[b][REVIVAL NOT SURVIVAL[/b]
Charles Finney believed and showed that it was essential for a church to keep revival fires blazing to succeed in her mission to the lost
The only reason young Charles Finney went to church was because he fancied a girl in the choir! But as a proud and gifted law student he had already begun to study the Bible and seek God. One morning he determined to break through to God whatever it cost. He knew a strong sense of his own sin, fearing he could drop into hell that instant. He then felt an inner prompting telling him to accept God's mercy, "I will", he replied. "Or die in the attempt!"
So he went to a nearby forest and, trembling and on his knees, gave his life to God. Immediately his heart ovefflowed with a deep passion for Jesus that was to characterise his life's work.
On returning to his office where he worked as a legal clerk, he began to pray. Suddenly, the Lord Himself was there with him! "I saw Him", Finney records, "as I would see any other man." He fell at His feet and wept.
When he got up he was powerfully baptised in the Holy Spirit. "I felt something like a wave of electricity going through and through me. It seemed like the very breath of God, and it seemed to fan me like immense wings. I wept aloud with joy and love. I bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart. These waves came over and over me until I cried out 'Lord I cannot bear it anymore.'"
Small wonder that from this moment revival followed Finney around. His boss was so awed in Finney's presence that he ran to the woods and gave his life to Christ.
The next day Finney went to the church prayer room. He found it full of people, even though no meeting had been announced -God had brought them together. As he entered, the power of God came over the meeting, and people fell to the ground, confessing their sins.
In 1824 Finney becamea travelling Presbyterian preacher in rural New York state. Wherever he preached, the power of God was with him. Once he went to a cotton mill and just stood there in silence. The whole workforce began to weep under the hand of God.
In one village where no Christian had ever preached, the locals were hard and resented his presence. But when he preached Christ, a sudden fear fell on them. "If I had had a sword on each hand, I could not have cut them down as fast as they fell," he records. He left them in order to get to another engagement, but when he returned he found that the meeting had gone on all night, and the 'slain' had to be carried out of the building so that the school could start!
The climax of his early labours was in the town of Rochester, where ten per cent of the population came to the Lord. In 1830 alone 1,200 converts joined churches there. Years later, it was estimated that 80 per cent of those converts were still following the Lord. Amazingly, while Rochester trebled in size during this time, the actual number of crimes was three times less than before the revival started.
But there was opposition. One pastor threatened to use cannons to stop him entering his town! Another denounced his ministry from the pulpit - and died in his bed shortly afterwards. Several times straw effigies of Finney and his intercession leader, Nash, were burned in the streets. A man came to a meeting hiding a revolver, intending to shoot the revivalist, but he fell to the floor under God's power and was saved!
In later years Fmnney became pastor of a New York church, from which he made trips abroad. Twice he visited Britain and here, too, the Spirit was outpoured. Then he became lecturer at a college in Oberlin until his death in 1875.
His series of lectures on revival has inspired many ever since and it is estimated that in his lifetime over half a million souls were saved.
Source: Charles Finney Autobiography, Bethany Book House 1979; Winkle Pratney, Revival, Whitaker House 1983.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon