Faithful Heroes: Charles Finney

Charles Finney was a leader in the Second Great Awakening in the United States and has been called the father of Modern Revivalism.

Charles Finney

Charles Grandison Finney was born on August 29, 1792 in Warren, Connecticut. He was the youngest of nine children and the son of farmers.

He is said to have been six food, three inches tall with piercing eyes. He is also said to have srong leadership abilities and musical skill.

He “read the law”, studying as an apprentice. After coming to Christ, he left law to preach the gospel.

In 1821, he began studying to become a Presbyterian minister under George Washington Gale.

On October 10, 1821, he headed into the woods near his home. He later wrote that he said to himself “I will give my heart to God, or I never will come down from there,” he said. After several hours, he returned to his office, where he experienced such forceful emotion that he questioned those who could not testify to a similar encounter.

Charles Finney

“The Holy Spirit … seemed to go through me, body and soul,” he later wrote. “I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves of liquid love, for I could not express it in any other way.”

In 1824, he married Lydia Root Andrews. They would have six children together.

He moved to New York City in 1832 and became minister of Chatham Street Chapel. He later founded the Broadway Tabernacle Church.

He was an active revivalist from 1825 to 1835. His revivals in Rochester, New York in 1830-31 is said to have inspired other revivals which became known as the Second Great Awakening. He even denounced slavery from the pulpit.

In 1835, he moved to Oberlin College in Ohio, where he became a professor.

Charles Finney with his wife, Elizabeth

His wife, Lydia died in 1847. The following year he married Elizabeth Ford Atkinson, a widow living in the area.

In 1851, he was elected the second president of Oberlin College. The school became the first in the United States to accept women and blacks as students.

In 1863, his wife Elizabeth died. He married Rebecca Allen Rayl in 1865. She was the assistant principal of the Oberlin’s ladies department.

All three of his wives are said to travel with him as he preached and shared the gospel.

Charles Finney died on August 16, 1875 in Oberlin, Ohio. He was eighty-two years old.

Many historians believe he paved the way for later evangelists such as Dwight L. Moody, Billy Sunday and Billy Graham, who is said to have looked up to him.


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