The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
To the Editor of The New-York Evangelist
20 February 1873
[Published in The New-York Evangelist, 6 March 1873, p. 1.]
The following article appeared in The New-York Evangelist, 13 February 1873, p. 2:
AN INTERESTING REMINISCENCE.
Midway between the villages of Huntingdon and St. Ives, which are five miles apart, some sixty miles north of London, stands the hamlet of Houghton. Here is the home of Potto Brown; at least it was ten years ago, when I was his guest, and when I learned of an intimate friend of his in Huntingdon, the remarkable fact I am about to relate. Mr. Brown was a member of the firm of Bateman & Brown, the reputation and business of which was, and I presume continues to be, unsurpassed among all the millers of great Britain. The two partners were very warm friends and earnest Christians. Mr. Bateman at his death left a young son to the guardianship of his partner and friend, in full confidence that he would do all in his power to train him up for the service of the Lord here, and his enjoyment hereafter. Nor was this confidence misplaced. He was a faithful, tender father to the boy. It was his constant endeavor to fit him for a life of usefulness and honor. Above all things he sought to influence him to remember his Creator in the days of his youth, and consecrate himself to the Saviour. His efforts in this particular were not successful. The lad grew to manhood without taking a decided public stand on the Lord's side. In every other respect he was all that could be desired, but he was not godly.
This was a source of anxiety to Mr. Brown. Not only was it the burden of his daily prayer for the young man, that he might be renewed in heart, but he diligently employed every method that love and wisdom could suggest to lead him to repentance and to Christ. He was not disheartened by repeated failures, but his heart was all the more fixed upon the end by the difficulty of its accomplishment. Upon one occasion he was considering and praying over the subject, when he asked himself: What more can I do than I have done; what means can I use that I have not, what hopeful measure remains to be employed? Stay, isn't there a preacher in America who is remarkable for his power to reach, and to stir into exercise, slumbering consciences, and whose labors have been greatly owned of God to lead sinners to repentance? Might I not induce him to cross the Atlantic, and hold a series of meetings among us, with a reasonable expectation that my beloved boy would be numbered among the converts?
At once the suggestion was carried into action. He immediately wrote to Prof. C. G. Finney, proposing his visiting England, and engaging in special efforts for the salvation of souls, and offering to bear all the expense it would involve. After some correspondence, Prof. Finney accepted the invitation, and himself and wife sailed for the Old World, and held continuous daily meetings for several weeks, both in Huntingdon and St. Ives, and elsewhere. His labors were attended by the Divine blessing, and scores and hundreds were brought to the Saviour, and added to the Church. The longing desire of Mr. Brown was gratified, and young Bateman was enrolled among the followers of our Lord.
Many a time have I since felt humbled and rebuked, as I have pondered this instance of perseverance and devotion, and been led by it to put forth renewed exertions to obtain the blessing desired, and sought. It is in the hope that others may experience its power to stir up to continuous and zealous labors for the Master, that I now communicate it to the public. Prayer is not the only means to be employed to bring our children and friends to Christ. When we ask God to convert them, if we ask aright, there is an implied pledge that we will do all in our power, as laborers, together with Him, by his direct appointment, to lead them to repentance. We cannot intelligently expect our prayers to be answered unless we do what is required of us to accomplish the end, and when we faithfully employ every wise measure, when we exhaust every possible expedient to gain the good our longing hearts solicit and seek, we may be sure the Divine blessing will attend our efforts, and they shall thereby be crowned with success. Father, mother, pray on, work on, and God will give you the soul of your child. WYOMING.
Finney's letter was published in The New-York Evangelist, 6 March 1873, p. 1.
LETTER FROM REV. CHAS. G. FINNEY.
Interesting account of his Labors in England.
OBERLIN, Feb. 20th, 1873.
To the Editor of The New York Evangelist:
"Wyoming" has given your readers an incident in the life of Potto Brown, Esq., of Houghton, Huntingdonshire, England, in which account reference is made to my first visit to England. Will you allow me to correct a mistake or two, into which "Wyoming" has fallen, and add some interesting facts to his narrative?
The firm to which Mr. Brown belonged, was the firm of Goodman & Brown. Both of them, men of great modesty and beauty of Christian character. Mr. Goodman was deceased before I visited England, but Mr. Brown has survived till within the last year. I have spent many weeks in his family, and have had the facts which I shall relate from himself. Before Mr. Goodman's death, the partners being greatly tried with the fact that such multitudes were perishing in sin around them, agreed to consecrate their means and lives to the work of saving the much neglected and perishing souls in their neighborhood. Their principal business was milling. At that time they were using but one mill, but were prosperous in business. Soon after their consecration just alluded to, Mr. Goodman died, leaving a family of three sons and three daughters. These are all the children of that family that I recollect. Mr. Brown was his executor, and was left in the fatherly charge of his family. Mrs. Goodman also died, leaving Mr. Brown under a grave responsibility. He felt it deeply, and most diligently and prayerfully did he fulfil his trust. He built a chapel at Houghton, and employed a minister; also, built a schoolhouse and employed a teacher. He had two sons, Bateman and George. For these sons he employed a tutor in his own family, and received to study with them the sons of several of the most interesting families in the county, who were the particular friends of Mr. Brown. The first minister he employed was a High Calvinist, and few or no conversions occurred under his ministry. Mr Brown conversed seriously with him upon the failure of his ministry, to secure conversions. He replied, "Am I God, that I should convert men?" Mr. Brown replied, "Whether you are God or no God, we must have conversions." He dismissed this man, and employed the Rev. Mr. Harcourt, a Free-will Baptist preacher, now settled in London. Under Mr. Harcourt's labors many conversions occurred, and Mr. Brown pushed his enterprise into neighboring villages, establishing preaching and Sabbath-schools in two or three places before I was invited to go there.
The Goodman children had, in the meantime, grown up to be young men and women, and but one of them, the eldest daughter, had been hopefully converted. For this family Mr. Brown was peculiarly anxious. Neville, the eldest son, had grown to be a man, unconverted. For some reason, Mr. Harcourt's labors failed to secure the conversion of this family, and Mr. Brown's particular friends throughout that county, were many of them unconverted. Mr. Brown's anxiety for the conversion of this circle of friends had become intense. He prayed much and earnestly for them, but nothing seemed to reach their case. He wrestled till he became almost discouraged, and finally conferred with Mr. Harcourt as to what further could be done. Mr. Harcourt was an earnest, unselfish, talented minister of Christ. He said he felt that he had done all within his power to reach those cases. Previous to this, my "Revival Lectures," printed in THE NEW YORK EVANGELIST, had been published in book form, and scattered by scores of thousands throughout Great Britain and its dependencies.
After much consultation and prayer, it was agreed that Mr. Brown should write to me. He did so, in a most earnest and beseeching manner. I felt as if the Holy Spirit was pleading through him, for me to go over and try to help them. I went; landed at Southampton, found Rev. Mr. Harcourt waiting my arrival at that port. He conducted my wife and self directly to Mr. Brown's. We commenced labors at Houghton, and the Word took immediate effect. Neville, the eldest son of the Goodman family, was soon converted, to the great relief and joy of Mr. Brown. The conversion of the younger Goodman children followed, one after the other, until I believe they were all converted. Mr. Brown's zeal and gratitude abounded. It seemed to know no bounds. And Mr. Harcourt fully sympathised with him, and labored with all his might. Mr. Brown, always noted for his hospitality, threw his house wide open, and invited his friends and neighbours far and near, to come and attend the meetings. And his house and table were thronged continually by those in whose salvation he had felt so deep an interest. Mrs. Brown entered with all her heart into the work, and spared no pains to make everybody feel as much at home as possible at her house. A more laborious, unselfish, hospitable family of laborers for Christ I never saw. The work went on until Mr. Brown informed me that every one for whom he had felt particular solicitude throughout the whole county, when he sent for me, was converted.
Messrs Brown & Goodman had attended meeting at St. Ives, but spiritual death reigned there, hence they had withdrawn and started this enterprise. Houghton is midway between Huntingdon and St. Ives. These are market towns, and at that time were strongly barricaded against all efforts to promote revivals of religion. Mr. Brown was very anxious to have me labor in those towns. But the doors were not thrown open to me, and I was soon called away to Birmingham. Neville, the eldest of the Goodman sons, about whom Mr. Brown had been so very anxious, was a zealous, whole-hearted convert, and soon began to preach the Gospel, to the great joy of Mr. Brown. The Goodmans were a lovely family, and Mr. Brown, their guardian, rejoiced over their conversion with the ardor of a Christian father. They have all done great honor to his guardianship, and to his prayers and efforts for their good.
After remaining a year and a half in England, the circumstances of Oberlin College demanded that I should return. This was in 1850. In the Summer and Autumn of 1858, Mr. Brown began again to urge me to revisit England. His soul had been yearning for the conversion of souls in St. Ives and Huntingdon. He had been laboring and praying to secure an open door for my labors in those towns. He finally prevailed, and in December of that year my wife and self sailed again for England. We found Bro. Brown the same earnest, simple-hearted, self-sacrificing man as before. We found that he had much enlarged his operations. As he had poured out his wealth with princely munificence, God had much enlarged his business and greatly increased his income. Mr. Brown succeeded in securing, first at St. Ives, and afterwards at Huntingdon, the use of their Temperance Hall in each town, for revival services. A precious revival occurred in each of those towns, which resulted in building a beautiful chapel for the Independents, or as we should say, Congregationalists, in each of those towns. Mr. Brown and his son Bateman Brown, took the lead in erecting those chapels, and contributed heavily to the expense. The liberality of Mr. Brown and his son Bateman, who became his partner in business, has been most exemplary, and truly Christian, but as their liberality overflowed, their income more than kept pace with their expenditures. When I first knew Mr. Brown, he was running a mill with ten pair of stones; was supporting a single minister and school-master; and had opened Sabbath-schools and occasional preaching of his minister, in two or three adjacent villages. When I was there, ten years after, he had built a magnificent mill at St. Ives, costing him a hundred thousand dollars. Running sixteen pair of stones, had extended his missionary operations to seven villages, I believe; and was employing, if I rightly remember, twenty laborers, lay and ministerial. He and his sons have since built another magnificent mill, of the same size, at Huntingdon, as the one at St. Ives.
Potto Brown has died within a year or so; and his mantle rests upon Bateman, his son, who is constantly enlarging and carrying on the work. Many things I observed in Mr. Brown's character and life, that greatly affected me, while I was with him. When sitting at his table, I frequently noticed that a servant came in with a large bowl, which Mr. Brown would fill with large slices of beef from his bountiful table. Nothing was said; but after observing this many times, I inquired of the servant what was done with that meat. "O," she replied, "Mr. Brown sends it to some of our poor neighbors." He was emphatically the friend and patron of the poor, and gave his whole life to labor for them. I learned that he hired land at [a] very heavy rental, and gave the use of it, in small parcels, to poor laboring men, on which to raise their vegetables. He had a large tent, which he used frequently to erect, for preaching in different localities; and would get crowds to attend preaching and temperance lectures. He would frequently provide a dinner for the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind. He would scatter oranges by the bushel amongst his Sabbath-schools in different places.
He was ever devising methods for winning the hearts of the people, old and young of all classes, to Christ. He spared no pains, time, or expense. In my two visit to England I have reason to believe that many hundreds were converted to Christ,&endash; I suppose I might without extravagance say thousands; and in both cases it was Mr. Brown more than any other, and all other influences together, aside from the Holy Spirit, that decided me to go. He was a man of simple self-denying habits; lived in a most unostentatious manner; set a hospitable table; and was ever free and large in his hospitality to all laborers for Christ. How much England owes to his exertions for Christ, the Day of Judgment can alone reveal. Upon the whole, he was one of the most remarkable Christian men I ever knew.
A man so untiring in his zeal, so humble in his deportment, so prayerful, so self-sacrificing, so bountiful, yet so unostentatious, is seldom seen. I have seldom ever loved a human being as I did him; and cannot speak or write of him without tears. The Mrs. Brown I knew, when I was first in England, died; and while I was there the second time, he married again. When he brought home his bride, the grateful men of his village, for whom he had done so much, met him before he entered the village, unhitched his horses, and drew his carriage themselves. He was greatly beloved by them. They felt that they never could do too much for him; and surely they never could. He was no aristocrat. He lived with, and for, the people. Thousands will rise up, and call him blessed. To know him was a great blessing. To be with him, to share his friendship and hospitality, was a great honor. I have only hinted at a few of the things which I know of his labors of love. His son Bateman informs me that his memoir is to be published. He was a living and remarkable illustration of the truth, "There is that scattereth, yet increaseth." He proved to all who knew him that men can afford to be generous for God and souls.
Shortly after this, Finney received the following letter from Albert Goodman, the youngest of the Goodman children:
Guildford, Surrey, England,
12 March 1873
Professor Finney, Oberlin, Ohio. U.S.
My Dear Mr. Finney,
It is so many years since I had the
pleasure of being with you at Houghton
(and several years since my Brother and I
enjoyed your kind hospitality) that I
almost fear you will have forgotten me.
But I feel sure you will pardon my
troubling you with a letter when you
understand the object of it.
You may well conceive the greatness of the
loss to us all when dear Mr. Potto Brown
died - a loss which those who knew him
best feel more as time goes on.
All feel that some record should be
made of his life, both for the instruction
of the young and the consolation of
his friends. No one person seems in
a position to write his life but this will
I think rather turn to good, for it has
resulted in Mr. Charles Tebbutt, Mr Neville
Goodman & the Rev. John Hart in conjunction
with the Rev. James Harcourt undertaking
to write essays on different aspects of
his character, which together with a preface
giving the chief incidents of his life
will produce a small book which will
I trust present his character in a way
that will do good. I hear from Bateman
Brown that you advised that something
should be done and this seems to us
the only way the idea can be carried out.
You could, Dear Sir, aid most essentially in
this work if you would write an
account of the part that Mr. Brown
took in inducing you to come over to
preach the Gospel to those he loved,
and your experience and impressions
while living at Houghton and your
estimate of his character and work, or in short
of any aspect of the question that commends
itself to your mind. Whatever you
can do in this way would be valued and
pray do not trouble to write it out in
any more exact a way than it will
naturally fall from your pen as I would
see that it was reproduced in such a
form as would be suitable. Have you
any letters from Mr. Brown or extracts from
them that will bear upon the subject?
I should explain that I have the sanction
of the above named gentlemen and of
Bateman and George Brown in soliciting
your assistance. The above address
will find me and should you have
it in your heart to help us in this
way I should be glad to hear from
you that we might look forward to
receiving what you write in a few months.
I have recently been visiting in Hunts
at Bateman and George Brown's, Mr. Charles
Tebbutts, my Brothers Henry & Neville
who with their families are all well.
They were pleased to hear th[r]ough Bateman
of you and yours and would have
joined with me in best wishes for you.
I remain, Dear Mr. Finney
Yours most sincerely
P.S. I regret to say that Mrs Potto Brown
is in a very serious state of health
and is far from improving.
My wife Olivia (a neice of Mr. Potto Browns)
and our little son are quite well, the
former takes much interest in hearing of
our American friends. The Rev. John Hart
(who was at Houghton) is our Minister here
at Guildford and great success attends
his efforts in this Town and neighbourhood.
As a result of this Albert Goodman included part of Finney's sketch of Potto Brown in the chapter on his "Religious Life and Work" written by Robert Walker Dixon. Speaking of the revival efforts in the early 1840s under the preaching of Harcourt, Dixon wrote:
Mr. Brown was not satisfied with these results. He not only wished the effect to be wider spread, but also to reach members of a class above those already influenced. He had heard of the marked success of Mr. Finney, the Theological Professor of Oberlin College, U.S., and he made up his mind that if possible he would secure his services. After conferring with some public-spirited men, he wrote to Mr. Finney, asking him to come and preach. He continued his solicitations until Mr. Finney, overcome by his great earnestness, consented. Mr. and Mrs. Finney landed at Southampton in 1849. Mr. Brown dispatched Mr. Harcourt, then Minister at Houghton, to Southampton, with strict instructions to take Mr. and Mrs. Finney in hand immediately on landing, and not to leave them for a moment until they were safely housed with him at Houghton. Mr. Brown took this course to ensure that no one should have the opportunity of waylaying Mr. Finney, to withdraw him to another part of the country. During Mr. Finney's stay Mr. Brown kept open house, inviting, not only his relatives and friends, but acquaintances of the neighbourhood. His table was crowded at almost every meal. All the ministers and preachers around were especially welcomed. Dr. Mahan, the President of Oberlin College, also paid a visit at this time to Mr. Brown's house at Houghton. Mr. Finney's autobiography and published sermons, and his revival meetings held all over England, are so well known, that any description of his method is unnecessary. His autobiography, while giving a good idea of the feeling produced, is probably somewhat exaggerated, for his personal references are known to be very inaccurate, and though no doubt written with a sincere desire to give a correct estimate--yet some allowance must be made for them as the reflex of excitement and of a most sanguine temperament. That the meetings were productive of great good, and left permanent results, is unquestionable. Large crowds from all around gathered to attend them. Mr. Brown's great tent was put up and filled. The sermons and prayers were deeply impressive, and after the public meetings enquirers' meetings were held, which were so largely attended that Mr. Finney had to ask the help of other ministers to talk with the enquirers. Mr. Brown was highly gratified with the results. Some of those he was most anxious about derived lasting benefits from these revival efforts, and he knew that he had reason to be very thankful that the movement had been set on foot. He felt very grateful to Mr. Finney, joining him afterwards at many places where he laboured, to uphold him by his presence and prayers. Mr. Brown kept up a friendship with him, and they corresponded after Mr. Finney returned to America. In the year 1859 he revisited England, paying amongst other places a second visit to Houghton and Huntingdon, where he again laboured assiduously. These efforts likewise met with success, so that Mr. Brown felt encouraged to prosecute revivals at intervals to the end of his life.
This was followed by part of Finney's letter to The New-York Evangelist.
Bateman Brown's recollection of Finney's visit was published in his reminiscences in The Peterborough Advertiser, 15 April 1905, p.7:
About the year 1850, my father, who wished certain persons to come under religious influence who had not been reached by Mr, Harcourt's preaching, invited Mr. Finney, of Oberlin College, U.S.A., to come to Houghton to conduct revival services, and gave him £100 to pay his expenses. My brother, G. W. Brown, accompanied by Mr. Harcourt, went to meet him at Southampton, and brought him strait to Houghton. Mr. Charles Finney was a remarkable preacher. There was little appeal to the feelings, but his sermons were nearly all logic, and the remarkable thing was that in a sermon, which required attention to follow him, the most educated and the most illiterate would be influenced.
Albert Goodman, who was only 9 years old during Finney's first visit, commented about the religious life in Houghton and his own connection with it:
Beyond habitually attending all the services and teaching in the Sunday School I cannot be said to have entered sympathetically into it, having little liking for the Puritan and Evangelical parties. I was fully acquainted with the revival movement carried on by Mr. Finney during both his visits to Houghton, but they did not in any case affect me religiously (Goodman, "Genealogy", p. 151).
There were two other sons who had died in infancy.
A few days before the Finneys arrived, Mary Goodman noted in her Journal, under the date, October 29, 1849: "Since I last wrote I have good reason to believe my brother Neville has given his heart to God." ("Journal" in Goodman Family Papers)
Proverbs 11: 24.
Albert and Henry Goodman had gone on a six-month's tour of the States in January 1861. Towards the end of May, they visited Oberlin and stayed with Finney. See Albert Goodman, "Genealogy", p. 161.
Spelt thus in the original.