The Oberlin Evangelist
December 3, 1850
We lay before our readers the testimony of the distinguished and eloquent "star correspondent," of the New York Independent, respecting the labors of Prof. Finney in England. It is the disinterested testimony of an eminent American preacher who has been in England and honestly taken the opportunity to examine for himself; and the testimony is the more valuable that it does not come from a partizan of either Prof. Finney or the special peculiarities of his theology. Jn. MN.
"The success of Mr. Finney's labors in England cannot but fill every Christian heart with joy. There are few, perhaps, who sympathize with some minor peculiarities of Mr. Finney's system; but fewer still we believe who do not regard his practical success in revival labors as a matter of common gratulation to all Christians. Mr. Finney has been known in Great Britain for several years by means of his Revival Lectures. The circulation of these has been very great; one publisher, Mr. Johnson of Manchester, having issued 80,000 copies. Several other editions have been largely circulated, and in Wales, especially, these lectures have been blessed in awakening a very general revival in the Congregational churches. Upon urgent invitations for several years past, Mr. Finney visited England last November. Landing at Southampton, on the 6th, he proceeded to Haughton, Huntingdonshire, the residence of the gentleman who liberality has relieved Mr. Finney of any secular care since leaving home; and labored for three weeks with remarkable success. In a population of 700, in two villages, probably a hundred conversion occurred; fifty have united with churches, and more are propounded.
"Mr. Finney next proceeded to Birmingham, upon urgent invitation. A consultation was held at the house of Rev. John Angell James. Mr. F. was requested to preach in rotation in all the pulpits of the Congregational and Baptist Churches, which he did. Afterwards his labors were principally confined to Mr. James' congregation and to that of Mr. Roe, a Baptist pastor. There was no lecture room in the city that could hold the inquirers. We do not recollect the number added to the churches. The first fruits added to Mr. Roe's church were between seventy and a hundred.
"It was while here that letters began to arrive from America warning ministers, and especially dehorting so influential a man as John Angel James from putting confidence in Mr. Finney. The result was that at Mr. Finney's request, Mr. James had a thorough interchange of theological views with Mr. F. Dr. Redford, of Worcester, accounted the most sound and learned theologian in the Congregational body, was also present. The result was what we suppose it would be with any sound catholic Christian men, who were unbiased by the excitements which have influenced the public mind on this side of the water, that the differences of theology were not fundamental; nor such as to vacate confidence.
"At Dr. Redford's request, Mr. Finney labored for siz[x] weeks in Worcester, until the meeting of the Congregational Union of England and Wales, dividing his time between Dr. Redford's church and that of Dr. Croes, a Baptist. The fruits were very great. Nor did the work cease upon Mr. F.'s departure, but continued for months under the labors of Dr. Redford.
"Mr. Finney was introduced to the Congregational Union of England and Wales, in May, by John Angell James and Dr. Redford; nor has that confidence so justly and generously extended to him been withdrawn, although efforts have been frequently made by private letters from America, and through American religious journals, to destroy his influence. One American paper which I saw in London, declared that however flattering present appearances might be in London, the final fruit would be most disastrous, and that the churches in America in which Mr. F. had labored have since wept tears of blood in consequence.
"Upon invitation of Dr. Campbell, pastor of the Tabernacle, once the scene of Whitefield's labors, Mr. Finney began to labor in London, and has continued there until late in autumn. In that time many hundreds have been hopefully converted.
"On two occasions we were present, when, at the close of the Sabbath evening's service more than a thousand persons presented themselves in an adjoining hall as inquirers. Nor have we ever witnessed in any place, more solemnity, order, and unexceptionable propriety in the conduct of meetings, than has prevailed under Mr. Finney at the Tabernacle. And now, if we were an English clergyman, and if we were inclined to doubt the reality of Revivals, and seeing the results of Mr. Finney's labors, should hear it testified, from the land of revivals, that they were spurious, that good as they might now seem, they would end in mischief, we should conclude not against Mr. Finney; but against revivals. We should say, 'If these are spurious, all revivals are spurious.' This is the tendency of the efforts put forth by religious newspapers in America to undermine Mr. Finney in England. For the sake of pushing at a theological antagonist, they are deepening the impression, already too deep, that revivals of religion are disorders; the channels of mischief and not of blessings.
"With Mr. Finney's peculiar opinions we have about the same sympathy that we have with the opinions of those who oppose him. We regard the refinings and abstractions of both sides to be alike unprofitable: and to be too far removed from the track of popular sympathy to be dangerous to any except those addicted to speculative web-weaving; and they cannot be much spoiled.
"We are very far from thinking Mr. Finney a model; or the revivals which sprung up under his labors early in his career to be such in all respect as we should wish to see.
"It is very unfair to take a higher state of things, which has in part resulted from a man's labors and by it criticise those labors. If the choice presented us were the revivals of Western New York from 1825 to 1837, and a train of purer revivals, we should choose the latter. But if the choice were between no revivals at all and such as followed Mr. Finney's labors, we should most gratefully receive such memorable works of grace, even though their imperfections were greater. An imperfect revival is better than a perfect stagnation. Spiritual death is the worst possible heresy; and spiritual life though in its first presentation it come forth with its grave clothes hanging upon it, is better than the grim propriety of lethargy. Our English brethren ought to understand that the opinions expressed by several religious newspapers on this side are not the opinions of the American church; that there is a large proportion of American Christians, differing from Mr. Finney in his views of Christian perfection, and not ignorant of some evils in his early Revival labors, who, notwithstanding, regard his life to have been an era in the Revival history of America, and his labors, upon the whole, to have been a precious blessing to the cause of God in America. Another generation will sift the chaff from the wheat, and then, we firmly believe, few men will be found to have been a better husbandman than Charles G. Finney! May God long spare his life and increase his usefulness!"
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