WRITING HIS MEMOIRS
In 1866, Charles G. Finney began to write his memoirs, which he worked on for the last three years of his life. His goal was to describe what real revival was like, in a way that it would ignite a new revival for the present generation. Finney 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 own ability to persuade people to surrender to God, rather than on the power of God. He hoped his descriptions of a real move of God would expose their shallow efforts by comparison.
Finney 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.” 1
HE WROTE A DIFFERENT BOOK THAN HE TOLD
As began to write, he reminisced, and dictated parts of the story to his family. Finney seemed to come alive by the memories that were stirred. He told many stories about his early days, causing his family to often laugh at some of the misadventures of a young evangelist in the midst of a mighty move of God and the odd effects it had on some of the dear country folk who were caught up in it. His family said they surprised when they finally read the finished manuscript after his death, when they discovered that none of these stories made their way into the final pages. In fact, he wrote very little about himself, including his initial reactions and personal experiences. It was an entirely different book that what they had heard during the writing process.
One of the things that had become obvious anyone who read his memoirs, 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 defending the “new measures” he had introduced, which was the wedge that caused the eventual split in the church.
BURN THE BOOK
In 1875, while on his deathbed, Finney asked his wife to retrieve the manuscript from the attic and to burn it. He said he was concerned about the feelings of those whose relatives were mentioned in the narrative, because he described their spiritual conditions so honestly. Thankfully, she refused to do what had been asked of her. After Finney’s death, the family donated his memoirs to Oberlin College with the hope that the revenues made from it would help with the ongoing work of the school. Finally, in January 1876, Finney’s memoirs were received with much interest. They continue to serve as an inspiration anyone who longs for pure revival even to this day.
1. Originally printed in the Oberlin Evangelist January 26, 1861, p. 187