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

The Oberlin Evangelist

Lecture XXVI
Submission to 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"
January 20, 1841

Lecture XXVI.

by the Rev. C. G. Finney

Text.--James 4:7: "Submit yourselves therefore to God."

In continuation of this subject, I will,

III. Notice various delusions practiced by many upon themselves.

IV. Without true submission salvation is naturally impossible.

V. With true submission salvation is naturally inevitable.


1. There is no submission any farther than there is true peace and happiness. If this is true, and certainly it is self-evident, how little submission is there in the world! If all the unhappiness, vexation, and misery of earth, is owing to a want of true submission to God, then there is certainly very little true submission.

2. A submissive soul can know what it is to agonize in prayer, and can know the pain of struggling with temptation; but these are not at all inconsistent with perfect peace in God, and with that happiness that is the natural result of holiness; because this agony in prayer, and this painful struggle with temptation, are only emotions of the mind, and not at all inconsistent with the deep repose of the will in God. But, on the contrary, are evidences that the will is in a state of true submission to God. For, if the will were not in a state of submission to God, this earnest resistance would not be made to temptation. Nor would there be an agonizing struggle in the soul for the salvation of sinners.

3. No man has salvation, therefore, who is not really saved; that is--any farther than his will is subdued to the will of God. In this salvation consists; and it is in vain to talk about salvation, while that in which it consists is overlooked. Many persons entertain the hope of salvation, who self-evidently are not saved, and who, so far as human observation can go, are not likely to be saved. They are continually fretted and annoyed by the providences of God, and are never happy any farther than the providence of God favors their selfish schemes. Every thing else but vexes and displeases them. If the weather is not just as they would have it--if their business operations do not go just so as to favor their own interests--if their health and the health of their families are not in accordance with their selfish views and aims, they are rendered miserable, by what they call adverse providences of God. In short, the fact is, they have a will of their own. They have interests of their own. They have aims and ends, upon the accomplishment of which their happiness is dependent. If God's providence favors them in these respects, they are happy, and think they enjoy religion. But if otherwise, they are miserable, and think themselves to be highly virtuous if they do not go into downright open rebellion against God. They understand submission to mean nothing more than the absence of murmuring, complaining, and accusing God of wrong; and do not understand, that submission implies a delightful acquiescence, a sweet yielding, and delightful choosing, that in all respects the will of God should be done. Now it is manifest, that such persons understand salvation to consist more in a change of place, than in a change of mind--that to be taken to heaven, is to be saved--that to be pardoned is to have eternal life. But certainly this is an infinitely dreadful mistake. Heaven is a state of mind, and may be enjoyed in any world. Hence the saints, or truly submissive souls, are represented as already being in the enjoyment of eternal life. Hell, also, is a state of mind; and it does not require a change of place, to give the wicked a foretaste of the pains of hell. Why, then, talk of salvation, when you are not saved? Why talk of happiness, while you are not holy? Why hope for heaven, while you have the spirit of hell?

4. An unsubdued will is conclusive evidence of an impenitent heart; or, to speak properly, I should say, an unsubdued will is nothing else than an impenitent heart. True submission and penitence, in a sinner, are the same thing. Now there are multitudes of professors of religion, who of course profess to be penitent, while at the same time, they continually manifest a very unsubdued will. They are not submissive either to God or man. They sometimes have emotions of sorrow. They weep and pray, and confess their sins; but to yield up their own will is out of the question. They know not what submission of will is. They are kept almost in a constant state of fermentation, rasping excitement, and distress, by the providence of God, and yet suppose themselves to be penitent. What oceans of delusion exist among professors of religion upon this subject!

5. This subject shows the immense importance of teaching children, at a very early period, lessons of true and unconditional submission to parental authority. Parents should remember, that they stand to very young children in the place of God. They should lay the hand of parental authority and influence upon the will at a very early period. If their will is not early subdued, it is not likely to be subdued at all. If unconditional and sweet submission to parental authority be not early learned, it will never be learned. And if submission to parental influence be not learned, it is almost certain, that no true submission to God or man will ever be attained. I have witnessed a great many cases of protracted seriousness and distress of mind on religious subjects, when, after all, there was not, and I fear is never like to be any thing of the peace and sweetness of unconditional submission to the will of God. On inquiry, I believe that I have found it to be universally true, that lessons of submission have never been learned by such persons, in early childhood.

6. You can see from this subject, how to account for the dealings of God with many persons. They are almost continually in a course of sore discipline. They are smitten, stripe upon stripe. Now in such cases we may rest assured, that there is some good reason for this, as "God does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men." Under such chastisements, we often hear persons saying, that they cannot understand why they should be thus dealt with. They seem to think there is something very mysterious in God's dealings with them, and are ready to say, "What have I done, that I should be treated thus." Now this state of mind at once reveals the reason, and shows the necessity of such dealings on the part of God. He sees that the will is not subdued; and if you want any other reason for his dealings, than that this course of providence is agreeable to his will, this is itself a sufficient reason why he should cross and disappoint you. It is indispensable to your salvation, that you should be supremely pleased with whatever is agreeable to his will. Now whatever his providence towards you may be, if you are not supremely pleased with it, if you ask for any other reason, why He has dealt so with you, than that so it has seemed good in his sight, this shows, that you are not submissive; that you have not entire confidence in his benevolence and wisdom; and that, therefore, He must give you the reasons of his conduct, before you will fully acquiesce in what He does. This demonstrates the necessity of crossing and re-crossing your path, until you will submit. God can never make you understand all the reasons for his conduct; and unless you have sufficient confidence in Him, and are sufficiently submissive to his will, to be happy in what He does; until you can know and apprehend the reasons for his conduct--you need to be, and must be chastised, until you unconditionally submit, or else be given up and sent to hell.

7. From this subject you may see, how great a blessing it is to be chastised of God, until we do submit, and that we ought most devoutly to beseech God not to spare us until our submission is perfect.

8. You see from this subject, what to think of sinners and backsliders, who live and prosper, without providential chastisements. "Whom I love I rebuke and chasten," says Christ. "If ye are without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons." If then you are without chastisement, especially if you do not live and walk with God, do not infer, from your temporal prosperity, that God approves of your course of life, or that you are the favorite of heaven. But on the contrary, you have reason to fear, that you are given up of God; that God has abandoned you to your own ways, and left you to fill up the measure of your iniquity.

9. You see from this subject, the indispensable necessity of thorough discrimination in respect to what does and what does not constitute true Christian submission. Some persons have seemed to suppose, that true Christian submission consisted in a kind of dreamy, heartless indifference to what they call the mysterious sovereignty of God. They suppose that submission respects fore-ordination and decrees; and seem to have no idea, that true submission consists in voluntary conformity to the revealed will of God. This class of persons are never for making any efforts, to save and sanctify the souls of men. They think this is to be left with the sovereignty of God, and that submission respects rather the unrevealed, than the revealed will of God. Now it is impossible that we should submit to the unrevealed will of God, for the obvious reason, that we do not know what it is, and therefore cannot possibly submit to it. It is, therefore, a delusion, for the man who neglects scrupulously to conform himself to all the revealed will of God, to suppose himself submissive to the sovereignty of God.

10. True submission, and entire consecration, are the same thing. In other words, no man is truly submissive to God, any farther than he is consecrated to God. And it is very obvious, that there can be no true submission, unless for the time being there is universal submission. A man certainly does not submit to God, as God in one thing, who at the same time refuses submission in something else. It is possible that the same mind may be submissive at one time and not at another. But it is certainly impossible that the same mind should both submit to and rebel against God, at the same time. Present submission then is present consecration; continued submission is continued consecration, and permanent submission is permanent consecration, or sanctification to God. Do you know what this is by your own experience?


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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