Born in Warren, Connecticut, Finney was the youngest of fifteen children. The son of farmers, Finney never attended college, but his six foot three inch stature, piercing eyes, musical skill, and leadership abilities gained him recognition in his community. He studied as an apprentice to become a lawyer, but after a dramatic conversion experience and baptism into the Holy Spirit in Adams, New York, he resigned from all of his duties at his law office to attend to his calling to preach the gospel. At the age of 29 under George Washington Gale, Finney studied to become and eventually became a licensed minister in the Presbyterian Church, though he then had and would continue to have many misgivings about the fundamental doctrines taught in that denomination.
Finney moved to New York City in 1832 where he pastored the Chatham Street Chapel, and later founded and pastored the Broadway Tabernacle, known today as Broadway United Church of Christ. Finney's presentation of his Gospel message reached thousands and influenced many communities.
In addition to becoming a popular Christian evangelist, Finney was involved with the abolitionist movement and frequently denounced slavery from the pulpit. Beginning in 1821, he denied communion to slaveholders in his churches.
In 1835, he moved to Ohio where he would become a professor and later president of Oberlin College (from 1851 – 1866). Oberlin was fertile ground for the early movement to end slavery and was among the first American colleges to coeducate blacks and women with white men.
He is also credited for praying to end a drought that had plagued the Ohio region. He reportedly brought an umbrella to the prayer session even though there wasn't a cloud in the sky.
Prior to his conversion, he had been a Freemason, but became a staunch opponent of Masonry, and wrote an extensive book attacking it, entitled The Character, Claims, and Practical Workings of Freemasonry....