||delphia > Sanctification by Charles G. Finney from "The Oberlin Evangelist"
Lectures I - IX
Charles G. Finney
A Voice from the Philadelphian Church Age
by Charles Grandison Finney
Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
from "The Oberlin Evangelist"
Lectures I - IX.
by the Rev. C. G. Finney
In discussing the subject of Sanctification, I design to pursue the following
I. Define the meaning of the term sanctification.
II. What I understand by entire sanctification.
III. Notice the distinction between entire and permanent sanctification.
IV. Show what is not implied in entire sanctification.
V. What is implied in entire sanctification.
VI. Show that this state is attainable in this life.
VII. Answer some objections.
VIII. Show when it is attainable.
IX. How it is attainable.
January 1, 1840
SANCTIFICATION- No. 1
by the Rev. Charles G. Finney
Text.--1 Thess. 5:23-24: "And the very God of peace sanctify
you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless
unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who also
will do it."
It will be seen at once, that this outline is sufficiently extensive to fill a large
volume, should I protract the discussion as I easily and perhaps profitably might.
And at best it will occupy several lectures. My design is to condense what I have
to say as much as possible, and yet preserve sufficient perspicuity. I shall endeavor
not to be tedious. And yet I hope to be understood, and to be able to "commend
myself to every man's conscience in the sight of God." I will now,
I. Define the term Sanctification.
Here let me remark, that a definition of terms in all discussions is of prime importance.
Especially is this true of this subject. I have observed that almost without an exception
those who have written on this subject dissenting from the views entertained here,
do so upon the ground that they understand and define the terms, Sanctification and
Christian Perfection, differently from what we do. Every one gives his own definition,
varying materially from each other and from what we understand by the terms. And
then they go on professedly opposing the doctrine as inculcated here. Now this is
not only utterly unfair, but palpably absurd. If I oppose a doctrine inculcated by
another man I am bound to oppose what he really holds. If I misrepresent his sentiments
"I fight as one that beateth the air." I have been amazed at the diversity
of definitions that have been given to the terms Christian Perfection, Sanctification,
&c.; and to witness the diversity of opinion as to what is, and what is not,
implied in these terms. One objects wholly to the use of the term Christian Perfection,
because in his estimation it implies this and that and the other thing, which I do
not suppose are at all implied in it. Another objects to our using the term Sanctification,
because that implies, according to his understanding of it, certain things that render
its use improper. Now it is no part of my design to dispute about the use of words.
I must however use some terms; and I ought to be allowed to use Bible language, in
its Scriptural sense as I understand it. And if I should sufficiently explain my
meaning and define the sense in which I use the terms, this ought to suffice. And
I beg that nothing more nor less may be understood by the language I use than I profess
to mean by it. Others may, if they please, use the same terms and give a different
definition of them. But I have a right to hope and expect if they feel called upon
to oppose what I say, that they will bear in mind my definition of the terms, and
not pretend, as some have done, to oppose my views while they have only differed
from me in their definition of the terms used, giving their own definition varying
materially and I might say infinitely from the sense in which I use the same terms,
and then arraying their arguments to prove that according to their definition of
it, Sanctification is not really attainable in this life when no one here or any
where else, that I ever heard of pretended that in their sense of the term, it ever
was or ever will be attainable in this life, and I might add, or in that which is
Sanctification is a term of frequent use in the Bible. Its simple and primary meaning
is a state of consecration to God. To sanctify is to set apart to a holy use-- to
consecrate a thing to the service of God. A state of sanctification is a state of
consecration or a being set apart to the service of God. This is plainly both the
Old and the New Testament use of the term.
II. What is entire Sanctification.
By entire sanctification, I understand the consecration of the whole being to God.
In other words it is that state of devotedness to God and his service, required by
the moral law. The law is perfect. It requires just what is right, all that is right,
and nothing more. Nothing more nor less can possibly be Perfection or entire Sanctification,
than obedience to the law. Obedience to the law of God in an infant, a man, an angel,
and in God himself, is perfection in each of them. And nothing can possibly be perfection
in any being short of this, nor can there possibly be any thing above it.
III. The distinction between entire and permanent Sanctification.
That a thing or a person may be for the time being wholly consecrated to God, and
afterwards desecrated or diverted from that service, is certain. That Adam and "the
angels who kept not their first estate" were entirely sanctified and yet not
permanently so is also certain.
By permanent sanctification, I understand then a state not only of entire but of
perpetual, unending consecration to God.
IV. What is not implied in entire Sanctification.
As the law of God is the standard and the only standard by which the question in
regard to what is not, and what is implied in entire Sanctification is to be decided,
it is of fundamental importance that we understand what is and what is not implied
in entire obedience to this law. It must be apparent to all that this inquiry is
of prime importance. And to settle this question is one of the main things to be
attended to in this discussion. The doctrine of the entire sanctification of believers
in this life can never be satisfactorily settled until it is understood. And it cannot
be understood until it is known what is and what is not implied in it. Our judgment
of our own state or of the state of others, can never be relied upon till these inquiries
are settled. Nothing is more clear than that in the present vague unsettled views
of the Church upon this question, no individual could set up a claim to having attained
this state without being a stumbling block to the Church. Christ was perfect, and
yet so erroneous were the notions of the Jews in regard to what constituted perfection
that they thought him possessed with a devil instead of being holy as he claimed
to be. It certainly is impossible that a person should profess this state without
being a stumbling block to himself and to others unless he and they clearly understand
what is not and what is implied in it. I will state then what is not implied in a
state of entire sanctification, as I understand the law of God. The law as epitomized
by Christ, "thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy
mind and with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself," I understand to
lay down the whole duty of man to God and to his fellow creatures. Now the questions
are what is not, and what is implied in perfect obedience to this law? Vague notions
in regard to these questions seem to me to have been the origin of much error on
the subject of entire sanctification. To settle this question it is indispensable
that we have distinctly before our minds just rules of legal interpretation. I will
therefore lay down some first principles in regard to the interpretation of law,
in the light of which, I think we may safely proceed to settle these questions.
Rule 1. Whatever is inconsistent with natural justice is not and cannot be law.
Rule 2. Whatever is inconsistent with the nature and relations of moral beings, is
contrary to natural justice and therefore cannot be law.
Rule 3. That which requires more than man has natural ability to perform, is inconsistent
with his nature and relations and therefore is inconsistent with natural justice,
and of course is not law.
Rule 4. Law then must always be so understood and interpreted as to consist with
the nature of the subjects, and their relations to each other and the law-giver.
Any interpretation that makes the law to require more or less than is consistent
with the nature and relations of moral beings, is a virtual setting aside of law
or the same as to declare that it is not law. No authority in heaven or on earth
can make that law, or obligatory upon moral agents, which is inconsistent with their
nature and relations.
Rule 5. Law must always be so interpreted as to cover the whole ground of natural
right or justice. It must be so understood and explained as to require all that is
right in itself, and therefore immutably and unalterably right.
Rule 6. Law must be so interpreted as not to require any thing more than is consistent
with natural justice or with the nature and relations of moral beings.
Rule 7. Of course laws are never to be so interpreted as to imply the possession
of any attributes or strength and perfection of attributes which the subject does
not possess. Take for illustration the second commandment "Thou shalt love thy
neighbor as thyself." Now the simple meaning of this commandment seems to be
that we are to regard and treat every person and interest according to its relative
value. Now we are not to understand this commandment as expressly or impliedly requiring
us to know in all cases the exact relative value of every person and thing in the
universe; for this would imply the possession of the attribute of omniscience by
us. No mind short of an omniscient one can have this knowledge. The commandment then
must be so understood as only to require us to judge with candor of the relative
value of different interests, and treat them according to their value so far as we
understand it. I repeat the rule therefore. Laws are never to be so interpreted as
to imply the possession of any attribute or strength and perfection of attributes
which the subject does not possess.
Rule 8. Law is never to be so interpreted as to require that which is naturally impossible
on account of our circumstances. E.g.: The first commandment. "Thou shalt love
the Lord thy God with all thy heart, &c." is not to be so interpreted as
to require us to make God the constant and sole object of attention, thought, and
affection, for this would not only be plainly impossible in our circumstance but
manifestly contrary to our duty.
Rule 9. Law is never to be so interpreted as to make one requirement inconsistent
with another; e.g.: if the first commandment be so interpreted that we are required
to make God the only object of thought, attention, and affection, then we cannot
obey the second commandment which requires us to love our neighbor. And if the first
commandment is to be so understood that every faculty and power is to be directed
solely and exclusively to the contemplation and love of God, then love to all other
beings is prohibited and the second commandment is set aside. I repeat the rule therefore.
Laws are not to be so interpreted as to conflict with each other.
Rule 10. A law requiring perpetual benevolence must be so construed as to consist
with and require all the appropriate and essential modifications of this principle
under every circumstance; such as justice, mercy, anger at sin and sinners, and a
special and complacent regard to those who are virtuous.
Rule 11. Law must be so interpreted as that its claims shall always be restricted
to the voluntary powers. To attempt to legislate over the involuntary powers would
be inconsistent with natural justice. You may as well attempt to legislate over the
beatings of the heart as over any involuntary mental actions.
Rule 12. In morals, actual knowledge is indispensable to obligation. The maxim, "ignorantia
legis non excusat"-- ignorance of the law excuses no one, applies in morals
to but a very limited extent. That actual knowledge is indispensable to moral obligation,
(1.) From the following Scriptures:
James 4:17, "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to
him it is sin." Luke 12:47-48, "And that servant, which knew his lord's
will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten
with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes,
shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall
be much required.; and to whom men have committed much, of them they will ask the
more." John 9:41, "Jesus said unto them, if ye were blind, ye should have
no sin; but now ye say, we see; therefore your sin remaineth." In the first
and second chapters of Romans, the Apostle reasons at large on this subject. He convicts
the heathen of sin, upon the ground that they violate their own conscience, and do
not live according to the light they have.
(2.) The principle is every where recognized in the Bible, that an increase of knowledge
increases obligation. This impliedly, but plainly recognizes the principle that knowledge
is indispensable to, and commensurate with obligation. In sins of ignorance, the
sin lies in the ignorance itself, but not in the neglect of what is unknown. A man
may be guilty of present or past neglect to ascertain the truth. Here his ignorance
is sin. The heathen are culpable for not living up to the light of nature; but are
under no obligation to embrace Christianity until they have the opportunity to do
Rule 13. Moral laws are to be so interpreted as to be consistent with physical
laws. In other words, the application of the moral law to human beings, must recognize
man as he is, as both a physical and intellectual being; and must never be so interpreted
as that obedience to it would violate the laws of the physical constitution, and
prove the destruction of the body.
Rule 14. Law is to be so interpreted as to recognize all the attributes and circumstances
of both body and soul. In the application of the law of God to human beings, we are
to regard their powers and attributes as they really are, and not as they are not.
Rule 15. Law is to be so interpreted as to restrict its obligation to the actions,
and not to the nature, or constitution of moral beings. Law must not be understood
as extending its legislation to the nature, or requiring a man to possess certain
attributes, but as prescribing a rule of action. It is not the existence or possession
of certain attributes which the law requires, or that these attributes should be
in a certain state of perfection, but the right use of all these attributes as they
are, is what the law is to be interpreted as requiring.
Rule 16. It should be always understood that the obedience of the heart to any law,
implies and includes general faith, or confidence in the lawgiver. But no law should
be so construed as to require faith in what the intellect does not perceive. A man
may be under obligation to perceive what he does not; i.e.: it may be his duty to
inquire after, and ascertain the truth. But obligation to believe with the heart,
does not attach until the intellect obtains a perception of the things to be believed.
Now, in the light of these rules, let us proceed to inquire,
1. What is not, and,
2. What is implied in perfect obedience to the law of God, or in entire sanctification.
- 1. Entire sanctification does not imply any change in the substance of the soul
or body, for this the law does not require, and it would not be obligatory if it
did, because the requirement would be inconsistent with natural justice. Entire sanctification
is the entire consecration of the powers, as they are, to God. It does not imply
any change in them, but simply in the use of them.
- 2. It does not imply any annihilation of constitutional traits of character,
such as constitutional ardor or impetuosity. There is nothing certainly, in the law
of God that requires such constitutional traits to be annihilated, but simply that
they should be rightly directed in their exercise.
- 3. It does not imply the annihilation of any of the constitutional appetites,
or susceptibilities. It seems to be supposed by some, that the constitutional appetites
and susceptibilities, are in themselves sinful, and that a state of entire sanctification
would imply their entire annihilation. And I have often been astonished at the fact
that those who array themselves against the doctrine of entire sanctification in
this life, assume the sinfulness of the constitution of men. And I have not been
a little surprised to find that some persons who I had supposed were far enough from
embracing the doctrine of physical depravity, were, after all, resorting to this
assumption to set aside the doctrine of entire sanctification in this life. But let
us appeal to the law. Does the law any where, expressly or impliedly, condemn the
constitution of man, or require the annihilation of any thing that is properly a
part of the constitution itself? Does it require the annihilation of the appetite
for food, or is it satisfied merely with regulating its indulgence? In short, does
the law of God any where require any thing more than the consecration of all the
appetites and susceptibilities of the body and mind, to the service of God?
In conversing with a brother, upon this subject, not long since, he insisted that
a man might perpetually obey the law of God and be guilty of no actual transgression,
and yet not be entirely sanctified: for he insisted that there might be that in him
which would lay the foundation for his sinning at a future time. When questioned
in regard to what that something in him was, he replied, "that which first led
him to sin at the beginning of his moral existence." I answered that that which
first led him to sin, was his innocent constitution, just as it was the innocent
constitution of Adam, to which the temptation was addressed, that led him into sin.
Adam's innocent constitutional appetites, when excited by the presence of objects
fitted to excite them, were a sufficient temptation to lead him to consent to prohibited
indulgence, which constituted his sin. Now just so it certainly is with every human
being. This constitution, the substance of his body and soul, cannot certainly have
any moral character. But when these appetites which are essential to his nature and
have no moral character in themselves are excited, they lead to prohibited indulgence,
and in this way every human being is led into sin. Now if a man cannot be entirely
sanctified until that is annihilated which first occasioned his sin, it does not
appear that he ever can be entirely sanctified while he possesses either body or
soul. I insist upon it, therefore, that entire sanctification does not imply the
annihilation of any constitutional appetite or susceptibility, but only the entire
consecration of the whole constitution as it is, to the service of God.
- 4. Entire sanctification does not imply the annihilation of natural affection
or resentment. By this I mean that certain persons may be naturally pleasing to us.
Christ appears to have had a natural affection for John. By natural resentment I
mean, that , from the laws of our being, we must resent or feel opposed to injustice
or ill treatment. Not that a disposition to retaliate or revenge ourselves is consistent
with the law of God. But perfect obedience to the law of God, does not imply that
we should have no sense of injury or injustice, when we are abused. God has this,
and ought to have it, and so does every moral being. To love your neighbor as yourself
does not imply, that if he injure you, you feel no sense of the injury or injustice,
but that you love him and would do him good, notwithstanding his injurious treatment.
- 5. It does not imply any degree of unhealthy excitement of mind. Rule 13 lays
down the principal that moral law is to be so interpreted as to be consistent with
physical law. God's laws certainly do not clash with each other. And the moral law
cannot require such a state of constant mental excitement as will destroy the physical
constitution. It cannot require any more mental excitement and action than is consistent
with all the laws, attributes, and circumstances of both soul and body, as stated
in rule 14.
- 6. It does not imply that any organ or faculty is to be at all times exerted
to its full strength. This would soon exhaust and destroy any and every organ of
the body. Whatever may be true of the mind, when separated from the body, it is certain,
while it acts through a material organ, that a constant state of excitement is impossible.
When the mind is strongly excited, there is of necessity a great determination of
blood to the brain. A high degree of excitement cannot long continue, certainly,
without producing inflammation of the brain, and consequent insanity. And the law
of God does not require any degree of emotion, or mental excitement, that is inconsistent
with life and health. Our Lord Jesus Christ does not appear to have been in a state
of continual excitement. When he and his disciples had been in a great excitement
for a time, they would turn aside "and rest awhile."
Who, that has ever philosophized on this subject, does not know that the high
degree of excitement which is sometimes witnessed in revivals of religion, must necessarily
be short, or that the people must become deranged. It seems sometimes to be indispensable,
that a high degree of excitement should prevail for a time, to arrest public and
individual attention, and to draw people off from other pursuits, to attend to the
concerns of their souls. But if any suppose that this high degree of excitement is
either necessary, or desirable, or possible, to be long continued, they have not
well considered the matter. And here is one grand mistake of the Church. They have
supposed that the revival consists mostly in this state of excited emotion, rather
than in conformity of the human will to the will of God. Hence, when the reasons
for much excitement have ceased, and the public mind begins to grow more calm, they
begin immediately to say that the revival is on the decline; when, in fact, with
much less excited emotion, there may be vastly more real religion in the community.
Excitement is often important and indispensable. But the vigorous actings of the
will are infinitely more important. And this state of mind may exist in the absence
of highly excited emotions.
- 7. Nor does it imply that the same degree of emotion, volition, or intellectual
effort, is at all times required. All volitions do not need the same strength. They
cannot have equal strength, because they are not produced by equally powerful reasons.
Should a man put forth as strong a volition to pick up an apple, as to extinguish
the flames of a burning house? Should a mother, watching over her sleeping nursling,
when all is quiet and secure, put forth as powerful volitions, as might be required
to snatch it from the devouring flames? Now, suppose that she was equally devoted
to God in watching her sleeping babe, and in rescuing it from the jaws of death.
Her holiness would not consist in the fact that she exercised equally strong volitions,
in both cases; but, that in both cases, the volition was equal to the accomplishment
of the thing required to be done. So that persons may be entirely holy, and yet continually
varying in the strength of their affections, according to their circumstances-- the
state of their physical system-- and the business in which they are engaged.
All the powers of body and mind are to be held at the service and disposal of
God. Just so much of physical, intellectual, and moral energy are to be expended
in the performance of duty as the nature and the circumstances of the case require.
And nothing is further from the truth, than that the law of God requires a constant,
intense state of emotion and mental action on any and every subject alike.
- 8. Entire sanctification does not imply that God is to be at all times the direct
object of attention and affection. This is not only impossible in the nature of the
case, but would render it impossible for us to think of or love our neighbor or ourselves:
Upon this subject in a former lecture, I used the following language. The law
of God requires the supreme love of the heart. By this is meant, that the mind's
supreme preference should be of God-- that God should be the great object of its
supreme love and delight. But this state of mind is perfectly consistent with our
engaging in any of the necessary business of life-- giving to that business that
attention-- and exercising about it all those affections and emotions which its nature
and importance demand.
If a man love God supremely, and engage in any business, for the promotion of his
glory, if his eye be single, his affections and conduct are entirely holy, when necessarily
engaged in the right transaction of his business, although for the time being, neither
his thought or affection are upon God.
Just as a man who is supremely devoted to his family may be acting consistently with
his supreme affection, and rendering them the most important and perfect service,
while he does not think of them at all. As I have endeavored to show, in my lecture
on the text, "Make to yourselves a new heart, and a new spirit," I consider
the moral heart to be the mind's supreme preference. As I there stated, the natural,
or fleshy heart, is the seat of animal life, and propels the blood through all the
physical system. Now there is a striking analogy between this and the moral heart.
And the analogy consists in this, that as the natural heart, by its pulsations diffuses
life through the physical system; so the moral heart, or the supreme governing preference
of the mind is that which gives life and character to man's moral actions; (e.g.,)
suppose that I am engaged in teaching Mathematics. In this, the supreme desire of
my mind is to glorify God, in this particular calling. Now in demonstrating some
of its intricate propositions, I am obliged, for hours together, to give the entire
attention of my mind to that object. Now, while my mind is thus intensely employed
in this particular business, it is impossible that I should have any thoughts directly
about God, or should exercise any direct affections, or emotions, or volitions towards
him. Yet if, in this particular calling, all selfishness is excluded, and my supreme
design is to glorify God, my mind is in a sanctified state, even though for the time
being, I do not think of God.
It should be understood, that while the supreme preference of the mind has such efficiency,
as to exclude all selfishness, and to call forth just that strength of volition,
thought, affection, and emotion, that is requisite to the right discharge of any
duty, to which the mind may be called, the heart is in a sanctified state. By a suitable
degree of thought, and feeling, to the right discharge of duty, I mean just that
intensity of thought, and energy of action, that the nature and importance of the
particular duty to which, for the time being, I am called, demand.
In this statement, I take it for granted, that the brain, together with all the circumstances
of the constitution are such, that the requisite amount of thought, feeling, &c.
are possible. If the physical constitution, be in such a state of exhaustion as to
be unable to put forth that amount of exertion which the nature of the subject might
otherwise demand, even in this case, the languid efforts, though far below the importance
of the subject, would be all that the law of God requires. Whoever, therefore supposes
that a state of entire sanctification, implies a state of entire abstraction of mind,
from every thing but God, labors under a grievous mistake. Such a state of mind is
as inconsistent with duty, as it is impossible, while we are in the flesh.
The fact is that the language and spirit of the law have been and generally are grossly
misunderstood, and interpreted to mean what they never did, or can mean consistently
with natural justice. Many a mind has been thrown open to the assaults of Satan,
and kept in a state of continual bondage and condemnation, because God was not, at
all times, the direct object of thought, affection, and emotion; and because the
mind was not kept in a state of most perfect tension, and excited to the utmost at
- 9. Nor does it imply a state of continual calmness of mind. Christ was not in
a state of continual calmness. The deep peace of his mind was never broken up, but
the surface or emotions of his mind were often in a state of great excitement, and
at other times in a state of great calmness. And here let me refer to Christ, as
we have his history in the Bible, in illustration of the positions I have already
taken, e.g. Christ had all the constitutional appetites and susceptibilities of human
nature. Had it been otherwise, he could not have been "tempted in all points
like as we are;" nor could he have been tempted in any point as we are, any
further than he possessed a constitution similar to our own. Christ also manifested
natural affection for his mother, and for other friends. He also showed that he had
a sense of injury and injustice, and exercised a suitable resentment when he was
injured and persecuted. He was not always in a state of great excitement. He appears
to have had his seasons of excitement and of calm,-- of labor and rest,-- of joy
and sorrow, like other good men. Some persons have spoken of entire sanctification
as implying a state of uniform and universal calmness, and as if every kind and degree
of excited feeling, except as the feelings of love to God are excited, were inconsistent
with this state. But Christ often manifested a great degree of excitement when reproving
the enemies of God. In short his history would lead to the conclusion that his calmness
and excitement were various, according to the circumstances of the case. And although
he was sometimes so pointed and severe in his reproof, as to be accused of being
possessed of a devil, yet his emotions and feelings were only those that were called
for and suited to the occasions.
- 10. Nor does it imply a state of continual sweetness of mind without any indignation
or holy anger at sin or sinners. Anger at sin is only a modification of love. A feeling
of justice, or a desire to have the wicked punished for the benefit of the government,
is only another of the modifications of love. And such feelings are essential to
the existence of love, where the circumstances call for their existence. It is said
of Christ that he was angry. He often manifested anger and holy indignation. "God
is angry with the wicked every day." And holiness, or a state of sanctification,
instead of being inconsistent with, always implies the existence of anger, whenever
circumstances occur, which demand its exercise: Rule 10.
- 11. It does not imply a state of mind that is all compassion, and no feeling
of justice. Compassion is only one of the modifications of love. Justice, or a desire
for the execution of law, and the punishment of sin is another of its modifications.
God and Christ, and all holy beings, exercise all those affections and emotions that
constitute the different modifications of love, under every possible circumstance.
- 12. It does not imply that we should love or hate all men alike, irrespective
of their value, circumstances, and relations. One being may have a greater capacity
for happiness, and be of much more importance to the universe than another. Impartiality
and the law of love require us not to regard all beings and things alike; but all
beings and things according to their nature, relations and circumstances.
- 13. Nor does it imply a perfect knowledge of all our relations: rule 7. Now such
an interpretation of the law, as would make it necessary, in order to yield obedience,
for us to understand all our relations, would imply in us the possession of the attribute
of omniscience; for certainly there is not a thing in the universe to which we do
not sustain some relation. And a knowledge of all these relations, plainly implies
infinite knowledge. It is plain that the law of God cannot require any such thing
as this; and that entire sanctification or entire obedience to the law of God therefore
implies no such thing.
- 14. Nor does it imply perfect knowledge on any subject. Perfect knowledge on
any subject, implies a perfect knowledge of its nature, relations, bearings and tendencies.
Now as every single thing in the universe sustains some relation to and has some
bearing upon every other thing, there can be no such thing as perfect knowledge on
any one subject, that does not embrace universal or infinite knowledge.
- 15. Nor does it imply freedom from mistake on any subject whatever. It is maintained
by some that the grace of the gospel pledges to every man perfect knowledge, or at
least such knowledge as to exempt him from any mistake. I cannot stop here to debate
this question, but would merely say the law does not expressly or impliedly require
infallibility of judgment in us. It only requires us to make the best use of all
the light we have.
- 16. Nor does entire sanctification imply the knowledge of the exact relative
value of different interests. I have already said in illustrating rule 7, that the
second commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself;" does not
imply that we should, in every instance, understand exactly the relative value and
importance of every interest. This plainly cannot be required, unless it be assumed
that we are omniscient.
- 17. It does not imply the same degree of knowledge that we might have possessed,
had we always improved our time in its acquisition. The law cannot require us to
love God or man as well as we might have been able to love them, had we always improved
all our time in obtaining all the knowledge we could, in regard to their nature,
character, and interests. If this were implied in the requisition of the law, there
is not a saint on earth or in heaven that is or ever can be perfect. What is lost
in this respect is lost, and past neglect can never be so atoned for as that we shall
ever be able to make up in our acquisitions of knowledge, what we have lost. It will
no doubt be true to all eternity, that we shall have less knowledge than we might
have possessed, had we filled up all our time in its acquisition. We do not, cannot,
nor shall we ever be able to love God as well as we might have loved him, had we
always applied our minds to the acquisition of knowledge respecting him. And if entire
sanctification is to be understood as implying that we love God as much as we should,
had we all the knowledge we might have had, then I repeat it, there is not a saint
on earth or in heaven, nor ever will be, that is entirely sanctified.
- 18. It does not imply the same amount of service that we might have rendered,
had we never sinned. The law of God does not imply or suppose that our powers are
in a perfect state; that our strength of body or mind is what it would have been,
had we never sinned. But it simply requires us to use what strength we have. The
very wording of the law is proof conclusive, that it extends its demands only to
the full amount of what strength we have. And this is true of every moral being,
however great or small.
- 19. It does not require the same degree of love that we might have rendered,
but for our ignorance. We certainly know much less of God, and therefore are much
less capable of loving him, i.e. we are capable of loving him with a less amount,
and to a less degree than if we knew more of him, which we might have done but for
our sins. And as I have before said, this will be true to all eternity; for we can
never make amends by any future obedience, or diligence for this any more than for
other sins. And to all eternity, it will remain true, that we know less of God, and
love him less than we might and should have done, had we always done our duty. If
entire sanctification therefore, implies the same degree of love or service that
might have been rendered, had we always developed our powers by a perfect use of
them, then there is not a saint on earth or in heaven that is or ever will be in
that state. The most perfect development and improvement of our powers, must depend
upon the most perfect use of them. And every departure from their perfect use, is
a diminishing of their highest development, and a curtailing of their capabilities
to serve God in the highest and best manner. All sin then does just so much towards
crippling and curtailing the powers of body and mind, and rendering them, by just
so much, incapable of performing the service they might otherwise have rendered.
To this view of the subject it has been objected that Christ taught an opposite
doctrine, in the case of the woman who washed his feet with her tears, when he said,
"To whom much is forgiven, the same loveth much." But can it be that Christ
intended to be understood as teaching, that the more we sin the greater will be our
love and our ultimate virtue? If this be so I do not see why it does not follow that
the more sin in this life, the better, if so be that we are forgiven. If our virtue
is really to be improved by our sins, I see not why it would not be good economy
both for God and man, to sin as much as we can while in this world. Certainly Christ
meant to lay down no such principle as this. He undoubtedly meant to teach, that
a person who was truly sensible of the greatness of his sins, would exercise more
of the love of gratitude, than would be exercised by one who had a less affecting
sense of ill-desert.
- 20. Entire sanctification does not imply the same degree of faith that might
have been exercised but for our ignorance and past sin.
We cannot believe any thing about God of which we have no evidence or knowledge.
Our faith must therefore be limited by our intellectual perceptions of truth. The
heathen are not under obligation to believe in Christ, and thousands of other things
of which they have no knowledge. Perfection in a heathen would imply much less faith
than in a Christian. Perfection in an adult would imply much more and greater faith
than in an infant. And perfection in an angel would imply much greater faith than
in a man, just in proportion as he knows more of God than man. Let it be always understood
that entire sanctification never implies that which is naturally impossible. It is
certainly naturally impossible for us to believe that of which we have no knowledge.
Entire sanctification implies in this respect nothing more than the heart's faith
or confidence in all the truth that is perceived by the intellect.
- 21. Nor does it imply the conversion of all men in answer to our prayers. It
has been maintained by some that a state of entire sanctification implies the offering
of prevailing prayer for the conversion of all men. To this I reply,
- (1.) Then Christ was not sanctified; for he offered no such prayer.
- (2.) The law of God makes no such demand either expressly or impliedly.
- (3.) We have no right to believe that all men will be converted in answer to
our prayers, unless we have an express promise to that effect.
- (4.) As therefore there is no such promise, we are under no obligation to offer
such prayer. Nor does the non-conversion of the world, imply that there are no sanctified
saints in the world.
- 22. It does not imply the conversion of any one for whom there is not an express
or implied promise in the word of God. The fact that Judas was not converted in answer
to Christ's prayers, does not prove that Christ was not in a state of entire sanctification.
- 23. Nor does it imply that all those things which are expressly or impliedly
promised, will be granted in answer to our prayers, or in other words, that we should
pray in faith for them, if we are ignorant of the existence or application of those
promises. A state of perfect love implies the discharge of all known duty. And nothing
strictly speaking can be duty of which the mind has no knowledge. It cannot therefore
be our duty to believe a promise of which we are entirely ignorant, or the application
of which to any specific object we do not understand.
If there is sin in such a case as this, it lies in the ignorance itself. And here
no doubt, there often is sin, because there is present neglect to know the truth.
But it should always be understood that the sin lies in the ignorance, and not in
the neglect of that of which we have no knowledge. A state of sanctification is inconsistent
with any present neglect to know the truth; for such neglect is sin. But it is not
inconsistent with our failing to do that of which we have no knowledge. James says:
"He that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin." "If
ye were blind," says Christ, "ye should have no sin, but because ye say
we see, therefore your sin remaineth."
- 24. Entire sanctification does not imply the impossibility of future sin. Entire
and permanent sanctification does imply the fact, that the sanctified soul will not
sin. But the only reason why he will not, is to be ascribed entirely to the sovereign
grace of God. Sanctification does not imply, as I have already said, any such change
in the nature of the subject, as to render it impossible or improbable that he will
again sin. Nay, I do not suppose there is a man upon earth, or perhaps in heaven,
who would not fall into sin but for the supporting grace of God.
- 25. It does not imply that watchfulness, and prayer, and effort, are no longer
needed. It is the height of absurdity to suppose that, either in this or any other
state of being, there will be no faith called for, or watchfulness against temptation.
Just so long as the susceptibilities of our soul exist, temptation in some sense
and to some extent must exist, in whatever world we are. Christ manifestly struggled
hard with temptation. He found watchfulness and the most powerful opposition to temptation,
indispensable to his perseverance in holiness. "Is the servant above his master,
or the disciple above his Lord?"
- 26. Nor does it imply that we are no longer dependent on the grace of Christ,
but the exact opposite is implied. A state of entire and permanent sanctification
implies the most constant and perfect dependence upon the grace and strength of an
indwelling Christ. It seems to have been supposed by some that entire sanctification
implies that something has been done which has so changed the nature of the sanctified
soul, that ever after he will persevere in holiness in his own strength. I suppose
this to be as far as possible from the truth, and that no change whatever has occurred
in the nature of the individual, but simply that he has learned to confide in Christ
at every step. He has so received Christ's strength as to lean constantly upon his
- 27. Nor does it imply that the Christian warfare is ended. I understand the Christian
warfare to consist in the mind's conflict with temptation. This certainly will never
end in this life.
- 28. Nor does it imply that there is no more growth in grace. Many persons seem
to understand the command "grow in grace," as implying the gradual giving
up of sin. They suppose that when persons have done sinning, there is no more room
for growth in grace. Now it is said of Christ that he grew in grace, where the same
original word is used as in the command. "He increased in stature and in wisdom,
and in favor (kariti, grace) with God and man." If growth in grace implies the
gradual giving up of sin, then God has commanded men not to give up their sins at
once. They must give them up gradually. The truth is that growth in grace implies
the relinquishment of sin to begin with. To grow in grace is to grow in the favor
of God. And what would the Apostle have said, had he supposed that the requirement
to grow in grace, would have been understood by an orthodox Church to require only
the gradual relinquishment of their sins? I suppose that saints will continue to
grow in grace to all eternity, and in the knowledge of God. But this does not imply
that they are not entirely holy, when they enter heaven, or before.
- 29. Nor does it imply that others will recognize it to be real sanctification.
With the present views of the Church in regard to what is implied in entire sanctification,
it is impossible that a really sanctified soul should be acknowledged by the Church
as such. And with these views of the Church, there is no doubt but sanctified believers
would be set at nought, and denounced by the great mass of Christians as possessing
any other than a sanctified spirit.
It was insisted, and positively believed by the Jews, that Jesus Christ was possessed
of a wicked, instead of a holy spirit. Such were their notions of holiness, that
they no doubt supposed him to be actuated by any other than the Spirit of God. They
especially supposed so on account of his opposition to the current orthodoxy, and
the ungodliness of the religious teachers of the day. Now, who does not see that
when the Church is in a great measure conformed to the world, that a spirit of holiness
in any man, would certainly lead him to aim the sharpest rebukes at the spirit and
life of those in this state, whether in high or low places. And who does not see
that this would naturally result in his being accused of possessing a wicked spirit?
The most violent opposition that I have ever seen manifested to any persons in my
life, has been manifested by members of the Church, and even by some ministers of
the gospel, towards those whom I believe were among the most holy persons I ever
knew. I have been shocked, and wounded beyond expression, at the almost fiendish
opposition to such persons, that I have witnessed. I have several times of late observed
that writers in newspapers were calling for examples of Christian Perfection or entire
sanctification. Now I would humbly inquire, of what use it is to point the Church
to examples, so long as they do not know what is, and what is not implied in a state
of entire sanctification? I would ask, are the Church agreed among themselves in
regard to what constitutes this state? Are any considerable number of ministers agreed
among themselves as to what is implied in a state of entire sanctification? Now does
not everybody know that the Church and the ministry are in a great measure in the
dark upon this subject? Why then call for examples? No man can possess this state
without being sure to be set at nought as a hypocrite, and a self-deceiver.
- 30. It is not implied in this state that the sanctified soul will himself always
at the time be sure that his feelings and conduct are perfectly right. Cases may
occur in which he may be in doubt in regard to the rule of duty; and be at a loss,
without examination, reflection, and prayer, to know whether in a particular case
he has done and felt exactly right. If he were sure that he understood the exact
application of the law of God to that particular case, his consciousness would invariably
inform him whether or not he was conformed to that rule. But in any and every case
where he has not a clear apprehension of the rule, it may require time and thought,
and prayer, and diligent inquiry to satisfy his mind in regard to the exact moral
quality of any particular act or state of feeling; e.g. A man may feel himself exercised
with strong indignation in view of sin. And he may be brought into doubt whether
the indignation, in kind or degree, was not sinful. It may therefore require self-examination
and deep searching of heart to decide this question. That all indignation is not
sinful is certain. And that a certain kind and degree of indignation at sin is a
duty, is also certain. But our most holy exercises may lay us open to the assaults
of Satan. And he may so turn our accuser as for a time to render it difficult for
us to decide in regard to the real state of our hearts. And thus a sanctified soul
may be "in heaviness through manifold temptations."
- 31. Nor does it imply the same strength of holy affection that Adam may have
exercised before he fell, and his powers were debilitated by sin. It should never
be forgotten that the mind in this state of existence, is wholly dependent upon the
brain and physical system for its development. In Adam, and in any of his posterity,
any violation of the physical laws of the body, resulting in the debility and imperfection
of any organ or system of organs, must necessarily impair the vigor of the mind,
and prevent its developing itself as it otherwise might have done. It is therefore
entirely erroneous to say that mankind are or can be, in this state of existence,
perfect in as high a sense as they might have been had sin never entered the world,
and had there been no such thing as a violation of the laws of the physical constitution.
The law of God requires only the entire consecration of such powers as we have. As
these powers improve our obligation is enlarged, and will continue to be to all eternity.
For myself, I have very little doubt that the human constitution is capable of being
very nearly, if not entirely renovated or recovered from the evils of intemperance,
by a right understanding of, and an adherence to the laws of life and health. So
that after a few generations the human body would be nearly if not entirely restored
to its primitive physical perfection. If this is so, the time may come when obedience
to the law of God, will imply as great strength and constancy of affection as Adam
was capable of exercising before the fall. But if on the other hand, it be true that
any injury of the physical constitution can never be wholly repaired-- that the evils
of sin in respect to its effect upon the body, are, in some measure at least, to
descend with men to the end of time, then no such thing is implied in a state of
entire sanctification, as the same strength and permanency of holy affection in us
that Adam might have exercised before the fall.
- 32. Nor does it imply the formation of such holy habits as shall secure obedience.
Some have said that it was absurd to profess a state of entire sanctification, on
the ground that it implies not only obedience to the law of God, but such a formation
and perfection of holy habits as to render it certain that we shall never again sin.
And that a man can no more tell when he is entirely sanctified, than he can tell
how many holy acts it will take to form holy habits of such strength that he will
never again sin. To this I answer,
- (1.) The law of God has nothing to do with requiring this formation of holy habits.
It is satisfied with present obedience. It only demands at the present moment the
full devotion of all our powers to God. It never in any instance complains that we
have not formed such holy habits as to render it certain that we shall sin no more.
- (2.) If it be true that a man is never wholly sanctified until his holy habits
are so fixed as to render it certain that he will never sin again, then Adam was
not in a state of entire sanctification previously to the fall, nor were the angels
in this state before their fall.
- (3.) If this sentiment be true, there is not a saint nor an angel in heaven so
far as we can know, that can with the least propriety profess entire sanctification;
for how do they know that they have performed so many holy acts as to have created
such habits of holiness as to render it certain that they will never more sin?
- (4.) Entire sanctification does not consist in the formation of holy habits,
nor at all depend upon this. Both entire and permanent sanctification are based alone
upon the grace of God in Jesus Christ. And perseverance in holiness is to be ascribed
alone to the influence of the indwelling Spirit of Christ, instead of being secured
by any habits of holiness which we have or ever shall form.
- 33. Nor does it imply exemption from sorrow or mental suffering.
It was not so with Christ. Nor is it inconsistent with our sorrowing for our own
past sins, and sorrowing that we have not now the health and vigor, and knowledge,
and love, that we might have had, if we had sinned less; or sorrow for those around
us-- sorrow in view of human sinfulness, or suffering. These are all consistent with
a state of entire sanctification, and indeed are the natural results of it.
- 34. Nor is it inconsistent with our living in human society-- with mingling in
the scenes, and engaging in the affairs of this world. Some have supposed that to
be holy we must withdraw from the world. Hence the absurd and ridiculous notions
of papists in retiring to monasteries, and convents-- in taking the veil, and as
they say, retiring to a life of devotion. Now I suppose this state of voluntary exclusion
from human society, to be utterly inconsistent with any degree of holiness, and a
manifest violation of the law of love to our neighbor.
- 35. Nor does it imply moroseness of temper and manners. Nothing is farther from
the truth than this. It is said of Xavier, than whom, perhaps, few holier men have
ever lived, that "he was so cheerful as often to be accused of being gay."
Cheerfulness is certainly the result of holy affections-- and sanctification no more
implies moroseness in this world than it does in heaven.
Before I proceed to the next head of my discourse, (having said these things,
and given these rules of interpretation so that you can apply the principle to many
things I have not time to notice) I wish to make the following remark.
In all the discussions I have seen upon this subject, while it seems to be admitted
that the law of God is the standard of perfection, yet in defining what constitutes
Christian perfection or entire sanctification, men entirely lose sight of this standard,
and seldom or never raise the distinct inquiry; what does obedience to this law imply,
and what does it not imply. Instead of bringing every thing to this test, they seem
to lose sight of it. On the one hand they bring in things that never were required
by the law of God of man in his present state. Thus they lay a stumbling block and
a snare for the saints, to keep them in perpetual bondage, supposing that this is
the way to keep them humble, to place the standard entirely above their reach. Or,
on the other hand, they really abrogate the law, so as to make it no longer binding.
Or they so fritter away what is really implied in it, as to leave nothing in its
requirements, but a kind of sickly, whimsical, inefficient sentimentalism, or perfectionism,
which in its manifestations and results, appears to me to be any thing else than
that which the law of God requires.
January 15, 1840
SANCTIFICATION- No. 2
by the Rev. Charles G. Finney
Text.--1 Thess. 5:23-24: "And the very God of peace sanctify
you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless
unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who also
will do it."
I come now to show,
IV. What is implied in entire Sanctification.
Under this head, I shall refer to and repeat some things (as I have already done)
which I said a number of months since in my lectures on the law of God.
- 1. Love is the sum of all that is implied in entire Sanctification. But I may
and should be asked what is the kind of love implied? I shall consider the kind of
love to be exercised towards God.
- (1.) It is to be love of the heart, and not a mere emotion. By the heart I mean
the will. Emotions, or what are generally termed feelings, are always involuntary
states of mind, and no further than they are indirectly under the control of the
will, have they any moral character; i.e. they are not choices or volitions, and
of course do not govern the conduct. Love, in the form of an emotion, may exist in
opposition to the will; e.g. we may exercise emotions of love contrary to our conscience
and judgment, and in opposition to our will. Thus the sexes often exercise emotions
of love towards those to whom all the voluntary powers of their mind feel opposed,
and with whom they will not associate. It is true, that in most cases, the emotions
are with the will. But they are sometimes, nay often opposed to it.
Now, it is a voluntary state of mind that the law of God requires; i.e. it lays
its claims upon the will. The will controls the conduct. And it is, therefore, of
course, the love of the heart or will that God requires.
- (2.) Benevolence is one of the modifications of love which we are to exercise
towards God. Benevolence is good will. And certainly we are bound to exercise this
kind of love to God. It is a dictate of reason, of conscience, of common sense, and
of immutable justice, that we should exercise good and not ill-will to God. It matters
not whether he needs our good will or whether our good or ill-will can in any way
affect him-- the question does not respect his necessities, but deserts.
- (3.) Another modification of this love, is that of complacency or esteem. God's
character is infinitely good. We are therefore bound, not merely to love him, with
the love of benevolence; but to exercise the highest degree of complacency in his
character. To say that God is good and lovely is merely to say that he deserves to
be loved. If he deserves to be loved, on account of his goodness and love, then he
deserves to be loved in proportion to his goodness and loveliness. Our obligation,
therefore is infinitely great to exercise toward him the highest degree of the love
of complacency of which we are capable. These remarks are confirmed by the Bible,
by reason, by conscience and by common sense.
- (4.) Another modification of this love is that of gratitude. As every moral being
is constantly receiving favors from God, it is self-evident that love in the form
of gratitude is universally obligatory.
- (5.) Another peculiarity of this love which must, by no means, be overlooked,
is that it must be disinterested; i.e. that we should not love him for selfish reasons.
But that we should love him for what he is-- with benevolence; because his well-being
is an infinite good-- with complacency; because his character is infinitely excellent--
with the heart; because all virtue belongs to the heart. It is plain, that nothing
short of disinterested love is virtue. The Savior recognizes and settles this truth,
in Luke 6:32-34: "For if ye love them who love you, what thank have ye? for
sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to
you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them
of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners,
to receive as much again." These words epitomize the whole doctrine of the Bible
on this subject, and lay down the broad principle, that to love God, or any one else,
for selfish reasons, is not virtue.
- (6.) Another peculiarity of this love is that it must be in every instance supreme.
Any thing less than supreme love to God, must be idolatry. If any thing else is loved
more, that is our God.
I have been surprised to learn that some understand the term supreme in a comparative
sense, and not in a superlative sense. They suppose therefore that the law of God
requires more than supreme love. Webster's definition of supreme and supremely is
"in the highest degree," "to the utmost extent." I understand
the law to require as high a state of devotion to God, of love and actual service
as the powers of body and mind are capable of sustaining.
Observe, that God lays great stress upon the degree of love. So that the degree is
essential to the kind of love. If it be not supreme in degree it is wholly defective
and in no sense acceptable to God.
Now here the Apostle fully recognized the principle, that mere desire for the
good of others, which of course will satisfy itself with good words instead of good
deeds, is not virtue. If it were good willing, instead of good desiring, it would
produce corresponding actions; and unless it is good willing, there is no holiness
- (2.) Benevolence to men is a prime modification of holy love. This is included
in what I have said above, but needs to be expressly stated and explained. It is
a plain dictate of reason, of conscience, of common sense, and immutable justice,
that we should exercise good will towards our fellow men-- that we should will their
good, in proportion to its relative importance-- that we should rejoice in their
happiness, and endeavor to promote it, according to its relative value in the scale
- (3.) Complacency towards those that are virtuous is another modification of holy
love. I say towards those that are virtuous, because while we exercise benevolence
towards all, irrespective of their character, we have a right to exercise complacency
towards those only who are holy, To exercise complacency towards the wicked is to
be as wicked as they are. But to exercise complacency in those that are holy, is
to be ourselves holy.
- (4.) This love is to be in every instance equal. By equal I do not mean that
degree of love which selfish beings have for themselves; for this is supreme. There
is a grand distinction between self-love and selfishness. Self-love is that benevolence
to self or regard for our own interest, which its intrinsic importance demands. Selfishness
is the excess of self-love: i.e. it is supreme self-love-- it is making our own happiness
the supreme object of pursuit, because it is our own. And not attaching that importance
to other's interests, and the happiness of other beings, which their relative value
demands. A selfish mind is therefore in the exercise of the supreme love of self.
Now the law of God does not require or permit us to love our neighbor with this
degree of love, for that would be idolatry. But the command, "to love our neighbor
as ourselves," implies
- (a) That we should love ourselves less than supremely, and attach no more importance
to our own interests and happiness than their relative value demands-- so that the
first thing implied in this command is that we love ourselves less than supremely,
and that we love our neighbor with the same degree of love which it is lawful for
us to exercise towards ourselves.
- (b) Equal love does not imply that we should neglect our own appropriate concerns,
and attend to the affairs of others. God has appointed to every man a particular
sphere in which to act, and particular affairs to which he must attend. And this
business, whatever it is, must be transacted for God and not for ourselves. For a
man, therefore, to neglect his particular calling under the pretence of attending
to the business of others, is neither required or permitted by this law.
Nor are we to neglect our own families, and the nurture and education of our children,
and attend to that of others. "But if any provide not for his own, especially
for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."
To these duties we are to attend for God. And no man or woman is required or permitted
to neglect the children God has given them, under the pretence of attending to the
families of others.
Nor does this law require or permit us to squander our possessions upon the intemperate,
and dissolute, and improvident. Not that the absolute necessities of such persons
are in no case to be relieved by us, but it is always to be done in such a manner
as not to encourage, but to rebuke their evil courses.
Nor does this law require or permit us to suffer others to live by sponging out of
our possessions, while they themselves are not engaged in promoting the good of men.
Nor does it require or permit us to lend money to speculators, or for speculating
purposes, or in any way to encourage selfishness.
- (c) But by equal love is meant, as I have said, the same love in kind and degree,
which it is lawful for us to exercise towards ourselves. It is lawful, nay, it is
our duty to exercise a suitable regard to our own happiness. This is benevolence
to self, or what is commonly called self-love. The same, both in kind and degree,
we are required to exercise to all our fellow men.
- (5.) Another feature of holy love is that it must be impartial; i.e. it must
extend to enemies as well as friends. Else it is selfish love, and comes under the
reprobation of the Savior, in the passage before quoted, Luke 6:32-34: "For
if ye love them who love you what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same,"
Now observe that this test must always be applied to the kind of love we exercise
to our fellow men, in order to understand its genuineness-- God's love is love to
enemies. It was for his enemies that he gave his Son. Our love must be the same in
kind-- it must extend to enemies, as well as friends. And if it does not, it is partial
- 2. Entire Sanctification implies, entire conformity of heart and life to all
the known will of God however it may be made known-- to both physical and moral law
so far as they are known.
- 3. It implies such a perfect confidence in him as to be willing that all events
should be at his sovereign disposal-- such a confidence as to preclude all carefulness
and undue anxiety about ourselves or our friends, our temporal or eternal interests,
the interests of the Church or of the world. Let me be understood. I am as far as
possible from supposing a state of entire Sanctification is inconsistent with the
greatest desire, and most earnest and prevailing wrestlings with God for blessings,
both spiritual and temporal upon ourselves and the world. But I suppose that a soul
in a state of entire conformity to the will of God, will never so distrust his providence
and grace as to be thrown into a state of feverish anxiety about any event. It will,
on all occasions, most sweetly acquiesce and rejoice in the will of God, in whatever
way that will is revealed.
- 4. Entire Sanctification implies a supreme disposition to glorify and serve God--
that this is the ruling principle of our life-- that we live for no lower or other
end than this-- that all other things that we desire are esteemed as a means to this
end-- that life and health, and food and raiment, and houses and furniture, and every
thing else that we possess are regarded by us as a means to this one great absorbing
end, the Glory of God.
- 5. It implies that the principle of love should have such energy as to control
every design and action directly or indirectly.
- 6. It implies an abiding sense of the presence of God. From what I have already
said, you will understand me of course not to mean that God is the direct object
of thought, attention and affection, but that there should be such a sense of his
presence at all times as to have an important bearing upon our whole lives. Every
one knows by his own experience, what it is to have a kind of sense of the presence
of a person, who is not at the time the direct object of our thoughts. A man in the
presence of an earthly prince, or of an august court, under the eye of a human judge,
would be continually awed, and restrained, and affected with a kind of sense of where
he was, and in whose presence, and under whose eye he was acting although his mind
might be so intensely employed in the transaction of business as not at all to make
the judge or prince the object of direct thought, attention, or affection. In this
sense, I suppose a sanctified soul will have an abiding sense, at all times and places,
of the presence of God. And when the mind is withdrawn from necessary pursuits, it
will naturally return to God, and be sensible of His presence in a vastly higher
sense than this. It will be so impressed, and melted, and affected, by His presence
as can never be expressed in words, but as a matter of experience is familiar to
all those who walk with God.
- 7. It does imply deep and uninterrupted communion with God. But here let me correct
a mistake into which, as I think, some have fallen. Many seem to recognize nothing
as communion with God expect that sweet peace and joy, and flowing, and glowing love
that the soul often experiences in seasons of communion. But God no doubt often has
seasons of intercourse and communion with the soul and with the sanctified soul,
in which he reminds it of past sins and follies. And in order to keep it in a sanctified
state he gives it such a view or its past history as to fill it with unutterable
shame, and self-abhorrence, and contempt. Now persons are apt to conceive of this
state of mind as a state of darkness, & to conceive of themselves as being under
the hidings of God's countenance, when in fact they are never perhaps more thoroughly
in the light than at such seasons. They are never perhaps nearer to God than on such
occasions. To be sure their thoughts are not occupied with those sweet and heavenly
visions that fill the mind with joy. Yet they are occupied with considerations of
no less importance and no less indispensable to continuing them in a state of holiness,
than those sweet truths which at other times so greatly rejoice them.
- 8. It implies a greater dread of offending God than of any other evil. This is
implied in supreme love. It is a contradiction to say that we love God supremely,
and yet do not dread offending Him so much as we dread some other evil. If we love
Him more than any earthly friend, we shall dread to offend Him more than that friend.
If we love Him more than we do ourselves, we should dread offending Him more than
we do that evil should befall ourselves. If he is dearer to us than our own souls
we should dread remaining in sin more than we should dread the loss of our souls.
- 9. It does imply the subjugation of all our appetites and passions to the will
of God. I have already said that the sin of Adam consisted in preferring the gratification
of his appetites to the will of God. This is the sin of all men. This is the substance
and the history of selfishness. Now entire obedience to the law of God does imply
that no appetite or susceptibility of body or mind shall be gratified in opposition
to the known will of God. But on the other hand, that "the whole body, soul
and spirit" shall be held in a state of entire consecration to God.
- 10. It implies the strictest employment of our time in the acquisition of knowledge,
and a consecration of what we already know to the service of God.
In my last lecture, I said that the legal maxim, "Ignorance of the law excuses
no one," is true in morals to but a limited extent, and that actual knowledge
is indispensable to obligation under the government of God. This I think was sufficiently
proven by a reference to scripture testimony. I also said that in sins of ignorance,
the sin consisted in the ignorance itself, and not in the non-performance of that
of which the mind has no knowledge.
Now to avoid mistake, it is important to remark here that ignorance of our duty is
always a sin where we possess the means and opportunities of information. In such
cases, the guilt of the ignorance is equal to all the default of which it is the
occasion. Strictly speaking the duty to do a thing does not and cannot attach until
the mind has a knowledge of that thing. Yet if the means of knowledge are within
reach of the mind, the guilt is just as great as all the default of which this ignorance
is the occasion. So that courts of law do not inflict injustice in holding all the
subjects of a government responsible for knowing the law, where the means of knowledge
are within their reach. Although they are not in form pronounced guilty for their
ignorance, & punished for the specific offence, but on the contrary are held
responsible for breaches of those laws of which they had no knowledge, yet in fact
no injustice is done them, as their ignorance in such cases really deserves the punishment
To this it may be objected that God, under the old dispensation treated sins of ignorance
as involving less guilt than sins committed against knowledge. To this I reply,
He did so. And the reason is very obvious. The people possessed but very limited
means of information. Copies of the law were very scarce and utterly inaccessible
to the great mass of the people. So that while He held them sufficiently responsible
to engage their memories to retain a knowledge of their duty and to search it out
with all diligence, yet it is plain that He held them responsible in a vastly lower
sense that He does those who have higher means of information. The responsibility
of the heathen was less than that of the Jews-- that of the Jews less than that of
Christians-- and that of Christians in the early ages of the Church, before the canon
of scripture was full and copies multiplied, much less than that of Christians at
the present day.
- 11. It implies the complete annihilation of selfishness under all its forms,
and a practical and hearty recognition of the rights and interests of our neighbor.
Let me point out in a few particulars what the law of God prohibits and what it requires
in these particulars, as stated in a former lecture.
- (1.) It prohibits all supreme self-love, or selfishness. The command, "love
thy neighbor as thyself," implies, not that we should love our neighbor supremely,
as selfish men love themselves; but that we should love ourselves, in the first place,
and pursue our happiness, only according to its real value, in the scale of being.
But I need not dwell upon this; as it will not probably be doubted, that this precept
prohibits supreme self-love.
- (2.) It prohibits all excessive self-love: (i.e.) every degree of love, that
is disproportioned to the relative value of our own happiness.
- (3.) It prohibits the laying any practical stress upon any interest, because
it is our own.
- (4.) It prohibits, of course, every degree of ill will, and all those feelings
that are necessarily connected with selfishness.
- (5.) It prohibits apathy and indifference, with regard to the well being of our
fellow men. But;
- (6.) It requires the practical recognition of the fact, that all men are brethren--
that God is the great Parent-- the great Father of the universe-- that all moral
agents, every where , are his children-- and that he is interested in the happiness
of every individual, according to its relative importance. He is no respecter of
persons. But so far as the love of Benevolence is concerned, He loves all moral beings,
in proportion to their capacity of receiving, and doing good. Now the law of God
evidently takes all this for granted; and that "God hath made of one blood all
nations of men, to dwell on all the face of the earth."
- (7.) It requires that every being, and interest should be regarded and treated,
by us, according to their relative value; (i.e.) that we should recognize God's relation
to the universe-- and our relation to each other-- and treat all men as our brethren--
as having an inalienable title to our good will, and kind offices-- as citizens of
the same government-- and members of the great family of God.
- (8.) It requires us to exercise as tender a regard to our neighbor's reputation,
interest, and well-being, in all respects, as to our own-- to be as unwilling to
mention his faults, as to have our own mentioned-- to hear him slandered as to be
slandered ourselves. In short, he is to be esteemed, by us, as our brother.
- (9.) It justly reprobates any violation of the great principle of equal love,
as rebellion against the whole universe. It is rebellion against God, because it
is a rejection of his authority-- and selfishness, under any form, is a setting up
of our own interests, in opposition to the interests of the universe of God.
- 12. Entire Sanctification implies a willingness to exercise self-denial, even
unto death, for the glory of God and good of man, did they require it. The Apostle
teaches us that "we ought to be willing to lay down our lives for the brethren,"
as Christ laid down his life.
January 29, 1840
SANCTIFICATION- No. 3
by the Rev. Charles G. Finney
Text.--1 Thess. 5:23-24: "And the very God of peace sanctify
you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless
unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who also
will do it."
We have now arrived at a very important point in the discussion of this subject,
and I beg your patient attention. Having shown,
I. What I mean by the term sanctification;
2. What entire sanctification is;
3. The difference between entire and permanent sanctification;
4. What is not implied, and
5. What is implied in entire sanctification;
I am next, according to my plan to show,
VI. That entire sanctification is attainable in this life.
- 1. It is self-evident that entire obedience to God's law is possible on the ground
of natural ability. To deny this is to deny that a man is able to do as well as he
can. The very language of the law is such as to level its claims to the capacity
of the subject, however great or small that capacity may be. "Thou shalt love
the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,
and with all thy strength." Here then it is plain, that all the law demands,
is the exercise of whatever strength we have, in the service of God. Now, as entire
sanctification consists in prefect obedience to the law of God, and as the law requires
nothing more than the right use of whatever strength we have, it is of course, forever
settled that a state of entire and permanent sanctification is attainable in this
life on the ground of natural ability.
- 2. The provisions of grace are such as to render its actual attainment in this
life, the object of reasonable pursuit. It is admitted that the entire and permanent
sanctification of the church is to be accomplished. It is also admitted that this
work is to be accomplished "through the sanctification of the Spirit and the
belief of the truth." It is also universally agreed that this work must be begun
here; and also that it must be completed before the soul can enter heaven. This then
is the inquiry, Is this state attainable as a matter of fact before death; and if
so when, in this life, may we expect to attain it? It is easy to see that this question
can be settled only by a reference to the word of God. And here it is of fundamental
importance that we understand the rules by which scripture declarations and promises
are to be interpreted. I have already given several rules in the light of which we
have endeavored to interpret the meaning of the law. I will now state several plain
common sense rules by which the promises are to be interpreted. The question in regard
to the rules of biblical interpretation is fundamental to all religious inquiry.
Until the church are agreed to interpret the scriptures in accordance with certain
fixed and undeniable principles, they can never be agreed in regard to what the Bible
teaches. I have often been amazed at the total disregard of all sober rules of biblical
interpretation. On the one hand the threatenings, and on the other the promises,
are either thrown away or made to mean something entirely different from that which
was intended by the Spirit of God. I have much to say on this subject, and design,
the Lord willing, to make the rules of biblical interpretation the subject of distinct
inquiry at another time. At present, I will only mention a few plain, common sense,
and self-evident rules for the interpretation of the promises. In the light of these,
we may be able to settle the inquiry before us, viz: whether the provisions of grace
are such as to render entire and permanent sanctification, in this life, an object
of reasonable pursuit.
- (1.) The language of a promise is to be interpreted by a reference to the known
character of him who promises, where this character is revealed and made known in
other ways than by the promise itself, e.g.
- (a) If the promisor is known to be of a very bountiful disposition, or the opposite
of this, these considerations should be taken into the account in interpreting the
language of his promise. If he is of a very bountiful disposition, he may be expected
to mean all that he seems to mean in the language of his promise, and a very liberal
construction should be put upon his language. But if his character is known to be
the opposite of bountifulness, and that whatever he promised would be given with
great reluctance, his language should be construed strictly.
- (b) His character for hyperbole and extravagance in the use of language should
be taken into the account in interpreting the promises. If it be well understood
that the promisor is in the habit of using extravagant language--to say much more
than he means, this circumstance should in all justice be taken into the account
in the interpretation of the language of his promises. But on the other hand, if
he be known to be an individual of great candor, and to use language with great circumspection
and propriety, we may freely understand him to mean what he says. His promise may
be in figurative language and not to be understood literally, but in this case even,
he must be understood to mean what the figure naturally and fully implies.
- (c) The fact should be taken into the account, whether the promise was made deliberately
or in circumstances of great but temporary excitement. If the promise was made deliberately,
it should be interpreted to mean what it says. But if it were made under great but
temporary excitement, much allowance is to be made for the state of mind, which led
to the use of such strong language.
- (2.) The relation of the parties to each other should be duly considered in the
interpretation of the language of a promise; e.g. the promise of a father to a son
admits of a more liberal and full construction than if the promise were made to a
stranger, as the father may be supposed to indulge a more liberal and bountiful disposition
towards a son than towards a person in whom he has no particular interest.
- (3.) The design of the promisor in relation to the necessities of the promisee
or person to whom the promise is made, should be taken into the account. If it be
manifest that the design of the promisor was to meet the necessities of the promisee,
then his promise must be so understood as to meet these necessities.
- (4.) If it be manifest that the design of the promisor was to meet the necessities
of the promisee, then the extent of these necessities should be taken into the account
in the interpretation of the promise.
- (5.) The interest of the promisor in the accomplishment of his design, or in
fully meeting and relieving the necessities of the promisee, should be taken into
the account. If there is the most satisfactory proof aside from that which is contained
in the promise itself, that the promisor feels the highest interest in the promisee,
and in fully meeting and relieving his necessities, then his promise must be understood
- (6.) If it is known that the promisor has exercised the greatest self-denial
and made the greatest sacrifice for the promisee, in order to render it proper or
possible for him to make and fulfill his promises, in relation to the relieving his
necessities, the state of mind implied in this conduct, should be fully recognized
in interpreting the language of the promise. It would be utterly unreasonable and
absurd in such a case to restrict and pare down the language of his promise so as
to make it fall entirely short of what might reasonably be expected of the promisor,
from those developments of his character, feelings, and designs, which were made
by the great self-denial he has exercised and the sacrifices he has made.
- (7.) The bearing of the promise upon the interests of the promisor should also
be taken into the account. It is a general and correct rule of interpretation, that
when the thing promised has an injurious bearing upon the interest of the promisor
and is something which he cannot well afford to do, and might therefore be supposed
to promise with reluctance, the language in such a case is to be strictly construed.
No more is to be understood by it than the strictest construction will demand.
- (8.) But if on the other hand the thing promised will not impoverish or in any
way be inimical to the interests of the promisor, no such construction is to be resorted
- (9.) Where the thing promised is that which the promisor has the greatest delight
in doing or bestowing; and where he accounts it "more blessed to give than to
receive;" and where it is well known by other revelations of his character,
and by his own express and often repeated declarations, that he has the highest satisfaction
and finds his own happiness in bestowing favors upon the promisee, in this case the
most liberal construction should be put upon the promise, and he is to be understood
to mean all that he says.
- (10.) The resources and ability of the promisor to meet the necessities of the
promisee, without injury to himself, are to be considered. If a physician should
promise to restore a patient to perfect health, it might be unfair to understand
him as meaning all that he says. If he so far restored the patient as that he recovered
in a great measure from his disease, it might be reasonable to suppose that this
was all he really intended, as the known inability of a physician to restore an individual
to perfect health might reasonably modify our understanding of the language of his
promise. But when there can be no doubt as to the ability, resources, and willingness
of the physician to restore his patient to perfect health, then we are, in all reason
and justice, required to believe he means all that he says. If God should promise
to restore a man to perfect health who was diseased, there can be no doubt that his
promise should be understood to mean what its language imports.
- (11.) When commands and promises are given by one person to another, in the same
language, in both cases it is to be understood alike, unless there is some manifest
reason to the contrary.
- (12.) If neither the language, connection, nor circumstances, demand a diverse
interpretation, we are bound to understand the same language alike in both cases.
- (13.) I have said, we are to interpret the language of law so as to consist with
natural justice. I now say, that we are to interpret the language of the promises
so as to consist with the known greatness, resources, goodness, bountifulness, relations,
design, happiness, and glory of the promisor.
- (14.) If his bountifulness is equal to his justice, his promises of grace must
be understood to mean as much as the requirements of his justice.
- (15.) If he delights in giving as much as in receiving, his promises must mean
as much as the language of his requirements.
- (16.) If he is as merciful as he is just, his promises of mercy must be as liberally
construed as the requirements of his justice.
- (17.) If "he delighteth in mercy," if Himself says "judgment is
his strange work," and mercy is that in which he has peculiar satisfaction,
his promises of grace and mercy are to be construed even more liberally than the
command and threatenings of his justice. The language in this case is to be understood
as meaning quite as much as the same language would in any supposable circumstances.
- (18.) Another rule of interpreting and applying the promises which has been extensively
overlooked is this, the promises are all "yes and amen in Christ Jesus."
They are all founded upon and expressive of great and immutable principles of God's
government. God is no respecter of persons. He knows nothing of favoritism. But when
He makes a promise, He reveals a principle of universal application to all persons
in like circumstances. Therefore the promises are not restricted in their application
to the individual or individuals to whom they were first given, but may be claimed
by all persons in similar circumstances. And what God is at one time, He always is.
What He has promised at one time or to one person, he promises at all times to all
persons under similar circumstances. That this is a correct view of the subject is
manifest from the manner in which the New Testament writers understood and applied
the promises of the Old Testament. Let any person with a reference Bible read the
New Testament with a design to understand how its writers applied the promises of
the Old Testament, and he will see this principle brought out in all its fulness.
The promises made to Adam, Noah, Abraham, the Patriarchs, and to the inspired men
of every age, together with the promises made to the church, and indeed all the promises
of spiritual blessings,--it is true of them all, that what God has said and promised
once, He always says and promises, to all persons and at all times, and in all places,
where the circumstances are similar.
Having stated these rules, in the light of which we are to interpret the language
of the promises, I will say a few words in regard to when a promise becomes due,
and on what conditions we may realize its fulfillment. I have said some of the same
things in the last volume of the Evangelist. But I wish to repeat them in this connection,
and add something more.
- (1.) All the promises of sanctification in the Bible, from their very nature
necessarily imply the exercise of our own agency in receiving the thing promised.
As sanctification consists in the right exercise of our own agency, or in obedience
to the law of God, a promise of sanctification must necessarily be conditioned upon
the exercise of faith in the promise. And its fulfillment implies the exercise of
our own powers in receiving it.
- (2.) It consequently follows, that a promise of sanctification, to be of any
avail to us, must be due at some certain time, expressed or implied in the promise:
for if the fulfillment of the promise implies the exercise of our own agency, the
promise is a mere nullity to us, unless we are able to understand when it becomes
due, or at what time we are to expect and plead its fulfillment.
- (3.) A promise in the present tense is on demand. In other words, it is always
due, and its fulfillment may be plead and claimed by the promisee at any time.
- (4.) A promise due at a future specified time, is after that time on demand,
and may at any time thereafter be plead as a promise in the present tense.
- (5.) A great many of the Old Testament promises became due at the advent of Christ.
Since that time they are to be considered and used as promises in the present tense.
The Old Testament saints could not plead their fulfillment to them; because they
were either expressly or impliedly informed, that they were not to be fulfilled until
the coming of Christ. All that class of promises, therefore, that became due "in
the last days," "at the end of the world," i.e. the Jewish dispensation,
are to be regarded as now due or as promises in the present tense.
- (6.) Notwithstanding these promises are now due, yet they are expressly or impliedly
conditioned upon the exercise of faith, and the right use of the appropriate means
by us, to receive their fulfillment.
- (7.) When a promise is due, we may expect the fulfillment of it at once or gradually,
according to the nature of the blessing. The promise that the world shall be converted
in the latter day, does not imply that we are to expect the world to be converted
at any one moment of time; but that the Lord will commence it at once, and hasten
it in its time, according to the faith and efforts of the church. On the other hand,
when the blessing promised may in its nature be fulfilled at once, and when the nature
of the case makes it necessary that it should be, then its fulfillment may be expected
whenever we exercise faith.
- (8.) There is a plain distinction between promises of grace and of glory. Promises
of glory are of course not to be fulfilled until we arrive at heaven. Promises of
grace, unless there be some express or implied reason to the contrary, are to be
understood as applicable to this life.
- (9.) A promise also may be unconditional in one sense, and conditional in another;
e.g. promises made to the church as a body may be absolute and their fulfillment
be secure and certain, sooner or later, while their fulfillment to any generation
of the church or to any particular individuals of the church, may be and must be
conditioned upon their faith and the appropriate use of means. Thus the promise of
God that the church should possess the land of Canaan was absolute and unconditional
in such a sense as that the church, at some period, would and certainly must take
possession of that land. But the promise was conditional in the sense that the entering
into possession, by any generation, depended entirely upon their own faith and the
appropriate use of means. So the promise of the world's conversion, and the sanctification
of the church under the reign of Christ, is unconditional in the sense, that it is
certain that those events will at some time occur, but when they will occur--what
generation of individuals shall receive this blessing, is necessarily conditioned
upon their faith. This principle is plainly recognized by Paul in Heb. 4:6, 11: "Seeing
therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first
preached entered not in because of unbelief;" "Let us labor therefore to
enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."
I come now to consider the question directly, and wholly as a Bible question,
whether entire and permanent sanctification is in such a sense attainable in this
life as to make its attainment an object of rational pursuit.
Let me first, however, recall your attention to what this blessing is. Simple obedience
to the law of God is what I understand to be present, and its continuance to be permanent
sanctification. The law is and forever must be the only standard. Whatever departs
from this law on either side, must be false. Whatever requires more or less than
the law of God, I reject as having nothing to do with the question.
It will not be my design to examine a great number of scripture promises, but rather
to show that those which I do examine, fully sustain the position I have taken. One
is sufficient, if it be full and its application just, to settle this question forever.
I might occupy many lectures in the examination of the promises, for they are exceedingly
numerous, and full, and in point. But as I have already given several lectures on
the promises, my design is now to examine only a few of them, more critically than
I did before. This will enable you to apply the same principles to the examination
of the scripture promises generally.
- 1. I begin by referring you to the law of God, as given in Deut. 10:12: "And
now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy
God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Lord thy God with
all thy heart, and with all thy soul." Upon this passage I remark:
- (1.) It professedly sums up the whole duty of man to God--to fear and love Him
with all the heart, and all the soul.
- (2.) Although this is said of Israel, yet it is equally true of all men. It is
equally binding upon all, and is all that God requires of any man in regard to Himself.
- (3.) Obedience to this requirement is entire sanctification.
See Deut. 30:6: "And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the
heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy
soul, that thou mayest live." Here we have a promise couched in the same language
as the command just quoted. Upon this passage I remark:
- (1.) It promises just what the law requires. It promises all that the first and
great commandment any where requires.
- (2.) Obedience to the first commandment always implies obedience to the second.
It is plainly impossible that we should "love God, whom we have not seen,"
and "not love our neighbor whom we have seen."
- (3.) This promise, on its very face, appears to mean just what the law means--to
promise just what the law requires.
- (4.) If the law requires a state of entire sanctification, or if that which the
law requires is a state of entire sanctification, then this is a promise of entire
- (5.) As the command is universally binding upon all and applicable to all, so
this promise is universally applicable to all who will lay hold upon it.
- (6.) Faith is an indispensable condition to the fulfillment of this promise.
It is entirely impossible that we should love God with all the heart, without confidence
in Him. God begets love in man, in no other way, than by so revealing Himself as
to inspire confidence,--that confidence which works by love. In Rules 10 and 11,
for the interpretation of the promises, it is said, that "where a command and
a promise are given in the same language, we are bound to interpret the language
alike in both cases, unless there be some manifest reason for a different interpretation."
Now here, there is no perceivable reason why we should not understand the language
of the promise as meaning as much as the language of the command. This promise appears
to have been designed to cover the whole ground of the requirement.
- (7.) Suppose the language in this promise to be used in a command, or suppose
that the form of this promise were changed into that of a command. Suppose God should
say as He does elsewhere, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart
and with all thy soul;" who would doubt that God designed to require a state
of entire sanctification or consecration to Himself. How then are we to understand
it when used in the form of a promise? See Rules 14 and 15" "If his bountifulness
equal his justice, his promises of grace must be understood to mean as much as the
requirements of his justice." "If He delights in giving as much as in receiving,
his promises must mean as much as the language of his requirements."
- (8.) This promise is designed to be fulfilled in this life. The language and
connection imply this: I "will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed,
to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul."
- (9.) This promise as it respects the church, at some day, must be absolute and
certain. So that God will undoubtedly, at some period, beget this state of mind in
the church. But to what particular individuals and generation this promise will be
fulfilled must depend upon their faith in the promise.
- 2. See Jer. 31:31-34: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will
make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah; not according
to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the
hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt, (which my covenant they brake, although
I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord;) but this shall be the covenant that I
will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put
my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God,
and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor,
and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from
the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their
iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." Upon this passage, I remark:
- (1.) It was to become due, or the time its fulfillment may be claimed and expected,
was at the advent of Christ. This is unequivocally settled in Heb. 8:8-12, where
this promise is quoted at length as being applicable to the gospel day.
- (2.) This is undeniably a promise of entire sanctification. It is a promise that
the "law shall be written in the heart." It means that the very temper
and spirit required by the law shall be begotten in the soul. Now if the law requires
entire sanctification or perfect holiness, this is certainly a promise of it; for
it is a promise of all that the law requires. To say that this is not a promise of
entire sanctification, is the same absurdity as to say, that perfect obedience to
the law is not entire sanctification; and this last is the same absurdity as to say
that something more is our duty than what the law requires; and this again is to
say that the law is imperfect and unjust.
- (3.) A permanent state of sanctification is plainly implied in this promise.
- (a) The reason for setting aside the first covenant was, that it was broken:
"Which my covenant they brake." One grand design of the New Covenant is,
that it shall not be broken, for then it will be no better than the first.
- (b) Permanency is implied in the fact, that it is to be engraven in the heart.
- (c) Permanency is plainly implied in the assertion, that God will remember their
sin no more. In Jer. 32:39, 40, where the same promise is in substance repeated,
you will find it expressly stated that the covenant is to be "everlasting;"
and that He will so "put his fear in their hearts that they shall not depart
from Him." Here permanency is as expressly promised as it can be.
- (d) Suppose the language of this promise to be thrown into the form of a command.
Suppose God to say, "Let my law be within your hearts, and let it be in your
inward parts, and let my fear be so within your hearts that you shall not depart
form me. Let your covenant with me be everlasting." If this language were found
in a command, would any man in his senses doubt that it meant perfect and permanent
sanctification? If not, by what rule of sober interpretation does he make it mean
any thing else when found in a promise? It appears to be the most profane trifling,
when such language is found in a promise, to make it mean less than it does when
found in a command. See Rule 17.
- (4.) This promise as it respects the Church, at some period of its history, is
unconditional, and its fulfillment certain. But in respect to any particular individuals
or generation of the church, its fulfillment is necessarily conditioned upon their
- (5.) The church, as a body, have certainly never received this new covenant.
Yet doubtless multitudes, in every age of the Christian dispensation, have received
it. And God will hasten the time when it shall be so fully accomplished, that there
shall be no need for one man to say to his brother, "Know ye the Lord, for all
shall know Him from the least to the greatest."
- (6.) It should be understood that this promise was made to the Christian church
and not all to the Jewish church. The saints, under the old dispensation, had no
reason to expect the fulfillment of this and kindred promises to themselves, because
their fulfillment was expressly deferred until the commencement of the Christian
- (7.) It has been said, that nothing more is promised than regeneration. But were
not the Old Testament saints regenerated? Yet it is expressly said that they received
not the promises. Heb. 11:13, 39, 40: "These all died in faith, not having received
the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced
them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." "And
these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be
made perfect." Here we see that these promises were not received by the Old
Testament saints. Yet they were regenerated.
- (8.) It has also been said that the promise implied no more than the final perseverance
of the saints. But I would inquire, did not the Old Testament saints persevere? And
yet we have just seen, that the Old Testament saints did not receive these promises
in their fulfillment.
- 3. I will next examine the promise in Ezek. 36:25-27: "Then will I sprinkle
clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all
your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit
will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and
I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause
you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them." Upon
this I remark:
- (1.) It was written within nineteen years after that which we have just examined
in Jer. It plainly refers to the same time and is a promise of the same blessing.
- (2.) It seems to be admitted, nor can it be denied, that this is a promise of
entire sanctification. The language is very definite and full. "Then,"
referring to some future time when it should become due, "will I sprinkle clean
water upon you and ye shall be clean." Mark the first promise is, "ye shall
be clean." If to be "clean" does not mean entire sanctification, what
does it mean?
The second promise is, "from all your filthiness and from all your idols
will I cleanse you." If to be cleansed "from all filthiness and all idols,"
be not a state of entire sanctification, what is?
The third promise is, "a new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I
put within you; I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and will give
you a heart of flesh." If to have a "clean heart," a "new heart,"
a "heart of flesh," in opposition to a "heart of stone,"--be
not entire sanctification, what is?
The fourth promise is, "I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk
in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments to do them."
- (3.) Let us turn the language of these promises into that of command; and understand
God as saying, "Make you a clean heart, a new heart, and a new spirit; put away
all your iniquities, all your filthiness, and all your idols; walk in my statutes,
and keep my judgments, and do them." Now what man in the sober exercise of his
senses, would doubt whether God meant to require a state of entire sanctification
in such promises as these? The rules of legal interpretation, would demand that we
should so understand Him. Rule 5: "The interest of the promisor in the accomplishment
of His design or in fully meeting and relieving the necessities of the promisee,
should also be taken into the account. If there is the most satisfactory proof, aside
from that which is contained in the promise itself, that the promisor feels the highest
interest in the promisee, and in fully meeting and relieving his necessities, then
his promise must be understood accordingly."
If this is so, what is the fair and proper construction of this language when
found in a promise. I do not hesitate to say that to me it is amazing that any doubt
should be left on the mind of any man whether, in these promises, God means as much
as in his commands couched in the same language; e.g. Ezek. 18:30, 31: "Repent,
and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.
Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make
you a new heart and a new spirit; for why will you die, O house of Israel?"
Now that the language in the promise under consideration, should mean as much as
the language of this command, is demanded by every sober rule of interpretation.
And who ever dreamed, that when He required His people to put away all their iniquities,
He only meant that they should put away a part of their iniquities?
- (4.) This promise respects the church, and it cannot be pretended that it has
ever been fulfilled according to its proper import, in any past age of the church.
- (5.) As it regards the church, at a future period of its history, this promise
is absolute, in the sense that it certainly will be fulfilled.
- (6.) It was manifestly designed to apply to Christians under the new dispensation,
rather than to the Jews under the old dispensation. The sprinkling of clean water
and the outpouring of the Spirit, seem plainly to indicate that the promise belonged
more particularly to the Christian dispensation. It undeniably belongs to the same
class of promises with that in Jer. 31:31-34, Joel 2:28, and many others, that manifestly
look forward to the gospel day as the time when they shall become due. As these promises
have never been fulfilled, in their extent and meaning, their complete fulfillment
remains to be realized by the church as a body. And those individuals and that generation
will take possession of the blessing, who understand and believe and appropriate
them to their own case.
- 4. I will next examine the promise in the text, 1 Thess. 5:23, 24: "And
the very God of peace sanctify you wholly: and I pray God your whole spirit, and
soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it." Upon this I remark:
- (1.) That according to Prof. Robinson's Lexicon, the language used here is the
strongest form of expressing perfect or entire sanctification.
- (2.) It is admitted, that this is a prayer for and a promise of entire sanctification.
- (3.) The very language shows, that both the prayer and the promise refer to this
life, as it is a prayer for the sanctification of the body as well as the soul; also
that they might be preserved, not after, but unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- (4.) This is a prayer of inspiration, to which is annexed an express promise
that God will do it.
- (5.) It is, from the necessity of the case, conditioned upon our faith, as sanctification
without faith is naturally impossible.
- (6.) Now if this promise, with those that have already been examined, do not
honestly, and fully, settle the question of the attainability of entire sanctification
in this life, it is difficult to understand how any thing can be settled by appeal
There are great multitudes of promises to the same import, to which I might refer
you, and which if examined in the light of the foregoing rules of interpretation,
would be seen to heap up demonstration upon demonstration, that this is a doctrine
of the Bible. Only examine them in the light of these plain, self evident principles,
and it seems to me, that they cannot fail to produce conviction.
I will not longer occupy your time in the examination of the promises, but in my
next will mention several other considerations in support of this doctrine.
February 12, 1840
SANCTIFICATION- No. 4
by the Rev. Charles G. Finney
Text.--1 Thess. 5:23-24: "And the very God of peace sanctify
you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless
unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who also
will do it."
Having examined a few of the promises in proof of the position, that a state of entire
sanctification is attainable in this life, I will now proceed to mention other considerations
in support of this doctrine.
- 5. Christ prayed for the entire sanctification of saints in this life. "I
pray not," He says, "that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but
that thou shouldest keep them from the evil of the world." He did not pray that
they should be kept from persecution or from natural death, but He manifestly prayed,
that they should be kept from sin. Suppose Christ had commanded them to keep themselves
from the evil of the world; what should we understand him to mean by such a command?
- 6. Christ has taught us to pray for entire sanctification in this life; "Thy
will be done on earth as it is done in heaven." Now, if there is entire sanctification
in heaven, Christ requires us to pray for it on earth. And is it probable that He
has taught us to pray for that which He knows never can be or will be granted?
- 7. The Apostles evidently expected Christians to attain this state in this life.--See
Col. 4:12: "Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you,
always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete
in all the will of God." Upon this passage I remark:
- (1.) It was the object of the efforts of Epaphras, and a thing which he expected
to effect, to be instrumental in causing those Christians to be "perfect and
complete in all the will of God."
- (2.) If this language does not describe a state of entire sanctification, I know
of none that would. If "to be perfect and complete in all the will of God,"
be not Christian perfection, what is?
- (3.) Paul knew that Epaphras was laboring to this end, and with this expectation;
and he informed the church of it in a manner that evidently showed his approbation
of the views and conduct of Epaphras.
- 8. That the Apostles expected Christians to attain this state is further manifest,
from 2 Cor. 7:1: "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse
ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness, in the
fear of God."
Now does not the Apostle speak in this passage as if he really expected those
to whom he wrote "to perfect holiness in the fear of God?" Observe how
strong and full the language is, "Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness
of the flesh and spirit." If "to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness
of the flesh and all filthiness of the spirit, and to perfect holiness," be
not entire sanctification, what is? That he expected this to take place in this life,
is evident from the fact, that he requires them to be cleansed from all filthiness
of the flesh as well as of the spirit.
- 9. All the intermediate steps can be taken. Therefore, the end can be reached.
There is certainly no point in our progress towards entire sanctification, where
it can be said, we can go no further. To this it has been objected, that though all
the intermediate steps can be taken, yet the goal can never be reached in this life,
just as five may be divided by three, ad infinitum, without exhausting the fraction.
Now this illustration deceives the mind that uses it, as it may the minds of those
who listen to it. It is true that you can never exhaust the fraction in dividing
five by three, for the plain reason that the division may be carried on, ad infinitum.
But in the case of entire sanctification, all the intermediate steps can be taken;
for there is an end, or state of entire sanctification; and that too, at a point
infinitely short of infinite.
- 10. That this state may be attained in this life, I argue from the fact that
provision is made against all the occasions of sin. Men sin only when they are tempted.
And it is expressly asserted that in every temptation provision is made for our escape.
Certainly if it is possible for us to escape without sin, under every temptation,
then a state of entire and permanent sanctification is attainable.
- 11. Full provision is made for overcoming the three great enemies of our souls;
the world, the flesh, and the devil.
- (1.) The world--"This is the victory that overcometh the world, even your
faith." "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that
Jesus is the Christ."
- (2.) The flesh--"If ye walk in the Spirit, ye shall not fulfill the lusts
of the flesh."
- (3.) Satan--"The shield of faith shall quench all the fiery darts of the
wicked." "And God shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly."
Now all sober rules of Biblical criticism require us to understand the passages
I have quoted, in the sense I have quoted them.
- 12. It is evident from the fact, expressly stated, that abundant means are provided
for the accomplishment of this end. Eph. 4:10-16: "He that descended is the
same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.
And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some,
pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry,
for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith,
and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the
stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children tossed to
and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and
cunning craftiness, where by they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth
in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head even Christ: from
whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint
supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh
increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in love." Upon this passage,
- (1.) That what is here spoken of is plainly applicable only to this life. It
is in this life that the apostles, evangelists, prophets and teachers exercise their
ministry. The means, therefore, are applicable, and so far as we know, only applicable
to this life.
- (2.) The Apostle here manifestly teaches that these means are designed, and adequate
to perfecting the whole Church as the body of Christ, "till we all come to the
unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto the measure of the
stature of the fulness of Christ." Now observe--
- (a.) These means are for the perfecting of the saints, till the whole Church,
as a perfect man, "has come to the measure of the stature of the fulness of
Christ." If this is not entire sanctification, what is? That this is to take
place in this world, is evident from what follows. For the Apostle adds, "that
we henceforth," (i.e. after arriving at this perfection,) "be no more tossed
to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men
and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive."
- (3.) It should be observed that this is a very strong passage in support of the
doctrine, inasmuch as it asserts that abundant means are provided for the sanctification
of the Church in this life. And as the whole includes all its parts, there must be
sufficient provision for the sanctification of each individual.
- (4.) If the work is ever to be effected, it is by these means. But these means
are used only in this life. Entire sanctification then must take place in this life.
- (5.) If this passage does not teach a state of entire sanctification, such a
state is no where mentioned in the Bible. And if believers are not here said to be
wholly sanctified by these means, and of course in this life, I know not that it
is any where taught that they shall be sanctified at all.
- (6.) But suppose this passage to be put in the language of a command, how should
we understand it? Suppose the saints commanded to be perfect, and to "grow up
to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ," could any thing less
than entire sanctification be understood by such requisitions? Then by what rule
of sober criticism, I would inquire, can this language used in this connection, mean
any thing less than I have supposed it to mean?
- 13. God is able to perform this work in and for us. Eph. 3:14-19: " For
this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole
family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you according to the riches
of his glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that
Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth,
and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might
be filled with all the fulness of God." Upon this passage I remark:
- (1.) Paul evidently prays here for the entire sanctification of believers in
this life. It is implied in our being "rooted and grounded in love," and
being "filled with all the fulness of God," to be as perfect in our measure
and according to our capacity, as He is. If to be filled with the fulness of God,
does not imply a state of entire sanctification, what does?
- (2.) That Paul did not see any difficulty in the way of God's accomplishing this
work, is manifest from what he says in the 20th verse--"Now unto Him that is
able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the
power that worketh in us, &c."
- 14. The Bible no where represents death as the termination of sin in the saints,
which it could not fail to do, were it true that they cease not to sin until death.
It has been the custom of the Church, for a long time, to console individuals, in
view of death, by the consideration, that it would be the termination of all their
sin. And how almost universal has been the custom in consoling the friends of deceased
saints, to mention this as a most important fact, that now they had ceased from sin.
Now if death is the termination of sin in the saints, and if they never cease to
sin until they pass into eternity, too much stress never has been or can be laid
upon that circumstance; and it seems utterly incredible that no inspired writer should
ever have noticed the fact. The representations of scripture are all right over against
this idea. It is said, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for they rest
from their labors, and their works to follow them." Here it is not intimated
that they rest from their sins, but from their good works in this life; such works
as shall follow, not to curse but to bless them. The representations of scripture
are that death is the termination of the saint's suffering and labors of love, for
the good of men and the glory of God, in this world. But no where in the Bible is
it intimated that the death of a saint is the termination of his serving the devil.
But if it be true that Christians continue to sin till they die, and death is
the termination, and the only termination of their sin, it seems to me impossible
that the scripture representations on the subject should be what they are.
- 15. The Bible representations of death are utterly inconsistent with its being
an indispensable means of sanctification. Death is represented as an enemy in the
Bible. But if death is the only condition upon which men are brought into a state
of entire sanctification, his agency is as important and as indispensable as the
influence of the Holy Ghost. When death is represented in the Bible as any thing
else than an enemy, it is because he cuts short the sufferings of the saints, and
introduces them into a state of eternal glory--not because he breaks them off from
communion with the devil! How striking is the contrast between the language of the
Church and that of inspiration on this subject! The Church is consoling the Christian
in view of death, that it will be the termination of his sins,--that he will then
cease to serve the devil and his own lusts. The language of inspiration, on the other
hand, is that he will cease, not from wicked but from good works, and labors, and
sufferings for God in this world. The language of the Church is that then he will
enter upon a life of unalterable holiness--that then, and not till then, he shall
be entirely sanctified. The language of inspiration is, that because he is sanctified,
death shall be an entrance into a state of eternal glory.
- 16. Ministers are certainly bound to set up some definite standard, to which
as the ministers of God, they are bound to insist upon complete conformity. And now
I would ask, what other standard can they and dare they set up than this? To insist
upon any thing less than this, is to turn Pope and grant an indulgence to sin. But
to set up this standard, and then inculcate that conformity to it is not, as a matter
of fact, attainable in this life, is as absolutely to take the part of sin against
God, as it would be to insist upon repentance in theory, and then avow that in practice
it was not attainable.
And here let me ask Christians what they expect ministers to preach? Do you think
they have a right to connive at any sin in you, or to insist upon any thing else
as a practicable fact than that you should abandon every iniquity? It is sometimes
said, that with us entire sanctification is a hobby. But I would humbly ask what
else can we preach? Is not every minister bound to insist in every sermon that men
shall wholly obey God? And because they will not compromise with any degree or form
of sin, are they to be reproached for making the subject of entire obedience a hobby?
I ask, by what authority can a minister preach any thing less? And how shall any
minister dare to inculcate the duty as a theory, and yet not insist upon it as a
practical matter, as something to be expected of every subject of God's kingdom?
- 17. A denial of this doctrine has the natural tendency to beget the very apathy
witnessed in the Church. Professors of religion go on in sin, without much conviction
of its wickedness. Sin unblushingly stalks abroad even in the Church of God, and
does not fill Christians with horror, because they expect its existence as a thing
of course. Tell a young convert that he must expect to backslide, and he will do
so of course, and with comparatively little remorse, because he looks upon it as
a kind of necessity. And being led to expect it, you find him in a few months after
his conversion away from God, and not at all horrified with his state. Just so you
inculcate the idea among Christians that they are not expected to abandon all sin,
and they will of course go on in sin with comparative indifference. You reprove them
for their sins, and they will say, "O we are imperfect creatures; we do not
pretend to be perfect, nor do we expect we ever shall be in this world." Many
such answers as these will show you at once the God dishonoring and soul-ruining
tendency of a denial of this doctrine.
- 18. A denial of this doctrine prepares the minds of ministers to temporize and
wink at great iniquity in their churches. Feeling as they certainly must, if they
disbelieve this doctrine, that a great amount of sin in all believers is to be expected
as a thing of course, their whole preaching, and spirit, and demeanor, will be such
as to beget a great degree of apathy among Christians in regard to their abominable
- 19. If this doctrine is not true, how profane and blasphemous is the covenant
of every church of every evangelical denomination. Every church requires its members
to make a solemn covenant with God and with the church, in the presence of God and
angels, and with their hands upon the emblems of the broken body and shed blood of
the blessed Jesus, "to abstain from all ungodliness and every worldly lust,
to live soberly and righteously in this present world." Now if the doctrine
of the attainability of entire sanctification in this life is not true, what profane
mockery is this covenant! It is a covenant to live in a state of entire sanctification,
made under the most solemn circumstances, enforced by the most awful sanctions, and
insisted upon by the minister of God standing at the altar. Now what right has any
man on earth to require less than this?
And again, what right has any man on earth to require this, unless it is a practical
Suppose when this covenant was proposed to a convert about to unite with the church,
he should take it to his closet, and spread it before the Lord, and inquire whether
it was right for him to make such a covenant--and whether the grace of the gospel
can enable him to fulfill it. Do you suppose the Lord Jesus would reply, that if
he made that covenant, he certainly would, and must as a matter of course live in
the habitual violation of it, as long as he live, and that His grace was not sufficient
to enable him to keep it? Would he in such a case have any right to take upon himself
this covenant? No, no more than he would have a right to lie.
- 20. It has long been maintained by orthodox divines, that a person is not a Christian
who does not aim at living without sin--that unless he aim at perfection, he manifestly
consents to live in sin; and is therefore certainly impenitent. It has been, and
I think truly, said, that if a man does not in the fixed purpose of his heart, aim
at total abstinence from sin, and at being wholly conformed to the will of God, he
is not yet regenerated, and does not so much as mean to cease from abusing God.
Now if this is so, and I believe it certainly is, I would ask how a person can
aim at and intend to do what he knows to be impossible. Is it not a contradiction
to say that a man can intend to do what he knows he cannot do? To this it has been
objected, that if true, it proves too much--that it would prove that no man ever
was a Christian who did not believe in this doctrine. To this I reply:
- (1.) A man may believe in the attainability of and aim at attaining what is really
a state of entire sanctification, although he may not call it by that name. This
I believe to be the real fact with Christians: and they would much more frequently
attain what they aim at, did they know how to appropriate the grace of Christ to
their own circumstances. Mrs. President Edwards, for example, firmly believed that
she could attain to a state of entire consecration. She aimed at and manifestly attained
it, and yet such were her views of physical depravity, that she did not call her
state one of entire sanctification. It has been common for Christians to suppose
that a state of entire consecration was attainable; but while they believed in physical
depravity, they would not of course call even entire consecration, entire sanctification.
Mrs. Edwards believed in, aimed at, and attained, entire consecration. She aimed
at what she believed was attainable, and nothing more. She called it by the same
name with her husband, who was opposed to the doctrine of Christian perfection, as
held by the Wesleyan Methodists; manifestly on the ground of his notions of physical
depravity. I care not what this state is called, if the thing be fully explained
and insisted upon, together with the means of attaining it. Call it what you please,
Christian perfection, heavenly mindedness, or a state of entire consecration; by
all these I understand the same thing. And it is certain, that by whatever name it
is called, the thing must be aimed at to be attained. The practicability of its attainment
must be admitted, or it cannot be aimed at.
And now I would humbly inquire whether it is not true, that to preach any thing
short of this is not to give countenance to sin?
- 21. Another argument in favor of this doctrine is that the gospel, as a matter
of fact, has often, not only temporarily but permanently and perfectly overcome every
form of sin, in different individuals. Who has not seen the most beastly lusts, drunkenness,
lasciviousness, and every kind of abomination, long indulged and fully ripe, entirely
and for ever slain by the power of the grace of God? Now how was this done? Only
by bringing this sin fully into the light of the gospel, and showing the individual
the relation that sin sustained to the death of Christ.
Now nothing is wanting to slay any and every sin, but for the mind to be fully
baptized into the death of Christ, and to see the bearings of one's own sins upon
the sufferings and agonies and death of the blessed Jesus. Let me state a fact to
illustrate my meaning. A habitual and most inveterate smoker of tobacco, of my acquaintance,
after having been plied with almost every argument to induce him to break the power
of the habit, and relinquish its use, in vain, on a certain occasion, lighted his
pipe and was about to put it to his mouth, when the inquiry was started, did Christ
die to purchase this vile indulgence for me? He hesitated, but the inquiry pressed
him, Did Christ die to purchase this vile indulgence for me? The relation of this
conduct to the death of Christ, instantly broke the power of the habit, and from
that day he has been free.
I could relate many other facts more striking than this, where a similar view of
the relation of a particular sin to the atonement of Christ, has in a moment, not
only broken the power of the habit, but destroyed entirely and for ever, the appetite
for similar indulgences.
If the most inveterate habits of sin, and even those that involve physical consequences,
and have deeply debased the physical constitution, and rendered it a source of overpowering
temptation to the mind, can be and often have been utterly broken up, and for ever
slain, by the grace of God, why should it be doubted that by the same grace, a man
can triumph over all sin, and that for ever.
- 22. If this doctrine is not true, what is true upon the subject? It is certainly
of great importance that ministers should be definite in their instructions, and
if Christians are not expected to be wholly conformed to the will of God in this
life, how much is expected of them? Who can say, hitherto canst thou, must thou come,
but no further? It is certainly absurd, not to say ridiculous, for ministers to be
for ever pressing Christians up to higher and higher attainments, saying at every
step you can and must go higher, and yet all along informing them that they are expected
to fall short of their whole duty--that they can as a matter of fact, be better than
they are, far better, indefinitely better; but still it is not expected that they
will do their whole duty. I have often been pained to hear men preach who are afraid
to commit themselves in favor of the whole truth; and who are yet evidently afraid
of falling short, in their instructions of insisting that men shall stand "perfect
and complete in all the will of God." They are evidently sadly perplexed to
be consistent, and well they may be, for in truth there is no consistence in their
views and teachings. If they do not inculcate, as a matter of fact, that men ought
to do and are expected to do their whole duty, they are sadly at a loss to know what
to inculcate. They have evidently many misgivings about insisting upon less than
this, and they fear to go to the full extent of apostolic teaching on this subject.
And in their attempts to throw in qualifying terms and caveats, to avoid the impression
that they believe in the doctrine of entire sanctification, they place themselves
in a truly awkward position. Cases have occurred in which ministers have been asked,
how far we may go, must go, and are expected to go, in depending upon the grace of
Christ, and how holy men may be, and are expected to be, and must be, in this life?
They could give no other answer to this, than that they can be a great deal better
than they are. Now this indefiniteness is a great stumbling block to the Church.
It cannot be according to the teachings of the Holy Ghost.
- 23. The tendency of a denial of this doctrine is, to my mind, conclusive proof
that the doctrine itself must be true. Many developments in the recent history of
the Church throw light upon this subject. Who does not see that the facts developed
in the temperance reformation, have a direct and powerful bearing upon this question?
It has been ascertained that there is no possibility of completing the temperance
reformation, except by adopting the principle of total abstinence from all intoxicating
drinks. Let a temperance lecturer go forth, as an Evangelist to promote revivals
on the subject of temperance--let him inveigh against drunkenness, while he admits
and defends the moderate use of alcohol, or insinuates, at least, that total abstinence
is not expected or practicable. In this stage of the temperance reformation every
one can see that such a man could make no progress; that he would be employed like
a child in building dams of sand to obstruct the rushing of mighty waters. It is
as certain as that causes produce their effects, that no permanent reformation could
be effected, short of adopting the total abstinence principle.
And now if this is true as it respects the temperance reformation, how much more
so when applied to the subjects of holiness and sin. A man might by some possibility,
even in his own strength, over come his habits of drunkenness, and retain, what might
be called the temperate use of alcohol. But no such thing is possible in a reformation
from sin. Sin is never overcome by any man in his own strength. If he admits into
this creed the necessity of any degree of sin, or if he allows in practice any degree
of sin, he becomes impenitent--consents to live in sin--and is of course abandoned
by the Holy Spirit, the certain result of which is, a relapsing into a state of legal
bondage to sin. And this is probably a true history of ninety-nine one hundredths
of the Church. It is just what might be expected from the views and practice of the
Church upon this subject.
The secret of backsliding is that reformations are not carried deep enough. Christians
are not set with all their hearts to aim at a speedy deliverance from all sin. But
on the contrary are left and in many instances taught to indulge the expectation
that they shall sin as long as they live. I never shall forget probably, the effect
produced on my mind by reading, when a young convert, in the diary of David Brainerd,
that he never expected to make any considerable attainments in holiness in this life.
I can now easily see that this was a natural inference from the theory of physical
depravity which he held. But not perceiving this at the time, I doubt not that this
expression of his views had a very injurious effect upon me for many years. It led
me to reason thus, "If such a man as David Brainerd did not expect to make much
advancement in holiness in this life, it is vain for me to expect such a thing."
The fact is, if there be any thing that is important to high attainments in holiness,
and to the progress of the work of sanctification in this life, it is the adoption
of the principle of total abstinence from sin. Total abstinence from sin, must be
every man's motto, or sin will certainly sweep him away as a flood. That cannot possibly
be a true principle in temperance, that leaves the causes which produce drunkenness
to operate in their full strength. Nor can that be true in holiness which leaves
the root unextracted, and the certain causes of spiritual decline and backsliding
at work in the very heart of the Church. And I am fully convinced that until Evangelists
and Pastors adopt and carry out in principle and practice the principle of total
abstinence from all sin, they will as certainly find themselves every few months,
called to do their work over again, as a temperance lecturer would who should admit
the moderate use of alcohol.
- 24. Again, the tendency of the opposite view of this subject, shows that that
cannot be true. Who does not know, that to call upon sinners to repent, and at the
same time to inform them that they will not, and cannot, and are not expected to
repent, would for ever prevent their repentance. Suppose you say to a sinner, you
are naturally able to repent; but it is certain that you never will repent in this
life, either with or without the Holy Ghost. Who does not see that such teaching
would as surely prevent his repentance as he believed it? So, say to a professor
of religion, you are naturally able to be wholly conformed to God; but it is certain
that you never will be in this life, either in your own strength or by the grace
of God. If this teaching be believed, it will just as certainly prevent his sanctification
as the other teaching would the repentance of the sinner. I can speak from experience
on this subject. While I inculcated the common views, I was often instrumental in
bringing Christians under great conviction, and into a state of temporary repentance
and faith. But falling short of urging them up to a point where they would become
so acquainted with Christ, as to abide in Him, they would of course soon relapse
again into their former state. I never saw, and can now understand that I had no
reason to expect to see, under the instructions which I then gave, such a state of
religious feeling, such steady and confirmed walking with God, among Christians,
as I have seen since the change in my views and instructions.
Some further considerations under this head, I must defer till my next.
February 26, 1840
SANCTIFICATION- No. 5
by the Rev. Charles G. Finney
Text.--1 Thess. 5:23-24: "And the very God of peace sanctify
you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless
unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who also
will do it."
I might urge a great many other considerations, and as I have said, fill a book with
scriptures, and arguments, and demonstrations, of the attainability of entire sanctification
in this life.
But I forbear, and at present will urge only one more consideration, a consideration
which has great weight in some minds. It is a question of great importance, at least
in some minds, whether any actually ever did attain this state. Some who believe
it attainable, do not consider it of much importance to show that it has actually
been attained. Now I freely admit, that it may be attainable, although it never has
been attained. Yet it appears to me that as a matter of encouragement to the Church,
it is of great importance whether, as a matter of fact, a state of entire holiness
has been attained in this life. This question covers much ground. But for the sake
of brevity, I design to examine but one case, and see whether there is reason to
believe that in one instance, at least, it has been attained. The case to which I
allude is that of Paul. And I propose to take up and examine the passages that speak
of him, for the purpose of ascertaining whether there is evidence that he ever attained
to this state in this life.
And here let me say that to my own mind it seems plain, that Paul and John, to say
nothing of the other Apostles, designed and expected the Church to understand them
as speaking from experience, and as having received of that fulness which they taught
to be in Christ and in His gospel.
And I wish to say again and more expressly, that I do not rest the practicability
of attaining a state of entire holiness at all upon the question, whether any ever
have attained it any more than I would rest the question, whether the world ever
will be converted upon the fact whether it ever has been converted. I have been surprised,
when the fact that a state of entire holiness has been attained, is urged as one
argument among a great many to prove its attainability, and that too merely as an
encouragement to Christians to lay hold upon this blessing, that objectors and reviewers
fasten upon this as the doctrine of sanctification, as if by calling this particular
question in doubt, they could overthrow all the other proof of its attainability.
Now this is utterly absurd. When, then, I examine the character of Paul with this
object in view, if it should not appear clear to you that he did attain this state,
you are not to overlook the fact, that its attainability is settled by other arguments,
on grounds entirely independent of the question whether it has been attained or not;
and that I merely use this as an argument, simply because to me it appears forcible,
and to afford great encouragement to Christians to press after this state.
I will first make some remarks in regard to the manner in which the language of Paul,
when speaking of himself, should be understood; and then proceed to an examination
of the passages which speak of his Christian character.
1. His revealed character, demands that we should understand him to mean all that
he says, when speaking in his own favor.
2. The Spirit of inspiration would guard him against speaking too highly of himself.
3. No man ever seemed to possess greater modesty, and to feel more unwilling to exalt
his own attainments.
4. If he considered himself as not having attained a state of entire sanctification,
and as often, if not in all things, falling short of his duty, we may expect to find
him acknowledging this in the deepest self-abasement.
5. If he is charged with living in sin, and with being wicked in any thing, we may
expect him, when speaking under inspiration, not to justify, but unequivocally condemn
himself in those things.
Now in view of these facts, let us examine those scriptures in which he speaks of
himself and is spoken of by others.
- (1.) 1 Thess. 2:10: "Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily, and justly,
and unblamably, we behaved ourselves among you that believe." Upon this text
- (a) Here he unqualifiedly asserts his own holiness. This language is very strong,
"How holily, justly, and unblamably." If to be holy, just, and unblamable,
be not entire sanctification, what is?
- (b) He appeals to the heart-searching God for the truth of what he says, and
to their own observation; calling on God and on them also to bear witness, that he
had been holy and without blame.
- (c) Here we have the testimony of an inspired Apostle, in the most unqualified
language, asserting his own entire sanctification. Was he deceived? Can it be that
he knew himself all the time to have been living in sin? If such language as this
does not amount to an unqualified assertion that he had lived among them without
sin, what can be known by the use of human language?
- (2.) 2 Cor. 6:3-7: "Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be
not blamed; but in all things, approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much
patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments,
in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering,
by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power
of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left." Upon
these verses I remark:
- (a) Paul asserts that he gave no offence in any thing, but in all things approved
himself as a minister of God. Among other things he did this, "by pureness,"
"by the Holy Ghost," "by love unfeigned," "and by the armor
of righteousness on the right hand and on the left." How could so modest a man
as Paul speak of himself in this manner, unless he knew himself to be in a state
of entire sanctification, and thought it of great importance that the Church should
- (3.) 2 Cor. 1:12: "For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience,
that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace
of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward."
This passage plainly implies the same thing, and was manifestly said for the same
purpose--to declare the greatness of the grace of God as manifested in himself.
- (4.) Acts 24:16: "And herein do I exercise myself to have always a conscience
void of offence toward God, and toward men." Paul doubtless at this time had
an enlightened conscience. If an inspired Apostle could affirm, that he "always"
had a "conscience void of offence toward God and toward men", must he not
have been in a state of entire sanctification?
- (5.) 2 Tim. 1:3: "I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with a pure
conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and
day." Here again he affirms, that he serves God with a pure conscience. Could
this be, if he was often, and perhaps every day, as some suppose, violating his conscience?
- (6.) Gal. 2:20: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not
I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by
the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." This does
not assert, but strongly implies that he lived without sin.
- (7.) Gal. 6:14: "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of
our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."
This text also affords the same inference as above.
- (8.) Phil. 1:21: "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Here
the Apostle affirms that for him to live was as if Christ lived in the Church. How
could he say this, unless his example, and doctrine, and spirit, were those of Christ?
- (9.) Acts 20:26: "Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure
from the blood of all men." Upon this I remark:
- (a) This passage, taken in its connection, shows clearly, the impression that
Paul desired to make upon the minds of those to whom he speaks.
- (b) It is certain that he could in no proper sense be "pure of the blood
of all men," unless he had done his whole duty. If he had been sinfully lacking
in any grace, or virtue, or labor, could he have said this? Certainly not.
- (10.) 1 Cor. 4:16, 17: "Wherefore, I beseech you, be ye followers of me.
For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful
in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ,
as I teach everywhere in every Church." I remark:
- (a) Here Paul manifestly sets himself up as an example to the Church. How could
he do this, if he were living in sin?
- (b) He sent Timotheus to them to refresh their memories, in regard to his doctrine
and practice; implying that what he taught in every Church, he himself practiced.
- (11.) 1 Cor. 11:1: "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ."
Here Paul commands them to follow him, "as he followed Christ;" not so
far as he followed Christ, as some seem to understand it, but to follow him because
he followed Christ. How could he, in this unqualified manner, command the Church
to copy his example, unless he knew himself to be blameless?
- (12.) Phil. 3:17, 20: "Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them
which walk so as ye have us for an ensample." "For our conversation is
in heaven, from whence we also look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ."
Here again, Paul calls upon the Church to follow him, and particularly to notice
those that did copy his example, and assigns as the reason, "for our conversation
is in heaven."
- (13.) Phil. 4:9: "Those things, which ye have both learned, and received,
and heard, and seen in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you." The
Philippians were commanded to "do those things which they had learned, and received,
and SEEN in him." And then he adds, that if they "do those things, the
God of peace shall be with them." Now can it be that he meant that they should
understand any thing less, than that he had lived without sin among them?
I will next examine those passages which are supposed by some, to imply that Paul
was not in a state of entire sanctification.
- (14.) Acts 15:36-40: "And some days after, Paul said unto Barnabas, Let
us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word
of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John,
whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed
from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention
was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so
Barnabas took Mark, and sailed to Cyprus: and Paul chose Silas, and departed, being
recommended by the brethren, unto the grace of God." Upon this passage I remark:
- (a) This contention between Paul and Barnabas was founded upon the fact, that
John, who was a nephew of Barnabas, had once abruptly left them in their travels,
it would seem without any justifiable reason, and had returned home.
- (b) It appears that the confidence of Barnabas in his nephew was restored.
- (c) That Paul was not as yet satisfied of the stability of his character, and
thought it dangerous to trust him as a traveling companion and fellow-laborer. It
is not intimated, nor can it be fairly implied that either of them sinned in this
- (d) It sufficiently accounts for what occurred, that they disagreed in their
views of the expediency of taking John with them.
- (e) Being men of principle, neither of them felt it to be his duty to yield to
the opinion of the other.
- (f) If either were to be blamed, it seems that Barnabas was in fault, rather
than Paul, inasmuch as he determined to take John with him without having consulted
Paul. And he persisted in this determination until he met with such firm resistance
on the part of Paul, that he took John and sailed abruptly for Cyprus; while Paul
choosing Silas, as he companion, was recommended by the brethren to the grace of
God, and departed. Now certainly there is nothing in this transaction, that Paul
or any good man, or an angel, under the circumstances, need to have been ashamed
of, that we can discover. It does not appear, that Paul ever acted more from a regard
to the glory of God and the good of religion, than in this transaction. And I would
humbly inquire what spirit is that which finds sufficient evidence in this case to
charge an inspired Apostle with rebellion against God? But even admitting that he
did sin in this case, where is the evidence that he was not afterwards sanctified
when he wrote the epistles?--for this was before the writing of any of his epistles.
- (15.) Acts 23:1-5: "And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men
and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. And
the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.
Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall; for sittest thou
to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? And
they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest? Then said Paul, I wist
not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak
evil of the ruler of thy people." In this case sinful anger has been imputed
to Paul; but so far as I can see, without any just reason. To my mind it seems plain,
that the contrary is to be inferred. It appears that Paul was not personally acquainted
with the then officiating high priest. And he manifested the utmost regard to the
authority of God in quoting from the Old Testament, "Thou shalt not speak evil
of the ruler of thy people"--implying, that not withstanding the abuse he had
received, he should not have made the reply, had he known him to have been the high
- (16.) Rom. 7: from the 14th to the 25th verse, have by many been supposed to
be an epitome of Paul's experience at the time he wrote the epistle. Upon this I
- (a) The connection and drift of Paul's reasoning shows that the case of which
he was speaking, whether his own or the case of some one else, was adduced by him
to illustrate the influence of the law upon the carnal mind.
- (b) This is a case in which sin had the entire dominion, and overcame all his
resolutions of obedience.
- (c) That his use of the singular pronoun and in the first person, proves nothing
in regard to whether or not he was speaking of himself, for this is common with him,
and with other writers, when using illustrations.
- (d) He keeps up the personal pronoun and passes into the 8th chapter; at the
beginning of which, he represents himself or the person of whom he is speaking, as
being not only in a different but in an exactly opposite state of mind. Now if the
seventh chapter contains Paul's experience, whose experience is this in the eighth
chapter? Are we to understand them both as the experience of Paul? If so, we must
understand him as first speaking of his experience before and then after he was sanctified.
He begins the eighth chapter by saying, "There is now no condemnation to them
who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit;"
and assigns as a reason, that "the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus
had made him free from the law of sin and death." The law of sin and death was
that law in his members, or the influence of the flesh, of which he had so bitterly
complained in the seventh chapter. But now it appears that he has passed into a state
in which he is made free from this influence of the flesh--is emancipated and dead
to the world, and to the flesh, and in a state in which "there is no condemnation."
Now if there was no condemnation in the state in which he was, it must have been,
either because he did not sin; or, if he did sin, because the law did not condemn
him; or because the law of God was repealed or abrogated. Now if the penalty of the
law was so set aside in his case, that he could sin without condemnation, this is
a real abrogation of the law. For a law without a penalty is no law, and if the law
is set aside, there is no longer any standard, and he was neither sinful nor holy.
But as the law was not and cannot be set aside, its penalty was not and cannot be
so abrogated as not to condemn every sin. If Paul lived without condemnation, it
must be because he lived without sin.
To me it does not appear as if Paul speaks of his own experience in the seventh
chapter of Romans, but that he merely supposes a case by way of illustration, and
speaks in the first person and in the present tense, simply because it was convenient
and suitable to his purpose. His object manifestly was, in this and in the beginning
of the eighth chapter, to contrast the influence of the law and of the gospel--to
describe in the seventh chapter the state of a man who was living in sin, and every
day condemned by the law, convicted and constantly struggling with his own corruptions,
but continually overcome,--and in the eighth chapter to exhibit a person in the enjoyment
of gospel liberty, where the righteousness of the law was fulfilled in the heart
by the grace of Christ. The seventh chapter may well apply either to a person in
a backslidden state, or to a convicted person who had never been converted. The eighth
chapter can clearly be applicable to none but to those who are in a state of entire
I have already said that the seventh chapter contains the history of one over whom
sin has dominion. Now to suppose that this was the experience of Paul when he wrote
the epistle, or of any one who was in the liberty of the gospel, is absurd and contrary
to the experience of every person who ever enjoyed gospel liberty. And further, this
is as expressly contradicted in the sixth chapter as it can be. As I said, the seventh
chapter exhibits one over whom sin has dominion; but God says, in the sixth chapter
and fourteenth verse, "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are
not under the law, but under grace."
I remark finally upon the passage, that if Paul was speaking of himself in the seventh
chapter of Romans, and really giving a history of his own experience, it proves nothing
at all in regard to his subsequent sanctification; for,
- (e) If this was his experience at the time he wrote the epistle, it would prove
nothing in regard to what afterwards transpired in his own experience.
- (f) The eighth chapter shows conclusively, that it was not this experience at
the time he wrote the epistle. The fact that the translators have separated the seventh
and eighth chapters, as I have before said, has led to much error in the understanding
of this passage. Nothing is more certain than that the two chapters were designed
to describe not only different experiences, but experiences opposite to each other.
And that both these experiences should belong to the same person at the same time,
is manifestly impossible. If therefore Paul is speaking in this connection of his
own experience, we are bound to understand the eighth chapter as describing his experience
at the time he wrote the epistle; and the seventh chapter as descriptive of a former
Now therefore, if any one understands the seventh chapter as describing a Christian
experience, he must understand it as giving the exercises of one in a very imperfect
state; and the eighth chapter as descriptive of a soul in a state of entire sanctification.
So that this epistle, instead of militating against the idea of Paul's entire sanctification,
upon the supposition that he was speaking of himself, fully establishes the fact
that he was in that state.
- (17.) Phil. 3:10-15: "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection,
and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by
any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already
attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend
that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself
to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind,
and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for
the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as
be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall
reveal even this unto you." Upon this passage I remark:
- (a) Here is plain allusion to the Olympic games, in which men ran for a prize,
and were not crowned until the end of the race, however well they might run.
- (b) Paul speaks of two kinds of perfection here, one of which he claims to have
attained, and the other he had not. The perfection which he had not attained, was
that which he did not expect to attain until the end of his race, nor indeed until
he had attained the resurrection from the dead. Until then he was not and did not
expect to be perfect, in the sense that he should "apprehend all that for which
he was apprehended of Christ Jesus." But all this does not imply that he was
not living without sin, any more than it implies that Christ was living in sin when
he said, "I must walk today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected."
In this Christ speaks of a perfection which he had not attained.
Now it is manifest that it was the glorified state to which Paul had not attained,
and which perfection he was pressing after. But in the 15th verse, he speaks of another
kind of perfection which he professed to have attained. "Let us therefore,"
he says, "as many as are perfect, be thus minded;" i.e. let us be pressing
after this high state of perfection in glory, "if by any means we may attain
unto the resurrection of the dead."
Now it is manifest to my mind, that Paul does not in this passage, teach expressly
or impliedly that he was living in sin, but the direct opposite--that he meant to
say as he had said in many other places, that he was unblamable in respect to sin,
but that he was aspiring after higher attainments, and meant to be aspiring after
higher attainments, and meant to be satisfied with nothing short of eternal glory.
In relation to the character of Paul, let me say:
- (a) If Paul was not sinless, he was an extravagant boaster, and such language
used by any minister in these days would be considered as the language of an extravagant
- (b) This setting himself up as an example, so frequently and fully, without any
caution or qualification, was highly dangerous to the interests of the Church, if
he were not in a state of entire sanctification.
- (c) It was as wicked as it was dangerous.
- (d) His language in appealing to God, that in his life and heart he was blameless,
was blasphemous, unless he was really what he professed to be; and if he was what
he professed to be, he was in a state of entire sanctification.
- (e) There is no reason for doubting his having attained this state.
- (f) It is doing dishonor to God, to maintain, under these circumstances, that
Paul had not attained the blessing of entire sanctification.
- (g) He no where confesses sin after he became an Apostle, but invariably justifies
himself, appealing to man and to God, for his entire integrity and blamelessness
of heart and life.
- (h) To accuse him of sin in these circumstances, without evidence, is not only
highly injurious to him, but disgraceful to the cause of religion.
- (i) To charge him with sin, when he claims to have been blameless, is either
to accuse him of falsehood or delusion.
- (k) To maintain the sinfulness of this Apostle, is to deny the grace of the gospel,
and charge God foolishly. And I cannot but inquire, why is this great effort in the
Church to maintain, that Paul lived in sin, and was never wholly sanctified till
March 11, 1840
SANCTIFICATION- No. 6
by the Rev. Charles G. Finney
Text.--1 Thess. 5:23-24: "And the very God of peace sanctify
you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless
unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who also
will do it."
In pursuing this subject, I am
VII. To answer some objections to the doctrine of entire sanctification.
In proceeding to answer some of the more prominent objections to the doctrine of
entire sanctification in this life, I will begin with those passages of scripture
that are supposed to contradict it.
- 1. 1 Kings 8:46: "If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth
not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry
them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near." On this passage
- (1.) That this sentiment, in nearly the same language, is repeated in 2 Chron.
6:26, and in Eccl. 7:20, where the same original word in the same form is used.
- (2.) These are the strongest passages I know of in the Old Testament, and the
same remarks are applicable to the three.
- (3.) I will quote, for the satisfaction of the reader, the note of Adam Clarke
upon this passage, and also that of Barclay, the celebrated and highly spiritual
author of "An Apology for the True Christian Divinity." And let me say,
that they appear to me to be satisfactory answers to the objection founded upon these
CLARKE: "If they sin against thee."--This must refer to some general
defection from truth; to some species of false worship, idolatry, or corruption of
the truth and ordinances of the Most High; as for it, they are here stated to be
delivered into the hands of their enemies, and carried away captive, which was the
general punishment of idolatry; and what is called, ver. 47, acting perversely, and
"If they sin against thee, for there is no man that sinneth not." The second
clause, as it is here translated, renders the supposition, in the first clause, entirely
nugatory; for, if there be no man that sinneth not, it is useless to say, IF they
sin: but this contradiction is taken away by reference to the original ki yechetau
lak, which should be translated IF they shall sin against thee: or, should they sin
against thee, ki ein Adam asher lo yecheta; "For there is no man that may not
sin:" i.e. there is no man impeccable, none infallible; none that is not liable
to transgress. This is the true meaning of the phrase in various parts of the Bible,
and so our translators have understood the original; for , even in the 31st verse
of this chapter, they have translated yecheta, IF a man TRESPASS; which certainly
implies he might or might not do it: and in this way they have translated the same
word, IF a soul SIN, in Lev. 5:1, and 6:2, 1 Sam. 2:25, 2 Chron. 6:22, and in several
other places. The truth is, the Hebrew has no mood to express words in the permissive
or optative way, but to express this sense it uses the future tense of the conjugation
"This text has been a wonderful stronghold for all who believe that there is
no redemption from sin in this life; that no man can live without committing sin:
and that we cannot be entirely freed from it till we die. 1. The text speaks no such
doctrine, it only speaks of the possibility of every man sinning; and this must be
true of a state of probation. 2. There is not another text in the divine records
that is more to the purpose than this. 3. The doctrine is flatly in opposition to
the design of the gospel; for Jesus came to save his people from their sins, and
to destroy the works of the devil. 4. It is a dangerous and destructive doctrine,
and should be blotted out of every Christian's creed. There are too many who are
seeking to excuse their crimes by all means in their power; and we need not embody
their excuses in a creed, to complete their deception, by stating that their sins
BARCLAY: "Secondly--Another objection is from two places of scripture, much
of one signification. The one is, 1 Kings 8:46: For there is no man that sinneth
not. The other is Eccl. 7:20: For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth
good, and sinneth not.
"I answer: 1. These affirm nothing of a daily and continual sinning, so as never
to be redeemed from it; but only that all have sinned, or that there is none that
doth not sin, though not always, so as never to cease to sin; and in this lies the
question. Yea, in that place of the Kings he speaks within two verses of the returning
of such with all their souls and hearts; which implies a possibility of leaving off
sin. 2. There is a respect to be had to the seasons and dispensations; for if it
should be granted that in Solomon's time there were none that sinned not, it will
not follow that there are none such now, or that it is a thing not now attainable
by the grace of God under the gospel. 3. And lastly, This whole objection hangs upon
a false interpretation; for the original Hebrew word may be read in the Potential
Mood, thus, There is no man who may not sin, as well as in the Indicative; so both
the Old Latin, Junius, and Tremellius, and Votablus, have it; and the same word is
so used, Psalm 119:11: Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against
thee, in the Potential Mood, and not in the Indicative; which being more answerable
to the universal scope of the scriptures, the testimony of the truth, and the sense
of almost all interpreters, doubtless ought to be so understood, and the other interpretation
rejected as spurious."
- (4.) Whatever may be thought of the views of these authors, to me, it is a plain
and satisfactory answer to the objection founded upon these passages, that the objection
might be strictly true under the Old Testament dispensation, and prove nothing in
regard to the attainability of a state of entire sanctification under the New. What,
does the New Testament dispensation differ nothing from the Old in its advantages
for the acquisition of holiness? If it be true that no one under the comparatively
dark dispensation of Judaism, attained a state of entire and permanent sanctification,
does that prove such a state unattainable under the Gospel? It is expressly stated
in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that "the Old Covenant made nothing perfect,
but the bringing in of a better hope did." Under the Old Covenant, God expressly
promised that He would make a new one with the house of Israel in "writing the
law in their hearts," and in "engraving it in their inward parts."
And this New Covenant was to be made with the house of Israel, under the Christian
dispensation. What then do all such passages in the Old Testament prove in relation
to the privileges and holiness of Christians under the New Testament?
- (5.) Whether any of the Old Testament saints did so far receive the New Covenant
by way of anticipation, as to enter upon a state of entire and permanent sanctification,
it is not my present purpose to inquire. Nor will I inquire, whether, admitting that
Solomon said in his day, that "there was not a just man upon the earth that
liveth and sinneth not," the same could with equal truth have been asserted
of every generation under the Jewish dispensation.
- (6.) It is expressly asserted of Abraham and multitudes of the Old Testament
saints, that they "died in faith, not having received the promises." Now
what can this mean? It cannot be that they did not know the promises, for to them
the promises were made. It cannot mean that they did not receive Christ, for the
Bible expressly asserts that they did,--that "Abraham rejoiced to see Christ's
day,"--that Moses, and indeed all the Old Testament saints, had so much knowledge
of Christ, as a Savior to be revealed, as to bring them into a state of salvation.
But still they did not receive the promise of the Spirit as it is poured out under
the Christian dispensation. They did not receive the light, and the glory of the
Christian dispensation, nor the fulness of the Holy Spirit. And it is asserted in
the Bible, that "they without us," i.e. without our privileges, "could
not be made perfect."
- 2. The next objection is founded upon the Lord's Prayer. In this, Christ has
taught us to pray, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass
against us." Here it is objected that if a person should become entirely sanctified,
he could no longer use this clause of this prayer, which it is said, was manifestly
designed to be used by the Church to the end of time. Upon this prayer I remark:
- (1.) Christ has taught us to pray for entire and permanent sanctification, "Thy
will be done on earth as it is done in heaven."
- (2.) He designed that we should expect this prayer to be answered, or that we
should mock God, by asking what we did not believe was agreeable to His will, and
that too, which we know could not consistently be granted; and that we are to repeat
this insult to God as often as we pray.
- (3.) The petition for forgiveness of our trespasses it is plain, must apply to
past sins, and not to sins we are committing at the time we make the prayer; for
it would be absurd and abominable to pray for the forgiveness of a sin which we were
then in the act of committing.
- (4.) This prayer cannot properly be made in respect to any sin of which we have
not repented; for it would be highly abominable in the sight of God, to pray for
the forgiveness of a sin of which we did not repent.
- (5.) If there be any hour or day in which a man has committed no actual sin,
he could not consistently make this prayer in reference to that hour or that day.
- (6.) But at that very time, it would be highly proper for him to make this prayer
in relation to all his past sins, and that too although he may have repented of and
confessed them, and prayed for their forgiveness, a thousand times before.
- (7.) And although his sins may be forgiven, he ought still to feel penitent in
view of them,--to repent of them both in this world and in the world to come, as
often as he remembers them. And it is perfectly suitable, so long as he lives in
the world, to say the least, to repent and repeat the request for forgiveness. For
myself, I am unable to see why this passage should be made a stumbling block; for
if it be improper to pray for the forgiveness of past sins of which we have repented,
then it is improper to pray for forgiveness at all. And if this prayer cannot be
used with propriety in reference to past sins, of which we have already repented,
it cannot properly be used at all, except upon the absurd supposition, that we are
to pray for the forgiveness of sins which we are now committing, and of which we
have not repented. And if it be improper to use this form of prayer in reference
to all past sins of which we have repented, it is just as improper to use it in reference
to sins committed to-day or yesterday, of which we have repented.
- 3. Another objection is founded on James 3:1, 2: "My brethren, be not many
masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things
we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able
also to bridle the whole body." Upon this passage I remark:
- (1.) The term rendered masters here, may be rendered teachers, critics, or sensors,
and be understood either in a good or bad sense. The Apostle exhorts the brethren
not to be many masters, because if they are so they will incur the greater condemnation;
"for," says he, "in many things we offend all." The fact that
we all offend is here urged as a reason why we should not be many masters; which
shows that the term masters is here used in a bad sense. "Be not many masters,"
for if we are masters, "we shall receive the greater condemnation," because
we are all offenders. Now I understand this to be the simple meaning of this passage;
do not many [or any] of you become censors, or critics, and set yourselves up to
judge and condemn others. For inasmuch as you have all sinned yourselves, and we
are all great offenders, we shall receive the greater condemnation, if we set ourselves
as censors. "For with what judgment ye judge ye shall judge, and with what measure
ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."
- (2.) It does not appear to me that the Apostle designs to affirm any thing at
all of the present character of himself or of those to whom he wrote; nor to have
had the remotest allusion to the doctrine of entire sanctification, but simply to
affirm a well established truth in its application to a particular sin; that if they
became censors, and injuriously condemned others, inasmuch as they had all committed
many sins, they should receive the greater condemnation.
- (3.) That the Apostle did not design to deny the doctrine of Christian perfection
or entire sanctification, as maintained in these lectures, seems evident from the
fact that he immediately subjoins, "If any man offend not in word, the same
is a perfect man and able also to bridle the whole body."
- 4. Another objection is founded upon 1 John 1:8: "If we say we have no sin,
we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Upon this I remark:
- (1.) This verse is immediately preceded by the assertion that "the blood
of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." Now it would be very remarkable,
if immediately after this assertion, the Apostle should mean to say that it does
not cleanse us from all sin, and if we say it does we deceive ourselves. But if this
objection be true, it involves the Apostle in as palpable a contradiction as could
- (2.) If the Apostle meant to say that we deceive ourselves, if we suppose ourselves
to be in a state of entire sanctification, his assertion in the next verse is truly
another wonderful contradiction. "If," he continues, "we confess our
sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all
unrighteousness." In another place he says, "all unrighteousness is sin."
Now, if it be true that God is really just to forgive and cleanse us from all unrighteousness
or from all sin, and "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us"--not shall,
but actually does cleanse us,--"from all sin;" how remarkable it would
be, if, between two such assertions as these, the Apostle meant to be understood
to teach, that if we say His blood cleanseth us from all unrighteousness, we deceive
- (3.) But the tenth verse shows plainly what the Apostle meant, for he merely
repeats what he had said in the eighth verse: "If we say that we have not sinned,
we make Him a liar."
This then is the meaning of the whole passage. If we say that we are not sinners,
i.e. have no sin to need the blood of Christ, that we have never sinned, and consequently
need no Savior, we deceive ourselves. For we have sinned, and nothing but the blood
of Christ cleanseth us from sin. And now, if we will not deny but confess that we
have sinned, "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse
us from all unrighteousness." "But if we say that we have not sinned, we
make Him a liar, and His word is not in us."
- 5. It has been objected to the view I have given of Jer. 31:31-34, that if that
passage is to be considered as a promise of entire sanctification, this proves too
much. Inasmuch as it is said, "they shall all know the Lord from the least to
the greatest," therefore, says the objector, it would prove that all the Church
has been in a state of entire sanctification ever since the commencement of the New
Testament dispensation. To this objection I answer:
- (1.) I have already, I trust, shown that this promise is conditioned upon faith,
and that the blessing cannot possibly be received but by faith.
- (2.) It is doubtless true that many have received this covenant in its fulness.
- (3.) A promise may be unconditional or absolute, and certain of a fulfillment
in relation to the whole Church as a body, in some period of its history, which is
nevertheless conditional in relation to its application to any particular individuals
or generation of individuals.
- (4.) I think it is in entire keeping with the prophecies to understand this passage
as expressly promising to the Church a day, when all her members shall be sanctified,
and when "holiness to the Lord shall be written upon the bells of the horses."
Indeed it appears to be abundantly foretold that the Church as a body shall, in this
world, enter into a state of entire sanctification, in some period of her history;
and that this will be the carrying out of these promises of the New Covenant, of
which we are speaking. But it is by no means an objection to this view of the subject,
that all the Church have not yet entered into this state.
It has been maintained, that this promise in Jer. has been fulfilled already.
This has been argued--
- (1.) From the fact that the promise has no condition, expressed or implied, and
the responsibility therefore, rests with God.
- (2.) That the Apostle, in his Epistle to the Hebrews quotes it as to be fulfilled
at the advent of Christ. Now to this I answer:
It might as well be argued that all the rest of the promises and prophecies relating
to the gospel day were fulfilled, because the time had come when the promise was
due. Suppose it were denied that the world would ever be converted, or that there
ever would be any more piety in the world than there has been and is at present;
and when the promises and prophecies respecting the latter day glory, and the conversion
of the world, should be adduced in proof, that the world is to be converted, it should
be replied that these promises had already been fulfilled--that they were unconditional--and
that the advent of the Messiah, was the time when they became due. But suppose, that
in answer to this, it should be urged that nothing has ever yet occurred in the history
of this world that seems at all to have come up to the meaning of these promises
and prophecies--that the world has never been in the state which seems to be plainly
described in these promises and prophecies--and that it cannot be that any thing
the world has yet experienced is what is meant by such language as is used in the
Bible, in relation to the future state of the world. Now suppose, to this it should
be replied, that the event has shown what the promises and prophecies really meant--that
we are to interpret the language by the fact--that as the promises and prophecies
were unconditional, and the gospel day has really come when they were to be fulfilled,
we certainly know, whatever their language may be, that they meant nothing more than
what the world has already realized? This would be precisely like the reasoning of
some persons in relation to Jer. 31:31-34. They say--
- (a) The promises are without condition.
- (b) The time has come for their fulfillment. Therefore the world has realized
their fulfillment, and all that was intended by them; that the facts in the case
settle the question of construction and interpretation; and we know that they never
intended to promise a state of entire sanctification, because as a matter of fact
no such state has been realized by the Church. Indeed! Then the Bible is the most
hyperbolical, not to say ridiculous book in the universe. If what the world has seen
in regard to the extension and universal prevalence of the Redeemer's kingdom, is
all that the promises relating to these events really mean, then the Bible of all
books in the world, is the most calculated to deceive mankind. But who, after all,
in the exercise of his sober sense, will admit any such reasoning as this? Who does
not know, or may not know, if he will use his common sense, that although these promises
and prophecies are unconditionally expressed, yet that they are as a matter of fact
really conditioned upon a right exercise of human agency, and that a time is to come,
when the world shall be converted; and that the conversion of the world implies in
itself a vastly higher state of religious feeling and action in the Church than has,
for centuries, or perhaps ever been witnessed--and that the promise of the New Covenant
is still to be fulfilled in a higher sense than it ever has been? If any man doubts
this, I must believe that he does not understand his Bible.
Faith, then, is an indispensable condition of the fulfillment of all promises
of spiritual blessings, the reception of which involves the exercise of our agency.
Again, it is not a little curious, that those who give this interpretation to these
promises imagine that they see a very close connection, if not an absolute identity
of our views and those of modern Antinomian Perfectionists. Now it is of importance
to remark, that this is one of the leading peculiarities of that sect. They insist
that these are promises without condition, and that consequently their own watchfulness,
prayers, exertions, and the right exercise of their own agency, are not at all to
be taken into the account in the matter of their perseverance in holiness--that the
responsibility is thrown entirely upon Christ, inasmuch as His promises are without
condition. The thing that He has promised, say they, is that, without any condition,
He will keep them in a state of entire sanctification--that therefore, for them to
confess sin, is to accuse Christ of breaking His promises. For them to make any efforts
at perseverance in holiness is to set aside the gospel and go back to the law. For
them even to fear that they shall sin, is to fear that Christ will tell a lie.
The fact is that this, and their setting aside the moral law, are the two great errors
of their whole system. It would be easy to show, that the adoption of this sentiment,
that these promises are without condition, expressed or implied, has led to some
of their most fanatical and absurd opinions and practices. They take the ground that
no condition is expressed, and that therefore none is implied; overlooking the fact,
that the very nature of the thing promised, implies that faith is the condition upon
which its fulfillment must depend. It is hoped, therefore, that our brethren who
charge us with perfectionism, will be led to see that to themselves, and not to us,
does this charge belong.
These are the principal passages that occur to my mind, and those I believe upon
which the principal stress has been laid by the opposers of this doctrine. And as
I do not wish to protract the discussion, I shall omit the examination of other passages,
as I design in my future lectures to answer such objections as may seem to be of
weight. This I design to do without either the spirit or the form of controversy,
noticing and answering such objections as may from time to time occur to my own mind,
or as may be suggested by others.
[Objections concluded in our next.]
March 25, 1840
SANCTIFICATION- No. 7
by the Rev. Charles G. Finney
Text.--1 Thess. 5:23-24: "And the very God of peace sanctify
you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless
unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who also
will do it."
There are many objections to the doctrine of entire sanctification, besides those
derived from the passages of scripture I have considered. Some of these objections,
are doubtless honestly felt, and deserve to be considered. I will then proceed to
notice such of them as now occur to my mind.
- 6. It is objected that the doctrine of entire sanctification in this life, tends
to the errors of modern perfectionism. This objection has been urged by some good
men, and, I doubt not, honestly urged. But still I cannot believe that they have
duly considered the matter. It seems to me that one fact will set aside this objection.
It is well known that the Wesleyan Methodists have, as a denomination, from the earliest
period of their history, maintained this doctrine in all its length and breadth.
Now if such is the tendency of the doctrine, it is passing strange that this tendency
has never developed itself in that denomination. So far as I can learn, the Methodists
have been perfectly exempt from the errors held by modern perfectionists. Perfectionists,
as a body, and I believe with very few exceptions, have arisen out of those denominations
that deny the doctrine of entire sanctification in this life.
Now the reason of this is obvious to my mind. When professors of religion, who
have been all their life subject to bondage, begin to inquire earnestly for deliverance
from their sins, they have found neither sympathy nor instruction, in regard to the
prospect of getting rid of them in this life. Then they have gone to the Bible, and
there found, in almost every part of it, Christ presented as a Savior from their
sins. But when they proclaim this truth, they are at once treated as heretics and
fanatics by their brethren, until, being overcome of evil, they fall into censoriousness;
and finding the Church so decidedly and utterly wrong, in opposition to this one
great important truth, they lose confidence in their ministers and the Church, and,
being influenced by a wrong spirit, Satan takes the advantage of them, and drives
them to the extreme of error and delusion. This I believe to be the true history
of many of the most pious members of the Calvinistic churches. On the contrary, Methodists
are very much secured against these errors. They are taught that Jesus Christ is
a Savior from all sin in this world. And when they inquire for deliverance, they
are pointed to Jesus Christ, as a present and all-sufficient Redeemer. Finding sympathy
and instruction, on this great and agonizing point, their confidence in their ministers
and their brethren, remains and they walk quietly with them.
And here let me say, that it is my full conviction, that there are but two ways in
which ministers of the present day can prevent members of their churches from becoming
perfectionists. One is, to suffer them to live so far from God, that they will not
inquire after holiness of heart; and the other is, most fully to inculcate the glorious
doctrine, that "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin," and
that it is the high privilege and the duty of Christians, to live in a state of entire
consecration to God.
It seems to me impossible that the tendency of this doctrine should be to the peculiar
errors of the modern perfectionists, and yet not an instance occur among all the
Methodist ministers, or the thousands of their members, for one hundred years.
I can say, from my own experience, that since I have understood and fully taught
the doctrine as I now hold it, I see no tendency among those who listen to my instructions
to these errors, while in churches not far distant, where the doctrine which we inculcate
here is opposed, there seems to be a constant tendency, among their most pious people
to Antinomian perfectionism. How can this be accounted for on any other principle
than the one above stated? I can truly say that those persons here, who have been
the first to lay hold of the doctrine of entire sanctification in this life, and
who give the highest evidence of enjoying this blessing, have been at the farthest
remove from the errors of the modern perfectionists. I might state a great many facts
upon this subject, but for the sake of brevity I omit them.
But aside from the facts, what is the foundation of all the errors of the modern
perfectionists? Every one who has examined them knows that they may be summed up
in this, the abrogation of the moral law. And now I would humbly inquire, what possible
tendency can there be to their errors, if the moral law be preserved in the system
of truth? In these days a man is culpably ignorant of that class of people, who does
not know that the 'head and front of their offending,' and falling, is the setting
aside the law of God. The setting aside the Christian ordinances of baptism and the
Lord's supper, proceeds upon the same foundation, and manifestly grows out of the
abrogation of the law of God. But retain the law of God, as the Methodists have done,
and as other denominations have done, who from the days of the Reformation have maintained
this same doctrine, and there is certainly no tendency to Antinomian perfectionism.
I have many things to say upon the tendency of this doctrine, but at present this
By some it is said to be identical with Perfectionism; and attempts are made to show
in what particulars Antinomian Perfectionism and our views are the same. On this
- (1.) It seems to have been a favorite policy of certain controversial writers
for a long time, instead of meeting a proposition in the open field of fair and Christian
argument, to give it a bad name, and attempt to put it down, not by force of argument,
but by showing that it is identical with or sustains a near relation to Pelagianism,
Antinomianism, Calvinism, or some other ism, against which certain classes of minds
are deeply prejudiced. In the recent controversy between what is called Old and New
School Divinity, who has not witnessed with pain the frequent attempts that have
been made to put down the New School Divinity, as it is called, by calling it Pelagianism,
and quoting certain passages from Pelagius, and other writers, to show the identity
of sentiment that exists between them.
This is a very unsatisfactory method of attaching or defending any doctrine. There
are, no doubt, many points of agreement between Pelagius and all other orthodox divines,
and so there are many points of disagreement between them. There are also many points
of agreement between modern Perfectionists and all Evangelical Christians, and so
there are many points of disagreement between them and the Christian Church in general.
That there are some points of agreement between their views and my own, is no doubt
true. And that we totally disagree in regard to those points that constitute their
great peculiarities, is, if I understand them, also true.
But did I really agree in all points with Augustine, or Edwards, or Pelagius, or
the modern Perfectionists, neither the good or the ill name of any of these would
prove my sentiments to be either right or wrong. It would remain after all, to show
that those with whom I agreed were either right or wrong, in order, on the one hand,
to establish that for which I contend, or on the other to condemn that which I maintain.
It is often more convenient to give a doctrine or an argument a bad name, than it
is soberly and satisfactorily to reply to it.
- (2.) It is not a little curious, that we should be charged with holding the same
sentiments with the Perfectionists; and yet they seem to be mere violently opposed
to our views, since they have come to understand the, than almost any other persons
whatever. I have been informed by one of their leaders, that he regards me as one
of the master builders of Babylon. And I also understand, that they manifest greater
hostility to the Oberlin Evangelist than almost any other class of persons.
- (3.) I will not take time, nor is it needful to go into an investigation or a
denial even of the supposed or alleged points of agreement between us and the Perfectionists.
But for the present it must be sufficient to request you to read and examine for
With respect to the modern Perfectionists, those who have been acquainted with
their writings, know that some of them have gone much further from the truth than
others. Some of their leading men, who commenced with them and adopted their name,
stopped far short of adopting some of their most abominable errors; still maintaining
the authority and perpetual obligation of the moral law, and thus have been saved
from going into many of the most objectionable and destructive notions of that sect.
There are many more points of agreement between that class of Perfectionists and
the orthodox Church, than between any other class of them and the Christian Church.
And there are still a number of important points of difference, as every one knows
who is possessed of correct information upon this subject.
I abhor the idea of denouncing any class of men as altogether and utterly wrong.
I am well aware that there are many of those who are termed Perfectionists, who as
truly abhor the extremes of error into which many of that name have fallen, as perhaps
do any persons living.
- 7. Another objection is, that persons could not live in this world, if they were
entirely sanctified. Strange! Does holiness injure a man? Does perfect conformity
to all the laws of life and health, both physical and moral, render it impossible
for a man to live? If a man break off from rebellion against God, will it kill him?
Does there appear to have been any thing in Christ's holiness, inconsistent with
life and health? The fact is, that this objection is founded in a gross mistake in
regard to what constitutes entire sanctification. It is supposed by those who hold
this objection, that this state implies a continual and most intense degree of excitement,
and many of those things which I have shown in my first lecture, are not at all implied
in it. I have thought, that it is rather a glorified than a sanctified state, that
most men have before their minds whenever they consider this subject. When Christ
was upon earth, He was in a sanctified but not a glorified state. "It is enough
for the disciple that he be as his Master." Now what is there in the moral character
of Jesus Christ, as represented in His history, aside from His miraculous powers,
that may not and ought not to be fully copied into me life of every Christian? I
speak not of His knowledge, but of His spirit and temper. Ponder well every circumstance
of His life that has come down to us, and say, beloved, what is there in it, that
may not, by the grace of God, be copied into your own. And think you, that a full
imitation of Him in all that relates to His moral character would render it impossible
for you to live in this world?
- 8. Again, it is objected against our professing a state of entire sanctification,
on the ground that it not only implies present obedience to the law of God, but such
a formation and perfection of holy habits, as to render it certain that we shall
never again sin. And that a man can no more tell when he is entirely sanctified,
than he can tell how many holy acts it will take to form holy habits of such strength
that he will never again sin. To this I answer:
- (1.) The law of God has nothing to do with requiring this formation of holy habits.
It is satisfied with present obedience, and only demands at every present moment,
the full devotion of all our powers to God. It never, in any instance, complains
that we have not formed such holy habits that we shall sin no more.
- (2.) If it be true that a man is not entirely sanctified until his holy habits
are so fixed, as to render it certain that he will never sin again, then Adam was
not in a state of entire sanctification previously to the fall, nor were the angels
in this state before their fall.
- (3.) If this objection be true, there is not a saint nor an angel in heaven,
so far as we can know, that can, with the least propriety profess a state of entire
sanctification; for how can they know that they have performed so many holy acts,
as to have created such habits of holiness as to render it certain that they will
never sin again.
- (4.) Entire sanctification does not depend upon the formation of holy habits,
nor at all consist in this. But both entire and permanent sanctification are based
alone upon the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Perseverance in holiness is to be ascribed
entirely to the influence of the indwelling Spirit of Christ, both now and to the
end of our lives, instead of being secured at all by any habits of holiness which
we may or ever shall have formed.
- 9. Another objection is, that the doctrine tends to spiritual pride. And is it
true indeed that to become perfectly humble tends to pride? But entire humility is
implied in entire sanctification. Is it true that you must remain in sin, and of
course cherish pride in order to avoid pride? Is your humility more safe in your
own hands, and are you more secure against spiritual pride in refusing to receive
Christ as your helper, than you would be at once to embrace Him as a full Savior?
- 10. Again it is objected that many who have embraced this doctrine, really are
spiritually proud. To this I answer:
- (1.) So have many who believed the doctrine of regeneration been deceived and
amazingly puffed up with the idea that they have been regenerated, when they have
not. But is this a good reason for abandoning the doctrine of regeneration, or any
reason why the doctrine should not be preached?
- (2.) Let me inquire, whether a simple declaration of what God has done for their
souls, has not been assumed as itself sufficient evidence of spiritual pride on the
part of those who embraced this doctrine, while there was in reality no spiritual
pride at all? It seems next to impossible, with the present views of the Church,
that an individual should really attain this state, and profess it in a manner so
humble as not of course to be suspected of enormous spiritual pride? This consideration
has been a snare to some who have hesitated and even neglected to declare what God
had done for their souls, lest they should be accused of spiritual pride. And this
has been a serious injury to their piety.
- 11. But again it is objected that this doctrine tends to censoriousness. To this
- (1.) It is not denied that some who have professed to believe this doctrine have
become censorious. But this no more condemns this doctrine than it condemns that
of regeneration. And that it tends to censoriousness, might just as well be urged
against every doctrine of the Bible as against this doctrine.
- (2.) Let any Christian do his whole duty to the Church and the world in their
present state--let him speak to them and of them as they really are, and he would
of course incur the charge of censoriousness. It is therefore the most unreasonable
thing in the world to suppose that the Church, in its present state, should not accuse
any perfect Christian of censoriousness. Entire sanctification implies the doing
of all our duty. But to do all our duty, we must rebuke sin in high places and in
low places. Can this be done with all needed severity, without in many cases giving
offence, and incurring the charge of censoriousness? No; it is impossible; and to
maintain the contrary, would be to impeach the wisdom and holiness of Jesus Christ
- 12. It is objected that this doctrine lowers the standard of holiness to a level
with our own experience. It is not denied that in some instances this may have been
true. Nor can it be denied, that the standard of Christian perfection has been elevated
much above the demands of the law, in its application to human beings in our present
state of existence. It seems to have been forgotten, that the inquiry is, what does
the law demand?--not of angels, and what would be entire sanctification in them;
nor of Adam, previously to the fall, when his powers of body and mind were all in
a state of perfect health; not what will the law demand of us in a future state of
existence; not what the law may demand of the Church in some future period of its
history on earth, when the human constitution, by the universal prevalence of correct
and thorough temperance principles, may have acquired its pristine health and powers;--but
the question is, what does the law of God require of Christians of the present generation;
of Christians in all respects in our circumstances, with all the ignorance and debility
of body and mind which have resulted from the intemperance and abuse of the human
constitution through so many generations?
The law levels its claims to us as we are, and a just exposition of it, as I have
already said, under all the present circumstances of our being, is indispensable
to a right apprehension of what constitutes entire sanctification.
To be sure, there may be danger of frittering away the claims of the law and letting
down the standard. But I would humbly inquire whether, hitherto, the error has not
been on the other side, and whether as a general fact, the law has not been so interpreted
as naturally to beget the idea so prevalent, that if a man should become holy he
could not live in this world? In a letter lately received from a beloved, and useful,
and venerated minister of the gospel, while the writer expressed the greatest attachment
to the doctrine of entire consecration to God, and said that he preached the same
doctrine which we hold to his people every Sabbath, but by another name, still he
added that it was revolting to his feelings, to hear any mere man set up the claim
of obedience to the law of God. Now let me inquire, why should this be revolting
to the feelings of piety? Must it not be because the law of God is supposed to require
something of human beings in our state, which it does not and cannot require? Why
should such a claim be thought extravagant, unless the claims of the living God be
thought extravagant? If the law of God really requires no more of men than what is
reasonable and possible, why should it be revolting to any mind to hear an individual
profess, through the grace of God, to have attained that state? I know that the brother
to whom I allude, would be almost the last man deliberately and knowingly to give
any strained interpretation to the law of God; and yet, I cannot but feel that much
of the difficulty that good men have upon this subject, has arisen out of a comparison
of the lives of saints with a standard entirely above that which the law of God does
or can demand of persons in all respects in our circumstances.
- 13. Another objection is, that as a matter of fact the grace of God is not sufficient
to secure the entire sanctification of saints in this life. It is maintained, that
the question of the attainability of entire sanctification in this life, resolves
itself after all into the question, whether the Church is, and Christians are sanctified
in this life. The objectors say that nothing is sufficient grace that does not as
a matter of fact, secure the faith and obedience and perfection of the saints; and,
therefore, that the provisions of the gospel are in fact to be measured by the results;
and that the experience of the Church decides both the meaning of the promises and
the provisions of grace. Now to this I answer:
If this objection be good for any thing in regard to entire sanctification, it
is equally true in regard to the spiritual state of every person in the world. If
the fact that men are not perfect, proves that no provisions are made for their perfection,
their being no better than they are proves that there is no provision for their being
any better than they are, or that they might have aimed at being any better, with
any rational hope of success. But who, except a fatalist, will admit any such conclusion
as this? And yet I do not see but this conclusion is inevitable from such premises.
- 14. Another objection to this doctrine is, that it is contrary to the views of
some of the greatest and best men in the Church,--that such men as Augustine, Calvin,
Doddrige, Edwards, &c., were of a different opinion. To this I answer:
- (1.) Suppose they were;--we are to call no man father in such a sense as to yield
up to him the forming of our views of Christian doctrine.
- (2.) This objection comes with a very ill grace from those who wholly reject
their opinions on some of the most important points of Christian doctrine.
- (3.) Those men all held the doctrine of physical depravity, which was manifestly
the ground of their rejecting the doctrine of entire consecration to God in this
life. Maintaining as they seem to have done, that the constitutional susceptibilities
of body and mind were depraved and sinful, consistency of course led them to reject
the idea that persons could be entirely sanctified while in the body. Now I would
ask what consistency is there in quoting them as rejecting the doctrine of entire
sanctification in this life, while the reason of this rejection in their minds, was
founded on the doctrine of physical depravity, which notion is entirely denied by
those who quote their authority?
- 15. But again it is objected, that if we should attain this state of entire consecration
of sanctification, we could not know it until the day of Judgment, and that to maintain
its attainability is vain, inasmuch as no one can know whether he has attained it
or not. To this I reply:
- (1.) A man's consciousness is the highest and best evidence of the present state
of his own mind. I understand consciousness to be the mind's recognition of its own
states, and that it is the highest possible evidence to our own minds of what passes
in our minds.
- (2.) With the law of God before us as our standard, the testimony of consciousness
in regard to whether the mind is conformed to that standard or not, is the highest
evidence which the mind can have of a present state of conformity to that rule.
- (3.) It is a testimony which we cannot doubt any more then we can doubt our existence.
How do we know that we exist? I answer: by our consciousness. How do I know that
I breathe, or love, or hate, or sit, or stand, or lie down, or rise up--that I am
joyful or sorrowful--in short, that I exercise any emotion or volition, or affection
of mind--how do I know that I sin, or repent, or believe? I answer: by my own consciousness.
No testimony can be "so direct and convincing as this."
Now in order to know that my repentance is genuine, I must intellectually understand
what genuine repentance is. So if I would know whether my love to God or man, or
obedience to the law is genuine, I must have clearly before my mind the real spirit,
and meaning, and bearing of the law of God. Having this rule before my mind, my own
consciousness affords "the most direct and convincing evidence possible"
of whether my present state of mind is conformed to the rule. The Spirit of God is
never employed in testifying to what my consciousness teaches, but in setting in
a strong light before the mind the rule to which I am to conform my life. It is His
business to make me understand, to induce me to love and obey the truth; and it is
the business of consciousness to testify to my own mind, whether I do or do not obey
the truth when I apprehend it. A man may be mistaken in regard to the correctness
of his knowledge of the law or truth of God. He may therefore mistake the character
of his exercises. But when God so presents the truth as to give the mind assurance,
that it understands His mind and will upon any subject, the mind's consciousness
of its own exercises in view of that truth, is "the highest and most direct
possible" evidence of whether it obeys or disobeys.
- (4.) If a man cannot be conscious of the character of his own exercises, how
can he know when and of what he is to repent? If he has committed sin of which he
is not conscious, how is he to repent of it? And if he has a holiness of which he
is not conscious, how could he feel that he has peace with God?
But it is said a man may violate the law not knowing it, and consequently have
no consciousness that he sinned, but that afterwards a knowledge of the law may convict
him of sin. To this I reply, that if there was absolutely no knowledge that the thing
in question was wrong, the doing of that thing was not sin, inasmuch as some degree
of knowledge of what is right or wrong is indispensable to the moral character of
any act. In such a case there may be a sinful ignorance which may involve all the
guilt of those actions that were done in consequence of it; but that blame-worthiness
lies in the ignorance itself, and not at all in the violation of the rule of which
the mind was at the time entirely ignorant.
- (5.) The Bible every where assumes, that we are able to know, and unqualifiedly
requires us to know what the moral state of our mind is. It commands us to examine
ourselves, to know and to approve our own selves. Now how can this be done but by
bringing our hearts into the light of the law of God, and then taking the testimony
of our own consciousness, whether we are or are not in a state of conformity to the
law? But if we are not to receive the testimony of our consciousness in regard to
our sanctification, are we to receive it in respect to our repentance or any other
exercise of our mind whatever? The fact is that we may deceive ourselves, by neglecting
to compare ourselves with the right standard. But when our views of the standard
are right, and our consciousness is a felt, decided, unequivocal state of mind, we
cannot be deceived any more than we can be deceived in regard to our own existence.
- (6.) But it is said our consciousness does not teach us what the power and capacities
of our minds are, and that therefore, if consciousness could teach us in respect
to the kind of our exercises, it cannot teach us in regard to their degree, whether
it is equal to the present capability of our mind. To this I reply:
- (a) Consciousness does as unequivocally testify whether we do or do not love
God with all our heart, as it does whether we love Him at all. How does a man know
that he lifts as much as he can, or runs, or leaps, or walks as fast as he is able?
I answer: by his own consciousness. How does he know that he repents or loves with
all his heart? I answer: by his own consciousness. This is the only possible way
in which he can know it.
- (b) The objection implies that God has put within our reach no possible means
of knowing whether we obey Him or not. The Bible does not directly reveal the fact
to any man, whether he obeys God or not. It reveals his duty, but does not reveal
the fact whether he obeys. It refers this testimony to his own consciousness. The
Spirit of God sets our duty before us, but does not directly reveal to us whether
we do it or not; for this would imply that every man is under constant inspiration.
But it is said the Bible directs our attention to the fact of whether we obey
or disobey as evidence whether we are in a right state of mind or not. But I would
inquire, how do we know whether we obey or disobey? How do we know any thing of our
conduct but by our consciousness? Our conduct as observed by others is to them evidence
of the state of our hearts. But, I repeat it, our consciousness of obedience to God,
is the highest and indeed the only evidence of our true character.
- (c) If a man's own consciousness is not to be a witness, either for or against
him, no other testimony in the universe can ever satisfy him of the propriety of
God's dealing with him in the final Judgment. Let then thousand witnesses testify
that a man had committed murder, still the man could not feel condemned for it unless
his own consciousness bore testimony to the fact. So if ten thousand witnesses should
testify that he had performed some good act, he could feel no self-complacency, or
sense of self-approbation and virtue, unless his consciousness bore its testimony
to the same fact. There are cases of common occurrence, where the witnesses testify
to the guilt or innocence of a man contrary to the testimony of his own consciousness.
When God convicts a man of sin, it is not by contradicting his consciousness; but
by setting the consciousness which he had at the time in the clear strong light of
his memory, causing him to discover clearly, and to remember distinctly, what light
he had, what thoughts, what convictions; in other words, what consciousnesses he
had at the time. And this, let me add, is the way and the only way in which the Spirit
of God can convict a man of sin, thus bringing him to condemn himself. Now suppose
that God should bear testimony against a man, that at such a time he did such a thing--that
such and such were all the circumstances of the case--and suppose that, at the same
time, the individual is unable to remember, and appears never to have had the least
consciousness of the transaction. The testimony of God in this case, could not satisfy
the man's mind, or lead him into a state of self-condemnation. The only possible
way in which this state of mind could be induced, would be to arouse the memory of
past consciousness, and cause the whole scene to start into living reality before
his mind's eye, as it passed in his own consciousness at the time. But if he had
no consciousness of any such thing, and consequently no remembrance of it could possibly
take place, to convict him of sin is naturally and for ever impossible.
- (7.) Men may overlook what consciousness is. They may mistake the rule of duty--they
may confound consciousness with a mere negative state of mind, or that state in which
a man is not conscious of a state of opposition to the truth. Yet it must for ever
remain true, that to our own minds "consciousness must be the highest possible
evidence" of what passes within us. And if a man does not by his own consciousness
know whether he does the best that he can, under the circumstances--whether he has
a single eye to the glory of God--and whether he is in a state of entire consecration
to God--he cannot know it in any way whatever. And no testimony whatever, either
of God or man, could, according to the laws of his being, satisfy him, and beget
in him either conviction of guilt on the one hand, or self-approbation on the other.
- (8.) Finally, let me ask, how those who make this objection know that they are
not in a sanctified state? Has God revealed it to them? Has He revealed it in the
Bible? Does the Bible say to A.B., by name, you are not in a sanctified state? Or
does it lay down a rule, in the light of which his own consciousness bears this testimony
against him? Has God revealed directly by His Spirit, that he is not in a sanctified
state? Or does He hold the rule of duty strongly before the mind, and thus awaken
the testimony of consciousness, that he is not in this state?
Now just in the same way, consciousness testifies of those that are sanctified,
that they are in that state. Neither the Bible, nor the Spirit of God, makes any
new or particular revelation to them by name. But the Spirit of God bears witness
with their spirits, by setting the rule in a strong light before them. He induces
that state of mind that consciousness pronounces to be conformity to the rule. This
is as far as possible from setting aside the judgment of God in the case, for consciousness
is, under these circumstances, the testimony of God, and the way in which He convinces
of sin on the one hand, and of entire consecration on the other.
Again, the objection that consciousness cannot decide in regard to the strength of
our powers, and whether we really serve God with all our strength, seems to be based
upon the false supposition that the law of God requires every power of body and mind
to be excited at every moment to its full strength, and that too without any regard
to the nature of the subject about which our powers are for the time being employed.
In the first lecture on this subject, I endeavored to show and trust I did show,
that perfect obedience to the law of God requires no such thing. Entire sanctification
is entire consecration. Entire consecration is obedience to the law of God. And all
that the law requires is, that our whole being be consecrated to God, and that the
amount of strength to be expended in His service at any one moment of time, must
depend upon the nature of the subject about which the powers are for the time being
employed. And nothing is further from the truth than that obedience to the law of
God requires every power of body and mind to be constantly on the strain, and in
the highest possible degree of excitement, and activity. Such an interpretation of
the law of God as this, would be utterly inconsistent with life and health; and would
write MENE, TEKEL upon the life and conduct of Jesus Christ Himself; for His whole
history shows that He was not in a state of constant excitement to the full extent
of His powers.
- 16. Again it is objected that, if this state were attained in this life, it would
be the end of our probation. Probation, since the fall of Adam, or those points in
which we are in a state of probation or trial, are:
- (1.) Whether we will repent and believe the gospel;
- (2.) Whether we will persevere in holiness to the end of life.
Some suppose that the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, sets aside the
idea of being at all in a state of probation after our conversion. They reason thus:
If it is certain that the saints will persevere, then their probation is ended; because
the question is already settled, not only that they will be converted, but that they
will persevere to the end, and the contingency in regard to the event, is indispensable
to the idea of probation. To this I reply:
That a thing may be contingent with man that is not at all so with God. With God,
there is not and never was any contingency, with regard to the final destiny of any
being. But with men, almost all things are contingencies. God knows with absolute
certainty whether a man will be converted, and whether he will persevere. A man may
know that he is converted, and may believe, that by the grace of God he shall persevere.
He may have an assurance of this in proportion to the strength of his faith. But
the knowledge of this fact is not at all inconsistent with the idea of his continuance
in a state of trial till the day of his death; inasmuch as his perseverance depends
upon the exercise of his own voluntary agency.
In the same way some say, that if we have attained a state of entire and permanent
sanctification, we can no longer be in a state of probation. I answer, that perseverance
in this state depends upon the promise and grace of God, just as the final perseverance
of the saints does. In neither case can we have any other assurance of our perseverance
than that of faith in the promise and grace of God; nor any other knowledge that
we have arrived at this state, than that which arises out of a belief in the testimony
of God, that He will preserve us blameless until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If this be inconsistent with our probation, I see not why the doctrine of the saints'
perseverance is not equally inconsistent with it. If any one is disposed to maintain
that for us to have any judgment or belief in regard to our final perseverance, is
inconsistent with a state of probation, all I can say is, that his views of probation
are very inconsistent with my own, and so far as I understand, with those of the
Church of God.
Again, there is a very high and important sense in which every moral being will remain
on probation to all eternity. While under the moral government of God, obedience
must for ever remain a condition of the favor of God. And the fact of continued obedience
will for ever depend on the faithfulness and grace of God; and the only knowledge
we can ever have of this fact, either in heaven or on earth, must be founded upon
the faithfulness and truth of God.
Again, if it were true, that entering upon a state of permanent sanctification in
this life, were, in some sense, an end of our probation, that would be no objection
to the doctrine; for there is a sense in which probation often ends long before the
termination of this life. Where, for example, a person has committed the unpardonable
sin, or where from any cause, God has given up sinners to fill up the measure of
their iniquity, withdrawing for ever His Holy Spirit from them, and sealed them over
to eternal death; this, in a very important sense, is the end of their probation,
and they are as sure of hell as if they were already there.
So on the other hand, when a person has received, after that he believes, the ensealing
of the Spirit unto the day of redemption, as an earnest of his inheritance, he may
and is bound to regard this as a solemn pledge on the part of God, of his final perseverance
and salvation, and as no longer leaving the final question of his destiny in doubt.
Now it should be remembered, that in both these cases the result depends upon the
exercise of the agency of the creature. In the case of the sinner given up of God,
it is certain that he will not repent, though his impenitence is voluntary and by
no means a thing naturally necessary. So on the other hand the perseverance of the
saints is certain though not necessary. If in either case there should be a radical
change of character the result would differ accordingly.
- 17. Again, while it is admitted by some that entire sanctification in this life
is attainable, yet it is denied that there is any certainty that it will be attained
by any one before death. For, it is said, that as all the promises of entire sanctification
are conditioned upon faith, they therefore secure the entire sanctification of no
one. To this I reply:
That all the promises of salvation in the Bible are conditioned upon faith and
repentance, and therefore it does not follow on this principle, that any person ever
will be saved. What does all this arguing prove? The fact is that while the promises
both of salvation and sanctification, are conditioned upon faith as it respects individuals;
yet to Christ and to the Church as a body, as I have already shown, these promises
are unconditional. With respect to the salvation of sinners, it is promised that
Christ shall have a seed to serve Him, and the Bible abounds with numerous promises,
both to Christ and the Church, that secure without condition, as it regards them,
the salvation of great multitudes of sinners. So the promises that the Church as
a body, at some period of her earthly history, shall be entirely sanctified, are,
as it regards the Church, unconditional. But, as I have already shown, as it respects
individuals, the fulfillment of these promises must depend upon the exercise of faith.
Both in the salvation of sinners and the sanctification of Christians, God is abundantly
pledged to bring about the salvation of the one and the sanctification of the other,
to the extent of His promises. But as it respects individuals, no one can claim the
fulfillment of these promises without complying with the conditions.
These are the principal objections that have occurred to my mind, or that have,
so far as I know, been urged by others. There may be and doubtless are others, of
greater or less plausibility, to which I may have occasion to refer hereafter. Lest
I should be tedious, these must suffice for the present.
April 8, 1840
SANCTIFICATION- No. 8
by the Rev. Charles G. Finney
Text.--1 Thess. 5:23-24: "And the very God of peace sanctify
you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless
unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who also
will do it."
VIII. I am next to show when entire sanctification is attainable.
- 1. The blessing of entire sanctification is promised to Christians. The promises
Jeremiah 31:31-34: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make
a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according
to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the
hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although
I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord: but this shall be the covenant that I
will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put
my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God,
and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor,
and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from
the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their
iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
Ezek. 36:25-27: "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be
clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new
heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take
away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And
I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall
keep my judgments and do them."
1 Thess. 5:23, 24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray
God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming
of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it."
Eph. 1:13: "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth,
the gospel of your salvation: in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed
with the Holy Spirit of promise."
These and many others show that the promise is made to those who have some degree
of faith, i.e. who have been regenerated. In the last it is said, "We are sealed
after that we believe."
- 2. Faith is always the expressed or implied condition of the promises. It has
been supposed that the promise in Jer. 31, together with other kindred promises,
are absolute in such a sense as to have no condition whatever. To this it may be
replied, that the things which they promise are of such a nature as that they cannot
possibly be received but by faith. The law of love cannot possibly be written in
the heart, but through the faith which works by love. Therefore from necessity this
promise, as well as all other promises of spiritual blessings, is conditioned upon
faith in us. Should it be said that the promise to write the law in our hearts, includes
the doing of all that which is essential to its fulfillment, and that therefore a
promise to beget love is virtually also a promise to produce faith, I reply, that
in some sense this is true. A promise to secure an end is virtually a promise to
secure the right use of the means necessary to that end. But this is as far as possible
from excluding our own agency and responsibility. When Paul had declared, that not
a hair of any man's head on board the ship should perish, this did not exclude the
necessity of the sailors remaining on board. For he afterwards informed them, "except
these abide in the ship ye cannot be saved." Now it is true that in a very important
sense, the promise that the hair of no man's head should perish, implied that God
would secure the use of the requisite means to preserve them. Yet who would infer
from this that that promise was not conditioned upon the sailors remaining on board,
and the right use of the voluntary agency of Paul and all the rest on board to preserve
themselves. So it should be remembered, that the promises, to create a new heart
and a new spirit--to make a new covenant with the house of Israel--and to write the
law in their hearts--are certainly and necessarily conditioned upon the faith of
every one who would receive their fulfillment.
- 3. This state is attainable on the ground of natural ability at any time. If
this state were not attainable on the ground of natural ability, it would not be
required, and its absence would not be sin. But it has been doubted whether the work
of entire sanctification is such, in its own nature, that it can be accomplished
at once. To this I reply:
- (1.) If it cannot be instantly accomplished, it would not be instantly required.
- (2.) If it were not, in its own nature, capable of being attained at once, the
non-attaining it at once would not be sin. All that would be required would be to
press forward as fast as we could.
- (3.) But in this case the pressing forward would be a sinless state, because
it would be all that could be required. So that we should possess at once, what according
to the supposition, is naturally impossible, i.e. a state of entire sanctification.
- (4.) I have already shown that provision is made against every temptation. And
as temptation, under some form, is the cause of all sin, if sufficient provision
is made against all present and future temptation, it follows that a state of entire
sanctification is attainable at once.
- 4. Full faith in the word and promises of God, naturally, and certainly, and
immediately produces a state of entire sanctification. Let it be understood that
by faith, I mean--
- (1.) A realization of the truth and meaning of the Bible.
- (2.) A laying hold upon all those truths upon which this state of mind depends,
especially a full realization and belief of the sacred record God has given of His
Son, "that his blood cleanseth us from all sin." It is easy to see that
the realization and belief of the infinite love of God, as manifested in Christ Jesus,
would have a tendency to fill the mind with unutterable and constant love to God--to
annihilate selfishness--and beget the most cordial and perfect love to man. This
result is instantaneous on the exercise of faith, and in this sense sanctification
is an instantaneous work.
- 5. God is able to produce entire sanctification in any soul, when he is pleased
to do so.
This appears to be plainly taught by Christ, when he spoke of the ability of God
to save the rich. He asserts that their salvation is more difficult "than for
a camel to go through the eye of a needle." And when the disciples expressed
their astonishment, He replied, that "with God all things are possible."
Now this seems to be a case in point. To sanctify the rich is the only difficulty
in the way of their salvation. And Christ has asserted, that God is able not only
to sanctify them, but that "all things are possible with Him," i.e. that
there is no limit to His ability in this respect.
Eph. 3:20, proved the same point. Here the Apostle asserts that God is able to do
"abundantly above all that we ask and above all that we think," exceedingly
abundantly, &c. Now we can both think of and ask for the blessing of entire,
and permanent, and instantaneous sanctification, and if this passage of scripture
is true God is able to grant it.
That God is able not only to produce present but also to confirm us in a state of
perpetual sanctification, is plain from many other passages of scripture. Jude 24:
"Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless
before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy." Upon this passage, I remark:
- (1.) Here it is asserted, that God is able to keep us from falling.
- (2.) To present us faultless before the presence of His glory.
- (3.) To keep us and present us faultless, is to preserve us in a state of permanent
sanctification. And this it is declared He is able to do.
To this it has been objected that moral government implies the power to resist
every degree of motive. This I most fully admit. But it is one thing to have the
power thus to resist, and quite another thing to use that power. God certainly knew
when he created moral agents to what extent, under their circumstances, they would
actually exercise their powers of resistance, and therefore whether He could sanctify
and save them or not. As a matter of fact, He has overcome the voluntary resistance
of all who are converted. And if He has broken down their enmity, and so far subdued
them, is it incredible that He should be able wholly to sanctify them, and preserve
IX. I am to show how entire sanctification is attainable.
- 1. A state of entire sanctification can never be attained by an indifferent waiting
- 2. Nor by any works of law, or works of any kind performed in your own strength,
irrespective of the grace of God. By this I do not mean that were you disposed to
exert your natural powers aright, you could not at once attain to this state in the
exercise of your natural strength. But I do mean, that as you are wholly indisposed
to use your natural powers aright without the grace of God, no efforts that you will
actually make in your own strength or independent of his grace, will ever result
in your entire sanctification.
- 3. Not by any direct efforts to feel right. Many spend their time in vain efforts
to force themselves into a right state of feeling. Now it should be for ever understood,
that neither faith, love, nor repentance, nor any other right feeling is ever the
result of a direct effort to put forth those exercises. But on the contrary, they
are the spontaneous actings of the mind when it has under its direct and deep consideration
the objects of faith, and love, and repentance. By spontaneous, I do not mean involuntary.
They are the voluntary and the most easy & natural states of mind possible under
such circumstances. So far from its requiring an effort to put them forth, it would
rather require an effort to prevent them, when the mind is intensely considering
those objects & considerations which have a natural tendency to produce them.
This is so true that when persons are in the exercise of such affections, they feel
no difficulty at all in their exercise, but wonder how any one can help feeling as
they do. It seems to them so natural, so easy, and I may say, so almost unavoidable,
that they often feel and express astonishment that any one should find it difficult
to love, believe, or repent. The course that many persons take on the subject of
religion has often appeared wonderful to me. They make themselves, their own state
and interests, the central point, around which their own minds are continually revolving.
Their selfishness is so great, that their own interests, happiness, and salvation,
fill their whole field of vision. And with their thoughts and anxieties, and whole
souls clustering around their own salvation, they complain of a hard heart--that
they cannot love God--that they do not repent, and cannot believe. Being conscious
that they do not feel right, they are the most concerned about themselves, which
concern but increases their embarrassment and the difficulty of exercising right
affections. The deeper they feel the more they try to feel--the greater efforts they
make to feel without success, the more they are alarmed and discouraged, the more
are they confirmed in their selfishness, and the more are their thoughts glued to
their own interests, and they are of course at a greater and greater distance from
any right state of feeling. And thus their selfish anxieties beget ineffectual efforts,
and ineffectual efforts but deepen their anxieties. And if in this state, death should
appear in a visible form before them, or the last trumpet sound, and they should
be summoned to the solemn Judgment, it would but increase their distraction, confirm
and almost give omnipotence to their selfishness, and render their sanctification
- 4. Not by any efforts to obtain grace by works. In my lecture on Faith, in the
last volume of the Evangelist, I said the following things:
- (1.) Should the question be proposed to a Jew, "What shall I do that I may
work the works of God?"--in other words, how shall I obtain a state of entire
obedience to the law of God, or entire sanctification?--he would answer, keep the
law, both moral and ceremonial, i.e. keep the commandments.
- (2.) To the same inquiry an Arminian would answer, improve common grace, and
you will obtain converting grace, i.e. use the means of grace, according to the best
light you have, and you will obtain the grace of salvation. In this answer it is
not supposed, that the inquirer already has faith, and is using the means of grace
in faith; but that he is in a state of impenitency, and is inquiring after converting
grace. The answer, therefore, amounts to this: you must get converting grace by your
impenitent works; you must become holy by your hypocrisy; you must work out sanctification
- (3.) To this question, most professed Calvinists would make in substance the
same reply. They would reject the language, while they retained the idea. Their direction
would imply, either that the inquirer already has faith, or that he must perform
some works to obtain it, i.e. to obtain grace by works.
Neither an Arminian, nor a Calvinist would formally direct the inquirer to the
law, as the ground of justification. But nearly the whole Church would give directions
that would amount to the same thing. Their answer would be a legal, and not a gospel
answer. For whatever answer is given to this question, that does not distinctly recognize
faith, as the foundation of all virtue in sinners, is legal. Unless the inquirer
is made to understand, that this is the first, grand, fundamental duty, without the
performance of which all virtue, all giving up of sin, all acceptable obedience,
is impossible, he is misdirected. He is led to believe that it is possible to please
God without faith; and to obtain grace by works of law. There are but two kinds of
works--works of law, and works of faith. Now if the inquirer has not the "faith
that works by love," to set him upon any course of works to get it, is certainly
to get faith by works of the law. Whatever is said to him that does not clearly convey
the truth, that both justification and sanctification are by faith, without works
of law, is law, and not gospel. Nothing before, or without faith, can possibly be
done by the unbeliever, but works of law. His first duty, therefore, is faith; and
every attempt to obtain faith by unbelieving works, is to lay works at the foundation,
and make grace a result. It is the direct opposite of gospel truth.
Take facts as they arise in every day's experience, to show that what I have stated
is true of almost all professors and non-professors. Whenever a sinner begins in
good earnest to agitate the question, "what shall I do to be saved?" he
resolves as a first duty, to break off from his sins, i.e. in unbelief. Of course,
his reformation is only outward. He determines to do better--to reform in this, that,
and the other thing, and thus prepare himself to be converted. He does not expect
to be saved without grace, and faith, but he attempts to get grace by works of law.
The same is true of multitudes of anxious Christians, who are inquiring what they
shall do to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. They overlook the facts,
that "this is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith,"
that it is with "the shield of faith" that they are "to quench all
the fiery darts of the wicked." They ask why am I overcome by sin? why can I
not get above its power? why am I thus the slave of my appetites and passions, and
the sport of the devil? They cast about for the cause of all this spiritual wretchedness
and death. At one time, they think they have discovered it in the neglect of one
duty; and at another time, in the neglect of another. Sometimes, they imagine they
have found the cause to lie in yielding to one sin, and sometimes in yielding to
another. They put forth efforts in this direction, and in that direction, and patch
up their righteousness on one side, while they make a rent in the other side. Thus
they spend years, in running around in a circle, and making dams of sand across the
current of their own corruptions. Instead of at once purifying their hearts by faith,
they are engaged in trying to arrest the overflowing of its bitter waters. Why do
I sin? they inquire; and casting about for the cause, they come to the sage conclusion,
it is because I neglect such a duty, i.e. because I do sin. But how shall I get rid
of sin? Answer: by doing my duty, that is, by ceasing from sin. Now the real inquiry
is, why do they neglect their duty? Why do they commit sin at all? where is the foundation
of all this mischief? Will it be replied, the foundation of all this wickedness is
in the corruption of our nature--in the wickedness of the heart--in the strength
of our evil propensities and habits? But all this only brings us back to the real
inquiry again--How are this corrupt nature, this wicked heart, and these sinful habits,
to be overcome? I answer, by faith alone. No works of law have the least tendency
to overcome our sins; but rather confirm the soul in self-righteousness and unbelief.
The great and fundamental sin, which is at the foundation of all other sin, is unbelief.
The first thing is, to give up that--to believe the word of God. There is no breaking
off from one sin without this. "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." "Without
faith, it is impossible to please God."
Thus we see, that the backslider and convicted sinner, when agonizing to overcome
sin, will almost always betake themselves to works of law, to obtain faith. They
will fast, and pray, and read, and struggle, and outwardly reform, and thus endeavor
to obtain grace. Now all this is in vain and wrong. Do you ask, shall we not fast,
and pray, and read, and struggle? Shall we do nothing--but sit down in Antinomian
security and inaction? I answer, you must do all that God commands you to do; but
begin where He tells you to begin, and do it in the manner in which He commands you
to do it; i.e. in the exercise of that faith that works by love. Purify your hearts
by faith. Believe in the Son of God. And say not in your heart, "who shall ascend
up into heaven, i.e. to bring Christ down from above; or who shall descend into the
deep, i.e. to bring up Christ again from the dead. But what saith it? The word is
nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that is, the word of faith which
Now these facts show, that even under the gospel, almost all professors of religion,
while they reject the Jewish notion of justification by works of the law, have after
all adopted a ruinous substitute for it, and suppose that, in some way they are to
obtain grace by their works.
- 5. A state of entire sanctification cannot be attained by attempting to copy
the experience of others. It is very common for convicted sinners, or for Christians
inquiring after entire sanctification, in their blindness to ask others to relate
their experience, to mark minutely the detail of all their exercises, and then set
themselves to pray for and make direct efforts to attain the same class of exercises.
Not seeming to understand that they can no more exercise feelings in the detail like
others, than they can look like others. Human experiences differ as human countenances
differ. The whole history of a man's former state of mind, comes in of course to
modify his present and future exercises. So that the precise train of affections
which may be requisite in your case, and which will actually occur in your case,
if you are ever sanctified, will not, in all their detail, coincide with the exercises
of any other human being. It is of vast importance for you to understand, that you
can be no copyist in any true religious experience; and that you are in great danger
of being deceived by Satan, whenever you attempt to copy the experience of others.
I beseech you, therefore to cease from praying for or trying to obtain the precise
experience of any uninspired person, whatever. All truly Christian experiences are,
like human countenances, in their outline, so much alike as to be readily known as
the lineaments of the religion of Jesus Christ. But no farther than this are they
alike, any more than human countenances are alike.
- 6. Not by waiting to make preparations before you come into this state. Observe
that the thing about which you are inquiring is a state of entire consecration to
God. Now do not imagine that this state of mind must be prefaced by a long introduction
of preparatory exercises. It is common for persons when inquiring upon this subject
with earnestness, to think themselves hindered in their progress by a want of this
or that or the other exercise or state of mind. They look every where else but at
the real difficulty. They assign any other and every other but the true reason for
their not being already in a state of sanctification.
- 7. Not by attending meetings, asking the prayers of other Christians, or depending
in any way upon the means of getting into this state. By this I do not intend to
say that means are unnecessary, or that it is not through the instrumentality of
truth, that this state of mind is induced. But I do mean that while you are depending
upon any instrumentality whatever, your mind is directed from the real point before
you, and you are never likely to make this attainment.
- 8. Not by waiting for any particular views of Christ. When persons, in the state
of mind of which I have been speaking, hear those who live in faith, describe their
views of Christ, they say, "O, if I had such views, I could believe; I must
have these, before I can believe." Now you should understand that these views
are the result and effect of faith. These views of which you speak, are those which
faith discovers in those passages of Scripture which describe Christ. Faith apprehends
the meaning of those passages, and sees in them these very things which you expect
to see, before you exercise faith, and which you imagine would produce it. Take hold,
then, on the simple promise of God. Take God at His word. Believe that he means just
what He says. And this will at once bring you into the state of mind, after which
- 9. Not in any way which you may mark out for yourself. Persons in an inquiring
state are very apt, without seeming to be aware of it, to send imagination on before
them, to stake out the way, and set up a flag where they intend to come out. They
expect to be thus and thus exercised--to have such and such peculiar views and feelings,
when they have attained their object. Now there probably never was a person who did
not find himself disappointed in these respects. God says, "I will bring the
blind by a way that they know not. I will lead them in paths that they have not known:
I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things
will I do unto them, and not forsake them." This suffering your imagination
to make out your path is a great hindrance to you, as it sets you upon making many
fruitless, and worse than fruitless, attempts to attain this imaginary state of mind--wastes
much of your time--exhausts much of the energies of your mind--and greatly wearies
the patience and grieves the Spirit of God. While He is trying to lead you right
to the point, you are hauling off from the course, and insisting that this which
your imagination has marked out is the way, instead of that in which He is trying
to lead you. And thus in your pride and ignorance you are causing much delay, and
abusing the long suffering of God. He says, "This is the way, walk ye in it."
But you say no. This is the way. And thus you stand and parley and banter, while
you are every moment in danger of grieving the Spirit of God away from you, and of
losing your soul.
- 10. Not in any manner, or at any time, or place, upon which you may in your own
mind lay any stress. If there is any thing in your imagination that has fixed definitely
upon any particular manner, time or place, or circumstances, you will in all probability
either be deceived by the devil, or entirely disappointed in the result. You will
find that in all these particular items on which you had laid any stress, that the
wisdom of man is foolishness with God--that your ways are not His ways, not your
thoughts His thoughts. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways
higher than your ways, and His thoughts than your thoughts. But,
- 11. This state is to be attained by faith alone. Let it be forever remembered,
that "without faith it is impossible to please God," and "whatever
is not of faith, is sin."
Both justification and sanctification are by faith alone. Rom. 3:30: "Seeing
it is one God who shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision
through faith;" and 5:1: "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have
peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." Also, 9:30, 31: "What shall
we say then? that the Gentiles, who followed not after righteousness, have attained
to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, who followed
after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore?
Because they sought it not by faith, but, as it were, by the works of the law."
That you may clearly understand this part of the subject, I will quote again from
my lecture in the last Vol. the elements that constitute saving faith.
April 22, 1840
SANCTIFICATION- No. 9
by the Rev. Charles G. Finney
Text.--1 Thess. 5:23-24: "And the very God of peace sanctify
you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless
unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who also
will do it."
In concluding the series of discourses upon this text, I would remark:
- 1. That it is useless to speculate upon any supposed distinction that might have
been in the Apostle's mind between the soul and spirit of man. I understand the prayer
of the Apostle to be for the entire consecration of the whole being to the service
of God. I need not dwell with any more particularity upon the text, except it be
to mention some things which I suppose are implied in the entire sanctification of
- (1.) I understand the sanctification of the body to imply the entire consecration,
by the soul, of all its members to the service of God. The body is to be regarded
merely as the instrument of the soul through which it manifests itself, and by which
it fulfills its desires.
- (2.) The entire sanctification of the body implies also the entire consecration
of all its appetites and passions to the service of God, i.e. that all its appetites
shall be used only for the purposes for which they were designed, not to be the masters,
but the servants of the soul, not to lead the soul away from God, but to subserve
the highest interests of the physical organization.
- (3.) It implies the necessity of keeping the body under, and bringing it into
subjection--that no appetite or passion of the body is to be indulged merely for
the sake of the indulgence--that no appetite or passion is to be at any time consulted
or its indulgence allowed but for the glory of God, to answer the ends of our being,
and to render us in the highest degree useful. The grand error of mankind is, that
the soul has been debased even to be the slave of the body, that appetite and passion
have ruled, that the "fleshly mind which is enmity against God," has been
suffered to become the law of the soul, and hence the Apostle complains that he saw
"a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, bringing him into
captivity to the law of sin and death,: which was in his members. Hence also, it
is said that "if ye live after the flesh ye shall die," that "to mind
the flesh is enmity with God," that " the minding of the flesh is death,"
"he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption." In short
it is every where in the Bible expressly taught, that one great error and sin of
mankind is the indulgence of the flesh. Now the entire sanctification of the body
implies the denial of the lusts of the flesh, that "we put on the Lord Jesus
Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof,"
that the appetites and passions be restrained and entirely subjugated to the highest
interests and perfection of the soul, and to the glory of God. The highest sense
in which the body may be sanctified in this life implies:
- (a) The strictest temperance in all things. By temperance I mean the moderate
use of things that are useful, and total abstinence from things that are pernicious.
- (b) It implies also the utter denial of all the artificial appetites of the body.
By artificial appetites I mean all those appetites that are not natural to man previous
to all depravity of the system by any kind of abuse or violation of its laws. Among
the artificial appetites are all those hankerings after various poisons, narcotics,
and innutricious [sic.] stimulants that are in almost universal use, such as tobacco,
tea, coffee, and the like. All such substances are utterly inconsistent with perfect
temperance--are worse than useless, and produce only a temporary excitement, at the
expense of certain and permanent debility. They deceive mankind on the same principle
that alcohol has so long deceived men, and though not to the same degree injurious
and inconsistent with the highest well being of the body and soul; yet they are as
really so; and therefore utterly unlawful. And nothing but ignorance, can prevent
their use in any instance as an article of diet from being sin; and when the means
of knowledge are at hand, this ignorance itself becomes sin.
- (c) Temperance implies a knowledge of, and compliance with, all the laws of our
physical system. There is scarcely any branch of knowledge more important to mankind
than a knowledge of the structure and laws of their own being. Nor is there scarcely
any subject, upon which men are so generally and so shamefully ignorant. It seems
not at all to be known by mankind in general, or even suspected, that everything
about their bodies is regulated by laws, as certain as the law of gravitation; and
that a perfect knowledge of and conformity of those laws, would render permanent
health as certain as the motion of the planets. The world is full of disease and
premature death, and these things are spoken of as mysterious providences of God,
without ever so much as dreaming, that they are the natural and certain results of
the most outrageous and reckless violations of the laws of the human constitution.
- (d) Temperance in all things implies correct dietetic and other habits in respect
to exercise and rest. And in short, such obedience in all respects to the physiological
laws of the constitution as to promote in the highest degree its physical perfection,
and thus preserve it in a state in which it will be in the highest degree capable
of being used by the soul, to fulfill all the will of God. There are no doubt, occasions
on which the bodily strength and the body itself may be sanctified to the interests
of the soul, and of the Redeemer's kingdom--cases in which the violation of physical
law may be justifiable and even a duty, where the kingdom of Christ demands the sacrifice.
Christ gave up His body a sacrifice. The Apostles and Martyrs gave up theirs. And
in every age multitudes have given themselves up to labors for the kingdom of Christ,
that have soon ended their mortal lives. This is not inconsistent with the highest
instances of such consecration. But where the circumstances do not demand it, the
sanctification of the body, implies that its strength shall not be exhausted, or
any of its powers debilitated or injured, by any neglect of exercise, or by any overworking
of its organs, or by any violation of its laws whatever. It implies the utmost regularity
in all our habits of eating, drinking, sleeping, labor, rest, exercise, and in short
a strictly religious regard to all those things that can contribute to our highest
perfection of body and soul. Can a glutton, who is stupefied two or three times a
day with his food, be entirely consecrated, either body or soul to God? Certainly
not. His table is a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block to him. Can an epicure,
whose dainty palate loathes every correctly prepared article of diet, and who demands
that every meal should be prepared with seasonings and condiments highly injurious
to the health of his body and the well-being of his soul, can he be in a state of
entire consecration to God? No! surely. His "God is his belly." His "glory
is in his shame." He "minds earthly things," and an Apostle would
tell him, "even weeping, that his end is destruction." It is appalling
to see the various forms of disease and wretchedness with which mankind are cursed
on account of their wanton disregard of the laws of their being. The highest power
of the human mind can never be developed, nor its highest perfection attained, in
a diseased body; and probably scarcely a single member of the human family in their
present state, has any thing like perfect health. Many suppose themselves to be perfectly
healthy, simply because they never saw a person who had perfect health, and also
because they do not know enough of themselves to know that many of their organs may
be fatally diseased without their being conscious of it.
The influence of dietetic and other habits upon the health of the body is known
to but a very limited extent among mankind, and far less is it understood that whatever
affects the body, inevitably affects the mind, and that the temper and spirit of
a man are in a great measure modified by the state of his health. It is known to
some extent that an acid stomach begets fretfulness, and that certain nervous diseases,
as they are called, greatly affect the mind. But it is not so generally known as
it ought to be, that all our dietetic and other physiological habits have a powerful
influence in forming and molding our moral character. Not necessarily but by way
of temptation, acting on the mind through our bodily organs, all stimulants and every
thing injurious to the body act most perniciously upon the mind. Let me say therefore,
beloved, in one word, as I cannot dwell upon this subject longer, that if you would
expect the sanctification of body, soul, and spirit, you must acquaint yourselves
with the true principles of temperance and physiological reform, and most religiously
conform yourself to them not only in the aggregate but in the detail.
But I have already protracted the discussion of this subject so far that I will
not add more at present, except to conclude what I have to say with several brief
1. There is an importance to be attached to the sanctification of the body, of which
very few persons appear to be aware. Indeed unless the bodily appetites and powers
be consecrated to the service of God--unless we learn to eat, and drink, and sleep,
and wake, and labor, and rest, for the glory of God, entire sanctification is out
of the question.
2. It is plain, that very few persons are aware of the great influence which their
bodies have over their minds, and of the indispensable necessity of bringing their
bodies under and bringing them into subjection.
3. Few people seem to keep the fact steadily in view, that unless their bodies be
rightly managed, they will be so fierce and overpowering a source of temptation to
the mind, as inevitably to lead it into sin. If they indulge themselves in a stimulating
diet, and in the use of those condiments that irritate and rasp the nervous system,
their bodies will be of course and of necessity the source of powerful and incessant
temptation to evil tempers and vile affections. If persons were aware of the great
influence which the body has over the mind, they would realize that they cannot be
too careful to preserve the nervous system from the influence of every improper article
of food or drink, and preserve that system as they would the apple of their eye,
from every influence that could impair its functions.
4. No one who has opportunity to acquire information in regard to the laws of life
and health, and the best means of sanctifying the whole spirit, soul, and body, can
be guiltless if he neglect these means of knowledge. Every man is bound to make the
structure and laws of both body and mind the subject of as thorough investigation
as his circumstances will permit, to inform himself in regard to what are the true
principles of perfect temperance, and in what way the most can be made of all his
powers of body and mind for the glory of God.
5. From what has been said in these discourses, the reason why the Church has not
been entirely sanctified is very obvious. As a body the Church has not believed that
such a state was attainable in this life. And this is a sufficient reason, and indeed
the best of all reasons for her not having attained it.
6. From what has been said, it is easy to see that the true question in regard to
entire sanctification in this life, is its attainability, as a matter of fact. Some
have thought the proper question to be, are Christians entirely sanctified in this
life? Now certainly this is not the question that needs to be discussed. Suppose
it be fully granted that they are not; this fact is sufficiently accounted for, by
the consideration that they do not know it, or believe it to be attainable in this
life. If they believed it to be attainable, it might no longer be true that they
do not attain it. But if provision really is made for this attainment, it amounts
to nothing, unless it be recognized and believed. The thing then needed is to bring
the Church to see and believe, that this is her high privilege and her duty. It is
not enough to say that it is attainable, simply on the ground of natural ability.
This is as true of the devil, and of the lost in hell, as of men in this world. But
unless grace has put this attainment so within our reach, as that it may be aimed
at with the reasonable prospect of success, there is, as a matter of fact, no more
provision for our entire sanctification in this life than for the devil's. It seems
to be trifling with mankind, merely to maintain the attainability of this state on
the ground of natural ability only. The real question is, has grace brought this
attainment so within our reach, that we may reasonably expect to experience it in
this life? It is admitted, that on the ground of natural ability both wicked men
and devils have the power to be entirely holy. But it is also admitted, that their
indisposition to use this power aright is so complete, that as a matter of fact,
they never will use this power aright, unless influenced to do so by the grace of
God. I insist, therefore, that the real question is, whether the provisions of the
gospel are such, that, did the Church fully understand and lay hold upon the proffered
grace, she might as a matter of fact attain this state?
7. We see how irrelevant and absurd the objection is, that as a matter of fact the
Church has not attained this state, and therefore it is not attainable. Why, if they
have not understood it to be attainable, it no more proves its unattainableness,
than the fact that the heathen have not embraced the gospel proves that they will
not when they know it.
8. You see the necessity of fully preaching and insisting upon this doctrine, and
of calling it by its true scriptural name. It is astonishing to see to what an extent,
there is a tendency among men to avoid the use of scriptural language, and cleave
to the language of such men as Edwards, and other great and good divines. They object
to the terms perfection and entire sanctification, and prefer to use the terms entire
consecration, and other such terms as have been common in the Church.
Now I would by no means contend about the use of words; but still, it does appear
to me, to be of great importance, that we use scripture language and insist upon
men being "perfect as their Father in Heaven is perfect," and being "sanctified
wholly body, soul, and spirit." This appears to me to be of the most importance
for this reason, that if we use the language to which the Church has been accustomed
upon this subject, she will as she has done, misunderstand us, and will not get before
her mind that which we really mean. That this is so is manifest from the fact that
the great mass of the Church will express alarm at the use of the terms perfection
and entire sanctification, who will neither express or feel any such alarm if we
speak of entire consecration. This demonstrates, that they do not, by any means,
understand these terms as meaning the same thing. And although I understand them
as meaning precisely the same thing, yet I find myself obliged to use the terms perfection
and entire sanctification, to possess their minds of my real meaning. This is Bible
language. It is unobjectionable language. And inasmuch as the Church understand entire
consecration to mean something less than entire sanctification or Christian perfection,
it does seem to me of great importance, that ministers should use a phraseology which
will call the attention of the Church to the real doctrine of the Bible upon this
subject. And I would submit the question with great humility to my beloved brethren
in the ministry, whether they are not aware, that Christians have entirely too low
an idea of what is implied in entire consecration, and whether it is not useful and
best to adopt a phraseology in addressing them that shall call their attention to
the real meaning of the words which they use?
9. Young converts have not been allowed so much as to indulge the thought that they
could live even for a day wholly without sin. They have as a general thing no more
been taught to expect to live even for a day without sin, than they have been taught
to expect immediate translation, soul and body, to Heaven. Of course they have not
known that there was any other way, than to go on in sin, and however shocking and
distressing the necessity has appeared to them in the ardor of their first love,
still they have looked upon it as the unalterable fact, that to be in a great measure
in bondage to sin was a thing of course while they live in this world. Now with such
an orthodoxy as this, with the conviction in the Church and ministry so ripe, settled,
and universal, that the utmost that the grace of God can do for men in this world
is to bring them to repentance and to leave them to live and die in a state of sinning
and repenting, is it at all wonderful that the state of religion should be as it
really has been?
10. Christ has been in a great measure lost sight of in some of His most important
relations to mankind. He has been known and preached as a pardoning, justifying Savior,
but as an actually indwelling and reigning Savior in the heart, He has been but little
known. I was struck with a remark, a few years since, of a brother whom I have from
that time greatly loved, who had been for a long time in a desponding state of mind,
borne down with a great sense of his own vileness, but seeing no way of escape. At
an evening meeting the Lord so revealed Himself to him as entirely to overcome the
strength of his body, and his brethren were obliged to carry him home. The next time
I saw him, he exclaimed to me with a pathos I shall never forget, "Brother Finney,
the Church have buried the Savior." Now it is no doubt true, that the Church
has become awfully alienated from Christ--has in a great measure lost a knowledge
of what He is and ought to be to her--and a great many of her members I have good
reason to know, in different parts of the country, are saying with deep and overpowering
emotion, "They have taken away my Lord and I know not where they have laid Him."
11. With all her orthodoxy, the Church has been for a long time much nearer to Unitarianism
than she has imagined. This remark may shock some of my readers, and you may think
it savors of censoriousness. But, beloved, I am sure it is said in no such spirit.
These are "the words of truth and soberness." So little has been known
of Christ, that, if I am not entirely mistaken, there are multitudes in the orthodox
churches, who do not know Christ, and who in heart are Unitarians, while in theory
they are orthodox.
I have been, within the last two or three years, deeply impressed with the fact,
that so many professors of religion are coming to the ripe conviction that they never
knew Christ. There have been in this place almost continual developments of this
fact, and I doubt whether there is a minister in the land who will present Christ
as the gospel presents Him, in all the fulness of His official relations to mankind,
who will not be struck and agonized with developments that will assure him that the
great mass of professors of religion do not know the Savior. It has been to my own
mind a painful and a serious question, what I ought to think of the spiritual state
of those who know so little of the blessed Jesus. That none of them have been converted,
I dare not say. And yet, that they have been converted, I am afraid to say. I would
not for the world "quench the smoking flax or break the bruised reed,"
or say any thing to stumble or weaken the feeblest lamb of Christ; and yet my heart
is sore pained, my soul is sick; my bowels of compassion yearn over the Church of
the blessed God. O, the dear Church of Christ! What does she know in her present
state of gospel rest, of that "great and perfect peace they have whose minds
are stayed on God"?
12. If I am not mistaken, there is an extensive feeling among Christians and ministers,
that much is not, that ought to be known and may be known of the Savior. Many are
beginning to find that the Savior is to them "as a root out of dry ground, having
neither form or comeliness;" that the gospel which they preach and hear is not
to them "the power of God unto salvation" from sin; that it is not to them
"glad tidings of great joy;" that it is not to them a peace-giving gospel;
and many are feeling that if Christ has done for them, all that His grace is able
to do in this life, that the plan of salvation is sadly defective, that Christ is
not after all a Savior suited to their necessities--that the religion which they
have is not suited to the world in which they live--that it does not, cannot make
them free; but leaves them in a state of perpetual bondage. Their souls are agonized
and tossed to and fro without a resting place. Multitudes also are beginning to see
that there are many passages, both in the Old and New Testaments, which they do not
understand; that the promises seem to mean much more than they have ever realized,
and that the gospel and the plan of salvation as a whole, must be something very
different from that which they have as yet apprehended. There are great multitudes
all over the country, who are inquiring more earnestly than ever before, after a
knowledge of that Jesus who is to save His people from their sins.
A fact was related in my hearing, a short time since, that illustrates, in an affecting
manner, the agonizing state of mind in which many Christians are, in regard to the
present state of many of the ministers of Christ. I had the statement from the brother
himself, who was the subject of his narrative. A sister in the church to which he
preached became so sensible that he did not know Christ, as he ought to know Him,
that she was full of unutterable agony, and on one occasion, after he had been preaching,
fell down at his feet with tears and strong beseechings, that he would exercise faith
in Christ. At another time she was so impressed with a sense of his deficiency in
this respect, as a minister, that she addressed him in the deepest anguish of her
soul, crying out-- "O I shall die, I shall certainly die, unless you will receive
Christ as a full Savior," and attempting to approach him, she sunk down helpless,
overcome with agony and travail of soul, at his feet.
There is manifestly a great struggle in the minds of multitudes, that the Savior
may be more fully revealed to the Church, that the present ministry especially may
know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings,
and be made conformable to His death.
13. If the doctrine of these discourses is true, you see the immense importance of
preaching it clearly and fully in revivals of religion. When the hearts of converts
are warm with their first love, then is the time to make them fully acquainted with
their Savior, to hold Him up in all His offices and relations, so as to break the
power of every sin--to break them off for ever from all self-dependence, and to lead
them to receive Him as a present, perfect, everlasting Savior.
14. Unless this course be taken, their backsliding is inevitable. You might as well
expect to roll back the waters of Niagara with your hand, as to stay the tide of
their corruption without a deep, and thorough, and experimental acquaintance with
the Savior. And if they are thrown upon their own watchfulness and resources, for
strength against temptations, instead of being directed to the Savior, they are certain
to become discouraged and fall into continual bondage.
But before I conclude these remarks, I must not omit to notice the indispensable
necessity of a willingness to do the will of God, in order rightly to understand
this doctrine. If a man is unwilling to give up his sins, to deny himself all ungodliness
and every worldly lust--if he is unwilling to be set apart wholly to the service
of the Lord, he will either reject this doctrine altogether, or only intellectually
admit it, without receiving it into his heart. It is an imminently dangerous state
of mind to consent to this or any other doctrine of the gospel, and not reduce it
15. Much evil has been done by those who have professedly embraced this doctrine
in theory, and rejected it in practice. Their spirit and temper have been such as
to lead those who saw them to infer, that the tendency of the doctrine itself is
bad. And it is not to be doubted that some who have professed to have experienced
the power of this doctrine in their hearts, have greatly disgraced religion by exhibiting
any other spirit than that of an entirely sanctified soul. But why, in a Christian
land, should this be a stumbling block. When the heathen see persons from Christian
nations who professedly adopt the Christian system, exhibit on their shores and in
their countries, the spirit which many of them do, they infer that this is the tendency
of the Christian religion. To this our Missionaries reply that they are only nominal
Christians, only speculative, not real believers. Should thousands of our church
members go among them, they would have the same reason to complain, and might reply
to the Missionaries, these are not merely nominal believers, but profess to have
experienced this Christian religion in their own hearts. Now what would the Missionaries
reply? Why, to be sure, that they were professors of religion; but that they really
did not know Christ; that they were deceiving themselves with a name to live, while
in fact they were dead in trespasses and sins.
It has often been a matter of astonishment to me, that in a Christian land, it should
be a stumbling block to any, that some, or if you please, a majority of those who
profess to receive and to have experienced the truth of this doctrine, should exhibit
an unchristian spirit. What if the same objection should be brought against the Christian
religion; against any and every doctrine of the gospel; that the great majority,
and even nine tenths of all the professed believers and receivers of those doctrines
were proud, worldly, selfish, and exhibited any thing but a right spirit? Now this
objection might be made with truth to the whole professedly Christian Church. But
would the conclusiveness of such an objection be admitted in Christian lands? Who
does not know the ready answer to all such objections as these, that the doctrines
of Christianity do not sanction such conduct, and that it is not the real belief
of them that begets any such spirit or conduct; that the Christian religion abhors
all these things to which they object. And now suppose it should be replied to this,
that a tree is known by its fruits, and that so great a majority of the professors
of religion could not exhibit such a spirit, unless it were the tendency of Christianity
itself to beget it. Now who would not reply to this, that this state of mind and
course of conduct of which they complain, is the natural state of man uninfluenced
by the gospel of Christ; that in these instances, on account of unbelief, the gospel
has failed to correct what was already wrong, and what needed not the influence of
any corrupt doctrine to produce that state of mind? It appears to me, that these
objectors against this doctrine on account of the fact that some and perhaps many
who have professed to receive it, have exhibited a wrong spirit, take it for granted
that the doctrine produces this spirit, instead of considering that a wrong spirit
is natural to men, and that the difficulty is that through unbelief this doctrine
has failed to correct what was before wrong. They reason as if they supposed the
human heart needed something to beget within it a bad spirit, and as if they supposed
that a belief in this doctrine had made men wicked, instead of recognizing the fact,
that they were before wicked and that, through unbelief, the gospel has failed to
make them holy.
16. But let it not be understood, that I suppose or admit that any considerable number
who have professed to have received this doctrine into their hearts, have as a matter
of fact exhibited a bad spirit. I must say that it has been eminently otherwise so
far as my own observation extends. And I am fully convinced, that if I have ever
seen Christianity in the world, and the spirit of Christ, that it has been exhibited
by those, as a general thing, who have professed to believe, and to have received
this doctrine into their hearts.
17. How amazingly important it is, that the ministry and the Church should come fully
to a right understanding and embracing of this doctrine. O it will be like life from
the dead. The proclamation of it is now regarded by multitudes as "good tidings
of great joy." From every quarter, we get the gladsome intelligence, that souls
are entering into the deep rest and peace of the gospel, that they are awaking to
a life of faith and love--and that instead of sinking down into Antinomianism, they
are eminently more benevolent, active, holy, and useful than ever before--that they
are eminently more prayerful, watchful, diligent, meek, sober-minded and heavenly
in all their lives. This as a matter of fact, is the character of those, to a very
great extent at least, with whom I have been acquainted, who have embraced this doctrine.
I say this for no other reason than to relieve the anxieties of those who have heard
very strange reports, and whose honest fears have been awakened in regard to the
tendency of this doctrine.
18. I have by no means given this subject so ample a discussion as I might and should
have done, but for my numerous cares and responsibilities. I have been obliged to
write in the midst of the excitement and labor of a revival of religion, and do not
by any means suppose, either that I have exhausted the subject, or so ably defended
it as I might have done, had I been under other circumstances. But, dearly beloved,
under the circumstances, I have done what I could, and thank my Heavenly Father that
I have been spared to say this much in defence of the great, leading, central truth
of revelation--the ENTIRE SANCTIFICATION OF THE CHURCH BY THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST.
And now, blessed and beloved Brethren and Sisters in the Lord, "let me beseech
you, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy
and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." "And may the
very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul,
and body, be preserved BLAMELESS unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful
is He that calleth you, who also will do it."
of easily misunderstood terms as defined by Mr. Finney himself.
Compiled by Katie Stewart
- Complacency, or Esteem: "Complacency, as a state of will or heart,
is only benevolence modified by the consideration or relation of right character
in the object of it. God, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and saints, in all ages, are
as virtuous in their self-denying and untiring labours to save the wicked, as they
are in their complacent love to the saints." Systematic Theology (LECTURE
VII). Also, "approbation of the character of its object. Complacency is
due only to the good and holy." Lectures to Professing Christians (LECTURE
- Disinterested Benevolence: "By disinterested benevolence I do not
mean, that a person who is disinterested feels no interest in his object of pursuit,
but that he seeks the happiness of others for its own sake, and not for the sake
of its reaction on himself, in promoting his own happiness. He chooses to do good
because he rejoices in the happiness of others, and desires their happiness for its
own sake. God is purely and disinterestedly benevolent. He does not make His creatures
happy for the sake of thereby promoting His own happiness, but because He loves their
happiness and chooses it for its own sake. Not that He does not feel happy in promoting
the happiness of His creatures, but that He does not do it for the sake of His own
gratification." Lectures to Professing Christians (LECTURE I).
- Divine Sovereignty: "The sovereignty of God consists in the independence
of his will, in consulting his own intelligence and discretion, in the selection
of his end, and the means of accomplishing it. In other words, the sovereignty of
God is nothing else than infinite benevolence directed by infinite knowledge."
Systematic Theology (LECTURE LXXVI).
- Election: "That all of Adam's race, who are or ever will be saved,
were from eternity chosen by God to eternal salvation, through the sanctification
of their hearts by faith in Christ. In other words, they are chosen to salvation
by means of sanctification. Their salvation is the end- their sanctification is a
means. Both the end and the means are elected, appointed, chosen; the means as really
as the end, and for the sake of the end." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LXXIV).
- Entire Sanctification: "Sanctification may be entire in two senses:
(1.) In the sense of present, full obedience, or entire consecration to God; and,
(2.) In the sense of continued, abiding consecration or obedience to God. Entire
sanctification, when the terms are used in this sense, consists in being established,
confirmed, preserved, continued in a state of sanctification or of entire consecration
to God." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LVIII).
- Moral Agency: "Moral agency is universally a condition of moral obligation.
The attributes of moral agency are intellect, sensibility, and free will." Systematic
Theology (LECTURE III).
- Moral Depravity: "Moral depravity is the depravity of free-will,
not of the faculty itself, but of its free action. It consists in a violation of
moral law. Depravity of the will, as a faculty, is, or would be, physical, and not
moral depravity. It would be depravity of substance, and not of free, responsible
choice. Moral depravity is depravity of choice. It is a choice at variance with moral
law, moral right. It is synonymous with sin or sinfulness. It is moral depravity,
because it consists in a violation of moral law, and because it has moral character."
Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXVIII).
- Human Reason: "the intuitive faculty or function of the intellect...
it is the faculty that intuits moral relations and affirms moral obligation to act
in conformity with perceived moral relations." Systematic Theology (LECTURE
- Retributive Justice: "Retributive justice consists in treating every
subject of government according to his character. It respects the intrinsic merit
or demerit of each individual, and deals with him accordingly." Systematic
Theology (LECTURE XXXIV).
- Total Depravity: "Moral depravity of the unregenerate is without
any mixture of moral goodness or virtue, that while they remain unregenerate, they
never in any instance, nor in any degree, exercise true love to God and to man."
Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXVIII).
- Unbelief: "the soul's withholding confidence from truth and the God
of truth. The heart's rejection of evidence, and refusal to be influenced by it.
The will in the attitude of opposition to truth perceived, or evidence presented."
Systematic Theology (LECTURE LV).
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Oberlin Evangelist": Finney:
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