Charles Grandison Finney: The Aftermath -- By: Monte E. Wilson

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 06:1 (Winter 1997)
Article: Charles Grandison Finney: The Aftermath
Author: Monte E. Wilson


Charles Grandison Finney: The Aftermath

Monte E. Wilson

Modern evangelism bears little resemblance to the faith of our Puritan and Pilgrim fathers. Our aim is to make people feel better, theirs was to teach them how to worship God. We hear of how God enables people to save themselves, they spoke of the God who saves. Our aim is to evenly distribute honor and praise between man and God, their chief aim was to see that God received all glory. The average modern evangelical believes that revivals come via techniques, our Puritan and Pilgrim fathers believed that revivals were sovereign acts of God. Today, the local church is held in low esteem and evaluated not by the fruit of changed lives but by the standard of numbers: how many buildings, how much money, how many converts. Our forefathers believed that the local church was the most important institution in the community and evaluated it by its faithfulness to God, His Word and His ways. Today the mind is seen as a hindrance to true spirituality. Jonathan Edwards and the average minister of his day believed the training of the intellect to be of paramount importance.

This transformation of mindsets did not happen overnight and cannot be solely attributed to one event or one person. However, it can be said that one man, more than any other, acted as a catalyst and prototype: that man was Charles Grandison Finney (1792–1875). While practicing law in New York, Finney attended church services conducted by a friend, George Gale. In 1821, he became a Christian and almost immediately declared that he had been “retained” by God to “plead His cause.” For the next eight years he held revival meetings in the Eastern States. For a short time he was pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in New York City. However, he withdrew from the presbytery, rejecting the Presbyterian disciplinary system. In 1835 he became a professor in a new Bible college in Oberlin, Ohio, and served as

president from 1851–66.

When Finney began his itinerating as a frontier evangelist, his meetings were almost immediately attended with large numbers of conversions, as well as great controversy. 1 The general points of controversy can be seen in the following headings from a “pastoral letter,” drafted by pastors of Congregational churches in Oneida and sent to ministers of the Oneida Association:

Condemning in the gross, or approving in the gross; Making too much of any favorable appearance; Not guarding against false conversions; Ostentation and noise; The hasty acknowledgment of persons converted; (The strength of a church does not consist in its numbers, but in its graces.... We fea...

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