CHARLES G. FINNEY
HOPE FOR A MURDEROUS GANGSTER
Beginning in 1824, Charles G. Finney, an ordained Presbyterian minister, appeared in a number of churches and other buildings to lead revivals over the next few decades throughout New York and Pennsylvania.
Preaching three times on Sundays and three more times during the week throughout the “red light district” areas in these states, great revivals broke out as Finney taught that the atoning blood of Jesus Christ was all that was needed to open up the way for God to pardon people of their sin and only by repentance and the acceptance of Christ in one’s soul could one be saved from damnation and Hell’s fires and be assured of a place in Heaven.
A great decrease of the criminal activity in these areas was solely attributed to his gospel preaching and leading thousands of sinners to Christ.
I was conducting a revival in Detroit. One night as I started to walk into the church, a man came up to me and said, “Are you Mr. Finney?”
“I wonder if you will do me a favor. When you get through tonight, will you come home with me and talk to me about my soul?”
“Gladly. You wait for me.”
After entering the church, a deacon pulled him quickly to the side and asked, “What did that man want, Brother Finney?”
“He wanted me to go home with him.”
“Don’t do it.”
“I’m sorry, but I promised, and I shall go with him.”
“Do you know who that man is?” Finney said no. The deacon said, “Don’t have anything to do with him. It’s rumored that he’s the one responsible for all the gambling, drugs, prostitution, and murders in this city. He’s a really bad man! Don’t have anything to do with him!”
Finney said that he had given his word to meet him after the service and must keep his word to see what he wanted, and entered the church.
After the service, that man was waiting for Finney on the doorsteps of the building. Finney greeted him and the man said, “I would like to speak privately with you. Can you come to my office?” Finney said yes and began following him.
They walked a couple of blocks, then suddenly turned down a dark alley, before coming to a door that led downwards into a small room in the cellar. In the room, there was just an old desk and one chair.
As the man sat down, looking up at Finney he said, “Do you know who I am?” And Finney responded, “Yes.” Then, the man slowly reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a gun and laid it on top of the desk, and said, “I don’t intend to do you any harm,” he said. ” I just want to ask you a few questions. Did you mean what you said in your sermon last night?”
“What did I say? I have forgotten.”
“You said, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.'”
“Yes, God says so.”
The man said, “Brother Finney, you see this gun? It has killed four people. It is mine. Two of them were killed by me, two of them by my bartender in a brawl in my bar. Is there hope for a man like me?”
I said, “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.”
The man replied, “In the back of this partition is my bar. I own it, everything in it. We sell every kind of liquor to anybody who comes along. Many, many times I have taken the last dollar out of a man’s pocket, letting his family go hungry. Many times mothers have brought their babies here and pled with me not to sell any more booze to their husbands, but I have driven them out, and continued selling liquor. Is there any hope for a man like me?”
I said, “God says, The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.”
“Another question, Brother Finney. In the back of this other partition, there is a gambling establishment and it is as crooked as sin and Satan. There isn’t a decent wheel in the whole place. It is all loaded and crooked. A man may leave the bar with some money left, but we get it from him in there. Men have gone out of there to commit suicide when their money, and perhaps trusted funds, were all gone. Is there any hope for a man like me?”
I said, “God says, The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.”
“One more question and I will let you go. When you walk out of this alley, you turn to the right, and you’ll see a brownstone house. It’s my home, I own it. My wife is there, and our eleven-year-old daughter, Margaret. Thirteen years ago I went to New York on business. I met a beautiful girl. I lied to her. I told her I was a stockbroker and she married me. I brought her here, and when she found out what my business was, it broke her heart. I have come home drunk, beaten her, abused her, locked her out, made her life more miserable than that of any brute beast. About a month ago I went home drunk, mean, miserable. My wife got in the way somehow and I started beating her. My daughter threw herself between us. I slapped her across the face and knocked her against a red-hot stove. Her arm is burned from the shoulder to the wrist. It will never look the same again. Brother Finney, is there hope for a man like me?”
I took hold of the man’s shoulder, and shook him, and said, “Oh, son, what a black story you have to tell! But God says, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.‘”
The man said, “Thank you; thank you very much. Pray for me. I am coming to church tomorrow night.”
I went about my business. The next morning, about seven o’clock, the bartender started across the street out of his office. His necktie was awry. His face was dusty and sweaty and tearstained. He was shaking and rocking as though he were drunk. But let us go back to that room. He had taken his swivel chair and smashed the mirror, the fireplace, the desk, and the other chairs. He had smashed the partition on each side. Every bottle and barrel and bar mirror in that saloon were shattered and broken. The sawdust was swimming ankle-deep in a terrible mixture of beer, gin, wine, and whiskey. In the gambling establishment, the tables were smashed, the dice and the cards were in the fireplace smoldering.
He staggered across the street, walked up the stairs of his home and sat down heavily in the chair in his room. His wife called their daughter and said, “Maggie, run upstairs and tell your father that breakfast is ready.”
The girl walked slowly up the stairs. Half afraid, she stood in the door and said, “Daddy, breakfast is ready. Mama says to come down.”
“Maggie, dear, your father doesn’t want any breakfast.”
Maggie ran down the stairs and said, “Mama, daddy said, ‘Maggie, dear,’ and he didn’t –”
“Maggie, you didn’t understand. You go back upstairs and ask him to come down.”
Maggie went back upstairs with her mother following her. The man looked up as he heard his daughter’s footsteps, spread out his knee, and said, “Maggie, come here.”
Shyly, frightened, and trembling, the young girl walked up to him. He placed her on his lap, pressing his face against her weeping. His wife, standing in the doorway, couldn’t understand what had happened. After a while, he noticed her and said, “Come here, dear.” He threw his arms around them both, the ones he had so fearfully abused; lowered his face between them, and sobbed until the room almost shook with the impact of his emotion.
After some moments he controlled himself, looked up into their faces and said, “You needn’t be afraid of me anymore. God has made a new man out of me. A new husband and father came home today.”
That night the three of them walked down the aisle of the church and gave their hearts to the Lord. After that, it was always a privilege to go into that home, where Christ now held an honored place in each heart.
The Eternal Son put on flesh and blood and died to wash us from our sins in His own atoning blood that we may have a new relationship and intimate fellowship with Christ and be destined for Heaven.
God Himself has provided the sufficient and effectual Sacrifice for sin that is needed throughout all the generations of mankind, without which a person is lost forever.
First John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Hebrews 7:25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
THEREFORE, HAVE FAITH IN GOD!