Charles soon took a pastoral position in New York City because of the toll itinerating had taken on his health. Revival continued to flow whenever Finney spoke in New York through the end of 1834 and into the winter of 1835. As a result, he was suddenly faced with a large number of young men who wanted to go into the ministry but had no proper place to be educated and ordained according to the Gospel as Finney preached it. Soon, the requests for Finney to teach theology grew numerous enough that he agreed and began a lecture series.
Around this time, there was a controversy at Lane Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio, that would soon take Finney’s career as a theology instructor a step further. The seminary was composed largely of converted young people from New York’s “Burned-over District” who firmly believed that owning slaves was a sin. Many of Lane Seminary’s trustees owned slaves themselves, however, and they tried to silence the students. Asa Mahan, a trustee, took up the students’ cause, and when the students left to start a new college in Oberlin, Ohio, Mahan left with them. He became the first president of Oberlin College, and the students requested Finney as their professor of theology. When the Tappan brothers offered to finance the professorship of Finney and seven others, Finney agreed to teach at Oberlin in the summer and return to pastor in New York City in the winter. The Finneys’ first summer in Oberlin was in 1835.
Oberlin College opened its doors to one hundred students when Finney began teaching there, and by 1840, five hundred students were enrolled. By the time Finney became the president of Oberlin in 1851, the college had more than one thousand students. After Finney’s death, U.S. President James Garfield affirmed to the student body of Oberlin “that no college in the land had more effectively touched the nerve centers of the national life and thought and ennobled them than did this institution to which Charles Finney devoted so many years of Christian service.” 9