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The Means Used In Charles Finney's Revivals

Charles Finney

Doctrines Preached

“As it regards the means used in this revival, I would say, that the doctrines preached were those that I always preached, everywhere. The moral government of God was made prominent; and the necessity of an unqualified and universal acceptance of God's will, as a rule of life; the acceptance by faith, of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world, and in all his official relations and work; and the sanctification of the soul through or by the truth. These and kindred doctrines were dwelt upon as time would permit, and as the necessities of the people seemed to require.

Preaching and Abundant Prayer

“The measures were simply preaching the gospel, and abundant prayer, in private, in social circles, and in public prayer-meetings; much stress being always laid upon prayer as an essential means of promoting the revival. Sinners were not encouraged to expect the Holy Ghost to convert them, while they were passive; and never told to wait God's time, but were taught, unequivocally, that their first and immediate duty was, to submit themselves to God, to renounce their own will, their own way, and themselves, and instantly to deliver up all that they were, and all that they had, to their rightful owner, the Lord Jesus Christ. They were taught here, as everywhere in those revivals, that the only obstacle in the way was their own stubborn will; that God was trying to gain their unqualified consent to give up their sins, and accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their righteousness and salvation. The point was frequently urged upon them to give their consent; and they were told that the only difficulty was, to get their own honest and earnest consent to the terms upon which Christ would save them, and the lowest terms upon which they possibly could be saved.

Meetings of Inquiry

“Meetings of inquiry were held, for the purpose of adapting instruction to those who were in different stages of conviction; and after conversing with them, as long as I had time and strength, I was in the habit of summing up at last, and taking up representative cases, and meeting all their objections, answering all their questions, correcting all their errors, and pursuing such a course of remark, as was calculated to strip them of every excuse, and bring them face to face with the great question of present, unqualified, universal acceptance of the will of God in Christ Jesus. Faith in God, and God in Christ, was ever made prominent. They were informed that this faith is not a mere intellectual assent, but is the consent or trust of the heart, a voluntary, intelligent trust in God, as he is revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Punishment of the Wicked

“The doctrine of the justice of endless punishment was fully insisted upon [I do not believe the Bible teaches the doctrine of “eternal torment,” though I believe in the annihilation of the wicked, and that the annihilation process may last longer for some than others]; and not only its justice, but the certainty that sinners will be endlessly punished, if they die in their sins, was strongly held forth. On all these points the Gospel was so presented as to give forth no uncertain sound. This was at least my constant aim, and the aim of all who gave instructions. The nature of the sinner's dependence upon divine influence, was explained, and enforced, and made prominent. Sinners were taught that, without the divine teaching and influence, it is certain, from their depraved state, that they never would be reconciled to God; and yet that their want of reconciliation was simply their own hardness of heart, or the stubbornness of their own wills, so that their dependence upon the Spirit of God is no excuse for their not being Christians at once. These points that I have noticed, and others which logically flow from them, were held forth in every aspect, so far as time would permit.

Praying For Forgiveness Also Meant Fully Embracing God's Will

“Sinners were never taught, in those revivals, that they needed to expect conversion in answer to their own prayers. They were told that if they regarded iniquity in their hearts, the Lord would not hear them; and that while they remained impenitent, they did regard iniquity in their hearts. I do not mean that they were exhorted not to pray. They were informed that God required them to pray, but to pray in faith, to pray in the spirit of repentance; and that when they asked God to forgive them, they were to commit themselves unalterably to his will. They were taught, expressly, that mere impenitent and unbelieving prayer is an abomination to God; but that if they were truly disposed to offer acceptable prayer to God, they could do it; for that there was nothing but their own obstinacy in the way of their offering acceptable prayer at once. They were never left to think that they could do their duty in any respect, could perform any duty whatever, unless they gave their hearts to God. To repent, to believe, to submit, as inward acts of the mind, were the first duties to be performed; and until these were performed, no outward act whatever was doing their duty. That for them to pray for a new heart, while they did not give themselves up to God, was to tempt God; that to pray for forgiveness until they truly repented, was to insult God, and to ask him to do what he had no right to do; that to pray in unbelief, was to charge God with lying, instead of doing their duty; and that all their unbelief was nothing but a blasphemous charging of God with lying. In short, pains were taken to shut the sinner up to accepting Christ, his whole will, atonement, official work and official relations, cordially, and with fixed purpose of heart, renouncing all sin, all excuse-making, all unbelief, all hardness of heart, and every wicked thing, in heart, and life, here, and now, and forever.”

Charles Finney, Memoirs, pp. 363-365