The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
To John Keep
3 August 1868
[Transcription in the Robert S. Fletcher Papers, Oberlin College Archives]
Oberlin 3d Aug. 1868.
My Dear Br. Keep
Your mind is much & justly exercised in view of the state of our theological department. Mine has been for a long time. I have suffered much & for years on this subject. It is hard to converse with you at present because of your deafness. Since you spoke with me yesterday on the subject and asked me with so much feeling if I cannot advise the Trustees what to do in the matter, my mind has been again strongly impressed with the duty & necessity of speaking my deepest convictions upon this subject. They are of many years standing but greatly deepened within the last ten years, & still more within the last 3 or 4 years. I have watched the results of our training of ministers here with increasing dissatisfaction & pain. I am driven to the conclusion that God has but little interest in our theological department.
If we would build it up we must so shape our efforts as to secure the Divine Sympathy & cooperation. How to do this & whether we will do this are questions to be settled. I write you upon this subject with pain. I fear I can not get even you to understand & agree with me. I can hardly hope to make the Trustees & Faculty understand & accept my views. But as I am situated I cannot be justified in withholding my views. They have not been asked by the Trustees & unless they desire it I do not consent to have you show them this letter. I write to you because you desire to have my views on the subject. The failure is this. We fail to furnish the church with Holy Ghost ministers. They are reasonably well instructed men so far as human teaching can go, but the great mass of them are not Divinely annointed for their work. They evidently lack that baptism of the Holy Spirit which is indispensable to success. They go forth without being endowed with power from on high. Hence they are powerless & the church sees & mourns over it. Our students do not attract the attention and secure the confidence of the church as men especially annointed for the work of saving souls. I say this of the many. I am happy to know that some of them are recognized by God & the church as Divinely Anointed ministers of Christ. This failure is a fact too obvious to need proof. Who is responsible for this failure. In a great measure their teachers are. I say it with great reluctance & pain, that our teachers do not lay stress enough upon this Divine & Special anointing as indispensable to success. I fear & believe that we are not agreed upon this fundamental question. I have always regarded & treated this question as fundamental in the qualifications of a minister. But as I press this subject upon the young men I have found an
increasing indifference to & ^ confidence in it, from year to year. The results are inevitable & manifest. I fear that some of our Faculty are wanting in their personal experience of this baptism of the Holy Spirit & consequently lay but little stress upon it; & without being well aware of it are using an influence against the students setting their hearts upon it & seeking it as the disciples did before penticost. I can not escape the conviction that here is a great lack if not a positive hindrance in our teaching here. It is probably as much so in other Seminaries. But they are established and
the natural setting of the tide of influence is in their favor. The great mass of ministers do not see nor feel their deficiency in this respect & therefore patronize them. We must raise up a new type of ministers or rather revise the old type if we would secure the heart of the church & the blessing of God. God forbid that I should find fault with my brethren of the faculty. I love them dearly. I regard them as honest & able men & would not willingly wound their feelings in any respect. But I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that they lack that personal & powerful baptism of the Holy Spirit that would lead them to urge upon the students continually the indispensable necessity of this Divine anointing as the great condition of success. With me this has always been a fundamental question regarding a preparation for the ministry. I have ever observed that one truly anointed minister is worth to the Church any number of the unanointed however learned they are. I have long felt a growing discouragement about our theological department on this account. Practically we lay so little stress upon the absolute necessity of this Divine & Special anointing to the work that as a body our students not only dare but actually do enter upon their work without it. This is fatal. With few exceptions they are too much like the great mass of ministers to attract any special attention. They do not so stir the heart of the church as to turn her eyes upon Oberlin especially for the supply of ministers. This is our great & fatal defect as I see it. I have long been confronted with this defect when laboring abroad. I could not deny that the mass of our students are fundamentally deficient in this all important respect.
How to remedy it I see not. It is vain to expect it unless the Faculty & Trustees can be agreed in regard to this question. I believe you may inquire forever for the difficulty & as long as you overlook this you will not find it. Our students must prove to be Divinely & especially anointed for the work of the ministry or neither God nor the Church will have any especial interest in us or in them.
We must not expect this of the mass of them unless their teachers understand it as a personal experience & agree in uniting upon it as the condition of success. And unless they so deeply feel it as to constantly urge it with such emphasis & power as to secure the seeking of this baptism as the sine quo non of success.
The teachers should be agreed & persistent in this. So long as we are not at one & entirely in earnest upon this subject the mass of our students will neglect it. Indifference upon the part of our theological teachers in respect to this question & especially an indifference that implies a want of a personal experience of & want of confidence in its indispensable necessity, will in a great measure counteract the influence of others who urge this question upon the attention of the students. It is vastly more important that we should be agreed & persistent & importunate upon this than upon almost any other point of instruction. Here I am persuaded we are lacking. The fact is, our students, especially of late years, I mean the mass of them, lack the power of the Holy Ghost. The enquery [sic]is who is in fault for this. We who are teachers should certainly inquire whether we rightly & personally understand & sufficiently & persistently insist upon this special anointing as an indispensable qualification for their work.
If we are not in fault on this point how is it that so many of them dare to & do enter the field without it? Surely the Trustees & Faculty should look to this. I will not at this time say more upon this subject.
God bless us all
C. G. Finney
in possession of
Misses Little - Oberlin