To Edward Payson Marvin

15 April 1873


[MS in Finney Papers, Box 9.]

At the top of the first page, in the handwriting of Marvin, is the following, which has been crossed out:

Church needs reformation

& the ref. must begin in the

60000 clergy.


The letter is in the handwriting of Mrs Rebecca Finney:


Oberlin April 15th/1873

Rev E. P. Marvin

Dear Brother, Yours of

the 8th is received. I rejoice that God

has blessed your labors during the

past year, to the conversion of so

many souls. You have suggested

a great want of the world, which the

ministry and church, are in great

measure overlooking. I mean the

sending abroad into the rural districts,

into the highways and hedges, Evan-

gelists to win souls, and organize

churches of Christ. This is the

original and true idea of Evangelists.

A publisher of glad tidings.

Evangelists called sinners to Christ,

and organized churches, that were

delivered over to the pastor, to feed

and train, and educate for Christ.

[page 2]

But the remissness, and inefficiency

of pastors, has rendered it necessary

to send Evangelists to arouse them

and their flocks, from their tor-

pid state, insomuch that now

Evangelists seldom labor beyond

the precincts of the churches and

fields of the pastors. Indeed

Brother Nettleton strangely assumed and

asserted that Evangelists should not

go beyond the fields occupied by

pastors. This is reversing the original

order of things. Is not the fastidiousness

of city churches and their unwillingness

to hear sound preaching, due to

the trimming policy of the pastors

themselves? The policy, which you reject,

of attempting to win sinners to Christ,

without the schoolmaster, is working

great mischief in the church.

Dr Lyman Beecher started it. When

I labored in Boston, in 1831 & -2, I

[page 3]

found the churches there would not

bear searching at all. Dr. Beecher

expressed disapprobation of my preaching

so much of what he called reprehension.

Henry And his teaching, especially in the

latter part of his life, has gone to seed

in Henry Ward. Dr Wisner, then of the

Old South, informed me, that they felt

keenly, that the Dr was preaching a very

low standard of piety. H. Ward is

preaching a much lower standard still.

Theodore Tilton is one of his spiritual

children, and, I believe, still a member

of his church. He seems to be inculca-

ting a gospel of self indulgence, &

this is fast coming to be quite a

popular method of religious teaching.

The developments that are rapidly

coming to notice, show that we

are on the way to separating

religion from morality. Men may

be very good christians, who are

[page 4]

grossly immoral, and women may

have a high reputation for piety, who

are the very impersonation of vanity

and extravagance. It will take, at least,

of reaction

one generation ^, which I hope, is already

beginning, to bring the church back again

on to really evangelical ground.

If Evangelists would confine their

labors, to districts outside of the pastorate,

it would be well to have a society

formed, for their support. But, it

would seem a pity for the church

to support Evangelists to labor as

missionaries among the pastors.

I do not know, that I can do any

thing in the direction you suggest.

My health is pretty good, for a man

of my age, but my eyes are so

weak, that I am obliged to write by

the hand of another. God Bless You.

C. G. Finney.



This letter is not in the Finney Papers.

At the 1870 Ohio Congregational Convention held at Oberlin in June the subject of "Christian Unity" was discussed during the morning of Wednesday 15th. There was lamentation among some delegates that an increased unity among Christians was taking place at the expense of purity of doctrine. Henry Ward Beecher's laxness was given as an example. Finney's comment was noted:

Pres Finney thought that the elder Beecher spent his life in a work the results of which seemed to be very small; and that his children perceiving this fact were disposed to be liberal and not insist too much on strict doctrine.

(See The Lorain County News (Oberlin), 23 June 1870, p. 1.)