Charles G. Finney (17921875) was a man with a message that burned through the religious deadwood and secular darkness of his time. He had the ability to shock both saint and sinner alike. Because he was radical in both his methods and his message, Finney was criticized for almost everything except being boring.
Born in Connecticut in 1792, Finney was nearly thirty years of age when he turned from his skepticism regarding Christianity and wholeheartedly embraced the Bible as the true Word of God. He gave up his law profession in order to spread the gospel, and he soon became the most noteworthy revivalist of the nineteenth century, one of the leaders of the Second Great Awakening. It is estimated that over 250,000 souls were converted as a result of his preaching. While Finney carried his revivals to several middle and eastern states, the bulk of his meetings were in New York towns, especially Rome, Rochester, Utica, Clinton, Antwerp, Evans Mills, Western, and Gouverneur.
In 1832, Finney began pastoring Second Free Presbyterian Church in New York City. In 1835, upon the request of Arthur Tappan, Finney established the theology department at Oberlin Collegiate Institute (today known as Oberlin College). He served there as a professor of theology, as well as pastor of Oberlin's First Congregational Church, until a few years before his death. He was also a member of the Oberlin College Board of Trustees from 1846 until he was elected president in 1851. During these years, he continued to carry on his evangelism, even visiting Great Britain twice in 184950 and 185960.
Finney was married three times in his life, first to Lydia Root Andrews (m. 1824), then to Elizabeth Ford Atkinson (m. 1848), and then to Rebecca Allen Rayl (m. 1865). All three of these women assisted Finney in his evangelistic efforts, accompanying him on his revival tours during their lives. In August 1875, Finney died in Oberlin due to a heart ailment.