"The Oberlin Evangelist"
Publication of Oberlin College

Sermons and Lectures given in 1840
by
Charles G. Finney
President of Oberlin College

Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
 

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Lectures I. - IX. Sanctification- No.'s 1 - 9

Lectures X. & XI. Unbelief- No.'s 1 & 2

Lecture XII. Blessedness of Benevolence

Lecture XIII. A Willing Mind Indispensable to a Right Understanding of Truth

Lecture XIV. Death to Sin

Lecture XV. The Gospel the Savor of Life or of Death

Lecture XVI. Christians the Light of the World

Lecture XVII. & XVIII. Communion with God - No.'s 1 & 2

Lecture XIX. Temptations Must Be Put Away

Lecture XX Design or Intention Constitutes Character

Lecture XXI. Confession of Faults

Lecture XXII. Weakness of Heart

Lecture XXIII. A Single and an Evil Eye

Lecture XXIV. Salvation Always Conditional

GLOSSARY
of easily misunderstood terms as defined by Mr. Finney himself.
 


Sanctification- No.'s 1 - 9
Lectures I - IX
January 1 - April 22, 1840

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College

from "The Oberlin Evangelist" Publication of Oberlin College

In discussing the subject of Sanctification, I design to pursue the following order.

I. Define the meaning of the term sanctification.

II. What I understand by entire sanctification.

III. Notice the distinction between entire and permanent sanctification.

IV. Show what is not implied in entire sanctification.

V. What is implied in entire sanctification.

VI. Show that this state is attainable in this life.

VII. Answer some objections.

VIII. Show when it is attainable.

IX. How it is attainable.


LECTURE I.

January 1, 1840

SANCTIFICATION- No. 1

by the Rev. Charles G. Finney

Text.--1 Thess. 5:23-24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who also will do it."

It will be seen at once, that this outline is sufficiently extensive to fill a large volume, should I protract the discussion as I easily and perhaps profitably might. And at best it will occupy several lectures. My design is to condense what I have to say as much as possible, and yet preserve sufficient perspicuity. I shall endeavor not to be tedious. And yet I hope to be understood, and to be able to "commend myself to every man's conscience in the sight of God." I will now,

I. Define the term Sanctification.

Here let me remark, that a definition of terms in all discussions is of prime importance. Especially is this true of this subject. I have observed that almost without an exception those who have written on this subject dissenting from the views entertained here, do so upon the ground that they understand and define the terms, Sanctification and Christian Perfection, differently from what we do. Every one gives his own definition, varying materially from each other and from what we understand by the terms. And then they go on professedly opposing the doctrine as inculcated here. Now this is not only utterly unfair, but palpably absurd. If I oppose a doctrine inculcated by another man I am bound to oppose what he really holds. If I misrepresent his sentiments "I fight as one that beateth the air." I have been amazed at the diversity of definitions that have been given to the terms Christian Perfection, Sanctification, &c.; and to witness the diversity of opinion as to what is, and what is not, implied in these terms. One objects wholly to the use of the term Christian Perfection, because in his estimation it implies this and that and the other thing, which I do not suppose are at all implied in it. Another objects to our using the term Sanctification, because that implies, according to his understanding of it, certain things that render its use improper. Now it is no part of my design to dispute about the use of words. I must however use some terms; and I ought to be allowed to use Bible language, in its Scriptural sense as I understand it. And if I should sufficiently explain my meaning and define the sense in which I use the terms, this ought to suffice. And I beg that nothing more nor less may be understood by the language I use than I profess to mean by it. Others may, if they please, use the same terms and give a different definition of them. But I have a right to hope and expect if they feel called upon to oppose what I say, that they will bear in mind my definition of the terms, and not pretend, as some have done, to oppose my views while they have only differed from me in their definition of the terms used, giving their own definition varying materially and I might say infinitely from the sense in which I use the same terms, and then arraying their arguments to prove that according to their definition of it, Sanctification is not really attainable in this life when no one here or any where else, that I ever heard of pretended that in their sense of the term, it ever was or ever will be attainable in this life, and I might add, or in that which is to come.

Sanctification is a term of frequent use in the Bible. Its simple and primary meaning is a state of consecration to God. To sanctify is to set apart to a holy use-- to consecrate a thing to the service of God. A state of sanctification is a state of consecration or a being set apart to the service of God. This is plainly both the Old and the New Testament use of the term.

II. What is entire Sanctification.

By entire sanctification, I understand the consecration of the whole being to God. In other words it is that state of devotedness to God and his service, required by the moral law. The law is perfect. It requires just what is right, all that is right, and nothing more. Nothing more nor less can possibly be Perfection or entire Sanctification, than obedience to the law. Obedience to the law of God in an infant, a man, an angel, and in God himself, is perfection in each of them. And nothing can possibly be perfection in any being short of this, nor can there possibly be any thing above it.

III. The distinction between entire and permanent Sanctification.

That a thing or a person may be for the time being wholly consecrated to God, and afterwards desecrated or diverted from that service, is certain. That Adam and "the angels who kept not their first estate" were entirely sanctified and yet not permanently so is also certain.

By permanent sanctification, I understand then a state not only of entire but of perpetual, unending consecration to God.

IV. What is not implied in entire Sanctification.

As the law of God is the standard and the only standard by which the question in regard to what is not, and what is implied in entire Sanctification is to be decided, it is of fundamental importance that we understand what is and what is not implied in entire obedience to this law. It must be apparent to all that this inquiry is of prime importance. And to settle this question is one of the main things to be attended to in this discussion. The doctrine of the entire sanctification of believers in this life can never be satisfactorily settled until it is understood. And it cannot be understood until it is known what is and what is not implied in it. Our judgment of our own state or of the state of others, can never be relied upon till these inquiries are settled. Nothing is more clear than that in the present vague unsettled views of the Church upon this question, no individual could set up a claim to having attained this state without being a stumbling block to the Church. Christ was perfect, and yet so erroneous were the notions of the Jews in regard to what constituted perfection that they thought him possessed with a devil instead of being holy as he claimed to be. It certainly is impossible that a person should profess this state without being a stumbling block to himself and to others unless he and they clearly understand what is not and what is implied in it. I will state then what is not implied in a state of entire sanctification, as I understand the law of God. The law as epitomized by Christ, "thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind and with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself," I understand to lay down the whole duty of man to God and to his fellow creatures. Now the questions are what is not, and what is implied in perfect obedience to this law? Vague notions in regard to these questions seem to me to have been the origin of much error on the subject of entire sanctification. To settle this question it is indispensable that we have distinctly before our minds just rules of legal interpretation. I will therefore lay down some first principles in regard to the interpretation of law, in the light of which, I think we may safely proceed to settle these questions.

Rule 1. Whatever is inconsistent with natural justice is not and cannot be law.

Rule 2. Whatever is inconsistent with the nature and relations of moral beings, is contrary to natural justice and therefore cannot be law.

Rule 3. That which requires more than man has natural ability to perform, is inconsistent with his nature and relations and therefore is inconsistent with natural justice, and of course is not law.

Rule 4. Law then must always be so understood and interpreted as to consist with the nature of the subjects, and their relations to each other and the law-giver. Any interpretation that makes the law to require more or less than is consistent with the nature and relations of moral beings, is a virtual setting aside of law or the same as to declare that it is not law. No authority in heaven or on earth can make that law, or obligatory upon moral agents, which is inconsistent with their nature and relations.

Rule 5. Law must always be so interpreted as to cover the whole ground of natural right or justice. It must be so understood and explained as to require all that is right in itself, and therefore immutably and unalterably right.

Rule 6. Law must be so interpreted as not to require any thing more than is consistent with natural justice or with the nature and relations of moral beings.

Rule 7. Of course laws are never to be so interpreted as to imply the possession of any attributes or strength and perfection of attributes which the subject does not possess. Take for illustration the second commandment "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Now the simple meaning of this commandment seems to be that we are to regard and treat every person and interest according to its relative value. Now we are not to understand this commandment as expressly or impliedly requiring us to know in all cases the exact relative value of every person and thing in the universe; for this would imply the possession of the attribute of omniscience by us. No mind short of an omniscient one can have this knowledge. The commandment then must be so understood as only to require us to judge with candor of the relative value of different interests, and treat them according to their value so far as we understand it. I repeat the rule therefore. Laws are never to be so interpreted as to imply the possession of any attribute or strength and perfection of attributes which the subject does not possess.

Rule 8. Law is never to be so interpreted as to require that which is naturally impossible on account of our circumstances. E.g.: The first commandment. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, &c." is not to be so interpreted as to require us to make God the constant and sole object of attention, thought, and affection, for this would not only be plainly impossible in our circumstance but manifestly contrary to our duty.

Rule 9. Law is never to be so interpreted as to make one requirement inconsistent with another; e.g.: if the first commandment be so interpreted that we are required to make God the only object of thought, attention, and affection, then we cannot obey the second commandment which requires us to love our neighbor. And if the first commandment is to be so understood that every faculty and power is to be directed solely and exclusively to the contemplation and love of God, then love to all other beings is prohibited and the second commandment is set aside. I repeat the rule therefore. Laws are not to be so interpreted as to conflict with each other.

Rule 10. A law requiring perpetual benevolence must be so construed as to consist with and require all the appropriate and essential modifications of this principle under every circumstance; such as justice, mercy, anger at sin and sinners, and a special and complacent regard to those who are virtuous.

Rule 11. Law must be so interpreted as that its claims shall always be restricted to the voluntary powers. To attempt to legislate over the involuntary powers would be inconsistent with natural justice. You may as well attempt to legislate over the beatings of the heart as over any involuntary mental actions.

Rule 12. In morals, actual knowledge is indispensable to obligation. The maxim, "ignorantia legis non excusat"-- ignorance of the law excuses no one, applies in morals to but a very limited extent. That actual knowledge is indispensable to moral obligation, will appear,

(1.) From the following Scriptures:

James 4:17, "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." Luke 12:47-48, "And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.; and to whom men have committed much, of them they will ask the more." John 9:41, "Jesus said unto them, if ye were blind, ye should have no sin; but now ye say, we see; therefore your sin remaineth." In the first and second chapters of Romans, the Apostle reasons at large on this subject. He convicts the heathen of sin, upon the ground that they violate their own conscience, and do not live according to the light they have.

(2.) The principle is every where recognized in the Bible, that an increase of knowledge increases obligation. This impliedly, but plainly recognizes the principle that knowledge is indispensable to, and commensurate with obligation. In sins of ignorance, the sin lies in the ignorance itself, but not in the neglect of what is unknown. A man may be guilty of present or past neglect to ascertain the truth. Here his ignorance is sin. The heathen are culpable for not living up to the light of nature; but are under no obligation to embrace Christianity until they have the opportunity to do so.

Rule 13. Moral laws are to be so interpreted as to be consistent with physical laws. In other words, the application of the moral law to human beings, must recognize man as he is, as both a physical and intellectual being; and must never be so interpreted as that obedience to it would violate the laws of the physical constitution, and prove the destruction of the body.

Rule 14. Law is to be so interpreted as to recognize all the attributes and circumstances of both body and soul. In the application of the law of God to human beings, we are to regard their powers and attributes as they really are, and not as they are not.

Rule 15. Law is to be so interpreted as to restrict its obligation to the actions, and not to the nature, or constitution of moral beings. Law must not be understood as extending its legislation to the nature, or requiring a man to possess certain attributes, but as prescribing a rule of action. It is not the existence or possession of certain attributes which the law requires, or that these attributes should be in a certain state of perfection, but the right use of all these attributes as they are, is what the law is to be interpreted as requiring.

Rule 16. It should be always understood that the obedience of the heart to any law, implies and includes general faith, or confidence in the lawgiver. But no law should be so construed as to require faith in what the intellect does not perceive. A man may be under obligation to perceive what he does not; i.e.: it may be his duty to inquire after, and ascertain the truth. But obligation to believe with the heart, does not attach until the intellect obtains a perception of the things to be believed.

Now, in the light of these rules, let us proceed to inquire,

1. What is not, and,

2. What is implied in perfect obedience to the law of God, or in entire sanctification.

In conversing with a brother, upon this subject, not long since, he insisted that a man might perpetually obey the law of God and be guilty of no actual transgression, and yet not be entirely sanctified: for he insisted that there might be that in him which would lay the foundation for his sinning at a future time. When questioned in regard to what that something in him was, he replied, "that which first led him to sin at the beginning of his moral existence." I answered that that which first led him to sin, was his innocent constitution, just as it was the innocent constitution of Adam, to which the temptation was addressed, that led him into sin. Adam's innocent constitutional appetites, when excited by the presence of objects fitted to excite them, were a sufficient temptation to lead him to consent to prohibited indulgence, which constituted his sin. Now just so it certainly is with every human being. This constitution, the substance of his body and soul, cannot certainly have any moral character. But when these appetites which are essential to his nature and have no moral character in themselves are excited, they lead to prohibited indulgence, and in this way every human being is led into sin. Now if a man cannot be entirely sanctified until that is annihilated which first occasioned his sin, it does not appear that he ever can be entirely sanctified while he possesses either body or soul. I insist upon it, therefore, that entire sanctification does not imply the annihilation of any constitutional appetite or susceptibility, but only the entire consecration of the whole constitution as it is, to the service of God.
Who, that has ever philosophized on this subject, does not know that the high degree of excitement which is sometimes witnessed in revivals of religion, must necessarily be short, or that the people must become deranged. It seems sometimes to be indispensable, that a high degree of excitement should prevail for a time, to arrest public and individual attention, and to draw people off from other pursuits, to attend to the concerns of their souls. But if any suppose that this high degree of excitement is either necessary, or desirable, or possible, to be long continued, they have not well considered the matter. And here is one grand mistake of the Church. They have supposed that the revival consists mostly in this state of excited emotion, rather than in conformity of the human will to the will of God. Hence, when the reasons for much excitement have ceased, and the public mind begins to grow more calm, they begin immediately to say that the revival is on the decline; when, in fact, with much less excited emotion, there may be vastly more real religion in the community.

Excitement is often important and indispensable. But the vigorous actings of the will are infinitely more important. And this state of mind may exist in the absence of highly excited emotions.

All the powers of body and mind are to be held at the service and disposal of God. Just so much of physical, intellectual, and moral energy are to be expended in the performance of duty as the nature and the circumstances of the case require. And nothing is further from the truth, than that the law of God requires a constant, intense state of emotion and mental action on any and every subject alike.
Upon this subject in a former lecture, I used the following language. The law of God requires the supreme love of the heart. By this is meant, that the mind's supreme preference should be of God-- that God should be the great object of its supreme love and delight. But this state of mind is perfectly consistent with our engaging in any of the necessary business of life-- giving to that business that attention-- and exercising about it all those affections and emotions which its nature and importance demand.

If a man love God supremely, and engage in any business, for the promotion of his glory, if his eye be single, his affections and conduct are entirely holy, when necessarily engaged in the right transaction of his business, although for the time being, neither his thought or affection are upon God.

Just as a man who is supremely devoted to his family may be acting consistently with his supreme affection, and rendering them the most important and perfect service, while he does not think of them at all. As I have endeavored to show, in my lecture on the text, "Make to yourselves a new heart, and a new spirit," I consider the moral heart to be the mind's supreme preference. As I there stated, the natural, or fleshy heart, is the seat of animal life, and propels the blood through all the physical system. Now there is a striking analogy between this and the moral heart. And the analogy consists in this, that as the natural heart, by its pulsations diffuses life through the physical system; so the moral heart, or the supreme governing preference of the mind is that which gives life and character to man's moral actions; (e.g.,) suppose that I am engaged in teaching Mathematics. In this, the supreme desire of my mind is to glorify God, in this particular calling. Now in demonstrating some of its intricate propositions, I am obliged, for hours together, to give the entire attention of my mind to that object. Now, while my mind is thus intensely employed in this particular business, it is impossible that I should have any thoughts directly about God, or should exercise any direct affections, or emotions, or volitions towards him. Yet if, in this particular calling, all selfishness is excluded, and my supreme design is to glorify God, my mind is in a sanctified state, even though for the time being, I do not think of God.

It should be understood, that while the supreme preference of the mind has such efficiency, as to exclude all selfishness, and to call forth just that strength of volition, thought, affection, and emotion, that is requisite to the right discharge of any duty, to which the mind may be called, the heart is in a sanctified state. By a suitable degree of thought, and feeling, to the right discharge of duty, I mean just that intensity of thought, and energy of action, that the nature and importance of the particular duty to which, for the time being, I am called, demand.

In this statement, I take it for granted, that the brain, together with all the circumstances of the constitution are such, that the requisite amount of thought, feeling, &c. are possible. If the physical constitution, be in such a state of exhaustion as to be unable to put forth that amount of exertion which the nature of the subject might otherwise demand, even in this case, the languid efforts, though far below the importance of the subject, would be all that the law of God requires. Whoever, therefore supposes that a state of entire sanctification, implies a state of entire abstraction of mind, from every thing but God, labors under a grievous mistake. Such a state of mind is as inconsistent with duty, as it is impossible, while we are in the flesh.

The fact is that the language and spirit of the law have been and generally are grossly misunderstood, and interpreted to mean what they never did, or can mean consistently with natural justice. Many a mind has been thrown open to the assaults of Satan, and kept in a state of continual bondage and condemnation, because God was not, at all times, the direct object of thought, affection, and emotion; and because the mind was not kept in a state of most perfect tension, and excited to the utmost at every moment.

To this view of the subject it has been objected that Christ taught an opposite doctrine, in the case of the woman who washed his feet with her tears, when he said, "To whom much is forgiven, the same loveth much." But can it be that Christ intended to be understood as teaching, that the more we sin the greater will be our love and our ultimate virtue? If this be so I do not see why it does not follow that the more sin in this life, the better, if so be that we are forgiven. If our virtue is really to be improved by our sins, I see not why it would not be good economy both for God and man, to sin as much as we can while in this world. Certainly Christ meant to lay down no such principle as this. He undoubtedly meant to teach, that a person who was truly sensible of the greatness of his sins, would exercise more of the love of gratitude, than would be exercised by one who had a less affecting sense of ill-desert.
We cannot believe any thing about God of which we have no evidence or knowledge. Our faith must therefore be limited by our intellectual perceptions of truth. The heathen are not under obligation to believe in Christ, and thousands of other things of which they have no knowledge. Perfection in a heathen would imply much less faith than in a Christian. Perfection in an adult would imply much more and greater faith than in an infant. And perfection in an angel would imply much greater faith than in a man, just in proportion as he knows more of God than man. Let it be always understood that entire sanctification never implies that which is naturally impossible. It is certainly naturally impossible for us to believe that of which we have no knowledge. Entire sanctification implies in this respect nothing more than the heart's faith or confidence in all the truth that is perceived by the intellect.
If there is sin in such a case as this, it lies in the ignorance itself. And here no doubt, there often is sin, because there is present neglect to know the truth. But it should always be understood that the sin lies in the ignorance, and not in the neglect of that of which we have no knowledge. A state of sanctification is inconsistent with any present neglect to know the truth; for such neglect is sin. But it is not inconsistent with our failing to do that of which we have no knowledge. James says: "He that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin." "If ye were blind," says Christ, "ye should have no sin, but because ye say we see, therefore your sin remaineth."
It was insisted, and positively believed by the Jews, that Jesus Christ was possessed of a wicked, instead of a holy spirit. Such were their notions of holiness, that they no doubt supposed him to be actuated by any other than the Spirit of God. They especially supposed so on account of his opposition to the current orthodoxy, and the ungodliness of the religious teachers of the day. Now, who does not see that when the Church is in a great measure conformed to the world, that a spirit of holiness in any man, would certainly lead him to aim the sharpest rebukes at the spirit and life of those in this state, whether in high or low places. And who does not see that this would naturally result in his being accused of possessing a wicked spirit?

The most violent opposition that I have ever seen manifested to any persons in my life, has been manifested by members of the Church, and even by some ministers of the gospel, towards those whom I believe were among the most holy persons I ever knew. I have been shocked, and wounded beyond expression, at the almost fiendish opposition to such persons, that I have witnessed. I have several times of late observed that writers in newspapers were calling for examples of Christian Perfection or entire sanctification. Now I would humbly inquire, of what use it is to point the Church to examples, so long as they do not know what is, and what is not implied in a state of entire sanctification? I would ask, are the Church agreed among themselves in regard to what constitutes this state? Are any considerable number of ministers agreed among themselves as to what is implied in a state of entire sanctification? Now does not everybody know that the Church and the ministry are in a great measure in the dark upon this subject? Why then call for examples? No man can possess this state without being sure to be set at nought as a hypocrite, and a self-deceiver.

It was not so with Christ. Nor is it inconsistent with our sorrowing for our own past sins, and sorrowing that we have not now the health and vigor, and knowledge, and love, that we might have had, if we had sinned less; or sorrow for those around us-- sorrow in view of human sinfulness, or suffering. These are all consistent with a state of entire sanctification, and indeed are the natural results of it.
Before I proceed to the next head of my discourse, (having said these things, and given these rules of interpretation so that you can apply the principle to many things I have not time to notice) I wish to make the following remark.

In all the discussions I have seen upon this subject, while it seems to be admitted that the law of God is the standard of perfection, yet in defining what constitutes Christian perfection or entire sanctification, men entirely lose sight of this standard, and seldom or never raise the distinct inquiry; what does obedience to this law imply, and what does it not imply. Instead of bringing every thing to this test, they seem to lose sight of it. On the one hand they bring in things that never were required by the law of God of man in his present state. Thus they lay a stumbling block and a snare for the saints, to keep them in perpetual bondage, supposing that this is the way to keep them humble, to place the standard entirely above their reach. Or, on the other hand, they really abrogate the law, so as to make it no longer binding. Or they so fritter away what is really implied in it, as to leave nothing in its requirements, but a kind of sickly, whimsical, inefficient sentimentalism, or perfectionism, which in its manifestations and results, appears to me to be any thing else than that which the law of God requires.
 
 

LECTURE II.

January 15, 1840

SANCTIFICATION- No. 2

by the Rev. Charles G. Finney

Text.--1 Thess. 5:23-24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who also will do it."

I come now to show,

IV. What is implied in entire Sanctification.

Under this head, I shall refer to and repeat some things (as I have already done) which I said a number of months since in my lectures on the law of God.

Now, it is a voluntary state of mind that the law of God requires; i.e. it lays its claims upon the will. The will controls the conduct. And it is, therefore, of course, the love of the heart or will that God requires.
I have been surprised to learn that some understand the term supreme in a comparative sense, and not in a superlative sense. They suppose therefore that the law of God requires more than supreme love. Webster's definition of supreme and supremely is "in the highest degree," "to the utmost extent." I understand the law to require as high a state of devotion to God, of love and actual service as the powers of body and mind are capable of sustaining.

Observe, that God lays great stress upon the degree of love. So that the degree is essential to the kind of love. If it be not supreme in degree it is wholly defective and in no sense acceptable to God.

Now here the Apostle fully recognized the principle, that mere desire for the good of others, which of course will satisfy itself with good words instead of good deeds, is not virtue. If it were good willing, instead of good desiring, it would produce corresponding actions; and unless it is good willing, there is no holiness in it.
Nor are we to neglect our own families, and the nurture and education of our children, and attend to that of others. "But if any provide not for his own, especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." To these duties we are to attend for God. And no man or woman is required or permitted to neglect the children God has given them, under the pretence of attending to the families of others.

Nor does this law require or permit us to squander our possessions upon the intemperate, and dissolute, and improvident. Not that the absolute necessities of such persons are in no case to be relieved by us, but it is always to be done in such a manner as not to encourage, but to rebuke their evil courses.

Nor does this law require or permit us to suffer others to live by sponging out of our possessions, while they themselves are not engaged in promoting the good of men.

Nor does it require or permit us to lend money to speculators, or for speculating purposes, or in any way to encourage selfishness.

Now observe that this test must always be applied to the kind of love we exercise to our fellow men, in order to understand its genuineness-- God's love is love to enemies. It was for his enemies that he gave his Son. Our love must be the same in kind-- it must extend to enemies, as well as friends. And if it does not, it is partial and selfish.
In my last lecture, I said that the legal maxim, "Ignorance of the law excuses no one," is true in morals to but a limited extent, and that actual knowledge is indispensable to obligation under the government of God. This I think was sufficiently proven by a reference to scripture testimony. I also said that in sins of ignorance, the sin consisted in the ignorance itself, and not in the non-performance of that of which the mind has no knowledge.

Now to avoid mistake, it is important to remark here that ignorance of our duty is always a sin where we possess the means and opportunities of information. In such cases, the guilt of the ignorance is equal to all the default of which it is the occasion. Strictly speaking the duty to do a thing does not and cannot attach until the mind has a knowledge of that thing. Yet if the means of knowledge are within reach of the mind, the guilt is just as great as all the default of which this ignorance is the occasion. So that courts of law do not inflict injustice in holding all the subjects of a government responsible for knowing the law, where the means of knowledge are within their reach. Although they are not in form pronounced guilty for their ignorance, & punished for the specific offence, but on the contrary are held responsible for breaches of those laws of which they had no knowledge, yet in fact no injustice is done them, as their ignorance in such cases really deserves the punishment inflicted.

To this it may be objected that God, under the old dispensation treated sins of ignorance as involving less guilt than sins committed against knowledge. To this I reply,

He did so. And the reason is very obvious. The people possessed but very limited means of information. Copies of the law were very scarce and utterly inaccessible to the great mass of the people. So that while He held them sufficiently responsible to engage their memories to retain a knowledge of their duty and to search it out with all diligence, yet it is plain that He held them responsible in a vastly lower sense that He does those who have higher means of information. The responsibility of the heathen was less than that of the Jews-- that of the Jews less than that of Christians-- and that of Christians in the early ages of the Church, before the canon of scripture was full and copies multiplied, much less than that of Christians at the present day.

LECTURE III.

January 29, 1840

SANCTIFICATION- No. 3

by the Rev. Charles G. Finney

Text.--1 Thess. 5:23-24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who also will do it."

We have now arrived at a very important point in the discussion of this subject, and I beg your patient attention. Having shown,

I. What I mean by the term sanctification;

2. What entire sanctification is;

3. The difference between entire and permanent sanctification;

4. What is not implied, and

5. What is implied in entire sanctification;

I am next, according to my plan to show,

VI. That entire sanctification is attainable in this life.

I come now to consider the question directly, and wholly as a Bible question, whether entire and permanent sanctification is in such a sense attainable in this life as to make its attainment an object of rational pursuit.

Let me first, however, recall your attention to what this blessing is. Simple obedience to the law of God is what I understand to be present, and its continuance to be permanent sanctification. The law is and forever must be the only standard. Whatever departs from this law on either side, must be false. Whatever requires more or less than the law of God, I reject as having nothing to do with the question.

It will not be my design to examine a great number of scripture promises, but rather to show that those which I do examine, fully sustain the position I have taken. One is sufficient, if it be full and its application just, to settle this question forever. I might occupy many lectures in the examination of the promises, for they are exceedingly numerous, and full, and in point. But as I have already given several lectures on the promises, my design is now to examine only a few of them, more critically than I did before. This will enable you to apply the same principles to the examination of the scripture promises generally.

See Deut. 30:6: "And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live." Here we have a promise couched in the same language as the command just quoted. Upon this passage I remark:
There are great multitudes of promises to the same import, to which I might refer you, and which if examined in the light of the foregoing rules of interpretation, would be seen to heap up demonstration upon demonstration, that this is a doctrine of the Bible. Only examine them in the light of these plain, self evident principles, and it seems to me, that they cannot fail to produce conviction.

I will not longer occupy your time in the examination of the promises, but in my next will mention several other considerations in support of this doctrine.
 
 

LECTURE IV.

February 12, 1840

SANCTIFICATION- No. 4

by the Rev. Charles G. Finney

Text.--1 Thess. 5:23-24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who also will do it."

Having examined a few of the promises in proof of the position, that a state of entire sanctification is attainable in this life, I will now proceed to mention other considerations in support of this doctrine.

Now does not the Apostle speak in this passage as if he really expected those to whom he wrote "to perfect holiness in the fear of God?" Observe how strong and full the language is, "Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit." If "to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and all filthiness of the spirit, and to perfect holiness," be not entire sanctification, what is? That he expected this to take place in this life, is evident from the fact, that he requires them to be cleansed from all filthiness of the flesh as well as of the spirit.
Now all sober rules of Biblical criticism require us to understand the passages I have quoted, in the sense I have quoted them.
But if it be true that Christians continue to sin till they die, and death is the termination, and the only termination of their sin, it seems to me impossible that the scripture representations on the subject should be what they are.
And here let me ask Christians what they expect ministers to preach? Do you think they have a right to connive at any sin in you, or to insist upon any thing else as a practicable fact than that you should abandon every iniquity? It is sometimes said, that with us entire sanctification is a hobby. But I would humbly ask what else can we preach? Is not every minister bound to insist in every sermon that men shall wholly obey God? And because they will not compromise with any degree or form of sin, are they to be reproached for making the subject of entire obedience a hobby? I ask, by what authority can a minister preach any thing less? And how shall any minister dare to inculcate the duty as a theory, and yet not insist upon it as a practical matter, as something to be expected of every subject of God's kingdom?
And again, what right has any man on earth to require this, unless it is a practical thing?

Suppose when this covenant was proposed to a convert about to unite with the church, he should take it to his closet, and spread it before the Lord, and inquire whether it was right for him to make such a covenant--and whether the grace of the gospel can enable him to fulfill it. Do you suppose the Lord Jesus would reply, that if he made that covenant, he certainly would, and must as a matter of course live in the habitual violation of it, as long as he live, and that His grace was not sufficient to enable him to keep it? Would he in such a case have any right to take upon himself this covenant? No, no more than he would have a right to lie.

Now if this is so, and I believe it certainly is, I would ask how a person can aim at and intend to do what he knows to be impossible. Is it not a contradiction to say that a man can intend to do what he knows he cannot do? To this it has been objected, that if true, it proves too much--that it would prove that no man ever was a Christian who did not believe in this doctrine. To this I reply:
And now I would humbly inquire whether it is not true, that to preach any thing short of this is not to give countenance to sin?
Now nothing is wanting to slay any and every sin, but for the mind to be fully baptized into the death of Christ, and to see the bearings of one's own sins upon the sufferings and agonies and death of the blessed Jesus. Let me state a fact to illustrate my meaning. A habitual and most inveterate smoker of tobacco, of my acquaintance, after having been plied with almost every argument to induce him to break the power of the habit, and relinquish its use, in vain, on a certain occasion, lighted his pipe and was about to put it to his mouth, when the inquiry was started, did Christ die to purchase this vile indulgence for me? He hesitated, but the inquiry pressed him, Did Christ die to purchase this vile indulgence for me? The relation of this conduct to the death of Christ, instantly broke the power of the habit, and from that day he has been free.

I could relate many other facts more striking than this, where a similar view of the relation of a particular sin to the atonement of Christ, has in a moment, not only broken the power of the habit, but destroyed entirely and for ever, the appetite for similar indulgences.

If the most inveterate habits of sin, and even those that involve physical consequences, and have deeply debased the physical constitution, and rendered it a source of overpowering temptation to the mind, can be and often have been utterly broken up, and for ever slain, by the grace of God, why should it be doubted that by the same grace, a man can triumph over all sin, and that for ever.

And now if this is true as it respects the temperance reformation, how much more so when applied to the subjects of holiness and sin. A man might by some possibility, even in his own strength, over come his habits of drunkenness, and retain, what might be called the temperate use of alcohol. But no such thing is possible in a reformation from sin. Sin is never overcome by any man in his own strength. If he admits into this creed the necessity of any degree of sin, or if he allows in practice any degree of sin, he becomes impenitent--consents to live in sin--and is of course abandoned by the Holy Spirit, the certain result of which is, a relapsing into a state of legal bondage to sin. And this is probably a true history of ninety-nine one hundredths of the Church. It is just what might be expected from the views and practice of the Church upon this subject.

The secret of backsliding is that reformations are not carried deep enough. Christians are not set with all their hearts to aim at a speedy deliverance from all sin. But on the contrary are left and in many instances taught to indulge the expectation that they shall sin as long as they live. I never shall forget probably, the effect produced on my mind by reading, when a young convert, in the diary of David Brainerd, that he never expected to make any considerable attainments in holiness in this life. I can now easily see that this was a natural inference from the theory of physical depravity which he held. But not perceiving this at the time, I doubt not that this expression of his views had a very injurious effect upon me for many years. It led me to reason thus, "If such a man as David Brainerd did not expect to make much advancement in holiness in this life, it is vain for me to expect such a thing."

The fact is, if there be any thing that is important to high attainments in holiness, and to the progress of the work of sanctification in this life, it is the adoption of the principle of total abstinence from sin. Total abstinence from sin, must be every man's motto, or sin will certainly sweep him away as a flood. That cannot possibly be a true principle in temperance, that leaves the causes which produce drunkenness to operate in their full strength. Nor can that be true in holiness which leaves the root unextracted, and the certain causes of spiritual decline and backsliding at work in the very heart of the Church. And I am fully convinced that until Evangelists and Pastors adopt and carry out in principle and practice the principle of total abstinence from all sin, they will as certainly find themselves every few months, called to do their work over again, as a temperance lecturer would who should admit the moderate use of alcohol.

Some further considerations under this head, I must defer till my next.

LECTURE V.

February 26, 1840

SANCTIFICATION- No. 5

by the Rev. Charles G. Finney

Text.--1 Thess. 5:23-24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who also will do it."

I might urge a great many other considerations, and as I have said, fill a book with scriptures, and arguments, and demonstrations, of the attainability of entire sanctification in this life.

But I forbear, and at present will urge only one more consideration, a consideration which has great weight in some minds. It is a question of great importance, at least in some minds, whether any actually ever did attain this state. Some who believe it attainable, do not consider it of much importance to show that it has actually been attained. Now I freely admit, that it may be attainable, although it never has been attained. Yet it appears to me that as a matter of encouragement to the Church, it is of great importance whether, as a matter of fact, a state of entire holiness has been attained in this life. This question covers much ground. But for the sake of brevity, I design to examine but one case, and see whether there is reason to believe that in one instance, at least, it has been attained. The case to which I allude is that of Paul. And I propose to take up and examine the passages that speak of him, for the purpose of ascertaining whether there is evidence that he ever attained to this state in this life.

And here let me say that to my own mind it seems plain, that Paul and John, to say nothing of the other Apostles, designed and expected the Church to understand them as speaking from experience, and as having received of that fulness which they taught to be in Christ and in His gospel.

And I wish to say again and more expressly, that I do not rest the practicability of attaining a state of entire holiness at all upon the question, whether any ever have attained it any more than I would rest the question, whether the world ever will be converted upon the fact whether it ever has been converted. I have been surprised, when the fact that a state of entire holiness has been attained, is urged as one argument among a great many to prove its attainability, and that too merely as an encouragement to Christians to lay hold upon this blessing, that objectors and reviewers fasten upon this as the doctrine of sanctification, as if by calling this particular question in doubt, they could overthrow all the other proof of its attainability. Now this is utterly absurd. When, then, I examine the character of Paul with this object in view, if it should not appear clear to you that he did attain this state, you are not to overlook the fact, that its attainability is settled by other arguments, on grounds entirely independent of the question whether it has been attained or not; and that I merely use this as an argument, simply because to me it appears forcible, and to afford great encouragement to Christians to press after this state.

I will first make some remarks in regard to the manner in which the language of Paul, when speaking of himself, should be understood; and then proceed to an examination of the passages which speak of his Christian character.

1. His revealed character, demands that we should understand him to mean all that he says, when speaking in his own favor.

2. The Spirit of inspiration would guard him against speaking too highly of himself.

3. No man ever seemed to possess greater modesty, and to feel more unwilling to exalt his own attainments.

4. If he considered himself as not having attained a state of entire sanctification, and as often, if not in all things, falling short of his duty, we may expect to find him acknowledging this in the deepest self-abasement.

5. If he is charged with living in sin, and with being wicked in any thing, we may expect him, when speaking under inspiration, not to justify, but unequivocally condemn himself in those things.

Now in view of these facts, let us examine those scriptures in which he speaks of himself and is spoken of by others.

I will next examine those passages which are supposed by some, to imply that Paul was not in a state of entire sanctification.
To me it does not appear as if Paul speaks of his own experience in the seventh chapter of Romans, but that he merely supposes a case by way of illustration, and speaks in the first person and in the present tense, simply because it was convenient and suitable to his purpose. His object manifestly was, in this and in the beginning of the eighth chapter, to contrast the influence of the law and of the gospel--to describe in the seventh chapter the state of a man who was living in sin, and every day condemned by the law, convicted and constantly struggling with his own corruptions, but continually overcome,--and in the eighth chapter to exhibit a person in the enjoyment of gospel liberty, where the righteousness of the law was fulfilled in the heart by the grace of Christ. The seventh chapter may well apply either to a person in a backslidden state, or to a convicted person who had never been converted. The eighth chapter can clearly be applicable to none but to those who are in a state of entire sanctification.

I have already said that the seventh chapter contains the history of one over whom sin has dominion. Now to suppose that this was the experience of Paul when he wrote the epistle, or of any one who was in the liberty of the gospel, is absurd and contrary to the experience of every person who ever enjoyed gospel liberty. And further, this is as expressly contradicted in the sixth chapter as it can be. As I said, the seventh chapter exhibits one over whom sin has dominion; but God says, in the sixth chapter and fourteenth verse, "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace."

I remark finally upon the passage, that if Paul was speaking of himself in the seventh chapter of Romans, and really giving a history of his own experience, it proves nothing at all in regard to his subsequent sanctification; for,

Now therefore, if any one understands the seventh chapter as describing a Christian experience, he must understand it as giving the exercises of one in a very imperfect state; and the eighth chapter as descriptive of a soul in a state of entire sanctification. So that this epistle, instead of militating against the idea of Paul's entire sanctification, upon the supposition that he was speaking of himself, fully establishes the fact that he was in that state.

LECTURE VI.

March 11, 1840

SANCTIFICATION- No. 6

by the Rev. Charles G. Finney

Text.--1 Thess. 5:23-24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who also will do it."

In pursuing this subject, I am

VII. To answer some objections to the doctrine of entire sanctification.

In proceeding to answer some of the more prominent objections to the doctrine of entire sanctification in this life, I will begin with those passages of scripture that are supposed to contradict it.

CLARKE: "If they sin against thee."--This must refer to some general defection from truth; to some species of false worship, idolatry, or corruption of the truth and ordinances of the Most High; as for it, they are here stated to be delivered into the hands of their enemies, and carried away captive, which was the general punishment of idolatry; and what is called, ver. 47, acting perversely, and committing wickedness.

"If they sin against thee, for there is no man that sinneth not." The second clause, as it is here translated, renders the supposition, in the first clause, entirely nugatory; for, if there be no man that sinneth not, it is useless to say, IF they sin: but this contradiction is taken away by reference to the original ki yechetau lak, which should be translated IF they shall sin against thee: or, should they sin against thee, ki ein Adam asher lo yecheta; "For there is no man that may not sin:" i.e. there is no man impeccable, none infallible; none that is not liable to transgress. This is the true meaning of the phrase in various parts of the Bible, and so our translators have understood the original; for , even in the 31st verse of this chapter, they have translated yecheta, IF a man TRESPASS; which certainly implies he might or might not do it: and in this way they have translated the same word, IF a soul SIN, in Lev. 5:1, and 6:2, 1 Sam. 2:25, 2 Chron. 6:22, and in several other places. The truth is, the Hebrew has no mood to express words in the permissive or optative way, but to express this sense it uses the future tense of the conjugation kal.

"This text has been a wonderful stronghold for all who believe that there is no redemption from sin in this life; that no man can live without committing sin: and that we cannot be entirely freed from it till we die. 1. The text speaks no such doctrine, it only speaks of the possibility of every man sinning; and this must be true of a state of probation. 2. There is not another text in the divine records that is more to the purpose than this. 3. The doctrine is flatly in opposition to the design of the gospel; for Jesus came to save his people from their sins, and to destroy the works of the devil. 4. It is a dangerous and destructive doctrine, and should be blotted out of every Christian's creed. There are too many who are seeking to excuse their crimes by all means in their power; and we need not embody their excuses in a creed, to complete their deception, by stating that their sins are unavoidable."

BARCLAY: "Secondly--Another objection is from two places of scripture, much of one signification. The one is, 1 Kings 8:46: For there is no man that sinneth not. The other is Eccl. 7:20: For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

"I answer: 1. These affirm nothing of a daily and continual sinning, so as never to be redeemed from it; but only that all have sinned, or that there is none that doth not sin, though not always, so as never to cease to sin; and in this lies the question. Yea, in that place of the Kings he speaks within two verses of the returning of such with all their souls and hearts; which implies a possibility of leaving off sin. 2. There is a respect to be had to the seasons and dispensations; for if it should be granted that in Solomon's time there were none that sinned not, it will not follow that there are none such now, or that it is a thing not now attainable by the grace of God under the gospel. 3. And lastly, This whole objection hangs upon a false interpretation; for the original Hebrew word may be read in the Potential Mood, thus, There is no man who may not sin, as well as in the Indicative; so both the Old Latin, Junius, and Tremellius, and Votablus, have it; and the same word is so used, Psalm 119:11: Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee, in the Potential Mood, and not in the Indicative; which being more answerable to the universal scope of the scriptures, the testimony of the truth, and the sense of almost all interpreters, doubtless ought to be so understood, and the other interpretation rejected as spurious."

This then is the meaning of the whole passage. If we say that we are not sinners, i.e. have no sin to need the blood of Christ, that we have never sinned, and consequently need no Savior, we deceive ourselves. For we have sinned, and nothing but the blood of Christ cleanseth us from sin. And now, if we will not deny but confess that we have sinned, "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." "But if we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us."
It has been maintained, that this promise in Jer. has been fulfilled already. This has been argued--

 

LECTURE VII.

March 25, 1840

SANCTIFICATION- No. 7

by the Rev. Charles G. Finney

Text.--1 Thess. 5:23-24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who also will do it."

There are many objections to the doctrine of entire sanctification, besides those derived from the passages of scripture I have considered. Some of these objections, are doubtless honestly felt, and deserve to be considered. I will then proceed to notice such of them as now occur to my mind.

Now the reason of this is obvious to my mind. When professors of religion, who have been all their life subject to bondage, begin to inquire earnestly for deliverance from their sins, they have found neither sympathy nor instruction, in regard to the prospect of getting rid of them in this life. Then they have gone to the Bible, and there found, in almost every part of it, Christ presented as a Savior from their sins. But when they proclaim this truth, they are at once treated as heretics and fanatics by their brethren, until, being overcome of evil, they fall into censoriousness; and finding the Church so decidedly and utterly wrong, in opposition to this one great important truth, they lose confidence in their ministers and the Church, and, being influenced by a wrong spirit, Satan takes the advantage of them, and drives them to the extreme of error and delusion. This I believe to be the true history of many of the most pious members of the Calvinistic churches. On the contrary, Methodists are very much secured against these errors. They are taught that Jesus Christ is a Savior from all sin in this world. And when they inquire for deliverance, they are pointed to Jesus Christ, as a present and all-sufficient Redeemer. Finding sympathy and instruction, on this great and agonizing point, their confidence in their ministers and their brethren, remains and they walk quietly with them.

And here let me say, that it is my full conviction, that there are but two ways in which ministers of the present day can prevent members of their churches from becoming perfectionists. One is, to suffer them to live so far from God, that they will not inquire after holiness of heart; and the other is, most fully to inculcate the glorious doctrine, that "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin," and that it is the high privilege and the duty of Christians, to live in a state of entire consecration to God.

It seems to me impossible that the tendency of this doctrine should be to the peculiar errors of the modern perfectionists, and yet not an instance occur among all the Methodist ministers, or the thousands of their members, for one hundred years.

I can say, from my own experience, that since I have understood and fully taught the doctrine as I now hold it, I see no tendency among those who listen to my instructions to these errors, while in churches not far distant, where the doctrine which we inculcate here is opposed, there seems to be a constant tendency, among their most pious people to Antinomian perfectionism. How can this be accounted for on any other principle than the one above stated? I can truly say that those persons here, who have been the first to lay hold of the doctrine of entire sanctification in this life, and who give the highest evidence of enjoying this blessing, have been at the farthest remove from the errors of the modern perfectionists. I might state a great many facts upon this subject, but for the sake of brevity I omit them.

But aside from the facts, what is the foundation of all the errors of the modern perfectionists? Every one who has examined them knows that they may be summed up in this, the abrogation of the moral law. And now I would humbly inquire, what possible tendency can there be to their errors, if the moral law be preserved in the system of truth? In these days a man is culpably ignorant of that class of people, who does not know that the "head and front of their offending," and falling, is the setting aside the law of God. The setting aside the Christian ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper, proceeds upon the same foundation, and manifestly grows out of the abrogation of the law of God. But retain the law of God, as the Methodists have done, and as other denominations have done, who from the days of the Reformation have maintained this same doctrine, and there is certainly no tendency to Antinomian perfectionism.

I have many things to say upon the tendency of this doctrine, but at present this must suffice.

By some it is said to be identical with Perfectionism; and attempts are made to show in what particulars Antinomian Perfectionism and our views are the same. On this I remark:

This is a very unsatisfactory method of attaching or defending any doctrine. There are, no doubt, many points of agreement between Pelagius and all other orthodox divines, and so there are many points of disagreement between them. There are also many points of agreement between modern Perfectionists and all Evangelical Christians, and so there are many points of disagreement between them and the Christian Church in general. That there are some points of agreement between their views and my own, is no doubt true. And that we totally disagree in regard to those points that constitute their great peculiarities, is, if I understand them, also true.

But did I really agree in all points with Augustine, or Edwards, or Pelagius, or the modern Perfectionists, neither the good or the ill name of any of these would prove my sentiments to be either right or wrong. It would remain after all, to show that those with whom I agreed were either right or wrong, in order, on the one hand, to establish that for which I contend, or on the other to condemn that which I maintain. It is often more convenient to give a doctrine or an argument a bad name, than it is soberly and satisfactorily to reply to it.

With respect to the modern Perfectionists, those who have been acquainted with their writings, know that some of them have gone much further from the truth than others. Some of their leading men, who commenced with them and adopted their name, stopped far short of adopting some of their most abominable errors; still maintaining the authority and perpetual obligation of the moral law, and thus have been saved from going into many of the most objectionable and destructive notions of that sect. There are many more points of agreement between that class of Perfectionists and the orthodox Church, than between any other class of them and the Christian Church. And there are still a number of important points of difference, as every one knows who is possessed of correct information upon this subject.

I abhor the idea of denouncing any class of men as altogether and utterly wrong. I am well aware that there are many of those who are termed Perfectionists, who as truly abhor the extremes of error into which many of that name have fallen, as perhaps do any persons living.

The law levels its claims to us as we are, and a just exposition of it, as I have already said, under all the present circumstances of our being, is indispensable to a right apprehension of what constitutes entire sanctification.

To be sure, there may be danger of frittering away the claims of the law and letting down the standard. But I would humbly inquire whether, hitherto, the error has not been on the other side, and whether as a general fact, the law has not been so interpreted as naturally to beget the idea so prevalent, that if a man should become holy he could not live in this world? In a letter lately received from a beloved, and useful, and venerated minister of the gospel, while the writer expressed the greatest attachment to the doctrine of entire consecration to God, and said that he preached the same doctrine which we hold to his people every Sabbath, but by another name, still he added that it was revolting to his feelings, to hear any mere man set up the claim of obedience to the law of God. Now let me inquire, why should this be revolting to the feelings of piety? Must it not be because the law of God is supposed to require something of human beings in our state, which it does not and cannot require? Why should such a claim be thought extravagant, unless the claims of the living God be thought extravagant? If the law of God really requires no more of men than what is reasonable and possible, why should it be revolting to any mind to hear an individual profess, through the grace of God, to have attained that state? I know that the brother to whom I allude, would be almost the last man deliberately and knowingly to give any strained interpretation to the law of God; and yet, I cannot but feel that much of the difficulty that good men have upon this subject, has arisen out of a comparison of the lives of saints with a standard entirely above that which the law of God does or can demand of persons in all respects in our circumstances.

If this objection be good for any thing in regard to entire sanctification, it is equally true in regard to the spiritual state of every person in the world. If the fact that men are not perfect, proves that no provisions are made for their perfection, their being no better than they are proves that there is no provision for their being any better than they are, or that they might have aimed at being any better, with any rational hope of success. But who, except a fatalist, will admit any such conclusion as this? And yet I do not see but this conclusion is inevitable from such premises.
Now in order to know that my repentance is genuine, I must intellectually understand what genuine repentance is. So if I would know whether my love to God or man, or obedience to the law is genuine, I must have clearly before my mind the real spirit, and meaning, and bearing of the law of God. Having this rule before my mind, my own consciousness affords "the most direct and convincing evidence possible" of whether my present state of mind is conformed to the rule. The Spirit of God is never employed in testifying to what my consciousness teaches, but in setting in a strong light before the mind the rule to which I am to conform my life. It is His business to make me understand, to induce me to love and obey the truth; and it is the business of consciousness to testify to my own mind, whether I do or do not obey the truth when I apprehend it. A man may be mistaken in regard to the correctness of his knowledge of the law or truth of God. He may therefore mistake the character of his exercises. But when God so presents the truth as to give the mind assurance, that it understands His mind and will upon any subject, the mind's consciousness of its own exercises in view of that truth, is "the highest and most direct possible" evidence of whether it obeys or disobeys.
But it is said a man may violate the law not knowing it, and consequently have no consciousness that he sinned, but that afterwards a knowledge of the law may convict him of sin. To this I reply, that if there was absolutely no knowledge that the thing in question was wrong, the doing of that thing was not sin, inasmuch as some degree of knowledge of what is right or wrong is indispensable to the moral character of any act. In such a case there may be a sinful ignorance which may involve all the guilt of those actions that were done in consequence of it; but that blame-worthiness lies in the ignorance itself, and not at all in the violation of the rule of which the mind was at the time entirely ignorant.
But it is said the Bible directs our attention to the fact of whether we obey or disobey as evidence whether we are in a right state of mind or not. But I would inquire, how do we know whether we obey or disobey? How do we know any thing of our conduct but by our consciousness? Our conduct as observed by others is to them evidence of the state of our hearts. But, I repeat it, our consciousness of obedience to God, is the highest and indeed the only evidence of our true character.
Now just in the same way, consciousness testifies of those that are sanctified, that they are in that state. Neither the Bible, nor the Spirit of God, makes any new or particular revelation to them by name. But the Spirit of God bears witness with their spirits, by setting the rule in a strong light before them. He induces that state of mind that consciousness pronounces to be conformity to the rule. This is as far as possible from setting aside the judgment of God in the case, for consciousness is, under these circumstances, the testimony of God, and the way in which He convinces of sin on the one hand, and of entire consecration on the other.

Again, the objection that consciousness cannot decide in regard to the strength of our powers, and whether we really serve God with all our strength, seems to be based upon the false supposition that the law of God requires every power of body and mind to be excited at every moment to its full strength, and that too without any regard to the nature of the subject about which our powers are for the time being employed. In the first lecture on this subject, I endeavored to show and trust I did show, that perfect obedience to the law of God requires no such thing. Entire sanctification is entire consecration. Entire consecration is obedience to the law of God. And all that the law requires is, that our whole being be consecrated to God, and that the amount of strength to be expended in His service at any one moment of time, must depend upon the nature of the subject about which the powers are for the time being employed. And nothing is further from the truth than that obedience to the law of God requires every power of body and mind to be constantly on the strain, and in the highest possible degree of excitement, and activity. Such an interpretation of the law of God as this, would be utterly inconsistent with life and health; and would write MENE, TEKEL upon the life and conduct of Jesus Christ Himself; for His whole history shows that He was not in a state of constant excitement to the full extent of His powers.

Some suppose that the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, sets aside the idea of being at all in a state of probation after our conversion. They reason thus: If it is certain that the saints will persevere, then their probation is ended; because the question is already settled, not only that they will be converted, but that they will persevere to the end, and the contingency in regard to the event, is indispensable to the idea of probation. To this I reply:

That a thing may be contingent with man that is not at all so with God. With God, there is not and never was any contingency, with regard to the final destiny of any being. But with men, almost all things are contingencies. God knows with absolute certainty whether a man will be converted, and whether he will persevere. A man may know that he is converted, and may believe, that by the grace of God he shall persevere. He may have an assurance of this in proportion to the strength of his faith. But the knowledge of this fact is not at all inconsistent with the idea of his continuance in a state of trial till the day of his death; inasmuch as his perseverance depends upon the exercise of his own voluntary agency.

In the same way some say, that if we have attained a state of entire and permanent sanctification, we can no longer be in a state of probation. I answer, that perseverance in this state depends upon the promise and grace of God, just as the final perseverance of the saints does. In neither case can we have any other assurance of our perseverance than that of faith in the promise and grace of God; nor any other knowledge that we have arrived at this state, than that which arises out of a belief in the testimony of God, that He will preserve us blameless until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. If this be inconsistent with our probation, I see not why the doctrine of the saints' perseverance is not equally inconsistent with it. If any one is disposed to maintain that for us to have any judgment or belief in regard to our final perseverance, is inconsistent with a state of probation, all I can say is, that his views of probation are very inconsistent with my own, and so far as I understand, with those of the Church of God.

Again, there is a very high and important sense in which every moral being will remain on probation to all eternity. While under the moral government of God, obedience must for ever remain a condition of the favor of God. And the fact of continued obedience will for ever depend on the faithfulness and grace of God; and the only knowledge we can ever have of this fact, either in heaven or on earth, must be founded upon the faithfulness and truth of God.

Again, if it were true, that entering upon a state of permanent sanctification in this life, were, in some sense, an end of our probation, that would be no objection to the doctrine; for there is a sense in which probation often ends long before the termination of this life. Where, for example, a person has committed the unpardonable sin, or where from any cause, God has given up sinners to fill up the measure of their iniquity, withdrawing for ever His Holy Spirit from them, and sealed them over to eternal death; this, in a very important sense, is the end of their probation, and they are as sure of hell as if they were already there.

So on the other hand, when a person has received, after that he believes, the ensealing of the Spirit unto the day of redemption, as an earnest of his inheritance, he may and is bound to regard this as a solemn pledge on the part of God, of his final perseverance and salvation, and as no longer leaving the final question of his destiny in doubt.

Now it should be remembered, that in both these cases the result depends upon the exercise of the agency of the creature. In the case of the sinner given up of God, it is certain that he will not repent, though his impenitence is voluntary and by no means a thing naturally necessary. So on the other hand the perseverance of the saints is certain though not necessary. If in either case there should be a radical change of character the result would differ accordingly.

That all the promises of salvation in the Bible are conditioned upon faith and repentance, and therefore it does not follow on this principle, that any person ever will be saved. What does all this arguing prove? The fact is that while the promises both of salvation and sanctification, are conditioned upon faith as it respects individuals; yet to Christ and to the Church as a body, as I have already shown, these promises are unconditional. With respect to the salvation of sinners, it is promised that Christ shall have a seed to serve Him, and the Bible abounds with numerous promises, both to Christ and the Church, that secure without condition, as it regards them, the salvation of great multitudes of sinners. So the promises that the Church as a body, at some period of her earthly history, shall be entirely sanctified, are, as it regards the Church, unconditional. But, as I have already shown, as it respects individuals, the fulfillment of these promises must depend upon the exercise of faith. Both in the salvation of sinners and the sanctification of Christians, God is abundantly pledged to bring about the salvation of the one and the sanctification of the other, to the extent of His promises. But as it respects individuals, no one can claim the fulfillment of these promises without complying with the conditions.
These are the principal objections that have occurred to my mind, or that have, so far as I know, been urged by others. There may be and doubtless are others, of greater or less plausibility, to which I may have occasion to refer hereafter. Lest I should be tedious, these must suffice for the present.
 
 

LECTURE VIII.

April 8, 1840

SANCTIFICATION- No. 8

by the Rev. Charles G. Finney

Text.--1 Thess. 5:23-24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who also will do it."

VIII. I am next to show when entire sanctification is attainable.

Jeremiah 31:31-34: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord: but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

Ezek. 36:25-27: "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them."

1 Thess. 5:23, 24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it."

Eph. 1:13: "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise."

These and many others show that the promise is made to those who have some degree of faith, i.e. who have been regenerated. In the last it is said, "We are sealed after that we believe."

This appears to be plainly taught by Christ, when he spoke of the ability of God to save the rich. He asserts that their salvation is more difficult "than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle." And when the disciples expressed their astonishment, He replied, that "with God all things are possible." Now this seems to be a case in point. To sanctify the rich is the only difficulty in the way of their salvation. And Christ has asserted, that God is able not only to sanctify them, but that "all things are possible with Him," i.e. that there is no limit to His ability in this respect.

Eph. 3:20, proved the same point. Here the Apostle asserts that God is able to do "abundantly above all that we ask and above all that we think," exceedingly abundantly, &c. Now we can both think of and ask for the blessing of entire, and permanent, and instantaneous sanctification, and if this passage of scripture is true God is able to grant it.

That God is able not only to produce present but also to confirm us in a state of perpetual sanctification, is plain from many other passages of scripture. Jude 24: "Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy." Upon this passage, I remark:

To this it has been objected that moral government implies the power to resist every degree of motive. This I most fully admit. But it is one thing to have the power thus to resist, and quite another thing to use that power. God certainly knew when he created moral agents to what extent, under their circumstances, they would actually exercise their powers of resistance, and therefore whether He could sanctify and save them or not. As a matter of fact, He has overcome the voluntary resistance of all who are converted. And if He has broken down their enmity, and so far subdued them, is it incredible that He should be able wholly to sanctify them, and preserve them blameless?
IX. I am to show how entire sanctification is attainable.


LECTURE IX.

April 22, 1840

SANCTIFICATION- No. 9

by the Rev. Charles G. Finney

Text.--1 Thess. 5:23-24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who also will do it."

In concluding the series of discourses upon this text, I would remark:

But I have already protracted the discussion of this subject so far that I will not add more at present, except to conclude what I have to say with several brief
REMARKS.

1. There is an importance to be attached to the sanctification of the body, of which very few persons appear to be aware. Indeed unless the bodily appetites and powers be consecrated to the service of God--unless we learn to eat, and drink, and sleep, and wake, and labor, and rest, for the glory of God, entire sanctification is out of the question.

2. It is plain, that very few persons are aware of the great influence which their bodies have over their minds, and of the indispensable necessity of bringing their bodies under and bringing them into subjection.

3. Few people seem to keep the fact steadily in view, that unless their bodies be rightly managed, they will be so fierce and overpowering a source of temptation to the mind, as inevitably to lead it into sin. If they indulge themselves in a stimulating diet, and in the use of those condiments that irritate and rasp the nervous system, their bodies will be of course and of necessity the source of powerful and incessant temptation to evil tempers and vile affections. If persons were aware of the great influence which the body has over the mind, they would realize that they cannot be too careful to preserve the nervous system from the influence of every improper article of food or drink, and preserve that system as they would the apple of their eye, from every influence that could impair its functions.

4. No one who has opportunity to acquire information in regard to the laws of life and health, and the best means of sanctifying the whole spirit, soul, and body, can be guiltless if he neglect these means of knowledge. Every man is bound to make the structure and laws of both body and mind the subject of as thorough investigation as his circumstances will permit, to inform himself in regard to what are the true principles of perfect temperance, and in what way the most can be made of all his powers of body and mind for the glory of God.

5. From what has been said in these discourses, the reason why the Church has not been entirely sanctified is very obvious. As a body the Church has not believed that such a state was attainable in this life. And this is a sufficient reason, and indeed the best of all reasons for her not having attained it.

6. From what has been said, it is easy to see that the true question in regard to entire sanctification in this life, is its attainability, as a matter of fact. Some have thought the proper question to be, are Christians entirely sanctified in this life? Now certainly this is not the question that needs to be discussed. Suppose it be fully granted that they are not; this fact is sufficiently accounted for, by the consideration that they do not know it, or believe it to be attainable in this life. If they believed it to be attainable, it might no longer be true that they do not attain it. But if provision really is made for this attainment, it amounts to nothing, unless it be recognized and believed. The thing then needed is to bring the Church to see and believe, that this is her high privilege and her duty. It is not enough to say that it is attainable, simply on the ground of natural ability. This is as true of the devil, and of the lost in hell, as of men in this world. But unless grace has put this attainment so within our reach, as that it may be aimed at with the reasonable prospect of success, there is, as a matter of fact, no more provision for our entire sanctification in this life than for the devil's. It seems to be trifling with mankind, merely to maintain the attainability of this state on the ground of natural ability only. The real question is, has grace brought this attainment so within our reach, that we may reasonably expect to experience it in this life? It is admitted, that on the ground of natural ability both wicked men and devils have the power to be entirely holy. But it is also admitted, that their indisposition to use this power aright is so complete, that as a matter of fact, they never will use this power aright, unless influenced to do so by the grace of God. I insist, therefore, that the real question is, whether the provisions of the gospel are such, that, did the Church fully understand and lay hold upon the proffered grace, she might as a matter of fact attain this state?

7. We see how irrelevant and absurd the objection is, that as a matter of fact the Church has not attained this state, and therefore it is not attainable. Why, if they have not understood it to be attainable, it no more proves its unattainableness, than the fact that the heathen have not embraced the gospel proves that they will not when they know it.

8. You see the necessity of fully preaching and insisting upon this doctrine, and of calling it by its true scriptural name. It is astonishing to see to what an extent, there is a tendency among men to avoid the use of scriptural language, and cleave to the language of such men as Edwards, and other great and good divines. They object to the terms perfection and entire sanctification, and prefer to use the terms entire consecration, and other such terms as have been common in the Church.

Now I would by no means contend about the use of words; but still, it does appear to me, to be of great importance, that we use scripture language and insist upon men being "perfect as their Father in Heaven is perfect," and being "sanctified wholly body, soul, and spirit." This appears to me to be of the most importance for this reason, that if we use the language to which the Church has been accustomed upon this subject, she will as she has done, misunderstand us, and will not get before her mind that which we really mean. That this is so is manifest from the fact that the great mass of the Church will express alarm at the use of the terms perfection and entire sanctification, who will neither express or feel any such alarm if we speak of entire consecration. This demonstrates, that they do not, by any means, understand these terms as meaning the same thing. And although I understand them as meaning precisely the same thing, yet I find myself obliged to use the terms perfection and entire sanctification, to possess their minds of my real meaning. This is Bible language. It is unobjectionable language. And inasmuch as the Church understand entire consecration to mean something less than entire sanctification or Christian perfection, it does seem to me of great importance, that ministers should use a phraseology which will call the attention of the Church to the real doctrine of the Bible upon this subject. And I would submit the question with great humility to my beloved brethren in the ministry, whether they are not aware, that Christians have entirely too low an idea of what is implied in entire consecration, and whether it is not useful and best to adopt a phraseology in addressing them that shall call their attention to the real meaning of the words which they use?

9. Young converts have not been allowed so much as to indulge the thought that they could live even for a day wholly without sin. They have as a general thing no more been taught to expect to live even for a day without sin, than they have been taught to expect immediate translation, soul and body, to Heaven. Of course they have not known that there was any other way, than to go on in sin, and however shocking and distressing the necessity has appeared to them in the ardor of their first love, still they have looked upon it as the unalterable fact, that to be in a great measure in bondage to sin was a thing of course while they live in this world. Now with such an orthodoxy as this, with the conviction in the Church and ministry so ripe, settled, and universal, that the utmost that the grace of God can do for men in this world is to bring them to repentance and to leave them to live and die in a state of sinning and repenting, is it at all wonderful that the state of religion should be as it really has been?

10. Christ has been in a great measure lost sight of in some of His most important relations to mankind. He has been known and preached as a pardoning, justifying Savior, but as an actually indwelling and reigning Savior in the heart, He has been but little known. I was struck with a remark, a few years since, of a brother whom I have from that time greatly loved, who had been for a long time in a desponding state of mind, borne down with a great sense of his own vileness, but seeing no way of escape. At an evening meeting the Lord so revealed Himself to him as entirely to overcome the strength of his body, and his brethren were obliged to carry him home. The next time I saw him, he exclaimed to me with a pathos I shall never forget, "Brother Finney, the Church have buried the Savior." Now it is no doubt true, that the Church has become awfully alienated from Christ--has in a great measure lost a knowledge of what He is and ought to be to her--and a great many of her members I have good reason to know, in different parts of the country, are saying with deep and overpowering emotion, "They have taken away my Lord and I know not where they have laid Him."

11. With all her orthodoxy, the Church has been for a long time much nearer to Unitarianism than she has imagined. This remark may shock some of my readers, and you may think it savors of censoriousness. But, beloved, I am sure it is said in no such spirit. These are "the words of truth and soberness." So little has been known of Christ, that, if I am not entirely mistaken, there are multitudes in the orthodox churches, who do not know Christ, and who in heart are Unitarians, while in theory they are orthodox.

I have been, within the last two or three years, deeply impressed with the fact, that so many professors of religion are coming to the ripe conviction that they never knew Christ. There have been in this place almost continual developments of this fact, and I doubt whether there is a minister in the land who will present Christ as the gospel presents Him, in all the fulness of His official relations to mankind, who will not be struck and agonized with developments that will assure him that the great mass of professors of religion do not know the Savior. It has been to my own mind a painful and a serious question, what I ought to think of the spiritual state of those who know so little of the blessed Jesus. That none of them have been converted, I dare not say. And yet, that they have been converted, I am afraid to say. I would not for the world "quench the smoking flax or break the bruised reed," or say any thing to stumble or weaken the feeblest lamb of Christ; and yet my heart is sore pained, my soul is sick; my bowels of compassion yearn over the Church of the blessed God. O, the dear Church of Christ! What does she know in her present state of gospel rest, of that "great and perfect peace they have whose minds are stayed on God"?

12. If I am not mistaken, there is an extensive feeling among Christians and ministers, that much is not, that ought to be known and may be known of the Savior. Many are beginning to find that the Savior is to them "as a root out of dry ground, having neither form or comeliness;" that the gospel which they preach and hear is not to them "the power of God unto salvation" from sin; that it is not to them "glad tidings of great joy;" that it is not to them a peace-giving gospel; and many are feeling that if Christ has done for them, all that His grace is able to do in this life, that the plan of salvation is sadly defective, that Christ is not after all a Savior suited to their necessities--that the religion which they have is not suited to the world in which they live--that it does not, cannot make them free; but leaves them in a state of perpetual bondage. Their souls are agonized and tossed to and fro without a resting place. Multitudes also are beginning to see that there are many passages, both in the Old and New Testaments, which they do not understand; that the promises seem to mean much more than they have ever realized, and that the gospel and the plan of salvation as a whole, must be something very different from that which they have as yet apprehended. There are great multitudes all over the country, who are inquiring more earnestly than ever before, after a knowledge of that Jesus who is to save His people from their sins.

A fact was related in my hearing, a short time since, that illustrates, in an affecting manner, the agonizing state of mind in which many Christians are, in regard to the present state of many of the ministers of Christ. I had the statement from the brother himself, who was the subject of his narrative. A sister in the church to which he preached became so sensible that he did not know Christ, as he ought to know Him, that she was full of unutterable agony, and on one occasion, after he had been preaching, fell down at his feet with tears and strong beseechings, that he would exercise faith in Christ. At another time she was so impressed with a sense of his deficiency in this respect, as a minister, that she addressed him in the deepest anguish of her soul, crying out-- "O I shall die, I shall certainly die, unless you will receive Christ as a full Savior," and attempting to approach him, she sunk down helpless, overcome with agony and travail of soul, at his feet.

There is manifestly a great struggle in the minds of multitudes, that the Savior may be more fully revealed to the Church, that the present ministry especially may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, and be made conformable to His death.

13. If the doctrine of these discourses is true, you see the immense importance of preaching it clearly and fully in revivals of religion. When the hearts of converts are warm with their first love, then is the time to make them fully acquainted with their Savior, to hold Him up in all His offices and relations, so as to break the power of every sin--to break them off for ever from all self-dependence, and to lead them to receive Him as a present, perfect, everlasting Savior.

14. Unless this course be taken, their backsliding is inevitable. You might as well expect to roll back the waters of Niagara with your hand, as to stay the tide of their corruption without a deep, and thorough, and experimental acquaintance with the Savior. And if they are thrown upon their own watchfulness and resources, for strength against temptations, instead of being directed to the Savior, they are certain to become discouraged and fall into continual bondage.

But before I conclude these remarks, I must not omit to notice the indispensable necessity of a willingness to do the will of God, in order rightly to understand this doctrine. If a man is unwilling to give up his sins, to deny himself all ungodliness and every worldly lust--if he is unwilling to be set apart wholly to the service of the Lord, he will either reject this doctrine altogether, or only intellectually admit it, without receiving it into his heart. It is an imminently dangerous state of mind to consent to this or any other doctrine of the gospel, and not reduce it to practice.

15. Much evil has been done by those who have professedly embraced this doctrine in theory, and rejected it in practice. Their spirit and temper have been such as to lead those who saw them to infer, that the tendency of the doctrine itself is bad. And it is not to be doubted that some who have professed to have experienced the power of this doctrine in their hearts, have greatly disgraced religion by exhibiting any other spirit than that of an entirely sanctified soul. But why, in a Christian land, should this be a stumbling block. When the heathen see persons from Christian nations who professedly adopt the Christian system, exhibit on their shores and in their countries, the spirit which many of them do, they infer that this is the tendency of the Christian religion. To this our Missionaries reply that they are only nominal Christians, only speculative, not real believers. Should thousands of our church members go among them, they would have the same reason to complain, and might reply to the Missionaries, these are not merely nominal believers, but profess to have experienced this Christian religion in their own hearts. Now what would the Missionaries reply? Why, to be sure, that they were professors of religion; but that they really did not know Christ; that they were deceiving themselves with a name to live, while in fact they were dead in trespasses and sins.

It has often been a matter of astonishment to me, that in a Christian land, it should be a stumbling block to any, that some, or if you please, a majority of those who profess to receive and to have experienced the truth of this doctrine, should exhibit an unchristian spirit. What if the same objection should be brought against the Christian religion; against any and every doctrine of the gospel; that the great majority, and even nine tenths of all the professed believers and receivers of those doctrines were proud, worldly, selfish, and exhibited any thing but a right spirit? Now this objection might be made with truth to the whole professedly Christian Church. But would the conclusiveness of such an objection be admitted in Christian lands? Who does not know the ready answer to all such objections as these, that the doctrines of Christianity do not sanction such conduct, and that it is not the real belief of them that begets any such spirit or conduct; that the Christian religion abhors all these things to which they object. And now suppose it should be replied to this, that a tree is known by its fruits, and that so great a majority of the professors of religion could not exhibit such a spirit, unless it were the tendency of Christianity itself to beget it. Now who would not reply to this, that this state of mind and course of conduct of which they complain, is the natural state of man uninfluenced by the gospel of Christ; that in these instances, on account of unbelief, the gospel has failed to correct what was already wrong, and what needed not the influence of any corrupt doctrine to produce that state of mind? It appears to me, that these objectors against this doctrine on account of the fact that some and perhaps many who have professed to receive it, have exhibited a wrong spirit, take it for granted that the doctrine produces this spirit, instead of considering that a wrong spirit is natural to men, and that the difficulty is that through unbelief this doctrine has failed to correct what was before wrong. They reason as if they supposed the human heart needed something to beget within it a bad spirit, and as if they supposed that a belief in this doctrine had made men wicked, instead of recognizing the fact, that they were before wicked and that, through unbelief, the gospel has failed to make them holy.

16. But let it not be understood, that I suppose or admit that any considerable number who have professed to have received this doctrine into their hearts, have as a matter of fact exhibited a bad spirit. I must say that it has been eminently otherwise so far as my own observation extends. And I am fully convinced, that if I have ever seen Christianity in the world, and the spirit of Christ, that it has been exhibited by those, as a general thing, who have professed to believe, and to have received this doctrine into their hearts.

17. How amazingly important it is, that the ministry and the Church should come fully to a right understanding and embracing of this doctrine. O it will be like life from the dead. The proclamation of it is now regarded by multitudes as "good tidings of great joy." From every quarter, we get the gladsome intelligence, that souls are entering into the deep rest and peace of the gospel, that they are awaking to a life of faith and love--and that instead of sinking down into Antinomianism, they are eminently more benevolent, active, holy, and useful than ever before--that they are eminently more prayerful, watchful, diligent, meek, sober-minded and heavenly in all their lives. This as a matter of fact, is the character of those, to a very great extent at least, with whom I have been acquainted, who have embraced this doctrine. I say this for no other reason than to relieve the anxieties of those who have heard very strange reports, and whose honest fears have been awakened in regard to the tendency of this doctrine.

18. I have by no means given this subject so ample a discussion as I might and should have done, but for my numerous cares and responsibilities. I have been obliged to write in the midst of the excitement and labor of a revival of religion, and do not by any means suppose, either that I have exhausted the subject, or so ably defended it as I might have done, had I been under other circumstances. But, dearly beloved, under the circumstances, I have done what I could, and thank my Heavenly Father that I have been spared to say this much in defence of the great, leading, central truth of revelation--the ENTIRE SANCTIFICATION OF THE CHURCH BY THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST.

And now, blessed and beloved Brethren and Sisters in the Lord, "let me beseech you, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." "And may the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved BLAMELESS unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it."




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Unbelief- No.'s 1 & 2
Lectures X & XI
May 6, 1840

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College

LECTURE X.

Text.--Heb. 3:19: "So we see they could not enter in because of unbelief." --Mark 16:16: "He that believeth not, shall be damned."

In this discussion of this subject I desire to show:

I. What unbelief is.

II. Some of its developments and manifestations.

III. Its unreasonableness.

IV. Its causes or occasions.

V. Its wickedness.


I. What is unbelief?

It is the absence, or perhaps I should say, the opposite of faith. Faith is a felt, conscious, practical confidence in the character, providence, and word of God; and conscious assurance that what God has said shall come to pass; such an inward and felt assurance, and hearty and joyful embracing of the truth, as to produce corresponding feeling and action, and to exclude doubt. Unbelief then is a real withholding of this inward, felt, conscious assurance or confidence--a state of mind that leaves the conduct uninfluenced by the truths of God--such a withholding of confidence as to leave both body and soul under the influence of error, to pursue a course as if the truths of God were not true.

II. Some of the manifestations of unbelief.

Hear that spiritual minded woman converse with her minister, of the great fulness there is in Christ. While she speaks in general terms he consents to all she says, that there is indeed unspeakable and infinite fulness in Christ. But where does she see this fulness? Why, in the scripture declarations and promises of God's word. Now let her begin to quote them one after another as she understands them, and he will probably demur to her views of every one of them, and consider her notions as utterly extravagant, and perhaps fanatical. He consents in general to the fulness that is in Christ, but explains away in the detail, all the evidence of that fulness as apprehended by a spiritual mind. The truth is, that a spiritual mind, and a spiritual mind only, understands the real meaning of the Bible. And nothing is more common than for persons in a state of unbelief to read again and again, any and every passage in the Bible, without apprehending the real meaning of the Holy Spirit. And a man in this state of mind has, as a matter of fact, never begun to understand the fulness there is in Jesus Christ, nor the depth and extent of meaning in the declarations and promises of the Bible.
It is often amazing and distressing to see how unbelief will paralize the power of testimony in favor of truth, insomuch that no weight or accumulation of evidence can gain ascendancy over the intellect and the heart in the presence of objections oftentimes the most ridiculous.

Now with this state of mind, contrast the conduct of Abraham, the "father of the faithful." God had promised to make him "a father of many nations." But the fulfillment was delayed until both himself and wife were at such an age, that but for the promise of God, it was utterly unreasonable to expect that Sarah would have an heir. Rom. 4:19-21: "And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about a hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb. He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded, that what He had promised, He was able to perform." The fact that himself and Sarah were nearly a hundred years old, was not a sufficient objection to set aside the testimony of God with his mind. And he remained firm in the opinion that His promise would be performed.

Witness his conduct also in offering up Isaac as a burnt sacrifice. Here is another beautiful illustration of the power of faith as contrasted with unbelief. After a long time his beloved Isaac was born, who also was to be the father of many nations, through whom the promised Messiah was to come. But previously to his being the father of any offspring, God commanded Abraham to offer him as a burnt sacrifice. Now so unshaken was his confidence, that he appears not to have felt the least uneasiness about the event. Feeling probably that it might stagger Sarah's faith, he appears not to have communicated it to her, but rose up calmly in the morning, after the command was given, and proceeded to the spot, with the wood and necessary implements, manifestly expecting really to offer him according to the command of God. And in fact, as far as the mental act was concerned, he really did offer him, and is so represented in the Bible: "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure."

Observe also the conduct of Abraham in regard to the promised land. God had promised to give him that land, and to his "seed for a thousand generations." Now Abraham lived in this country as a stranger: "By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise." When his beloved Sarah died he bought the cave of Macpelah for a burying place, in which cave he was afterwards buried himself; and his seed did not inherit the land for more than four hundred years; which shows that Abraham understood the promise, as to be fulfilled to his descendants, and remained "strong in faith, giving glory to God."

Now how vastly different was the state of Abraham's mind from that to which I have before alluded, where a trifling objection can stumble a mind and paralize and overthrow all confidence in the testimony of God.

"_______ where the wreck'd desponding thought,

From wave to wave of fancied misery

At random drives, her helm of reason lost."

How often a man in some distressing dream, imagines himself poor--perhaps himself and family destitute and in want of all things--perhaps in debt, and in prison, and no means of payment, surrounded with the darkest and most forbidding prospects on every side, and on every subject; no friends, no home, no employment, no confidence in himself or in any body else. The consummation of wretchedness and despair has overwhelmed him, until some dire catastrophe breaks up his slumbers, and behold, he is at home, in bed, in health, and the reverse of all his crazy dreams is true. I thank God, he exclaims, that all this is but a dream. I thought I had no home, no friends, no health, was in debt, persecuted, imprisoned; saw no help, for time or eternity, but all this was a dream. I am now awake, and blessed be God the reality all the reverse of my vain imaginings.

Just so faith breaks up the spell that binds the mind in all its doubts, perplexities, and anxieties, and introduces it into a state of perfect rest in Christ. O the wretched unbeliever felt condemned, owed ten thousand talents to divine justice, and had nothing to pay, struggled, agonized, prayed, read, searched, looked every way, saw neither help nor hope; the remembrance of the past filled the soul with shame, and was agonizing beyond expression, present circumstances are discouraging and fill the mind with forebodings of future wrath. The future as dark as midnight; there seems to be "no eye to pity, and no arm can save." It would seem as if the aggregate of all conceivable woes, temporal, spiritual, and eternal, were in reserve for him. But, ah! He apprehends Christ, and how instantaneously the whole scene is changed. Can it be possible? he exclaims. Oh what a wretched, horrible pit of miry clay, is that from which my feet are taken. This is indeed everlasting rock. My "goings are [indeed] established." I see an ample provision, not only for the forgiveness of all my past sins, but for all my present, future, utmost, conceivable or possible wants. While the provision is absolutely boundless, and made sure by the promise of Him who cannot lie. "Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with thee." Is it so indeed? Have I such a Savior, in whom all fulness dwells? Am I complete in Him? Is He my wisdom, my righteousness, my sanctification, and my redemption? It is surely so. It is certain as my existence. O, I feel as if my soul were in an ocean of sweet and boundless rest and peace, and my God hath said, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee." Now any refusal or neglect to enter at once into this state of mind is unbelief. And, dearly beloved, if this is so, let me inquire, was not that a most pertinent question of Christ, "When I come, shall I find faith on the earth?"

Take also, 1 Thess. 5:23, 24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved BLAMELESS unto the coming of OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it." Now here the Apostle prays for the entire sanctification of spirit, soul, and body, and that our whole being may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; and then pledges the faithfulness of God: "Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it." Now have we not a right; nay, are we not bound to exercise the utmost confidence, and to have a felt and strong assurance of mind, that what is here promised shall come to pass? Now whatever is short of this is unbelief.

See also the case of Paul, 2 Cor. 12:9: "And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." God had given him "a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet him, lest he should be exalted above measure." But Paul, fearing that it would injure his influence, besought the Lord thrice that it might depart from him. But Christ replied, "My grace is sufficient for thee, for my grace is made perfect in weakness." Now this entirely satisfied the mind of Paul, and he immediately subjoins, "Most gladly therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." It appears that he, at once, felt an inward, conscious assurance, that allayed all his fears in regard to the influence of this thorn in the flesh, and enabled him to say, "Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities." Now I suppose this to be as true of every man as of Paul, that Christ's grace is sufficient for him, in any circumstances in which the providence of God can place him; and that nothing but unbelief, prevents any Christian from experiencing the utmost confidence, and the inward unwavering assurance of mind, that Christ's grace is sufficient for him.

Now, Christian, did you ever consider how horrible your conduct is in the eyes of an unbelieving world. They know what promises your Father has made, and they see by your anxiety and worldly-mindedness how little confidence you have in these promises. They witness your carefulness and worldly spirit, and think in their hearts, these Christians know that God is not to be trusted, for as a matter of fact they have no confidence in His promises. Now how can you in any way more deeply wound religion, than in this--more awfully and horribly dishonor God? It is a most shameful publishing, in the most impressive manner possible, that you believe God to be a liar!
But I must defer the remaining heads of this discourse, till my next.

LECTURE XI.

May 20, 1840

UNBELIEF--No. 2

Text.--Heb. 3:19: "So we see they could not enter in because of unbelief." --Mark 16:16: "He that believeth not, shall be damned."

I am to show,

III. The unreasonableness of unbelief.

But suppose you had the bond, and mortgage, and oath of the richest man in America, for a thousand dollars. Would not your neighbors consider you a mad man, if you did not feel in your heart that your debt was secure? Yes, you would be pronounced deranged by every court of law or equity in the land. I recollect to have heard of a case, where a man of wealth became a hypochondriac and made himself continually unhappy, lest himself and family should become paupers. His wealthy connections, to relieve his mind, offered to secure to him a large amount of money annually, for the support of his family. He replied, "that would be of no avail, that "riches would take to themselves wings," that he could put no confidence in any such security." Finally, a commission of lunacy was issued to secure his property, and he pronounced a lunatic, in view of these developments of mind. Now I do not hesitate to say, that his state of mind was almost the perfection of reason, when compared with the infinite unreasonableness and insanity of not feeling the utmost assurance that all the promises of God should be fulfilled. Why, what was there so very unreasonable in the conduct of this man? Why, he refused to trust in human security and responsibility, for the maintenance of his family. Now in one sense this might have been unreasonable, and the court may have done right in pronouncing him a lunatic or an unreasonable man. But if this is insanity, what state of mind is that which cannot confide in the testimony and oath of the infinite and ever blessed God of truth? Why, beloved, if God has promised to maintain your family--if He has told you, "trust in the Lord and do good, so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily shalt be fed"--if the infinitely faithful God has promised to circumcise your heart and the heart of your seed, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul--if He has promised to "sanctify you wholly, spirit, soul, and body, and preserve you blameless"--is it not the widest departure from reason that can be conceived of, for you not to feel assured in your heart, that all this shall be done?


IV. Causes or occasions of unbelief.


V. The wickedness of unbelief.

The influence of the will in modifying our belief, on almost any subject, is strikingly illustrated in a great many ways. A drunkard does not believe that alcohol is poison. A Universalist does not believe that there is any hell. An epicure does not believe that his innutricious condiments are injurious to his health. And it is often striking to observe the amount of influence which the will has in modifying the opinions of men. And when we come to speak of the faith of the gospel, which implies and includes volition, it is self-evident that there can be no faith where the will does not yield. And to talk of an unwilling faith is to speak of an unwilling willingness. The truth is that men are not influenced by evidence in cases where their will is opposed to the truth. They are stubborn and rebellious, not convinced, not humbled, and their confidence not gained, let God say what He will.


REMARKS.

1. One unbelieving soul may do immense evil; especially if he be a minister of the gospel. How easy it is for a blind minister to keep his congregation for ever in darkness, in regard to the meaning of the gospel and the fulness of the salvation provided.

2. A mind under the influence of unbelief, is a very dangerous interpreter of the word of God. Without faith, no man discovers the true meaning of the Bible. Nor can he by any possibility discover its spiritual import, without the state of mind which is always implied in a right understanding of the word of God.

3. The Church is robbed of its inheritance by unbelief. Inasmuch as the promises are conditioned upon faith, and cannot in their own nature be fulfilled where there is not faith, how immense is the evil of unbelief in the Church of God? Gospel rest and salvation lie before them in all their fulness, completeness of Christian character in Christ Jesus, and the sanctification of body, soul, and spirit, are proffered to them and urged with infinite sincerity upon them; but all are rejected through unbelief. Those who are unbelieving in regard to the fulness of Christ's salvation, take away the key of knowledge. They neither enter into gospel rest themselves, and those that would enter they hinder; especially is this true of those ministers who call in question the attainability of entire consecration to God in this life.

4. Unbelief is the last sin that deserves any commiseration. And yet it is very generally whined over, as if it were a calamity rather than a crime.

5. An unlearned but spiritual mind will understand the Bible, much more readily than learned unbelief.

6. A spiritual mind is learned in spiritual things; and a mind may know much about other things, and have no spiritual discernment, in respect to the truth of God.

7. It is often distressing to see a man who thinks himself learned, look with a kind of contempt upon the opinions of those whom he considers unlearned in respect to the real meaning of the Bible.

8. Faith sees the doctrine of entire sanctification abundantly revealed in the word of God. And when once the attention of the mind is directed to the examination of this question, it has often appeared wonderful to me, that any one should doubt whether this is a doctrine of revelation. I have already remarked upon the inference which Paul drew, from the last verses of the sixth chapter of 2nd Corinthians: "And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." Now the faith of Paul instantly recognized in these promises, which he quoted from the Old Testament, the truth that entire sanctification is attainable in this life; and immediately adds--"Having therefore these promises, dearly, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." Here, then, Paul saw a sufficient guaranty for the belief of this doctrine, and that to "perfect holiness in the fear of God," was, by the grace of God, put entirely within our reach. Now if Paul could draw such an inference as this, from these promises, (and who, when they consider what is implied in the promises, can say that his inference was not legitimate?) what shall we say of that mind, who can look over all the exceeding great and precious promises which have been given, that we might be made partakers of the divine nature, and yet see nothing to inspire the confidence, that a state of entire sanctification in this life, is in such a sense attainable, as to make its attainment a reasonable object of pursuit?

9. No man rightly understands and believes the Bible, who is living in the indulgence of any known sin. There are multitudes, who seem to be trying to maintain a state of spirituality, whole in some things, and perhaps in many things, they are not entirely upright in their lives. They do not walk according to the best light they have, and are yet trying to exercise faith and keep up spiritual intercourse with God. The thing is naturally and for ever impossible. Spiritual mindedness and disobedience are direct contraries. It is absurd to expect to have communion with God, and yet live in the indulgence of any known sin.

10. Many think they have faith, who are yet conscious that they have no inward, felt confidence or assurance of mind, in regard to the word and promises of God. They are not conscious of a direct doubting or a disbelieving, what God has said; but are in that state of mind, that, while it does not deny directly and consciously, yet has no felt, practical confidence in the truth of God.

11. The lowest degree of real faith has, for a long time, been looked upon as a rare attainment in piety. That state of mind in which a person feels a confident assurance, that God's promises shall be fulfilled; that state of mind, that views the truth of God as a reality; has been looked upon, and spoken of, as evidencing a high degree of spirituality; when, in fact, such a state of mind is essential to the exercise of real faith.

12. In view of this subject, and of the present state of the Church, is it wonderful that Christ inquired, "When I come shall I find faith upon the earth?"

13. No one believes who finds it hard to love. True "faith works by love." Love is the natural and certain results of living faith.

14. No one believes who finds it hard to repent. Can he find it difficult to repent of his sins, who sees the death of Christ to be a reality?

15. No one believes, who has not the spirit of thanksgiving and praise. Multitudes of individuals suppose themselves to believe, who rarely, if ever, are exercised with a spirit of thanksgiving and of praise to God. Can it be possible that any mind can believe, and have a realizing sense of the infinite love, and truth, and grace of God, and yet have no heart to praise Him?

16. No one believes, who find it difficult to pray. Can a man who has a realizing sense of the state of the world and of the Church, and of the willingness and ability of God to bless mankind, restrain prayer? Will not his very breath be prayer, devotion, and praise? Will not his very heart within him be liquid as water? Will not his bowels of compassion yearn mightily, over a dying world? And will not his soul stand in a continual attitude of thanksgiving, and praise, and supplication?


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Blessedness of Benevolence
Lecture XII
June 3, 1840

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
 

Text.--Acts 20:35: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

On what occasion our Lord Jesus Christ uttered these words we are not informed, as they are not recorded by the Evangelists. But we have the authority of an inspired Apostle, that He taught this doctrine. In considering this subject I will state:

I. What constitutes true religion.

II. Some of the elements that enter into the happiness of the true Christian.

III. Notice several forms of delusion under which multitudes are laboring.


I. What constitutes true religion.

The whole of religion may be comprehended in the simple term, benevolence, or love. This love must be supreme in degree towards God, and equal to men. It must also be disinterested; i.e. God must be loved for what He is, and our neighbor's happiness must be chosen and sought for its own sake, and not from any interested motive. But I must enter still more particularly into what is implied in benevolence, or that love which constitutes religion.

These are only some of the modifications of benevolence, as it is developed by circumstances calling for these particular expressions of it. But,
It should be understood then, and always borne in mind, that Christian benevolence is a controlling disposition, or propensity of mind, and develops itself just as any other disposition manifests itself, by the daily walk of its possessor.
II. What constitutes true Christian happiness. III. Several forms of delusion. REMARKS.

1. The natural heart does not apprehend the true nature of religion. I have often wondered what sceptics can be thinking about, and how it is that they can have any doubts of the necessity of a change of heart. But a consideration of the selfishness of their hearts, explains the whole difficulty. God's state of mind is the exact opposite of their own. Benevolence is the contrast of a selfish disposition. Selfishness finds its happiness in getting; benevolence, in giving. Selfishness is always endeavoring to promote its own, and benevolence the happiness of others.

2. This remark leads me to say, that we can here see the necessity of examples, to illustrate the true nature of religion. A leading object of Christ in taking to Himself human nature was, to associate with men, and possess their minds of the true idea of God's character, so to live and associate with them, that they might observe what God would be as a Neighbor, or Brother, or Son, or Friend; what spirit and temper He possessed, and would manifest, under the circumstances in which men are. As soon as a few had caught the rare idea, that God was love, He sends them forth, "as sheep among wolves," to lay down their lives, as He had done, for a rebellious world. They catch His spirit, imitate His example, and the waves of salvation roll wherever they go; and a few years had well nigh seen a world prostate at the feet of Christ. But alas! the state, with her selfish and polluting embrace, soon seduced the Church into selfishness and apostacy from God. And the world can never be converted, only as examples and illustrations of what true religion is, are held up in the lives of professed Christians, before the eyes of men.

3. You can see from this subject, what constitutes real apostacy from God. The moment you set up a selfish interest as the object of pursuit, go to any place, engage in any business, marry, or take any other step, inconsistent with the exercise and pursuit of the great ends at which God aims, you are in a state of apostacy from God; you have forsaken the fountain of living waters, and are "hewing out broken cisterns that can hold no water."

4. You see from this subject, what constitutes the happiness of God. Benevolence is His whole character. His benevolence is infinite. His happiness is, therefore, infinite and unchangeable.

5. You see, that Christians may and ought to be as happy, in proportion to their capacity, as God is.

6. You see what constitutes the unhappiness of many professors of religion. It is selfishness. It is naturally impossible, that a selfish mind should be happy. Selfishness lets loose an infernal brood of scorpions and vipers, to sting the soul's happiness to death.

7. You see also, what constitutes the misery of all men. They are pressing after happiness but cannot obtain it. And the reason is, they are seeking it in that in which it cannot consist. If a man pursues his own happiness as an end, he may as well expect to overrun his own shadow. The mind is so constituted that it cannot possibly be obtained in this way. To be disinterestedly benevolent, is the only possible way to be happy. To seek not your own, but another's good, is for ever and unalterably indispensable to the happiness of a moral being.

8. What striking evidence does the human constitution afford of the benevolence of God! He has so constructed it, that happiness is the certain and necessary result of benevolence, and that no other possible working of the constitution can result in happiness. What striking and unanswerable testimony is this to the benevolence of the Author of our nature!

9. Those who do not enjoy the good things of others, or find occasions of gratitude, and really feel the spirit of gratitude, for blessings bestowed upon others, are not Christians. I have already said, that true benevolence is the love or desire of our neighbor's happiness, or rather the willing or choosing his happiness. Now whenever blessings are conferred upon others, then we are pleased. It is what we choose. It is in accordance with and a gratification of the ruling propensity of our minds. It is just as certain then as our existence, that if we are benevolent, we shall rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep; that we shall participate in the joys and sorrows of those around us, and rejoice in and be thankful for all the good bestowed upon the world.

10. From this subject it is easy to see, of what spirit those are who are ready to murmur at others possessing good things, of which themselves are deprived. Did you ever see a family of selfish children, and witness their complainings and murmurings, whenever something was bestowed upon one, which the others had not received? "Now, Ma, you have given brother such a thing and have not given it to me. Now let me have the best things; let me have the largest piece, and the most and best of every thing." Now this is a supremely hateful spirit; but it is exactly the spirit of many professors of religion. Instead of rejoicing to see their brothers and sisters blest with temporal or spiritual good things, they are ready to murmur and be offended, because these thing are not bestowed on them. This manifests the supreme selfishness of their minds, and affords the highest demonstration that they are not Christians.

11. They are not Christians, who have no heart to thank God for bestowing blessings upon their enemies. There is no religion in selfish gratitude. A supremely selfish mind might be thankful for blessings bestowed upon itself, or upon its friends who are accounted as parts of itself. But a truly benevolent mind will rejoice in blessings bestowed on enemies as well as friends.

12. It is easy to see, that the covetous and the ambitious are not and cannot be Christians.

13. That a spirit of worldly competition is utterly inconsistent with the spirit of benevolence.

14. We see what that state of mind must be, that is never willing to do a neighbor a kindness without taking pay for it. Some persons seem never to have the spirit of doing good, or of obliging any body but themselves. The pay seems to be the sole motive in doing almost any thing and every thing for those around them. They seem never to enjoy a luxury in making those around them happy, for its own sake. And if they do any thing for a neighbor, it is, by no means, for the sake of doing good, but for the sake of the pay. Now every one can see, that if a minister should be actuated by such motives in visiting the sick, and in preaching the gospel, every one would say there was no virtue in it. They will go and visit the sick as often as the physician does, and take as much pains to restore the health of the soul as the physician does the health of the body; and in all this they are expected to be actuated by pure benevolence. And for all this they never think of asking any pay, whether they have any salary or not. What minister has not traveled hundreds of miles, and spent hours, and days, and weeks, and months, in such labors of love, without ever expecting or desiring to receive an earthly remuneration for it. He found in the very exercise itself an excellent solace, and an exquisite relish, that was to his benevolent mind worth more than gold. But what is expected of ministers of the gospel in this respect, should be true of all men. They should as far as possible, "do good and lend, hoping for nothing again." They should be actuated by disinterested benevolence, knowing that "with whatsoever measure they mete it shall be measured to them again."

15. We see what we should think of those who are unwilling to exercise any self-denial, for the sake of doing good to others. There is one man, who will not give up what he calls the temperate use of alcohol, for the sake of doing good. He contends, that it is lawful for him to use it moderately; that others have no right to make a stumbling-block of his use of it; and as for practising a little self-denial for the sake of the example, he will not do it. Here is a woman, who professes to love God supremely, and her neighbor as herself. She prays for the heathen, and thinks herself truly religious; and yet, she will not deny herself the use of tea and coffee, to save the heathen world from hell. The wail of eight hundred millions of human beings is coming upon every wind of heaven, crying out, "send us tracts, send us Bibles, send us missionaries, send us the means of eternal life; for we are dying in our sins." "But ah!" says these professing Christians, men and women-- "It is hard times; money is scarce; we are in debt; we must turn away our ears from hearing these wailings of woe." Now brother--sister--let me sit down at your table. What have you here? How much does this tea and coffee cost you a year? How much do these worse than useless articles of luxury curtail your ability to send the gospel to the perishing? My sister, how many Bibles and tracts have you used up in this way? How many Bibles, at five shillings each, might be sent by you to the heathen every year, were you willing to exercise a little self-denial, and that too, a self-denial which your own health and highest good demand? Brother, perhaps you use tobacco. How long have you used it? The price of how many Bibles does it cost you a year? And how many heathen might this day have had Bibles in their hands, who will now go down to hell, without ever hearing of the Savior, who might have had the Bible and eternal life, had you had one particle of benevolence in your heart? Will you make the calculation? Will you ask, how many Bibles and tracts might have been purchased by the money you have squandered in this manner? And will you settle the question, definitely, whether you are influenced by the love of God and of souls? Whether you eat and drink these things for the glory of God, or for the gratification of your own lust? Surely, the question is of no less importance, than whether benevolence or selfishness constitutes your character.

16. Again, we see what to think of those whose religious duties are not a source of the highest enjoyment to them. The religion of many persons seems to make them miserable, and whatever they do for the cause of Christ they seem to do painfully and grudgingly. The reason is, they are not actuated by love. If love were the ruling disposition of their hearts, their religion would be a source of the sweetest enjoyment to them.

17. We see what to think of those who prefer getting, to giving for the cause of Christ. The truly benevolent value property, only as the means of forwarding the great object upon which their heart is set. Every thing is esteemed by them in proportion as it relates to and bears upon the Kingdom of Christ. Life, health, time, property, talents, all things, are brought into the service of God, and regarded only as they are the means of promoting His glory, and the good of souls. A truly benevolent mind places no value upon money for its own sake. It no more desires to hoard up money to gratify and please self, than it would board up chips and stones. In short, it places no earthly value upon money, or any thing else, only as it can be made instrumental in doing good. When, therefore, you see a man that loves to make great bargains, who is engaged in getting all he can, and gives to the poor and to the cause of Christ grudgingly and sparingly, it is a simple matter of fact, that he is a selfish, worldly man, and no Christian at all. In this connection you can see the delusion of that professor of religion, who will be more zealous in seasons of speculation, and enter with more enthusiasm into a money-making enterprise, than into a money-giving enterprise for the cause of Christ.

18. You see the delusion of that professor of religion, who more readily loses the spirit of revival than the spirit of speculation--in other words, whose religious zeal can be cooled down by an opportunity to make money, and who can be driven away from God and prayer, by the opening of navigation, the coming in of the business season, or when any new project of money-making comes up before the public. There are many painful instances, in which professors of religion will seem to bustle about and be active in religion, at seasons of the year when they have little else to do, or when little can be done at money-making; but are ever ready to backslide, and are sure to do so, whenever an opportunity occurs to favor their own interests. But this is almost too plain a case of delusion to need remark.

19. In the light of this subject, you can see that there is no true spirituality without real benevolence of heart and life. Many persons seem to be engaged in a most absurd attempt to keep up spirituality and a spirit of prayer and intercourse with God, while they live and conduct their business upon principles of selfishness. Now nothing can be a greater insult to God, than this--to pray for His Spirit, to attempt to have intercourse with Him, or even pretend to be His friend, while as a matter of fact selfishness is the rule of your life.

20. If "it is more blessed to give than to receive," what infinitely great satisfaction must God take in supporting so great a family. He is pouring out, from His unwasting fulness, an ocean of blessings continually. And what an infinite gratification it must be to His benevolent mind to plan and execute all the good that He is planning, and executing, and will plan and execute to all eternity.

21. We see from this subject, how to understand that declaration concerning Christ, "that for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame, and is for ever set down at the right hand of God." Although multitudes of things connected with the Atonement were in themselves painful, yet, upon the whole, the great work was a source of infinite satisfaction to the Father and the Son. And God is virtuous in the Atonement, just in proportion as he really enjoys the making of it Himself. "The Lord loveth a cheerful giver;" and we always regard that self-denial as most virtuous, that is exercised most willingly. And where the greatest self-denial is exercised, not only with great willingness, but with great joyfulness, for the sake of doing good to others, we pronounce that the highest degree of virtue. The Father is represented as being well pleased with the conduct of Christ in the Atonement. He was greatly gratified with the virtue of His Son, and to see Him count the work a joyous one, in so freely and joyfully denying Himself to save His enemies from death.

22. If God finds it "more blessed to give than to receive," why should we not abound with every blessing that we need? Why should we, by our narrow-mindedness and unbelief, render it impossible for God to gratify His benevolent heart in giving us great things?

23. You see the secret of all unbelief in prayer. It is our own selfishness. I have already said that a selfish mind finds it difficult to conceive of the true character of God. A selfish man knows that he gives grudgingly; and he very naturally conceives of God, as being altogether such a one as himself. He finds it exceedingly difficult to get hold of the rare and great idea, that God is his exact opposite in this respect--that giving is His happiness--that He has infinitely more satisfaction in giving good things, than we have in receiving them--that He has greater pleasure in giving things, than the most avaricious man on earth has in getting. But it is no wonder that selfish minds are slow to understand and believe this.

24. There is no religion but that which consists in a sympathy with God, in being benevolent as He is benevolent; in having a benevolent disposition--a settled, fixed, abiding disposition to benevolence. 1 John 4:7, 8, 16: "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love. And he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him."




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A Willing Mind Indispensable to a Right Understanding of Truth
Lecture XIII
July 1, 1840

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
 

Text.--John 7:17: "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."

In discoursing upon this subject I shall show:

I. That God's promises, with their conditions, are a revelation of the great principles of His government.

II. What is implied in a willingness to do the will of God.

III. That this state of mind is indispensable to a right understanding of the truth of God.

IV. That this state of mind will certainly result in a right knowledge of the truth, unless you tempt God by neglecting the means of knowledge.


I. God's promises, with their conditions, are a revelation of the great principles of His government.

God is unchangeable. What He does, or promises, or says at one time, He would do, or promise, or say, the circumstances being the same, at all times. Every thing that he does and says, is but a revelation of his character. He knows nothing of favoritism. His regards are always founded in the reason, and nature, and relations of things. He regards all beings and events according to their true nature, character, and relations. His providence, his threatenings, his law, gospel, and promises, only reveal so many great, unchangeable principles of his government. And as He never changes, as there is in Him "no variableness nor shadow of turning," we may rest with the utmost confidence in the fact, that both a promise and its condition, that all the promises with their conditions, are founded in, and are a revelation of the unalterable principles of His government; both the promise and the condition being founded in the nature and relations of things. And that He always holds Himself pledged to fulfill the same promises, under the same or similar circumstances, and upon the same conditions. These are irresistible inferences from his unchangeableness.

II. What is implied in a willingness to do His will.

III. This state of mind is indispensable to a right understanding of the truth of God. IV. This state of mind will certainly result in a right knowledge of the truth, unless you tempt God by rejecting the means of knowledge.
Again, being less honest, industrious and persevering than we ought to be, in search of truth, is tempting God, and may be expected to result in our remaining in ignorance.

Again, restraining prayer on the subject of divine teaching is tempting God. He has expressly said to us, "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him." "Open your mouth wide and I will fill it." "Call unto me and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not." The conditions upon which we are to be taught the will of God are expressly laid down in Prov. 2:1-9: "My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom; out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous; He is a buckler to them that walk uprightly; He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path." Here the conditions are:

Upon these conditions, it is added, "thou shalt understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God." To neglect any of these means, therefore, and then expect "to know the doctrine whether it be of God," is to tempt your Maker. But,
REMARKS.

1. The opinions of a sensualist, or one under the dominion of his appetites and propensities are not to be trusted. He is uncandid and unwilling to know the truth in relation to the self-denying gospel of Jesus Christ.

2. His opinions on the subject of temperance and the true principles of physiological reform, are not to be trusted for the same reason.

3. The opinions of a speculator or worldly minded man are not at all worthy of credit in respect to the application of the law of God to the business transactions of this world. Upon this subject he is not, and remaining a speculator, cannot be in a candid state of mind.

4. Very few persons have so renounced themselves as to be willing to know the whole truth, in regard to all branches of reform.

5. Very few have so renounced their appetites as to be willing to know and do the truth upon the subject of dietetic reform.

6. Very few have so renounced self-interest as to be willing to know and do the truth upon the subject of sanctification.

7. He who has renounced himself will search for light, and hail and embrace it with great joy upon every subject. He will find his soul panting after it with unutterable longings.

8. He who is willing to do the will of God, will keep hard upon the heels of truth, and practice as fast as he can learn. Truth upon any subject is his law. He no sooner sees than he obeys. His practice and his theory are at one.

9. Many mistake the absence of felt resistance for a willingness to do the will of God.

10. There must be a felt willingness, a longing of soul to know the whole truth. Else there is no proper willingness to do the will of God.

11. We need not expect, as I have already intimated, that God will teach us all the truth at once. When Solomon prayed for wisdom and God informed him that He had given him his desire, it is not to be supposed that he felt at the time as if he had a great enlargement of wisdom. But this wisdom was imparted as he had occasion for it. Soon after his request and the assurance of God that his prayer was granted, the two women came to him with their controversy about the child, at which time wisdom equal to the decision of the question was imparted by God in accordance with His promise. So in our own case. We are to rest and feel assured that when we have occasion for knowledge by a faithful application to Him, in the diligent use of means, we shall surely be instructed.

12. From this subject it is easy to see that the cavils of infidels against the Christian religion are of no weight. If they were really pious and holy men and gave evidence of being willing to know and do the will of God, they would know of the doctrine whether it be of God.

13. The same remark is applicable to Universalists. What confidence can be placed in their assertions in respect to the gospel of Christ? Who does not know that as a body, they are ungodly and unholy men?

14. God often teaches us in ways that greatly agonize and astonish us at the time.

15. When we pray for divine teaching, we should be entirely reconciled to let God teach us in his own way, cost us what it may. Else we tempt the Spirit of the Lord.

And now, beloved, are you in a candid state of mind and are you willing to know and do the whole will of God in respect to your whole being? Are you willing to know and do your whole duty, and the whole truth, cost what it may, on all the great subjects of reform that are before the public? Are you anxious to look through, to understand, to know and do the whole truth on the subject of entire sanctification, abolition, temperance, moral reform? A man is very ill informed who does not see, that as certainly as we are made up of body and soul, physiological and dietetic reform are indispensable to permanent moral reform.

If a man is in an uncandid state of mind on any one subject, he will not know and thoroughly do his duty on any subject. He is in a state of mind that forbids the reasonable expectation that he will. Beware then dearly beloved, I beseech you of committing yourself on the wrong side of any question. I have greatly feared and I may truly say that I have been troubled lest multitudes should do on the subject of entire sanctification, what others have done on subjects of the temperance and moral reform--so commit themselves against the truth as never to know of the doctrine whether it be of God.

And now let me, as I have often done, ask you to go down upon your knees and lay your whole heart open before the Lord. Beseech Him to search you and try your reins and your heart, and see whether you are wholly willing to conform your entire being to the will of God--to do, to say, to be nothing more or less than is for His glory. May the Lord give us grace to know and do His whole will.




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Death to Sin
Lecture XIV
July 15, 1840

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
 

Text.--Romans 6:7: "For he that is dead is freed from sin."

In the discussion of this subject I shall notice,

I. The different kinds of death mentioned in the Bible.

II. What kind of death is intended here.

III. What it consists in;

IV. What is implied in it;

V. How it is effected.


I. Different kinds of death.

II. The kind of death mentioned in the text.

The death here spoken of is manifestly a death to sin. This is very evident from the context. At the close of the preceding chapter, Paul had been speaking of the super-abounding grace of Christ, and commences the sixth chapter by saying, "What shall we say then? shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?" Here Paul is speaking of those who were alive and yet dead to sin. He spoke of their having received a baptism into the death of Christ. By their spiritual baptism they had been solemnly set apart or consecrated to the death of Christ. "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection; knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now, if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him." He speaks of them as not only dead, but, by their spiritual baptism buried into the death of Christ. And to carry the idea of their being still farther from the life of sin; he speaks of them as being planted into the likeness of His death, and crucified with Him that the body of sin might be destroyed. And then adds in the words of the text, "Now he that is dead is freed from sin." The term here rendered justification may be rendered "is made righteous."

It is plain from this connection, that Paul is speaking of those who had been so baptized by the Holy Spirit so as to be dead to sin, buried, planted, crucified, as it respects sin.

III. What it consists in.

Summarily, death to sin consists in the annihilation of selfishness, and the reign of perfect love to God and man in the heart and life.

IV. What is implied in it.

But a death to sin implies a self-denying state of mind, a disposition to give others the preference, a choosing to accommodate others, and bless, and benefit others, at the expense of self-interest or self-indulgence.
V. How this death is effected, or how persons may enter into and exercise this state of mind.
But it does imply such a degree of divine influence as will purify the heart. The New Testament writers manifestly use the term baptism as synonymous with purifying. Water baptism is typical of spiritual baptism. Spiritual baptism is the purifying of the heart by the Holy Spirit. Miraculous gifts, great excitement of mind, great rejoicings, or great sorrowings over sin, may be incidental to spiritual baptism, but they are not essential to it. You that have read the memoir of J. B. Taylor will recollect that on the 23rd of April 1822, while he was engaged in prayer, he felt his whole soul sweetly yielding itself up to God. Such a sweet thorough yielding himself and all his interests for time and eternity, into the hands of God he had never before experienced. Now I suppose that this was the effect of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He ever after remained in a state of mind entirely different from anything he had before experienced.
In receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we are by no means passive but eminently active.

This influence is secured by faith. Faith in Christ throws the mind open to the influence of His truth and gives the Spirit the opportunity of so presenting truth as sweetly to bring the entire person under its whole power. Christ administers spiritual blessings, and this is received by taking hold of His promise to baptize with the Holy Spirit, and throwing the mind open to His influences. The baptism of the Apostles, by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, will illustrate what I mean. Christ had promised them that they should be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence. They fastened upon this promise, and waited in a constant attitude of prayer and expectation, throwing the door of the mind open to His influence. Now Christ has given to all believers a great many promises of the freeness of the Holy Spirit. He has said that the "Father is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him than earthly parents are to give good gifts to their children." The "water of life" which is so abundantly promised in both the New and Old Testaments is the Holy Spirit. This everyone knows who has attentively considered the real meaning of those promises.

And now if you would enter into this death to sin, you must be baptized with the Holy Spirit. If you would be baptized with the Holy Spirit, you must fasten upon the promises of Christ and take hold of them in faith, laying your whole soul open to receive His influences. Rest with the utmost confidence in His promise to give you of the "fountain of water of life freely." And when you have taken hold of His promise, be sure not to let go or let your confidence to be shaken until you feel a consciousness that "you are baptized into His death."

REMARKS.

1. In the connection of this text, Paul speaks of himself and others as dead to and freed from sin.

2. If death to sin does not imply entire sanctification, death in sin does not imply total depravity, for they are manifestly opposite states of mind.

3. As death in sin is consistent with persons doing many things which the world regards as righteous, so death to sin may be consistent with many things which the world would regard as sinful.

4. Paul's history confirms the profession which he here makes of being dead to sin.

5. The circumstances of the primitive Church rendered a death to sin almost inevitable, at least in many instances. The profession of attachment to Christ must inevitably cost many of them all that the world holds or calls dear. They had to enter upon the Christian life by a renunciation of the world, by giving up worldly expectations and pursuits, as much as men do on a bed of death. This state of public sentiment was eminently calculated to facilitate their entrance into a state of spiritual death, and was no doubt a prime reason for their rapid advancement in the divine life.

6. We see why it is that state and other violent persecutions have already greatly contributed to the spirituality of the Church.

7. We see also why it is that state and worldly favor has crippled the energies, and overthrown the purity of the Church.

8. We see how the idea comes to be so prevalent that Christians are not wholly sanctified until death. As a matter of fact, this no doubt generally is true, that Christians are not wholly and permanently sanctified until about the close of life, until they come into that state in which they expect very soon to die. I once knew a good man who was told by his physicians, that in consequence of the enlargement of the large blood vessel near the heart, he was exposed to instant death, and that at all events he must expect to die very soon. This intelligence after the first shock was over, was instrumental in baptizing him into the death of Christ. He very soon entered into a most blessed and heavenly state of mind, let go of the world, and seemed to stand looking and waiting with most heavenly serenity for the coming of the Son of Man. In this state of mind, he was informed after a while, that he might probably live for a long time, notwithstanding his disease. This so staggered him as to well nigh bring him again into bondage. Not seeming to understand the philosophy of the state of mind in which he was, and how to remain in it by simple faith, he staggered and groaned under this intelligence till Christ, true to His promise, interposed and set his feet upon eternal rock. After this he lived and died to the wonder of all those around him, few if any of whom perhaps, so much as dreamed that his state of mind was what is intended by a death to sin.

9. Payson and multitudes of good men have found it easy to enter into this state of mind when all expectation was relinquished of remaining longer in this world. But it seems impossible or difficult for most persons to conceive, that this state of mind may be really entered into, with a prospect of any amount of life still before us.

10. But there is no need of waiting until the close of life before we die to sin. We have only to thoroughly let go of all selfish schemes and projects whatever, and give ourselves as absolutely up to the service of God, as much as we expect to when we come to die, and we enter at once into this infinitely desirable state of mind.

11. If persons have entered into this state of mind, new trials may call for fresh baptisms of the Spirit. While we are in this world of temptation, we are never beyond the reach of sin and never out of danger. If selfishness could be called into exercise in holy Adam, how much more so in those who have lived so long under the dominion of selfishness? If a man has been intemperate or licentious although these appetites and propensities may be subdued, yet it behooves him to keep out of temptation's way; and renewed temptation calls for fresh and more powerful baptisms of the Holy Spirit. Be not satisfied then with one anointing. But look day by day for deeper draughts of the water of life.

12. If we allow any form of sin to live, it will have dominion. It must be wholly exterminated or it will be our ruler. The principle of total abstinence in regard to sin is wholly indispensable to the reign of spiritual life.

Let us then, beloved, not rest satisfied until we are conscious that we are dead and buried, by spiritual baptism into Christ's death, until we are planted in the likeness of His death; and so crucified with Him that the body of death is fully destroyed.




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The Gospel the Savor of Life or of Death
Lecture XV
July 29, 1840

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
 

Text.--2 Cor. 2:14-17: "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ in them that are saved, and in them that perish. To the one we are the savor of death unto death; and to the other the savor of life unto life: and who is sufficient for these things: for we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ."

In remarking upon this text, I will endeavor to show:

I. That God has great delight in the Atonement of Christ.

II. That a full exhibition of Christ must do great good, whether men are saved or lost.

III. That such an exhibition of Christ will produce great and manifest changes in the character of those who hear.

IV. That God will be as truly honored in the damnation of those who reject, as in the salvation of those who receive Christ.


I. God has great delight in the Atonement of Christ.

From this passage, it appears that God was highly pleased with the Atonement of Christ Jesus, on account of which "He highly exalted Him, or gave him a name above every name."

Isaiah, 53:10-12:--"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him: He hath put Him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, , He shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong; because He hath poured out his soul unto death; and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

Here also God is represented as being so pleased with the Atonement of Christ as to give Him a great reward for his labor of love.

The text also contains the same doctrine, and multitudes of other passages that might be noticed.

II. A full exhibition of Christ must do great good, whether men are saved or lost. III. Such an exhibition of Christ must produce great and manifest changes in the character of those who hear. IV. God will be as truly honored in the damnation of those who reject, as in the salvation of those who receive Christ. REMARKS.

1. This subject sets in a strong light, the error of those who represent God the Father as being angry with Christ, and as seeking his vengeance upon Him, and all such like representations. On the other hand God says, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." Instead of God's being angry with Christ, He was infinitely pleased with Him for undertaking the work of redemption.

2. From this subject, we see that sinners cannot rob God of his glory. Sinner, you need not suppose that the Atonement will be lost to the universe, although you reject it. It may be worse than lost to you. But to God and to the universe, it will not be lost. Not one drop of the blood of Christ was shed in vain. And whether you accept the Atonement or not, God's government shall receive the full benefit of Christ's Atonement.

3. We see the mistake of those who hold to a limited Atonement, and alledge as a main argument in its support, that if Christ died for all men, He died in vain for those who are finally lost, and that such a provision were vain and useless. Now this goes upon the supposition that the exhibition of God in the Atonement, is to have no bearing upon his character and government in any other world than this. Nay, it is founded in such a contracted view of the moral bearings of the Atonement, as even not to see that in the estimation of those who are saved, a real provision for those who reject, would be infinitely honorable to God.

4. From this subject we see that the value of the Atonement, is not at all to be estimated by the number saved. If not one sinner was saved--if all mankind persisted in rejecting it, the exhibition of that love which is made in the Atonement, would be infinitely important to the universe, in confirming holy beings, and strengthening the power of his government.

5. We see that the usefulness of ministers to the government of God, is not at all to be estimated by the number of persons saved under their ministry. Look at the text, "for" says the Apostle, "we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ in them that are saved and in them that perish. To the one we are the savor of life unto life, and to the other the savor of death unto death."

If then ministers fully exhibit Christ, God is as truly honored when men reject, and are damned, as when they believe, and are saved. They cannot but be useful to the universe in proportion to their faithfulness. Their usefulness respects God and his government. To the sinner they may be "a savor of death unto death." But unto God they are "a sweet savor of Christ not only in them that are saved, but in them that perish." They hold forth the love of God in Christ. In this God is glorified, and Christ is preached, in which they "do rejoice and will rejoice," and in which all holy beings will rejoice; sinner, whether you are saved or lost.

6. The opposition excited by preaching Christ, will as really glorify God, as the holiness produced by it. I say nothing of the degree in which the one or the other will glorify God. But that in both God will be really glorified. If the preaching of Christ produces holiness, God will be glorified by it. If sinners rise up and oppose, it will only further illustrate the nature of sin, and the character of sinners, and more impressively illustrate his justice in their damnation.

7. Neither God nor ministers aim at the damnation of sinners, nor rejoice in their destruction, when they are sent to hell. But they do rejoice in the triumph of justice, in that infinitely glorious exhibition of God's character, which is made in their destruction.

8. The more singly and earnestly God and ministers desire and labor for the salvation of sinners, the more their final damnation, if they are lost, will glorify God. If God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost--if ministers and Christians all labor earnestly and honestly, and with all long suffering for the salvation of sinners, and they will not be saved, then sinner, remember when you go weeping and wailing along down the sides of the pit, God's justice will be the more glorious, by how much the greater pains have been taken to save you.

9. To promote the salvation of men and to honor God in their damnation, ministers must have strong and manifest sympathy with God. The more strongly they sympathize with God the more fully will they exhibit his great desire to save men. And the more fully they exhibit God the more thoroughly do they strip the sinner of all excuse and show that his damnation is imperiously demanded by the principles of eternal righteousness.

10. Ministers glorify God in proportion as they preach or exhibit the whole gospel. If they pour out before the sinner the whole heart of Christ, if they exhibit Him in all his love, relations and offices, if they unveil the fulness of his compassion and grace, they are removing the sinner infinitely far from all excuse, and rendering his damnation at every step, a more illustrious and impressive exhibition of the holiness of God.

11. Opposition to the preaching of Christ is to be expected though not desired. Though the damnation of the sinner will glorify God, yet his salvation is to be preferred, as his salvation would glorify God, to say the least, as much as his damnation. In addition to which his salvation is a real good in itself, and a good which God and all holy beings greatly desire.

12. But if sinners will oppose, ministers should not be discouraged by it and feel as if they were doing no good. My brother, if you are really preaching Christ, exhibiting Him in your pulpit, in your life, and in all your ways, you are certainly doing good and great good, to the universe, and greatly glorifying God. If every sinner in your congregation goes down to hell, be not discouraged, my brother. "Hold up the hands that hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees." But do you say my compassions are moved for them, I cannot bear to be to them a savor of death unto death. How shall I meet them in the Judgment and see them sent to hell--my neighbors, the people of my prayers and my tears, the souls for whom my heart has groaned, and agonized, and bled. My brother, God pities them more than you do. Christ's heart has bled for them more than yours. They are the people for whom He has not only prayed and wept, but for whom He has actually died. How shall he meet them in the Judgment, and weep over them as He did over Jerusalem, and say, "O sinners, sinners, how often would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, and ye would not. O that thou hadst known the things that belong to thy peace. But now are they hidden from thine eyes." "How shall I give thee up? How shall I deliver thee? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? My heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together." O my brother lift up your thoughts to the compassionate but infinite holiness and firmness of Christ. He knew how these sinner would treat his Atonement. Notwithstanding He would die for them. He knew that He should be to them a savor of death unto death; yet He knew that He should greatly glorify God by dying for them and offering them mercy.

And now my brother, be willing to exhibit in your body the dying of the Lord Jesus. Be willing to make up in your self-denying labors and sufferings, for their salvation, the sufferings of Christ that remain, that through you, God may be glorified, that you may be "unto God a sweet savor of Christ both in them that are saved and in them that perish."

13. Here we have the true ground of consolation, when we see men hardening under our ministry. If in revivals of religion, we estimate the good that is really done, by the number of conversions only, we overlook one important item, in the amount of glory that shall redound to God. The truth is, that in revivals of religion, ministers are not only a sweet savor of Christ in them that are converted, but also in them that are hardened. To the one class they are "a savor of life unto life, and to the other of death unto death." In both these classes God is greatly glorified.

14. Every one may know, and is bound to know what effect the gospel is producing on himself, and whether it is to him the "savor of life unto life or of death unto death."

15. We should observe what its effect is upon our families, and narrowly watch its influence upon the minds of all around us, and lay ourselves out with all our might, to make it the savor of life unto life. But if through the perverseness of the sinner's heart, he will make it the savor of death unto death, let us rejoice not in his hardness nor in his destruction, but in the fact that the holiness and justice of God will be the more gloriously illustrated in his damnation.

16. And now sinner where are you? Did you ever realize the circumstances of awful solemnity and responsibility in which God has placed you? Do you know what you are doing? Do you understand the relation which the gospel ministry sustains to you? Do you not tremble when you see your minister, and know that God has unalterably ordained that he shall be unto you the "savor of life unto life, or of death unto death"? Do you know that he is the messenger of God to your poor soul?--and that you can no more prevent his being to you a savor of life or death, than you can prevent your own existence. Sinner, Christ has not died in vain. Ministers do not preach in vain. Christians do not pray in vain. The Holy Spirit does not strive in vain. Heaven from above does not call in vain. Hell from beneath does not warn in vain. God's mercies are not in vain. All these influences are acting upon you. They will act, they must act. They must be to you the "savor of life unto life or of death unto death." How infinitely solemn and awful are your circumstances. How dreadful your responsibility! How short your life! How near your death! Are you prepared for solemn judgment? Sinner will you go down instantly on your knees, and offer up your whole being to God, "before wrath comes upon you to the uttermost"?




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Christians
The Light of the World
Lecture XVI
August 12, 1840

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
 

Text.--Matt. 5:14-16: "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

I shall show,

I. That the world is in great spiritual darkness.

II. That Christians, under God, are to enlighten it.

III. How they are to do this.

IV. If the world is not enlightened, it is the fault of Christians.


I. The world is in great spiritual darkness.

And here let me say that when we speak of the spirituality of God's law, there are many minds who seem to turn away from us as if we were speaking very mystically. What, they say, law is law. We can understand what God's law says as well as you can, and do understand it as well as you do. And why should you mystify and speak of its spirituality as if it had some occult meaning which none but the initiated can understand? To this I reply:
As a farther illustration, take the commandment, "Thou shalt not steal." The letter of this commandment, prohibits the secret taking of another's property, and using it as if it were our own, without intention of returning it. But the spirit of this commandment forbids all covetousness and requires us to love our neighbor as ourselves. It prohibits our using our neighbor's good, selfishly, whether with or without his consent. It prohibits every form of fraud, speculation, and taking any advantage in business, that is inconsistent with the royal rule, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Now who does not know that unconverted sinners are in the dark in regard to the spirituality of these and every other command of God. What horrible conviction and consternation would fill the world if sinners but thoroughly understood the spirituality of God's law.
II. Christians, under God, are to enlighten the world. III. How Christians can enlighten the world.

Under this head I inquire what constitutes the Christian's light, or what renders him a light to others? Ans.

Christians then can enlighten the world, not


IV. If the world is not enlightened, it is the fault of Christians.

REMARKS.

1. How much evil is done by temporizing and keeping out of view the great and numberless points of difference between Christianity and the spirit of the world, as if we could show ungodly men the necessity of a great and radical change in themselves, by as nearly conforming our lives and tempers to theirs as possible. It is only by strong and constant contrast that the conviction of the necessity of a radical change in themselves, is to be forced home upon them. The more striking and constant this contrast, the better: the more universal and perfect this contrast is, the more sudden and irresistible will be their conviction of the necessity of a great and radical change in themselves.

2. We see from this subject how utterly injudicious it is to conceal the true light, on any great subject of reform, whenever a favorable opportunity should present itself to hold it up. Some ministers and professors of religion, seem to be always waiting to have the people find out the truth themselves, and for such a public sentiment to be formed as will anticipate and render it popular to hold up any heretofore unpopular or offensive doctrine. They seem not inclined to go ahead and rebuke the darkness of the public mind, by holding up the true light. They seem to dread the loss of their own popularity, and as they say, fear to injure their usefulness, by calling things by their right names, by declaring their own experience of the power of the gospel of the blessed God, by at once preaching and bringing out the whole truth before the world. In order to render themselves popular with all parties, they will so hold forth certain unpopular truths, as that the already initiated, will perceive that they believe them and correctly teach them: but in such language, with such provisos and caveats as that none others will suspect them of believing or teaching any such thing. If the whole Church and congregation were but to get right, without their instrumentality, if a public sentiment should be formed that would invite their coming out in plain language, they would then become bold champions for the truth. But they are waiting for the Churches to learn the truth before they declare it to them. And when it becomes popular to tell the whole truth, they will be the first to tell it.

3. The same is true of multitudes of professing Christians, in respect to their lives. For their worldly-mindedness, and for all forms and degrees of conformity to the world, they plead the force of public sentiment, that it will not do to differ from every body else, and that the law of expediency demands of them a good degree of conformity to the world, in order to secure an influence over them. But is this the way to enlighten the world? Instead of setting yourself to correct public opinion, do you suffer yourself to become the mere creature of it? Instead of opposing what is wrong in the views and practices of mankind, on every subject, do you fall in with them, and thus strengthen their bands, and confirm them in their darkness, expecting that by and by public sentiment will change so that you can do your duty without losing your influence, so that you can declare what God has done for your soul, relate your experience of the power of his grace, and hold up your light in the midst of the acclamations of the crowd? What a delusive dream is this!

4. Christians should remember that silence on any great subject of moral reform, that hiding their light either in precept or example, when a suitable opportunity occurs for exhibiting it, implies either that they do not believe it, or that it is with them a mere matter of opinion, and that they lay little or no practical stress upon it. Or else it implies that they are ashamed of it.

5. How cruel it is to let people remain in darkness through a fear of losing our own popularity. On what multitudes of subjects, are people injuring both their bodies and their souls for lack of correct information. And how shameful and cruel it is for those who have the true light, to hide it.

6. We see from this subject, the importance of believers in the doctrine of entire sanctification in this life, holing up this infinitely important doctrine, both by principle and example, whenever they have the opportunity. They should be "living epistles known and read of all men."

7. Unless Christians hold up the true light in contrast with the world's darkness, they are the greatest curses that are in the world. They are like a false light, that decoys the unwary mariners upon the rocks and quicksands. The world knows that you are professors of religion, that you are set as a moral lighthouse. They therefore think it safe to steer in the direction in which your light indicates that they should go. If therefore the light that is in you be darkness, what a curse are you to your family, your neighborhood, and the world around you. They will look at you. They mark your words. They ponder well your temper, and spirit, and life. They feel themselves safe in copying your example, in drinking in of your spirit, and in steering their course to eternity, by your light. And what a cruel monster are you, if you mislead them. What do you say of pirates who erect a false light upon some shoal, to decoy the unwary mariners to dash upon it, for the sake of plunder? Does not your blood curdle in your veins? Do not cold chills run over you? Does not your soul shudder when you read of the abominable selfishness of those who hold up false lights to mariners at sea, destroying so many lives, and so much property, for the sake of gratifying their odious selfishness? But professors of religion, you are the light of the world. Do you hold up a false light in the midst of the world's darkness? And when thousands of sinners are hovering round about upon your coast, benighted and bestormed, and looking to you for light, are you engaged in your selfish projects, exhibiting a carnal, earthly, and devilish spirit, while they are running upon the rocks and quicksands, ruining their souls, and going to hell by scores around you? Hear the wail of that lost soul, as it dashes upon the rocks, and sinks to hell. It lifts its eyes and cries out, O, I did not dream that evil was near. I had my eye upon that professor of religion. I transacted business upon the same principles, upon which I saw he transacted his. I kept my eye upon him and steered my bark by his light. And oh, unutterable horror, I am in the depths of an eternal hell!




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Communion with God- No.'s 1 & 2
Lectures XVII & XVIII
August 26, 1840

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College

LECTURE XVII.

Text.--2 Cor. 13:14: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all. Amen."

In discussing this subject, I shall--

I. Consider the meaning of the term communion.

II. What is implied in communion with the Holy Ghost.

III. How we may know whether and when we have communion with God.

IV. The value and importance of communion with God.

V. How to secure and perpetuate it.


I. Meaning of the term Communion as used in the Bible.

It sometimes means friendly intercourse, as in Gen. 18:33: "And the Lord went his way, as soon as He had left COMMUNING with Abraham." Sometimes it means counsel, advice, and instruction; 1 Kings 10:2: "She came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold and precious stones; and when she was come to Solomon, she COMMUNED with him of all that was in her heart." It is the same term in the original that is rendered fellowship in Phil. 2:1: "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any FELLOWSHIP of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies." And 1 John 1:3: "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye may also have FELLOWSHIP with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." To commune with God, then, is to have fellowship with Him, friendly intercourse, consultation, advice, instruction.

II. What is implied in communion with the Holy Ghost.

III. How we may know whether and when we have communion with God.
In such cases the soul seeks to be alone with God. It naturally follows, crying after God, and its desires are like a liquid stream, flowing and flowing; and as he is on his way to some retired spot, or upon his knees in his closet, or perhaps in the night season upon his bed, "his heart and his flesh cry out for God, for the living God." From the deep bottom of his heart, his soul cries out, "Father, Father," and repeats and echoes, over and over, all the dear names, the titles, and relations of God; and his soul seems to be all liquid, and flowing, and gushing, and drawn into the deep waters of his love.
Now there are many degrees of this kind of communion with God, when the scriptures are so opened up to the mind, and so understood, and its truths so apprehended, and appear to the soul so glorious and ravishing, as to swallow up in a greater or less degree, the thoughts, attention, and whole being.
I must omit the remaining heads of this discourse till my next.
 
 

LECTURE XVIII.

September 9, 1839

COMMUNION WITH GOD--No. 2

Text.--2 Cor. 13:14: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all. Amen."

In pursuing this subject, I shall notice, according to my plan--
 

IV. The value and importance of Communion with God.

O what is a minister that does not keep up communion with God? As well might an alien, an enemy, or a rebel, be employed as an ambassador, as a minister assume that office, and attempt to treat with sinners in the name of God, without communion with Him. My ministerial brethren, will you allow me to ask you, in the kindness, sincerity and sobriety of my soul, whether you understand, in your own experience, what I have been talking about? Do you know, dearly beloved, in your own experiences, what this communion with God is? Do you live in his light? Do you walk with God? Is your conversation in heaven? Do you feel as if your souls were wafted on the Pacific Ocean of love, by the trade winds of his eternal Spirit? Do your people, when you go into the pulpit, see that your soul stands out before them as bathed in the sun light of heaven? Do your prayers, and preaching, and all your ways, impress them with the conviction, that you are a spiritually minded man--that you are risen with Christ--that your conversation is in heaven--that your heart is not set upon things on earth, but upon those things where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God?

My brother, my beloved brother, do you preach the spirit or the letter of the gospel? Are you a minister of the New or of the Old Testament? Be not offended, but let me come near, I pray you, and commune with you. Would you be useful to your fellow-men? Would you glorify God in all your ways? Are you useful to them? Does your fruit abound to the glory of God? Are you instrumental in watering their souls with the water of eternal life? Do you feed them with the bread of heaven? What is the state of the church to which you minister? What is the standard of their spirituality? Especially, how is it with those with whom you associate most, and over whom you have the most influence? Do you feed them with the "sincere milk of the word?"

If, by your daily experience, you know what that communion with God is, of which I have been speaking, I might venture to answer these questions for you; but if you do not, you are but a "blind leader of the blind." Be not displeased with this. I speak it in love, and because I deeply feel it. And if you do not know it to be true, the more deeply do I pity you, and the church to which you minister; and the more emphatically do I blame you.

Now nothing can calm our own minds, amidst the shocks, vicissitudes, and trials of life, but continual communion with the infinitely calm and peaceful mind of God. O when the soul has been disquieted by the occurrences of life, and takes a deep plunge into the ocean of eternal love--when it steals away from all human eyes, and holds a protracted and soul calming interview with God, how peacefully does it look about upon those occurrences that are throwing the world into fermentation around it.
V. How to secure and perpetuate Communion with God.
A brother minister said, but a short time since, in my hearing, that on being requested, some time since, by a brother minister to engage in a certain business which he feared would be a great temptation to him, he declined, upon the ground that he feared, that in so doing he should sin. His brother replied, "O what of that? we are sinning all the time. If we sin we must repent, you know."

Now I cannot tell in how many instances I have seen this state of mind developed, among professors of religion, within a few years past. And it sets in a most striking and abhorrent light, the sentiment that Christians are not to expect to be entirely sanctified until death.

Now, Christian, let me tell you, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, what, if you are a Christian, you know to be true--that you cannot live in communion with God, only as you give yourself up to Him, in a state of entire consecration. Whenever you are overcome by sin, your communion is interrupted of course; and unless you really mean, intend, and expect to be wholly and perpetually consecrated to his service, to keep up communion with God is impossible.


REMARKS.

1. How few there be that keep up communion with God.

2. Sinning willfully against the light may cut off communion between your soul and God forever. I have known some lamentable and distressing cases, where persons by one willful sin, brought themselves into a state of protracted, if not final despair.

3. Communion with God is the secret of all ministerial usefulness. Here let me say that ministers often deceive themselves, as it respects their usefulness, through the instrumentality of pious members of their church, there may be revivals of religion in their churches, entirely independent of their instrumentality. This, I have good reason to know, is often the case. And that they are often supposed by others to be eminently useful in promoting the salvation of souls, when, as a matter of fact, they are right in the way. It is to be feared that they often think themselves in a good degree useful, because they live so far from God as not to see that they are in reality doing more hurt than good.

4. In the light of this subject, we can also see the fruit of ministerial unfruitfulness. Christ says, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches; he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples." In this passage Christ seems expressly to teach, that if ministers are unfruitful, or if any Christian is unfruitful, it is because, as a matter of fact, he does not abide in Christ. Abiding in Christ I understand, to be the keeping up constant communion with Him. Now as these words of Christ are true, no professor of religion, and no minister, has a right to say that he abides in Christ, if he does not "bring forth much fruit."

5. From this subject we see the importance of students keeping up communion with God during the progress of their education. It is, I believe, one of the greatest, one of the most common, and ruinous errors among students to suppose that they can give up in a great measure communion with God while pursuing their college education, and that they shall naturally resume it again when they shall enter upon Theology, or at all events when they shall enter the ministry. Now, beloved young men, let me warn you against this delusion, as fatal to your future usefulness. Inquire the world around among all the fruitless ministers of your acquaintance, and you will find almost without exception that this has been the "stone of stumbling" to them. They were pressed in their studies. They gave up communion with God for communion with their authors, their teachers, and their fellow students. They became earthly, sensual, devilish. And the results of their ministry, can tell you the consequences of their folly.

6. The privileges of Christians now are greater than if they enjoyed the personal presence and preaching of Christ. Christian, what would you say, if you could have Christ for your pastor. Should you not expect to grow in grace? Would you not expect to live a life of entire consecration to God? Here what He say, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart I will send Him unto you." "Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth, for He shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak; and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify me; and He shall receive of mine, and shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine, therefore said I, that He shall take of mine and shew it unto you." Here then we have the express mind of Christ, that the presence of the Holy Spirit which we may always enjoy, is of more importance to us than his personal teachings. Christ could not be every where in his bodily presence. But the Holy Ghost is every where. Christ could only instruct us by his words and example were He personally present with us. But his Spirit can directly approach our minds and put us in possession at once of the whole truth. Christian brother, sister, ministerial brethren, I beseech you, understand your privilege and know that as a matter of fact, they are greater, if you will lay hold of them, than if you lived in the same house, eat at the same table, enjoyed the daily conversation, and personal preaching of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

O, then keep up constant communion with God. And may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all, Amen.




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Temptations Must Be Put Away
Lecture XIX
October 7, 1840

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
 

Text.--Matt. 5:29,30: "And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell."

In discussing this subject I will show:

I. That things in themselves lawful and even important, may, by sinful indulgences, become a cause and a source of stumbling to the soul.

II. That however dear, and even important they may be, if through abuse, they, as a matter of fact, are the cause of our falling into bondage to sin, they must be put away.

III. That to continue the temptation, in such cases, and expect grace to overcome it, is to tempt God.

IV. If any form of temptation is allowed to have dominion over us, we are inevitably and for ever lost.


I. Things in themselves lawful and even important, may, by sinful indulgence, become a cause and a source of stumbling to the soul.

II. However dear and even important they may be, if, through abuse, they, as a matter of fact, are the cause of our falling into bondage to sin, they must be put away. III. To continue the temptation in such case, and expect grace to overcome it, is to tempt God. IV. If any form of temptation is allowed to have dominion over us, we are inevitably and for ever lost. REMARKS.

1. If things the most lawful and important in themselves must, if through abuse they have become a stumbling-block to us, be put away, how much more needful then that we put away useless and unnecessary things.

2. From this subject we can see the error of those who hold on to practices and things, that are a cause of stumbling to them, on the ground that they are lawful in themselves. What is more lawful or more important than a right hand or a right eye? Suppose, that when Christ delivered this sermon on the mount, of which the text is a part, one of his hearers had replied-- "Surely, this man is mad and hath a devil. Will he teach us to cut off our right hands and pluck out our right eyes? Did not God make them for lawful and useful purposes? Would he have a man maim himself, or make himself a cripple for life? Is it not lawful for us to enjoy the good things of providence? This is altogether a legal spirit, and by no means the doctrine from God." What reply, suppose you, Christ would have made to such an objection as this? And yet how many vehement debates do we hear, in which men are pleading for and defending their lusts, indulging their appetites, and ruining their souls, on the ground that these things are lawful in themselves? Suppose they are lawful in themselves, and yet, as a matter of fact, you abuse them and suffer them to lead you into sin. If they are lawful in themselves, you do not use them lawfully. They have become your masters, instead of your servants; and therefore you must put them away, however lawful they may be in themselves, or you will lose your souls.

3. We see the mistake and the presumption of those who hold on to things which prove a snare to them, on the ground that they are useful things. What is more useful than a right hand or a right eye? And yet Christ says, put them away; for however useful they may be, they will never pay you for the loss of your souls.

4. We see the folly and madness of those who hold on to their indulgences in things that lead them into sin, on the ground that these things are not expressly forbidden in the word of God. One man can find it no where forbidden in the scriptures to use ardent spirits--another can find no express passage, forbidding the use of wine--and a third can find slavery no where prohibited in the word of God. In short, many seem disposed to indulge themselves in whatever is not expressly forbidden, without at all regarding the actual influence of those things upon them.

5. How little he cares for sin, or knows of God, who can willingly spare that which leads him into sin. What can he know of God? What does he really know of sin? What idea can he have of true religion? Surely none that are not infinitely far from truth.

6. From this subject it is easy to see, that if property becomes a snare it should be put away. If a man's state of mind is such that, as a matter of fact, worldly possessions lead him into a state of worldly-mindedness, he should give his property at once to the cause of God, and refuse to possess any, even if he become as poor as Lazarus. Such a course is altogether indispensable to the salvation of his soul. If his property is a snare, he must put it away, whether it be much or little. Any and every article of property, that gets hold of the heart, diverts the attention and affections from God, whether it be a dollar or a mine of gold, a horse, a house, a farm, a store, or any thing whatever, that as a matter of fact alienates the soul from God, must be put away, or the soul is lost. Now is this any stronger than the doctrine of the text? No, verily. If this is extravagant, then Christ was extravagant. If this is not solemn truth, and if as much as I here affirm is not true, then the text is not true, and Christ is a false witness. I know that such statements are apt to be looked upon as extravagant; but mark what I say--It is no extravagant assertion, that whatever piece of property, whatever kind or amount of worldly goods, seduces the soul away from God, they must be put away, and put away for ever, or the soul is inevitably lost.

7. What vast madness possesses the souls of those who are endeavoring to get all the worldly goods they can, and even to lay up wealth for their children, when they are as conscious as they are of their own existence, that their worldly possessions are diverting their minds from God and heaven. It would seem as if they were enlisted to work out their own damnation with all their might.

8. If you are inclined to eat too much, you must deny yourselves those kinds of diet that betray you into gluttony. Whatever those kinds of diet are, of which you are so fond, and that overcome you when placed before you, and lead you to transgress the laws of your being, put them entirely away. Do not suffer them to find a place upon your table.

9. The exact opposite of this course is generally pursued by mankind. From the general conduct of mankind, it would seem that they fear starvation a thousand times more than they do gluttony, and that the utmost attention must be paid to preparing tempting dishes, or mankind would not have sufficient appetite to meet the demands of their nature. Now gluttony is one of the most common sins in the world. It is the testimony of the best judges upon this subject, that excessive eating is the most common form of intemperance that prevails among mankind, and is the cause of more disease, especially in this country, than any other form of intemperance. How unwise then, how wicked, what tempting God is it, to continue to prepare and set before yourselves those tempting dishes, instead of furnishing your tables with those wholesome, bland articles of diet of which you will be likely to eat but the requisite quantity.

10. If any article of dress, as a matter of fact, begets pride and vanity, occupies your thoughts, and diverts your mind from God, put it away for ever. A woman in one of our large cities, who was justly considered beautiful, and had been recently converted, was seen by a female friend with her hands filled with artificial flowers and curls, approaching the fire. "What!" answered the young convert, "I am going to burn them up." "O," said the friend, "don't burn them up; you can sell them and give the avails to some benevolent object." "Sell them," said she, "and thus tempt somebody else to be as proud and vain of them as I have been! No! I will burn them up. They shall no more be a temptation and a snare to any human being."

How wonderful is the conduct of human beings, and especially of professors of religion. Knowing, as they do, their weakness and liability to be overcome by pride, one would suppose that they would avoid, in the purchase of articles of dress, every thing that might excite pride or vanity, as they would avoid destruction itself. But alas! how different is their conduct. Under the pretense of consulting good taste, they are at the utmost pains, and spare no expense, in tempting themselves to pride, by the purchase of any and every article that will adorn their persons, and show them off to advantage. Let me say, then, that whatever of dress, or equipage, or furniture, as a matter of fact excites pride and vanity, must be put away, or the soul is lost.

11. Every appetite and passion that has the ascendency, and leads us into sin, must be crucified and its dominion entirely destroyed, or the soul is utterly lost.

12. Those who live in self-indulgence, and still think that they know and enjoy Christ, are deceived Antinomians. I have heard of some, who professed to come into the liberty of the gospel, decrying every thing that looked like self-denial and mortifying the flesh, as legal and belonging to Judaism, rather than to Christianity. Hence they indulge in the use of wines and strong drinks--their women indulge in dress, and flutter about after the fashions of this world; because, forsooth, they are now in a state of liberty, they spurn and despise a course of temperance, self-denial, and cross-bearing, of non-conformity to the world, as altogether a legal and self-righteous spirit and course of life. So did not Paul. So did not Christ. So does not any one who truly knows Christ.

13. Many seem to understand the gospel as designed to purchase indulgence, instead of begetting self-denial. The gospel was evidently designed to enlighten the minds of men in regard to the value of heavenly things--to bring them out from under the dominion of the objects of sense, and engage their thoughts and their hearts, in the pursuit and enjoyment of spiritual objects; and thus to lead mankind to neglect the glitter and baubles of this world--to forgo pampering their appetites, indulging their passions, adorning their bodies, and floating on in the currents of this world. But many seem so entirely to mistake the true spirit and intent of the gospel, as to suppose it designed to sanctify conformity to the world, instead of entirely delivering the soul from it. With this understanding of the gospel some persons seem to be in a very wonderful state of mind. I heard, sometime since, of a young woman, a professor of religion, who was in the habit of cohabiting with a young man as if she had been his wife, and who, before retiring to her bed of iniquity and shameless lust, would kneel down, and very gravely thank God, that He allowed her such indulgences.

Now, she no doubt supposed herself to be very thankful, and in a very humble frame of mind. Although this was an extreme case, yet I have myself seen many things that seemed to involve the same principle, and to be the result of the same utter misunderstanding and perversion of the gospel, where persons were manifestly living in self-indulgence, pride, and luxury, and appeared to be very thankful that the gospel had relieved them from the necessity of an opposite course of life, and had sanctioned and sanctified such a use of the good things of providence, as that in which they were indulging--squandering Christ's money, injuring their health, stupefying and imbruting their minds, adorning their bodies, compressing their chest with tight lacing, and in multitudes of ways making war on both moral and physical law; and yet, having the idea that the gospel sanctioned all this, they were highly pleased with such a gospel, and such a Christ, and such a salvation--a salvation evidently not from sin, but in sin; not from the dominion of the flesh, but a salvation that throws up the reins to appetite, lust, and vanity. These poor dreamers seem to suppose that there is, under the gospel, no need of restraining the natural appetites, but that all may be indulged with perfect safety and propriety, if there is only faith in Christ. Now it should be for ever understood, that faith in Christ is that which gives victory over these things, instead of sanctifying indulgence in them.

14. I next remark, that what may be expedient for one to possess, or enjoy, may not be so for another. On account of natural temperament, or the influence of grace, one man may have possessions without being a temptation to him, to draw him away from God, which another cannot have. It is never safe for us to possess or indulge in any thing because another does so; for it may be that we are not equally able to bear it.

15. Under some circumstances, we may not be able to bear, what under other circumstances we could bear without injury.

16. From this subject it is easy to see the importance of watchfulness, and giving the utmost attention to the occasions of our stumbling, whether proximate or remote. When I was a young convert, I was struck with this resolution of Edwards:

"Resolved, that when I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back till I come to the original cause, and then both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it."

It is no doubt of the utmost importance, that our eyes should be continually open to all the influences that are acting on us, and affecting our moral characters. Every article of dress, every thing in our employments, amusements, companions, books, diet, in all our habits, and in all our ways, whatever leads us into sin, should be put away.

17. Some indulge temptation and sin, until so blinded and hardened, as to feel no condemnation, and think that all is well. Their consciences have become stupefied and remain indignantly silent. And what they once esteemed to be sin they no longer regard as such. They can now complacently indulge in what would once have made them tremble. And because they feel no condemnation, they imagine that they are not condemned. Now it is one thing to have a seared conscience, and to be in that negative state of mind in which there is no felt condemnation, and that active, positive, and conscious state of love to God and souls, in which the soul has the continual testimony that it pleases God.

18. All the promises in regard to support under temptation and deliverance from it, are to be understood to be upon the condition that we avoid and put away all temptation as far as we possibly can. We often find promises to which no express condition is annexed, but where a condition is either plainly implied or expressed in some other part of the word of God. Take the promise in 1 Cor. 10:13: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." Here is a promise without any condition expressed with regard to deliverance from the power of temptation. But our text, is to be regarded as a condition annexed by Christ Himself to all promises of this stamp. And these passages together teach this doctrine, that we need not fall under the power of any temptation, that we cannot avoid or put away from us--that when we have gone the full length of sacrificing a right hand or a right eye, to be rid of temptation, that no unavoidable temptation shall come upon us, from which we shall not have grace to escape. And this is all that such promises can mean, when viewed in the light of the expressed or implied conditions of the gospel.

19. If we are not enabled to put away and overcome temptation, it is because we have no Savior. The Savior's name is Jesus, because He saved his people from their sins. If, therefore, you are not enabled to overcome your sins, it is because you reject the Savior.

20. How many are engaged in defending their idols and their lusts, rather than in putting them away.

21. If any thing is found to be a temptation and a cause of stumbling to us, we should never indulge or defend it, because others indulge in the same thing. Perhaps they may do it without its being an overcoming stumbling-block to them. Or if it does overcome and lead them into sin, their going to destruction is certainly no good reason why we should do so.

22. Where a thing may be reasonably suspected as the cause of our falling into sin, it should be put away. It sometimes happens, that we are not fully aware of what the particular thing is, in our habits, which grieves the Spirit of God, and yet have some or much reason to suppose that it is the practice or indulgence of some particular thing. A doubtful thing should never be allowed.

23. A thing may be overlooked as a cause or occasion of our stumbling, because it is not a proximate but a remote cause. The thing which acted immediately upon us to cause our fall, may perhaps be something that we cannot put away. But should we candidly inquire, we might find the more remote occasions, and by removing them, continue in a state of liberty.

24. If a man but love God, he will not, cannot rest until every cause of stumbling be searched out, and removed. Can a man love God supremely, and yet find himself betrayed into sin against Him, and rest until he has searched out and removed the cause? No!

25. Those who secretly dislike the doctrine of entire holiness in this life, are not Christians. From the manner in which many professors of religion treat this question, it seems manifest that they feel a secret dislike to it. They seem indisposed to understand it. They appear to set themselves to object to and pervert it, rather than candidly and earnestly to investigate it, with a manifest desire that it might be true. What they say and write, often makes the impression upon those who hear and read, that there is in the bottom of their hearts a spirit of secret but deep opposition to it. It may be supposed by some, that this manifested opposition is because it is regarded as error, and that Christians will naturally and of right manifest opposition to error. I should be glad to believe, that this opposition is founded in the conviction that this doctrine is false; but there is one circumstance that seems to forbid accounting for this opposition upon this principle. When a doctrine is hated because it is false, the doctrine will be fairly stated and met, and hated for what it is, and not for what it is not. Whenever we see a mind betaking itself to misstatement, and misrepresentation, in order to evade a doctrine, it is difficult for us to believe, that the misrepresented doctrine is rejected because it is believed by the mind to be false. If the doctrine, as it is, were believed by the mind to be false, it would be stated and met as it is, and not misrepresented and misstated.

26. We see why so many, who admit the truth of the doctrine of entire sanctification in this life, do not practically embrace it. They have some idol with which they will not part. Their right hand and their right eye are so dear to them, that they will not spare them for the sake of eternal life. Especially, they will not do this, as from the common sentiments of the Church, they think they can get along very well without. They seem to reason thus: "We are about as good as common Christians, although to be sure, we are in the practice of many sins. The great mass of Christians do not believe that entire sanctification in this life is necessary or even attainable. We can, therefore, satisfy ourselves with but partial sanctification in this life, and still go to heaven. Why then should we throw away all our idols, merely for the sake of entire sanctification here, when partial sanctification will, in the judgment of the Church, and even of the ministers, do just as well. Now it is doubtful whether any such state is really attainable; and if it is, as I can get to heaven just as well without, I will not be so extravagantly foolish as to part with a right hand or a right eye, for the sake of being wholly without sin in this life." Now this seems to be a statement in words of the real, though unexpressed sentiments, of many professors of religion. The truth is, they are unwilling to give up their sins, and they resolve, if possible, to get into heaven without. Let such hear the words of Christ: "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if they right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell."

27. If a temptation is of such a nature, that it cannot be utterly put away, every thing should be done by us that can be, to destroy its influence over us. For example: Our appetites and passions cannot, at our will, be annihilated; but those things that excite them can be avoided.

28. How terrible is the delusion of those who expect to be sanctified, or even saved, in the courses of life which they are pursuing.

29. It is no wonder that the Church do not believe in the doctrine of entire sanctification in this life. They are well satisfied that, with their present habits and indulgences, they cannot be entirely sanctified. And as these habits and indulgences appear to be stereotyped, they reject the doctrine of entire freedom from sin in this life, as unreasonable.

30. Whenever all is done that can be done, to avoid temptation, and to put away whatever brings us into bondage to sin, we may expect, and are bound to expect, that no temptation shall come upon us, from the power of which we are not able to escape. It is then entirely within the reach of every individual to live in a state of entire consecration, or sanctification, to God.

And now, whatever you do, do quickly. Will you put away now and for ever those temptations that overcome you, which can be put away by you? And will you now commit yourselves to the keeping and protection of the Lord Jesus Christ, to sustain you against the power of those temptations which you cannot avoid? Or will you hold on to your idols but a little longer, until all is lost. Again I say, whatever you do, do quickly. Every moment's delay is grieving the Holy Spirit. And even while I speak, unseen hands may be ready to toll the knell of eternal death over your soul! while you sink, weeping and wailing, down the sides of the pit!

Professor of religion, and you, impenitent sinner, do you realize, that while I speak the curtain may be ready to drop, the scene close, and your soul shut up to the horrors of the second death! O, do you know, "that now of a long time your judgment lingereth not, and your damnation slumbereth not"--that the Spirit is grieved--God is provoked; Divine forbearance almost exhausted--and your soul for ever lost! Again I say, what you do, do quickly.




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Design or Intention Constitutes Character
Lecture XX
October 21, 1840

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
 

Text.--Psalm 28:4: "Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavors."

By endeavors in this text, I understand design, or intention.

In discussing this subject, I shall--

I. Notice the distinction between intention and volition.

II. The distinction between an ultimate or supreme intention and a subordinate intention.

III. Show that moral character lies mainly in the ultimate or supreme intention of the mind.

IV. Show that the moral character or those volitions and outward actions, which are directed by the intention, is as the ultimate intention is.

V. Show when the intention is sinful.

VI. When it is holy.

VII. Show that a man's character, as distinguished from the character of any one of his acts, is as his supreme and ultimate intention is.


I. The distinction between intention and volition.

Intention is the mind's design, aim, or end. Not the outward object aimed at, but the inward design of the mind to secure a given object. Volition is the action of the will or those subordinate choices, which are produced and directed by the intention. In other words, intention is a state of the will--a permanent disposition or state of the will, in distinction from single volitions or actions of the will. Volitions, then, are, strictly speaking, the means used by the will, or the efforts which it makes to obtain the object of design or intention.

II. The distinction between an ultimate or supreme intention and a subordinate intention.

An ultimate intention, end, design, or object, is the final end which the mind has in view, and that to which all other ends are subordinate, and to which they sustain only the relation of a means. For example:--A student may work--to get money--to purchase books--to obtain an education--to preach the gospel--to convert sinners--to glorify God. Here are several ends, subordinate to one supreme or ultimate end. The first end which the student has in view is to get money. But this is both an end and a means. His second end is to purchase books. A third end, the end for which he purchases books, is, to obtain an education. But his education is also a means to another end, which is to preach the gospel. This is also a means to another end, the conversion of sinners. And the conversion of sinners is a means to another end, which is, to glorify God.

III. Moral character lies mainly in the ultimate or supreme intention of the mind.

IV. The moral character of those volitions and outward actions which are directed by the intention, is as the ultimate intention is. V. When the intention is sinful. VI. When the intention is holy.

When and only when it is the ultimate aim, object, or intention of the mind, to glorify God, and promote the good of the universe. If we design to glorify God as the means of promoting our own happiness, this is selfishness. To glorify and please God must be a thing intended and sought, for its own sake, and on its own account. And when this is the supreme and ultimate end at which we aim, the character is holy. In other words, none but a disinterestedly benevolent intention is holy.

If it be inquired, whether my designing or intending, and laboring to promote the glory of God, will not result in my own happiness, and may not therefore be regarded as the most remote or ultimate end at which I aim, I answer:

VII. A man's character, as distinguished from the character of any one of his acts, is as his supreme and ultimate intention is. REMARKS.

1. The ultimate end which a man has in view in his conduct, may not always be that which occupies his thoughts, and his conduct may be sinful or holy without the ultimate intention being at the time the subject of consciousness, or even thought. The student's thoughts may be, for the time being, wholly upon his labor or his books; and yet he may be influenced by the ultimate end he has in view, whether it be ambition or disinterested love to God, without being at all conscious at the time, of being influenced by any other than the immediate end before him. But although the immediate object before him is the subject of his thoughts, still his labor or his study is holy or sinful, as his ultimate intention is.

2. There can be but two classes of mankind, in respect to moral character. There is but one right, ultimate end or intention, which is the glory of God and the interests of his kingdom. This ought to be the ultimate intention of every moral being in the universe. Every other ultimate end or intention is entirely wrong. So that there cannot, by any possibility, be more than two classes of moral beings, in respect to moral character, in the universe.

3. From this subject it is easy to see, that unregenerate sinners are, without exception, entirely depraved. We have seen, that a sinner's character is as his ultimate intention is. Every unregenerate sinner has a selfish ultimate or supreme intention, and is, therefore, in a state of total depravity.

4. From this subject we can see what regeneration is--that it consists in the change of the supreme or ultimate intention of the mind.

5. We can see that two persons may act precisely alike, be engaged in the same transactions, and in every respect be outwardly exactly alike, and yet possess moral characters precisely opposite. Nay, they may be both outwardly and inwardly, with the exception of their ultimate intention, exactly alike, and yet possess opposite characters. They may both will to pray, to go to meeting, to perform every religious duty. They may will, do, and be exactly alike in every other respect, if their ultimate object or intention is not the same, their moral characters are, in the sight of God, totally unlike.

6. An action may be morally right, because the intention is so, and yet there may be a sinful ignorance connected with it. A man may mistake in the use of means to glorify God. If he honestly intended to glorify God, the action itself is not sinful, Yet, if he was culpably negligent in the use of the means of information, and has used improper means, through his ignorance, his ignorance is a sin.

7. From this subject we can see what we are to understand by the sin of ignorance. It is that ignorance itself, is a sin, when the means of information are neglected. If I act wholly from right intentions, that act cannot be in itself sinful; yet, if I am mistaken through ignorance, the ignorance itself may be sinful.

Objection. But to this it may be objected, that Paul blamed himself for doing what he verily thought he ought to do-- "many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth."

Ans. It is true, that in this case, Paul was to blame for doing what he verily thought he ought to do, because he was an impenitent sinner at the time, and his ultimate intention was not to glorify God; but he thought he ought to do it in obedience to the superstitious and persecuting notions of the Jews. Had he been a converted man at the time, and had his heart set upon glorifying God, he could not have thought as he did, that he "ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth." Therefore, notwithstanding he thought he ought to do it, his conduct was sinful, because the ultimate design or end of doing it was not to glorify God, but to gratify his Jewish prejudices.

8. You see the real distinction between true saints and hypocrites. It does not lie in the fact, that they pursue opposite courses of life, but in that they pursue substantially the same courses of life, with opposite ultimate intentions. The true Christians' ultimate intention being to glorify God; the hypocrite's intention being his own happiness.

9. It is easy to see the great danger of delusion, because the ultimate intention of the mind is so often and so easily overlooked. Here, for example, are two students, just commencing a course of study. Now how many subordinate ends must they pursue, and how remote, so to speak, is the ultimate end at which they aim. They both labor hard, exercise economy, study hard, and may preach zealously, and be equally useful; and yet their moral characters all along be entirely opposite; their thoughts being taken up so much with the different subordinate ends of pursuit, that they may easily overlook and keep out of view, the ultimate end or main spring of all their actions. But herein lies the moral character of all their conduct. And if they are ignorant or mistaken in respect to this, they may, at any period of their lives, drop into eternity with a false hope, but in a state of such deep delirium as to cry out, "Lord, Lord, open unto us. Have we not prophesied in thy name, and in they name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto you, I never knew you."

10. From this subject it is easy to see, that the sins of real Christians are accidental, in opposition to deliberate and habitual. In other words, that they consist in volitions rather than in deliberate intention. I have said, in a former part of this discourse, that the moral character of those volitions and actions which are caused and directed by an ultimate intention, is as the ultimate intention is. This implies, as I intended it should, that some actions and volitions are not in obedience to an ultimate intention, but in opposition to it, and are caused by the desire of some present gratification. In other words, that they may not be in accordance with, but in opposition to the supreme and ultimate intention of the mind. The moral character of these acts must be determined by the particular design or intention that gave them birth. A man, for example, may set out to go on a foreign mission, with the ultimate intention of glorifying god. Yet, under the force of strong temptation, he may be driven off his course, and either commit a single act, or a series of acts, not in obedience to his ultimate intention, or in accordance with it. Nor yet, are these acts performed with the ultimate intention or in accordance with the ultimate intention of abandoning his missionary enterprise. These acts are not performed in obedience to any ultimate intention, either to glorify God, or to promote his own ultimate interests. But, if I may so speak, they fall out and leave a chasm in his usual course of conduct, through the force of temptation, without any change of his ultimate design. And the reason of them is, that for the time being and under the circumstances, the temptation has more power over his single volitions than his ultimate intention has. This is indeed a deep mystery, but so it is, as a matter of fact, however its philosophy is to be explained. I repeat it, then, that the sins of real Christians, while they are voluntary, are accidental, in opposition to deliberate and habitual.

11. We see why God does not and cannot deal with men in this world according to their real characters. Universalists have vainly asserted that He does; but every man knows, in his own experience, that he is not dealt with precisely according to his character in this life. Now it would create vast confusion, were God to deal with men according to their ultimate intentions, as they appear to Him. It is said that "the ploughing of the wicked is sin." Now upon what ground is it sin? The volitions that regulate the muscles in holding the plough are not sinful. It must be, therefore, that his ploughing is sin, simply because his ultimate intention is selfish. Should God punish men in this life, according to their real character or ultimate intention, it would require the confidence of angels so to believe that He was right as not to be stumbled by his conduct. One man would be punished for ploughing, and another for praying, and another for preaching, and others for multitudes of things, so far as human observation can go, that are good and praise-worthy. While, on the other hand, many actions would be rewarded, which, so far as human observation could go, would be pronounced sinful, It must, therefore, be true, that God does not and cannot deal with men in this world according to their real character, without perplexing and perhaps ruining the universe.

12. You see from this subject, the necessity of a General Judgment, when God shall disclose the real character of all mankind, to the whole universe, and deal with every man according as his work shall be.

13. Men will be rewarded according to their ultimate intentions, whether they have been able to carry it out or not. "Give them," says the Psalmist, "according to their endeavors." This is the language of inspiration. Here is one man, designed to be a missionary, to save souls, and glorify God. But his health, in the providence of God, has prevented. Be of good cheer, my brother. God will carry on his work without you, and reward you according to your intentions. Here is another man, who has devised and intended to execute liberal things for Zion, but his expectations have been blasted, and he has been unable to succeed according to his endeavors. Well done, good and faithful brother; thou hast done well that it was in thine heart to glorify God. Thou shalt be rewarded according to all that was in thine heart.

14. We can see what permanent sanctification is, and when saints are permanently sanctified. They are permanently sanctified, when they arrive at that state in which they are not drawn aside in heart and in life, to will or to do what is inconsistent with the ultimate intention of glorifying God.

15. How many professors of religion will go down to hell with a lie in their right hand.

16. You can see the secret of the self-righteousness of sinners. They do not judge themselves by their ultimate intention, wherein their moral character lies, but by the subordinate ends at which they aim, If a sinner ploughs, he thinks, surely, there is no harm in this; but on the other hand, takes credit for it, as being in accordance with his duty. He maintains his family, goes to meeting, does thousands of things which professors of religion do. He supposes these things to be commendable and virtuous in themselves, irrespective of the ultimate design, which lies at their foundation, and is the cause of them. In this consists his sad and ruinous mistake.

17. In this same neighborhood lies the ruinous delusion of deceived professors.

18. A man may do wrong, without designing to do wrong. Indeed it is not common for men to aim at the wrong they do, and do things because they are wrong.

19. So also a man may do wrong, without designing to do a thing, notwithstanding it is wrong, but not for that reason.

20. A man sins unless he desires to do right, to act in accordance with his duty.

And now, beloved, when tried by this standard, is MENE TEKEL written upon your Christian character? Will you honestly go down upon your knees before God, and spread your whole heart out before Him? Will you honestly look into the foundation of your conduct, and inquire what is your ultimate and supreme intention? And will you remember...that according to your intention, God will deal with you in the solemn Judgment?




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Confession of Faults
Lecture XXI
November 4, 1840

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
 

Text.--James 5:16: "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed."

In this discussion I shall show:

I. What is intended by faults in this text.

II. To whom this passage requires confession to be made.

III. The design and use of confessing faults one to another.

IV. That we are under special obligation to pray for those who confess their faults.


I. What is intended by faults in this text.

II. To whom this confession is to be made. III. The design and use of confessing faults one to another. IV. We are under special obligation to pray for those who confess their sins. REMARKS.

1. We see from this subject, why so many are in bondage to sin. The fact is, they do not and will not confess their faults. They have too much regard to their own reputation, ingenuously to confess their faults; and hence they wear their galling chains and remain the miserable slaves of sin.

2. We see why there is so little Christian sympathy and love. So long as professors of religion remain so ignorant of each other's history, joys, sorrows, trials, and besetting sins, there is no such foundation or reason for Christian sympathy and love, as there might be and ought always to be among the followers of Christ. We sometimes see two Christians who are in the habit of confessing their faults to each other, and disclosing their own experience to each other, and praying one for the other. In all such cases, without exception, you see much Christian sympathy and brotherly love. Such a course of conduct as this, is indispensable to Christians sympathy; and this ought to be universally understood by the Church.

3. This subject shows, that there is very little humility in the world. I have already said, that humility consists in a willingness to be known and estimated according to our real character. While there is so little confession as there now is in the Church of God, how can there be much humility?

4. We see why there is so little humility in the Church. If Christians would but begin, and make thorough work of confession, this would greatly promote their humility; but until they begin, cast away their pride, and address themselves in earnest to confessing their faults one to another, their pride will never be crucified, or their humility perfected.

5. There is but very little confidence among professors of religion, in each other's prayers. If there were, they would more frequently confess to their brethren, and beg them to pray, that they might be healed. It is often amazing to see how little confidence professors of religion have in prayer.

6. Living as they do, professors of religion have no right to have confidence in each other's prayers. And without utter presumption, it is impossible that they should. Professors of religion very generally know, that their own prayers are not answered; that they live in such a manner, as to have no right to expect an answer to their prayers; and from observation they perceive, that other professors of religion, with very few exceptions, live as they do. And in this view of the subject, how is it possible for them to have confidence in each other's prayers, so as to render it an object to solicit the prayers of their brethren.

7. There is here and there a professor of religion, who is regarded by other professors of religion, and by the Church generally, as one who prevails with God. And it is truly wonderful, that they do not resort to such persons, to confess their sins and ask their prayers. This can be accounted for only upon the supposition--

8. That there is very little honest and earnest desire to get rid of sin, among professors of religion. If they were really agonized, to get rid of sin, it does appear to me impossible that they should not avail themselves of the prayers and counsels of those whom they regard as eminent Christians, in order to get rid of their loathsome depravity. James Brainerd Taylor was, according to his own account of himself, in earnest to get rid of his sins. He believed the thing possible, and felt that it was indispensable to his usefulness as a minister. He gave himself up thoroughly to the work of getting away from his sins; and, as was very natural and scriptural, went to those whom he considered eminently pious and praying persons. To them he opened his heart and solicited their prayers in his behalf, that he might be healed. And, blessed be God, he was healed. And so, Christian, may you be healed, if you will go and do likewise, with as much honesty and earnestness as he did.

9. The fact is, that most professors of religion prefer remaining in bondage, to confessing that they are so. They wear a cloak over their chains, and while their hands are manacled, and they are fast bound in the chains of sin, the law in their members so warring against the law in their mind, as to keep them in a state of perpetual captivity, they gather their cloak of concealment all over them, try to cover up and conceal their loathsome servitude and detestable chains, rather than throw off the mask, confess their faults, and be healed. O professor of religion, what a miserable slave you are. Hold up your hands. Let us see if they are not chained. Lay aside your cloak. Are you not the bond-slave of Satan, or of lust, or of the world?

10. How shameful and lamentable it is, that persons regard their reputation more than they hate sin, and prefer concealment to humility, reputation to holiness, the good opinion of their brethren to the favor of God.

11. But in a very few cases, after all, do they by such concealment, secure any reputation for real piety. Although they are ashamed to confess, and do not confess what the difficulty is; yet, as a matter of fact, every discerning mind sees, that there is some difficulty--that they are not spiritual--that they do not walk with God--that they do not prevail in prayer. So that, after all, they gain nothing, even of reputation, by their concealment. And this is the folly of sin--a man under its dominion will think to cover it up. But while some particular form of it may be disguised, its existence in some form will be known, from the spirit and temper of the man, in spite of himself.

12. Confession, to be of any avail, should be ingenuous and full, so as to give our brethren as full a view of our real character and wants as possible; so that they may understand, as far as may be, the worst of our case, and know how to present it before the Lord. If individuals will but half confess, they will find that such confessions will do no good, but only harden their hearts. You must fully confess, and cover up no essential feature of your depravity, if you expect to be healed.

13. Few things are so useful and important to us and to those against whom we have sinned, as to confess our faults to them. When difficulties have existed between brethren, nothing can restore permanent confidence, but a full, thorough, hearty, mutual confession of faults, one to another, and praying one for another, that they may be healed.

14. There are but very few professors of religion who seem to know, or believe, that there is any such thing as spiritual healing in this world. They seem to reason thus: "Of what use would it be for me to confess my sins, as I am continually sinning? Why should I trouble the brethren with a detail of my sins, for they are as constant as the flowing of the waters? Why should I make myself the loathing of the Church of God, by continually confessing my sins? It will do no good. I shall continue to sin on as long as I live; and I may as well, therefore, groan under my chains and continue this infernal service till I die. As to ever being healed, so as to get away from my sins, in this life, it is out of the question."

Now I see not why all this is not very natural and reasonable, upon the supposition that Christians have no reason to expect, in this life, entire emancipation from the bondage of sin. But brother--sister--let me beseech you to be no longer deceived in this thing. Remember, that Christ is faithful, who has expressly promised, that if you confess your sins, He will not only forgive you, but "cleanse you from all unrighteousness."




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Weakness of Heart
Lecture XXII
November 4, 1840

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
 

Text.--Ezek. 16:30: "How weak is thine heart."

In this connection the Prophet is speaking of the Church, in reference to her past history. He says nothing of the real piety of the different generations of the Church; but in view of all her backslidings and inconsistencies, he exclaims, "How weak is thine heart!"

In discussing this subject, I will show:

I. What is to be understood by the term heart, in this text.

II. What is implied in weakness of heart.

III. Mention some things that are evidences of a weak heart.

IV. Some things that cause weakness of heart.

V. The remedy for weakness of heart.

VI. What is implied in strengthening the heart.


I. What is the heart.

Under this head I remark:

II. What is implied in weakness of heart. III. Some things that are evidences of a weak heart. IV. Causes of weakness of heart. V. The remedy for weakness of heart.

Wait on the Lord. Ps. 27:14: "Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart; wait, I say, on the Lord." Isa. 40:31: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint." In these passages, the remedy for a weak heart is explicitly pointed out by God Himself. But here it should be inquired, what is implied in "waiting upon the Lord?" I answer:

VI. What is implied in strengthening the heart. REMARKS.

1. A great many persons have a very weak heart, who are not at all aware of it; because they make very little or no effort to resist sin. Making no effort to resist, they of course do not know how weak they would find themselves, should they attempt to resist. They are literally "led captive by Satan at his will," and of course have no idea of the weakness of their hearts.

2. Many are sensible of their weakness, but make no other than legal efforts to escape. They are trying to resist sin by resolutions and promises, and struggling in their own strength. They do not seem to know, that unless their heart is strengthened all their resolutions, founded upon legal considerations, will be of course as yielding as air. They are convicted of sin, distressed, ashamed, and agonized--sometimes almost despairing, and then encouraging themselves, and resolving, and renewing their resolutions, and binding themselves by oaths and promises, the most solemn; but all to no purpose; for they are not supported by the active exercise of supreme love to God. Their flesh will therefore, of course, be too strong for resolutions not founded in deep affection for God.

3. Others, still, err, by going to the opposite extreme. They make no dependence upon legal efforts, nor indeed do they make any efforts at all; but in Antinomian security, settle down in an apathy which they call peace, and thus tempt Christ. They call that faith which presumptuously throws the responsibility of keeping them, upon Christ, in such a sense as to exclude the active exercise of their own agency.

4. The providence of God is designed to develop the weakness of the hearts of his people, and make them see how much they are dependent upon his grace to strengthen them. It often comes to pass, that individuals suppose their sins are dead, and that they have really overcome for ever certain temptations; and, in this state they are apt to forget, that the ruling efficiency of their former habits of mind is suspended only by the continual agency and grace of God. Now if you forget, that your sins are kept under only by the continual agency of God, his providence will soon develop your weakness, and teach you, doubtless to your sorrow and confusion of face, that your enemies are not dead, but only kept from having dominion over you, by the constant presence and agency of the Holy Spirit.

5. From this subject we can see why Paul took pleasure in infirmities. It was, that the power of Christ might rest upon him. 2 Cor. 12:7-10: "Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong." Here Paul found, as a matter of fact, that his infirmities, that is, his weaknesses, emptied him of self-dependence, and this led him to put Christ in place of his resolutions. So that, instead of depending upon his legal efforts and resolutions, he depended on Christ.

6. You see what entire and permanent sanctification is. It consists in such a strength of heart, as will resist all temptation to sin.

7. Those who have a wicked heart are not born again. A weak heart is not a wicked heart, as I have already said, in such a sense as to be the cause of wicked thoughts, emotions, and actions.

8. A strong heart, and a clean heart, are synonimous terms.

9. Whenever the heart is weak, the cause of this weakness, whatever it is, must, if possible, be put away. Sometimes the cause is physical. It lies in the indulgence of appetite or passion. Sometimes in such a state of the body as to render the healthy operations of the mind impossible. Therefore, in waiting upon the Lord, to renew our strength, we must strive to do all that in us lies, to put away the cause of the weakness of our heart.

10. Whenever we have done this, and are waiting upon the Lord according to his directions, we are bound to exercise the most unwavering confidence, that He will strengthen our hearts. "Wait then, I say, on the Lord."




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A Single and an Evil Eye
Lecture XXIII
December 2, 1840

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
 

Text.--Matt. 6:22, 23: "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light; but if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness."

In this discussion I will show:

I. What is implied in singleness of eye.

II. What is implied in an evil eye.

III. That singleness of eye will insure a knowledge of truth and duty.

IV. An evil eye will insure darkness and delusion, both in regard to doctrine and duty.


I. What is implied in a singleness of eye.

This language is of course figurative. By a single and an evil eye, we are to understand the Savior as representing a state of mind. "The light of the body," He says, "is the eye: If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." It is a matter of common knowledge, that the eye sometimes becomes so disordered as to discover objects double, and in a manner so obscure or fallacious, as naturally to deceive and mislead the person who possesses it. By a single eye, then, is meant, an eye in its perfect state, when it sees objects as they are, with such distinctness as to give the mind correct information with respect to the objects of vision.

When this figure is applied to the mind, it must represent the supreme and ultimate intention of the mind. When the ultimate end or intention of the mind is single, and just as it ought to be, the eye of the mind may then be said to be single. For the mind has its eye upon but one great absorbing object. This state of mind implies:

II. What is intended by an evil eye.

An evil eye is that which has more than one object before it, or sees objects double. When this figure is applied to the mind it means, that state of mind in which objects are seen through a selfish medium, or when the mind has two objects in view, a legal intention to serve God, but an ultimate intention to serve self. By a legal intention to serve God I mean, not that intention which is founded in supreme, disinterested love to God, which aims at honoring and glorifying Him, as an ultimate end; but an intention to serve God as the means of our own happiness, the ultimate intention being self-interest, and the intention to serve God, being a subordinate end.

III. Singleness of eye will insure a knowledge of truth and duty.

IV. An evil eye will insure darkness and delusion, both in regard to doctrine and duty.
Now what is true on the subject of temperance, holds true on nearly every practical question; and especially is this true on subjects that pertain to personal holiness. If a man will not practice he cannot learn. Talk to an impenitent sinner of entire sanctification. Holiness is so entirely opposite to his experience, that he does not at all understand you. Talk with him about his sins, and his convictions, his fears, misgivings, and on every subject that is with him a matter of experience, and so far he will understand you; but talk to him of entire sanctification, and he gets no idea of what you mean. Therefore, the only possible way to deal with him is, to begin upon those subjects upon which he has experience, and bring him to see and to feel, that it is an evil and bitter thing to sin against God. This will lead him to see, admit, and experience the doctrine of repentance. Now proceed, from step to step, lead him forward, and as his experience enlarges, his capacity of understanding about sanctification, its desirableness, its indispensable necessity, will be perceived and felt by him. But no farther than he practices can he properly learn. When he stops and refuses to follow truth any farther in practice, right there the clouds of darkness will shut down, round about him. And it is only as he goes forward, from step to step, practicing or experiencing one truth after another, as it is presented, that he can, by any possibility, come to an understanding and knowledge of the truth. Let it be ever remembered, therefore, that he who will not practice will not learn. In other words, unless his eye be single, his whole body will be full of darkness.
It is a familiar and a true saying, that men judge others by themselves. To a truly holy mind, the Bible is not only the most interesting, but the most intelligible book in the world; while infidels exclaim, that it is blasphemy to ascribe such feelings and conduct to God; and therefore, that the Bible must be a libel upon his character. Now for this there can be no remedy, only as they become benevolent. If they will but begin to do the truth, so far as they can understand it, and practice one truth after another, until they come into the state of mind, in which the inspired writers were, they will then understand the Bible, and not till then.
REMARKS.

1. A selfish minister is a blind leader of the blind. This is the mildest language that truth or inspiration can use, in regard to an ambitious, a temporizing, a man-fearing, and, in short, a selfish minister. His eye is evil. His whole body, as Christ is true, or in other words, his whole mind, is full of darkness on spiritual subjects.

2. Such a minister will certainly, in many things, mislead his flock. He sees no truth spiritually, and therefore cannot safely be trusted as a spiritual guide. Nay, to trust him is ruin and death.

3. Selfish minds are very willing to be led, by selfish ministers, as they naturally see eye to eye. Having similar experiences, they will naturally understand each other. And a carnal church will naturally be pleased with a carnal minister. And a carnal minister will not see the defects of a carnal church. And thus they will be able to walk together, because they are agreed.

4. The doctrine of the text implies to the preparation and delivery of sermons. If a minister's eye is single he will naturally select those subjects of discourse that are suited to the state of his people. He will naturally discuss them in a way, and deliver them in a manner, that will be edifying to the people; simply because that is the object at which he aims. Having his eye single to the holiness of the Church, and the glory of God, it will be perfectly natural for him, in the preparation and delivery of sermons, to do every thing in a manner that will tend to edify and sanctify the people. But if, on the contrary, his object be to secure his salary, play the orator, or promote any selfish interest whatever, he will naturally, and of course, select subjects, prepare, and deliver them, in a manner suited to the end he has in view. If his eye be single, his whole mind will be full of light, in regard to the manner of doing his work. If his eye be evil, his whole mind will be full of darkness, and he will do any thing else, rather than edify and sanctify his people.

5. This doctrine applies to the decision of every question of duty. In selecting fields of labor, courses of life, a companion for life, or any other question of interest and duty, if the eye is single, the whole mind will be full of light. Those considerations only will be taken into the account, and suffered to have weight, that ought to influence the decision of the question. On the other hand, if the eye be evil, the whole body will be full of darkness; and the decision of the question will certainly turn upon considerations that ought to have no influence in deciding the question.

6. If you are not conscious of a single eye, you cannot safely go forward in any thing. If you have already made up your mind upon a question of doctrine or duty, and have not made it up under the influence of a single eye, you may be, and probably are, in some important respects, entirely wrong. If in selecting a course of life, a field of labor, a kind of business, a location; if you have made a bargain, or done any thing else, with a selfish intention, or under the influence of an evil eye; as certain as Christ is true, your whole body was full of darkness. The whole must be reviewed.

Perhaps it may be objected to this, that many individuals are very much enlightened, and hold true opinions, and are very orthodox, who are yet under the influence of selfishness. To this I answer both from my own experience and the word of God--that they hold the truth only in words. They know not what they say, nor whereof they affirm. They are deceived, and you who make the objection are deceived in respect to them, if you think they know the truth.

7. From this subject, it is easy to see why the Church and the ministry are so divided in their opinions. It is because they are so sectarian and selfish in their spirit. It is selfishness, and nothing but selfishness, that divides the Church. When the Church shall come to have a single eye, her watchmen and her members will then see eye to eye; because her body will then be full of light.

8. From this subject you can see the only true way of promoting real Christian Union. It is in vain to talk of destroying sectarianism by destroying creeds. Creeds may perpetuate, but they are not the cause of sectarianism. Selfishness, and nothing but selfishness is its cause. Let universal love and a single eye prevail, and sectarianism is no more. Destroy a sectarian spirit, let it be supplanted by love, and Christians would then be in a state of mind to examine their differences of opinion with candor--to come to such mutual explanations, and so honestly and thoroughly to weigh each others opinions and arguments, as to almost entirely coincide in opinion. But should there still be discrepancy of views, in relation to any points, it would be as far as possible from their thoughts, to withdraw from communion with each other, and to divide into sects and separate departments.

9. From this subject it is easy to see, why ministers feel as if they could not preach--feel as if they had nothing to say--are at a loss to know what to preach--no subject has any such interest as to enable them to preach upon it. When they have fallen into a selfish state of mind their whole body is full of darkness.

10. How infinitely important it is, that this truth should be continually remembered, that an evil eye, or selfish intention, invariably and necessarily brings the mind into great darkness. How many there are, even in the Christian Church, to whom the Bible is a sealed book, who are in great darkness in respect to truth, doctrine, and duty; whose minds resemble an ocean of darkness.

11. How many there are, who have great confidence in their own opinions, who are ready to hazard their souls upon the truth of them, who have made up their minds on the most important and solemn subjects, while under the influence of selfishness--have entered the Christian Church--are hugging their delusions--are following the guidance and instruction of those who are perhaps as much under the dominion of an evil eye, as they are themselves, and whose mind is as full of darkness as their own. And thus they go on, unsuspectingly, while Christ assures them in the most solemn manner, that if their eye is evil, their whole body is full of darkness. Still they believe it not. They have the highest confidence in their own opinions, and in the safety of their state; and thus rush on, with a kind of mad assurance, to the depths of hell!




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Salvation Always Conditional
Lecture XXIV
December 16, 1840

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
 

Text.--1 Cor. 10:12: "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."

In remarking upon this subject I will show:

I. What is intended by one's thinking that he standeth.

II. Show in what such a confidence may be founded.

III. That this confidence, whatever may be its foundation, cannot secure the soul against falling into sin and hell.

IV. That continued watchfulness and wakeful, activity of soul, are indispensable to continued holiness and final salvation.


I. What is intended by one's thinking that he standeth.

The original word rendered thinketh, in this text, is used, according to some distinguished commentators, not to weaken but to strengthen the sense. In Luke 8:18, the same word is rendered seemeth. Thinketh, in this text, means great confidence, a strong assurance; as if the Apostle had said--Let him that has great confidence, or a strong assurance that he standeth, take heed lest he fall.

II. In what such a confidence may be founded.

III. This confidence, whatever may be its foundation, cannot of itself secure the soul against falling into sin and hell. IV. Continued watchfulness, and wakeful activity of soul, are indispensable to continued holiness and final salvation.
It is true, that should we enter more particularly into this subject, these classes of motives might be several times subdivided; but such subdivisions would carry me too far from my main design. I must, therefore, pass on to say--
This is equally true of spiritual blessings. He gives grace only from day to day, from hour to hour, and from moment to moment. He gives to no man a stock of grace upon which he can depend in future, without a constant reliance upon God, and a continual abiding in Christ. He deals with no man in spiritual things in such a manner that he can say to his soul, "Soul, thou hast much spiritual goods laid up in store for many years." But he has made continual reliance upon Christ indispensable to perseverance in holiness.
Just so in regard to spiritual things. If by regeneration, God really did, as some have supposed, change the very constitution of the soul, introduce, or implant within the soul a holy principle, that becomes a part of the constitution itself; in short, if He so remoddled [sic.] the faculties, or made any such constitutional change whatever, as to beget the impression, that the constant indwelling, abiding influences of the Holy Spirit, are not essential to continued holiness, it would of course be the cause of universal backsliding and alienation from God.
REMARKS.

1. No one act of faith, nor any other exercise, can render salvation from sin or hell unconditionally certain. This is manifest from the fact, that warnings and threatenings are every where addressed to the saints; which would be absurd, if their justification or sanctification were already unconditionally certain.

2. It is a capital mistake, and a dangerous error, to maintain, that one act of faith brings the soul into a state of unconditional and permanent justification. That this view of justification cannot be true, is manifest from the following considerations:

(1.) If the believer is so justified, as not to come under condemnation if he sins, it must be because the law of God is abrogated. Some have maintained, that the penalty of the law is for ever set aside in his case, on the exercise of the first act of faith. Now if this is true, then, as it respects him, the law if in fact abrogated; for a law without a penalty is no law. If the penalty is, as to him, for ever set aside, in such a sense that he may sin, and yet not be condemned, and subject to that penalty, to him there is no law. The precept is only counsel or advice, as distinguished from law. But if the law is set aside he has no rule of action--no obligatory standard of duty with which to compare himself; and he can, therefore, be neither sinful nor holy, any more than the brute.

(2.) That a believer is not unconditionally and permanently justified by any one act of faith, is evident from the fact, that every believer feels condemned in his own conscience, when he sins. And if our own conscience, or heart, condemn us, is not God greater than our heart--and shall not He condemn us? "Shall mortal man be more just than God?"

(3.) The believers are not unconditionally and permanently justified by one act of faith, is plainly asserted, in Ezek. 18:21-29, and 33:12-16, [as quoted under the fourth division of the third head of this lecture.] Nothing can be more in point than these passages of scripture. For here it is expressly affirmed, that "if a righteous man forsake his righteousness, his former righteousness shall not be remembered;" but "in his sin that he sinneth shall he die."

To this it is replied, that these and similar passages are hypothetical--that they do not assert, that any righteous man will fall from his righteousness; but only, that if he should, he would be condemned. I answer:

That this is the very thing for which I am contending. I admit, that these and other kindred passages are hypothetical, and insist that for this very reason, they flatly contradict the proposition, that by one act of faith believers are unalterably and unconditionally justified. They make the condition of continued justification to be, continued obedience; and the condition of perfect justification to be, perfect obedience.

(4.) That one act of faith does not permanently and unconditionally justify the believer, is evident from the fact already alluded to, that the Bible every where abounds with warnings, reproof, encouragements, and every possible inducement to perseverance in holiness to the end--every where making the condition of final salvation to be, continuance or perseverance in holiness to the end of life.

To this it is objected, that these threatenings, warnings, &c., are the means by which the saints are caused to persevere in holiness.

Yes, truly, I answer, so they are. And this very fact proves, that they are not unconditionally or permanently justified, and, that they are justified no farther than they are sanctified. For what could all these warning and threatenings amount to--why should they be recorded--or what possible influence could they have, upon the supposition that they are already perfectly, permanently, and unconditionally justified, and that, therefore, their final perseverance and final salvation are already unconditionally secure? Indeed, it is absurd to say, that by one act of faith, they have become unalterably justified, and yet, that only upon certain conditions, viz: their persevering to the end, can they be saved.

(5.) That believers are not, by one act of faith, brought into a state of permanent or unconditional justification, is evident, from the manifest tendency of such a sentiment. This is asserting, in its most objectionable form, the sentiment so often attributed to Calvinists by our Methodist brethren--that if a man is once converted he will be saved, however much he may backslide, and even should he die in a state of utmost backsliding.

3. The certain knowledge and belief of unconditional salvation from sin, or hell, or of unconditional justification and salvation, would break the power of moral government, and insure a fall. It would destroy the balance of motives, and nullify entirely the power of that class of motives that are addressed to the hopes and fears of men. What, I pray you, would all the warnings of the Bible avail to sustain the virtue of a man, who already knew himself to be in a state of unconditional salvation from sin, condemnation, and hell? Do you answer, that he does not need them, and that all regard to them would be selfishness. I ask, why then, are they found in the Bible, actually and every where addressed to the saints?

To this it may be replied, that a sanctified soul is influenced by love, and not at all by hope and fear. I answer:

It is true, that love is the mainspring of action; but it is also true, that both the hopes and fears of men sustain such a relation to moral government, as that considerations addressed to them, make up an indispensable part of those influences that sustain the soul in a course of steady obedience.

To this it is objected again, that those saints who have believed themselves to be in a state of unconditional justification, and who have had the felt assurance of their final perseverance and salvation, have not found that this felt assurance was a stumbling-block to them; but have felt sustained in virtue by this very consideration. To this I answer:

That if, by the faith of assurance is meant, our assurance of final perseverance in holiness, and consequent salvation, I can easily see, that such an assurance would not be a stumbling-block to the soul. But, mark, this is not an assurance of unconditional justification. For, saints who have this assurance, have universally believed, that their justification and salvation were conditioned upon their continued holiness. They have believed that if they fall into sin, they are condemned, and that, should they die in their sins, or in a backslidden state, they would be damned. Their belief and assurance have been, that they should, through grace assisting them, be enabled so to exercise faith and persevere in the use of their powers of moral agency, as to be finally justified and saved. This assurance is eminently calculated to encourage them in all ways of well-doing, and in the most strenuous efforts to perfect holiness in the fear of God. But suppose they get the idea, that they have so believed in Christ as to render their continued holiness, their permanent justification, and final salvation, unconditionally certain--this is an eminently dangerous and ruinous belief, and is, as far as possible from any state of mind encouraged by the word of God.

4. Moral beings cannot be in a state of unconditional sanctification or justification, in any world. This is manifest, from the fact, that they cannot be put beyond the natural possibility of sinning. If they were, they would be put beyond the possibility of being holy. Holiness implies moral liberty. Moral liberty implies the power of doing right or wrong. It is, therefore, naturally impossible, that moral beings should in any world be placed under circumstances, where their eternal justification, sanctification, and salvation, are unconditionally certain. The continued justification of the inhabitants of heaven, must be for ever conditioned upon their continued holiness. And their continued holiness must ever depend upon and consist in the right voluntary exercise of their powers of moral agency. And nothing but that grace which is perfectly consistent with the exercise of their own liberty, can render their final perseverance certain.

5. "Faring always," or "passing the time of our sojourning here with fear," as the Apostle commands, does not imply unbelief, and is not a sinful state of mind; because the promises of God are all conditional--and as the promises of sanctification are conditioned upon our own faith, and the promises of justification conditioned upon our sanctification, and as all is suspended upon the right use of the powers of moral agency which we possess, it behooves us to "fear always--to walk softly, to gird up the loins of our minds, to be sober, vigilant, and to run with patience the race set before us."

6. The assurance that we shall never sin again, does not secure us against sin, and has, in this world of severe temptation, a manifest tendency to procure our fall.

7. Nor does a fall, in such a case, in the least degree tend to prove, that there is no such state as that of permanent sanctification in this life.

8. Nor does it impeach the veracity of Christ. Some persons have supposed, that they have attained a state of permanent sanctification, and felt assured that they should never sin again. They maintained that the veracity of Christ was pledged in such a sense, that He would be guilty of falsehood, if He should suffer them to fall into sin; and especially have they inferred this from the fact, that some promise that Christ would keep them, had been deeply impressed upon their own minds. Afterwards, however, they have fallen into sin, and been greatly tempted to entertain hard thoughts of Christ, to impeach his veracity, and deny his truth.

Now the mistake in this case was, in overlooking the fact, that all the promises of Christ are, from their very nature conditioned upon the continued exercise of faith in us. Misunderstanding the promise, and leaving out of view the condition, was the foundation of the assumption, that Christ was pledged for your perseverance in holiness; and if you have fallen into sin the blame is your own. You expected of Christ what He has never promised, except upon a condition that you have not fulfilled.

To this view of the subject it has been objected, that if this is true, the promises of the gospel amount only to this, that Christ will keep us if we will keep ourselves. To this I answer:

That in a very important sense this is true. I have formerly felt this objection strongly myself, and was strongly inclined to, and even entertained an opposite opinion. What, I said, can the promise of the gospel mean nothing more than this, "I will keep him who will keep himself?" Much consideration and prayer, with searching the word of God, have led me to the conviction, that this is the exact truth, and this opinion is in exact keeping with the whole providential government of God.

Take all temporal blessings. Who does not know that all the promises of daily bread, are so conditioned upon the use of indispensable means, as that they amount to this-- "I will feed him who will feed himself; I will take care of him who will take care of himself." Take all the promises that respect the things of this life, and the same will be found to be true. If God promises health, it is upon the condition, that we obey the laws of our physical existence; so that the promise amounts to this-- "I will keep him who will keep himself in health." If He promise to prolong our natural life, it is upon condition that we comply with the indispensable laws of life. So that the promise amounts to this-- "I will keep him alive who will keep himself alive."

Now the same is emphatically and eminently true of all spiritual blessings. Who does not know, that as a matter of fact, every believer progresses in religion precisely in proportion to his own faithfulness--that God keeps him from falling, when he watches, and thereby keeps himself from falling--that he has the spirit of prayer, in proportion as he watches unto prayer, and prays in the Holy Ghost--and that, as a matter of fact, He keeps the saints, only through their own watchfulness, faithfulness, and efforts. So that it may be truly said, that He keeps those only who will keep themselves--that He saves those only who will save themselves. Nor does this in the least degree set aside, or depreciate the grace of God; nor at all deny or set aside any correct idea of the sovereignty of God. Who ever supposed, that the farmer, who tills his land, the mechanic, who plies his trade, or the student, who trims his midnight lamp, either denies or sets aside the sovereignty of God, in accomplishing the ends at which he aims. Indeed, the sovereignty of God consists in this--in bringing about the great ends of his government, through the agency of his creatures; and no correct idea of his sovereignty will ever leave out of view, the use of the natural and indispensable means of procuring the things which He has promised.

9. Nor does this view of the subject at all touch the question of the perseverance of the saints, as I understand that doctrine to be taught in the Bible. The doctrine there inculcated, if I understand it, is not, that by one act of faith men are brought into a state of unconditional and unalterable justification; but that the saints, through the grace of God, will be kept in ways of obedience, to the end.

10. Although there can be no unconditional certainty of perpetual holiness, justification, or final salvation, in any world, yet we can have such a kind of assurance of all these, as to cast out all slavish fear, that hath torment. Think you not, that the angels know, and saints in heaven know, that if they should sin, they would be sent to hell? And think you not that they know they have power to sin, are liable to sin, and that without watchfulness, and wakeful activity, and perseverance, they will sin? They must know this; and yet, this knowledge does not bring them into slavish bondage; but affords just that healthy and holy stimulus to holy perseverance, that is demanded by the very constitution of moral agency, in any world.

11. Sanctification, justification, and final salvation, are all put upon the same ground. And it cannot be true, that men are justified, any farther than they are sanctified; or that they are, or ever can be saved, any farther than they are cleansed from sin. Gospel justification is generally defined to be pardon and acceptance. But can a man be pardoned, any farther than he is penitent? Can the soul be accepted any farther than it is obedient? Certainly it cannot be, unless Antinomianism is true, and the law of God is abrogated. The distinction, then, that is commonly made, (which I, following the current of the Church, without sufficient examination, once held myself,) between instantaneous justification and progressive sanctification, must be without foundation. Every man feels that he is condemned, and not justified, when he sins, and that he is kept out of condemnation only by keeping out of sin. This is the doctrine of the Bible. It is the doctrine of conscience and of common sense. And that is certainly a most licentious view of the doctrine of justification, that maintains that justification is perfected while sanctification is imperfect; that justification is instantaneous, while sanctification is progressive.

Beloved Christian brother, why do you pray for forgiveness when you sin? Is it not because you feel condemned? But if you were already perfectly and permanently justified, you are mistaken in praying for forgiveness; for you are already forgiven, and not condemned. You cannot possibly be pardoned, unless you are condemned; for what is pardon, but setting aside the execution of law? If, therefore, men are permanently justified by one act of faith, they not only have no need of pardon from that moment, however much they may sin, but to pardon them is impossible, as they are not condemned. And why, let me ask you, should Christ teach you to pray daily for the forgiveness of your past sins, if by one act of faith, you are permanently justified? Let me conclude, then, by saying, "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall."




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GLOSSARY
of easily misunderstood terms as defined by Mr. Finney himself.
Compiled by Katie Stewart

    Complacency, or Esteem: "Complacency, as a state of will or heart, is only benevolence modified by the consideration or relation of right character in the object of it. God, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and saints, in all ages, are as virtuous in their self-denying and untiring labours to save the wicked, as they are in their complacent love to the saints." Systematic Theology (LECTURE VII). Also, "approbation of the character of its object. Complacency is due only to the good and holy." Lectures to Professing Christians (LECTURE XII).

    Disinterested Benevolence: "By disinterested benevolence I do not mean, that a person who is disinterested feels no interest in his object of pursuit, but that he seeks the happiness of others for its own sake, and not for the sake of its reaction on himself, in promoting his own happiness. He chooses to do good because he rejoices in the happiness of others, and desires their happiness for its own sake. God is purely and disinterestedly benevolent. He does not make His creatures happy for the sake of thereby promoting His own happiness, but because He loves their happiness and chooses it for its own sake. Not that He does not feel happy in promoting the happiness of His creatures, but that He does not do it for the sake of His own gratification." Lectures to Professing Christians (LECTURE I).

    Divine Sovereignty: "The sovereignty of God consists in the independence of his will, in consulting his own intelligence and discretion, in the selection of his end, and the means of accomplishing it. In other words, the sovereignty of God is nothing else than infinite benevolence directed by infinite knowledge." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LXXVI).

    Election: "That all of Adam's race, who are or ever will be saved, were from eternity chosen by God to eternal salvation, through the sanctification of their hearts by faith in Christ. In other words, they are chosen to salvation by means of sanctification. Their salvation is the end- their sanctification is a means. Both the end and the means are elected, appointed, chosen; the means as really as the end, and for the sake of the end." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LXXIV).

    Entire Sanctification: "Sanctification may be entire in two senses: (1.) In the sense of present, full obedience, or entire consecration to God; and, (2.) In the sense of continued, abiding consecration or obedience to God. Entire sanctification, when the terms are used in this sense, consists in being established, confirmed, preserved, continued in a state of sanctification or of entire consecration to God." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LVIII).

    Moral Agency: "Moral agency is universally a condition of moral obligation. The attributes of moral agency are intellect, sensibility, and free will." Systematic Theology (LECTURE III).

    Moral Depravity: "Moral depravity is the depravity of free-will, not of the faculty itself, but of its free action. It consists in a violation of moral law. Depravity of the will, as a faculty, is, or would be, physical, and not moral depravity. It would be depravity of substance, and not of free, responsible choice. Moral depravity is depravity of choice. It is a choice at variance with moral law, moral right. It is synonymous with sin or sinfulness. It is moral depravity, because it consists in a violation of moral law, and because it has moral character." Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXVIII).

    Human Reason: "the intuitive faculty or function of the intellect... it is the faculty that intuits moral relations and affirms moral obligation to act in conformity with perceived moral relations." Systematic Theology (LECTURE III).

    Retributive Justice: "Retributive justice consists in treating every subject of government according to his character. It respects the intrinsic merit or demerit of each individual, and deals with him accordingly." Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXIV).

    Total Depravity: "Moral depravity of the unregenerate is without any mixture of moral goodness or virtue, that while they remain unregenerate, they never in any instance, nor in any degree, exercise true love to God and to man." Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXVIII).

    Unbelief: "the soul's withholding confidence from truth and the God of truth. The heart's rejection of evidence, and refusal to be influenced by it. The will in the attitude of opposition to truth perceived, or evidence presented." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LV).

End of the 1840 Collection.