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If Charles Finney was right about anything, it was this: Excitement cannot be maintained indefinitely. In this brief clip, W. Robert Godfrey laments how Finney’s methods of creating “revival” have led to the breakdown of churches, rather than their establishment.
What’s intriguing is if you actually read his “Lectures on Revival,” very shortly into it, I mean within the first few pages, what he says is we absolutely need excitement until the millennium comes. Finney was a strong postmillennialist as almost all American Protestants were in the first half of the 19th century. He believed that the Bible promised that the success of the preaching of Christ would grow and grow and grow until “the whole earth was covered with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea.” They had that verse from Isaiah to quote. Finney was a staunch believer that that was true. It was connected to his optimism, and what he says that is so intriguing is we need excitements until the millennium comes, and the millennium will come soon. At one point he said, “If we all just do our duty, the millennium could come within three years,” and then he said, “Of course, we know the millennium needs to come soon, because we cannot long continue excitements. A nervous system long excited will break down.” He is finally right about something. He is exactly right about that. But the church has continued to seek excitements and the new for 150 years after Finney, forgetting his warning that such excitements would really lead to the breakdown, not the establishment, of the church.