The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
To the Editor of The Christian News
10 September 1859
[Published in The Christian News (Glasgow), 17 September 1859, p. 5.]
In March 1854, Rev. Andrew A. Bonar (1810-1892), the Free Church minister of Collace in Scotland, brought out an edition of Nettleton and His Labours: being The Memoir of Dr. Nettleton by Bennett Tyler D.D. remodelled in some parts, ... (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1854). Appendix No. III (on pages 449-50) reads:
MR. FINNEY'S CAREER.
Dr. Nettleton and his friends spoke decidedly, but in a very brotherly and charitable tone, of Mr. Finney's movements; and a few years shewed that they were not wrong. Mr. Finney's doctrines soon deviated from the truth as much as his measures did from scriptural order and wisdom. At this day no orthodox body of Christians could receive him into their pulpit. No doubt he published works that contained rousing and startling truths; but even truth was given forth alongside of much error which counteracted all. And now he seems to be drifting no one can tell whither. In a volume of lectures on theology, published a few years ago, he utters such irreverent statements as these: "It is God's duty to govern; His conscience must demand it." He adjusts whatever he finds in the Bible to his own preconceived metaphysical determinations, instead of submitting his metaphysical musings to the test of unerring wisdom. He assumes (not offering one argument in proof of his position) that "A sense of obligation is inconsistent with a sense of entire inability;" although, for ages, the very opposite has been held, and been felt to be true, by the churches of Christ. He imposes on the unthinking reader by half-truths; and crowns his errors by maintaining, that "no man is responsible for his feelings, but only for his intention!" And thus he arrives at the possibility of never sinning, and that "men are saved by returning back to personal holiness!" As for moral excellence, he has found out that it lies in happiness; duty is degraded by him to the position of being the chief way to the highest happiness; and love to God and man mean no more than seeking the highest happiness of both! But the conscience and the consciousness of every man, even apart from the Word of God, contradict him at every step. "If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" In the British and Foreign Evangelical Review, September 1853, there is a full review of his aberrations as a writer.
Not long since, the following statement was made by a minister in America, whose information and character are alike such as entitle him to be depended on:--"A class of evangelists arose, of whom the Rev. C. G. Finney was a distinguished leader, who adopted Pelagian, or Semi-Pelagian views of doctrine, and introduced a system of measures adapted to produce excitement. The consequence was, that great excitement was produced, and multitudes of converts were proclaimed. But a large proportion of these proved to be like seed sown on stony places. Moral desolation succeeded these excitements. Some of these evangelists have lost their character, and most of them have lost, in a great measure, their influence. Very few of them would now be invited to preach in those places where their labours were said to be so remarkably successful. This is true of Mr. Finney himself. If our English brethren who are giving Mr. Finney their countenance and support, are not making work for repentance, many of the most sound and judicious ministers of this country will be greatly mistaken. I am happy to be able to state, that, in the Presbyterian and Congregational Churches generally, in our country, the 'New Measure System,' as it has been called, has gone into disrepute, and revivals are becoming more like those which were witnessed at the beginning of the present century."
John Moore, the Methodist minister in Fleetwood, Lancashire, wrote to Mr James M. Fitch, the publisher of The Oberlin Evangelist, on 24 August 1854:
Remr me very kindly to Mr & Mrs Finney I intend writing him shortly - I have this week sent to press a small Vol - entd "A Vindication of the Rev C. G. Finney - Being a reply to Rev A. A. Bonar &c &c - We are having a sharp battle in relation to Mr Finney's views --But truth must ulty prevail
In July 1855 John Moore sent Finney a copy of the Appendix from Bonar's book with a covering letter, dated 16 July 1855:
England July 16th 1855
My Dear Bro Finney,
You would have heard from
me some time ago but for the fact that during the
last few months I have had to pass through a severe
ordeal in consequence of my defence of your char
acter & views & I thought it best therefore not write
you until I could communicate definitely the
result. In February last I published a small
Vol in reply to an attack made upon you
by the Revd Andrew A Bonar, a minister of
the church of Scotland. I have enclosed a
copy of Mr Bonar's Article. Knowing that the
charr & high standing of Mr Bonar in Scotland
wou[l]d give weight & currency to these false &
unjust statements I thought it a Christian duty
to take up my pen in your defence. I send you
a few pages of my "Vindication" that you may see
how I deal with Mr Bonar's assertions. To show the
falsity & injustice of the assertion--that no orthodox
body of Christians could now receive you into
their pulpit--I give facts taken from the
Evangelist & other religious journals to show that
you had been labouring not only in Congregationl
but in Presbyterian churches Now Mr Bonar is
himself a Presbyterian so that this assern was singularly
unfortunate. In reference to those slanderous
reports, concerning the Western New York revivals,
& which have been so industriously circulated by
your opponents in this country as well as in
America I have given in reply your own
letter published in the New York Evt
when you were laboring in London ---
I have also reprinted other docts in relation
to those revivals. I have appended to
the "Vindn." several extensive notes princ
ipally on Psychological questions - my
object being to show that the fundament
-al principles of your Theology are in
perfect harmony with the soundest
philosophy My little book has been
read & highly commended by Sir Wm
Hamilton - the greatest of metaphyns.
This is what I did not expect. On
the other hand I have had to suffer
much from some of my own Brethren
in the ministry. A few weeks ago
a charge was brought against ^ in the
presence of 50 of my ministl brethren,
to the effect that my "Vindication"
contained Anti-Wesleyan sentiment
& dangerous error. But they failed
completely in establishing this charge
We had several hours discussion, &
the triumphed that I gained was every
thing that I could desire. Indeed some
of the most eminent ministers in the
Wesleyan body have declared their perfect
approval of the sentiments contained
in my little book. I have however
felt much on account of the spirit
which has been manifested towards me
in certain quarters I can assure you I have had to
suffer much on your account Some who had been
loudest in your praise would not stand by me
when the hour of trial came. I was very much
grieved also with the conduct of Dr Campbell
& Mr Theodore Jones. Before I published my
Vindn I requested him to take some notice
of the slanderous reports in circulation
but no - he would not write a line in
your defence & told me plainly that he
should not countenance me in any vindn
that I might publish. Mr Jones when he saw
my Vindn in manuscript said at once
that he would get it published & bear
all financial responsibility - He kept
the MS for 4 months & then returned
it unpublished - & acted in a most dishonble
manner. These & other things deeply grieved me
but I have not & shall not by the grace of
God allow them to turn me from my purpose
I do not, notwithstanding all I have had to pass
through, regret the course I have taken. I have
seen the hand of our heavenly Father throughout
I am convinced that we are on the eve of
a great struggle in reference to Theological
& Metl questions & I have ground for hoping
that the day is not now very far distant
when justice will be done in this country
to your charr & doctrines - I am now
fairly committed to the exposn & defence of
your views. Many of my brethren have requested
that I publish more elaborately. I feel that
a great point has been gained in securing
the sanction of so high an authority
as Sir William Hamilton - I am
sure that Sir Wm is becoming deeply interested
in your theological & psychological opinions
I have not the least doubt that he will stand
by me in any thing I may in future publish.
Could I see you I should have much to commun
icate concerning the recent struggle that would deeply
interest you but I fear we shall not see each other
again in the flesh. I suppose you will not get
away to England again & I see no prospect of
being able to visit America. I do not intend
to sacrifice my position as a Wesleyan Minr
- believing that I can do more good by remaining
in connexion with the Wesleyan body than
by joining any other church. Do not forget me
at a throne of grace - pray that I may be
rightly directed. There is one subject on wh which
I want an expression of your opinion as early as
possible. Having taken up my pen in your Vindn
I am now fairly committed to the exposn &
defence of your views & it is absolutely necy
that I should publish more elaborately
as soon as circumstances allow of my
preparing a work for the Press. What is
greatly needed in this country by ministers & students of
theology is a text book that shall contain in a condensed
form a discussion of all the fundl prins in Psychology,
Moral Phily & Theology Such a Vol I cannot prepare
independent of your aid nor are you in a position to
know the precisely what is now required by Students
in the present state of the British Churches. But we
could jointly produce such a work. In the Outlines
of Sermons you were so kind as to give me & in the
Oberlin Evangt I have almost all the material
that I should need from yourself. What I propose
is that I should take your Outlines - re-model them
if necy - enlarge - & add notes - appendices &C and
put both our names on the title page as the authors
Of course I should explain in the preface the relation in
which I stand to yourself & it is desirable that you
should send me a statement authorizing me to make
such use of the Outlines - which statement could be inserted
in the Preface. This I hope you will do as early
as possible that I may proceed to the preparn
of the work. I am deeply convinced that such
a work will do a great good & in consequence of
some discussions with my ministerial brethren
the publication of such a vol becomes an
absolute necessity. I hope you will lose no
time in communicating your views on
this subject. I should be very thankful
if you could furnish me with a copy
of any important Outlines recently prepared
to your Students
or of Lecturesnot published that you think
would aid me in my future conflicts with
the English theons I should be glad to
remunerate any student for the labour
of copying. I think of making an arrangt
with Mr Fitch to receive a parcel direct
from Oberlin once a year & any MSS could
be included. When you have read the
attack of Mr Bonar will you hand it
over to Profr Morgan or Profr Cowles.
I shall be very glad if they would prepare
a reply to that portion of it relating to
the charr of the revivals under your
former & present labours -. Such article
could be put along with the other facts &
testimonies in the second edn of
my Vindication. Mrs Moore unites with
me in much love to Mrs Finney & yourself
Hoping to hear from you very shortly
Yours very affecy
The following letter from John Moore under an editorial comment was published in The Christian News (Glasgow), 3 September 1859, p. 2:
PROFESSOR FINNEY'S POSITION.
When the great enemy of God and men sees an agent fitted to do serious damage to his great system of evil in the world, it is by no means wonderful if that enemy should try to do serious damage to such agent. It is wonderful, however, when he succeeds in getting one class of efficient gospel agency set to work to do serious damage to another still more efficient. Professor Finney, who is now labouring in this country, has been characterised, not only by his earnest revival spirit, during his Christian career, but as much so by his uncompromising hostility to radical errors in theology. No one can long hear him without perceiving that the vital doctrines which all real followers of Jesus value supremely, have in him a peculiarly intelligent and unflinching friend. We are glad, therefore, to give all the prominence we can to the following communication, which is well fitted to place his true position in his own country before the minds of our readers. We trust they will not fail to give it what circulation they may be able, in their intercourse with fellow-Christians:--
SIR,--As you are now favoured with the presence and labours of Professor Finney, will you allow me to make a few observations respecting that distinguished servant of Christ. You cannot but be aware of the fact that during the last few years several attempts have been made to prejudice the churches of Scotland against him; and this not merely on theological grounds, but by an appeal to the supposed results of his revival efforts. In the appendix to the Rev. Andrew A. Bonar's edition of the Memoirs of Dr Nettleton, there are statements in reference to Mr Finney, which, if generally believed by Christians in Scotland, must, I am sure, seriously interfere with the success of his labours among you. Mr Bonar's assertions have, I perceive, been copied by the Rev. Alexander Macleod in his recently published pamphlet on 'The Truth of the Gospel,' and by several other writers.
Now, at the very time that the Memoir of Dr Nettleton was given to the British public, I possessed an overwhelming mass of evidence to show, that there was no truth whatever in the statements respecting Mr Finney, and consequently that Mr Bonar had been completely misinformed. A portion of this evidence I placed before Mr Bonar, in a small volume entitled 'A Vindication of President Finney.' I of course expected, as I had a right to expect, that Mr Bonar would at once acknowledge that he had been misled, and would also cheerfully do what he could to repair the injury inflicted on the reputation of a brother minister. This, however, I regret to say, he has not done. As Mr Bonar's statements are frequently appealed to with the view of preventing ministers and churches from co-operating with Mr. Finney, permit me to reply very briefly in the columns of your journal. I would not have troubled you with any further remarks, but for the circumstance that my 'Vindication' is out of print.
Mr Bonar asserts, respecting Mr Finney, that 'at this day no orthodox body of Christians could receive him into their pulpit.' Mr Bonar does not inform us what he means by 'orthodoxy.' I therefore take it for granted that he employs the term in its usual sense, namely, 'my doxy;' or, in other words, the Bible as interpreted in the light of the 'Confession of Faith.' Hence, it follows unquestionably, that that branch of the church of Christ, called Presbyterian, is orthodox, since Mr Bonar is a minister of that church. Now, I find that at the very time that Mr. B. was preparing 'Nettleton and his Labours' for the press, Mr Finney visited Cincinnati in compliance with an invitation from a large number of Presbyterian ministers, to labour in their city. The Cincinnati Herald contains the following:--
'PROFESSOR FINNEY:--The interest has both widened and deepened since our notice of last week. We do not wish to be hasty in enumerating results, but we believe that a great work is being done. Will not Christians examine themselves? Will they labour and pray with a single eye to the glory of God? Mr Finney is now preaching at the Third Presbyterian Church every evening except Saturday. The audiences are large and solemn, and many are asking 'what shall we do to be saved?'
The editor of the 'Recorder of Syracuse' referring to the results of Mr Finney's labours in that city says:--
'We have no hesitancy in saying that they are every way desirable and hopeful, and in saying this we speak from a judgment and feeling on revival measures, resulting from not a little knowledge of the labours of Dr Nettleton thirty years ago, our own pastoral experience, and the undoubted sentiment of the Presbyterian Churches for the last ten years. We are decidedly of the opinion that Mr Finney's present labours are of a character that the best men of former and of present times would approve of, as scriptural, discreet and appropriate.'
The Rev. Dr Joseph P. Thompson, in his historical discourse preached in the Broadway Tabernacle, New York, on Sunday, April 26th, 1857, makes the following allusions to Mr Finney:--
'Mr Finney relinquished the pastoral care of the tabernacle in April 1857. The Rev. Mr Patton who was at that time a pastor in this city, states that "as Mr Finney became more known, he secured the confidence of many who at first were suspicious of his views and measures, and before he left New York, he was welcomed to most of the pulpits of the New School." I am not called upon here to speak of that philosophy of sanctification which Mr Finney afterwards developed at Oberlin. Whether Mr Finney has modified those views, or kept them in abeyance; or whether he is better understood; or whether every body has grown better in the last twenty years; or whether the fact that God is with his labours putting to silence the prejudice of men;--for some cause, Mr F. has been able of late years to labour as an evangelist in Hartford, in Rochester, in Boston, and in many other places, to the edification of believers of all denominations, and with the their co-operation also, in the work of saving sinners. Mr Finney's brief ministry in this house was largely blessed in the conversion of souls.'
The Rev. Dr. Campbell, of London, speaking of the slanderous reports so industriously circulated by Mr Finney's opponents, says:--
'We have had correspondence with men eminent in the American Church upon the matter; we have read to the Rev. Dr Bacon, one of the most distinguished men of the United States, the worst articles that have come to hand, putting to him the question "Are things so?"--when the prompt reply was, They are not! Mr Finney has sound peculiarities of view, and peculiar modes of stating the common views, but on all main points he is perfectly correct, and his labours have been of signal service to the church of God.'
If it were necessary, I could give you a hundred valuable testimonies to the distinguished ability, piety, and usefulness of Mr Finney. In every part of the United States, we find noble monuments of his labours in the gospel--the pillars in many a Zion will call him blessed at the last day. I shall not now refer to Mr Bonar's remarks on Mr Finney's theological views. Every one who has the slightest acquaintance with Mr Finney's theological system will perceive at a glance that Mr Bonar has not even read the 'Systematic Theology.'--I am. yours truly,
JOHN MOORE, Wesleyan Minister.
Ampthill, Beds, August 30th, 1859.
The following article was published in The Christian News, 10 September 1859, p. 5:
MR FINNEY'S CAREER AND THEOLOGY.
It is about forty years ago, since Mr Finney was converted to God. He was then assistant in a lawyer's office in an inland town in the state of New York. He had been studying very deeply the first principles of law, and was struck to notice that all the best writers on jurisprudence appealed to the Bible as their standard and ultimate authority. He began to regard with respect that book whose superhuman origin he had doubted, and a calm dispassionate examination convinced him that it was the word of God. Presently he saw that this same divine book demanded of him reconciliation of heart with God, and, in the manner described by him so graphically last Sabbath evening, he surrendered to God. Going to his office one morning, the thought struck him that he should not let one day pass without believing on Christ. Immediately he retired to a secluded forest-glade, and that very evening, before the day had closed, found his Saviour, and was found by him.
His conversion made a great stir in the neighbourhood in which he resided. Having obtained a very vivid view of Christ, his soul was on fire with love and zeal, and he immediately began a revival career which indeed he has ever since pursued. Having belonged to the Old School Presbyterians at the time of his conversion, he was induced to seek ordination from their ministers. He refused, however, to enter an academy or college for a curriculum of study; because he dreaded a diminution of his revival zeal, such as he had observed with pain in the case of several young preachers. Consequently, his theological education was obtained by him in private, under the superintendence of one or two ministers whom the presbytery had appointed. But he could not agree with these gentlemen in their hyper-calvinistic dogmas. He continually tested theological positions in that crucible of justice, which had before his conversion led him to faith in the inspiration of the Scriptures. He saw that it would be unjust in God to send little children to hell for Adam's sin, committed thousands of years before they were born--unjust in God to issue commands to men which they could not obey--unjust in God to issue invitations of mercy to all men, if no corresponding provisions of grace had been made for all--and so all over the rocky field of Geneva's stubborn creed. The result was that he became, in principle, a New School Theologian, and after seven years of labour as an evangelist, settled as an Independent minister in Broadway Tabernacle, New York. This was an immense building, capable of containing some there or four thousand individuals, and was crowded to the door during the burning, but brief ministry, of the ardent and powerful revivalist.
About this time some students having been expelled from Lane Seminary on account of their sympathy with the slaves, the friends of the anti-slavery cause projected a college in Ohio, at which young men might be educated without fear of having their conscientious convictions smothered on that important question of Christian philanthropy. All eyes were turned to Mr Finney, as fitted both on account of his talents and sound anti-slavery sentiments, to take the management of the Oberlin Institution. At first he was engaged to be six months of the year at Oberlin, and six months at New York; but, owing to the distance, and the difficulty of travelling by stage coach, with mutual regret the charge at the Tabernacle was resigned, and the far-west settlement chosen as his future home. He accepted the important post at Oberlin, however, with this proviso that he would be allowed to labour as a revivalist, whenever an opening occurred. Consequently he has for many years, to an extent, perhaps, unprecedented in the history of any professor of theology, united to the work of instructing students, the work of preaching the glorious gospel of the blessed God. At present he is in this country, because he believes that he has a call in providence to labour as a revivalist in Britain, and it must be admitted that, at this season of widespread awakening his visit is singularly opportune. Meanwhile, the Collegiate Institute and the large church at Oberlin, numbering some thousands, are committed to the care of his brother Professors, of whom there is a full and influential staff. The average number of students, male and female, receiving instruction there is about thirteen hundred.
As Mr Finney's ecclesiastical position has been deliberately misrepresented of late in the preface to the edition of Dr Nettleton's works, published in this country, it may be of importance to observe, that while, no doubt, many of the Old School Presbyterians are averse to his liberal and generous theology, he has all along been welcome to the pulpits of the large section of the church there known as New School-men. He is an Independent, and has never been in any way proceeded against by his brother Congregationalists. Indeed, we hesitate not to record our conviction that, by his preaching, writings, and prelections, he has, to no small extent moulded the theology of his native land, and rendered impossible a reproduction, on the other side of the water, of the intolerant bigotry that has manifested itself here in divers kinds of expulsion and disownment. At the very time, when the utterly untrue statement concerning his heterodoxy was penned in Scotland, he was labouring for months together with such men as Mr Stone, and Dr Kirk of Boston, and their numerous co-adjutors. The seminaries of Princeton and Andover may be said, almost entirely, to endorse his views, and only one or two hyper-Calvinistic colleges have declared themselves to be his opponents. He is the personal friend of Dr Lyman Beecher and the members of his talented family, including Henry Ward Beecher of New York and Mrs Stowe. Before coming to this country he received a cordial invitation from Albert Barnes of Philadelphia, to occupy his pulpit--who has indeed all along been his friend.
Mr Finney's views on the work of the Spirit and the doctrine of election may be said to be, in all important respects, similar to those for which we have contended in this country. He understands God's election to be his purpose in eternity, to save those who, he foresaw, would yield to the influence of his Spirit. While it would be observed from his sermon on last Sabbath forenoon that he holds a direct influence of the Holy Spirit, which illumines the mind, and causes the Word to be more clearly understood, it was as plain that this influence was always available to God's servants, and resistible by man. Irresistible grace is, in his opinion, opposed alike to the teaching of Scripture and the constitution of man. The grace of God is, according to him, effectual when man yields to its power. He distinctly announced this position on Sabbath evening, that no act can be a moral act, unless it be a voluntary act, and that when the element of necessity is introduced into human deeds, these are rendered no longer the acts of men but of machines.
Mr Finney holds the doctrine of vicarious sacrifice, as commonly understood. His high idea of the majesty of the law, renders an atonement to public justice a necessity in his system of theology. He believes that whenever a sinner trusts to Christ he is justified and forgiven by his God. Holiness he regards as the greatest attainment which man can reach, and the grand endowment which God, through the belief of the gospel, and by his Holy Spirit, waits to confer. He believes that a man is able to be perfectly obedient to the will of God, although he admits that many may be called 'holy' who often stumble and fall. He is inclined to include in the faith of the gospel, the trust of the heart, and the purpose of self consecration arrived at by the will, as well as the intellectual apprehension of the suitableness, trustworthiness, sufficiency and beauty of Christ, to which latter act we have been accustomed, in strictness, to confine the word faith; but since we, at the same time, have maintained that wherever true conversion takes place, that feeling of reliance and that full surrender to God invariably follow the intellectual apprehension of Christ, there is no real difference between us and our honoured friend.
Mr Finney, however, comes to this country not as a minister of controversy, but as a minister of Christ. He carefully avoids, in his preaching, all bitterness and personality. He is willing to preach in whatever pulpit providence may open for him, even in a Jewish synagogue, if he were allowed to do so! He takes the ground that he is not to be held responsible for all the religious opinions that may be maintained by those in whose ecclesiastical buildings he labours. He is anxious that Christians should, although conscientiously differing, forget their differences and labour together heartily for the salvation of souls. May God make his visit to this country a blessing to thousands!
The following is Finney's letter, preceded by an introductory note by the editor, John Kirk:
We gladly give a prominent place to the following communication from our excellent friend Mr Finney. We are desirous that he should be a great deal better known among all the churches in this country than he is, and so gave prominence in a leader to the contribution on which he remarks, with the same prominence to his letter and its postscript. True Christians know very little of him whom they oppose when they do as Mr Bonar has in this case done. Did they know him better, or take a little more pains to understand him, they would prize his labours as above all price.
Edinburgh, 10th September, 1859.
DEAR SIR,--In your issue of to-day I find an article entitled, 'Mr Finney's Career and Theology,' I know not by whom written. I discover in it several mistakes of trifling importance, and one or two which I feel called upon in honour to correct. The writer of this article represents the theological seminaries of Princeton and Andover, as almost entirely agreeing with me in theology. So far as I understand Andover, I think this true of that school. I am not aware of any difference between myself and them, except it be upon the questions of sanctification, and the simplicity of moral action. I cannot say precisely how far their views and my own accord on these points. In regard to Princeton, I had supposed it to be known to all readers of theology on this side of the Atlantic, that Princeton is the old school, or hyper-Calvinistic seminary of the United States. They differ from me as the old school Presbyterians and Congregationalists differ from the new school. The readers of my theology (published in London by Mr Tegg) find in the appendix of that work the substance of my disagreement with Princeton. Again, the writer of the article in question represents me as having laboured, within a few years, with Rev. Mr Stone, and Mr Kirk of Boston. This is a mistake, so far as Mr Kirk is concerned. How far Mr Kirk of Boston might agree with or differ from me I am not aware. I have not laboured as an evangelist with him since he has occupied his present pulpit. I have laboured recently with Mr Stone, of Park Street Church, Boston, and in most of the orthodox pulpits of Boston. In the pulpit of Dr Adams, who wrote the 'South side View of Slavery,' I did not labour. And in some others I did not. As to the theological views of the colleges in the United States, I know nothing, or very little, of their agreement or disagreement with my theological views. Our colleges, with few exceptions, are not schools of theology. Those of them who sympathise with the anti-slavery new school theology of the north, would not differ materially from me. Others would. I wonder how Mr Bonar could have been so wrongly informed as he appears to have been by what he has said in his preface to the life of Mr Nettleton, of my ecclesiastical standing and relations. I was ordained by an old school Presbytery. I remained in the Presbyterian Church, labouring for more than ten years as an evangelist in the Presbyterian churches in Philadelphia, and in many parts of the United States. I laboured also in Independent and Baptist churches freely during that period. I was called in 1832 to take the pastoral charge of a Presbyterian church in New York city. After a few years, some of my friends built the Broadway Tabernacle. They formed an Independent church, and called me to the pastoral office. This was the occasion of changing my ecclesiastical connexion. The college of Oberlin and the church of which I am pastor, belong to the Independent, or as we call it, Congregational denomination. I have always belonged, ecclesiastically, to the Presbyterian and Congregational church. I have laboured about one half of my time abroad as an evangelist, during the 25 years of my stay at Oberlin. I have always laboured in Presbyterian and Baptist churches, and so far is it from truth that I have not been received to orthodox pulpits, that I have laboured in no other, and have never been able to supply a tithe of the calls for my labour. Much opposition have I met with from some quarters, but no attempt has ever been made to impeach my orthodoxy before any ecclesiastical body whatever. In regard to Mr Bonar's edition of the life of Mr Nettleton, I am sorry to be called upon to speak. Mr Nettleton's opposition to me and to the revivals in which God employed me, was not at all based on theological grounds. Never, to my knowledge, did he take exceptions to my theological opinions, or teaching. He vaguely complained of new measures, but never, to my knowledge, of new theology. If he ever did this, it was after he had come out openly, and committed himself against me and my manner of promoting revivals. And in regard to this it should be said for his sake, that he was greatly misinformed, and acted and wrote under gross misapprehensions. I believe that most of his own friends now regard this as the great mistake of Mr Nettleton's life. I grieve to think of it. I never had any controversy with Mr N. I have not, and never had unkind feelings towards toward him. His opposition to me had a most disastrous effect upon himself, but not upon me. I should grieve to be obliged to record the facts as they are. I do not think that Mr N. ever supposed that his opposition to me would be perpetuated by means of his biography, and that after his death this attempt would be made to forestall and obstruct my labour for souls in this country. My theological views are before the public. They will speak for themselves. Mr Bonar may think me heterodox, but in affirming that I have not been received to orthodox pulpits in the United States, he is under an entire mistake. I should not have said this had not the article in your paper so pointedly alluded to it. I seek no controversy. If anybody wants to know my theological views, let them consult my works, and not receive them at second-hand from the writer of the article in question, or from other sources. If they agree with me, well--if not, I cannot help it. I will change any of my opinions or practices whenever I have good reasons for so doing. The other mistakes in the article are trivial, and I will not trouble you with a correction of them.--Your brother in the gospel,
C. G. FINNEY.
P.S.--Since writing the above, I remember that Mr Nettleton did write an article in which he criticised a sermon of mine, preached in the pulpit of Dr Beeman, of Troy, New York. His objection was however so trivial that I never noticed it, and cannot remember what it was. I have now at home Mr Nettleton's reason for opposing me, written by himself, and called his historical letter, and written on purpose to justify his opposition to me, and read to the convention of ministers in New Lebanon. In this letter, professedly stating all the grounds of opposition he does not, that I recollect, take the least exception to my theology. He only complained of my measures. He read the letter to the convention which had assembled to inquire into the reason of his opposition. At this convention were all the principal ministers with whom I had laboured, and who knew what I had preached and what measures I had used--when he had done reading his letter in condemnation of me and justification of his opposition, I arose and said I was happy at last to have a full statement of his reasons for opposing me--that the brethren, ministers, were all present with whom I had laboured, and who could testify if the things of which he complained were true of me. I then asserted that not one of them was true, and that if any brother or person present would affirm the truth of any one of the particulars named, I would instantly confess my wrong. No one present--but if anybody could testify to the truth of his statements the men present could have done it.--I say no one could charge me with any one of the things complained of. The fact is, if Mr Nettleton ever complained of my theology it was an after-thought. I am not aware that he did; but if he did, it was resorted to, to justify his opposition after he had utterly failed to establish any other ground of opposition. I am sorry to be called upon to say this, but such are the facts, as many living witnesses can testify. I had a manuscript copy of this long letter in my possession. It had been sent to Dr Atkin and by him given to me. When Mr Nettleton saw that I had denied all his statements, and that all the stated grounds of his opposition had fallen away, he asked me for the copy of the letter. I declined giving it up, saying it might be useful to me if at any time the grounds of his opposition should be misreported. This letter has never to my knowledge been published, and while Mr Nettleton lived, he would take care that it should not be. If now it is to be represented that Mr Nettleton opposed me on theological grounds, and this is to stand in my way of my usefulness, it may be best to publish it. I have it not, however, on this side of the Atlantic. I write the above merely to contradict the statement, whoever may make it, that Mr Nettleton's opposition to me was on theological grounds. Until after that celebrated convention in which his opposition fell to the ground, I do not think that he and I differed much in theology, and I have the best of reasons for thinking so. After this, when he found himself unsustained by such men as Dr Beecher and Dr Taylor and many others, he forsook his former ground, and many of his old friends, and went over to the old school, and lived the latter part of his life in sympathy with a few old school men, some of whom, it appears, are for perpetuating his opposition to my labours, by representing his opposition as based upon my supposed heretical doctrines. I care but little about it. But happily, if it become necessary, I have the means of administering an effectual rebuke to such a representation. Notwithstanding all that Mr Nettleton wrote and published against me, this is the first time that I have put pen to paper with design to publish a word in reply. His letters published refuted themselves. They reacted upon him, as I told him in the most fraternal manner, that they would. They did not injure me. I may some time notice this life of Nettleton, published by Mr Bonar and heralded with a most mistaken attack by Mr B. upon my ministerial standing.--C. G. F.
Finney received the following letter from Fergus Ferguson Jr. of Glasgow:
11 Walmer Crest Glasgow,
Sept 19th '59
My Dear Brother,
I feel as if I
should write you a kind of apology for
the paper in the "Christian News," in which you
have detected several errors; for I suppose
that, by this time you may have heard that
it proceeded from my pen.
Mr Nisbet, the manager, or sub-editor of the
paper, requested me to write a kind of des-
criptive article on the subject of your
Sabbath ministrations, of an easy, sketchy,
character. After I had completed that paper,
it struck me that another on your "career
& Theology" would meet the requirements of
very many readers of the paper, judging
from the numerous questions which had been
put to me concerning you by parties,
more or less mis-informed concerning your
actual position. I thought that I was
sufficiently well informed as to your
theology & history, by the several interesting con
so as to be able to write such
^ versations I had the great pleasure of
so as to be able to write such a paper.
enjoying with you here. I am ashamed
of the mistake I made about 'Princeton.'
I am sure that you mentioned some
other college beside Andover as sympathis-
ing largely with you, and some way or other,
the impression had settled down on my mind
that Princeton was that college. Of course,
whenever I saw your letter on Saturday,
I at once remembered that Princeton
was Dr. Hodge's Institution, & that there
you had found your most redoubtable,
though fully demolished, antagonist
I mentioned Dr Kirk of Boston as one
of the best known orthodox men of that
city. I was sure that, although you had
not co-operated with him personally, you had
co-operated with those who are his friends
& associates -- I hope that the theological
errors which you have refrained from
noticing were not of a very serious char
Although that good has resulted from
evil, is an inadequate apology for evil-doing,
I cannot but rejoice that one result of
my rashness has been that you
have been drawn out to make so
long a statement on the Nettleton mis
-take. Mr. Bonar must be convinced, when such
an explanation has been laid before
him, that he has "spoken a word" against
one of Christ's little ones (or rather one of
Christs great ones, speaking of stature, corporal
^ moral, & spiritual, allow me to say) & therefore
against Christ himself.
A second edition of Nettleton and His Labours was issued by Andrew Bonar in 1860, published in Edinburgh by T. & T. Clark. The Appendix, "Mr. Finney's Career" (pp. 454-57), had some alterations. The third sentence now reads:
At this day no orthodox body of Christians could [consistently] receive him into their pulpit.
The following additional material was added at the beginning of the second paragraph:
In his book, "Origin and Progress of New Haven Theology," Dr. Tyler writes:--"A certain popular writer of the present day said: "Were I as eloquent as the Holy Ghost, I could convert sinners as well as He!" and adds, that Mr. Finney taught the same doctrine. "To change men's hearts, requires only the presentation of truth by the Spirit of God: his influence differs not at all from that of the preacher, except in degree." In a private letter, Dr. Tyler added the following statement as his deliberate opinion:--"A class of evangelists arose, ...
The following additional paragraphs were added at the end:
While Dr. Finney was last year in Scotland, he wrote a letter in the Christian News, dated September 10, 1859, in which he asserts and re-asserts his own orthodoxy, and is very angry at the editor of this memoir for leading the reader to think otherwise of him than as an orthodox divine. He says, that "Dr. Nettleton never took exception to his theological opinions or teaching," and "never complained of his theology,"--it was only his revival measures against which he wrote. Then Dr. Finney is at pains to shew his former connection with the orthodox;--"he was ordained by an Old School presbytery," and "laboured ten years as an evangelist in connection with the Presbyterian Churches in Philadelphia;" nay, more, "in 1832, got a call to a Presbyterian Church." And then he is able to say: "No attempt has ever been made to impeach my orthodoxy before any ecclesiastical body whatever." Now, in reply, we ask, What is the meaning of all this but to throw dust in the eyes of the Christian public? Dr. Finney knows, as well as any man alive, that he is not orthodox in the sense in which that term is understood in this country. To say that Dr. N. did not take exception to his theology, means simply this, that Dr. N. never formally attacked his opinions in the way of controversy, though Dr. F. will at once admit that his views and Dr. N.'s were toto clo different in all points where Calvinism is in question, as well as in some others. Again, it proves nothing that Dr. F. was ordained by the sound Calvinistic old school Presbyterians; for, since then, he has forsaken their doctrines, and their church government too. And if he had never been impeached before any ecclesiastical tribunal, the reason is not that the Calvinistic Churches, whether Congregational of Presbyterian, are at one with him. He has occasionally, we believe, even in Scotland, appeared in the pulpits of ministers who hold views very different from his own; and in this latter case the phenomenon may be accounted for by the fact, that often Dr. Finney has observed a reticence regarding his peculiar views, which can scarcely be called ingenuous. At all events, it must be fully understood, now, that Dr. Finney is not orthodox in the generally recognized sense of that term.--very far from it. In addition to what has been stated above, he holds such opinions as the following quotations exhibit. We give the extracts as they appear in a pamphlet drawn up by a Morrisonian writer, who wishes to expose the delusion that Dr. F. is at one with them. It will be evident at a glance that some of his views diverge, in another direction, even farther than those of Morrisonians from the orthodox creed. Thus:--
"Salvation impossible without personal righteousness, or obedience to moral law," is one of his tenets....
There follows extracts which McArthur copied from Finney's Systematic Theology, p. 364 and Lecture 56.
See Marjory Bonar (editor), Amdrew A. Bonar, D.D. Diary and Letters (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1917), p. 132.
The copy is hand-written in an unknown hand.
No complete copy of this pamphlet has come to light. Moore enclosed pages 29-36 and 65-66, which are in the Finney Papers, Box 7.
Rev. John Campbell, Editor of The British Standard.
Alexander Macleod, The Truth of the Gospel: or Doctrinal Considerations Relative to the Apostolic Age, the Era of the Reformation & More Recent Times (Glasgow: George Gallie, 1859), p. 17.
This article was from the Cincinnati Herald of February 2, 1854. It was published also in The Oberlin Evangelist, 15 February 1854, p. 31. It was probably from there that Moore copied it, with some minor alterations. The italics are not in the original.
This extract was taken from an editorial in the Religious Recorder (Syracuse), 30 December 1852, which was published in The Oberlin Evangelist, 19 January 1853, p. 11. The italics are not in the original.
The Last Sabbath in the Broadway Tabernacle. Historical Discourse, by the Pastor, Joseph P. Thompson, D.D. With an Account of the Services on that Day. April 26, 1857 (New York: Calkins & Stiles, 1857), p. 16. There are some minor changes, and the italics are not in the original.
The original has the date 1837 here.
In the original, this sentence continues:
; since the Tabernacle never has been a Perfectionist Church, and I am sure, within my knowledge of it, has not been perfect either in its pulpit or in its pews. But
Moore's handwriting was probably misread by the typesetter. This word should be some.
A report of the sermon "What must I do to be saved?" was published in The Christian News (Glasgow), 17 September 1859 p. 2.
The writer means appendix.
A report of the sermon on "The Prevailing Prayer-Meeting" was published in The Christian News (Glasgow), 10 September 1859, p. 2. It was subsequently reprinted in pamphlet form.
This was Nathan S. S. Beman. Nettleton's letter to Dr Spring was published first in The New York Observer and then as a pamphlet, Remarks of the Rev. Mr. Nettleton, on a recent sermon by the Rev. Mr Finney. In a letter addressed to the Rev. Dr. Spring of New-York, Durham, 4 May 1827.
This should have been written Aikin. Samuel C. Aikin was the minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Utica, where Finney was preaching when Nettleton wrote his letter.
[Ms in Finney Papers, #1709.]
Letters on the Origin and Progress of the New Haven Theology. From a New England Minister to one at the South. (New York: Robert Carter and Ezra Collier, 1837), p. 92. The letters were from Bennet Tyler to Dr. Witherspoon.
Finney versus Morison: or, Oberlin Strictures on Morisonian Faith (Glasgow: George Wilson, 1859). This pamphlet was compiled by Alexander McArthur.
This sentence is the sub-heading in the Appendix (pages 31-32) at the back of the pamphlet under the heading "Extracts from Finney."