What Saith the Scripture?


Phila delphia > REVIVAL LECTURES by Charles G. Finney (page 2 of 5)



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Charles G. Finney

A Voice from the Philadelphian Church Age

  Wisdom is Justified

by Charles Grandison Finney

"REVIVAL LECTURES" in 5 html pages-

LECTURES 1-5 of page 1 ---New Window

LECTURES 6-10 of page 2 (this page)

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Table of Contents
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What Spirit is spoken of in the passage: "The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities" - What that Spirit does for us - Why He does what the text declares Him to do - How He accomplishes it - The degrees of His influences - How His influences are to be distinguished from the influences of evil spirits - Who have a right to expect His influences.

Individuals may have the Spirit of God - It is their duty to be filled with the Spirit - Why the Spirit is not obtained - The guilt of those who have not the Spirit of God - The consequences of having the Spirit. - The consequences that will follow not having the Spirit.

The design of prayer meetings - The manner of conducting them - Several things that will defeat the design of holding them.

On what particular points Christians are to testify for God - The manner in which they are to testify.

Are you still there? We still have never received a check from you. Is this a mistake or is it sin? How Christians should deal with careless sinners - How they should deal with awakened sinners, and with convicted sinners.

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Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. - Romans 8:26, 27.

My last Lecture but one was on the subject of Effectual Prayer; in which I observed that one of the most important attributes of effectual or prevailing prayer is FAITH. This was so extensive a subject that I reserved it for a separate discussion. And accordingly my last Lecture was on the subject of Faith in Prayer, or, as it is termed, the Prayer of Faith. It was my intention to discuss the subject in a single Lecture. But as I was under the necessity of condensing so much on some points, it occurred to me, and was mentioned by others, that there might be some questions which people would ask, that ought to be answered more fully, especially as the subject is one on which there is so much darkness. One grand design in preaching is to exhibit the truth in such a way as to answer the questions which would naturally arise in the minds of those who read the Bible with attention, and who want to know what it means, so that they can put it in practice. In explaining the text, I propose to show:

I. What Spirit is here spoken of: "The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities."

II. What that Spirit does for us.

III. Why He does what the text declares Him to do.

IV. How He accomplishes it.

V. The degree in which He influences the minds of those who are under His influence.

VI. How His influences are to be distinguished from the influences of evil spirits. or from the suggestions of our own minds.

VII. How we are to obtain this agency of the Holy Spirit.

VIII. Who have a right to expect to enjoy His influences in this matter - or for whom the Spirit does the things spoken of in the text.


Some have supposed that the Spirit spoken of in the text means our own spirit - our own mind. But a little attention to the text will show plainly that this is not the meaning. "The Spirit helpeth our infirmities" would then read, "Our own spirit helpeth the infirmities of our own spirit" - and "Our own spirit maketh intercession for our own spirit." You can make no sense of it on that supposition. It is evident from the manner in which the text is introduced that the Spirit referred to is the Holy Ghost.

"For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:13-16). And the text is plainly speaking of the same Spirit.


He intercedes for the saints. "He maketh intercession for us," and "helpeth our infirmities," when "we know not what to pray for as we ought." He helps Christians to pray "according to the will of God," or for the things that God desires them to pray for.


Because of our ignorance. Because we know not what we should pray for as we ought. We are so ignorant both of the will of God, revealed in the Bible, and of His unrevealed will, as we ought to learn it from His providence.

Mankind are vastly ignorant both of the promises and prophecies of the Bible, and blind to the providence of God. And they are still more in the dark about those points of which God has said nothing but through the leadings of His Spirit. I have named these four sources of evidence on which to ground faith in prayer - promises, prophecies, providences, and the Holy Spirit. When all other means fail of leading us to the knowledge of what we ought to pray for, the Spirit does it.


In what mode does He operate, so as to help our infirmities?

When the Spirit brings the truth before a man's mind there is only one way in which he can keep from deep feeling. That is, by turning away his thoughts, and leading his mind to think of other things. Sinners, when the Spirit of God brings the truth before them, must feel. They feel wrong, as long as they remain impenitent. So, if a man is a Christian, and the Holy Spirit brings the subject into warm contact with his heart, it is just as impossible he should not feel as it is that your hand should not feel if you put it into the fire. If the Spirit of God leads a man to dwell on things calculated to excite overpowering feelings regarding the salvation of souls, and he is not excited thereby, it proves that he has no love for souls, nothing of the Spirit of Christ, and knows nothing about Christian experience.
Because they are so blind to what hell is, so unbelieving about the Bible, so ignorant of the precious promises which God has made to faithful parents. They grieve the Spirit of God away - and it is in vain to make them pray for their children, while the Spirit of God is away from them.
It is wonderful that in no age have Christians been able fully to apply the promises of Scripture to the events of life, as they go along. This is not because the promises themselves are obscure. But there has always been a wonderful disposition to overlook the Scriptures, as a source of light respecting the passing events of life. How astonished the apostles were at Christ's application of so many prophecies to Himself! They seemed to be continually ready to exclaim: "Astonishing! Can it be so? We never understood it before!" Who, that has witnessed the manner in which the apostles, influenced and inspired by the Holy Ghost, applied passages of the Old Testament to Gospel times, has not been amazed at the richness of meaning which they found in the Scriptures? So it has been with many a Christian; while deeply engaged in prayer he has seen that passages of Scripture are appropriate which he never thought of before as having any such application.

I once knew an individual who was in great spiritual darkness. He had retired for prayer, resolved that he would not desist till he had found the Lord. He kneeled down and tried to pray. All was dark, and he could not pray. He rose from his knees, and stood awhile; but he could not give it up, for he had promised that he would not let the sun go down before he had given himself to God. He knelt again; but was all dark, and his heart was as hard as before. He was nearly in despair, and said in agony: "I have grieved the Spirit of God away, and there is no promise for me. I am shut out from the presence of God." But his resolution was formed not to give over, and again he knelt down. He had said but a few words when this passage came into his mind, as fresh as if he had just read it: "Ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13). He saw that though this promise was in the Old Testament, and addressed to the Jews, it was still as applicable to him as to them. And it broke his heart, like the hammer of the Lord, in a moment.

And he prayed, and rose up happy in God.

Thus it often happens when professors of religion are praying for their children. Sometimes they pray, and are in darkness and doubt, feeling as if there were no foundation for faith, and no special promises for the children of believers. But while they have been pleading, God has shown them the full meaning of some promise, and their soul has rested on it as on His mighty arm. I once heard of a widow who was greatly exercised about her children, till this passage was brought powerful to her mind: "Thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let Thy widows trust in Me" (Jeremiah 49:11). She saw it had an extended meaning, and she was enabled to lay hold of it, as it were, with her hands. She prevailed in prayer, and her children were converted. The Holy Spirit was sent into the world by the Savior to guide His people, and instruct them and bring things to their remembrance, as well as to convince the world of sin.
Here the agency of the Spirit comes in to lead the minds of God's people to pray for those individuals, and at those times, when God is prepared to bless them. When we know not what to pray for, the Holy Spirit leads the mind to dwell on some object, to consider its situation, to realize its value, and to feel for it, and pray, and "travail in birth," till the person is converted. This sort of experience, I know, is less common in cities than it is in some parts of the country, because of the infinite number of things which in cities divert the attention and grieve the Spirit.

I have had much opportunity to know how it has been in some districts. I was acquainted with an individual who used to keep a list of persons for whom he was especially concerned; and I have had the opportunity to know a multitude of persons, for whom he became thus interested, who were immediately converted. I have seen him pray for persons on his list when he was literally in an agony for them; and have sometimes known him call on some other person to help him pray for such a one. I have known his mind to fasten thus on an individual of hardened, abandoned character, and who could not be reached in any ordinary way. In a town in a north part of this State, where there was a revival, there was a certain individual who was a most violent and outrageous opposer. He kept a tavern, and used to delight in swearing at a desperate rate, whenever there were Christians within hearing, on purpose to hurt their feelings. He was so bad that one man said he believed he should have to sell his place, or give it away, and move out of town, for he could not live near a man who swore so. This good man of whom I was speaking passed through the town, and, hearing of the case, was very much grieved and distressed for the individual. He took him on his praying list. The case weighed on his mind when he was asleep and when he was awake. He kept thinking about the ungodly man, and praying for him for days. And, the first we knew of it, the tavern keeper came into a meeting, got up and confessed his sins, and poured out his soul. His barroom immediately became the place where they held prayer meetings. In this manner the Spirit of God leads individual Christians to pray for things which they would not pray for, unless they were led by the Spirit; and thus they pray for things "according to the will of God."

Great evil has been done by saying that this kind of influence amounts to a new revelation. Many people will be so afraid of it, if they hear it called a new revelation, that they will not stop to inquire what it means, or whether the Scriptures teach it or not. The plain truth of the matter is, that the Spirit leads a man to pray; and if God leads a man to pray for an individual, the inference from the Bible is, that God designs to save that individual. If we find, by comparing our state of mind with the Bible, that we are led by the Spirit to pray for an individual, we have good evidence to believe that God is prepared to bless him.
There was a woman in New Jersey, in a place where there had been a revival. She was very positive there was going to be another. She wanted to have "conference meetings" appointed. But the minister and elders saw nothing to encourage it, and would do nothing. She saw they were blind, and so she went forward, and got a carpenter to make seats for her, for she said she would have meetings in her own house; there was certainly going to be a revival. She had scarcely opened her doors for meetings, before the Spirit of God came down with great power, and these sleepy Church members found themselves surrounded all at once with convicted sinners.

They could only say: "Surely the Lord is in this place; and we knew it not" (Genesis 28:16). The reason why such persons as this praying woman understand the indication of God's will is not because of the superior wisdom that is in them, but because the Spirit of God leads them to see the signs of the times. And this, not by revelation; but they are led to see that converging of providences to a single point which produces in them a confident expectation of a certain result.


In what degree are we to expect the Spirit of God to affect the minds of believers? The text says: "The Spirit maketh intercession with groanings that cannot be uttered." The meaning of this I understand to be, that the Spirit excites desires too great to be uttered except by groans - making the soul too full to utter its feelings by words, so that the person can only groan them out to God, who understands the language of the heart.


How are we to know whether it is the Spirit of God that influences our minds, or not?

We are not to expect to feel our minds in direct physical contact with God.

If such a thing can be, we know of no way in which it can be made sensible. We know that we exercise our minds freely, and that our thoughts are exercised on something that excites our feelings. But we are not to expect a miracle to be wrought, as if we were led by the hand, sensibly, or like something whispered in the ear, or any miraculous manifestation of the will of God.

Individuals often grieve the Spirit away, because they do not harbor Him and cherish His influences. Sinners often do this ignorantly. They suppose that if they were under conviction by the Spirit, they should have such-and-such mysterious feelings - a shock would come upon them which they could not mistake. Many Christians are so ignorant of the Spirit's influences, and have thought so little about having His assistance in prayer, that when they have such influences they do not know it, and so do not yield to them, and cherish them. We are sensible of nothing in the case, only the movement of our own minds. There is nothing else that can be felt. We are merely sensible that our thoughts are intensely employed on a certain subject.

Christians are often unnecessarily misled and distressed on this point, for fear they have not the Spirit of God. They feel intensely, but they know not what makes them feel. They are distressed about sinners; but should they not be distressed, when they think of their condition? They keep thinking about them all the time, and why should they not be distressed?

Now the truth is, that the very fact that you are thinking upon them is evidence that the Spirit of God is leading you. Do you not know that the greater part of the time these things do not affect you so? The greater part of the time you do not think much about the case of sinners. You know their salvation is always equally important. But at other times, even when you are quite at leisure, your mind is entirely dark, and vacant of any feeling for them. But now, although you may be busy about other things, you think, you pray, and feel intensely for them, even while you are about business that at other times would occupy all your thoughts. Now, almost every thought you have is: "God have mercy upon them!" Why is this?

Why, their case is placed in a strong light before your mind. Do you ask what it is that leads your mind to exercise benevolent feelings for sinners, and to agonize in prayer for them? What can it be but the Spirit of God?

There are no devils that would lead you so. If your feelings are truly benevolent, you are to consider it as the Holy Spirit leading you to pray for things according to the will of God.
The Bible commands you to "try the spirits." "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God" (1 John 4-1).


He replied that "he wanted to be happy." He knew those who had the Spirit were happy, and he wanted to enjoy his mind as they did. Why, the devil himself might pray so! That is mere selfishness. The man, when this was shown him, at first turned away in anger. He saw that he had never known what it was to pray. He was convinced he was a hypocrite, and that his prayers were all selfish, dictated only by a desire for his own happiness. David prayed that God would uphold him by His free Spirit, that he might teach transgressors and turn sinners to God. A Christian should pray for the Spirit that he may be the more useful and glorify God more; not that he himself may be more happy. This man saw clearly where he had been in error, and he was converted. Perhaps many here have been making just the same mistake. You ought to examine and see if your prayers are not tinctured with selfishness.
My thoughts on awful subjects dwell, Damnation and the dead; What horrors seize the guilty soul Upon a dying bed!

Look, as it were, through a telescope that will bring it up near to you; look into hell, and hear them groan; then turn the glass upwards and look into heaven, and see the saints there, in their white robes, with their harps in their hands, and hear them sing the song of redeeming love; and ask yourself: "Is it possible that I should prevail with God to elevate the sinner there?" Do this, and if you are not a wicked man, and a stranger to God, you will soon have as much of the spirit of prayer as your body can sustain.


The answer is that "He maketh intercession for the saints," for all saints, for any who are saints.


In a sermon upon this subject a writer brings toward this difficulty, and presents it in its full strength. "I have," says he, "no evidence that the thing prayed for will be granted, until I have prayed in faith; because, praying in faith is the condition upon which it is promised. And, of course, I cannot claim the promise, until I have fulfilled the condition.

Now, if the condition is that I am to believe I shall receive the very blessing for which I ask, it is evident that the promise is given upon the performance of an impossible condition, and is, of course, a mere nullity.

The promise would amount to just this: You shall have whatsoever you ask, upon the condition that you first believe that you shall receive it.

Now I must fulfill the condition before I can claim the promise. But I can have no evidence that I shall receive it until I have believed that I shall receive it. This reduces me to the necessity of believing that I shall receive it, before I have any evidence that I shall receive it - which is impossible."

The whole force of this objection arises out of the fact that the Spirit's influences are entirely overlooked, which He exerts in leading an individual to the exercise of faith. It has been supposed that the passage in Mark 11:22-24, with other kindred promises on the subject of the Prayer of Faith, relate exclusively to miracles. But suppose this were true. I would ask: "What were the apostles to believe, when they prayed for a miracle?

Were they to believe that the precise miracle would be performed for which they prayed?" It is evident that they were. In the verses just alluded to, Christ says: "For verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." Here it is evident, that the thing to be believed, and which they were not to doubt in their heart, was that they should have the very blessing for which they prayed. Now the objection above stated, lies in all its force against this kind of faith, when praying for the performance of a miracle. If it be impossible to believe this in praying for any other blessing, it was equally so in praying for a miracle. I might ask: "Could an apostle believe that the miracle would be wrought, before he had fulfilled the condition, inasmuch as the condition was, that he should believe that he should receive that for which he prayed?" Either the promise is a nullity and a deception, or there is a possibility of performing the condition.

Now, as I have said, the whole difficulty lies in the fact that the Spirit's influences are entirely overlooked, and that faith which is of the operation of God, is left out of the question. If the objection is goods against praying for any object, it is as good against praying in faith for the performance of a miracle. The fact is, that the Spirit of God could give evidence, on which to believe that any particular miracle would be granted; could lead the mind to a firm reliance upon God, and trust that the blessing sought would be obtained. And so at the present day He can give the same assurance, in praying for any blessing that we need.

Praying is the same thing, whether you pray for the conversion of a soul, or for a miracle. Faith is the same thing in the one case as in the other; it only terminates on a different object; in the one case on the conversion of a soul, and in the other on the performance of a miracle. Nor is faith exercised in the one more than in the other without reference to a promise; and a general promise may with the same propriety be applied to the conversion of a soul as to the performance of a miracle. And it is equally true in the one case as the other, that no man ever prays in faith without being influenced by the Spirit of God. And if the Spirit could lead the mind of an apostle to exercise faith in regard to a miracle, He can lead the mind of another Christian to exercise faith in regard to receiving any other blessing, by a reference to the same general promise.

Should any one ask: "When are we under an obligation to believe that we shall receive the blessing for which we ask?" I answer -

(a) When there is a particular promise, specifying the particular blessing: as where we pray for the Holy Spirit. This blessing is particularly named in the promise, and here we have evidence, and we are bound to believe, whether we have any Divine influence or not: just as sinners are bound to repent whether the Spirit strives with them or not, their obligation resting not upon the Spirit's influences, but upon the powers of moral agency which they possess; upon their ability to do their duty. And while it is true that not one of them ever will repent without the influences of the Spirit, still they have power to do so, and are under obligation to do so whether the Spirit strives with them or not. So with the Christian. He is bound to believe where he has evidence. And although he never does believe, even where he has an express promise, without the Spirit of God, yet his obligation to do so rests upon his ability, and not upon the Divine influence.

(b) Where God makes a revelation by His providence, we are bound to believe in proportion to the clearness of the providential indication.

(c) So where there is a prophecy, we are bound also to believe. But in neither of these cases do we, in fact, believe, without the Spirit of God.

But where there is neither promise, providence, nor prophecy, on which we are to repose our faith, we are under no obligation to believe, unless, as I have shown in this discourse, the Spirit gives us evidence, by creating desires, and by leading us to pray for a particular object. In the case of those promises of a general nature, where we are honestly at a loss to know in what particular cases to apply them, it may be considered rather as our privilege than as our duty, in many instances, to apply them to particular cases; but whenever the Spirit of God leads us to apply them to a particular object, then it becomes our duty so to apply them. In this case, God explains His own promise, and shows how He designed it should be applied. Our obligation, then, to make this application, and to believe in reference to this particular object, remains in full force.
I have dwelt the more on this subject, because I want to have it made so plain that you will be careful not to grieve the Spirit. I want you to have high ideas of the Holy Ghost, and to feel that nothing good will be done without His influences. No praying or preaching will be of any avail without Him. If Jesus Christ were to come down here and preach to sinners, not one would be converted without the Spirit. Be careful, then, not to grieve Him away, by slighting or neglecting His heavenly influences when He invites you to pray.
Oh, with what eagerness Christians sometimes pursue a sinner in their prayers, when the Spirit of God has fixed their desires on him! No miser pursues gold with so fixed a determination.
Nothing is more calculated to destroy the spirit of prayer, and entirely to darken and confuse the mind, as to what constitutes prayer, than to use forms. Forms of prayer are not only absurd in themselves, but they are the very device of the devil to destroy the spirit and break the power of prayer. It is of no use to say the form is a good one. Prayer does not consist in words. And it matters not what the words are if the heart is not led by the Spirit of God. If the desire is not enkindled, the thoughts directed, and the whole current of feeling produced and led by the Spirit of God, it is not prayer. And set forms are, of all things, best calculated to keep an individual from praying as he ought.
(a) In order to be useful. Without this spirit there can be no such sympathy between God and you, that you can either walk with God or work with God. You need to have a strong beating of your heart with His, or you need not expect to be greatly useful.

(b) As being important to your sanctification. Without such a spirit you will not be sanctified, nor will you understand the Bible, and therefore you will not know how to apply it to your case. I want you to feel the importance of having God with you all the time. If you live as you ought, He says He will come unto you, and make His abode with you, and sup with you, and you with Him.
(a) Those who place great reliance on prayer, and use no other means.

They are alarmed at any special means, and talk about your "getting up a revival."

(b) Over against these are those who use means, and pray, but never think about the influences of the Spirit in prayer. They talk about prayer for the Spirit, and feel the importance of the Spirit in the conversion to sinners, but do not realize the importance of the Spirit in prayer. And their prayers are all cold talk, nothing that anybody can feel, or that can take hold of God.

(c) Those who have certain strange notions about the Sovereignty of God, and are waiting for God to convert the world without prayer or means.

There must be in the Church a deeper sense of the need of the spirit of prayer. The fact is, that, generally, those who use means most assiduously, and make the most strenuous efforts for the salvation of men, and who have the most correct notions of the manner in which means should be used for converting sinners, also pray most for the Spirit of God, and wrestle most with God for His blessing. And what is the result?

Let facts speak, and say whether these persons do or do not pray, and whether the Spirit of God does not testify to their prayers, and follow their labors with His power.
Revivals are all in the dark. Now, no man who reviews the history of the Church will adopt such a sentiment. I do not like this attempt to shut out, or stifle, or keep down, or limit, the spirit of prayer. I would sooner cut off my right hand than rebuke the spirit of prayer, as I have heard of its being done by saying: "Do not let me hear any more groaning!"

I hardly know where to end this subject. I should like to discuss it a month, indeed, till the whole Church could understand it, so as to pray the prayer of faith. Beloved, I want to ask you: Do you believe all this? Or do you wonder that I should talk so? Perhaps some of you have had some glimpses of these things. Now, will you give yourselves up to prayer, and live so as to have the spirit of prayer, and have the Spirit with you all the time? Oh, for a praying Church! I once knew a minister who had a revival fourteen winters in succession. I did not know how to account for it, till I saw one of his members get up in a prayer meeting and make a confession.

"Brethren," said he, "I have been long in the habit of praying every Saturday night till after midnight, for the descent of the Holy Ghost among us. And now, brethren," and he began to weep, "I confess that I have neglected it for two or three weeks." The secret was out. That minister had a praying Church. Brethren, in my present state of health, I find it impossible to pray as much as I have been in the habit of doing, and yet continue to preach. It overcomes my strength. Now, shall I give myself up to prayer, and stop preaching? That will not do. Now, will not you, who are in health, throw yourselves into this work, and bear this burden, and give yourselves to prayer, till God shall pour out His blessing upon us?

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Be filled with the Spirit. - Ephesians 5:18.

Several of my Lectures have been on the subject of Prayer, and the importance of having the spirit of prayer - of the intercession of the Holy Ghost. Whenever the necessity and importance of the Spirit's influences are held forth, there can be no doubt that persons are in danger of abusing the doctrine, and perverting it to their own injury. For instance: when you tell sinners that without the Holy Spirit they never will repent, they are very liable to pervert the truth, and understand by it that they cannot repent, and therefore are under no obligation to do it until they feel the Spirit. It is often difficult to make them see that all the "cannot" consists in their unwillingness, and not in their inability. So again, when we tell Christians that they need the Spirit's aid in prayer, they are very apt to think they are under no obligation to pray the prayer of faith until they feel the influences of the Spirit. They overlook their obligation to be filled with the Spirit, and wait for the spirit of prayer to come upon them without asking, and thus they tempt God.

Before we come to consider the other department of means for promoting a revival - that is, the means to be used with sinners - I wish to show that, if you live without the Spirit, you are without excuse. Obligation to perform duty never rests on the condition that we shall have the influence of the Spirit, but on the powers of moral agency. We, as moral agents, have the power to obey God, and are perfectly bound to obey; and the reason that we do not is, that we are unwilling. The influences of the Spirit are wholly a matter of grace. If they were indispensable to enable us to perform duty, the bestowment of them would not be a gracious act, but a mere matter of common justice. Sinners are not bound to repent because they have the Spirit's influence, or because they can obtain it, but because they are moral agents, and have the powers which God requires them to exercise. So in the case of Christians. They are not bound to pray in faith because they have the Spirit (except in those cases where His influences in begetting the desire constitute the evidence that it is God's will to grant the object of desire), but because they have evidence. They are not bound to pray in faith at all, except when they have evidence as the foundation of their faith. They must have evidence from promises, or principles, or prophecy, or providence. And where they have evidence independent of His influences, they are bound to exercise faith, whether they have the Spirit's influence or not. They are bound to see the evidence, and to believe. The Spirit is given, not to enable them to see or believe, but because without the Spirit they will not look, or feel, or act, as they ought.

I purpose to show, from the text:

I. That Christians may be filled with the Spirit of God

II. That it is their duty to be filled with the Spirit.

III. Why they are not filled with the Spirit.

IV. The guilt of those who have not the Spirit of God, to lead their minds in duty and prayer.

V. The consequence that will follow if they are filled with the Spirit.

VI. The consequences if they are not.


Not because it is a matter of justice for God to give you His Spirit, but because He has promised to give His Spirit to those that ask. "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?" (Luke 11:13) If you ask for the Holy Spirit, God has promised to answer.

But again, God has commanded you to have the Spirit. He says in the text: "Be filled with the Spirit." When God commands us to do a thing, it is the highest possible evidence that we can do it. For God to command is equivalent to an oath that we can do it. He has no right to command, unless we have power to obey. There is no stopping short of the conclusion that God is tyrannical, if He commands that which is impracticable.



There are some, even professors of religion, who will say: "I do not know anything about all this, I never had any such experience; either it is not true, or I am all wrong." No doubt you are all wrong, if you know nothing about the influence of the Spirit. I want to present you with a few of the reasons that may prevent you from being filled with the Spirit.

A minister was once boarding in a certain family, and the lady of the house was constantly complaining that she did not "enjoy" religion, and nothing seemed to help her. One day some ladies called to see her, and, protesting that she was very much offended because they had not called before, she pressed them to stay and spend the day, and declared she could not consent to let them go. They excused themselves, and left the house; and as soon as they were gone she told her servant that she wondered these people had so little sense as to be always troubling her and taking up her time! The minister heard it, and immediately rebuked her, and told her she ought to see why she did not "enjoy" religion. It was because she was in the daily habit of insincerity that amounted to downright lying. And the Spirit of Truth could not dwell in such a heart.
The Spirit of God is solemn, and serious, and will not dwell with those who give way to thoughtless levity.
There are multitudes of such things, by which the Spirit of God is grieved. People call them "little" sins, but God will not call them little. I was struck with this thought, when I saw a little notice in The Evangelist. The publishers stated that they had many thousands of dollars in the hands of subscribers, which sums were justly due, but that it would cost them as much as it was worth to send an agent to collect the money. I suppose it is so with other religious papers, that subscribers either put the publisher to the trouble and expense of sending an agent to collect his due, or else they cheat him out of it. There is, doubtless, a large amount of money held back in this way by professors of religion, just because it is in such small sums, or because they are so far off that they cannot be sued. And yet these people will pray, and appear very pious, and wonder why they do not "enjoy" religion, and have the Spirit of God! It is this looseness of moral principle, this want of conscience about little matters, that grieves away the Holy Ghost.
He knows whether you have gone to the full length of honest confession, and taken all the blame that belongs to you. If your confessions have been constrained and wrung from you, do you suppose you can cheat God?

"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but who so confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy" (Proverbs 28:13). "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Luke 14:11). Unless you come quite down, and confess your sins honestly, and remunerate where you have done injury, you have no right to expect the spirit of prayer.
There is many a young man who feels in his heart he ought to prepare for the ministry, but who has not the spirit of prayer because he has some worldly object in view which prevents his devoting himself to the work.

He has known his duty, refuses to do it, and yet is praying for direction from the Spirit of God! He cannot have it.

Another has neglected to make a profession of religion. He knows his duty, but he refuses to join the Church. He once had the spirit of prayer, but, neglecting his duty, he grieved the Spirit away. And now he thinks, if he could once more enjoy the light of God's countenance, and have his evidences renewed, he would do his duty, and join the Church. And so he is trying to bring God over to his terms, to grant him His presence. He need not expect it. You will live and die in darkness, unless you are willing first to do your duty, before God manifests Himself as reconciled to you.

It is in vain to say, you will come forward if God will first show you the light of His countenance. He never will do it as long as you live; He will let you die without it, if you refuse to do your duty.

I have known women who felt that they ought to talk to their unconverted husbands, and pray with them; but they neglected it, and so they got into the dark. They knew their duty and refused to do it; they "went round it," and there they lost the spirit of prayer.

If you have neglected any known duty, and thus lost the spirit of prayer, you must yield first. God has a controversy with you; you have refused obedience to God, and you must retract. You may have forgotten it, but God has not, and you must set yourself to recall it to mind and repent.

God never will yield or grant you His Spirit, till you repent. Had I an omniscient eye now, I could call the names of the individuals in this congregation, who have neglected some known duty, or committed some sin, that they have not repented of, and now they are praying for the spirit of prayer, but they cannot succeed in obtaining it.

To illustrate this I will relate a case. A good man - an elder in the western part of this State, had been a long time an earnest Christian, and he used to talk to the sleepy Church with which he was connected. Presently the Church grew offended and got out of patience, so that many told him they wished he would let them alone, and that they did not think he could do them any good. He took them at their word, and they all "went to sleep" together, remaining so two or three years. Then a minister came among them, and a revival commenced; but this elder seemed to have lost his spirituality. He who used to be forward in a good work now held back.

Everybody thought it unaccountable. Finally, as he was going home one night, the truth of his situation flashed upon his mind, and, for a few minutes, he went into absolute despair. At length his thoughts were directed back to that sinful resolution to let the Church alone in her sins.

He felt that no language could describe the blackness of that sin. He realized at that moment what it was to be lost, and to find that God had a controversy with him. He saw that it was a bad spirit which had led him to that weak resolution; the same that caused Moses to say: "Ye rebels" (Numbers 20:10). He humbled himself on the spot, and God poured out His Spirit on him. Perhaps some of you are just in this situation. You have said something provoking or unkind to some person. Perhaps it was peevishness to a servant who was a Christian. Or perhaps it was speaking censoriously of a minister or some other person. Perhaps you have been angry because your opinions have not been taken, or your dignity has been encroached upon. Search thoroughly, and see if you cannot find out the sin. Perhaps you have forgotten it. But God has not forgotten it, and never will forgive your unchristian conduct until you repent. God cannot overlook it. What good would it do to forgive while the sin is rankling in your heart?


You all say, if a man is a habitual murderer, or a thief, he is no Christian.

Why? Because he lives in habitual disobedience to God. So, if he swears, you have no charity for him. You will not allow him to plead that his heart is right, and that words are nothing; that God does not care anything about words. You would think it outrageous to have such a man in the Church, or to have a company of such people pretend to call themselves a Christian Church. And yet they are not a whit more absolutely living in disobedience to God than you are, who live without the spirit of prayer and without the presence of God.
Here is a blessing promised, and you can have it by doing your duty. You are entirely responsible to the Church and to God for all this good that you might do. A man is responsible for all the good he can do.


Make up your mind for this, to be "eccentric." There is such a thing as affected eccentricity. Horrible! But there is such a thing as being so deeply imbued with the Spirit of God that you must and will act so as to appear strange and eccentric, to those who cannot understand the reasons of your conduct.
But the truth simply was, he saw the subject so clearly that he threw his whole soul into it. Festus and the rest were entirely in the dark in respect to the motive by which he was actuated. This is by no means uncommon.

Multitudes have appeared, to those who had no spirituality, as if they were deranged. Yet they saw good reasons for doing as they did. God was leading their minds to act in such a way that those who were not spiritual could not see the reasons. You must make up your mind to this, and so much the more, as you live the more above the world and walk with God.
This is one of the most prominent and deeply-to-be-deplored evils of the present day. The piety of the ministry, though real, is so superficial, in many instances, that the spiritual people of the Church feel that ministers do not, cannot, sympathize with them, The preaching does not meet their wants; it does not feed them. The ministers have not depth enough of religious experience to know how to search and wake up the Church; how to help those under temptation, to support the weak, to direct the strong.

When a minister has gone with a Church as far as his experience in spiritual exercises goes, there he stops; and until he has a renewed experience, until he is reconverted, his heart broken up afresh, and he set forward in the Divine life and Christian experience, he will help them no more. He may preach sound doctrine, and so may an unconverted minister; but, after all, his preaching will want that searching pungency, that practical bearing, that unction which alone will reach the case of a spiritually minded Christian. It is a fact over which the Church is groaning, that the piety of young men suffers so much in the course of their education, that when they enter the ministry, however much intellectual furniture they may possess, they are in a state of spiritual babyhood.

They want nursing; they need rather to be fed, than to undertake to feed the Church of God.
You will sometimes find your own corruptions making strange headway against the Spirit. "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh" (Galatians 5:17). Such a Christian is often thrown into consternation at the power of his own corruptions. One of the Commodores in the United States Navy was, as I have been told, a spiritual man; his pastor told me he had known that man lie on the floor and groan a great part of the night, in conflict with his own corruptions, and to cry to God, in agony, that He would break the power of the temptation. It seemed as if the devil was determined to ruin him, and his own heart, for the time being, was almost in league with the devil.
You will not be constantly goaded and kept on the rack by a guilty conscience. Your conscience will be calm and quiet, unruffled as the summer's lake.
This poor man lingered in this way for several years, and died. After his death, I visited the place, and his widow put into my hands his diary.

Among other entries was this: "I am acquainted with about thirty ministers and Churches." He then went on to set apart certain hours in the day and week to pray for each of these ministers and Churches, and also certain seasons for praying for different missionary stations. Then followed, under different dates, such facts as these: "Today I have been enabled to offer what I call the prayer of faith for the outpouring of the Spirit on - Church, and I trust in God there will soon be a revival there."

Under another date he had written: "I have today been able to offer what I call the prayer of faith for - Church, and trust there will soon be a revival there." Thus he had gone over a great number of Churches, recording the fact that he had prayed for them in faith that a revival might soon prevail among them.

Of the missionary stations, if I recollect right, he mentioned in particular one at Ceylon. I believe the last place mentioned in his diary, for which he offered the prayer of faith, was the place in which he lived. Not long after, the revival commenced, and went over the region of country, nearly, I believe, if not quite, in the order in which the places had been mentioned in his diary; and in due time news came from Ceylon that there was a revival of religion there. The revival in his own town did not commence till after his death. Its commencement was at the time when his widow put into my hands the document to which I have referred. She told me that he was so exercised in prayer during his sickness, that she often feared he would "pray himself to death." The revival was exceedingly great and powerful in all the region, and the fact that it was about to prevail had not been hidden from this servant of the Lord. According to His Word, "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him" (Psalm 25:14). Thus, this man, too feeble in body to go out of his house, was yet more useful to the world and the Church of God than all the heartless professors in the country. Standing between God and the desolations of Zion, and pouring out his heart in believing prayer, "as a prince he had power with God and with men, and prevailed" (Genesis 32:28).


You will perhaps doubt their sincerity when they say they have such feelings You will say: "I don't know what to make of Brother Such-a-one; he seems to be very pious, but I do not understand him, I think he has a great deal of animal feeling." Thus you will be trying to censure them, for the purpose of justifying yourself.


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Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that these shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven. - Matthew 18:19.

HITHERTO , in treating of the subject of PRAYER, I have confined my remarks to secret prayer. I am now to speak of social prayer, or prayer offered in company, where two or more are united in praying. Such meetings have been common from the time of Christ, and it is probable that God's people have always been in the habit of making united supplication, whenever they had the privilege. The propriety of the practice will not be questioned here. I need not dwell now on the duty of social prayer. Nor is it my design to discuss the question, whether any two Christians agreeing to ask any blessing, will be sure to obtain it. My object is to make some remarks on Meetings for Prayer, noting:

I. The design of prayer meetings.

II. The manner of conducting them.

III. Several things that will defeat the design of holding them.


An ungodly man (a universalist) once said respecting a certain minister: "I can bear his preaching very well; but when he prays, I feel awfully - as if God were coming down upon me." Sinners are often convicted by hearing prayer. A young man of distinguished talents said, concerning a certain minister to whom, before his conversion, he had been very much opposed:

"As soon as he began to pray, I began to be convicted; and if he had continued to pray much longer, I should not have been able to hold myself back from Christ." Just as soon as Christians begin to pray as they ought, sinners then know that they pray, and begin to feel awfully. They do not understand what spirituality is, because they have no experience of it. But when such prayer is offered, they know there is something in it; they know God is in it, and it brings them near to God; it makes them feel awfully solemn, and they cannot bear it. And not only is it calculated to impress the minds of sinners, but when Christians pray in faith, the Spirit of God is poured out, and sinners are melted down and converted on the spot.


This is an insult to God. It is not well to read any more than is applicable to the subject before the meeting or the occasion. Some people think it always necessary to read a whole chapter, though it may be ever so long, and have a variety of subjects. It is just as impressive and judicious to read a whole chapter as it would be for a minister to take a whole chapter for his text, when his object was to make some particular truth bear on the minds of his audience. The design of a prayer meeting should be to bring Christians to the point, to pray for a definite object. Wandering over a large field hinders and destroys this design.
A man can no more pray without having his thoughts concentrated than he can do anything else. The person leading should therefore see to this, by bringing up before their minds the object for which they came to pray. If they came to pray for any object, he can do this. And if they did not, they had better go home. It is of no use to stay there and mock God by pretending to pray when they have nothing on earth to pray for.

After stating the object, he should bring up some promise or some principle, as the ground of encouragement to expect an answer to their prayers. If there is any indication of Providence, or any promise, or any principle in the Divine government, that affords a ground of faith, let him call it to mind, and not let them be talking out of their own hearts at random, without knowing any solid reason for expecting an answer. One reason why prayer meetings mostly accomplish so little, is because there is so little common sense exercised about them. Instead of looking round for some solid footing on which to repose their faith, people come together and pour forth words, and neither know nor care whether they have any reason to expect an answer. If they are going to pray about anything concerning which there can be any doubt or any mistake, in regard to the ground of faith, they should be shown the reason there is for believing that their prayers will be heard and answered. It is easy to see that, unless something like this is done, three-fourths of them will have no idea of what they are doing, or of the ground on which they should expect to receive what they pray for.
Otherwise, if you call on those who are cold and lifeless, they will be likely to diffuse a chill. The only hope of having an efficient prayer meeting is when at least a part of the Church is spiritual, and infuses its spirit into the rest. This is the very reason why it is often best to let things take their course, for then those who have the most feeling are apt to pray first, and give character to the meeting.
Commonly, those who pray long in a meeting do so, not because they have the spirit of prayer, but because they have not. Some men will spin out a long prayer in telling God who and what He is, or they pray out a whole system of divinity. Some preach; others exhort the people - till everybody wishes they would stop, and God wishes so, too, most undoubtedly. They should keep to the point, and pray for what they came to pray for, and not follow the imagination of their own foolish hearts all over the universe.
If the object is to pray for the Church, or for backsliders, or sinners, or the heathen, let him state it plainly, and then turn it over and hold it up before them, till he brings them to think and feel deeply before they pray. Then he should state to them the grounds on which they may repose their faith in regard to obtaining the blessings for which they pray, if any such statement is needed, and so lead them right up to the Throne, and let them take hold of the hand of God. This is according to the philosophy of the mind. People always do it for themselves when they pray in secret, if they really mean to pray to any purpose. And so it should be in prayer meetings.
But in those cases they should be specially requested to pray in silence, so that all may know why they are silent. This often has a most powerful effect, where a few moments are spent by a whole congregation in silence, while all lift up their thoughts to God. This is very different from having long intervals of silence because there is nobody to pray. Every one feels that such a silence is like the cold damp of death over the meeting.


A man who knows he is not in a spiritual frame of mind has no business to conduct a prayer meeting - he will kill it. There are two reasons. First, he will have no spiritual discernment, and will know neither what to do, nor when to do it. A person who is spiritual can see the movements of Providence, and can feel the Spirit of God, and understand what He is leading them to pray for, so as to time his subjects, and take advantage of the state of feeling among Christians. He will not overthrow all the feeling in a meeting by introducing things that are incongruous or ill-timed. He has spiritual discernment to understand the leadings of the Spirit, and His workings on those who pray; and to follow on as the Spirit leads. Suppose an individual leads who is not spiritual, that there are two or three prayers, and the spirit of prayer arises, but the leader, having no spiritual discernment to see it, makes some remarks on another point, or reads a piece out of some book that is as far from the feeling of the meeting as the North Pole! What they are called to pray for may be just as evident to the praying people present as if the Son of God Himself had come into the meeting and named the subject; but the leader will overthrow it all, because he is so stupid that he does not know the indications of the meeting.

And then, if the leader is not spiritual, he will very likely be dull and dry in his remarks, and in all his exercises. He will give out a long hymn in a dreamy manner, and then read a long passage of Scripture, in a tone so cold that he will spread a wintry pall over the meeting, and it will be dull, as long as his cold heart is placed in front of the whole thing.
I once heard an elder say that a Church had kept up a prayer meeting so many years, and yet had experienced no revival. The truth was, that the officers of the Church had been accustomed to carry on the meetings in just such a dignified way, and their dignity would not allow anything to be altered. No wonder there was no revival! Such prayer meetings are enough to hinder a revival. And if ever so many revivals should commence, the prayer meeting would destroy them. There was a prayer meeting once in this city, as I have been told, where there appeared to be some feeling, and some one every reasonably proposed that they should have two or three prayers in succession, without rising from their knees. One dignified man present opposed it, and said that they never had done so, and he hoped there would be no innovations! He did not approve of innovations. That was the last of the revival! Such persons have their prayer meetings stereotyped, and are determined not to turn out of their track, whether they receive blessing or not. To allow any such thing would be "a new measure," and they never like "new measures"!
When singing is introduced in a prayer meeting, the hymns should be short, and so selected as to bring out something solemn; some striking words, such as the Judgment Hymn, and others calculated to produce an effect on sinners; or something that will produce a deep impression on the minds of Christians; but not that joyful kind of singing that makes everybody feel comfortable, and turns off the mind from the object of the prayer meeting.

I once heard a celebrated organist produce a remarkable effect in a protracted meeting. The organ was a powerful one, and the double bass pipes were like unto thunder. The hymn was given out that had these lines:

See the storm of vengeance gathering over the path you dare to tread; Hear the awful thunder rolling, Loud and louder over your head.

When he came to these words, we first heard the distant roar of thunder; then it grew nearer and louder, till at the word "louder," there was a crash that seemed almost to overpower the congregation. Such things in their proper place do good. But common singing dissipates feeling. It should always be such as will not take away feeling, but deepen it.

Often a prayer meeting is injured by calling on the young converts to sing joyful hymns. This is highly improper in a prayer meeting. It is no time for them to let feeling flow away in joyful singing, while so many sinners around them, and their own former companions, are going down to hell. A revival is often put down by the Church and the minister giving themselves up to singing with young converts. Thus, by stopping to rejoice when they ought to feel more and more deeply for sinners, they grieve away the Spirit of God, and they soon find that their agony and travail of soul are gone.
Otherwise, let Christians come together in their prayer meetings, on the broad ground of offering united prayer for a common object. And let controversies be settled somewhere else.
Not infrequently it happens that there are some so cold that if any one should break out in the spirit of prayer, they would call it fanaticism, and perhaps display opposition.
Some say they cannot pray in their families; they have no gift. But a person could not offend one of them more than to say: "He cannot pray a decent prayer before his own family." The retort would be: "Why, So-and-so talks as if he thought nobody else had any gifts but himself."

People are not apt to have such a low opinion of themselves. I have often seen the curse of God follow such professors. They have no excuse. God will take none. The man has got a tongue to talk to his neighbors, and he can talk to God if he has any heart for it. You will see their children unconverted: their son has a curse; their daughter - tongue cannot tell.

God says He will pour out His fury on the families that call not on His name. I could mention a host of facts to show that God MARKS with His disapprobation and curse those who refuse to pray when they ought.

Until professors of religion will repent of this sin, and take up this cross (if they choose to call praying "a cross"), they need not expect a blessing.
It is well for Christians to pray for themselves, and confess their sins, and then throw their hearts abroad, till they feel as they ought.
Perhaps the leader has not prepared himself; or perhaps he has not the requisite talents to lead the Church out in prayer, or he does not lead their minds to dwell on the appropriate topics of prayer.
Perhaps the only place they ever did testify for God was in a prayer meeting; their lives, out of the meeting, testify against God. They had better keep still.


Church officers often complain and scold because people do not come to the prayer meeting, when the truth is, they themselves are so cold that they freeze to death everybody who does come.
(a) promote union, (b) increase brotherly love, (c) cultivate Christian confidence, (d) promote their own growth in grace, and (e) cherish and advance spirituality.
Do not pray that they may be merely awakened and convicted, but that they may be converted on the spot. No one should either pray or make any remarks, as if he expected a single sinner would go away without giving his heart to God. You should all make the impression on his mind, that NOW he must submit. And if you do this, while you are yet speaking God will hear.

If Christians made it manifest that they had really set their hearts on the conversion of sinners, and were bent upon it, and prayed as they ought, there would rarely be a prayer meeting held without souls being converted; and sometimes every sinner in the room. That is the very time, if ever, that sinners should be converted in answer to those prayers. I do not doubt but that you may have sinners converted in every sectional prayer meeting, if you do your duty. Take them there, take your families, your friends, or your neighbors there with that design; give them the proper instruction, if they need instruction, and pray for them as you ought, and you will save their souls. Rely upon it, if you do your duty, in a right manner, God will not keep back His blessing, but the work will be done.

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Ye are My witnesses, saith the Lord, and My servant whom I have chosen . - Isaiah. 43:10.

I the text it is affirmed of the children of God, that they are His witnesses. In several preceding Lectures I have been dwelling on the subject of prayer, or on that department of means for the promotion of a revival, which is intended to move God to pour out His Spirit. I am now to commence the other department, dealing with the means to be used for the conviction and conversion of sinners.

It is true, in general, that persons are affected by the subject of religion in proportion to their conviction of its truth. Inattention to religion is the great reason why so little is felt concerning it. No being can look at the great truths of religion, as truths, and not feel deeply concerning them. The devil cannot. He believes and trembles. Angels in heaven feel, in view of these things. God feels! An intellectual conviction of truth is always accompanied with feeling of some kind.

One grand design of God in leaving Christians in the world after their conversion is that they may be witnesses for God. It is that they may call the attention of the thoughtless multitude to the subject, and make them see the difference in the character and destiny of those who believe the Gospel and those who reject it. This inattention is the grand difficulty in the way of promoting religion. And what the Spirit of God does is to awaken the attention of men to the subject of their sin and the plan of salvation. Miracles have sometimes been employed to arrest the attention of sinners, and in this way miracles may become instrumental in conversion - although conversion is not itself a miracle, nor do miracles themselves ever convert anybody. They may be the means of awakening.

Miracles are not always effectual even in that. And if continued or made common, they would soon lose their power. What is wanted in the world is something that can be a sort of omnipresent miracle, able not only to arrest attention but to fix it, and keep the mind in warm contact with the truth, till it yields.

Hence we see why God has scattered His children everywhere, in families and among the nations. He never would suffer them to be altogether in one place, however agreeable it might be to their feelings. He wishes them scattered. When the Church at Jerusalem herded together, neglecting to go forth as Christ had commanded, to spread the Gospel all over the world, God let loose a persecution upon them and scattered them abroad, and then they "went everywhere preaching the Word" (Acts 8:4).

In examining the text, I purpose to inquire:

I. On what particular points Christians are to testify for God.

II. The manner in which they are to testify.


Generally, they are to testify to the truth of the Bible. They are competent witnesses to this, for they have experience of its truth. The experimental Christian has no more need of external evidence to prove the truth of the Bible to his mind, than he has to prove his own existence. The whole plan of salvation is so fully spread out and settled in his conviction, that to undertake to reason him out of his belief in the Bible would be a thing as impracticable as to reason him out of the belief in his own existence. Men have tried to awaken a doubt of the existence of the material world, but they cannot succeed. No man can doubt the existence of the material world. To doubt it is against his own consciousness. You may use arguments that he cannot answer, and may puzzle and perplex him, and shut his mouth; he may be no logician or philosopher, and may not be able to detect your fallacies. But, what he knows, he knows.

So it is in religion. The Christian is conscious that the Bible is true. The veriest child in religion knows by his experience the truth of the Bible. He may hear objections from infidels, that he never thought of, and that he cannot answer, and he may be confounded; but he cannot be driven from his ground. He will say: "I cannot answer you, but I know the Bible is true." It is as if a man should look in a mirror, and say: "That is my face."

The question is put to him: "How do you know it is your face?" "Why," he replies, "by its looks." So when a Christian sees himself drawn and pictured forth in the Bible, he sees the likeness to be so exact, that he knows it is true.

More particularly, Christians are to testify to:

These are the subjects on which they are to be witnesses for God. And they are bound to testify in such a way as to constrain men to believe the truth.


By precept and example. On every proper occasion by their lips, but mainly by their lives. Christians have no right to be silent with their lips; they should "reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine"

(2 Timothy 4:2). But their main influence as witnesses is by their example.

They are required to be witnesses in this way, because example teaches with so much greater force than precept. This is universally known.

"Actions speak louder than words." But where both precept and example are brought to bear, the greatest amount of influence is brought to bear upon the mind. As to the manner in which they are to testify; the way in which they should bear witness to the truth of the points specified; in general - they should live in their daily walk and conversation, as if they believed the Bible.

The failure to testify in this is the great stumbling block in the way of mankind. Here the testimony of God's children is needed more than anywhere else. Men are so struck with the objects of sense, and so constantly occupied with them, that they are very apt to shut out eternity from their minds. A small object that is held close to the eye, may shut out the distant ocean. So the things of the world, that are near, appear so magnified in their minds, that they overlook everything else. One important design in keeping Christians in the world is, to teach people on this point, practically. But suppose professors of religion teach the vanity of earthly things by precept, and contradict it in practice? Suppose the women are just as fond of dress, and just as particular in observing all the fashions, and the men as eager to have fine houses and equipages, as the people of the world; who does not see that it would be quite ridiculous for them to testify with their lips, that this world is all vanity, and its joys unsatisfying and empty? People feel the absurdity, and this shuts up the lips of Christians. They are ashamed to speak to their neighbors, while they cumber themselves with these gewgaws, because their daily conduct testifies, to everybody, the very reverse. How it would look for certain Church members, men or women, to go about among the common people, and talk to them about the vanity of the world! Who would believe what they said?
Such Christians perjure themselves - they swear to a lie, since their testimony amounts to this, that there is nothing in religion for which a person can afford to live above the world.
He was displeased with the very thing that constituted the power of speaking that word. The manner may be such as to convey an idea directly opposite to the meaning of the words. A man may tell you that your house is on fire in such a way as to make directly the opposite impression, and you will take it for granted that it is not your house that is on fire. The watchman might cry out: "Fire! fire!" in such a way that everybody would think he was either drunk or talking in his sleep.

Go to a sinner, and talk with him about his guilt and danger; and if in your manner you make an impression that does not correspond, you in effect bear testimony the other way, and tell him he is in no danger. If the sinner believes at all that he is in danger of hell, it is wholly on other grounds than your saying so. If you live in such a way as to show that you do not feel compassion for sinners around you; if you show no tenderness, by your eyes, your features, your voice; if your manner is not solemn and earnest, how can they believe you are sincere?

Woman, suppose you tell your unconverted husband, in an easy, laughing way: "My dear, I believe you are going to hell"; will he believe you? If your life is gay and trifling, you show that you either do not believe there is a hell, or that you wish to have him go there, and are trying to keep off every serious impression from his mind. Have you children that are unconverted? Suppose you never say anything to them about religion, or when you talk to them it is in a cold, hard, dry way, conveying the impression that you have no feeling in the matter; do you suppose they believe you? They do not see the same coldness in you in regard to other things. They are in the habit of seeing all the mother in your eye, and in the tones of your voice, your emphasis, and the like, and feeling the warmth of a mother's heart as it flows out from your lips on all that concerns them. If, then, when you talk to them on the subject of religion, you are cold and trifling, can they suppose that you believe it? If your deportment holds up before your child this careless, heartless, prayer less spirit, and then you talk to him about the importance of religion, the child will go away and laugh, to think you should try to persuade him there is a hell.
This is the only legitimate way in which you can impress sinners with the love of Christ. Christians, instead of this, often live so as to make the impression on sinners that Christ is so compassionate that they have very little to fear from Him. I have been amazed to see how a certain class of professors want ministers to be always preaching about the love of Christ.

If a minister urges Christians to be holy, and to labor for Christ, they call it "legal" preaching. They say they want to hear the Gospel. Well, suppose you present the love of Christ. How will they bear testimony in their lives? How will they show that they believe it? Why, by conformity to the world they will testify, point-blank, that they do not believe a word of it, and that they care nothing at all for the love of Christ, only to have it for a cloak, that they can talk about it, and so cover up their sins. They have no sympathy with His compassion, and no belief in it as a reality, and no concern for the feelings of Christ, which fill His mind when He sees the condition of sinners.
Christians ought to show, by their own example, what the religious walk is which is expected of men. That is the most powerful preaching, after all, and the most likely to have influence on the impenitent, which shows them the great difference between themselves and Christians. Many people seem to think they can make men fall in with religion best by bringing religion down to their standard. As if the nearer you bring religion to the world, the more likely the world will be to embrace it. Now all this is as wide as the poles are asunder from the true philosophy about making Christians. But it is always the policy of carnal professors. And they think they are displaying wonderful sagacity, and prudence, by taking so much pains not to scare people at the mighty strictness and holiness of the Gospel. They argue that if you exhibit religion to mankind as requiring such a great change in their manner of life, such innovations upon their habits, such a separation from their old associates, why, you will drive them all away. This seems plausible at first sight. But it is not true. Let professors live in this lax and easy way, and sinners say: "Why, I do not see but I am about right, or at least so near right that it is impossible God should send me to hell only for the difference between me and these professors. It is true, they do a little more than I do; they go to the Communion table, and pray in their families, and a few suchlike little things, but these details cannot make any such great difference as between heaven and hell." No, the true way is, to exhibit religion and the world in strong contrast, or you can never make sinners feel the necessity of a change. Until the necessity of this fundamental change is embodied and held forth in strong light, by example, how can you make men believe they are going to be sent to hell if they are not wholly transformed in heart and life?

This is not only true in philosophy, but it has been proved by the history of the world. Now, I was reading a letter from a missionary in the East, who writes to this effect: that "a missionary must be able to rank with the English nobility, and so recommend his religion to the respect of the natives." He must get away up above them, so as to show a superiority, and thus impress them with respect! Is this the way to convert the world?

You can no more convert the world in this way than by blowing a ram's horn. What did the Jesuits do? They went about among the people in the daily practice of self-denial, teaching, and preaching, and praying, and laboring; mingling with every caste and grade, and bringing down their instructions to the capacity of every individual. In that way their religion spread over the vast empire of Japan. I am not saying anything in regard to the religion they taught. I speak only of their following the true policy of missions, by showing, by their lives, a wide contrast with a worldly spirit.

If Christians attempt to accommodate religion to the worldliness of men, they render the salvation of the world impossible. How can you make people believe that self-denial and separation from the world are necessary, unless you practice them?
If you are in the habit of resenting injurious conduct; if you do not bear it meekly, and put the best construction upon it, you contradict the Gospel.

Some people always show a bad spirit, ever ready to put the worst construction upon what is done, and to take fire at any little thing. This shows a great want of that charity which "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7). But if a man always shows meekness under injuries, it will confound gainsaying.

Nothing makes so solemn an impression upon sinners, and bears down with such tremendous weight on their consciences, as to see a Christian, truly Christ-like, bearing affronts and injuries with the meekness of a lamb.

It cuts like a two-edged sword.

I will mention a case to illustrate this. A young man abused a minister to his face, and reviled him in an unprecedented manner. The minister possessed his soul in patience, and spoke mildly in reply, telling him the truth pointedly, but yet in a very kind manner. This only made him the more angry, and at length he went away in a rage, declaring that he was "not going to stay and bear this vituperation," as if it were the minister, instead of himself, that had been scolding. The sinner went away, but with the arrows of the Almighty in his heart; and in less than half an hour he followed the minister to his lodgings in intolerable agony, wept, begged forgiveness, and broke down before God, and yielded up his heart to Christ. This calm and mild manner was more overwhelming to him than a thousand arguments. Now, if that minister had been thrown off his guard, and answered harshly, no doubt he would have ruined the soul of that young man. How many of you have defeated every future effort you may make with your impenitent friends or neighbors, in some such way as this? On some occasion you have shown yourself so irascible that you have sealed up your own lips, and laid a stumbling block over which that sinner will stumble into hell. If you have done it in any instance, do not sleep till you have done all you can to retrieve the mischief.
A lady was once buying some eggs in a store, and the clerk made a miscount and gave her one more than the number. She saw it at the time, but said nothing, and after she got home it troubled her. Feeling that she had acted wrongly, she went back to the young man and confessed it, and paid the difference. The impression of her conscientious integrity went to his heart like a sword. It was a great sin in her in concealing the miscount, because the temptation was so small; for if she would cheat him out of an egg, it showed that she would cheat him out of his whole store, if she could do it without being found out. But her prompt and humble confession showed an honest conscience.

I am happy to say, there are some men who conduct their business on this principle of integrity. The wicked hate them for it, railing against them, and vociferating in barrooms that they will never buy goods of such-and-such individuals; that such a hypocrite shall never touch a dollar of their money, and all that; and then they will go right away and buy of them, because they know they will be honestly dealt with. Suppose that all Christians could be equally trusted: what would be the consequence?

Christians would run away with the business of the city. The Christians would soon do the business of the world. The great argument which some professed Christians urge, that if they do not do business upon the common principle, of stating one price and taking another, they cannot compete with men of the world, is all false - false in philosophy, false in history. Only make it your invariable rule to do right, and do business upon principle, and you control the market. The ungodly will be obliged to conform to your standard. It is perfectly in the power of Christians to regulate the commerce of the world, if they will only themselves maintain perfect integrity.

Again, if Christians will do the same in politics they will sway the destinies of nations, without involving themselves at all in the base and corrupting strife of parties. Only let Christians generally determine to vote for no man who is not an honest man, and a man of pure morals; only let it be known that Christians are united in this, whatever may be their difference in political sentiments, and no man would be put up for election who was not such a character. In three years it would be talked about in taverns, and published in newspapers, when any man set up as a candidate for office: "What a good man he is - how moral - how pious!" and the like. And any political party would no more set up a known Sabbath-breaker, or a gambler, or a profane swearer, or a rum-seller, as their candidate for office, than they would set up the devil himself for President of the United States. The carnal policy of many professors, who undertake to correct politics by such means as wicked men employ, and who are determined to vote with a party, let the candidate be ever so profligate, is all wrong - wrong in principle, contrary to philosophy and common sense, and ruinous to the best interests of mankind. The dishonesty of the Church is cursing the world. I am not going to preach a political sermon; but I want to show you that if you mean to impress men favorably to your religion by your lives, you must be honest, strictly honest, in business, politics, and everything you do. What do you suppose those ungodly politicians, who know themselves to be playing a dishonest game in carrying an election, think of your religion, when they see you uniting with them? They know you are a hypocrite!


Suppose I were a lawyer, and should go into court and spread out my client's case. The issue is joined; I make my statements, tell what I expect to prove, and then call my witnesses. The first witness takes his oath, and then rises up and contradicts me to my face. What good will all my pleading do? I might address the jury for a month, and be as eloquent as Cicero; but so long as my witnesses contradict me, all my pleading will do no good. Just so it is with a minister who is preaching in the midst of a cold, stupid, and God-dishonoring Church. In vain does he hold up to view the great truths of religion, when every member of the Church is ready to witness that he lies. Why, in such a Church, the very manner of the people in going out of the aisles contradicts the sermon. They press out as cheerful and as easy, bowing to one another, and whispering together, as if nothing were the matter. If the devil should come in and see the state of things, he would think he could not better the business for his interest.

Yet there are ministers who will go on in this way for years, preaching to a people who, by their lives, contradict every word that is said. And these ministers think it their duty to do so. Duty! For a minister to preach to a Church that is undoing all his work, contradicting all his testimony, and that will not alter! No. Let him shake off the dust from his feet for a testimony, and go to the heathen, or to new settlements. The man is wasting his energies, and wearing out his life, and just rocking the cradle for a sleepy Church, which is testifying to sinners that there is no danger.

Their whole lives are a practical assertion that the Bible is not true. Shall ministers continue to wear themselves out so? Probably not less than ninety-nine-hundredths of the preaching in this country is lost, because it is contradicted by the Church. Not one truth in a hundred, that is preached, takes effect, because the lives of the professors declare that it is not so.
They never will have a revival in any place while the whole Church in effect testifies against the minister. Often it is the case that where there is the most preaching, there is the least religion, because the Church contradicts the preaching. I never knew means fail of a revival where Christians live consistently. One of the first things is to raise the standard of religion, so as to embody the truth of the Gospel in the sight of all men.

Unless ministers can get their people to wake up, and act as if religion were true, and back their testimony by their lives, in vain will be the attempt to promote a revival.

Many Churches are depending on their minister to do everything. When he preaches, they will say: "What a great sermon that was! He is an excellent minister. Such preaching must do good. We shall have a revival soon, no doubt." And all the while they are contradicting the preaching by their lives. I tell you, if they are depending on preaching alone to carry on the work, they must fail. Let an apostle rise from the dead, or an angel come down from heaven and preach, without the Church to witness for God, and it would have no effect. The novelty might produce a certain kind of interest for a time, but as soon as the novelty was gone, the preaching would have no saving effect, while contradicted by the witnesses.
At every step you tread on chords that will vibrate to all eternity. Every time you move, you touch keys whose sound will reecho all over the hills and dales of heaven, and through all the dark caverns and vaults of hell.

Every movement of your lives, you are exerting a tremendous influence that will tell on the immortal interests of souls all around you. Are you asleep, while all your conduct is exerting such an influence?

Are you going to walk in the street? Take care how you dress. What is that on your head? What does that gaudy ribbon, and those ornaments upon your dress, say to every one who meets you? They make the impression that you wish to be thought pretty. Take care! You might just as well write on your clothes; "No truth in religion!" They say: "Give me dress; Give me fashion; Give me flattery, and I am happy!" The world understands this testimony as you walk the streets. You are living "epistles, known and read of all men" (2 Corinthians 3:2). If you show pride, levity, bad temper, it is like tearing open the wounds of the Savior.

How Christ might weep to see professors of religion going about hanging up His cause to contempt at the corners of streets. Only let the "women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works" (1 Timothy 2:9, 10); only let them act consistently, and their conduct will tell on the world - heaven will rejoice and hell groan at their influence. But oh! let them display vanity; try to be pretty; bow down to the goddess of fashion; fill their ears with ornaments, and their fingers with rings: let them put feathers in their hats and clasps upon their arms; lace themselves up till they can hardly breathe; let them put on their "round tires like the moon," "walking and mincing as they go" (Isaiah 3:18, 16), and their influence is reversed: heaven puts on the robes of mourning, and hell may hold a jubilee!
They seem to be agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord, and to lie to the Holy Ghost! They make their vows to God, to consecrate themselves wholly to Him, then they go bowing down at the shrine of fashion - and next they wonder why there are no revivals! It would be more than a miracle to have a revival under such circumstances. How can a revival prevail here? Do you suppose I have such a vain imagination of my own ability, as to think I can promote a revival by my preaching, merely, while you live on as you do? Do you not know that so far as your influence goes, many of you are right in the way of a revival? Your spirit and deportment produce an influence on the world against religion. How shall the world believe religion, when the witnesses are not agreed among themselves? You contradict yourselves; you contradict one another; you contradict your minister; and the sum of the whole testimony is, there is no need of being pious.

Do you believe the things I have been preaching are true, or are they the ravings of a disturbed mind? If they are true, do you recognize the fact that they have reference to you? You say, perhaps: "I wish some of the rich Churches could hear it!" But I am not preaching to them; I am preaching to you. My responsibility is to you, and my fruits must come from you.

Now, are you contradicting it? What is the testimony on the leaf of the record that is now sealed for the Judgment, concerning this day? Have you manifested a sympathy with the Son of God, when His heart is bleeding in view of the desolations of Zion? Have your children, your clerks, your servants seen it to be so? Have they seen a solemnity on your countenance, and tears in your eyes, in view of perishing souls?

Finally, I remark that God and all moral beings have great reason to complain of this false testimony. There is ground to complain that God's witnesses turn and testify point-blank against Him. They declare by their conduct that there is no truth in the Gospel. Heaven might weep and hell rejoice to see this. Oh, how guilty! Here you are, going to the Judgment, red all over with blood. Sinners are to meet you there; those who have seen how you live, many of them already dead, and many others whom you will never see again upon earth. What an influence you have exerted!

Perhaps hundreds of souls will meet you in the Judgment Day and curse you (if they are allowed to speak) for leading them to hell, by practically denying the truth of the Gospel. What will become of this city, and of the world, when the Church is united in practically testifying that God is a liar? They testify by their lives, that if they make a profession and live a moral life, that is religion enough. Oh, what a doctrine of devils is that! It is enough to ruin the whole human race!

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He that winneth souls is wise. - Proverbs 11:30.

T HE most common definition of wisdom is, that it is the choice of the best end and the selection of the most appropriate means for the accomplishment of that end. "He that winneth souls," God says, "is wise." The object of this Lecture is to direct Christians in the use of means for accomplishing their infinitely desirable end, the salvation of souls. I shall confine my attention to the private efforts of individuals for the conversion and salvation of men. On another occasion, perhaps, I shall use the same text in speaking of what is wise in the public preaching of the Gospel, and the labors of ministers. In giving some directions to aid private Christians in this work, I propose to show Christians:

I. How they should deal with careless sinners.

II. How they should deal with awakened sinners.

III. How they should deal with convicted sinners.


For if you fail of selecting the most proper time, very probably you will be defeated. True, you may say that it is your duty at all times to warn sinners, and try to awaken them to think of their souls. And so it is; yet if you do not pay due regard to the time and opportunity, your hope of success may be very doubtful.

(a) It is desirable, if possible, to address a person who is careless, when he is disengaged from other employments. In proportion as his attention is taken up with something else, it will be difficult to awaken him to religion.

People who are careless and indifferent to religion are often offended, rather than benefitted by being called off from important and lawful business. For instance, a minister perhaps goes to visit the family of a merchant, or mechanic, or farmer, and finds the man absorbed in his business; perhaps he calls him off from his work when it is urgent, and the man is uneasy and irritable, and feels as if it were an intrusion. In such a case, there is little room to expect any good. Notwithstanding it is true that religion is infinitely more important than all his worldly business, and he ought to postpone everything to the salvation of his soul, yet he does not feel it; for if he did, he would no longer be a careless sinner; and therefore he regards it as unjustifiable, and gets offended. You must take him as you find him, a careless, impenitent sinner, and deal with him accordingly. He is absorbed in other things, and very apt to be offended, if you select such a time to call his attention to religion.

(b) It is important to take a person, if possible, at a time when he is not strongly excited with any other subject. Otherwise he will be in an unfit frame to be addressed on the subject of religion. In proportion to the strength of that excitement would be the probability that you would do no good. You may possibly reach him. Persons have had their minds arrested and turned to religion in the midst of a powerful excitement on other subjects. But it is not likely.

(c) Be sure that the person is perfectly sober. It used to be more common than it is now for people to drink spirits every day, and become more or less intoxicated. Precisely in proportion as they are so, they are rendered unfit to be approached on the subject of religion. If they have been drinking beer, or cider, or wine, so that you can smell their breath, you may know there is but little chance of producing any lasting effect on them. I have had professors of religion bring to me persons whom they supposed were under conviction (people in liquor are very fond of talking upon religion); but as soon as I came near enough to smell the breath of such persons, I have asked: "Why do you bring this drunken man to me?"

"Why," they have replied, "He is not drunk, he has only been drinking a little." Well, that little has made him a little drunk! The cases are exceedingly rare where a person has been truly convicted, who had any intoxicating liquor in him.

(d) If possible, where you wish to converse with a man on the subject of salvation, take him when he is in a good temper. If you find him out of humor, very probably he will get angry and abuse you. Better let him alone for that time, or you will be likely to quench the Spirit. It is possible you may be able to talk in such a way as to cool his temper, but it is not likely. The truth is, men hate God; and though their hatred be dormant, it is easily excited; and if you bring God fully before their minds when they are already excited with anger, it will be so much the easier to arouse their enmity to open violence.

(e) If possible, always take an opportunity to converse with careless sinners when they are alone. Most men are too proud to be conversed with freely respecting themselves in the presence of others, even their own family. A man in such circumstances will brace up all his powers to defend himself, while, if he were alone, he would melt down under the truth. He will resist the truth, or try to laugh it off, for fear that, if he should manifest any feeling, somebody will go and report that he is thinking seriously about religion.

In visiting families, instead of calling all the family together at the same time to be talked to, the better way is to see them all, one at a time. There was a case of this kind. Several young ladies, of a proud, gay, and fashionable character, lived together in a fashionable family. Two men were strongly desirous to get the subject of religion before them, but were at a loss how to accomplish it, for fear the ladies would combine to resist every serious impression. At length they took this course: they called and sent up their card to one of the young ladies by name. She came down, and they conversed with her on the subject of her salvation, and, as she was alone, she not only treated them politely, but seemed to receive the truth with seriousness. A day or two after they called, in like manner, on another; and then on another; and so on, till they had conversed with every one separately. In a little time the ladies were all, I believe, hopefully converted. The impression made on one was followed up with the others; so that one was not left to exert a bad influence over the rest.

There was a pious woman who kept a boardinghouse for young gentlemen; she had twenty-one or two of them in her house, and at length she became

very anxious for their salvation. She made it a subject of prayer, but saw no seriousness among them. At length she saw that there must be something done besides praying, and yet she did not know what to do.

One morning, after breakfast, as the rest were retiring, she asked one of them to stop a few minutes. She took him aside, and conversed with him tenderly on the subject of religion, and prayed with him. She followed up the impression made, and pretty soon he was hopefully converted. Then she spoke to another, and so on, taking one at a time, and letting none of the rest know what was going on, so as not to alarm them, till all these young men were converted to God. Now, if she had brought the subject before the whole of them together, very likely they would have turned it all into ridicule; or perhaps they would have been offended and left the house, and then she could have had no further influence over them. But taking one alone, and treating him respectfully and kindly, he had no such motive for resistance as arises out of the presence of others.

(f) Try to seize an opportunity to converse with a careless sinner, when the events of Providence seem to favor your design. If any particular event should occur, calculated to make a serious impression, be sure to improve the occasion faithfully.

(g) Seize the earliest opportunity to converse with those around you who are careless. Do not put it off from day to day, thinking a better opportunity will come. You must seek an opportunity, and if none offers, make one. Appoint a time or place, and get an interview with your friend or neighbor, where you can speak to him freely. Send him a note; go to him on purpose; make it look like a matter of business - as if you were in earnest in endeavoring to promote his soul's salvation. Then he will feel that it is a matter of importance, at least in your eyes. Follow it up till you succeed, or become convinced that, for the time, nothing more can be done.

(h) If you have any feeling for a particular individual, take an opportunity to converse with that individual while this feeling continues. If it is a truly benevolent feeling, you have reason to believe the Spirit of God is moving you to desire the salvation of his soul, and that God is ready to bless your efforts for his conversion. In such a case, make it the subject of special and importunate prayer, and seek an early opportunity to pour out all your heart to him, and bring him to Christ.
(a) When you approach a careless individual, be sure to treat him kindly.

Let him see that you address him, not because you seek a quarrel with him, but because you love his soul, and desire his best good in time and eternity. If you are harsh and overbearing in your manner, you will probably offend him, and drive him farther off from the way of life.

(b) Be solemn. Avoid all lightness of manner or language. Levity will produce anything but a right impression. You ought to feel that you are engaged in a very solemn work, which is going to affect the character of your friend or neighbor, and probably determine his destiny for eternity.

Who could trifle and use levity in such circumstances, if his heart were sincere?

(c) Be respectful. Some seem to suppose it necessary to be abrupt, and rude, and coarse, in their intercourse with the careless and impenitent. No mistake can be greater. The apostle Peter has given us a better rule on the subject, where he says: "Be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing" (1 Peter 3:8, 9). A rude and coarse style of address is only calculated to create an unfavorable opinion both of yourself and of your religion.

(d) Be sure to be very plain. Do not suffer yourself to cover up any circumstance of the person's character, and his relations to God. Lay it all open, not for the purpose of offending or wounding him, but because it is necessary. Before you can cure a wound, you must probe it to the bottom.

Keep back none of the truth, but let it come out plainly before him.

(e) Be sure to address his conscience. Unless you address the conscience pointedly, you get no hold of the mind at all.

(f) Bring the great and fundamental truths to bear upon the person's mind.

Sinners are very apt to run off upon some pretext, or some subordinate point, especially one of sectarianism. For instance, if the man is a Presbyterian, he will try to turn the conversation on the points of difference between Presbyterians and Methodists. Or he will fall foul of "old school" divinity. Do not talk with him on any such point. Tell him the present business is to save his soul, and not to settle controverted questions in theology. Hold him to the great fundamental points, by which he must be saved or lost.

(g) Be very patient. If he has a real difficulty in his mind, be very patient till you find out what it is, and then clear it up. If what he alleges is a mere cavil, make him see that it is a cavil. Do not try to answer it by argument, but show him that he is not sincere in advancing it. It is not worth while to spend your time in arguing against a cavil; make him feel that he is committing sin to plead it, and thus enlist his conscience on your side.

(h) Be careful to guard your own spirit. There are many people who have not good temper enough to converse with those who are much opposed to religion. And such a person wants no better triumph than to see you angry. He will go away exulting because he has "made one of these saints mad."

(i) If the sinner is inclined to entrench himself against God, be careful not to take his part in anything. If he says he cannot do his duty, do not take sides with him, or say anything to countenance his falsehood; do not tell him he cannot, or help him to maintain himself in the controversy against his Maker. Sometimes a careless sinner will commence finding fault with Christians; do not take his part, do not side with him against Christians.

Just tell him he has not their sins to answer for: he had better see to his own concerns. If you agree with him, he feels that he has you on his side.

Show him that it is a wicked and censorious spirit that prompts him to make these remarks, and not a regard for the honor of the religion or the laws of Jesus Christ.

(j) Bring up the individual's particular sins. Talking in general terms against sin will produce no results. You must make a man feel that you mean him. A minister who cannot make his hearers feel that he means them, cannot expect to accomplish much. Some people are very careful to avoid mentioning the particular sins of which they know the individual to be guilty, for fear of hurting his feelings. This is wrong. If you know his history, bring up his particular sins; kindly, but plainly; not to give offense, but to awaken conscience, and give full force to the truth.

(k) It is generally best to be short, and not spin out what we have to say.

Get the attention as soon as you can to the very point; say a few things and press them home, and bring the matter to an issue. If possible, get them to repent and give themselves to Christ at the time. This is the proper issue. Carefully avoid making an impression that you do not wish them to repent NOW.

(l) If possible, when you converse with sinners, be sure to pray with them. If you converse with them, and leave them without praying, you leave your work undone.


Be careful to distinguish between an awakened sinner, and one who is under conviction. When you find a person who feels a little on the subject of religion, do not take it for granted that he is convicted of sin, and thus omit to use means to show him his sin. Persons are often awakened by some providential circumstance; as sickness, thunderstorm, pestilence, death in the family, disappointment, or the like; or directly by the Spirit of God; so that their ears are open, and they are ready to hear on the subject of religion with attention and seriousness, and some feeling. If you find a person awakened, no matter by what means, lose no time to pour in light upon his mind. Do not be afraid, but show him the breadth of the Divine law, and the exceeding strictness of its precepts. Make him see how it condemns his thoughts and life. Search out his heart, find what is there, and bring it up before his mind, as far as you can. If possible, melt him down on the spot. When once you have got a sinner's attention, very often his conviction and conversion are the work of a few moments. You can sometimes do more in five minutes, than in years - or a whole lifetime - while he is careless or indifferent.

I have been amazed at the conduct of those cruel parents, and other heads of families, who will let an awakened sinner be in their families for days and weeks, and not say a word to him on the subject. They say: "If the Spirit of God has begun a work in him, He will certainly carry it on!"

Perhaps the person is anxious to converse, and puts himself in the way of Christians, as often as possible, expecting they will converse with him, and they do not say a word. Amazing! Such a person ought to be looked out immediately, as soon as he is awakened, and a blaze of light be poured into his mind without delay. Wherever you have reason to believe that a person within your reach is awakened, do not sleep till you have poured in the light upon his mind, and have tried to bring him to immediate repentance. Then is the time to press the subject with effect.

In revivals, I have often seen Christians who were constantly on the look-out to see if any persons appeared to be awakened; as soon as they saw any one begin to manifest feeling under preaching they would mark him, and (as soon as the meeting was over) invite him to a room, and converse and pray with him - if possible not leaving him till he was converted.

A remarkable case of this kind occurred in a town at the West. A merchant came to the place from a distance, to buy goods. It was a time of powerful revival, but he was determined to keep out of its influence; and so he would not go to any meeting at all. At length he found everybody so much engaged in religion that it met him at every turn; and he got vexed, and vowed that he would go home. There was so much religion there, he said, that he could do no business, and would not stay. Accordingly he booked his seat for the coach, which was to leave at four o'clock the next morning.

As he spoke of going away, a gentleman belonging to the house, who was one of the young-converts, asked him if he would not go to a meeting once before he left town. He finally consented, and went to the meeting. The sermon took hold of his mind, but not with sufficient power to bring him into the Kingdom. He returned to his lodgings, and called the landlord to bring his bill. The landlord, who had himself recently experienced religion, saw that he was agitated. He accordingly spoke to him on the subject of religion, and the man burst into tears. The landlord immediately called in three or four young converts, and they prayed, and exhorted him; and at four o'clock in the morning, when the coach called, he went on his way rejoicing in God! When he got home he called his family together, confessed to them his past sins, avowed his determination to live differently, and prayed with them for the first time. It was so unexpected that it was soon noised abroad; people began to inquire, and a revival broke out in the place. Now, suppose these Christians had done as some do, been careless, and let the man go off, slightly impressed? It is not probable he ever could have been saved. Such opportunities are often lost for ever, when once the favorable moment is passed.


By a convicted sinner, I mean one who feels himself condemned by the law of God, as a guilty sinner. He has so much instruction as to understand something of the extent of God's law, and he sees and feels his guilty state, and knows what his remedy is. To deal with these often requires great wisdom.

You must, then, set yourself to inquire what is that particular difficulty. A physician, when he is called to a patient, and finds him sick with a particular disease, first administers the general remedies that are applicable to that disease. If they produce no effect, and the disease still continues, he must examine the case, and learn the constitution of the individual, and his habits, diet, manner of living, etc., and see what the matter is that the medicine does not take effect. So it is with the case of a sinner convicted but not converted. If your ordinary instructions and exhortations fail, there must be a difficulty. The particular difficulty is often known to the individual himself, though he keeps it concealed. Sometimes, however, it is something that has escaped even his own observation.

(a) Sometimes the individual has some idol, something which he loves more than God, which prevents him from giving himself up. You must search out and see what it is that he will not give up. Perhaps it is wealth; perhaps some earthly friend; perhaps gay dress or gay company, or some favorite amusement. At any rate, there is something on which his heart is so set that he will not yield to God.

(b) Perhaps he has done an injury to some individual that calls for redress, and he is unwilling to confess it, or to make a just recompense. Now, until he will confess and forsake this sin, he can find no mercy. If he has injured the person in property or character, or has abused him, he must make it up. Tell him frankly that there is no hope for him till he is willing to confess it, and to do what is right.

(c) Sometimes there is some particular sin which he will not forsake. He pretends it is only a small one; or tries to persuade himself it is no sin at all. No matter how small it is, he can never get into the Kingdom of God till he gives it up. Sometimes an individual has seen it to be a sin to use tobacco, and he can never find true peace till he gives it up. Perhaps he is looking upon it as a small sin. But God knows nothing about small sins in such a case. What is the sin? It is injuring your health, and setting a bad example; and you are taking God's money (which you are bound to employ in His service) and spending it for tobacco. What would a merchant say if he found one of his clerks in the habit of going to the money drawer, and taking money enough to keep him in cigars? Would he call it a small offense? No; he would say the clerk deserved to be sent to the State prison. I mention this particular sin, because I have found it to be one of the things to which men who are convicted will hold on, although they know it to be wrong, and then wonder why they do not find peace.

(d) See if there is some work of restitution which he is bound to do.

Perhaps he has defrauded somebody in trade, or taken some unfair advantage, contrary to the golden rule of doing as you would be done by, and is unwilling to make satisfaction. This is a very common sin among merchants and men of business. I have known many melancholy instances, where men have grieved away the Spirit of God, or else have been driven well-nigh to absolute despair, because they were unwilling to give satisfaction where they have done such things. Now it is plain that such persons never can have forgiveness until they make restitution.

(e) They may have entrenched themselves somewhere, and fortified their minds in regard to some particular point, which they are determined not to yield. For instance, they may have taken strong ground that they will not do a particular thing. I knew a man who was determined not to go into a certain grove to pray. Several other persons during the revival had gone into the grove, and there, by prayer and meditation, given themselves to God. His own clerk had been converted there. The lawyer himself was awakened, but he was determined that he would not go into that grove. He had powerful convictions, and went on for weeks in this way, with no relief. He tried to make God believe that it was not pride that kept him from Christ; and so, when he was going home from meeting he would kneel down in the street and pray. And not only that, but he would look round for a mud-puddle in the street, in which he might kneel, to show that he was not proud. He once prayed all night in his parlor - but he would not go into the grove. His distress was so great, and he was so wroth with God, that he was strongly tempted to make away with himself, and actually threw away his knife for fear he should cut his throat. At length he concluded he would go into the grove and pray; and as soon as he got there he was converted, and poured out his full heart to God.

So, individuals are sometimes entrenched in a determination that they will not go to a particular meeting (perhaps the inquiry meeting, or some prayer-meeting); or they will not have a certain person to pray with them; or they will not take a particular seat, such as the "anxious seat." They say they can be converted just as well without yielding this point, for religion does not consist in going to a particular meeting, or taking a particular attitude in prayer, or a particular seat. This is true; but by taking this ground they make it the material point. And so long as they are entrenched there, and determined to bring God to their terms, they never can be converted. Sinners will often yield anything else, and do anything else, and do anything in the world, but yield the point upon which they have taken a stand against God. They cannot be humbled, until they yield this point, whatever it is. And if, without yielding, they get a hope, it will be a false hope.

(f) Perhaps he has a prejudice against some one (a member of the Church, perhaps), on account of some faithful dealing with his soul; and he hangs on this, and will never be converted till he gives it up. Whatever it be, you should search it out, and tell him the truth, plainly and faithfully.

(g) He may feel ill-will towards some one, or be angry, and cherish strong feelings of resentment, which prevent him from obtaining mercy from God. "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses" (Mark 11:25, 26).

(h) Perhaps he entertains some errors in doctrine, or some wrong notions respecting the thing to be done, or the way of doing it, which may be keeping him out of the Kingdom. Perhaps he is waiting for God to do something to him before he submits - in fact, is waiting for God to do for him what God has required the sinner to do himself.

He may be waiting for more conviction. People often do not know what conviction is, and think they are not under conviction when in fact they are under powerful conviction. They often think nothing is conviction unless they have great fears of hell. But the fact is, individuals often have strong convictions, who have very little fear of hell. Show them what is the truth, and let them see that they have no need to wait.

Perhaps he may be waiting for certain feelings, which he has heard somebody else had before obtaining mercy. This is very common in revivals where some one of the first converts has told of remarkable experiences. Others who are awakened are very apt to think they must wait for just such feelings. I knew a young man thus awakened; his companion had been converted in a remarkable way, and this one was waiting for just such feelings. He said he was "using the means, and praying for them," but he finally found that he was a Christian, although he had not been through the course of feeling which he expected.

Sinners often lay out a plan of what they expect to feel, and how they expect to be converted, and in fact lay out the work for God, determined that they will go in that path or not at all. Tell them this is all wrong; they must not lay out any such path beforehand, but let God lead them as He sees to be the best. God always leads the blind by a way they know not.

There never was a sinner brought into the Kingdom through such a course of feeling as he expected. Very often they are amazed to find that they are in, and have had no such exercises as they expected.

It is very common for persons to be waiting to be made subjects of prayer, or for some other particular means to be used, or to see if they cannot make themselves better. They are so wicked, they say, that they cannot come to Christ. They want to try, by humiliation, and suffering, and prayer, to fit themselves to come. You will have to hunt them out of all these refuges. It is astonishing into how many corners they will often run before they will go to Christ. I have known persons almost deranged for the want of a little correct instruction.

Sometimes such people think their sins are too great to be forgiven, or that they have grieved the Spirit of God away, when that Spirit is all the while convicting them. They pretend that their sins are greater than Christ's mercy, thus actually insulting the Lord Jesus.

Sometimes sinners get the idea that they are given up of God, and that now they cannot be saved. It is often very difficult to beat persons off from this ground. Many of the most distressing cases I have met with have been of this character.

In a place where I was laboring in a revival, one day before the meeting commenced, I heard a low, moaning, distressing, unearthly noise. I looked and saw several women gathered round the person who made it. They said she was a woman in despair. She had been a long time in that state. Her husband was a drunkard. He had brought her to the meeting-place, and had gone himself to the tavern. I conversed with her, saw her state, and realized that it was very difficult to reach her case. As I was going to commence the meeting she said she must go out, for she could not bear to hear praying or singing. I told her she must not go, and asked the ladies to detain her, if necessary, by force. I felt that, if the devil had hold of her, God was stronger than the devil, and could deliver her. The meeting began, and she made some noise at first. But presently she looked up. The subject was chosen with special reference to her case, and as it proceeded her attention was gained, her eyes were fixed - I never shall forget how she looked - her eyes and mouth open, her head up - and how she almost rose from her seat as the truth poured in upon her mind. Finally, as the truth knocked away every foundation on which her despair had rested, she shrieked out, put her head down, and sat perfectly still till the meeting was over. I went to her, and found her perfectly calm and happy in God. I saw her long afterwards, and she still remained in that state of rest. Thus Providence led her where she never expected to be, and compelled her to hear instruction adapted to her case. You may often do incalculable good by finding out precisely where the difficulty lies, and then bringing the truth to bear on that point.

Sometimes persons will strenuously maintain that they have committed the unpardonable sin. When they get that idea into their minds, they will turn everything you say against themselves. In some such cases, it is a good way to take them on their own ground, and reason with them in this way: "Suppose you have committed the unpardonable sin, what then? It is reasonable that you should submit to God, and be sorry for your sins, and break off from them, and do all the good you can, even if God will not forgive you. Even if you go to hell, you ought to do this." Press this thought until you find they understand and consent to it.

It is common for persons in such cases to keep their eyes on themselves; they will shut themselves up, and keep looking at their own darkness, instead of looking away to Christ. Now, if you can take their minds off from themselves, and get them to think of Christ, you may draw them away from brooding over their own present feelings, and get them to lay hold on the hope set before them in the Gospel.
Convicted sinners often get into a difficulty, in regard to giving up some darling sin, or yielding some point where conscience and the Holy Ghost are at war with them. And if they come across an individual who will yield the point, they feel better, and are happy, and think they are converted.

The young man who came to Christ was of this character. He had one difficulty, and Jesus Christ knew just what it was. He knew he loved his money; and instead of compromising the matter and thus trying to comfort him, he just put His finger on the very place and told him: "Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and come and follow Me" (Matthew 19:21). What was the effect? Why, the young man "went away sorrowful." Very likely, if Christ had told him to do anything else, he would have felt relieved, and would have got a hope; would have professed himself a disciple, joined the Church, and gone to hell.

People are often amazingly anxious to make a compromise. They will ask such questions as this: Whether you do not think a person may be a Christian, and yet do such-and-such things? Or: If he may be a Christian and not do such-and-such things? Now, do not yield an inch to any such questions. The questions themselves may often show you the very point that is laboring in their minds. They will show you that it is pride, or love of the world, or something of the kind, which is preventing them from becoming Christians.

Be careful to make thorough work on this point - the love of the world. I believe there have been more false hopes built on wrong instructions here, than in any other way. I once heard a Doctor of Divinity trying to persuade his hearers to give up the world; but he told them: "If you will only give it up, God will give it right back to you. He is willing that you should enjoy the world." Miserable! God never gives back the world to a Christian, in the same sense that He requires a convicted sinner to give it up. He requires us to give up the ownership of everything to Him, so that we shall never again for a moment consider it as our own. A man must not think he has a right to judge for himself how much of his property he shall lay out for God. One man thinks he may spend seven thousand dollars a year to support his family; he has a right to do it, because he has the means of his own. Another thinks he may lay up fifty or a hundred thousand dollars. One man said, the other day, that he had promised he never would give any of his property to educate young men for the ministry; so, when he is applied to, he just answers: "I have said I never will give to any such object, and I never will." Man! did Jesus Christ ever tell you to act so with His money? Has he laid down any such rule?

Remember, it is His money you are talking about, and if He wants it to educate ministers, you withhold it at your peril. Such a man has yet to learn the first principle of religion, that he is not his own, and that the money which he "possesses" is Jesus Christ's.

Here is the great reason why the Church is so full of false hopes. Men have been left to suppose they could be Christians while holding on to their money. And this has served as a clog to every enterprise. It is an undoubted fact, that the Church has funds enough to supply the world with Bibles, and tracts, and missionaries, immediately. But the truth is, that professors of religion do not believe that "the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof." Every man supposes he has a right to decide what appropriation he shall make of his own money. And they have no idea that Jesus Christ shall dictate to them on the subject.

Be sure to deal thoroughly on this point. The Church is now filled up with hypocrites, because people were never made to see that unless they made an entire consecration of all to Christ - all their time, all their talents, all their influence - they would never get to heaven. Many think they can be Christians, and yet dream along through life, and use all their time and property for themselves, only giving a little now and then, just to save appearances, and when they can do it with perfect convenience. But it is a sad mistake, and they will find it so, if they do not employ their energies for God. And when they die, instead of finding heaven at the end of the path they are pursuing, they will find hell there.

In dealing with a convicted sinner, be sure to drive him away from every refuge, and not leave him an inch of ground to stand on so long as he resists God. This need not take a long time to do. When the Spirit of God is at work striving with a sinner, it is easy to drive him from his refuges.

You will find the truth will be like a hammer, crushing wherever it strikes.

Make clean work with it, so that he shall give up all for God.

Make the sinner see clearly the nature and extent of the Divine law, and press the main question of entire submission to God. Bear down on that point as soon as you have made him clearly understand what you aim at, and do not turn off upon anything else.

Be careful, in illustrating the subject, not to mislead the mind so as to leave the impression that a selfish submission will answer, or a selfish acceptance of the Atonement, or a selfish giving up to Christ and receiving Him, as if a man were making a good bargain, giving up his sins, and receiving salvation in exchange. This is mere barter, and not submission to God. Leave no ground in your explanations or illustrations, for such a view of the matter. Man's selfish heart will eagerly seize such a view of religion, if it be presented, and very likely close in with it, and thus get a false hope.


And the particular time when It is done is when the Spirit is striving with them. Christians should remember their awful responsibility at such times.

The physician, if he knows anything of his duty, sometimes feels himself under a very solemn responsibility. His patient is in a critical state, where a little error will destroy life, and hangs quivering between life and death. If such responsibility should be felt in relation to the body, what awful responsibility should be felt in relation to the soul, when it is seen to hang trembling on a point, and its destiny is now to be decided. One false impression, one indiscreet remark, one sentence misunderstood, a slight diversion of mind, may wear him the wrong way, and his soul be lost.

Never was an angel employed in a more solemn work, than that of dealing with sinners who are under conviction. How solemnly and carefully then should Christians walk, how wisely and skillfully work, if they do not wish to be the means of the loss of a soul!

Finally, if there is a sinner in this house, let me say to him: "Abandon all your excuses. You have been told tonight that they are all in vain. This very hour may seal your eternal destiny. Will you submit to God tonight - NOW?"


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"Sermons from the Penny Pulpit"
by C. G. Finney
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