It was standing room only when Charles Finney, the evangelist [in the Second Great Awakening], arrived at the schoolhouse. he opened the service by reading a hymn. The assembled congregation attempted to sing it, but it was hardly the joyful song that the scriptures speak of. They did not know how to sing, but "each one bawled in his own way". Mr. Finney had been a teacher of church music, but the discordant notes were so horrible that he put his hands tightly to his ears in a vain attempt to escape the bedlam.
When the singing ceased, the evangelist fell on his knees and began to pray. Upon completion of the prayer he ascended the pulpit, quote a text of scripture that came to mind, and began to expound on it: "Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city." [Is this not like the siren that just went off a few days ago in a Japanese coastal town, and some people rushed from their homes and businesses and climbed a hillside, only to turn and watch with utmost horror a huge tsunami wave crashing in from the sea a mile or so away and swept over the town below and all the people trapped in it? Video of this exists that can be accessed on the public news outlets on the Internet.--Ed.].
He began by acquainting the congregation with the central characters: Abraham, his nephew Lot, and the angel of the Lord. Then he proceeded to tell them about Sodom, one of the most wicked cities of all time. He continued by telling them what God was about to do: He would destroy the city, but He must consult with Abraham first. There followed a most interesting conversation between the Lord and Abraham. Would he spare the city if there were 50 righteous people? (Abraham was especially concerned about Lot and his family who lived there.) "Yes." But Abraham wasn't sure there were 50 righteous. He finally scaled his request down to 10. Unfortunately, of course, there were not ten righteous people, so the city was destroyed.
After the evangelist had developed the narrative, he began to make his application. From what he had heard about the community, comparing it with Sodom was not out of order, and he assured them that there would be a day of reckoning. A judgment day would come.
Finney was not prepared for the response that he saw in the faces of the people. They looked very angry. He later acknowledged that he feared they might lay hold on him on the spot and chastise him. But, after about fifteen minutes of applying these truths to the people, conviction became so great that the people began falling from their seats "in every direction". The confusion and noise was such that the evangelist could no longer continue. The old gentleman who had invited him sat spellbound. he looked around in amazement. The speaker, hardly knowing what to do, finally cried out to him, "Can't you pray?" Whereupon he fell to his knees and began to intercede, but hardly anyone paid any attention to him. Seeing the situation nearly out of hand, Mr. Finney cried out, "You are not in Hell yet; now let me direct you to Christ."
Order was restored as people were dealt with one by one, and soon they were praying for each other. It was a wonderful visitation. Hundreds of people were converted, and the knowledge of what happened spread to other communities, bringing about similar results.
When the smoke of battle was over, the evangelist learned again something of the wonderful providence of God. Finney was a total stranger to these parts. What he did not know was that the community, having a reputation for wickedness, was called Sodom, and the aged saint had been nicknamed Lot.--Clarence Finsass, Voice of Triumph Ministries, Portland, Oregon
What town was this? Where did it occur? We don't know. The author, Dr. Ernest M. Wadsworth does not tell us. But he gives us a graphic insight into some of the foundation laying that brings about a religious awakening.
The author had been, for some time, plagued with the thought that his ministry was mediocre and in no way what God had intended it to be. As he studied, prayed, and pondered, he came to the conclusion that the reason for the deadness in the church and lack of spiritual vitality was not with others, but with himself. The problem was first of all his problem. As a minister he was now willing to lay the blame at his own doorstep, and by inference, at the doorstep of his fellow pastors. The problem was a man power problem. The latter conclusion was not accepted in the ministerial meeting of his fellow pastors, but nevertheless his own conclusions remained intact.
Upon embarking on a new pastorate the following month, he decided he would experiment to determine the validity of his own conclusions. Could he see a revival in his church if he met the conditions? He would try. Time would tell.
The Sunday sermon had been in the incubator all week. It would be a good one..."Making Crooked Things Straight". Saturday night found him putting on his final finishing touches and preparing his introduction. There was just one problem. From deep within a voice seemed to say, "Unless you straight out those crooked things which I have brought to your attention, I will not be with you when you preach your famous sermon tomorrow". Consequently, late that evening, a couple of letters were written and dropped inthe nearest mailbox.
The Sunday sermon was delivered to a large but restless audience. The response was not what he had expected. Some seemed to be angry and others almost ready to walk out. At the close of the service most of the people avoided the minister (if they could), but a few seasoned saints who understood the ways of God shook his hand, smiled, and said, "God bless lyou."
Upon returning home, his wife, as pastor's wives will do, came straight to the point, "You will hear from that sermon, but not in the way you expect."
The storm was not long in coming. Early Monday morning the hotel proprietor inquired, "is your phone out of order?" Several people had been trying to call him, among them the mayor. he was to come to his office. After the initial greeting the mayor said, "Now, man to man, I want to ask you who has been telling you about me?" The next man he encountered was the garage man. "Shaking his fist at me he said, ' You have done yourself a great damage in berating your people like you did yesterday morning. I want to tell you I will never hear you again!' In a fit of anger he left me standing on the sidewalk."
The next man was the treasurer. He beckoned me into his office at the rear of his department store. With a stubby cigar between his fingers and shaking from head to foot he came right to the point. "Now Sir, I want to know the names of the people who set you up to preach against me yesterday morning!"
Finally the undertaker sent for him. He too accosted him about telling his faults before the congregation.
The immediate outcome was that attendance fell off and his salary was curtailed. However, others heard about the sermon and rallied to his side. Services began in an upstairs storefront. Then they had to move to the operahouse. This was followed with services being held in school houses and abandoned churches for miles around. A large number of people came under the preaching of the Word of God and were converted.
Such was the outcome when the Holy Spirit was allowed free course in the life of a pastor and others of God's family. Because the congregation, for the most part, did not honor the voice of the Holy Spirit, they were bypassed and God found other avenues and ways to reach and bless the people.--Charles Finsass