Charles Finney, the youngest of 15 children, became one of the most influential evangelists in the Second Great Awakening. He was a professor of Oberlin College in Ohio, and became its second president. He was a leader in the slavery abolitionist movement, frequently denouncing slavery from the pulpit. He wasn't content to simply regulate it. He wanted to abolish it, being convinced from Scripture and reason that slavery was sinful and against the will of God. He even personally violated federal law, risking arrest and imprisonment to save a slave from federal marshals and his slavemaster's cruel whip.
Under Finney's leadership, Oberlin was the first American college to accept women and blacks as students in addition to white men. From its early years, its faculty and students were active in the abolitionist movement. They participated together with people of the town in biracial efforts to help fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad, as well as to resist the federal Fugitive Slave Act.
Charles Finney stoked the controversy of the Fugitive Slave Act to a fever pitch in the fall of 1858 when a federal marshal arrested John Price, a slave who had lived in Oberlin for some time. Residents of Oberlin stormed the hotel in nearby Wellington where Price was being held, freed him, and ushered him back to Oberlin, where the president of Oberlin College, Charles Finney, hid him in his home before friends whisked him away to Canada.
Many slaves escaped to Ohio across the Ohio River from Kentucky, making the state a critical area for their passage to freedom, thanks in part to fiery preachers of righteousness like Charles Finney, who didn't just preach love - he lived it! And he didn't just preach it when it was convenient and comfortable - he rocked boats, upset hypocrites, defied federal tyranny, was hated and mocked by those who were comfortable with the status quo, or who wanted to keep Christianity in the four walls of the church. Charles Finney's stand against slavery and against the tyranny and hypocrisy that would justify it and perpetuate it was a simple outpouring of a repentant heart in love with God.
The bad news. Charles Finney is dead.
It's your turn now.
Help Ohio make history. Let's get the Ohio Personhood Amendment on the ballot, get it passed, and encourage our leaders to enforce it in submission to God and in defiance of judicial tyranny.
For a gift of any size for the remainder of June, I will personally send you one of my favorite Charles Finney books, Power from On High. Donate at www.PersonhoodOhio.com/donate.
Dr. Patrick Johnston