The Oberlin Evangelist

July 2, 1851

The Revivals of 1830 and 1831, and the Labors of Prof. Finney.


Our readers have good reason to feel a lively interest in the endorsement and reproduction of those precious and powerful effusions of the Spirit of which Western New York was the scene, and in which Prof. Finney was blessed of God as a successful laborer. There is small hope that such revivals will reappear unless they are duly estimated, valued and sought for. Hence our solicitude that the Christian public should be put in the fullest possession of the facts in the case, that they may judge understandingly. In our view those were in an eminent degree genuine revivals of religion--the work of the Spirit of God. If so, then, reproach and scandal cast on them will almost inevitably scandalize all revivals, and tend powerfully to destroy confidence in them, and hence to restrain prayer and effort for such blessings and consequently doom the churches to such barrenness, as has always cursed them in the absence of revivals, especially so when their absence is occasioned by such a cause.

Let those revivals be brought to the only legitimate test-- "By their fruits ye shall know them." Much to the purpose for this end is the following letter, which has just appeared in the New York Evangelist from Rev. Josiah Hopkins, long and favorably known as pastor of a church in Auburn, N.Y. Few men have had better opportunities than his for knowing the history of those revivals, and of the converts then brought into the churches in great numbers throughout all that section of the State.


Response to Mr. Finney's Letter.


Mr. Editor:--With your leave I would say a few words, if it be not too late, to your readers in reply to Mr. Finney's letter, which appeared recently in your columns. It may be expected both by brother Finney and the public, from the circumstances in which I was placed. My only apology for delaying it to the present time, may be found in the fact that my mind has been occupied with my removal from Ohio to Western New York. In reference to those remarkable statements, (such they appear to me) which found their way to London concerning the evils that resulted from Mr. Finney's labors in Western New York, I have felt and now feel that they never could have been made by any Christian brother who had a knowledge of the facts in the case. Reports will sometimes obtain circulation that have their origin in unfriendly hints, thrown out by the enemies of revivals, or by limited minds strongly prejudiced by their education, which by passing through several hands, finally come to assume a frightful shape. I am confident that it may have been by some such process that those reports got into circulation, and that the conductors of those papers had been too hasty, when they knew nothing of the facts, in giving them character and sending them to London. If any change in the doctrinal views of brother Finney since that time has taken place, which it might be suspected would affect the character of his labors, it will be seen at once, it does not affect the question in the least concerning the soundness of his view, or of the conversions under his labors at that time. From the most intimate and repeated conversations as well as from his discourses, I have the most perfect confidence that his views at that time on all the important points in the whole plan of salvation, agreed most perfectly with the leading divines in New-England. I have it in my power to show that if such men as Drs. Perine, L. Beech, B. Dickinson, S.H. Cox, Wm. Patton, &c., were Orthodox at that time, brother Finney was equally so. I am aware that he dwelt more on the distinction between natural and moral ability and inability, as defended by Edwards and Smalley, than what had been customary by most of our preachers previous to that period, and I have but little doubt that it will be acknowledged by all who were acquainted with the state of the public mind at that time, that such a course was demanded to meet the antinomian impressions that so extensively prevailed.

With regard to the genuineness of the conversions under his labors, I have but few statements to make. Brother Finney came to my assistance after the powerful revival of the winder of 1830 and '31 had been in progress some six or eight weeks, and for six weeks he continued to preach twice on the Sabbath, and twice on other evenings during the week. The number that was first received after those labors did not vary much from one hundred and fifty, and enough were received to the Second Presbyterian church to make nearly or quite two hundred; and this number was increased, as nearly as I can recollect, by such as were afterwards received by at least one quarter. I have been endeavoring for several weeks to look over and examine the characters of those converts after the ordeal of twenty years, so far as I have been able to retain a knowledge of their course, and I have not the least doubt but that they will compare in every mark of genuineness, with the most pure and genuine that ever existed in New-England. I have certainly had an opportunity, so far as memory is able to perform its office, to make this comparison, and if entireness of devotion, permanence, enlarged and liberal desires, and a vigorous activity, are considered marks of the Spirit's work, I feel safe in saying that I have seen none in New-England to exceed them. I have seen so many changes in the characters of men that were an honor to truth and to God, as the result of brother Finney's labors, that if others in view of the same have felt that they saw reason to shed tears of blood, those tears I am confident would not equal in number the songs and the joys occasioned by the same among the people of God.

J. Hopkins.

Seneca Falls, May 1851.


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