The Revival Labors Of Charles G. Finney (Part 4)
Witnessing Converts Helped Spread the Revival
An incident related by Finney which occurred at Utica, New York, reveals the part that witnessing converts played in the spread of the revival. Finney wrote:
"The hotel at which Mr. B____ boarded, was at that time kept by a Mr. S____. The Holy Spirit took powerful hold at that house. Mr. S____ himself was soon made a subject of prayer and became converted along with a large number of his family and of his boarders. Indeed that largest hotel in the town became a center of spiritual influence, and many were converted there.
"The stagecoaches as they passed through stopped at the hotel; and so powerful was the impression in the community, that I heard of several cases of persons that just stopped for a meal or to spend a night, being powerfully convicted and converted before they left the town.
"Both in this place and in Rome, New York, it was a common remark that nobody could be in the town or pass through it without being aware of the presence of God; that a divine influence seemed to pervade the place and the whole atmosphere to be instinct with a divine life.
"A merchant from Lowville came to Utica to do some business in his line. He stopped at the hotel where Mr. B____ boarded. He found the whole conversation in the town was such as greatly to annoy him, for he was an unconverted man. He was vexed, and said he could do no business there; it was all religion; and he resolved to go home. He could not go into a store, but religion was intruded upon him, and he could do no business with them. That evening he would go home.
"These remarks had been made in the presence of some of the young converts who boarded at the hotel, and especially in the presence of Mr. B____. As the stagecoach was expected to leave late at night, the traveling merchant was observed to go…just before he retired, to pay his bill, saying that Mr. S____ would not most probably be up when the stagecoach passed through, and he wished therefore to settle his bill before he retired.
"Mr. S____ said that he observed while he was settling his bill that the merchant’s mind was very much exercised, and he suggested to several of the gentleman boarders that they should make him a subject of prayer. They took him…to Mr. B____’s room, and conversed with him, and prayed with him. Before the stagecoach came, he was a converted man!
"And so concerned did he feel immediately about the people of his own place, that when the stagecoach came he took passage and went immediately home. As soon as he arrived at home, he told his family his experience, and called them together and prayed with them. As he was a very prominent citizen and very outspoken and was everywhere proclaiming what the Lord had done for his soul, it immediately produced a very solemn impression in Lowville and soon resulted in a great revival in that place."
At times there was opposition to the revivals. The Lord showed Finney to leave everything to Him and go about his work. At one revival, in which Brother Nash was working with Finney, a group of young men set themselves in opposition to the work. They were like a bulwark hindering the progress of the revival.
"In this state of things," writes Finney, "Brother Nash and myself, after consultation, made up our minds that that thing must be overcome by prayer, and that it could not be reached in any other way. We therefore retired to a grove and gave ourselves up to prayer until we prevailed, and we felt confident that no power which earth or hell could interpose would be allowed permanently to stop the revival.
"The next Sabbath, after preaching morning and afternoon myself – for I did the preaching altogether and Brother Nash gave himself up almost continually to prayer – we met at five o’clock in the church for a prayer meeting. The meeting house was filled. Near the close of the meeting, Brother Nash arose, and addressed that company of young men who had joined hand in hand to resist the revival. I believe they were all there, and they sat braced up against the Spirit of God. It was too solemn for them really to make ridicule of what they heard and saw; and yet their brazen-facedness and stiff-neckedness were apparent to everybody.
"Brother Nash addressed them very earnestly, and pointed out the guilt and danger of the course they were taking. Toward the close of his address he waxed exceeding warm and said to them:
"‘Now, mark me, young men! God will break your ranks in less than one week, either by converting some of you, or by sending some of you to hell. He will do this as certainly as the Lord is my God!’
"He was standing where he brought his hand down on the top of the pew before him so as to make it thoroughly jar. He sat immediately down, dropped his head, and groaned with pain.
"The house was as still as death, and most of the people held down their heads. I could see that the young men were agitated. For myself, I regretted that Brother Nash had gone so far. He had committed himself that God would either take the life of some of them, and send them to hell, or convert some of them within a week.
"However on Tuesday morning of the same week, the leader of these young men came to me in the greatest distress of mind. He was all prepared to submit; and as soon as I came to press him he broke down like a child, confessed, and manifestly gave himself to Christ.
"He then said, ‘What shall I do, Mr. Fnney?’
"I replied, ‘Go immediately to all your companions, and pray with them, and exhort them at once to turn to the Lord.’
"He did so; and before the week was out, nearly if not all of that class of young men, were hoping in Christ." The Spirit of the Lord was outpoured and the revival soon went forward with great power.
(To be continued)