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Asahel Nettleton: A Forgotten Evangelist?

Dr. Asahel Nettleton (1783–1844) is considered one of America’s greatest forgotten evangelists. He was a contemporary of Charles Finney and while Finney was conditioning converts and churning out spurious conversions with the anxious seat and altar calls, Nettleton believed this pragmatic “decisionism” was very superficial. In fact, Nettleton was the main opponent of Finney and the “new measures”. He did not seek for quick responses to an open invitation to “come forward” as Finney and his followers did.

It’s said Nettleton’s conversions lasted and bore fruit. For example, of the 84 converts in an 1818 revival atRocky Hill,Connecticut— according to their pastor’s report 26 years later — all 84 had remained faithful. Similarly, only three spurious conversions out of 82 professed commitments were noted by another pastor in his report on revival services held inAshford,Connecticut.  What accounted for this success?

William C. Nichols, modern publisher of Nettleton’s sermons, reported that:

Asahel Nettleton

Nettleton was a thorough student of the human heart. He understood the windings and turnings of the depraved heart and knew how to expose its deceits to awaken the sinner to the desperateness of his lost condition. You who do the work of evangelism today: Are you such a student of the human heart? Do you understand how the unconverted heart operates? In his sermon on “Gospel Warfare” Nettleton said, “Preaching mere external morality will never bring one soul to Christ. That preaching which does not aim at the heart will never bring one soul to Christ. That preaching which does not aim at the heart, and take hold of the conscience, never attacks the strong holds of Satan.” Read More…