What Saith the Scripture?


Phila delphia > Sermons On Important Subjects by C. G. Finney (sermon 4: Total Depravity)

Sermons On Important Subjects


C. G. Finney

Sermon 4

Charles G. Finney

A Voice from the Philadelphian Church Age

  Wisdom is Justified

by Charles Grandison Finney

Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart


-- Ezek. 18-31.--
"Make you a new heart, and a new spirit, for why will ye die?"

HOW TO CHANGE YOUR HEART. (page 2) ---New Window
-- Ezek. 18-31.--
"Make you a new heart, and a new spirit, for why will ye die?"

TRADITIONS OF THE ELDERS. (page 3) ---New Window
-- Matthew, 15-6.--
"Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect, by your tradition."

TOTAL DEPRAVITY. (this page)
-- John,
"But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you."

TOTAL DEPRAVITY. (page 5) ---New Window
-- Romans, 8:7.--
"The carnal mind is enimity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."

WHY SINNERS HATE GOD. (page 6) ---New Window
-- John, 15:25.--
"They have hated me without a cause."

GOD CANNOT PLEASE SINNERS. (page 7) ---New Window
-- Luke, 7:31-35.--
"And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like? They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept. For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! But wisdom is justified of all her children."

CHRISTIAN AFFINITY. (page 8) ---New Window
-- Amos, 3:3.--
"Can two walk together except they be agreed?"

STEWARDSHIP. (page 9) ---New Window
-- Luke, 16:2.--
"Give an account of thy stewardship."

DOCTRINE OF ELECTION. (page 10) ---New Window
-- Ephesians, 1:45.--
"According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will."

REPROBATION. (page 11) ---New Window
-- Jeremiah, 6:30.--
"Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the lord hath rejected them."

LOVE OF THE WORLD. (page 12) ---New Window
-- I John, 2:15.--
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."



-- John xv. 42.--
"But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you."

This lecture was typed in by Lori Bigby.

These words were addressed by the Lord Jesus Christ, on a certain occasion, to those who professed that they loved God. I design, this morning, and in the afternoon, to establish the doctrine of total depravity.

In doing this,

I design, in the first place to show what the doctrine of total depravity, is not.

And secondly, what it is:

And thirdly, to prove the doctrine, according to the definition which I shall give of it.

And to conclude each discourse, with such remarks as shall appear appropriate, and necessary.

First. I am to show, what the doctrine of total depravity is not.

I do not mean, that there is some constitutional depravity, which lies back, and is the cause of actual transgression.

When we say, that men are totally depraved, we are sometimes understood to affirm, that men are as bad as they can be. They seem to understand the word total, as signifying the highest possible degree of depravity. But certainly this is not the meaning of the word total. The sum total of 3 and 2 and 5 is 10. This is not the highest possible number, but is the total of 3. and 2. and 5. The same word when qualifying depravity, does not mean the highest possible degree of depravity, but simply, that the whole character is depraved; that there is no mixture of good in his character. Not, that he does and says, as wickedly as he could say and do; but that whatever he does and says, and is, is sinful. "That ever thought and imagination of his heart, is only evil continually."

Secondly. By total depravity, I do mean

The text expressly asserts, that sinners have not the love of God in them. It would be easy, to show, that this same doctrine, is every where recognized, in the Bible. But as I am to deal with those, who I affirm to be totally depraved, I do not expect, that a thus saith the Lord will settle the question with you, and put it beyond debate.--You are unbelievers, and however you assent to the truth of the Bible, in general, yet I know, that you have no hearty confidence, in its doctrines in their detail: To prove to you, the doctrine of total depravity, from the Bible, only, may gain your unfeeling assent. But I am well aware, that this kind of evidence, will not so bring the subject home, to your experience, as to make you feel its truth. I might quote the text, and other passages of Scripture in proof of this doctrine, and then throw the responsibility upon you, of receiving or rejecting it. But as there is an exhaustless variety of other proofs within my reach, I will gather up a few of them, and lay them before you, for your consideration.

Facts, are stubborn things, and however men may evade the Bible, however they may turn away from, and misunderstand metaphysical reasonings; they find it difficult, to resist plain matters of fact; especially, when the facts exist in their own experience. I design to gather my proofs of this doctrine, from the experience of you, who are present. To point out certain facts, in your own history, and in the history of those around you, that will place this doctrine upon a foundation, not to be controverted.

The laws of mind, in their detail, are but imperfectly understood. Yet there are certain laws of mind, that are understood, even by children. They are facts of such universal and frequent experience, that we know with absolute certainty, that such are the laws of mind. For instance, by experience, we know it to be a law of mind, that we take delight in pleasing the object of our affection. To love an individual, is to desire his happiness. To promote his happiness, is to gratify that desire. To please the object of our affection, then is to please ourselves. To do that, which is pleasing to one whom we love; to add to his honor, or to his happiness, in any way; it to gratify our desire for his happiness; and naturally, and necessarily adds to our own happiness.

It is not essential that we should aim at gratifying ourselves, or at promoting our own happiness, in our efforts to please the object of our affections.

When we act virtuously, to please ourselves, is no part of our design. But although, not entering into our design, it is the natural result of pleasing an object of our affection. It is the gratifying of our love, or desire to promote his happiness, or honor; and this gratifying of our desire, is of itself happiness. We find this principle, showing itself, in all the relations of life. When is the affectionate husband or wife, in a state of higher enjoyment, than when they are engaged in those employments, and in the performance of those offices, that contribute to each others happiness. When is the affectionate wife, more cheerful, than when busied in those things, that she knows will please her husband. How assiduous, and unwearied, are lovers, and other dear friends, in their efforts to please the object of their affection. How eager to anticipate each other's desires; how readily; how joyfully do they engage in those things, that they know will give pleasure to one whom they greatly love. It is absurd, and a contradiction for you to say that you love an individual, and have no delight in pleasing him. It is impossible, that you should love an individual, and not be gratified in promoting his happiness. To say, that you love a person, is the same as to say, that you desire his happiness, and to say that you can desire his happiness without delighting in promoting it, is the same as to say, that to gratify virtuous desire is not happiness. In other words, that the gratification of virtuous desire, is not a gratification.

This law of mind holds true, in all its fullness and extent, upon the subject of religion. I appeal to every Christian in this house, whether, to do the will of God, is not more than his necessary food; whether it is not your meat and drink to do the will of your Heavenly Father. When are you so happy, as when engaged in those things that you know will promote the honour and glory of God. I do not mean, or suppose, that it is your design to gratify yourself, when you obey and serve God; but I ask, do you not find it to be a matter of fact, that you are never so happy, as when you are engaged in doing those things that please him. You search his word, to know what will please him; and when you know his will, and engage heartily in the performance of it, the happiness you will experience in the performance of these duties may not enter into your design or thoughts; and yet you know, that as a matter of fact, the performance of duty promotes your own happiness. To please God, pleases yourself. And now, let me appeal to the experience of every impenitent sinner in this house: do you not know, that from the very constitution of your mind, you love to please your friends. And do you not know, that it makes no part of your happiness to please God. How you delight to gratify your children; to please the objects of your most endeared affection; but I ask your conscience, do you take delight in pleasing God? Do you study to know what will please him? And when you have learned his will, do you find yourselves inclined, readily and joyfully, to perform it?

How much pains you will take; at how much expense you will be; how watchful, assiduous, and persevering, not only in conforming the general outline of your conduct, to the wishes of one whom you greatly love; but in following out the minutia, into the detail; in fulfilling the slightest desires, and gratifying even the passing wishes of one upon whom your heart is set; and thus, giving yourself up, to promoting the happiness of the object of your affection, makes up, at once, the history and the substance, of your own happiness.

Now, sinner, is this your experience on the subject of religion? Do you love to please God? Is it your business? Is it your happiness? In other things, in regard to the affairs of this world, every thing you say or do, is viewed as having a relation to the object of your supreme affection. If you love money supremely, everything is judged of, is hated or loved, is desired or rejected, according to the relation it sustains to your own pecuniary interest. If you can make money by it, you have pleasure in it. If it would prevent the acquisition of wealth, you are displeased with it. So, if you have an earthly friend, whom you greatly love, it is natural for you to inquire, in every thing you say and do, how it will be received or looked upon by this object of your affection; what relation it sustains to him or her; and all your conduct is modified, and all your pursuits are regulated, by this controlling and absorbing affection for this idol. Now, sinner, I ask you again, is it true, in your own experience, that every thing pleases or displeases you; that you love or hate it; that you desire or reject it, according to its relation to the will of God; that if you see it will please him, it pleases you; if it is agreeable to his will, is it agreeable to your will? If it will promote his glory, do you desire it? If it will dishonour him, do you reject and abhor it? If not, why do you pretend to love God? You could not believe that your children or your wife loved you, unless you saw that they delighted to please you. And why should you deceive yourself, by supposing that you love God, when you know it is not your happiness to please him?

Saints, in all ages of the world, have delighted to commune with God, having sought his society, and loved the retirement of the closet, where they can be alone with God; and never are they more supremely and sacredly happy, than when alone, in secret and holy communion with the blessed God. Now, sinner, is this your experience? Do you love to be alone with God? Do you delight to pray? Is it your most sacred, most endeared employment, to get alone, and low upon your knees, pour out your heart in communion with your God? I do not ask you whether you pray, for this you may do from a variety of motives, but is it because you love to pray? Because you love to be alone and commune with God? If you are an impenitent sinner, you know that you do not love the society of God.

The question naturally arises, and has a controlling influence over our lives, will this or that please or displease him or her whom I love. To gain the approbation of this object of affection, is our ambition, and our highest joy. Now, sinner, I appeal to you, is not this true, in your experience, as it respects him or her, who is the object of your greatest affection? And is it true, that you, above all things, prize the approbation of God? Is it your study? Is it your delight to gain his approbation? Does the consciousness of having done what he disapproves, wring your heart with anguish, irrespective of its consequences to yourself, and separate from all fear that you shall be punished? Do you feel the same emotions of sadness, of shame, of distress and sorrow, when you have merited the disapprobation of God, that you do when you have incurred the disapprobation of your most beloved earthly friend? I appeal to your own conscience, in the sight of God. Do you not know, that you do not supremely desire the approbation of God?

I ask you, sinner, whether you are grieved with those that disobey God? Whether you feel mingled emotions of grief and indignation; as if your wife, or dearest friends were abused in your presence? Does it pain you, even to agony, to hear men swear in the streets; to see them break the Sabbath; and trample on God's holy commandments? Should you go through the streets and bear execrations, and abuses poured upon your dearest earthly friend, from every quarter, it would fill you with grief and indignation unutterable. And can you walk the streets, and hear God's holy name profaned; see his Sabbath desecrated; hosts of impenitent sinners, trampling, with unsanctified feet, upon his high and holy authority, and not be grieved? Then you are a hardened, and shameless hypocrite, if you pretend to love your Maker.

I shall conclude this discourse with several remarks.


First. With all these facts staring sinners in the face; standing out, in bold relief, upon the very head and front of their own experience; how is it, that they can suppose themselves to love God? Nothing is more common, than for impenitent sinners to affirm, that they do love God; and yet nothing is more certain, than that they do not love him. Whence is this mistake? I answer,

1. They do not distinguish between an admiration of his natural attributes, which they sometimes feel, and a love to his moral character. The omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, eternity, and wisdom of God, are attributes, which, when considered, are calculated to inspire awe, and admiration, in the breast of intelligent beings, whether they are sinful or holy. These attributes have no moral character. The devil himself, may be filled with awe, and admiration, when contemplating the displays of his natural attributes, which are manifested throughout all creation.

Again, sinners mistake a selfish gratitude, for love to God. A supremely selfish being, may be grateful, for favors bestowed upon himself, without any true regard to the character of him who bestowed the blessing. Sometimes, when sinners escape from death, and some marked providence is interposed in their behalf, they feel a kind of gratitude; and they might feel the same kind of gratitude to Satan, as they do to God, had he bestowed the same favor upon them.

Again, sinners make their own god and fall in love with a god of their own creation. They conceive God to be such a being as they desire him to be. They strip him of his essential attributes, and ascribe to him a character that suits them, and then fall in love with their imaginary god, and walk by the light of their own fire, and compass themselves with sparks of their own kindling. The Universalist creates a god for himself; conceives of him as a being just suited to his taste; and if you keep out of his view the essential attributes of justice, and truth; he will talk and feel very piously; but, bring before his mind the true character of God, and his heart becomes at once like the troubled ocean, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.

2. You see why it is, that impenitent sinners think, religion is something very gloomy. It is because they have no love to God. What would you think of a woman who should think it a very gloomy business to be with her husband; if she should complain of it as an irksome and disagreeable task, to engage in those offices that she knew would please him. If she accounted it a grief, a burden, and a vexation, to engage in the duties of a wife. You would say it was demonstration absolute, that she did not love her husband. So it is with sinners. When they conceive of religion as something gloomy, and calculated to rob them of all their joys, it is demonstration that they do not love God; that they have no delight in pleasing him.

3. You see from this subject, why it is that sinners grow weary and complain of having too many, and too long meetings. What would you think, should you hear an individual, who professed to love you, complain of weariness, on account of the length of your interview. Suppose he should say, Oh, the time does seem so long; I do wish our interview was ended. You would understand it. You would not, and could not believe that his heart was greatly set upon you. So, when you hear sinners complaining, that there are so many meetings; and expressing a wish, that they should not be more than an hour in length; this is an index to their feelings; they do not love God; they have no delight in his service; it is a burden, and a vexation to them, to be called to spend a short time in his presence.

4. Again, you see how it is, that some professors of religion prefer parties of pleasure, to prayer meetings. Prayer meetings, are the most delightful parties, to those that love God. But to those that do not love him, they are not a source of happiness; and when they are attended by such persons, it is from other motives than from love to God. Whenever you see professors of religion, manifesting more interest in worldly parties, than in religious meetings, you may know that they are hypocrites.

5. You see, from this subject that they are deceived, who say they always love God. There may be some instances, where persons may have been converted so young, that they cannot remember the time when they did not love God. If there are such persons, I am persuaded, that such instances have, hitherto, been very rare; with these exceptions, it is certain, that they are deceived, who suppose they have always loved God. Why, by their own showing, they have never had a change of heart. They feel towards God as they always did. If they ever had truly loved God, when they first exercised this love, they would know that it was something new to them, and could not possibly suppose that they had always loved him.

6. Again, you see from this subject, that impenitent sinners, are often great hypocrites. They profess to be very much opposed to hypocrisy, and say that they like true religion; they desire to see persons sincere in what they profess: think true religion is a good thing; and are very much in favor of it. They pretend to be very friendly to God, and say that they love him. Now, in these professions, they are arrant hypocrites. Christ might say to them, "I know you, that you have not the love of God in you." "Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles." "Ye are they that justify yourselves before men, but God knoweth your hearts." "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell."

7. You see from this subject, the manifest and barefaced hypocrisy, of those professors of religion, who, unnecessarily, publish the faults of Christians. We sometimes see professed Christians, as forward in speaking, in all companies, and on all occasions, of the faults, real or supposed, of the professed children of God, as infidels are. They will load down the winds, with their complaining of the imprudences and errors of those whose characters are nearly associated with all the endeared interests of religion. And this, they often do, when no such thing is called for, and where there can be no just pretense that God, or the interests of religion requires this service at their hands. They will even sometimes, to give these things the greater publicity, publish them in the newspapers, and all this under the shear pretense of doing God service and benefitting the cause of Christ. But this is the precise method, and the pretended motive of the Universalists in their slanderous publications against God, and his servants; and there is no more reason to believe that such professors of religion, have the true interests of Christ's kingdom at heart, than there is to believe that Universalists are actuated by a regard to the glory of God. Cases have occurred, in which professors of religion, have entertained passengers in steam boats, and in other public places, by retailing slanderous reports of revival men and measures. Vast prejudice, has been created, and immense evils have resulted from this infidel conduct of those who profess to love the blessed God. O shame, where is thy blush!

It is impossible, from the very laws of their mind, that they should engage in this work of death, this mischief of hell, if they truly loved the cause of Christ; and, to thus wantonly, hang up the cause, to reproach; by blazing abroad the failings, real or supposed, of those whose name, and character, and influence, are identified with the dearest interests, of Zion, is, as absolute demonstration, that they are hypocrites, as if they themselves should take their oath of it.

Finally. While sinners imagine that they love God already, it is not likely, that they ever will love him. Sinner, if you think that you love God already, you will never realize that you need a change of heart. If you really do love him, you certainly do not need a new heart, unless you would have a heart that does not love him. In pretending that you love God, you deny the very foundation of the doctrine of the new birth. But let me tell you, sinner, your delusion will soon be torn away. You cannot always deceive yourself with the imagination that you love God. You are going rapidly to eternity. There is, even now, perhaps, but a step between you and death. The moment that you appear in the presence of your Maker, and behold, the infinite contrariety there is betwixt your character and his; your delusion will vanish forever. You pretend to love God, while you know that you have no delight in his word, or worship, or service. Oh! What would heaven be to you; you cannot enjoy a prayer meeting, for one hour, and what would you do, in heaven employed in God's service forever and ever. Would heaven be heaven to you? Would you feel at home? Would you be happy there? What! Without the love of God in you. Away with this delusion: "for verily I say unto you except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."


SERMON 1 ---New Window

SERMON 2 ---New Window

SERMON 3 ---New Window

SERMON 4 (this page)

SERMON 5 ---New Window

SERMON 6 ---New Window

SERMON 7 ---New Window

SERMON 8 ---New Window

SERMON 9 ---New Window

SERMON 10 ---New Window

SERMON 11 ---New Window

SERMON 12 ---New Window


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