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Finney, Charles Grandison

Category: Religious

Charles Grandison Finney (August 29, 1792 – August 16, 1875) was an American Presbyterian minister and leader in the Second Great Awakening in the United States.

Finney was best known as an innovative revivalist during the period 1825–1835 in upstate New York and Manhattan, an opponent of Old School Presbyterian theology, an advocate of Christian perfectionism, and a religious writer.

Together with several other evangelical leaders, his religious views led him to promote social reforms, such as abolition of slavery and equal education for women and African Americans. From 1835 he taught at Oberlin College of Ohio, which accepted students without regard to race or sex. He served as its second president from 1851 to 1866, during which its faculty and students were activists for abolition, the Underground Railroad, and universal education.

His spiritual experience

Born in Warren, Connecticut, in 1792, Finney was the youngest of nine children. The son of farmers who moved to the upstate frontier of Jefferson County, New York after the American Revolutionary War, Finney never attended college. His leadership abilities, musical skill, six-foot three-inch stature, and piercing eyes gained him recognition in his community.

He and his family attended the Baptist church in Henderson, New York, where the preacher led emotional, revival-style meetings. He "read the law", studying as an apprentice to become a lawyer, but after a dramatic conversion experience and baptism into the Holy Spirit in Adams, he gave up legal practice to preach the gospel.  In effect, what makes Finney interesting is that he had an overwhelming spiritual experience that defined him for the rest of his life:

Cosmic Consciousness, by Richard Maurice Bucke, [1901], CHAPTER 13.  Charles G. Finney.  1792–1875.

The illumination of Charles G. Finney took place early in his thirtieth year—that is, in October, 1821. He had the usual earnest religious temperament, and for some time had been greatly troubled about his spiritual state, eagerly desiring, but unable to reach assurance of, salvation. Then occurred what he calls his "conversion." ……………………

The long, laborious and beneficent after life of this man proved, if proof was necessary, that his "conversion" was no accidental  excitement that might have happened to any man, but an unmistakable mark of spiritual superiority.

Mr. Finney had, too, to an extraordinary degree, the personal magnetism that is so characteristic of the class of men to which he belonged. The effect of his preaching was indescribable, and yet it is doubtful whether the words uttered had much to do with its exceptional power. His presence, his touch, the sound of his voice, seemed often sufficient to arouse unutterable feelings—to uplift and regenerate in what may fairly be called a miraculous manner.

……. he had a feeling of that other self within himself .........As illustrating this …. he says: "Let no man think that those sermons which have been called so powerful were productions of my own brain or of my own heart unassisted by the Holy Ghost. They are not mine, but from the Holy Spirit in me."

Finally it should be noted that the life and the life work of Charles G. Finney were on strictly parallel lines, though on a less high plane, with the life and life work of the great religious initiators, he, as they, expending all his time and energy labouring to place his brothers and sisters on a higher moral plane than that on which they had heretofore lived.

 

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