MEMOIRS OF CHARLES G. FINNEY
SECOND VISIT TO ENGLAND
WE sailed for Liverpool in the steamer Persia, in December, 1858. Our friend Brown came to Liverpool to meet us, to induce us to labor in Houghton for a season, before we committed ourselves to any other field. Immediately on our arrival, I received a great number of letters from different parts of England, expressing great joy at our return and inviting us to come and labor in many different fields. However I spent several weeks laboring in Houghton and Saint Ives, where we saw precious revivals. In Saint Ives they had never had a revival before. In Houghton we had labored during our first visit to England, and saw a very interesting work of grace.
At this time we found at Saint Ives a very singular state of things. There was but one Independent church, the pastor of which had been there a good many years, but had not succeeded in doing much as a minister. He was a mysterious sort of man. He was very fond of wine and a great opposer of total abstinence. We held our meetings in a hall which would accommodate more people, by far, than the Congregational church. I sometimes preached, however, in the church; but it was a less desirable place to preach in than the hall, as it was a very small and incommodious house.
The revival took powerful effect there, notwithstanding the position of the minister. He stood firmly against it until the interest became so great that he left the town, and was absent, I know not where, for several weeks. Since that time the converts of the revival, together with my friend Brown, and some of the older members of the church, have put up a fine chapel, and the religious condition of the place has been exceedingly different from what it ever had been before.
Mr. Harcourt, the former pastor at Houghton, had proved himself a very successful minister, and had been called to London, to Borough Road chapel. Here I found him on my second visit to England. He had been awaiting, with anxiety, our return to England; and as soon as he heard we were there, he used most strenuous efforts to secure our labors with him in London. The church over which he presided in London, had been torn to pieces by most ultra and fanatical views on the subject of temperance. They had a lovely pastor, whose heart had been almost broken by their feuds upon that subject, and he had finally left the church in utter discouragement. Their deacons had been compelled to resign, and the church was in a sad state of disorganization. Brother Harcourt informed me that unless the church could be converted, he was satisfied he never could succeed in doing much in that field.
As soon as we could leave Saint Ives we went to London, to see what could be done in his church and congregation. We found them, as he had represented, in so demoralized a state that it seemed questionable whether the church could ever be resuscitated and built up. However we went to work, my wife among the ladies of the congregation, and I went to preaching, and searching them, to the utmost of my strength. It was very soon perceptible that the Spirit of God was poured out, and that the church were very generally in a state of great conviction. The work deepened and spread till it reached, I believe, every household belonging to that congregation. All the old members of the church were so searched that they made confession one to another, and settled their difficulties; and Mr. Harcourt told me, before I left, that his church was entirely a new church; that the blessing of God had been universal among them so that all their old animosities were healed; and that he had the greatest comfort in them. Indeed the work in that church was really most wonderful. I directed my labors, for several weeks, to the church itself. Mr. Harcourt had been praying for them, and laboring with them, till he was almost discouraged; but the blessing at last came, in such fullness, as to meet the longings of his heart. His people were reconverted and cemented together in love, and they learned to take hold of the work themselves.
Some years after my return to this country, Mr. Harcourt came over and made us a visit. This was a little while after the death of my dear wife. He then told me that the work had continued in his church up to that time, that his people felt that if there were not more or less conversions every week, something was entirely wrong. They were frightened if the work was not perceptibly and constantly going forward. He said they stood by him, and he felt every Sabbath as if he was in the midst of a praying atmosphere. Indeed his report of the results of that revival up to the time of his leaving, was deeply interesting. Considering what the church had been, and what it was after the revival, it is no wonder that Mr. Harcourt's heart was as full as it could hold, of thanksgiving to God, for such a blessing.
In this place, as had been the case before at Dr. Campbell's, there were great revelations made of iniquity that had been covered up for a long time, among professors of religion. These cases were frequently brought to my notice by persons coming to me to ask for advice. Not only did professors of religion come, but numbers that had never made a profession of religion, who became terribly convicted of sin.
Soon after I began my labors at this time in London, a Dr. Tregelles, a distinguished literary man and professed theologian, wrote to Dr. Campbell, calling his attention to what he regarded as a great error in my theology. In treating upon the conditions of salvation, I had said in my Systematic Theology, that the atonement of Christ was one of the conditions. I said that God's infinite love was the foundation or source from which the whole movement sprung, but that the conditions upon which we could be saved, were the atonement of Christ, faith, and repentance. To this statement Dr. Tregelles took great exceptions.
Strange to tell, instead of going to my theology, and seeing just what I did say, Dr. Campbell took it up in his paper and agreed with Dr. Tregelles, and wrote several articles in opposition to what he supposed to be my views. They, both of them, strangely misunderstood my position, and got up in England, at this time, a good deal of opposition to my labors. Dr. Campbell, it appeared, after all, had no doubt of my orthodoxy. Dr. Redford insisted that my statement of the matter was right, and that any other statement was far from being right. However, I paid no attention, publicly, to Dr. Campbell's strictures on the subject. He afterwards wrote me a letter, which I have now in my possession, subscribing fully to my orthodoxy and to my views; but saying that, unfortunately, I made discriminations in my theology that common people did not understand. The fact is, a great many people understood them better than the Doctor did himself.
He had been educated in Scotland, and was, after the straitest sect, a Scotch theologian; consequently my new school statements of doctrine puzzled him, and it took him some time to understand them. I found when I first arrived in England that their theology was to a very great extent dogmatic, in the sense that it rested on authority. They had their Thirty-nine Articles in the Established church, and their Westminster Confession of faith; and these they regarded as authority. They were not at all in the habit of trying to prove the positions taken in these standards, as they were called; but dealt them out as dogmas. When I began to preach they were surprised that I reasoned with the people. Dr. Campbell did not approve it, and insisted that it would do no good. But the people felt otherwise; and it was not uncommon for me to receive such intelligence as this, that my reasonings had convinced them of what they had always doubted; and that my preaching was logical instead of dogmatic, and therefore met the wants of the people.
I had myself, before I was converted, felt greatly the want of instruction and logical preaching from the pulpit. This experience always had a great influence upon my own preaching. I knew how thinking men felt when a minister took for granted the very things that needed proof. I therefore used to take great pains to meet the wants of persons who were in this state of mind. I knew what my difficulties had been, and therefore I endeavored to meet the intellectual wants of my hearers.
I told Dr. Campbell this; but at first he had no faith that the people would understand me and appreciate my reasonings. But when he came to receive the converts, and to converse personally with them, he confessed to me again and again his surprise that they had so well understood my reasonings. "Why," he would say, "they are theologians." He was very frank, and confessed to me how erroneous his views had been upon that subject.
After I had finished my labors at Borough Road chapel, we left London and rested a few weeks at Houghton. Such was the state of my health that I thought I must return home. But Dr. F, an excellent Christian man living in Huntington, urged us very much to go to his house and finish our rest, and let him do what he could for me as a physician. We accepted his invitation and went to his house. He had a family of eight children, all unconverted. The oldest son was also a physician. He was a young man of remarkable talents, but a thorough skeptic. He had embraced Comte's philosophy, and had settled down in extreme views of atheism, or I should say of nihilism. He seemed not to believe anything. He was a very affectionate son; but his skepticism had deeply wounded his father, and for his conversion he had come to feel an unutterable longing.
After remaining at the Doctor's two or three weeks, without medicine, my health became such that I began to preach. There never had been a revival in Huntington, and they really had no conception of what a revival would be. I occupied what they called Temperance Hall, the only large hall in the town. It was immediately filled, and the Spirit of the Lord was soon poured out upon the people. I soon found opportunity to converse with young Dr. F. I drew him out into some long walks, and entered fully into an investigation of his views; and finally, under God, succeeded in bringing him to a perfect standstill. He saw that all his philosophy was vain. At this time I preached one Sabbath evening on the text: "The hail shall sweep away the refuges of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding places. Your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand." I spent my strength in searching out the refuges of lies, and exposing them; and concluded with a picture of the hailstorm, and the descending torrent of rain that swept away what the hail had not demolished. The impression on the congregation was at the time very deep. That night young Dr. F could not sleep. His father went to his room, and found him in the greatest consternation and agony of mind. At length he became calm, and to all appearance passed from death unto life. The prayers of the father and the mother for their children were heard. The revival went through their family, and converted every one of them. It was a joyful house, and one of the most lovely families that I ever had the privilege of residing in. We remained at their house while we continued our labors in Huntington.
The revival took a very general hold of the church, and of professors of religion in that town, and spread extensively among the unconverted; and greatly changed the religious aspect of the town. There was then no Congregational church there. There were two or three churches of the Establishment, one Methodist, and one Baptist, at that time in Huntington. Since then the converts of that revival, together with Mr. Brown and his son, and those Christians that were blest in the revival, have united and built, as I understand, a commodious chapel at Huntington, as they did at St. Ives.
Mr. Brown had pushed his work of evangelization with such energy, that when I arrived in England the second time, I found that he had seven churches in as many different villages in his neighborhood, and was employing preachers, and teachers, and laborers, to the number of twenty. His means of doing good have fully kept pace with his princely outlays for souls. When I first arrived in England, he was running a hired flouring mill, with ten pairs of stones; the second time I was there, in addition to this, he was running a mill which he had built at Saint Ives, at an expense of twenty thousand pounds sterling, with sixteen pairs of stones. He afterward built, at Huntington, another mill of the same capacity. Thus God poured into his coffers as fast as he poured out into the treasury of the Lord.
From Huntington we returned to London, and labored for several weeks in the northeastern part of the city, in several chapels occupied by a branch of the Methodist church. One of the places of worship was in Spitalsfield, the house having been originally built, I think, by the Huguenots. It was a commodious place of worship, and we had a glorious work of grace there, which continued till late in the summer.
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