I first read Charles Finney’s autobiography decades ago, and it made a tremendous impression upon me. As I’ve been highlighting Finney’s writings each Sunday, I’ve had the opportunity to delve into his autobiography once more. I’m finding accounts that I had forgotten were there. For instance, shortly after Finney’s conversion, he began getting up early in the mornings for prayer, and he pulled others into that circle. Apparently, these times of drawing close to the Lord in the mornings opened Finney up to some direct experiences of God’s presence. Here’s how he explains one such occurrence:
One morning I had been around and called the brethren up, and when I returned to the meeting-house but few of them had got there. Mr. Gale, my minister, was standing at the door of the church, and as I came up, all at once the glory of God shone upon and round about me, in a manner most marvellous. The day was just beginning to dawn, But all at once a light perfectly ineffable shone in my soul, that almost prostrated me to the ground.
In this light it seemed as if I could see that all nature praised and worshipped God except man. This light seemed to be like the brightness of the sun in every direction. It was too intense for the eyes. I recollect casting my eyes down and breaking into a flood of tears, in view of the fact that mankind did not praise God. I think I knew something then, by actual experience, of that light that prostrated Paul on his way to Damascus. It was surely a light such as I could not have endured long.
When I burst into such loud weeping, Mr. Gale said, “What is the matter, brother Finney?” I could not tell him. I found that he had seen no light; and that he saw no reason why I should be in such a state of mind. I therefore said but little. I believe I merely replied, that I saw the glory of God; and that I could not endure to think of the manner in which he was treated by men. Indeed, it did not seem to me at the time that the vision of his glory which I had, was to be described in words. I wept it out; and the vision, if it may be so called, passed away and left my mind calm.
I use to have, when I was a young Christian, many seasons of communing with God which can not be described in words. And not unfrequently those seasons would end in an impression on my mind like this: “Go, see that thou tell no man.” I did not understand this at the time, and several times I paid no attention to this injunction; but tried to tell my Christian brethren what communications the Lord had made to me, or rather what seasons of communion I had with him. But I soon found that it would not do to tell my brethren what was passing between the Lord and my soul. They could not understand it. They would look surprised, and sometimes, I thought, incredulous; and I soon learned to keep quiet in regard to those divine manifestations, and say but little about them.
Some experiences are meant to be personal between God and the individual. Yet all experiences with the Lord help prepare us to do His will.