From the Archives: Lectures on Revivals of Religion (1835)
Soon after its publication in America in 1835, Finney’s Lectures on Revivals had sold around 12,000 copies. A London publisher printed 80,000 copies and it was translated into French and Welsh. Right after its publication in Wales, a great revival occurred there. Finney viewed his Lectures as his attack on the views of revival held by traditional Calvinists, and as his declaration of what he believed was the proper meaning of revival. For Finney, conversion is not miraculous—a mysterious work of the Holy Spirit—but is merely a proper use of the power to believe that men and women have by nature been given by God . Belief is merely a rational choice. For many, Finney’s making salvation completely dependent upon human choice seemed to suggest that man’s will was not entirely corrupted by the Fall; because of this many labeled Finney a “Pelagian” (after the ancient theologian, Pelagius, who taught that the will was not ruined by the Fall). However, the book was extremely popular, and has had a great influence on subsequent ideas and practices concerning evangelism, especially in its appeal to methods, and by its insistence on the necessity of personal evangelism—lay witnessing—by all Christians. For Finney, revival is as much a work of awakening backslidden Christians as one of saving souls.
I. A Revival of Religion is not a Miracle.
1. A miracle has been generally defined to be, a Divine interference, setting aside or suspending the laws of nature. It [revival] is not a miracle, in this sense. All the laws of matter and mind remain in force. They are neither suspended nor set aside in a revival.
2. It is not a miracle according to another definition of the term miracle—something above the powers of nature. There is nothing in ...