To William Robinson

5 February 1859

[MS in the Finney Papers # 1631.]


William Robinson (1804-1873) was the minister of St. Andrew's Baptist Chapel in Cambridge. He had gone there in 1852 and was to remain until he retired in 1874. He was an author of note, and became Chairman of the Baptist Union in 1870. Bateman Brown received the following letters from him, which he passed to Finney:


Dear Sir

Mr Hart wrote to me

some days ago respecting Mr

Finney. I was from home

when his letter arrived,

& take the liberty of ad-

dressing the reply to you

to save time.

Mr Finney it seems had

engagements to the 30th.

If he would like to

preach in Cambridge the

next week, beginning say

on Tuesday, I will try &

arrange for his taking

the Lectures on Tuesday,

Wednesday & Thursday at

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three places of worship, &

on the following Lords day

I have three services - the

one in the afternoon at

the Theatre - either or all

of which I shall be most

happy to resign to Mr. F.

If it be more conve-

nient to Mr F to com-

mence with these Sunday

services on the 6th Feby,

the same arrangement may

be attempted for the fol-

lowing week, as I have sug-

gested for the foregoing week.

Mr Hart seems to con-

template the attendance of

the Undergraduates of the


[page 3]

University. I should be

sorry for Mr. F. to come to

Cambridge with that hope, for

it is not likely to be realized

In Saturday evening's

haste I am

dear Sir

Yours truly

W Robinson


15 Jan 1859

Bateman Brown Esqr



Dear Sir

I am obliged by your

letter & kind invitation

but am fettered by en-

gagements which forbid

me the pleasure you pro-

pose this week.

Yours truly

W Robinson


Jan 17 1859

Bateman Brown Esqr.


Mrs Finney wrote in her Journal under the date of January 27:

Mrs Cockle from Cambridge - Meeting in the afternoon increasing in interest and fervor - so of the noon meeting/ Mr Keed from Cambridge here.


Eliza Cockle was the wife of George Cockle, of Cambridge, and sister of Matthew Tebbutt. They were close friends of the Browns with whom the Finneys were staying in St. Ives. The Finney's had met them on their previous visit to England. George Cockle was deeply interested in ethics and philosophy. (See copy of the letter from Cockle to Finney, 25 August 1858, Goodman Family Papers.)


Finney also received a letter of invitation, dated 18 January 1859, from John Keed (1810-1871), the Baptist minister of Zion Chapel, Cambridge. Keed had tried to get Finney to preach for him during Finney's previous tour.


Finney received the following letter from Robinson.


My dear Sir

I am obliged by your

letter of the 29 Jany. and

quite understand that my

proposal to arrange according

to what I understood from

Mr Hart to be his wish & yours

for preaching engagements in

Cambridge is set aside.

You suggest revival services

at a future time. Having

watched such efforts for many

years I quite concur in your

opinion that considerable

results may generally be

produced by "a few weeks

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labour & prayer in some one

Church", but my observation

has led to the belief that such

results are in most cases un-

healthy & tend to collapse & cor-


The system of revivalism was tried

extensively among Baptists in

England for 2 or 3 years. A

meeting was then convened of

some of the wisest & most ear-

nest brethren in the denomi-

nation. Information from

many quarters was laid before

them, & they were unanimously

of opinion that the system

[page 3]

is not adapted to England.

My own opinion is that it is

not adapted to any place, but

is sure ultimately to do harm.

I have written in all

frankness as you would wish

me to do - and please to un-

derstand distinctly not with

coldness. If you will come &

see me, my house & heart are

open to receive you, & if you

will come & preach for me I

shall be yet more delighted.

Believe me

dear Sir

Yours with true respect

& affection

W Robinson


4 Feb 1859

Rev C Finney


What appears to be a copy of Finney's reply, is in the handwriting of Finney's wife, Elizabeth. The P. S. at the end is in Finney's handwriting.


St Ives Feb 5th 1859

My dear Brother Robinson

Yours of yesterday is reced - I did not

write before, nor do I now, for the purpose of gaining access to your

pulpit either for a day or for weeks I have never done this, in

this, in this, or in any other country - Calls for such poor labors

as I am able to perform, always having been far more numerous

than I could favorably respond to - I should not now reply, were

it not for the implied censure contained in your letter, and

more especially because that I see you are, I presume honestly

laboring under a most injurious misapprehension - My Dear

Brother, you are of opinion that 'revivalism" as you call it, "is not

adapted to any place, but is sure ultimately to do harm". Now

I have labored, I may truly say, continually in revivals of religion

for nearly 40 years - My experience I can say before the searcher of

hearts, is just the opposite of this opinion. I could by writing across

the Atlantic, give you any amount of evidence that your views

are as erroneous as is possible - Indeed I have with me letters

from some of the best, most cautious . most useful, and most experienced

ministers in America, on the subject giving a view the reverse of

that which you express. Now my Br, I am pastor of a church, of

some 1400 to 1600 members. Of this church I have been pastor nearly

a quarter of a century - I was pastor of two different churches in

N York city previous to taking my present charge, in connexion

with our college - I have always spenta part of each year

in labors for the revival of religion in other churches, with

[page 2]


the consent of my ^ people - I have always had precious seasons

or reviving among my own people after an absence I return to

them. Nor are they barren, or asleep when I am absent - But when

I return, they have always had more interest and conversions by far


than when I am away - In several important places, I have labored

in glorious and extensive revivals, at several different times, and at

intervals of a few years apart. I have been in constant correspondence

and acquaintance with the numerous fields where I have labored

in revivals. If any man living has the means of judging of the

utility or inutility of revival efforts, I may say in all humility

(and I think thousands of my country men would agree with me)

that I have. I can not tell you in words, how immensely my

experience, compels me to differ from you on this point. Nor

can I express the sadness occasioned by seeing an honest, and

influential minister of Christ, so greatly mistaken on a question so

vital to the cause of God & the salvation of souls - I know that

most objectionable efforts, have sometimes been made to promote

revivals - I had heard of the efforts in this country to which

you allude. I object as strongly as you can, to that class of efforts

to which you object - We have had them in America, much to the

disgrace of revivals - But this is, and was to be expected - Can true

revivals exist, without Satans attempting to counterfeit them?

But these frothy efforts I have always distinguished & now the many in

our country distinguish, from healthy efforts to promote the revival of true

religion - If there be any true religion in the world, I have not the slightest


doubt, it is found in its une ^ unequivocal form as the fruits of our

great revival in America - The stamina and efficiency, of the most

efficient of our churches, are the result of the repeated revivals with

which they have been favored - I happen to have with me the best

[page 3]

testimony on the subject. The best authority will testify, to

the great & good & permanent results of those revivals

Had I time I should like to give you some facts bearing upon this

case. But I must not here attempt it. I must conclude with again

assuring you, I am by no means soliciting an invitation to labor

among you. But my dear Brother, for your own sake, for the

sake of the souls under your influence & for the sake of the

to have

general influence of religion I most earnestly desire ^ you better

informed on this subject - Do you think that I am mistaken?

Or that after my experience, were I of your opinion that I would

continue my revival labors!! God bless you my Brother

C. G. Finney

P. S. The last question reveals the implied censure alluded to.



It is evident from Robinson's letter that he was the author of the letter dated 21 February 1859 from "Observer" which was published in the leading Baptist newspaper, The Freeman (London), 23 February 1859, p. 85. It was copied by John Campbell in The British Standard (London), 25 February 1859, p. 62. See below.


Mrs Finney made the following entry in her diary (p. 28) for 16 February 1859:


Wed 16 - Increasing solemnity in the meetings - Mr Finney dined at Mr Coot[s] / with Mr Robinson & Lilly from Cambridge - Mr R - opposed to revivals / a long talk upon the subject - Mr Finney- Mr Brown & Mr Hart bringing / facts to prove their necessity and their benefit to society - Mr Finney / preached in the eve[nin]g from the text "Save yourselves from this untoward / generation" - Mr R & L from Cambridge present - great solemnity prevailed - the / work of God is certainly progressing with power.


John Keed wrote to Finney from Cambridge, on 22 February:


I have been watching the separate movements here, as you wished, since I met you at Saint Ives, with some interest, & there are indications for an Opening. I find from Mr Robinson that he has been to meet you in Company with one of his Deacons. From that interview you would f[ind? ] that he does not fraternize with such movements, still [I be-]lieve there is an opening for you to come & I am sure he will readily place his pulpit at your service for some services & we can readily arrange for at least a fortnight's effort here.


The Finneys visited Cambridge on 24 February. Mrs Finney wrote in her diary:


Thursday 24th. We left this morning for London - Spent the day in Cambridge with our friends Mr & Mrs Cockle - We went over the College grounds and were three hours and a half in our walk - these grounds are beautiful beyond the conception or description - surely students ought to study well in such pure air and amid such beauties of nature. We left on Friday ...


Finney evidently did not preach at Cambridge. George Cockle wrote to Finney on 27 July 1860 and kept a copy of his letter which reads:


I am very sorry you are obliged to leave us so early as the first of August, as I shd. have so much enjoyed another interview with you. How much, too, I in common with several others did hope that we shd. be favoured with a few of your, & Mrs Finney's stirring revival meetings here before you returned. We have frequently heard of your labours of love both in England & Scotland.



See the memoir by "J. T. R." in The Baptist Handbook for 1875 (London: The Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland, 1875), pp. 292-96.

The Baptist Handbook, 1873, pp. 263.

Page torn.

In Goodman Family Papers in the possession of Mrs Phyllis Tebbutt of Hartford, Huntingdonshire.