The Revival Labors Of Charles G. Finney (Part 2)
Arranged from his book, The Memoirs of Charles G. Finney (1792-1875)
Feeling God’s call to preach the Gospel, Charles G. Finney left his lawyer’s practice. He was very much in earnest to see souls saved. In dealing with the people, he was honest and direct. From the very beginning of his ministry, souls were converted. Finney preached to please the Lord and not man. Before his conversion he tended to use ornate, impressive language. But when he began to preach the Gospel, he was so anxious to be thoroughly understood that he sought to express himself as simply and as clearly as possible.
"Great sermons lead the people to praise the preacher," he said. "Good preaching leads the people to praise the Saviour."
"Ministers generally avoid preaching what the people before them will understand as addressed particularly to them," he wrote. "They will preach to them about other people, and the sins of other people, instead of addressing them and saying, ‘You are guilty of these sins; and the Lord requires this of you.’ Ministers often preach about the Gospel instead of preaching the Gospel. They often preach about sinners instead of preaching to them. They studiously avoid being personal, in the sense of making the impression on anyone present that he is the man.
"Now I have thought it my duty to pursue a different course; and I always have pursued a different course," said Finney. "I have often said, ‘Do not think I am talking about anybody else; but I mean you and you and you.’ Ministers told me at first that people would never endure this; but would get up and go out, and never come to hear me again. But this is all a mistake.
"Very much, in this as in everything else, depends on the spirit in which it is said. If the people see that it is said in the spirit of love, with a yearning desire to do them good; if they cannot call it an outburst of personal animosity; but if they see and cannot deny that it is telling the truth in love, that it is coming right home to them to save them individually, there are very few that will continue to resent it. If at the time they feel pointed at and rebuked, nevertheless the conviction is upon them that they needed it, and it will surely ultimately do them great good…. And let no man think that he will gain permanent respect, that he will be permanently honored by his people, unless as an ambassador of Christ he deals faithfully with their souls."
Getting Sermon Topics on His Knees
Of his sermons Finney said, "I almost always get my subjects on my knees in prayer; and it has been a common experience with me, upon receiving a subject from the Holy Spirit, to have it make so strong an impression on my mind as to make me tremble, so that I could with difficulty write.
"When subjects are thus given me that seem to go through me, body and soul, I can in a few moments make out a skeleton that shall enable me to retain the view presented by the Spirit; and I find that such sermons always tell with great power upon the people.
"Some of the most telling sermons that I have ever preached in Oberlin, I have thus received after the bell had rung for church; and I was obliged to go and pour them off from my full heart, without jotting down more than the briefest possible skeleton, and that sometimes not covering half the ground that I covered in my sermon. I tell this not boastfully, but because it is a fact, and to give the praise to God, and not to any talents of my own. Let no man think that those sermons which have been called so powerful, were productions of my own brain, or of my own heart, unassisted by the Holy Ghost. They were not mine, but from the Holy Spirit in me….
"I believe that all ministers, called by Christ to preach the Gospel ought to be, and may be, in such a sense inspired, as to preach the Gospel ‘with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven’ (1 Pet. 1:12). What else did Christ mean when He said, ‘Go ye…and teach all nations…and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world’ (Matt. 28:19-20)? What did He mean when He said, speaking of the Holy Spirit, ‘He shall take of Mine, and shall shew it unto you’ (John 16:15); ‘He shall…bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you’ (John 14:26)? What did He mean when He said, ‘He that believeth on Me…out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water’ (John 7:38)? ‘This spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive’ (John 7:39).
"All ministers may be, and ought to be so filled with the Holy Spirit that all who hear them shall be impressed with the conviction that ‘God is in you of a truth’ (1 Cor. 14:25)."
(To be continued)