The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
To Edwin Lamson
24 November 1870
[MS in Finney Papers, 2/2/1]
Oberlin 24th Nov. 1870
My Dear Br. Lamson.
Yours of the 16th is recd. I was
not aware that a second
subscription for the professorship
had been started. The first
one must be with Br. Sears.
I thank you for the volume of
Music Hall Sermons. We
have read them nearly through.
They are the kind of sermons
to be popular in Boston.
They have striking excellences
& as striking defects. Their
excellences are. 1. They are
addressed to the people &
not essays about people.
They say you. This is excellent!
2. They are intensely persuasive.
This is a great merit.
3. The language is plain, & the style,
generally perspicuous. Hearers
will understand them.
4. The word painting is such
as will interest & secure atten
tion. This is an excellence
especially in Boston.
5. The illustrations are generally
well chosen & are edifying.
6. They are impassioned & short.
This will take well in Boston
I mean with the masses.
Mark when I speak of Boston
as related to these discourses
I speak not of the theologically
instructed, but of the class who
who would turn to the Music
hall, whilst they would avoid
orthodox churches. I speak of
the sermons also as adapted
to this class. In my judgment
their defects are the following.
1. They take a one sided & dangerously
partial view of the character of God.
The God of these sermons does not
seem to me to be the God of creation,
of Providence, or of moral govern
ment. But rather a God of sentiment.
They assume that justice, holiness,
retribution, severity, are not moral
attributes of God. Whereas these
are abundantly revealed in
creation, Providence, & the Bible.
2. They avoid all direct issues
with error & are loose & dangerously
undiscriminating. After all
there is so much heart in
them, such a yearning &
manifest longing to do the
hearers good that upon
the whole I like them
& think them better adapted
to the masses than if they were
more strictly theological. I think
the author did not greatly
misjudge the capabilities &
tastes of his audiences.
I may write you again
on this subject. If Br. Murray
is a man who can be advised
I think if you & his friends
will be wise & faithful to
him he may be very useful
in Boston. I have heard that
he has fast tendencies & rather
encourages such tendencies
in the young. This will give
him, if true, a dangerous
popularity. These sermons are
very peculiar. They assume the
main points of orthodoxy, but
strangely misrepresent in some
respects the teachings of 41. E.g.
his teaching Mat. 23d ch[a]pter.
Did it never use severity? Did he
never address the fears of men.
Is not fear rational. Is it not
really the beginning of wisdom?
Love to all your dear ones.
C. G. Finney
William H. H. Murray, Music Hall Sermons (Boston: Fields, Osgood & Co, 1870)
William Henry Harrison Murray (1840-1904) was minister of Park Street Congregational Church in Boston, where Lamson was a deacon. He was soon to become the pastor of an Independent Congregational church that met in the Music Hall in Boston. In 1874 he retired and embarked upon a life of travel and writing. (See The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 10, pp. 230-31)
Finney had heard about him from the Reverend J. M. H. Dow of Boston. In a letter dated 13 January 1869 Dow wrote:
Mr. Murray,- the newly settled Pastor of Park St. is a young man of original turn of mind, & is possessed of an independent spirit; but his feelings respecting Evangelists & Revival measures, have not been developed, but there is hope that he will not be led by the would-be dictators of the Congl Churches.
And on 13 February 1869 he wrote:
Rev. Mr. Murray, the Pastor of Park Street Church - has committed himself against continuous - protracted meetings - regarding such efforts as unwise, & practically injurious to the welfare of the Church.
This may be a reference to Finney's visit to Boston in October-December 1841.