MEMOIRS OF CHARLES G. FINNEY
LABORS IN SCOTLAND AND IN ENGLAND
WHILE I was at this time in London, I was invited very urgently to visit Edinburgh in Scotland; and about the middle of August we left London and took passage by steam up the coast, through the German ocean, to Edinburgh. I had been urged to go there by the Rev. Dr. Kirk, of Edinburgh, who belonged to that portion of the church in Scotland called the Evangelical Union church. Their leading theologian was a Mr. Morrison, who presided over a theological school at Glasgow. I found Mr. Kirk an earnest man, and a great lover of revival work. This Evangelical Union, or E. U. church, as they called it, had grown out of a revival effort made in Scotland at the time of the first publication of my revival lectures in that country. A considerable number of Scotch ministers, and a much larger number of laymen, had been greatly stirred up, and had made many successful revival efforts; but had expended their strength very much in controversy upon the hyper-Calvinistic views maintained by the Scotch Presbyterians.
I remained three months in Edinburgh, preaching mostly in Mr. Kirk's church, which was one of the largest places of worship in Edinburgh. We had a very interesting revival in that place, and many souls were converted. Church members were greatly blessed, and Mr. Kirk's hands were full, day and night, of labors among inquirers. But I soon found that he was surrounded by a wall of prejudice. The Presbyterian churches were strongly opposed to this E. U. branch of the church; and I found myself hedged in, as it respected openings for labor in other churches.
Mr. Kirk was at that time not only pastor, but also professor in a theological school in Glasgow, and in addition, was editor of the Christian News, which was published at Glasgow. In that paper, from time to time, he represented my theological views, as identical with the views of their theological seminary and of their church. But on some points I found that I very considerably differed from them. Their views of faith as a mere intellectual state I could not receive. They explained away, in a manner to me utterly unintelligible, the doctrine of election; and on sundry points I found I did not agree with them. However Mr. Kirk insisted that he entirely accepted my views as he heard me preach them, and that they were the views of the E. U. church. Thus insisting that my views were identical with theirs, without intending it, he shut the doors of the other pulpits against me, and doubtless kept multitudes of persons who otherwise would have come and heard me, from our meetings.
Mrs. Finney's labors in this place were greatly blessed. Mrs. Kirk, the wife of the pastor, was a very earnest Christian lady; and she took hold with my wife, with all her might. They established a ladies' prayer meeting, which is continued to this day, reports of which have been made from year to year in the Christian News; and Mrs. Kirk has published a small volume, giving an account of the establishment and progress of that meeting. The answers to prayer that were vouchsafed there were wonderful. Requests have been sent from various parts of Scotland to them, to pray for various places, and persons, and objects. The history of that meeting has been one of uncommon encouragement. From that sprung up similar meetings in various parts of Scotland; and these have put the women of Scotland very much in a new position, in regard to personal efforts in revivals of religion.
After remaining in Edinburgh three months, and seeing there a blessed work of grace, we accepted an invitation to go to Aberdeen; and in November we found ourselves in that city, which is near the northern extremity of Scotland. We were invited there by a Mr. Ferguson, also a minister of the E. U. church, and an intimate friend of Mr. Kirk. He had been very much irritated, and was at the time we arrived there, with the opposition that he met from the Presbyterian and Congregational churches. His congregation was still more closely hedged in by prejudice than Mr. Kirk's. He was an earnest Christian man, but had been chafed exceedingly by the opposition which had enclosed him like a wall. At first I could not get a hearing except with his own people; and I became a good deal discouraged, and so did Brother Ferguson himself.
At the time of this discouragement, Mr. Davison, a Congregational minister of Bolton, in Lancashire, wrote me a very pressing letter to come and labor with him. The state of things was so discouraging at Aberdeen that I gave him encouragement that I would go. But, in the meantime, the interest greatly increased in Aberdeen, and other ministers and churches began to feel the influence of what was going on there. The Congregational minister invited me to preach in his church for a Sabbath, which I did. A Mr. Brown, in one of the Presbyterian churches, also invited me to preach; but, at the time, my hands were too full to accept his invitation, though I intended to preach for him at another time. Before this, I should have said, that the work in Mr. Ferguson's congregation had begun, and was getting into a very interesting state. Numbers had been converted, and a very interesting change was manifestly coming over his congregation and over that city. But in the meantime, I had so committed myself to go to Bolton that I found I must go; and we left Aberdeen just before the Christmas holidays and went to Bolton.
While I was with Mr. Ferguson at Aberdeen, I was urged by his son, who was settled over one of the E. U. churches in Glasgow, to labor with him for a season. This had been urged upon me before I left Edinburgh. But I was unwilling to continue my labors longer with that denomination. Not that they were not good men, and earnest workers for God; but their controversies had brought them into such relations to the surrounding churches, as to shut me out from all sympathy and cooperation, except with those of their peculiar views. I had been accustomed, in this country, to labor freely with Presbyterians and Congregationalists; and I desired greatly to get a hearing among the Presbyterians and Congregationalists of Scotland. But in laboring with the E. U. churches, I found myself in a false position. What had been said in the Christian News, and the fact that I was laboring in that denomination, led to the inference that I agreed with them in their peculiar views, while in fact I did not.
I thought it not my duty to continue any longer in this false position. I declined, therefore, to go to Glasgow. Although I regarded the brother who invited me, as one of the best of men, and his church as a godly, praying people; yet there were other godly, praying people in Glasgow, and a great many more of them than could be found in the E. U. church. I felt uneasy, as being in a position to misrepresent myself. Although I had the strongest affection for those brethren, so far as I became acquainted with them; yet I felt that in confining my labors to that denomination I was greatly restricting my own usefulness. We therefore left Aberdeen and went by rail to Bolton, where we arrived on Christmas Eve, 1859.
Bolton is a city of about thirty thousand inhabitants, lying a few miles from Manchester. It is in the heart of the great manufacturing district of England. It lies within the circle of that immense population, that spreads itself out from Manchester, as a center, in every direction. It is estimated that at least three millions of people live within a compass of sixty miles around about Manchester.
In this place the work of the Lord commenced immediately. We were received as guests by Mr. J B. He belonged to the Methodist denomination; was a man of sterling piety, very uncertain in his views and feelings. The next evening after we arrived, he invited in a few friends for religious conversation and prayer; and among them a lady, who had been for some time in an inquiring state of mind. After we had had a little conversation we concluded to have a season of prayer. My wife knelt near this lady of whom I have spoken, and during prayer she observed that she was much asserted. As we rose from our knees, Mrs. Finney took her by the hand, and then beckoned to me across the room to come and speak with her. The lady had been brought up, as I afterwards learned, a Quakeress; but had married a man who was a Methodist. She had been for a long time uneasy about the state of her soul; but had never been brought face to face with the question of present, instantaneous submission.
I responded to the call of my wife, and went across the room and spoke with her. I saw in a moment that her distress of mind was profound. I therefore asked her if she would see me a little time, for personal conversation. She readily complied, and we crossed the hall into another room; and then I brought her face to face, at once, with the question of instant submission, and acceptance of Christ. I asked her if she would then and there renounce herself, and everything else, and give her heart to Christ. She replied, "I must do it sometime; and I may as well do it now." We knelt immediately down; and so far as human knowledge can go, she did truly submit to God. After she had submitted we returned to the parlor; and the scene between herself and her husband was very affecting. As soon as she came into the room he saw such a change manifested in her countenance, that they seemed spontaneously to clasp each other in their arms, and knelt down before the Lord.
We were scarcely seated before the son of Mr. B came into the parlor, announcing that one of the servants was deeply moved. In a very short time, that one also gave evidence of submission to Christ. Then I learned that another was weeping in the kitchen, and went immediately to her; and after a little conversation and instruction, she too appeared to give her heart to God. Thus the work had begun. Mrs. B herself had been in a doubting and discouraged state of mind for years; and she, too, appeared to melt down, and get into a different state of mind almost immediately. The report of what the Lord was doing, was soon spread abroad; and people came in daily, and almost hourly, for conversation. The first week of January had been appointed to be observed as a week of prayer, as it has been since from year to year; and the different denominations agreed to hold Union meetings during the week.
Our first meeting was in the chapel occupied by Mr. Davison, who had sent for me to come to Bolton. He was an Independent, what we in this country call a Congregationalist. His chapel was filled the first night. The meeting was opened by a Methodist minister, who prayed with great fervency, and with a liberty that plainly indicated to me that the Spirit of God was upon the congregation, and that we should have a powerful meeting. I was invited to follow him with some remarks. I did so, and occupied a little space in speaking upon the subject of prayer. I tried to impress upon them as a fact, that prayer would be immediately answered, if they took the stumbling blocks out of the way, and offered the prayer of faith. The word seemed to thrill through the hearts of Christians. Indeed I have seldom addressed congregations upon any subject that seemed to produce a more powerful and salutary effect, than the subject of prayer. I find it so everywhere. Praying people are immediately stirred up by it, to lay hold of God for a blessing. They were in this place. That was a powerful meeting.
Through the whole of that week the spirit of prayer seemed to be increasing, and our meetings had greater and greater power. About the third or fourth day of our meetings, I should think, it fell to the turn of a Mr. Best, also a Congregational minister at Bolton, to have the meeting in his chapel. There, for the first time, I called for inquirers. After addressing the congregation for some time, in a strain calculated to lead to that point, I called for inquirers, and his vestry was thronged with them. We had an impressive meeting with them; and many of them, I trust, submitted to God.
There was a temperance hall in the city, which would accommodate more people than any of the chapels. After this week of prayer, the brethren secured the hall for preaching; and I began to preach there twice on the Sabbath, and four evenings in the week. Soon the interest became very general. The hall would be crowded every night, so that not another person could get so much as within the door. The Spirit of God was poured out copiously.
I then recommended to the brethren to canvass the whole city; to go two and two, and visit every house; and if permitted, to pray in every house in the city. They immediately and courageously rallied to perform this work. They got great numbers of bills, and tracts, and posters, and all sorts of invitations printed, and began the work of canvassing. The Congregationalists and Methodists took hold of the work with great earnestness.
The Methodists are very strong in Bolton, and always have been since the day of Wesley. It was one of Wesley's favorite fields of labor; and they have always had there an able ministry, and strong churches. Their influence was far in the ascendancy there, over all other religious denominations. I found among them both ministers and laymen, who were most excellent and earnest laborers for Christ. But the Congregationalists too entered into the work, with great spirit and energy; and, while I remained there, at least, all sectarianism seemed to be buried. They gave the town a thorough canvassing; and the canvassers met once or twice a week to make their reports, and to consider farther arrangements for pushing the work. It was very common to see a Methodist and a Congregationalist, hand in hand, and heart in heart, going from house to house, with tracts, and praying wherever they were permitted, in every house, and warning men to flee from the wrath to come, and urging them to come to Christ.
Of course in such a state of things as this, the work would spread rapidly among the unconverted. All classes of persons, high and low, rich and poor, male and female, became interested. I was in the habit, every evening I preached, of calling upon inquirers to come forward and take seats in front of the stand. Great numbers would come forward, crowding as best they could through the dense masses that filled every nook and corner of the house. The hall was not only large on its ground floor, but had a gallery, which was always thronged. After the inquirers had come forward, we engaged in a prayer meeting, having several prayers in succession while the inquirers knelt before the Lord.
The Methodist brethren were very much engaged, and for some time were quite noisy and demonstrative in their prayers, when sinners came forward. For some time I said nothing about this, lest I should throw them off and lead them to grieve the Spirit. I saw that their impression was, that the greater the excitement, the more rapidly would the work go forward. They therefore would pound the benches, pray exceedingly loud, and sometimes more than one at a time. I was aware that this distracted the inquirers, and prevented their becoming truly converted; and although the number of inquirers was great and constantly increasing, yet conversions did not multiply as fast as I had been in the habit of seeing them, even where the number of inquirers was much less.
After letting things pass on so for two or three weeks, until the Methodist brethren had become acquainted with me, and I with them, one evening upon calling the inquirers forward, I suggested that we should take a different course. I told them that I thought the inquirers needed more opportunity to think than they had when there was so much noise; that they needed instruction, and needed to be led by one voice in prayer, and that there should not be any confusion, or anything bordering on it, if we expected them to listen and become intelligently converted. I asked them if they would not try for a short time to follow my advice in that respect, and see what the result would be. They did so; and at first I could see that they were a little in bondage when they attempted to pray, and a little discouraged, because it so crossed their ideas of what constituted powerful meetings. However they soon seemed to recover from this, because I think they were convinced that although there was less apparent excitement in our prayer meetings, yet there were many more converted from evening to evening.
The fame of this work spread abroad, and soon persons began to come in large members from Manchester to Bolton to attend our meetings; and this, as was always the case, created a considerable excitement in that city, and a desire to have me come thither as soon as I could. However I remained in Bolton I think about three months, perhaps more. The work became so powerful that it broke in upon all classes, and every description of persons.
Brother B had an extensive cotton mill in Bolton, and employed a great many hands, men and women. I went with him down to his mill once or twice, and held meetings with his operatives. The first time we went we had a powerful meeting. I remained with them till I was much fatigued, and then returned home, leaving Brother B still to pray with, and instruct them. When he came home he reported that not less than sixty appeared clearly to be converted that evening, among his own hands. These meetings were continued till nearly all his hands expressed hope in Christ.
There were a great many very striking cases of conviction and conversion at the time. Although I kept cool myself, and endeavored to keep the people in an attitude in which they would listen to instruction, and would act understandingly in everything they did; still in some instances, persons for a few days were too much excited for the healthy action of their minds, though I do not recollect any case of real insanity.
One night as I was standing on the platform and preaching, a man in the congregation rose up and crowded his way up to the platform, and said to the congregation, "I have committed a robbery." He began to make a confession, interrupting me as I was preaching. I saw that he was overexcited; and brother Davison who sat on the platform stepped up and whispered to him, and took him down into a sideroom and conversed with him. He found that he had committed a crime for which he was liable to be transported. He gave him advice, and I heard no more of it that evening. Afterwards the facts came more fully to my knowledge. But in a few days the man obtained a hope.
One evening I preached on confession and restitution, and it created a most tremendous movement among business men. One man told me the next day that he had been and made restitution, I think, of fifteen hundred pounds, in a case where he thought he had not acted upon the principle of loving his neighbor as himself. The consciences of men under such circumstances are exceedingly tender. The gentleman to whom I have just referred, told me that a dear friend of his had died and left him to settle his estate. He had done so, and simply received what the law gave him for his labor and expense. But he said that in hearing that sermon, it occurred to him that as a friend and a Christian brother, he could better afford to settle that estate without charging anything, than the family could afford to allow him the legal fees. The Spirit of God that was upon him led him to feel it so keenly, that he immediately went and refunded the money.
There was a case in Rochester, in New York, that I have forgotten to mention, but that may just as well be mentioned in this place, of the same kind. An extremely tender conscience led a man to see and feel keenly on the subject of acting on the principle of loving our neighbor as ourselves, and doing to others as we would that they should do to so. A man of considerable property was converted in one of the revivals in Rochester, in which I labored, who had been transacting some business for a widow lady in a village not far distant from Rochester. The business consisted in the transfer of some real estate, for which he had been paid for his services some fifteen or sixteen hundred dollars. As soon as he was converted he thought of this case; and upon reflection he thought he had not done by that widow lady and those fatherless children, as he would wish another to do by his widow and fatherless children, should he die. He therefore went over to see her, and stated to her his view of the subject as it lay before his mind. She replied that she did not see it in that light at all; that she had considered herself very much obliged to him indeed, that he had transacted her business in such a way as to make for her all she could ask or expect. She declined, therefore, to receive the money which he offered to refund.
After thinking of it a little he told her that he was dissatisfied, and wished that she would call in some of her most trustworthy neighbors, and they would state the question to them. She did so, called in some Christian friends, men of business; and they laid the whole matter before them. They said that the affair was a business transaction, and it was evident that he had transacted the business to the acceptance of the family and to their advantage; and they saw no reason why he should refund the money. He heard what they had to say; but before he left the town he called on the lady again and said, "My mind is not at ease. If I should die and leave my wife a widow and children fatherless, and a friend of mine should transact such a piece of business for them, I should feel as if he might do it gratuitously, inasmuch as it was for a widow and fatherless children." Said he, "I cannot take any other view of it than this. Whereupon he laid the money upon her table, and left."
Another case occurs to me now, which illustrates the manner in which the Spirit of God will work in the minds of men, when their hearts are open to His influence. In preaching in one of the large cities on a certain occasion, I was dwelling upon the dishonesties of business, and the overreaching plans of men; and how they justify themselves in violations of the Golden Rule. Before I was through with my discourse, a gentleman arose in the middle of the house and asked me if he might propose a question. He then supposed a case; and after he had stated it, asked me if that case would come under the rule that I had propounded. I said, "Yes, I think that it clearly would." He sat down and said no more; but I afterwards learned that he went away and made restitution to the amount of thirty thousand dollars. I could relate great numbers of instances in which persons have been led to act in the same manner, under the powerfully searching influences of the Spirit of God.
But to return from this digression; the work went on and spread in Bolton until one of the ministers who had been engaged in directing the movement of canvassing the town, said publicly that they found that the revival had reached every family in the city; and that every family had been visited.
If we had any place of worship large enough, we should probably have had ten thousand persons in the congregations from evening to evening. All we could do was to fill the hall as full as it could be crowded, and then use such other means as we could to reach the multitudes in other places of worship.
I recollect a striking case of conversion among the great millowners there. I had been told of one of them that was a very miserly man. He had a great thirst for riches, and had been spoken of as being a very hopeless case. The revival had reached a large number of that class of men; but this man had seemed to stand out, and his worldly-mindedness and his miserly spirit had seemed to eat him up. But contrary to my expectations, and to the expectations of others, he in his turn called on me. I invited him to my room, and had a very serious conversation with him. He acknowledged to me that he had been a great miser; and that he had once said to God, that if He would give him another hundred thousand pounds, he would be willing to be eternally damned. I was very much shocked at this; but could see clearly that he was terribly convicted of the sinfulness of that state of mind.
I then repeated to him a part of the sixth chapter of Matthew, where Christ warns men against laying up treasure on earth, and recommends them to lay up treasure in heaven. I finally came to that verse: "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." He leaned toward me, and appeared to be as much interested as if it were all new to him. When I repeated to him this verse, he said to me, with the utmost earnestness, "Do you believe that?" I said, "Be sure I believe it. It is the Word of God." "Well then," said he, "I'll go it;" and sprang upon his feet in the utmost excitement. "If that is true," said he, "I will give up all to Christ at once." We knelt immediately down, and I presented his case to God in prayer; and he seemed to break down like a child. From that time he appeared to be a very different man. His miserly feelings all seemed to melt away. He took hold of that work like a man in earnest, and went and hired, at his own cost, a city missionary, and set him to work to win souls to Christ.
At this place, also, Mrs. Finney's meetings were very largely attended. She held them, as she always did, in the daytime; and sometimes I was informed that at her meeting of ladies, Temperance Hall would be nearly full. The Christian ladies of different denominations took hold with her and encouraged her; and great good, I trust, was done through the instrumentality of those ladies' meetings.
My wife and myself were both of us a good deal exhausted by these labors. But in April we went to Manchester. In Manchester the Congregational interest, as I was informed, rather predominates over that of other denominations. As is well-known, the manufacturing districts have a stronger democratic element than other parts of England. Congregationalism, therefore, is more prevalent in Manchester than in any other city that I visited. I had not been long there, however, before I saw that there was a great lack of mutual confidence among the brethren. I could see that there was a jar among the leaders; and frequently, to my grief, I heard expressions that indicated a want of real heart-union in the work. This I was soon convinced was a great difficulty to be overcome; and that if it could not be overcome, the work could never be as general there as it had been in Bolton. There soon was manifest a dissatisfaction with some of the men who had been selected to engineer the work, and provide for carrying on the general movement.
This grieved the Spirit and crippled the work. And although from the very first the Spirit of God attended the Word; yet the work never so thoroughly overcame the sectarian feeling and disagreements of the brethren generally, that it could spread over the city in the way it had done at Bolton. When I went to that city I expected that the Methodist and Congregational brethren would work harmoniously together, as they had at Bolton; but in this I found myself mistaken. Not only was there a want of cordiality and sympathy between the Methodists and Congregationalists; but also a great lack of confidence and sympathy among the Congregationalists themselves. However, our meetings were very interesting, and great numbers of inquirers were found on every side; and whenever a meeting was appointed for inquirers, large numbers would attend. Still what I longed to see was a general overflowing of the Spirit's influences in Manchester, as we had witnessed in Bolton. The difficulty was, there was not a good spirit manifested at that time, by the leading men in the movement. I did not learn the cause--perhaps it was something in myself. But although I am sure that large numbers of persons were converted, for I saw and conversed with a great number myself that were powerfully convicted, and to all appearance converted; yet the barriers did not break down so as to give the Word of the Lord, and the Spirit of the Lord, free course among the people.
When we came away, a meeting was called for those who had been particularly blessed during those meetings; and the number in attendance was, I believe, very much larger than was expected by the ministers themselves. I am confident that they were surprised at the numbers present, and at the spirit of the meeting. Indeed I do not think that any of the ministers there were aware of the extent of the work, for they did not generally attend our meetings. They did not follow them from place to place, and were seldom seen in the meetings of inquiry. We continued in Manchester till about the first of August; and the revival continued to increase and spread up to that time.
But the strength of both myself and my wife had become exhausted, and some of the leading brethren proposed to us to suspend our labors, and go down into Wales and rest a few weeks, and then return to Manchester and resume our labors. What they proposed was, to secure a large hall, and thus to go on with our meetings in an independent way. They thought, and I thought myself, that we should secure a greater amount of good in that way than by laboring with any particular congregation. Denominational lines are much more strongly marked in that country than they are in this. It is very difficult to get people of the church of England to attend a dissenting place of worship. The Methodists will not generally and freely attend worship with other denominations. Indeed, the same is true of all denominations in England, and in Scotland. Sectarian lines are much more distinctly drawn, and the members of the different churches keep more closely within their lines, than in this country. I am persuaded that the true way to labor for a revival movement there, is to have no particular connection with any distinct denomination; but to preach the true Gospel, and make a stand in halls, or even in streets when the weather is favorable, where no denominational feelings and peculiarities can straiten the influences of the Spirit of God.
On the second of August, 1860, we left Manchester and went down to Liverpool. A goodly number of our friends went down with us, and remained overnight. On the morning of the third, we left in the Persia for New York. We found that large numbers of our friends had assembled from different parts of England, to bid us goodbye. We took an affectionate and an affecting leave of them, and the glorious old steamer rushed out to sea, and we were on our way home.
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