Known as the “Father of Modem Evangelism”, Finney grew up in the frontier wilderness of Oneida County in Central New York and always retained a robust pioneer attitude towards life. As a young man Finney found he was particularly gifted at debate and trained to be a lawyer as a consequence. While practicing law Finney experienced a dramatic conversion experience and decided to devote his life to the ministry. After being ordained into the Presbyterian ministry, he began ministering in upstate New York.
Finney’s evangelistic efforts climaxed in 1830 in Rochester, where he preached 98 sermons between 10 September, 1830, and 6 March, 1831. Finney’s electrifying personality, booming voice, musical ability and piercing eyes kept the community hypnotized and in a perpetual state of excitement. Many of Finney’s meetings lasted into the early hours of the morning and occurred over a series of successive days. It was not untypical for shops and businesses to close so people could attend his meetings, while crime reportedly dropped by two-thirds over the same period. When news of the revival spread, Christians throughout the nation began to look to Rochester as a pattern for revival and Finney as the revival’s chief spokesman, even as a century earlier the revival at Northampton had thrust Jonathan Edwards into the role of spokesperson for the first Great Awakening. But it was there that the similarity ceased.
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