THE REVIVAL LEGACY OF CHARLES G. FINNEY
The Impact & Influence of Charles Finney’s Lectures on Revival
By Jesse Morrell
“It would be impossible to estimate the influence exerted on revival movements all over the world during the past hundred years by Charles Finney’s lectures on prayer in his Revivals of Religion.” Arthur Wallis
Charles Finney was, by far, the greatest evangelist and revivalist that the United States has ever seen. And after Finney published his “Lectures on Revival,” revivals started popping up all over the world.
In the early days of the Salvation Army, a street preaching movement started by William & Catherine Booth, they used Finney’s Lectures on Revival as a type of Official Manual for their army….
One of Catherine’s biographers said, Finney “she considered to be a sound champion of the truth.” And “Mrs. Booth studied his writings perhaps more than those of any other author, and continued to do so, and to recommend them to others, to the end of her life.” She said, “I often wish I could have an hour’s talk with Finney.” She sent her son, Bramwell Booth, who succeeded William as General, a copy of Finney’s Lectures on Systematic Theology to study.
“Catherine Booth referred to Finney’s Revival Lectures as ‘the most beautiful and common-sense work on the subject that I ever read.’ In the 1880’s, when the Booths wanted to train Salvation Army cadets in revival methods, they used Finney’s books.” Historical Dictionary of The Salvation Army, by Major John G. Merritt, p. 168
“Charles Grandison Finney wrote Lectures on Revival, which greatly influenced Catherine and William Booth. Their approach to revivalism copied Finney’s ‘American’ methods…. The Booths and hundreds of others committed to memory his manual for successful evangelism.” Origins of the Salvation Army by Norman H. Murdoch, p. 13
“George Scott Railton, Booth’s mission secretary in the 1870’s, placed Finney above Wesley and Whitefield as Booth’s model for sermon making. Catherine often remarked on the parallels between the careers of Finney and her husband. The clergy rebuffed both for their preaching manner and unconventional educational backgrounds. Both refused to become ministerial trainees when that meant embracing Calvinist dogma. To Catherine, Finney was “an American William Booth.” Origins of the Salvation Army by Norman H. Murdoch, p. 13 [I think that technically, that would make William Booth an English Charles Finney]
Jonathon Goforth, the foremost missionary revivalist in early 20th century, read Finney’s Lectures on Revival and afterwards saw revival in China….
Goforth said in his biography, “Late in the fall of 1905 Eddy’s little pamphlet, containing selections from “Finney’s Autobiography and Revival Lectures,” was sent to me by a friend in India. It was the final something which set me on fire. On the front page of this pamphlet there was a statement to the effect that a farmer might just as well pray for a temporal harvest without fulfilling the laws of nature, as for Christians to expect a great ingathering of souls by simply asking for it and without bothering to fulfill the laws governing the spiritual harvest. “If Finney is right,” I vowed, “then I’m going to find out what those laws are and obey them, no matter what it costs.” Early in 1906, while on my way to take part in the intensive evangelistic work which our mission conducted yearly at the great idolatrous fair at Hsun Hsien, a brother missionary loaned me the full “Autobiography” of Finney. It is impossible for me to estimate all that that book meant to me. We missionaries read a portion of it daily while we carried on our work at the fair.” By My Spirit, Chapter 2
Goforth wrote about the impact of Finney’s ministry and how it even inspired Spurgeon to pray for revival: “Finney depended more upon the prayers of fathers Nash and Clary to bring down Holy Ghost revival than upon his own resistless logic. So accustomed are we today to the Laodicean condition of the Church that the all-pervading influence of prayer in Finney’s time amazes us. Imagine forty ministers and missionaries being thrust into the Lord’s harvest field as the result of prayer during one revival in a Rochester High School! By 1857, Finney was seeing fifty thousand a week turning to God. In many cities there was no building large enough to hold the prayermeetings. It was at that time that the Fulton Street prayermeeting started in a side room in a church, and in a few weeks had taxed the capacity of the entire building to the utmost, and had even overflowed to neighbouring churches.
In 1858, Mr. Spurgeon called his great congregation together and said: “The Spirit of God is saving multitudes now in the United States. Since God is no respecter of persons we will pray until He sends similar showers of blessing upon our land.””
Someone just said, “And how many of those “saved” in Finney revivals could be found in church attendance a year later? Practically none! Easy “freewill” “Easy believism” conversions are mostly false!”
I said: The vast majority of Finney’s converts remained in the faith until the end of their lives and Finney did not preach Easy Believism but the contrary!
Leonard Ravenhill said, “Finney never made an altar call within the first twenty eight nights of preaching. Most of our evangelists don’t have twenty eight sermons. Twenty eight nights in a row and he never made an altar call. He didn’t preach the love of God. He didn’t say “you’re a sinner, God loves you.” He said “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps 7:11) which the Word of God says. He didn’t preach grace, he preached Law. He didn’t preach love, he preached judgment. He didn’t preach heaven, he preached hell. He didn’t say “you’re a wonderful person” he said “you’re a rebel”. But he got results. 64% of D. L. Moodys converts backslid, 72% of the converts Finney got stood because he knew how to attack the human will, not just the emotions.”
It has been well recorded that Finney had around 500,000 converts. And if 72% stayed in the faith, as Leonard Ravenhill said, then that is about 129,000 that fell away. Is that a lot of people? Sure is. But that is 387,000 that remained in the faith. Even Jesus had backsliders. It says in Joh 6:66 “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. ” The word many means a large group, or most. Of course, Finney’s 72% of souls soundly saved is much better than the track record of John Calvin, who did not have any converts at all that we know of. Finney converted the enemies of God, but Calvin burned his opponents. He wasn’t winning souls. He was burning heretics. I would take Finney over Calvin any day.
This is from soneone who was around back then. “Charles G. Finney was born in Warren, Conn., August 29, 1792. The one hundred years which have passed since that date are doubtless the most remarkable 100 years of the world’s history. The influence of Mr. Finney has been one of the potent factors in producing these remarkable years. More and more his name is receiving honorable mention as his work and power are better known and appreciated. There can be no question that it is to stand among the few greatest leaders of religious thought of the century.” Memorial Address. By Prof. John Ellis. 1892.
It would do us and the lost much good if the modern Street Preacher Movement also read up on these very important lectures. May these writings continue to plant the seeds of revival!
Lectures on Revivals of Religion by Charles G. Finney is a classic volume on revivals. Finney was America’s greatest revivalist. Over half a million souls were soundly saved under his ministry. After Finney published his lectures on revival, revivals started breaking out all over the place. This book is a must read for any believer who wants to win souls to Christ!
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