Charles Finney

Charles Finney

The theology and methods of Edwards, Whitefield and Wesley prepared the way for new innovations. In 1792, William Carey, the father of modern missions, published An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of Heathens. The view that ministers should employ all the means at their disposal increasingly characterized nineteenth century Protestantism.1

Many saw this trend as a threat to the biblical truth of the sovereignty of God. In fact, when Carey proposed the formation of a missionary society to the president of a Baptist conference, he was dismissed with the opinion that if it pleased God to convert the heathen, God would do it without Carey’s help.2

Many new means or methods were identified with Charles Finney, the father of modern evangelism: the mourner’s bench (also called the anxious bench, altar, or penitent form), where seekers were asked to sit or kneel; the raising of hands or standing up in the congregation for those who wanted prayer; kneeling at seats; coming forward and giving the hand to the minister as a sign of need; and perhaps the most enduring of methods, the use of the “inquiry room,” where penitents could receive counsel and prayer during what came to be called the after-meeting.3


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