To John Moore

23 February 1860


[Published in James Hughes, "Reminiscences of the late Rev. Thomas Aubrey", City Road Magazine (London), Volume 1, 1871, p. 299.]


This letter was written to the Rev. John Moore (1824-1873) who was, at that time, in Leek, Staffordshire. It was published in an article by James Hughes about Thomas Aubrey, a Welsh Methodist minister who had died in 1867. At the Methodist Conference of 1866 in Leeds, Hughes had entertained Aubrey "and a former friend of his, an English minister of renown in the metaphysical world" (i.e. John Moore).


The English minister hinted at had, some years before, led Mr. Aubrey to an acquaintance with Professor Finney's System of Theology, in which he (Mr. Aubrey) declared he found light which for twenty years he had been vainly seeking, and which enabled him to hold and to teach in a far more intelligent manner his Wesleyan Methodist creed. The value of the Professor's theory of the ground of moral obligation, will be acknowledged by all who have formed acquaintance with it. And as the system as a whole is made to harmonize therewith, it is no matter of wonder that Mr. Aubrey found in it the solution of some of his previous perplexities.

It was the fact just stated, no doubt, that led him to visit the Professor during his stay in Manchester, in 1860, when some hours were spent in the discussion of psychological and theological subjects, in the course of which the doctrine of the atonement came under review. Finney's system, making the ground of moral obligation to consist in universal benevolence, the atonement is no longer the ground but a condition of human salvation. Mr. Aubrey thinking that this mode of stating the doctrine somewhat compromised the evangelical character of the system--pointed out to the Transatlantic divine, that unless this condition were by some qualification distinguished from the other conditions of our salvation, disparagement would be done to the atonement, and that therefore it had better be called the meritorious condition--which view obtained the assent of the great American evangelist. What impression this visitor from the shadows of the Welsh mountains left on Mr. Finney's mind, may be learned from the following letter, which, because it contains, in addition to the allusion to Mr. Aubrey, a very clear and concise putting of a psychological fact of great practical value in opposition to the _____ ______ of the Edwardean school, shall be given in extenso:

"Bolton, 23rd Feb., 1860.

"My Dear Br.-----

"Your brother Aubrey from Wales has paid me a visit since I wrote you. I like him much. He has both a head and a heart. Not very common gifts in the same person in the sense in which I apply these terms [to] him. In regard to your treatise, allow me to suggest that nearly all psychologists have held that the will is invariably governed by desire. That until desire is awakened, the will cannot act. They overlook the fact that the will is at all influenced by moral law or by the perceptions of the intellect. Their doctrine is that the will is as the strongest desire is. Have you read Bishop Butler's sermons? They are worth reading, but you will not find the true idea of virtue in them.

"The revival still increases wonderfully here. I cannot give you an account of it. "Your brother,




It was in Bolton that Finney was staying. He did not go to Manchester until March 1860.