||delphia > The Church Bound to Convert the World- No. 1 by Charles G. Finney from "The Oberlin Evangelist"
The Church Bound to Convert the World-
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"
April 9, 1845
THE CHURCH BOUND TO CONVERT THE WORLD--NO. 1
by the Rev. C. G. Finney
"And Jesus came, and spake unto them, saying, All
power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and teach all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am
with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
In discussing this subject I shall endeavor to show;
I. What the command to teach all nations, means.
II. On whom it is obligatory.
III. What is implied in it.
IV. Conditions of obedience.
V. The causes of failure.
VI. The great guilt of failure.
I. What does the command, "Go and teach all nations," mean?
In the margin of your Bibles, you will read, go and disciple or make disciples of
all nations. This is undoubtedly the real meaning of the original. The word teach
in the nineteenth verse, is not the same word which is rendered teach in the twentieth
verse. The true meaning of the command is, go and make disciples or Christians of
II. On whom is this command obligatory?
It was addressed by Christ to those of His disciples who were then present, but doubtless
was intended for all Christians, for it is not at all likely that Christ expected
the disciples then present to do all this work. He doubtless meant to devolve the
responsibility upon all Christians, to rest upon their consciences in all coming
time until the work should be done.
III. The third inquiry is, What is implied in this command?
- 1. The command itself implies ability to obey it. Every command of God implies
this in the strongest manner. It should be remembered that God is perfect in both
love and wisdom: therefore He cannot be so unjust as to demand of us an impossibility,
nor so ignorant as not to know the real limits of our powers.
- 2. But again let it be observed that Christ assumes our ability to obey this
command on the ground that He has all power in heaven and in earth and has promised
to be with the church in this work. In the eighteenth verse He says, "All power
is given to me in heaven and in earth." The command follows; "Go ye, therefore,
that is for this reason, because I have all power in heaven and in earth, go and
make Christians of all nations; and lo, I am with you always even unto the end of
the world." We see then that Christ assumes our ability on the ground that He
has all power in heaven and earth, and promises to be with us always even unto the
end of the world; pledging His divine agency to work within us to will and to do,
and without us to open the way providentially for our labor, and withal, to work
by His Spirit in those to whom we publish the gospel. Thus Christ exerts His divine
power in heaven and on earth so far as it is needed in accomplishing this great work.
- 3. The command implies that the great work of the church militant is, to make
disciples of all nations; in other words, to convert the world to God.
- 4. It implies that this is their only work, that the only business they have
on the earth is to glorify God in the world's conversion. They are to do or say nothing,
and be nothing, more or less than is conducive to this end. To this their whole being,
time, influence, and possessions are to be consecrated. In that solemn parting hour,
Christ doubtless meant to give them His whole mind in these few last words; Go, apply
yourselves directly to the conversion of the world, and finish the great work which
I have begun. I have given you the example; let your eye too be single, and your
devotion unwearied and entire.
IV. I am in the next place to consider the conditions of obedience to this
- 1. The first condition which I mention is, hearty and entire consecration to
this work. The church will never accomplish it, until they go forth in the true spirit
of the requirement, being devoted with a single eye to this work as Christ was. By
this it is not intended that every Christian should be a preacher of the gospel,
for there are a great many kinds of work to be done. Preaching is but a small part
of the labor. Printing, and writing, the mechanic arts, agriculture, commerce, merchandise,
and in short all the useful employments of this world are to be employed by the church
as parts of this great work. But they are all to be pursued with the same end, that
is, to convert the world.
Again, not only must ministers be consecrated to this work, but lay-men and women
also. Whatever the immediate occupation of each individual is, let him pursue it
with the same singleness of eye, and entire consecration to the great end of the
world's conversion that ministers are bound to have in preaching the gospel. Everybody
understands that ministers ought to preach for the glory of God, and ought to consecrate
themselves to the work of the world's conversion, that this is their great business,
and that they really apostatize in heart from their work whenever they fail of giving
themselves up heart and soul to it. Now this is true of ministers; and it is equally
true of all Christians. That Christian who tills his ground, or stands behind his
counter, or writes, or prints, or does anything else, is bound to be as entirely
consecrated to the glory of God and the world's conversion, as the minister ought
to be, and unless he is he can never be saved. Lay-men and women judge right in respect
to what is required of ministers in this matter, but they should understand that
precisely the same is required of them. Until this is recognized by the church at
large, and until the followers of Christ in every sect consecrate themselves to this
work, with as single an eye as that which ministers are bound to have, the work can
never be performed.
- 2. Another condition is, union of effort. By united effort I mean the opposite
of sectarian effort. By union among Christians I do not mean that they must all be
in all respect of one opinion, but that they should be one in heart, and in respect
to doctrinal opinions be agreed in all the fundamental points, also be agreed in
tolerating each other, and allowing each other the most perfect liberty of opinion
in respect to all points not fundamental. They must agree to differ on minor points
without controversy or jangling. They must love each other so intensely and labor
for the world's conversion so sincerely as not at all to stick on any of the minor
points of Christian doctrine. If the church waits till all her members think alike
on minor points, the world will never be converted; or if she expects to convert
the world while cut up into sects and jangling parties, she is entirely deceived.
A sectarian church can never convert the world to God, any more than so many Bramins
could. If they convert them to their respective parties, this is by no means converting
them to God; it only makes them sectarians. I am humbly of opinion, that until union
prevails in the church in the sense above described, the world can never be converted.
But more of this in another place.
- 3. Another condition of obedience to this command is, the realization of individual
responsibility. The fact is that there is a strange shrinking away in this matter.
Christians do not seem to realize that every man and woman of them is pledged on
the solemnity of an oath to do his and her utmost to convert the world to God. In
making a profession of religion they pledge implicit obedience to Christ. Now this
is His last, and I may say, His great command. This is, as it were, a summary of
all His requirements. It is the condensation of the whole of gospel duty, to convert
the world. Now to the accomplishment of this end, every Christian of every age stands
pledged. His whole being, influence, time, property, talents, resources, everything
he has or is or can control, are pledged to this work on the solemnity of an oath.
Nothing less than this is implied in pledging obedience to Christ and in making a
public profession of religion. Now how is it that so few professors of religion have
this idea standing out in strong development before them as the great idea which
they are to aim constantly at realizing? Until this comes to be the omnipresent idea
of the church, the great thing at which not only the whole but every individual aims,
and which all endeavor constantly to accomplish, the world will never be converted.
Every Christian man, woman, and child, must address himself and herself decidedly
and exclusively to this work, or it will not be done.
- 4. The church must not expect to effect this wholly, or even principally through
the instrumentality of a learned ministry. It is perfectly absurd for the church
to expect ever to send forth a sufficient number of men, learned in the common acceptation
of the term, to convert the world, Some learned men are indispensable to the accomplishment
of this work. We need learned men to translate the Bible, to write books, and critical
commentaries, to bring forth everything that belongs to the literature and philology
of the Bible. These men have their places and their use, and are very important,
and indeed indispensable to the accomplishment of this work. Yet really but little
more than this can be expected of that part of the ministry which is devoted to the
literature of the Bible. They have not time nor are they the men to go right forth
and reap the harvest. They are as it were engaged in manufacturing the tools and
preparing them for the work. They are stationed here and there to do a multitude
of things which the less learned cannot do. But it should not be for a moment supposed
that colleges and theological seminaries are going to provide men enough for the
world's conversion. The fact is that lay-men and women must come up to this work
and make personal and direct effort, and really preach the gospel; or to use a less
objectionable phrase, they must in every way suited to their circumstance, tell the
story of the cross, and press the truth upon the consideration of men. The colleges
and theological institutions have their places, and in their place they are very
important. They are designed to furnish the indispensable number of learned men for
the accomplishment of this work. But these men of learning after all, if the world
is converted, will be found only as one to a thousand or ten thousand of the laborers
that are to be employed in this field.
- 5. Nor need the church expect to accomplish this work wholly or perhaps even
mainly through the instrumentality of any ministry whatever either learned or unlearned.
There are no doubt hundreds and thousands of men who are not learned in the common
acceptation of the term who are men of sound minds, ardent piety, good judgment,
great discretion, who may be safely put into the ministry, who ought to be put in
and who must be put in before this world can be converted. But even these will not
be enough. The colporteur system needs to be extended a hundred or a thousand fold.
Indeed laborers should be sent forth and shed over the world like the leaves of autumn
until the church, men and women, go everywhere, as in the early ages, proclaiming
the word of life. Everyone who has read the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles attentively
knows that the Apostles all labored for a considerable number of years in and about
Jerusalem, while the lay-men and women went every where preaching the gospel. There
had to be a great struggle at Jerusalem to prevent the light being put out altogether
in Judea. The whole influence of the Apostles was needed there for several years.
But when the persecution arose about Stephen, the infant church, except the Apostles,
were scattered abroad. These under God were the means of diffusing the knowledge
of Christ and the savor of His name in all directions.
- 6. Another condition of obedience to this command is, the exhibition of brotherly
love and Christian confidence. Christ in His last prayer made this the condition
of the world's conversion, and it manifestly is so. "Neither pray I," says
He, "for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their
word, that they may all be one as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they
also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me." Where
Christians manifest no mutual attachment and little mutual confidence, all their
theorizing will only pass among mankind for mere theory. The gospel in their hands
will never get hold of the mass of men until the world are compelled to say, "See
how these brethren love one another." Christians will neither have nor deserve
the confidence of the world till they both have and deserve the confidence of each
other. If they will not confide in one another who shall confide in them? This question
is natural and inevitable, so that I regard it as an indispensable condition of the
world's conversion, that the church manifest every where intense brotherly love and
perfect Christian confidence. This is so in every community. You will find the wicked
everywhere impressed with a sense of the importance of the gospel in proportion to
the union, affection, and confidence of Christians among themselves. If professors
of religion manifest but little attachment to each other, but little confidence in
each other, the great mass of the unconverted are little or not at all impressed
with the importance of religion; but if Christians are united, love each other with
pure love, fervently, and show that they have the greatest confidence in each other,
this impression arouses the world, and they begin immediately to inquire, What shall
I do to be saved?
- 7. Another condition of success in this work and obedience to the spirit of this
requirement is, confidence in the presence, power, and readiness of Christ to go
right forward with the church to the accomplishment of this work. The Apostles and
early Christians seemed to realize that Christ was in earnest in saying, "All
power is given to Me in heaven and in earth; Go ye, therefore, and disciple all nations,
and lo, I am with you even to the end of the world." They seemed to understand
that Christ was really in earnest in this matter, and that He really was ready, able,
and willing, and that His whole heart was set upon the work, and that He was indeed
with them, giving efficiency to what they did. When they were persecuted and commanded
not to preach or to teach in the name of Christ, hear what they say; "And being
let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and
elders had said unto them. And when they heard that, they lifted up their voices
to God with one accord, and said, Lord, Thou art God which hast made heaven, and
earth, and the sea, and all that is in them. Who, by the mouth of Thy servant David
hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings
of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and
against His Christ. For of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed
both Herod, and Pontius Pilate with the gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered
together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done.
And now, Lord, behold their threatenings; and grant unto Thy servants that with all
boldness they may speak Thy word, by stretching forth Thy hand to heal, and that
signs and wonders may be done by the name of Thy holy child Jesus. And when they
had prayed the place was shaken where they were assembled together, and they were
filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And with
great power gave the Apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and
great grace was upon them all." Here is a specimen of the manner in which they
regarded and treated opposition, and of their faith in Christ in respect to the performance
of this great work. How could they fail of success?
- 8. Another condition of success is the practice of all needed self-denial. This
is requisite in order to furnish the means and the devoted men and women to go forth
to every nook and corner of the world where human beings are, and proclaim to them
the gospel of salvation. We want men who are willing to take their lives in their
hands, who have health and strength and heart to the work, and who can labor as some
of our missionaries are laboring among the Indians, and as some of the African missionaries
do, and as some others do in various parts of the world. We need hundreds and thousands
of these men, men like minded, or rather men possessing a hundred fold more if possible
of faith, patience and power than these already in the field. I would not find fault
in general with the men that are engaged in this work, nor say any thing that should
imply a want of consecration in them, but they are laboring almost single handed,
greatly straitened for want of means, and their calls for help are unutterably agonizing.
What do they tell us they could do under God in converting the world if they had
the men and the means? But recently I saw an account of an address delivered by a
British missionary from India, in which he affirmed that the obstacles throughout
India to the spread of the Gospel were fewer than they were in England, that if twenty
thousand missionaries could at once be set down in India they might go everywhere
preaching the gospel to large and attentive congregations, in which not a man could
be found that had ever heard the gospel before; that the land is all open, the fields
are white and waving for the harvest, and nothing needed but men and means, and faith
in Christ to fire the train and spring the mind, and as it were blow up the very
kingdom of the devil. O what a call is this! O what a door is here opened for the
church to enter and achieve the world's conversion!
- 9. Another condition is patience in the performance of this work. No man ever
accomplishes anything in the kingdom of God only as he suffers patience to have its
perfect work. It is predicted of Christ that He should neither fail nor be discouraged
till He had set judgment in the earth. Whoever gets out of patience and begins to
scold and find fault, or become discouraged, will immediately grieve the Spirit of
God and altogether defeat his own success. Many revivals have been prevented in this
way. The laborers have not sufficient patience. They suffered themselves to get out
of patience and to fret, perhaps to scold, complain, and find fault because things
did not go as they would have them. This grieved the Spirit, and if there was a revival
it was a revival of fault-finding and not of love.
- 10. Another condition is perseverance. They must learn to hold on and be of good
courage till God strengthens their hands and their hearts in the work. Let me recommend
to you Moffatt's account of the labors of the missionaries in Africa. That is certainly
an admirable book, and the patience of Moffatt and his associates is worthy of all
imitation. I don't know when I have been so instructed, so affected, and so rebuked
as by reading that book. The admirable patience and perseverance of the missionaries
is worthy of the churches' most attentive consideration. Often times on reading it
I was ready to wonder that they did not abandon the field and conclude that God had
not called them to that work. But no, they persevered against discouragements and
embarrassments that would have overcome any but men filled with the Spirit which
they had, and consecrated as they were to the great work of saving souls. May God
bless them forever and prosper them until all Africa shall know the blessed gospel,
and Ethiopia stretch forth her hands to God.
- 11. There must be constant and prevailing prayer. Did God promise to enlarge
His church and convert the world? He has annexed this condition; "Nevertheless
for this will I yet be inquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them."
There must be constant prayer. It must be the prayer of faith, of sympathy with God.
It must be the effectual, fervent prayer--that wrestling agonizing travail of soul
that has power with God. This must extend through the church. It must be universally
diffused abroad, and prayer for the world's conversion instead of being confined
almost entirely to the monthly concert, must be the labor and burden of every day.
The church must take the world on her hands and upon her heart. The minister and
the laymen and women, all classes and ages of Christians must really travail in birth
for the world's conversion. It must absorb their whole attention; it must engross
their thoughts, rouse up and set on fire their feelings, and pour itself out before
God in a flood of agony before the world can be converted. Such prayer as is not
commonly heard must be offered before this work can be done. We must have praying
men and women, nay, the whole church must become a praying church, and be gathered
around the mercy seat and lie on her face, and pour out her prayers with strong cryings
and tears. This must be persevered in until they have come up to the full spirit
and meaning of what God says, "Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence,
and give Him no rest until He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth." They must
besiege the throne of grace with the promises in their hand. There must be a great
lifting up of heart and soul and a thousand times ten thousand hearts must echo and
echo, "Thy kingdom come, Thy kingdom come," until this comes to be the
universal cry of the church, until the heart of the church militant heaves like a
volcano, and the gospel is like a burning fire shut up in her bones, and the promises
are to them stable as the everlasting mountains; until she can plant her feet on
them and stand and never retreat a hand's-breadth till the work is done.
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).
RELATED STUDY AID:
Index for "The
Oberlin Evangelist": Finney:
Voices of Philadelphia