The Revival Labors Of Charles G. Finney (Part 5)
Arranged from his book, The Memoirs of Charles G. Finney (1792-1875)
Of another revival in the state of New York, Finney wrote: "One circumstance occurred in the midst of that revival that made a powerful impression…. There was an aged clergyman, a stranger to me, who was very much annoyed by the heat and fervor of the revival. He found the public mind all absorbed on the subject of religion and there was prayer and religious conversation everywhere, even in the stores and other public places. He had never seen a revival and had never heard what he heard there….
"On Friday afternoon, before presbytery adjourned, he arose and made a violent speech against the revival as it was going on. What he said greatly shocked and grieved the Christian people who were present. They felt like falling on their faces before God and crying to Him to prevent what the man had said from doing any mischief.
"The presbytery adjourned just at evening. Some of the members went home, and others remained overnight. Christians gave themselves to prayer. There was a great crying to God that night that He would counteract any evil influence that might result from that speech. The next morning, this man was found dead in his bed."
Revival Among the Lumbermen
While Finney was holding revivals in Philadelphia, some lumbermen arrived from an area in northern Pennsylvania, having floated their lumber to the market in Philadelphia. There were no churches in the "lumber region."
Finney tells of his contact with them: "These men who came down with lumber attended our meetings and quite a number of them were hopefully converted. They went back into the wilderness and began to pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and to tell the people around them what they had seen in Philadelphia, and to exhort them to attend to their salvation.
"Their efforts were immediately blessed, and the revival began to take hold and to spread among those lumbermen. It went on in a most powerful and remarkable manner. It spread to such an extent that in many cases persons who had not attended any meetings would be convicted and converted. …Men who were getting out lumber and were living in little shanties alone, or where two or three or more were together, would be seized with such conviction that it would lead them to wander off and inquire what they should do; and they would be converted and thus the revival spread. There was the greatest simplicity manifested by the converts."
Finney returned to that area about two years later. "Two or three men from this lumber region came there to see me and to inquire how they could get some ministers to go in there," wrote Finney. "They said that not less than five thousand people had been converted in that lumber region, that the revival had extended itself along for eighty miles, and that there was not a single minister of the Gospel there…."
Finney continued: "I have regarded that as one of the most remarkable revivals that have occurred in this country. It was carried on almost independently of the ministry among a class of people very ignorant in regard to all ordinary instruction. Yet so clear and wonderful were the teachings of God that I have always understood the revival was remarkably free from fanaticism, or wildness, or anything that was objectionable.
"‘Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth’ (Jas. 3:5)," quoted Finney. "The spark that was struck into the hearts of those few lumbermen that came to Philadelphia spread over that forest and resulted in the salvation of a multitude of souls."
Revival in Rochester
In 1830 Finney was pressed for ministry in many directions. As he consulted and prayed with friends as to what his duty was, they agreed that New York City and Philadelphia seemed likely areas for ministry. He had received an urgent invitation to go to Rochester, New York but difficulties existing between several churches there made that seem unappealing. But suddenly it became clear to him that the Lord was leading him to Rochester as his next field of labor, and he traveled there at once. There was a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit while Finney ministered in Rochester. The great majority of the leading men and women in the city were converted.
In the city of Rochester at that time there was a large and flourishing high school. Mr. B____ was the head. He was the son of a minister but was a skeptic. His assistant was Miss A____ who was a Christian. Perhaps through her influence, a number of the students attended Finney’s meetings.
Finney wrote: "Many of them soon became deeply anxious about their souls. One morning Mr. B____ found that his classes could not recite. When he came to have them before him, they were so anxious about their souls that they wept, and he saw that they were in such a state that it very much confounded him.
"He called his associate, Miss A____, and told her that the young people were so exercised about their souls that they could not recite and asked if they had not better send for Mr. Finney to give them instruction. She afterwards informed me of this and said that she was very glad to have him make the inquiry and most cordially advised him to send for me.
"He did so, and the revival took tremendous hold of that school. Mr. B____ himself was soon converted and nearly every person in the school. A few years since, Miss A____ informed me that more than forty persons that were then converted in that school had become ministers…A large number of them had become foreign missionaries."
A lawyer in the city of Rochester who was converted in Finney’s meetings later became district attorney of the city. He was in a position to be well acquainted with the history of crime in the city. Many years after the revival he told Finney: "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 three-fold, there are not one-third as many prosecutions for crime as there had been up to that time." This is the wonderful influence that revival had upon the community.
"During these great revivals," wrote Finney, "persons wrote letters from Rochester to their friends abroad giving an account of the work. The letters were read in different churches throughout several states, and were instrumental in producing great revivals of religion. Many persons came in from abroad to witness the great work of God and were converted."
(To be continued)