CHARLES G. FINNEY

Articles in THE INDEPENDENT of NEW YORK

REVIVAL MEMORIES

BY PRES. CHARLES G. FINNEY.

[Second of Two]

THE INDEPENDENT.

NEW YORK, APRIL 24, 1873

 

Late in the autumn of 1827 I went to labor as an evangelist, with the Rev. James Patterson, of Philadelphia. The Spirit of the Lord was poured out, and an extensive revival of religion commenced almost immediately. It soon spread to almost or quite every part of the city, and I preached more or less in several of the Presbyterian and Dutch churches in the city. A great many very interesting cases of conversion occurred, and incidents of most thrilling interest were of almost daily occurrence. To relate them all would require a large volume. Among them was the following: A lady of intelligence and refinement called on one occasion to consult me about her duty. Up to the time of that revival she had remained unconverted and had paid but little attention to the question of her own salvation. At the time she called on me she had passed through a great struggle of mind, under conviction of sin, and was beginning to hope in Christ. Her husband, she informed me, was a tobacconist, a skeptic, and unfriendly to religion. He did not attend meeting himself and was very much opposed to her attending. She said that she felt that the salvation of her soul depended upon her attending the meetings and getting the instruction which she from day to day was receiving. Notwithstanding the opposition of her husband, she had not dared to absent herself from meeting, lest she should grieve the Spirit of God and lose her soul. Her husband, she said, was a German, a man of violent temper and of strong will; but I understood her to say that she had never had any serious trouble with him before. He would often fly into a passion, but was soon over it. As he had perceived that she had become more earnest in seeking the salvation of her soul, he had utterly forbidden her coming to hear the preaching any more. The point of her inquiry was what I should advise her to do under the circumstances. I asked her if there was anything in the circumstances of the family that rendered it important that she should be at home at the time of the preaching service. She said there was not. "Does your attending those meetings interfere with any duty that you owe to your husband or your family?" She replied: "No, unless it is my duty to neglect the salvation of my soul in order to comply with the wishes of my husband." I inquired: "Can you appeal to him as a witness to your faithfulness and attention to your duties as a wife and a mother?" She said she had asked him if she had not always been a faithful wife and a mother, and whether she had ever crossed him in any of his reasonable requirements. He confessed that she had not. I asked her how she viewed the question of her duty in the case. She replied that she had been strongly impressed with the conviction that it was her duty to go straight forward and make her peace with God for the Lord's sake, for her own sake, and as the best thing she could do for her husband and children. Her husband needed an intelligently Christian praying wife and her children needed a praying mother. She further said: "I tell my husband that I must hear the preaching; and, if he will not consent, I feel it my duty to go notwithstanding." She appeared to me to be led in this thing by the Spirit of God, and the advice I gave her was to look constantly to God for direction and follow her convictions of duty. Shortly after this, as I subsequently learned, her husband threatened her with violence if she went to hear the preaching again. But she waxed confident in the Lord and persisted in coming to meeting. At last he became so outrageous as to threaten her life if she came again to meeting. She laid the matter constantly before the Lord, and decided, as she thought, in the light of God, to attend, whatever the consequences might be. She did not believe, however, that he would attempt to execute his threat. When evening came she went to meeting. On her return, she had no sooner shut the front door after her than her husband appeared, in the greatest rage, with a dagger in his hand, and swore he would kill her on the spot. As he approached her, she evaded him and ran upstairs in the dark. He caught a light (for it was before their houses were lighted with gas) and followed her. The servant girl fearing the consequences, blew out the light as he was entering the stairway. The lady rushed through the rooms and down a back stairway into the cellar, and escaped into the street through a cellar window. She spent the night at the house of a friend. She returned in the morning, expecting to find him cool and ashamed of what he had done the night before. But as soon as she had fairly entered the hall he stepped behind her, locked the door, then threw himself upon his knees, and, with uplifted hands, took the most horrid oath that he would take her life that very hour. He instantly arose and drew his dirk, and pitched at her in a state of terrible wrath. She dodged him, and again ran upstairs, and he after her. She fled from room to room, until she found herself in a room from which there was no escape, and he was close upon her. Seeing herself cornered, and that no further retreat was possible, she turned and faced him as he entered the door, and, falling upon her knees, spread abroad her hands, and cried to God for help. Her attitude, looks, uplifted face and hands, and cry to Heaven arrested him like a thunderbolt. He stopped, looked, fell on his knees, and cried for mercy. After a short struggle of inexpressible distress, confession, and humiliation, he broke thoroughly down upon the spot, made his peace with God and with his wife, and was a new man. Thus wondrously did God manifest his faithfulness to the wife and his long-suffering mercy to the husband. On inquiry, she found that he had been in a tempest of rage the whole night and nearly insane with wrath. He had dashed in pieces several articles of furniture, and had kept those members of the family who were at home in a state of great alarm. But he had become as humble and docile as a child. I had these facts from the parties themselves. I assisted at the communion at which they were both received into the church, and myself baptized their children. That he was a true convert I had the most satisfactory evidence for the time that I knew him. Some two or three years after his conversion I met him, in passing through Philadelphia. It was known to some of my friends that I was to arrive on a certain steamboat, and this German was one of the first who greeted me with a warm heart as I stepped upon the dock. I have not seen him since, and of late years I have forgotten his name. Being a German name and new to me, it has entirely escaped my mind. I relate these facts as an illustration of a trial and triumph of faith. The Christian calmness and firmness of that lady before the trial culminated and her triumphant joy after it was over I shall never forget. It was morally sublime. If either of these parties is living, and this article should come to his or her notice, I beg that he or she will write me, that I may hear before I go hence of the Lord's dealings with them. I have related the facts as nearly as I can recollect them.

 

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