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Phila delphia > The Death of Saints Precious by Charles G. Finney from "The Oberlin Evangelist"

The Oberlin Evangelist

Lecture VIII
The Death of Saints Precious

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"
June 6, 1849

Lecture VIII.

by the Rev. C. G. Finney

Text.--Psa. 116:15: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."

The sentiment of the text is clearly expressed, leaving us in no doubt as to what it is. God looks upon the death of His saints as an event of peculiar interest.

In discussing this subject I shall

I. State several reasons why the death of His saints is precious in His sight.

II. Show that the death of saints should be precious to us.

III. State some reasons why this is often not the case, and why we fail of viewing this event as God does.

I. Several reasons why the death of His saints is precious in His sight.

Let it now be considered that the infinite Father casts His eye over this whole scene. With the most intense sympathy He looks down upon the joyous surprise of the newly-arrived saint--upon the joyous sympathy of every holy angel, and upon the thrill of rapturous welcome that vibrates through every glorified saint around the throne. Is it strange then that the death of His saints is most precious in His eyes?

II. The death of saints should be precious in our sights.

He deems the death of His saints precious; shall we deem it calamitous, grievous, and evil? Why shall we not assume that God sees all events and this one of death in particular, in a far more just light than we do, so that we ought to conform our views to His, and not seem to insist that He ought to conform His to ours? Is not His view more broad and deep and in every way more perfect than ours?

III. Let us inquire, why it is that we sometimes do not consider the death of saints as precious.

To prevent any misunderstanding, let me say here that in a certain sense it cannot be regarded as unlawful to grieve over the loss of friends. Christ Himself wept over the grave of Lazarus; surely we too may give scope to our natural sensibilities which cannot but suffer when ties so dear are rent asunder. Christ knew that His disciples would grieve at His death; hence He sought to comfort them; but even this comfort did not assume that it was morally wrong for them to feel afflicted at parting with such a friend. Christians learn by their experience that the outward man may be deeply afflicted, while yet the inward man enjoys great consolation. The sensibilities bleed under the wound; but yet the joy of the Lord is such a strength to the soul that many of its tears are tears of submissive, trustful joy.

But let us now pass on to say,

In accordance with this peculiar attitude of mind, mourning friends often act as if they did not believe what the Bible says of the blessedness and glory of the saints in heaven. They may talk of what the Bible teaches on this subject; may theorize upon it, but after all may fail to believe it so that it has the power of a reality upon their hearts. In fact they do not trust their friends with God--do not give their Savior credit for faithfulness in having carefully taken His own loved children to His own bosom in the upper mansions.

When I stood by the sick-bed of this dear sister, now just gone from us, I remembered how she had often said, "I grow stronger and stronger." And I also recollect one occasion when she said in substance--"I can not conceive how I can think of earthly scenes even when I have reached heaven, and not feel anxiety about them." I told her, faith sufficed for all; she would trust God, and all would be peace. Such a smile came over her countenance as bespoke the presence, already, of the peace of heaven.

When I came to see her die, I could not but think of the blessed words of the text--"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." There she lay, in her last conflict with pain and the ills of mortality. God was just about to receive her to Himself, and to wipe away all her tears forever. O how plain to me then that the death of the saints is most precious!

This showed me my great folly and made me ashamed of my immoderate grief and my selfish regard to my own comfort and happiness. I said to myself--Shall I be thinking of my loss and not of her much greater gain? Besides, God has taken nothing from me that was really mine. My wife was not mine; she belonged to God and not to me; or if in a certain sense she belonged to me, yet she belonged in a far higher sense to God, and shall I grieve because God has taken away what was so properly His own? Can I mourn that she has gone to heaven?

But the loss experienced by the children: shall I not mourn for them? Yet what is their loss compared with her gain? And will not God take care of the children? Does not God care for these children more than I do? Yes, doubtless He does. These considerations did me immense good.

Again, some have very low and imperfect views of what death is to a saint. They reverse the Bible order of things. Whereas God says, the day of one's death is better then the day of one's birth, they reverse it, and make the day of one's death almost wholly grievous. They have very low conceptions of what heaven is, even though they may really believe in theory what the Bible reveals on this subject.

Again, many are prone to conceive of their Christian friends as gone to the grave, and scarcely think of them as being anywhere else save in the cold ground. Now so long as we take this view of their case, it can not appear precious. An event which should really commit our dear friends to the cold prison of a tomb, and to "corruption and worms," can not be rationally regarded as joyous. But we ought to know better than to think of them as laid in the ground. They are not in the grave, it is only their wasted flesh, which they have done using--which is too poor to be used longer--that is laid in the ground. Why should we mourn the burial of their wasted and worn-out bodies? We might as well gather up their old clothes and bury them with many tears and lamentations because we shall see them no more. No; our dear friends are not in the grave. They have gone to be with Jesus; "absent from the body, but present with the Lord." We are ourselves much more properly in the grave than they.


1. It is very useful for us to follow the departed saint to the world above. I am sensible that I have greatly failed in this respect. Since my frequent loss of dear friends has drawn me to think of this, it has been greatly blessed to me. Since I came here to reside, you know I have buried my father, my mother, and a sister; a little daughter; my son-in-law--and my dear wife. These repeated deaths have made me familiar with the thoughts of heaven, and with all that appertains to death as the passage thither. My experience has thoroughly taught me the value of such influences, drawing the mind away from earth and constraining it to hold communion with the eternal world. This deep communion with heaven and heavenly things disrobes death of all terror, and makes it look in every aspect of it, glorious. It has been so in my own case. During my sickness more than a year ago, when for some days I was brought to look upon death as probably near at hand, I found that death in all its aspects was not only not dreadful, but was even altogether desirable. If I thought of leaving my friends, I knew God would take care of them. The pangs of dying were no longer terrible. The thought of being dead was wholly pleasant. There was nothing to fear; everything to desire. Not one aspect of death, or anything connected with it gave me a single pang. How it will be with me when I shall come to die, I can not say; but in that sickness, I was able to appreciate how it might seem to look right into the scenes of dying and entering the eternal world. Then I could close my eyes and seem to lose myself--fully aware that not improbably my next consciousness might be in the eternal state.

2. It is very profitable for us to refuse to pity ourselves and dwell on our own loss. From the time I have alluded to, when the Lord showed me how I ought to rejoice in the perfect blessedness of my departed wife, I refused to pity myself. I said--"Let me rather rejoice that God has saved one whom I so much loved, and has removed her at once and forever away from all pain and sorrow." Shall I not rejoice that she has gone and taken possession of heaven itself? Why not? Could I wish for her greater blessedness than this?

3. If our faith in the gospel be consistent and intelligent, it will lead us to look upon such events as this without murmuring, and without ever counting such events as on the whole sad and painful. Yet let me say, this state of profoundest resignation and this regarding the death of the saints as truly precious, is not inconsistent with human tears and human sighs. Even in repentance there is joy. So when saints die, though we mourn, yet in the depths of our souls we may have the joy of heaven. We may sympathize strongly with our earthly relatives and friends, and yet have the joy of heaven in our souls. Jesus Himself knew how to sympathize with afflicted, bereaved friends, and we may well thank Him for giving us this precious fact on scripture record, for our consolation down through all time. O how many hearts have been comforted by the sweet record of those sympathizing tears at the grave of Lazarus! Our sympathies may be far less deep and pure than His; yet it is good even for us to learn how to sympathize with afflicted friends. I have found it to be so. Within a few years I have lost friends in every form of relationship; parent, child, sister and wife; and now I find it a luxury to mingle my tears with those who are in any similar affliction. It seems to renew the bonds that bind us together as social beings, and to renew them, moreover, under circumstances well-adapted to make them more tender and hallowed than ever before.

Finally, if the death of saints is precious to God, let it be also to us. If God is pleased and happy in this event, shall we not sympathize with Him? What better thing could God have done for them than He has done? And now shall we not sympathize with Him, and rejoice also with Him, and bless His name for His great mercies to our friends? Surely not to do so is nearly equivalent to refusing to thank God for heaven! Shall we be so ungrateful as to overlook the great gift of a blessed immortality? Shall we act as if God ought to let us live here forever; or ought to keep our friends here as long as we ourselves live; or ought to have provided some better mode of transit from earth to heaven than death? Let us beware how we take exceptions, even impliedly, to God's dealings!


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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