“When the Bench and Bar of Rochester, New York, united in a written request to Mr. Finney to deliver a series of lectures for their especial benefit, he was warned that they were mostly Deists, and not particularly concerned about their soul's salvation; that they had all read Tom Paine and did not believe in the Bible; and that many of them signed just out of curiosity to hear what kind of an argument a lawyer could put up for religion. Mr. Finney accepted the challenge, took the Bible from its place on the pulpit and said he would not replace it, until they were convinced in their hearts that it ought to be there and that they needed it.
"He awakened in every mind a conviction of sin; the certainty that an omniscient God must know and disapprove of it; the certainty that a just God would punish it, as an infraction of the moral law which was written in every heart."
“He took for the text of his first discourse, “Do We Know Anything?” and reasoned from the facts of common experience and the dictates of common sense for nine successive sessions, of two hours each. He awakened in every mind a conviction of sin; the certainty that an omniscient God must know and disapprove of it; the certainty that a just God would punish it, as an infraction of the moral law which was written in every heart; that we all saw sinners escaping just punishment in this world and, as lawyers, sometimes helped them to escape; that this brought contempt on the administration of justice here on earth, and that like contempt would be felt for God's government, unless we believed that somehow, somewhere, they would get their just deserts; that no one who believed in God at all could doubt his power to administer punishment and that it would be right to do so. The penalties for violating Nature's laws were inexorable and everlasting. They could derive no comfort from analogy, and common sense could not show them how to escape like consequences for a violation of the Moral Law. The sinner's case was hopeless and deservedly so.
He searched their consciences. With his knowledge of human nature, he lifted the veil from long hidden faults and exposed their failings and corruption to themselves. If you won't obey God or the dictates of your own consciences now, why should you ever do so? Even if you make up your minds to do so from now henceforth, how are you going to atone for the sins already committed? You can never make good even to your fellow-men, the losses you have inflicted upon them. Damages, as every lawyer knows, are poor reparation for sufferings inflicted by willful misconduct. How, then, can you satisfy the demands of the moral Ruler of the Universe, to whom damages are as dust in the balance, an earthly expedient beneath contempt?
“Then he took the Bible and they listened, with streaming eyes, as he read the tender passages of Scripture, revealing God's love and fatherly solicitude and the Gospel Plan of Salvation. “And that is the book,” he said, “which you have removed from your shelves to make room for Tom Paine's shallow ‘Age of Reason’! How can you escape if you neglect so great salvation?” The effect was tremendous. Judge Gardiner, of the New York Court of Appeals, crept up the pulpit steps and said, “Mr. Finney I am convinced. Won't you pray for me by name and I will take the anxious seat.” The lawyers rose en masse and crowded to the front and knelt down for prayers. Nearly every one was converted. Many of them gave up their profession and went into the ministry.
The revival swept the whole community and spread from it as a centre in every direction. Oh, that we had that magnificent argument in permanent form! It could not be comprehended by children of sixteen, but it might continue to save men, as it did when originally delivered.”
Oberlin Alumni Magazine, Vol. 4, July, 1908.