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Phila delphia > Weakness of Heart by Charles G. Finney from "The Oberlin Evangelist"

The Oberlin Evangelist

Lecture XXII
Weakness of Heart

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"
November 18, 1840

Lecture XXII.

by the Rev. C. G. Finney

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

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

In discussing this subject, I will show:

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

II. What is implied in weakness of heart.

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

IV. Some things that cause weakness of heart.

V. The remedy for weakness of heart.

VI. What is implied in strengthening the heart.

I. What is the heart.

Under this head I remark:

II. What is implied in weakness of heart.

III. Some things that are evidences of a weak heart.

IV. Causes of weakness of heart.

V. The remedy for weakness of heart.

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

VI. What is implied in strengthening the heart.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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