To Edwin Lamson

24 November 1870


[MS in Finney Papers, 2/2/1]


Oberlin 24th Nov. 1870

My Dear Br. Lamson.

Yours of the 16th is recd. I was

not aware that a second

subscription for the professorship

had been started. The first

one must be with Br. Sears.

I thank you for the volume of

Music Hall Sermons. We

have read them nearly through.

They are the kind of sermons

to be popular in Boston.

They have striking excellences

& as striking defects. Their

excellences are. 1. They are

addressed to the people &

not essays about people.

They say you. This is excellent!

2. They are intensely persuasive.

This is a great merit.

3. The language is plain, & the style,

[page 2]

generally perspicuous. Hearers

will understand them.

4. The word painting is such

as will interest & secure atten

tion. This is an excellence

especially in Boston.

5. The illustrations are generally

well chosen & are edifying.

6. They are impassioned & short.

This will take well in Boston

I mean with the masses.

Mark when I speak of Boston

as related to these discourses

I speak not of the theologically

instructed, but of the class who

who would turn to the Music

hall, whilst they would avoid

orthodox churches. I speak of

the sermons also as adapted

to this class. In my judgment

their defects are the following.

1. They take a one sided & dangerously

partial view of the character of God.

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The God of these sermons does not

seem to me to be the God of creation,

of Providence, or of moral govern

ment. But rather a God of sentiment.

They assume that justice, holiness,

retribution, severity, are not moral

attributes of God. Whereas these

are abundantly revealed in

creation, Providence, & the Bible.

2. They avoid all direct issues

with error & are loose & dangerously

undiscriminating. After all

there is so much heart in

them, such a yearning &

manifest longing to do the

hearers good that upon

the whole I like them

& think them better adapted

to the masses than if they were

more strictly theological. I think

the author did not greatly

misjudge the capabilities &

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tastes of his audiences.

I may write you again

on this subject. If Br. Murray

is a man who can be advised

I think if you & his friends

will be wise & faithful to

him he may be very useful

in Boston. I have heard that

he has fast tendencies & rather

encourages such tendencies

in the young. This will give

him, if true, a dangerous

popularity. These sermons are

very peculiar. They assume the

main points of orthodoxy, but

strangely misrepresent in some

respects the teachings of 41. E.g.

his teaching Mat. 23d ch[a]pter.

Did it never use severity? Did he

never address the fears of men.

Is not fear rational. Is it not

really the beginning of wisdom?

Love to all your dear ones.

C. G. Finney



William H. H. Murray, Music Hall Sermons (Boston: Fields, Osgood & Co, 1870)

William Henry Harrison Murray (1840-1904) was minister of Park Street Congregational Church in Boston, where Lamson was a deacon. He was soon to become the pastor of an Independent Congregational church that met in the Music Hall in Boston. In 1874 he retired and embarked upon a life of travel and writing. (See The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 10, pp. 230-31)

Finney had heard about him from the Reverend J. M. H. Dow of Boston. In a letter dated 13 January 1869 Dow wrote:

Mr. Murray,- the newly settled Pastor of Park St. is a young man of original turn of mind, & is possessed of an independent spirit; but his feelings respecting Evangelists & Revival measures, have not been developed, but there is hope that he will not be led by the would-be dictators of the Congl Churches.

And on 13 February 1869 he wrote:

Rev. Mr. Murray, the Pastor of Park Street Church - has committed himself against continuous - protracted meetings - regarding such efforts as unwise, & practically injurious to the welfare of the Church.

This may be a reference to Finney's visit to Boston in October-December 1841.