How George Washington Gale
Relates to the
Heresy of Decisional Regeneration
George Washington Gale (1789-1861) explains a great deal about the evolution of New Light Calvinism in his Autobiography Of George Washington Gale. His first hand account of Nettleton’s attitude toward Charles Finney at the end of the book is particularly revealing.
George Washington Gale taught Finney Princeton theology for two years before Finney was licensed to preach. Finney rebelled against the low expectation of evidence of regeneration inherent in Scottish Common Sense Realism. Finney believed the Holy Spirit was an immediate influence in regeneration, as did Nettleton, and told seekers to “make themselves a new heart” just like Nettleton, not because of a causative view of saving faith, but rather a consecutional view of saving faith. Students of New Light Calvinism should read Nettleton’s Genuine Repentance Does Not Precede regeneration to learn that Nettleton objected to Finney’s methods, not his theology.
This book was written in 1855, five years before the Civil War, which was the changing point of the New Light Calvinist Inquiry Room. Before the Civil War, the purpose of the Inquiry Room was to diagnose and direct seekers in the process of repentance. If they did not possess disinterested benevolence, considered the gold standard of initial evidence of regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the minister would try to help them repent and submit to God. This system could be called the BEST system, for Biblical Evidence of Salvation Test. After the Civil War, for many reasons, New Light Calvinists started using the BIST system, or Belief In Scripture Test in the Inquiry Room. When faith is seen as a metaphysical force instead of a relationship with the Person of God, the road to heresy begins. This evolutionary process would end in the heresy of decisional regeneration in 1914 when Billy Sunday eliminated the inquiry Room and started calling everyone who came forward in an altar call a convert. But the New Light Calvinist heresy road started just after the First Great Awakening, when ministers tried to get away from the embarrassing “religious affections”.
George Washington Gale was educated at Princeton Theological Seminary by Archibald Alexander. The best way to explain the change that took place after the Civil War is to recount an incident that happened in 1789. Archibald Alexander was a newly saved 17 year old, and traveling with his pastor William Graham. A woman came up to Graham and said, “ I have never attained to the faith of assurance, but only to the faith of reliance” He answered promptly, “if you have the faith of reliance, you have the faith of assurance also.”
Notice Graham did not refer to a scripture – that device would not become popular until after the Civil War. Graham tells the confused woman if you have the faith of reliance then you have the faith of assurance – this is an intellectually bankrupt avoidance of the REAL QUESTION. His answer was just as dishonest as the modern evangelical that tells someone with a legitimate question of salvation, “if you believed on Christ then you will go to heaven” – it completely avoids the reason for the question. The woman obviously thought she had believed in Christ as her savior, but felt the need to ask Graham if that was enough because she had no Biblical evidence of regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit - The bait and switch is not a deceptive practice unique to Old Lights or New Lights – this is simply a problem of answering an experiential question with a sacramental answer. The woman could just as well have asked, “I have never attained to the faith of assurance, but only to the faith that caused me to be baptized.” Would Graham have answered, “if you had the faith to be baptized, then you have the faith of assurance’? OF COURSE NOT – BECAUSE WATER BAPTISM DOES NOT SAVE IN ITSELF, JUST AS THE FAITH TO BE WATER BAPTIZED DOES NOT SAVE IN ITSELF, JUST AS THE FAITH THAT YOU HAVE FAITH IN CHRIST DOES NOT SAVE IN ITSELF.
George Washington Gale was the most influential minister in the theological evolution of Finney's systematic theology. Throughout history, Christian theology has evolved by reacting against some objectionable feature of existing Christian theology. Charles Finney's salvation theology was a reaction against the low expectations of Scottish Common Sense Realism salvation theology taught by George Washington Gale. In order to understand the theological ideas at the time Finney was learning theology from George Washington Gale, it is useful to look at the evolution American New Light Calvinism leading up to that time.
THE NEW LIGHTS OF THE FIRST GREAT AWAKENING
Jonathan Edwards emerged as the pre-eminent champion of the New Light party. In defending the revivals of the First Great Awakening, Edwards shifted the focus of attention away from the head to the heart or "affections", hence the term, "religious affections".
In place of what he believed to be the overly intellectualized faith of the Old Lights, Edwards proposed a model of the faithful self that stressed the interconnection of thought and emotion so that neither existed prior to or without the other. For every word that signified an idea, Edwards believed there was an accompanying sentiment of love or hatred, so that it was impossible to think of reaching the head before the heart. In his classic Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (1746) Edwards asserted that: "All acts of the affections of the soul are in some sense acts of the will, and all acts of the will are acts of the affections." As such, true religious experience involved a new "sense of the heart," transforming the individual from love of self to love of God.
Beyond his theological defense of the revivals, Edwards championed an extemporaneous, heartfelt style of preaching in the pulpit that generations of New Light ministers sought to emulate. Through his printed sermons and the "School of Prophets" established in his household, Edwards taught a generation of New Light ministers how to articulate their extemporaneous sermons in glowing terms that warmed the hearts of their listeners. His two most famous students—Samuel Hopkins and Joseph Bellamy—absorbed his teaching and passed it on to their students, who in turn filled pulpits throughout Connecticut and western New England. In that sense the Congregational New Light tradition lived on in American culture and went on to inform a broad segment of what would eventually become the American "evangelical" tradition.
ENTER SCOTTISH COMMON SENSE REALISM
American New Light Calvinism would probably have evolved along Bellamite or Hopkinsian lines had there not been a reaction against “religious affections” by the Old Lights. After Jonathan Edwards was voted out of his church in Northampton because he insisted that only regenerate members take the Lord’s Supper, and for a time serving as a missionary to Indians, The College of New Jersey (later called Princeton) called Jonathan Edwards as its president in 1758. History hinges on small events. Edwards wanted to serve as an example to Christians to use the latest scientific cures that God had provided, so he was inoculated for small pox. Several weeks after he became president of the College of New Jersey, he died from that inoculation.
The College of New Jersey was originally founded by Presbyterians to educate ministers in New Light Calvinist theology and methods. The college was necessary because Harvard and Yale discouraged (for example, David Brainerd was expelled from Yale in 1742) young ministers from participating in the First Great Awakening. Jonathan Edwards was made President twelve years later, but died before he could fully impliment his New Light Calvinist theology.
It is ironic that Edwards died from a medical procedure that was a harbinger of a change in the way man would see the sovereignty of God as metaphysical as apposed to supernatural. Edwards died in 1758. By 1768, Old Lights gained influence over the College of New Jersey, and religious affections of the First Great Awakening were seen as an embarrassing relic of Edwards’ view of the supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit.
Just 10 years after Edwards died, John Witherspoon (1729-1794) was made president (1768) and brought with him from Scotland a theology that would undermine the supernatural-based theology of Jonathan Edwards and replace it with a psychological, moral persuasion, metaphysical view. He replaced the supernatural explanation of religious affections with Scottish Common Sense Realism, eliminating the lingering elements of Jonathan Edwards theology in the curriculum.
Scottish Common Sense Realism was a way of restoring the Puritan means of grace and law works without the need of embarrassing religious affections. It made the pre-regeneration repentance and submitting to God more Catholic and less evangelical, blurring the line between duty faith and saving faith.
Witherspoon’s influence cannot be understated. And by the way, he was the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence. Witherspoon made evangelical Christianity acceptable to the educated classes by metaphysicalizing the workings of the Holy Spirit. Witherspoon taught that psychology held the answer to salvation theology.
Faith in psychology characterizes Scottish Common Sense Realism
A writer in the August 1821 Evangelical And Literary Magazine wrote, “Doctor (John) Witherspoon , in an address to his class at the close of his lectures, observed that in mental philosophy there were difficulties which the present state human knowledge did not enable us to solve; but he had no doubt the time would arrive, and perhaps at no distant day, when these difficulties would be removed, and we enjoy as much certainty and perspicuity (understanding) in moral as in natural philosophy.”
Modern translation: “In understanding what causes man to sin and then stop sinning, these are difficulties which the present state human knowledge does not enable us to solve; but I have no doubt the time will come, and perhaps soon, when these difficulties would be removed, and we will have as much certainty and understanding of what causes man to sin and stop sinning as we have of how physical things work..”
This faith in science Witherspoon passed onto William Graham, who passed it onto Archibald Alexander. The article continued…
“Mr. Graham immediately, as he expressed it – felt his heart burn within him. Oh- said he to himself – that I might live to see the day!”
The Autobiography Of George Washington Gale is an original source document showing the way New Light Calvinists asked for an immediate decision for Christ. Many insights into Joseph Bellamy versus Samuel Hopkins New Light Calvinism are revealed. Here are excerpts with comments in blue:
I was born the third day of December 1789, a year memorable as the commencement of the bloody revolution in France, and still more interesting to Americans, for the adoption of the Constitution of the United States and the inauguration of the first President.
Veneration for this great man under whom he had served in the war of our Independence, led my Father to give to the son of his old age the name of George Washington Gale.
Gales's father was a member of the Presbyterian Church – it was a regular Congregational Church, I suppose, of the standing order, as it was called. That church declined, and a new light or Separate Church, as it was called, was established near his house, but he never united with that, although he always attended worship there, and did as much, or more, towards its erection, and support of the pastor, the Rev. John Cornwall, than any other man.
During and after the First Great Awakening, Old Lights thought the "religious affections" of the Awakening were mostly carnal and the conversions were not worth all the confusion. Churches split into pro-revival and pro-stability camps. The pro-revival saints often formed new congregations called New Light or Seperatist.
His father dies from ”too frequent use of the lancer” bleeding
At 5 years old, he, and others in his family were innoculated for small pox and isolated so as not to infect those who not been inoculated. Jonathan Edwards died from a small pox innoculation in 1758. This illustrates how Orthodox Christians had no problem adopting the ways of science. This was long before Darwin's Origin of the Species (1859) began the rift between Orthodox Christians and scientific theory.
His mother, like his father, was bled to death by physicians - Orthodox Christians saw no inconsistency with using the tools God provided. - Dr. Barton said she ought to be bled. Dr. Goodrich said she needed blood rather than lose any. But Dr. Barton, being the older physician, his counsel prevailed, and she was bled. Thus passed away my mother, I hope to open her eyes upon bright scenes. But of that I have not the assurance as in the case of my father. Her heart was the seat of kindness, and she had a great respect for religion, but she was not a professor. A "professor" was a Christian that claimed to have experienced regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Gale is given room and board and income to work with a Baptist storekeeper. Gale discourages cutomers from buying products they don'r need, while the storekeeper encourages any sales. This was the beginning of Gales’ awareness of false versus heart religion. I had endeavored like another, to live in all good conscience, so far as my conscience had been enlightened, but, like him (the Apostle Paul), I had been a Pharisee. I knew nothing of the inward sinfulness, or very little. I did not know the breadth or spiritual nature of God’s law (this is classic Joseph Bellamy theology), and consequently had no reliance on Christ as the end of the law for righteousness, and no just knowledge of His (Christ’s) character.
This quote from Charles Spurgeon may be helful to modern evangelicals:
" A few minutes of confession may be beneficial to thee, gentle reader, this morning. Hast thou never been as the wicked? At an evening party certain men laughed at uncleanness, and the joke was not altogether offensive to thine ear, even thou wast as one of them. When hard things were spoken concerning the ways of God, thou wast bashfully silent; and so, to on-lookers, thou wast as one of them. When worldlings were bartering in the market, and driving hard bargains, wast thou not as one of them? When they were pursuing vanity with a hunter's foot, wert thou not as greedy for gain as they were? Could any difference be discerned between thee and them? Is there any difference? Here we come to close quarters. Be honest with thine own soul, and make sure that thou art a new creature in Christ Jesus; but when this is sure, walk jealously, lest any should again be able to say, "Even thou wast as one of them." Thou wouldst not desire to share their eternal doom, why then be like them here? Come not thou into their secret, lest thou come into their ruin. Side with the afflicted people of God, and not with the world."
Gale is 17 years old in 1806 - I had read “Bunyan’s Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners”, and I found the same evils of which he speaks in my heart and some of the same temptations. I found, at times, my heart full of enmity against God. I thought His law too strict, the requirement such as could not be filled, and my heart rose in enmity against Him. It was difficult, at times to restrain myself from blasphemy. This I was taught, by experience, that the carnal heart is enmity against God, and that the heart is desperately wicked…
It is when the sinner despairs of saving himself, when all expedients fail, and he is prepared to understand and appreciate the grace of salvation, that God sends deliverance and peace through His spirit and word. My mind obtained no sudden sense of acceptance with God, no ecstatic joys, that some speak of, and, for that reason, I did not dare to say I hoped, or was confident, that my sins were forgiven, and my heart changed, but, at times, I felt pleasure in religious duties, public and private, and my anxieties subsided, gradually, into a degree of quietude and peace, my interest increasing rather than diminishing.” Gale did not have a dramatic "crisis conversion", but gradually knew his character had been changed by regeneration.
Gale is 21 in 1811 - I united with the church in my native place, at the place and under the ministry of the man from whom I heard the Gospel before. I knew its meaning. I was baptized by him, and I felt a great pleasure in receiving the ordinance from a person who had known me from my infancy, and for whom I had the highest veneration as a man of God. I had delayed making a profession (a "profession" was when a person claimed to have experienced regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) ‘till this time, partly because I was waiting for more appearance of my being a Christian, and partly because I was not fully established to the mode and subjects of baptism…I was obliged to go forward from a sense of duty, and not for the assurance for which I had looked, that my name was written in heaven, not from sudden manifestation which I had long expected, as I had heard others speak, which assured them of their acceptance. I learned, to obtain evidence of our acceptance, the best method is to be found in the way of duty. (please read the article on DUTY FAITH) A man need not wait for assurance of his being a Christian before he attempts to do a duty. If he feels his obligation and dependence on God, he is warranted to go forward in every duty, relying upon Him for grace to perform it.
Gale joins a New Light Calvinist congregation formed as Separatists in the time of Whitefield. He is appointed a delegate of the church.
Gale speaks favorably of Joseph Bellamy, former president of Hamilton college.
Gale starts attending union college.
George Whitefield’s influence was felt over Princeton. Gale was in the 3rd class. Samuel Miller and Archibald Alexander were his instructors. Revival at Princeton under Dr. Green, the President.
Dr. Porter, a minister, did not want Gale taking his assistant Mr. Judd back to Princeton as there was a difference of doctrine.
Gale is licensed to preach in 1816.
Gale does graduate studies under Dr. Andrew Tates of Alnion College.
The following is a revealing account where Gale tells a man who is waiting on God for salvation that he should do more than just wait. Here we see the New Light Calvinist perspective of duty faith, or what was going to be called "making a decision for Christ". But wait, we find out later that the man was confused by something a Hopkinisian minister told him. - ‘He had been for several days, or since the Sabbath, in deep distress of mind. I found him so indeed; a man in paroxysms could not have been in greater apparent distress. I told him at once that I could not help him, the matter lay between him and God. All that God required of him was submission to His terms. After sitting a while, apparently in deep thought, he arose and came to the opposite side of the room with several other members of the family, and inquired with much earnestness if this would be submission, to be willing that God should do with him just as He pleased. I saw the temptation he was under. He was in deep distress and perplexity, and he was inclined to get rid of his troubles by making it an affair of His Maker’s concern wholly and none of his. If God should see fit to save him or convert him, he might do so, and if otherwise to cast him away, His will be done; he could do nothing himself. By acquiescence in his fate, and admitting it was nothing in which he could have any agency, he would feel relieved from a responsibility that was now the source of his greatest trouble. I told him the submission God required of him was to receive and obey Christ as Savior in the light in which the Gospel presented him, and that was all He required. (duty faith)”
Gale returns a few days later to find the man in a state of depression.- “He persisted in affirming that he was not converted. No person could be a Christian with a heart so corrupt and selfish as his. If he prayed or read or did anything it was only from a selfish aim. He did not wish to be encouraged, and no person could convince him that he was a Christian. The source of his trouble, which, as it turned out, perhaps was no disadvantage, was a conversation he had with the minister who lived a few miles distant in the other direction, an excellent man, whose praise then, and for many years, was in all the churches, but he carried the doctrine of disinterested benevolence, as it is technically termed, and was advocated by some divines of that day, to an extreme. Men, to exercise right feelings toward God, must lose of themselves wholly. With such all regard to one’s self was selfishness and therefore sinful. This was regarded as a test of genuine piety or true conversion. Hokinsian theology was promoted by most New Light Calvinists in New England at this time. There is no doubt that wherever our interests as we may exercise them come into competition with God the less must yield to the greater, and the soul subdued and enlightened with regard to God’s will cannot but yield to His claims and will find its highest happiness in just yielding. His language will be that of Christ, “Not my will, but thine, be done”. But man’s salvation is blended really and inseparably from the glory of God.
Another way of saying this is because of predetermination, it is impossible to tell where common grace in the activity of the Holy Spirit ends and saving grace in the activity of the Holy Spirit begins.- Harriet Beecher Stowe (of Uncle Tom's Cabin fame - the daughter of Lymon Beech and sister of Henry Ward Beecher described Hopkins theology as cutting out the common grace rungs of the illumination ladder so one could only reach God in one great step - in other words, pre-regeneration illumination was discouraged as putting off repentance and submission to God. )
It is not only His expressed will that men should be saved, but the gift of Christ and the whole plan of redemption shows them (the will of man and the will of God) to be united. Finding himself prompted, as every sinner is, to flee from the wrath to come by the dread of misery and the love of happiness, and especially of a happiness that consists of holiness and a love of God. he ought of written bitter things against himself, but he received the doctrine that all regard to his own welfare was selfish and though he could have no ground of hope for himself as a converted man, and did not want to be encouraged. I remarked to him that nothing could induce me to encourage him in a hope that would deceive him at last, but it was possible that his views of what constituted a change were wrong. After attempting to show him what I regarded as an evidence of a saving change I inquired of him, without his suspecting my object, what his feelings were in relation to various things, to which he frankly responded. I the looked at him and said, “Henry, do you think that those are the feelings of an impenitent sinner? Were they yours formerly?” A smile lighted up his countenance and he admitted that he had not felt thus formerly, but said it seemed to him that his heart was very selfish, if not wholly so. I offerened prayer with his family, and particularly for him, and left again for town.”
He returns to Princeton Theological Seminary in 1819. A fellow student was Charles Hodge.
Gale leaved Princeton Theological Seminary 3 months early in 1819 and travels to Adams, NY. He is told they want a first rate preacher, but “but he must not preach any hard doctrine, and predestination and others of that class.” But “hard doctrines” were preached and a revival soon followed.
127 First mention of meeting Finney, a young student in the law office of Mr. Wright.
The Congregational church voted to give him 180 dollars a year to be pastor.
132 He was pastor of Adams Congregational church from October 1819 to November 1824
133 he was a reader of Cowper.
141 Gale serves as a delegate to the Associate Reformed Presbyterian General Assembly in 1820. “The assembly was nearly balanced between the old and new school portions of the church. The New School were apposed to any more of the Scotch element. They were of the straightest sect, High Church in their views of doctrine and polity, and if admitted, would give the Old School the preponderance. The parties for some time had been stiffly arrayed against each other. Dr. Spring of New York was a prime leader of the New School; and Dr. John B. Romyn of the other. Dr. Wisner was with Dr. Spring in this assembly and Brownlee of New Jersey. Dr. Green was the backbone of the Old School side, but he was not in this assembly.” The issue was whether to admit the High Church Scots into the union and along with them an excellent library of books would be donated to Princeton. Green and the Old School was for the union. The new school was against it – Gale was against it. The vote went to the old school. Gale says of the union, “The union prevailed by a small majority, I think. I gave my vote and used what little influence I had against the measure. I have very little doubt that it was entering wedge by which the church was afterwards rived. The members then admitted were prime movers in that unhappy division and the measures that led to it.”
163-174 Gale spend several pages describing how he prepares the evangelist Jedediah Burchard.
“Mr. Burchard had faults in his character, and often in his management of revivals, but he was a man of remarkable power, and has been the means of salvation of many. He would have perfect command of an audience, and could, for the time, do with them anything he chose. His knowledge of human nature, his power of imitation, and his painting with words, as if the picture were there on canvas, and presented to the eye , rendered him very interesting.
Gale described Burchard’s methods and theology as coming quite naturally. If the name Finney were substituted for Burchard, few people would know the difference. Finney is often cited as a unique heretic with an entirely new theology and method of evangelism. This idea has become so common that decisional regeneration has become synonymous with “Finneyism”. The truth is, Finney was a product of his time. There were many young men saved and indwelt by the Holy Spirit in the 1820’s who thought the same way about the theology and methods of evangelism.
In the letters of Nettleton and Beecher, Nettleton says Finney was not the minister causing the problems, but rather his imitators. Burchard was no imitator of Finney (he preceded Finney) – he was just one of many young men that expressed the optimism of the age the same as Finney.
Gale describes the 1820’s as an exciting time when anything seemed possible if man would only abandon himself to the claims of the Gospel. Restraining oneself for fear of offending God seemed foolish. Man was beginning to see himself as capable of anything, unlocking the secrets of the universe and the secrets of the human heart. If man accepted as fact that it was best to inoculate oneself for small pox, then one could also accept the fact that God had put into the power of man the secret of his own spiritual deliverance.
This is where an understanding of New Light Calvinist predetermination is critical. Without predetermination, this attitude would be rebellion against the sovereignty of God – but with predetermination, this was acting in the predetermined will of God. In fact, to not inoculate oneself for small pox would be rebellion against the revealed will of God unless you had the old idea that the sovereignty of God meant do nothing for fear of offending God (Jonathan Edwards died of a small pox innoculation).
This is where 21st century critics of Finney COMPLETELY MISUNDERSTAND what Finney (and other New Light Calvinist) meant when they said “make yourself a new heart”. They think Finney was advocating “bare faith” or “presumption” without regard for the sovereignty of God. This is a fatal mistake – fatal in that it puts the “heresy” label on a theology that is more true to the sovereignty of God (predetermination) than the evolved Calvinist theology by the time of the Civil War. Gale tried to teach Finney and Burchard the guiding philosophy of many ministers educated at Princeton, the “Common Sense philosophy” known as Scottish realism.
This was the most influential intellectual tradition shaping American Protestantism between the late 1700 s and the Civil War. By the Civil War, common sense realism would replace the operational theology of Hopkins and Bellamy. Developed principally by Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid (1710-1796) in the mid eighteenth century, it was argued that ordinary people may gain accurate knowledge of the real world through responsible use of their senses. While man's physical senses could discover truth about the outside world through empirical study and induction, an innate "moral sense" common to all humans allowed for intuitive knowledge of certain foundational principles of morality. This was a move away from Jonathan Edwards’ supernatural view of “religious affections”, and provided a more worldly view of regeneration as a matter of the mind accepting facts. It diminished the significance of “religious affections” as first evidence of regeneration in a way that allowed for using the means of grace and law works.
Page 171 Gale gives examples of Burchard's preaching:
He wanted to covey to their minds the effect of faith. He cited the case of Peter’s attempt to go to Christ upon the water. The moment, said he, he put his foot on the side of the vessel and placed it upon the water it was like adamant; it was only when his faith failed that he began to sink. That was a miracle, but illustrates the moral effect when we trust in God. (This is where “moral persuasion” comes close to heresy – how can there be moral effect when a person is unregenerate?) . This was what David meant when he said, “though hast placed my feet upon a rock”.
Page 176 this is where he starts to talk about Finney, after spending 11 pages talking about Burchard.
Page 177 Finney was worship leader at Gale’s church, even though everyone knew he was unregenerate and was the leader of rebellion of the young people. Gale thought if Finney was converted, the young people would soon follow. Finney made fun of Gale’s “Inquiry Meetings”, calling them “whispering meetings”: because Gale spoke softly to penitents. Finney would undermine the purpose of the Inquiry Room by causing penitents to resist the spirit of inquiry and mourning. But as Gale wrote, “To my surprise, Mr. Finney came one evening late in the fall into my meetings of inquiry…He came in late, had been in the prayer meeting in the other room…and going to him took him by the hand, and said, looking him in the eye, “You have come in here, I presume, as a spy. You want to get something to make sport of.” He looked at me with an air of solemnity I shall never forget. “No, Mr. Gale”, said he, “I have not. I am willing now to be a Christian”... “Do you think”, said he, “there is any hope in my case?” I told him I had not liked his course. I had made up my mind to say to him, when I should meet him, that I considered John Barnard, a man who carried his bottle about with him, as fair a candidate for conversion as he.
…it was not teaching that he needed. It was compliance with what he already knew. As I I had conversed with all present I requested them all kneel, while prayed with them as my custom was. He kneeled by my side, deeply impressed.
Page 184 The spring before his conversion, he came to my study one day, and as I had heard of his encounter with a Methodist preacher, in which he silenced him on some important doctrines, I inquired of him about it, and o his views in general. I said to him, “Mr. Finney, you have a very correct understanding of the doctrines of the Gospel. Why do you not become a Christia?” He answered me very frankly and sincerely that he thought it would hardly be consistent with the profession he was to follow. It was to this that he alluded when he came into my meeting of inquiry and said, “My objections to being a Christian are all gone.”
Page 185 Gale teaches Finney
“It devolved on me more especially to furnish the topics for essays, hear them, and question him in regard to the subject on which he read. He then entered immediately upon the subject of theology, and continued in it until the winter of 1824, when the Presbytery met to dissolve my connection with the church. He was licensed six months sooner than he wished, or expected to be, that he might supply the pulpit made vacant by my sickness and dismission. After supplying the pulpit through the winter, he by my application, was commissioned by the Female Missionary Society of the Western District.”
Page 187 Gale preaches at revivals and Finney helps.
Mr. Finney and I went over to Henderson, where his parents live, to hold meetings. I preached, and mr. Finney made some remarks and prayed. I urged them to pledge themselves, by rising up, to labor for the revival of God’s work. There were a considerable number of Baptists present, as well as Congregationalists. There was some opposition from a Baptist member, not because he was apposed to the thing itself, but these were difficulties in the Baptist church which he thought ought to be settled first. I told them I thought they would be more apt to settle their difficulties if they would get into the spirit of a revival for the conversion of sinners. Nearly all arose, as I put the question, signifying their willingness and purpose to seek the blessing of God, by prayer and labor in His cause.
I was in the habit after the lecture to give those who wished the prayers of Christians an opportunity to manifest it in some way, usually by kneeling with Christians, whom I requested to kneel, at the closing of the service, as it was convenient to do in such a room. I had preached solemnly on the new birth, and at the close, as usual, invited sinners who were anxious for their souls to kneel with us while we prayed. This man thought it would be reasonable and he would like to kneel…while he stood there during the prayer, strange feelings came over him. The room seemed to him full of the fumes of burning brimstone, streams of fire seemed running down from his head onto his breast, and he thought he should sink into the floor…He bore it ‘til the close of the meeting, and went out as quickly as he could into the hall below… I remained a while above, to converse, as usual, with different persons…It is difficult to account for impressions when the mind is excited under a sense of its sins.”
(At a small meeting where Gale knew no one) I thought I would test the state of things by proposing that if there were any who seriously desired to be Christians, and would engage to seek now the salvation of their souls, they would rise, and thus express their purpose, and their wish for the prayers of Christians. About twenty of the young people arose. After they sat down, I addressed the professors of different denominations, who were present, on the subject of their duty, especially in the circumstances, and told them I was about to put to them an important question, which I wanted they should consider for a moment, and then respond to it according to their feelings. After a few moments, I requeted all those who were willing to labor and pray for the salvation of sinners, and especially for those who had signified their wish that evening for the prayers of Christians, to rise. Many arose as if they were moved by a common spring, or motive power of some kind.”
Page 192 the revival is ruined by people raising the question of water baptism. After that, Gale learned to never allow controversial subjects to be raised, especially in union meetings of Baptist, Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian.
Gale leaves Adams in 1824
Gale is now living in Western (New York). Finney is ministering nearby in Lawrence County, and heard Gale was in Western and comes with his wife to visit. Gale asks him to work with him for revival. Finney and Gale pray about it and feel it is God’s will. “The evidence of God’s spirit being present soon appeared, and the work continued to spread and increase in power while he remained, and although, as he said, it was one of the hardest fields he had seen, some forty or fifty were cherishing a hope.
Page 259 Gale tells revival anecdotes
I found her in deep distress. After a few words explaining here duty, and exhorting her while we prayed to dedicate herself to God, the Elder and I engaged again in prayer, but she found no relief. (the next day) I was surprised to see Mrs. Mills coming across the road to me, with both hands extended to grasp mine, which she did with a face full of joy., although bathed in tears. Said she, “Mr. Gale, I have seen the Savior and he has mercy of me.” I said I hope indeed that He had mercy of her. I asked when it was that she found mercy. “Oh”, she said, “not long after you left.” I did not doubt her sincerity as she was a very sensible as well as modest, retiring lady. I have no doubt that the strong feelings … made what passed in (her) mind, and was the result of a strong exercise of the imagination, accompanying faith, but what seemed to (her) a reality a sensible presentation of faith… Mrs. Mills became a humble, devoted Christian.”
Page 265 Gale relates stories of Finney’s revival of Rome, NY of 1825 -
A hotel room is used for an inquiry Room.70 persons came. Finney worked one side and Gale worked the other side of the room.
“After we had a few words of conversation with each one, and made to each such remarks in a low tone as we thought proper, he addressed them all for a few moments, urging upon them the claims of the God as made known in the Gospel, and requested all to kneel while he prayed with them. It was an awful moment, overpowering, to see such an assembly of sinners inquiring what they must do to be saved, thus prostrating themselves before God, many of whom had seldom, if ever, prayed. After we arose from our knees, and some appropriate words were addressed to them, they were dismissed, but a large number lingered. Mr. Finney then addressed them again saying to them that God was willing to receive them if they were willing and ready to submit to Him, and if they would kneel down he would pray with them once more, but remember that God was not to be mocked. They must not depend on his or any other person’s prayers. God claimed their hearts, their all, and that they only could render. The matter was between them and God. They must settle through this grace assisting them, and now was the time while God was moving upon them by His Spirit.
I do not of course pretend to give his precise language at this length of time since, but such was the tenor of his remarks. They kneeled with him, but his prayer was short and scarcely audible among the low utterances that seemed to fill the room. Each one began to pray for himself or herself as if no one was present, so absorbed did each one appear to be in his own case. After he arose many still continued on their knees pleading for mercy…No room in the village would contain the multitude who flocked to the meeting of inquiry.
Page 274 Gale explains how Finney did not emphasize the doctrine of election with new converts in the Attica, NY Presbyterian Church – but when Gale asked him to do so, he did it well.
Of the doctrine of Election, Mr. Finney in his preaching said very little. His reason for it was that he was dealing with the impenitent chiefly, and he thought it was adapted to converted, or the mature Christian, rather than the impenitent. This I always thought in some degree a wrong judgment. By the grace of God I am what I am, is the sentiment of every young convert. He learns in his own experience, and this grows with his growth, and strengthens with his strength, and he should have scriptural recognition of it incorporated in his earliest experience. Nor is it, rightly treated, injurious to the impenitent. It is the foundation of all hope.
This doctrine, though much abused and maligned, stands out in bold relief in scripture. It is the keystone of the true Gospel system. The denial of it, the Proten Pseudos (principal lie) of all eons. Had Mr. Finney taken a different view of it, and dwelt upon it more, his faith would have been more firmly anchored and he would have been saved from the position in which he found himself, and some of his converts, and some young ministers, who regarded him as a model, would have done more good.
Gale is referring to the main criticism of Finney during his lifetime, that is, his view of perfectionism, seen by most evangelicals in the nineteenth century as the result of a faulty view of Election. Modern evangelicals can not understand what Finney thought without understanding third generation New Light Calvinism. The debate was not over “bare faith” versus sovereign grace as it is today – the debate was over whether or not man was responsible to cooperate with sovereign grace with consecutional faith. Please read what the New Light Calvinist “make yourself a new heart” meant from Asahel Nettleton.
When he was licensed and first labored as a missionary, he was very firm and faithful in bringing out this doctrine. When therefore, he wanted the candidates for church membership to understand this (Gale returns to the history of Presbyterian church in Attica, NY) I was aware that it had not, except by implication, been exhibited, and I wanted he should do. He at first declined and said I had better do it, but I insisted on his doing it, and he did it well. I performed the service of administering the ordinances, as he was not then ordained.
Page 279 Gale tries to mentor young men that have Finney’s zeal without his anointing, discernment or wisdom. The critics of Finney admitted that it was his imitators and not Finney himself that were most guilty of fleshly abuse of sinners and saints. Reverend Nash was an embarrassment to Finney, who ultimately did not want him in the Inquiry Room. Young men who imitated Finney and Nash, thought it the height of spirituality to groan and weep over sinners, reminding us that Christ condemned two types of religious hypocrites. Christ condemned not only the secret sinners, the white sepulchers dead to God, but also the public prayers or town criers who make a show of their “spirituality”. If the reader is honest, he will have to agree that no one likes having a living prophet in their community. The prophet is “tuned into” the “deeper things of God” and works for heaven, so is not good company for ordinary terrestrials who work for a better life on earth.
Perhaps I should say something about the religious character of the young men. It partook of the peculiar notions and habits of Mr. Finney but more especially of the Rev. Mr. Nash, who had been much with Mr. Finney. They had been very much with Mr. Finney. They were in the habit of praying very loud, so that at certain times of the day they could be heard all over the premises, some in the barn, some in the carriage house, and wherever they could find a place. They would sometimes have what was called spiritual travail, or travail for souls, and pray so loud in the school room that people going along the street would stop, and sometimes inquire if anything was the matter.
Prayer meetings had been set up during the revival in different parts of the town, and these had been kept up during the winter. They attended these meetings, some one or two attending each, but they in their exhortations and prayers would complain of the coldness of Christians, and address impenitent sinners in strong terms, and in a boldness and confidence which neither Mr. Finney or Mr. Nash would have used. The result was the meetings diminished, and most of them failed for want of attendance.
They would often give what they conceived to be the character of individuals in their prayers, which were sometimes slanderous. After a while I called them all into the school room. I had been grieved and mortified with this thing for some time, and I resolved to check it, if not stop it entirely. I began by telling them that I had wanted to talk to them for some time in regard to their manner of doing things in relation to religious meetings but there was a serious difficulty in the way, but now I had become satisfied that I could not do my duty to them, or the cause of religion, without telling them plainly what I thought of their course.
The difficulty to which I alluded was the sentiment they entertained in relation to their own state. They thought themselves far in advance of many in spiritual attainments, that they were in a high degree under the influence of the Spirit of God, and if others found any fault in their action it was because they were not up to their mark, that they were less spiritual. I then read part of the 14th chapter of 1 Corinthians, where Paul corrects the disorders, viz., that they were prompted in their doings by the Spirit of God, tells them that the spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets. God is not the author of confusion. The mind doubtless under the influence of the Spirit feels and judges differently from what it does in a different state, acts also differently, but the Spirit of God does not, in its action, supersede, or impair, the judgment, but strengthens and improves it, and anything which does this is not from the Spirit. God is not the author of it.
This is a definite break with the Scottish Common Sense Realism taught by Archibald Alexander at Princeton Theological Seminary. Alexander taught that the Holy Spirit merely “quickened the heart” to receive the truth of Scripture. Gale shows his American New Light Calvinist roots, and ignores what he learned at seminary. “The mind doubtless under the influence of the Spirit feels and judges differently from what it does in a different state” is an acknowledgement of genuine, God-given, supernatural “religious affections”, not just “rational motives”, and definitely not “animal motives”. Gale will suggest another supernatural force, that of Satan, behind false spirituality. Satan is never mentioned in Scottish Common Sense Realism, since Satan does not fit into the metaphysical moral persuasion (psychological material causation) paradigm.
It is Satan, under the guise of an Angel’s robe. They were deceived in the course they were pursuing in some instances, pointing out circumstances that had occurred as examples. They saw, I was grieved with their course. I wished not to check their pious ardor, but to correct it and turn it to the best account. It had a good effect.
When they left me, in the fall, I pointed out the bad results of their course at the meetings, and said. “If I had stopped you, you would have though that I was the cause of preventing the revival here again of the work of God and the conversion of sinners. You now see that no good has followed your course, and wherever you may be hereafter, take a different course.
Mr. Finney and Mr. Nash erred in their treatment of young men, and young converts generally. In avoiding the error of keeping them back, which they thought was often done to their great injury, they urged them forward, and ran to the other extreme. Many of these youths thought themselves far in the advance of ordinary Christians, and that they had a perfect right to treat, and consider them, as cold, formal professors, who knew but little, if anything, of the life and power of godliness. Others of this stamp, and a considerable number, fresh from the revivals of this time, came to my school in Whitesboro, but there were so many, of a different spirit, that it was held in check.
Page 282 In 1827, Gale is in Western, New York has a school in his home, preparing young men for ministry, or for entering colleges, universities or seminaries. The Presbyterian New Lebanon Convention is held to determine the validity of the methods being use by Charles Finney in his New York revivals.
The object of this convention was to come to a mutual understanding in regard to the measures used by Mr. Finney, and supposed to be sanctioned by brethren in Western and Central New York, where he had labored, and indeed in Troy and New Lebanon, and in reconciling Mr. Finney and Mr. Nettleton, between whom misunderstanding and alienation existed. When Mr. Finney heard that Mr. Nettleton was in Albany he hastened down there to see him. He had previously been preaching for Dr. B., as well as in different parts of Oneida Co., Cayuga Co. with great success. He had never seen Mr. Nettleton but he had heard me speak of him and of his success although I had no personal acquaintance with him. Mr. N. avoided him. He saw him but was very resolved and cold, said nothing to Mr. Finney in relation to his views or measures, but would talk to others warning them against him and retailing (selling again and again) stories that he had heard about his preaching and manner of conducting revivals, many of which were the mere fabrication of his enemies or greatly exaggerated.
He kept up a correspondence with ministers in the West and in the East, doing what he could to arrest (stop movement of) Mr. Finney in his course. He published a severe criticism on one of Mr. Finney’s sermons that had been published.
The reader should at this point read Nettleton’s sermon Genuine Repentance Does Not Precede Regeneration to see how he, like all American New Light Calvinists (as apposed to Scottish Common Sense Realists coming out of Princeton Theological Seminary) at this time called for penitents to make themselves a new heart. The Hopkinisians and Bellamites all saw the effective “Decision for Christ” as consecutional, not causative. Nettleton sabotaged Finney for his methods, not his theology. It was the opinion of Gale that the extent of Finney’s error was in inspiring others to excess, and encouraging young converts to question the salvation of church members and leaders. When Gale and other pointed this out to Nettleton, it did not stop his false allegations that Finney himself was engaging in these destructive methods. Reverends Frost and Coe defended Finney to Beecher and Nettleton. Apparently, Gale went with Frost and Coe to see Netteleton, but all their efforts would not stop Nettleton from repeating falsehoods about Finney.
Dr. Beecher corresponded with the Rev. Dr. Frost on the subject, and Mr. Frost labored to correct the false statements and views with regard to Mr. Finney.
Mr. Frost, and Mr. Coe, pastor of the church in New Hartford, went down to see Mr. Nettleton at Albany. He (Nettleton) showed us many letters which he had received from many clergymen in the West, Dr. (James) Richards (1767-1843) of Auburn Seminary (established 1819) and others. These letters were an apology (a justification) in part for the course he had taken (attacking Finney). Some of the facts as they were reported to him were untrue to our certain knowledge, but after we had informed him he still reported them as facts. There seemed to be a strange perversion in his mind, almost unaccountable, in regard to Mr. Finney and his movements.
While Mr. Finney was in New Lebanon, he (Nettleton) wrote to the Association of Berkshire, urging them to exclude Mr. Finney from the pulpit. At length Mr. Beecher and some of the ministers at Boston proposed through Mr. Frost to the ministers at the West to meet the particular friends of Mr. N. at New Lebanon, where Mr. Finney was preaching, together with Messrs. Nettleton and Finney, to ascertain the facts and come to a mutual understanding of religion.
The ministers from the east were Dr. Lyman Beecher of Boston, DR. Justin Edwards of Andover, Dr. Townley of Weathersfield, and Joel Hawes of Hartford, and Dr. Humphries, president of Amherst College, and Mr. Nettleton.
Of the Western New York men, Dr. Beman of Troy, Lansing of Auburn, Gillet of Rome, Coe of New Hartford, Aiken of Utica, Smith of Camden, and Mr. Frost and myself of Whitesboro, Mr. Churchill of new Lebanon, Mr. Benedict of Canaan, and Mr. Finney.
Dr. Humphries was chosen chairman of the meeting. The meeting held two or three days and various topics were discussed and resolutions adopted. As to principles, there was no great difference between them, and the discussion led to a better understanding in regard to matters of fact, but no reconciliation between Messrs. Finney and Nettleton.
Mr. Finney made no opposition to Mr. Nettleton but went about his business; went soon after to Wilmington, State of Delaware, to aid Mr. Gilbert, the pastor there of the Presbyterian church, where a good work ensued, and afterward to Philadelphia. Mr. Nettleton went South soon afterward to South Carolina and Virginia but accomplished little. He was never reconciled to Mr. Finney. Mr. Nettleton never accomplished much afterward in the way of revivals.
Mr. Finney eased (toned down) in his measures, - new measures they were called by Mr. Nettleton and all who used them were called new measure men – but Mr. N. did not take the right course to convert him. I told him, when I had the interview before spoken of in Albany, that I thought he had not pursued the right course to rectify the errors of Mr. Finney. No one would have been so likely to do that as he. Mr. Finney had heard me speak of him (Nettleton) and his revivals in the most favorable manner, and he had great confidence in his wisdom and experience.
The brethren in the West did not like Mr. Finney’s management but God was with him, the work was powerful, and the feeling was such as a professor of Princeton described, when told that some of the students that were not licensed had preached in a revival, “Well”, said he, “I would rather have a bone out of joint than a soul lost”. Still, it is a matter of question whether we did our whole duty in the matter. Evils that ensued in some instances might have been prevented. These evils, however, resulted more from the young men who attempted to follow Mr. Finney’s lead, but who went much farther in the wrong direction than he did.
But Mr. Nettleton, and other good men who opposed these revivals, erred in the spirit in which they opposed them; gave credit to, and reported matters as facts, to injure Mr. Finney that had little or no foundation. Mr. Finney’s friends, knowing this, and that they and their people had received great spiritual benefit from his labors, stood firmly by him, and gave their sanction to some things which in other circumstances they would not.
Mr. Finney kept on his course, great revivals followed his labors at Rochester and in other places, as I have noticed, and Dr. Beecher himself afterwards admitted him to his pulpit in Boston. I have noticed these facts in this connection because they occurred at this time and I could bring them in no place more properly.
In 1829, Gale and his wife allow a physician to bleed their son. The son survives.
The biography ends with Gale discussing his Oneida Manual Labor Institute in Whitesborough, New York without any references to his second “Industrial Arts” school, Knox College, at Galesburg, Illinois, beginning in 1832.