||delphia > Death to Sin by Charles G. Finney from "The Oberlin Evangelist"
Death to Sin
Charles G. Finney
A Voice from the Philadelphian Church Age
by Charles Grandison Finney
Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
from "The Oberlin Evangelist"
July 15, 1840
DEATH TO SIN
by the Rev. C. G. Finney
Text.--Romans 6:7: "For he that is dead
is freed from sin."
In the discussion of this subject I shall notice,
I. The different kinds of death mentioned in the Bible.
II. What kind of death is intended here.
III. What it consists in;
IV. What is implied in it;
V. How it is effected.
I. Different kinds of death.
- 1. Natural death. This is the death of the body.
- 2. Spiritual death. This is death in sin. It is total depravity or a state of
entire alienation from God.
- 3. Eternal death. This consists in the endless curse of God.
- 4. Death to sin.
II. The kind of death mentioned in the text.
The death here spoken of is manifestly a death to sin. This is very evident from
the context. At the close of the preceding chapter, Paul had been speaking of the
super-abounding grace of Christ, and commences the sixth chapter by saying, "What
shall we say then? shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How
shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?" Here Paul is speaking
of those who were alive and yet dead to sin. He spoke of their having received a
baptism into the death of Christ. By their spiritual baptism they had been solemnly
set apart or consecrated to the death of Christ. "Know ye not, that so many
of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore
we are buried with Him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from
the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also
in the likeness of His resurrection; knowing this, that our old man is crucified
with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not
serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now, if we be dead with Christ,
we believe that we shall also live with Him." He speaks of them as not only
dead, but, by their spiritual baptism buried into the death of Christ. And to carry
the idea of their being still farther from the life of sin; he speaks of them as
being planted into the likeness of His death, and crucified with Him that the body
of sin might be destroyed. And then adds in the words of the text, "Now he that
is dead is freed from sin." The term here rendered justification may be rendered
"is made righteous."
It is plain from this connection, that Paul is speaking of those who had been so
baptized by the Holy Spirit so as to be dead to sin, buried, planted, crucified,
as it respects sin.
III. What it consists in.
Summarily, death to sin consists in the annihilation of selfishness, and the reign
of perfect love to God and man in the heart and life.
IV. What is implied in it.
- 1. Death to sin is the opposite of death in sin. Death in sin implies living
for self, or being dead to God's glory and interests and only alive to our own glory.
Death to sin implies the reverse of this. It implies a death to our own interests
and happiness as an end of pursuit, and a living wholly to the glory of God, and
for the up-building of His kingdom.
- 2. Death in sin implies a will opposed to the will of God. I speak here of a
fixed and permanent state of the will in opposition to a single particular volition.
A will in this state is not at all influenced by the will of God. It has never submitted
to His will, and consequently a knowledge of the will of God is no influential reason
to determine its volitions. But death to sin implies a will wholly subservient to
and under the control of the will of God. I speak now also of a state of will. One
who is dead to sin has no other will than that God's will should in all things be
done. Lay before him any question in which he is in doubt in respect to what the
will of God is, and he will find himself unable to decide upon a course of action.
All he can decide upon in such a case is to search and inquire what is the will of
God. But until he is satisfied in some way in respect to the will of God, he is utterly
in doubt and finds himself unable to make up his mind and come to any decision in
respect to the question before him. This is a state of mind directly opposite to
a death in sin. In a state of death in sin, the will of God is not inquired after
as the great and only influential motive to decide the will. A man in this state
has, as we say, a will of his own. He decides upon his own responsibility, in his
own strength, and entirely in view of selfish reasons. While one who is dead to sin,
has so submitted himself to the will of God--so bowed his will to God's will, that
he decides nothing in view of selfish reasons, and the will of God has come to be
the controlling reason or motive of his conduct. Let him but know what is the will
of God in the case, and his will is yielding as air. But shut him out from this knowledge,
and he is in a state of the utmost perplexity and cannot decide upon any course of
conduct. He can only say, "I have no will about it." However uncommon it
has been for Christians to come into this state while in life and health, it has
not been at all uncommon for them to be in this state while on a death bed. Every
one conversant with death bed scenes has probably witnessed such cases of entire
surrender of the whole being to the will of God, as that the individual was unable
to choose whether to live or die and could only say, "I have no will about it."
Not knowing what the will of God was there was no other choice than this, viz. that
the will of God, whatever it was, should be done. Ask an individual whether sick
or well, living or dying, who is in this state, whether he wills or chooses a certain
thing; and if it be a question in respect to which he is in doubt, as to what the
will of God is, you will find him to be entirely at a loss. He is conscious of choosing
that the will of God should be done. But until he knows whether this or that is the
will of God he has no choice about that particular event.
- 3. Death in sin implies a self-indulgent state of mind. To consult ones own ease,
happiness, reputation, and interests is natural to him who is dead in sin. If he
is on board a steam boat, you will find him ready to contend for the best berth and
hastening to obtain the best seat at the first table. If riding in a stagecoach,
you will observe him seeking for the best seat. To consult his own comfort, his own
indulgence and happiness is the law of his mind. And in ten thousand ways will this
state of mind develop itself.
But a death to sin implies a self-denying state of mind, a disposition to give
others the preference, a choosing to accommodate others, and bless, and benefit others,
at the expense of self-interest or self-indulgence.
- 4. A death in sin implies the real and practical regarding of ourselves as our
own. But death to sin is the real and practical regarding of our whole being as God's.
- 5. A death in sin implies the love of our own reputation. Death to sin implies
the making of ourselves no reputation as Christ did.
- 6. A death in sin implies the practical regarding of our possessions as our own.
Death to sin implies the real and practical regarding of our possessions as God's.
- 7. Death in sin implies the dominion of the flesh and a will in subjection to
the flesh. A death to sin implies a subjection of the body to the soul. It implies
the keeping the body under and bringing it into subjection, and that all its appetites
and propensities are brought into subjection to the will of God.
- 8. A death in sin implies a state of mind that is influenced by sensible objects,
by the honors, riches, opinions, and things of this world as much as if its possessor
expected to live here forever. Death to sin implies the giving up the world substantially
as a dying man gives it up. Its riches, honors, amusements, pursuits, ambition, strifes,
and envyings, what are all these to him? If he knows himself to be a dying man, he
regards them not. He desires them not. He seeks them not. He does not, cannot, under
these circumstances, will to have them. He chooses nothing of this world's goods,
but those things that are really necessary for the few hours or moments which remain
to him of this life. A little more breath--perhaps a few spoons full of water--a
little of the kind attention of his friends are all that is left for him to desire
of earthly good. Now death to sin implies this giving up all desire and expectation
of the wealth, honors, and selfish pursuits of this world. The man who is dead to
sin is as absolutely satisfied with a competency of earthly good as a man is who
is on a bed of death. He would no sooner lay his schemes of earthly aggrandizement,
or for enlarging and perpetuating his selfish gratification, than a man would upon
a bed of death. In a word, he has given up the world as an object of pursuit, as
really and emphatically as if he knew himself to be doomed to live but one hour.
He has entered upon a new and eternal life. All his plans, desires, and aims are
heavenly, and not earthly, sensual or devilish.
V. How this death is effected, or how persons may enter into and exercise this
state of mind.
- 1. Not by the strength of your own resolutions. You will never die to sin by
merely resolving to die to sin. It is one of the most common delusions among men
to suppose that they can stand against temptation by the strength of their own resolutions.
Peter thought himself able to follow Christ even unto death. But his resolution,
like all mere human resolutions, failed him just when he most needed its support.
A brother said to me the other day, "I have learned this of my resolutions;
they are firm enough when there is nothing to overthrow them, and just when I do
not need their support. But they always fail me when I do, just when I have a trial
that demands their sustaining power, I find they are like air and good for nothing."
- 2. This state of mind is never to be entered into by any unaided efforts of our
own. Sin has too long had dominion over us. Our powers are too much enslaved by its
protracted indulgence. Sin has too long been our master, to be at once put down by
any unaided efforts of ours. But,
- 3. This state of mind is effected by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism
of the Spirit does not imply the bestowment of miraculous gifts, as some seem to
have supposed. The Apostles possessed miraculous gifts before they were baptized
with the Holy Spirit. The power of miracles may or may not be incidental to spiritual
baptism. But it, by no means, constitutes any part of it. Nor does spiritual baptism
imply great excitement.
But it does imply such a degree of divine influence as will purify the heart.
The New Testament writers manifestly use the term baptism as synonymous with purifying.
Water baptism is typical of spiritual baptism. Spiritual baptism is the purifying
of the heart by the Holy Spirit. Miraculous gifts, great excitement of mind, great
rejoicings, or great sorrowings over sin, may be incidental to spiritual baptism,
but they are not essential to it. You that have read the memoir of J. B. Taylor will
recollect that on the 23rd of April 1822, while he was engaged in prayer, he felt
his whole soul sweetly yielding itself up to God. Such a sweet thorough yielding
himself and all his interests for time and eternity, into the hands of God he had
never before experienced. Now I suppose that this was the effect of the baptism of
the Holy Spirit. He ever after remained in a state of mind entirely different from
anything he had before experienced.
In receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we are by no means passive but eminently
This influence is secured by faith. Faith in Christ throws the mind open to the influence
of His truth and gives the Spirit the opportunity of so presenting truth as sweetly
to bring the entire person under its whole power. Christ administers spiritual blessings,
and this is received by taking hold of His promise to baptize with the Holy Spirit,
and throwing the mind open to His influences. The baptism of the Apostles, by the
Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, will illustrate what I mean. Christ had promised
them that they should be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence. They
fastened upon this promise, and waited in a constant attitude of prayer and expectation,
throwing the door of the mind open to His influence. Now Christ has given to all
believers a great many promises of the freeness of the Holy Spirit. He has said that
the "Father is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him than
earthly parents are to give good gifts to their children." The "water of
life" which is so abundantly promised in both the New and Old Testaments is
the Holy Spirit. This everyone knows who has attentively considered the real meaning
of those promises.
And now if you would enter into this death to sin, you must be baptized with the
Holy Spirit. If you would be baptized with the Holy Spirit, you must fasten upon
the promises of Christ and take hold of them in faith, laying your whole soul open
to receive His influences. Rest with the utmost confidence in His promise to give
you of the "fountain of water of life freely." And when you have taken
hold of His promise, be sure not to let go or let your confidence to be shaken until
you feel a consciousness that "you are baptized into His death."
1. In the connection of this text, Paul speaks of himself and others as dead to and
freed from sin.
2. If death to sin does not imply entire sanctification, death in sin does not imply
total depravity, for they are manifestly opposite states of mind.
3. As death in sin is consistent with persons doing many things which the world regards
as righteous, so death to sin may be consistent with many things which the world
would regard as sinful.
4. Paul's history confirms the profession which he here makes of being dead to sin.
5. The circumstances of the primitive Church rendered a death to sin almost inevitable,
at least in many instances. The profession of attachment to Christ must inevitably
cost many of them all that the world holds or calls dear. They had to enter upon
the Christian life by a renunciation of the world, by giving up worldly expectations
and pursuits, as much as men do on a bed of death. This state of public sentiment
was eminently calculated to facilitate their entrance into a state of spiritual death,
and was no doubt a prime reason for their rapid advancement in the divine life.
6. We see why it is that state and other violent persecutions have already greatly
contributed to the spirituality of the Church.
7. We see also why it is that state and worldly favor has crippled the energies,
and overthrown the purity of the Church.
8. We see how the idea comes to be so prevalent that Christians are not wholly sanctified
until death. As a matter of fact, this no doubt generally is true, that Christians
are not wholly and permanently sanctified until about the close of life, until they
come into that state in which they expect very soon to die. I once knew a good man
who was told by his physicians, that in consequence of the enlargement of the large
blood vessel near the heart, he was exposed to instant death, and that at all events
he must expect to die very soon. This intelligence after the first shock was over,
was instrumental in baptizing him into the death of Christ. He very soon entered
into a most blessed and heavenly state of mind, let go of the world, and seemed to
stand looking and waiting with most heavenly serenity for the coming of the Son of
Man. In this state of mind, he was informed after a while, that he might probably
live for a long time, notwithstanding his disease. This so staggered him as to well
nigh bring him again into bondage. Not seeming to understand the philosophy of the
state of mind in which he was, and how to remain in it by simple faith, he staggered
and groaned under this intelligence till Christ, true to His promise, interposed
and set his feet upon eternal rock. After this he lived and died to the wonder of
all those around him, few if any of whom perhaps, so much as dreamed that his state
of mind was what is intended by a death to sin.
9. Payson and multitudes of good men have found it easy to enter into this state
of mind when all expectation was relinquished of remaining longer in this world.
But it seems impossible or difficult for most persons to conceive, that this state
of mind may be really entered into, with a prospect of any amount of life still before
10. But there is no need of waiting until the close of life before we die to sin.
We have only to thoroughly let go of all selfish schemes and projects whatever, and
give ourselves as absolutely up to the service of God, as much as we expect to when
we come to die, and we enter at once into this infinitely desirable state of mind.
11. If persons have entered into this state of mind, new trials may call for fresh
baptisms of the Spirit. While we are in this world of temptation, we are never beyond
the reach of sin and never out of danger. If selfishness could be called into exercise
in holy Adam, how much more so in those who have lived so long under the dominion
of selfishness? If a man has been intemperate or licentious although these appetites
and propensities may be subdued, yet it behooves him to keep out of temptation's
way; and renewed temptation calls for fresh and more powerful baptisms of the Holy
Spirit. Be not satisfied then with one anointing. But look day by day for deeper
draughts of the water of life.
12. If we allow any form of sin to live, it will have dominion. It must be wholly
exterminated or it will be our ruler. The principle of total abstinence in regard
to sin is wholly indispensable to the reign of spiritual life.
Let us then, beloved, not rest satisfied until we are conscious that we are dead
and buried, by spiritual baptism into Christ's death, until we are planted in the
likeness of His death; and so crucified with Him that the body of death is fully
of easily misunderstood terms as defined by Mr. Finney himself.
Compiled by Katie Stewart
- Complacency, or Esteem: "Complacency, as a state of will or heart,
is only benevolence modified by the consideration or relation of right character
in the object of it. God, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and saints, in all ages, are
as virtuous in their self-denying and untiring labours to save the wicked, as they
are in their complacent love to the saints." Systematic Theology (LECTURE
VII). Also, "approbation of the character of its object. Complacency is
due only to the good and holy." Lectures to Professing Christians (LECTURE
- Disinterested Benevolence: "By disinterested benevolence I do not
mean, that a person who is disinterested feels no interest in his object of pursuit,
but that he seeks the happiness of others for its own sake, and not for the sake
of its reaction on himself, in promoting his own happiness. He chooses to do good
because he rejoices in the happiness of others, and desires their happiness for its
own sake. God is purely and disinterestedly benevolent. He does not make His creatures
happy for the sake of thereby promoting His own happiness, but because He loves their
happiness and chooses it for its own sake. Not that He does not feel happy in promoting
the happiness of His creatures, but that He does not do it for the sake of His own
gratification." Lectures to Professing Christians (LECTURE I).
- Divine Sovereignty: "The sovereignty of God consists in the independence
of his will, in consulting his own intelligence and discretion, in the selection
of his end, and the means of accomplishing it. In other words, the sovereignty of
God is nothing else than infinite benevolence directed by infinite knowledge."
Systematic Theology (LECTURE LXXVI).
- Election: "That all of Adam's race, who are or ever will be saved,
were from eternity chosen by God to eternal salvation, through the sanctification
of their hearts by faith in Christ. In other words, they are chosen to salvation
by means of sanctification. Their salvation is the end- their sanctification is a
means. Both the end and the means are elected, appointed, chosen; the means as really
as the end, and for the sake of the end." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LXXIV).
- Entire Sanctification: "Sanctification may be entire in two senses:
(1.) In the sense of present, full obedience, or entire consecration to God; and,
(2.) In the sense of continued, abiding consecration or obedience to God. Entire
sanctification, when the terms are used in this sense, consists in being established,
confirmed, preserved, continued in a state of sanctification or of entire consecration
to God." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LVIII).
- Moral Agency: "Moral agency is universally a condition of moral obligation.
The attributes of moral agency are intellect, sensibility, and free will." Systematic
Theology (LECTURE III).
- Moral Depravity: "Moral depravity is the depravity of free-will,
not of the faculty itself, but of its free action. It consists in a violation of
moral law. Depravity of the will, as a faculty, is, or would be, physical, and not
moral depravity. It would be depravity of substance, and not of free, responsible
choice. Moral depravity is depravity of choice. It is a choice at variance with moral
law, moral right. It is synonymous with sin or sinfulness. It is moral depravity,
because it consists in a violation of moral law, and because it has moral character."
Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXVIII).
- Human Reason: "the intuitive faculty or function of the intellect...
it is the faculty that intuits moral relations and affirms moral obligation to act
in conformity with perceived moral relations." Systematic Theology (LECTURE
- Retributive Justice: "Retributive justice consists in treating every
subject of government according to his character. It respects the intrinsic merit
or demerit of each individual, and deals with him accordingly." Systematic
Theology (LECTURE XXXIV).
- Total Depravity: "Moral depravity of the unregenerate is without
any mixture of moral goodness or virtue, that while they remain unregenerate, they
never in any instance, nor in any degree, exercise true love to God and to man."
Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXVIII).
- Unbelief: "the soul's withholding confidence from truth and the God
of truth. The heart's rejection of evidence, and refusal to be influenced by it.
The will in the attitude of opposition to truth perceived, or evidence presented."
Systematic Theology (LECTURE LV).
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Oberlin Evangelist": Finney:
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