[anzac] FINNEY - "OPPOSITION to my preaching"

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From: "ANZAC Prophetic List" <prophetic@...>
Date: Mon, 22 Mar 2004 12:13:40 -0600
"Opposition to my Preaching"
-by Charles Finney.

During the early part of my ministry especially, I used to 
get knocked back by other preachers because of the 
way that I preached. 

They used to complain that I let down the dignity of the 
pulpit, that I was a disgrace to the ministerial profession, 
that I talked like a lawyer at the bar, and that I talked to 
the people in a colloquial manner. They complained that 
I said "you" instead of preaching about sin and sinners 
and saying "they". They also told me that I said "hell" 
with such emphasis that I often shocked people. They 
said I urged people to respond as if they might not have 
a moment to live, and sometimes they said that I 
condemned people. 

After I had preached for some time and God had poured 
out His blessing everywhere I went, I used to say to 
ministers that I did not dare to make the changes that 
they wanted. I said, "Show me the fruits of your ministry. 
If you can prove by your results that you have found a 
better way, then I will adopt your views."

They would often complain that I was guilty of repetition 
in my preaching. I would take the same thought and turn 
it over and over, and illustrate it in various ways. I told 
them that I felt it was necessary to do this, to make 
myself understood. Then they would say that the 
educated people in my congregation would lose interest. 
But the facts soon silenced them. They found that under 
my preaching, judges and lawyers and educated men 
were converted in their droves, but under their methods 
such a thing almost never occurred.

I never bore any grudge towards other ministers for the 
rough way they often treated me. I knew they were only 
trying to help. One time a well-known temperance 
lecturer from Connecticut came down to hear me preach. 
He was indignant. He said I should stop preaching and 
go to Princeton immediately to learn theology.

I don't want to give the impression that I thought that my 
views or methods were perfect, for I had no such thought. 
I was aware that I was but a child, so to speak. I had not 
been to the higher schools of learning, so I never had 
any higher ambition than to go into new settlements and 
places where the Gospel was not being preached. I was 
often surprised, in the first year of my preaching, that 
educated people found my preaching so compelling. 
This was more than I had expected. In fact it was more 
than I had dared to hope.

I am still totally convinced that to a large extent the 
schools are ruining the ministers. Preachers these days 
have wonderful facilities, and are vastly more learned, so 
far as theological, historical and Biblical learning is 
concerned, than perhaps any age in history. Yet with all 
their learning, they do not know how to use it. They are, 
to a great extent, like David in Saul's armor.

Ministers need one thing above all others, and that is 
singleness of eye. If they feel they have a reputation to 
protect, they will do little good. 

I could name ministers who are still alive today who 
were deeply ashamed of me when I first began to preach 
because I was so undignified, used such common 
language and spoke to the people with such directness. 

I was aware from the start that I would meet with 
opposition, and that there was a wide gulf between my 
views and the views of other ministers. I never really felt 
like one of them, or that they regarded me as truly 
belonging to their fraternity. I was bred a lawyer. I came 
straight from the law office into the pulpit, and talked to 
the people as I would have spoken to a jury. 

When a city is on fire, the fire captain does not read his 
men an essay or a fine piece of rhetoric. It is a matter of 
urgency, and he has to make every word count. 

This is the way it always is when men are urgent and 
serious. Their language is pointed, direct and simple. 
Their sentences are short and powerful. They appeal for 
direct action.

Ministers usually avoid preaching directly to the people. 
They will preach to them about others, and the sins of 
others, but rarely will they ever say: "You are guilty of 
these sins, and the Lord requires this of you." They 
often preach 'about' the Gospel instead of preaching the 
Gospel. They often preach 'about' sinners instead of 
preaching to them. They go to great lengths to avoid 
being personal. But I have always gone down a different 
line than this. I have often said, "Do not think that I am 
talking about anybody else. I am talking to you and you and you." 

Ministers told me at first that people would never put up 
with this - that they would get up and leave, and never 
come back. But they were mistaken. A lot depends on 
the spirit in which it is said. If it is done in the spirit of 
love, with an honest desire for their very best, there are 
very few who will continue to resent it. At the time they 
may feel rebuked and upset, but deep down they know 
that they needed it, and it will ultimately do them good. 

People are not fools. They have little respect for a man 
who will go into the pulpit and preach smooth things. 
There is a part of them that despises it.

I became aware that a large number of ministers east 
of Utica were writing letters about the revivals, and taking 
a hostile stand against them. But until I came to Auburn 
in 1826 I was not fully aware of the amount of opposition 
I was destined to meet from these ministers - who did 
not personally know me but were influenced by false 
reports. I learned that a secret network was developing 
with the aim of uniting the ministers and churches to 
hedge me in, and prevent the revivals from spreading. 

I was told that all the New England churches in 
particular were closed to me. I became quite upset by 
all of this. I didn't say anything to anyone, but gave 
myself to prayer. I asked God to direct me and to give 
me the grace to ride out the storm. 

One day I was in my room and the Lord showed me a 
vision of what lay ahead. He drew so near to me while 
I was praying that I literally trembled. I shook from head 
to foot, under a full sense of the presence of God. It 
seemed more like being on the top of Sinai, with all the 
thunderings, than in the presence of the cross of Christ. 

Never in my life was I so awed and humbled before God. 
But instead of wanting to run away, I felt drawn nearer 
and nearer to this Presence that filled me with such awe 
and trembling. After a period of great brokenness before 
Him, there came a great lifting up. God assured me that 
He would be with me and hold me up - that no opposition 
would succeed against me. He showed me that there 
was nothing I should do, but to keep ministering and 
allow Him to vindicate my ministry. 

The sense of God's presence, and all that passed 
between myself and God at that time, I can never 
describe. It led me to be perfectly trusting, perfectly 
calm, and to have nothing but the best attitude towards 
all the brothers who were misled and were aligning 
themselves against me. I felt sure that everything would 
turn out alright in the end - that the best course for me 
to take was to leave everything to God and just keep 
on going. As the storm gathered and the opposition 
increased, I never doubted for one moment how it would 
result. I was never disturbed by it. I never spent a 
waking hour thinking about it - even when it seemed as 
if all the churches in the land, except where I had 
ministered, would unite to shut me out of their pulpits. 
This was what the leaders of this opposition had vowed 
to do. They were so deceived that they thought they 
had no choice but to unite and, as they expressed it, 
"put him down." But God assured me that they would 
never put me down. 

-[From the new book, "Charles Finney - Revivalist" -
"The Essential Revivals in his own Words."
- Edited and Updated by Andrew Strom.]