The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
To Louis Richards
16 August 1872
[Published in "A Religious Revival in Reading, 1829" in Historical Review of Berks County. Volume 15 (October 1949), pages 148-49]
Louis Richards (1842-1924) was a young lawyer in Reading, Pennsylvania. He went on to become a prominent member of the bar in Reading. He was an authority on municipal law, and was the author of many law books. One of his particular involvements was with newspapers, and he excelled as a reporter of court proceedings. As a prominent citizen in Reading from 1861 to his death in 1924, he was known for being public spirited, and was active in local affairs. But his main preoccupation was with a wide variety of cultural interests. He was devoted to antiquarian research and from 1903 to 1917 was president of The Historical Society of Berks County. It was to that Society's Review that his daughter, Miss Susan H. Richards of Atlantic City, sent for publication, the letters that her father had received from Finney.
Finney received the following letter from Richards:
Reading, Pa, Aug. 13, 1872
Rev. Chas. G. Finney,
I have taken
the liberty of sending to you a copy of a
Memorial of our recently deceased
pastor, the Rev. Elias J. Richards,
D.D., whom you doubtless do not re=
member, but who had reason to eter=
nally remember you, inasmuch as
it was through your preaching
that he, when a mere boy, was
converted at Utica, N.Y., some=
time, I believe, about the year
1830. The circumstance he often
mentioned to his family during
his last illness, and the fact
is referred to in the Memorial
Sermon, though not in a pos=
itive way, as the writer, the Rev.
Mr. Radcliffe was not definitively
informed upon the subject at the
time. Doubtless the fact that
so eminently good and useful a
man was first led to the Throne
of Grace through your instrumental=
ity will give you an interest in
this little book, which, however,
we cannot but feel is but a
feeble memorial of his pious life
and Christian labors.
As a young member of the
Presbyterian church in this place,
I have heard much, both from
the Rev. Dr. Richards and others,
of the results attending your
powerful labors here in 1829, just
after the decease of the lamented
Rev. Dr. Grier. As an outline
of the incidents of that period
would form a very interesting
addition to the history of the denom=
ination in this city, I should be
very happy, if the undertaking
would not trespass too much
upon your time and attention,
to be furnished from your own
pen with reminiscences of your
sojourn in Reading. Many of
the best men to-day in our city,
both in the Presbyterian and other
denominations, speak of yourself
as the instrument of their conversion
and the seed then sown on stony
ground has thus brought forth
As a matter of personal in=
terest to myself, I should be happy
to receive your photograph, and
to be informed how I may be en=
abled to secure a copy of your biography
Very Sincerely Yours
Finney replied as follows:
Oberlin, O. 16th. Aug. 1872
Louis Richards Esq
My Dear Brother,
Yours of the 13th. with the book is received. I recollect the conversion of Elias J. Richards in Utica, in 1826. I had learned that he was in the ministry, but was not aware of his location. The revivals in New York, against which so much has been said & written, have furnished the Church & the Mission fields with a large portion of their ablest ministers. I thank you for your kind letter & for the Memorial volume. I remember Reading with great interest & affection. Dr. Grier died with apoplexy whilst I was with him. We returned from a most solemn meeting of inquiry where he met with surprise amounting to astonishment the mass of his uninvited hearers. He kept silent, listened with deep attention to all that was said. When the meeting was closed he bade me good night & with a deep smile said "I will see you in the morning." I went to our lodgings & retired immediately. Scarcely had an hour elapsed when I was called & informed that he was dead.
Are any of the Deckerts or Darlings or McKnights or Bells or Porters left in Reading?
My Memoir is not written & may never be.
I enclose my photograph, the last one I have.
I am nearly 80 years of age. The 29th. inst will, if I live, complete my 80th. year. I have continued my Pastoral & College labors up to within a few months. Was ill 3 months & now comfortable but easily fatigued.
Please give my earnest love to the family of Br. Richards & also to any who may remember me.
God bless you,
C. G. FINNEY.
Finney received a reply from Louis Richards, dated 3 September 1872.
Information from obituaries in The Historical Society of Berks County.
This was probably a misreading of "unconverted" in the original.