To Louis Richards

19 September 1872


[Published in "A Religious Revival in Reading, 1829" in Historical Review of Berks County. Volume 15 (October 1949), pages 149-50]


Finney received the following letter from Louis Richards:


Reading, Pa. Sept. 16, 1872.

My dear Mr Finney:

Yours of the 6th inst has proved

of great interest, not only to myself, but to the

now small circle of Christian friends who were

stars in your crown of rejoicing in Reading in 1829,&endash;

thirteen years before I was born. Thomas O'Brien

was affected very deeply by your reference to the

death of his brother Dennis. Her and his wife both de=

sire to be affectionately remembered to you. One of your

friends, a native of this city, the Rev. Augustus

Babb, now a minister of the Evangelical Lu=

theran church at Blairsville, Pa. happened to

be in Reading yesterday, and hearing that he also

was one of your converts, I sought him out and

had a long talk with him about yourself and old

times in Reading. He told me to say to you that

in all his ministerial cause he had found

the Lord Jesus Christ rich enough to provide

the means. This is in reference to a remark

of this kind which you made to him when

he was first awakened, and spoke of entering

the ministry. He told me to say to you also

that the lady who was Elizabeth Porter, a

daughter of Judge Porter and sister of Elijah

[page 2]


Deckert, is now the widow of a ^ clergyman by

the name of Lewis, and resides in the town

of Indianna, Indianna Co Penna. She has

a son in the ministry, & has lived a pious and

devoted life. She often speaks of Mr Finney with

great interest. The McKnights were very much

interested in your letter,&endash; so were Mr & Mrs Levi

B. Smith, both of whom speak very warmly of you

and desire me to communicate their kind re=

gards. Mr Smith is a brother of Mrs Darling,

and was also the father in law of the late

Rev. Elias J. Richards. Amos Buck, the first

convert of the revival in Reading, was an uncle of

Mrs Smith. Thomas O'Brien remembers that

on the evening on which he experienced a hope,

after church you walked up the street with him

arm in arm, and he felt so glad that he

had met his Savior that he wanted to tell every=

body about it. The argument which took hold of

him, he said, was that Christ had always

been willing to save him, but that the un=

willingness was all on his own part. There

are a number of friends in Reading who would

be very glad to see you indeed, and I should

[page 3]

be happy to have you come on and stay with

me. Of course we should not make any

demands upon your ministerial services un=

less you would feel that it would be a grat=

ification to you to preach once more in

Reading. I should be glad to show you how

Reading has improved in these forty-three years,

and think the trip would benefit your health.

I know not whether your wife is living, but if

she is, we should be pleased to see her also.

Mrs Brayton & her husband, I understand

will be here shortly to spend some months

with their relatives.

Since receiving your letter I have been

looking up the record of the Editors whom you

so effectively silenced./ I find in the "Berks &

Schuylkill Journal," of Mch 31, 1829, (the paper

was then Edited by Geo. Getz) a card signed by

the Presbyterian elders defending yourself against

the many calumnies that had been circulated

regarding you, in which they state that you

were a regularly ordained Presbyterian clergy=

man, & had been duly appointed an Evan=

gelist by the Pby of St. Lawrence, N.Y. and

[page 4]

were then a member of the Pby of Oneida, at=

tached to the Synod of Albany &endash; that in the

January preceding, the German Ref Church of Phila=

da, Rev. Saml Helfenstein pastor, had passed warm

resolutions commending you, & c. The wonder

arises in my mind how, being a Presbyterian

minister you came to labor in the Reformed

Church. On the 18th April, appeared a com=

munication in the same paper signed "Luther,"

arraigning you on specific charges, as for

instance first that you had desired a respectable

gentleman whom you thought wd not live long

to give your compliments to Dr Grier in Heaven, &

to tell St Paul that you were much pleased

with his writings; that you had spoken disre=

spectfully of other pastors & either declared or

insinuated that they were leading their congr=

gations to Hell; that you had instigated

certain women to visit their neighbors in an offi=

cious manner, & ask them whether they had read

their Bibles & whether they said their prayers &c,&endash; with

more of the same sort, gross exaggerations I pre=

sume of some underlying facts. That appears to

have been a time of great religious excitement

throughout the country, violent opposition to

revivals, Sunday School Unions, Missionary Societies, &c.


[top of page 1]

Mr Babt informs me that you labored at Lancaster &

Harrisburg, after leaving Reading, but not with such marked

success as here. With affectionate regards Yours Sincerely

Louis Richards.


Finney replied as follows:


Oberlin 19th. Sept. 1872

Louis Richards Esq.

Dr. Bro. Yours of the 16th is recd.

Thank you for the information it contains respecting those in whom I feel a deep interest. Since I wrote you last I have a memorandem kep by my former wife, from which I learn that I arrived at Reading the 9th. of January 1829. & left for Lancaster the 7th. of May making our stay in Reading about 4 months. I see from this journal that we left Lancaster for Whitestown N. York the 15th. of June. We were a little over a month in Lancaster. A number were hopefully converted at that place but I needed rest & the state of the Church was such as to discourage any but a more protracted effort than I was then able to make. I therefore left & took a few weeks rest at my wife's fathers. I did not go to Harrisburg.

I was not aware of the attack of the Editors nor of the case of the Elders. If I ever heard of them I did not long remember it. I paid little attention to such things.

Hundreds of false & absurd stories were put in circulation about me to which I paid no attention but kept about the Lord's work. It was by Br. Dennis O'Brien that I sent love to Br. Grier. As I was satisfied that Br. Grier was in Heaven & that Br. O. was going right to him, why not send my love?


[page 150]

The other things you mention I do not remember. Bro. Buck was a brother of Mrs. D. O'Brien. His convictions were awful. I was called out of bed in the midst of a frightful snow storm & about 12 at night to go & see him. The storm was almost blinding & as I approached his house I heard him wail & howl with agony. I found him nearly prostrate & his wife bourn down with the might of his case. His look and groans were pitiable & almost frightful. His despair was all but complete. I cannot forget that I exclaimed "if this is conviction what is hell." He was a man of powerful physique. He got relief by faith in Christ I believe before I left him.

The Mr. Smith whom I recollect called on me early in the morning & exclaimed "I am lost." His story in a word was this "When I was in college I & two other young men called on Dr. Grier & asked what we should do to be saved. He told us to keep out of bad company, to read our Bibles & pray for a new heart & either we should be converted or our convictions would wear off. We did as he directed & waited to be converted. Our convictions wore off. Both of my companions are in drunkards graves & I am in the same path & is there hope for me?" I showed him that he had been misdirected & that his sin was not unpardonable. He obtained hope. I understood that he was a lawyer & a brother of Mrs. Darling.

I was deeply interested in his case. If the Mr. Smith you speak of was this man do give him my warmest love.

Is Mrs. D. O'Brien yet living. A barber who shaved on Sab. was convicted & hesitated because of this pub. His customers threatened to forsake him if he closed shop on Sab. He finally decided & shut up on Sab. He told me afterwards that his business had increased & not diminished. I cannot recollect his name. As the work of conversion was deep, convictions of sin overwhelming & opposition for some time daring & almost blasphemous many striking facts occurred. Many thrilling incidents were crowded into the 4 months of my stay in Reading.

I should be happy to comply with your invi[t]ation to visit Reading & I thank you for your generous invitation to be your guest; but I cannot entertain such a hope that it will be duty to visit you. I should be delighted to meet Mr. & Mrs. Brayton these as well as to see the remaining few who were converted during that precious revival. I went to Philadelphia at first to labor with Br. James Patterson.

The revival became so general through the city that I preached alternately in nearly all the Pres. churches. & also in the Dutch churches. Mr. Helpentines church in Race street would hold a larger congregation than any other I was therefore invited to continue in that house as a central point.

I continued there for several months. I was in that city about a year and a half. The revivals there were very extensive. It proved to be as life from the dead to that city.

Some most thrilling & extraordinary incidents occurred in Philadelphia. Those scenes are long past, but many of them are still fresh in my memory. I have been passing through revival scenes in this country & in England & in Scotland ever since then. Bating the intense opposition & the excitement consequent therefrom I have often since seen revivals as interesting & more extensive. Yet, all in all, I have never had more earnest & pleasant recollections of any revivals & their fruits than of those of Phila. & Reading.

Love to all friends. God bless you all.



Finney received the following reply from Richards:


Reading, Oct. 15, 1872.

Rev. C. G. Finney,

Dear Sir:

I was very greatly in=

terested in your last, of the 19th ult, and

would have replied sooner, had I not de=

sired to read it to several who could

appreciate its contents, and to collect

for your gratification all the in=

formation I could obtain in regard

to those mentioned in it. Mr Levi

B. Smith is the gentleman to whom

you refer as calling upon you in

regard to his soul's salvation. He

has been for many years a pious

member of the Protestant Episcopal

Church. Rev. E. J. Richards was

his son-in-law, his second wife

being a daughter of Mr Smith's. Your

communications have touched tender

cords in many hearts, though the

[page 2]

generation to whom you preached the

word of life in Reading forty-three

years ago is rapidly passing away.

Mr Amos Buck died in Alabama, in

1841, in his 60th year. He was an ex=

emplary member of the M. E. church.

Mrs Dennis O'Brien I believe is still

living in Philadelphia. The barber

to whom you refer who acted so con=

scientiously in regard to closing his

shop, was Mr John Piper. He afterward

became a dentist, practiced some

years in Reading, & died in 1844, a

humble and devoted Christian. It

will be a source of gratification to

you to be made acquainted with

the fact that so far as I can learn

the converts of your ministry here

all turned out sincere Christians,

glorifying God in their lives, or

praising Him with their latest breath.

I am sorry you cannot

find if convenient to pay

[page 3]

Reading another visit. There are

many who would be delighted

to see you. You would see

great changes in the place

,&endash; many more even than those

referred to by our late beloved

pastor in his anniversary

sermon. It would afford you

pleasure to walk through our

beautiful Cemetery, and visit

the graves of some whom you

knew in life. Rev Dr Grier is

buried on the "Pastors lot," belong=

ing to the First Presbyterian church.

The inscription upon the tablet which

covers his grave runs thus,&endash;

In memory of

The Rev. John D. Grier D.D.

who was born


the 26^thday of July AD. 1783,

and died the

26th day of Jan. AD. 1829,

aged 45 years, 6 mos and 19 days.

[page 4]

The First Presbyterian Church in the

Boro' of Reading was organized under

his labors the &emdash; day of &emdash; AD 18 &emdash;

& he continued its faithful & devoted

pastor until the day of his death. This

monument was erected by the Congrega=

tion, in token of the respect & affection

they bear to his name

&emdash; &emdash; &emdash;

Also in memory of

Nancy Grier,

Wife of the Rev John D. Grier D.D.

Born Nov 15, 1779,

Died March 20, 1858.


I still have a strong desire to learn

more of the history of your eventful

life, & if you at any time come

across any publication giving such

details, I shall be greatly obliged

to you if you will refer me to the

same. I would be gratified to

give you any further information

regarding your friends of the church

here that you might desire,

With Christian love,

Sincerely Yours

Louis Richards



This word is unclear.

This word should be "kept".

This word was probably job.

This word should be there.

Finney had probably written Helfenstines. This was Samuel Helffenstein Sr. (1775-1866).