||delphia > The Self-Righteous Sinner Doomed To Sorrow by Charles G. Finney from "The Oberlin Evangelist"
The Self-Righteous Sinner Doomed To Sorrow
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 28, 1858
THE SELF-RIGHTEOUS SINNER DOOMED TO SORROW
by the Rev. C. G. Finney
"Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass
yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that
ye have kindled. This shall ye have of Mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow."
In speaking from this text, I shall enquire,
I. What is this self-kindled fire -- what are these "sparks ye have kindled"?
II. We may next consider the destiny of all these classes.
I. What is this self-kindled fire -- what are these "sparks ye have kindled"?
The answer must be found in the description which the text itself gives, and in the
contrast between this class and that described in the preceding verse. The spirit
of this class is one of self-dependence, as opposed to the spirit of depending on
God. Here we may well enter into particulars, to illustrate some of the many particular
forms it will assume.
- 1. Many assume and take comfort in the assumption that they are in a good state
before God. They have done nothing very bad. Setting up a standard of their own by
which to judge in the case, they conclude, even on their death-beds, that all is
well with them. But these little sparks that cast their glimmer of light over the
darkness of the grace, are entirely of their own kindling. They have not carefully
compared their own state with the Bible standard of the Christian life. The glimmering
light that casts its lurid rays over their death-scene, comes not from the gospel
hope, or from divine promise.
- 2. There is another form of self-righteousness. Some will say to you -- "I
have endeavored to do right." Do right! What is the law of right-doing? Is there
any other save to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength
and mind, and your neighbor as yourself? And does your right-doing come up to the
demands of this rule?
- 3. In another form, the sinner says -- "I am doing as well as I can."
But are you quite sure of that? Has your own conscience never condemned you? Have
you always honored and loved God as your Father -- and have you always treated all
your fellow-creatures as His children should be treated? Have you no consciousness
of having come greatly short of your real ability in these things?
- 4. Some will say -- "I have at any rate, done a great deal of good. I have
been kind to my wife and children, or to my brothers and sisters, and to my neighbors."
- 5. But if you propose to place yourself on the ground of strict law and justice,
the one question which the law of God will ask is this -- "Have you continued
in all the things written in the law to do them?" Have you kept the whole law
and not offended in one point -- ever?
Anything less than this by ever so little will forfeit your title to eternal life
on the ground of law.
- 6. Others comfort themselves with good resolutions. With those they get up a
fire of their own kindling -- and are fain to think that if they are not as good
as they should be, they shall be by and by.
- 7. Many take great credit to themselves for kind feelings and obliging manners.
Perhaps by nature they have generous impulses. There are such. Yet they entirely
neglect God. They may be very humane. Their bearing towards their fellow-men may
not be savage, or oppressive. Therefore they take comfort.
But let such men consider -- the lower animals are more generally kind towards
their species than men are towards theirs. Cases are often brought to light in which
animals cleave to each other even to death. There is said to be one species of animals
so devoted to each other, that if you were to shoot down one of their young, the
rest would gather round the dying or the dead, and mourn there, and allow themselves
to be shot down till they all lay in death together! Some animals have this feeling;
and now shall mankind take great credit for themselves for even far less of it than
the lower animals?
- 8. Some men glory in their reformatory principles. Because they are doing so
much to improve society and bless mankind, they assume that all must be right between
themselves and God. Often such men seem not aware how much they really depend on
their own good deeds and righteousness before the Lord.
- 9. Many think themselves as good as professors of religion. Measuring themselves
by their neighbors who are in the church, they flatter themselves that they shall
be accepted before the great tribunal. It sometimes happens most conveniently for
their purpose that there are a few professors whose lives honor ungodliness rather
than godliness. Taking advantage of these, they get no small comfort in comparing
themselves with ungodly professors of religion.
- 10. Others strike yet a little higher and think themselves as good as the deacons
or as some gospel ministers. Thus their dependence is altogether human in its foundation.
They warm themselves with sparks of their own kindling.
- 11. Many rely on certain experiences, which perhaps are dreams or visions. Yet
they think it concerns them little how they live. They are, it may be, utterly selfish,
unwilling to do their part for any public object. Or they are grasping, worldly-minded,
hard-fisted, ever loving this present world. Strange, yet true -- such persons will
fall back on their own experiences, and find in those, a basis for comforting hopes
of heaven! In one instance, a man had written out his experience, so that what he
might fail to keep in his memory might be faithfully kept on the written record.
In his hours of trial he used to get this and read it over. At last he came to his
death-bed. There, feeling the need of his old experience, he sent his little daughter
to the drawer to get it; when lo! the mice had found and destroyed it! It was eaten
up, and his hope had perished! He had to "Lie down in sorrow!"
- 12. Many prepare for themselves refuges of lies to be used in the same way --
and I may say -- with the same result.
- 13. Some rely for their defence before God, on their unbelief. They do not believe
the Bible, and they really make their great sin their special apology and defence
before God! They say -- "Lord, we would not believe a word Thou didst say, and
therefore we could be under no obligation to obey Thee."
- 14. All those nominally Christian hopes that fail to sanctify the heart, are
of this self-righteous -- self-dependent sort. Everything, save the sincere dependence
on Christ which makes you like Him in Spirit, falls under this general character,
and must end in this fearful doom.
II. We may next consider the destiny of all these classes.
On this fearful subject I surely would not say a word, save that silence would be
unfaithfulness to your souls. It is no pleasure to me to disturb your fond hopes,
or to trouble you with dreaded fears. But how can I be unfaithful to your souls!
Listen then to God's words of warning. Our text has a word for you! Mark what I say
-- all ye who hold on to your delusions -- "This shall ye have at My hand; ye
shall lie down in sorrow." At whose hand? The hand of Him who speaks in this
passage; and He is none other than Jesus Christ Himself. The whole context shows
this. He, the Lord of all worlds, cries -- "This shall ye have of My hand."
What is this? What will He do? This; "Ye shall lie down in sorrow." When?
At the close of life's short day. Then, when the hours of your probation shall be
numbered and finished. Then, when your life work shall be over, you shall lie down
- 1. Sorrow naturally bows one down as under a grievous burden. I have known persons
so bowed down under sorrow that they could not rise up. O if they could forget; but
they cannot; and they must lie down forever under their load of sorrow.
- 2. There is the sorrow of self-reproach; who does not know the keenness of those
pangs? I remember the case of a mother who reproached herself for neglecting two
lost children. She was almost deranged. Ah, she never could forgive herself! Whenever
you should mention their case, she would look wild and haggard. I could not understand
her appearance until she told me the circumstances. O this was an awful case! So
you will reproach yourself for neglecting Christ and salvation. With but too much
fearful truth, you will say of yourself -- I have been an infinite fool! Alas, "a
wounded spirit, who can bear?"
- 3. In your cup there will be the sorrow of unavailing regret. Partial losses
may be borne, for while they leave room for hope, human fortitude will rally. But
if you have lost all -- if there is nothing left to you -- if your eternity is pure
and hopeless ruin, then what can you do? O what a thought is that -- your eternity
one mass of unmingled ruin! Nothing can remain to you but everlasting, unavailing
- 4. There will be also the sorrow of a burdened conscience. Each individual sinner
will know that he is condemned by God and by every other being in the universe. He
cannot but know that every other being must despise him as a guilty, unworthy wretch!
Herein is involved the sorrow of being without friends and without sympathy. Your
Christian friends -- really the best you ever had -- will have done all they can
for you, and then, compelled by your own folly, they left you to your chosen doom.
Ah, they can stand by you no longer! Long had they wept in your pathway to hell;
but their tears were unavailing! They leave you and you have now no friends in the
- 5. Sympathy often blunts the keen edge of sorrow. The tender relations of the
present life seem beautifully arranged to help us bear the bitterness of human sorrow.
But there are no such relations there! Each wicked man will have too much of his
own to bear to think of you. In all that world of woe, there cannot be one sympathizing
look; no, not one sympathizing whisper! In this world, though the mind may sink under
the keenest sorrow, and go down, down, under its load of bitterest woe, yet even
then, a sympathizing tear will bring relief. But no such relief can visit the home
of the finally lost.
- 6. Sorrow is sometimes compared to a consuming fire. The figure is not inappropriate.
It has been known to turn the hair all white in a single night. O how does such sorrow
drink up the spirit and waste its living energies! But what is this compared with
that other sorrow which no man can endure!
- 7. By an effort of will, we can in this world sometimes rule sorrow out of the
mind; but vain are all such efforts there. Think of the appalling emphasis with which
Christ speaks of the place "where there is weeping and wailing, and gnashing
of teeth." Or think of the solemnity of His words -- "What shall it profit
a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man
give in exchange for his soul?" His compassions were so deep that we find His
warnings to sinners more emphatic and solemn than those of any inspired prophet or
apostle. Not one among them all uttered words so thrilling, so solemn. This is but
natural to One whose compassions were so deep and so tender.
1. A portion of the sinner's final doom will be the natural outgrowth of his self-deception.
When men deceive themselves, they have only themselves to blame. In the very nature
of their case therefore, self-reproach must be one of the bitter ingredients in their
2. It is also true (and this is one element of their sorrow,) that God will give
expression to His infinite displeasure. He says -- "This shall ye have at My
hand." It must be made apparent to the universe that God's hand is in this unutterably
3. It has often been the case here that young people have ruled this subject out
of their minds. It hindered their studies. So, assuming that study is worth more
than salvation, they have said to Jesus Christ -- "Go Thy way for this time."
4. Some cannot bear to feel sorrow now, and therefore put their sorrows over till
they shall come in one eternal flood, that nothing can assuage! They thrust away
religious duties now because they dislike them -- as if time could make them more
pleasant! Some do not like to have their friends made sad, and therefore they exclude
this subject from their attention. How often is this course pursued towards the sick.
5. God's warnings are most emphatic. You see this in our text. It declares most explicitly
-- "This shall ye have at My hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow." Listen
also to those most emphatic and awful words that fell from the lips of our Savior,
"Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in Me, it is better
for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea,
And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life
maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be
quenched; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot
offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having
two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where
the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck
it out; it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than
having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire; where their worm dieth not, and the fire
is not quenched." Mark 9:42-48.
Is it not amazing that men can have the hardihood to sneer at such language? Who
does not know what such figures of speech must mean? Think of going with two hands,
two feet -- in your own human body -- "into hell -- into the fire that never
shall be quenched!" Think of a soul immortal -- doomed to endless sorrow! If
thine eye offend thee, pluck it out. Though it be terrible to lose an eye, it is
far less terrible than to lose your soul! What emphasis goes with these awful words!
How solemnly are they reiterated! With what thunders of power they must have fallen
from the lips of the Crucified One!
6. This text and subject should be a warning to the skeptic in his fancied security.
Ah, does he think to sneer hell out of existence? Does he vainly dream that his sneers
will annihilate that prison-house of woe? Ah! poor, wretched skepticism! How unutterably
weak and wicked! Can you warm yourself by such sparks of your own kindling? Thinkest
thou to enjoy life where their "worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched?"
7. This subject comes with its warning to the delaying sinner. Now, when pressed
to repent, you comfort yourself with the promise -- I shall not always neglect it.
Ah, but you may neglect it too long! Ere you are aware, the line -- the unseen line
between God's mercy and His wrath, may be forever passed by.
8. Let Universalists take warning. You have but a miserable refuge. You expect to
go to heaven because all the wicked are there. Yes, because all the men of Sodom
are there, ascending along with the smoke of their blasted, doomed city, when they
were "set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire;"
-- because they all went up quick to heaven, you expect to go there too! Because
all the pirates and murderers of every land and age go there, you expect to get in
amongst them! Indeed! But may it not be that your hope, like that of the hypocrite,
shall perish when God shall take away the soul?
9. Let spurious converts beware. Those who have long professed piety, but have also
long given their hearts to the world, must come within the fearful sweep of the warnings
of this text. You are a professor of religion, are you? And yet you live as if this
world were your god. How will your hopes abide in the great day that shall search
and try men's hopes?
10. Let this warn also, the ambitious, whether students, or ministers, or politicians
-- whoever you may be -- take heed lest it come to thee at last, that thou lie down
11. All who live in the experience of Romans 7, whose hearts are in bondage under
sin, and not in the liberty wherewith Christ makes His people free; take warning!
What are the sparks with which you compass yourself about? These; that with your
conscience, you approve the right, but, with your will, you do the wrong; and can
you suppose this will avail you in the great day of the Lord?
12. Ye who depend on the forms of religion without the power of it -- hear what the
Savior says in the text: "This shall ye have of Mine hand -- ye shall lie down
in sorrow." How do you avoid being aroused and thrown into an agony of anxiety?
How is it, ye who are not walking in the Spirit, but in the flesh; you seem to be
very much composed. So far from smiting on your breast and crying out -- "Alas,
I am undone!" you are finding comfort amid some sparks of your own kindling.
What is your comfort? No matter whence it comes if it comes not from Christ. It can
be of no value. It is only a flattering unction which you lay to your soul. Wilt
thou be warned now? O wilt thou now awake from thy death-sleep, and arise from the
dead, that Christ may give thee light?
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