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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 book, "Charles Finney - Most Powerful Revivals" -

Available on Amazon.

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