||delphia > REVIVAL LECTURES by Charles G. Finney (page 5 of 5)
Charles G. Finney
A Voice from the Philadelphian Church Age
by Charles Grandison Finney
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Table of Contents
- LECTURE XIX. - INSTRUCTIONS
Several things to be considered in regard to the hopes of young converts - Several
things respecting their making a profession of religion - The importance of having
correct instruction given to young converts - What should not be taught - What things
are necessary to be taught.
LECTURE XX. - INSTRUCTIONS
TO CONVERTS (continued).
Other points on which young converts ought to be instructed - How young converts
should be treated by the Church - Some of the evils resulting from defective instruction
in the first stages of Christian experience.
LECTURE XXI. - THE BACKSLIDER
What backsliding in heart is not - What it is - What are its evidences - What are
its consequences - How to recover from such a state.
LECTURE XXII. - GROWTH
What grace is - What the injunction to "grow in grace" does not mean -
What it does mean - Conditions of growth in grace - What is not proof of growth -
What is proof - How to grow in grace.
INSTRUCTIONS TO CONVERTS
Feed My lambs. - John 2:15.
Those who read their Bibles will recollect the connection in which these words occur,
and by whom they were spoken. They were addressed by the Lord Jesus Christ to Peter,
after he had denied his Lord, and had subsequently professed repentance. Our Lord
asked him this question, to remind him, in an affecting manner, at once of his sin
and of the love of Christ: "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?"
- strongly implying a doubt whether he did love Him. Peter answers: "Yea, Lord;
Thou knowest that I love Thee." Then Christ said unto Him: "Feed My lambs";
and repeated the question, as if He would read his inmost soul: "Simon, son
of Jonas, lovest thou Me?" Peter was still firm, and promptly answered again:
"Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee."
Jesus still asked him the question again, the third time, emphatically. He seemed
to urge the point, as if He would search his inmost thoughts, to see whether Peter
would ever deny Him again. Peter was touched; he was "grieved," it is said;
he did not fly into a passion, nor did he boast, as formerly: "Though I should
die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee"
(Matthew 26:35); but he was grieved; he was subdued; he spoke tenderly; he appealed
to the Savior Himself, as if he would implore Him not to doubt his sincerity any
longer: "Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee."
Christ then gave him his final charge: "Feed My sheep" (v. 17).
By the terms "sheep" and "lambs" the Savior undoubtedly designated
Christians, members of His Church; the lambs probably represent young converts, those
that have but little experience and but little knowledge of religion, and therefore
need to have special attention and pains taken with them, to guard them from harm,
and to train them for future usefulness.
And when our Savior told Peter to feed His sheep, He doubtless referred to the important
part which Peter was to perform in watching over the newly-formed Churches in different
parts of the world, and in training the young converts, and leading them along to
usefulness and happiness.
My last Lecture was on the subject of giving right instruction to anxious sinners;
this naturally brings me to consider the manner in which young converts should be
treated, and the instructions that should be given to them.
In speaking on this subject it is my design to state:
I. Several things that ought to be considered, in regard to the hopes of young converts.
II. Several things respecting their making a profession of religion, and joining
III. The importance of having correct instruction given to young converts.
IV. What should not be taught to young converts.
V. What particular things are specially necessary to be taught to young converts.
I. THE HOPES OF YOUNG CONVERTS.
- 1. Nothing should be said to create a hope. That is to
say, nothing should ordinarily be intimated to persons under conviction calculated
to make them think they have experienced religion, till they find it out themselves.
- I do not like this term, "experienced religion,"
and I use it only because it is a phrase in common use. It is an absurdity in itself
What is religion?
Obedience to God. Suppose you should hear a good citizen say he had experienced obedience
to the Government of the country! You see that it is nonsense. Or suppose a child
should talk about experiencing obedience to his father. If he knew what he was saying,
he would say he had obeyed his father; just as the apostle Paul says to the Roman
believers: "Ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered
you" (Romans. 6:17).
What I mean to say is that ordinarily it is best to let their hope or belief that
they are converted spring up spontaneously in their own minds.
Sometimes it will happen that persons may be really converted, but, owing to some
notions which they have been taught about religion, they do not realize it. Their
views of what religion is, and its effect upon the mind, are so entirely wide of
the truth that they do not think they have it.
I will give you an illustration on this point.
Some years since, I labored in a place where a revival was in progress, and there
was in the place a young lady from Boston. She had been brought up a Unitarian. She
was a person of considerable education, and was intelligent on many subjects; but
on the subject of religion she was very ignorant. At length she was convicted of
sin. She became awfully convinced of her horrible enmity against God. She had been
so educated as to have a sense of propriety; but her enmity against God became so
great, and broke out so frightfully, that it was horrible to hear her talk. She used
to come to the anxious meetings, where we conversed with each person separately;
and her feelings of opposition to God were such that she used to create disturbance.
By the time I came within two or three seats of her, where she could hear what I
said in a low voice to the others, she would begin to make remarks in reply, so that
they could be heard. And she would say the most bitter things against God, against
His providence, and His method of dealing with mankind, as if God were an infinite
tyrant. I would try to hush her, and make her keep still, because she distracted
the attention of others. Sometimes she would stop and command her temper for a time,
and sometimes she would rise and go out. I have seldom seen a case where the enmity
of the heart rose so high against God. One night, at the anxious meeting, after she
had been very restless, as I went towards her, she began as usual to reply, but I
hushed her, and told her I could not converse with her there. I invited her to see
me the next morning, when I told her I would talk with her. She promised to come;
but, said she: "God is unjust - He is infinitely unjust. Is He not almighty?
Why, then, has He never shown me my enmity before? Why has He let me run on so long?
Why does He let my friends at Boston remain in this ignorance? They are the enemies
of God as much as I am, and they are going to hell. Why does He not show them the
truth in regard to their condition?" And in this temper she left the room.
The next morning she came to see me, as she had promised. I saw, as soon as she came
in, that her countenance was changed, but I said nothing about it. "Oh,"
said she, "I have changed my mind, as to what I said last night about God; I
do not think He has done me any wrong, and I think I shall 'get religion' some time,
for now I love to think about God. I have been all wrong; the reason why I had never
known my enmity before was that I would not. I used to read the Bible, but I always
passed over the passages that would make me feel as if I were a lost sinner; and
those passages that spoke of Jesus Christ as God I passed over without consideration;
but now I see that it was my fault, not God's fault, that I did not know any more
about myself; I have changed my mind now." She had no idea that this was religion,
but she was encouraged now to expect religion at some future time, because she loved
God so much. I said nothing to make her imagine that I thought her a Christian, but
left her to find it out. And, for a time, her mind was so entirely occupied with
thinking about God that she never seemed to ask whether she "had religion"
It is a great evil, ordinarily, to encourage persons to hope they are Christians.
Very likely you may judge prematurely. Or if not, it is better, in any case, that
they should find it out for themselves - that is, supposing they do not see it at
- 2. When persons express a hope, and yet express doubts,
too, it is generally because the work is not thorough. If they are converted, they
need breaking up. They are still lingering around the world, or they have not broken
off effectually from their sins, and they need to be pushed back, rather than urged
forward. If you see reason to doubt, or if you find that they have doubts, most probably
there is some good reason to doubt.
- Sometimes persons express a hope in Christ, and afterwards
remember some sin that needs to be confessed to men; or some case where they have
slandered, or defrauded, where it is necessary to make satisfaction, and where either
their character, or their purse, is so deeply implicated that they hesitate, and
refuse to perform their duty. This grieves the Spirit, brings darkness over their
minds, and justly leads them to doubt whether they are truly converted. If a soul
is truly converted, it will generally be found that, where there are doubts, there
is on some point a neglect of duty. They should be searched as with a lighted candle,
and brought up to the performance of duty, and not suffered to hope until they do
Ordinarily, it is proper just there to throw in some plain and searching truth, that
will go through them, something that will wither their false hopes. Do it while the
Spirit of God is dealing with them, and do it in a right way, and there is no danger
of its doing harm.
To illustrate this: I knew a person who was a member of the Church, but an abominable
hypocrite - proved to be so by her conduct, and afterwards fully confessed to be
so. In a revival of religion she was awakened and deeply convicted, and after a while
she got a hope. She went to a minister to talk with him about her hope, and he poured
the truth into her mind in such a manner as to annihilate all her hopes. She then
remained under conviction many days, and at last she broke out in hope again. The
minister knew her temperament, and knew what she needed, and he tore away her hope
again. Then she broke down. So deeply did the Spirit of God PROBE her heart that,
for a time, it took away all her bodily strength. Then she came out subdued. Before,
she had been one of the proudest of rebels against God's government, but now she
became humbled, and was one of the most modest, tender, and lovely of Christians.
No doubt that was just the way to deal with her. It was just the treatment that her
It is often useful to deal with individuals in this way. Some persons are naturally
unamiable in their temper, and unlovely in their deportment. And it is particularly
important that such persons should be dealt with most thoroughly whenever they first
begin to express hope in Christ. Unless the work with them is, in the first place,
uncommonly deep and thorough, they will be vastly less useful, and interesting, and
happy, than they would have been had the probe been thoroughly and skillfully applied
to their hearts. If they are encouraged at first, without being thoroughly dealt
with; if they are left to go on as though all were well; if they are not sufficiently
probed and broken down, these unlovely traits of character will remain unsubdued,
and will be always breaking out, to the great injury both of their personal peace
and their general influence and usefulness as Christians.
It is important to take advantage of such characters while they are just in these
peculiar circumstances, so that they can be molded into proper form.
Do not spare, though it should be a child, or a brother, or a husband, or a wife.
Let it be a thorough work. If they express a hope, and you find they bear the image
of Christ, they are Christians. But if it should appear doubtful - if they do not
appear to be fully changed, just tear away their hope, by searching them with discriminating
truth, and leave the Spirit to do the work more deeply. If still the image is not
perfect, do it again - break them down into a childlike spirit, and then let them
hope. They will then be clear and thorough Christians. By such a mode of treatment
I have often known people of the crookedest and most hateful natural character so
transformed, in the course of a few days, that they appeared like different beings.
You would think the work of a whole life of Christian cultivation had been done at
once. Doubtless this was the intent of our Savior's dealing with Peter. He had been
converted, but became puffed up with spiritual pride and self confidence, and then
he fell. After that, Christ broke him down again by three times searching him with
the inquiry: "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?" After which he seems
to have been a stable and devoted saint the rest of his days.
- 3. There is no need of young converts having or expressing
doubts as to their conversion. There is no more need of a person doubting whether
he is now in favor of God's government than there is for a man to doubt whether he
is in favor of our Government or another. It is, in fact, on the face of it, absurd
for a person to talk of doubting on such a point, if he is intelligent and understands
what he is talking about. It has long been supposed to be a virtue, and a mark of
humility, for a person to doubt whether he is a Christian, but this notion that there
is virtue in doubting is a device of the devil. "I say, neighbor, are you in
favor of our Government, or do you prefer that of Russia?" "Why, I have
some hopes that I love our own Government, but I have many doubts." Wonderful!
"Woman, do you love your children?" "Why, sir, I sometimes have a
trembling hope that I love them, but you know the best have doubts." "Wife,
do you love your husband?" "I do not know - I sometimes think I do, but
you know the heart is deceitful, and we ought to be careful and not be too confident."
- Who would have such a wife? "Man, do you love your
wife, do you love your family?" "Ah, you know we are poor creatures, we
do not know our own hearts. I think I do love them, but perhaps I am deceived."
Ordinarily, the very idea of a person expressing doubts renders his piety truly doubtful.
A real Christian has no need to doubt; and when one is full of doubts, ordinarily
you ought to doubt for him and help him doubt.
Affection to God is as much a matter of consciousness as any other affection. A woman
knows she loves her child. How? By consciousness.
She is conscious of the exercise of this affection. And she sees it carried into
action every day. In the same way a Christian may know that he loves God; by his
consciousness of this affection, and by seeing that it influences his daily conduct.
In the case of young converts, truly such, these doubts generally arise from their
having been wrongly dealt with, and not sufficiently taught, or not thoroughly humbled.
In any case they should never be left in such a state, but should be brought to such
a thorough change that they will doubt no longer.
It is inconsistent with usefulness for a Christian to be always entertaining doubts;
it not only makes him gloomy, but it makes his religion a stumbling block to sinners.
What do sinners think of such a religion? They say: "These converts are afraid
to think they have got anything real; they are always doubting whether it is a reality,
and they ought to know whether there is anything in it or not. If it is anything,
these people seem to have it, but I am inclined to think it rather doubtful. At any
rate, I will let it pass for the present; I do not believe God will condemn me for
not attending to that which appears so uncertain." No, a settled hope in Christ
is indispensable to usefulness; and therefore you should deal so with young converts,
as to lead them to a consistent, well-grounded, stable hope. Ordinarily, this may
be done, if pursued wisely, at the proper time, and that is at the commencement of
their religious life. They should not be left till it is done.
I know there are exceptions; there are cases where the best instructions will be
ineffectual; but these depend on the state of the health, and the condition of the
nervous system. Sometimes you find a person incapable of reasoning on a certain topic,
and so his errors will not yield to instruction. But most commonly they mistake the
state of their own hearts, because they judge under the influence of a physical disease.
Sometimes persons under a nervous depression will go almost into despair. Persons
who are acquainted with physiology would easily explain the matter. The only way
to deal with such cases is first to recruit their health, and get their nervous system
into a proper tone, and thus remove the physical cause of their gloom and depression;
then they will be able to receive and apply your instructions. But if you cannot
remove their gloom and doubts and fears in this way, you can at least avoid doing
the positive harm that is wrought by giving wrong instructions.
I have known even experienced Christians to have fastened upon them the error of
thinking it was necessary, or was virtuous, or a mark of humility, to be always in
doubt; and Satan would take advantage of it, and of the state of their health, and
drive them almost to despair. You ought to guard against this, by avoiding the error
when teaching young converts. Teach them that instead of there being any virtue in
doubting, it is a sin to have any reason to doubt, and a sin if they doubt without
any reason, and a sin to be gloomy and to disgust sinners with their despondency.
And if you teach them thoroughly what religion is, and make them SEE CLEARLY what
God wishes to have them do, and lead them to do it promptly and decidedly, ordinarily
they will not be harassed with doubts and fears, but will be clear, openhearted,
cheerful, and growing Christians - an honor to the religion they profess, and a blessing
to the Church and the world.
II. MAKING A PROFESSION OF RELIGION.
I proceed to mention some things worthy of consideration in regard to young converts
making a profession of religion, or joining the Church.
- 1. Young converts should, ordinarily, offer themselves
for admission to some Church of Christ immediately. By "immediately," I
mean that they should do it the first opportunity they have. They should not wait.
If they set out in religion by waiting, most likely they will always be waiting,
and never do anything to much purpose. If they are taught to wait under conviction,
before they give themselves to Christ; or if they are taught to wait after conversion,
before, by joining the Church, they give themselves publicly to God, they will probably
go halting and stumbling through life. The first thing they should be taught, always
is: NEVER WAIT, WHERE GOD HAS POINTED OUT YOUR DUTY. We profess to have given up
the waiting system; let us carry it through and be consistent.
- 2. While I say it is the duty of young converts to offer
themselves to the Church immediately, I do not say that, in all cases, they should
be received immediately. The Church has an undoubted right to assume the responsibility
of receiving them immediately or not. If the Church is not satisfied in the case,
it has the power to bid candidates wait till inquiries can be made as to their character
and their sincerity. This is more necessary in large cities than it is in the country,
because so many applications are received from persons who are entire strangers.
But if the Church thinks it necessary to postpone an applicant, the responsibility
is not his. He has not postponed obedience to the dying command of Christ, and so
he has not grieved the Spirit, and so he may not be essentially injured if he is
faithful in other respects. Whereas, if he had neglected the duty voluntarily, he
would soon have got into the dark, and would very likely have backslidden.
- If there is no particular reason for delay, ordinarily
the Church ought to receive them when they apply. If they are sufficiently instructed
on the subject of religion to know what they are doing, and if their general character
is such that they can be trusted as to their sincerity and honesty in making a profession,
I see no reason why they should be delayed. But if there are sufficient reasons,
in the view of the Church, for making them wait a reasonable time, let the Church
so decide, on its responsibility to Jesus Christ. It should be remembered, however,
what is the responsibility which the Church thereby assumes, and that if those are
kept out of the Church who ought to be in it, the Holy Spirit is grieved.
It is impossible to lay down particular rules on this subject, applicable to all
cases. There is so great a variety of reasons which may warrant keeping persons back,
that no general rules can reach them all. Our practice, in this Church, is to propound
persons for a month after they make application, before they are received into full
communion. The reason of this is, that the Session may have opportunity to inquire
respecting individuals who offer themselves, as so many of them are strangers. But
in the country, where there are regular congregations, and all the people have been
instructed from their youth in the doctrines of religion, and where everybody is
perfectly known, the case is different, and ordinarily I see no reason why persons
of good character should not be admitted immediately. If a person has not been a
drunkard, or otherwise of bad character, let him be admitted at once, as soon as
he can give a rational and satisfactory account of the hope that is in him.
That is evidently the way the apostles did. There is not the least evidence in the
New Testament that they ever put off a person who wanted to be baptized and to join
the Church. I know this does not satisfy some people, because they think the case
is different. But I do not see it so.
They say the apostles were inspired. That is true; but it does not follow that they
were so inspired to read the characters of men, as to be prevented from making mistakes
in this matter. On the other hand, we know they were not inspired in this way, for
we know they did make mistakes, just as ministers may do now; and, therefore, it
is not true that their being inspired men alters the case on this point. Simon Magus
was supposed to be a Christian, and was baptized and admitted into communion, remaining
in good standing until he undertook to purchase the Holy Ghost with money.
The apostles used to admit converts from heathenism immediately, and without delay.
If they could receive persons who, perhaps, never heard more than one Gospel sermon,
and who never had a Bible, nor ever attended a Sabbath School or Bible Class in their
lives, surely it is not necessary to create an outcry and alarm, if a Church should
think proper to receive persons of good character, who have had the Bible all their
lives, and have been trained in the Sabbath School, and have sat under the preaching
of the Gospel, and who, therefore, may be supposed to understand what they are about,
and not to profess what they do not feel.
I know it may be said that persons who make a profession of religion now, are not
obliged to make such sacrifices for their religion as the early believers were, and,
consequently, people may be more ready to play the hypocrite. And, to some extent,
that is true. But then, on the other hand, it should be remembered that, with the
instructions which they have on the subject of religion, they are not so easily led
to deceive themselves, as those who were converted without the precious advantages
of a religious education. They may be strongly tempted to deceive others, but I insist
that, with the instructions which they have received, the converts of these great
revivals are not half so liable to deceive themselves, and take up with a false hope,
as were those in the days of the apostles. And on this ground I believe that those
Churches that are faithful in dealing with young converts, and that exhibit habitually
the power of religion, are not likely to receive so many unconverted persons as the
It is important that the Churches should act wisely on this point. Great evil has
been done by this practice of keeping persons out of the Church a long time in order
to see if they were Christians. This is almost as absurd as it would be to throw
a young child out into the street, to see whether it will live; to say: "If
it lives, and promises to be a healthy child, we will take care of it," when
that is the very time it wants nursing and taking care of, the moment when the scale
is turning whether it shall live or die. Is that the way to deal with young converts?
Should the Church throw her new-born children out to the winds, and say: "If
they live there, let them be taken care of; but if they die there, then they ought
to die"? I have not a doubt that thousands of converts, in consequence of this
treatment, have gone through life without joining any Church, but have lingered along,
full of doubts and fears, and darkness, and in this way have spent their days, and
gone to the grave without the comforts and usefulness which they might have enjoyed,
simply because the Church, in her folly, has suffered them to wait outside the pale,
to see whether they would grow and thrive, without those ordinances which Jesus Christ
established particularly for their benefit.
Jesus Christ says to His Church: "Here, take these lambs, and feed them, and
shelter them, and watch over them, and protect them": and what does the Church
do? Why, turn them out alone upon the cold mountains, among the wild beasts, to starve
or perish, to see whether they are alive or not!
The whole system is as unphilosophical as it is unscriptural. Did Jesus Christ tell
His Churches to do so? Did the God of Abraham teach any such doctrine as this, in
regard to the children of Abraham? Never. He never taught us to treat young converts
in such a barbarous manner. The very way to lead them into doubts and darkness, is
to keep them away from the Church, from its fellowship, and its ordinances.
I have understood there is a Church which has passed a resolution that no young converts
shall be admitted till they have "had a hope" for at least six months.
Where did they get any such rule? Not from the Bible, nor from the example of the
- 3. In examining young converts for admission their consciences
should not be ensnared by examining them too extensively or minutely on doctrinal
points. From the manner in which examinations are conducted in some Churches, it
would seem as if they expected that young converts would be all at once acquainted
with the whole system of divinity, and able to answer every puzzling question in
theology. The effect of it is that young converts are perplexed and confused, and
give their assent to things they do not understand, and thus their conscience is
ensnared, and consequently weakened. Why, one great design of receiving young converts
into the Church is to teach them doctrines; but if they are to be kept out of the
Church until they understand the whole system of doctrines, this end is defeated.
Will you keep them out till one main design of receiving them is accomplished by
other means? It is absurd. There are certain cardinal doctrines of Christianity,
which are embraced in the experience of every true convert; and these young converts
will testify to them, on examination, if questioned in such a way as to draw out
knowledge, and not in such a way as to puzzle and confound. The questions should
be such as are calculated to draw out from them what they have learned by experience,
and not what they may have got in theory before or since their conversion. The object
is, not to find out how much they know, or how good scholars they are in divinity,
as you would examine a school; it is to find out whether they have a change of heart,
to learn whether they have experienced the great truths of religion by their power
in their own souls. You see therefore how absurd, and injurious too, it must be,
to examine, as is sometimes done, like a lawyer at the bar cross-examining a suspicious
witness. It should rather be like a faithful physician anxious to find out his patient's
true condition, and therefore leading him, by inquiries and hints, to disclose the
real symptoms of the case.
- You will always find, if you put your questions rightly,
that real converts will see clearly those great fundamental points - the Divine authority
of the Scriptures, the necessity of the influences of the Holy Spirit, the Deity
of Christ, the doctrines of total depravity and regeneration, the necessity of the
atonement, justification by faith, and the justice of the eternal punishment of the
wicked. By a proper course of inquiries you will find all these points come out,
if you put your questions in such a way that they are understood.
A Church Session in this city has, as we are informed, passed a vote, that no person
shall join that Church till he will give his assent to the whole Presbyterian Confession
of Faith, and adopt it as his "rule of faith and practice and Christian obedience."
That is, they must read the book through, which is about three times as large as
this hymn-book which I hold, and must understand it, and agree to it all, before
they can be admitted to the Church, before they can make a profession of religion,
or obey the command of Christ. By what authority does a Church say that no one shall
join their communion till he understands all the points and technicalities of this
long Confession of Faith? Is that their charity, to cram this whole Confession of
Faith down the throat of a young convert, before they let him so much as come to
the Communion? He says: "I love the Lord Jesus Christ, and wish to obey His
command." "Very well, but do you understand and adopt the Confession of
Faith?" He says: "I do not know, for I never read that, but I have read
the Bible, and I love that, and wish to follow the directions in it, and to come
to the table of the Lord."
"Do you love the Confession of Faith? If not, you SHALL NOT COME,"
is the reply of this charitable Session; "you shall not sit down at the Lord's
table till you have adopted all this Confession of Faith." Did Jesus Christ
ever authorize a Church Session to say this - to tell that child of God, who stands
there with tears, and asks permission to obey his Lord, and who understands the grounds
of his faith, and can give a satisfactory reason of his hope - to tell him he cannot
join the Church till he understands the Confession of Faith? Shut the door against
young converts till they swallow the Confession of Faith! Will such a Church prosper?
No Church on earth has a right to impose its extended Confession of Faith on a young
convert who admits the fundamentals of religion. They may let the young convert know
their own faith on ever so many points, and they may examine him, if they think it
necessary, as to his belief; but suppose he has doubts on some points not essential
to Christian experience, - the doctrine of Infant Baptism, or of Election, or the
Perseverance of the Saints; and suppose he honestly and frankly tells you he has
not made up his mind concerning these points? Has any minister or Church a right
to say, he shall not come to the Lord's table till he has finished all his researches
into these subjects, that he shall not obey Christ till he has fully made up his
mind on such points, on which Christians, and devoted ones too, differ among themselves?
I would sooner cut off my right hand than debar a convert under such circumstances.
I would teach a young convert as well as I could in the time before he made his application,
and I would examine him candidly as to his views, and after he was in the Church
I would endeavor to make him grow in knowledge as he grows in grace. And by just
as much confidence as I have that my own doctrines are the doctrines of God, I should
expect to make him adopt them, if I could have a fair hearing before his mind. But
I never would bid one whom I charitably believed to be a child of God, to stay away
from his Father's table, because he did not see all I see, or believe all I believe,
through the whole system of divinity. The thing is utterly irrational, ridiculous,
- 4. Sometimes persons who are known to entertain a hope
dare not make a profession of religion for fear they should be deceived. I would
always deal decidedly with such cases. A hope that will not warrant a profession
of religion is manifestly worse than no hope, and the sooner it is torn away the
better. Shall a man hope he loves God, and yet not obey Jesus Christ? Preposterous!
Such a hope had better be given up at once.
- 5. Sometimes persons professing to be converts will make
an excuse for not joining the Church, that they can enjoy religion just as well without
- This is always suspicious. I should look out for such characters.
It is almost certain they have no religion. Ordinarily, if a person does not desire
to be associated with the people of God, he is rotten at the foundation. It is because
he wants to keep out of the responsibilities of a public profession. He has a feeling
within him that he had rather be free, so that he can, by and by, go back to the
world again, if he likes, without the reproach of instability or hypocrisy. Enjoy
religion just as well without obeying Jesus Christ! It is false on the face of it.
He overlooks the fact that religion consists in obeying Jesus Christ.
III. THE IMPORTANCE OF GIVING RIGHT INSTRUCTION.
Ordinarily, the Christian character of converts throughout life is molded and fashioned
according to the manner in which they are dealt with when first converted. There
are many who have been poorly taught at first, but have been afterwards re-converted,
and if they are then properly dealt with, they may be made something of. But the
proper time to do this is when they are first brought in, when their minds are soft
and tender, and easily yield to the truth. Then they may be led with a hair, if they
think it is the truth of God. And whatever notions in religion they then get, they
are apt to cleave to forever afterwards. It is almost impossible to get a man away
from the notions he acquires when he is a young convert. You may reason him down,
but he cleaves to them. How often is it the case where persons have been taught certain
things when first converted, that if they afterwards get a new minister who teaches
somewhat differently, they will rise up against him as if he were going to subvert
the faith, carry away the Church into error, and throw everything into confusion.
Thus you see that young converts are thrown into the hands of the Church, and it
devolves upon the Church to mold them, and form them into Christians of the right
stamp. To a large extent, their future comfort and usefulness depend on the manner
in which they are instructed at the outset. The future character of the Church, the
progress of revivals, the coming of the millennium, depend on right instruction being
imparted, and a right direction of thought and life given, to those who are young
IV. THINGS WHICH SHOULD NOT BE TAUGHT.
- 1. "You will not always feel as you do now."
When the young convert is rejoicing in his Savior, and calculating to live for the
glory of God and the good of mankind, how often is he met with this reply: "You
will not always feel so." Thus, his mind is prepared to expect that he shall
backslide, and not to be much surprised when he does. This is just the way the devil
wants young converts dealt with, to have old Christians tell them: "Your feelings
will not last, but, by and by, you will be as cold as we are." It has made my
heart bleed to see it. When the young convert has been pouring out his warm heart
to some old professor, and expecting the warm burstings of a kindred spirit responding
to his own, what does he meet with? This cold answer, coming like a northern blast
over his soul: "You will not always feel so." SHAME! Just preparing the
young convert to expect that he shall backslide as a matter of course; so that when
he begins to decline, as under the very influences of this instruction it is most
likely he will, it produces no surprise or alarm in his mind, but he looks at it
just as a thing of course, doing as everybody else does.
- I have heard it preached as well as expressed in prayer,
that seasons of backsliding are "necessary to test the Church." They say:
"When it rains, you can find water anywhere: it is only in seasons of drought
that you can tell where the deep springs are." Wonderful logic! And so you would
teach that Christians must get cold and stupid, and backslide from God - and for
what reason? Why, forsooth, to show that they are not hypocrites.
Amazing! You would prove that they are hypocrites in order to show that they are
Such doctrine as this is the very last that should be taught to young converts. They
should be told that they have only begun the Christian life, and that their religion
is to consist in going on in it. They should be taught to go forward all the time,
and "grow in grace" continually. Do not teach them to taper off their religion
- to let it grow smaller and smaller till it comes to a point. God says: "The
path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect
day" (Proverbs 4:18). Now, whose path is that which grows dimmer and dimmer
into the perfect night? They should be brought to such a state of mind that the first
indications of decay in spirituality or zeal will alarm them and spur them up to
duty. There is no need that young converts should backslide as they do. Paul did
not backslide. And I do not doubt that this very doctrine: "You will not always
feel so," is one of the grand devices of Satan to bring about the result which
- 2. "Learn to walk by faith and not by sight."
This is sometimes said to young converts in reference to their continuing to exhibit
the power of religion, and is a manifest perversion of Scripture. If they begin to
lose their faith and zeal, and get into darkness, some old professor will tell them:
"Ah, you cannot expect to have the Savior always with you, you have been walking
by sight; you must learn to walk by faith and not by sight." That is, you must
learn to get as cold as death, and then hang on to the doctrine of the Saints' Perseverance,
as your only ground of hope that you shall be saved. And that is walking by faith!
Cease to persevere, and then hold on to the doctrine of Perseverance! "One of
guilt's blunders, and the loudest laugh of hell." Living in the enjoyment of
God's favor and the comforts of the Holy Ghost is what they call "walking by
sight"! Do you suppose young converts see the Savior at the time they believe
- When they are so full of the enjoyments of heaven, do you
suppose they see heaven, and so walk by sight? It is absurd on the face of it. It
is not faith, it is presumption, that makes the backslider hold on to the doctrine
of Perseverance, as if that would save him, without any sensible exercises of godliness
in his soul. Those who attempt to walk by faith in this way had better take care,
or they will walk into hell with their "faith." Faith indeed! "Faith
without works is dead" (James 2:20). Can dead faith make the soul live?
- 3. "Wait till you see whether you can hold out."
When a young convert feels zealous and warm-hearted, and wants to lay himself out
for God, some prudent old professor will caution him not to go too fast. "You
had better not be too forward in religion, till you see whether you can hold out;
for if you take this high ground and then fall, you will disgrace religion."
- That is, in plain English: "Do not do anything that
constitutes religion, till you see whether you have religion." Religion consists
in obeying God.
Now, these wise teachers tell a young convert: "Do not obey God till you see"
- what? - till you see whether you have obeyed Him - or, till you see whether you
have obtained that substance, that mysterious thing which they imagine is created
and put into man, like a lump of new flesh, and called "religion." This
waiting system is all wrong. There is no Scripture warrant for telling a person to
wait, when the command of God is upon him, and the path of duty is before him. Let
him go ahead.
Young converts should be fully taught that this is the only consistent way to find
out whether they have any religion, to find that they are heartily engaged in doing
the will of God. To tell the convert to wait, therefore, before he does these things,
till he first gets his evidence, is reversing the matter, and is absurd.
- 4. "Wait till you get strength, before you take up
the cross." This is applied to various religious duties. Sometimes it is applied
to prayer: just as if prayer were a cross. I have known young converts advised not
to attempt to pray in their families, or "not to attempt quite yet" to
pray in meetings and social circles. "Wait till you get strength." Just
as if they could get strength without exercise. Strength comes by exercise. You cannot
get strength by lying still. Let a child lie in a cradle continually, and he would
never have any strength; he might grow in size, but he never could be anything more
than a great baby. This is a law of nature. There is no substitute for exercise in
producing strength. It is so in the body; and it is just so with the mind. It is
so with the affections; so with the judgment; so with conscience. All the powers
of the soul are strengthened by exercise. I need not now enter into the philosophy
of this. Everybody knows it is so. If the mind is not exercised, the brain will not
grow, and the man will become an idiot. If the affections are not exercised, he will
become a stoic. To talk to a convert about neglecting Christian action till he gets
strength, is absurd. If he wants to gain strength, let him go to work.
- 5. Young converts should not be made sectarian in their
feelings. They should not be taught to dwell upon sectarian distinctions, or to be
sticklish about sectarian points. They ought to examine these points, according to
their importance, at a proper time, and in a proper way, and make up their minds
for themselves. But they should not be taught to dwell upon them, or to make much
of them at the outset of their religious life. Otherwise there is great danger that
their whole religion will run into sectarianism. I have seen most sad and melancholy
exhibitions of the effects of this upon young converts. And whenever I see professed
converts taking a strong hold of sectarian peculiarities, no matter of what denomination
of Christians, I always feel in doubt about them. When I hear them asking: "Do
you believe in the doctrine of Election?" or: "Do you believe in sprinkling?"
or: "Do you believe in immersing?" I feel sad. I never knew such converts
to be worth much. Their sectarian zeal soon sours their feelings, eats out all the
heart of their religion, and molds their whole character into sinful, sectarian bigotry.
They generally become mighty zealous for the traditions of the elders, and very little
concerned for the salvation of souls.
V. THINGS WHICH IT IS IMPORTANT SHOULD BE TAUGHT.
- 1. One of the first things young converts should be taught
is to distinguish between emotion and principle in religion. I want you to get hold
of the words, and have them fixed in your mind; to have you distinguish between emotion
- By emotion, I mean that state of mind of which we are conscious,
and which we call feeling - an involuntary state of mind, that arises, of course,
when we are in certain circumstances or under certain influences.
There may be high-wrought feelings, or they may subside into tranquillity, or disappear
entirely. But these emotions should be carefully distinguished from religious principle.
By principle, I do not mean any substance or root or seed or sprout implanted in
the soul. But I mean the voluntary decision of the mind, the firm determination to
fulfill duty and to obey the will of God, by which a Christian should always be governed.
When a man is fully determined to obey God, because it is RIGHT that he should obey
God, I call that principle. Whether he feels any lively religious emotion at the
time or not, he will do his duty cheerfully, readily, and heartily, whatever may
be the state of his feelings. This is acting upon principle, and not from emotion.
Many young converts hold mistaken views upon this subject, and depend almost entirely
on the state of their feelings to go forward in duty. Some will not lead a prayer
meeting, unless they feel as if they could make an eloquent prayer. Multitudes are
influenced almost entirely by their emotions, and they give way to this, as if they
thought themselves under no obligation to duty, unless urged on by some strong emotion.
They will be very zealous in religion when they feel like it, when their emotions
are warm and lively, but they will not act out religion consistently, and carry it
into all the concerns of life. They are religious only as they are impelled by a
gush of feeling. But this is not true religion.
Young converts should be carefully taught that when duty is before them they are
to do it. However dull their feelings may be, if duty calls, DO IT.
Do not wait for feeling, but DO IT. Most likely the very emotions for which you would
wait will be called into exercise when you begin to do your duty. If the duty be
prayer, for instance, and you have not the feelings you would wish, do not wait for
emotions before you pray, but pray, and "open thy mouth wide" (Psalm 81:10);
and in doing it, you are most likely to have the emotions for which you were inclined
to wait, and which constitute the conscious happiness of religion.
- 2. Young converts should be taught that they have renounced
the ownership of all their possessions, and of themselves, and that if they have
not done this they are not Christians. They should not be left to think that anything
is their own; their time, property, influence, faculties, body or soul. "Ye
are not your own" (1 Corinthians 6:19); they belong to God; and when they submitted
to God they made a free surrender of all to Him, to be ruled and disposed of at His
pleasure. They have no right to spend one hour as if their time were their own; no
right to go anywhere, or do anything, for themselves, but should hold all at the
disposal of God, and employ all for the glory of God. If they do not, they ought
not to call themselves Christians, for the very idea of being a Christian is to renounce
self and become entirely consecrated to God. A man has no more right to withhold
anything from God than he has to rob or steal. It is robbery in the highest sense
of the term. It is an infinitely higher crime than it would be for a clerk in a store
to go and take the money of his employer, and spend it on his own lusts and pleasures.
I mean, that for a man to withhold from God is a higher crime against HIM than a
man can commit against his fellow-man, inasmuch as God is the Owner of all things
in an infinitely higher sense than man can be the owner of anything. If God calls
on them to employ anything they have, their money, or their time, or to give their
children, or to dedicate themselves in advancing His Kingdom, and they refuse, because
they want to use them in their own way, or prefer to do something else, it is vastly
more blamable than for a clerk or an agent to go and embezzle the money that is entrusted
him by his employer.
- God is, in an infinitely higher sense, the Owner of all,
than any employer can be said to be the owner of what he has. And the Church of Christ
never will take high ground, never will be disentangled from the world, never will
be able to go forward without these continual declensions and backslidings, until
Christians, and the Churches generally, take the ground, and hold to it, that it
is just as much a matter of discipline for a Church member practically to deny his
stewardship as to deny the Deity of Christ; and that covetousness, fairly proved,
shall just as soon exclude a man from the Communion as adultery.
The Church is mighty orthodox in notions, but very heretical in practice; but the
time must come when the Church will be just as vigilant in guarding orthodoxy in
practice as orthodoxy in doctrine, and just as prompt to turn out heretics in practice,
as heretics that corrupt the doctrines of the Gospel. In fact, it is vastly more
important. The only design of doctrine is to produce practice, and it does not seem
to be understood by the Church that true faith "works by love and purifies the
heart," that heresy in practice is proof conclusive of heresy in sentiment.
The Church is very sticklish for correct doctrine, but very careless about correct
living. This is preposterous. Has it come to this, that the Church of Jesus Christ
is to be satisfied with correct notions on some abstract points, and never reduce
her orthodoxy to practice? Let it be so no longer.
It is high time these matters were set right. And the only way to set them right
is to begin with those who are just entering upon religion. Young converts must be
told that they are just as worthy of condemnation (and that the Church can hold no
fellowship with them), if they show a covetous spirit, and turn a deaf ear when the
whole world is calling for help, as if they were living in adultery, or in the daily
worship of idols.
- 3. Teach them how to cultivate a tender conscience. I am
often amazed to find how little conscience there is even among those whom we hope
are Christians. And here we see the reason of it. Their consciences were never cultivated.
They never were taught how to cultivate a tender conscience.
- They have not even a natural conscience. They have dealt
so rudely with their conscience, and resisted it so often, that it has got blunted,
and does not act. The usefulness of a Christian greatly depends on his knowing how
to cultivate his conscience. Young converts should be taught to keep their conscience
just as tender as the apple of the eye. They should watch their conduct and their
motives, and let their motives be so pure and their conduct so disinterested as not
to offend, or injure, or stifle conscience.
They should maintain such a habit of listening to conscience, that it will always
be ready to give forth a stern verdict on all occasions.
It is astonishing to see how much the conscience may be cultivated by a proper course.
If rightly attended to, it may be made so pure, and so powerful, that it will always
respond exactly to the Word of God. Present any duty to such a Christian, or any
self-denial, or suffering, and only show him the Word of God, and he will do it without
a word of objection.
In a few months, if properly taught, young converts may have a conscience so delicately
poised that the weight of a feather will turn them.
Only bring a "Thus saith the Lord," and they will be always ready to do
that, be it what it may.
- 4. Young converts should be taught to pray without ceasing.
That is, they should always keep a watch over their minds, and be all the time in
a prayerful spirit. They should be taught to pray always, whatever may take place.
For the want of right instruction on this point many young converts suffer loss and
get far away from God. For instance, sometimes it happens that a young convert will
fall into some sin, and then he feels as if he could not pray, and instead of overcoming
this he feels so distressed that he waits for the keen edge of his distress to pass
away. Instead of going right to Jesus Christ in the midst of his agony, and confessing
his sin out of the fullness of his heart, and getting a renewed pardon, and peace
restored, he waits till all the keenness of his feelings has subsided; and then his
repentance, if he does repent, is cold and half-hearted. Let me tell you, beloved,
never to do this; but when your conscience presses you, go then to Christ, confess
your sin fully, and pour out your heart to God.
- Sometimes people will neglect to pray because they are
in the dark, and feel no desire to pray. But that is the very time when they need
That is the very reason why they ought to pray. You should go right to God and confess
your coldness and darkness of mind. Tell Him just how you feel. Tell Him: "O
Lord, I have no desire to pray, but I know I ought to pray." And immediately
the Spirit may come and lead your heart out in prayer, and all the dark clouds will
- 5. Young converts should be faithfully warned against adopting
a false standard in religion. They should not be left to fall in behind old professors,
or keep such before their minds as a standard of holy living.
- They should always look at Christ as their model. Not aim
at being as good Christians as the old Church members, and not think they are doing
pretty well because they are as much awake as the old members of the Church; but
they should aim at being holy. The Church has been greatly injured for the want of
attention to this matter. Young converts have come forward, and their hearts were
warm, and their zeal ardent enough to aim at a high standard, but they were not directed
properly, and so they soon settled down into the notion that what was good enough
for others was good enough for them, and therefore they ceased to aim higher than
those who were before them. And in this way the Church, instead of rising, with every
revival, higher and higher in holiness, is kept nearly stationary.
- 6. Young converts should be taught to do all their duty.
They should never make a compromise with duty, nor think of saying: "I will
do this as an offset for neglecting that." They should never rest satisfied
till they have done their duties of every kind, in relation to their families, the
Church, Sabbath Schools, the impenitent around them, the disposal of their property,
and the conversion of the world. Let them do their duty, as they feel it when their
hearts are warm; and never attempt to pick and choose among the commandments of God.
- 7. They should be made to feel that they have no separate
interest. It is time Christians were made actually to feel that they have no interest
whatever, separate from the interests of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.
- They should understand that they are incorporated into
the family of Jesus Christ, as members in full, so that their whole interest is identified
with His. They are embarked with Him, they have gone on board, and taken their all;
and henceforth they have nothing to do, nor anything to say, except as it is connected
with this interest, and bearing on the cause and Kingdom of Christ.
- 8. They should be taught to maintain singleness of motive.
Young converts should not begin to have a double mind on any subject, nor let selfish
motives mingle with good motives in anything they do. But this can never be so long
as Christians are allowed to hold a separate interest of their own, distinct from
the interest of Jesus Christ. If they feel that they have a separate interest, it
is impossible to keep them from regarding it, and having an eye to it as well as
to Christ's interest, in many things that they do. It is only by becoming entirely
consecrated to God, and giving up all to His service, that they can ever keep their
eye single and their motives pure.
- 9. They should set out with a determination to aim at being
useful in the highest degree possible. They should not rest satisfied merely with
being useful, or remaining in a situation where they can do some good. But if they
see an opportunity where they can do more good, they must embrace it, whatever may
be the sacrifice to themselves. No matter what it may cost them; no matter what danger
or what suffering may be involved; no matter what change in their outward circumstances,
or habits, or employments, it may lead to; if they are satisfied that they will on
the whole do more good, they should not even hesitate. How else can they be like
God? How can they think to bear the image of Jesus Christ, if they are not prepared
to do all the good that is in their power? When a man is converted he comes into
a new world, and should consider himself as a new man. If he finds he can do most
good by remaining in his old employment, let it be so; but if he can do more good
in some other way, he is bound to change. It is for the want of attention to this
subject, at the outset, that Christians have got such low ideas on the subject of
duty; and that is the reason why there are so many useless members in our Churches.
- 10. They must be taught, not to aim at comfort but usefulness,
- There are a great many spiritual epicures in the Churches,
who are all the while seeking to be happy in religion, white they are taking very
little pains to be useful. They had much rather spend their time in singing joyful
hymns, and pouring out their happy feelings in a gushing tide of exultation and triumph,
than in an agonizing prayer for sinners, or in going about pulling dying men out
of the fire. They seem to feel as if they were born to enjoy themselves. But I do
not think such Christians show such fruits as to make their example one to be imitated.
Such was not the temper of the apostles; they travailed for souls; they labored in
weariness and painfulness, and were "in deaths oft," to save sinners (2
Corinthians 11:23). Ordinarily, Christians are not qualified to drink deep at the
fountain of joy. In ordinary cases, a deep agony of prayer for souls is more profitable
than high flights of joy. Let young converts be taught plainly not to calculate upon
a life of joy and triumph. They may be called to go through fiery trials; Satan may
sift them like wheat. But they must go forward, not calculating so much to be happy
as to be useful; not talking about comfort but duty; not desiring flights of joy
and triumph, but hungering and thirsting after righteousness; not studying how to
create new flights of rapture, but how to know the will of God and do it. They will
be happy enough in heaven. There they may sing the song of Moses and the Lamb. And
they will in fact enjoy a more solid and rational happiness here, by thinking nothing
about it, but patiently devoting themselves to do the will of God.
- 11. They should be taught to have moral courage, and not
to be afraid of going forward in duty. The Bible insists fully on Christian boldness
and courage in action, as a duty. I do not mean that they should indulge in bravado,
like Peter, telling what they will do, and boasting of their courage.
- The boaster is generally a coward at heart. But I mean
moral courage - a humble and fixed decision of purpose, that will go forward in any
duty, unangered and unawed, with the meekness and firmness of the Son of God.
- 12. They should be so instructed as to be sound in the
faith. That is, they should be early made, as far as possible, complete and correct
in regard to their doctrinal belief. As soon as may be, without turning their minds
off from their practical duties in promoting the glory of God and the salvation of
men, they should be taught fully and plainly all the leading doctrines of the Bible.
Doctrinal knowledge is indispensable to growth in grace.
- Knowledge is the food of the mind. "That the soul
be without knowledge," says the wise man, "it is not good" (Proverbs
19:2). The mind cannot grow without knowledge any more than the body without food.
And therefore it is important that young converts should be thoroughly indoctrinated,
and made to understand the Bible. By "indoctrinating," I do not mean teaching
them the catechism, but teaching them to draw knowledge from the fountain-head. Create
in their minds such an appetite for knowledge that they will eat the Bible up - will
devour it - will love it, and love it all. "All Scripture... is profitable,...
that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works"
(2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
- 13. Great pains should be taken to guard young converts
against censoriousness. Young converts, when they first come out on the Lord's side,
and are all warm and zealous, sometimes find old professors so cold and dead, that
they are strongly tempted to be censorious. This should be corrected immediately,
otherwise the habit will poison their minds and destroy their religion.
- 14. They must learn to say "NO." This is a very
difficult lesson to many.
- See that young woman. Formerly she loved the gay circle,
and took delight in its pleasures; she joined the Church, and then found herself
aloof from all her old associates. They do not ask her now to their balls and parties,
because they know she will not join them; and perhaps they keep entirely away for
a time, for fear she should converse with them about their souls.
But, by and by, they grow a little bold, and some of them venture to ask her just
to take a ride with a few friends. She does not like to say "No."
They are her old friends, only a few of them are going, and surely a ride is so innocent
a recreation that she may accept the invitation. But, now she has begun to comply,
the ice is broken, and they have her again as one of them. It goes on, and she begins
to attend their social visits - "only a few friends, you know," - till,
by and by, the carpet is taken up for a dance; and the next thing, perhaps, she has
gone for a sleigh ride on Saturday night, coming home after midnight, and then sleeping
all the forenoon on the Sabbath to make up for it - perhaps Communion Sabbath, too.
All for the want of learning to say "No."
See that young man. For a time he was always in his place in the Sabbath School and
in the prayer meeting. But, by and by, his old friends begin to treat him with attention
again, and they draw him along, step by step.
He reasons that if he refuses to go with them in things that are innocent, he will
lose his influence with them. And so he goes on, till prayer meeting, Bible class,
and even private Bible reading and prayer are neglected. Ah, young man, stop there!
If you do not wish to expose the cause of Christ to scorn and contempt, learn to
resist the beginnings of temptation.
- 15. They should be taught, what is, and what is not, Christian
- It is necessary, both for their comfort and their usefulness,
that they should understand this, so that they need not run themselves into needless
distress for the want of that which is by no means essential to Christian experience,
nor flatter themselves that they have more religion than they really exercise.
- 16. Teach them not to count anything a sacrifice which
they do for God.
- Some persons are always telling about the sacrifices they
make in religion.
I have no confidence in such piety. Why keep telling about their sacrifices, as if
everything they do for God is a sacrifice? If they loved God they would not talk
so. If they considered their own interests and the interest of Christ identical,
they would not talk of making sacrifices for Christ: it would be like talking of
making sacrifices for themselves.
- 17. It is of great importance that young converts should
be taught to be strictly honest. I mean more by this than perhaps you would think.
It is a great thing to be strictly honest. It is being very different from the world
at large, and different even from the great body of professors of religion. The holiest
man I ever knew, and one who had been many years a Christian and a minister, once
made the remark to me: "Brother, it is a great thing to be strictly honest and
straight in everything, so that God's pure eye can see that the mind is perfectly
- It is of great importance that young converts should understand
what it is to be strictly honest in everything, so that they can maintain "a
conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men" (Acts 24:16). Alas, alas,
how little conscience there is! How little of that real honesty, that pure, simple
uprightness, which ought to mark the life of a child of God. How little do many regard
even an express promise. I heard the other day that of a number of individuals who
subscribed to the Anti-Slavery Society, not half will pay their subscriptions. The
plea is, that they signed when they were under excitement, and do not choose to pay.
Just as if their being excited released them from the obligation to keep their promise.
Why, it is just as dishonest as it would be to refuse payment of a note of hand.
They promised, signed their names, and now will not pay? And they call that honesty!
I have heard that a number of men signed for hundreds of dollars for the Oneida Institute,
promising to pay the money when called on; and when they were called on, they refused
to pay the money. And the reason is that all in the Institute have turned Abolitionists!
Very well. Suppose they have. Does that alter your promise? Did you sign on the condition
that if abolitionism were introduced you should be clear? If you did, then you are
clear. But if you gave your promise without any condition, it is just as dishonest
to refuse as if you had given a note of hand. And yet some of you might be almost
angry if anybody were to charge you with refusing to pay money that you had promised.
Look at this seriously. Who does God say will go to heaven? Read the fifteenth psalm,
and see. "He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not." What do
you think of that? If a man has promised anything, except it be to commit sin, let
him keep his promise, if he means to be honest and to go to heaven. But these people
will make promises, and because they cannot be prosecuted, will break them as if
they were nothing. They would not let a cheque of theirs be returned from the bank.
Why? Because they would lose credit, and would be sued. But the Oneida Institute,
and the Anti-Slavery Society, and other societies, will not sue for the money, and
therefore these people take offense at something, and refuse to pay. Is this honest?
Will such honesty as this get them admitted to heaven? What?
Break your promises, and go up and carry a lie in your hand before God?
If you refuse or neglect to fulfill your promises, and go up and carry a lie in your
hand before God? If you refuse or neglect to fulfill your promise you are a liar;
and if you persist in this, you shall have your part in the lake that burns with
fire and brimstone. I would not for ten thousand worlds die with money in my hands
that I had unrighteously withheld from any object to which I had promised it. Such
money will "eat as doth a canker" (2 Timothy 2:17).
If you are not able to pay the money, that is a good excuse. But then, say so. But
if you refuse to pay what you have promised, because you have altered your mind,
rely upon it, you are guilty. You cannot pray till you pay that money. Will you pray:
"O Lord, I promised to give that money, but I altered my mind, and broke my
promise; but still, O Lord, I pray Thee to bless me, and forgive my sin, although
I keep my money, and make me happy in Thy love"? Will such prayers be heard?
INSTRUCTIONS TO CONVERTS- (continued)
Feed My lambs. - John 21.15.
I Propose to continue the subject by:
I. Noticing several other points upon which young converts ought to be instructed.
II. Showing the manner in which young converts should be treated by the Church.
III. Mentioning some of the evils which naturally result from defective instructions
given in that stage of Christian experience.
I. FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS TO YOUNG CONVERTS.
- 1. It is of great importance that young converts should
early be made to understand what religion consists in. Perhaps you will be surprised
at my mentioning this. "What! Are they converts, and do not know what religion
consists in?" I answer: "They would know, if they had had no instruction
but such as was drawn from the Bible." But multitudes of people have imbibed
such notions about religion, that not only young converts, but a great part of the
Church members do not know what religion consists in, so as to have a clear and distinct
idea of it. There are many ministers who do not. I do not mean to say that they have
no religion, for it may be charitably believed they have; but what I mean is, that
they cannot give a correct statement of what does, and what does not, constitute
- It is important that young converts should be taught: Negatively,
what religion does not consist in.
(a) Not in doctrinal knowledge. Knowledge is essential to religion, but it
is not religion. The devil has doctrinal knowledge, but he has no religion. A man
may have doctrinal knowledge to any extent, without a particle of religion. Yet some
people have very strange ideas on this subject, as though an increase of doctrinal
knowledge indicated an increase of piety. In a certain instance, where some young
converts had made rapid progress in doctrinal knowledge, a person who saw it remarked:
"How these young converts grow in grace!" Here he confounded improvement
in knowledge with improvement in piety. The truth was, that he had no means of judging
of their growth in grace, and it was no evidence of it because they were making progress
in doctrinal knowledge.
(b) They should be taught that religion is not a substance. It is not any
root, or sprout, or seed, or anything else, in the mind, as a part of the mind itself.
Persons often speak of religion as if it were something which is covered up in the
mind, just as a spark of fire may be covered up in the ashes, which does not show
itself, and which produces no effects, but yet lives, and is ready to act as soon
as it is uncovered. And in like manner they think they may have religion, as something
remaining in them, although they do not manifest it by obeying God. But they should
be taught that this is not of the nature of religion. It is not part of the mind
itself, nor of the body; nor is it a root, or seed, or spark, that can exist, and
yet be hid and produce no effects.
(c) Teach them that religion does not consist in raptures, or ecstasies, or
high flights of feeling. There may be a great deal of these where there is religion.
But it ought to be understood that they are all involuntary emotions, and may exist
in full power where there is no religion. They may be the mere workings of the imagination,
without any truly religious affection at all. Persons may have them to such a degree
as actually to swoon away with ecstasy, even on the subject of religion, without
having any religion. I have known a person almost carried away with rapture, by a
mere view of the natural attributes of God, His power and wisdom, as displayed in
the starry heavens, and yet the person had no religion.
Religion is obedience to God, the voluntary submission of the soul to His will.
(d) Neither does religion consist in going to services, or reading the Bible,
or praying, or any other of what are commonly called religious duties. The very phrase,
"religious duties," ought to be struck out of the vocabulary of young converts.
They should be made to know that these acts are not religion. Many become very strict
in performing certain things, which they call "religious duties," and suppose
that is being religious; while they are careless about the ordinary duties of life,
which, in fact, constitute A LIFE OF PIETY. Prayer may be an expression and an act
of piety, or it may not be. Going to church or to a prayer meeting, may be considered
either as a means, an act, or an expression of pious sentiment; but the performance
of these does not constitute a man a Christian; and there may be great strictness
and zeal in these, without a particle of religion. If young converts are not taught
to discriminate, they may be led to think there is something peculiar in what are
called religious duties, and to imagine they have a great deal of religion because
they abound in certain actions that are commonly called "religious duties,"
although they may at the same time be very deficient in honesty, or faithfulness,
or punctuality, or temperance, or any other of what they choose to call their common
duties. They may be very punctilious in some things, may "pay tithe of mint
and anise and cummin" (Matthew 23:23), and yet neglect "the weightier matters
of the law"; justice and the love of God.
(e) Religion does not consist in desires to do good actions. Desires that
do not result in choice and action are not virtuous. Nor are such desires necessarily
vicious. They may arise involuntarily in the mind, in view of certain objects; but
while they produce no voluntary act, they are no more virtuous or vicious than the
beating of the pulse, except in cases where we have indirectly willed them into existence,
by voluntarily putting ourselves under circumstances calculated to excite them. The
wickedest man on earth may have strong desires after holiness. Did you ever think
of that? He may see clearly that holiness is the only and indispensable means of
happiness. And the moment he apprehends holiness as a means of happiness, he naturally
desires it. It is to be feared that multitudes are deceiving themselves with the
supposition that a desire for holiness, as a means of happiness, is religion. Many,
doubtless, give themselves great credit for desires that never result in choosing
right. They feel desires to do their duty, but do not choose to do it, because, upon
the whole, they have still stronger desires not to do it. In such desires there is
no virtue. An action or desire, to be virtuous in the sight of God, must be an act
of the will. People often talk most absurdly on this subject, as though their desires
had anything good, while they remain mere desires. "I think I desire to do so-and-so."
But do you do it? "Oh, no, but I often feel a desire to do it." This is
Whatever desires a person may have, if they are not carried out into actual choice
and action, they are not virtuous. And no degree of desire is itself virtuous. If
this idea could be made prominent, and fully riveted in the minds of men, it would
probably annihilate the hopes of half the members of the Churches, who are living
on their good desires, while doing nothing for God.
(f) They should be made to understand that nothing which is selfish, is religion.
Whatever desires they may have, and whatever choices and actions they may put forth,
if, after all, the reason of them is selfish, there is no religion in them. A man
may just as much commit sin in praying, or reading the Bible, or going to a religious
service, as in anything else, if his motive is selfish. Suppose a man prays simply
with a view to promote his own happiness. Is that religion? What is it but attempting
to make God his Almighty Servant? It is nothing else but to attempt a great speculation,
and to put the universe, God and all, under contribution to make him happy. It is
the sublime degree of wickedness. It is so far from being piety that it is in fact
(g) Nothing is acceptable to God, as religion, unless it is performed heartily,
to please God. No outward action has anything good, or anything that God approves,
unless it is performed from right motives and from the heart. Young converts should
be taught fully and positively that all religion consists in obeying God from the
heart. All religion consists in voluntary action. All that is holy, all that is lovely,
in the sight of God, all that is properly called religion, consists in voluntary
action, in voluntarily obeying the will of God from the heart.
- 2. Young converts should be taught that the duty of self-denial
is one of the leading features of the Gospel. They should understand that they are
not pious at all, any further than they are willing to take up their cross daily,
and deny themselves for Christ. There is but little self-denial in the Church, and
the reason is that the duty is so much lost sight of, in giving instruction to young
converts. How seldom are they told that self-denial is the leading feature in Christianity!
In pleading for benevolent objects, how often will you find that ministers and agents
do not even ask Christians to deny themselves for the sake of promoting the object!
They only ask them to give what they can spare as well as not; in other words, to
offer unto the Lord that which costs them nothing. What an abomination! They only
ask for the surplus, for what is not wanted, for what can just as well be given as
- There is no religion in this kind of giving. A man might
give a very large sum to a benevolent object, and there would be no religion in his
doing so, if he could give the money as well as not; nor would there be any self-denial
in it. Jesus Christ exercised self-denial to save sinners. So has God the Father
exercised self-denial in giving His Son to die for us, and in sparing us, and in
bearing with our perverseness. The Holy Ghost exercises self-denial, in condescending
to strive with such unholy beings to bring them to God. The angels exercise self-denial,
in watching over this world. The apostles planted the Christian religion among the
nations by the exercise of self-denial. And are we to think of being religious without
any self-denial? Are we to call ourselves Christians, the followers of Christ, the
"temples of the Holy Ghost" (1 Corinthians 6:19), and to claim fellowship
with the apostles, when we have never deprived ourselves of anything that would promote
our personal enjoyment for the sake of promoting Christ's kingdom? Young converts
should be made to see that unless they are willing to lay themselves out for God,
and ready to sacrifice life and everything else for Christ, they "have not the
Spirit of Christ, and are none of His" (Romans 8:9).
- 3. They must be taught what sanctification is. "What!"
you will say, "do not all who are Christians know what sanctification is?"
No, many do not.
- Multitudes would be as much at a loss to tell intelligibly
what sanctification is, as they would be to tell what religion is. If the question
were asked of every professor of religion in this city: "What is sanctification?"
I doubt if one in ten would give a right answer. They would blunder just as they
do when they undertake to tell what religion is, and speak of it as something dormant
in the soul, something that is put in, and lies there, something that may be practiced
or not, and still be in them.
So they speak of sanctification as if it were a sort of washing off of some defilement,
or a purging out of some physical impurity. Or they will speak of it as if the faculties
were steeped in sin, and sanctification is taking out the stains. This is the reason
why some people will pray for sanctification, and practice sin, evidently supposing
the sanctification is something that precedes obedience. They should be taught that
sanctification is not something that precedes obedience, some change in the nature
or the constitution of the soul. But sanctification is obedience, and as a progressive
thing consists in obeying God more and more perfectly.
- 4. Young converts should be taught so as to understand
what perseverance is. It is astonishing how people talk about perseverance. As if
the doctrine of perseverance is: "Once in grace, always in grace"; or,
"Once converted, sure to go to heaven." This is not the idea of perseverance.
The true idea is, that if a man is truly converted, he will CONTINUE to obey God;
and as a consequence, he will surely go to heaven. But if a person gets the idea
that because he is "converted," therefore he will assuredly go to heaven,
that man will almost assuredly go to hell.
- 5. Young converts should be taught to be religious in everything.
They should aim to be religious in every department of life, and in all that they
do. If they do not aim at this, they should understand that they have no religion
at all. If they do not intend and aim to keep all the commandments of God, what pretense
can they make to piety? "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend
in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10).
- He is justly subject to the whole penalty. If he disobeys
God habitually in one particular, he does not, in fact, obey Him in any particular.
Obedience to God consists in the state of the heart. It is being willing to obey
God; willing that God should rule in all things. But if a man habitually disobeys
God, in any one particular, he is in a state of mind that renders obedience in anything
else impossible. To say that in some things a man obeys God, out of respect to His
authority, and that in some other things he refuses obedience, is absurd. The fact
is, that obedience to God consists in an obedient state of heart, a preference of
God's authority and commandments to everything else. If, therefore, an individual
appears to obey in some things, and yet perseveringly and knowingly disobeys in any
one thing, he is deceived. He offends in one point, and this proves that he is guilty
of all; in other words, that he does not, from the heart, obey at all. A man may
pray half of his time and have no religion; if he does not keep the commandments
of God, his very prayer will be hateful to God. "He that turneth away his ear
from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination" (Proverbs 28:9).
Do you hear that? If a man refuses to obey God's law, if he refuses to comply with
any one duty, he cannot pray, he has no religion, his very devotions are hateful.
- 6. Young converts, by proper instructions, are easily brought
to be "temperate in all things" (1 Corinthians 9:25). Yet this is a subject
greatly neglected in regard to young converts, and almost lost sight of in the Churches.
There is a vast deal of intemperance in the Churches. I do not mean intemperate drinking,
in particular, but intemperance in eating and in living generally. There is, in fact,
but little conscience about it in the Churches, and, therefore, the progress of reform
in the matter is so slow.
- Nothing but an enlightened conscience can carry forward
a permanent reform. Ten years ago, most ministers used ardent spirit, and kept it
in their houses to treat their friends and their ministering brethren with. And the
great body of the members in the Churches did the same. Now, there are but few, of
either, who are not actual drunkards, that will do so. But still there are many that
indulge, without scruple, in the use of wine.
Chewing and smoking tobacco, too, are acts of intemperance. If they use these mere
stimulants when there is no necessity for them, what is that but intemperance? That
is not being "temperate in all things." Until Christians shall have a conscience
on this subject, and be made to feel that they have no right to be intemperate in
anything, they will make but little progress in religion. It is well known, or ought
to be, that tea and coffee have no nutrients in them. They are mere stimulants. They
go through the system without being digested. The milk and sugar you put in them
are nourishing; and so they would be, just as much so, if you mixed them with rum,
and made milk punch; but the tea and coffee afford no nourishment; and yet I dare
say, that a majority of the families in this city give more in a year for their tea
and coffee than they do to save the world from hell.
Probably this is true respecting entire Churches. Even agents of benevolent societies
will dare to go through the Churches soliciting funds, for the support of missionary
and other institutions, and yet use tea, coffee, and, in some cases, tobacco. Strange!
No doubt many are giving five times as much for mere intemperance as they give for
every effort to save the world.
If professing Christians could be made to realize how much they spend for what are
mere poisons, and nothing else, they would be amazed. Many persons will strenuously
maintain that they cannot get along without these stimulants, these poisons, and
they cannot give them up, no, not to redeem the world from eternal damnation. And
very often they will absolutely show anger, if argued with, just as soon as the argument
begins to pinch their consciences. Oh, how long shall the Church show her hypocritical
face at the missionary meeting, and pray God to save the world, while she is actually
throwing away five times as much for sheer intemperance, as she will give to save
the world! Some of you may think these are little things, and that it is quite beneath
the dignity of the pulpit to lecture against tea and coffee. But I tell you it is
a great mistake of yours if you think these are little things, when they make the
Church odious in the sight of God, by exposing her hypocrisy and lust. Here is an
individual who pretends he has given himself up to serve Jesus Christ, and yet he
refuses to deny himself any darling lust, and then he will go and pray: "O Lord,
save the world; O Lord, Thy Kingdom come!" I tell you it is hypocrisy. Shall
such prayers be heard? Unless men are willing to deny themselves, I would not give
a groat for the prayers of as many such professors as would cover the whole of the
These things must be taught to young converts. It must come to this point in the
Church, that men shall not be called Christians, unless they will cut off the right
hand, and pluck out the right eye, and deny themselves for Christ's sake. A little
thing? See it poison the spirit of prayer! See it debase and sensualize the soul!
Is that a trifle beneath the dignity of the pulpit, when these intemperate indulgences,
of one kind and another, cost the Church five times, if not fifty times, more than
all she gives for the salvation of the world?
An estimate has recently been made, showing that in the United States seven millions
of dollars' worth of coffee is consumed yearly; and who does not know, that a great
part of this is consumed by the Church. And yet grave ministers and members of Christian
Churches are not ashamed to be seen countenancing this enormous waste of money; while
at the same time the poor heathens are sending upon every wind of heaven their agonizing
wail for help. Heaven calls from above: "Go... preach the Gospel to every creature"
(Mark 16:15). Hell groans from beneath, and ten thousand voices cry out from heaven,
earth, and hell: "Do something to save the world!" Do it now Oh, NOW, or
millions more are in hell through your neglect. And oh, tell it not in Gath, the
Church, the ministry, will not deny even their lusts to save a world. Is this Christianity?
What business have you to use Christ's money for such a purpose? Are you a steward?
Who gave you this liberty? Look to it, lest it should be found at last, that you
have preferred self-gratification to obedience, and made a "God of your belly"
The time to teach these things with effect is, when the converts are young.
If converts are not properly taught then, if they get a wrong habit, and begin with
an easy, self-indulgent mode of living, it rarely happens that they become thoroughly
reformed. I have conversed with old professors on these subjects, and have been astonished
at their pertinacious obstinacy in indulging their lusts. And I am satisfied that
the Church never can rise out of this sloth until young converts are faithfully taught,
at the outset of their religious course, to be temperate in all things.
- 7. They should be taught to have just as much religion
in all their business as they have in prayer, or in going to a religious service.
They should be just as holy, just as watchful, aim just as singly at the glory of
God, be just as sincere and solemn in all their daily employments, as when they come
to the Throne of Grace. If they are not, their Sabbath performances will be an abomination.
- 8. They should be taught that it is necessary for them
to be just as holy as they think ministers ought to be. There has for a long time
been an idea that ministers are bound to be holy and practice self-denial. And so
they are. But it is strange they should suppose that ministers are bound to be any
more holy than other people. They would be shocked to see a minister showing levity,
or running after the fashions, or getting out of temper, or living in a fine house,
or riding in a coach. Oh, that is dreadful!
- It does not look well in a minister. Indeed! For a minister's
wife to wear such a fine bonnet, or such a silk shawl - oh no, it will never do!
But they think nothing of these things in a layman, or a layman's wife! That is no
offense at all! I am not saying that these things do look well in a minister; I know
they do not. But they look, in God's eyes, just as well in a minister as they do
in a layman. You have no more right to indulge in vanity, and folly, and pride, than
a minister. Can you go to heaven without being sanctified? Can you be holy without
living for God, and doing all that you do to His glory? I have heard professedly
good men speak against ministers having large salaries, and living in an expensive
style, when they themselves were actually spending a great deal more money for the
support of their families than any minister. What would be thought of a minister
living in the style in which many professors of religion and elders of Churches are
living in this city? Why, everybody would say they were hypocrites. But it is just
as much an evidence of hypocrisy in a layman to spend God's money to gratify his
lusts, or to please the world, or his family, as it is for a minister to do so.
It is distressing to hear some of our foremost laymen talk of its being dishonorable
to religion, to give ministers a large salary, and let them live in an expensive
style, when it is a fact that their own expenses are, for the number of their families,
and the company they have to receive, far above those of almost any minister. All
this arises out of fundamentally wrong notions imbibed while they were young converts.
Young converts have been taught to expect that ministers will have all the religion
- especially all the self-denial. So long as this continues there can be no hope
that the Church will ever do much for the glory of God, or for the conversion of
the world. There is nothing of all this in the Bible. Where has God said: "You
ministers, love God with all your heart, and soul, and mind, and strength"?
Or, "You ministers, do all to the glory of God"? No, these things are said
to all alike, and he who attempts to excuse himself from any duty or self-denial,
from any watchfulness or sobriety, by putting it off upon ministers, or who ventures
to adopt a lower scale of holy living for himself than he thinks is proper for a
minister, is in great danger of proving himself a hypocrite, and paying in hell the
forfeit of his foolishness.
Much depends on the instructions given to young converts. If they once get into the
habit of supposing that they may indulge in things which they would condemn in a
minister, it is extremely unlikely that they will ever get out of it.
- 9. They should aim at being perfect. Every young convert
should be taught that if it is not his purpose to live without sin, he has not yet
begun to be religious. What is religion but a supreme love to God and a supreme purpose
of heart or disposition to obey God? If there is not this, there is no religion at
all. It is one thing to profess to be perfect, and another thing to profess and feel
you ought to be perfect. It is one thing to say that men ought to be perfect, and
can be, if they are so disposed, and another thing to say that they are perfect.
If any are prepared to say that they are perfect, all I have to say is: "Let
them prove it." If they are so I hope they will show it by their actions, otherwise
we can never believe they are perfect.
- But it is the duty of all to be perfect, and to purpose
entire, perpetual, and universal obedience to God. It should be their constant purpose
to live wholly to God, and obey all His commandments. They should live so that if
they should sin it would be an inconsistency, an exception, an individual case, in
which they act contrary to the fixed and general purpose and tenor of their lives.
They ought not to sin at all; they are bound to be as holy as God is; and young converts
should be taught to set out in the right course, or they will never be right.
- 10. They should be taught to exhibit their light. If the
young convert does not exhibit his light, and hold it up to the world, it will go
out. If he does not bestir himself, and go forth and try to enlighten those around
him, his light will go out, and his own soul will soon be in darkness. Sometimes
young converts seem disposed to sit still and not do anything in public till they
get a great deal of light, or a great deal of religion. But this is not the way.
Let the convert use what he has; let him hold up his little twinkling rushlight,
boldly and honestly, and then God will make it like a blazing torch. But God will
not take the trouble to keep a light burning that is hid.
- Why should He? Where is the use?
This is the reason why so many people have so little enjoyment in religion. They
do not exert themselves to honor God. They keep what little they do enjoy so entirely
to themselves, that there is no good reason why God should bestow blessings and benefits
- 11. They should be taught how to win souls to Christ. Young
converts should be taught particularly what to do to accomplish this, and how to
do it; and then taught to live for this end as the great leading object of life.
- How strange has been the course sometimes pursued! These
persons have been converted, and - there they are. They get into the Church, and
then they are left to go along just as they did before; they do nothing, and are
taught to do nothing, for Christ; and the only change is that they go more regularly
to church on the Sabbath, and let the minister feed them, as it is called. But suppose
he does feed them, they do not grow strong, for they cannot digest it, because they
take no exercise. They become spiritual dyspeptics. Now, the great object for which
Christians are converted and left in this world is, to pull sinners out of the fire.
If they do not effect this, they had better be dead. And young converts should be
taught this as soon as they are born into the Kingdom. The first thing they do should
be to go to work for this end - to save sinners.
II. HOW THE CHURCH SHOULD TREAT YOUNG CONVERTS.
- 1. Old professors ought to be able to give young converts
a great deal of instruction, and they ought to give it. The truth is, however, that
the great body of professors in the Churches do not know how to give good instruction
to young converts; and, if they attempt to do so, they give only that which is false.
The Church ought to be able to teach her children; and when she receives them she
ought to be as busy in training them to act, as mothers are in teaching their little
children such things as they will need to know and do hereafter. But this is far
enough from being the case generally. And we can never expect to see young converts
habitually taking right hold of duty, and going straight forward without declension
and backsliding, until the time comes when all young converts are intelligently trained
by the Church.
- 2. Young converts should not be kept back behind the rest
of the Church.
- How often is it found that the old professors will keep
the young converts back behind the rest of the Church, and prevent them from taking
any active part in religion, for fear they should become spiritually proud.
Young converts in such Churches are rarely or never called on to take a part in meetings,
or set to any active duty, or the like, for fear they should become lifted up with
spiritual pride. Thus the Church becomes the modest keeper of their humility, and
teaches them to file in behind the old, stiff, dry, cold members and elders, for
fear that if they should be allowed to do anything for Christ, it will make them
proud. Whereas, the very way to make young converts humble and keep them so, is to
put them to their work and keep them there. That is the way to keep God with them,
and as long as God is with them, He will take care of their humility. Keep them constantly
engaged in religion, and then the Spirit of God will dwell in them, and so they will
be kept humble by the most effectual process. But if young converts are left to fall
in behind the old professors, where they can never do anything, they will never know
what spirit they are of, and this is the very way to run them into the danger of
falling into the worst species of spiritual pride.
- 3. They should be watched over by the Church, and warned
of their dangers, just as a tender mother watches over her young children. Young
converts do not know at all the dangers by which they are surrounded.
- The devices of the devil, the temptations of the world,
the power of their own passions and habits, and the thousand forms of danger, they
do not know; and if not properly watched and warned, they will run right into such
dangers. The Church should watch over and care for her young children - just as mothers
watch their little children in this great city, lest the carts run over them, or
they stray away; or as they watch over them while growing up, for fear they may be
drawn into the whirlpools of iniquity. The Church should watch over all the interests
of her young members, know where they are, and what are their habits, temptations,
dangers, privileges - the state of religion in their hearts, and their spirit of
prayer. Look at that anxious mother, when she sees paleness gather round the brow
of her little child. "What is the matter with you, my child? Have you eaten
something improper? Have you taken cold? What ails you?"
Oh, how different it is with the children of the Church, the lambs that the Savior
has committed to the care of His Church! Alas! instead of restraining her children,
and taking care of them, the Church lets them go anywhere, and look out for themselves.
What should we say of a mother who should knowingly let her children totter along
to the edge of a precipice? Should we not say she was horribly guilty for doing so,
and that if the child should fall and be killed, its blood would rest on the mother's
head? What, then, is the guilt of the Church, in knowingly neglecting her young converts?
I have known Churches where young converts were totally neglected, and regarded with
suspicion and jealousy; nobody went near them to strengthen or encourage or counsel
them; nothing was done to lead them to usefulness, to teach them what to do or how
to do it, or to open to them a field of labor. And then - what then?
Why, when they find that young converts cannot stand everything, when they find them
growing cold and backward under such treatment, they just turn round and abuse them,
for not holding out!
- 4. Be tender in reproving them. When Christians find it
necessary to reprove young converts, they should be exceedingly careful in their
manner of doing it. Young converts should be faithfully watched over by the elder
members of the Church, and when they begin to lose ground, or to turn aside, they
should be promptly admonished, and, if necessary, reproved.
- But to do it in a wrong manner is worse than not to do
it at all. It is sometimes done in a manner which is abrupt, harsh, and apparently
censorious, more like scolding than like brotherly admonition. Such a manner, instead
of inspiring confidence, or leading to reformation, is just calculated to harden
the heart of the young convert, and confirm him in his wrong courses, while, at the
same time, it closes his mind against the influence of such censorious guardians.
The heart of a young convert is tender, and easily grieved, and sometimes a single
unkind look will set him into such a state of mind as will fasten his errors upon
him, and make him grow worse and worse.
You who are parents know how important it is when you reprove your children, that
they should see that you do it from the best of motives, for their benefit, because
you wish them to be good, and not because you are angry. Otherwise they will soon
come to regard you as a tyrant, rather than a friend. Just so with young converts.
Kindness and tenderness, even in reproof, will win their confidence, and attach them
to you, and give an influence to your brotherly instructions and counsels, so that
you can mold them into finished Christians. Instead of this, if you are severe and
critical in your manner, that is the way to make them think you wish to Lord it over
them. Many persons, under pretense of being faithful, as they call it, often hurt
young converts by such a severe and overbearing manner, as to drive them away, or
perhaps crush them into despondency and apathy. Young converts have but little experience,
and are easily thrown down. They are just like a little child when it first begins
to walk. You see it tottering along, and it stumbles over a straw. You see the mother
take everything out of the way, when her little one is going to try to walk. Just
so with young converts. The Church ought to take up every stumbling block, and treat
converts in such a way as to make them see that if they are reproved, Christ is in
it. Then they will receive it as it is meant, and it will do them good.
- 5. Kindly point out things that are fault in the young
convert, which he does not see. He is but a child, and knows so little about religion,
so that there will be many things that he needs to learn, and a great many that he
ought to mend. Whatever there is that is wrong in spirit, unlovely in his deportment,
or uncultivated in manner, that will impede his usefulness or impair his influence
as a Christian, ought to be kindly pointed out and corrected. To do this in the right
way, however, requires great wisdom.
- Christians ought to make it a subject of much prayer and
reflection, that they may do it in such a way as not to do more hurt than good. If
you rebuke him merely for the things that he did not see, or did not know to be improper,
it will grieve and disgust him. Such instruction should be carefully timed. Often,
it is well to take the opportunity after you have been praying together, or after
a kind conversation on religious subjects which has been calculated to make him feel
that you love him, seek his good, and earnestly desire to promote his sanctification,
his usefulness, and his happiness. Then, a mere hint will often do the work. Just
suggest that "Such a thing in your prayer," or "your conduct in so-and-so,
did not strike me pleasantly; had you not better think of it, and perhaps you will
judge it better to avoid a recurrence of it?" Do it rightly, and you will help
him and do him good. Do it in the wrong way, and you will do ten times more hurt
than good. Often, young converts will err through ignorance; their judgment is unripe,
and they need time to think and make up an enlightened judgment on some point that
at first appears to them doubtful.
In such cases the older members should treat them with great kindness and forbearance;
should kindly instruct them, and not denounce them at once for not seeing, at first,
what perhaps they themselves did not understand until years after they were converted.
- 6. Do not speak of the faults of young converts behind
their backs. This is too common among old professors; and, by and by, the converts
hear of it; and what an influence it must exercise to destroy the confidence of young
converts in their elder brethren, to grieve their hearts and discourage them, and
perhaps to drive them away from the good influence of the Church.
III. SOME OF THE EVILS OF DEFECTIVE INSTRUCTION.
- 1. If not fully instructed, they will never be fully grounded
in right principles. If they have right fundamental principles, this will lead them
to adopt a right course of conduct in all particular cases. In forming a Christian
character a great deal depends on establishing those fundamental principles which
are correct on all subjects. If you look at the Bible, you will see there that God
teaches right principles which we can carry out, in detail, in right conduct. If
the education of young converts is defective, either in kind or degree, you will
see the result in their character all their lives. This is the philosophical result
- just what might be expected, and just what will always follow. It could be shown
that almost all the practical errors that have prevailed in the Church are the natural
results of certain false dogmas which have been taught to young converts, and which
they have been made to swallow, as the truth of God, at a time when they were so
ignorant as not to know any better.
- 2. If the instruction given to young converts is not correct
and full, they will not grow in grace, but their religion will dwindle away and decay.
- Their course, instead of being like the path of the just,
growing brighter and brighter unto the perfect day (Proverbs 4:18), will grow dimmer
and dimmer, and finally, perhaps, go out in darkness. Wherever you see young converts
let their religion taper off till it comes to nothing, you may understand that it
is the natural result of defective instruction. The philosophical result of teaching
young converts the truth, and the whole truth, is that they grow stronger and stronger.
Truth is the food of the mind - it is what gives the mind strength. And where religious
character grows feeble, rely upon it, in nine cases out of ten it is owing to their
being neglected, or falsely instructed, when they were young converts.
- 3. They will be left in doubt, justly, as to whether they
are Christians. If their early instruction is false, or defective, there will be
so much inconsistency in their lives, and so little evidence of real piety, that
they themselves will finally doubt whether they have any. Probably they will live
and die in doubt. You cannot make a little evidence go a great way. If they do not
see clearly, they will not live consistently; if they do not live consistently, they
can have but little evidence; and if they have not evidence, they must doubt, or
live in presumption.
- 4. If young converts are rightly instructed and trained,
it will generally be seen that they will take the right side on all great subjects
that come before the Church. Subjects are continually coming up before the Churches,
on which they have to take ground, and on many matters there is often no little difficulty
in making the members take right ground. Take the subject of tracts, or missions,
or Sabbath Schools, or temperance, for instance - what cavils, and objections, and
resistance, and opposition, have been encountered from members of the Churches in
different places. Go through the Churches, and where you find young converts have
been well taught, you never find them making difficulty, or raising objections, or
putting forth cavils. I do not hesitate to charge it upon pastors and older members
of Churches, that there are so many who have to be dragged up to the right ground
on all such subjects. If they had been well grounded in the principles of the Gospel
at the outset, when they were first converted, they would have seen the application
of their principles to all these things.
- It is curious to see how ready young converts are to take
right ground on any subject that may be proposed. See what they are willing to do
for the education of ministers, for missions, moral reform, or for the slaves! If
the great body of young converts from the late revivals had been well grounded in
Gospel principles, you would have found in them, throughout the Church, but one heart
and one soul in regard to every question of duty.
Let their early education be right, and you have got a body of Christians that you
can depend on. If it had been general in the Church, how much more strength there
would have been in all her great movements for the salvation of the world!
- 5. If young converts are not well instructed, they will
- If their instruction is defective, they will probably live
in such a way as to disgrace religion. The truth, kept steadily before the mind of
a young convert, in proper proportions, has a natural tendency to make him grow "unto
a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians
4:13). If any one point is made too prominent in the instruction given, there will
probably be just that disproportion in his character. If he is fully instructed on
some points and not on others, you will find a corresponding defect in his life and
If the instruction of young converts is greatly defective, they will press on in
religion no farther than they are strongly propelled by the first emotions of their
conversion. As soon as that is spent they will come to a stand, and then they will
decline and backslide. And ever after you will find that they will go forward only
when aroused by some powerful excitement. These are your "periodical" Christians,
who are so apt to wake up in a time of revival, and bluster about as if they had
the zeal of angels, for a few days, and then die away as dead and cold as a northern
winter. Oh, how desirable, how infinitely important it is, that young converts should
be so taught that their religion will not depend on impulses and excitements, but
that they will go steadily onward in the Christian course, advancing from. strength
to strength, and giving forth a clear and safe and steady light all around.
- 1. The Church is verily guilty for her past neglect, in
regard to the instruction of young converts.
- Instead of bringing up their young converts to be working
Christians, the Churches have generally acted as if they did not know how to employ
young converts, or what use to make of them. They have acted like a mother who has
a great family of daughters, but knows not how to set them to work, and so suffers
them to grow up idle and untaught, useless and despised, and to be the easy prey
of every designing villain.
If the Church had only done her duty in training up young converts to work and labor
for Christ, the world would have been converted long ago.
But instead of this, how many Churches actually oppose young converts who attempt
to set themselves to work for Christ. Multitudes of old professors look with suspicion
upon every movement of young converts, and talk against them, saying: "They
are too forward, they ought not to put themselves forward, but wait for those who
are older." There is waiting again! Instead of bidding young converts "Godspeed,"
and cheering them on, very often they hinder them, and perhaps put them down. How
often have young converts been stopped from going forward, and turned into rank behind
a formal, lazy, inefficient Church, till their spirit has been crushed, and their
zeal extinguished; so that after a few ineffectual struggles to throw off the cords,
they have concluded to sit down with the rest, and WAIT. In many places young converts
cannot even attempt to hold a prayer meeting by themselves, without being rebuked
by the pastor, or by some deacon, for being so forward, and upbraided with spiritual
pride. "Oho," it is said, "you are young converts, are you? And so
you want to get together, and call all the neighbors together to look at you, because
you are young converts. You had better turn preachers at once!" A celebrated
Doctor of Divinity in New England boasted, at a public table, of his success in keeping
all his converts still. He had great difficulty, he said, for they were in a terrible
fever to do something, to talk, or pray, or get up meetings, but by the greatest
vigilance he had kept it all down, and now his Church was just as quiet as it was
before the revival. Wonderful achievement for a minister of Jesus Christ! Was that
what the blessed Savior meant when he told Peter: "Feed My lambs"?
- 2. Young converts should be trained to labor just as carefully
as young recruits in an army are trained for war. Suppose a captain in the army should
get his company enlisted, and then take no more pains to teach and train, and discipline
them, than are taken by many pastors to train and lead forward their young converts.
Why, the enemy would laugh at such an army. Call them soldiers! Why, as to any effective
service, they would not know what to do nor how to do it, and if you brought them
up to the CHARGE, how would they fare? Such an army would resemble the Church that
does not train her young converts. Instead of being trained to stand shoulder to
shoulder in the onset, they feel no practical confidence in their leaders, no confidence
in their neighbors, and no confidence in themselves; hence they scatter at the first
shock of battle. Look at the Church now. Ministers are not agreed as to what shall
be done, and many of them will fight against their brethren, quarreling about "new
measures," or something. As to the members, they cannot feel confidence when
they see the leaders so divided. And then if they attempt to do anything - alas!
what ignorance, what awkwardness, what discord, what weakness we see, and what miserable
work they make of it! And so it must continue, until the Church shall train up young
converts to be intelligent, single-hearted, self-denying, working Christians. Here
is an enterprise now going on in this city, which I rejoice to see. I mean the tract
enterprise - a blessed work. And the plan is to train up a body of devoted Christians
to do - what? Why, to do what all the Church ought to have been trained to do long
ago: to know how to pray, and how to converse with people about salvation, and how
to act in anxious meetings, and how to deal with inquirers, and how to SAVE SOULS.
- 3. The Church has entirely mistaken the manner in which
she is to be sanctified. The experiment has been carried on long enough, of trying
to sanctify the Church, without finding anything for the members to do. But holiness
consists in obeying God, and sanctification, as a process, means obeying Him more
and more perfectly. And the way to promote it in the Church, is to give every one
something to do. Look at these great Churches, where they have five hundred or seven
hundred members, and have a minister to feed them from Sabbath to Sabbath, while
there are so many of them together that the greater part have nothing at all to do,
and are never trained to make any direct efforts for the salvation of souls. And
in that way they are expecting to be sanctified and prepared for heaven!
- They never will be sanctified so. That is not the way God
has appointed. Jesus Christ has made His people co-workers with Him in saving sinners,
for this very reason, because sanctification consists in doing those things which
are required to promote this work. This is one reason why He has not employed angels
in the work, or carried it on by direct revelation of truth to the minds of men.
It is because it is necessary as a means of sanctification, that the Church should
sympathize with Christ in His feelings and His labors for the conversion of sinners.
And in this way the entire Church must move, before the world will be converted.
When the day comes that the whole body of professing Christians shall realize that
they are here on earth as a body of missionaries, and when they shall live and labor
accordingly, then will the day of man's redemption draw nigh.
Christian, if you cannot go abroad to labor, why are you not a missionary in your
own family? If you are too feeble even to leave your room, be a missionary there
in your bedchamber. How many unconverted servants have you in your house? Call in
your unconverted servants, and your unconverted children, and be a missionary to
them. Think of your physician, who, perhaps, is laying himself out to save your body;
think that you receive his kindness and never make him the greatest return in your
It is necessary that the Church should take hold of her young converts at the outset,
and set them to work in the right way. The hope of the Church is in the young converts.
- 4. We see what a responsibility rests on ministers and
elders, and on all who have opportunity to assist in training young converts. How
distressing is the picture which often forces itself upon the mind, where multitudes
are converted, and yet so little pains are taken with young converts, that in a single
year you cannot tell the young converts from the rest of the Church. And then we
see the old Church members turn round and complain of these young converts, and perhaps
slander them, when in truth these old professors themselves are most to blame - oh,
it is too bad! This reaction that people talk so much about after a revival, as if
reaction was the necessary effect of a revival, would never come, and young converts
never would backslide as they do, if the Church would be prompt and faithful in attending
to their instruction. If they are truly converted, they can be made thorough and
energetic Christians. And if they are not made such, Jesus Christ will require it
at the hands of the Church.
THE BACKSLIDER IN HEART
The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own
ways. - Proverbs 14:14.
I cannot conclude this course of lectures, without warning converts against backsliding.
In discussing this subject, I will show:
I. What backsliding in heart is not.
II. What backsliding in heart is.
III. What are evidences of backsliding in heart.
IV. What are consequences of backsliding in heart.
V. How to recover from this state.
I. WHAT A BACKSLIDING HEART IS NOT.
- 1. It does not consist in the subsidence of highly excited
religious emotions. The subsidence of religious feeling may be an evidence of a backslidden
heart, but it does not consist in the cooling off of religious feeling.
II. WHAT BACKSLIDING IN HEART IS.
- 1. It consists in taking back that consecration to God
and His service, that constitutes true conversion.
- 2. It is the leaving, by a Christian, of his first love.
- 3. It consists in the Christian withdrawing himself from
that state of entire and universal devotion to God, which constitutes true religion,
and coming again under the control of a self-pleasing spirit.
- 4. The text implies that there may be a backslidden heart,
when the forms of religion and obedience to God are maintained. As we know from consciousness
that men perform the same, or similar, acts from widely different, and often from
opposite, motives, we are certain that men may keep up all the outward forms and
appearances of religion, when in fact, they are backslidden in heart. No doubt the
most intense selfishness often takes on a religious type, and there are many considerations
that might lead a backslider in heart to keep up the forms, while he had lost the
power of godliness in his soul.
III. WHAT ARE EVIDENCES OF A BACKSLIDDEN HEART.
- 1. Manifest formality in religious exercises. A stereotyped,
formal way of saying and doing things, that is clearly the result of habit, rather
than the outgushing of the religious life. This formality will be emotionless and
cold as an iceberg, and will evince a total want of earnestness in the performance
of religious duty. In prayer and in religious exercises the backslider in heart will
pray or praise, or confess, or give thanks with his lips, so that all can hear him,
perhaps, but in such a way that no one can feel him. Such a formality would be impossible
where there existed a present, living faith and love, and religious zeal.
- 2. A want of religious enjoyment is evidence of a backslidden
heart. We always enjoy the saying and doing of those things that please those whom
we most love; furthermore, when the heart is not backslidden, communion with God
is kept up, and therefore all religious duties are not only performed with pleasure,
but the communion with God involved in them is a source of rich and continual enjoyment.
If we do not enjoy the service of God, it is because we do not truly serve Him. If
we love Him supremely, it is impossible that we should not enjoy His service at every
step. Always remember then, whenever you lose your religious enjoyment, or the enjoyment
of serving God, you may know that you are not serving Him aright.
- 3. Religious bondage is another evidence of a backslidden
heart. God has no slaves. He does not accept the service of bondsmen, who serve Him
because they must. He accepts none but a love service. A backslider in heart finds
his religious duties a burden to him. He has promised to serve the Lord. He dare
not wholly break off from the form of service, and he tries to be dutiful, while
he has no heart in prayer, in praise, in worship, or in any of those exercises which
are so spontaneous and delightful, where there is true love to God. The backslider
in heart is often like a dutiful, but unloving wife. She tries to do her duty to
her husband, but fails utterly because she does not love him. Her painstaking to
please her husband is constrained, not the spontaneous outburst of a loving heart;
and her relationship and her duties become the burden of her life. She goes about
complaining of the weight of care that is upon her, and will not be likely to advise
young ladies to marry. She is committed for life, and must therefore perform the
duties of married life, but it is such a bondage! Just so with religious bondage.
The professor must perform his duty. He drags painfully about it, and you will hear
him naturally sing backslider's hymns:
- Reason I hear, her counsels weigh, And all her words approve
And yet I find it hard to obey, And harder still, to love.
- 4. An ungoverned temper. While the heart is full of love,
the temper will naturally be chastened and sweet, or at any rate, the will keep it
under, and not suffer it to break out in outrageous abuse, or if at any time it should
so far escape from the control of the will as to break loose in hateful words, it
will soon be brought under, and by no means suffered to take control and manifest
itself to the annoyance of others. Especially will a loving heart confess and break
down, if at any time bad temper gets the control.
- Whenever, therefore, there is an irritable, uncontrolled
temper allowed to manifest itself to those around, you may know there is a backslidden
- 5. A spirit of uncharitableness is evidence of a backslidden
heart. By this, I mean a want of that disposition that puts the best construction
upon every one's conduct that can be reasonable - a want of confidence in the good
intentions and professions of others. We naturally credit the good professions of
those whom we love. We naturally attribute to them right motives, and put the best
allowable construction upon their words and deeds. Where there is a want of this
there is evidence conclusive of a backslidden or unloving heart.
- 6. A censorious spirit is conclusive evidence of a backslidden
heart. This is a spirit of fault-finding, of impugning the motives of others, when
their conduct admits of a charitable construction. It is a disposition to fasten
blame upon others, and judge them harshly. It is a spirit of distrust of Christian
character and profession. It is a state of mind that reveals itself in harsh judgments,
harsh sayings, and the manifestation of uncomfortable feelings toward individuals.
This state of mind is entirely incompatible with a loving heart, and whenever a censorious
spirit is manifested by a professor of religion, you may know there is a backslidden
- 7. A want of interest in God's Word, is also an evidence
of a backslidden heart. Perhaps nothing more conclusively proves that a professor
has a backslidden heart, than his losing his interest in the Bible. While the heart
is full of love, no book in the world is so precious as the Bible. But when the love.
is gone, the Bible becomes not only uninteresting but often repulsive. There is no
faith to accept its promises, but conviction enough left to dread its threatening.
But in general the backslider in heart is apathetic as to the Bible. He does not
read it much, and when he does read it, he has not interest enough to understand
it. Its pages become dark and uninteresting, and therefore it is neglected.
- 8. A want of interest in secret prayer is also an evidence
of a backslidden heart. Young Christian, if you find yourself losing your interest
in the Bible and in secret prayer, stop short, return to God, and give yourself no
rest, till you enjoy the light of His countenance. If you feel disinclined to pray,
or to read your Bible; if when you pray and read your Bible, you have no heart; if
you are inclined to make your secret devotions short, or are easily induced to neglect
them; or if your thoughts, affections, and emotions wander, you may know that you
are a backslider in heart, and your first business is to be broken down before God,
and to see that your love and zeal are renewed.
- 9. A want of interest in the conversion of souls and in
efforts to promote revivals of religion. This of course reveals a backslidden heart.
There is nothing in which a loving heart takes more interest than in the conversion
of souls - in revivals of religion, and in efforts to promote them.
- 10. A want of interest in published accounts or narratives
of revivals of religion, is also an evidence of a backslidden heart. While one retains
his interest in the conversion of souls, and in revivals of religion he will, of
course, be interested in all accounts of revivals of religion anywhere. If you find
yourself, therefore, disinclined to read such accounts, or find yourself not interested
in them, take it for granted that you are backslidden in heart.
- 11. The same is true of missions, and missionary work and
operations. If you lose your interest in the work, and in the conversion of the heathen,
and do not delight to read and hear of the success of missions, you may know that
you are backslidden in heart.
- 12. The loss of interest in benevolent enterprises generally
is an evidence of a backslidden heart. I say, "the loss of interest," for
surely, if you were ever converted to Christ, you have had an interest in all benevolent
enterprises that came within your knowledge. Religion consists in disinterested benevolence.
Of course, a converted soul takes the deepest interest in all benevolent efforts
to reform and save mankind; in good government, in Christian education, in the cause
of temperance, in the abolition of slavery, in provision for the needs of the poor,
and in short, in every good word and work. Just in proportion as you have lost your
interest in these, you have evidence that you are backslidden in heart.
- 13. The loss of interest in truly spiritual conversation
is another evidence of a backslidden heart. "Out of the abundance of the heart
the mouth speaketh" (Matthew 12:34). This our Lord Jesus Christ announced as
a law of our nature. No conversation is so sweet to a truly loving heart, as that
which relates to Christ, and to our living Christian experience. If you find yourself
losing interest in conversing on heart religion, and of the various and wonderful
experiences of Christians, if you have known what the true love of God is, you have
fallen from it, and are a backslider in heart.
- 14. A loss of interest in the conversation and society
of highly spiritual people, is an evidence of a backslidden heart. We take the greatest
delight in the society of those who are most interested in the things that are most
dear to us. Hence, a loving Christian heart will always seek the society of those
who are most spiritually minded, and whose conversation is most evangelical and spiritual.
If you find yourself wanting in this respect, then know for certain that you are
backslidden in heart.
- 15. The loss of interest in the question of sanctification
is an evidence of a backslidden heart. I say again, the loss of interest, for, if
you ever truly knew the love of God, you must have had a great interest in the question
of entire consecration to God, or of entire sanctification. If you are a Christian,
you have felt that sin was an abomination to your soul. You have had inexpressible
longings to be rid of it forever, and everything that could throw light upon that
question of agonizing importance was most intensely interesting to you. If this question
has been dismissed, and you no longer take an interest in it, it is because you are
backslidden in heart.
- 16. The loss of interest in those newly converted, is also
an evidence of a backslidden heart. The Psalmist says: "They that fear Thee
will be glad when they see me; because I have hoped in Thy word" (Psalm 119:74).
- This he puts into the mouth of a convert, and who does
not know that this is true? There is joy in the presence of the angels of God, over
one sinner that repenteth, and is there not joy among the saints on earth, over those
that come to Christ, and are as babes newly born into the Kingdom? Show me a professor
of religion who does not manifest an absorbing interest in converts to Christ, and
I will show you a backslider in heart, and a hypocrite; he professes religion, but
- 17. An uncharitable state of mind in regard to professed
converts, is also an evidence of a backslidden heart. Charity, or love, "believeth
all things, hopeth all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7), is very ready to judge
kindly and favorably of those who profess to be converted to Christ, and will naturally
watch over them with interest, pray for them, instruct them, and have as much confidence
in them as it is reasonable to have. A disposition, therefore, to pick at, criticize,
and censure them, is an evidence of a backslidden heart.
- 18. The want of the spirit of prayer is evidence of a backslidden
- While the love of Christ remains fresh in the soul, the
indwelling Spirit of God will reveal Himself as the Spirit of grace and supplication.
He will beget strong desires in the soul for the salvation of sinners and the sanctification
of saints. He will often make intercessions in them, with great longings, strong
crying and tears, and with groanings that cannot he uttered in words, for those things
that are according to the will of God. Or, to express it in Scripture language, according
to Paul: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not
what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for
us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth
what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according
to the will of God" (Romans 8:26, 27). If the spirit of prayer departs, it is
a sure indication of a backslidden heart, for while the first love of a Christian
continues he is sure to be drawn by the Holy Spirit to wrestle much in prayer.
- 19. A backslidden heart often reveals itself by the manner
in which people pray. For example, praying as if in a state of self-condemnation,
or very much like a convicted sinner, is an evidence of a backslidden heart. Such
a person will reveal the fact, that he is not at peace with God. His confessions
and self-accusations will show to others what perhaps he does not well understand
himself. His manner of praying will reveal the fact that he has not communion with
God; that instead of being filled with faith and love, he is more or less convicted
of sin, and conscious that he is not in a state of acceptance with God. He will naturally
pray more like a convicted sinner than like a Christian. It will be seen by his prayer
that he is not in a state of Christian liberty - that he is having a Seventh of Romans
experience, instead of that which is described in the Eighth.
- 20. A backslidden heart will further reveal itself in praying
almost exclusively for self, and for those friends that are regarded almost as parts
of self. It is often very striking and even shocking to attend a backsliders' prayer
meeting, and I am very sorry to say that many prayer meetings of the Church are little
else. Their prayers are timid and hesitating, and reveal the fact that they have
little or no faith. Instead of surrounding the Throne of Grace and pouring their
hearts out for a blessing on those around them, they have to be urged up to duty,
to "take up their cross." Their hearts do not, will not, spontaneously
gush out to God in prayer. They have very little concern for others, and when they
do, as they say, "take up their cross and do their duty," and pretend to
lead in prayer, it will be observed that they pray just like a company of convicted
sinners, almost altogether for themselves. They will pray for that which, should
they obtain it, would be religion, just as a convicted sinner would pray for a new
heart; and the fact that they pray for religion as they do, manifests that they have
none, in their present state of mind. Ask them to pray for the conversion of sinners,
and they will either wholly forget to do so, or just mention sinners in such a way
as will show that they have no heart to pray for them.
- I have known professed Christian parents to get into such
a state that they had no heart to pray for the conversion of their own children,
even when those children were under conviction. They would keep up family prayer,
and attend a weekly prayer meeting, but would never get out of the rut of praying
round and round for themselves. A few years since I was laboring in a revival in
a Presbyterian Church. At the close of the evening sermon I found that the daughter
of one of the elders of the Church was in great distress of mind. I observed that
her convictions were very deep. We had been holding a meeting with inquirers in the
vestry, and I had just dismissed the inquirers, when this young lady came to me in
great agitation and begged me to pray for her. The people had mostly gone, except
a few who were waiting in the body of the church for those friends who had attended
the meeting of inquiry. I called the father of this young lady into the vestry that
he might see the very anxious state of his daughter's mind.
After a short personal conversation with her in the presence of her father, I called
on him to pray for her, and said that I would follow him, and I urged her to give
her heart to Christ. We all knelt, and he went through with his prayer, kneeling
by the side of his sobbing daughter, without ever mentioning her case. His prayer
revealed that he had no more religion than she had, and that he was very much in
her state of mind - under an awful sense of condemnation. He had kept up the appearance
of religion. As an elder of the Church, he was obliged to keep up appearances. He
had gone round and round upon the treadmill of his duties, while his heart was utterly
backslidden. It is often almost nauseating to attend a prayer meeting of the backslidden
in heart. They will go round, round, one after the other, in reality praying for
their own conversion. They do not so express it, but that is the real import of their
prayer. They could not render it more evident that they are backsliders in heart.
- 21. Absence from stated prayer meetings for slight reasons,
is a sure indication of a backslidden heart. No meeting is more interesting to Christians
than the prayer meeting, and while they have any heart to pray, they will not be
absent from prayer meeting unless prevented from attending by the providence of God.
If a call from a friend at the hour of meeting can prevent their attendance, unless
the call is made under very peculiar circumstances, it is strong evidence that they
do not wish to attend, and hence, that they are backsliders in heart. A call at such
a time would not prevent their attending a wedding, a party, a picnic, or an amusing
lecture. The fact is, it is hypocrisy for them to pretend that they really want to
go, while they can be kept away for slight reasons.
- 22. The same is true of the neglect of family prayer, for
- While the heart is engaged in religion, Christians will
not readily omit family devotions, and whenever they are ready to find an excuse
for the omission, it is a sure evidence that they are backslidden in heart.
- 23. When secret prayer is regarded more as a duty than
as a privilege, it is because the heart is backslidden. It has always appeared to
me almost ridiculous, to hear Christians speak of prayer as a "duty." It
is one of the greatest of earthly privileges. What should we think of a child coming
to its parent for its dinner, not because it is hungry, but as a duty. How would
it strike us to hear a beggar speak of the "duty" of asking alms of us.
It is an infinite privilege to be allowed to come to God, and ask for the supply
of all our wants. But to pray because we must, rather than because we may, seems
unnatural. To ask for what we want, and because we want it, and because God has encouraged
us to ask, and has promised to answer our request, is natural and reasonable. But
to pray as a duty and as if we were obliging God by our prayer, is quite ridiculous,
and is a certain indication of a backslidden heart.
- 24. Pleading for worldly amusements is also an indication
of a backslidden heart. The most grateful amusements possible, to a truly spiritual
mind, are those engagements that bring the soul into the most direct communion with
God. While the heart is full of love and faith, an hour, or an evening, spent alone
in communion with God, is more delightful than all the amusements which the world
can offer. A loving heart is jealous of everything that will break up or interfere
with its communion with God.
- For mere worldly amusements it has no relish. When the
soul does not find more delight in God than in all worldly things, the heart is sadly
- 25. Spiritual blindness is another evidence of a backslidden
heart. While the eye is single the whole body will be full of spiritual light, but
if the eye be evil (which means a backslidden heart) the whole body will be full
- Spiritual blindness reveals itself in a want of interest
in God's Word, and in religious truth generally. It will also manifest a want of
spiritual discrimination, and will be easily imposed upon by the insinuations of
Satan. A backslidden heart will lead to the adoption of lax principles of morality.
It does not discern the spirituality of God's law, and of His requirements generally.
When this spiritual blindness is manifest it is a sure indication that the heart
- 26. Religious apathy, with worldly wakefulness and sensibility,
is a sure indication of a backslidden heart. We sometimes see persons who feel deeply
and quickly on worldly subjects, but who cannot be made to feel deeply on religious
subjects. This clearly indicates a backslidden state of mind.
- 27. A self-indulgent spirit is a sure indication of a backslidden
heart. By self-indulgence, I mean a disposition to gratify the appetites, passions,
and propensities, to "fulfill the desires of the flesh and of the mind"
- This, in the Bible, is represented as a state of spiritual
death. I am satisfied that the most common occasion of backsliding in heart is to
be found in the clamor for indulgence of the various appetites and propensities.
The appetite for food is frequently, and perhaps more frequently than any other,
the occasion of backsliding. Few Christians, I fear, apprehend any danger in this
direction. God's injunction is: "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever
ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). Christians forget
this, and eat and drink to please themselves, consulting their appetites instead
of the laws of life and health. More persons are ensnared by their tables than the
Church is aware of. The table is a snare of death to multitudes that no man can number.
A great many people who avoid alcoholic drinks altogether, will indulge in tea and
coffee, and even tobacco, and in food that, both in quantity and quality, violates
every law of health. They seem to have no other law than that of appetite, and this
they so deprave by abuse that, to indulge it, is to ruin body and soul together.
Show me a gluttonous professor, and I will show you a backslider.
- 28. A seared conscience is also an evidence of a backslidden
heart. While the soul is wakeful and loving, the conscience is as tender as the apple
of the eye. But when the heart is backslidden, the conscience is silent and seared,
on many subjects. Such a person will tell you that he is not violating his conscience,
in eating or drinking, or in self-indulgence of any kind. You will find a backslider
has but little conscience. The same will very generally be true in regard to sins
of omission. Multitudes of duties may be neglected and a seared conscience will remain
silent. Where conscience is not awake, the heart is surely backslidden.
- 29. Loose moral principles are a sure indication of a backslidden
heart. A backslider in heart will write letters on the Sabbath, engage in secular
reading, and in much worldly conversation. In business, such a person will take little
advantages, play off business tricks, and conform to the habits of worldly business
men in the transaction of business; he will be guilty of deception and misrepresentation
in making bargains, will demand exorbitant interest, and take advantage of the necessities
of his fellow-men.
- 30. Prevalence of the fear of man is an evidence of a backslidden
- While the heart is full of the love of God, God is feared,
and not man. A desire for the applause of men is kept down, and it is enough to please
God, whether men are pleased or displeased. But when the love of God is abated, "the
fear of man," that "bringeth a snare" (Proverbs 29:25), gets possession
of the backslider. To please man rather than God, is then his aim. In such a state
he will sooner offend God than man.
- 31. A sticklish ness about forms, ceremonies, and nonessentials,
gives evidence of a backslidden heart. A loving heart is particular only about the
substance and power of religion, and will not stickle about its forms.
- 32. A captiousness about measures in promoting revivals
of religion, is a sure evidence of a backslidden heart. Where the heart is fully
set upon the conversion of sinners and the sanctification of believers, it will naturally
approach the subject in the most direct manner, and by means in the highest degree
calculated to accomplish the end. It will not object to, nor stumble at, measures
that are evidently blessed of God, but will exert the utmost sagacity in devising
the most suitable means to accomplish the great end on which the heart is set.
IV. THE CONSEQUENCES OF BACKSLIDING IN HEART.
The text says, that "the backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways."
- 1. He shall be filled with his own works. But these are
dead works, they are not works of faith and love, which are acceptable to God, but
are the filthy rags of his own righteousness. If they are performed as religious
services, they are but loathsome hypocrisy, and an abomination to God; there is no
heart in them. To such a person God says: "Who hath required this at your hand?"
(Isaiah 1:12). "Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth
your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight
of God" (Luke 16:15). "I know you, that ye have not the love of God in
you" (John 5:42).
- 2. He shall be filled with his own feelings. Instead of
that sweet peace and rest, and joy in the Holy Ghost, that he once experienced, he
will find himself in a state of unrest, dissatisfied with himself and everybody else,
his feelings often painful, humiliating, and as unpleasant and unlovely as can be
well conceived. It is often very trying to live with backsliders. They are often
peevish, censorious, and irritating, in all their ways. They have forsaken God, and
in their feelings there is more of hell than of heaven.
- 3. They will be filled with their own prejudices. Their
willingness to know and do the truth has gone. They will very naturally commit themselves
against any truth that bears hardly upon a self-indulgent spirit. They will endeavor
to justify themselves, will neither read nor hear that which will rebuke their backslidden
state, and they will become deeply prejudiced against every one that shall cross
their path, who shall reprove them, accounting him as an enemy. They hedge themselves
in, and shut their eyes against the light; stand on the defensive, and criticize
everything that would search them out.
- 4. A backslider in heart will be filled with his own enmities.
He will chafe in almost every relation of life, will allow himself to be vexed, and
to get into such relations with some persons, and perhaps with many, that he cannot
pray for them honestly, and can hardly treat them with common civility. This is an
almost certain result of a backslidden heart.
- 5. The backslider in heart will be full of his own mistakes.
He is not walking with God. He has fallen out of the Divine order. He is not led
by the Spirit, but is walking in spiritual darkness. In this state he is sure to
fall into many and grievous mistakes, and may get entangled in such a way as to mar
his happiness, and, perhaps, destroy his usefulness for life.
- Mistakes in business, mistakes in forming new relations
in life, mistakes in using his time, his tongue, his money, his influence; indeed,
all will go wrong with him as long as he remains in a backslidden state.
- 6. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own
lustings. His appetites and passions, which had been kept under, have now resumed
their control, and having been so long suppressed, they will seem to avenge themselves
by becoming more clamorous and despotic than ever.
- The animal appetites and passions will burst forth, to
the astonishment of the backslider, and he will probably find himself more under
their influence and more enslaved by them than ever before.
- 7. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own
words. While in that state, he will not, and cannot, control his tongue. It will
prove itself to be an unruly member, full of deadly poison. By his words he will
involve himself in many difficulties and perplexities, from which he can never extricate
himself until he comes back to God.
- 8. He will be full of his own trials. Instead of keeping
out of temptation, he will run right into it. He will bring upon himself multitudes
of trials that he never would have had, had he not departed from God. He will complain
of his trials, but yet will constantly multiply them. A backslider feels his trials
keenly, but, while he complains of being so tried by everything around him, he is
constantly aggravating them, and, being the author of them, he seems industrious
to bring them upon himself like an avalanche.
- 9. The backslider in heart shall be full of his own folly.
Having rejected the Divine guidance, he will evidently fall into the depths of his
own foolishness. He will inevitably say and do multitudes of foolish and ridiculous
things. Being a professor of religion, these things will be all the more noticed,
and of course bring him all the more into ridicule and contempt. A backslider is,
indeed, the most foolish person in the world.
- Having experimental knowledge of the true way of life,
he has the infinite folly to abandon it. Knowing the fountain of living waters, he
has forsaken it, and "hewed out to himself cisterns, broken cisterns, that can
hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13). Having been guilty of this infinite folly, the
whole course of his backslidden life must be that of a fool, in the Bible sense of
- 10. The backslider in heart will be full of his own troubles.
God is against him, and he is against himself. He is not at peace with God, with
himself, with the Church, nor with the world. He has no inward rest. Conscience condemns
him. God condemns him. All that know his state condemn him.
- "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked"
(Isaiah 57:21). There is no position in time or space in which he can be at rest.
- 11. The backslider in heart will be full of his own cares.
He has turned back to selfishness. He counts himself and his possessions as his own.
He has everything to care for. He will not hold himself and his possessions as belonging
to God, and lay aside the responsibility of taking care of himself and all that he
possesses. He does not, will not, cast his cares upon the Lord, but undertakes to
manage everything for himself, and in his own wisdom, and for his own ends. Consequently,
his cares will be multiplied, and come upon him like a deluge.
- 12. The backslider in heart will be full of his own perplexities.
Having forsaken God, having fallen into the darkness of his own folly, he will be
filled with perplexities and doubts in regard to what course he shall pursue to accomplish
his selfish ends. He is not walking with, but contrary to God. Hence, the providence
of God will constantly cross his path, and baffle all his schemes. God will frown
darkness upon his path, and take pains to confound his projects, and blow his schemes
to the winds.
- 13. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own
anxieties. He will be anxious about himself, about his business, about his reputation,
about everything. He has taken all these things out of the hands of God, and claims
them and treats them as his own. Hence, having faith in God no longer, and being
unable to control events, he must of necessity be filled with anxieties with regard
to the future. These anxieties are the inevitable result of his madness and folly
in forsaking God.
- 14. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own
- Having forsaken God, and taken the attitude of self-will,
God will inevitably disappoint him as he pursues his selfish ends. He will frame
his ways to please himself, without consulting God. Of course God will frame his
ways so as to disappoint him. Determined to have his own way, he will be greatly
disappointed if his plans are frustrated; yet the certain course of events under
the government of God must of necessity bring him a series of disappointments.
- 15. The backslider in heart must be full of his own losses.
He regards his possessions as his own, his time as his own, his influence as his
own, his reputation as his own. The loss of any of these, he accounts as his own
loss. Having forsaken God, and being unable to control the events upon which the
continuance of those things is conditioned, he will find himself suffering losses
on every side. He loses his peace. He loses his property.
- He loses much of his time. He loses his Christian reputation.
He loses his Christian influence, and if he persists he loses his soul.
- 16. The backslider in heart will be full of his own crosses.
All religious duty will be irksome, and, therefore, a cross to him. His state of
mind will make multitudes of things crosses that in a Christian state of mind would
have been pleasant in a high degree. Having lost all heart in religion, the performance
of all religious duty is a cross to his feelings. There is no help for him, unless
he returns to God. The whole course of Divine providence will run across his path,
and his whole life will be a series of crosses and trials. He cannot have his own
way. He cannot gratify himself by accomplishing his own wishes and desires. He may
beat and dash himself against the everlasting rocks of God's will and God's way,
but break through and carry all before him he cannot. He must be crossed and recrossed,
and crossed again, until he will fall into the Divine order, and sink into the will
- 17. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own
tempers. Having forsaken God, he will be sure to have much to irritate him. In a
backslidden state, he cannot possess his soul in patience. The vexations of his backslidden
life will make him nervous and irritable; his temper will become explosive and uncontrollable.
- 18. The backslider in heart will be full of his own disgraces.
He is a professor of religion. The eyes of the world are upon him, and all his inconsistencies,
worldly-mindedness, follies, bad tempers, and hateful words and deeds, disgrace him
in the estimation of all men who know him.
- 19. The backslider in heart will be full of his own delusions.
Having an evil eye, his whole body will be full of darkness. He will almost certainly
fall into delusions in regard to doctrines and in regard to practices. Wandering
on in darkness, as he does, he will, very likely, swallow the grossest delusions.
Spiritism, Mormonism, Universalism, and every other ism that is wide from the truth,
will be very likely to gain possession of him. Who has not observed this of backsliders
- 20. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own
bondage. His profession of religion brings him into bondage to the Church. He has
no heart to consult the interests of the Church, or to labor for its up-building,
and yet he is under covenant obligation to do so, and his reputation is at stake.
He must do something to sustain religious institutions, but to do so is a bondage.
If he does it, it is because he must, and not because he may.
- Again, he is in bondage to God. If he performs any duty
that he calls religious, it is rather as a slave than as a freeman. He serves from
fear or hope, just like a slave, and not from love. A gain, he is in bondage to his
own conscience. To avoid conviction and remorse, he will do or omit many things,
but it is all with reluctance, and not at all of his own cordial goodwill.
- 21. The backslider in heart is full of his own self condemnation.
Having enjoyed the love of God, and forsaken Him, he feels condemned for everything.
If he attempts religious duty, he knows there is no heart in it, and hence condemns
himself. If he neglects religious duty, he of course condemns himself. If he reads
his Bible, it condemns him. If he does not read it, he feels condemned. If he goes
to religious meetings, they condemn him; and if he stays away, he is condemned also.
If he prays in secret, in his family, or in public, he knows he is not sincere, and
- If he neglects or refuses to pray, he feels condemned.
Everything condemns him. His conscience is up in arms against him, and the thunders
and lightnings of condemnation follow him, whithersoever he goes.
V. HOW TO RECOVER FROM A STATE OF BACKSLIDING.
- 1. Remember whence you are fallen. Take up the question
at once, and deliberately contrast your present state with that in which you walked
- 2. Take home the conviction of your true position. No longer
delay to understand the exact situation between God and your soul.
- 3. Repent at once, and do your first works over again.
- 4. Do not attempt to get back, by reforming your mere outside
- Begin with your heart, and at once set yourself right with
- 5. Do not act like a more convicted sinner, and attempt
to recommend yourself to God by any impenitent works or prayers. Do not think that
you must "reform, and make yourself better" before you can come to Christ,
but understand distinctly, that coming to Christ, alone, can make you better. However
much distressed you may feel, know for a certainty that until you repent and accept
His will, unconditionally, you are no better, but are constantly growing worse. Until
you throw yourself upon His sovereign mercy, and thus return to God, He will accept
nothing at your hands.
- 6. Do not imagine yourself to be in a justified state,
for you know you are not. Your conscience condemns you, and you know that God ought
to condemn you, and if He justified you in your present state, your conscience could
not justify Him. Come, then, to Christ at once, like a guilty, condemned sinner,
as you are; own up, and take all the shame and blame to yourself, and believe that
notwithstanding all your wanderings from God, He loves you still - that He has loved
you with an everlasting love, and, therefore, with loving-kindness is drawing you.
GROWTH IN GRACE
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord
and Savior Jesus Christ.- 2 Peter 3:18.
I MUST conclude this Course of Lectures by giving converts instructions on the subject
of Growth in Grace. I shall pursue the following method, showing:
I. What grace is, as the term is here used.
II. What the injunction to "grow in grace" does not mean.
III. What it does mean.
IV. The conditions of growth in grace.
V. What is not proof of growth in grace.
VI. What is proof of growth in grace.
VII. How to grow in grace.
I. WHAT GRACE IS.
Grace is favor. The word is often used in the Bible to signify a free gift.
The grace of God is the favor of God.
II. WHAT TO "GROW IN GRACE" DOES NOT MEAN.
It does not enjoin the gradual giving up of sin. Strange to tell, it would seem that
some have so understood it; but we are nowhere in the Bible commanded to give up
sin gradually, we are everywhere commanded to give it up instantly and wholly.
III. WHAT IT DOES MEAN.
It enjoins upon us the duty of growing in the favor of God, of growing in His esteem
- in a worthiness of His favor.
IV. CONDITIONS OF GROWTH IN GRACE.
- 1. Growth or increase in anything implies a beginning.
Growth in the favor of God implies that we have already found favor in His sight,
that we are already indebted for grace received, and that we are already in grace,
in the sense of having a place among His favored ones.
- 2. Consequently, growth in grace implies that we have already
repented of our sin, have actually and practically abandoned all known sin. It cannot
be that we are in favor with God if we are still indulging in known sin against Him.
Being in favor with God implies, of course, that we are pardoned and favored by Him,
for the sake of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Pardon is favor, and implies the
renunciation of rebellion against God. The conditions of the Divine favor, as revealed
in the Bible, are repentance and abandonment of all known sin, and faith in our Lord
Jesus Christ. I said, as a condition of growth in grace we must have the commencement
of grace; in other words, we must be already Christians, must be in a state of acceptance
with God, must have accepted Christ, so far as He is understood, must be in a state
of obedience to all the recognized will of God. Without this, we cannot be in a state
of grace, or in the favor of God. But being in this state, there is room for everlasting
growth. As we know more of God, we shall be capable of loving Him more, of having
a more universal and implicit confidence in Him. And there can be no end to this
while we have any being, either in this or any other world. Our love and confidence
in Him may be complete, so far as we know Him. This love and confidence will secure
His favor; but there will be no end to our growth in knowledge of Him, and, consequently,
there is room for eternal growth in grace. The more we love God, the more we believe,
the more we know of Him, if we conform to this knowledge, the more God must be pleased
with us, the higher shall we stand in His favor, and more and greater gifts He will
continue to bestow upon us.
- 3. Of course, growth in the knowledge of God is a condition
of growth in His favor. We might grow in knowledge, without growing in His favor,
because we might not love and trust Him in accordance with this increased knowledge.
But we cannot love and trust Him more perfectly, unless we become more perfectly
acquainted with Him. If our love and faith keep pace with our growing knowledge,
we must grow in His favor. But growth in knowledge must be a condition of growth
in love and faith.
- 4. Growth in the knowledge of God, as revealed in Christ
Jesus, must be a condition of growth in His favor. It is in and through Christ Jesus
that God reveals Himself to man. It is in Christ Jesus that we get the true idea
of the personality of the infinite God. Hence, the text says: "Grow in grace,
and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
- 5. Growth in grace is conditioned on increased knowledge
of what is involved in entire consecration to God.
- True conversion to God involves the consecration of ourselves
and of all that we have to Him, so far as we understand what is implied in this.
But, at first, converts are by no means aware of all that is involved in the highest
forms of consecration. They will soon learn that there are certain things that they
did not think of, and that they did not give up to God. At first, perhaps, all that
was in their thought was, to lay their naked soul upon the altar, and give up their
whole heart to God. But soon they may learn that they did not think of all their
possessions, of everything that was dear to them; they did not surrender all, leaving
"not an hoof behind" (Exodus 10:26). They surrendered all of which they
thought, but they were not fully enlightened, they did not think, nor could they
think, at the time, of every appetite, passion, propensity, of every desire and affection,
and of everything dear to them, in the whole creation, to make a thorough surrender
and delivery of these to God.
To gain such knowledge is a work of time; and growth in the favor of God is conditioned
on making a full surrender and consecration to God of everything we are, and have,
and desire, and love, as fast as these objects are presented to thought. As long
as we exist, and knowledge increases, there is no doubt that we shall be called upon
to grow in grace, by consecrating to God every new object of knowledge, of desire,
and of affection, that we may come to know, and desire, and love, to all eternity.
As you get new light, you must enlarge your consecration from day to day, and from
hour to hour, or you will cease to grow in grace. Whenever you stop short, and do
not lay and leave everything that you are, that you possess, or that you love, upon
the altar of consecration, that moment you cease to grow in grace. I pray you to
let this saying sink deep into your hearts.
- 6. Another condition of growth in grace is intense earnestness
and constancy in seeking increased religious light, by the illumination of the Holy
Spirit. You will gain no effectual religious light except by the inward showing and
teaching of the Holy Spirit. This you will not obtain unless you continue in the
true attitude of a disciple of Christ. Remember, He says: "Whosoever he be of
you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:33).
He will not, by His Holy Spirit, be your Divine Teacher unless you renounce self,
and live in a state of continual consecration to Him. To obtain and preserve the
teachings of Christ, by the Holy Spirit, you must continually and earnestly pray
for this Divine teaching of the Spirit, and watch against resisting and grieving
- 7. Another condition of growth in grace is a constant conformity
to all the teachings of the Holy Spirit, keeping up with our convictions of duty
and with our growing knowledge of the will of God.
- 8. A more and more implicit faith in God is a condition
of growth in grace.
- By implicit, I mean an unreasoning faith, a confidence
in God's character so profound that we trust Him in the dark as well as in the light,
as well when we do not understand the reasons of His dealings with us, or of His
requirements, as when we do; a faith like that of Abraham, who "staggered not
at the promise of God through unbelief" (Romans 4:20), though the thing promised
seemed irrational and impossible. An implicit faith is an unwavering, unquestioning
faith, a state of mind that will rest in God, in His promises, in His faithfulness,
in His love, whatever appearances may be and however trying and apparently unreasonable
His commands or providential dealings may be. Abraham's faith is often commended
in the Bible. God had promised him a son, but did not give him the promised seed
until he was a hundred years old, and Sarah was ninety. But notwithstanding, Sarah
was past age, and he as good as dead, he believed that God was able to fulfill His
promise. Then, when he had received his beloved son, with the assurance that this
was to be his heir, and that through him the promise was to be fulfilled through
all generations, God tried his faith severely, by commanding him to offer his Isaac
as a burnt sacrifice. Yet he obeyed, without the least hesitation, believing "that
God was able to raise him up, even from the dead" (Hebrews 11:19). He made all
his arrangements to obey this trying command, with such calmness that neither Sarah
nor Isaac suspected that any such thing was in contemplation. This was an instance
of the exercise of implicit faith.
Growth in grace, or in the favor of God, is conditioned upon growth in implicit confidence
- 9. A more thoroughly sanctified sensibility is a condition
of growth in the favor of God. By the sensibility, I mean that department of our
nature that feels and desires, to which belongs all that we call desire, affection,
emotion, feeling, appetite, passion, propensity, lust. The sensibility is an involuntary
power, and moral actions and qualities cannot, with strict propriety, be predicated
of it. The states of the sensibility have moral character only as they derive it,
directly or indirectly, from the action of the will. The nature of man, as a whole,
in his depraved condition, is in a very unlovely state, and although the will may
be given up to God, the sensibility may be in such a state as to be very unlovely
in the sight of One that looks directly upon it, and knows perfectly every excited
desire, passion, propensity, lust. It is through the sensibility, mainly, that we
are assailed with temptations. It is through this that the Christian warfare is kept
up. The Christian warfare consists in the battle of the will with these various appetites,
passions, propensities, and lusts, to keep them in subjection to the will of God.
If the will maintains its integrity, and cleaves to the will of God, the soul does
not sin in its battle with the excited states of the sensibility. But these rebellious
propensities embarrass the will in the service it renders to God. To keep them under
occupies much time, and thought, and strength. Hence the soul cannot render to God
so complete a service, while exerting the full strength of the will to subjugate
these propensities, as it otherwise might and would render.
- These appetites, passions, and propensities, although not
sinful in themselves, have been regarded and spoken of as indwelling sin. Strictly,
they cannot be sin, because they are involuntary. But they are often a great hindrance
to our growth in the favor of God. "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit,
and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so
that ye cannot do the things that ye would" (Galatians 5:17). This means that
we cannot do for God what we otherwise would, because we have to battle so much with
the states of the sensibility, to keep them under. As the sensibility becomes more
and more subdued and in harmony with the will's devotion to God, we are left free
to render to God a more unembarrassed service. Therefore, the more thorough the sanctification
of the sensibility, the more thoroughly we are in favor with God.
- 10. A growing thoroughness and universality of consecration,
of spirit, soul, and body, is the condition of more and more growth in the favor
of God. It is common, at first, for the steadfastness of the will's devotion to God
to be overcome by the clamor of the excited appetites, passions, and propensities,
or by the various states of the sensibility. Whenever the will yields to these excited
states, you sin. But, in such cases, the sin is not willful, in the sense of being
deliberate and intentional; it is rather a slip, an inadvertency, a momentary yielding
under the pressure of highly excited feeling. Nevertheless, this yielding is sin.
However excited the states of the sensibility may be, if the will does not yield,
there is strictly no sin. Still, while the will is steadfast, maintaining its consecration
and obedience to God, the appetites originating in the body, and the various propensities
of the soul, which inhere in the sensibility, may be so ajar, in such confusion,
and in such a state of morbid development, that the soul may be unfitted for the
employments and enjoyments of heaven.
- 11. Hence, the taking on of a greater fullness of the Divine
nature is a condition of growth in the favor of God. Both the will and the sensibility
of God must be in a state of utmost perfection and accord. All of His desires and
feelings must be in perfect harmony with His intelligence and His will. Not so with
us, in our state of physical depravity. The depravity of sensibility must be physical,
because it is involuntary. Still, it is depravity, it is a lapsed or fallen state
of the sensibility. This lapsed department of our nature must be recovered, sanctified,
or completely restored to harmony with a consecrated will, and an enlightened intelligence,
or we are never fitted for heaven. As we become more and more the partakers of the
Divine nature, and of the Divine holiness, we are more fully sanctified in spirit,
soul, and body, and of course grow more and more in the favor of God.
- 12. A greater and more all-pervading fullness of the Holy
Spirit's residence is another condition of growth in the favor of God. You cannot
have it too thoroughly impressed upon you that every step in the Christian life is
to be taken under the influence of the Holy Spirit. The thing to be attained is the
universal teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit, so that in all things you shall
be led by the Spirit of God. "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the
lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16). "If ye through the Spirit do mortify
the deeds of the body, ye shall live"(Romans 8:13). "To be carnal minded
is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Romans 8:6). Always
remember, therefore, that to grow in grace, you must grow in the possession of the
fullness of the Holy Ghost in your heart.
- 13. A deeper personal acquaintance with the Lord Jesus
Christ, in all His official work and relations, is a condition of growth in grace.
His nature, work, and relations are the theme of the Bible. The Bible presents Him
to us in a great variety of relations. In my "Systematic Theology" I have
considered some sixty or more of these official relations of Christ to the human
race, and these are presented rather as specimens and illustrations than as covering
the whole ground of His relations to us. Now, it is one thing to know Christ simply
on paper, and as spoken of in the Bible, by reading or hearing of Him, and quite
another thing to know Him personally, in these relations. The Bible is the medium
of introduction to Him personally. What is there said of Him is designed to lead
us to seek after a personal acquaintance with Him. It is by this personal acquaintance
with Him that we are made like Him. It is by direct, personal intercourse with His
Divine mind that we take on His image. "We all, with open face beholding as
in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory,
even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18). "Faith cometh
by hearing" (Romans 10:17) and faith secures for us a personal acquaintance
with Christ. Christ has promised to manifest Himself personally to those who love
and obey Him. Do not stop short of securing this personal manifestation of Christ
to your souls.
- Your growth in grace will depend upon this. Think not of
stopping short of personally knowing Christ, not only in all these relations, but
in the fullness of these relations. Do not overlook the fact that the appropriation
of Christ, in each of these relations, is a personal act of faith. It is a putting
on of the Lord Jesus Christ, a taking of Him as yours, in each of these relations,
as your wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; as your Prophet, to
teach you, your King, to govern you, your High Priest, to atone for you, your Mediator,
your Advocate, your Strength, your Savior, your Hiding place, your High Tower, your
Captain and Leader, your Shield, your Defense, your Exceeding Great Reward. In each
of these relations, and in all other of His official relations, you need to appropriate
Him by faith so as to secure to you personal intercourse with Him in these relations.
Growing in a personal acquaintance with Him, in these relations, is an indispensable
condition of growth in His favor.
V. SOME SIGNS THAT ARE NOT PROOF OF GROWTH.
- 1. Growth in knowledge is not conclusive evidence of growth
- Some degree of knowledge is indispensable to our being
in favor with God; and growth in knowledge, as I have shown, is a condition of growth
in grace; but knowledge is not grace, and growth in knowledge does not constitute
growth in grace. A person may grow ever so much in knowledge, and have no grace at
all. In hell, they cannot but grow in knowledge, as they grow in experience, and
in the knowledge of God's justice. But there, their growth in knowledge but aggravates
the guilt and misery of hell. They know more and more of God and His law, and their
own guilt, and the more they know, the more wretched they are. From their increased
knowledge they never learn piety.
- 2. It is not certain evidence that an individual grows
in grace, because he grows in gifts. A professor of religion may increase in gifts,
that is, he may become more fluent in prayer, and more eloquent in preaching, or
more pathetic in exhortation, without being any more holy. We naturally increase
in that in which we exercise ourselves. And if any person often exercises himself
in exhortation, he will naturally, if he makes any effort or lays himself out, increase
in fluency and pungency.
- But he may do all this, and yet have no grace at all. He
may pray ever so engagedly, and increase in fluency and apparent pathos, and yet
have no grace. People who have no grace often do so. It is true, if he has grace,
and exercises himself in these things, as he grows in grace, he will grow in gifts.
No person can exercise himself in obeying God, without improving in those exercises.
If he does not improve in gifts, it is a true sign he does not grow in grace. But,
on the other hand, it is not sure evidence that he grows in grace because he improves
in certain exercises, for he will naturally improve by practice, whether he is a
Christian or a hypocrite.
- 3. It is not proof that a person grows in grace because
he thinks he is doing so. One may be very favorably impressed with regard to his
own progress in religion, when it is evident to others that he is not only making
no progress, but is, in fact, declining. An individual who is growing worse and worse,
is not ordinarily well aware of the fact. It is not uncommon for both impenitent
sinners and Christians to think they are growing better, when they are growing no
- This results from the very nature of the case. If any person
is growing worse, his conscience will, for the time being, become more and more seared,
and his mind more and more dark, as he stifles conscience and resists the light.
Then he may imagine he is growing better, just because he has less sense of sin;
and while his conscience continues to sleep he may continue under the fatal delusion.
A man will judge of his own spiritual state as he compares himself with a high or
low standard. If he keeps Christ before him, in His fullness, as his standard, he
will doubtless always, at least in this state of existence, have but a low estimate
of his own attainments. While at the same time, if he sets before himself the Church,
or any member of the Church, as a standard, he will be very likely to form a high
estimate of his progress in religion, and be very well satisfied with himself. This
is the reason why there is such a difference in people's views of their own state
arid of the state of the Church. They compare themselves and the state of the Church
with different standards.
Hence, one takes a very humbling view of his own state, and complains of that of
the Church; another thinks such complaints of the Church censorious, for to him the
Church appears to be doing very well. The reason why he does not think the Church
cold, and in a low state, is that
Christ is not his standard of comparison. If a man shuts his eyes, he will not see
the defilement on him, and may think he is clean, while to all around he appears
VI. WHAT IS PROOF OF GROWTH.
- 1. The manifestation of more implicit and universal trust
in God is an evidence of growth in grace. The exercise of greater and more implicit
confidence, as I have said, is the condition of growing in the favor of God.
- The manifestation of this implicit and universal confidence
is proof that this growing confidence exists, and is, therefore, satisfactory evidence
of growth in the favor of God. If you are conscious in your own soul that you do
exercise more implicit and universal confidence in God, this is conclusive proof
to you that you are growing in grace, and as you manifest in your life, and temper,
and spirit, this growing confidence, you prove to yourself and to others that you
are growing in the favor of God. For as you grow in implicit confidence in Him you
must grow in His favor.
- 2. Another evidence of growth in grace, is an increasing
weanedness from the world. The will may be in an attitude of devotion to God, while
the world's seductive charms very much embarrass the healthy action of the Christian
life. As the soul becomes crucified and dead to the world, it grows in the favor
- 3. Less reluctance of feeling, when called to the exercise
of self-denial, is an evidence of growth in grace. It shows that the feelings are
becoming less and less despotic, that the will is getting more the mastery of them,
that the sensibility is getting more into harmony with the devotion of the will and
the dictates of the intelligence.
- 4. Less temptation to sins of omission, is another evidence
of growth in grace, e.g., less temptation to shun the cross, to neglect unpleasant
duties; less temptation to indolence, to the shirking of responsibility, to neglect
of prayer, to reading the Scriptures, and. to private and family devotions; in short,
less and less temptation to shun the performance of any duty is evidence of growth
in grace. These temptations consist in the excited states of the sensibility. As
these become less in strength and frequency, we learn that our sensibility is becoming
more completely subjugated to the law of the intelligence and the decisions of the
will, and consequently, that the work of the sanctification of the spirit, soul,
and body is progressing, and that therefore we are growing in the favor of God.
- 5. A growing intensity and steadiness of zeal in promoting
the cause of God, is evidence of growth in the favor of God. Sometimes Christian
zeal is comparatively cool, at other times deep and intense; sometimes it will be
steady, at other times fitful and evanescent. As Christians grow in piety, their
zeal becomes deep, intense, and steady, and as you are conscious of this, and in
your life and spirit give evidence of it to others, you have, and give, proof that
you are growing in the favor of God.
- 6. Losing more and more the consciousness of self, and
respect to self, in every action of life, is an evidence of growth in the favor of
God. Some have so much consciousness of self in everything, and so much respect to
self in everything they say and do, as to be embarrassed in all their Christian life,
whenever they attempt to act or speak in the presence of others. As they lose this
self-consciousness, and have less respect to self, their service of God becomes more
free and unembarrassed, and they are all the better servants by how much less they
think of self. Sometimes young converts cannot speak or pray, or perform any public
duty, without being either proud or ashamed, as they think themselves to have performed
their duties with more or less acceptance to those around them.
- While this is so, their piety is in a feeble state. They
must lose sight of their own glory, and have a single eye to the glory of God, to
find acceptance with Him. But as they lose sight of self, and set God always before
them, having an eye single to His glory they grow more and more in His favor.
- 7. Consequently, a growing deadness to the flattery or
censure of men, is an evidence of growth in grace. Paul had grown in grace so much
that he counted it a light thing to be judged of man, he only sought to commend himself
to God (1 Corinthians 4:3, 4). As you find yourself growing in this state of deadness
to the flatteries or censures of men, you have evidence that you grow in grace.
- 8. A growing cordiality in the acceptance of the whole
will of God is evidence of growth in His favor. Some rebel against His will as revealed
in His Word and in His providence. Others, under trying circumstances, will barely
tolerate His will; but those who are growing in grace find it more natural to embrace
His whole revealed will with greater and greater cordiality.
- 9. Growing calmness and quietness under great afflictions
give an evidence of growth in the favor of God. There is evinced a more explicit
faith, a fuller and more cordial acceptance of the will of God, as revealed in these
afflictions; the soul is shown to be more steadily and firmly at anchor upon its
- 10. A growing tranquillity under sudden and crushing disasters
and bereavements, is an evidence of growth in grace. The more tranquil the soul can
remain, when sudden storms of providence come upon it, sweeping away loved ones,
and blighting earthly hopes, the greater is its evidence of being under the particular
favor of God. The tranquillity is both a result and an evidence of the favor of God.
- 11. Growing patience under much provocation, is an evidence
of growth in the favor of God.
- 12. "Longsuffering with joyfulness" (Colossians
1:11) is an evidence of growing in favor with God. When you cannot only tolerate,
but accept, the will of God, as revealed in calling you to suffer; and especially
when you can accept these sufferings, and endure them long and with joyfulness, you
have evidence that you are growing in the favor of God.
- 13. A growing cordiality and joyfulness under crosses and
disappointments and severe pain, is evidence of growth in the favor of God.
- 14. An increasing deadness to all that the world has to
offer, or to threaten, is an evidence of growth in the favor of God.
- 15. A growing repose in, and satisfaction with, all the
allotments of Providence, is evidence of growth in grace.
- 16. Less temptation to murmur or repine at any allotment
of Providence, is evidence of growth in grace.
- 17. Less temptation to fret, when we are crossed or disappointed
in any respect, is an evidence of growth in grace.
- 18. Less and less temptation to resentment, and the spirit
of retaliation, when we are in anywise insulted or abused, is evidence that the sensibility
is becoming more and more thoroughly subdued, and consequently, that we are growing
in favor with God.
- 19. Less temptation to dwell upon, and to magnify our trials
and troubles, to think of them, and speak of them to others, is evidence that we
think less and less of self, and accept our trials and troubles with more and more
complacency in God. It is sad to hear some professedly good people, dwelling ever
upon, and magnifying, their own troubles and trials. But, if they grow in grace,
they will think less and less of these, and be more inclined to think of them as
"light afflictions." The more we grow in grace, the less stress we lay
upon the evils we meet with in the way. Said a good man to me once, who was really
passing through what the world would call very severe trials and afflictions (he
had lost a beloved wife, and his children had died one after another): "I have
many mercies, and few afflictions." When, under such circumstances, a man can
say, "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly
heritage" (Psalm 16:6) he has the most satisfactory evidence that he is growing
in the favor of God. For this state of mind is both a result and an evidence of the
favor of God.
- 20. A growing disposition to make light of our trials and
to magnify our blessings, is an evidence that we are growing in the favor of God.
- 21. Less and less anxiety and carefulness about the events
of Providence, and especially about the things that nearly and deeply affect ourselves,
is evidence of growth in grace. This is an evidence of a broader and more implicit
faith, of a more submissive will, and of a diminishing tendency to self-seeking;
and is, therefore, an evidence of growing favor with God.
- 22. Being less and less disturbed and troubled by the events
of life, especially those that go counter to our own plans, and hopes, and expectations,
and desires, and that thwart our most cherished aims, is an evidence of growth in
- 23. A growing and realizing confidence in the wisdom, benevolence,
and universality of the providence of God, a state of mind that sees God in everything,
is evidence of growth in grace. Some minds become so spiritual that they hardly seem
to reside in the body, but appear continually to perceive the presence of God in
every event, almost as if they were disembodied, and beheld God face to face. They
seem to dwell, live, move, and have their being, rather in the spiritual than in
the natural world. They are continually under such a sense of the Divine presence,
agency, and protection, as hardly to appear like inhabitants of earth. They are a
living, walking mystery to those in the midst of whom they dwell. The springs of
their activity are so Divine, their life is so much hidden in God, they act under
influences so far above the world, that they cannot be judged by the same standards
as other men. Carnal minds cannot understand them. Their hidden life is so unknown
and so unknowable to those who are far below them in their spiritual life, that they
are necessarily regarded as quite eccentric, as being mystics or monomaniacs, as
having very peculiar religious views, as being enthusiasts, and perhaps fanatics.
These persons are in the world, but they live above the world. They have so far escaped
from the pollutions that are in the world, that they can truly and understandingly
say, with Paul: "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"
(Galatians 6:14). Such persons are evidently growing in the grace of God.
- 24. Being less and less disposed to dwell upon the faults
and foibles of others, is an evidence of growth in grace.
- 25. Being less and less disposed to speak severely, or
to judge uncharitably of others. A growing delicacy, or tenderness, in speaking of
their real or supposed faults, behind their back, is an evidence of growth in grace.
- 26. An increasing reluctance to regard or treat any one
as an enemy, and an increasing ease and naturalness in treating them kindly, in praying
for them heartily, and in efforts to do them good, is an evidence of growth in grace.
- 27. Less and less temptation to remember an injury, and
the abatement of all desire to retaliate when injured, is an evidence of growth in
- 28. A growing readiness and cordiality in forgiving and
burying an injury out of sight, and a kind of moral inability to do otherwise than
seek the highest good of those who have injured us most deeply, is an evidence of
growth in grace.
- 29. When we find in our own experience, and manifest to
others, that it is more and more natural to regard all men as our brethren, especially
to drop out of view all sectarian discriminations, all ideas and prejudices of caste,
and of color, of poverty, and of riches, of blood relation, and of natural, rather
than of spiritual ties, and to make common cause with God, in aiming to do good to
all men, to enemies and friends alike, we have then ourselves, and give to others,
the highest evidence of our growing in the favor of God.
- 30. Especially is it true, when we find ourselves very
cordial and full-hearted in making great sacrifices for those that hate us, and having
a willingness to lay down our lives for the promotion of their eternal salvation,
that we have evidence of growth in grace.
- 31. Still more especially, when we find ourselves less
and less inclined to account anything a sacrifice that we can do for God, or for
the souls of men. When we can account our lives not dear unto us, if called to lay
them down to save the souls of enemies; when, for the joy of saving them, we can
"endure the cross, and despise the shame," or any sacrifice that we are
called to make, we have evidence that we are growing in favor with God.
- 32. Again, when we find ourselves more and more inclined
to "count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations" (James 1:2),
and when we are disposed to look upon our trials, vexations, losses, and crosses
in such a light as to lay less and less stress upon them, we have evidence that we
are growing in patience, and therefore in favor with God.
- 33 When we find less and less reluctance to making full
confession to those whom we have injured, when with increasing readiness we lay our
hearts open to be searched, when we take home conviction of wrong-doing, when, in
such cases, we cannot rest till we have made the fullest confession and reparation
within our power, and when to "own up," and confess, and make the fullest
satisfaction, is a luxury to us, rather than a trial and a cross, we have evidence
that we are growing in the favor of God.
- 34. When we are more and more impressed and affected by
the mercies of God, and by the kindnesses of our fellow-men and those around us,
when we more deeply and thoroughly appreciate manifestations of kindness in God,
or in any one else, when we are more and more humbled and affected by these kindnesses,
and find it more and more natural "to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk
humbly" (Micah 6:8), and live gratefully, we have evidence that we are growing
in favor with God.
- 35. When we find ourselves drawn, with increasing earnestness,
to follow on to know more of the Lord, we have evidence of growth in grace.
- 36. When we find ourselves more and more readily impressed
and affected, quickened and stimulated by religious truth, and when we find an increasing
harmony in the action of all our powers, intellectual, voluntary, and sensitive,
in accepting, and resting in, the whole will and providence of God, however afflictive
they may at present be, we have evidence that we are growing in grace.
- 37. A growing jealousy for the honor of God, for the purity
and honor of His Church, for the rights of God, and for the rights of all men, is
evidence of growing in conformity to God, and, of course, of growing in His favor.
VII. HOW TO GROW IN GRACE.
- 1. Fulfill the conditions noticed under the fourth head
of this Lecture.
- 2. Remember that every step of progress must be made by
faith, and not by works. The mistakes that some good men have made upon this subject
is truly amazing. The custom has been almost universal, to represent growth in grace
as consisting in the formation of habits of obedience to God. Now, it is quite surprising
that so many good men have fallen into this mistake. The fact is, that every step
of progress in the Christian life is taken by a fresh and fuller appropriation of
Christ by faith, a fuller baptism of the Holy Spirit. As our weaknesses, infirmities,
besetting sins, and necessities are revealed to us, by the circumstances of temptation
through which we pass, our only efficient help is found in Christ, and we grow only
as we step by step more fully appropriate Him, in one relation or another, and more
fully "put Him on" (Romans 13.: 4). As we are more and more emptied of
self-dependence, as we more and more renounce all expectation of forming holy habits
by any obedience of ours, and as by faith we secure deeper and deeper baptisms of
the Holy Ghost, and put on the Lord Jesus Christ, more and more thoroughly, and in
more of His official relations, by just so much the faster do we grow in the favor
of God. Nothing can be more erroneous and dangerous than the commonly received idea
of growing in grace by the formation of holy habits. By acts of faith alone, we appropriate
Christ, and we are as truly sanctified by faith as we are justified by faith. In
my "Systematic Theology," in pointing out the conditions of entire or permanent
sanctification, I have noticed some sixty of the official relations of Christ, as
I have before said, and have there insisted, as I here insist, that growth in holiness,
and consequently, in the favor of God, is secured only by fresh, fuller, and more
thorough appropriations of Christ, in all these official relations. If you would
grow in grace you must do it through faith. You must pray in faith for the Holy Spirit.
You must appropriate and put on Christ through the Holy Spirit. At every forward
step in your progress, you must have a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit through
- 1. We see, from this subject, the vast importance of rightly
instructing young converts. In many cases, they have very little instruction suited
to their experience and degree of Christian intelligence. By some, such views are
taken of the Perseverance of the Saints, that it is assumed that babes in Christ
will grow without nursing, and without that sincere milk of the Word, by means of
which they must grow. Some, taking it for granted that they need instruction, unwittingly
give them false instruction, and set them to work outwardly and zealously, without
paying much regard to the strengthening and developing of the inward life. They do
not teach them how to appropriate and live on Christ as their life, but continually
press them to "do their duty, to labor for God, and labor for souls," while
not sufficiently impressing upon them the idea that their doing is of no account,
unless it proceeds from the life of God in their own souls. The result of this is
a bustling, outward activity, while the inward spiritual life is decaying. This must
end in disgust at one's own want of heart, and a settling back into apathy and neglect.
- 2. Sometimes there is a mistake made in the opposite direction.
They are taught to rest in Christ, in such a sense as to take on a type of quietism
and antinomian inactivity. They are exhorted to exercise faith, but they are not
earnestly impressed with the conviction that it must be a faith that works, and works
by love, that purifies the heart, and overcomes the world. The result is, they do
nothing in religion. Sinners are allowed to sleep on in their midst, and go to hell,
and they make no effort to save them.
- 3. We see the importance of a Holy Ghost anointed ministry.
The great want of the Church is a minister so thoroughly anointed by the Holy Ghost
as to know how to lead the Church onward and upward, to the, fullest development
of Christian piety. In order to instruct converts, and keep the Church progressing
in holiness, the minister must progress himself. He must be a truly living, growing
Christian. I have good reason to know that the Churches in many places are deeply
pained by the want of living piety and growth in their ministers. Their ministers
are intellectual, literary, philosophical, theological, in their teaching, but they
are sadly deficient in unction. They have but little power with God or with man.
- They instruct the intellect to a certain extent, but they
do not meet the wants of the heart. Converts starve under their preaching. They preach
an intellectual, rather than a spiritual Gospel They preach religion as a theory,
a doctrine, a philosophy and not as a real living experience. It is often exceedingly
painful to hear ministers preach who manifestly do not know what they say, or whereof
they affirm They speak of religion as an inward sentiment, instead of heart devotion
to God; as an emotion, a feeling instead of an all-embracing and efficient love,
a voluntary state and attitude of the mind, from which necessarily proceeds a holy
life. They speak of faith as; mere intellectual state or conviction, and not as an
act of trust, and of committal of the whole being, to do and suffer all the will
of God. They speak of repentance as if were a mere involuntary sorrow for sin They
do not teach that repentance is a change of mind toward God, a renunciation of the
self-seeking spirit, and a turning of the whole mind to God. They speak of holiness
as if it were a state utterly unattainable in this life. Indeed, I say it with sorrow,
but I must say it, the teaching of a great many ministers is but a stumbling block
to the Church. Under their instruction, converts do not, and cannot get so established
in grace as to be greatly useful, or to live lives that are honorable to Christ.
Just think that in the Nineteenth Century ministers preach to converts that they
must grow in grace by works. Be heaven and earth amazed at this! Such teachers do
not know how to grow in grace themselves. Shall I be accounted harsh if I say: "They
be blind leaders of the blind"?
- 4. We see the reason of so much backsliding. Converts will
of course backslide who are led by false instruction. If, on the one hand, they are
set to work out sanctification by works, their works will soon become dead works,
and not be the result of that faith that works by love. If, on the other hand, they
are crammed with abstract notions and doctrines, and taught to rest in an antinomian
faith, they will sink into supineness and inactivity. I fully believe that in nearly
all cases where there has been disastrous reaction after a revival, it has been owing
to the want of timely and proper instruction. But to be timely and proper, it must
be anointed instruction.
- 5. The Theological Seminaries need to pay vastly more attention
to the growth in grace of their students. They need a professor of experimental religion,
who has experience and power enough to press them along into those higher regions
of Christian experience which are essential to their being able to lead the Church
on to victory. It is amazing to see how little effort is made to cultivate the heart
of young men studying for the ministry. We must have a change in this respect. A
much higher standard of Christian experience must be required as a condition of ordination.
It is painful to see how carefully men will be examined in regard to their intellectual
attainments, while the accounts they give of their Christian experience will barely
allow us to hope that they have been converted.
- How sad it is to set such young men to feed the Church
of God.. How do old Christians mourn, when they see the appointed leaders in the
Church of God but spiritual babes.
- 6. I have never been present at the examination of a candidate
for ordination where anything more than simple evidence of conversion was required
of him. I never heard them questioned touching their progress in Christian experience,
and regarding their spiritual ability to lead the flock of God into green pastures
and beside still waters. I never heard them questioned in a manner that manifested
the slightest conception of what are the indispensable spiritual qualifications of
a man who is to stand forth as the leader and spiritual instructor of the Church
of God. More hours are spent in ascertaining the intellectual attainments of a candidate
than minutes to ascertain his spiritual and experimental attainments. The whole examination
will plainly indicate that the ordaining body lay very little stress on this part
of a minister's education. Is it any wonder that the Church of God is so feeble and
inefficient, while the leaders and teachers are, many of them, mere children in spiritual
knowledge, while a ripe Christian experience is made no part of the indispensable
education of a minister? Why, this is infinitely more dangerous and ridiculous than
to entrust men to lead an army in the field, while they merely understand mathematics,
and never have had any training or experience in military matters.
- In this respect, too, there must be a great change. Churches
should refuse to ordain and receive pastors, unless they are fully satisfied of their
having made much progress in Christian experience, so as to be able to lead on, and
keep the Church awake.
They should insist upon the education of his heart as well as his head; upon his
ability to take young converts, and conduct them on to those deep experiences that
will make them stable and efficient workers in the cause of God. Think of Theological
Seminaries, where the leaders of the Church of God are taught that sanctification
or growth in grace is attained by works and not by faith! Tell it not in Gath! Alas
for Zion, when her great and good men fall into such mistakes!
END OF THE LECTURES
LECTURES 1-5 of page 1
LECTURES 6-10 of page 2
LECTURES 11-14 of page 3 ---New Window
LECTURES 15-18 of page 4 ---New Window
LECTURES 19-22 of page 5 (this page)
"Sermons from the Penny Pulpit"
by C. G. Finney
Main Page ---New Window
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