For Charles G. Finney (1792-1873), the evidence of revival was that of changed lives, rather than that of outward excitement or manifestations. In fact, Finney discouraged extreme outward displays of emotion. During a revival in Rome, New York, he tells of one meeting in which, toward the end, he sensed that the congregation was on the brink of “an outburst of feeling that would be almost uncontrollable.” He said,
"The agitation deepened every moment; and as I could hear their sobs and sighs, I closed my prayer and rose suddenly from my knees. They all arose, and I said, “Now please go home without speaking a word to each other. Try to keep silent, and do not break out into any boisterous manifestation of feeling; but go without saying a word to your rooms.”[i]
As they were leaving, a young man no longer able to stand, fell on his companions, causing them all to fall to the floor. Many modern revivalists, because of identifying revival with outward excitement, would have seen this as an opportunity to whip the meeting into a religious frenzy. But Finney, in his wisdom, quieted them and did not allow the outward manifestations to go any further. He said,
"This had well nigh produced a loud shrieking; but I hushed them down and said to the young men, 'Please set that door wide open and go out and let all retire in silence.' They did as I requested. They did not shriek; but they went out sobbing and sighing, and their sobs and sighs could be heard till they got out into the street."[ii]
The people went home with pent-up emotions stirred in them by the Word and Spirit of God. One man, as soon as he stepped inside his home, fell to the floor weeping and crying out to God for mercy. In awe, his wife and children gathered around him and were subsequently converted to Christ. Similar scenes took place in homes throughout the city that night and continued into the following day. Revival Fire had come to the city of Rome, NY.
[i] Charles G. Finney, An Autobiography, (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1908), 161.
[ii] Finney, An Autobiography, 162.