WRITING HIS MEMOIRS
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.
THE REASON FOR WRITING HIS MEMOIRS
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)
HE WROTE A DIFFERENT BOOK THAN HE TOLD
As he wrote, reminisced, and dictated parts of the story to his family, he seemed to come alive from the old memories that were being 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 folks who were caught up in it. The members of his family were all surprised as they 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. In fact, it was an entirely different book that what they had heard during the writing process.
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.
BURN THE BOOK
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.