The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
Return to Evans' Mills
I was at this time earnestly pressed to remain at Evans' Mills, and finally gave them encouragement that I would abide with them at least one year. Being engaged to marry, I went from there in October to Whitestown, Oneida County, and was married. My wife had made preparations for housekeeping; and a day or two after our marriage, I left her and returned to Evans' Mills to obtain conveyances to transport her goods to that place. I told her that she might expect me back in about a week. The fall previous to this I had preached a few times in the evening at a place called Perch River, still farther northwest from Evans' Mills about a dozen miles. I spent one Sabbath at Evans' Mills, and intended to return for my wife about the middle of that week. But a messenger from Perch River came up that Sabbath, and said there had been a revival working its way slowly among the people ever since I preached there, and he begged me to go down and preach at least once more there. I finally sent an appointment to be there on Tuesday night. But I found the interest so deep that I stayed and preached on Wednesday night, and on Thursday night, and I finally gave up returning that week for my wife, and continued to preach in that neighborhood.
The revival soon spread in the direction of Brownville, a village of considerable size several miles, I think, in a southwestern direction from that place. I finally, under the pressing invitation of the minister and church at Brownville, went there and spent the winter. I wrote to my wife that such were the circumstances that I must defer coming for her until God seemed to open the way, for I could not leave so interesting a work to gratify myself or her. At Brownville there was a very interesting work. But still the church was in such a state that it was very difficult to get them into the work. The policy pursued in collecting the church had been such, that I found in the eldership Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, and I know not what. The same was true, so far as I could learn, of the membership of the church, and some of them were Universalists. I could not find much that seemed to me to be sound-hearted piety. And the policy of the minister was really such as to forbid anything like a general sweep of a revival. I labored there that winter with great pain, and had many serious obstacles to overcome. Sometimes I would find that the minister and his wife were away from our meetings, and would learn afterwards that they had stayed away to attend a party. I was the guest at that place of a Mr. Ballard, one of the elders of the church, and the most intimate and influential friend of the minister.
One day as I came down from my room and was going out to call on some inquirers, I met Mr. Ballard in the hall, and he said to me, "Mr. Finney, what should you think of a man that was praying week after week for the Holy Spirit, and could not get it?" I replied that I should think he was praying from false motives. "But from what motives," said he, "should a man pray? If he wants to be happy, is that a false motive?" I replied, "Satan might pray with as good a motive as that"; and then quoted the words of the psalmist: "Uphold me with thy free Spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee." "See!" said I, "the psalmist did not pray for the Holy Spirit that he might be happy but that he might be useful, and that sinners might be converted to Christ." I said this and turned and went immediately out, and I observed that he turned very short and went back to his room. I remained out till dinnertime, and when I returned he met me and immediately began to confess. "Mr. Finney," said he, "I owe you a confession. I was angry when you said that to me, and I must confess that I hoped I should never see you again. What you said," he continued, "forced the conviction upon me that I never had been converted--that I never had had any higher motive than a mere selfish desire for my own happiness." Said he, "I went away after you left the house, and prayed to God to take my life. I could not endure to have it known that I had always been deceived. I have been most intimate with our minister. I have journeyed with him, and slept with him, and conversed with him, and have been more intimate with him than any other member of the church, and yet I saw that I had always been a deceived hypocrite. The mortification was intolerable; and," said he, "I wanted to die, and prayed the Lord to take my life." However, he was all broken down then, and from that time became a new man. That conversion did a great deal of good. I might relate many other interesting facts connected with this revival; but as there were so many things that pained me in regard to the relation of the pastor to it, and especially of the pastor's wife, I will forbear.
Early in the spring of the year, I left Brownville with my horse and cutter to go after my wife. I had been absent six months after our marriage, and as mails then were between us, we had seldom been able to exchange letters. I drove on some fifteen miles, and the roads were very slippery. My horse was smooth shod, and I found I must have his shoes reset. I stopped at Le Rayville, a small village about three miles south of Evans' Mills. While my horse was being shod, the people finding that I was there, ran to me and wanted to know if I would not preach. They urged me so hard that I agreed to preach at one o'clock in the schoolhouse--for they had no meetinghouse. At one o'clock the house was packed, and while I preached the Spirit of God came down with great power upon the people. So great and manifest was the outpouring of the Spirit, that in compliance with their earnest entreaty I concluded to spend the night there and preach again in the evening. But the work increased more and more; and in the evening I appointed another meeting in the morning, and in the morning I appointed another in the evening; and soon I saw that I should not be able to go any farther after my wife. I told a brother that if he would take my horse and cutter and go after my wife, I would remain. He did so, and I went on preaching, from day to day, and from night to night; and there we had a powerful revival. I should have said that while I was at Brownville God revealed to me all at once in a most unexpected manner, the fact that He was going to pour out His Spirit at Gouverneur, and that I must go there and preach. Of the place I knew absolutely nothing, except that in that town there was so much opposition manifested to the revival in Antwerp the year before. I can never tell how or why the Spirit of God made that revelation to me. But I knew then, and I have no doubt now, that it was a direct revelation from God to me. I had not thought of the place, that I know of, for months; but when engaged in prayer, the thing was all shown to me as clear as light that I must go and preach in Gouverneur, and that God would pour out His Spirit there.
Very soon after this I saw one of the members of the church from Gouverneur, who was passing through Brownville. I told him what God had revealed to me. He stared at me as if he supposed that I was insane. But I charged him to go home and tell the brethren what I said, and to prepare themselves for my coming and for the outpouring of the Lord's Spirit. From him I learned that they had no minister. That there were two churches, and two meetinghouses in the town standing near together. That the Baptists had a minister, and the Presbyterians no minister. That an elderly minister lived there who had formerly been their pastor, but had been dismissed; and that they were having in the Presbyterian church no regular Sabbath services. From what he said I gathered that religion was in a very low state, and he himself was as cold as an iceberg.
But now I return to my labors in Le Rayville. After laboring there a few weeks, the great mass of the inhabitants were converted, and amongst the rest Judge Canada, a man in point of influence standing head and shoulders above all the people around him. My wife arrived, of course, a few days after I sent for her, and we accepted the invitation of Judge Canada and his wife to become their guests. But after a few weeks the people urged me to go and preach in a Baptist church in the town of Rutland, where Rutland joins Le Ray. I made an appointment to preach there one afternoon. The weather had become warm, and I walked over through a pine grove about three miles to their place of worship. I arrived early, and found the house open but nobody there. I was warm from having walked so far, and went in and took my seat near the broad aisle and about the center of the house. Very soon people began to come in and take their seats here and there, scattered over the house. Soon the number coming in was such that they were coming continually. I sat still; and being an entire stranger there no person came in that I knew, and I presume that no person that came in knew me.
By and by a young lady came in who had two or three tall plumes in her bonnet. She was rather gaily dressed, was rather slender, tall, dignified, and decidedly handsome. I observed as soon as she came in at the door that she waved her head and gave a very graceful motion to her plumes, and thought she must have practiced that motion before her looking glass. She came as it were sailing around, and up the broad aisle toward where I sat, mincing as she came, at every step waving her great plumes most gracefully, and rolling her eyes to indicate that she was looking just enough to see the impression she was making. For such a place the whole thing was so peculiar that it struck me very much. As the Lord would have it, she came up the broad aisle and took a seat directly behind me, in which at the time nobody was sitting. She and I were sitting close together, but each of us occupying a separate slip. I moved along a little so that I could turn around, and by putting my elbow on the back of my seat could pretty easily survey her motions and looks and see what she was about. She still kept up the graceful motion of her head, and kept her body moving just enough to wave her plumes; and it was evident that she was as full of pride, and of herself, as she could be. After sitting for a short time in that way, I turned around and looked at her. Every part of her dress indicated the greatest vanity. I turned partly around and looked at her from head to foot; casting my eye from her feet up to her bonnet, and then down again, then up again, then down again. She saw that I was observing her so critically, and looked a little abashed. In a very low voice I said to her: "Don't you believe that God thinks you look pretty? Why how pretty God must think you do look! Don't you think all the people will think you look so very nice?" And then I said to her still more earnestly, "Did you come in here to divide the worship of God's house? to make people worship you to get their attention away from God and His worship?" This made her writhe; and I followed her up in a voice so low that nobody else heard me, but I made her hear me distinctly. She quailed under it, and could not hold up her head. She began to tremble, and her plumes were all in a shake. When I had said enough to fasten the thought of her insufferable vanity on her mind, I arose and went into the pulpit. As soon as she saw me go into the pulpit, and that I was the minister that was about to preach, her manifest agitation began to increase--so much so as to attract the attention of those around her. The house was soon full, and I took a text and went on to preach.
The Spirit of the Lord was evidently poured out on the congregation; and at the close of the sermon I did what I do not know I had ever done before, called upon any who would give their hearts to God to come forward and take the front seats. And I cannot remember that I ever did this again anywhere until I did it in Rochester, N.Y. The moment I made the call this young lady was the first to arise. She burst out into the aisle, and came forward, like a person in a state of desperation. She seemed to have lost all sense of the presence of anybody but God. She came rushing forward to the front seats, until she finally fell in the aisle and shrieked with agony. A large number arose in different parts of the house and came forward; and a goodly number appeared to give their hearts to God upon the spot, and among the rest this young lady. On inquiry I found that she was regarded as rather the belle of that place. That she was an agreeable girl, but was regarded by everybody as very proud and dressy.
After I left that place--and many years after--I saw a man who called my attention to that meeting. I inquired after this young lady. He informed me that he knew her well. That she still resided there, was married, and was a very useful woman, and had always been a very earnest Christian from that time.
I preached a few times at this place, and then the question of Gouverneur came up again, and God seemed to say to me, "Go to Gouverneur--the time has come." Brother Nash had come to me a few days before this, and was spending some time with me at that place. At the time of this last call to Gouverneur, I had some two or three appointments ahead in that part of Rutland. I said therefore to Brother Nash, "You must go to Gouverneur and see what is there, and come back and make your report." He started the next morning; and after he had been gone two or three days returned, saying, that he found a good many professors of religion under considerable exercise of mind, and that he was confident that there was a good deal of the Spirit of the Lord among the people: but that they were not aware what the state of things really was. I then informed the people where I was preaching that I was called to Gouverneur, and could make no more appointments to preach in that place. I requested Brother Nash to return immediately, informing the people that they might expect me on a certain day in that week.
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