The Oberlin Evangelist
May 22, 1850
Prof. Finney in England.
His Published Works there, and his Present Reception.
Assuming that all our readers will feel a lively interest in whatever trust-worthy information they may be able to obtain on these points, we do not hesitate to transfer to our columns the following obviously frank and candid article from the London "British Banner." The extended extract which it contains of a private letter from Birmingham--the principal seat of Br. Finney's recent labors in England--will serve to show the current of public opinion at present in respect to him and his work.
From other sources we learn that Br. Finney is invited and expected to attend the Annual Convention of the Congregational Union of England to be held in London during the month of June, at which meeting, the subject of labor to promote revivals of religion, is to be made prominent. If so, it will be an eventful meeting.
The following is the article from the "Banner."
The name of Mr. Finney has been, for some twelve or fifteen years, well known to the British Public. His celebrated "Lectures on Revivals of Religion" have been issued in many editions, and circulated to a vast extent in Great Britain. A cheap and very large edition of them was sent forth by Mr. Snow in the year 1839, with an introductory preface by the Rev. John Angell James, in which, after interposing remarks on certain peculiarities of expression in Mr. Finney, he very strongly recommends the Lectures as "a book remarkably calculated to stir up the minds both of ministers and churches to a proper compassion for a dying world." Mr. James particularly specifies the excellency of the Lectures on "False Comforts to Sinners, "Directions to Sinners," "Instructions to Young Converts," as "comprising much that is calculated to correct false and too prevalent methods of dealing with these respective classes." Mr. James adds, to the cautions referred to, "I do not hesitate simply to recommend the perusal of this singular volume, so unlike every other with which I am acquainted. Even where it is not followed as a guide, or set up as a standard, it may be useful both as a corrective and a stimulant. I feel that it has done me good, and I know that it has done good to others." Dr. Payne, also, stepped forth from his cherished retirement to speak a word in behalf of the great Revivalist. He, too, takes the same exceptions to various things as Mr. James. He considered Mr. Finney's theology "faulty in many points," but concluded--"The reader will find in them much, very much to commend, to instruct, and to stimulate, blended with comparatively little against which reasonable exceptions can be taken. Yet, even here, the tendency of a fearless, energetic mind to push truth into near proximity with error, may occasionally be detected. It should however, be remembered, that the 'Lectures' were not written by the Author, but were printed from the notes of the short-hand writer;" and hence he infers, that allowances are to be made. Dr. Beman, too, then in this country, with similar exceptions, gives a similar recommendation, expressing his conviction of the excellency of the work, and its adaptation to usefulness, adding, "I avail myself of this opportunity of giving my public testimony to the integrity, zeal, and usefulness of Mr. Finney. Few men have, in the same period of time, thrown out upon the world a greater amount of original thought than he has done; and few have expressed themselves in a clearer or finer style of Saxon language."
Dr. Patton, then in this country, consented to preface Mr. Snow's edition by a general introduction, in which he states some biographical facts respecting Mr. Finney, who, it seems, was bred to the profession of the Law; and, previously to his conversion, was successfully pursuing that profession as an advocate in the Courts of Justice; but he abandoned this walk for the less lucrative and more laborious one of preaching the word; and after spending some time in the study of theology, he was regularly introduced to the Ministry by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the United States. Dr. Patton takes the same exception to many of his peculiar modes of statement, some of which he considers, "rash and denunciatory;" but this is only matter of opinion, and language offensive to the educated and fastidious will not only pass with, but command the approval of the honest, unsophisticated portion of mankind. From Mr. Snow's edition, however, he expunged most of what he deemed exceptionable; and for our own part we had no desire to see the work of emasculation carried any further. That edition was emminently adapted to usefulness, and sold, as it was, for the trifle of two shillings--a fifth of the price of an octavo volume--was adapted to general circulation, and, it cannot be doubted, was the means of great good. Mr. Finney's health at length failed, and the result was the acceptance of an invitation to the Professorship of Christian Theology in the Oberlin Institute, in the State of Ohio, where, from that time to this, he has been carrying on his zealous labors; but, as many of our readers are aware, he recently arrived in England, passing through the metropolis, without seeking to become acquainted with his brethren, and proceeding to Birmingham, where, for some months, he continued to labor, preaching for Mr. James, Mr. Roe, and in Ebenezer Chapel. We have received from a Birmingham Correspondent a letter of which the following is an extract:--
In the second number of your Supplementary Review, issued on the 13th ult, there is a reference to the Rev. C.G. Finney, which indicated your wish for some further acquaintance with him, and yet is expressive of something like a doubt in regard to the soundness of his doctrinal sentiments as delivered from the pulpit. You are an earnest lover of the truth; and what you know to be a truth, in which Christians are deeply interested, you are ever ready boldly to advocate and proclaim. I earnestly wish that, in accordance with your own proposition, you and your brother ministers in London would invite Mr. Finney to pay you a visit, that you may see and hear him for yourselves, both in private colloquy and from the pulpit.
Mr. Finney's labors here were not confined to Mr. Roe's congregations. He was engaged at Ebenezer Chapel several Sabbaths, and almost every evening of the week, either in the pulpit or to meet anxious inquirers in their large school-rooms. You appear to have been informed also of his having several times occupied the pulpit at Carr's-lane. What, then has been the result of all his labors here? It may be difficult yet to answer that question with precision. But it is said that about seventy persons have already been received into Mr. Roe's Church, and that others are expected to follow. At Ebenezer, large numbers are said to be under further instruction and the watchful care of the deacons,--that church being at present without a pastor. Nearly sixty persons at one time have met Mr. James to be addressed collectively in the vestry, and he has announced his intention to meet them more privately at certain hours this week for further inquiry and instruction. Such being, as I believe, the facts in the case, I know not how it can be said, that his assiduous labors here have been attended "with no very special effect."
You will, perhaps, ask what is the secret of Mr. Finney's success? What does he more than others! A reply to this inquiry can not be given in a very few words. There is an air of solemnity about him which inspires awe, as if he were indeed "sent from God." Everything about him seems to say "This one thing I do." He has few of the natural attributes of eloquence; his voice is not good, and he has the nasal twang of his countrymen. He does not attempt to be eloquent in the ordinary meaning of that word. His addresses are directed to the conscience through the understanding. He is a most powerful reasoner. By his manner of treating his subject, he gives such a deep insight into the meaning of his text, as must at once convince the most learned and the most ignorant of his hearers. The mysteries of iniquity, the mysteries of redemption, and the mysteries of Providence seem to reveal a new aspect under his penetrating glance, and one can not but see realized in him an interpretation of what was said by the Divine Teacher: "If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light."
My interviews with Mr. Finney have only been transient, but I have learned from such as have had a nearer access to him, that much of his time is spent in a room alone, where, probably, he is employed in digging his treasure from the inexhaustible mind of Divine Truth, and where he holds habitual intercourse with its Divine Author. He comes out thence as a giant refreshed with wine, and as a strong man to run his race.
It is said that Mr. Finney was induced to come over to this country by a gentleman in Huntingdonshire, who had seen his works, and heard of his success as a "Revivalist," and that he undertook to pay all the expenses of his voyage both ways. He has lived here at the house of a wealthy tradesman (a Baptist) who provided for all his domestic wants, and afforded to him and his visitors every accommodation they might need.
Mr. Finney has left Birmingham, at least for the present, and is now at Worcester, where he is alternately occupying Dr. Redford's pulpit, and that of a Baptist minister in the same city, both on the Sabbath and in the week-day evenings.
I think that you will regret his departure from this country before you have had an opportunity of hearing him, and judging for yourselves. I had not intended to occupy so much of your invaluable time by a long letter, had I not felt it necessary to say what Mr. Finney's labors have effected in Birmingham, though a writer in the Evangelical Magazine thinks his preaching tends to Infidelity, and the Editor of the Banner supposes that his ministry is stamped, more or less, "with a doctrinal dubiety."
We very cordially admit this frank and generous communication; for ourselves, we spoke upon authority on which we thought we had reason to rely; but it reached us at a time when perhaps the full extent of Mr. Finney's labors were not ascertained. On the subject of doctrine, we were induced to speak as we did by periodical disquisitions we had received from the United States, and we doubt not that our excellent contemporary, the Evangelical Magazine, was similarly influenced; but we now frankly say, that we entertain a conviction that both he and ourselves have so far injured the interesting Stranger. We have reason to believe that both Mr. James and Mr. Roe, Dr. Redford and Mr. Crowe, will testify to the radical soundness of Mr. Finney upon all the great points of the Gospel. On this matter, we have reason to speak positively, and hasten to correct any mistake into which we may have fallen, and to repair any injury which we may have done.
We have reason to believe that Mr. Finny will see it good to continue his labors in England for some time to come, notwithstanding the urgency of the College for his return. We have further grounds for indulging the hope that he may visit the Metropolis, to unfurl his banner amid the multitude in the Queen of cities. We are confident the London Ministry and Churches will be glad to welcome him, and to bid him god-speed in his benevolent endeavors to diffuse the religion of the age.
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