Charles Finney Collection: Finney-Charles-The Way Of Salvation: About the Author: Charles G. Finney

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Charles Finney Collection: Finney-Charles-The Way Of Salvation: About the Author: Charles G. Finney

TOPIC: Finney-Charles-The Way Of Salvation (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: About the Author: Charles G. Finney

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Charles Grandison Finney (August 29, 1792(1792-08-29) – August 16, 1875) was a Presbyterian and later, Congregationalist minister, who became an important figure in the Second Great Awakening. His influence during this period was enough that he has been called "The Father of Modern Revivalism".[1]

Finney was known for his innovations in preaching and religious meetings, such as having women pray in public meetings of mixed gender, development of the "anxious seat" (a place where those considering becoming Christians could come to receive prayer), and public censure of individuals by name in sermons and prayers. He was also known for his use of extemporaneous preaching.

Born in Warren, Connecticut, Finney was the youngest of fifteen children. The son of farmers, Finney never attended college, but his six foot three inch stature, piercing eyes, musical skill, and leadership abilities gained him recognition in his community. He studied as an apprentice to become a lawyer, but after a dramatic conversion experience and baptism into the Holy Spirit in Adams, New York, he resigned from all of his duties at his law office to attend to the call of God on his life which was to preach the gospel. At the age of 29 under George Washington Gale, Finney studied to become and eventually became a licensed minister in the Presbyterian Church, though he then had and would continue to have many misgivings about the fundamental doctrines taught in that denomination.

Finney was married three times in his life. In 1824, he married Lydia Root Andrews (1804-1847). In 1848 he married Elizabeth Ford Atkinson (1799-1863). In 1865 he married Rebecca Allen Rayl (1824-1907). All three of these women assisted Finney in his evangelistic efforts, accompanying him on his revival tours during their lives. Finney had six children, all by his first wife.

He moved to New York City in 1832 where he pastored the Chatham Street Chapel, and later founded and pastored the Broadway Tabernacle, known today as Broadway United Church of Christ. Finney's presentation of the gospel message reached thousands and influenced many communities.

In addition to becoming a popular Christian evangelist, Finney was involved with the abolitionist movement and frequently denounced slavery from the pulpit. In 1835, he moved to Ohio where he would become a professor and later president of Oberlin College (from 1851 – 1866). Oberlin was fertile ground for the early movement to end slavery and was among the first American colleges to co educate blacks and women with white men.

He is also credited for praying to end a drought that had plagued the Ohio region. He reportedly brought an umbrella to the prayer session even though there wasn't a cloud in the sky. In August 1875, Finney died in Oberlin due to a heart ailment.

Finney was a third degree Master Mason for eight years. However, he left Freemasonry later in life. Finney came to believe that part of his oath as a Master Mason was immoral and that Masonry was dangerous to civil government, evidenced by the alleged murder of William Morgan.

Finney joined the Meridihi peoplean Sun Lodge No. 32 in Warren, New York around the age of 24. He became an Entered Apprentice on February 28, 1816 and took both degrees of Fellow Craft and Master Mason a few weeks later on March 6, 1816. At the time he thought the rituals were "silly" but did not think they were immoral, but he admitted he also did not have any religion and was not a Christian. Finney came to believe that he could no longer have any type of fellowship with Freemasons. He asked for a discharge and was honorably discharged on May 6, 1824 around the age of 32, although his conversion experience had come a few years prior, around the age of 29. He personally felt that he had been deceived into making an oath that conflicted with Christianity in that he had been promised that Freemasonry would not conflict with his religious or civil obligation. In his estimation, the oath of Master Mason did conflict with those obligations.

Finney wrote extensively about Freemasonry, becoming a staunch opponent. There are over two hundred letters related to Masonry in his personal papers and he published a number of articles on Freemasonry that were republished in 1869 as The Character, Claims, and Practical Workings of Freemasonry.

[1] Hankins, Barry. The Second Great Awakening and the Transcendentalists. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2004: 137. ISBN 0-313-31848-4