was sorry for them, and would preach to them once more the next night.

A Baptist deacon and Finney spent the whole of next day in fasting and prayer. The Christian people were utterly dismayed. Threats of riding the preacher on a rail, of tarring and feathering him, were freely uttered. But the upshot of the matter was what Finney calls “a powerful revival in the place.”

Preparing His Sermons

On another occasion, his custom at the outset of his work being not to fix his text, he rose in a strange locality and said: “Up, get you out of this place, for the Lord will destroy this city.” He told the story from which his text was taken, and said that as he understood they had never had a religious meeting in the place, he was right to take it for granted that they were an ungodly people. “I pressed this home upon them with more and more energy, with my heart almost to bursting.”

From anger the congregation passed to solemnity; and then they began to fall from their seats and cry for mercy. Finney had to stop preaching, as no one was listening to him.

It turned out that the place was called Sodom, and that there was only one pious man in it—the man who had invited Mr. Finney to preach—and he was called Lot.

A minister afterwards called on Finney, and told him that he was converted in that meeting.

Inquiry Meetings

Finney's mode of dealing with those anxious about their souls seems to have been very much what has since become familiar in this country. After his meetings he had inquiry meetings, during which he spoke to each person separately, in a low voice; and afterwards, without referring to the difficulties of any individual, gave a general address in which he selected and discussed representative cases.

On one occasion a minister rose in the inquiry meeting, and said: “My friends, you have turned your faces Zionward, and now, I exhort you, press forward.” When Finney rose to sum up the results of the conversations, he said that they must not misunderstand what had been said, which was of those who had given their hearts to God.

It was not true of those who had been convicted, “I had not yet repented, believed, and given their hearts to God. Instead of having their face turned Zionward, they were really turning their backs to Christ, and resisting the Holy Spirit; and that every moment they remained impenitent, without submission to God, they increased their condemnation.

''I kept on in my address until I could see, and until I felt, that the impression made by what had been said had not only been corrected, but that a great pressure was bearing upon them to submit immediately. I then called upon them to kneel down, and then and there commit themselves for ever to the Lord, renouncing all their sins, and giving themselves up to the disposal of sovereign goodness, with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I explained to them as plainly as I could the nature of the atonement and the salvation presented in the gospel. I then prayed with them; and have reason to believe a great number of them were converted on the spot.”

One illustration more will suffice to show Finney's mode of dealing with the anxious.

A poor degraded youth, a quondam student of Princeton, came to Finney. He said he had been in anxiety before, but had been told to continue to read his Bible and pray and press on in duty, and that the Spirit of God would convert him. Finney told him that he had resisted and grieved the Spirit by waiting for God to do what he had commanded him to do. “I tried to show him that by the very nature of the case God could not do for him what he required of him to do. God required him to repent, and God could not repent for him; required him to believe, but God could not believe for him; God required him to submit, but could not submit for him.” The Spirit was leading him to see his sin and urging him to accept the Saviour. This was the Spirit's call to him to lay hold of eternal life then and there.

The Anxious Seat

Finney sometimes made use of the “anxious seat,” on the ground that something was needed to impress those convicted with the idea that they were expected at once to give up their hearts to God and commit themselves publicly to Christ, as they had acted publicly in their sins. Sometimes he called on those convicted to stand up. In Rochester, especially, and in other places also, many of the leading lawyers of the country took the “anxious seat.”

In general, Finney seems to have been successful in keeping his meetings calm. But there were cases of “falling” or being “struck down,” and often the sobs and groans of the people filled the place of meeting. As might be expected from his method, one feature of the spiritual state of those convicted under his preaching was deep conviction of sin; and the converts were marked specially by a spirit of prayer.

As to the reality and influence of one of the revivals in Rochester, in which the district attorney of the city had been converted, the following testimony is given. It is the district attorney who speaks: “I have been examining the records of the criminal courts, and I find this striking fact, that whereas our city has increased since that revival threefold, there are not one-third as many prosecutions for crime as there had been up to that time. This is the wonderful influence that that revival had upon the community.”


Dr. Beecher, who with Nettleton strongly opposed Finney on several occasions, said to him years afterwards, speaking of the Rochester revival: “That was the greatest work of God and the greatest revival of religion that the world has ever seen in so short a time. One hundred thousand were reported as having connected themselves with churches, as the results of that great revival. This is unparalleled in the history of the Church and in the progress of religion.”

It is not worthwhile here to say anything of the opposition of Dr. Lyman Beecher, Nettleton, and others to Finney (which, doubtless, was not groundless), as, according to Finney's own testimony, all the opposition to which he had been exposed ceased, and he received only kindness and good help on all hands. But it is interesting to find that Horace Bushnell sympathized with Finney's work, and gave him his pulpit.

While Finney was in England, a house-to-house canvass was instituted and carried out in Bolton. The canvassers took tracts, and prayed in those houses in which they were permitted to do so. But Finney thought that England was not ready for a powerful revival, because of denominational divisions and jealousies. He seems to have been, as an American, greatly struck by this feature of our social polity. He thought that English preachers, like American, had lost sight, in good measure, of the necessity of pressing present obligations home on the conscience of the people. They constructed their sermons too little with a view of bringing sinners face to face with their present duty to God and God's command to them to repent.

Obtaining a Verdict For Christ

Throughout his career one main idea ruled his preaching. It was the idea of getting a verdict for Christ. He speaks well upon this point in a chapter which, as an old man, he ventures to address to his brethren in the ministry. He quotes what a judge once said to him in conversing about ministers: “Ministers write in too elevated a style, and read without repetition, and are not understood by the people. Now, if lawyers should take such a course, they would ruin themselves and their cause. When I was at the bar, I used to take it for granted, when I had before me a jury of respectable men, that I should have to repeat over my main positions about as many times as there were persons in the jury-box. I learned that unless I so illustrated and repeated and turned the main points over—the main points of law and evidence—I should lose my cause. Our object in addressing a jury is to get their minds settled before they leave the jury-box; not to make a speech in language but partially understood to them; not to let ourselves out in illustrations entirely above their apprehension; not to display our oratory and then let them go; we are set on getting a verdict.”

Finney's manner of preparation was to be constantly turning over in his mind the truths of the gospel. He went among his people to learn their wants. Then fixing on a subject he believed suitable, he thought and prayed much over it till his mind was full of it; then, with nothing but a skeleton written, sometimes before, sometimes after preaching, he would pour it out upon the people, or be “let loose” upon them. He distinctly claimed that his sermons were given to him by the Holy Ghost. In his opinion, many of the plans adopted in the schools are so bad that they have a tendency to spoil the ministers and, as might be supposed, he has no belief in read sermons.

Prayer Support

The Autobiography is singularly devoid of glimpses even of Finney's personal life. It is almost nothing but an account of the revivals of religion in which Finney laboured, written in order to allow the Church to judge of the power and genuineness of the work. Yet here and there, besides the occasional views we have of a striking type of religious life in Finney himself, we have little bits of nature. We read of a Father Nash who prayed with his eyes wide open at the Presbytery meeting at which Finney was license This man was shortly afterwards taken with an inflammation of the offending members, and for weeks shut up in a dark room. He had a “terrible overhauling in his whole Christian experience,” and, as he could neither read nor write, he gave himself up almost entirely to prayer. He afterwards kept a “praying list” of the persons for whom he prayed daily.

We read of another minister, a silent man, who could not attend the meetings. He had an extraordinary gift of prayer. The Spirit of God pressed upon him so, that sometimes he lay before God in speechless agony for souls.

During the revival at Philadelphia, some of the lumbermen, who had come down with timber from the upper waters of the Delaware, attended the meetings. This led to the spread of the revival movement among the distant shanties in which these men lived with their families. Prayer-meetings were started; and one man offered this prayer: “Lord, you have got me down, and I hope you will keep me down! And since you have had so good luck with me, I hope you will try other sinners!” 

Theological Differences

As to Finney's theological position, we are convinced, from evidence supplied abundantly by himself, that he greatly overstates his own divergences from his brethren, and that however extreme may have been the views held in his youth by the “Old School” party in America, he exaggerates them. To illustrate this, he describes the party which licensed him to preach as holding ultra-Calvinistic doctrines, and yet he tells us that they passed him unanimously. We find him sharing a great part of his career as a Presbyterian minister, accepted by and labouring with the Presbyterian ministers of his country. He certainly made startling and indefensible doctrinal statements, but he was bent chiefly on getting men to realize their responsibility and their duty of immediate submission to God. Finney was not in the habit of concealing his opinions, and we can explain his relations with his brethren only by making suppositions creditable to the good sense and right feeling of the regular ministry. They seem to have been in the highest degree willing that they and their flocks should be stirred and awakened. They appear to have been impressed very much as any candid reader of the book before us must be impressed. They felt that Finney “was a true instrument of God prepared for a special purpose; that he had firm hold of the great and main truths—or, rather, they had of him; and that he preached these in such a way as to be signally owned of God. A man of enormous native force, it is only needful to read his book and to study the very careful portrait of him which is opposite the title-page, to see that his success was not in any way dependent on fineness. Look at the fire in his eyes still at eighty, the firmness of his signature, the combined force and nervousness of his mouth. This man never succeeded by understanding other men, but by sweeping them along with him.

In drawing this sketch of the life-work of the Rev. Charles G. Finney to a close, we feel that we have tried to fulfil a somewhat difficult task. Finney's Autobiography is a book which labours under disadvantages. It is a man's evidence to himself; and it is the constantly favourable evidence of a man who was in opposition, but who fancied himself more in opposition to his fellows and less understood by them than he really was. It is a book which must be used with judgment, and which might make weak and senseless people still more intolerable. On the other hand, it contains a great deal to stimulate Christian preachers, and not a little of valuable suggestion as to some kinds of Christian work. It is the story of a notable life, or rather of an unbroken outflow of energy directed to one end. And the story is told in a way which reminds us here and there of the writing of Defoe.

Making all allowance for the fact that the evidence is that of the main actor, we conclude that Charles G. Finney was a true man and a true servant of God, who did a great work in his time, a work of which the effects remain in the American Church to-day. We cannot avoid the conviction, further, that “revival” work is a real movement of God's Spirit on men; for while the doctrines specially accentuated, the modes used, and the manifestations attending, are various, the general results are singularly the same. Men may take their station at very different parts of the circle of divine truth, and yet be the means of the revival of religion. For the qualifications which enable a man to be so used of God seem to be a matter not so much of special doctrine or method as of personal faith, force, and unction.

John James Muir, “President Finney of Oberlin,” The Family Treasury, (London: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1876), pp. 390-397