When the precocious legal apprentice Charles Finney was converted to Christianity in 1821 it was the fulfilment of a fairly rigourous intellectual inquiry. He was, therefore, surprised by the depth of emotion he experienced in its aftermath.
The initial feeling was one of a deep and steady peace. ‘The repose of my mind was unspeakably great…The thought of God was sweet to my mind, and the most profound spiritual tranquillity had taken full possession of me.’[i]
After returning from the woods, where he had finally surrendered his life to Christ, he went to the law office which was empty and began playing his Bass Viol. ‘But as soon as I began to play and sing those sacred words, I began to weep. It seemed as if my heart was all liquid…I wondered at this and tried to suppress my tears, but could not.
I wondered what ailed me that I felt such a disposition to weep. After trying in vain to suppress my tears, I put up my instrument and stopped singing.’[ii]
Soon Finney’s boss arrived and they spent the afternoon moving books into another office.
‘After dinner we were engaged in removing our books and furniture to another office. We were very busy in this, and had but little conversation all the afternoon. There was a great sweetness and tenderness in my thoughts and feelings. Everything appeared to be going right, and nothing seemed to ruffle or disturb me in the least.
A desire to pray
Just before evening the thought took possession of my mind, that as soon as I was left alone in the new office, I would try to pray again…
Just at evening we got the books and furniture adjusted; and I made up, in an open fireplace, a good large fire, hoping to spend the evening alone. Just as it was dark Esq. Wright, seeing that everything was adjusted, bade me goodnight and went home.
I had accompanied him to the door; and as I closed the door and turned around, my heart seemed to be liquid within me. All my inward feelings seemed to rise and pour themselves out; and the impression on my mind was, “I want to pour my whole soul out to God.”
The rising of my soul was so great that I rushed into the room behind the front office, to pray. There was no fire, and no light, in the room; nevertheless it appeared to me as if it were perfectly light.
Meeting Jesus, face to face
As I went in and shut the door after me, it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. It did not occur to me then, nor did it for sometime afterward, that it was wholly a mental state.
On the contrary it seemed to me that I met Him face to face, and saw him as I would see any other man. He said nothing, but looked at me in such a manner as to break me right down at his feet.
I have always since regarded this as a most remarkable state of mind; for it seemed that he stood before me, and I fell down at his feet and poured out my soul to him. I wept aloud like a child, and made such confessions as I could with my choked utterance…
I must have continued in this state for a good while; but my mind was too much absorbed with the interview to recollect scarcely anything that I said.
But I know, as soon as my mind became calm enough to break off from the interview, I returned to the front office, and found that the fire that I had just made of large wood was nearly burned out.
The Holy Spirit descended upon me
But as I returned and was about to take a seat by the fire, I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost. Without expecting it, without ever having the thought in my mind that there was any such thing for me, without any recollection that I had ever heard the thing mentioned by any person in the world, at a moment entirely unexpected by me, the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul.’[iii]
Next time we’ll examine Finney’s detailed description of God’s power ‘pouring’ into him. You can read it here
For the first instalment of the Finney Story click here
© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog
[i] The Memoirs of Charles Finney, Ed. Rosell and Dupuis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1989), p.22
[ii] ibid, p.22
[iii] ibid p.23