Charles Finney felt led of the Lord to establish Oberlin College, which he did through faith, and without the backing of friends. Many were the problems he faced in the early days of the institution, none more serious than the events related as follows:

"Finney had no sooner settled to his teaching task in June, 1835, than a calamity befell the institution. Arthur Tappan had promised Finney, if needs be, the use of his entire income of $100,000 a year to run the school and upon this promise the evangelist had relied. But on December 16 of that first year Tappan's New York City store burned to the ground. He started business again in face of the coming financial crash which struck the country shortly afterward. Two years later, in May, 1837, he suspended business and went into bankruptcy.

"This was a blow to the revivalist. But blows to this man of prayer were no new thing, for he knew how to soften them . . . . on his knees. 'It left us not only without funds,' Finney says, ... . . but thirty thousand dollars in debt . . . . and to the human view it would seem that the college must be a failure.'

"This was not a mere pinch in circumstances. It meant hard times for the teaching revivalist. 'At one time I saw no means of providing for my family through the winter,' he says. 'Thanksgiving day came, and found us so poor that I had been obliged to sell my traveling trunk, which I had used in my evangelistic labors, to supply the place of a cow that I had lost . . . . I went and preached and enjoyed my own preaching as well, I think, as I ever did. I had a blessed day to my own soul."

"Finney found a place of prayer that morning and submitted the matter wholly to God's discretion. By the time the sermon was over and he had gotten home the answer was in hand. 'The answer has come, dear,' said his wife handing him a letter. "It was from Josiah Chapin of Providence and contained a check for $200. 'He intimated that I might expect more from time to time. He continued to send me six hundred dollars a year for several years, and on this I managed to live.'

"This is the Finney God could use so grandly in soul saving . . . a Finney, after spending fifteen years in prodigious evangelistic labors, winning tens of thousands of souls to Christ, who did not have enough money to buy a cow without selling a trunk! This was the depth of his consecration. He had received liberally, but he had given just as joyously in return."


From: ANSWERED PRAYER IN MISSIONARY SERVICE By Basil William Miller, Beacon Hill Press, Kansas City, Missouri. First Printing, April 1951 Second Printing, July 1951 Printed in United States of America