The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
To Louis Richards
6 September 1872
[Published in "A Religious Revival in Reading, 1829" in Historical Review of Berks County. Volume 15 (October 1949), page 149]
Finney received the following letter from Louis Richards:
Reading, Sept 3, 1872.
Rev. C. G. Finney,
Your letter in reply to
mine was duly received, and I should have
written again sooner has it not been for the
illness and death of my Cousin, Jno. S.
Richards Esq., a member of the Bar of this
county, who as a boy remembered your
preaching in Reading. He passed away,
in the hope of a better portion above, on the
26th ult. Your letter has awakened
very interesting associations of the past
with many of your old converts in this
place to whom I have read it. One
gentleman remarked that your advent
here marked the beginning of vital piety
in Reading, and all feel that your
early labors here have been greatly
blessed. I will try to answer your in=
quiries regarding the old families you
William Addis, Thomas O'Brien & wife, Joseph Gorgas
& Levi B. smith still living in Reading.
mention. John McKnight some years
since passed to his reward. Col. C. B. McKnight,
one of his sons, told me to say to you that Elea=
nor Brayton, wife of Milton Brayton is liv=
ing with her husband in Westernville, N.Y.
in the vicinity of Utica. Mary Ann Graaff is
residing in Cincinnati & Mrs Sarah Orrick
in Reading. Most of the Porter family are de=
ceased, and none now live in Reading. Judge
Bell is deceased, & none of his children live
here excepting a married daughter. Judge
William Darling, one of the best men who ever
lived among us, has also gone to his rest;
his widow resides in Philadelphia. Elijah
Deckert & wife are both deceased, as is also
Thomas McCombo, an humble convert of yours.
James Norton, a gray haired saint, who was
present at that last meeting with your
brother Grier, to whom you so touchingly allude,
was much affected by the sight of your picture,
and wished to be warmly remembered to you.
I thank you for the photograph & shall
prize it highly. Your kind reply has stirred
up a still stronger desire within me to
know more of the details of your sojourn in Read=
ing, the length of time you were here, the num=
ber who were converted, the duration of the re=
vival meetings, the general feeling in the com=
munity &c. There is a story here of the
bad men against whose evil practices you
spoke so boldly, electing you as a constable
out of derision, of your acceptance of the
office & of their contributing in their dismay
toward paying the price imposed by law for
non acceptance of the office. Was this so?
Some assure me of the fact, & others doubt
it. I saw an article in the Independent
some time ago on the "Enduement of the
Power from on High", in which you refer to
your preaching to a rather desperate com=
munity in the State of New York many years
ago. Something such a community I take
it Reading furnished at the time you
were here. Gambling was openly & publicly
prevalent; intemperance flourished, & immorality
in various shapes was exhibited. I hear it
remarked that "Mr. Finney made a great
stirring up of the dry bones". Does your
memory carry you back to any of these scenes?
No one would be more gratified to hear your
narrative than myself, & if I am not un=
duly taxing your patience, I must again ask
to have you communicate it. I am much
of an antiquarian, &, if I may add with
becoming modesty, something of a historian,
& some time in weaving the chain of local
religious history may find an appropriate
place for the powerful revival among the
Presbyterians in 1829, -- hence my desire to be
informed. Be assured your communication
shall be confidential.
I extend you my sincere congratulations
that your useful life has been spared
to the four score, & pray that the balance
of you r days may be as peaceful and
happy as the former years have been
active & fruitful in the cause of your Mas=
ter. May God bless you.
Very Sincerely Yours,
Finney replied as follows:
Oberlin O. 6th. Sept. 1872
Louis Richards Esq.
My Dear Brother,
Yours of the 3rd. inst. recd. When I went to Reading the state of religion & of morality was deplorable. As an illustration of the state of religion take the following facts. I found to my great surprise & chagrin that Mr. McKnight an elder in the Pres. church was a manager of a semi monthly ball gotten up for the season. When I learned that I said to Dr. Grier, "in less than one month I shall preach myself out of your pulpit or Mr. McKnight out of his balls." And so it was Br. McKnight like a good man accepted the truth & I heard no more of his attending balls. For sometime the opposition to the revival was great. Drunkenness, Gambling, Profanity & rodyism were rife on my hand & the opposition was emboldened by the attitude of the German ministers & church to the blessed truth. A revival was a new thing to them & therefore they spoke & preached against it. This intensified the opposition & rendered it exceedingly bold & bitter. The newspapers were edited by men of intemperate habits & from day to day these editors were outspoken against the revival. I suffered this to go on, until the work had gained such strength as to render a notice of the opposition from the pulpit proper & profitable as I judged it when to an overflowing congregation I preached on the text "Ye are of your Father the devil & the lusts of the father ye do." I went on to show in many particulars how sinners resembled their father the devil. Near the close I took up the drunken editors & said I would speak in defence of the Town. These editors I said who are not infrequently helped home from their places of debauch drunk are guilty of insulting the Town with their advise on the subject of religion. This, I said, I should think the people had a right to repel & resent. That these editors should confine their instructions to subject upon which they were informed & tell us which kind of liquor was the best to get drunk upon. I added that I should think an intelligent people would take the tongs & cast such filthy newspapers into the streets. The suggestion took effect & the next morning issues was as I was impressed extensively cast forth from the houses into the street. We had no further advise from the editors. They subsided.
At the Election I was voted for as constable by a few by way of derision. I was not elected and but a small number voted for me. But enough to make the absurd story you mention out of. Being a nonresident, if I had been elected, I was ineligible & no fine could have been imposed for a refusal to serve. The revivals became very peaceful. I recollect that Thomas O'Brien was one of the converts. I think his wife was another. Judge Darling was at that time an attorney. So was Mr. Deckert. Is not Levi P. Smith a brother of Mrs. Darling? If so I remember him well. I remember nearly all the persons you mention. Your letters have revived a strong desire to visit Reading once more. Nearly all the principal people in Dr. Griers congregation at that time were converted. I have seen Mrs. Brayton & Mrs. Graff several times since I left Reading. The McKnights were a lovely family. The Bells I well remember. Judge Porter & family I remember well. The brother of Thomas O'Brien on the morning of Communion Sabbath on which day many united with the Church. The family of the deceased man & his brother Thomas's family were amongst those who joined the Church. At the Communion table I noticed the fact that that morning the deceased had gone to join the Church above on the same day that his family joined the Church on earth. That was a great day for the Pres. Church in Reading.
Earnest love to all who remember me in R.
C. G. FINNEY.
I have not time to add further particulars. I can noot tell how long I was iReading, nor how many were converted.
The time must have been seven months & the converts several hundreds.
Louis Richards' reply is dated 16 September 1872.
"Enduement of Power from on High" was published in The Independent of 15 August 1872, p. 1. However, Finney's description of his preaching does not occur in that article, but is in a previous article entitled "The Enduement of the Spirit" which was published in The Independent of 4 July 1872, p. 2. In that article he described his experiences in Antwerp, New York, in 1824.
This should presumably be "rowdyism".
The original here must have had "every".
John 8:44 reads: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. ..."
This word must have been in the plural in the original.
The original must have been "mornings issue was".
The original here must have been "informed".
The word "died" should have been inserted here.