The Revival Labors Of Charles G. Finney (Part 1)
Charles G. Finney was a young lawyer in the state of New York when first brought face to face with the question of whether he would receive Christ as presented in the Gospel or whether he would pursue a worldly course of life. In his earlier years he had had very little contact with Christianity.
As he began the study of law he encountered Scripture quotations. Some of the authors of his law books referred to the Bible as authority for some of the great principles of law. He purchased a Bible to use somewhat as a reference book. As he read and meditated in the Word of God, his interest in it grew. After two or three years of uncertainty, he became convinced that the Bible was the true Word of God. Having decided that the Bible was the Word of God, he knew that he must settle the matter of his soul’s salvation as set forth in the Bible. He must make his peace with God.
North of the little village where he lived was a piece of woods, and there he went to pour out his heart in prayer to God – where no one could see or hear him. For a time he seemed to get nowhere in his search for God. With each rustle of leaves he interrupted his prayers to see if someone was approaching and would see him on his knees in prayer. At length, this was revealed to him as pride in his heart.
"The sin [of pride] appeared awful, infinite. It broke me down before the Lord," he wrote. "Just at that point," he continued, "this passage of Scripture seemed to drop into my mind with a flood of light: ‘Then shall ye call upon Me, and ye shall go and pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart’ (Jer. 29:12-13). I instantly seized hold of this with my heart…. I knew that it was God’s Word and God’s voice, as it were, that spoke to me.
"I cried to Him, ‘Lord, I take Thee at Thy Word. Now Thou knowest that I do search for Thee with all my heart, and that I have come here to pray to Thee; and Thou hast promised to hear me.’ The Spirit seemed to lay stress upon that idea in the text, ‘When you search for Me with all your heart….’ The question of when, that is of the present time, seemed to fall heavily into my heart. I told the Lord that I should take Him at His Word; that He could not lie; and that therefore I was sure that He heard my prayer, and that He would be found of me."
For several hours alone in the woods he sought the Lord and peace came to his heart. That evening, after the work for the day had been completed, alone in his room, he received a mighty baptism of the Holy Spirit. God filled his heart with His love to overflowing. So great was the sense of love that he had difficulty going to sleep that night.
The next morning he was given to understand that the great peace in his heart which replaced the guilt of sin he had previously felt, was justification by faith: "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:1). He soon went out to converse with those whom he met about their souls. When he was first convicted, the thought had occurred to him that if he was ever converted he would be obliged to leave his profession of practicing law, of which he was very fond, and go to preaching the Gospel. This at first stumbled him, but after receiving the baptism of the Spirit, he was quite willing to preach the Gospel.
"After receiving the baptism of the Spirit, I had no longer any desire to practice law," he wrote. "Everything in that direction was shut up, and had no longer any attractions for me at all. I had no disposition to make money. I had no hungering and thirsting after worldly pleasures and amusements in any direction. My whole mind was taken up with Jesus and His salvation; and the world seemed to me of very little consequence.
"Nothing, it seemed to me, could be put in competition with the worth of souls; and no labor, I thought, could be so sweet, and no employment so exalted, as that of holding up Christ to a dying world. With this impression I sallied forth to converse with any with whom I might meet…. I spoke with many persons that first day, and I believe the Spirit of God made lasting impressions upon every one of them. I cannot remember one whom I spoke with, who was not soon after converted.
"As I had been a leader among the young people, I immediately appointed a meeting for them, which they all attended – that is, all of the class with which I was acquainted. I gave up my time to labor for their conversion; and the Lord blessed every effort that was made in a very wonderful manner. They were converted one after another with great rapidity; and the work continued among them until but one of their number was left unconverted. The work spread among all classes; and extended itself, not only through the village, but out of the village in every direction. My heart was so full that for more than a week I did not feel at all inclined to sleep or eat. I seemed literally to have meat to eat that the world knew nothing of…. The Word of God had wonderful power; and I was every day surprised to find that a few words, spoken to an individual, would stick in his heart like an arrow."
(To be continued)