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Reasons For Writing
In 1866, at age 74, Charles G. Finney began to write his memoirs. His goal was to describe revival in such a way that it would produce a new revival for his present generation. Although many were professing to be Christians he felt that too few were experiencing the fullness of their faith. Also, as an elder statesman, he lamented the number of evangelists who were relying on their ability to persuade people to surrender to God, rather than relying on the power of God. He hoped his descriptions of a real move of God would expose their shallow efforts by comparison.
Finney once wrote about his revival work in the Oberlin Evangelist, saying, “Indeed, I should doubt if the world has ever witnessed more pure, more powerful, more lasting and desirable in their results than those that have occurred in this country during the past forty or fifty years. If my health will allow, I hope to write some account of the revivals that have occurred under my observation, and since I have been in this ministry, for the purpose, if possible, of disabusing the minds of those who have prejudiced against those revivals by false reports.”
(Originally printed in the Oberlin Evangelist January 26, 1861, p. 187)
One of the things that had become obvious to those who read his autobiography, was that Finney wanted to give his side of the story behind some of the early conflict that occurred between him and the other leaders of the Presbyterian church. He gave a considerable amount of space to the “new measures” he introduced, which was the wedge that caused the eventual split between the “Old School and New School” movements in the church.
On his deathbed in 1875, Finney asked his wife to retrieve the manuscript from the attic and to burn it. He said he was concerned for the feelings of those whose relatives were mentioned in the narrative, because he described their spiritual conditions so honestly. She refused to do as she had been asked.
After Finney’s death, the family donated his work to Oberlin College in the hopes that the revenues would contribute to the ongoing work of the school. In January 1876, Finney’s memoirs were received with much interest and continue to serve as an inspiration for those who long for pure revival, which can only come from the Hand of the Lord.