What Saith the Scripture?
On Refuges Of Lies
by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
Oberlin Evangelist" Publication of Oberlin College
September 29, 1858
Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
Text.--Isa. 28. 17:
"Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet,
and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the
All men know themselves to be sinners against God. They know also, that, as sinners,
they are in peril and are not safe. Hence their anxiety to find some refuge for safety.
They know they might find this in the way of forsaking sin and turning to the Lord;
but they do not choose to forsake their sins. Hence there seems to be no convenient
resource but to hide themselves under some refuge.
Our text speaks of "the refuge of lies." Yet it is obvious that men who
resort to lies for a refuge regard those lies not as lies but as truth. This fact
leads us to raise the primary fundamental question--Have we any rule or standard
which will show what is truth, and what is falsehood? Men have countless opinions
about religion; these can not all be true;--how can we determine which are true and
which not true?
I. We have an infallible test.
II. Things that do not save the soul from sin.
III. What God says.
IV. Many people hide in the church.
I. We have an infallible test.
- 1. Salvation, to be real and available, must be salvation from sin. Everything
else fails. Any system of religion which does not break the power of sin, is a lie.
If it does not expel selfishness and lust, and if it does not beget love to God and
man, joy, peace, and all the fruits of the Spirit, it is false and worthless. Any
system that fails in this vital respect is a lie--can be of no use--is no better
than a curse. That which does not beget in us the spirit of heaven and make us like
God, no matter whence it comes, or by what sophistry defended, is a lie, and if fled
to as a refuge, it is a "refuge of lies."
Again, if it does not beget prayer, does not unify us with God, and bring us into
fellowship and sympathy with him, it is a lie.
- 2. If it does not produce a heavenly mind, and expel a worldly mind, and wean
us from the love of the world, it is a lie. If it does not beget in us the love required
in the Scriptures, the love of God and of his worship and of his people--indeed,
of all mankind;-- if it does not produce all those states of mind which fit the soul
for heaven,--it fails utterly of its purpose.
- (a.) Here I must stop a moment to notice an objection. It is said, "The
gospel does not in fact do for men all you claim. It does not make professed Christians
heavenly-minded, dead to the world, full of love, joy, and peace."
I reply: Here is medicine which, applied in a given disease, will certainly cure.
This healing power is just what it has and what we claim for it. But it must be fairly
applied. A man may buy the medicine, and because it is bitter, may lay it up in his
cupboard and never take it; he may provide himself with a counterfeit to take in
its stead; or he may follow it with something that will instantly counteract its
influence in the system. In any such case, the efficacy of the medicine is not disproved;
you only prove that you have not used it fairly and honestly.
- (b.) So with the gospel. You must take it and use it according to directions;
else its failure is not its fault, but yours.
- (c.) It is of no avail then to say that the gospel does not save men from sin.
It may indeed be counterfeited; it may be itself rejected; but he who receives it
to his heart will surely find his heart blessed thereby. The gospel does transform
men from sin to holiness--does make men peaceful, holy, heavenly, in life and in
death. Millions of such cases lie out on the face of the world's history. Their lives
evince the reality and preciousness of the salvation which the gospel promises.
II. I will now proceed to name some things that lack this decisive characteristic.
They do not save the soul from sin.
- 1. An unsanctifying hope of heaven. Speaking of what God's children shall be,
John says--"We know that when He shall appear we shall see him as he is. And
every man that hath this hope in him (Christ) purifieth himself even as he is pure."
A good hope, then, does purify the heart. But there certainly are hopes indulged
that fail to purify the heart of those who hold them. Those hopes are lies. They
cannot possibly be sound and true. On their very face, it stands revealed that they
are worthless--a mere refuge of lies. The stronger and more unwavering they are,
so much the more are they delusive. What hope in Christ is that which does not bring
the heart to Christ?
- 2. An old experience, that is all old, is a lie. You have perhaps heard of the
man who had his old experience all written down and laid away with his deeds of land
to keep till his time of need. This being all the evidence he had, he used to refer
to it from time to time for his comfort. At length, when the time came for him to
die, he felt the need of this record of his religion, and sent his little daughter
to bring it. She returned with only the sad story that the mice had found their way
to his drawer and had eaten up the paper--all the dying man's evidence of piety!
Alas! he must die in despair! He had no other hope but this!
On the face of it, such a refuge is only lies.
- 3. There are two forms of self-righteousness--the legal and the gospel,--both
of which are refuges of lies.
The legal depends on duty-doing--evermore trying to work out salvation by deeds
of law. The gospel form sets itself to get grace by works. Men try to get a new heart
not by trying to turn from all sin, but by praying for it. I meet such a man. He
says, "I tried to become religious." Indeed, and, what did you do? "I
prayed for a new heart." You did! But you did not do what God says you must--"Make
yourself a new heart and a new spirit;" you did not repent--you did not bow
your heart to God. Therefore, all your doings come short of what God requires. They
fail of saving the soul from sin.
There is a great deal of this gospel self-righteousness--this throwing off the responsibility
- 4. Universalism is an old refuge of lies. And here let me give you a case. Being
out from home in my carriage, I overtook a young man and invited him to ride. Almost
immediately he told me he was a Universalist and came out strongly in defence of
his system. I said to him, "I am not well and may not live long, and I do not
dare to be deceived in this matter." He said for his part he was sure enough
of its truth. He had heard smart men say so, and prove it from Scripture. I said
to him--I have one objection. There is a certain train of facts which I cannot account
for, if Universalism be true. I have known families once reputed orthodox, which
were then upright, moral, and justly respected. These same families I have known
become loose in morals, forsake the house of God, turn to strong drink, and become
fearfully vicious. Such families I have observed along with this change almost always
become Universalists. This is one set of facts.
On the other hand, I have never known a holy, prayerful Universalist backslide
into orthodoxy--forsake his Universalism and his morality and degenerate into vice
and orthodoxy by one uniform and simultaneous declension. I have known men reformed
from drunkenness and vice, and then become orthodox; but I have never known men reform
from vice into Universalism. In short, it seems to me that thousands of facts evince
a natural sympathy between vice and Universalism on the one hand, and between virtue
and orthodoxy on the other.
By this time, he began to feel troubled, and said, "I am afraid I am all wrong.
Would you believe it?" said he, "I am running away from being converted.
There is a revival in my place, and I am running away from it." You are! said
I. And do you think it will hurt you? Will it do you any harm?
He looked deeply anxious and said--"Had not I better go back? My good father
and mother looked sad when I left my home. I don't believe Universalism can save
me. Everybody knows it never did save anybody and never can."
- 5. The same must be said of proper Unitarianism. Some who bear this name are
not such in fact. But where you find men who deny depravity, regeneration, atonement,
you will certainly find that their system does not make them heavenly-minded, holy
and humble. You need not reason with them to find this out; you need only to take
the facts of their history.
- 6. So of Davisism--the doctrines of Andrew Jackson Davis. Do these doctrines
make men holy? Never.
I have known a man, once a friend and patron of gospel reforms, who turned back
to Andrew Jackson Davis. Did this change make him more holy? No, indeed. He said,
"It makes me more happy." No doubt; and for the reason that before he was
only and always under conviction, never enjoying the peace of the gospel. What is
the use of reasoning about his Universalism? Look at the facts! They alone are sufficient
to show its utter falsehood. Universalism never saved any man from sin. It throws
no influence in that direction. So of Mormonism, and all similar delusions. We need
not stop to write books against this and such like lies;--it stands out on the fore-front
of this system that it saves no man from sin. It is therefore a refuge of lies--deceiving
men into hopes that can never be realized. So of every creed and system that does
not save men from sin and fit them for heaven.
III. And now let my hearers take notice of what God says.
- 1. He declares, "The hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies and the waters
shall overflow the hiding-place." No doubt this hail is the symbol of God's
displeasure. It is fit that God should be displeased with these refuges of lies.
He loves truth too well to have the least sympathy with lies. He loves the souls
of men too deeply to have any patience with agencies so destructive. Therefore, he
loathes all these refuges of lies, and has solemnly declared that the hail shall
sweep them all away.
- 2. The waters, he declares, shall overflow the hiding-places. Every resort that
leaves the soul in sin is a hiding-place. All religious affectation is such, and
is nothing better. To put on the mere appearance of devoutness and sanctimony, as
if God could be made to believe you sincere and could not see through it all;--this
is a flimsy hiding-place indeed. So of all religious formality--going through the
forms of worship, being in the church, being baptized--what avails it all unless
their piety be instinct with life and that life be the soul of real holiness?
IV. A great many people hide in the church.
- 1. Judas Iscariot crept in there to hide. A minister of the Dutch Reformed Church
told me once of a case in point just here. A man who had been confirmed in that church
was out at sea in a fearful storm. It was a time of intense alarm, and many were
exceedingly fearful of death, not to say also of that terrible state beyond. When
they said to him, How is it that you are so cool? He replied, "What have I to
fear--I belong to the South Dutch!"
- 2. Many hide under orthodox creeds. They are not Unitarians; they are not Mormons;
they are not Universalists; they are orthodox! Such religious opinions held so tenaciously
must, they think, ensure their safety.
- 3. Others hide under the plea of a sinful nature. They are naturally unable to
do anything. Here they have found a sure retreat. They are very willing to do all
their duty--but this sinful nature is all against them, and what can they do? This
is a refuge of lies.
- 4. Some dodge under professors of religion. I fear there are many such here among
us. Alas, your hiding-place will fail you in the day of trial! When the hail comes
and the storm rolls up fearfully, and the awful thunder breaks with appalling crash,
you will try in vain to find your professor--to hide under his wing! Where is he
now? Suppose he were as bad as you claim, how much can he help you in that all-devouring
storm? If he is not as good as he should be, you ought to be better than he, and
not try to hide yourself under his shortcomings.
1. Sinners know these things to be refuges of lies, because they do not save men
from their sins. Certainly they must see this and know it to be the truth.
They resort to these refuges, not as being quite fully true, but as an excuse for
delay. Miserable subterfuge, this! They are not honest, and therefore need not think
it strange if they are deluded.
They admit that if one lives like Christ, all will be well; and they know that nothing
less than this will avail for their safety.
2. Of course, to seek a refuge of lies is to tempt God to destroy you. How can it
3. Remember the test--this one plain simple principle: That and only that which saves
from sin is true; all else is false and ruinous. Now you all have some hope of a
happy future; what is this hope? Good or bad? Is it truthful and sure, or is it a
refuge of lies?
Does your hope sanctify you--does it make you humble, holy, prayerful? Does your
faith purify your heart? Have you the fruits of the Spirit--love, joy, peace, long-suffering?
Have you daily communion with God? Are you so united to him that you can say--Truly
we have fellowship with the Father? If so, this will be a hiding-place indeed--not
one which the hail shall sweep away, but one which shall save the soul.
Have you the life of God in your soul? Does it pervade your heart, and diffuse itself
over all the chambers of your soul? Let nothing less than this avail to satisfy your
Hear Catholics talk about the Virgin and the sacraments and absolution; what are
all these things, and a thousand more such, good for, if they do not save from sin?
What is the use of running after these things that do not save?
But you say--I love to believe that all will be saved; it makes me so happy. But
does it make you holy? Does it renew your heart? This is the only sure test.
But you say, "I do not believe as you do." I answer--Here are great facts.
You are in sin. Are you saved from your sin by your system? If so, well; if not so,
then it is not well. Will your believing it to be one way or the other make it so?
Does believing a lie make it the truth? If you were to believe that you could walk
on the water, or that water could not drown you, and should leap overboard, would
your belief save you?
Dying sinner, all those refuges of lies will surely deceive and destroy you. It is
time for you to arise and say--I must have the religion of Jesus. Not having it,
I cannot go where Jesus is. With a lie in my right hand, what have I to hope for?
None of you, I hope, have reached that forlorn state described by the prophet, "A
deceived heart hath turned him aside, neither can he say to his soul, There is a
lie in my right hand."
O sinner, there is a refuge for you which is not one of lies. There is a hiding-place
for you which no waters can reach to overwhelm. It lies far above their course. O,
take refuge in Christ! away with these refuges of lies! Cry out--Give me Christ and
none besides! Christ and Him only,--for what have I to do with lies and delusions?
You need to come into such communion with Christ that his power and presence and
fullness shall flow through your heart fully and freely, and be in you a well of
water springing up into everlasting life.
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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