A London publisher printed 80, copies and it was translated into French and Welsh. Right after its publication in Wales, a great revival occurred there. For Finney, conversion is not miraculous—a mysterious work of the Holy Spirit—but is merely a proper use of the power to believe that men and women have by nature been given by God. Belief is merely a rational choice. However, the book was extremely popular, and has had a great influence on subsequent ideas and practices concerning evangelism, especially in its appeal to methods, and by its insistence on the necessity of personal evangelism—lay witnessing—by all Christians.
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IT is supposed that the prophet Habakkuk was contemporary with Jeremiah, and that this prophecy was uttered in anticipation of the Babylonish captivity. Looking at the judgments which were speedily to come upon his nation, the soul of the prophet was wrought up to an agony, and he cries out in his distress, "O Lord, revive thy work.
In the midst of these awful years, let the judgments of God be made the means of reviving religion among us.
In wrath remember mercy. It is something for man to do. It consists in obeying God with and from the heart. It is true, God induces him to do it. He influences him by his Spirit, because of his great wickedness and reluctance to obey. If it were not necessary for God to influence men--if men were disposed to obey God, there would be no occasion to pray, "O Lord, revive thy work. A "Revival of Religion" presupposes a declension. Almost all the religion in the world has been produced by revivals.
God has found it necessary to take advantage of the excitability there is in mankind, to produce powerful excitements among them, before he can lead them to obey. Men are so spiritually sluggish, there are so many things to lead their minds off from religion, and to oppose the influence of the Gospel, that it is necessary to raise an excitement among them, till the tide rises so high as to sweep away the opposing obstacles.
They must be so excited that they will break over these counteracting influences, before they will obey God. Not that excited feeling is religion, for it is not; but it is excited desire, appetite and feeling that prevents religion. The will is, in a sense, enslaved by the carnal and worldly desires. Hence it is necessary to awaken men to a sense of guilt and danger, and thus produce an excitement of counter feeling and desire which will break the power of carnal and worldly desire and leave the will free to obey God.
Look back at the history of the Jews, and you will see that God used to maintain religion among them by special occasions, when there would be a great excitement, and people would turn to the Lord. And after they had been thus revived, it would be but a short time before there would be so many counteracting influences brought to bear upon them, that religion would decline, and keep on declining, till God could have time--so to speak--to convict them of sin by his Spirit and rebuke them by his providence, and thus so gain the attention of the masses to the great subject of salvation, as to produce a widespread awakening of religious interest, and consequently a revival of religion.
Then the counteracting causes would again operate, and religion would decline, and the nation would be swept away in the vortex of luxury, idolatry, and pride. There is so little principle in the church, so little firmness and stability of purpose, that unless the religious feelings are awakened and kept excited, counter worldly feeling and excitement will prevail, and men will not obey God. They have so little knowledge, and their principles are so weak, that unless they are excited, they will go back from the path of duty, and do nothing to promote the glory of God.
The state of the world is still such, and probably will be till the millennium is fully come, that religion must be mainly promoted by means of revivals.
How long and how often has the experiment been tried, to bring the church to act steadily for God, without these periodical excitements. Many good men have supposed, and still suppose, that the best way to promote religion, is to go along uniformly, and gather in the ungodly gradually, and without excitement.
But however sound such reasoning may appear in the abstract, facts demonstrate its futility. If the church were far enough advanced in knowledge, and had stability of principle enough to keep awake, such a course would do; but the church is so little enlightened, and there are so many counteracting causes, that she will not go steadily to work without a special interest being awakened.
As the millennium advances, it is probable that these periodical excitements will be unknown. Then the church will be enlightened, and the counteracting causes removed, and the entire church will be in a state of habitual and steady obedience to God.
The entire church will stand and take the infant mind, and cultivate it for God. Children will be trained up in the way they should go, and there will be no such torrents of worldliness, and fashion, and covetousness, to bear away the piety of the church, as soon as the excitement of a revival is withdrawn.
It is very desirable it should be so. It is very desirable that the church should go on steadily in a course of obedience without these excitements. Such excitements are liable to injure the health. Our nervous system is so strung that any powerful excitement, if long continued, injures our health and unfits us for duty.
If religion is ever to have a pervading influence in the world, it cannot be so; this spasmodic religion must be done away. Then it will be uncalled for. Christians will not sleep the greater part of the time, and once in a while wake up, and rub their eyes, and bluster about, and vociferate a little while, and then go to sleep again.
Then there will be no need that ministers should wear themselves out, and kill themselves, by their efforts to roll back the flood of worldly influence that sets in upon the church.
But as yet the state of the Christian world is such, that to expect to promote religion without excitements is unphilosophical and absurd. The great political, and other worldly excitements that agitate Christendom, are all unfriendly to religion, and divert the mind from the interests of the soul. Now these excitements can only be counteracted by religious excitements. And until there is religious principle in the world to put down irreligious excitements, it is vain to try to promote religion, except by counteracting excitements.
This is true in philosophy, and it is a historical fact. It is altogether improbable that religion will ever make progress among heathen nations except through the influence of revivals. The attempt is now making to do it by education, and other cautious and gradual improvements. But so long as the laws of mind remain what they are, it cannot be done in this way. There must be excitement sufficient to wake up the dormant moral powers, and roll back the tide of degradation and sin.
And precisely so far as our own land approximates to heathenism, it is impossible for God or man to promote religion in such a state of things but by powerful excitements. This is evident from the fact that this has always been the way in which God has done it. God does not create these excitements, and choose this method to promote religion for nothing or without reason. Where mankind are so reluctant to obey God, they will not act until they are excited. For instance, how many there are who know that they ought to be religious, but they are afraid if they become pious they shall be laughed at by their companions.
Many are wedded to idols, others are procrastinating repentance, until they are settled in life, or until they have secured some favorite worldly interest. Such persons never will give up their false shame, or relinquish their ambitious schemes, till they are so excited by a sense of guilt and danger that they cannot contain themselves any longer.
These remarks are designed only as an introduction to the discourse. I shall now proceed with the main design, to show, I. What a revival of religion is not; II. What it is; and, III. The agencies employed in promoting it. A miracle has been generally defined to be, a Divine interference, setting aside or suspending the laws of nature. It is not a miracle in this sense. All the laws of matter and mind remain in force. They are neither suspended nor set aside in a revival.
It is not a miracle according to another definition of the term miracle--something above the powers of nature. There is nothing in religion beyond the ordinary powers of nature. It consists entirely in the right exercise of the powers of nature. It is just that, and nothing else. When mankind become religious, they are not enabled to put forth exertions which they were unable before to put forth.
They only exert the powers they had before in a different way, and use them for the glory of God. It is not a miracle, or dependent on a miracle, in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means--as much so as any other effect produced by the application of means.
There may be a miracle among its antecedent causes, or there may not. The apostles employed miracles, simply as a means by which they arrested attention to their message, and established its divine authority. But the miracle was not the revival. The miracle was one thing; the revival that followed it was quite another thing. I said that a revival is the result of the right use of the appropriate means.
The means which God has enjoined for the production of a revival, doubtless have a natural tendency to produce a revival. Otherwise God would not have enjoined them. But means will not produce a revival, we all know, without the blessing of God. No more will grain, when it is sowed, produce a crop without the blessing of God. It is impossible for us to say that there is not as direct an influence or agency from God, to produce a crop of grain, as there is to produce a revival. What are the laws of nature according to which it is supposed that grain yields a crop?
They are nothing but the constituted manner of the operations of God. In the Bible, the word of God is compared to grain, and preaching is compared to sowing seed, and the results to the springing up and growth of the crop. And the result is just as philosophical in the one case, as in the other, and is as naturally connected with the cause; or, more correctly, a revival is as naturally a result of the use of the appropriate means as a crop is of the use of its appropriate means.
It is true that religion does not properly belong to the category of cause and effect; but although it is not caused by means, yet it has its occasion, and may as naturally and certainly result from its occasion as a crop does from its cause. I wish this idea to be impressed on all your minds, for there has long been an idea prevalent that promoting religion has something very peculiar in it, not to be judged of by the ordinary rules of cause and effect; in short, that there is no connection of the means with the result, and no tendency in the means to produce the effect.
No doctrine is more dangerous than this to the prosperity of the church, and nothing more absurd. Suppose a man were to go and preach this doctrine among farmers, about their sowing grain.
Let him tell them that God is a sovereign, and will give them a crop only when it pleases him, and that for them to plow and plant and labor as if they expected to raise a crop is very wrong, and taking the work out of the hands of God, that it interferes with his sovereignty, and is going on in their own strength: and that there is no connection between the means and the result on which they can depend.
And now, suppose the farmers should believe such doctrine. Why, they would starve the world to death. What are the results? Why, generation after generation has gone down to hell. No doubt more than five thousand millions have gone down to hell, while the church has been dreaming, and waiting for God to save them without the use of means.
The connection is as clear in religion as it is when the farmer sows his grain. There is one fact under the government of God, worthy of universal notice, and of everlasting remembrance; which is, that the most useful and important things are most easily and certainly obtained by the use of the appropriate means.
This is evidently a principle in the Divine administration.
Lectures on revivals of religion
Born in Connecticut, he was raised in various frontier towns in central New York, an area known as the "Burned-Over District" for the revivals that had swept through it. In Finney experienced a soul-wrenching conversion during which God told him "to plead his cause" to others, so he abandoned his legal career and became a celebrated converter of souls in upstate New York and New England. A man of imposing height, forceful appearance, and vibrant rhetoric, he mesmerized the thousands who flocked to hear him preach his appealing theology of conversion and redemption. Although initially ordained as a Presbyterian minister, Finney was not a Calvinist; indeed, he contributed to the breakdown of Calvinism in American religion.
From the Archives: Lectures on Revivals of Religion (1835)
IT is supposed that the prophet Habakkuk was contemporary with Jeremiah, and that this prophecy was uttered in anticipation of the Babylonish captivity. Looking at the judgments which were speedily to come upon his nation, the soul of the prophet was wrought up to an agony, and he cries out in his distress, "O Lord, revive thy work. In the midst of these awful years, let the judgments of God be made the means of reviving religion among us. In wrath remember mercy. It is something for man to do. It consists in obeying God with and from the heart. It is true, God induces him to do it.
Lectures on Revivals of Religion
Length: 14 hrs and 32 mins Unabridged 0 out of 5 stars 0 Performance 0 out of 5 stars 0 Story 0 out of 5 stars 0 Charles Finney was a Presbyterian preacher known for his revival services and extemporaneous preaching. He also dealt with social issues and was an abolitionist. In , Finney was appointed as a professor of theology at Oberlin College; he became its president in Sermons on Gospel Themes is a collection of his sermons, including 24 delivered at Oberlin College between and They were taken down in shorthand while Finney preached them, and submitted to him for correction or addition. The Great Awakening A History of the Revival of Religion in the Time of Edwards and Whitefield By: Joseph Tracy Length: 17 hrs and 27 mins Unabridged 0 out of 5 stars 0 Performance 0 out of 5 stars 0 Story 0 out of 5 stars 0 The audiobook chronicles the Great Awakening that gave people the means to develop an individual sense of spiritual conviction. Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield were two of the most prominent leaders of the Great Awakening.
Lectures on Revivals of Religion
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