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Finney Visits Boston

By Jay Rogers
Published April 4, 2008

Charles G. Finney, the famous 19th century evangelist and revival preacher, had some unique insights into the changing spiritual conditions of Boston in his day. The “Flapjack Turning” at Harvard was the result of an emerging philosophy of Unitarianism. Today, this idea is known as Humanism. Like the humanists of our day, men such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Charles Eliot believed that man was essentially good and denied the Trinitarian belief that Jesus, being one with the eternal God, was the only way to eternal life.

The statement below is taken from Charles Finney’s memoirs:

In the fall of 1843, I was called again to Boston. When I arrived there, I found many forms of error prevailed among the people. Indeed I have found that to be true of Boston, of which Dr. Beecher assured me, the first winter that I labored there. He said to me, “Mr. Finney, you cannot labor there as you do anywhere else. You have got to pursue a different course of instruction, and begin at the foundation; for Unitarianism (Humanism) is a system of denials, and under its teaching, the foundations of Christianity are fallen away. You cannot take anything for granted; for the Unitarians and the Universalists have destroyed the foundations, and the people are all afloat. The masses have no settled opinions, and every ‘lo here,’ or ‘lo there,’ finds a hearing; and almost any conceivable form of error may get a footing.”

I have since found this to be true, to a greater extent than in any other field, in which I have ever labored. The mass of the people in Boston are more unsettled in their religious convictions than in any other place I have ever labored, notwithstanding their intelligence; for they are surely a very intelligent people, on all questions but that of religion (true biblical Christianity). It is extremely difficult to make religious truths lodge in their minds, because the influence of Unitarian teaching has been, to lead them to call into question all the principle doctrines of the Bible. Their system is one of denials. Their theology is negative. They deny almost everything, and affirm almost nothing. In such a field, error finds the ears of the people open; and the most irrational views, on religious subjects, come to be held by a great many people.

The Memoirs of Rev. Charles G. Finney (New York: A.S. Barnes & Co., 1876), p. 371-2.

See also: The Boston Awakening


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