Rev. CHARLES G. FINNEY.
Speeches and Sketches
GATHERING OF HIS FRIENDS AND PUPILS,
OBERLIN, JULY 28TH, 1876.
ASSOCIATES AND PUPILS IN OBERLIN.
By REV. LEONARD S. PARKER
MR. FINNEY AS PREACHER AND TEACHER.
(By REV. LEONARD S. PARKER, of Ashburnham, Mass. Mr. Parker being unable to attend the meeting, by request sent the following communication.)
I first saw and heard Mr. Finney when a young student in the Boston Latin School. He had been invited to preach in that city by Dr. Lyman Beecher and others. I count it one of the choicest privileges of my life at that period, that I heard for months those two grand preachers, so unlike, and yet so great. Mr. Finney's method of sermonizing was so different from anything I had ever heard from the pulpit, that I was exceedingly struck and impressed by it. Later, I was for four years under his influence as a teacher of theology and a preacher. In my early ministry he aided me for several weeks in a powerful revival of religion. Since them, I have met him from time to time, as a pupil meets his teacher, down to the last years of his life. This record is my warrant for what I now have to say.
Mr. Finney's preaching was of a stirring revival character. His discourses were not of the class sometimes prided of late, fifteen minutes in length, hurried through with the speed of the lightning-express train; but each of them one mighty plea as for the life of the souls before him -- one majestic unfolding of a vital truth of Scripture.
First of all, his aim was to bring the church into a tender, prayerful, working state. His method of doing this was very searching and thorough. Then he proceeded to address the unrenewed. He preached the law and the Gospel. He reasoned with men. He sought "to commend himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God." Hence his remarkable success among educated, thinking men. No preacher our country has produced has led back to God so many lawyers, judges, and professional men generally, as Mr. Finney. He once said he had more hope of success with such men than with any other class, if he could gain their attention to the truth.
But there was more than the simple presentation of the themes of the Gospel. He had an intense emotional nature. When he had unfleded his subject in the clearest manner, he would throw himself, body and spirit, into the most impassioned personal appeals, carrying his hearers almost irresistibly with him. We could almost see the yawning abyss, the crucified One, the glories of heaven.
In the inquiry-room, he was peculiarly at home. His manner there was very gentle and winning. He sought to raise no sweeping emotions. He practiced no pious arts. He abhorred "clap-trap" there and everywhere. He would open before those present afresh, in the clearest light possible, the conditions of salvation, removing difficulties, and then press all to an immediate submission to Christ. He had the profoundest faith in God's truth, and in that only, in guiding men to the Saviour. . . .
The years immediately preceding and following the founding of the Institution at Oberlin, form a golden period in the religious history of the Eastern States. And the savor of that season has never departed. The leaven has worked, is working now. The distant, indirect methods of presenting the truth, and of Christian work, have given place to a bolder, more personal style of address. We see and feel this in Sabbath-school conventions, and in the meetings and labors of the members of Young Men's Christian Associations. Often at such meetings have I been carried back to the very scenes and methods in Oberlin and elsewhere, under the preaching of Mr. Finney. A few years since, I attended a large Christian convention in one of our inland cities at the East. Among the topics that were most earnestly discussed was that of entire consecration to the Lord Jesus. All the evangelical denominations, all schools in theology were represented; and all the speakers were agreed--not a discordant note was heard. One old gentleman, an early friend of Oberlin, sprang to his feet, exclaiming, "Why, that was the very doctrine Mr. Finney preached in Oberlin years ago! It was thought a hard saying; but now all the brethren speak the same language. I rejoice to see this day." The aged disciple was right. The Christian world had moved. And no small part of the human force concerned in this great, though unconscious, progress, can be traced to the influence of Mr. Finney.
The work in our denomination received a decided impulse from the meeting of the National Council, in Oberlin, in 1871. The delegates from the East went home to report to their respective bodies: "Such a welcome we received! Such a godly assemblage we never met with! And such words of exhortation and prayer from that man of God, Mr. Finney! We shall never forget them."
The early community of Oberlin was one peculiarly fitted to receive the impress of Mr. Finney's labors. The men and women came here to do Christian work. They were ready to follow a true shepherd. Mr. Finney taught them how to work for Christ. They nobly co-operated with him here; or leaving, as some of them did, they sought to create new Oberlins wherever they went. They were taught to look for a refreshing from the Spirit of God every year. As new classes of students came in, they were to take them to God in earnest prayer, and to labor to win them to Christ. Thus was inaugurated the series of revivals at Oberlin that have brought thousands into the Christian fold, and which have been followed, much as effect follows cause, by similar refreshing in our best Western Institution.
Passing now to speak of Mr. Finney's influence on the students in theology at that early day, I recall with special interest the fraternal element in it. I say advisedly fraternal, rather than paternal. No man was more averse than he to any airs of assumption. We could not refrain from smiling at the horror--almost--with which he recoiled from a doctorate of divinity! He was simply a brother among brothers, if an elder one. Coming as I did from the statelier ways of New England, it was some time before I could make it seem natural to address him simply as "Brother Finney." Thus by example, as well as precept, he taught us the great truth that we were brothers.
With all this freedom of intercourse, I do not remember any abuse of it on the part of his pupils, any impertinence of speech or manner. There was so much of true dignity in him, that he must be a very boorish or reckless person who could treat him otherwise than with the utmost respect. I was particularly struck with some manifestations of this gentle, patient fraternity. Among the earlier students in theology were several who had enjoyed few advantages of education. At that revival period, moved as they felt by the Spirit of God, to prepare themselves for preaching the Gospel, they had come to Oberlin as the fittest place for that purpose. Of course, these would sometimes lay themselves open to sharp criticism. Mr. Finney could do this effectively, if it were called for; but I do not recollect one instance in which he allowed himself to do it towards these less-endowed brethren. He uniformly treated them with kind and tender consideration, carrying the classes with him.
Our instructor in theology inculcated thorough and independent investigation, and invited the utmost freedom in discussion. When I joined the Seminary, the only existing class was that which had studied at Lane, and was now on its last year. Till a new one could be formed, I met with this class. There was a good deal of talent among these students, and their minds had been sharpened by anti-slavery debates. They were not to be put off by mere assertions, or quotations of human authorities. With Luther before the Diet of Worms, they asked for the cogent reasons, and the warrant of Scripture. This spirit was fostered by our teacher, who himself led the way.
Perhaps on no personal quality did Mr. Finney insist more strenuously than that of unselfishness. He could not fail to know the great powers he possessed, the wide influence he had gained, the remarkable fruits of his labors. Yet, through all his teachings and prayers, the spirit of a little child shone; self was left out. In his references to the revivals under his preaching, God was magnified; it was His truth, His Spirit, His glory; coming from the great city, with all its refinements, which he exquisitely appreciated to the small quarters, the hard fare, the rains and mud of early Oberlin, he never alluded to the contrast, or spoke of the sacrifice he had made. He referred, with pain, to the jealousies he had witnessed among ministers, and solemnly charged us never to indulge this spirit. Once he exclaimed: "Why, if any brother can preach better than you can, you should be willing to have him stand on your shoulders and proclaim the Saviour's love to dying sinners!" With great emphasis he taught us to go where the Lord called us, whether the position was high or low, whether the field was attractive or otherwise. The Master's honor and pleasure, the salvation of souls, we were to have at heart, not money, ease, or any private end.
Fruit came from this planting. It appeared in the West Indian and African missions. In later years I met a veteran Home Missionary agent of Michigan, who frankly said, "I was wholly prejudiced against Oberlin at the first; but when I found the young men trained there willing to go where no others would go, endure hardships without a murmur, live on the smallest salaries, I said 'that institution must be of God,' and I have loved it ever since."
I hardly need say that Mr. Finney enjoined it on us to preach the truth with all boldness, sparing no sin, after the manner of prophets and apostles. We knew his revival labors brought no small reproach upon him. We saw a denser cloud settle around him from his connection with Oberlin. But we never heard a word, or saw an act, that showed the least flinching. The earlier students who went forth from this Seminary had need of this thorough training. Few were the ministers, or lay Christians, who gave them a hearty "God-speed." They had to earn by the hardest the right to be recognized as "true yoke-fellows." But we should have been ashamed of ourselves, we should have done violence to our most sacred feelings and memories, had we bent before the storm, and "sold our birthright for a mess of pottage."
On the religious life of the students, the influence of Mr. Finney was very strong and abiding. Because we were all professors of religion, of some years' standing, and were preparing for the ministry, he did not take it for granted that all was well; that we needed nothing more. He applied to us the same tests as to other disciples. He searched our hearts with the truth of God. He taught us that our first work in every sense was with out own hearts; that we should look for the truest and largest success in the line of entire consecration to the Redeemer, of living and growing communion with Him. And all his counsels were enforced by the mighty power of his own example. We knew and felt that he practiced what he taught. Especially was this manifest after the precious baptism of the Spirit he received in the early years of his work in Oberlin, whose fruits appeared in all his subsequent teachings and life. With the vigor and power of former years, was mingled a tenderness, a sweetness, that could come only from a wonderful revelation of the Cross by the Holy Spirit. His lectures were not bare skeletons of truth, but had infused into them the force and beauty of real life, were clothed with the creations of a heart that intensely sympathized with Christ. When he presented the subject of the Atonement, for example, so vividly was the great love of the Godhead made to appear to our minds that we found ourselves in tears, at times, with our pencils in our motionless hands! While he peculiarly delighted in clear, fresh, and original thought, he would have us preach to men, as God's truth, nothing which had not been bathed in our own rich and loving experience. We esteemed and honored him as a profound thinker, a most able reasoner, a clear and apt teacher; yet I am sure we all felt that his crowning excellence was his living piety.
One scene in the old chapel no surviving member of my class can have forgotten. The storm of suspicion and detraction--carrying with it so many of his old friends, and converts even--was at its height; and our class were soon to go out and bear its fury. We knelt as usual, Mr. Finney leading in prayer. At first there was nothing uncommon in his manner and words, but soon the great deep of his heart was broken up, and he poured out a mighty stream of supplication--for us, for his former co-labourers, for those whom he had won to Christ, for the ministry, for the Church bought with Jesus' blood, for a lost world. Sometimes he seemed to be leading us, again he seemed to be alone with God. We thought of Jacob wrestling with the angel at Peniel; of Moses, seeking to be blotted out of God's Book; of Paul, asking to be accursed from Christ, for Israel; of Luther, pleading with God the night before the Great Diet. We remained on our knees a whole hour, then rose and went silently to our rooms. There was the secret of the power of this man of God, who communed with the Hearer of prayer almost face to face!
As I write these words of remembrance, hundreds of miles away from the place of my theological training, from the spot where the mortal part of my revered teacher is reposing, awaiting the resurrection of the just, tears will come, unbidden, into my eyes--not so much of grief that his work is done, and that I shall "see his face no more," as a tribute of nature to uncommon worth. I thank God for all he was to me and to many--and for the hope of a meeting beyond the veil! There has been a reunion there already--there will be a greater one hereafter.
May the mantle of that dear servant of the Lord Jesus rest on the Institution with which so much of his life was identified, on the living ministry, and on the whole Church of Christ!
REMARKS OF REV. GEORGE CLARK, OF OBERLIN.
It is about forty years since I first met Mr. Finney at the house of Dr. Taylor, in New Haven. I was struck at that time with his appearance, and with the manner in which he discussed great theological questions.
The next time I met him was here in Oberlin, where I had the privilege, for a time, of living with him under the same roof, eating with him at the same table, and daily receiving instruction from him in the theological classes.
A theme was assigned to each one, on which, after due preparation, he must discourse, and then "be picked." It set us all to thinking. The theme that at one time was given to me was Imputation, a doctrine which was then much discussed; and I well remember how I stood for three days and was questioned. Such scenes were interesting to me, and of the greatest value. Besides my honored parents, there is no person, I believe, to whom I owe so much as to Brother Finney.
He had a psychological mind, and for the power of analysis, I doubt if he had his equal.
I remember sitting once in this house, and listening to him with Seth N. Gates, and at the close of the sermon he turned to me and said, "I never heard such a masterly power of analysis." He was one of the most generous-minded men I ever knew--generous to those that made mistakes, generous to children. My little girl would get hold of his hand and walk clear home with him. My wife went to him at once time and told him that Mr. Spencer, a missionary among the Ojibway Indians, had no overcoat, and he sent him the best overcoat he had, one that had doubtless cost him fifty dollars.
He had no tinge of asceticism about him, not a single particle. He believed that self-denial was a condition of discipleship, but he had no asceticism.
There was never a man that trained himself more like an athlete for his work, in eating, drinking, and sleeping. How many miles I have walked with him in hunting! How often we knelt beneath those tall old oaks in prayer! In all my intercourse with him, I never knew any bitterness of spirit in him.
After he had written against Freemasonry, he showed me letters containing threats of killing him, and said, "I guess I am worth more to kill than for anything else."
Not long before his death, Prof. N.----- called at his house on his return from the cemetery. "When I am dead," he said to him, "do not go to the grave-yard to find me. I shall be where I shall be more alive than you are."
REMARKS OF REV. E.B. SHERWOOD, OF ST. JOSEPH, MO.
My acquaintance with Brother Finney began in June, 1835, about the time of the organization of the first theological class in this place. My impressions of him were derived more especially from his power in prayer. I thought him a great preacher, and as a man of superior logical powers; but I was chiefly impressed by him as a man who had power with God, and who had power with men because he had power with God. At the close of the last term of the year 1836, he came into the class-room, and with his great eyes looked over the class, and before he got around, his eyes were swimming with tears. After looking at us in this way a few moments, he said, "Brethren, let us pray;" and he prayed something like this: "O Lord, here is a class of young men who are going forth to preach the everlasting Gospel, and Thou knowest that their words will be like the repetition of parrots, unless Thou shalt fill them with the Holy Ghost." He poured out his soul thus for nearly half an hour, pleading with God that He would not let us go forth in our own strength, until it seemed that the whole place was filled with the presence of God. There was no disposition on the part of any of the class to rise from their knees, and the whole hour was spent in prayer to God. That, brethren, was the most profitable lesson that I ever learned, and the most profitable hour that I ever spent. We came nearer to God, we got a more exalted idea of the work of the ministry; and it was from that scene that I obtained my highest idea of President Finney. All through my acquaintance with him, it was a mystery to me where he got his mighty power, It seemed to be always gushing up, always full. That mystery was solved when I read his "Autobiography." When he was converted he was brought into the full liberty of the Gospel. It was God in him that made him so great a blessing to the world.
REMARKS OF REV. C.C. FOOTE, OF DETROIT.
I apprehend that we have not a hundredth part of Mr. Finney's wondrous life in his wondrous book. To me it is so blessed, that if I had a thousand dollars I would put it into this book. I have a number of them circulating among my friends; and when they come back, the expression is, "Wonderful! Wonderful!"
Mr. Finney was a mighty reformer. I was present in Hartford when he broke the thunderbolt on slavery; and you all know that his voice was as pronounced against that crime of the present age--Freemasonry.
I saw and heard him the first time when he was engaged in that glorious revival in Rochester, which has been already described. I, too, heard that sermon from the text, "The wages of sin is death;" and for two hours it rained hailstones, "every one about the weight of a talent."
When I came to Oberlin, I could not endure his eyes; but when I became acquainted with him, I like nothing better. I once had what seemed to me the great trial of preaching in his presence; but when he had prayed for me, I could have preached anywhere.
I never saw a man with such wonderful descriptive powers. Many years ago, on a commencement occasion, I was sitting in the big tent beside a woman, now present in the audience, who was holding a babe in her arms. While Mr. Finney was describing the scene in which Solomon showed his wisdom, by commanding the living child to be divided with a sword; so graphic was his portrayal of it, that the woman by whom I sat, clasped her babe in her bosom with a terrified look, and seemed much relieved when she found that her child was not in any real danger.
Mr. Finney was tremendously severe. He has put the lance through me, through and through. But how often have I seen him in the pulpit so overcome with emotion, that he would turn around and say, "I can not preach. Brother, will you not pray?"
REMARKS OF REV. JOSEPH ADAMS.
My acquaintance with Mr. Finney began in the winter of 1849 and 1850. He was laboring as a revivalist in the old Tabernacle, Moorsfields, London. This building, capable of holding two or three thousand persons, was built expressly for George Whitefield. Though but a youth, I was associated with an infidel club. I was full of my new motions, and, like my companions, thought we had found the Christian system to be a stupendous sham. While advocating my opinions, and pointing out the apparent contradictions of the Bible to two simple-minded wood-turners, I was invited to go and hear at the Tabernacle a "Professor Finney from America." With the most self-complacent feelings I consented, and went. He sat in the pulpit with a large cloak about him. And appeared to take but little notice of what was passing during the preliminary service conducted by another. When he arose, he threw aside his cloak in a careless manner, and looked around upon the vast audience with an eye which constrained attention. There was something in his manner, arguments, earnestness, and tears (for he wept over sinners) which arrested my attention, and compelled me to think that there must be something in religion after all. I came again, and kept coming till my infidelity vanished, and my soul was pierced through with the arrows of conviction. With a strong arm he held me at Sinai, till its thunders reverberated through my soul, and I cried out, "O wretched man that I am!"
What other man could paint the terrors of the law like him; or who, when the fallow ground was broken up, could drop with gentler hand the precious seed of Christ's forgiving love!
In mighty London it must be something very extraordinary to create even a ripple of excitement; but this man, by the aid of the Spirit, produced a deep and widespread impression. His preaching drew immense crowds . . . . At times his preaching was simply awful. The shot of truth fell like hail. On one occasion when he was preaching from the words, "How can ye believe which receive honor one of another," it seemed as though the people would rise up en masse and entreat him to stop, for they could not sit still. The effect was like that which must have been produced on another occasion which he once told me of. By excessive labors in the Broadway Tabernacle, New York, he had so exhausted his strength as to render rest imperatively necessary. For that purpose he went to some quiet village in the country. But like his Master, he "could not be hid." Soon after his arrival the pastor of a small church urged him to preach. He positively declined; but on learning, a little time after, that the pastor was paid a very small salary, and half of that was raised by a Ladies' Sewing Society, while there were men in the church abundantly able to pay the whole without feeling it, he said, "My indignation was stirred, and weak as I was, I felt I must preach. I did so, and took for my text, 'Give an account of thy stewardship.' Towards the close of the sermon I applied my remarks to the officers of that church, and told them what I had heard, and I lashed them as with a whip of scorpions. While laying on the whip, the Senior Deacon, rose up, and with tears streaming down his face, cried out, 'Mr. Finney! Mr. Finney! please don't say more. I'll pay the whole of it!'"
Similar was the effect of his preaching in London. The scene which is described in his Autobiography (pp. 405-6-7), I was eye-witness to. Thousands were converted as the result of his labors.
In 1852 I came to this country to pursue a course of study, and was welcomed to his home in Oberlin. His home to me was a paradise. His childlike simplicity, freedom from all ostentation and assumption. Were to me a marvel. I shall never forget the impression made on my mind, when shortly after my arrival in Oberlin I was returning from recitation and saw Mr. Finney and Prof. Morgan sitting on the sidewalk with their limbs hanging in the ditch, engaged in such earnest conversation as to be oblivious to their position. Those who had been accustomed to Western life might not have noticed it, but I had been taught to look upon clergymen as a superior race of dignified beings, and to see two such men acting so like school-boys was more than I could understand.
Mr. Finney's faith and power in prayer were a prominent characteristic. At the family altar he seemed to know instinctively the wants of every member of the family. In a few concise, comprehensive phrases the petition was laid before the Throne and the answer came right away.
A remarkable instance of answer to his prayer occurred in the summer of 1853. It will, doubtless, be remembered by some that hot, dry weather had prevailed for a long period, till the pastures were scorched and the hay-crop seemed likely to be a total failure. Every one seemed to feel that if this drought continued a few days more, the cattle must die, and the harvest perish. On Sunday morning we had gathered in this church, as usual. Not one of that large company appeared to anticipate rain that day, for scarce a cloud was to be seen. The burden of Mr. Finney's prayer that morning was for rain, and though twenty-three years have passed since then, that prayer is as fresh in my memory as if I had only heard it yesterday. He told the Lord our position, and among other things said: "We do not presume to dictate to Thee what is best for us, yet Thou dost invite us to come to Thee as children to a father, and tell Thee all our wants. We want rain! Our pastures are dry. The cattle are lowing, and wandering about in search of water. Even the little squirrels in the woods are suffering for want of it. Unless Thou givest us rain our cattle must die, for we shall have no hay for them in winter; and our harvest will come to nought. O Lord, send us rain! And send it NOW! Although to us there is no sign of it, it is an easy thing for Thee to do. Send it now, Lord, for Christ's sake!" Every heart said "Amen."
The service proceeded, but by the time he got half through his sermon the rain came down in such torrents that we could scarcely hear him preach. He stopped and said, "We'll praise God for this rain," and gave out the hymn,--
"When all Thy mercies, O my God,
My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view, I'm lost
In wonder, love and praise."
We sang; at least all hearts did, but many could not for weeping.
Only one other such scene do I remember in Oberlin, and that, I think, occurred the same year on a Sunday afternoon, when, after preaching, he invited all who were willing to consecrate themselves to Jesus to occupy the pews in the body of the church. They were soon cleared, and the choir, under the leadership of Prof. Allen, sang "Come to Jesus." It was a second Pentecost. From all parts of the house, but especially the gallery, the young people poured in till scarce a seat was left unoccupied. The manifested presence and glory of God were almost greater than I could bear. Oh, for a repetition of such scenes!
REMARKS OF PROF. JOHN MORGAN, D.D., OF OBERLIN.
I have been so closely associated with Mr. Finney for many years, that my mind is fraught with recollections of him; yet I can not tell in detail the things that have interested me in a way that would interest others as they have myself. I did not know him personally when he was engaged in the great western revivals; but some of my intimate friends were with him, and I used to hear a great deal about those revivals. I remember that I was shocked with the rapidity with which converts were admitted to the churches, and I wrote a friend asking him if many were not deceived. He replied--No; that Mr. Finney preached with such intelligence and power that those who were converted knew that they were Christians. He did not mean that none were deceived, but that the large majority were genuine converts. This was said particularly in the work in Utica, where it was very powerful.
I first heard him preach in the Brick church, when Dr. Spring was absent. Not long after that, he began his preaching in Vandewater street. I think Anson G. Phelps was his chief supporter. I was profoundly interested in his preaching, and regarded it as far superior to that of any other preacher in the city. The high intellectual cast of his preaching particularly struck me; and as I became better acquainted with him, I was more struck with the fact that his mind was of a high order.
I think that those who were most intimately acquainted with Mr. Finney have come to the conclusion that he was a man who combined, in a remarkable degree, the intuitive and the logical powers. He had a wonderful intuitive power, and when he had arrived at his bold premises by intuition, whether taken from reason and the works of God, or from the Word of God, he would reason from them with wonderful power. I came, therefore, to the conclusion that although Mr. Finney was not a learned man, he had been such a student, such a thinker, had so profoundly reflected, that he was really one of the deepest theologians that I had any knowledge of; and I have been compelled to compare him with President Edwards, as at least his equal; and President Edwards is confessedly one of the first theologians that our country has ever produced. In fifty years, if it be not now, I think that Mr. Finney's equality with him will be admitted.
I have therefore regarded him as admirably adapted to be an instructor in theology, though his mind went with such a rush, that perhaps at times he failed in patience with the young men. He was careful that his pupils should not accept his teachings without seeing for themselves that it was the truth. Sometimes the young men would swarm around him like bees, discussing some point with him; and then he would take up the subject and think it over anew, and would prepare a series of lectures remarkable for clearness and grasp of thought. Sometimes I have been astonished at the richness and depth which would characterize these lectures.
But I think that all of us felt that his spiritual power was that in which he most excelled. The influence which he exerted on souls was sometimes very strong. I remember times when he thought religion was declining in Oberlin, for his standard was so high that he wanted to have things at a very high pitch in order to satisfy him at all. I remember how he used to come and talk the matter over with us, and I used to quake as his mighty eye would fix itself on me. I believe that he had very much the same kind of influence over the whole congregations; but I felt it especially when he addressed me personally. There was in him, in prayer, the most remarkable power that I have ever seen in any human being. A distinguished friend once said to me as he rose up from his knees after Mr. Finney had led in prayer, "It seems to me that I have never prayed." Indeed, I used to feel that his praying was far more powerful than his preaching. When he became old he could not maintain the tenor of thought with that mighty energy with which he could when he was younger; but his praying was always mighty. There was never any lack of straightforward power. I used to regard it as the greatest feast, when I came to church, to hear him pray. I do not think that, in his earlier years, he had this power in prayer in the same degree as he had later on in life. In the latter part of his life, I thought his praying was better than his preaching--I mean better intellectually.
I have often heard people talk about the sternness of Mr. Finney. I know that when he preached to sinners and to backsliders he was stern. But while he was thus stern, I do not believe we had a man among us who had more tender sensibilities. I have observed him in his family circle, and I do not believe there could be found anywhere a lovelier man; and it was very natural that all around him should love him very tenderly. I remember when his children were little ones how they loved their father.
It was remarkable that in whatever house he entered he had a fascinating power over the little ones. They would come to him, and he could take them in his arms, and they would feel at home there. And so it was when he performed the rite of infant baptism. He could take almost any child that was brought. The child seemed to be charmed into confidence with him. And then when he prayed, and put the water of consecration on the little one's brow, he did it in a way that I do not believe was ever equaled. This was in consequence of the outflow of his soul toward the little ones. And so it was also at funerals. He used to enter so tenderly and beautifully into the sympathies of the family, winding his fine mind into all their interests.
REMARKS OF REV. HENRY COWLES, D.D. OF OBERLIN.
I find myself at a loss what to select from the many things which I might say of Mr. Finney. I would mention the many-sidedness of his character. This has been particularly developed in his relations to me within the last thirteen or fourteen years.
I feel his loss more than any words can express. I have been in the habit occasionally, when I found anything which especially interested me, of reading it to him, partly to obtain suggestions.
I can not tell you how I have been affected at times when I have seen him weep naturally and readily. I recollect one case which will throw light upon the tenderness of his spirit. What I was reading brought to light the great love of God toward men. He burst into tears and said, "And yet, all He can do He can not persuade sinners that He loves them!"
One of the things which has impressed me very much with regard to his character, passed his lips half an hour, perhaps, before his death, as given me by his wife. He said to her, "You know, my dear, I have been inquiring a long time what the Lord would have me do. I have seemed to be waiting, waiting, waiting." His wife replied to him, that his active service was long since past, and that this waiting was doubtless the Lord's will concerning him. To which he ultimately replied: "Well, I have not apostatized, have I?" It was his modest, perhaps half-playful, way of putting it. He doubtless meant what the great apostle expressed, "I have kept the faith."
I might say a great deal with regard to my earlier acquaintance with him. Many of you know that I have reported his sermons, more than a hundred of them, which I read to him.
One of the first sermons I heard him preach impressed me with its wonderful power upon the conscience, and from that time onward I had the same impression continually renewed. He had the power of setting truth before the mind so that it should stick. He had a wonderful power in the conclusion of his sermons of gathering up points adapted to make strong, vivid impressions. The history of such men impresses me often with the resources of God to make great men. And one lesson we may learn is, one of confidence, that God will raise up other great men. None of us need fear that God's resources are short as compared with emergencies that will arise.
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