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Phila delphia > The Joy of God's Salvation by Charles G. Finney from "The Oberlin Evangelist"

The Oberlin Evangelist

Lecture V
The Joy of God's Salvation

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 13, 1849

Lecture V.

by the Rev. C. G. Finney

Text.--Psa. 51:12: "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation."

In speaking from these words, I shall,

I. Show what the Psalmist prayed for.

II. Why he prayed for it.

III. The essential elements of such a prayer.

IV. What is implied in offering such a prayer acceptably.

I. Our first enquiry respects the elements which enter into the Christian's joy, or in other words, the joy of God's salvation.

It is pertinent to observe here that there are elements in this joy which belong not to the holy joy of beings who have never sinned. The saved sinner has some forms of joy that the unfallen angel has not and can not have. From this I do not infer that the sinful, when saved, are more happy than the sinless who have never needed salvation. I only say that the joy of each has elements in it which are unlike those of the other, and this every one must see who enters at all into the peculiar circumstances and state of mind of each class.

The words of our text are found in what is called David's penitential psalm. This psalm, as the caption states and as the scope sufficiently shows, was written with reference to David's great sin in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah. It may have been written at the very time of his being rebuked by Nathan, and of his becoming penitent, as the caption of the psalm would seem to indicate; or if written sometime, more or less, afterwards, it was evidently in recollection of those scenes; so that we must regard these circumstances as being the occasion of the prayer in our text.

Our question now is--What are the principal ingredients or elements of this state of mind?

This love of complacency is a state of the sensibility as opposed to any action of the will. It consists substantially in emotions of pleasure and delight in God and in his ways and works, and differs essentially from the love of benevolence. It is one of the elements of a forgiven sinner's joy.

II. Why should this blessing be sought in prayer?

On the other hand, a single joyous-hearted Christian is a priceless blessing in a family. To have one such Christian in each household who should be so full of the joys of God's salvation that he could not help speaking it out on all fit occasions--this would be like planting a well-spring of water in every acre of earth's desert sands. How soon would the wilderness rejoice and blossom as the rose! How often has one such Christian set a whole community on fire with desire to get rid of their darkness and come forth into God's glorious light!

Sinners know that their own joy is a mean affair. Hence, when they see the Christian's joy, they can not help contrasting it with their own, and the result can scarcely fail of revealing to them their own wretched state.

These struggles of the sinner for joy are indeed altogether selfish. My prayers at the time alluded to were so; but yet they were useful, for they served to enforce conviction of the value of religion and of the worthlessness of everything short of it. The Psalmist understood the value of Christian joy. "Restore unto me," said he, "the joy of they salvation; then will I teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee." He knew this would make a powerful impression on their minds, for good.

In saying this I would not be understood to imply that Christians never have trials and sorrows; they will have them doubtless; but even in these very trials and sorrows, how precious will be the joys of God's salvation to their souls!

Especially is this joy of God's salvation indispensable to one who preaches the gospel! A man might preach something without it; but not the gospel. He might deliver moral essays, or might contend valiantly for his polemic creed; but as for preaching the vital matters of salvation, how can he if he knows nothing about them by experience? He needs such faith as brings peace; such communion of soul with God as necessarily brings joy of heart. And this is something more than being penitent; of course something more than being merely pious. The Psalmist knew that he was penitent, and yet he knew also that he needed something more. God had not yet revealed the light of his own face. Hence, when he had confessed and humbled himself before God, it still remained that he should pray--"Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation." David had known well what it was to be full of joy before God. He had danced for joy with all his might before the ark of the Lord, and often we find him preparing songs of joy and praise; but now, alas, his harp is silent and all unstrung! He has sinned grievously against God; a thick cloud has come over his soul; and though he has confessed, yet still he has occasion to pray--"Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation." Why does he want these joys? Because without them he can not reach transgressors to any good purpose. What Christian does not know how to sympathize with David in this state of mind? Who has not known experimentally the state of those who have sinned, confessed, but still have the greatest occasion to ask God to restore to them the lost joys of His salvation? The soul cries out--"Lord, how can I live, shut out in darkness from thee? O, if thou canst, wilt thou not reveal thy reconciled face and restore again those lost joys of thy salvation?"

III. The conditions upon which this prayer can be answered.

Again, an entire renunciation of self is a condition. Whoever does not renounce himself, cannot have this joy.

Again, subdued appetites and passions are essential; for while these are clamoring for indulgence, it is utterly impossible for the soul to experience the joys of God's salvation.

IV. What is implied in offering such a prayer acceptably?

Especially is it important that this prayer be not selfish. The soul must be consecrated to God, fully purposed to use the blessing if obtained, and if not obtained, yet to use everything it has, for the glory of God and the highest good of man. So David felt. "Then will I teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee." There is the greatest danger in asking for spiritual joy, that our hearts will be merely selfish in it, instead of disinterestedly seeking to glorify God in all things, and even with the religious joy and peace which He may graciously impart to us.

If God fills your cup you must be willing to pass it round and let all others be refreshed from the same fountain. Show them where the fountain is, and how good its waters are. They do not know much about these things, and they need such hints as you can easily give them, if your own heart is full of that divine joy.


1. Many professors of religion know nothing of the joys of God's salvation. I recollect to have been impressed with this long before my conversion. At that time I was in the habit of conversing with Christians about their own experience. Having much curiosity on this subject I felt free to inquire about it and took frequent opportunities to do so. It was with me then, a matter of speculation, being then, as now, much struck with the apparent fact that so few Christians had much real joy in God. The impression was often made on my mind that most Christians were wretched, unhappy, muttering, grumbling, and full of trouble. Hence the conviction ripened more and more on my mind that they had little or no real joy in God. They might have repented of sin, and lost their burden at the cross; but yet they seemed not to know much if anything about the joys of God's salvation. On this subject they were generally dumb, having little or nothing to say of the salvation of God, and the light of His countenance.

2. A great many professors of religion seem not to care for this blessing. Scrambling after dress or money; as anxious after worldly good as if there were no other good for them to seek; as anxious for this world as if God had told them to seek first the kingdom of this world and its good things; so they press on, running to this concert, to that show or party of pleasure, always lusting after something sensual and worldly;--such are their pursuits, and such of course is their character. They had much rather go to a circus than into their closet, or to a prayer meeting. They cannot imagine how any man can wish to go like Francis Xavier into his closet, and spend seven hours at once in such deep and holy communion with God that his countenance glowed like an angel's; they can form no just conception of the attractiveness of such a scene and of such employments.

3. When a Christian has really tasted this joy in God, and then subsequently has been deprived of it, he will go with his head bowed down like a bulrush. He looks as if he had lost all the friends he ever had. Having once drank of the sweet waters of life, O how insipid are the draughts of earthly joy! I do not mean to imply by this that Christians cannot enjoy earthly things. They can. None can enjoy earthly good with half so solid a relish as they when they can have God in all their earthly good, and take all as His gift, and from His hand. But let a man who has experienced these joys, once get away from God, away into sin as David did, and his peace and joy are spoiled; he looks ashamed before God and before men; he cannot hold up his head. If you meet him in a Christian spirit, he cannot look you in the face, especially if you show him that your heart is full of the joys of God's salvation. How often have I seen this; and so probably have many of you. Look around you. There is a professed Christian, fallen into sin. Let one arise before him, full of the joys of God's salvation, and Oh, how self-condemned he is; how full of agony and trouble! Poor man; he is far from God and can find no rest there.

4. Some persons care just enough for these joys to pray for them selfishly, but in no other way. Most of you who are present today will recollect that I stated a fact here some weeks since which may apply well here. A man with whom I was boarding in a season of revival, being greatly troubled about his own spiritual state, said to me--"What would you think of a man who prays for the Spirit of God week after week, but never gets it?" My reply was, "I should think the man prayed selfishly. I presume that is all the trouble. The devil might pray for spiritual joy in the very same way--his only end being his own spiritual enjoyment. The Psalmist, said I, did not pray so. He did indeed pray that God would restore to him the lost joys of his salvation; but his motives in it were not selfish; no, for he adds--'Then will I teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee.'" This seemed to the man a hard saying, and he went away, as he afterwards told me, in great anger, and prayed that God would kill him. A little more thought however, together with the melting power of the Spirit, subdued him, and he became as docile and humble as a lamb.

So it often happens that men want God to meet their selfishness; and when they find He does not, they have often a long struggle before they really humble themselves, so as to meet God on his own ground.

5. Many think that all caring for the joy of God's salvation is necessarily selfish. They do not realize the value of this joy to the church, to God, and to the world, and hence they cannot realize that any other than selfish motives can induce Christians to pray for it. Consequently, with these views of the selfish character, they pray for it very little, if at all.

Again, few realize the importance of having this joy of the Lord in their souls. They seem not to appreciate its important bearings upon the interests of vital godliness.

Many Christians have special seasons and states of mind in which they are very desirous to have this blessing; but on the whole they are unwilling to yield up the sources of their carnal joys. They would gladly have both if they could; but since they cannot be, they cleave to the carnal, and forgo the spiritual. A most unwise, most wretched, and most guilty choice!

Again, spiritual joy often abounds when all other sources of joy are dried up. By this I do not mean that joy in God precludes all enjoyment of the world and its pleasures; for this is very far from being true. My meaning is that when worldly sources of pleasure are cut off from us or are dried up. then God comes in to fill the void with richer spiritual joys. Poverty and losses may have withdrawn from you many of the comforts of life; God can make his grace to abound so much the more, that your soul shall rejoice exceedingly in the exchange. Sickness may have robbed you of the joy which health affords; but God can make your soul prosper and be in health to such a degree that your physical loss shall be more than counterbalanced by your spiritual gain. God knows how to fill up the chasms of earthly happiness which his providence makes. Often He makes them for the very purpose apparently of filling them with the more precious material of his own spiritual blessings. He sometimes finds himself under the necessity of cutting off every source of earthly joy in order that He may shut us up utterly to Himself. When He finds us unwilling to let go of earthly idols, God leaves them to their own choice, saying--"They have loved idols and after them they will go." "They are joined to their idols; let them alone." But if we are willing to serve God, then we may find sources of spiritual joy springing up in the most barren of earth's deserts. Nothing earthly is so desolate that God cannot gladden it with the intermingled joys of his salvation.

On the other hand if you will selfishly cleave to earth, and thrust away the proffered joys of God's love, then if He would save you there remains no alternative but to scatter desolation broadcast over all your earthly joys. God will blight them if He can; and surely He who has the resources of the universe at his command can never lack the means of filling your cup with dregs of wormwood and gall. It would be the worst form of folly if you should compel your loving Father to do this as a last resort in order to save and bless your soul.

Again, very few realize how much the absence of spiritual joy and of its manifestations, will dishonor God. Few realize how great a stumbling block it is to men to see professed Christians go about with a heart all sorrowful, bowed down and hatefully selfish; no trust, or almost none, in God; no joy in the light of his countenance, and no preparation of heart for doing anything efficiently in God's service. It is a living reproach to the name of Jesus, that his people should appear thus before either their brethren or the world.

Legalists are greatly stumbled at those who possess the joy of God's salvation. Legalists are never happy in themselves; always in a strait-jacket, every muscle drawn up with a tightness never to be relaxed; they don't know about such a joyous state of mind. They see a great many things that look suspicious. When they see souls rejoicing greatly in the Lord--O they don't know about that. If a Christian's soul triumphs in his God--alas, they say to themselves, what can that mean? There is nothing like that in my religion!

There is quite too much cheerfulness often in other people's religion to suit their taste, or to tally with their own experience. Never having had any experience in such joys as those, they are greatly scandalized.

So it seems to have been with one of David's wives, when she saw him running and dancing before the ark of the Lord in the overflowings of his joy. Indeed, thought she, this looks very unbecoming for a king--for the king of Israel. Christians of a somber, heavy countenance, who have never known anything of the gladsome joy of holy love--who cannot explain to themselves even the peaceful look of the saint who is communing with God; and above all who know not the first element of his state of mind whose soul pours forth the gushing tides of its affection before God as if it could never express the half it feels--those who look on amazed at such manifestations because they know nothing of them in their own experience will doubtless be greatly stumbled. But notwithstanding all their stumbling, if this spiritual joy is sustained by a holy consistent life, it cannot fail to exert its power upon their hearts. They maybe at first offended; but soon they must see that there is both reason and reality in the peaceful joy of those who walk humbly with God. O Lord, they will be compelled to say, I don't know that experience. There is something to which I am a stranger. I must know what that is. I doubt whether my religion is worth a straw. Sure I am that it gives me no joy in the Lord like what I see in those other Christians.

Few things are a greater curse than a legal state of mind. It is often as bad as open wickedness, if not worse. Often it is such a misrepresentation of religion as makes the little children more afraid of such a religious man than of a fiend. Does he recommend religion? He could not possibly disparage and misrepresent it more than he does. Better far if he were never thought to be a Christian at all; for then his somber, morose and harsh spirit would be ascribed to its true cause--the unselfishness of his heart, and the utter absence of the gentle spirit of gospel love.

Many fail of this joy because they do not ask for it. Will you, my hearers, lose it through lack of prayer and of faith? It is too choice a blessing to be missed for such a reason.


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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