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ABOUT PENN CLARK

    My first introduction to Charles G. Finney came one day in 1978 while browsing in a Christian bookstore. I had just become a believer and was hungry for any inspiration that would help me prepare for the ministry. I noticed Finney’s autobiography, which had just been re-published. For some reason I knew I had to have this book. The trouble was, I hardly had enough money to buy my wife a birthday present, much less a new book for myself. I somehow rationalized that she would really love this book even though she was a new believer herself, and had not even developed an interest in the Bible. As my wife unwrapped this present, I could see the disappointment in her face. She quickly laid it aside.  I began to understand how some wives feel when their husbands buy them a new fishing pole for "their" birthday. This lesson was not lost on me. You could say this was one of the first things I learned from Charles G. Finney.

 
   Some months later, when Heather finally got around to reading the book, she was aghast to learn that Finney had left his wife the day after their wedding to go preach somewhere. She never did like Finney much after that. I read it and was encouraged by what I found. I immediately saw a number of similarities between us. We both had been given a revelation of the overwhelming love of God. We both left our business to enter the ministry. The course of training I was on seemed similar to his. I also wanted to bring reform to the church and salvation to the world. I was thrilled by everything I read in this amazing testimony. Without realizing it at the time, Finney would become a significant part of both of our lives. 

    After reading Finney's autobiography, I wanted to visit the areas where he and Nash had worked together, but as a Canadian I can remember thinking that those places were somewhere far away in the States. A number of years later, I moved to Lowville, New York, to serve as a pastor. I was surprised to learn that I had moved into the midst of the very places Finney mentions in memoirs. I had a desire to see all of the buildings and landmarks that related to this fascinating piece of church history, but when I asked around nobody seemed to know much about Finney. I drove around this area and was surprised to find that the places where the greatest revivals ever held on American soil, are just as hard and cold today as they were about 175 years ago. The villages are small and rough with no apparent spiritual life. Often the local churches invoke pity and sadness within me. I somehow expected to find these places to be flourishing with a deeper spirituality than average because Finney had been there. No doubt I would be just as disappointed if I went to Azusa Street today looking for a fresh flow of the Holy Spirit. This upset one of the many misconceptions I held about the patterns and purposes of revival.  

    Years later, while on a sabbatical from our church, I decided to use this time to do some further research to see what happened to the churches Finney preached in. I found the oldest county maps available to help locate many of the homes and churches mentioned by Finney. I searched old deeds to confirm the authenticity of certain buildings.  Beyond this, I relied on local history books, library files, and local historical societies, which proved to be the best resources for this kind of study. Also, the 1989 Rosell and Dupuis edition of Finney’s memoirs contained invaluable clues in the footnotes, which served as my guides. This edition of Finney’s memoirs was especially useful because it includes the actual names of people Finney had originally included, which the first editor had taken out. 

     I spent over three years, on and off, getting to know Finney and Nash. I have visited their birth sites and been to their graves, as well as many points in between. During this time, I read many of their personal letters and got to know their families. I also learned a lot about revivals and reforms and what the men are like that God chose to use in a remarkable way. I would like to share with others those things that have inspired me to press in for real revival. Blessings, Penn Clark