What Saith the Scripture?


Phila delphia > Jesus, A Savior from Sinning by Charles G. Finney from "The Oberlin Evangelist"

The Oberlin Evangelist

Lecture VI
Jesus, A Savior from Sinning

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"
April 25, 1849

Lecture VI.

by the Rev. C. G. Finney

Text.--Matt. 1:21: "Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins."

In discussing fundamentally the subject presented in the text, it is pertinent to remark,

I. That salvation from sin is the great want of humanity.

II. The facts already adduced are always assumed in the Bible.

III. Why is it that so many men are not saved at all?

IV. Why is it that so many are saved only in part?

I. That salvation from sin is the great want of humanity.

On this point there can be no mistake. Whatever else may be controverted or denied, this cannot be. Universal observation combines with universal consciousness to attest that this is a stubborn fact--salvation from sin is the great want of our sinning race. Nothing is more true than that as a race, men are sinners. All men know each other to be sinners, and of course what all know to be true of each one, and what each one knows to be true of all, must be a matter of universal knowledge.

I said, whatever else is true or is not true, this is true; that men need salvation from sin. The reason of this need is that they are sinners and as sinners, they are utterly lost to happiness, unless they can be saved from their sins. No man can be honest and yet deny this. This one truth is forever settled and known by all men.

By being saved from sin I do not mean pardon; for every man knows that pardon, without salvation from sinning, would not really save; for if a man were pardoned, but were still given up to the working of his sinful passions and selfish spirit, he would make for himself a hell even in heaven; nay more, it is undoubtedly true that heaven would be the severest form of hell to the unsaved in heart. There can be no heaven without holiness, and the change from sin to such holiness as fits for heaven is exceedingly great. A world of selfish beings thrown together anywhere would be unutterably miserable.

II. The facts already adduced are always assumed in the Bible.

Our text speaks of Jesus Christ. The angel said to Joseph; Mary "shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins."

It is said that "in Him shall all fullness dwell." "He is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him." "Who is able to do exceeding abundantly, above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us." "Who is able to keep us from falling," and "to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day."

Yet does the Bible most fully represent Him as being anxious to gain admittance--as "waiting at the door of the sinner till His head is wet with the dew and His locks with drops of the night."

O He would show us that He has the greatest desire conceivable to save us from all our sins. His heart is oppressed with sorrow and grief because sinners will not consent, and because He must therefore give them over to final ruin. Hear Him cry--"How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? My heart is turned with Me, my repentings are kindled together. O, that there were such an heart in them, and that they would consider their latter end!" In fact the Bible is full of the most earnest and affecting testimonies of this sort.

To vary the figure, He says, the door is opened to everyone that knocks. None can fail of gaining admittance who really knocks. Christ does not say that everyone who supposes himself to ask, receives; or who supposes himself to knock, shall find the door opened to Him; but everyone who really asks, receives. This is all He can be understood to mean.

III. Why is it that so many men are not saved at all?

It is a fact beyond dispute that some who hear and know the gospel, have no part or lot in its blessings. Why is this?

But the Gentiles who had no law and no self-righteousness to stand in their way, readily apprehended the gospel.

Now many persons brought up in pious families and under gospel light are in a state similar to ancient Israel. They have too much good morality and self-righteousness to come to Jesus just as if they had none at all; and yet all this time they know that their own hearts are a moral desolation.

Now this is strange indeed! As if they could perform duty without faith, and as if their duties, performed without faith, would be so acceptable to God that He would give them faith as their reward for duties wrought out in the spirit of unbelief! As if God had never said--"Whatsoever is not of faith is sin!" How marvelous that men should think to get faith by mocking God, and by sinning against God! How is it possible that men with our Bible in their hands should hope to get salvation without faith, or faith by works and without believing? Yet so it is. Instead of resting right down upon the divine promises by simple faith, they go to work to get faith by works of righteousness! Nothing can be more plain than that such persons misapprehend the gospel scheme of salvation by grace alone, through faith in a crucified Savior.

IV. Why is it that so many are saved only in part?

It is a fact too obvious to be denied or doubted that many Christians stumble and fall in their Christian course. They show that they have not thoroughly taken hold of this Jesus who saved His people from their sins. Why is this failure of real salvation?

Said a Presbyterian minister of high standing in his church--"I never heard of such a thing as this--that Christ is the sanctification of the soul!" Horrible! Horrible!! This, a leading man in the Presbyterian church, and yet has not heard that Christ is a Sanctifier of His people--seems never to have heard that Jesus "saves His people from their sins!"

This class of Christians have some notion that there is a Holy Ghost who will have some agency in sanctifying His people just at death, or just after death--somehow, and somewhere near the eventful point of death, but just how or when is certainly not made very definite in their teachings. How it is done in cases where death supervenes suddenly, or where disease arrests all sane action of the mind, I believe is not distinctly stated. Yet death is relied on as the great sanctifier! The Christian in the prospect of death is encouraged and animated with the hope that his deliverance from sin is just at hand! All this is said as confidently and solemnly as if the Bible had said, not of the child Jesus, but of death,--"Death's name shall be called Jesus--for death shall save you from your sins;" or as if God had never said--"Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord."

O how great and how prevalent is this difficulty--men apprehend Christ only in part, and seem incapable of apprehending Him in all His precious relations!

Again, many who know something about the necessity of having a pure heart, are yet seeking comfort without purity. They give themselves up to pray for comfort and happiness, while all the time they are inflicting self-torture by the indulgence of sin. They act as if they supposed that by His own arbitrary act God could make them happy and fill their souls with blessedness, while yet their hearts are full of sin; than which, no more rank delusion or essential absurdity was ever broached by mortals.

Yet again, some want to be delivered from sin because they want the personal comfort of being sanctified. Inasmuch as their desires extend not at all beyond themselves, and are hence purely selfish, there is good reason why they get so little of that blessing which they so selfishly seek.

How many times have I seen people in this state, pressed with trouble, till they actually give up all for lost, and then bethink themselves of one more last resort--just to leave themselves simply in the hands of Jesus: then salvation comes! They return to the first simple thing of the gospel--let go of self-dependency and cast themselves on Christ--or rather--drop in the sinkings of their self-despair--drop into Christ alone and there find help! Then they see the pole star of hope, peering through the darkness of their despair.

Again, many do not lay hold of Christ because they totally misapprehend the way, and are trying to do something else first. Instead of committing their whole souls to Christ, they are trying to save themselves. Hence they run hither and thither--every where else but to Christ alone. They do not seem to understand that Jesus is really the Savior from sin, and that they have only to commit themselves to Him at once, just as they are. They seem to have lost the idea that Jesus must be received for just what He is--a Savior from sin; and that they must renounce themselves and receive Him--saying--I never shall keep myself--I renounce forever the expectation of doing anything without laying hold on Thee;--Lord Jesus, hold me up; the work is Thine; I depend on Thee to do it, and on Thee alone will I rest henceforth and forever.

What Christian does not know by his own experience what it is to be thrown into circumstances of great trial, in which the soul is fully brought to say--"Lord, I can not hold myself up at all; I must sink without Thee; Lord, save, or I perish!"


1. Many have hope who are not really saved in any proper sense of the word. They are neither saved from sin now, nor will they be saved from hell hereafter.

2. No one has reason to hope for heaven any further than he is really saved from sin.

3. They who possess the religion of the gospel and yet are not sanctified, virtually bring up an evil report against the gospel. They say, "I am a Christian, but I know that I am not saved from sin. I embrace a gospel which professes to save from sin, you see in me how much its professions are worth." What must be the influence of such a testimony?

4. When a Christian commits himself to Jesus to save from sin, it is well for him to use this argument in prayer; "Lord, it will dishonor Thee if Thou dost not save me from all sin. I have trusted in Thee; I do now take hold of Thy promises; let them be fulfilled in my case, and let all men seeing what Thy grace has done for me, know Thy salvation."

5. Some seem not to have in view Christ's honor, but their own. They think they shall disgrace themselves if they do not overcome temptation; but they do not feel that the greatest evil of all is that they will thus dishonor Christ.

6. If any man will believe, he shall see no other difficulty. No obstacle can possibly be in his way to shut off the power of the gospel from his soul, when once he has embraced the sinner's Savior by a living faith.

7. The great difficulty now is for the Savior to persuade men to believe, and to cast themselves on Him by a perpetual self-renunciation and a perpetual dependence. Let me ask you, my hearers, how many of you can testify that this is the case with yourselves: that in your own individual case, Jesus has to your certain knowledge been laboring to present Himself before you in such inviting forms as should inspire faith in Himself; but He has labored almost, or perhaps altogether in vain.

8. Half-way believers are the greatest stumbling-blocks in religion. They profess to embrace Christ, and to be religious, and yet fail of having grace enough to overcome sin. O! if they would only embrace Jesus, so as to be full of His Spirit, how greatly would they honor their Lord! As it is, how earthly-minded, sensual, and devilish do they become! No wonder they are ashamed to say that Jesus is a Savior from sin. How can they bear such testimony without reading themselves out of the pale of the heirs of heaven?


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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