Charles Finney

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Charles Finney
Charles Finney.jpg

Born August 29, 1792
Warren, Connecticut
Died August 16, 1875
Oberlin, Ohio
Spouse Lydia Root Andrews,
Elizabeth Ford Atkinson,
Rebecca Allen Rayl
Religion Evangelical

Charles Grandison Finney (August 29, 1792 - August 16, 1875) was a leader of the Second Great Awakening. He was one of America's greatest revivalists, and is called the "father of modern revivalism" by some historians today.[1]

Early life

Charles Finney was born on Aug. 29, 1792, in Warren, Connecticut.

When Finney was two years old his family moved to upstate New York. He received his early education in frontier schools. While he was still a young man, Finney studied law and set up practice in Adams, New York. A book on law, William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, repeatedly mentioned the Bible. Blackstone referred to the Bible as the highest authority.[2] Finney bought a Bible and was soon reading it more than the books on law. The Bible moved Finney deeply and on October 10, 1821 Finney became a converted Christian. He decided to witness for Christ instead of practicing law.

Life as a Preacher

Finney Memorial Chapel, Oberlin College

Finney was soon conducting large revival meetings and was filling the largest buildings available. The highlight of his evangelistic ministry, called the "nine might years," was from 1824 to 1832. During this time period, he conducted powerful revival meetings all over the eastern cities of Gouverneur, Rome, Utica, Auburn, Troy, Wilmington, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York. After his meeting in Rochester, New York, twelve hundred people united with the churches of Rochester Presbytery. The whole character of the town was changed. As a result of that meeting, revivals broke out in 1,500 other towns and villages. Due to poor health, Finney was forced to stop his evangelistic ministry.


In October 1824, Finney Married Lydia Root Andrews, who helped with his ministry. Together, they had six children.[3] On December 18th, 1847, Lydia passed away.[4] A year later, he married Elizabeth Ford Atkinson, who was well known in Rochester, New York, for her work in opening the Atkinson Female Seminary.[5] Elizabeth passed away in 1863, and later Finney remarried to his last wife, Rebecca Rayl.[6]

Later life

He became president of Oberlin College in 1851 after Asa Mahan,[7] where he lectured until his death in August 16, 1875. Finney served as Oberlin president until 1866, and was succeeded by James Fairchild.[8] An abolitionist, Finney's preaching and work with Oberlin College would often reflect this view. The memorial chapel at Oberlin College is named in his honor.[9]

On the failure of America

In a sermon titled The Decay of Conscience, Finney issued a warning to all Americans, particularly the faithful, regarding the importance of morality to the upkeep of a free society. He said:

Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits. If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree. If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it. Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation.[10][11]

See also


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