Friday, February 17, 2012

Charles Finney - The Great American Revivalist! (1792 - 1875)

"Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” is the essence of the ministry of the great revivalist Rev. Charles G. Finney who was mightily used by God for an amazing revival in the United States. His ministry was marked by strong conviction of sin and positive evidence of conversion.
Charles G. Finney was born in Warren, Connecticut on August 29, 1792 to Sylvester and Rebecca Finney. The Finneys settled in Hanover in Oneida County two years after the birth of Charles Finney. Young Finney desired to become a lawyer. After his studies in Yale College, he was admitted in the bar and began practicing law. God chooses people to perform the choicest work. God chose Charles Finney even before he was formed in the womb of his mother. Charles Finney had a deep desire to know the truth of salvation. He had a determination in his heart that he should have a divine intervention, but he did not like the people around him to be aware that he was seeking God and so he sought out for a secluded place in the woods. He was alone in the woods and was praying. God met him and brought in him brokenness and complete humility before Him to apprehend him for His divine purpose. After this incident, there was a great urge in him to preach the gospel. It was very clear to him that for this purpose he was apprehended. Thereafter, he started preaching the gospel abandoning the practice of law. Most often, his subject of preaching would be “the blessedness of righteous and dreadful fate of the wicked”.
One Sunday morning, Charles Finney was ministering in a church; “carnal mind is the enmity against god” was the topic of the day. God’s word, being powerful and sharper than any other two-edged sword penetrated into the hearts of the listeners and they were all greatly convicted of their sins. Later that evening a counseling meeting was arranged at the Deacon’s place that Mr. Finney could minister them individually. A young man after this meeting started off home quietly, but no sooner he reached his house, the burden of sin became so great that he fell flat on the floor and cried aloud for divine pardon. People from the neighborhood gathered around him not knowing what had happened to this young man, but soon they were also stricken by conviction and were in complete tears, and they were also crying aloud for forgiveness. That day many began their lives anew in Christ Jesus and with great joy they all returned back to their homes. Such was the work of the Holy Spirit through the labors of Rev. Charles Finney. God brought great revivals through Rev. Charles Finney in places such as New York, Clinton, Antwerp, Utica, Gouverneur, Boston, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Rochester, Rome, and many places in United States and England.
When Finney was ministering in Utica, he visited a cotton mill in that area, as he walked through it, he observed that workers were under the sense of conviction. All the workers burst into tears spontaneously as Mr. Finney approached them. The owner of the mill came to know of the happenings, and he told the supervisor of the mill, “stop the mill and let the people attend to religion; for it is more important that our souls should be saved than that this factory run.” The work was stopped and they all gathered in a large place, to them Mr. Finney ministered the word of God. There were a great number of conversions that day; all the workers gave their hearts to Lord Jesus.
When Mr. Finny was ministering in the city of Rome he lodged at Mr. Gillet’s house, a congregational pastor. The pastor’s wife was a beautiful lady and had great passion for apparels and ornaments. Finney being their guest used to converse with them. The Holy Spirit initiated a great conviction in her with regard to her fondness of dress and jewels. As the conviction in her became progressively greater, she was literally begging Mr. Finney to pray for her salvation. One day when Mr. Finney was in his study, she entered the room and begged him to pray for her, as Mr. Finney felt that she was depending much on him he just left the room abruptly. After a period of time, the lady came out the room seeking him with the fullness of joy and radiance of face. She joyfully exclaimed, “O, Mr. Finney I have found the savior. Don’t you think that it was the ornaments in my hair that stood in the way of salvation and conversion? I have found when I prayed that they would come up before me and I would be tempted, as I supposed, to give them up. But I thought they were trifles, and that God did not care about such trifles. This was the temptation of Satan. But the ornaments that I wore continually kept coming up before my mind whenever I attempted to give my heart to God. When you abruptly left me I was driven to desperation. I cast myself down, and lo these ornaments came up again; and I said I will not have these things come up again, I will put them away from me forever. As soon as I promised to give them up, the lord revealed himself to my soul; and O! I wonder I have understood this before.” This context shows two kinds of people, on one hand there is a vessel of honor used by God to liberate the souls that are entrapped by the devil. As we progressively conform to the image of Christ with overflowing anointing of his power our conversation shall direct others to the way of salvation and sanctification. They may even exclaim and say “were not our hearts burning within us while he/she talked with us on the road and opened our scriptures to us.” On the other hand, we see a struggling soul under the conviction work of the Holy Spirit entangled in the passions and fashions of the world. This soul obtained freedom not only by the blood of Jesus and work of the Holy Spirit, also by the determination rather the sincere decision, in the presence of the Most Holy God, to please Him only. Please note the statement of this lady, “I will not have these things come up again.” We may be weak, falling time and again in our Christian walk, but this “I will not” resolved for the sake of the Lord would channelize the strength of God towards us and help us to be victorious over the things that enslave us.

Finney’s sermons are so powerful having greater impact on the listeners. This was actually the result of his dependence on Holy Ghost. He wrote, “For I believe that all ministers called by Christ to preach the gospel are to preach the Gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. What else did Christ mean when he said, “ Go and disciple all nations; and lo I am with you always even unto the end of the world. What did he mean when He said, speaking of the Holy Spirit, “He shall take of mine and show it unto you?” “He shall bring all things to remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you?” What did He mean when He said, “If any man believe in me out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water?” This spoke He of the Spirit that they, which believe on Him, should receive. All ministers may be, and ought to be, so filled with the Holy Spirit that all who hear Him shall be impressed with the conviction that “God is in them of the truth.”

Charles Finney’s preaching is simple and direct. Most of his sermons were not written notes and they were instantaneous. Most often he himself would not know the message that he would deliver. They were all absolutely prophetical and would often rend the hearts of people before the living God. He addressed the crowd direct saying, “you are guilty of these sins;” and “the lord requires this of you.” Finney said, “ They (ministers) often preach about the Gospel instead of preaching the Gospel. They often preach about people instead of preaching to them. They studiously avoid being personal in the sense of making impression on any one present that he is the man.”Finney never wished to please the audience and hence never used smooth enticing words with regard to sin. He was honest before God and Man and never was a respecter of person.
Finney humbly confesses that his powerful sermons were from the God and not of his own. He wrote, “Let no man think that those sermons which have been called powerful were production of my own brain or my own heart, unassisted by the Holy Ghost. They were not mine but from the Holy Spirit in me.”
Dr. John Campbell, the editor of the “British Banner”, marvels at the oratorical skills of Charles Finney- “Multitude have stood amazed at themselves as presented in the mirror he exhibits at their astonished view. This peculiar power alone would have rendered Mr. Finney remarkable among the public instructors; but this is only one feature of his complex multifarious character as preacher. His declamatory are fully equal to his logical powers. In this walk, we think he has no superior. He thunders and lightens when his subject requires it, in a manner to shake the hearts of an assembly, rousing the most apathetic, and awing the most careless.”

Charles Finney was the second president of Oberlin College, a theological seminary, where he taught on the subjects such as Systemic Theology, Pastoral Theology, and Mental and Moral Philosophy. He was educating the young men and woman until 1865. In August 1875 Rev. Charles Finney entered into the glorious kingdom of God.
God takes the initiative in the relationship between God and man. He sent his only begotten son into the world to be the propitiation of sins that man might be reconciled with God. God almighty in order to accomplish his divine plan of restoration of mankind raises up great preachers like Rev. Charles Finney to bring the lost ones at the feet of Jesus. Charles Finney contributed to the world the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Chronically and constantly our Lord God has been affirming that therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who WALK NOT AFTER THE FLESH BUT AFTER THE SPIRIT. For the law of spirit of life in Christ Jesus will set them free from the law of sin and death. Roman 8: 1, 2. 19 And, the flip side of this truth is I John 3:19,20 - "This is how we know that WE BELONG TO THE TRUTH and how WE SET OUR HEARTS AT REST in His presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God." As long as we are WATCHFUL TO WALK IN SPIRIT, we will not be condemned.
We are to be constantly mindful of the fact that our hearts and lives are stripped bare before Jesus, the omnipresent and omniscient God. We can never hit-and-run and escape scot-free from our actions. The more we try to justify our wrongs and the more we cover up, the more it has dominion over us. As we fall prostrate before God who is all forgiving- rending our hearts before Him and asking Him to do a deep surgical removal of that sin in our lives, and as we truly repent before Him, He is faithful to forgive our sins and cleanse us away from all our sins. Once the assurance of forgiveness returns into our hearts, we need to resolve in the presence of God to never go back to that sin from which we have been delivered in the presence of the Almighty. Then the Lord showers His strength to make us stand from falling again.

Written By: Shanta S. Daniel
[Copyright@ Permission is granted to duplicate this article in its entirety, but only without additions, alterations or omissions of any kind, including the author and ministry name at the end]

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