The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
To William Robinson
5 February 1859
[MS in the Finney Papers # 1631.]
William Robinson (1804-1873) was the minister of St. Andrew's Baptist Chapel in Cambridge. He had gone there in 1852 and was to remain until he retired in 1874. He was an author of note, and became Chairman of the Baptist Union in 1870. Bateman Brown received the following letters from him, which he passed to Finney:
Mr Hart wrote to me
some days ago respecting Mr
Finney. I was from home
when his letter arrived,
& take the liberty of ad-
dressing the reply to you
to save time.
Mr Finney it seems had
engagements to the 30th.
If he would like to
preach in Cambridge the
next week, beginning say
on Tuesday, I will try &
arrange for his taking
the Lectures on Tuesday,
Wednesday & Thursday at
three places of worship, &
on the following Lords day
I have three services - the
one in the afternoon at
the Theatre - either or all
of which I shall be most
happy to resign to Mr. F.
If it be more conve-
nient to Mr F to com-
mence with these Sunday
services on the 6th Feby,
the same arrangement may
be attempted for the fol-
lowing week, as I have sug-
gested for the foregoing week.
Mr Hart seems to con-
template the attendance of
the Undergraduates of the
University. I should be
sorry for Mr. F. to come to
Cambridge with that hope, for
it is not likely to be realized
In Saturday evening's
haste I am
15 Jan 1859
Bateman Brown Esqr
I am obliged by your
letter & kind invitation
but am fettered by en-
gagements which forbid
me the pleasure you pro-
pose this week.
Jan 17 1859
Bateman Brown Esqr.
Mrs Finney wrote in her Journal under the date of January 27:
Mrs Cockle from Cambridge - Meeting in the afternoon increasing in interest and fervor - so of the noon meeting/ Mr Keed from Cambridge here.
Eliza Cockle was the wife of George Cockle, of Cambridge, and sister of Matthew Tebbutt. They were close friends of the Browns with whom the Finneys were staying in St. Ives. The Finney's had met them on their previous visit to England. George Cockle was deeply interested in ethics and philosophy. (See copy of the letter from Cockle to Finney, 25 August 1858, Goodman Family Papers.)
Finney also received a letter of invitation, dated 18 January 1859, from John Keed (1810-1871), the Baptist minister of Zion Chapel, Cambridge. Keed had tried to get Finney to preach for him during Finney's previous tour.
Finney received the following letter from Robinson.
My dear Sir
I am obliged by your
letter of the 29 Jany. and
quite understand that my
proposal to arrange according
to what I understood from
Mr Hart to be his wish & yours
for preaching engagements in
Cambridge is set aside.
You suggest revival services
at a future time. Having
watched such efforts for many
years I quite concur in your
opinion that considerable
results may generally be
produced by "a few weeks
labour & prayer in some one
Church", but my observation
has led to the belief that such
results are in most cases un-
healthy & tend to collapse & cor-
The system of revivalism was tried
extensively among Baptists in
England for 2 or 3 years. A
meeting was then convened of
some of the wisest & most ear-
nest brethren in the denomi-
nation. Information from
many quarters was laid before
them, & they were unanimously
of opinion that the system
is not adapted to England.
My own opinion is that it is
not adapted to any place, but
is sure ultimately to do harm.
I have written in all
frankness as you would wish
me to do - and please to un-
derstand distinctly not with
coldness. If you will come &
see me, my house & heart are
open to receive you, & if you
will come & preach for me I
shall be yet more delighted.
Yours with true respect
4 Feb 1859
Rev C Finney
What appears to be a copy of Finney's reply, is in the handwriting of Finney's wife, Elizabeth. The P. S. at the end is in Finney's handwriting.
St Ives Feb 5th 1859
My dear Brother Robinson
Yours of yesterday is reced - I did not
write before, nor do I now, for the purpose of gaining access to your
pulpit either for a day or for weeks I have never done this, in
this, in this, or in any other country - Calls for such poor labors
as I am able to perform, always having been far more numerous
than I could favorably respond to - I should not now reply, were
it not for the implied censure contained in your letter, and
more especially because that I see you are, I presume honestly
laboring under a most injurious misapprehension - My Dear
Brother, you are of opinion that 'revivalism" as you call it, "is not
adapted to any place, but is sure ultimately to do harm". Now
I have labored, I may truly say, continually in revivals of religion
for nearly 40 years - My experience I can say before the searcher of
hearts, is just the opposite of this opinion. I could by writing across
the Atlantic, give you any amount of evidence that your views
are as erroneous as is possible - Indeed I have with me letters
from some of the best, most cautious . most useful, and most experienced
ministers in America, on the subject giving a view the reverse of
that which you express. Now my Br, I am pastor of a church, of
some 1400 to 1600 members. Of this church I have been pastor nearly
a quarter of a century - I was pastor of two different churches in
N York city previous to taking my present charge, in connexion
with our college - I have always spenta part of each year
in labors for the revival of religion in other churches, with
the consent of my ^ people - I have always had precious seasons
or reviving among my own people after an absence I return to
them. Nor are they barren, or asleep when I am absent - But when
I return, they have always had more interest and conversions by far
than when I am away - In several important places, I have labored
in glorious and extensive revivals, at several different times, and at
intervals of a few years apart. I have been in constant correspondence
and acquaintance with the numerous fields where I have labored
in revivals. If any man living has the means of judging of the
utility or inutility of revival efforts, I may say in all humility
(and I think thousands of my country men would agree with me)
that I have. I can not tell you in words, how immensely my
experience, compels me to differ from you on this point. Nor
can I express the sadness occasioned by seeing an honest, and
influential minister of Christ, so greatly mistaken on a question so
vital to the cause of God & the salvation of souls - I know that
most objectionable efforts, have sometimes been made to promote
revivals - I had heard of the efforts in this country to which
you allude. I object as strongly as you can, to that class of efforts
to which you object - We have had them in America, much to the
disgrace of revivals - But this is, and was to be expected - Can true
revivals exist, without Satans attempting to counterfeit them?
But these frothy efforts I have always distinguished & now the many in
our country distinguish, from healthy efforts to promote the revival of true
religion - If there be any true religion in the world, I have not the slightest
doubt, it is found in its une ^ unequivocal form as the fruits of our
great revival in America - The stamina and efficiency, of the most
efficient of our churches, are the result of the repeated revivals with
which they have been favored - I happen to have with me the best
testimony on the subject. The best authority will testify, to
the great & good & permanent results of those revivals
Had I time I should like to give you some facts bearing upon this
case. But I must not here attempt it. I must conclude with again
assuring you, I am by no means soliciting an invitation to labor
among you. But my dear Brother, for your own sake, for the
sake of the souls under your influence & for the sake of the
general influence of religion I most earnestly desire ^ you better
informed on this subject - Do you think that I am mistaken?
Or that after my experience, were I of your opinion that I would
continue my revival labors!! God bless you my Brother
C. G. Finney
P. S. The last question reveals the implied censure alluded to.
It is evident from Robinson's letter that he was the author of the letter dated 21 February 1859 from "Observer" which was published in the leading Baptist newspaper, The Freeman (London), 23 February 1859, p. 85. It was copied by John Campbell in The British Standard (London), 25 February 1859, p. 62. See below.
Mrs Finney made the following entry in her diary (p. 28) for 16 February 1859:
Wed 16 - Increasing solemnity in the meetings - Mr Finney dined at Mr Coot[s] / with Mr Robinson & Lilly from Cambridge - Mr R - opposed to revivals / a long talk upon the subject - Mr Finney- Mr Brown & Mr Hart bringing / facts to prove their necessity and their benefit to society - Mr Finney / preached in the eve[nin]g from the text "Save yourselves from this untoward / generation" - Mr R & L from Cambridge present - great solemnity prevailed - the / work of God is certainly progressing with power.
John Keed wrote to Finney from Cambridge, on 22 February:
I have been watching the separate movements here, as you wished, since I met you at Saint Ives, with some interest, & there are indications for an Opening. I find from Mr Robinson that he has been to meet you in Company with one of his Deacons. From that interview you would f[ind? ] that he does not fraternize with such movements, still [I be-]lieve there is an opening for you to come & I am sure he will readily place his pulpit at your service for some services & we can readily arrange for at least a fortnight's effort here.
The Finneys visited Cambridge on 24 February. Mrs Finney wrote in her diary:
Thursday 24th. We left this morning for London - Spent the day in Cambridge with our friends Mr & Mrs Cockle - We went over the College grounds and were three hours and a half in our walk - these grounds are beautiful beyond the conception or description - surely students ought to study well in such pure air and amid such beauties of nature. We left on Friday ...
Finney evidently did not preach at Cambridge. George Cockle wrote to Finney on 27 July 1860 and kept a copy of his letter which reads:
I am very sorry you are obliged to leave us so early as the first of August, as I shd. have so much enjoyed another interview with you. How much, too, I in common with several others did hope that we shd. be favoured with a few of your, & Mrs Finney's stirring revival meetings here before you returned. We have frequently heard of your labours of love both in England & Scotland.
See the memoir by "J. T. R." in The Baptist Handbook for 1875 (London: The Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland, 1875), pp. 292-96.
The Baptist Handbook, 1873, pp. 263.
In Goodman Family Papers in the possession of Mrs Phyllis Tebbutt of Hartford, Huntingdonshire.