INTRODUCTORY TO ALL THE FRIENDS, AND ESPECIALLY ALL THE MINISTERS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
Beloved in the Lord,--Many of you are aware that several years since a series of lectures on the subject of revivals was published through the columns of the New York "Evangelist." These lectures were preached by me to my own congregation in the city of New York, and reported by the editor of that paper. Since the publication of those lectures, my observation and experience on the subject have been continually developing and ripening, until I am very desirous of saying many additional things to my brethren on this subject.
When I first began to preach, I was without knowledge and without experience on the subject of revivals. I had but a very limited Christian experience. The Lord led me in a way that I knew not. I have recently thought that it might be useful to the Churches, to communicate to them my ripened experience and convictions upon the same subject.....
I wish the brethren particularly to understand that I lay no claim of infallibility upon this subject. I only wish to give my opinions with that modesty which becomes my ignorance, and which is demanded also by the nature of the subject.
I have had a continual experience upon the subject of revivals of religion, now for about twenty years; in the course of which experience, I have watched narrowly; and with much solicitude the various types, developments, results, and indeed all the phenomena pertaining to them, and resulting from them. I have occasionally seen remarks in some of the newspapers assuming that, since my residence in Oberlin, I have ceased to witness powerful revivals of religion in connection with my labors and the labors of those connected with me, but this is a great mistake, as my brethren generally would have been informed had not some of the leading papers which have made the assumption just mentioned, declined giving to the public the facts as they are and have been. I do not mention this either to censure those editors, or to boast of the success of my own labors and of those associated with me, but simply to bespeak your unbiased attention to what I have to say as coming, not from one whose observation and experience in revivals have long ago ceased, but from one whose opportunities for observation and experience have continued in their freshness up to the present hour.
Since I have been here, my position at home and my observation abroad, have given me peculiar advantages for judging of the expediency and inexpediency of certain measures. I have seen powerful revivals in this place, from time to time, now for about ten years, and indeed the state of things has generally been such here as would elsewhere have been considered a revival state. Scarcely a week, or even a day, has passed without more or less cases coming under my observation of manifest Divine influence. I have had an opportunity to witness the results of revivals in their influence over young men preparing for the ministry, over ministers themselves, over the community at large, and for years after their occurrence. I have marked with the deepest interest their rise, their progress, their temporary decline, and again their revival, the various types they have taken on, and the occasion of these modifications.....
There is a considerable number of topics to which I desire to call the attention of my brethren. In the providence of God, I have witnessed a great variety of methods in conducting revivals. When I first began to be acquainted with them, and for about ten years of my earliest labors, what are now termed protracted meetings were not known; since which, these meetings, first styled "conferences of Churches," then "three-days' meetings," then "four-days' meetings," and subsequently "protracted meetings," extending continuously through several weeks, have been the order of the day. In respect to the expediency as manifested in the results of these different methods, I have several things to say, to which I invite the prayerful consideration of all classes of Christians: also with respect to the great care that should be taken to prevent their degenerating into a spirit of fanaticism and misrule, as in at least some instances they manifestly have done. I wish also to call the attention of the brethren to the occasions of those disastrous results.
Your brother, C. G. FINNEY