LECTURES ON REVIVALS OF RELIGION
Charles G. Finney
Let it be remembered, that these Lectures were delivered to my own congregation. They were entered upon, without my having previously marked out any plan or outline of them, and have been pursued, from week to week, as one subject naturally introduced another, and as, from one lecture to another, I saw the state of our people seemed to require.
I consented to have the Editor of the Evangelist report them, upon his own responsibility, because he thought that it might excite a deeper interest in, and extend the usefulness of, his paper. And as I am now a Pastor, and have not sufficient health to labor as an Evangelist, and as it has pleased the Head of the Church to give me some experience in revivals of religion, I thought it possible that, while I was doing the work of a Pastor in my own church, I might, in this way, be of some little service to the churches abroad.
I found a particular inducement to this course, in the fact that on my return from the Mediterranean, I learned, with pain, that the spirit of revival had greatly declined in the United States, and that a spirit of jangling and controversy alarmingly prevailed.
The peculiar circumstances of the church, and the state of revivals, was such, as unavoidably to lead me to the discussion of some points that I would gladly have avoided, had the omission been consistent with my main design, to reach and arouse the church, when she was fast settling down upon her lees.
I am far from setting up the claim of infallibility upon this or any other subject. I have given my own views, so far as I have gone, without pretending to have exhausted the subject, or to have spoken in the best possible manner upon the points I have discussed.
I am too well acquainted with the state of the church, and especially with the state of some of its ministers, to expect to escape without censure. I have felt obliged to say some things that I fear will not, in all instances, be received as kindly as they were intended. But whatever may be the result of saying the truth as it respects some, I have reason to believe, that the great body of praying people will receive and be benefited by what I have said.
What I have said upon the subject of prayer, will not, I am well aware, be understood and received by a certain portion of the church and all I can say is, "He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear."
I had not the most distant idea until recently, that these Lectures, in this, or any other form, would ever grow into a book: but the urgent call for their publication, in a volume, and the fact that I have had repeated assurances that the reading of them in the Evangelist, has been owned and blessed, to the quickening of individuals and churches, and has resulted in the conversion of many sinners, have led me to consent to their publication in this imperfect form.
The Reporter has succeeded, in general, in giving an outline of the Lectures, as they were delivered. His report, however, would, in general, make no more than a full skeleton of what was said on the subject at the time. In justice to the Reporter, I would say, that on reading his reports, in his paper, although there were some mistakes and misapprehensions, yet I have been surprised that, without stenography, he could so nearly report my meaning.
As for literary merit, they have none; nor do they lay claim to any. It was no part of my design to deliver elegant Lectures. They were my most familiar Friday evening discourses; and my great, and I may add my only object, was to have them understood and felt.
In correcting the Lectures for a volume, I have not had time, nor was it thought advisable to remodel them, and change the style in which they had been reported. I have, in some few instances, changed the phraseology, when a thought had been very awkwardly expressed, or when the true idea had not been given. But I have, in nearly every instance, left the sentences as they were reported when the thought was perspicuously expressed, although the style might have been improved by emendation. They were the editor's reports, and as such they must go before the public, with such little additions and alterations, as I have had time to make. Could I have written them out in full, I doubt not but they might have been more acceptable to many readers. But this was impossible, and the only alternative was, to let the public have them as they are, or refuse to let them go out in the form of a volume at all. I am sorry they are not better Lectures, and in a more attracting form; but I have done what I could under the circumstances; and, as it is the wish of many whom I love, and delight to please and honor, to have them, although in this imperfect form, they must have them.
C. G. FINNEY.
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