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Phila delphia > Communion with God-- No. 2 by Charles G. Finney from "The Oberlin Evangelist"

The Oberlin Evangelist

Lecture XVIII
Communion with God-- No. 2

Charles G. Finney

Charles G. Finney

A Voice from the Philadelphian Church Age

  Wisdom is Justified

by Charles Grandison Finney

Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart

from "The Oberlin Evangelist"
September 9, 1840

Lecture XVIII.

by the Rev. C. G. Finney

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

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

IV. The value and importance of Communion with God.

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

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

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

Now nothing can calm our own minds, amidst the shocks, vicissitudes, and trials of life, but continual communion with the infinitely calm and peaceful mind of God. O when the soul has been disquieted by the occurrences of life, and takes a deep plunge into the ocean of eternal love--when it steals away from all human eyes, and holds a protracted and soul calming interview with God, how peacefully does it look about upon those occurrences that are throwing the world into fermentation around it.

V. How to secure and perpetuate Communion with God.

A brother minister said, but a short time since, in my hearing, that on being requested, some time since, by a brother minister to engage in a certain business which he feared would be a great temptation to him, he declined, upon the ground that he feared, that in so doing he should sin. His brother replied, "O what of that? we are sinning all the time. If we sin we must repent, you know."

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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