“I had the impression, which has never left my mind, that God wanted me to preach the Gospel, and that I must begin immediately."



Charles Grandison Finney was a Presbyterian pastor. Finney’s religious beliefs led him to advocate for the end of slavery and equal opportunities for women and African Americans in education. Additionally, Finney was a teacher and the second president at Oberlin College.


Finney left his practice as a lawyer to become a preacher. He began preaching at a church in New York in 1832. He boldly refused to let slave owners and traders take part in communion at church. Finney was an active revivalist from 1825-1835 and well known for his work toward what is referred to as the Second Great Awakening, a religious revival movement. Finney heightened spiritual interest in the lives of those around him. One pastor that experienced the revival recounted that Finney made the topic of religion invade all areas of life. The pastor stated that it was present in conversations at home and in the office, and the Sabbath was even being recognized. Finney brought spiritual transformation to the United States. 


Along with his pastoral role, Finney began working at Oberlin College as a professor of systematic theology and the school’s second President. He became very involved in the abolitionist movement. Oberlin College was the first American college to allow women and African Americans to study in their institution. Faculty and students were active opponents of slavery and even helped free slaves through the Underground Railroad. Finney also regularly denounced slavery in his preaching.


Finney abandoned his career as a lawyer after he experienced a dramatic conversion in his office that led him to a strong faith and dedication to God. 


In one of his memoirs, Finney wrote, “I had the impression, which has never left my mind, that God wanted me to preach the Gospel, and that I must begin immediately. I somehow seemed to know it. If you ask me how I knew it, I cannot tell how I knew it, any more that I can tell how I knew that was the love of God and the baptism of the Holy Ghost which I had received. I did somehow know it with a certainty that was past all possibility of doubt. And so I seemed to know that the Lord commissioned me to preach the Gospel…This at first stumbled me. I thought I had taken too much pains, and spent too much time and study in my profession to think now of becoming a Christian, if by doing so I should be obliged to preach the Gospel. However, I at last came to the conclusion that I must submit that question to God; that I had never commenced the study of law from any regard to God, and that I had no right to make any conditions with Him…”