Sermons from the Penny Pulpit
Charles G. Finney
A Voice from the Philadelphian Church Age
by Charles Grandison Finney
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|| Pleasing God.
|| Heart Searching.
|| The Kingdom of God Upon Earth.
|| The Spiritual Claims of London.
|| Christ Magnifying the Law.
|| The Promises of God.
|| Why London Is Not Converted.
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Preached on Wednesday Evening, November 21, 1849.
BY THE REV. C. G. FINNEY,
AT THE BOROUGH ROAD CHAPEL, SOUTHWARK.
This lecture was typed in by Tony Alan Mangum.
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
"Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye
must be born again." --John iii. 7.
I PROPOSE to make some remarks to-night upon the words which I have just read.
The passage in connection with which these words are found is, probably, familiar
to you all; however I will read it:--"There was a man of the Pharisees, named
Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him,
Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles,
that thou dost, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily,
verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of
God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter
the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily,
I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter
into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which
is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born
again. The wind bloweth were it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but
canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born
of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus
answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?"
Are you a Jewish doctor, and do not understand the doctrine of the new birth? Have
you never experienced it? A teacher in Israel, and yet ignorant of this great truth?
In speaking from the words of the text, I propose to show--
- I. WHAT THE NEW BIRTH IS NOT.
II. WHAT IT IS.
III. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN IT.
IV. THAT ITS NECESSITY IS A FACT TOO PLAIN TO BE CALLED IN QUESTION, WITH THE
I. I begin by stating WHAT THE NEW BIRTH IS NOT, because I am well aware that many
persons, who have not well considered the matter, are apt to form very false ideas
- (1.) I observe then, in the first place, that the new birth here spoken of, does
not consist in the creation of any new faculty either of mind or of body. Both Christians
and sinners have the same powers and faculties both of mind and body, and therefore
sinners do not need any new faculties if they would use those which they already
possess, in the manner which God requires them to be used. They want no other powers
of mind, and no other powers of body, than those which they have; and God requires
them to have no other powers than those with which they are created: consequently,
the new birth cannot consist in, or imply, the creation of any new powers of either
body or mind.
- (2.) Neither, secondly, does it consist in any change of the capacity or structure
of any of the powers of the body or the mind. There is no change in the structure
of the human faculties in regeneration, neither does God require any such change:
no such thing is necessary. What change, pray, is needed in any power either of mind
or body? None! Then, we say that no such change occurs in regeneration, or the new
- (3.) I remark again, that it does not imply any such change in the feelings of
the mind as to produce through them a change in the actions of the mind; that is,
a change is not introduced into the sensibilities or feelings, so that persons have
new feelings spring up, constituting regeneration. To be sure, there are new feelings
arise in the mind; but as I shall yet have occasion to show, these new feelings do
not constitute regeneration, nor do they produce regeneration.
- (4.) But again: regeneration does not consist in any change in which man is purely
passive. I shall have occasion to enlarge upon this presently, but I merely suggest
it here, that regeneration or the new birth does not consist in any change in which
man is purely passive, in which he has no voluntary agency himself. But, this leads
me to notice--
II. In the second place, IN WHAT THE NEW BIRTH DOES CONSIST. I answer
- (1.) The Scriptures everywhere represent the new birth, or regeneration, to be
a change of character--a change from sinfulness to holiness. Now, if it be
so, there must be some voluntary action on the part of the sinner, or how should
there be a change of the moral character, if he is passive and not active in it!
What do we mean by moral character, and how is a man's character changed? The character
depends upon the will, and when a man's will is changed his character is changed.
Regeneration, then, is not involuntary, but a change of will, and a change
of character--a departing from a state of sinfulness to a state of holiness.
How much virtue would there be in involuntary holiness, a state into which man should
be brought independently of his own consent, in which he has no agency? Certainly
none at all. Regeneration, then, must consist in something in which man's will is
something more than passive. It is true, as I shall have occasion to remark, that
in regeneration man is a recipient, and a passive recipient, if you will, in a certain
sense, of the divine influence; but this divine influence, instead of superseding
man's own agency, is only employed in bringing about that change by his own agency,
which constitutes regeneration.
- (2.) I remark again--the Bible represents regeneration as consisting in a change
of character, as the beginning of a new and holy life. It is often spoken of as a
new creation, but which does not mean the creation, literally, of a new nature; but,
as I have said, a change of character. It is not a change in the substance of the
soul, or of the body; but only a change in the use of them. Pray how did Adam and
Eve pass from a state of holiness to a state of sinfulness? It is admitted, I believe,
on all hands, that Adam and Eve were holy before they sinned--that when they sinned,
they passed from a state of holiness to a state of sinfulness. Now, this was certainly
a change of heart in them. It is impossible that they should have acted thus without
their hearts being changed. It is admitted, that there was a total change of moral
character. Now, how was it that this change was produced? what power was it that
brought them from a state of holiness to a state of sinfulness? Did their conduct
imply in them a change of substance, a change of nature, or an involuntary change?
The Bible gives us a very clear and plain account of it. When they were holy, they
regarded God as supreme, and yielded themselves up to him in voluntary obedience.
God had, for certain good reasons, prohibited their eating of a certain fruit. He
had given them an appetite for fruit, and there was nothing sinful in their gratifying
that appetite with fruit proper for them to eat--fruit not forbidden. They had indulged
this appetite many times before with fruits which they were allowed to eat, and had
not sinned in so doing. They had a constitutional desire for knowledge; and under
certain circumstances, and upon certain conditions, it was lawful to them to gratify
this desire and to seek knowledge. Now Satan suggested to Eve that God was selfish
in having prohibited them from eating of that fruit which he had forbidden: "For,"
said he, "God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall
be opened, and ye shall be as gods knowing good and evil." And when Eve saw
that the fruit was pleasant to the eyes, and withal calculated to make one wise,
she took of it and did eat, and gave also unto her husband and he did eat. Now, by
this act did they change their constitutions or their natures, or simply withdraw
their allegiance from God, and, in despite of his requirements, give themselves up
to their own appetites in a prohibited manner? Thus, laying more practical stress
upon the gratification of their appetites than in obeying God, and esteeming that
the highest gratification. Now, observe, their appetites were well enough in themselves;
and if they had been regulated by the will of God, all would have been well. But
they changed their own hearts: for, what was this but a change in relation to the
disposition of their minds? Instead of preferring God's authority to their own gratification,
they come to prefer their own gratification to God's authority and the interests
of his kingdom. Now, let me ask, What would have been regeneration in Adam and Eve?
Suppose God had come to them immediately after they had sinned, and made this requirement
of them, that they must be born again. Suppose he had said, "You must be born
again, or you cannot see the kingdom of God," and they had inquired, What is
it to be born again? What would have been the natural answer for God to make them?
That they must have some new faculty, some newly implanted appetites, and undergo
a change of nature? What was the matter with their nature, pray? Just but a moment
since they were living in holiness and in obedience to God--and now they had simply
withdrawn their obedience to him, and yielded themselves to the obedience of their
own gratification and appetites. Now, what does God require of them? Why, that they
will come back again to the state in which they had been previously--to consecrate
themselves again to God. That instead of committing themselves, as they had done
by this act, to their own gratification, and that in despite of the authority of
God--they should reverse this state of things, and devote themselves again once and
for ever to the authority and service of God. I remark, then, that regeneration must
consist, doubtless, in a change of the disposition of the mind--a voluntary consecration
to God. Observe, that when they withdrew allegiance from God, and committed themselves
in the face of God's authority to the gratification of their appetites, this constituted
a fundamental change in their characters. Observe, they could not do the thing which
they did, without deliberately preferring their own gratification to obedience to
God. This committing themselves to sin, then, must have constituted in them an entire
change of character.
- (3.) I remark, again, in other words, that regeneration consists in a change
in the ultimate intention, or end of life. The mind, in regeneration, withdraws itself
from seeking, as the ultimate disposition and end, the gratification of self, and
choose a higher end than itself. Its disposition is changed from supreme selfishness
to an entire devotion of the whole being to the great end for which God lives, and
for which he made man to live. Regeneration, then, consists in ceasing to live to
sin and for selfishness, and to live to and for God. I shall remark no further on
this part of the subject at present, but proceed, thirdly, to notice--
III. SOME THINGS THAT ARE IMPLIED IN THIS CHANGE.
- (1.) And first, I may say in general, that in regeneration the mind receives
new and more impressive views of truth. Men when they are regenerated obtain, through
the agency of the Holy Spirit, a clear and vastly more impressive view of their relations
to God, of the real nature of sin and of holiness, of their duty to God and the great
truths that are indispensably associated with regeneration; and by the influence
of the Holy Spirit, as I just remarked, they have new and more impressive perception
of these truths. This, I suppose, is implied in it as a condition of it.
- (2.) But again: new views of truth, and of religion are implied as resulting
from it. For example, when individuals have withdrawn from devotion to themselves
and selfish objects, and have devoted themselves to God, they naturally become different
people. Before, they viewed everything in a selfish light, and so they acquired a
liking for nothing but that which, according to their own views, furthered their
selfish ends. They cared not for God even, only so far as they thought he might be
useful to them. All their views were selfish. If they feared God at all, it was only
because they feared being made miserable by him. Or, if they obeyed him, such obedience
was the result of some selfish principle--they hoped to gain some selfish gratification
by it. All their views were purely selfish views. Every unregenerate man looks at
all things in a selfish light, and all that he imagines will promote his interests,
he seeks and loves. But, when a man is born again, he has withdrawn himself from
seeking his own interests as the supreme good: he has consecrated himself to God;
and, as a necessary result of this, he will sympathise with everything which is calculated
to promote the interests of Jehovah's kingdom. The change which has taken place in
his mind causes him to have new views and feelings concerning his relation to God,
and he now strives to promote God's glory, and extend his kingdom, by making known
his will. Before, selfish interests ruled his conduct--self-gratification was his
law--and nothing but self interested him. But now, he has come into an entirely different
state of mind--he has devoted himself to another end--and he looks upon all things
from a different point of view, and their value becomes differently estimated. Now,
what constitutes the particular difference between an unregenerated and a
regenerated man? There is no change in his physical structure either of body or mind.
So far as substance is concerned, there is no change: but the attitude of his mind
is entirely and radically changed. Now this change of mind will manifest itself in
his life; for the will controls the action of the body. If I will
to move my arms they must move, unless there is some opposing force stronger than
my will. A change in the will necessarily produces a change in the life.
- (3.) And this leads me to say that a new life results, as a matter of course,
from regeneration. A new outward life is not regeneration, but it results from it,
as effect from cause. You see a man devoted to God, and now he is engaged in different
pursuits to what he was before; or if engaged in the same pursuits he acts from a
different spirit. Is he a merchant? When he was a sinner his ruling motive in trade
was selfishness--the spirit of self-gratification was supreme in all that he did.
But now, his merchandise is God's. The things that he possesses are not his own,
he is God's clerk, or steward, and he will not cheat any body, for he knows that
God does not want his servants to cheat. He is transacting business for God; and,
as he knows in his heart that God hates cheating, he will be honest now of course.
It will be natural for him to be honest. If it is not possible for him to be honest,
he is not a regenerate man. If his heart be honest his life will be honest. So in
everything else. Let it be understood, then, that when regeneration occurs, a man's
whole life will be a law of honesty.
- (4.) But let me say again--another thing implied in regeneration, is a new sort
of sympathies and feelings. Before, the feelings and sympathies were all enlisted
in one direction, the direction of self. You see a man in this state, and you try
to excite him to the performance of some generous action, but you cannot do it unless
you can employ selfish motives as a means to accomplish your object. His self-interests
are easily excited. Show him how much he can get by acting in the way desired by
you, and you may succeed, but not else. All appeals to higher motives will fail.
It is remarkable to what an extent this feeling of selfishness will develope itself.
Make an appeal to an unregenerate man's benevolence, and your appeal has no effect,
because his interests, he thinks, are not concerned in it; but make an appeal to
his selfishness, and you can excite the deepest foundation of his being. Talk to
him about God, and Christ, and religion, and his relations to God, and his sensibilities
are not at all excited--his sympathies do not lie in that direction at all. How unfeeling
he is if you tell him of his sins, he does not feel them, and can listen to the enumeration
of them without emotion. But at length his mind is changed, and he now lives for
other interests; now instead of being devoted to self, he is devoted to God,
and every thing relating to God and his kingdom reaches his sensibilities and stir
up the fountains of feeling in him. Talk to him now about God's glory and the interests
of men's souls--spread out the world before him, and shew him the condition of mankind,
and rely upon it you will move him! Before, if you expected to get any money from
him you must show him the benefit that would in some sort accrue to himself; but
now he has made God's interests his own interests, and he sympathises with God, and
with Christ, and he has set his heart upon promoting those interests which shall
glorify God and benefit men. Now only but show him the great field of Christian enterprise,
and you fire his soul with love to men, and fill him with a desire to promote the
kingdom and glory of God in the world. He has consecrated himself and all that he
has to these objects. I have been struck a great many times with the beautiful process
that goes on in the soul, as the Christian grows in grace. Sometimes I have looked
upon an old saint, who for many years has been thinking of, and bathing his mind
in, the great truths of the gospel, who has had so much communion and sympathy with
God, that he has become beautifully and sweetly mellow; so delicate, so kind, and
so Christ-like were the feelings he would manifest, that I have many times been charmed
and cheered with the character of a fully developed Christian.
- (5.) But I remark again: that in regeneration a great change takes place in the
joys and sorrows, and hopes and fears of the soul that has experienced the change.
The joys of such a man are of a new sort. Before, he would rejoice greatly in the
prospect of earthly good. Now he rejoices chiefly in seeing and hearing that the
work of God is progressing in the land. He will rejoice to be told that God is pouring
out his Spirit, and that souls are brought to Christ. This to him is an entirely
new sort of joy. Before, he could take up a newspaper, and if it contained any account
of a revival of religion, he did not read it; but now when he finds such an article
in a newspaper, instead of passing it by, he will eagerly run his eye over the page,
and it will produce in him inexpressible joy and delight--his whole being will be
moved. So with sorrow, new objects call it forth. He was accustomed to sorrow chiefly
when some worldly loss had been sustained, because it stood closely connected with
his own interests; but now let him know that some professor has become a backslider
from Christ, and he is more grieved at that than all the earthly losses that he ever
met with. He is now deeply sorry when he sees professors live in sin, more so than
at the worldly troubles and losses that he has ever endured.
- (6.) Again: Of course regeneration implies repentance for past sin, and implies
implicit confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ. It implies also peace of mind, which
cannot be obtained without repentance and faith in Christ; because the elements of
discord are always stirring within the minds of the unregenerate. But when they have
withdrawn from the course which their consciences disprove, and have devoted themselves
to the end for which they were made, all the workings of their minds harmoniously
blend together, and produce peace. There is no remonstrance of conscience against
their present course; all the powers and faculties within are in harmony; and in
addition, there is fellowship with God, and communion with the Holy Ghost. (You see,
my dear hearers, that I can dwell but a few moments on each of these topics.)
- (7.) Again, let me say, that regeneration implies a state of self-denial. Now
I do not mean by self-denial, the breaking off from some outward customs and habits
in which you have been accustomed to indulge--that you leave off some showy articles
of dress and wear plainer attire; or that you be a little more temperate, or a good
deal more temperate; for self-denial does not belong to the outward life, but to
the mind. Self-denial is the renunciation of selfishness, and all selfish appetites.
Self-denial is not a total denial of our appetites and passions, but our appetites
and passions are not to be our law. It is right to eat and drink, but we are to do
both to the glory of God, that we may have strength to serve him. So with respect
to all our appetites and propensities, they are to be properly employed and made
to serve the purposes for which they were bestowed, but we are not to make their
gratification the business and end of life.
- (8.) Lastly, regeneration implies that the mind is come to have new motives of
action--I use the term motive in the sense of design or intention. This term
is used in different senses. We sometimes ask what are a man's motives for
doing such and such things, when we mean his reasons for doing them; and sometimes
we mean by the question, to ask what his design or aim is? In this
last sense I use the term motive. I say then that the regenerate man now acts
from opposite motives to what he did before. This is the great radical change that
has taken place, and he is now pursuing a radically different course and end. Before,
his own personal gratification and interests, and the gratification and interests
of those who were considered to be parts of himself, were the ends for which he lived,
moved, and had his being. Whatever he did, it was with a view to this end; everything
was radically wrong. Whether he went to meeting, read his Bible, or prayed, the end
in view was the promotion of his own interests. No matter what he did, it was sin
and only sin continually. But now he has become regenerated; the design of his mind
is to promote other interests, and to pursue a radically different end: he gives
himself to God, and lives, and moves, and breathes, and has his being for God and
godliness. Now, I appeal to every person in this house, who knows what it is to be
regenerated, whether I have not given, in substance, what regeneration is? Suppose,
we should take an opposite view, and affirm that regeneration consists in a change
of nature! Now, I know that the Bible sometimes speaks of regeneration as a change
of nature, but we suppose that such language is figurative. We sometimes say of men,
how natural it is for them to do such and such things, when we mean that the man
is devoted to this end, whatever it may be. Now, when a man is pursuing another end,
we say he is a new man--that is, his way of life is changed--his end of being is
changed. But, suppose, that we should say that regeneration is a change of nature,
of substance--that something new is infused into the man that becomes united with
the substance either of his mind or body, what must be the consequence? Is this change
in the moral character? If it is, something which God has created within man and
with which man has nothing to do, it cannot imply a change of character. Furthermore,
does it imply the power of backsliding from God? Can a man, in such a condition,
be a backslider? Can he fall from grace? I am astonished to hear men contend that
individuals undergo a change of nature in regeneration, and yet say that they can
alter their course, and fall from grace. How is it possible that they can fall from
grace? Who has changed their nature back again? Did God or Satan change it? Now it
is true, no doubt, of all sinners, that when they have once given themselves up to
pursue certain ends their sympathies, feelings, and dispositions, become so corrupted,
that they are naturally led to live sinful and selfish lives; and so when a man is
regenerated, it becomes a kind of second nature for him to do right: but still, literally,
man has not received a change of nature. I proceed to remark, in the next place,
IV. THE NECESSITY OF THIS CHANGE. Its necessity is very strongly insisted on in
the text. When Christ taught Nicodemus the necessity of the new birth, he was greatly
surprised, and Christ said, "Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born
again." It is no new doctrine that I teach, and you ought, as a doctor in Israel,
to know that it is not; no man should marvel at such a plain doctrine, and you least
- (1.) In considering the necessity of this change, I remark, in the first place,
that the unregenerate part of mankind are all selfish. No man could practically deny
this, without incurring the charge of insanity; and, if he should proceed to do business
upon that assumption, a commission of lunacy would no doubt be appointed to examine
him, and who certainly would have no hesitation in bringing in their verdict, that
he was not fit to manage his own affairs. The fact is, that all the arrangements
of society proceed upon the assumption, which is a fact, that men are devoted to
their own interests, and quite regardless of the interests of others. There is no
plainer fact in the world than this. Now, do you ask, how it came to pass that men
are selfish? Why, the principle grows up with us almost from our birth. As soon as
the appetites and passions of children are sufficiently developed to come into exercise,
they employ their wills to seek the gratification of their appetites and passions.
The will becomes devoted to the gratification of self. Now that God is not selfish,
I suppose, will be admitted on all hands; that a selfish mind is not at rest within
itself, that men were not made to be selfish, and that no man can be satisfied and
happy while he is selfish--that no man can be at peace with himself while he is pursuing
solely his own interest. Man is so constituted that the mind of a selfish being cannot
be happy. Now, suppose that the inhabitants of heaven were selfish, all their interests
would be conflicting, and laws would be needed to restrain them from encroaching
upon each other's rights, because their sympathies did not blend. The same difficulties
would exist there as here, only in a much higher degree. There would be striving,
and crushing, and overreaching; every man would be at war with his brother. Now,
such a community as that can never possess heaven. In order to be saved, then--in
order to be happy in heaven, men must really experience a radical change in the end
for which they live: they must renounce self-interest, and they must recognize God's
authority and interests as supreme, and they must love their brother as they
do themselves. They must set up a common interest, and have a common object of love.
Who does not believe that heaven is a place where all is unity and harmony, and where
there is no selfishness, and where God's will is the universal law, and where the
interest of one is the interest of all. Now it is easy to see that this would just
meet the demands of man's being when he is regenerated. Now, just look at a world
of selfish beings with all the restraints of law; with ten thousand pulpits preaching
against selfishness, with the press groaning with articles against selfishness, with
large numbers of colporteurs running hither and thither with Bibles protesting against
selfishness, and yet see the immense amount of selfishness that exists in the world,
after all. And now, when men are told that they must be born again, they do but smile
at it. They don't understand it, they have the gross conception of it that Nicodemus
had; they do not consider, that unless there be a radical change of character, they
cannot possess and enjoy heaven. Put a selfish man into heaven, and what will he
do there? Why, he will ask, if there is any way of making money, any way of making
a speculation to his advantage? Heaven, then, is no place for selfish beings. But
how are men to get to heaven? You tell them of this change of heart, and they do
not deny but they may need some little change, but they do not see the necessity
for a radical change of disposition and character. But it is nevertheless a great
truth, that unless men cease to be selfish and become benevolent in their dispositions
there is no place for them in heaven; and, if the selfish man could get there, the
holiness and benevolence of heaven would be intolerable to him, his selfish nature
would cry out against it, for God is not selfish, angels are not selfish, the saints
in glory are not selfish. Now, do let me ask you, dear hearers, are you selfish?
Have you always lived to please yourselves? and if so, is it not the most self-evident
thing in the universe, that unless a change takes place in the end for which you
live, that you never can sympathise with the inhabitants of heaven? Suppose that
it were possible for you, with a selfish heart, to join in the worship of heaven,
to live among those that were not selfish, but perfectly benevolent, what sympathy
would you have there? Would it be the delight of your heart to mingle your song with
their's? Could you mingle in their joys and find pleasure in their pursuits? Never!
Your sensibilities do not lie in that direction, your minds are not there! Your hearts
are not there! Methinks that you would need to be confined there, or you would spring
over the battlements of heaven, and go down to hell, in order to get out of such
holy and benevolent company.
I shall now make a few remarks in closing.
- (1.) First, you can see what an infinite mistake those person have made who make
religion hard and grievous. It is not grievous for a man to pursue that upon which
his heart is set. Yet a great many religious professors find it very hard to attend
to the duties of religion. I have no heart, they say, to go to church, but I must
not stay away, I must not omit this duty, and they do it, but find no relish, no
satisfaction in it. Why, friends, you have made a mistake! You have attempted to
serve God without giving him your heart! You have attempted to serve the Lord without
consecrating yourselves to the great end for which you ought to live! Just let your
heart go first, and your life will follow without all this great trouble. If your
heart is right, you will not need to put a strong rein upon yourselves to keep you
from cheating your neighbour. Your aim will then be to do him good; you will love
him as you love yourself.
- (2.) I remark again, that what individuals need to do it this--turn their minds
to God, and to begin a new life; to retrace their steps, to reverse their minds completely,
in respect to the great end for which they ought to live.
- (3.) I remark again; those person who call in question the necessity of the change,
which the Bible says is essential, are entirely unreasonable, for I aver that regeneration
is as truly a doctrine of natural, as of revealed, religion. Men, by rejecting the
Bible, need not suppose that they can reject the doctrine of regeneration. They must
either deny the natural state of man, or they must deny that the inhabitants of heaven
are holy, before they can reject the doctrine of regeneration. Natural religion itself
teaches that some great and radical change is needed; and hence the everlasting restlessness
of man. Do we not know that all the pains that men take to engross themselves with
worldly objects indicates that they are ill at ease in regard to their moral character
and conduct. The fact is, that they do admit the necessity of a radical change in
their characters. They never can rest where they are; and hence the Bible represents
them as "like the troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt."
- (4.) I remark again; that many persons have got such ideas of regeneration, that
when God calls upon them to become new creatures, they wait for God to change their
hearts. They expect to have something done to them that shall act like an electric
shock, and so they wait, instead of at once breaking away from their selfishness,
and coming to Christ.
- (5.) Again, how divine influence is communicated to men is, the context tells
us, very mysterious, but the influence is felt, though not seen. Every Christian
knows that he has been born again. He knows that he was thinking of certain truths
and gave himself up to their influence, when the Spirit began to operate upon his
mind, and reveal the truth to him; and he was so influenced, that his desires and
disposition were changed, and he gave himself up wholly to God.
- (6.) Again; where the truth is apprehended, men have no cause to wait for anything.
God requires them to act: "turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die." Now, when
they are waiting for something else, they overlook the fact, that God is just doing
the very thing that they need.
- (7.) In the next place, the mind is highly intelligent in regeneration. The mind
must be intelligent in regeneration, or it is not a virtuous act. After regeneration,
the mind acts more intelligently than ever it did before; and it may well be so,
for that act was the only truly rational of all its acts. The soul now comes to act
in view of God's truth, and in harmony with God's will, his interests, and his authority.
Is this regeneration, then, to be called fanaticism, mysticism; and to be branded
as something unintelligible? I trust, that my hearers will say, No! I will not detain
you longer than to ask--If there are those in this house to-night, who have never
been born again, but who see the necessity of it, I ask such, do you see that what
you are to do is to cease to live for the end that you are living for, and that you
are to live in future to God's glory, and to recognize solely his authority, and
set your heart upon him? You must not cleave for salvation to any works of your own,
but when God draws you, as he is doing now, you are to say, "Speak, Lord, for
thy servant heareth." You are to answer the invitations of God, as Paul answered,
"Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Implying that you recognize Christ's
authority, and that whatever Christ tells you to do, you will do. Now, why not make
up your mind and come to God at once? There never could be a better time! Why not
renounce self now, and make a new heart and a new spirit? Do you ask, can I do that?
To be sure you can. Suppose Adam and Eve had asked--Can we make ourselves new hearts?
Why, God might have said, Did you not just do it? But, a little while ago, you had
holy hearts that were consecrated to me, and you have withdrawn your allegiance from
me; and have you not, by that act, just created wicked hearts? This was your own
act, and I only require you to undo what you have just done. And now, my dear hearers,
I may safely warrant you, that if you will consecrate yourselves to God, God will
not condemn you for want of regeneration. But that if you can make up your minds
to renounce all your self-interests as the end of life, and freely devote your powers
to God, you are safe, you are in a state of regeneration, or call it by what name
you will. Remember I am not denying that God has something to do with your regeneration
and salvation. It is God that draws you, and your duty is, when he draws, to say,
Yes Lord, I consent to take thy dear, easy yoke, and do thy will. I will do it, Lord,
and do it now; I do it once for all, and for ever--thy will shall be my everlasting
and universal law. Amen.
Back to Top
Preached on Thursday Evening, November 22, 1849.
BY THE REV. C. G. FINNEY,
AT THE BOROUGH ROAD CHAPEL, SOUTHWARK.
This lecture was typed in by Tony Alan Mangum.
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
"Enoch was translated that he should
not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his
translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." --Hebrews xi.
IN speaking from these words I shall inquire--
- I. WHO GAVE THIS TESTIMONY TO ENOCH?
II. NOTICE THE NATURE OF THE TESTIMONY!
III. CONSIDER HOW THIS TESTIMONY WAS GIVEN!
IV. THE CONDITIONS UPON WHICH HE MUST HAVE RECEIVED IT, AND UPON WHICH WE MAY
OBTAIN SUCH TESTIMONY?
V. THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING THIS TESTIMONY!
VI. CONSIDER SOME OF THE REASONS WHY SO FEW SEEM TO HAVE THE TESTIMONY THAT
THEY PLEASE GOD?
This is the outline of thought to which I would call your attention, and I suppose
that these several points will include subjects on which every thoughtful mind will
naturally desire to be informed.
I. Our first inquiry is--WHOSE TESTIMONY WAS IT THAT ENOCH HAD THAT HE PLEASED
GOD? Surely it must have been God's testimony, for who could give this testimony,
but God? If God was pleased with Enoch, and he knew it, how otherwise could he have
become possessed of this knowledge but by a revelation from God? And this was doubtless
the apostle's meaning, and it was the fact, that Enoch had God's testimony that he
II. I inquire, secondly, into THE NATURE OF THIS TESTIMONY.
- (1.) And I remark first, that it was not simply a negative testimony,
a mere absence of sin and guilt, and that God was not displeased with him.
It was not a mere absence of anything. A hardened sinner will sometimes have this
negative kind of testimony: he may not feel the frown of God, nor have any sense
at all of God's displeasure.
- (2.) The testimony then, that Enoch had, was a positive testimony. God
in some way, doubtless, convinced Enoch, and let him understand that he was pleased
with him. He indicated the fact that he was pleased with him. Enoch himself had God's
testimony that he pleased him.
III. The next inquiry is--HOW ARE WE TO SUPPOSE THAT THIS TESTIMONY WAS GIVEN
- (1.) I observe first that it was not given merely in a providential manner--God
did not manifest to Enoch by the course of his providence that he was pleased with
him; this has never been the course of God with man. Every one knows that oftimes
it is quite impossible to know the moral character of a man by the way in which God
deals with him in this world. And this fact completely shows that this world is not
the state of retribution, of rewards and punishments. I fear that there are many
mistakes made on this subject. The friends of Job, manifestly reasoned wrong on this
subject, they supposed, and argued, that God's dealings with Job proved him to be
a wicked man; but Job resisted this mode of reasoning, and insisted that they had
a false view of the subject. Almost the entire scope of the book of Job goes to establish
this point--that God does not by his providence in this world indicate his view of
the moral character of man. The Bible in many places affirms this. "He makes
his sun to shine upon the evil and upon the good, and his rain to descend upon the
just and upon the unjust." The wicked are often exalted whilst the righteous
are trodden down and afflicted. Neither in their life nor in their death does God
often manifest his views of their character. The Psalmist observed this, and he says,
"the wicked flourish like a green bay-tree, they are not in trouble like other
men, neither are they plagued like other men, verily I have cleansed my heart in
vain and washed my hands in innocency." But he said this before he was well
instructed. When he thought to know this it was too painful for him, he stumbled
at it, until he went into the house of God, and there he understood the matter. There
he saw how God dealt with men according to their characters, that God set the wicked
in slippery places, and cast them down at last into destruction. These remarks are
designed to illustrate what I have just said--that we are not to suppose that God
providentially gave this testimony to Enoch. And it is according to the universal
observation and testimony of mankind, that God does not show his special pleasure
in men by this means.
- (2.) I remark again: that God must, doubtless, have in some way indicated the
fact to the mind of Enoch through his word, by his Spirit. How else could he have
made the communication? It must have been either by providence that God revealed
to Enoch that he was pleased with him, or it must have been indicated to his mind
directly by the Spirit, as I suppose, through his word. It should be borne in mind
that at that time the scriptures were not filled up as they are now, and, therefore,
the Spirit of God could not, without a direct revelation from heaven, have made any
application to his mind of much that is written in the Bible. Yet, doubtless, God
did manifest himself to Enoch through his word by his Spirit. And here, let me say,
that in all cases where men have this testimony, it must be of this character. It
must be that God gives this testimony through his word by his Spirit.
- (3.) But let me say again: it is done by speaking peace to the soul, giving the
soul to understand that God is at peace with it, shedding peace and diffusing it
over his soul, giving him the Spirit of adoption, leading him to understand by God's
smile on his soul, drawing him into union with himself, and shedding abroad his love
in his heart, and thus creating such a state of mind that the individual can clearly
understand that he is accepted of God, and that God has pleasure in him. If I had
time to dwell upon this part of the subject, I think it would be very easy to show
that it is in exact accordance with the experience of every Christian that has ever
known anything of experimental religion. Any one that has ever had real communion
with God, that has ever known what it is to be drawn into union with God in such
a manner as to sympathize so deeply with him as to partake of his holiness, and drink
of the river of his pleasures, and so to understand what the mind of God is, as to
partake in part of its nature, and understand the nature of the peace which God enjoys.
And let me say that there is such a thing as God giving to the mind a sense of justification,
in other words, a sense of his approval, so that the mind can have no doubt of it
at the time. It perfectly understands its acceptance with God. God so smiles upon
the soul, and so sheds himself into the soul, that it seems to breathe an atmosphere
of peace, so deep and so calm that it is in no doubt of its acceptance with God,
no doubt of being in that state which God is pleased.
IV. In the next place--THE CONDITIONS UPON WHICH ENOCH RECEIVED THIS TESTIMONY,
AND UPON WHICH EVERY ONE ELSE MAY RECEIVE IT.
- (1.) The first condition that I notice is, that the individual who will have
this testimony must actually please God, for God will bear no false testimony.
It is not enough that Christ has pleased God, that in some mysterious manner Christ's
righteousness is imputed to the man. It is only a mere trueism to say that God is
pleased with Christ. In the text it is said that God was pleased with Enoch.
Now I suppose that we are to understand something more than this--that God accepted
him for Christ's sake. I suppose that we are to understand that God, for Christ's
sake, gave him so much of the Holy Spirit as to secure in him a state of mind actually
pleasing to God, and that through the Spirit he actually did that which pleased God.
We say then that any one who would enjoy this testimony that he pleases God, must
be in such a condition of mind as is acceptable to God, and live a life that is pleasing
- (2.) I remark again: that there must be, as a condition, implicit confidence
in God. There is no duty that is so pleasing to God. When Enoch lived, the atonement
had not yet been made, but then it was understood that an atonement was to be made.
And if this was so, it is certain that he would have had implicit confidence in God
as a condition for pleasing him. The Bible affirms that without faith it is impossible
to please him; Enoch must therefore have had implicit confidence in God. But what
is implicit confidence? I mean by implicit confidence, that he must have abjured
all self-confidence, and have cast himself upon God's grace. And in order to this,
he must have had some knowledge of the manner in which God expects man to have implicit
confidence in his truthfulness, and faithfulness, and mercy.
- (3.) But let me mention another condition--he must have lived to God. It is said
of him in the Old Testament that he walked with God three hundred years, and then
was translated, and was not, for God took him. This walking with God implies agreement--for
the Bible says, "how can two walk together except they be agreed"--which
in Bible language, means, that two cannot walk together except they are agreed. Therefore
when it is said that "Enoch walked with God," we are to understand that
his will and his heart were at one with God; and if this was true he might well have
the testimony that he pleased God. And be it remembered that every one who would
please God, and would have this testimony, must do as Enoch did; he must agree to
have God's government and no other, he must live for every end for which God lives.
- (4.) Again: he must set his heart upon pleasing God. No individual will have
the testimony that he pleases God unless he really means to please him. A man, I
say, who would have the testimony that he pleases God, must have an heart set upon
pleasing him, he must regard it as of the greatest importance that he please God,
he must give himself to the work of pleasing God as a condition of pleasing him.
- (5.) Again: Another condition is, that he must not be contented at all to live
without the testimony that he pleases God. He must not only aim to please
him, but must not be content to live without the testimony that he does please him.
If he truly aims to please God, and his heart is set upon this, he will not be satisfied
without he succeeds in that which he aims to do, that he really does please God.
If an individual does aim to obtain this testimony, but if he considers it only of
little importance whether he succeeds, of course he will not have it.
- (6.) I remark again: another condition is, he must believe it possible for him
to please God. If he does not believe it possible for him to please God; if he has
such an idea of God's requirements that they are so exceedingly strict, and that
he requires so much of man, that it is almost hopeless of man to expect to please
him, if he has this idea, I say, he need not expect to please him. I have heard many
persons talk as if it was the height of presumption to try to please God in this
world, as if it would be most dangerous to the soul to indulge in the belief that
it could please him. These persons represent God as so infinitely exacting, that
the highest angel in heaven might hardly hope to please him--then how could man hope
to do it? Now when an individual has this idea--that God requires his creatures to
make brick without straw, that he requires of men that which they cannot do, because
he does not give them the ability to do it, then he rejects every expectation of
pleasing God. When an individual has this idea he is in a state of mind that cannot
please God. It is true that God is holy, that his requirements are perfect. It is
true that he requires men to love him with all their heart, and soul, and strength,
and their neighbours as themselves, but it is also true that his grace is equal to
his requirements; and in his requirements he pledges his grace to enable us to perform.
It were infinitely strange, not to say unjust, if it were otherwise.
- (7.) But again: another condition of having this testimony is this--a belief
that we may have the testimony--not only that we may please God, but that we may
secure his testimony to the fact that we do please him. If we forget the idea that
God is slow to manifest his pleasure, it will no doubt effectually prevent our having
the testimony. It is the tendency of sin to prevent the soul enjoying this delightful
assurance of its acceptance with God, and the arch enemy of souls is ever ready to
prevent us rising to this belief and conviction.
Now, let me pause here, and apply what I have I said to all classes of persons:
not only to professed saints, but to those also who are not professed saints. Now,
do you really desire the testimony that you please God? Of course, you cannot expect
to have it while you remain impenitent. But, may you not enjoy this testimony, if
you set your heart upon pleasing God? Yes! you may. To be sure you have not this
testimony now, and some of you may say, it will be a great while before I can have
it. Why? Will it take you a great while to repent, and set your heart upon obeying
God? Oh, no! Well, it is as important for you to have this testimony as any body
else,--then why not say at once, As I can have this testimony by the grace of God,
I will not live another day without it. But I would observe, here, that the spirit
of self-sacrifice is a condition of having this testimony. Christ lived not to please
himself, but to please his Father: and, in order to do this, he was willing to sacrifice
everything and his own life also. Now, if any of his followers would have the testimony
that they please God, they must have the self-sacrificing spirit of their master.
They must be willing to be used up, for the good of his kingdom. They must be willing,
as Christ was, to sacrifice even their lives. But, I must hasten to consider
V. THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING THIS TESTIMONY.
- (1.) And, I remark, first: if persons have it not, who are professors of religion,
or seriously disposed, the best that can be said of them is, that they live in a
state of continual doubt. If they have not the testimony that they do not
please God, yet they fully admit that they feel such a sense of condemnation as to
be as far as possible off from having the testimony that they do please him.
Now, perhaps, it is so with some of you--that everything condemns you, every sermon
that you hear condemns you, your own consciences condemn you, you cannot go into
your closet and pray as you feel that you ought: God seems to frown upon you. You
have the clearest evidence that you do not please God. Others of you, perhaps, may
not be in exactly this state of depression, but your life, to say the best of it,
is full of doubts; you have no such evidence that God is pleased with you, as will
allow you to rest satisfied. You are the subjects of many doubts, fears, and anxieties.
Perhaps, you seldom, if ever, rise higher than to be greatly anxious about yourselves:
or, perhaps, you are too careless even to care about it at all. When you have heard
some searching preaching, instead of going with clear testimony that you please God,
you seldom go further than to get many doubts and perplexities about it. No wonder
that you doubt whether you love and please God. If you have not the testimony that
you do, you have good reason to doubt: and I beg of you, that unless you have this
testimony, not to persuade yourselves that you ought to do other than doubt! The
only rational way for you to act is to decide that you do not please God.
If you do please him, why this state of anxiety? Why this everlasting halting? Is
it because God is unwilling to manifest himself to you, although you do please him?
Let your own hearts answer the question.
- (2.) In the next place, as professors of religion, if you have not this testimony,
when you are called upon to proclaim the gospel to sinners and pull them out of the
fire, you will find that you have so much to think about yourselves as to be able
to do nothing for any body else. This is a great and sore evil! In how many thousands
of cases have I found sinners becoming inquirers, and going for advice and comfort
to the church, but the church was unable to do anything for them, because they were
in doubt, whether they were Christians themselves. You ask them to pray for sinners,
and they can only say, Lord have mercy on me. Now, is not this a great evil?
Indeed, it is an evil of the greatest magnitude. Professors of religion, unless they
have this testimony, can do but very little for God. I have heard ministers during
the time of a Revival, say that they could neither preach nor pray? they had so little
evidence of their own acceptance with God that their mouths were shut. What a great
evil is this! What can they do for others, when they are in this lamentable condition
themselves? They cannot go out and work as men of God ought to work. With what confidence
can they preach that which they really do not know that they believe themselves,
or hold forth the salvation of which they touch not, taste not, handle not! All such
persons are a dead weight upon the cause of God, and hang like millstones round the
necks of those who would otherwise pull sinners out of the fire. What minister has
not found it true, that when his people were living without knowing that they pleased
God, that an immense number of difficulties were thrown in the way of good being
done! When the church can only hang upon the minister, they are in a very bad condition.
Perhaps it is the case with some of you--that you are hanging like dead weights on
the energies and prayers of those who are labouring for the salvation of souls? And
it always will be so, if you are without the testimony that you please God. Professors
of religion--where are you? what are you doing? If you have not the testimony that
you please God, you are stumbling blocks, you misrepresent religion! What do you
mean? You profess to be Christians, children of God; then you ought to have the witness
of the Spirit, and hold forth the blessedness of such a salvation to others. But,
what are really the facts? Alas! alas! in general professors are always complaining
of their leanness and their trials. It would seem, to hear them talk, as if God was
the hardest master that any body ever had to serve; that he dealt out his pleasures
with so sparing a hand as quite to discourage them! How many times have I heard persons
say, if such and such a person's religion is the religion of Christ, it may do very
well for a death-bed, but not to live in the world with. Must I go mourning all my
days and never have any cheerfulness, if so, I am afraid of such a religion! And
well they may be.
- (3.) But, let me say again: that without this testimony you cannot use the promises.
How many times have I heard persons say, if I knew that I was accepted of God, how
gladly would I apply to myself such and such promises, but they are meant for the
children of God, and I do not know whether I am a child of God or no. O that I did
but know that I was a child of God, and I would claim all the promises as mine own.
Perhaps this is the language of some of you. Now, the promises may lie in the Bible,
and the Bible may rot upon your shelves, and you make no use of them, because you
lack the testimony that they belong to you--because you do not know whether you are
children of God.
- (4.) Again: this testimony is indispensable to a rational hope of salvation.
What reason has a man to believe that he is personally interested in the salvation
of Christ, if he has not this evidence. I know that some persons have a hope that
they shall be saved, while they are really living in a state of condemnation. But
is this a rational hope? I say, NO; it is not a rational hope. I know that such persons
as have it cleave to it, but they have no right to cleave to it, most assuredly.
- (5.) Again: this testimony is indispensable to peace of mind. No man is at peace
till God speaks to him, but when God speaks peace to his soul, he is at peace. But
God will not speak peace to his soul till he comes into a state of mind with which
God is at peace.
- (6.) Again: it is indispensable to Christian liberty. Many professors of religion
have no conception of Christian liberty. Christian liberty seems to be with them
a kind of license that they suppose themselves to have, as resulting from the imputed
righteousness of Christ: and as Christ's righteousness is imputed to them, they imagine
that they can be personally sinful, and yet acceptable with God. I know that salvation
does not depend upon personal holiness; but, without it the man is not a Christian.
No man, therefore, possesses Christian liberty, unless he has the testimony that
he pleases God.
- (7.) But I remark again: this testimony is indispensable to Christian cheerfulness.
No individual has true cheerfulness without it; the mind will be so oppressed with
a sense of guilt that the man can hardly speak a word; from day to day he will go
bowed down with a sense of guilt. Real Christian cheerfulness that arises from love,
and communion with God and deep sympathy with him, is a kind of cheerfulness which
they do not understand who have not this testimony. And, let me say, that it is of
the greatest importance that Christians be cheerful, for it recommends their religion
to others, and often very materially influences their conduct. Four or five years
ago, one of the principal lawyers in the State of Ohio, Judge Andrews, an unconverted
man, came to hear me preach; and when I had done, he came and asked me if I would
go with him to see an individual that evening. I agreed; and it was to me a great
treat indeed. It was a truly Christian woman that we went to see; and, as soon as
we were seated, she began to talk with great cheerfulness, and fulness, of what the
Lord had done for her soul. Judge Andrews sat and listened with the greatest attention,
and by and by a tear trembled in his eye, and the old lady went on conversing with
such cheerfulness, that it rivited him, and he sat for three quarters of an hour
to hear that woman talk. When we left, he said to me, if this is the religion of
Jesus Christ, I am determined that I will not rest till I possess it and know what
it is: and there is good reason to believe that he did not rest till he did know
what it was by experience. Now, many cases of this kind occur where persons, unconsciously
perhaps, influence those around them. How often have I heard men say, when they have
seen religion thus cheerfully exhibited, that is the religion for me, that is the
religion which meets the demand of our being. Without cheerfulness, a man can scarcely
be said to be useful. Let a minister preach to his people without it, and the utmost
he will do will be to preach them into condemnation. Said a minister to me, "Brother
Finney, tell me what you think is the defect in my ministry; I find that sinners
are brought under conviction, but they get no further." I made but a brief answer
at the time, but I prepared a sermon in a few days, on the seventh chapter of Romans,
contrasting it with the eighth chapter. I showed that the seventh chapter was descriptive
of a state of bondage, of law; but, that the eighth was descriptive of the state
of Christian liberty. I preached the sermon in the hearing of my brother, and when
I had done, he came to me and said, "Brother Finney, if what you have been preaching
is true, I do not know anything about religion, for my experience does not go any
further than the seventh chapter." Now, said I, you have answered the question
that you asked me the other day. You do not know what it is to have liberty, and
how can you preach a gospel that you do not understand. The man did not live long
in that state. Let me remark here, that it is a mournful fact that the great mass
of religious teachers go no further than the seventh chapter of Romans; they can
go so far and cry out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from
the body of this death!" but they cannot go on to the eighth and say, "There
is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not
after the flesh but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ
Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not
do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness
of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of
the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit."
Now, a minister cannot lead his people further than he goes himself; and, if the
people were to get into the liberty of the gospel otherwise than by his means, he
would pour cold water upon them, and tell them that they were getting into a strange
fanatical state of mind; but how different will it be when the minister has come
into this liberty which the gospel is calculated to give. I now come to consider
VI. SOME OF THE REASONS WHY SO FEW PERSONS SEEM TO HAVE THIS TESTIMONY? When I
say few, I do not mean to say that the whole number is small, for I am happy
to know that it is not. Wherever I go I find persons that understand it, and when
they hear the sound, they recognize it as the gospel. But taking the great mass,
comparatively few know what it is to enjoy this testimony.
- (1.) The reason why they have it not, is not because it is so hard to please
God. His commandments are not grievous, he says. He is not exacting and hard to please.
He expects a willing mind in his service, but he does not expect from man that which
he hath not, but only that which he hath. If the heart and will is right, God accepts
it; and the man who gives his heart and will to God shall have the testimony that
he please God. So that when a man has not the testimony that he please God,
it is not because God is unwilling to manifest his pleasure when he is pleased. Some
people seem to think that it is dangerous to praise even virtue itself. Flattery
is always dangerous, but condemnation is only just where it is deserved. Take a family,
for example, where the children are endeavouring to please their parents, and when
they know that they have done their best, if they are not commended, they think that
injustice has been done them, and they relax in their efforts, because they conclude
that it is impossible to please so as to gain commendation, let them do what they
will. Just so with a wife who is always endeavouring to please her husband, and if
he is never pleased, the effect is, that she gives up trying, because she sees it
is of no use. God in his government supplies this demand of our nature. Let sin be
put away from any moral agent, and God loves the agent and manifests his pleasure;
it is in his very nature for him to do so. It is but an exception to this rule, that
God in a very remarkable and marvellous way hid his face from Christ. Christ was
the representative embodiment of sin, and it was necessary that God should make a
public demonstration of his hatred of sin, and although Christ was personally holy,
since he had become the representative of a sinful race, it was necessary that he
should have to utter that agonising cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken
me?" But ordinarily when any body please God, he has just as much willingness
to manifest it as the most indulgent of parents have to commend their children when
they do right. Some persons, I know, are unwilling to commend their children, and
I know that by such conduct they greatly injure their children. When the wife is
not commended for kindness to her husband, or the husband to his wife, or children
for dutifulness to their parents, great injustice is done, and an immense amount
- (2.) In the next place, the reason why so few have this testimony is, because
so few really please God, so few really aim to please him. If they were conscious
of being sincerely aiming to please God, they would undoubtedly expect to please
him; but being conscious that they do not live for that end, they cannot rationally
expect to please him, and of course they cannot expect any manifestation of his pleasure.
- (3.) But again, another reason that so few have this testimony is, that they
consent to live without it. If men consent to live without knowing whether they please
or displease God, they will assuredly not have the testimony that they please him.
- (4.) I remark again, that many do not have it, because they have more regard
for the approbation of men than the approbation of God. They care so little about
pleasing God, that they have ceased to inquire what will please him, and they will
not hesitate to do what they know will displease God rather than displease man. These
persons, of course, cannot have the testimony of which we are speaking.
- (5.) I remark again; that great multitudes of person seems satisfied with mere
negative testimony; if they can manage not to have a conscious sense of condemnation
they can get along very well. Dearly beloved, as I have gone over these points, have
I been stating the history of any of you? You are all strangers to me, and I always
feel embarrassed in preaching to persons of whose spiritual state and condition I
am ignorant. God only knows, therefore, whether the things spoken to-night meet the
case of any of you, or not.
A few remarks will close what I have now to say.
- (1.) When a soul has once had the testimony that it pleased God and has lost
this testimony, it cannot rest without it. Let an individual who once enjoyed the
testimony that he pleased God, fall into sin, and such a person will be among the
most unhappy and wretched of mankind.
- (2.) This accounts for the fact, that backsliders in heart are ever the most
unhappy of mankind--the man that backslides in heart from God is wretched. I deeply
pity the man who is a backslider. I pity the husband who has a backsliding wife--I
pity the wife who has a backsliding husband--I pity the children who have backsliding
parents--I pity the parents who have backsliding children--I pity the minister who
has a backsliding church, and I pity the church who has a backsliding minister; the
effect is, that the backslider in heart is filled with his own ways--he is wretched
wherever he is, and the language of his heart will often be--
"O where can rest be found?
Rest, for the weary soul."
- Perhaps some of you remember, and often say--
"Those peaceful hours I once enjoyed,
How sweet their memory still."
- When you walked with God and had the testimony that you pleased him. You once
enjoyed his testimony, and now you are fallen. Well, let me ask if you are not very
uncomfortable in that fallen state? Do not your very dreams torment you? Are you
not almost afraid to be alone? Dare you commune with your own heart, and be honest
with yourselves? If you are in the condition which I have supposed, you are most
unhappy and wretched, wherever you are. You may try to be happy and comfortable,
but you never can be till you return to God; but when you have done this, and when
God's frown is taken away, and he smiles upon you, then you may have peace. Now will
you return? Great as your sins are, will you return? Do you say that your sins are
so very great, so that you cannot even lift up your eyes to heaven! Neither could
the publican, but he smote upon his breast, and cried, "God be merciful to me
a sinner." You can do that! If you cannot hold up your head before God, you
can get down into the dust, where the Psalmist was when he cried out in the agony
of his soul to God and confessed his sin before him. You can do that, and
the question is will you do it?
- (3.) I remark again, what I have said to-night to Christians may with equal propriety
be applied to anxious sinners. And to such, I say, you can have the testimony that
you please God, if you give yourself up to please him. If you renounce your sins
and have no fellowship with iniquity, so great is his grace, that through his Son
Jesus Christ you may breath the spirit of liberty and of love, and possess the fulness
of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. If you will but believe; if you will but
make up your minds to walk with God, you may know what it is to have the testimony
that you please him. Some of you may be ready to say, O, if I could have this testimony,
there is nothing that I would not do; there is no part of the world to which I would
not go, if I could obtain acceptance with God. Yes, you want to buy it; but, until
you will be content to do the will of God, and cast yourselves wholly upon the grace
of Christ for it, you will never possess it. You may say, I have thought, desired,
and prayed, and avowed my willingness to do anything if I might but obtain acceptance
with God. Did it never occur to you that there was much self-righteousness in your
desire to do something to obtain this, otherwise than by the means which God has
appointed--it was a self-righteous effort. It is not very difficult to come to Christ;
why do not you come to him? What say you, may I come to Christ? Can I come to Christ
just as I am? Will he accept me? Yes, you may come to him, and he will accept you.
Hear what he says, "Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and
I will give you rest." If you come to Christ, you may have the testimony that
you please God; that you believe on him, and cast yourselves upon him, is all God
requires of you. And now, you who are professors of religion, and you who are not,
is it not best for you one and all to say--"by the grace of God we will have
this testimony." What minister, what professor, what sinner, in this house,
but will say, "If by the grace of God, it is offered to me, I will have it and
enjoy it, or I will die for it. O God, I will accept thy offered mercy. Lord Jesus,
I believe thy gospel, and I accept it. You that have the testimony that you please
God, I know that in the depth of your emotions you often groan within you, on account
of the miserable death in which some persons are that pretend to live: your souls,
pray for them, let them pray on, God's spirit is in the midst of you, and now is
the time for a resurrection from the dead. What say you sinner? Will you arise from
the dead and come forth? Christ calls you, and presents you with his life-giving
blood. He puts it even to your lips. Do you dash it away? Do your soul not want the
testimony that God is reconciled to you? Do you not desire the testimony that you
please God? If you do, then believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall have
the very thing that you require. Now we are going to God in prayer, and what say
you, shall we go on your behalf in the name of Christ? Who of you are prepared to
go with us to a throne of grace, and cast your souls upon God? What individual now
in bondage is willing to be released? Come and sore away from all your unbelief,
and cast yourself upon Christ. Empty your vessel--cast it bottom upwards and make
it quite empty, and then bring it to Christ, and it shall be filled. Will you come?
Will you come? WILL YOU COME? Let your heart answer! Let your heart respond!
Let it speak out, LORD JESUS MY SOUL HEARS, AND I COME, I COME. Amen.
Back to Top
Preached on Tuesday Evening, November 27, 1849,
BY THE REV. C. G. FINNEY,
AT THE BOROUGH ROAD CHAPEL, SOUTHWARK.
This lecture was typed in by Tony Alan Mangum.
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
"Search me, O God, and know my heart:
try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead
me in the way everlasting." --Psalm cxxxix. 23, 24.
IN speaking from this text I shall of course be obliged to assume many things
as true without attempting to prove them. This indeed is almost always the case in
preaching. It is taken for granted that certain things are agreed upon both by the
speaker and the hearer, and unless this was assumed, we could scarcely preach at
all. I shall therefore take it for granted that my audience believe in the existence,
and attributes of God, and that they also admit that he exercises a providential
government over all the affairs of the universe; and that directly, or indirectly,
he is concerned in everything that takes place; either positively in bringing it
about, or that when it is about to occur he knows it, and permits it, in order that
he may make some use of it. I shall take it for granted that you believe that no
event occurs without God either positively causing it, or else permitting it to occur,
with a design to make some use of it, and in some way to overrule it for his own
glory and the good of man. I cannot of course enter into a discussion upon the Divine
perfections, but must assume that my hearers admit that God's providence is in some
sense universal, and that it extends to every individual. In speaking from these
words I design to show:--
- I. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THE SINCERE AND ACCEPTABLE OFFERING OF SUCH A PETITION
AS THAT CONTAINED IN THE TEXT?
II. NOTICE SOME OF THE WAYS IN WHICH GOD ANSWERS REQUESTS OF THIS KIND.
"Search me O God," says the Psalmist, "and know my heart: try me
and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the
I. I INQUIRE WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THE SINCERE AND ACCEPTABLE OFFERING OF SUCH A
REQUEST, AS THIS, TO GOD?
- (1.) First it must imply the realization of the omniscience of God. When David
penned this Psalm he was in a state of mind that deeply realized the omnipresence
of God, and the searchings of his eye. He begins the Psalm by saying, "O Lord,
thou hast searched me, and know me. Thou knowest my down-sitting and mine up-rising;
and thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path, and my lying
down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue,
but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before,
and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high,
I cannot attain unto it. Whether shall I go from thy Spirit? or whether shall I flee
from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in
hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the
uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand
shall hold me. If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall
be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth
as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee." I have read
these verses to show that the Psalmist, at the time of offering this petition, was
under a deep impression of the omnipresence, and omniscience of God, and the searching
blaze of his eye throughout his whole being. And I suppose that this is always the
state of mind of every individual when he asks God to search him. The very request
implies the belief, that God understands his real heart, and is able to search him.
- (2.) Again: an acceptable offering of such a request as this, implies a sense
of the moral purity, or holiness of God. Observe, he prays to be searched--that his
whole being may be exposed, to see if there was any iniquity within him, and that
he might be led in the way everlasting. It is plainly implied that he had such a
sense of the purity of God, as to be convinced that God was infinitely opposed to
- (3.) It implies in the next place the necessity of being perfectly pure himself.
An individual that offers such a petition as this, does not, and cannot, offer it
without this conviction.
- (4.) Again: an acceptable offering of this petition must imply, a thorough wakefulness
of mind to one's moral or spiritual state. It must be that he is in a very honest,
searching, state of mind himself--thoroughly in earnest to know all about himself:
he is wide awake to his own spiritual condition and heartily desires that all his
errors may be rectified.
- (5.) Again: it implies an intense anxiety to be perfect as God would have him
to be--conformed to the holy will of God. Observe, he prays that his heart may be
searched to see if there was anything wicked within, and to be led in the way everlasting,
which plainly implies that he was willing to be led to abandon all iniquity. An individual
who makes such a request as this must have an intense longing of mind to be entirely
delivered from the dominion of iniquity.
- (6.) Again: this request, to be acceptable, must also imply, I suppose, that
the individual offering it, is not at the time conscious of living in sin--conscious
of indulging in any known sin. Now the Psalmist would not have made such a request
as this, if he had been at the time indulging in sin: he would surely not have asked
God to search him to see if there was any wickedness in him, if he was at the same
time conscious of indulging in known sin. Had this been the case he could not have
made such a request as this without downright hypocrisy.
- (7.) But again: the acceptable offering of such a petition as this implies the
assumption, on the part of the petitioner, that he needs to be deeply tried--penetrated
with the light of truth to the deepest recesses of his soul. When an individual offers
such a petition, he assumes that there may be such things about him as he has himself
overlooked, and he asks for the scrutiny of God's eye to search it out, and to apply
such tests as that he may see it.
- (8.) Again: the acceptable offering of such a petition, implies a willingness
to be subjected to any process of searching that God may see to be needful. He does
not point out any particular way in which he desires to be searched, and tried, but
he leaves that to the Divine discretion--he only asks that it may be done, without
attempting to dictate how it shall be done. When we ask to be searched, without any
real design to be searched, there is an inclination to dictate the way in which it
shall be done, but this is not an acceptable way of offering such a petition. The
time and manner of the searching must be left entirely to the Divine discretion.
Let the thing be done! Let God do as seemeth him good! This is the state of mind
in which the prayer must be offered.
- (9.) Again: an acceptable offering of such a petition, implies of course, that
the petitioner is really willing to have the petition answered, and will not resist
any process through which God causes him to pass as the means by which he is answered.
I pass now to consider secondly--
II. SOME OF THE WAYS IN WHICH GOD ANSWERS REQUESTS OF THIS KIND. And I observe,
first: by his Spirit and by the application of his truth. By these means light often
shines into the mind, so as to give individuals such a view of themselves as without
this searching they never would have had. But, while it is true that God often searches
in this way, and has done so in all ages, yet it is by no means the only way
in which he searches the human mind: nay, it is certain that he much more frequently
searches individuals in other ways. Observe: God's object in searching is not to
inform himself respecting us, but to discover us to ourselves, for he knows well
all about the state of our minds, our spiritual latitude and longitude: what we are
in our present state, and what sort of characters we should develope under any, and
all circumstances. Consequently, God, in bringing us out to our own view must apply
such tests to us, as shall assist in this development so as to let us see ourselves
as he himself sees us. In order to do this--make us understand ourselves, and those
around understand us--God answers such petitions as these, by means of his Providence
without, and by his Spirit within; and, observe, these never contradict
one another. God is working without by his Providence, bringing us into various states
and circumstances for the development of character, and then comes by his Spirit,
and presents it to our minds when it is developed. But I said that I should notice
some of the ways in which God answers these petitions, and I will do so.
- (1.) For example, he often suffers things to occur that really will show to us,
and to those around us, what sort of tempers we have. For instance, people
speak against us, and the way in which we bear their accusations show what our tempers
are. Now when we pray to be searched, God often applies such tests as this: he allows
us to be defamed, and spoken against, in order to try the state of our minds and
show whether we posses the virtue of meekness, or whether we will say that we do
well to be angry. Now, perhaps, some of you have had such a test as this applied
to you this very day. Some one has said or written something of you of a disagreeable
and injurious tendency; well, let me ask, what state of mind did it develope? Did
it develope the meekness and gentleness of Christ, or did it make you angry? Perhaps
you had been praying that you might be searched, and God caused your character to
be developed that you, and that those around you, might see it; and what sort of
character was it, hearer?
- (2.) Again: God often arranges matters so that we are treated with neglect--perhaps,
sinfully so--by those about us. Now God does not prevent this, but suffers it to
be done. He could have interposed to prevent it, but did not: well, how does this
effect us? it developed the state of mind that we were in. And what was the real
state of mind that it brought out? Did it make us angry and manifest an unholy temper,
or otherwise? Perhaps God allows us to be treated with manifest injustice, and when
thus tried do we manifest the Spirit of Christ? Do we find working in us the temper
that was manifested by Christ on such occasions? Remember, that it is written, "if
any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his." Now we should be exceedingly
ignorant of ourselves if none of these tests were applied. When persons have nothing
to try them, they are in great danger of deceiving themselves; but when persons are
tried, then their real disposition, and the temper of their minds are developed.
Let me ask, has somebody cheated you? has some one taken advantage of you--has injustice
been done you--has some one refused you honest wages, or repudiated a just debt?
Well, under these painful circumstances, what spirit did you manifest? Did you find
the Spirit of Christ within you? Mark! these are Providences occurring to search
you that you might understand yourselves, and that those around you might understand
you. Perhaps you have been misunderstood, and misrepresented; well, how have you
borne it? Perhaps you have been treated disrespectfully by those who are under particular
obligations to you; well, how did you bear it? Did your indignation rise--did you
manifest an un-Christ-like spirit? or did you find the Spirit of Christ was in you?
You prayed to be searched, and in answer to your prayer, your children or domestics,
or those related to you, and who are under particular obligations to you, treated
you in a very improper manner--directly the reverse to what you had a right to expect
from them--perhaps your domestic servants or those otherwise in your employ, have
done that which is exceedingly wrong. Now admit that all this was very wrong and
exceedingly provoking, what has been the effect upon yourself? What has it taught
you? and what has it taught those who witnessed the development? Has it brought out
your state of mind? Doubtless, it has; and if it was not outwardly manifest, what
were the feelings within? Some one, perhaps, has contradicted you! Can you bear contradiction?
Do you bear it well? Were you patient under it? Did you act as Christ would have
acted under the circumstances--or did you behave un-Christ-like? Perhaps, in your
business this day, some of those whom you employ have not attended to their duty,
or have destroyed your property--and all this might have been exceedingly wrong,
and highly provoking. But, let me ask, what spirit did you manifest to them who had
done the wrong? Such a spirit as Christ would have manifested? What has been the
result of such an occurrence? Observe, these things never occur by accident: God
designs that every one of them should develope our characters--that they should try
us and prove what there is in us, and bring it out on to the field of our own consciences,
and reveal to us the springs of action within us. Now when these tests of your character
and disposition have been applied, what has been the result? Did you find that you
were nothing but the same old sinner yet? That instead of finding Christ within you,
and his temper developing itself, you found the old man with his deceitful lusts?
- (3.) I remark again, on this part of our subject: How often when individuals
pray to be searched, and tried, God gives them opportunities in their business to
prove if they love their neighbours as themselves--or whether they will speculate
with a view to make all they can out of their neighbours, and adopt any means to
this end that will not subject them to any criminal charge, or ruin them in a business
point of view. God tries them to see if they will really consult their brother's
interest as well as their own--to see if they will share the profits where there
is any money to be made; or whether they will be disposed to dip their hands as deeply
in their neighbours pockets as they can without losing their character for honesty.
Now God often tries men in this way. He will often give them opportunities to take
some advantage in the way of trade. A man who is in want of a loan of money comes
to an individual that professes to be a Christian, and who is quite able to lend
it, but he pretends, that to acceed to the request and oblige his friends, he shall
have to make great sacrifices; when, at the same time, he really means that his friends
shall have the money if he will but give an exorbitant interest for it, and good
security. This is a searching for him. He finds a neighbour in trouble; how does
he act? Does he come right out like a Christian man and help his neighbour, as Christ
and the apostles would have done, had they been placed in similar circumstances?
Now, whenever cases of this kind occur, they are golden opportunities for us to know
ourselves, and are designed to search us to the bottom of our hearts.
- (4.) But again: oftentimes, God so arranges it, that individuals can take advantage
of others, without danger to their own reputations. They are very cautious not to
take advantage when their is danger, they have no design to ruin themselves. But,
sometimes, there is little or no danger to their business characters by being dishonest,
and now is the time of trial when an individual has no selfish reasons for being
honest. A man may be naturally dishonest, but he will not take advantage when it
is likely to hurt himself: but when this is not the case--when he can be honest or
dishonest, without injury to his business character, then is the time for a man to
try himself, and see whether it is the love of God or the fear of man that actuates
him. Suppose that an individual has, in change at your store, paid too much, and
it is never likely to be found out, or suppose you have found something in the street,
and you can keep it, or restore it as you please: now these are searchings from God;
and how completely such circumstances show to men what their true character for honesty
is. The honest man would no more take, and appropriate, the mistaken change, than
he would cut his own throat; nor keep the articles found in the street any more than
he would leap into the fire. Now suppose, that instead of finding the Spirit of Christ
manifesting itself, he developed the opposite spirit, and has to resort to some selfish
reasonings to quiet his conscience, and make himself appear an honest man. Well,
it is written upon him, Mene, Mene, Tekel--weighed in the balances and found wanting.
- (5.) Again: God often allows men to accumulate property that they may have an
opportunity to extend the cause of truth and righteousness in the earth; he tries
them to see if they will do it or not. Professors of Christianity acknowledge themselves
to be but stewards for God--that everything they possess is his; and, consequently,
is at his disposal. Now is it a fact, that these men act in harmony with their professons?
Well, God often tries them to see if they are acting the hypocrite or no.
- (6.) Again: God in his providence often causes us to suffer losses by bad debts,
or by fire, or by some such means, just to see whether we will think and speak of
these losses as being our losses--whether we regard these losses as God's
or our own. As professors of religion, we profess that everything is God's, and that
we are only stewards. Well, look at a professor who once had large property to manage,
by some means he lost it all, and he goes about saying, that he has sustained
such and such great losses, and proves by such conduct that he acted hypocritically
in professing that he believed it to be God's property, and that he was only the
steward of it. Suppose a clerk, whose master had sustained heavy losses, should go
about and complain that he had sustained the losses, how absurd and untrue
it would be. When we are in possession of property, we may profess that it belongs
to God, and even deceive ourselves into the belief that we are sincere in our professions,
but when a loss occurs, it often shows to us that we did not regard it as God's,
but our own.
- (7.) Again: he will develope our temper to us, and enable us to see whether we
are impatient, or otherwise; and he will show us whether we are ambitious--whether
we desire to climb and scramble up some height, from which we can look down with
scorn or contempt upon our fellows.
- (8.) Again: God oftimes gives us opportunities of self-display, to see whether
we will display self; and, on the other hand, he often denies us such opportunities,
to see if we will murmur and be envious of those who have. Many persons will be found
often speaking against display, when they have not the means to indulge in it; they
will be very loud in their censures upon other professors who ride in their coaches,
and furnish their houses in a superior style--but give these declaimers the means
of doing the same, and see what they will do--see if they will not imitate, and perhaps
act more extravagantly, than those whom they before condemned. A little while ago,
they were very piously complaining of display, but now they have the means of doing
the same thing, and they do it; so that it was not principle, that caused them to
speak as they did, but simply because they could not indulge in those things themselves,
they pretended to be greatly grieved with others for doing so.
- (9.) But again: Sometimes God will deny individuals many things, to see if they
will be satisfied with the providence of God. Do they bear poverty well, or are they
envious at the rich? Are they in their poverty what Christ would have been in their
circumstances? Thus riches and poverty, sickness and health, and a thousand other
things, are sent to try men, and prove to themselves, and to those around them, what
their real state is.
- (10.) God oftimes try us to see if we are self-willed--to see if our wills are
ready to submit to his will; or whether we shall make ourselves unhappy and wretched
because God so wills respecting us. How often is it the case that individuals do
not know whether they are self-willed; so long as the providence of God seem to pet
them they are very pious, and can talk about submission with the greatest apparent
sincerity; but let God just drive across their path: lay his hand upon them: blow
their schemes to the winds of heaven: and see whether they will talk of submission
then; see whether they are self-willed, or whether as little children they will instantly
submit. Can they say with the Psalmist, "O Lord, thou knowest that I am not
haughty; surely, I have behaved myself as a child weaned of its mother: my soul is
even as a weaned child." Blessed man! when he was tried, he says, "Surely
I have behaved as a child that is weaned of its mother." Probably, most of you
have had opportunities of knowing by actual observation what this means--perhaps
you have seen a self-willed child ready to wrestle with everybody, but what a great
change comes over it, when its will is subdued. God often in his providence tries
individuals, but who, instead of being a weaned child have been as an unweaned
child; instead of being able to say as the Psalmist did, are obliged to confess,
"I have been as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke" restive, self-willed,
domineering, and ready to make war upon God. Most of the persons, to whom I address
myself to-night have doubtless, passed through such scenes as these. Now, let me
ask, how have they affected you? What was the state of mind that you discovered in
yourselves? God was searching you, applying the tests that should infallibly show
what was the working in your minds.
- (11.) But, let me say again: it is oftimes of the greatest importance for God
to introduce measures to show if we are disappointed at any course that he adopts
towards us. When the man is devoted to God, he is willing that everything which he
possesses, and his own life also, should be devoted in any way that God should choose.
If he is in a right state of mind, he will not be disappointed at any providence,
believing that everything occurs by the will of God; and, this being the case, all
must be right and conduce to their real good. Now when circumstances occur to disappoint
us, if we will not allow ourselves to be disappointed, we may understand and conclude,
that our will is such as it ought to be.
- (12.) Again: God often tries us to see if we idolise our friends; he visits them
with affliction, or the loss of property, to try whether our affections and love
are set as much upon God as upon our friends. You recollect the case of Eli, when
he was informed of what had occurred to his family: he said, "It is the Lord,
let him do what seemeth him good." Now it is a great thing for individuals to
have opportunities occur in the providence of God to try them. There is, no doubt,
a meaning in all things that God is perpetually bestowing upon us: and the very things
that we are apt to regard as evil things, when we are in a bad state of mind, are
working for our good. But let a man be in a right state of mind, and he will not
object to be thoroughly tried, for he knows that the grace of God will be given to
assist him to bear the trial. He can say with Paul, "I can do all things through
Christ who strengtheneth me." And how much good the trial does him. It is good
for him to be searched and tried and stripped; if need be, of property, health, friends,
and all else, no matter what, for these individuals have the satisfaction of feeling
the grace of God spring up in their hearts, and it shines forth on all around them.
My design is, as you perceive, to pass very rapidly over an outline, which I beg
you to fill up by looking back from time to time at what is occurring around you.
What has occurred to-day to try you? Say, how did it if affect you? Keep an eye upon
this to-morrow, and remember that God is searching you to try your temper and state
of mind. Perhaps, you are a Christian mother and your child is unruly and unreasonable,
how does this effect you? Do you know that God is suffering this to see whether you
will be patient or not?
- (13.) But again: How often will God try us to see whether we are really willing
to lose the good opinion of the world--to lose the respect and confidence of our
friends, and to lose cast in society for the truth's sake. Some man, perhaps, has
been cast down from the heights of society, and has become poor, and loses friends
and reputation; how now is he effected? Does this trial cause him to shine forth
a holy man, caring but little how men regard him, if so be that the event is for
his spiritual good, and the honour of God? Indeed everything that passes in society--new
fashions--new style of dress--new colours--are constantly developing the state of
our minds. Are our minds intent upon these things? Or to what extent do they affect
us? It is often interesting to see how such things will effect Christian professors,
and others also. The design of God in this dispensation is to make all classes of
men understand themselves--whether they be professors of religion or not. Thus he
says of the church in ancient days, "Forty years have I led thee in the wilderness
to humble thee and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldst
keep his commandments or no."
- (14.) But again, let me say, that oftimes he will introduce dispensations that
may severely test Christian professors, and prove whether they love God supremely.
Now I have observed that there are many professors of religion who profess to love
God supremely, who will stand by in silence while God's name is blasphemed by men
who seek to bring dishonour upon his name and to subvert his kingdom; but these same
professors, if any word is spoken against themselves, are in the greatest excitement.
They can see contempt, and abuse, heaped upon God without exhibiting, or even feeling,
much grief--or being able to sympathise with the Psalmist, when he said, "I
beheld the transgressors and was grieved." "Rivers of waters run down mine
eyes because they keep not thy law." Now do they think that the Psalmist expressed
himself in a manner that was not true? No, surely! Wickedness took place before his
eyes, and how did it affect him? Why he tells us, and tells God himself how it affected
him, "I beheld the transgressors and was grieved." Now nothing is more
common, than for God to suffer wickedness to occur before the eyes of professors,
to see what state of mind it will develope. To see whether they are more devoted
to their own characters than the honour of God. Now whenever these things occur the
fact is revealed whether we love God or ourselves supremely.
But I must hasten to make a few remarks, and close.
- (1.) The first remark that I make is this--men do not always realise what is
implied in the prayers which they offer to God. They offer requests to God without
seeming to realise what is implied in the requests which they offer. For example,
they pray to be searched, but they do not understand what is implied in such a request?
Do they know for what they are asking? People, in making requests, ought to understand
for what they ask! And what may be necessary as a condition of receiving an answer.
- (2.) Again: men often receive answers to their prayers without recognizing the
answers. They are praying, but looking in another direction--they have their own
thoughts about the manner in which they expect God to answer. For example, how many
persons have offered the prayer which is contained in our text; and they have an
idea in their minds that the searching would take place when they were in their closets--not
thinking that it was really impossible for God to do this. Now when persons pray
with this idea, they do not recognize the answer to their prayers, because they come
in a different direction to that in which they are looking. Perhaps some of you have
received such answers to your prayers as have wholly confounded you. You have prayed
to be searched, and instead of having the inward light that you expected, you find
yourselves in such a state as if the spirit of Satan was developing itself within
- (3.) But let me say again, that person oftimes resist the answers to their prayers.
It is no doubt true that God frequently answers petitions, in a certain sense, even
when they are not offered in a right spirit, and perhaps the answers are intended
expressly to show that they were not offered aright. For example, an individual prays
to be searched, and God searches him to show that he is not able to be searched.
Professors pray that they may be searched, and the minister comes forward with their
portraits drawn full length and hold them out to their view. Now just look at them!
they cannot bear it? What is the matter with them? They prayed but a few days before,
that they might be searched, and now see the effect of the searching! I am just reminded
of a fact that once occurred under my own notice. A Presbyterian church, in the centre
of New York, had existed for many years without a revival of religion, till it was
in danger of becoming extinct. I went there for the purpose of merely spending a
night. The members of the church were holding a prayer meeting. I declined to take
the lead of the meeting, being a stranger, so one of the elders led the meeting:
he began by reading a long Psalm, or hymn, and they sung it; and he then read a passage
of scripture and did what he called pray--he doled out a long talk to God, in which
he said a great many things about their state and condition, how long they had been
so, and that they had met there every week for many years to pray, &c. Another
hymn was sung, and another leader did the same as the first. They had about three
such prayers, when one of the elders desired that I would make some remarks before
the meeting closed. I complied with the request, and took their prayers as my text.
I asked them plainly if it was understood that the meeting was called to mock God?
They had met together once a week for many years, and had confessed their sins, but
they had never forsaken them, and what was that but mockery? I took up each man's
prayers separately, and pointed to him, while I remarked--if what that man said is
true, he is a hypocrite! I then took another one's prayer, and said to him, now you
are certainly a hypocrite too, if what you said in your prayer is true--that is self-evident.
Well, they looked so angry, that I did not know but they would get up and leave the
house, yet I did not spare them. I just threw their prayers back in their faces,
and charged them with holding a prayer meeting to mock God. They turned and twisted
about in their seats for some time, and were most uneasy, till at length one of the
elders fell forward in tears, saying, "it's all true, it's all true." This
was the commencement of a revival, which in a few weeks spread throughout the neighbourhood.
These men had not understood that they did but mock God while they pretended to hold
a prayer meeting--they asked to be searched, and God searched them in a way that
they did not expect. As I said, persons will often pray to be searched without understanding
what is included in the answer. Just take up their own confessions sometimes, and
ask them if they mean what they say? and tell them if you are guilty of what you
say you are, what wicked men you are, and you will certainly be lost unless you repent
immediately. Just adopt this course, and you will soon see whether they are willing
to be searched, whether they are in earnest.
- (4.) I remark again, that all the trials of saints are in answer to their prayers--are
sent to try them. Sometimes this fact is not recognised, and sometimes when persons
do recognise this, they are really afraid to be searched. I have known persons afraid
to have spiritual blessings bestowed upon them, lest the trial attending the bestowal
should be too severe. A woman said to me once, "I am afraid to ask the Lord
to sanctify me, for if he does I am fully persuaded that he will take my husband
from me." Well now, although it is not often the case that persons understand
so distinctly the state of their minds in this respect, yet there is no doubt that
persons oftimes really fear that God should introduce some sanctifying dispensation,
lest he should deeply wound them in some tender part--perhaps deprive them of friends,
of children, or perhaps even of their own characters.
- (5.) But I remark again, that these things which try the unregenerated part of
mankind are often in answer to the prayers of the saints. The saints pray that God
will convert the sinners, and God adopts the means that are needed to this end, and
the means that are adopted perhaps were little anticipated, and are not always recognised
as answers to prayer. It comes to pass oftimes that individuals need to lose their
character, their friends, or their property--they are so hedged in, that God must
adopt some stringent measures in order to bring them into a right state of mind and
cause his truth to operate upon them.
- (6.) Again: saints who ask to be searched must be willing to suffer anything
which God sees fit to lay upon them--they must make up their minds to submit to any
dispensations of his providence.
- (7.) Again: saints should be prepared to receive answers to prayer in their own
persons. Perhaps God lays them on a bed of sickness just when they had some very
great object in view. Well it is intended for their good, therefore they ought not
to repine nor murmur, but receive with thankfulness the good that is intended for
- (8.) Again I remark, that it is necessary that these trials should be awarded
us, for it will not do that God should always feed his children on sweetmeats. We
need severe discipline: it makes us good soldiers. A mere silken religion that passes
through no trials has little efficiency in it. These providential trials take away
the dross and tin, and make us strong in the Lord. How lovely is the character of
the Christian who has patiently endured the trials through which he has had to pass.
He becomes like a weaned child, and quiets himself under all the dispensations of
providence: he receives every thing as bestowed upon him from his father. I might
add a great many other things, but I must close by saying--the more holy Christians
become the more sincere, and earnest are they to have their whole character, and
being, completely searched, developed, and cleansed: and the more needful they find
it to lay their whole heart before him, and ask him that his providence may search
it, and purify it on every side, until he is satisfied with his own work. Christians,
are you in the habit of asking the Lord to satisfy himself; to do that which shall
bring you into a condition that will please him? Do you not long for the pruning
knife to be applied, and to be purged of all your selfishness and everything that
is offensive to God, so that you may stand before him as a young child in meekness
and love, while he looks upon you and says, this is my handiwork, and it is very
good. Ask God to search you then, and do not be afraid to have it done. Look upon
all the trials of life as coming from your heavenly Father, in order that if you
are really self-deceived you may know it, and if you are not, that you may grow up
into the likeness of the Son of God. Amen.
Back to Top
THE KINGDOM OF GOD UPON EARTH.
Delivered on Sunday Morning, May 12, 1850,
BY THE REV. C. G. FINNEY,
AT THE TABERNACLE, MOORFIELDS, LONDON.
This lecture was typed in by Cheryl Lafollette.
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
"Thy kingdom come." --Matthew
YOU will instantly recognise this petition as being one of those contained in
what is generally denominated "the Lord's Prayer." In considering these
words I propose briefly to explain,--
- I. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
II. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN AN ACCEPTABLE OFFERING OF THIS PETITION TO GOD.
III. THAT THE STATE OF MIND THAT CAN ACCEPTABLY OFFER THIS PETITION TO GOD,
IS UNIVERSALLY BINDING UPON ALL MEN.
IV. THAT IT IS ALSO A CONDITION OF SALVATION.
I. What is meant by the kingdom of God.
In some respects there are two ideas concerning the kingdom of God. One class
of divines suppose that the kingdom of God is purely spiritual; others suppose that
the Lord Jesus Christ will reign personally upon the earth, that when he comes a
second time, it will be to set up his kingdom in this world, and reign here in his
visible presence. These two classes, however, agree in this--that his kingdom must
be spiritual, whether outward and visible or not; in either case he can reign over
man no further then he reigns in their hearts. A spiritual kingdom must be set up
in the soul--the Divine law must be written in the heart. If the Lord Jesus Christ
should come and dwell visibly in London, walk in its streets, and mix with its people,
and be here as truly as the Lord Mayor is, what would it advantage the people unless
they were converted and truth prevailed in their hearts? Unless the laws of his kingdom
were written in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, the people of London would be none
the better for the Lord Jesus Christ's living amongst them. Therefore, whether the
Lord Jesus Christ come and reign personally or not, his kingdom will be established
and his dominion extended by the same means that it is now. When persons pray, therefore,
"thy kingdom come," if they pray sincerely, they pray that there may be
universal holiness in the earth--that this kingdom of grace may be set up in all
hearts, and that Christ should exercise universal influence over the minds of men.
I am to notice--
II. What is implied in an acceptable offering of this petition to God.
And here let me say that it was not part of the design of our Lord Jesus to give
his disciples merely a form of prayer, the words of which they might repeat without
knowing or caring what they meant or said; he did not give this prayer to be repeated
over as a ceremony merely, without significance or interest. There is no greater
profanity in the universe than to gabber it over in such a manner as it is frequently
used. The Lord Jesus gave this prayer to be understood, and that the petition should
be offered with sincerity and with faith, and in a certain state of mind. Who can
doubt this? Did he intend to teach his disciples and his people in after-ages to
be hypocrites? No, indeed! Did he intend them to offer insincere worship? No, indeed!
Then he must have designed that they should offer these petitions with sincerity.
Now, the question is, what is implied in sincerity? When is a man sincere in offering
this petition to God? What are the characteristics and elements of sincerity? What
is implied in being sincere?
- (1.) I observe, first, that a sincere and acceptable offering of this petition
implies repentance of past sins,--for sin rejects God, and tramples down his laws.
No man who lives in sin can offer this prayer without gross hypocrisy--that's very
clear; the man who rejects Christ and tramples on his laws, lives in sin, and cannot
offer such a prayer as this acceptably. It implies, then, repentance and renunciation
of all sin.
- (2.) It implies confidence in God: observe, it is a petition to God, that his
kingdom may come. Now, if an individual have not implicit confidence in the character
and wisdom of God, in the perfection of his government, and in all the provisions
of his kingdom, why should he pray it may come? Now, it is not enough that a man
believes as a mere speculation that God is good, that his law is good, that his kingdom
is what it should be; the devil knows this as well as anybody else. It is not enough
that a man should admit intellectually that these things are so, but he must confide
in God with his whole heart: to offer this petition acceptably he must really have
heart-confidence in God's existence, in his wisdom, in his universal right to legislate
for the world, in the perfection and wisdom of his government; he must have full
confidence in God, I say, ere he can offer this petition acceptably--this is very
- (3.) Another thing implied in the acceptable offering of this petition is, that
the heart obeys the law of God. An individual, for example, who does not in his heart
submit to God's law, cannot pray that his kingdom may come, for what would he mean
by that? That others may obey it, that others may submit to Christ's authority, that
God's law may be set up in others' hearts, but not in his own. He cannot pray acceptably
thus. The petitioner must have the law of God set up in his own heart, and his own
life must be governed by it. But this leads me to say,
- (4.) That, inasmuch as man's outward life is always of necessity, by a law of
his nature, as his heart is, it implies an obedient life as well as an obedient heart.
The term "heart" is used in various senses in the Scriptures--but whenever
it is used in the sense that implies virtue, it means the Will. We say of those whose
will is devoted to God, that their hearts are right--they are devoted to God, consecrated
to him. Now, if we consider the heart as the will--and that is the sense in which
I now use the term--the will governs the outward life; and if this will, or heart,
devotes itself to the will of God, and yields itself up to obedience to the law of
God, the outward life must be in conformity with the law of God, so far as it is
understood. Let no man say, then, that his heart is better than his life. Let no
man say that his heart has received the kingdom of God, while his outward life disobeys
- (5.) Sincerity in offering this petition implies universal sympathy with God.
By this I mean, first, that the petitioner really does sympathise with the great
end which God is endeavouring to secure through the instrumentality of his law, and
by the government of his kingdom. Now, government, remember, is not an end, but a
means; neither is God's government an end, but a means. He proposes to ensure certain
great ends by means of his government and his kingdom. Now, when a man prays that
God's kingdom may come, to be sincere in his petition, he must fully sympathise with
the end which is sought to be accomplished, and on which God has set his heart, which
is his own glory, and the interests of his kingdom. A man, to offer this petition
acceptably--"thy kingdom come," must understand this to be the great end,
and set his heart upon it; to this he must consecrate his being, as the end on which
God has set his heart. But it also implies, secondly, sympathy with God in reference
to the means by which he is endeavouring to secure this great and glorious end. Again,
sympathy with God implies a real and hearty aversion to all that stands in the way
of the progress of his kingdom--all sin, in every form and in every shape. The individual
that is not deeply and thoroughly opposed to sin, does not want God's kingdom to
come; for God's kingdom would destroy all the works of the devil, would destroy sin
in every form and degree. Those who offer this petition in sincerity, virtually pray
that all sin may cease. Now, how can a man who does not cease from sin himself present
such a petition as this? How can he pray for God's kingdom to come, while he is violating
the known laws of that kingdom? If a man be not opposed to all sin, he cannot offer
this petition acceptably.
- (6.) It is plain that sincerity in offering this petition must imply supreme
attachment to the King, his law and government. Observe, the petition does not express
a partial attachment to the kingdom of God, but is an expression of entire
agreement with God in reference to his kingdom--a universal submission, a universal
attachment to the King and his entire administration. Every one, I think, will say
that no man is or can be sincere in offering this petition, if he is not heartily
and devotedly attached to the King and his government--to every principle and precept
of his holy law and Gospel, and to his entire administration.
- (7.) A sincere offering of this petition implies a sympathy with all the means
that are used to establish this kingdom in the earth--to establish it in the hearts
and souls of men. Now, if an individual prays that this kingdom may come, he prays
that men may be made holy, as the condition of their being made happy, and of their
being saved. Now, the man who does not truly love the souls of men, and desire their
salvation, never offers this petition in sincerity; in order to do this, he must
care for the souls of men.
- (8.) It implies a supreme desire that God's kingdom may come. It is one thing
for an individual to say "thy kingdom come," and another thing for him
supremely to desire that it may come. It is common for a man to ask in words for
what he does not deeply and sincerely desire; but I said that a man, to offer this
prayer acceptably, must deeply, and sincerely, and supremely desire that God's kingdom
may come. But, if a man is in bondage to his own lusts, and desires their gratification
supremely, no one in this house, I presume, would affirm that such a man could offer
this petition acceptably. Now, I suppose that, to offer this petition acceptably,
there must be a supreme desire for the object prayed for; that no desire shall be
allowed to prevail over this; that no merely selfish enjoyment or selfish indulgence
shall have a chief place in the heart. Let me ask any one of you this question,--Suppose
you should see a man on his knees offering this petition, and if you knew, at the
same time, that he was a self-indulgent man, not willing to make any sacrifices,
or hardly any, to promote the interests of this kingdom, spending ten times more
on his own lusts than he gave to the cause of Christ, how could any of you believe
that such a man was sincere in offering such a prayer? Such a man, if he uses this
petition, virtually says,--"Lord, let thy kingdom come without my exercising
any self-denial; let Providence enrich me, but let me keep all I get: let thy kingdom
come, but let me seek my own gratifications." Now, if a man should pray in words
in this way, you would say it is little less than blasphemy! But he might not say
this in words for very shame; yet, suppose he said, "let thy kingdom
come," and acted quite the opposite to any such desire, would his prayer
be any the better?
- (9.) But not only does an acceptable offering of this petition imply supreme
desire--that is, without more influence than other desires--but it implies also,
that the mind is supremely devoted to the end for which it prays; the voluntary power
of the will devotes itself, and devotes the whole being, to the promotion of this
end. Now, suppose we should hear a man pray in this way--"Lord, let thy kingdom
come, if it can come without my being devoted to its interests; let thy kingdom come,
if it can come without my ever giving my heart, time, energies, property, possessions,
sympathies, and prayers, to promote it; I will say let thy kingdom come, but I will
go on in my own way, and do nothing to promote it or hasten its approach:" you
would say that this is not an acceptable offering of this petition. I suppose that
none of you are disposed to deny that an acceptable offering of this petition does
really imply that the heart is truly and sincerely devoted to the kingdom of God.
- (10.) An acceptable offering of this petition must imply self-denial. Now, please
to understand what I mean by self-denial; remember, it is not the forsaking of one
gratification for another: it sometimes happens that men forsake the gratification
of one appetite in order that they may gratify another. Persons may deny themselves
in a great many respects, and yet be guilty of much selfishness. Suppose a man be
avaricious, and love money, his heart is supremely set upon acquiring it, and hoarding
it up. That man may be very frugal in his expenditure--he may be very much disgusted
with many who spend money for their own gratification; this avaricious man may deny
himself many things; he may go so far as to deny himself the comforts of life, as
misers do, and berate everybody who do otherwise; but the man is selfish nevertheless:
the love of money prevails over the love of everything else--his heart is set upon
that. What people call self-denial, is often no self-denial at all; self-love is
very frequently at the bottom, after all. But real self-denial consists in this--an
individual's refusing to live to please himself; to promote his own profit and interests,
as distinguished from God's kingdom; who refuses to do anything simply and entirely
for self. It implies that an individual ceases from self and consecrates himself
to God; lives to please God and not himself, and sympathises with nothing whose ultimate
end is not to serve and glorify God. Now, when a man who does not deny himself offers
this petition to God, what does he mean? He is a rebel against God, opposed to his
law. Why does he want God's kingdom to come? Let no selfish man, then--no man who
lives in any form of self-pleasing, suppose that he can offer this prayer acceptably.
- (11.) It implies, on the part of those who offer this prayer, a real and whole-hearted
embarking of their all with God in this great enterprise. If we offer it sincerely,
it implies that we have come into such sympathy with him as to embark ourselves,
body and soul, for time and eternity, our characters and affections, our all, in
making common cause with God in the advancement of the interests of his kingdom.
Now, I think it cannot be doubted that all this is included in a sincere offering
of the prayer, "thy kingdom come." Take the case of an earthly prince desiring
to establish a kingdom--true patriotism consists in sincerely seeking the promotion
of the aim of the prince. The fact is plain, that the acceptable offering of this
petition must imply that those who offer it have given themselves up to the promotion
of this object; that they have embarked their all in this great enterprise; that
for this end thy live, move, and have their being.
- (12.) Let me say again, that it implies a fear towards whatever would be calculated
to retard the progress of this kingdom. Persons in a right state of mind hate everything
that would hinder the advancement of this kingdom, because they have set their hearts
on its establishment. Sin and every form of evil is loathsome to them, because it
retards the establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth. It is a law of man's
being which makes him quiveringly, tremblingly alive to any interests on which he
has set his heart, and causes him to be keen-sighted, and ever on the watch to remove
anything that stands in the way of the progress of that upon which his hopes are
so deeply set. Now, be it remembered this law of mind invariably shows itself in
religious, as well as in worldly matters; it does do so, and must.
- (13.) I observe, in the next place, that those who offer this petition sincerely,
manifest grief and indignation at whatever is contrary to God's will. If they see
an error, but which does not involve sin, they are grieved; but if it involves sin,
they feel indignation. I do not mean malicious indignation, but a benevolent, a holy,
a compassionate indignation.
- (14.) Lastly, under this head, I observe that a right offering of this petition
implies the joyful exercise of an economy in our lives, whether of time, talents,
influence, or whatever else we possess; there is a joyful economising of everything
for the promotion of this end. Now, who does not know that when men set their hearts
upon any great object, that just in proportion to their attachment to that object
will be their devotedness to it--just in that proportion are they cheerful, eager,
and ready in using every economy for the promotion of this object--they husband everything
for the promotion of that end. As an illustration of this, let me notice an affecting
circumstance that occurred within my own knowledge. A woman, who was a slave in one
of the southern states of America, had escaped from her bondage, but she had left
her husband and children in slavery: the master of these individuals offered to sell
them their time, and let them go free. This poor woman gave herself up to earn the
money to redeem them; and it was very affecting to see how she toiled, and denied
herself even the necessaries of life, in order to secure their liberty. Nothing daunted
her; no hardship discouraged her; in the cold, when the snow was on the ground, you
might see her working, with but little clothing, and her feet bare; if you gave her
a pair of shoes or a garment, she would soon sell them, to get money to increase
the fund which was to secure the liberation of her husband and children. Now, this
poor creature practised economy for the promotion of the great end she had in view;
I do not say that was wise economy in her case, for she nearly sacrificed her own
life to it. Now, you mothers can understand and appreciate this woman's conduct;
if you had husbands, sons, or daughters in slavery, would you not do as she did?
This woman had no love for money, or for anything, only as it sustained a relation
to the one great end on which her heart was set. This circumstance illustrates, I
say, most powerfully this great principle, that whenever our hearts are supremely
set upon any object, we count everything dear as it sustains a relation to, and secures
that object; and he, therefore, who prays sincerely, "thy kingdom come,"
must have his heart so set upon the object as to exercise a joyful and perpetual
economy, with an especial reference to that end.
III. The state of mind that can acceptably offer this petition, is universally
binding upon men--all the moral agents of our race.
The heathen themselves, by virtue of their own nature, know that there is a God,
and that this God is good. They know that they ought to love their neighbours as
themselves, and to love God supremely. The Bible teaches us that the light of nature,
which they possess, leaves them wholly without excuse, if they do not love and obey
their Creator. To believe and embrace the Gospel, then, is an universal duty. This
you will all admit, and, therefore, I need not enlarge upon it.
IV. This state of mind is a condition of salvation.
Understand me, my hearers, I do not mean that it is a ground of acceptance with
God--that is not what I mean: I do not mean that men are saved by their own righteousness--that
on this ground they will be accepted of God. I know, and you know, that men are to
be saved by the righteousness of Christ, and not by their own righteousness; therefore,
when I say that this state of mind is a condition of salvation, I mean what I say--it
is a condition as distinct from a ground; a condition in the sense
that a man cannot be saved without being in this state of mind, but that this state
of mind is not the ground of salvation. "All have sinned, and" therefore
"come short of the glory of God." First, to be in this state of mind is
a natural condition of salvation. Could anybody that cannot offer this petition
be happy in heaven? What would such a man do in heaven? God has perfect dominion
there. Now, unless an individual is in a state of mind that he can sincerely, acceptably,
and prevailing offer this petition to God, unless it be the natural expression of
his heart, what possible enjoyment could he have in heaven? None whatever. Secondly,
it is governmentally a condition of salvation. Every attribute of God in his
moral government of the universe forbids any man to enter heaven who cannot present
this petition acceptably to God. But we cannot further enlarge.
Let us now conclude with a few remarks.
- (1.) This state of mind is not only a condition of salvation in the sense in
which I have mentioned, but it is also a state of mind that must always be a condition
of prevailing with God in prayer. Now, let me ask, Can any man expect to prevail
with God if he is in a state of opposition to him, or not in the state of mind I
have already described? While in a state of rebellion, while resisting God's authority,
not having the heart in sympathy with God, not desiring the kingdom of God to come,
how can an individual expect to have his prayer answered? No, neither this nor any
other petition--that is very plain. It is true that God hears the young ravens when
they cry--a mere cry of distress. And even when Satan himself prayed to the Lord
Jesus Christ that he might not be sent out of the country, but that he might go into
the herd of swine, his petition was granted; but the devil was not in a state of
mind for prevailing, in the sense of offering prevailing prayer to God. I speak now
of a state of mind that can secure the things promised, and this must be the state
of mind in which a petitioner can acceptably offer the Lord's prayer--he must be
within the meaning of the injunction of Christ's promise, as a condition upon which
he has promised to hear and answer.
- (2.) We can see from this subject why it is that prayer is often repeated by
the petitioner, and is so seldom answered. God is "the hearer of prayer,"
not of hypocritical utterances in which the heart does not unite. Such prayers are
not heard, because, in truth, they are not prayers at all. Individuals may repeat
the Lord's Prayer every day, ten times a-day, and the more frequently they repeat
it, the more they grieve the Spirit of God, and expose themselves to God's righteous
- (3.) Those who offer this prayer acceptably are universal and very liberal contributors
to the great cause of missions, and zealous supporters of all those various societies
whose aim is to extend Christ's kingdom in the earth. By this I do not mean to say
that these persons are always in a condition to give large amounts; but they will
be cheerful and large contributors according to their means. And why? For the same
reason that the slave mother was a cheerful and large contributor to that upon which
she had set her heart, because their hearts are set upon the coming of Christ's kingdom
in all its fulness, and power, and blessedness. I know that some may not be able
to contribute more than their two mites, but I know, also, that they can give even
this little with a full heart and a liberal hand. In a congregation to which I preached
several years, in the city of New York, there was a woman named Dina, who had been
brought up a slave, and continued a slave until she was forty years old and incapable
of work; but although so poor, she always gave a quarter of a dollar--about a shilling--every
Sabbath, to assist in meeting the current expenses of the congregation, and other
things to which the money was applied. This was a free church; all the seats were
free to every one. When Dina was asked how she could afford to give so much, she
replied that the first quarter of a dollar which was given her in the week she laid
by till the next Sabbath, for the purposes of the sanctuary. "I live upon God
every day," she said, "and I know he will give me what I want." At
the monthly missionary meeting, also, a box was carried round, and individuals put
in their money, wrapped up in a piece of paper, with their names written upon it.
Constantly, among the rest, was Dina's name written on a paper, enclosing a dollar.
One of the collectors asked her if she really meant to put in so much as a dollar,
and with some surprise, she replied, "Why, it's only a dollar--it's only a dollar;
can't I give a dollar a-month." This poor woman seemed to have no interest in
anything, only as it bore upon the advancement and interests of the Redeemer's kingdom.
- Now, it must be that individuals who can really offer the Lord's Prayer, and
mean it, will prayerfully do everything they can towards promoting his kingdom.
- (4.) This leads me to say again,--The end for which a man lives will always reveal
itself in his life; his sympathies will lie in the direction in which his efforts
tend, and the reverse. If a man sincerely offers this petition, he will do everything
in his power to spread a knowledge of the Gospel among men, and so extend the Saviour's
reign upon earth.
- (5.) The true Christian finds it "more blessed to give than to receive;"
for example, the slave mother never felt so happy as when she was paying the price
of her husband's and children's release. When she gave that money to the master,
she felt it much more blessed to give than to receive; a great deal more blessed
than to have spent it to please herself, to gratify her own appetites. Impenitent
men are greatly deceived when they profess that Christians feel it a great sacrifice,
a great trial, to be asked to contribute of their substance for the promotion of
religion. I have known impenitent men keep away from God's house because they felt
it to be such a hardship to be called upon to give to a collection; and I have even
heard professors of religion talk in that way, and have abstained from going to meeting
when there was a collection, because they did not like to be dunned. Now, what sort
of a conception have such men of religion? Why, they know nothing about it. Suppose
that a number of men were to meet together for the originating and carrying out of
some object of business or benevolence, which they professed to have deeply at heart,
and that when they came together, they found that money must be subscribed by each
of them, and they were to say that it was a great and intense abomination to be called
upon to give money,--what would you think of their sincerity? But would they act
thus? Why, no, they would be anxious to give of their substance, in order that the
object which they had at heart might be realised. The real Christian never gives
grudgingly, but thankfully and joyfully. When you have dropped your contribution
into the box, Christian, don't your heart go away echoing, "God bless it! God
bless it!" And if you have nothing to give yourself, you will pray for a blessing
on the contributions of others. A collection will now be taken up for the London
Missionary Society, before we close this morning's service, and another, for the
same purpose, will be made in the evening; but I trust no person will stay away on
that account. Amen.
Back to Top
THE SPIRITUAL CLAIMS OF LONDON.
Delivered on Wednesday Evening, May 29, 1850,
BY THE REV. C. G. FINNEY,
OF THE OBERLIN COLLEGIATE INSTITUTE, UNITED STATES,
TO THE MEMBERS AND VISITORS OF THE
CHRISTIAN INSTRUCTION SOCIETY,
AT THE TABERNACLE, MOORFIELDS, LONDON.
This lecture was typed in by Cheryl Lafollette.
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
"Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations,
baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;
teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo! I am
with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." --Matthew xxviii.
IN speaking from these words, I propose to show--
- I. TO WHOM THESE WORDS WERE ADDRESSED;
II. WHAT THEY MEAN;
III. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THEM;
IV. THE CONDITIONS OF OBEYING THIS INJUNCTION;
V. WHY THE WORK IS NOT DONE.
I. To whom these words were addressed. Undoubtedly these words were first
addressed to Christ's immediate disciples; but I suppose no one will imagine that
the spirit of these words was confined to them. It cannot be supposed that Christ
expected the Apostles themselves to do all this work alone. No doubt this commission
was given to the Church of Christ as such. The spirit of these words, then, from
the very nature of the case, was addressed to the Church of Christ of every age;
and not only to the Church as a body, but to particular individuals of the Church.
II. What these words mean. If you will read the margin of your Bibles,
you will see that the translation is, Make disciples, or Christians, of all nations.
This is no doubt the true meaning. Not merely teach all nations, but disciple them;
make them disciples, or Christians. The injunction is this, Go and convert all the
nations of the earth; make Christians of them; "teaching them to observe all
things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo! I am with alway, even unto the end
of the world." I pass over these thoughts very rapidly, because I suppose all
my hearers will at once admit that the spirit of this injunction is addressed to
the Church of Christ as such; and if to the Church collectively, of course to each
minister and member of the Church in particular: and that the Spirit of this injunction
is binding upon every Christian in the world to whom this language may come.
III. What is implied in this injunction.
- (1.) The injunction itself implies the ability of the Church to do what Christ
requires. Every command of God implies this,--that those to whom the command is given
have ability to obey it. This every individual must, I think, admit,--that when God
enjoins anything, the very injunction itself implies the ability to perform in those
to whom the command is given. Understand me; I do not mean by this that we have ability
to fulfil this command of God without Christ; but observe the promise, "Lo!
I am with you ALWAY;" not sometimes and in some places, but always and everywhere.
Of course, this is implied, that if Christ is with us always, he is with us
everywhere. It is implied, then, that with Christ's strength, and with his
presence, the Church is able to all that he requires her to do.
- (2.) Another thing implied is this, that it is the mission of the Church
to effect the conversion of the world. Now, let me say, if the Church is required
to convert the world, you are required to convert London--that part of the world
where you reside. In other words, you are to take your part in the work; God requires
nothing more than that you should do just what you are able to do, through the presence
and agency of Christ. But let me repeat what I have just said. We are to understand
that Christ, by this injunction, has made it the business of the Church to convert
the world; consequently, it is the great mission of Christians in every locality
to secure the conversion of those in their immediate neighbourhoods, and as many
others as they can, but by no means to forget their own families, connexions, and
localities; their business is to convert and lead these to Christ.
- (3.) This injunction implies that this is their first, great, and only business
in the world. I do not mean that preaching the Gospel is the only business of the
Church, for books and tracts must be prepared and printed, and many other things
done which are included in this requirement and essential to its fulfilment; but
remember, all things are to be done to this end. Christians are to eat and drink,
labour and rest, for the glory of God. They are to do all with the view of fulfilling
this command of God--make it their whole business to secure this great object. It
implies, then, that the Church are to be a band of missionaries; that every individual
of the Church is a missionary; that the spirit of Christ is essentially a missionary
spirit; that every individual in every locality is to regard himself as a missionary
of Christ, placed there for the purpose of securing the salvation of those around
him. It is said in the Bible that you are "the light of the world,"--set
there that you may exhibit the light of truth, and be an example to those around
you. You are "the salt of the earth,"--scattered broad-cast among the people,
to preserve them from putrefaction.
IV. Notice some of the conditions by which the true spirit of this injunction
may be complied with.
- (1.) Confidence in the presence, and in the ready and effectual co-operation
of Christ. What do you suppose Christ intended by saying, "Lo! I am with you
always, even to the end of the world?" For what purpose did Christ make this
promise if he did not mean, Lo! I am with you for the effectual helping of you to
do what I have commanded you? Now, I suppose when Christ said these words, "Lo!
I am with you always even to the end of the world," he would have us to understand
this, which is the spirit of the promise: do this work, and mind, you shall not be
straitened in me; you shall receive all the help you need from me. I will be with
you in this thing; my heart is with you, my power is with you, my presence is with
you, and my sympathies are all with you, always and everywhere. Is not this the meaning?
What else can be meant by these words? Now, I suppose no Christian will deny that
this is the meaning of the words, and the very meaning that Christ intended to convey
to us. Now, if so, we must believe it. Everything that Christ has said is to be received
in faith; in order that it may be effectual, it must be received in faith; therefore,
I observe as the first condition upon which the Church can ever secure the conversion
of the world, or individuals can convert those around them, we must believe that
Christ is with us. Now, it is generally admitted, that Christ is in some sense with
his Church; but he is only with his Church so far as he is there personally with
the individuals who compose that Church, in their efforts to secure, and do what
he requires of them. We are to believe this, have confidence in the fact that he
is present to help us by his spirit, always present with us, and ready to sympathise,
and co-operate with us for the securing of the great end which we are commanded to
- (2.) Once more: I regard this as a fundamental condition of success; a realising
reliance on, and appropriation of this truth by the Church of Christ. Where this
is not realised and appropriated, I believe there is little power to convert men
from their sins.
- (3.) Again: Another condition of success is that we thoroughly believe that in
Christ's strength we are able to go up and take possession of the land. There must
be the conviction and the realisation of the fact, by the Church, that she is able
to do what Christ has commanded her to do: that Christians are able to accomplish
the end at which he has told them to aim. This truth stands out blazing on the pages
of inspiration that the Church is able to convert the world, and that he shall ultimately
possess the land.
- (4.) Another condition of success in this great enterprise, is the devotion of
the whole Church to this work. This enterprise cannot be accomplished by a few of
the members of the Church, while the rest of them stand right in the way. Every indolent
member is a hindrance in the way of good being done. That individual who is not engaged
in the work stands right in the way, and will often undo as much as the others can
effect; therefore the body of the Church, the whole membership of the Church, must
come up to this work. If, now, the entire body of the Church of this City of London
were to come up to this work, and engage in it with ardour, take hold of it in faith,
believing that in Christ's strength they are able to possess the land, what a vast
revival of religion would you witness in this city.
- (5.) Once more, a thorough realisation of individual responsibility in this work
is indispensable to success. A vast multitude of professors of religion feel but
little personal responsibility. But if the masses of the people are ever to be converted,
the entire membership of the Church must become alive to this fact, that they are
individually accountable for the conversion of their fellow-creatures. Every one
will see, if he reflects upon it, that this must be a condition of success on a large
scale. Now, if you ask me what I suppose to be the greatest difficulty in the way
of success, in the extension of religion, in any locality, I would reply, the unbelief
and want of right spirit and agency on the part of professors in that locality. They
are not in a state in which they can realise their own responsibility; and they have
not confidence in the Gospel. Now, while this is the case with them, they are hindering,
instead of advancing, the Gospel, in their midst.
- (6.) Another indispensable condition of success is this, there must be sympathy
with Christ in love to souls. Those who would undertake this work must enter into
Christ's sympathies, feel as he felt and feels for sinners, pity them as he pities
them, blame them as he blames them; take God's part against them as he does, and
yet stand in such a relation as to sympathise both with God and man; addressing themselves
to the work as Christ and the Apostles addressed themselves to the work. It is a
very remarkable fact that those Christians in every age of the Church who have entered
into sympathy both with God and man, have been those whose efforts have told most
upon the world. The Lord Jesus Christ is a beautiful, perfect, specimen of this;
he sympathised most intensely with the holiness of God, and yet he felt most tenderly
for the distressed and guilty condition of fallen man. He was full of zeal for the
purity of the Divine government; he was always ready to sacrifice his life, as he
did sacrifice it, to honour the law; still he was full of compassion, kindness, and
love, to all classes and conditions of men, whatever might be their forlorn and suffering
condition. He stood between God and man, and sympathised, not with the sins of men,
but with the infirmities and sufferings of their nature--all that in an any way affected
their well-being. He stood in such a relation as to be an example to us; he sympathised
both with God and man. The primitive Church caught the same spirit, for although
his personal intercourse with them had ceased, he continued to be with them through
the agency of his Spirit; and thus they possessed the same idea, and practised the
same course of conduct. They came into habits of deep sympathy with God in their
love for souls. They counted not their lives dear unto them, if by any means they
might save souls; and the spoiling of their goods in this enterprise, they took joyfully,
counting themselves honoured in having to suffer for his name and cause. They laid
themselves without reserve on the altar, and this was the secret of their success.
Now, beloved brethren, the conditions of success are the same now as then. If there
is to be many converted, there must be a spirit of fervent prayer, and a large development
of this sympathy of which I have been speaking, in the souls of Christ's ministers,
the same as in the days of the Apostles. If you ask me, What is the reason of the
want of success now? I say, the great reason is, because the spirit with which Christ
and the Apostles began this work is not developed in the Church, and in individual
members of the Church, to such an extent as to move the world--this is the reason
of the difficulty. It is not that the Gospel is different. The Gospel is just the
same now as it was in the days when the Apostles preached it; it will have just the
same power in our hands that it had in the hands of the Apostles. Some persons speak
as if they supposed that in the mouths of uninspired men the Gospel could not be
expected to produce such great effects as when the Apostles preached it. But why,
pray? What has inspiration to do with it? Inspiration revealed the Gospel; taught
men to write what they have recorded; which record we have, and the same spirit which
indited it, to explain it. Wherein, then, are we deficient? Depend upon it, friends,
if we have the same spirit of love and confidence, with the same sympathy which they
had both with God and man, the Gospel will be as powerful in our hands as it was
in the hands of the Apostles. Since I have been a Christian myself, I have seen many
hundreds of instances in which wonderful success in winning souls to Christ has attended
those who have had the qualifications of which I have been speaking--sympathy with
God and man. But I cannot now enter into these details or even mention these instances,
in one lecture. I should like to deliver a course of lectures to this Society, instead
of one, that I might direct your attention to these things.
- (7.) Again: another condition of the success of the Churches in any given locality,
is this--they must enter into sympathy with Christ, in respect to his spirit of self-sacrifice
for the promotion of this work. The spirit of the Gospel is essentially a spirit
of self-denial; and rely upon it, when this spirit is developed in the Church she
will succeed in making great progress in this work. In order to great success there
must be the same willingness to lay everything upon the altar, that was manifested
by Christ, his Apostles, and the Primitive Church. Jesus laid everything upon the
altar, in order to save men; and we must count nothing dear to us that can be given
up for the promotion of this great object.
- (8.) Another indispensable condition to success is the entire consecration of
the ministry to this work. The ministers of Christ bear a very important relation
to this work, but they are not required to accomplish it all themselves. They are
like the officers in an army; instead of attempting to do all the fighting themselves,
they direct the energies of others. Ministers are the officers in Christ's great
army, who are fighting against sin, and seeking to win dominion for their Master:
they take an important and leading part in the work, but by no means are they to
be expected to do all the fighting themselves, any more than officers are in any
army in the world.
- (9.) I said there must be entire consecration to this work; and let me add further,
that unless they manifest a true spirit of consecration, they will be stumbling-blocks
to the rest of the Church. It is indispensable that they should show themselves to
be men given up to this work, absolutely,--men possessing the true spirit of self-sacrifice,
sympathising with God and man; and that they are on the altar in this matter. Without
this, the masses in any locality will never be moved, and the minister will be a
hindrance in the way of good being done. I do not know what may be the condition
of the ministry here in London, and therefore I speak not personally, but I speak
a general truth when I say, that if Christians do not see that their ministers are
heart and soul in this work, that they are ready to sacrifice anything to promote
it, they are, and must be, stumbling-blocks in the way of good being done. In order
to be greatly useful, these men, whom God has placed in such a position, must let
everybody see that they are heart and soul in this work, that they have laid their
all upon the altar, that they count not their comfort, their reputation, their salary,
nor even their lives dear unto themselves in comparison to moving the masses of mankind
and bringing them to God.
- (10.) Another indispensable condition of success is this: Lay men and women must
cease to lay down one rule for their minister and another for themselves. They must
conduct themselves by the same rule, and be upon the altar, too, in their respective
spheres of labour. Instead of criticising their ministers, and finding fault with
them, they must work under his direction and assistance. If the membership of the
Church just suppose that they can put their responsibility upon the ministers, they
are entirely mistaken. Suppose that the ministers come into the pulpits Sunday after
Sunday, and labour, and toil, and weep, and pray, and the sinners sit and listen
to the solemn and awful truths which come from the preacher's lips, and feel that
they are solemn and awful realities; but suppose in the same place there is a multitude
of careless professors of religion who show by their conduct that they don't believe
what has been preached, what stumbling-blocks are they in the way of the conversion
of these sinners, who would otherwise, in all probability, be converted! By their
conduct they seem to say, "We don't believe in the truth of what our minister
says in the pulpit--it is all very well for Sunday, and he is paid to believe and
teach these things, but we don't concern ourselves about them." How many times,
when ministers have poured out all their heart before a congregation, have sinners
been roused, and felt their hearts start up in fear, and their hair to stand on end,
in consequence of what they have heard; they are deeply impressed. The congregation
begins to move out, the professors of religion laugh and shake hands with each other,
and going home they converse upon indifferent subjects, just as if they had not been
hearing of those great and eternal realities; and seem to say by all their words,
actions, and looks, "Don't you be alarmed, you see we are not at all alarmed,
and we have heard more about these things than ever you did; these things may be
very well for the Sabbath, and fit for the pulpit, but there is no truth in them."
No wonder that sinners are unconverted! The membership of the Churches must be made
to feel their individual responsibility, they must come into sympathy with Christ,
and with the minister so far as he sympathises with Christ, and labour with him for
the conversion of souls. Let them understand that they must cease to apply one rule
to the minister, another to themselves; let them feel their individual responsibility,
and come right out and consecrate themselves for the work, and lay their all upon
God; and then we shall see a great revival of true religion in our midst.
- (11.) Another indispensable condition of success is, that our religion must begin
at home, with our children and those immediately under our influence; and then we
must seek the conversion of those whom, next to these, we can most readily reach
and influence. When individuals are themselves converted, let them next secure the
conversion of their children and those around them; and if they did this, they would
create around them a little green and refreshing spot like that around the Siloam
well, and its delightful soul-cheering and holy influence would soon be felt on every
side. Let it be understood that persons must begin at home, and with those immediately
around them, and then the influence must necessarily extend further. This must not
only be felt to be true of ministers, but of everybody professing godliness. Let
them each lay hold on their next friend, and bring him to Christ.
- (12.) Another condition of success is this. The Church, and every individual
member of the Church, must realise the guilt and danger of sinners. Let them look
at it, and dwell upon it as they ought, and not turn their minds away from it. I
have often thought that the reason why there is so little distress in the Church
with respect to the state of sinners is, that Christians do not like to consider
their real guilt and danger. They do not stir up their minds to a consideration of
the real state of their children and their neighbours around them. Now, let me say,
if persons are ever to be stirred up to take hold upon this subject, they must think
upon it; and if they are ever to come into sympathy with God and man, they must attend
to this subject; the mind must dwell upon it.
- (13.) Once more: another condition of success is this--the members of the Church
must cease to operate so much by proxy as they now do. The fact is, there is a very
great and fatal tendency in Christians to do this, the great business of their lives,
by proxy. They hire a minister, and pay a pound or two towards the support of a missionary,
or a colporteur, and fancy that they have done the whole of their duty. Now, it is
true that much good is to be done by ministers, missionaries, colporteurs, district
visitors, and others in their several departments, but the Church membership must
be wholly engaged if there is to be a large measure of success. The personal exertion
of every Christian is needful and imperative; personal influence, personal conversation,
prayer, and intelligent warning must be a condition of success in this great enterprise.
I have never known this species of effort to be employed in any locality without
an immediate and glorious result. I do not believe, in the history of the world,
that the membership of any Church, in any part of the world, have engaged in this
work in a right spirit, and from proper motives, without the success being such as
to astonish themselves, it has been so far above all that they had expected. I say
that every individual should be personally engaged in making known the Gospel, but
I do not mean that they can give up their entire time to this work, but I do mean
to say that very much more time might be employed by professors in this work than
is at present, and immense good might result from it.
- (14.) Another condition of success is: the Church must cease to neglect her duty,
and then charge the failure upon the sovereignty of God. Some people talk as if want
of success was to be ascribed to some mysterious sovereignty of God. It will do for
us to talk of the sovereignty of God when we have done our duty, but not before.
Why, what would you think of a man who should neglect to sow his field, and then,
because at the time of harvest he had no crop, should ascribe it to the sovereignty
of God? Or what would you think of a man who so shamefully neglected his business
as to become a bankrupt, and then charge it to the sovereignty of God? Why, you would
see the absurdity and wickedness of it at once. If the farmer tills and sows his
land properly and wisely, and then God should send a blight upon it, so be it; but
until he has done his duty in the spirit of dependence upon God, let him cease to
talk, as if the want of a crop was the result of some mysterious sovereignty of God.
So with Christians, they must cease to neglect their duty before they talk of the
sovereignty of God hindering the conversion of sinners.
- (15.) Again: professors of religion must cease to suppose that they do their
duty, when they do not live in the true spirit of the Gospel. For example, suppose
a minister should go into the pulpit from ambitious motives, that his chief desire
should be to secure a great name for himself; and suppose this minister should say
when he got home, "Well, I have preached so many times to-day, and I have done
my duty." He preaches with a cold and unbelieving heart, and with little or
no sympathy with Christ, little of no faith in the efficacy of the Gospel; and then
can go home and say, "Well, whatever the result, I have done my duty;"
and thus the want of success which is sure to follow such preaching, is thrown carelessly
and wickedly upon God. "I have done my duty." No! You have not done your
duty, even if you have preached the Gospel in all its truth, unless you have done
it from a right motive, and in the spirit of the Gospel. If there are ministers present,
let me say, that I am not affirming that you do any of these things, and preach the
Gospel from wrong and impure motives, for I know you not; but I would call your attention
to this, my brethren, for neither you nor I preach the Gospel in the spirit in which
we ought to preach it, although we may preach the truth, and nothing but the truth,
if we do not preach it in the spirit, and with the faith that Christ requires. Suppose
our hearers should come to meeting and hear the Gospel, but not obey it, not believe
it, and should then go home and say, "Well, we have been to meeting, and so
we have done our duty." Nay! they have tempted God, instead of doing their duty.
Let us, then, cease to talk about religion or duty, unless we come to our duty with
right motives, and perform it in a right spirit. When we have done this, we may cast
the results upon God, assured that Christ will complete the work which we have thus
begun--for he says, "Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."
- (16.) Another condition of success is this: the Church must come out from the
world and show herself, and let it be known that God has a people in the world. Let
there be a visible and plain distinction, that people may see that they are actuated
by a different spirit, and living for a different end: they must appear to be what
God says they are, "a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar people, zealous
of good works." This is to be plainly seen as an indispensable condition of
- (17.) The stumbling-blocks, which have been produced by a worldly spirit, must
be taken out of the way. If we have manifested an unkind, or unjust, or unchristian
spirit, in our families, in our neighbourhoods, or in our business relations; anything
that caused men to stumble; led them to doubt our Christianity, or gave them reason
to doubt whether there was any truth in religion at all,--I say we must take these
stumbling-blocks up, we must take them out of the way; we must confess our sins and
forsake them, and show, by our constant anxiety for the souls of our children and
our neighbours, that we have faith in our religion, and desire them to participate
in its blessings. As an illustration, let me mention a fact which occurred in America.
An elder of a Presbyterian Church, one of the most respectable men of the town where
he lived, and was thought by his neighbours to be a very religious man, as he attended
to the forms of religion very regularly; but still there was a deal of formality
about him, and but little of the powerful life-giving energy of religion. This man
had a large family of sons and daughters at the time of which I am speaking, men
and women grown, and yet none of them were converted. One day he was walking alone,
a little way from his house, when he became very seriously impressed with the thought
that his family were not converted, and questioned himself as to the reason; and
he was forcibly struck with the conviction that he had never entered into the subject
with them in such a manner as that they should be able to realise their guilt and
danger; and as he continued to reflect upon this, such was his agony that he trembled
fearfully, and the perspiration rolled down his face. He started off for his house,
and before he could get there he fairly ran. When he reached the house he inquired
in a very excited voice for one and another of his children; hearing the tones and
manner in which their father was speaking, the family were soon assembled to learn
what could be the matter. When they were all come together, the father fell upon
his knees, and made confession to them and to God, and prayed for their souls. It
so affected the whole family that in a very short time they were all converted. Now,
I could tell you of multitudes of cases similar to this, where individuals have come
to see that they have not done their duty, but have resolved to do it, and obtained
a blessed result.
- (18.) Again: if the Church will succeed in this matter, she must be willing to
be searched and reproved; and the language of every member must be, "Search
me, O search me, and try my heart, and see what evil there is in me; and lead me
in the way that is everlasting." They must be intensely desirous to know what
is essential to this great work, and to be made fit for its accomplishment. There
must be deep self-examination, and a determination to do whatever is necessary to
- (19.) The Church must cease to grieve the Holy Spirit by her selfishness and
self- indulgence. The fact is, persons are often complaining that they want the Spirit,
while they are grieving the Spirit by their self-indulgent practices. While in this
state it is naturally impossible for them to have the Spirit dwelling in their hearts.
Many individuals grieve the Holy Spirit, and yet they are not conscious of it. They
live in a great many forms of self-indulgence, and complain of the absence of the
Spirit, and yet do not know wherein they are in fault. Are not ministers often very
guilty in this respect? My design is not to reprove ministers where reproof is not
needed; but I must be faithful. Oh, brethren, take care not to grieve the Holy Spirit!
Watch your thoughts, and be careful of all your actions, and separate yourselves
from worldly men and worldly influences as much as you can, in order that you may
the more effectually help forward the work of God.
- (20.) The spirit of caste must be got rid of. By the spirit of caste I mean the
spirit that seems to overlook the fact that men are brethren. From the very nature
of things, I know there will be different stations in society, and which probably
will always exist to a greater or less extent; and those which are proper I do not
condemn; but there is an improper feeling and spirit too much prevalent among many
in the higher walks of life, which prevents their doing good to those below them
in station. I have been astonished sometimes to see the aversion of many professors
of religion to descend to the lower class of society to do them good. Now, you know
that this was not the case with Jesus Christ, whose constant aim it was to benefit
and bless the poor; and he even went to this class for the men whom he chose for
his apostles, to carry the Gospel to the world. I cannot enlarge upon this now; but
you all know that in every locality there is a spirit of caste that misrepresents
the Christian religion, and does an immense injury to the great mass of the lower
classes in consequence. Christians, while they should faithfully rebuke their vices
and reprove them for their sins, should also deeply sympathise with them in their
poverty, and pity their distresses; and this is the way to win their hearts and lead
them to the Saviour. The most flimsy infidelity takes possession of their minds,
just in proportion to the seeming sympathy of the infidel teachers with their wants
and necessities. They know how to appreciate such kindness; and the fact is, there
is a great want of deep and intense sympathy on the part of the Christian Church
with the masses of the poorer classes. Let this state of things be altered; let them
get the impression, let it be once understood, that Christians are living to do them
good in every way, and they will prefer Christianity to infidelity. It is not meant
that Christians, in showing their sympathy should take such a part as to connive
at their intemperance or sin in any form; but let the Christian seek to win them
from vice, and persuade them to give up their intemperance in every form and degree;
seek their welfare, temporal and spiritual, and a blessed result will follow. I have
been astonished many times to see what a want of this spirit is to be found in different
localities; and, in consequence, the mass of mankind are carried away with the most
flimsy and absurd infidelity, because Christians fail to take any deep sympathy and
interest in them. Now, if you are parents, let your families see that you earnestly
desire their conversion to God. If you are a master, and have many persons under
your influence, let them see that you have an earnest desire for their good, that
you are vastly more desirous of securing their soul's salvation than their services
in your business. The power of such conduct will be very great; it will move them--there
is no mistake about it. But I must pass rapidly over these thoughts.
- (21.) The Churches must be willing to be searched, and must help to search each
other. Several years since, the students of one of my theological classes came to
me for advice, as to the best plan they could adopt to assist each other in the best
possible way to prepare for the ministry. I advised them to have a weekly meeting
to search each other, to open their hearts to each other; and, furthermore, to privately
tell each other their faults, and in the most fraternal manner try to reform everything
that was wrong in their hearts, spirit, habits, and manners; in all and everything
to make the most holy self-denial; and to unite in prayer for each other. They did
this in several classes, and just in proportion as they have been faithful to each
other, have I had the satisfaction of seeing them become prosperous and godly men,
scattered about over our great country, with hearts full of love and faith, prosecuting
the great work to which Christ has called them. Those classes that did most for each
other in the way which I have named, have succeeded best, since they entered the
ministry, in winning souls to Christ. Thus, I say, the Churches of Christ must be
willing to be searched, they must search each other by all possible fidelity, kindness,
and brotherly love.
- (22.) Once more, all parties must realise their true responsibility. Every individual
must remember that he is to be a missionary. We speak of missionaries as if they
were men only who were sent to preach the Gospel to the heathen, or were connected
with some Society for spreading the Gospel at home, forgetting often that every Christian
is a missionary, or ought to be.
- (23.) A high standard of piety is an indispensable condition to success in this
work: there will never be any very great success in this city, or in any other locality,
if the standard of piety be not greatly elevated in the Churches. In those localities
that I have known, where great revivals of religion have taken place, the standard
of piety has been raised higher and higher from time to time. Some person speak of
revivals as if they were mere temporary excitements; that after revivals there has
been declension, which has left the standard of religion lower than it was before
the revival took place. Now, so far as my experience goes, I never knew such a state
of things as that; if it was really a revival of religion, and Christians have got
the standard of piety elevated in their own hearts, they will get a new development
of spiritual life, from the brightness of which they may afterwards decline; but
they will never go back so far as they were before. I have known persons pass through
another and another revival; but at every succeeding revival they have had a higher
development of spiritual life within them. Now, I stand not here to charge you with
being hypocrites or backsliders, but I say, if you are to move the masses, and be
the means of numerous conversions, you must have a higher standard of piety, a higher
development of spiritual life. This must be! I will take your present standard at
any given point, and say, from that point, whatever it may be, your piety must be
greatly elevated; and just in that proportion will you be able to reach and influence
those around you. If there are any ministers who sustain such a position before their
people as not move their hearts, let me tell them that they never will move them,
until they themselves have a higher development of spiritual life. Visitors, tract
distributors, and all other labourers in this work, let me tell you--and you will,
of course, not be offended with me when I tell you--that there must be a more thorough
development of Christ in you; it must manifest itself in your looks, manners, and
voice, that every man with whom you meet may be satisfied that you are sincere. A
man by only looking at you can tell whether you are in earnest. The tone of your
voice will often reveal the state of your heart. A man might go through the streets
of the city calling, Fire! fire! in such tones that nobody would believe him. Now,
you must speak about religion in such tones that people will believe you, or you
will fail to make any impression. If you speak about religion in such a way as to
lead men to suppose that you don't yourself believe what you are saying, it is impossible
for you to get persons to believe what you say. You must be so much in earnest that
your earnestness cannot be concealed. Whitfield used to stand in this pulpit, and
let me ask what was the secret of his power? His earnestness. Everybody knew that
he was in earnest. All men felt, they could not but feel, that he was in solemn earnest,
and so they listened and were saved. Let the Church awake up from sleep, and show
herself to be in earnest, and when she has done this, if she fails, then talk of
the sovereignty of God, and not before.
Leaving the answer to the question, Why the work is not done? till next Wednesday
evening. I close with asking--
- (1.) Are you, my dear brethren, prepared to comply with these conditions? What
do you say, brethren? What do I say? Are you willing to lay your life on the altar?
Am I willing? I think I can say, as honestly as I can say anything, Yes, I am.
- (2.) Now, beloved, let us come to this work asking, Why am I not more useful,
why cannot I do more for God? There is a great mistake somewhere? Where is it?
Back to Top
CHRIST MAGNIFYING THE LAW.
Delivered on Sunday Morning, May 19, 1850,
BY THE REV. C. G. FINNEY,
AT THE TABERNACLE, MOORFIELDS, LONDON.
This lecture was typed in by Cheryl Lafollette.
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
"The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness'
sake; he will magnify the law and make it honourable." --Isaiah xlii.
IN speaking from these words, I propose to consider--
- I. OF WHOM THE PROPHET IS SPEAKING.
II. WHY HE SHOULD MAGNIFY THE LAW AND MAKE IT HONOURABLE.
III. HOW HE SHALL DO THIS. And then conclude with some inferences and remarks.
I. Of whom the prophet is speaking. I believe it is agreed that these words
are spoken of our Lord Jesus Christ: I know not that this is called in question.
It is said, "The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness' sake," the
person spoken of here, then, is our Lord Jesus Christ. The next inquiry is--
II. Why he should magnify the law and make it honourable; and what law is this?
- (1.) Here let me remark, that very much of the infidelity and scepticism in the
world has originated in this fact, that so many men have never attained to clear
conceptions of what the law of God really is, and its relation to themselves; they
generally look no farther than the letter of the law, entirely overlooking its spirit;
and regarding it as emanating simply from the arbitrary will of God, and that he
can dispense with the execution of it at pleasure. To make myself understood, I must
give you my idea of the true nature of the moral law which is here spoken of. We
have the letter of this law in the table of what are called the ten commandments;
and indeed all the preceptive parts of the Bible may be regarded as simply explanatory
of this law, as the principle contained in it applies to the outward conduct of human
life. A just conception of the spirit of the moral law will show us that it originated
in the eternal and immutable nature of God. From all eternity, God necessarily possessed
an existence, and with that existence certain attributes--natural attributes. He
possessed omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, and so forth. Now, there must have
been some way in which it became him, from his very nature, to use these attributes;
these attributes he possessed necessarily, and eternally, and there must be some
way in which his intelligence must affirm that these attributes ought to be used.
Now, observe, when we understand truly the spirit of the moral law, our reason affirms
that all creatures are under obligation to exercise universal obedience to it. The
moral law, then, is this--the eternal affirmation of God's own mind in respect to
what course of conduct is proper in himself and in all moral agents; it is the eternal
and necessary affirmation of the Divine reason and conscience as to how the attributes
of any moral agent ought to be used. It is a necessary idea in God's mind, and in
the mind of all moral agents: for example, no man can doubt that God's eternal reason
must have affirmed that he ought to be benevolent. Who can doubt that selfishness
or malevolence in God would have been sin in him? If God had been selfish and malevolent
instead of being benevolent, that would have been sin in him; and why? Because God
is a moral agent. Men are moral agents, and they have a nature which necessarily
leads them to affirm this. The benevolence of God is really his virtue: and why?
Because the exercise of benevolence is in compliance with that rule of conduct which
was becoming in God to pursue; his reason affirmed his own obligation to it. Now,
I have thought sometimes, that persons entirely overlook the fact that God is himself
a moral agent, and the subject of moral obligation as really as they are. Some people
startle at this, lest it should be thought derogatory to God's character; but if
this were not so, God could not be virtuous: as he is a moral agent, he must be under
moral obligation. The moral law was not given to God by any other being, for he is
"a law unto himself"--his own eternal reason and conscience affirming that
the carrying out of the principles of benevolence would be right in him, and of course
the opposite wrong. When, therefore, God acts according to the moral law, he acts
in compliance with an eternal law of his own nature, by which he was led to determine
his own conduct, as the condition of his own happiness, and as the condition of the
happiness of all moral agents. Let it be understood, then, that the moral law did
not originate in God's arbitrary will; it lay further back--in a necessary law of
his own eternal consciousness; as a rule of action it was prescribed to him by his
own consciousness. This law is also prescribed to us by our own consciousness as
well as enforced by the authority of God; and if we possessed none to legislate for
us, and while possessing the same nature that we now do, our consciousness would
have prescribed this rule of action to us--affirming that we ought to be benevolent.
If the arbitrary will of God had originated this law, he could dispense with it at
his pleasure; he could change the nature of virtue and vice, he could make that which
is now virtue vice, and that which is now vice virtue, simply by altering his law;
but does any one think that God could do this? Now, God never can change the nature
of virtue and vice, and he claims no such power. This law having originated thus,
and not by God's arbitrary will, it is binding upon us, as moral agents, by the very
laws of our being. God created us moral agents like himself, and thus made this law
obligatory upon us, enjoined it upon us by his own authority, and made it obligatory,
also, by a law of our own nature. Now, the spirit of this law requires universal
and perfect benevolence to God and man. By benevolence I mean love, with reference
to the law of God and to the universe; this is what God's law requires of all moral
agents. Now, observe, this law is as unalterable as God's own nature is--he did not
create it, neither can he alter it in the least degree; he did not create it any
more than he created himself--it never began to be any more than God did himself.
Originating in his own self-existing nature, his own reason must have eternally recognised
it as the course of action to be pursued by him; and thus it is plain that this law
can never be repealed by him, and made less obligatory in reference to himself, or
us--it can never undergo any change in its requirements, and can never be dispensed
with in any case whatever.
- (2.) Again: this law is infinitely valuable in the ends which it aims to secure.
It is naturally impossible for moral agents to be happy unless they are virtuous,
and virtue consists in obeying this eternal law. All virtue consists in perfect love--this
is virtue in all moral agents. Now, in no further than this law is conformed to can
there be happiness amongst men. Virtue is the basis of happiness, properly so called,
in God or in anybody else. This law, then, aims to secure and promote all that creates
happiness, as the condition of the happiness of God and of his creatures. I suppose
that the things which I am affirming this morning will be admitted by all who hear
me as self-evident truth; the mind of every moral agent must affirm them to be true,
by a law of our own nature we affirm it, that they are true, that they must be true;
for example, benevolence was proper and becoming in God, therefore obligatory upon
him; and the opposite course would have been wrong--mind, I am not supposing that
such a thing ever was or ever will be; but I am only supposing that if such a thing
were possible, that God was not a good but a wicked being. Hence every moral agent
will affirm that the moral law is a law which God imposed upon himself, and that
it did not originate in his own arbitrary will--that its obligations can never be
dispensed with in any case, neither repealed nor altered in any particular. Again:
every moral agent, also, must affirm that this law must be of infinite value, because
it aims to secure an infinitely valuable end.
- (3.) The true spirit of this law can never be violated. There may be exceptions
to the letter of the law, but not to the Spirit--nobody possesses any power to make
the slightest exceptions to the spirit of the moral law; but as I just now said,
to the letter of the law there may be exceptions. The law prohibits any work being
done on the Sabbath, and yet the priests were allowed to do the work of the sanctuary
on that day without violating the spirit of the command. All labour was prohibited,
but works of necessity and mercy were nevertheless allowed, and even required. These
were exceptions to the letter of the moral law, but not to its spirit; to which there
can be no exception. Again: the transgression of the moral law by any human being,
is a public denial of its obligation. It is a denial of the propriety, necessity,
or justice of its being law at all, and that it is unworthy of being so.
- (4.) Again: let us look at the necessity that Christ should magnify the law and
make it honourable. Mankind had denied the obligation of this law, publicly and most
blasphemously denied it. Now, observe, if any other than a public act, for forgiving
sin, and setting aside the penalty of this law, had been adopted, if no regard had
been paid to its vindication, God would have sanctioned and completed the dishonour.
The law had been denied, man had denied its justice, and now suppose God should come
forth and set aside the execution of the law, and make a universal offer of pardon
without taking any notice of this dishonour to the law by any public act whatever,
would not this have been to dishonour the law. Now, man in a most direct and emphatic
manner had come right out in the face of the whole universe and denied that it was
obligatory, that it was just, proper, necessary, and reasonable; and let me say that
by their actual transgression they had denied the power of the law in a higher sense
than they could by mere words. Now, if God very good-naturedly had said, "Well,
no matter, I will forgive you, only be sorry," and had taken no notice of the
dishonour that had been done to the law, would this have been to magnify the law
and make it honourable? would it not have been rather, on the part of God, by a most
public and emphatic act, just to sanction the horrible dishonour that had been done
to his law? To have thus acted, every one will see, would have been unjust to himself,
unjust to the law, and unjust to the universe, and ruinous to all parties--and therefore
it never could be.
- (5.) Again: two things, then, must be done if men were to be saved at all. First,
something must be done to honour this law, and to honour it as thoroughly as it had
been dishonoured: second, something must be done to restore men to obedience as a
condition of their being pardoned; something that must restore them to that state
of virtue, love, and confidence which the law required. These two things must be
done, to save the law from dishonour and the universe from ruin. Observe, the law
had been disgraced in some way, therefore the degraded law must be made honourable.
Man had been rebellious, he must be made obedient as a condition of the first proposition.
- (6.) This leads me to say that both precept and penalty must be vindicated: both
had been denied, both had been dishonoured. Now, it is easy to see that this could
be done by no subject of the government; a mere creature could not magnify either
the precept or the penalty of this law. It is easy to see that the lawgiver must
provide for both, as the condition of its being proper in him to set aside the execution
of the penalty in the case of sinners. Now, this law may be honoured either by its
penalty being executed on the offender, or it may by honoured by some substitute
taking the sinner's place, if one could be found.
- (7.) Again, I inquire, how can God honour the law? Here again, we have an important
light shed upon the two natures of our Lord Jesus Christ, and upon the necessity
of his possessing two natures in order to perform the work that was assigned him.
The obedience of any mere creature could not be a sufficient vindication of this
law. Great multitudes of the whole race had denied its propriety and justice. Now,
if any mere creature had come forth and obeyed it, this would not have been to sufficiently
honour the law which had been dishonoured by myriads. Now, it is very easy to see
that if Christ possessed two natures, human and Divine, that he would be precisely
in a position to magnify the law and make it honourable. Officially, and before the
universe, he obeyed the law in both his natures; recognising its obligation as respects
God and all moral agents. It is thus shown to be the rule of God's conduct, as well
as the rule of our conduct; it is a rule which God imposed upon himself, and as really
obligatory upon himself as upon us. Now, no mere creature, by obeying this law, could
show its obligation upon Jehovah himself. But when man denied its obligation, Jehovah
himself came forth, in the presence of the universe, and acknowledged its obligation,
by recognising it in his two natures--one the nature of man, who had denied its obligation;
and in this nature he obeyed every jot and tittle of it--"Heaven and earth,"
he said, "shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Heaven and
earth were not so steadfast as this law. Thus we see that in these two natures Christ
fully obeyed the law, and though it had been trampled upon and degraded, lifted it
up high as the throne of Jehovah.
- (8.) Again: we say that the suffering of one who sustained no other relation
to God than that of a mere creature, could not vindicate the justice of the law,
or the penalty that it denounced against sin; but the Lord Jesus Christ, by taking
two natures, and by the public sacrifice of the human nature on the altar of public
justice, in vindication of this law, and as a substitution for the execution of its
penalty, for the legitimate subject of it, did what none but himself could do. Christ,
we say, suffered the penalty of this law, but in some sense he suffered it not as
sinners would--as they must have done; he could not feel the bitterness and remorse
which is a part of the lawful penalty awarded to those who commit sin; but he magnified
this law, and made it honourable, for he sustained at once a relation to the lawgiver,
and to those who had denied the obligation of the law. How beautifully, then, in
these two natures united, could he vindicate the law, and thoroughly honour it in
- There is great difficulty in any government exercising mercy towards rebels,
and this is especially felt in such a government as that of God; and a little reflection
on this will lead to the conclusion that an atonement was absolutely necessary.
- (9.) Our Lord Jesus Christ by his life completely illustrated the true spirit
of the law. He must magnify the law and make it honourable; and he asserted its universal
obligation in his life, which was a perpetual illustration of what the law required
of human beings. He ever manifested the true spirit of this law. He thus lived among
mankind, taught them what they ought to be, and what they would be if they thoroughly
obeyed the law of God; what sort of a thing society would be if all men obeyed the
law of God; what men would be; what children and youth would be--how obliging, and
kind, and holy. Now, by his life he calls upon us, and says, "Suppose all men
were as you see me; suppose all men possessed the same simple-heartedness, the same
truthfulness, the same regard for God's honour, and regard for the happiness of others,--would
society be what it is? The whole race have denied the propriety of this law; but
I give you a proof of its excellency by showing in my life what the state of society
would be if it were obeyed. I obey it in every respect. You deny the propriety and
goodness of this law; but if it were illustrated in each individual life as it is
in mine, what would there be lacking in any society in heaven or upon earth?"
Thus, then, God, by this his living teacher, condemns sin, shows the importance of
the law, and its absolute perfection.
- (10.) Again: Christ thus, by his life, declared and illustrated the great and
unspeakable necessity of this law. He not only expounded its meaning, and gave himself
up to teach the Jews and the world its real meaning, but in every way he contended
for its reasonableness, beauty, necessity, and immutability in all things. Thus Christ
illustrated, both in his life and preaching, this Divine and immutable law of God.
Who can doubt that he was all the law required him to be?
- (11.) Again: we may say that he taught, that mercy without satisfaction being
made to its insulted majesty was not possible; and he undertook the work of satisfaction--to
magnify the law and make it honourable. I cannot enlarge further on this part of
A few remarks and inferences will close what I have to say.
- (1.) The intention of the Gospel is by no means to repeal the law. "Do we,
then, make void the law through faith?" said the apostle; "God forbid;
yea, we establish the law." By his life and death, Christ honoured the law;
and thus himself furnished the means of rebuking the rebellious lives of sinners.
The spirit of the law pervades the Gospel, and they infinitely mistake the subject
who suppose that the moral law is not part of the Gospel. This is the way to make
Christ the minister of sin. This is to array Christ against the moral law; for how
could he by abrogating the law make it honourable? This would be to weaken the law.
Do not mistake me: I do not mean that men are to be saved by their own righteousness--that
they are to be restored to happiness by the law, as the ground of their acceptance
with God. I mean no such thing as this; but what I do mean is, that this is a condition
of their forgiveness, --they must break off their rebellion, and become submissive
and obedient to its authority. A man who has once violated a law can never be justified
by it; this is both naturally and governmentally impossible. But there must be obedience
to the law as a condition of forgiveness for past sins and offences.
- (2.) Again: this is implied in the exercise of saving faith. No faith is saving
but that which works by love. No faith is justifying faith that is not sanctifying
faith. No hope is a good hope but that which leads its possessor to purify himself
even as Christ is pure. There are persons who suppose that the Gospel abrogates the
moral law, and that they are going to be saved by faith without love; they are Antinomians,
and they know nothing of the true way of salvation. They ought to understand at once
that the law is an essential part of the Gospel. Let me be understood: I do not mean
that universal and perfect obedience to the law is a condition of being saved by
the Gospel; but I do mean that under the Gospel we have the same rule of life that
they have in heaven. The law there is, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with
all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy strength," and this is
as truly our rule of duty here as it is in heaven. The Gospel enjoins this love,
and makes it obligatory upon us. That faith which is saving faith is the result of
this love; and this love, when rightly understood, is indispensable to virtue.
- (3.) Again: Christ still honours the law by continuing to require its fulfilment
as a condition of saving those for whom he died. He requires them first to confess
and renounce their sins, and thus acknowledge the propriety of the law. The law is
not evil; and those who continue in sin dishonour the law. They must repent; they
must justify the law, and condemn themselves; they must, by a public act, renounce
their sins--the act of renunciation must be as public as the act of rebellion. They
must reverence the law; they must subscribe to it; they must obey it; they must exercise
the love that it requires;--this is his condition of saving those for whom he hath
already died. Even in the days of the Apostles people began to have a wrong idea
on this subject. The false idea that the law and the Gospel were opposed to each
other, doubtless, took possession of their minds, because the Apostles so largely
insisted upon the necessity of justification by faith. But the Apostles had no such
meaning. The Jews had supposed that sinners were to be saved by obedience to the
moral and ceremonial law; their religion was a religion of mere outward morality.
That was the condition of the Jews as a nation. I do not mean that all the Jews had
this view; for, doubtless, there were many who understood the true nature of the
law--understood that the moral law required love and confidence in God; they also
knew that the ceremonial law was figurative of the atonement, which was to be at
some future day made clear to men; pious and devout men understood this, but the
Jews, as a nation, almost without exception, had no idea of the spiritual character
of the law, and their teachers taught a different doctrine altogether--they taught
that men would be saved by mere outward morality, by abstaining from those things
that were in the ceremonial law forbidden as wrong, and by keeping the letter of
the commandments written in the two tables of stone. Now, observe, the Apostles sought
to show them that they entirely misunderstood the conditions of salvation. Christ
had taught this, and after Christ's ascension, the Apostles enlarged upon what he
had taught--illustrating their position by his death and resurrection, the ceremonial
law, the tabernacle, and so on, insisting upon it that men were to be saved by faith
in Christ. Upon this there were some who misunderstood what he Apostles intended,
which was this, that they were to be justified by faith in Christ, which works by
love, as opposed to all legal works. The Apostle Paul, who wrote chiefly on this
subject, did not mean to say that they would be saved without love to the law, for
he insisted upon it that the faith which was essential to salvation was that "faith
which works by love." "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything,
nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." He did not mean to say that a man could
be saved without obedience to the law, without love. Men were, he said, to be justified
by that faith in Christ which works by love, in opposition to any works of their
own. He did not mean to teach that men were justified on the ground of love and obedience
to the law, but he meant this, that they were justified entirely by Christ, by what
Christ had done; that they were to expect forgiveness on the ground of what
Christ had done; but upon the condition that they should believe in him and
- Now, the mistake against which I am endeavouring to guard you, has prevailed,
more or less, from the days of the Apostles till the present time. This mistake early
began to develop itself, and James, by his Epistle, designed to correct this mistake.
It has been thought that the Epistle of James contradicts the Epistle of Paul, but
nothing is further from the truth. James insisted upon men having faith which works
by love--practical faith, that makes them holy. The Apostle Paul says, men are not
justified by works, but both agree that personal holiness is a condition of salvation--not
a ground, but a condition.
- (4.) Again: multitudes of persons, in every age of the Church, have been found,
who have seemed to array the Gospel against the law, as if the moral law had been
abrogated. Let me illustrate what I mean. In one of the cities of the United States,
where a revival took place some few years since, a lady who belonged to an episcopal
church in that city, came to me and said, "I am distressed with the state of
things in our Church; the ladies of that Church are so conformed to the world in
their habits of dress, and in their frivolous and light conduct, that I went to our
minister about it, and told him how much I was grieved; and what do you think he
said to me? 'I consider that these ladies are among the most pious members of my
church; the reason why they act as they do is, they do not rely upon their own works,
they expect to be saved alone by the merits of Christ.'" Now, what sort of an
idea had these people, and this minister, of the Gospel, of the way of salvation?
Just think of this; these people were living worldly, selfish, self-indulgent lives,
and yet they expected to be saved by the merits of Christ. They supposed that the
righteousness of Christ was imputed to them in such a sense; that they could personally
conform to the world, and yet be saved. Personally, like all other sinners, and yet
by an imputed righteousness that did not imply any personal holiness, they could
be saved. What is this but Antinomianism? And what is this but the religion of great
multitudes of persons? You urge them to holiness of life, and this is not preaching
the Gospel to them; you urge them to obedience, to self-denial, and to live lives
worthy of their high vocation, and this imply no Gospel,--this is urging men to a
holiness of their own!
- Now, my beloved hearers, wherever you see such a spirit as that, you may be sure
there is something wrong. To be sure, men are to be accepted and justified on the
ground of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done; but mark, only upon the condition
of their personally accepting him, giving him their hearts, yielding themselves
up to obedience.
- (5.) Again: sinners, by faith, must honour the law which they have dishonoured.
Suppose Christ should honour the law, but should not require us to pay any regard
to his atonement, by repentance and faith, as a condition of our salvation, could
we honour the law thus? If God would not pardon sin unless Christ died, neither will
he forgive any human being who does not repent of sin and accept Christ personally.
Have mankind trampled on the law, and has Christ made an atonement, and does God
intend to save men without any reference to this atonement? Never! God will never
forgive sin without faith and repentance. Nothing can be more certain. It is as certain
that God will never consent to dishonour the law, as it is that Christ has made an
atonement for sin, and thus honoured the law. He will never stop short and save sinners,
because they are sceptical, proud, and self-righteous enough to reject the atonement.
I tell you there is no hope of this. Let all persons who reject the atonement, and
expect to be saved without Christ, know that so certain as God will never consent
to dishonour his law, so certain will he never forgive them unless they recognise
Christ! Why should he do so?
- But as I have to preach again this evening, I will not remark further this morning.
Back to Top
THE PROMISES OF GOD
Preached on Friday Evening, May 17, 1850
BY THE REV. C. G. FINNEY
AT THE TABERNACLE, MOORFIELDS, LONDON.
This lecture was typed in by Bob Wynn.
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
"Whereby are given unto us exceeding
great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature,
having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." --2
In speaking from these words I propose briefly to consider--
- I. THE NATURE.
II. THE CONDITION, AND
III. THE USE OF THE PROMISES OF GOD.
I. The Nature of the Promises.
- (1.) By a law of our nature we affirm the truthfulness of God. How remarkable
is the fact, that the question is always by those who dispute a divine revelation,
whether God has spoken at all, and never whether what He has spoken
is true. The inquiry I say is whether God has spoken and what
He has spoken; and when it is once settled that God has spoken and made promises
to man, we affirm by a law of our nature, that what He has promised must be true.
The promises, however, are not to be regarded as the foundation of our confidence
in God, for this foundation lies further back in the revelation which He has made
in the laws of our own mind. Our confidence in the promise of any being cannot be
the result of the promise itself--we have confidence in the promise of any being
in proportion as we have confidence in his character; therefore our natures affirm
that God cannot lie, that he must be a God of truth--no man ever honestly doubted
it, no man can honestly doubt it. One of the elements of the idea of God is that
of His perfection--His entire truthfulness. The promises, therefore, I observe, are
to be regarded as the revelation of God's will in respect to granting us certain
things. God might be good and yet not give us many things which he has promised to
give us; for example, God might be good and yet not pardon our sin--justice
is as much an attribute of goodness as mercy is. We could not have known unless
He had revealed the fact, whether perfect goodness would allow Him to forgive us
our sins, or to give us many things which He has promised us; and, therefore, His
promises are designed to reveal to us that will, and to make known to us the fact,
that His goodness will allow Him to grant us certain favors, and that it is in accordance
with goodness to give us those things that He has promised. Hence His promises are
given on the condition of our faith and that we pray for forgiveness. These promises
are then not a ground of faith, but are given on condition of our faith.
- (2.) Many of the promises are of a general character, which when you desire and
believingly pray for, you shall receive. Persons may appropriate these promises under
certain circumstances to themselves. General promises are ordinarily rendered available
to us, as needed by us--when we pray for them understanding what we mean--by the
Holy Spirit of God leading us to lay hold and appropriate them to ourselves as promises
meant for us.
- (3.) Promises are made to classes of persons also--it is remarkable to what an
extent this is true. There are special promises made to magistrates, ministers, fathers,
mothers, widows, orphans--to all classes of persons. There are also promises made
to persons in various states of mind, such as "Come unto me all ye that weary
and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." With respect to these, I observe,
that when we have ascertained to what class we belong, we may understand that God
has promised these things to us by name--for instance, "Come unto me all ye
that weary," if we can say that we belong to that class we may understand the
promise, "I will give thee rest," as given to us as truly as if it had
been first revealed to us, or made for us alone, just the same as if God had called
us by name and told us to come to him. The same with respect to widows and orphans
who may appropriate the promises belonging to them without any hesitation, just as
if they had for the time been revealed to them by name--it is of great importance
for all persons to understand this. I shall have occasion in another part of my discourse
briefly to allude to this thought again.
- (4.) The promises are made in and through and for Christ--they are all made for
a governmental valuable consideration paid by Christ. Let me explain myself. God
has in an important sense given the world to Christ, and he is represented as having
all fullness in him. As Christ became the Redeemer of mankind, God has given him
"all power in heaven and in earth," to govern it by the use of those means
and appliances that are essential to secure the great end he has in view: Christ
having, as I said, paid for it a governmental valuable consideration. Let me not
be misunderstood: He has done that by which he has made a perfect satisfaction to
the government of God. God's law had been violated, its justice, its equity, and
its propriety had been publicly denied and trampled upon by mankind--the majesty
of this law must be vindicated, the government of God demanded this--it was unsafe
and also unjust for man to be forgiven unless the majesty of the law was asserted.
Those who had broken the law could not be forgiven consistently with the rest of
the universe, for the law that had been broken was public property--every moral agent
in the universe was interested in the vindication of this law; the strength and efficiency,
the power and the glory, should by no means be impaired--for the safety of the universe
depended upon its being preserved.
- Now Christ came forth and publicly vindicated the honor of this law, by paying
over to the government of God an equivalent for the offenses and sins which man had
committed; he suffered the penalty in order that the guilty might be pardoned. Christ,
I say, offered to the government of God an equivalent for the execution of the law
upon the offender; and, in consequence of what he has done, God has promised to bless
those who deserved cursing. Now observe, that all the promises of God are represented
as being to Christ, and as being in Him; yea, and in him, amen, to the glory of God
the Father. Christ magnified the law and made it honorable, so that it consisted
with the honor of this law and the justice of God that sinners--rebels against his
government--should through Christ be pardoned their offenses. Let it always be understood,
friends, that these promises are, in the spirit of them, really made to Christ and
to Christ's people, to those whom he regards as part of himself, those for whom he
came into the world, and those for whom he died.
- (5.) The promises are, therefore, to be considered something in the light of
certificates of deposit: as if Christ had made the deposit for us, and allowed us
to present our drafts--these promises--and to take away that which God has promised
to give, and for which he has received from Christ, a valuable consideration. We
may regard, then, these promises as drafts or checks which we take and present, and
in return receive of the great blessings which God has promised by him, and through
him, and on his account.
- (6.) Again: with respect to the promises, many of them were made in the time
of Old Testament Saints, not for their immediate use, the drafts were not due, but
to be believed and pleaded at a future period. Anyone who will take the trouble to
examine the Bible in this respect will find this to be the fact, that many of the
promises were not in the present tense, but referred to the advent of the Messiah,
and were to become due after his appearing. Turn, if you please, to the 31st chapter
of the Book of Jeremiah, and read the 31st to the 34th verse. "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 break, although I was an 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 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." This promise was made
to the church, and of course to each individual member of the church: which was not
to be pleaded at the time it was given, but which became due at a future period.
The apostle who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews, quotes this promise from Jeremiah,
and says that the day had come for its fulfillment. It was made to be believed in
its relation to a future time, and the age of the gospel was the time at which it
was to be believed. All these promises are to be regarded as due in this sense--their
fulfillment may be expected in our own days.
- I cannot take the time which would be required to quote a great many passages
in illustration of my meaning, but must rely upon your general knowledge of that
particular class of promises, to which I have just referred.
- (7.) Again: with respect to the promises, they have their letter and their spirit.
Many of the promises under the Old Testament dispensation seem to refer chiefly to
temporal blessings, but only in the letter; for these promises, as applied in the
New Testament, have a deep spiritual meaning. The promises of the Old Testament very
commonly speak of worldly prosperity as the reward of the righteous, when, as it
appears from the way in which they are applied in the New Testament, a great deal
more than mere worldly prosperity and advancement was really meant --spiritual blessings,
great and abundant, were really in the spirit of these promises, crouched under language
that seemed to promise temporal prosperity only.
- (8.) Let me say again, that many of the promises of the Old Testament were made
to the Jews--the children of Israel--as if Israelites alone had been meant: whereas
the New Testament abundantly shows us, that these promises had a very much larger
sense--that they also applied to the Gentiles--and to the church under the Protestant--the
Christian--dispensation. For example, the promise I have just quoted from Jeremiah,
"I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah."
Now this promise was more extensive in its application than was at first supposed--it
referred to both Jews and Gentiles--to all the spiritual Israel of God, in all ages
future from the age in which it was first spoken.
- (9.) Again: I remark, that where promises are made to the church, persons should
not overlook the fact that they are also applicable to particular individual members
of the church. Sometime since, conversing with a brother minister in respect to the
promises, he said, that he did not know of any particular promises made to parents
on behalf of their children. I quoted some of them, such as, "My Spirit that
is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of
thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed,
saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever." Again: "I will pour my spirit
upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring, and they shall spring up as
among the grass, as willows by the water courses." But, said the minister, these
were made to the church and not to individuals. Well, but brother, I replied, of
what worth are they to the church if they are not meant for individual members of
the church? If they are meant for the church in general, they must be meant for every
member in particular. Did God intend to trifle with men? He gave promises to his
church to be sure, but not that any individual member of that church should avail
himself of the same. This is a mistake, brethren. God's promises are made to all
His children, and to every one of them in particular, we must not lose ourselves
in the mass. The feeling is too much abroad among Christians, that God's promises
are made to everybody in general, but to nobody in particular. Very much of this
I have found as I have for many years been passing from place to place. Because the
promises are made to masses and classes, they are thought not to be available to
particular individuals. How would this be in any other case? Suppose, for example,
a great famine was in this city, that the people had no provisions; and, suppose
that the government should issue a proclamation to all persons who were hungry and
needy, telling them that they might, by applying at a certain place, secure provisions
to supply their wants; now suppose the proclamation was general in its character,
do you think that any individual who was starving would hesitate to go to the store,
because the invitation was to everybody, and not addressed to particular individuals?
No, indeed. Every individual who was in want, would say, I may go, because I belong
to the class intended. Now if people fail to understand these promises, they may
lay and rot in the Bible, and never be of any use to them. How many parents have
unconverted children and unruly children, because they neglect to avail themselves
of the promises of God.
- (10.) The promises made to the Patriarchs, Abraham, for instance, have a letter
and a spirit; they were intended principally to apply to the children of Israel,
but now they apply to all, whether Jews or Gentiles. I might make a great many other
similar remarks, but must proceed to notice
II. The conditions of the promises.
- (1.) From the very nature of the promises, there must be certain conditions annexed
to them all.
- (2.) When a condition is once expressed it is always implied: for example, take
this case, when God has promised particular blessings to 'his church, ' He concludes
by saying, in one instance, Nevertheless, I will be inquired of by the house of Israel
to do these things for them, and thus in all cases we have conditions annexed to
His promises, and unless these conditions are complied with, we cannot obtain the
promises, although many of them seem to be given unconditionally; but wherever a
condition is not expressed it is implied. Take another case, when God sent the children
of Israel captive into Babylon, He promised them that in seventy years they should
find deliverance. Now Daniel understood this! The promise, when taken by itself,
would seem to indicate that nothing was to be done by the people in the way of prayer
and supplication to effect their deliverance, or as a condition of this prayer being
fulfilled. But Daniel was led to examine the prophets and to read the promises, and
he found that the seventy years were expired but the people were still in bondage,
and he found that the reason of this was that the promise had not been fully comprehended--he
learnt that the promise was made on condition of prayer and supplication being offered
to God; consequently, he set himself to confess his own sins and the sins of the
people, and to pray, fast, and humble himself before God. This will illustrate what
I mean. Now when it has once been said that God will be inquired of to do these things
for us--to fulfil His promises--it must be understood as an unalterable condition
of His fulfilling the promises--that we will ask Him to do so.
- (3.) Again: We are informed that faith in His promises is a condition of their
fulfillment, that no man need expect to receive anything of the Lord, unless he asks
in faith--this is one of the principles of the government of God: we must ask for
those things which we need, and we must ask for them in faith; for it is of little
use that we pray without this. God has said that unless we pray in faith we shall
not have the blessing. In all the promises of God this is implied as a condition
on which we are to receive them--again and again we are told, without faith, it is
in vain for us to expect the fulfillment of His promises.
- (4.) Again: There are many conditions which are naturally necessary; for example,
suppose that God should promise that you should not starve with hunger, of course
it implies that you should be willing to eat the food provided for you; and you would
tempt God if you should neglect to eat, and yet think that His promise, that you
should not die with hunger, would be fulfilled. So when he has promised spiritual
blessings, the employment of means, towards the accomplishment of the end, is always
implied as a condition of our receiving them. We must appropriate the means, and
so put ourselves in a position to receive the promises, or we tempt God by expecting
- (5.) Again: There are certain conditions that are not only naturally, but governmentally
necessary: for example, we are required to offer our petitions in the name of our
Lord Jesus Christ. There is, I say, a governmental necessity for God requiring us
to recognize Christ as the medium through which we receive these things. It is very
easy to see that the same reason which required an atonement to be made for sin,
required that we should recognize that atonement: the same law that made it necessary
that Christ should die for us, required that His death should be recognized by us,
as the condition of our receiving the blessings promised through this medium. It
was governmentally necessary that Christ should die for the safety of the government;
that Christ should die to establish God's law as the condition of our receiving the
blessing of pardon; now it is just as governmentally necessary that in our petitions
to God we should recognize our governmental relation to him; that we should remember
the sacredness of the divine character, and that we should approach him solely through
Christ, making mention of his name. But I must not enlarge on this part of the subject.
We now pass to consider and specify some things in regard to--
III. The use of the promises.
- (1.) I observe, that in using the promises regard is always to be had to the
attributes of the promiser. His ability is infinite, and his willingness is also
infinite--these things are always to be taken into account. Now if human beings promise
us any thing, in ever such strong language, we are at liberty to doubt whether we
shall ever possess the things promised, having in view the capacity of the promiser.
Thus you see we must interpret promises made to us in the light of the attributes
of him who promises. It is very common for men in very strong language to promise
that which we do not expect them to perform, and which indeed they cannot. Suppose
a physician says that he will restore his patient to perfect health: it would be
unfair to understand him to mean literally what he says. If the physician recover
the patient from the disease under which he is laboring, and restore him to comfortable
health, it is all that can be expected of him. But whatever promise God makes he
is perfectly able to perform it. We are always, therefore, to have respect to the
attributes of him who makes the promise.
- (2.) Again: We are to have respect to his relations to us, and our relations
to him. The promises of a father to a child may be construed much more liberally
than if they were made to a stranger in whom he had no particular interest, and to
whom he sustained no relation.
- (3.) Again: We are to have respect to his interest in us: and God has revealed
in many ways, His great interest in us. For example, look at the things he has done
for His children, the fact that He has given Christ to die for them, is alone more
than sufficient to prove his infinite interest in them; but in addition to this,
on every hand, this same fact is revealed--and the great things which He has done
for us clearly proves that He is able to fulfil all His promises. We are surrounded
by innumerable evidences of the highest order of his great interest in us, His great
love for us, His great readiness to do for us above all that we can ask or think.
Consider what He has already done, when we were enemies to him He withheld not from
us His only and well--beloved Son! Then surely He will not withhold anything else
from us. If He freely gave from His bosom His own Son--the greatest treasure that
He had--"shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"
- If God give so great a blessing shall he withhold the less? No, surely no! In
indulging such a thought we do him wrong and we do ourselves wrong; we must not overlook
these facts as the highest possible evidence that all the promises are made in good
faith; and God's infinite readiness to give the things that He has promised. It might
have appeared incredible if God had told us beforehand that He would give Christ
to die for us. It would have appeared wonderful! We should have exclaimed, can it
be possible? Infidels not think it impossible. What! God give His co-equal Son to
die for us? We cannot believe it! Now Christians understand it and believe it; and
certainly since he has done this, we should look at this fact--never leave it out
of view, when we come to the promises. All unbelief should vanish when we remember
that "when we were enemies Christ died for us," and shall we not recognize
in this fact, that He is willing, freely, largely, bountifully, to give us all other
things that we want. By this gift of his Son, God has confirmed to us the promises
stronger than he could have done by an unsupported oath.
- (4.) Again: God not only confirmed His promise by an oath, that we might have
strong consolation, but by all His conduct He has shown us His entire sincerity in
making these promises, and His readiness to fulfil them.
- (5.) We should not forget the design of the promises--that they are intended
to meet every demand of our being.
- (6.) We must not forget to construe the language of the promises as meaning as
much as the language used in commands. For example, when it is said (Deut. XXX. 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," we are to understand this promise as covering as much ground as a command.
We are to construe the language in the promises just the same as the language used
in the commands. We are not to suppose that language found in commands is to be stretched
to the utmost; but when found in the promises to be regarded as not meaning so much.
Now it is common in the church, both in writing and in printing, and in conversation,
to construe language when used in command, in its widest sense. "Thou shalt
love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy
strength," is made to mean all it can possibly imply--mind I do not find fault
with this, for I suppose it is to be so construed--but when the same language is
to be found in the promises it is construed to mean much less than the language really
- Take another instance. When the apostle says, "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 called you who also will do it," we are to interpret this
language as liberally as if it had been used in the language of command. We must
not trifle with these promises, and so restrict their meaning as to imply that they
pledge but little, and that little in a most vague and general manner. If we would
receive the blessings of the promises, we must understand what it is they promise
- (7.) Again: we should in using the promises, always remember to fulfil the conditions
on which they are promised to be granted. If we plead the promises of God, and do
not fulfil their conditions, we tempt God: for example, suppose you were to plead
the promise that God would forgive sin on the condition of repentance, and you were
impenitent and did not repent, why you tempt God. Suppose a cold-hearted professor
of religion should plead that promise in respect to backsliders, when they return
from their backsliding, and should expect to be forgiven while he continues to go
on in worldly-mindedness, why he would be tempting God. Fulfil the conditions first
and then plead the promises.
- (8.) Again: although conditions may not be expressed in connection with every
promise, yet conditions are implied.
- (9.) Again: The promises were made to be used--they were made to be used by God's
children, by all who will believe them and appropriate them. They were not made to
lay concealed in a gilt-edged Bible, but to be read, understood, and used. The fact
is, the Bible is like a book of checks put into the hands of the needy, and we are
to use them when we want anything: thus God has given promises to every class and
description of persons; and these promises were given not to be hoarded up, but to
be used--we are to draw liberally and freely upon the divine bounty for all the blessings
that we need. I became acquainted with one of the most remarkable men that ever I
knew in the city of New York: he was forty-five years old, a farmer, and an unlettered
man. After his conversion, he had remarkable faith and confidence in God. He sold
his farm and took his wife--he had no children--and traveled through various parts
of the country, preaching the gospel and laboring to promote revivals of religion.
He was a man of very humble talents, yet wherever he went there was always a revival
of religion in consequence of his labors. This man labored in New Jersey in a most
remarkably successful manner. After many years he called upon me in the City of New
York: after spending a little while in conversation, he proposed to pray: we knelt
down together, and he prayed like a little child, "Our Father, thou hast given
us great and precious promises, but what are they good for, unless they are to be
believed;" and so he went on just like a little child, and really it was so
perfectly apparent that he believed all the promises, that I never forget the impression
which his great faith made upon my mind. I could at once comprehend the secret of
all his great usefulness: he had such confidence in God's promises, he realized to
such an extent that God had made all His promises in good faith, and on purpose to
be used by His children, and he availed himself of them with all freedom and with
all boldness. He came to God, as a child would come to its father, fully believing
that God would fulfil all His promises--this was the secret of his usefulness.
- If Christians will but understand and get the impression deeply imbedded in their
own minds, that these promises are regarded by God as their inheritance, given them
to be used by them under all the circumstances in which they find themselves placed,
they would often much better understand the meaning of the apostle, when he says,
"whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises."
- (9.) In the next place, in using the promises we should never forget that they
are given to us in Christ, because he paid for them a governmental valuable consideration,
and we therefore have a gracious title to them. Don't let me be misunderstood. We
had no demand upon God anything, because we had forfeited His favor by our sins:
but it has pleased God to make certain gracious promises to us in regard to what
Christ has done, and in him given us a gracious title to them; therefore, we can
claim them, not in our own name but in the name of Christ. I love to take this view
of the promises of God, that if I am his child, they are all pledged to me in Christ
- (10.) Again: the promises are available to us, if we will only comply with the
simple condition of believing, and if we will plead them in the name and for the
sake of Christ.
- (11.) Every command of God, when properly understood, is to be regarded as implying
a promise. If God has required us to do anything whatever, we may always understand
the very requirement as implying the promise of sufficient grace to assist us in
the performance of the thing required. All needful strength and grace is pledged
to us in Christ Jesus.
- (12.) Again: promises were designed to secure our sanctification: and the will
of God is, that we should make full, free, and thorough use of them to secure this
end. On this I cannot dwell.
A few remarks must close what I have to say.
- (1.) It is very important to notice the manner in which Christ and his apostles
quoted the promises of the Old Testament. Take your reference Bibles when you read
the New Testament, and see how the promises of the Old Testament were quoted by inspired
writers, they will enable you to judge much more properly of the real intention and
meaning of the promises of God; you will thus be able to see the promises in their
fullness, and spiritual application.
- (2.) The promises of God are valued by persons in proportion as they know themselves;
they ask proportion to the sense of their wants.
- (3.) Again: searching preaching lead men to apply to the promises--when the wound
is probed, then the plaster is applied.
- (4.) Again: very much preaching is thrown away upon persons who are never sensible
of their sins. Suppose an individual should proclaim through the streets that he
had found a remedy for the cholera; if the cholera was not here persons would not
be very eager in applying for the remedy. They would say, they were very glad there
was a remedy, because other people might want it, but they did not. The medicine
might rot in the shops before the people would avail themselves of it, if they believed
there was no danger. Exhibit the gospel, and tell the people of the promises--they
will not let the gospel take hold of them, not apply the promises, because they do
not feel their need. You will hear people say, yes it is a gracious gospel, I will
avail myself of it someday. But sin has taken possession of them, and they never
lay hold of this remedy--this great salvation.
- (5.) If Christians would at once believe, and apply the promises, meet God on
the ground that He has promised to meet them, they would find in their own experience
how much value there is in prayer, and how powerfully they can prevail with God.
They would find that there was a cheerfulness and willingness on God's part to meet
them at every point. Many individuals plead the promises without fulfilling their
conditions, and then they lose their faith in the promises, because they are not
fulfilled in their experiences. The reason of this is because they have not fulfilled
the required conditions. I have no doubt but it is a common thing for men to pray
themselves out of all confidence in prayer, because they fail to fulfil the conditions
on which God has promised them. How general is it that we find professors of religion
have but very little confidence in prayer; and why is this? Because they have come
to regard prayer as a duty, rather than as something that can prevail with God. Brethren,
if you would enjoy communion with God, and prevail with Him, you must look upon prayer
as something more than a duty. You must take hold of prayer, as a sure instrument
by which you can move God's hand, His arm, and His heart, and then you will
do it. Amen.
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WHY LONDON IS NOT CONVERTED
Delivered on Wednesday Evening, June 5th, 1850
BY THE REV. C. G. FINNEY
OF THE OBERLIN COLLEGIATE INSTITUTE, UNITED STATES,
TO THE MEMBERS AND VISITORS OF THE
CHRISTIAN INSTRUCTION SOCIETY,
AT THE TABERNACLE, MOORFIELDS, LONDON.
This lecture was typed in by Bob Wynn.
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
"Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations,
baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;
teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo! I am
with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." --Matthew xxviii.
I commenced last week the discussion of the subject which is not to engage our
attention. As you know, then intimated, in the first place, that this command, in
its spirit, was given to the Church of Christ in all ages, and to each individual
member of that Church; secondly, that its true meaning is, that Christians are to
go forth and make disciples, or Christians, of all nations; thirdly, I endeavored
to show what was implied by this command; and fourthly, dwelt upon some of the conditions
of obeying this injunction; and reserved till this evening because I had not then
time to enter upon it, the fifth proposition, WHY THE WORK IS NOT DONE.
What are some of the things which stand in the way, that have hindered, and are hindering,
the accomplishment of this work.
- (1.) I must pass very rapidly over the thoughts that I have to present to you;
and begin first by saying that the Churches for a long time have practically forgotten
that the conversion of the world is the great business assigned them--the great and
only business they have in the world; they have practically forgotten that, and have
come to suppose that they have very much the same business in the world as other
men. They have ceased to regard the conversion of men as their peculiar, great, and
only business in the world; for they are, evidently, living for other ends, and for
the promotion of other objects. I do not mean by this that every Christian is to
sustain professionally the office of a minister; but I say that the whole Church
are required to become missionaries--each man and each woman is to become a missionary.
- Now, at our foreign missionary stations, and in our home missions, there are
various kinds of work to be done; but we expect those whom we send out to foreign
lands, or those engaged at home, that they shall give themselves up to the work and
labor for that end to which they are appointed. We don't expect our missionaries
to go abroad to enrich themselves by engaging in trade and commerce, or to concern
themselves about these matters at all, only so far as it is necessary for the promotion
of their great object--the salvation of men and the glory of God.
Now, do you suppose that the impression made upon the world by the Church is,
that they are a company of missionaries whose great and only business is to convert
the world to Christ? Is this the impression that the world has with reference to
the Church? Do you suppose that the world has got this impression--that the entire
Church are missionaries, living for nothing else but to convert the world? Or does
the world no longer understand that all the Church are missionaries? Do you believe
that the people of London are under the impression that the Christians in London
are a band of missionaries whose great and only object is to convert men? Or is the
impression on the opposite side, that they are not living for this end, but are seeking
to enrich themselves and their families by every means that they can adopt, just
as other people are? Which impression is the Church making upon London?
Now, it is easy to see, if the Church have forgotten their mission, if they have
ceased to make the world understand that they are living for them and God--if they
live so much like other people that the world can see, and cannot mistake, that they
are living for selfish ends, there is no cause for wonder at the Church's want of
success. If the Church is to be successful, the world must understand that every
Christian is a missionary--every man and woman professing Christianity is a missionary,
and that their business is to convert men to God, that this is the great and only
end for which they live. When the world understand this, the work of conversion
will go forward and not before.
How was it in the primitive Church? Did the primitive Church make this impression
upon the world? Yes, they did! And if the Church will now do the same, she shall
succeed even as that Church did. The primitive Church understood that they were a
band of missionaries, that their business in the world was to convert the world.
But how long is it since the impression has ceased to be made that this is the real
great, and only business of the Church? It is now come to be regarded as a professional
employment to teach religion and convert men: ministers themselves think so, and
speak as if it were so; and hardly anybody now thinks differently.
The Church does not dream that it is their work to convert men; and the ministers
do not think that it belongs to anybody but themselves; they regard themselves as
set apart for this end--to teach religion professionally. But let me say, that while
this state of things exists, and the Church continues to forget its mission, the
Church is the great stumbling-block in the way of the conversion of the world.
This is the great difficulty--this is the great hindrance to the conversion of men.
I shall have occasion to advert to this again.
- (2.) Another reason why the work has not been done long ago, and is not now going
rapidly forward, is, the Church is seeking to be COMFORTABLE rather
than USEFUL. The great mass of professors are making their own comfort,
temporal and spiritual, the great end for which they live. And ministers, very generally,
do not lay themselves out to be useful, but are seeking chiefly to be comfortable.
The prevailing disposition of the minds of both the Church and the ministry is to
be comfortable rather than useful. Now, does this conduct harmonize with the conduct
of Jesus Christ? His whole life, from beginning to end, testifies to the contrary;
he lived not to please himself, but labored, and toiled, and suffered for the glory
of God and the good of man. Everybody could see what his great object was.
- (3.) But, let me say, that the Church not having secured this end, it has come
to pass, as might have been supposed, that Christians have failed to be either
useful or comfortable. The highest comfort of a Christian lies in doing his duty;
and if Christians have neglected this, there is no wonder that they have failed to
be either comfortable or useful. The Church should understand that their great and
only concern is to do the work which God has required of them; and that the doing
of this is indispensable to their real comfort. But the Church has forgotten this,
and has been selfishly seeking her own comfort rather than her usefulness, and no
wonder that she has failed to be either happy or useful. In her hands, the Gospel
has failed to be consoling to herself or powerful in the conversion of men. A great
mistake has been committed; Christians have been drawn aside from their proper work,
and are living so much to themselves that they have libelled Christianity, and have
not exhibited it in its living power, either as a peace-giving religion or a religion
that has power with God and man.
- (4.) This leads me to say again: in thus doing, the Church has failed to develop
a full and true idea of what religion is. Professors generally are not possessed
of a true idea of religion. In hundreds, and I may say thousands, of instances I
have been told by professing Christians, who have been many years in Christian society,
"I never before got a true idea of religion; I see now that I have made a mistake
in supposing that religion consists in merely doing my duty lest I should be damned.
I used to do my duty, or what I conceived to be my duty, in order that I might be
saved; but I never got the idea that religion consisted in living for the salvation
of souls and the glory of God."
- Now, if Christians live without a true idea of what real religion is, what impression
can the world get of the religion of Jesus Christ? The impression made upon the world
will be, that the religion of Jesus is, in itself, essentially the same as it is
manifested by his professed followers. What other idea can the world get? Now, do
you suppose that, if Jesus had lived to promote his own personal comfort and to please
himself, anybody would have got the impression that he was living for the salvation
of men--that his great aim was to bring them to God? Would this have been the impression
made upon his immediate disciples, and would the effect of this have been developed
in their minds and manifested in their actions. But, the fact is, the great idea
that stood boldly and prominently out in the minds of his disciples and apostles
was, that he did not live to himself, but solely and entirely for the promotion of
the object which he came on earth to accomplish. He laid himself upon the altar most
unreservedly, and his immediate disciples did the same, and the spirit of self-sacrifice
was communicated to all around them; and the work of conversion went forward gloriously;
wave after wave of salvation flowed over every land; and, in consequence, in a comparatively
few years, they had accomplished wonderful things; and if they had possessed our
facilities--our Printing Press, our Electric Wires, our Steam Power, and a thousand
things that we possess--with their faith, with their energy, and with their devotion,
they would in a few years have converted the world to God. But the Church has failed
to do this; the Church has not even made the people understand what the religion
of Christ is. If the apostles had had our facilities, do you suppose that they would
have failed to make the people understand in what the religion of their Lord and
Master consisted? Do you suppose that they would not have possessed the land long
ago? But somehow or the other, the Church has really failed to secure this object.
What is the cause of this? Why has the Church failed to accomplish her great and
only mission upon earth? Has the promise run out which says, "Lo! I am with
you alway even unto the end of the world?" Has the Church lost her hold upon
Christ, or has the promise of Christ expired? Brethren, which is it?
- (5.) Let me say again: the Church have relinquished their own personal, individual
efforts. They have sadly neglected to come into personal contact with sinners in
order that they might bring them to the Savior. Men are dying, and being eternally
lost, on every side; but they put forth no personal efforts to save them. The mass
of professors, as you know, make no direct personal efforts at all. Perhaps many
of you who have attended these services in this chapel have not spent a single hour
in seeking to get people to come and hear me; you have never spoken a word about
these meetings, or by your personal effort induced any one to come. Perhaps ninety-nine
out of every hundred of professing Christians have relinquished all personal efforts--do
nothing for anybody by personal effort--never try to convert a soul by this means;
they do not go to their friends and neighbors and say, "Won't you come with
me to the meeting" and inquire about their souls, and how they get on. And these
persons not only do nothing, but they stand right in the way of others; and they
do a great deal of harm by giving those around them a false impression concerning
- Suppose a Christian lives in an impenitent family, and says nothing about his
religion; what is the impression upon the minds of the family? They will, of course,
suppose that he thinks his religion of no particular consequence--not very valuable,
or he would certainly speak of it and recommend it to them.
In the city of Philadelphia, some years since, a young man served his time as
a clerk to an elder of a Presbyterian church. In the course of time, this young man
married and set up in business, and was very prosperous in all his undertakings.
His wife attended some religious services which were held in the city, and became
deeply anxious about her soul. Her husband observed that there was something the
matter with her, and he very kindly inquired what it was that troubled her mind.
Said she, "My dear husband, I am in my sins, and so are you; and both of us
are on the way to hell." "Why, my dear," said he, "what have
you done to talk in this manner,--'on the way to hell! ' What have you done, pray?
I don't think there is any cause for you to be alarmed, or to talk in this manner."
"Well," said she, "my dear I did not think you were an infidel; I
thought you did believe in religion." "So I do, in some sense," he
replied; "but you remember I lived with Mr. So-and-So, and elder of the Presbyterian
church, and he was always very kind to me, and gave me very good advice about my
business; and I cannot believe that, if he thought I had been on the way to hell,
he would not have told me so; but I assure you he never told me any such thing. If
he believed I was going to such an awful place as hell, I am sure he would have warned
and counseled me; but he never did think of the kind, and therefore it is impossible
that it can be true."
Now, how reasonable was such an inference? This professedly Christian man never
said anything to the young man, and he might well doubt that he was in such imminent
danger. Such professors say by their conduct, which is more powerful than words,
that they do not believe the Bible to be true. Before I proceed further, I would
ask the professors in this congregation, What sort of an impression do you make on
those around you who are in their sins? Is it such as to make them believe that they
are in danger of losing their souls? What is the impression that your servants get?
What is the impression your clerks get? What is the impression your workmen get?
What is the impression those around you get? Is it such an impression as will lead
them to believe in the truth and excellency of the religion you profess?
Let me ask you, Do you believe that the conduct of the Christian people of London
is such as to leave the conviction on the minds of those by whom they are surrounded
that their souls are in danger? I don't know. I ask. What do you think? Do you individually
manifest concern for the souls of the impenitent among you? If you do not, then you
give a virtual and strong testimony against religion. You virtually say, "We
have tried it, and don't believe it; we don't believe that your souls are in danger,
for we feel no concern about you."
Just take the following cases as an illustration, which occurred in one of the
cities of America. Some individuals were in the habit of attending what are called
Conference Meetings, where Christians met together to pray and exhort each other.
An unconverted man, but who was anxious about his soul, frequently attended these
religious meetings. One evening he was outside, and heard them talking of the danger
in which souls were placed, and saying that unless there was more prayer and more
devotion on the part of Christians, these sinners would die in their sins and would
go to Hell; and when he could bear it no longer, he burst into the room where these
christians were sitting, and, with tears streaming from his eyes, said, "Christians,
what do you mean? You tell us that our souls are in danger of being lost for ever,
that you have power to prevail with God, and that unless you wake up and do your
duty, you have no reason to believe that there will ever be a revival of religion,
or that these souls, now in a perishing condition, will be saved. Now, what can you
mean? You have met here time after time, and yet things remain as before. Now, either
you don't believe what you say, or you don't care if we go to Hell." And with
tears he implored them, if they believed what they said, to wake up and do their
duty, and save the souls of the perishing.
- (6.) But let me say again: There is a strong disposition on the part of both
ministers and laymen to consider the work of the conversion of souls to be the peculiar
office of the ministry. It seems to be thought that ministers have been chosen
and delegated by the Church to perform the work which Christ has assigned to the
Church. Ministers are to have a place in this work, and a prominent place, but they
are not to take the work out of the hands of the Church. They are the officers of
Christ's great army; they are to lead on the sacramental hosts of God's elect to
the great battle against sin. But what is the case now? Why, the army have turned
aside, and sent the officers to do all the fighting. The soldiers have grounded their
arms, and paid the officers to go up single handed against the enemy, and do all
the fighting alone. But, let me tell you that in this way the work will never be
- Now, so far as my own experience has gone, especially in my own country, in many
parts of which I have labored very extensively, the ministers take this work upon
themselves, and manifest a jealousy of lay effort. I can remember the time when ministers
objected to a layman being asked to pray in the presence of a minister. They took
all the work of converting souls, and did not like anybody else to do it; they manifested
a jealousy of all lay effort.
Now, instead of this, their duty is to train up the entire laity to work for God
and souls--the whole Church should be engaged in efforts to promote religion. Ministers
much teach their people to work as well as feed them. If the people do not work,
the food will do them no good, but it will greatly injure them. They may eat well;
but if they do not work it well not digest. Feed them with highly seasoned food,
and give them nothing to do, and it will cause surfeit and dyspepsia. If they have
nothing to do, they will become stumbling-blocks. If they eat and have no exercise,
they will become monsters. The people, then, must have something to do in this work;
if it is ever to be done. The entire Church must be marshalled into one great army:
every man and every woman must each have a part. The women have been too much overlooked,
as if they could do nothing; but this is a mistake; and forming, as they do, so large
a part of the Church members--in most places they form the majority--their services
should be fully employed. They can do much, at least, for their own sex.
- (7.) The unbelief of professors stands greatly in the way of the conversion
of London. Now, this unbelief comes out in various forms. First, it manifests
itself in the little concern evinced for the salvation of sinners. Now, how
wonderful and shocking it is, that so little apparent concern is felt by professors
of religion for the impenitent around them. They manifest much more concern about
their temporal interests; they are quiveringly, tremblingly alive to cases of sickness
or temporal distress; but for the souls of men they manifest no such anxiety. They
say that sinners are dying in great numbers and going to hell; but they can eat,
and sleep, and enjoy themselves, without apparently one pulsation of agony respecting
them. Now how is this? Why, it is the result of their shocking unbelief. I have said
to myself thousands of times, "What little hold has the Gospel upon the great
mass of the members of the Christian Church; they talk about the awful condition
of men, and that they are constantly losing their souls, but their conduct belies
- Secondly, This unbelief manifests itself in the slight interest that is felt
in the conversion of sinners. How shocked have I been many times, when sinners
have been converted, to see the great indifference that has been manifested by professors
of religion; they seemed to have no interest in it; they seemed to regard it as of
little moment, not of much importance. Now, just think how shocking this is, and
of the effect which such conduct must have upon the impenitent. Now, just suppose
that the son of some very humble person should be adopted into the royal family,
and thus become the heir-apparent to the throne and crown of the kingdom; why, how
excited the family would be! What a wonderful thing! How much they would talk about
it! The fact that a poor child had been adopted by the king, and that in due course
he was to have the crown, would get talked about everywhere, and what an excitement
the people would be in about it! "Is it possible?" they would exclaim;
and they would try and get a sight of the young man who was to be king; and those
who knew him would point him out, and say, "That is the young man who is adopted
into the royal family, and is to be king."
Now, a sinner who has been converted from the error of his ways, is adopted into
God's family; and it is said of him that he shall be a king and a priest forever.
Now, who cares for that? Who cares to ascertain whether it is true? Who cares to
hear about it? Who cares to tell of it? Suppose the child of professing parents is
converted, do they care to tell their neighbors of it, and give glory to God on account
of it? Now, how shocking is this! And, let me ask, would this be so if professors
of religion looked upon the conversion of a sinner as a wonderful thing? And is it
not so? A sinner, born of God! plucked as a brand from burning! made an heir of God,
and a joint heir with Jesus Christ! Is there nothing wonderful and glorious in all
this? Now, if this was believed by the Church, they would should for joy when a sinner
was converted; and only conceive what effect such conduct would have upon the wicked
and impenitent around them!
Thirdly, Another manifestation of unbelief is that there is but little confidence
in the power of prayer. As there is so little faith in the efficacy of prayer,
there is but little practice of prayer; no wonder, then, that the Church does not
Fourthly, There is but little confidence in the promise of this text, "Lo!
I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." As a matter of fact, the
Church does not expect the world to be converted. Ministers preach without expecting
their sermons to take effect; and when sinners are converted, they can hardly believe
it. Many professors of religion, and ministers, too, have got into such a state of
unbelief, that if God should strike a sinner right down before their eyes, they would
not believe it. I have sometimes been afraid to preach in the presence of a number
of unbelieving, cold-hearted professors, lest they should commit the unpardonable
sin. I remember well, at one place where I was preaching, an elder of a Presbyterian
Church stood close by the pulpit; and as I was preaching, the Word took hold with
great power on many persons in the congregation, and the Spirit of God struck one
sinner right down at the feet of this elder. And what did he do? Why he said to the
penitent sinner, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" He thought the work of the
Spirit had been the work of the devil. Now, Mark; I have kept my eye upon that man
for years; and ever since that solemn occasion, he has been just like a withered
stock; and this was his condition when I last saw him. It seems as if the fires of
Heaven had singed and burnt him; and there he stands, a withered stock as black as
charcoal. As thus it must ever be: if professors have no confidence in prayer, a
blight will come upon them, and they will not believe when they see a sinner converted
by the mighty power of God. These persons have very little confidence in the power
of the Gospel. When persons are converted they will not believe that it is conversion
at all: they will ascribe the effect to anything but the power of God. I have often
seen fearful illustrations of unbelief in professors of religion. When sinners are
converted they will doubt whether they are really converted, and try to account for
the effect produced, and ascribe it to any cause rather than to the great power of
Now, when the Church have any faith in the power of the Gospel, and have any confidence
in prayer, they will always be expecting conversions, and be prepared for them at
any moment. They will not doubt the power of God, nor, when it is manifested in the
cutting down of sinners, begin to cavil and seek to ascribe the effect to some other
cause. I have known unbelief, both in ministers and Churches, to be so great that
they had no confidence in sudden conversions. In theory they would believe, or rather
profess to believe, that a sinner might be converted at any moment; but when it actually
took place, they would not believe it. They could have no confidence in the conversion
of an individual who gave full evidence of it, if his conversion had been sudden
I have known such apply for Church membership, and they have been turned away;
they have gone to the minister, with tears of joy and gratitude on account of their
conversion--the gladness of their hearts would be beaming in their faces, as they
told of the great things which God had done for their souls. "Why how long have
you been under this impression?" says the minister. Perhaps the reply would
be a week, or only a few days. "Oh," says the minister, "I have no
confidence in it, then!" Why no confidence, pray? I ask again, WHY
NO CONFIDENCE? I recollect once being present with a minister when an individual
called to see him about her soul. "How long have you been in this state? When
were you first impressed?" "Last Sunday, under the sermon you preached."
"Oh," said he, "I have no confidence in it!" Now, mark,
this man professed to believe in sudden conversion, that it was an instantaneous
work, and he preached that doctrine, and yet he had " no confidence in it?"
Brethren, there is a wonderful sight of infidelity in the Church with respect to
the truth of God taking immediate effect; and if it comes, they are not prepared
for it. They do not expect that God will do what he says He will, neither will they
acknowledge His hand when He does do it--they insult God, and grieve the Holy Spirit.
Now, this fearful state of things must cease to be, before the world will be converted.
- (8.) Again: Another difficulty in the way of sinners being converted, is the
low standard of piety which is insisted upon in professing Christians. I do not
mean to say that ministers do not occasionally come out and urge a holy life, and
even a perfect life; but do they preach it so uniformly and so earnestly, as to leave
the impression upon the Church that they are really expected to abandon the world,
to separate themselves from worldly society and worldly amusements, and devote themselves
wholly to God? Is this the impression the ministers of London make upon their congregations?
I do not know; but I am afraid they do not. But if they do, there is still something
wanting. I suppose every minister believes that he makes some impression, but I believe
that in order to do this he must preach a high standard of piety, and by his own
living manifestation of what he preaches, it must be felt that this standard is insisted
upon--that all must come right up to it.
- Some ministers preach the whole Gospel, but in such unequal proportions that
they fail to produce a proper effect upon their people. The fact is, they are afraid
of appearing to be uncharitable, and so individuals are allowed to maintain a hope
and standing in the Church, who in their lives do not differ from any decently moral
man. Now, while such persons are allowed to have a hope of eternal life, and to maintain
a creditable standing in the Church; while ministers allow them to believe that they
are Christians, they will always remain stumbling blocks; their own standard of piety
will never be elevated, and they will prevent others being converted. The fact is,
it is no charity to let men believe themselves to be Christians, when after all you
cannot tell whether they are Christians or not. You do business with them, you have
familiar intercourse with them, you live with them; but you cannot see their Christianity
, or in what they differ from other men; yet how many of this class of persons become
members of Churches, and thus deceive themselves and scandalize the religion they
profess. The effect of this is to make both the Church and the world confound things
which differ, and to prevent either knowing what true religion really is. A higher
standard of piety must be pressed home upon the Church, from the pulpit, the press,
and by everyone who is engaged in any department of Christian labor. Professors must
not be allowed to count themselves christians unless they separate themselves from
all iniquity, and come out and show themselves; and live in such a way as to be easily
and unmistakable distinguished from the world.
- (9.) Again: Another difficulty in the way of success is to be attributed to the
wrong views which many professors have, in relation to the DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY.
It is too much the custom for ministers to insist upon one particular truth, or to
look at a truth in some of its aspects only, and thus, upon the whole, the true idea
of the Gospel is lost sight of, and a false impression is made.
- Now, I find nothing more frequent than wrong views of election and Divine sovereignty.
Many persons have this idea, that election and Divine sovereignty have a peculiar
relation to religion; and in respect to religion they take an entirely different
attitude. God is a sovereign, and "if we are elected we shall be saved,"
says one; Why not say so when your child is sick, and not go for the doctor? Is it
not as true that God is a sovereign in the one case as well as in the other? Don't
you believe that the day of your child's death is appointed? and don't you believe
that it cannot die before the time appointed, and that it will not live a moment
beyond it? Why make yourself uneasy or unhappy about it, then? I ask again, why not
apply the sovereignty of God to everything else as well as to religion and the soul?
Suppose I am passing through the country, and I notice a farm where there is no spring
crops; the hedges are broken down, and the ground is in just the same state as it
was left last fall: and presently I see the farmer, and I say to him, "Why,
friend how is this: no spring crop? How do you expect a harvest?" And suppose
he should reply, "Why don't you believe in the sovereignty of God? Don't you
believe in God's Divine purposes? Don't you believe that it is already settled in
the Divine mind whether I shall have a crop? Do you suppose that I could alter any
of these things? Do you imagine that I could make one hair black or white?"
Now, this surely would be to apply the doctrine, which is true, in a perfectly
false manner. And is it not applied equally falsely very frequently in reference
to religion? Now, who does not believe that everything in relation to mankind
and the world is just as much decreed, as the salvation or damnation of men? Why,
then, apply the sovereignty of God to the one and not to the other! Let me tell you
that our responsibilities are just as great, and we are just as free to do our duty,
as if the sovereignty of God had nothing whatever to do with our salvation. This
is my view, and I make no compromise in stating it--I never do--I dare not; for I
dare not throw the blame upon God that sinners are not converted. Antinomianism has
been substituted for the Gospel in many instances. The fact is, many persons have
lost sight of the fact that the Gospel was designed to save men from sin and
not in it. This is the Gospel of salvation; but I shall not now enlarge upon
it, as I have to speak upon this subject on Friday evening.
- (10.) This leads me to say, in the next place, that the selfish efforts of
sects and congregations has done much, and is doing much, to hinder this work.
I mean this--the spirit which leads men to seek the interests of a particular sect
or congregation in preference to the salvation of men. Men of this spirit seek the
interests of a certain sect, aim chiefly to fill a certain house, and support a certain
minister: they have very little interest in hearing of a revival in a neighboring
congregation, or of any kind of success at any place but their own. With such a spirit
as this, how can there be any large success? It is not love to God and souls which
calls forth their efforts, but love of self. I will relate a fact in illustration.
In the city of Philadelphia, a lady was invited to attend a prayer-meeting for a
revival of religion in the city, but she refused to go, saying, "I shall not
go to pray for the city; but if you will pray for our congregation, I will.
Now, there are many persons who have this feeling in their hearts, but who do not
dare speak out, and say what they mean.
- (11.) Again: Another great hindrance in the way of success is this--the unbelief
of the Church has been such that professors have become discouraged by their own
experience. They have prayed in such a spirit of distrust in God, or from wrong
motives, that their prayers, as a natural and necessary consequence, have not been
answered, and they have come at least to doubt the reality of religion, because their
own experience has been such a series of disappointments. If these individuals should
speak right out, they would say, "O Lord, thou hast promised to give the Holy
Spirit to them that ask thee; and that thou art more ready to do it, than we are
to give good gifts to our children; but I don't believe it! I have asked for the
Holy Spirit a thousand times, but I never received it, and therefore I cannot believe
to be true that thou art willing to give it to those who ask. I am always ready to
give good gifts to my children if they ask for them; and I am sure that I should
not allow them to continue asking anything of me so long as I have asked for the
Holy Spirit, without satisfying their requests: therefore I don't believe thy promise."
Now, if they should dare to speak right out, this would be their language, for it
is their inward feeling. They have pleaded the promises, perhaps for a long time,
until they come to doubt their truth. The language of their hearts is, "God
has given these promises, but I don't believe them, for I never had them realized
in my own experience." Now, I ask the reason of this. Why, they have failed
to fulfil the conditions of the promises, and this is the reason they have not been
fulfilled in their experience. If you have a spirit of unbelief in your hearts, it
would be much better to tell the Lord so at once.--Tell him you don't believe the
promises, or that prayer is of any avail. I knew a man once who did this. He said--"O
Lord Jesus, thou hast promised such and such things to them that ask thee; but I
cannot believe it; it is contrary to my experience. I am a father; and when my children
ask of me that which they need, I am always ready to supply their wants: but, O Lord,
thou knowest that I have asked scores of times for the Holy Spirit, but have never
- Now, how can I believe it is "in thy heart to give it?" Now, when this
man spoke out thus honestly what was in his heart God gave him to see in five minutes
the reason his prayers had so failed. He had neither believed that his prayers would
be answered nor had right motives in asking for the Holy Spirit. He was fundamentally
faulty. He had asked much, but it was in order that he might consume it upon his
lusts. He had prayed without faith and from sinful motives. But when he came before
the Lord in sincerity, and opened fully the state of his heart, the Lord immediately
poured out such a spirit upon him that he rose from his knees a new man. If, when
you preach the Gospel, you do not expect it to take effect, or, when you pray, that
your prayers will be answered, you become a stumbling-block to yourself and others.
Now, unless this great evil is put away from you, the world will go on as it has
been, and is going on; and it will get worse rather than better. The spirituality
of the Church is too low to make any impression upon the world sufficient for it
to realize the true value of religion. God says of the Church, "Ye are my witnesses;"
this is what they ought to be, but they are become false witnesses. Like the
spies who brought an evil report of the land, they make a false impression upon the
world; and see the result! God had brought Israel through the wilderness up to the
borders of the promised land, and he said, "Go up and possess it." And
Moses sent men to spy out the Land, who brought back an evil report of the land,
saying that the people were giants, and that the cities were walled cities, reaching
even unto heaven; therefore it was in vain to think of possessing the land: and the
people rebelled against God, because they believed the testimony of the false witnesses;
and the Lord aware that they should not enter the land, because of their unbelief;
but Caleb and Joshua, because they were of another spirit, were permitted to enjoy
that good land which the Lord had promised them.
Now, brethren, is it not the case, that at the present moment ministers are testifying
on one side, and the Church on the other--500 to 1. Are not the Churches saying that
they do not believe religion is what they expected it was. They have tried it, they
say, and it will not answer. This, I say, is the testimony of their lives; they virtually
tell the people that they have tried religion, and find that it is hardly worth having.
You see a minister preaching with energy, faithfulness, and earnest longing for the
souls of men; but the members of his Church are so cold and worldly-minded, that
they effectually neutralize his efforts; and he has frequently to groan within himself
at their indifference. By their conduct, they are saying to sinners, in reference
to the solemn truths which have been uttered, and which perhaps have impressed their
consciences--"Don't you be concerned; don't you be afraid; you have no cause
to believe what the minister has been saying. It is his profession to say these things,
and they are all very well in the pulpit, but they are of no particular consequence."
And thus they hinder the work of conversion! Who can wonder that London and the world
is not converted? Unless the whole Church is awake and in earnest, very little good
will be done; but if Christians will become alive to their responsibilities, and
go among the masses of the people, and use every possible means to bring them to
public worship, a great spiritual awakening must be the result. Manifest great concern
for their souls, and take no excuse as a justification for their neglect of religion.
If they say they have not a seat, tell them that they shall have yours, and you
will stand up; just be thoroughly in earnest; and see how you can tell upon the minds
of the people. If all who are now here would adopt this plan, this house might be
crowded every time that I preach; and why should it not be so?
The Church of which I was for some time pastor in New York, used to move out in
a mass, and invite the people to come, and hear the preaching, and by this means
they filled the house right up, every night; and when the preaching was over, they
distributed themselves about, and those who had been affected by the sermon were
kindly taken by the button and conversed with, and it was no uncommon thing for me,
when I went from the pulpit, to find the vestry full of anxious inquirers. At one
period I preached twenty evenings in succession in New York, and 500 persons were
converted, which amounted to twenty-five every night; and I never had to discipline
a single one of them, although our terms of membership were so stringent and severe,
that they would have excluded one-half of the members of other Churches.
Let the Churches in London, as a body, pray in faith, and labor devotedly, and
this city will be moved. It is impossible that it should be otherwise. And let me
tell you, that the mass of mankind will never be moved, and there will never be a
revival in any Church, till religion is a living power in the hearts of those who
profess to be Christ's disciples. The Church needs a fresh anointing. Only let the
ministry be anointed afresh--let the Church be anointed afresh--let them pray in
the Spirit, labor in the Spirit, preach in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, live in
the Spirit, and every day they will shed a mighty, holy, and hallowed influence on
the world around, and its power will be such as to compel men to believe that there
is a reality in religion, and the world will soon be converted to God. Amen.
FOR MORE SERMONS BY C. G. FINNEY:
Sermons on Gospel
Themes -------New Window
"These sermons were preached by Pres.
Finney at Oberlin during the years 1845-1861... Few preachers in any age have surpassed
Pres. Finney in clear and well-defined views of conscience, and of man's moral convictions;
few have been more fully at home in the domain of law and government; few have learned
more of the spiritual life from experience and from observation; not many have discriminated
the true from the false more closely, or have been more skillful in putting their
points clearly and pungently. Hence, these sermons under God were full of spiritual
power. They are given to the public in this form, in the hope that at least a measure
of the same wholesome saving power may never fail to bless the reader." -HENRY COWLES.
Excellent! Highly Recommended!
Section Sub-Index for Finney: Voices