The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
To Edward Payson Marvin
15 April 1873
[MS in Finney Papers, Box 9.]
At the top of the first page, in the handwriting of Marvin, is the following, which has been crossed out:
Church needs reformation
& the ref. must begin in the
The letter is in the handwriting of Mrs Rebecca Finney:
Oberlin April 15th/1873
Rev E. P. Marvin
Dear Brother, Yours of
the 8th is received. I rejoice that God
has blessed your labors during the
past year, to the conversion of so
many souls. You have suggested
a great want of the world, which the
ministry and church, are in great
measure overlooking. I mean the
sending abroad into the rural districts,
into the highways and hedges, Evan-
gelists to win souls, and organize
churches of Christ. This is the
original and true idea of Evangelists.
A publisher of glad tidings.
Evangelists called sinners to Christ,
and organized churches, that were
delivered over to the pastor, to feed
and train, and educate for Christ.
But the remissness, and inefficiency
of pastors, has rendered it necessary
to send Evangelists to arouse them
and their flocks, from their tor-
pid state, insomuch that now
Evangelists seldom labor beyond
the precincts of the churches and
fields of the pastors. Indeed
Brother Nettleton strangely assumed and
asserted that Evangelists should not
go beyond the fields occupied by
pastors. This is reversing the original
order of things. Is not the fastidiousness
of city churches and their unwillingness
to hear sound preaching, due to
the trimming policy of the pastors
themselves? The policy, which you reject,
of attempting to win sinners to Christ,
without the schoolmaster, is working
great mischief in the church.
Dr Lyman Beecher started it. When
I labored in Boston, in 1831 & -2, I
found the churches there would not
bear searching at all. Dr. Beecher
expressed disapprobation of my preaching
so much of what he called reprehension.
Henry And his teaching, especially in the
latter part of his life, has gone to seed
in Henry Ward. Dr Wisner, then of the
Old South, informed me, that they felt
keenly, that the Dr was preaching a very
low standard of piety. H. Ward is
preaching a much lower standard still.
Theodore Tilton is one of his spiritual
children, and, I believe, still a member
of his church. He seems to be inculca-
ting a gospel of self indulgence, &
this is fast coming to be quite a
popular method of religious teaching.
The developments that are rapidly
coming to notice, show that we
are on the way to separating
religion from morality. Men may
be very good christians, who are
grossly immoral, and women may
have a high reputation for piety, who
are the very impersonation of vanity
and extravagance. It will take, at least,
one generation ^, which I hope, is already
beginning, to bring the church back again
on to really evangelical ground.
If Evangelists would confine their
labors, to districts outside of the pastorate,
it would be well to have a society
formed, for their support. But, it
would seem a pity for the church
to support Evangelists to labor as
missionaries among the pastors.
I do not know, that I can do any
thing in the direction you suggest.
My health is pretty good, for a man
of my age, but my eyes are so
weak, that I am obliged to write by
the hand of another. God Bless You.
C. G. Finney.
This letter is not in the Finney Papers.
At the 1870 Ohio Congregational Convention held at Oberlin in June the subject of "Christian Unity" was discussed during the morning of Wednesday 15th. There was lamentation among some delegates that an increased unity among Christians was taking place at the expense of purity of doctrine. Henry Ward Beecher's laxness was given as an example. Finney's comment was noted:
Pres Finney thought that the elder Beecher spent his life in a work the results of which seemed to be very small; and that his children perceiving this fact were disposed to be liberal and not insist too much on strict doctrine.
(See The Lorain County News (Oberlin), 23 June 1870, p. 1.)